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Chapter 4:

Massachusetts Appoints the time and place for a general congress.

June, 1774.

on the first day of June, Hutchinson embarked for
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England; and as the clocks in the Boston belfries finished striking twelve, the blockade of the harbor began. The inhabitants of the town were chiefly traders, shipwrights, and sailors; and since no anchor could be weighed, no sail unfurled, no vessel so much as launched from the stocks, their cheerful industry was at an end. No more are they to lay the keel of the fleet merchantman, or shape the rib symmetrically for its frame, or strengthen the graceful hull by knees of oak, or rig the well proportioned masts, or bend the sails to the yards. The king of that country has changed the busy workshops into scenes of compulsory idleness, and the most skilful naval artisans in the world, with the keenest eye for forms of beauty and speed, are forced by act of parliament to fold their hands. Want scowled on the laborer, as he sat with his wife and [57] children at his board. The sailor roamed the streets
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listlessly without hope of employment. The law was executed with a rigor that went beyond the intentions of its authors. Not a scow could be manned by oars to bring an ox, or a sheep, or a bundle of hay from the islands. All water carriage from pier to pier, though but of lumber, or bricks, or lime, was strictly forbidden. The boats between Boston and Charlestown could not ferry a parcel of goods across Charles River; the fishermen of Marblehead, when from their hard pursuit, they bestowed quintals of dried fish on the poor of Boston, were obliged to transport their offering in wagons by a circuit of thirty miles. The warehouses of the thrifty merchants were at once made valueless; the costly wharfs, which extended far into the channel, and were so lately covered with the produce of the tropics and with English fabrics, were become solitary places; the harbor, which had resounded incessantly with the cheering voices of prosperous commerce, was now disturbed by no sounds but from British vessels of war.

At Philadelphia, the bells of the churches were muffled and tolled; the ships in port hoisted their colors at half mast; and nine-tenths of the houses, except those of the Friends, were shut during the memorable First of June. In Virginia, the population thronged the churches; Washington attended the service, and strictly kept the fast. No firmer or more touching words were addressed to the sufferers than from Norfolk, which was the largest place of trade in that ‘well-watered and extensive dominion,’ and which, from its deep channel and nearness to [58] the ocean, lay most exposed to ships of war. ‘Our

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hearts are warmed with affection for you,’ such was its message; ‘we address the Almighty Ruler to support you in your afflictions. Be assured we consider you as suffering in the common cause, and look upon ourselves as bound by the most sacred ties to support you.’

Jefferson, from the foot of the Blue Ridge of the Alleghanies, condemned the act, which in a moment reduced an ancient and wealthy town from opulence to want, and without a hearing and without discrimination, sacrificed property of the value of millions to revenge—not repay—the loss of a few thousands. ‘If the pulse of the people beat calmly under such an experiment by the new and till now unheard of executive power of a British parliament,’ said the young statesman, ‘another and another will be tried, till the measure of despotism be filled up.’ At that time the king was so eager to give effect to the law which subverted the charter of Massachusetts, that acting upon information confessedly insufficient, he, with Dartmouth, made out for that province a complete list of councillors, called mandamus councillors from their appointment by the crown. Copies of letters from Franklin and from Arthur Lee had been obtained; Gage was secretly ordered to procure, if possible, the originals, as the means of arraigning their, authors for treason. Bernard and Hutchinson had reported that the military power failed to intimidate, because no colonial civil officer would sanction its employment: to meet the exigency, Thurlow and Wedderburn furnished their opinion, that such power belonged to the governor [59] himself as the conservator of the peace in all cases

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whatsoever. ‘I am willing to suppose,’ says Dartmouth, ‘that the people will quietly submit to the correction their ill conduct has brought upon them;’ but in case they should not prove so docile, Gage was required to bid the troops fire upon them at his discretion; and for his encouragement, he was informed that all trials of officers and troops for homicides in America, were, by a recent act of parliament, removed to England.

This system of measures was regarded by its authors as a masterpiece of statesmanship. But where was true greatness really to be found? At the council board of vindictive ministers? In the palace of the king who preferred the loss of a continent to a compromise of absolute power? Or in the humble mansion of the proscribed Samuel Adams, who shared every sorrow of his native town? ‘She suffers,’ said he, ‘with dignity, and rather than submit to the humiliating terms of an edict, barbarous beyond precedent under the most absolute monarchy, she will put the malice of tyranny to the severest trial.’ ‘An empire is rising in America; and Britain, by her multiplied oppressions, is accelerating that independency which she dreads. We have a post to maintain, to desert which would entail upon us the curses of posterity. The virtue of our ancestors inspires us; they were contented with clams and muscles. For my own part, I have been wont to converse with poverty; and however disagreeable a companion she may be thought to be by the affluent and luxurious who never were acquainted with her, I can live happily with her the remainder of my [60] days, if I can thereby contribute to the redemption

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of my country.’

These were his words, with the knowledge that the king's order for his arrest was hanging over his head, to be enforced, whenever troops enough were brought together to make it safe.

The Boston committee looked the danger full in the face. On the second of June, they received and read the two bills, of which the one was to change the charter and subvert the most cherished rights of the province; the other, to grant impunity to the British army for acts of violence in enforcing the new system. ‘They excited,’ says their record, ‘a just indignation in the mind of the committee,’ whose members saw their option confined to abject submission or an open rupture. They longed to escape the necessity of the choice by devising some measure which might recall their oppressors to moderation and reason. Accordingly, Warren, on the fifth, reported ‘a solemn league and covenant’ to suspend all commercial intercourse with the mother country, and neither to purchase nor consume any merchandise from Great Britain after the last day of the ensuing August. The names of those who should refuse to sign the covenant, were to be published to the world. Copies of this paper were forwarded to every town in the province, with a letter entreating the subscriptions of all the people, ‘as the last and only method of preserving the land from slavery without drenching it in blood.’

The proposition proved the desire for conciliation. Had a country which was without manufactures and munitions of war, been resolved to take up arms, it [61] would have extended its commerce, in order to accu-

Chap. IV.} 1774. June.
mulate all articles of first necessity. ‘Nothing,’ said the patriots, ‘is more foreign from our hearts than a spirit of rebellion. Would to God they all, even our enemies, knew the warm attachment we have for Great Britain, notwithstanding we have been contending these ten years with them for our rights. What can they gain by the victory, should they subjugate us? What will be the glory of enslaving their children and brothers? Nay, how great will be the danger to their own liberties?’ Thus reasoned the people of the country towns in Massachusetts; and they signed ‘the league and covenant,’ confident that they would have only to sit still and await the bloodless restoration of their rights. In this expectation they were confirmed by the opinions of Burke and of Franklin.

From the committee room in Faneuil Hall, Samuel Adams hastened to the general assembly, whose first act at Salem was a protest against the arbitrary order for its removal. The council, in making the customary reply to the governor's speech at the opening of the session, laid claim to the rights of Englishmen without diminution or ‘abridgment.’ But as they uttered their hope, ‘that his administration would be a happy contrast to that of his predecessors,’ Gage interrupted their chairman, and refused to receive the address; because the conduct of those predecessors had been approved, and therefore the expression ‘was an insult to the king, and an affront to himself.’ But the right of a legislative body to express an opinion on a subordinate executive officer was undeniable. Even the king in person hears an address [62] from the house of commons, however severely it

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may reflect on a minister. When Gage treated the censure on Bernard and Hutchinson as a personal conflict with the sovereign, his petulance only the more tended to bring that sovereign himself into disrepute.

The house of representatives was the fullest ever known. The continent expected of them to fix the time and place for the meeting of the general congress. This required the utmost secrecy; for they were watched by officers in the royal service, and any perceptible movement would have been followed by an instant dissolution. In the confusion of nominations, Daniel Leonard, of Taunton, who had won his election by engaging manners and professions of patriotism, which yet were hollow, succeeded in being appointed one of the committee of nine on the state of the province. Restrained by well-founded distrust of his secret relations, that committee was therefore cautious to entertain nothing but vague propositions for conciliation; so that Leonard deceived not himself only, but the governor, into the belief, that the legislature would lead the way to concession, and that on the arrival of more troops, an indemnity to the East India company would be publicly advocated.

The whole continent was looking towards Boston. ‘Don't pay for an ounce of the damned tea,’ wrote Gadsden on the fourteenth of June, as he shipped for the poor of Boston the first gifts of rice from the planters of Carolina. On that day,, the fourth regiment, known as ‘the king's own,’ encamped on Boston Common; the next, it was joined by the fortythird. [63] Two companies of artillery and eight pieces

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of ordnance had already reinforced Castle William; and more battalions of infantry were hourly expected. The friends of government increased their activity, exerted every art to win over the tradesmen, and assumed a menacing aspect. ‘There will be no congress,’ they said; ‘New York will never appoint members; Massachusetts must feel that she is deserted.’ To a meeting of tradesmen, a plausible speaker ventured to recommend for consideration the manner of paying for the tea; and he met with so much success, that after some altercation, they separated without coming to any resolution. But Warren, who exerted as much energy to save his country as others to paralyze its spirit, proved to his friends, that the payment in any form would open the way for every compliance even to a total submission; and he was himself encouraged by the glowing letter from Baltimore. ‘Vigilance, activity, and patience,’ he cried, ‘are necessary at this time; but the mistress we serve is Liberty, and it is better to die than not to obtain her.’ ‘We shall be saved,’ he added; and that no cloud might rest on the ‘fortitude, honesty, and foresight’ of Boston, a town meeting was called for the following Friday.

Samuel Adams received a summons to come and guide its debates; but a higher duty kept him at Salem. The legislative committee of nine appeared so tame, that Leonard returned to Taunton on business as a lawyer. Meantime, Samuel Adams had on one evening secretly consulted four or five of his colleagues; on another a larger number; on the third so many as thirty; and on the morning of Friday, [64] the seventeenth of June, confident of having the per-

Chap. IV.} 1774. June.
fect control of the house, one hundred and twentynine being present, he locked the door, and proposed the measure he had matured. The time fixed for the congress was the first day of September, the place Philadelphia, where there was no army to interrupt its sessions. Bowdoin, who, however, proved unable to attend, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine were chosen delegates. To defray their expenses, a tax of five hundred pounds was apportioned on the province. The towns were charged to afford speedy and constant relief to Boston and Charlestown, whose fortitude was preserving the liberties of their country. Domestic manufactures were encouraged, and it was strongly recommended to discontinue the use of all goods imported from the East Indies and Great Britain, until the public grievances of America should be radically and totally redressed.

In the midst of these proceedings the governor sent his secretary with a message for dissolving the assembly. But he knocked at its door in vain, and could only read the proclamation to the crowd on the stairs. ‘I could not get a worse council, or a worse assembly,’ reported Gage; ‘with exceptions, they appear little more than echoes to the contrivers of all the mischief in the town of Boston, those demagogues now spiriting up the people throughout the province to resistance.’

The number which on that same day thronged to the town meeting in Faneuil Hall, was greater than the room would hold. Samuel Adams was not missed, for his kinsman, John Adams, was elected moderator. [65] When he had taken the chair, the friends

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to the scheme of indemnifying the East India company for their loss, were invited to ‘speak freely,’ that a matter of such importance might be fairly discussed in the presence of the general body of the people; but not a man rose in defence of the proposition. The blockade, the fleets, the army, could not bring out a symptom of compliance.

A month before, John Adams had said, ‘I have very little connection with public affairs, and I hope to have less.’ For many years he had refused to attend town meetings; he had kept aloof from the committee of correspondence, even in the time when it concerted the destruction of the tea. The morning of that day dawned on him in private life; the evening saw him a representative of Massachusetts to the general congress. That summer he followed the circuit for the last time. ‘Great Britain,’ thus Sewall, his friend and associate at the bar, expostulated with him, as they strolled together on the hill that overhangs Casco Bay, with its thousand isles, ‘Great Britain is determined on her system; and her power is irresistible.’ ‘That very determination of Great Britain in her system, determines mine,’ answered Adams; ‘swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country, is my unalterable determination.’ The White Mountains on the one side, and the ocean on the other, were witnesses to the patriot's vow ‘I see we must part,’ rejoined Sewall; ‘but this adieu is the sharpest thorn on which I ever set my foot.’

Two days in advance of Massachusetts, the assembly of Rhode Island unanimously chose delegates to [66] the general congress, which they desired to see

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annually renewed.

The promptness of Maryland was still more remarkable; for it could proceed only by a convention of its people. But so universal was their zeal, so rapid their organization, that their provincial convention met at Annapolis on the twenty-second of June, and before any message had been received from Salem, they elected delegates to the congress. With a modesty worthy of their courage, they apologized to Virginia for moving in advance; pleading as their excuse the inferiority of their province in extent and numbers, so that less time was needed to ascertain its sentiments.

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