Imágenes de páginas

depends upon their union and connexion with Great Britain. In this sentiment all the Americans concur; yet they cannot bring themselves to think, that for this reason they ought to be divested of liberty and property. Yet this must be the case, if the parliament can make laws to bind the colonies in all cases whatever-can levy taxes upon them without their consent, dispose of the revenues thus raised without their consent, multiply officers at pleasure, and assign them fees to be paid without, nay contrary to and in direct violation of acts of assembly regularly passed by the colonies and approv ed by the crown; can enlarge the power of admiralty courts, divert the usual channels of justice, deprive the colonists of trials by jury of their own countrymen; in short, break down the barriers which their forefathers have erected against arbitrary power, and enforce their edicts by fleets and armies. To such a system of government the Americans cannot tamely submit; not from an impatience of subordination, a spirit of independence, or want of loyalty to their king; for in a quiet submission to just government, in zeal, affection, and attachment to their king, the people of the colonies dare to vie with any of the best of their fellow subjects; but from an innate love of liberty and the British constitution."

"For this reason we think ourselves obliged to inform you, that though the merchants have confined their agreements to the repeal of the act laying a duty on tea, paper, glass, &c. yet nothing less than a repeal of all the revenue acts, and putting things on the same footing they were before the late innovations, can or will satisfy the minds of the people. The feets and armies may overawe our towns; admiralty courts and boards of commissions, with their swarms of underlings, may, by a rigorous execution of severe unconstitutional acts, ruin our commerce, and render America of little use to the people of Britain ; but while every farmer is a freeholder, the spirit of liberty will prevail ; and every attempt to divest them of the privileges of freemen, must be attended with consequences injurious to the colonies and the mother country.

On the other hand, the British government were actuated by a most unwise policy in determining obstinately to adhere to the principle of taxation, and not to remove any of the other causes of discontent. Deceived by the representations of their agents and officers in America, they thought the disorders which had taken place, were the work of a few factious leaders; and that relief from the burden of taxation,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

would quiet the great mass of the people, leaving the prominent agitators to be dealt with by the law.

Accordingly, on the meeting of parliament in January, this imbecile plan was carried into effect. The duke of Grafton, having resigned his office of first lord of the treasury, Lord North, chancellor of the exchequer, succeeded him and became the head of the administration.

Jan'y 1770. Lord Chatham, who had unexpectedly recovered his health, in part, attended in the house of lords, and made several ineffectual efforts, in conjunction with the marquis of Rockingham, to have all the grievances of America taken into consideration, and redressed. He admitted the excesses that had been committed there : “but,” said he, “such is my partiality to America, that I am disposed to make allowance even for these excesses. The discontents of three millions of people, deserve consideration : the foundation of those discontents ought to be removed." Lord North was obstinate ; and a large majority of parliament sustained hin A partial measure of redress, totally inadequate to the claims of the colonies, was introduced on the 5th of March, the very day on which the Boston massacre took place in another hemisphere; and was adopted in April. The duties imposed by the act of 1767 were all taken off, except the insignificant duty on tea, left to maintain the doctrine of supremacy.

No permanent effect favorable to the interests of Great Britain, was produced by this measure.

Lord North, in supporting it, had declared, that to temporize with the right was to yield it; and that "a total repeal” could not be thought of, until America was “prostrate at the feet” of the British parliament. So the Americans estimated it very generally; and the retention of the tea duty, met with no less spirited opposition from the colonial legislatures, than the whole act had done before. The non-importation agreements were in part relinquished, chiefly from the defection of the province of New York; but the combination against the purchase and use of tea, was continued.

Before the knowledge of the repeal reached America, a riot of an alarming nature had occurred in the town of Boston; in which the soldiery had fired on and killed some of the citizens. On the 2d of March, a slight affray had taken place between some of the regular troops and some ropemakers, in which the soldiers were worsted. Party feeling was roused; and on the evening of the 5th, a crowd of citizens

attacked the city guard, and pelted them with stones and snow balls, till the word was given to "fire" in return; when eight pieces were discharged; three citizens were killed, and several severely wounded. The crowd immediately dispersed in all directions to raise the city; the bells were rung, alarm spread everywhere, drums beat, and the cry" to arms,” was raised. The excitement soon brought an immense crowd together, who menaced the soldiers with destruction, and were with difficulty appeased by the promises of Governot Hutchinson, that justice should be done in the morning. They accordingly re-assembled under the lead of Samuel Adams and Royal Tyler, to the number of many thousands; and a long and angry conference was held with the governor. They insisted upon the instant removal of the troops from the town; and, for twenty hours, they bore with the prevarications and evasions of the governor, who denied his power over the military, and declined giving the order for remova even when the commanding officer expressed his willingness to acquiesce in the wishes of the people. The stern resolution and persevering boldness of Samuel Adams, who warned the governor of the consequences of the refusal, and put them entirely upon his responsibility, succeeded in extorting the order without violence, and the troops were removed.

Captain Preston and his company were arrested, and tried for murder, by the colonial courts. It is one of the finest traits of revolutionary virtue, love of justice and order, and obedience to the law, that these soldiers, . tried in the midst of a community so exasperated against the military in general, and provoked by daily insults and conflicts, were zealously and eloquently defended on universal principles of law and equity, by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, iwo of the most eminent American patriots ; and six of them acquitted by a conscientious, unprejudiced, and magnanimous jury. Two of the soldiers were convicted of manslaughter.

The Boston massacre, as it continues to be called, produced a great sensation throughout the colonies, and nearly produced similar riots with the military in other places. : The slain were buried together, with much public solemnity; and annual orations were delivered, to commemorate the disas trous event.

Although it resulted in the acquittal of the chief per-t sons accused, it (served to taggravate the hostility of the

H 2


people towards the military; of which numerous prooij were given almost daily. Not long afterwards, Governor Hutchinson, who had taken no measures to relieve the alarm of the people in respect to the tragical affair, sent a special message to complain of some petty obstructions to the customhouse officers at Gloucester. The answer of the house was in the loftiest strain of indignant eloquence. “The in

stance,” said they, “which your honor recommends to our attention, admitting it to be true, cannot be more threatening to government, than those enormities which have been known to be committed by the soldiery of late, and have strangely escaped punishment, though repeated in defiance of the laws and authority of government. A military force, posted among the people without their express consent, is itself one of the greatest grievances, and threatens the total subversion of a free constitution ; much more, if designed to execute a system of corrupt and arbitrary power, and even to exterminate the liberties of the country. The bill of rights, passed immediately after the revolution of 1688, expressly declares, that the keeping of a standing army within the king, dom, in time of peace, without the consent of the parliament, is against law; and we take this occasion to say, that the keeping of a standing army within this province, in a time of peace, without the consent of the general assembly, is against law."

"Such a standing army must be designed to subjugate the people to arbitrary measures. It is a most violent infraction of their natural and constitutional rights. It is an UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY-of all others the most dangerous and alarmingand every instance of its restraining the liberty of any indi. vidual, is a crime which infinitely exceeds what the law intends by a riot. Surely, then, your honor cannot think that this house can descend to a consideration of matters comparatively trifling, while the capital of the province has so lately been in a state of actual imprisonment, and the government is under duress."

After tracing the disorders and dissensions to "unconstitutional acts," and the sentence of the laws under the terror of arms, they conclude :

"We yet entertain a hope, that the military power, so grievous to the people, will soon be removed from the province. Till then, we have nothing to expect, but that tyranny and confusion will prevail, in defiance of the laws of the land, and the just and constitutional authority of government."

These quotations are made more at large, because for the next two years the chief permanent sources of collision lo tween the royal authorities and the colonists, arose from these military occupations, which the Americans insisted upon were tyrannical and unconstitutional. Out of them grew perpetual conflicts and quarrels between the citizens and the soldiery.

The Massachusetts assembly had a constant dispute with the governor, concerning their place of meeting—he having convened them at Cambridge—while they resolutely insisted upon their constitutional right to meet at Boston; and yielded only from the necessities of public business. No tax bill was passed during the year 1771; the governor having informed them that he had his majesty's command, “not to give his assent to any act subjecting the commissioners of the customs and other officers of the crown, to be taxed by the usual assessors, for the profits of their commis

ons—and that they must therefore so qualify their tax bill.” The house in reply told him, “they knew of no commissioners of his majesty's customs, nor of any revenue his majesty had a right to establish in North America. We know and feel (said they,) a tribute levied and extorted from those, who, if they have property, have a right to the absolute disposal of it."

Throughout the colonies, the non-importation agreements were continued; and were the only measures of opposition to the British claims, employed during the year 1771. Angry complaints, increasing bitterness of feeling, and a more general sentiment of repugnance to Great Britain, were the chief results of the weak and tyrannical policy of Great Britain. In 1772, a new grievance was imposed upon

the colony of Massachusetts, by a royal regulation, making pro

vision for the support of the governor, independent of the si colonial assembly; which the house of representatives, con

vened for the first time since their removal to Cambridge, at Boston, resolved to be an “infraction of the rights of the inhabitants, granted by the royal charter.” This was considered so alarming a measure- so fraught with danger to the liberties of the people, by making their executive and judicial officers dependent entirely upon the crown, and beyond the reach of the people that it led, under the active exertions of Samuel Adams, and Joseph Warren, to the formation of committees of correspondence,

[ocr errors]

Nov. 1772

« AnteriorContinuar »