« ZurückWeiter »
of it, to pay
in the magazines of the East India Company. They urged the minister to take off the import American duty of three-pence per pound, and offered, in lieu
double that sum on exportation. This fair opportunity for accommodation was rejected, and either as a mere indulgence to the company, or with the intent to give operation to their revenue system in America, drawbacks were allowed on tea exported to the colonies, and the duty on that article exported by the company was entirely taken off. After these encouragements had been held forth, the company (not without some hesitation, and, as is understood, assurances from government that they should in no event be permitted to sustain a loss,) proceeded to make shipments to the colonies on their own account. Large quantities were consigned to agents in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and other principal places on the continent.
The crisis now approached ; and the conduct of the colonies, in this precise point of time, was to determine, whether they would submit to be taxed by the British parliament, or meet the consequences of a practical application, to their situation, of the opinions they had maintained. If the tea should be danded, it would be sold; the duties would consequently be paid, and the precedent for taxing them established; the opposition to which would, it was feared, become every day less and less. The same sentiment on this subject appears to have pervaded
the whole continent at the same time. This miniterial plan of importation was every where considered as a direct attack on the liberties of the people of America, which it was the duty of all to oppose. A violent ferment was every where excited; the corresponding committees were extremely active ; and it was almost universally declared that whoever should, directly or indirectly, countenance this dangerous invasion of their rights, was an enemy to his country. The consignees were generally compelled to relinquish their appointments; and in most instances, the ships bringing the tea were obliged to return with it. In Charleston, after much opposition, the tea was permitted to be landed, but was immediately lodged in damp cellars, where it long remained, and was finally spoiled.
At Boston, the people in a meeting adopted the spirited resolutions, which had before been entered into Philadelphia, and appointed a committee to wait on the consignees to request their resignation. This request not being complicd with, another large meeting* assembled at Faneuil Hall, where it was
* The language said by Mr. Gordon to have been used at this meeting, proves many of the people of Boston to have been a'ready ripe for the revolution. To the more cautious among the Sons of liberty, who had some apprehensions lest they should push
voted with acclamations, “ that the tea shall not be landed, that no duty shall be paid, and that it shall be sent back in the same bottoms." With a foreboding of the probable consequences of the measure about to be adopted, and a wish that those consequences should be seriously contemplated, a leading member* thus addressed the meeting :
the matter -100 far, and involve the town and colony in a quarrel with Great Britain, others answered, “ It must come to a quarrel between Great Britain and the colony sooner or later; and if so, when can be a better time than the present ? Hundreds of years may pass away before the parliament will make such a number of acts in violation of the British constitution as it has done of Jate years, and by which it has excited so formidable an opposition to the measures of ministry. Beside, the longer the contest is delayed, the more administration will be strengthened. Do not you observe, how the government at home are increasing their party here, by sending over young fellows to enjoy appointments, who marry into our first families, and so weaken the opposition ? By such like means, and by multiplying posts and places, and giving them to their own friends, or employing them to the corruption of their antagonists, they will encrease their own force faster, in proportion, than the force of the country party will encrease by population. If then we must quarrel, ere we can have our rights secured, now is the most eligible period. Our credit also is at stake; we must venture, and unless we do, we shall be discarded by the sons of liberty in the other colonies, whose assistance we may expect upon emergencies, in case they find us steady, resolute, and faithful."
* Mr. Quincy.
“ It is not, Mr. Moderator, the spirit that vapours within these walls that must stand us in stead. The exertions of this day will call forth events, which will make a very different spirit necessary for our salvation. Whoever supposes that shouts and hosannas will terminate the trials of the day, entertains a childish fancy. We must be grossly ignorant of the importance and value of the prize for which we contend; we must be equally ignorant of the power of those who have combined against us; we must be blind to that malice, inveteracy, and insatiable revenge, which actuate our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosom, to hope that we shall end this controversy without the sharpest-sharpest conflicts to flatter ourselves that popular resolves, popular harangues, popular acclamations, and popular vapour, will vanquish our foes. Let us consider the issue. Let us look to the end. Let us weigh and consider before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrible struggle this country ever saw.”
The question was again put, and passed without a negative.
Aware of the approaching danger, the captain of the vessel was desirous of returning, and applied to the governor for a clearance; he, affecting a rigid regard to the letter of his duty, declined giving one, unless the vessel should be properly
qualified at the custom house. This answer being reported to the meeting, it was declared to be dissolved ; and an immense crowd repaired to the quay, where a number of the most resolute, disguised like Mohawk Indians, boarded the ves. sels, and in about two hours, broke open three hundred and forty-two chests of tea, and discharged their contents into the ocean.
These proceedings of the colonists were laid before parliament in a message from the crown, and a very high and general indignation was excited in that body by the outrages stated to have been committed. They expressed, almost unanimously, their approbation of the measures adopted by his Majesty, and gave the most explicit assurances that they would not fail to exert every means in their power, effectually to provide for the due execution of the laws, and to secure the dependence of the colonies upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain. The temper both of the house and of the nation was now entirely favourable to the highhanded system of coercion proposed by ministers, and that temper was not permitted to pass away, without being employed to advantage. A bill was soon brought in “ for discontinuing the lading and shipping of goods, wares, and merchandizes at Boston, or the barbour thereof, and for the removal of the custom house and its dependencies to the town of Salem.” This bill was to continue in force not