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Chapter 8:

How the mandamus councillors were dealt with.

August, 1774.

on Saturday, the sixth day of August, Gage received
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an authentic copy of the act of parliament ‘for the better regulating the province of the Massachusetts bay,’ introduced by Lord North in April, and, as we have seen, assented to by the king on the twentieth of May. Rockingham and his friends have left on the records of the house of lords their protest against the act, ‘because,’ said they, ‘a definitive legal offence, by which a forfeiture of the charter is incurred, has not been clearly stated and fully proved; neither has notice of this adverse proceeding been given to the parties affected; neither have they been heard in their own defence; and because the governor and council are intrusted with powers, with which the British constitution has not trusted his majesty and privy council, so that the lives and properties of the subjects are put into their hands without control.’

The principle of the statute was the concentration [95] of the executive power, including the courts of justice,

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in the hands of the royal governor. Without previous notice to Massachusetts and without a hearing, it arbitrarily took away rights and liberties which the people had enjoyed from the foundation of the colony; except in the evil days of James the Second, and which had been renewed in the charter from William and Mary. That charter was coeval with the great English revolution, had been the fundamental law of the colonists for more than eighty years, and was associated in their minds with every idea of English liberty and loyalty to the English crown. Under its provisions the councillors, twenty-eight in number, had been annually chosen by a convention of the council for the former year and the assembly, subject only to the negative of the governor; henceforward they were to be not less than twelve and not more than thirty-six, were to receive their appointments from the king, and were removable at his pleasure. The governor received authority, without consulting his council, to appoint and to remove all judges of the inferior courts, justices of the peace, and all officers belonging to the council and the courts of justice. The sheriffs were changeable by the governor and council as often and for such purposes as they should deem expedient. In case of a vacancy, the governor was himself to appoint the chief justice and judges of the superior court, who were to hold their commissions during the pleasure of the king, and depend on his good — will for the amount and the payment of their salaries. That nothing might be wanting to executive power, the right of selecting juries was taken from the inhabitants [96] and freeholders of the towns, and conferred on
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the sheriffs of the several counties within the province. This regulating act, moreover, uprooted the dearest institution of New England, whose people, from the first settlement of the country, had been accustomed in their town meetings to transact all business that touched them most nearly as fathers, as freemen, and as Christians. There they adopted local taxes to keep up their free-schools; there they regulated all the municipal concerns of the year; there they instructed the representatives of their choice; and as the limits of the parish and the town were usually the same, there most of them took measures for the invitation and support of ministers of the gospel in their congregations; there, whenever they were called together by their selectmen, they were accustomed to express their sentiments on all subjects connected with their various interests, their rights and liberties, and their religion. The regulating act, sweeping away the provincial law which had received the approval of William and Mary, permitted two meetings annually in which town officers and representatives might be chosen, but no other matter be introduced; every other assembling of a town was forbidden except by the written leave of the governor, and then only for business expressed in that leave. A wise ruler respects the feelings, usages, and opinions of the governed. The king trampled under foot the affections, customs, laws, and privileges of the people of Massachusetts. He was willing to spare them an explicit consent to the power of parliament in all cases whatever; but he required proof that Boston had compensated the East India company, [97] that the tax on tea could be safely collected, and
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that the province would peacefully acquiesce in thechange of its charter.

With the regulating act Gage received copies of two other acts which were to facilitate its enforcement. He was surrounded by an army; had been enjoined repeatedly to arrest the leading patriots, even at the risk of producing a riot; and had been instructed that even in time of peace he could of himself order the troops to fire upon the people. By one of the two additional acts, he was authorized to quarter his army in towns; by the other, to transfer to another colony or to Great Britain any persons informed against or indicted for crimes committed in supporting the revenue laws or suppressing riots.

The regulating act complicated the question between America and Great Britain. The country, under the advice of Pennsylvania, might have indemnified the East India company; might have obtained by importunity the repeal of the tax on tea; or might have borne the duty as it had borne that on wine; but parliament, after ten years of premeditation, had exercised the power to abrogate the laws, and to change the charter of a province without its consent; and on this arose the conflict of the American revolution. The act went into effect on the moment of its being received; and of necessity precipitated the choice between submission and resistance. Within a week, eleven of the mandamus councillors took the oath of office, and were followed in a few days by fourteen more. They were persuaded that the province could by no possibility hold out; the promise of assistance from other colonies was scoffed at as a [98] delusion, intended only to keep up the spirit of the

Chap. VIII.} 1774. Aug.
mob. No assembly existed in the province to remonstrate; and Gage might delay or wholly omit to send out writs for a new election. But a people who were trained to read and write; to discuss all political questions, privately and in public; to strive to exhibit in their lives the Christian system of ethics, the beauty of holiness, and the unselfish nature of virtue; to reason on the great ends of God in creation; to believe in their own immortality; and to venerate their ancestry as above all others pure, enlightened, and free, could never forego the civil rights which were their most cherished inheritance.

The committee of Boston, exasperated by a military camp in the heart of their town, acknowledged themselves unable to deliberate ‘as the perils and exigencies of the times might demand.’ ‘Being stationed by Providence in the front rank of the conflict,’ such was their letter to all the other towns in the province, ‘we trust we shall not be left by Heaven to do any thing derogatory to our common liberties, unworthy of the fame of our ancestors, or inconsistent with our former professions. Though surrounded with a large body of armed men, who, having the sword, have also our blood in their hands, we are yet undaunted. To you, our brethren and dear companions in the cause of God, we apply. From you we have received that countenance and aid which have strengthened our hands, and that bounty, which hath occasioned smiles on the face of distress. To you, therefore, we look for that advice and example, which, with the blessing of God, shall save us from destruction.’ [99]

The earnest message was borne to the northern

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border of the province, where the brooks run to the Nashua, and the upland farms yielded but scanty returns to the hardest toil. The husbandmen in that region had already sent many loads of rye to the poor of Boston. In the coming storm they clustered. round William Prescott, of Pepperell, who stood as firm as Monadnoc, that rose in sight of his homestead; and on the day after the first mandamus councillors took their oath of office, they put their soul into his words as he wrote for them to the men of Boston: ‘Be not dismayed nor disheartened in this day of great trials. We heartily sympathize with you, and are always ready to do all in our power for your support, comfort, and relief; knowing that Providence has placed you where you must stand the first shock. We consider we are all embarked in one bottom, and must sink or swim together. We think if we submit to these regulations, all is gone. Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity. Their children have waded through seas of difficulty, to leave us free and happy in the enjoyment of English privileges. Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed? Is a glorious death in defence of our liberties better than a short infamous life, and our memories to be had in detestation to the latest posterity? Let us all be of one heart, and stand fast in the liberties wherewith Christ has made us free; and may he of his infinite mercy grant us deliverance out of all our troubles.’ Such were the cheering words of [100] Prescott and his companions, and they never forgot
Chap. VIII.} 1774. Aug.
their pledge.

Everywhere the rural population of Massachusetts were anxiously weighing the issues in which they were involved. One spirit moved through them all. From the hills of Berkshire to the Penobscot, they debated the great question of resistance as though God were hearkening; and they took counsel reverently with their ministers, and the aged, the pious, and the brave in their villages. Adjoining towns held conferences. The shire of Worcester in August set the example of a county congress, which disclaimed the jurisdiction of the British house of commons, asserted the exclusive right of the colonies to originate laws respecting themselves, rested their duty of allegiance on the charter of the province, and declared the violation of that charter a dissolution of their union with Britain.

Thomas Gardner, a Cambridge farmer, promised a similar convention of the county of Middlesex. ‘Friends and brethren,’ he wrote to Boston, as if at once to allay anxiety and prophesy his own approaching end, ‘the time is come that every one that has a tongue and an arm is called upon by their country to stand forth in its behalf. I consider the call as the call of God, and desire to be all obedience. The people will choose rather to fall gloriously in the cause of their country than meanly submit to slavery.’ The passion for liberty was felt to be so hallowed, that in a land, remarkable for piety, a father of family in his last hour would call his sons about his death-bed and charge them on his blessing to love freedom more than life. [101]

In June there had been a review of the Boston

Chap. VIII.} 1774. Aug.
regiment. The patriots speculated on the total number of the militia. After searching the rolls of the several towns, the population of the province was estimated at four hundred thousand souls, and the number of men between sixteen and sixty years of age, at about one hundred and twenty thousand, most of whom possessed arms, and were expert in their use. There could be no general muster; but during the summer, the drum and fife were heard in every hamlet, and the several companies paraded for discipline. One day in August, Gage revoked Hancock's commission in the Boston cadets; and that company resented the insult by returning the king's standard and disbanding.

Putnam, of Connecticut, famous for service near Lake George and Ticonderoga, before the walls of Havana, and far up the lakes against Pontiac, a pioneer of emigration to the southern banks of the Mississippi, the oracle of all patriot circles in his neighborhood, rode to Boston with one hundred and thirty sheep, as a gift from the parish of Brooklyn. The ‘old hero’ became Warren's guest, and every one's favorite. The officers whom he visited on Boston Common bantered him about coming down to fight. ‘Twenty ships of the line and twenty regiments,’ said Major Small, ‘may be expected from England in case a submission is not speedily made by Boston.’ ‘If they come,’ said the veteran, ‘I am ready to treat them as enemies.’

The growing excitement attracted to New England Charles Lee, the restless officer whom the Five Nations had named the Boiling Water. As aide-de-camp [102] to the king of Poland, he assumed the rank of a ma-

Chap. VIII.} 1774. Aug.
jor-general, which on occasion of his visit was universally acknowledged; so that of all who were likely to draw the sword for America, he had the precedence in military rank. He paid court to the patriots of Massachusetts, and left them confident of his aid in the impending struggle. He on his part saw in the New England yeomanry the best materials for an army.

Meantime the delegates of Massachusetts to the general congress were escorted by great numbers as far as Watertown, where many had gathered to bid them a solemn and affectionate farewell. As they reached Connecticut river, they received a letter of advice from the great patriot of Northampton. ‘We must fight,’ wrote Hawley, ‘we must fight, if we cannot otherwise rid ourselves of British taxation. The form of government enacted for us by the British parliament is evil against right, utterly intolerable to every man who has any idea or feeling of right or liberty. There is not heat enough yet for battle; constant and negative resistance will increase it. There is not military skill enough; that is improving and must be encouraged. Fight we must finally, unless Britain retreats. But it is of infinite consequence that victory be the end of hostilities. If we get to fighting before necessary dispositions are made for it, we shall be conquered and all will be lost for ever. A clear plan for an adequate supply of arms and military stores must be devised. This is the main thing. Men, in that case, will not be wanting. Our salvation depends upon a persevering union. Every grievance of any one colony must be held as a grievance to the [103] whole, and some plan be settled for a continuation of

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congresses, even though congresses will soon be dedared by parliament to be high treason.’

Hawley spoke the genuine sentiments of western Massachusetts. When on Tuesday, the sixteenth of August, the judges of the inferior court of Hampshire met at Great Barrington, it was known that the regulating act had received the royal approval. Before noon the town was filled with people of the county and five hundred men from Connecticut, armed with clubs and staves. Suffering the courts of justice to sit, seemed a recognition of the act of parliament, and the chief judge was forced to plight his honor that he and his associates would do no business. When it became known that a great effort to execute the new statute was designed to be made at Worcester, the uncompromising inhabitants of that town purchased and manufactured arms, cast musket-balls, and provided powder for the occasion; and as Gage meditated employing a part of his army, they threatened openly to fall upon any body of soldiers who should attack them.

The mandamus councillors began to give way. Williams of Hatfield refused to incur certain ruin by accepting his commission; so did Worthington of Springfield. Those who accepted dared not give advice.

Boston held town meetings as before. Gage reminded the selectmen of the act of parliament, restricting town meetings without the governor's leave. ‘It is only an adjourned one,’ said the selectmen. ‘By such means,’ said Gage, ‘you may keep your meeting alive these ten years.’ He brought the subject [104] before the new council. ‘It is a point of law,’

Chap. VIII.} 1774. Aug.
said they, ‘and should be referred to the crown lawyers.’ He asked their concurrence in removing a sheriff. ‘The act of parliament,’ they replied, ‘confines the power of removal to the governor alone.’ Several members gave an account of the frenzy which was sweeping from Berkshire over the province, and might reach them collectively even in the presence of the governor. ‘If you value your life, I advise you not to return home at present,’ was the warning received by Ruggles from the town of Hardwick, whose freemen with those of New Braintree and of Greenwich so resented his accepting a place in the council, that they vowed he should never again pass the great bridge of the town alive.

By nine o'clock on the morning of the twenty-sixth, more than two thousand men marched in companies to the common in Worcester, where they forced Timothy Paine to walk through their ranks with his hat off as far as the centre of their hollow square, and read a written resignation of his seat at the council board. A large detachment then moved to Rutland to deal with Murray. The next day at noon Wilder of Templeton and Holden of Princeton brought up their companies, and by three in the afternoon, about fifteen hundred men had assembled, most of them armed with bludgeons. But Murray had escaped on the previous evening, just before the sentries were set round his house and along the roads; they therefore sent him a letter requiring him to resign. The temper of the people brooked no division; they held every person that would not join them an enemy to his country. ‘The consequences of your proceedings [105] will be rebellion, confiscation and death,’ said the

Chap. VIII.} 1774. Aug.
younger Murray; and his words were as oil to the flame. ‘No consequences,’ they replied to him, ‘are so dreadful to a free people as that of being made slaves.’ ‘This,’ wrote he to his brother, ‘is not the language of the common people only; those that have heretofore sustained the fairest character are the warmest in this matter; and among the many friends you have heretofore had, I can scarcely mention any to you now.’

One evening in August the farmers of Union in Connecticut found Willard of Lancaster, Massachusetts, within their precinct. They kept watch over him during the night, and the next morning five hundred men would have taken him to the county jail; but after a march of six miles he begged forgiveness of all honest men for having taken the oath of office, and promised never to sit or act in council.

The people of Plymouth were grieved that George Watson, their respected townsman, was willing to act under his appointment. On the first Lord's day after his purpose was known, as soon as he took his seat in meeting, his neighbors and friends put on their hats before the congregation and walked out of the house. The extreme public indignity was more than he could bear. As they passed his pew, he hid his face by bending his head over his cane, and determined to resign. Of thirty six who received the king's summons as councillors, more than twenty declined to obey them or revoked their acceptance. The rest fled in terror to the army at Boston, and even there could not hide their sense of shame.

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