« AnteriorContinuar »
was destroyed, notwithstanding the earnest efforts of the great body of the citizens to discountenance and repress them. The effigy of Oliver, the proposed distributer of stamps, was publicly gibbeted in the streets of the town, on an elm-tree, afterwards known as “Liberty Tree." His office was torn down, his house mobbed, and great injury done to his furniture. He was compelled to decline the appointment, and forced, some time after, to repeat the pledge publicly at the foot of the tree. The rabble, soon after, broke into and plundered the houses of the collector of the Customs, and Governor Hutchinson, the latter of which was destroyed, a large sum of money purloined or destroyed, and much costly property, and many valuable papers lost. The people met, and took energetic measures to detect the perpetrators of these outrages offering large rewards for their apprehension.
Later in the same month, a Gazette extraordinary was published in the town of Providence, Rhode Island, with the motto, in large letters, “ Vox Populi, Vox Dei”-and an inscription beneath,—"Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. St. Paul.” Riots followed-effigies of the stamp collectors, and those who favored Britain, were hung and burnt-and in Newport the house of one of them destroyed,
in the popular fury. In New-York, the act was contemptui ously cried about the streets, as “The folly of England, and
the ruin of America.” The house of Lieutenant Governor Colden was beset, his stable broken open, his carriage seized, an effigy put in it, and paraded through the streets—and the whole burnt together at the doors of the Government House. The stamp distributor resigned, and the stamp papers were seized and destroyed.
When the vessels carrying the stamp paper approached Philadelphia, the vessels in the harbor hoisted flags at half mast, and the bells were muffled and tolled, as for a public calamity. The people exacted a pledge from the stamp distributer, not to execute his office. The stamp distributor in Maryland, fled from the demands of the people to NewYork, and thence to Long Island, but was followed up perseeringly, and forced to make his renunciation under oath before a magistrate. In Connecticut and New Hampshire, the stamp officers also resigned; and everywhere, except in, South Carolina, the governors of the provinces were compelled to acquiesce in the necessity of the case, and for
bore insisting upon the law. From Massachusetts to Geore gia, the measures of the people thus determined and excited, made the enforcement of the stamp act totally impracticable, before it went legally into operation. A person high in office in New York, wrote home to England in November of that year: “Depend upon it, they (the Americans) will suffer no man to execute any law to raise internal taxes, unimposed by their own assemblies. None of the distributors durst act; and that man's heart must be fortified with ten. fold steel, who ventures to approve the doctrine, that parliament has a right to give away the estates of the colonists, without their consent.”'
In the midst of these excitements, which were still increasing in violence, the stamp act congress met at NewYork on the second Tuesday in October. Nine colonies were represented by twenty-eight deputies. There were, from Massachuetts, James Otis, Oliver Partridge, and Timothy Ruggles; from Rhode Island, Metcalf Bowler, and Henry Ward; from Connecticut, Eliphalet Dyer, David Rowland and William S. Johnson; from New York, Robert R. Liv ingston, John Cruger, Philip Livingston, William Bayard, and Leonard Lispenard; from New Jersey, Robert Ogden, Hendrick Fisher, and Joseph Berden; from Pennsylvania, John Dickinson, John Morton, and George Bryan ; from Delaware, Thomas McKean, and Cæsar Rodney ; from Maryland, William Murdock, Edward Tilghman, and Thomas Ringgold ; and from South Carolina, Thomas Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, and John Rutledge.
It was voted that each colony be entitled to one voice, in the determining of questions; and Mr. Ruggles, of Massachusetts, was chosen to preside.
On the 19th of October, the declaration of rights and grievances was agreed to. It consisted of fourteen articles; which re-affirmed, in substance, the doctrines previously contained in the resolutions of the colonial assembly, that the colonists were entitled to all the rights and liberties of natural born subjects; that it is inseparable from freedom, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, not to be taxed without their own consent, or that of their representatives—that the colonies were not, and could not be represented in Great Britain, but were only represented in the colonial legislatures which alone possessed the right, and had exercised it to that time exclusively, of raising money from them by internal
taxation; that trial by jury, is-the" inherent and invaluable right" of every subject in the colonies--and that the stamp act, and other acts extending the jurisdiction of the admiral ty courts beyond the ancient limits, had "a manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists.” This declaration was followed by three petitions, addressed severally to the king and the two houses of parliament. They were drawn up with singular ability and scholarship-and, considering the temper of the people, with great prudence and moderation, but with inflexible zeal for the rights of - America. They were approved by all the members except
Mr. Ruggles, of Massachusetts, and Mr. Ogden, of New Jersey. The delegates from Connecticut and South Carolina, were not authorized to sign them, being under instructions to report to their respective assemblies; and the New-York commissioners were entirely without powers. Six colonies, however, signed ; and all the rest, whether represented or not, afterwards approved of their measures adopted. Congress completed its labors, and adjourned on 25th of October, one week before the day appointed for the stamp act to take effect.
When that fatal day arrived, so thoroughly had the popular work been perfected, that no stamp paper
November, 1765. was to be found in America. It had been all destroyed, or re-shipped to England. There were no stamp distributors to be found, all having thrown up their appointments, or been coerced into declining to act. By the terms of the act, therefore, no lawful business could be transacted in America ; and, for some time, all business was suspended. The courts were closed ; marriages ceased; the publication of newspapers was suspended; no more clearances were taken out for vessels ; transactions between commercial men stopped ; all engagements and associations of trade were arrested; and all the social and mercantile affairs of a continent, stag
Such a remarkable state of things, could not exist long. By degrees, things resumed their usual course ; newspapers were issued ; licenses of all kinds granted ; law and business papers, written on unstamped paper ; and the whole machinery of society went on as before, without regard to the act of parliament.
The first of November was, nevertheless, kept as a day of mourning and humiliation. Shops were generally shut; the vessels dressed themselves with flags at half mast, as for the
nated at once.
death of public freedom; bells were muffled and tolled as for a funeral; and, in the evening, bonfires were made, and effigies hung and burnt, and placards distributed, warning the inhabitants against distributing or using stamped paper; and every thing done to manifest the determined hatred of the people against the act, its authors and advocates. In New Hampshire, these exhibitions of feeling were accompanied by a curious emblematic ceremony. The bells were tolled generally, as for the dead; and the people invited to attend the funeral of liberty. A coffin was prepared, with an in. scription, “LIBERTY--AGED CXLV."; dating from the landing at Plymouth in 1620-minute guns were fired—and a solemn oration pronounced over the deceased. It was then announced, that signs of life remained; the coffin was raised; the inscription changed to "Liberty REVIVED;" and the bells rung a merry peal, as a token of triumphs to come.
About the same time, the association of the Sons of Liberty, which had existed for some months, assumed an extent and importance, which had vast influence on after events. It was originally composed of citizens of Connecticut and NewYork; the latter of whom, on the 7th of November, held a meeting, at which it was determined to risk life and fortune to resist the stamp act, and to form a system of co-operation with the sons of liberty in other colonies. Notice was sent first to the Connecticut association; and articles of union between the sons of liberty in two provinces, were soon after agreed upon and signed. In these, after denouncing the stamp act, as a flagrant outrage on the British constitution, they most solemnly pledged themselves to march with their 'whole force, whenever required, at their own proper cost and expense, to the relief of all who should be in danger from the stamp act. or its abettors--to be vigilant in watching for the introduction of stamped paper, to consider all who were caught in introducing it as betrayers of their country, and to bring them, if possible, to condign punishment, whatever may be their rank-to defend the liberty of the press in their respective colonies from all violations or impediments on account of the said act to save all judges, attornies, clerks and others from fines, penalties, or any molestation whatever, who shall proceed in their respective duties without regard to the stamp act. And lastly, they pledged themselves to use their utmost endeavors to bring about a similar union with all the colonies on the continente
. In pursuance of this plan, circular letters were addressed to the sons of liberty in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and south wardly as far as South Carolina. Everywhere the scheme was received with enthusiasm ; and, in a few weeks, a grand colonial alliance of voluntary defenders of liberty, was actively in operation throughout the continent.
A method of resistance, through the medium of associations, still more efficient because retaliatory, attacking the pecuniary interests of Great Britain, was adopted by the merchants of New
York, Boston, and Philadelphia. They entered into reciprocal engagements with each other, not only to order no more goods from Great Britain until the act was repealed, and to withdraw the orders already given, which should not be executed by the 1st of January, but not to receive on commission, nor permit the sale of English merchandize shipped after that date. This example was followed by similar combinations in other cities, towns, and counties and the same principle extended itself to individuals and families, including many females. They denied themselves the use of all foreign luxuries—all imported articles of dress-forbade the killing of sheep, in order to secure a supply of wool--and became exclusively manufacturers, and consumers of domestic goods. Lawyers too, entered extensively into mutual compacts, to prevent the bringing of any suit for an inhabitant of England, against a colonist.
The whole face of affairs in America, thus changed from despondence and submission, to firmness, angry preparation, and resolute determination not to submit to the acts of parliament, levying taxes.
Accounts of these proceedings were regularly transmitted to England, where they were received with resentment and alarm. In the mean time, important changes had taken place in the ministry ; brought about; in some degree, by the distress which began to be felt there, from the non-importation and non-consumption associations of the Americans, which contributed to the unpopularity of Mr. Grenville's ad ministration. It was finally overthrown in July; and after an effort to bring Mr. Pitt into power, which failed, from his lisagreement with Lord Temple, a new ministry was formed at the head of which was placed the marquis of Rock, ingham, with the duke of Grafton, and General Conway, as Secretaries of State the latter for the colonies. This appointment was very agreeable to the Americans, Col. Con,