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Chapter 16:

The fourteenth parliament of Great Britain.

October—December, 1774.

‘it is the united voice of America to preserve their
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freedom, or lose their lives in defence of it. Their resolutions are not the effect of inconsiderate rashness, but the sound result of sober inquiry and deliberation. The true spirit of liberty was never so universally diffused through all ranks and orders of people in any country on the face of the earth, as it now is through all North America. If the late acts of parliament are not to be repealed, the wisest step for both countries is to separate, and not to spend their blood and treasure in destroying each other. It is barely possible that Great Britain may depopulate North America; she never can conquer the inhabitants.’ So wrote Joseph Warren, and his words were the mirror of the passions of his countrymen. They were addressed to the younger Quincy, who as a private man had crossed the Atlantic to watch the disposition of the ministry; they were intended to be made known in England, in the hope of awakening [174] the king and his ministers from the delusion that
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America could be intimidated into submission.

The eyes of the world were riveted on Franklin and George the Third. The former was environed by dangers; Gage was his willing accuser from Boston; the hatred which Hutchinson bore him never slumbered; the ministry affected to consider him as the cause of all the troubles; he knew himself to be in daily peril of arrest; but ‘the great friends of the colonies’ entreated him to stay, and some glimmering of hope remained, that the manufacturers and merchants of England would successfully interpose their mediating influence. The king on his part never once harbored the thought of concession; and ‘left the choice of war or peace’ to depend on the obedience of Massachusetts.

The new elections to parliament came on, while the people of England were still swayed by pride; and the question was artfully misrepresented, as though it were only that Massachusetts refused to pay a just and very moderate indemnity for property destroyed by a mob, and resisted an evident improvement in its administrative system, from a deliberate conspiracy with other colonies to dissolve the connection with the mother country. During the progress of the canvass, bribery came to the aid of the ministry, for many of the members who were purchasing seats, expected to reimburse themselves by selling their votes to the government.

The shrewd French minister at London, witnessing the briskness of the traffic, bethought himself that where elections depended on the purse, the king of France might buy a borough as rightfully at least as [175] the king of England, who, by law and the constitu-

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tion, was bound to guard the franchises of his peopleagainst corruption. ‘You will learn with interest,’ thus Garnier, in November, announced his bargain to Vergennes, ‘that you will have in the house of commons, a member who will belong to you. His vote will not help us much; but the copies of even the most secret papers, and the clear and exact report which he can daily furnish us, will contribute essentially to the king's service.’

Excess had impoverished many even of the heirs to the largest estates, and lords as well as commoners offered themselves at market; so that ‘if America,’ said Franklin, ‘would save for three or four years the noney she spends in the fashions and fineries and fopperies of this country, she might buy the whole parliament, ministry and all.’

In the general venality, Edmund Burke was displaced. Lord Varney, who had hitherto gratuitously brought him into parliament, had fallen into debt, and instead of carrying along his investment in the chance of Rockingham's return to the ministry, he turned his back on deferred hopes and friendship, and pocketed for his borough the most cash he could get.

Burke next coquetted with Wilkes for support at Westminster; but ‘the great patriot’ preferred Lord Mahon. ‘Wilkes has touched Lord Mahon's money, and desires to extort more by stirring up a multitude of candidates,’ said Burke, in the fretful hallucinations of his chagrin; while, in fact, the influence of Wilkes was of no avail; Westminster shared the prevalent excitement against America and elected tories. [176] Sometimes, when alone, Burke fell into an in-

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expressible melancholy, and thought of renouncing public life, for which he owned himself unfit. There seemed for him no way to St. Stephen's chapel, except through a rotten borough belonging to Rockingham; and what influence would the first man in England for speculative intelligence exert in the house of commons, if he should appear there as the paid agent of an American colony and the nominee of an English patron? Such seemed his best hope, when, on the eleventh of October, he was invited to become a candidate at

Bristol against Viscount Clare, the statesman who in the debates on repealing the stamp act, had stickled for ‘the peppercorn’ from America. He hastened to the contest with alacrity, avowing for his principle British superiority, which was yet to be reconciled with American liberty; and after a struggle of three weeks, he, with Cruger of New York as his colleague, was elected one of the representatives of the great trading city of western England. Bristol was almost the only place which changed its representation to the advantage of America; Wilkes was successful in the county of Middlesex, and after a ten years struggle, the king, from zeal to concentrate opinion against America, made no further opposition to his admittance; but in the aggregate the ministry increased its majorities.

It was noticeable that William Howe was the candidate for Nottingham. To the questions of that liberal constituency he freely answered, that the ministry had pushed matters too far; that the whole British army would not be sufficient to conquer [177] America; that if offered a command there, he would

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refuse it; that he would vote for the repeal of the– four penal acts of parliament; and he turned to his advantage the affectionate respect still cherished for his brother who fell near Lake George.

The elections were over, and it was evident that

the government might have every thing its own way, when, on the eighteenth of November, letters of the preceding September, received from Gage, announced that the act of parliament for regulating the government of Massachusetts could be carried into effect only after the conquest of all the New England colonies; that the province had warm friends throughout the North American continent; that people in Carolina were ‘as mad’ as in Boston; that the country people in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were exercising in arms and forming magazines of ammunition and such artillery, good and bad, as they could procure; that the civil officers of the British government had no asylum but Boston. In a private letter Gage proposed that the obnoxious acts should be suspended. In an official paper he hinted that it would be well to cut the colonies adrift, and leave them to anarchy and repentance; they had grown opulent through Britain, and were they cast off and declared aliens, they must become a poor and needy people. But the king heard these suggestions with scorn. ‘The New England governments,’ said he to North, ‘are now in a state of rebellion. Blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country or to be independent.’ This was his instant determination, to which he obstinately adhered. On the other hand, Franklin, who was confident of the [178] triumph of liberty, explicitly avowed to his nearest
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friends, that there was now no safety for his native 7 country but in total emancipation. In this condition of affairs the fourteenth parliament was opened on the last day of November.

British influence during the summer had assisted in establishing between the Czar and the Ottoman Porte the peace which was so glorious and eventful for Russia. The speech from the throne could offer congratulations on the tranquillity of Europe, and fix attention on the disobedience in Massachusetts. In the house of lords, Hillsborough moved an address, expressing abhorrence of the principles which that province maintained; and when the duke of Richmond attempted to postpone adopting opinions which might lead to measures fatal to the lives, property, and liberties of a very great part of their fellowsubjects, it was replied, that the sooner and the more spiritedly the new parliament spoke out upon the subject, the better. ‘I advised the dissolution,’ said one of the ministers, ‘lest popular dissatisfaction arising from untoward events, should break the chain of those public measures, necessary to reduce the colonies to obedience.’ ‘There are now men walking in the streets of London, who ought to be in Newgate, or at Tyburn,’ said Hillsborough; referring for one to Quincy of Boston. After a long and vehement debate, his motion prevailed by a vote of about five to one. But Rockingham, Shelburne, Camden, Stanhope, and five other peers made a written protest against ‘the inconsiderate temerity which might precipitate the country into a civil war.’ ‘The king's speech,’ wrote Garnier to Vergennes, ‘will [179] complete the work of alienating the colonies. Every

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day makes a conciliation more difficult, and every day will make it more necessary.’

On the fifth of December, the new house of commons debated the same subject. Fox, Burke, and others, spoke warmly. The results of the congress had not yet arrived, for the vessel which bore them had, after ten days, put back to New York in distress. Lord North could therefore say that America had as yet offered no terms; at the same time he avoided the irrevocable word rebellion. Some called the Americans cowards; some questioned their being in earnest; and though Barre declared the scheme of subduing them ‘wild and impracticable,’ the minister was sustained by a very great majority.

The victory brought no peace of mind to Lord North. He had neither originated nor fully approved the American measures, which he had himself brought forward. Constantly thwarted in the cabinet by his colleagues, he vainly struggled to emancipate himself from a system which he abhorred, and for which the real authors were neither legally nor ostensibly answerable, and he sought an escape from his dilemma by proposing to send out commissioners of inquiry. But the king promptly overruled the suggestion.

Friends of Franklin were next employed to ascertain the extent of his demands for America; and without waiting for the proceedings of congress, he wrote ‘hints on the terms that might produce a durable union between Great Britain and the colonies.’ Assuming that the tea duty act would be repealed, he offered payment for the tea that had been [180] destroyed, support of the peace establishment and

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government, liberal aids in time of war on requisition by the king and parliament, a continuance of the same aids in time of peace, if Britain would give up its monopoly of American commerce. On the other hand, among various propositions, he asked the repeal of the Quebec act, and insisted on the repeal of the acts regulating the government and changing the laws of Massachusetts. ‘The old colonies,’ it was objected, ‘have nothing to do with the affairs or Canada.’ ‘We assisted in its conquest,’ said Franklin; ‘loving liberty ourselves, we wish to have no foundation for future slavery laid in America.’ ‘The Massachusetts act,’ it was urged, ‘is an improvement of that government.’ ‘The pretended amendments are real mischiefs,’ answered Franklin; ‘but were it not so, charters are compacts between two parties, the king and the people, not to be altered even for the better but by the consent of both. The parliament's claim and exercise of a power to alter charters, which had been always held inviolable, and to alter laws which, having received the royal approbation, had been deemed fixed and unchangeable but by the powers that made them, have rendered all our constitutions uncertain. As by claiming a right to tax at will, you deprive us of all property, so by this claim of altering our laws at will, you deprive us of all privilege and right whatever but what we hold at your pleasure. We must risk life and every thing, rather than submit to this.’

The words of Franklin offered no relief to Lord North; but they spoke the sense of his countrymen; and were in harmony with the true voice of England. [181] ‘Were I an American,’ said Camden in the

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house of lords, ‘I would resist to the last drop of my blood.’ Still the annual estimates indicated no fear of the interruption of peace. The land tax was continued at but three shillings in the pound; no vote of credit was required; the army was neither increased nor reformed; and the naval force was reduced by four thousand seamen. ‘How is it possible,’ asked the partisans of authority, ‘that a people without arms, ammunition, money, or navy, should dare to brave the foremost among all the powers on earth?’ Had they been told that the farmers who formed the majority of the congress of Massachusetts, after a proposition to stop at a thousand pounds, then at two thousand, at last authorized an expenditure of but fifteen thousand pounds for military purposes; that the committee of safety of the province was, at that time, instructing the committee of supplies to provide two hundred spades, a hundred and fifty pickaxes, a thousand wooden mess bowls, and other small articles, as well as stores of peas and flour in proportion, their contemptuous confidence might not have been diminished. ‘I know,’ said Sandwich, then at the head of the admiralty, ‘the low establishment proposed will be fully sufficient for reducing the colonies to obedience. Americans are neither disciplined, nor capable of discipline; their numbers will only add to the facility of their defeat;’ and he made the lords merry with jests at their cowardice.

This arrogance of men who had on their side the block and the gallows, demonstrated the purpose of reducing the colonies by force. ‘Prepare for the [182] worst,’ wrote Quincy; ‘forbearance, delays, inde-

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cision, will bring greater evils.’ But the advice had not been waited for. The congress of Massachusetts, on hearing of the sudden dissolution of parliament, foresaw that the new house of commons would be chosen under the influence of the ministry. Though in November, denounced by Gage in a proclamation as ‘an unlawful assembly, whose proceedings tended to ensnare the inhabitants of the province, and draw them into perjuries, riots, sedition, treason and rebellion,’ though destitute of disciplined troops, munitions of war, armed vessels, military stores, and money, they had confidence that a small people, resolute in its convictions, outweighs an empire. Encouraged by the presence of Samuel Adams, after his return from Philadelphia, they adopted all the recommendations of the continental congress. While Gage delayed to strengthen Crown Point and Ticonderoga, the keys of the North, they established a secret correspondence with Canada. They entreated the ministers of the gospel in the colony, ‘to assist in avoiding that dreadful slavery, with which all were now threatened.’ ‘You,’ said they to the collective inhabitants of Massachusetts, ‘are placed by Providence in the post of honor, because it is the post of danger; and while struggling for the noblest objects, the eyes not only of North America and the whole British empire, but of all Europe are upon you. Let nothing unbecoming our character as Americans, as citizens and Christians, be justly chargeable to us. Whoever considers the number of brave men inhabiting North America, will know, that a general attention to military discipline, must so establish their [183] rights and liberties, as under God, to render it im-
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possible to destroy them. But we apprise you of your danger, which appears to us imminently great. The minute men, not already provided, should be immediately equipped, and disciplined three times a week, or oftener. With the utmost cheerfulness we assure you of our determination to stand or fall with the liberties of America.’ With such words they adjourned, to keep the annual Thanksgiving which they themselves had appointed; finding occasion in the midst of all their distress to rejoice at ‘the smiles of Divine Providence’ on ‘the union of their own province and throughout the continent.’

As ships of the line successively arrived, they brought for the land service no more than six hundred recruits, which only made good the losses by sickness and desertion; so that altogether Gage had scarcely three thousand effective men. Before the middle of December, it became known that the king in council had forbidden the export of arms to America; at once men from Providence removed more than forty pieces of cannon from the colony's fort near Newport; and the assembly of Rhode Island and its merchants took measures to import military stores.

At Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, the fourteenth of December, just after letters were received from Boston, members of the town committee, with other Sons of Liberty, preceded by a drum and fife, paraded the streets till their number grew to four hundred, when they made their way in scows and ‘gondolas’ to the fort at the entrance of the harbor, overpowered the few invalids who formed its [184] garrison, and carried off upwards of one hundred bar-

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rels of powder, that belonged to the province. The next day, without waiting for a large body on the way from Exeter, John Sullivan, who had been a member of the continental congress, led a party to dismantle the fort completely; and they brought away all the small arms, a quantity of shot, and sixteen small pieces of artillery.

The condition of Massachusetts was anomalous; three hundred thousand people continued their usual avocations, and enjoyed life and property in undisturbed tranquillity without a legislature or executive officers; without sheriffs, judges, or justices of the peace. As the supervision of government disappeared, each man seemed more and more a law to himself; and as if to show that the world had been governed too much, order prevailed in a province where in fact there existed no regular government; no administration but by committees; no military officers but those chosen by the militia. Yet never were legal magistrates obeyed with more alacrity. The selectmen continued their usual functions; the service in the churches increased in fervor. From the sermons of memorable divines, who were gone to a heavenly country, leaving their names precious among the people of God on earth, a brief collection of faithful testimonies to the cause of God and his New England people was circulated by the press, that the hearts of the rising generation might know what had been the great end of the plantations, and count it their duty and their glory to continue in those right ways of the Lord wherein their fathers walked before them. Their successors in the ministry, [185] all pupils of Harvard or Yale, lorded over by no

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prelate, with the people, and of the people, and true ministers to the people, unsurpassed by the clergy of an equal population in any part of the globe for learning, ability, and virtue, for metaphysical acuteness, familiarity with the principles of political freedom, devotedness, and practical good sense, were heard as of old with reverence by their congregations in their meeting-houses on every Lord's day, and on special occasions of fasts, thanksgivings, lectures, and military musters. Elijah's mantle being caught up, was a happy token that the Lord would be with this generation as he had been with their fathers. Their exhaustless armory was the Bible, whose scriptures were stored with weapons for every occasion; furnishing sharp words to point their ap peals, apt examples of resistance, prophetic denunciations of the enemies of God's people, and promises of the divine blessing on the defenders of his law.

But what most animated the country was the magnanimity of Boston; ‘suffering amazing loss, but determined to endure poverty and death, rather than betray America and posterity.’ Its people, under the eyes of the general, disregarding alike his army, his proclamations against a provincial congress, and the British statute against town-meetings, came together according to their ancient forms; and with Samuel Adams as moderator, elected delegates to the next provincial congress of Massachusetts.

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