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Chapter 12:

The continental congress Seeks to avert independence.

September—October, 1774.

Gage, who came flushed with confidence in an easy
Chap. XII.} 1774. Sept.
victory, at the end of four months was care-worn, disheartened and appalled. With the forces under his command, he hoped for no more than to pass the winter unmolested. At one moment, a suspension of the penal acts was his favorite advice, which the king ridiculed as senseless; at the next he demanded an army of twenty thousand men, to be composed of Canadian recruits, Indians, and hirelings from the continent of Europe; again, he would bring the Americans to terms, by casting them off as fellow-subjects, and not suffering even a boat to go in or out of their harbors. All the while he was exerting himself to obtain payment for the tea as a prelude to reconciliation. His agents wrote to their friends in congress, urging concessions. Such was the advice of Church, in language affecting the highest patriotism; and an officer who had served with Washington sought to persuade his old companion in [137] arms, that New England was conspiring for independ-
Chap. XII.} 1774. Sept.
ence. It was, moreover, insinuated, that if Massachusetts should once resume its old charter, and elect its governor, all New England would unite with her, and become strong enough to absorb the lands of other governments; that New Hampshire would occupy both slopes of the Green Mountains; that Massachusetts would seize the western territory of New York; while Connecticut would appropriate northern Pennsylvania, and compete with Virginia for the West.

Out of Boston the power of Gage was at an end. In the county of Worcester, the male inhabitants from the age of sixteen to seventy, formed themselves into companies and regiments, chose their own officers, and agreed that one-third part of the enrolled should hold themselves ready to march ‘at a minute's warning.’ ‘In time of peace, prepare for war,’ was the cry of the country. The frugal New England people increased their frugality. ‘As for me,’ wrote the wife of a member of congress, ‘I will seek wool and flax, and work willingly with my hands.’ Yet the poorest man in his distress would not accept employment from the British army; and the twelve nearest towns agreed to withhold from the troops every supply beyond what humanity required. But all the province, even to Falmouth, and beyond it, shared the sorrows of Boston, and cheered its inhabitants in their sufferings. ‘This much injured town,’ said the wife of John Adams, ‘like the body of a departed friend, has only put off its present glory, to rise finally to a more happy state.’ Nor did its citizens despair. Its newly elected representatives [138] were instructed never to acknowledge the regulating

Chap. XII.} 1774. Sept.
act; and in case of a dissolution, to join the other members in forming a provincial congress.

The assembly was summoned for the fifth of October, at which time the councillors who had been legally commissioned in May, intended to take their seats; their period of office was a year, and the king's good will was not the condition of their tenure. Against so clear a title the mandamus councillors would not dare to claim their places without a larger escort than they could receive. Gage was in a dilemma. On the twenty-eighth of September, by an anomalous proclamation, he neither dissolved nor prorogued the assembly which he himself had called, but declined to meet it at Salem, and discharged the representatives elect from their duty of attendance.

Meantime, the continental committee on the rights of the colonies having been increased by one member from each of the three provinces, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, extended their searches to the statutes affecting industry and trade. But in a body whose members were collected from remote parts of the country, accustomed to no uniform rules, differing in their ideas and their forms of expression, distrust could be allayed only by the most patient discussions; and for the sake of unanimity, tedious delay was inevitable.

In the first place, it was silently agreed to rest the demands of America not on considerations of natural rights, but on a historical basis. In this manner, even the appearance of a revolution was avoided; and ideal freedom was claimed only as embodied in facts. [139]

How far the retrospect for grievances should be

Chap. XII.} 1774. Sept.
carried, was the next inquiry. South Carolina would have included all laws restrictive of manufactures and navigation; in a word, all the statutes of which Great Britain had been so prodigal towards her infant colonies, for the purpose of confining their trade, and crippling their domestic industry. But the Virginians, conforming to their instructions, narrowed the issue to the innovations during the reign of George the Third; and as Maryland and North Carolina would not separate from Virginia, the acts of navigation, though condemned by Lee as a capital violation of American rights, were not included in the list of grievances.

The Virginians had never meant to own the binding force of the acts of navigation; the proposal to recognise them came from Duane, of New York; and encountered the strongest opposition. Some wished to deny altogether the authority of parliament; others, its power of taxation; others, its power of internal taxation only. These discussions were drawn into great length, and seemed to promise no agreement; till, at last, John Adams was persuaded to shape a compromise in the spirit and very nearly in the words of Duane. His resolution ran thus: ‘From the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of the countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bona fide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every [140] idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a

Chap. XII.} 1774. Sept.
revenue on the subjects in America without their consent.’

This article was contrary to the principles of Otis at the commencement of the contest; to the repeated declarations of Samuel Adams; to the example of the congress of 1765, which had put aside a similar proposition, when offered by Livingston, of New York. Not one of the committee was fully satisfied with it; yet, as the ablest speaker from Massachusetts was its advocate, the concession was irrevocable. It stands as a monument that the congress harbored no desire but of reconciliation. ‘I would have given every thing I possessed for a restoration to the state of things before the contest began;’ said John Adams at a later day. His resolution accepted that badge of servitude, the British colonial system. During these discussions, Galloway, of Pennsylvania, in secret concert with the governor of New Jersey and with Golden of New York, proposed for the government of the colonies a president-genera], to be appointed by the king, and a grand council to be chosen once in three years by the several assemblies. The British parliament was to have the power of revising the acts of this body; which in its turn was to have a negative on British statutes relating to the colonies. ‘I am as much a friend to liberty as exists,’ blustered Galloway, as he presented his insidious proposition, ‘and no man shall go further in point of fortune or in point of blood, than the man who now addresses you.’ His scheme held out a hope of a continental union, which was the long cherished policy of New York; it was seconded by [141] Duane, and advocated by Jay; but opposed by Lee

Chap. XII.} 1774. Sept.
of Virginia. Patrick Henry objected to entrusting the power of taxation to a council to be chosen not directly by the people, but indirectly by its representatives; and he condemned the proposal in all its aspects. ‘The original constitution of the colonies,’ said he, ‘was founded on the broadest and most generous base. The regulation of our trade compensates all the protection we ever experienced. We shall liberate our constituents from a corrupt house of commons, but throw them into the arms of an American legislature, that may be bribed by a nation which in the face of the world avows bribery as a part of her system of government. Before we are obliged to pay taxes as they do, let us be as free as they; let us have our trade open with all the world.’ ‘I think the plan almost perfect,’ said Edward Rutledge. But not one colony, unless it may have been New York, voted in its favor; and no more than a bare majority would consent that it should even lie on the table. Its mover boasted of this small courtesy as of a triumph, though at a later day the congress struck the proposal from its record.

With this defeat, Galloway lost his mischievous importance. At the provincial elections in Pennsyl-

Oct. 1.
vania, on the first day of October, Dickinson, his old opponent, was chosen almost unanimously a representative of the county. Mifflin, though opposed by some of the Quakers as too warm, was elected a burgess of Philadelphia by eleven hundred votes out of thirteen hundred, with Charles Thomson as his colleague. The assembly, on the very day of its organization, [142] added Dickinson to its delegation in congress,
Chap. XII.} 1774. Oct.
and he took his seat in season to draft the address of that body to the king.

During the debates on the proper basis of that address, letters from Boston announced that the government continued seizing private military stores, suffering the soldiery ‘to treat both town and country as declared enemies,’ fortifying the place, and mounting cannon at its entrance, as though he would hold its inhabitants as hostages, in order to compel a compliance with the new laws. As he had eluded the meeting of the general court, they applied to congress for advice; if the congress should instruct them to quit the town, they would obey. The citizens, who, as a body, had been more affluent than those of any other place of equal numbers in the world, made a formal offer, to abandon their homes, and throw themselves, with their wives and children, their aged and infirm, on the charity of the country people, or build huts in the woods, and never revisit their native walls until re-established in their rights and liberties. The courage of Gadsden blazed up at the thought, and he proposed that Gage should be attacked and routed before reinforcements could arrive; but the congress was resolved to exhaust every means of redress, before sanctioning an appeal to arms.

The spirit of the people was more impetuous; confident in their strength they scorned the thought of obedience, except on conditions that should be satisfactory to themselves. About the middle of October the brig Peggy Stewart, from London, arrived at Annapolis, with two thousand three hundred [143] and twenty pounds of tea, on which the owner

Chap. XII.} 1774. Oct.
of the vessel made haste to pay the duty. The people of Maryland resented this voluntary submission to the British claim which their delegates to the general congress were engaged in contesting. The fidelity and honor of the province seemed in question. A committee therefore kept watch, to prevent the landing of the tea; successive public meetings drew throngs even from distant counties; till the two importers and the ship owner jointly expressed their contrition, asked forgiveness in the most humiliating language, and offered to expiate their offence by burning the ‘detestable article’ which had been the cause of their misconduct. When it appeared that this offer did not wholly satisfy the crowd, the owner of the brig, after a little consultation with Charles Carroll, himself proposed to devote that also to the flames. The offer was accepted. The penitent importers and owner went on board the vessel, and with her sails and colors flying, in the presence of a large multitude of gazers, they themselves set fire to the packages of tea, all which, together with the Peggy Stewart, her canvas, cordage, and every appurtenance, was consumed.

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