Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tinder what a variety of circumstances homicide was actually reduced to manslaughter, were so luminous and forcible, that it led the popular leaders to change their ground, and turn their attention to the militia, as the best defence of liberty.

- In January, 1771, the soldiers stationed in New-York, cut down the liberty pole, in the night, which greatly inflamed the public mind; this bad been much excited by a grant of support-to those troops by the assembly, and was now greatly increased by the further grant of 2000/. as afurther support to these troops. Anonymous publications were circulated, calculated to kindle into a blaze the fire of patriotism, and signed A Son of Liberty, for the first, Legion, for the second, and calling upon the people to assemble in the fields. The people obeyed the summons, and repaired to the fields, to the amount of about 1400, where, they expressed almost an unanimous disapprobation of the acts of assembly, granting money for the support of the troops; appointed a committee to communicate their doings to the representatives, and quietly dispersed.

Soon after this, the author of the Son of Liberty, was discovered to be the publisher, Mr. McDougle, wlio was arrested, and committed to gaol, tried, and convicted ;. he suffered nearly one whole year's imprisonment, under a variety of circumstances, when he was finally liberated by that assembly which he had so grossly insulted. This reflected no honour upon them, because this son of liberty, although a Scotchman, was liberated by the imperious voice of the people, rather than by the voice of the assembly, for the best blood of the city, by their kind and dignified deportment toward the prisoner, rendered his cause' popular, and the doings of the assembly odious.

In May following, the lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts, convened the assembly at Cambridge; but they refused to do business out of Boston, by a special resolve. and the governor prorogued them to the 25th of July, when they met, and again refused to do business. The house transmitted a message to the lieutenant-governor, in which they declared in justification of their conduct, "That the people have a right to appeal to heaven, when despotic rulers abuse their power;" and added, " these and other grievances, and cruelties, too many to be here enumerated, and too melancholy to be much longer borne by this people, we have seen brought upon us by the devices of the ministers of state."

This message provoked another prorogation, until September 26th, when they again met, and the lieutenantgovernor informed the house, that the troops were to be withdrawn from the castle, and their place was to be supplied by such other regular troops as his majesty should be pleased to order on to that station ; and be subject to the command of General Gage.

Struck with alarm at this intelligence, the assembly saw before them the awful crisis; they passed a resolve, "appointing Wednesday, Oct. 3d. to be observed by both houses as a day of prayer to seek the Lord for his direction and blessing." This was sent up to the council, where it met with a unanimous concurrence. The house next resolved to proceed to business from necessity, with a "protest against that restraint which held them to do it out of Boston." During the session, they pressed the lieutenant-governor very closely, to ascertain whether the command of the castle was actually removed out of his hands, and placed under the power of a foreign officer, and when they had learnt this fact to their satisfaction, (though not by a direct avowal,) they passed resolves, reccommending domestic manufactures throughout the province, together with the most rigid industry, and economy ; and appointed correspondents to communicate this intelligence to their agents, and others, in Great Britain, and the speakers of the other colonial assemblies, or such committees as may be appointed for the purpose, and the lieut. governor prorogued the assembly. *

In April 1771, the governor again convened the assembly, at Cambridge, and informed them of his appointment of captain-general, and commander in chief over the province, to which the council replied by a congratulatory address; but the house declined, and renewed their request to be removed to Boston, which was refused. The house again entered their protest, and appointed a new committee of correspondence.

The governor kindled a new spark, by informing the house, that "by his majesty's instruction, the tax-bills must be so qualified as to strike off the lists of all hie majesty's officers in the province, that they may be exempt from taxes." To this, the house by message, ex> pressed the following reply. "We know of no commissioners of his majesty's customs, nor of any revenue his majesty has a right to establish in North America. We know, and feel a tribute, levied, and extorted from those, who if they have property, have a right to the absolute disposal of it." My pen would revolt at the*task of re* cording events in succession, so trifling, and contemptible in themselves, were they not of the highest importance to shew, in how many insignificant ways, this modern Pharaoh multiplied his tasks, and vexations upon the colonies, in order to drive them into that union which was absolutely necessary to bring them into a state of separation from the dominion of this modern Egypt.

In May 1772, the Massachusetts assembly met again at Cambridge, when the governor informed them, that his majesty had made provision for his support, independent of the assembly; and then, by and with tae advice, and consent of the council, he adjourned the astsembly to Boston. Here the house passed the following; resolve-'; That the making provision for his excellency's support, independent of the grants of the assembly, and his excellency's receiving the same, is an infraction upon the rights of the inhabitants, granted by royal charter."

At this time the Gaspee schooner, a noted revenue cutter in the Providence River, and which had been very vexatious to the Providence packet, made an attempt to board the said packet, on her way up from Newport, with passengers; but failed in her attmpt, and ran aground; which attempt so enraged the sons of liberty at Providence, that her principal citizens manned their boats; proceeded down the river; boarded the schooner; dismissed her crew, and burnt her. Commissioners were appointed by the crown to enquire into and try the cause: with a reward of five hundred pounds, (and a pardon if an accomplice,) to any one who would discover and apprehend any of the persons concerned; but the commissioners were constrained to make report that "they can obtain no evidence."

During the summer, a plan was introduced by Samuel Adams, and others tfor learning the strength of every town in the province, on the side of liberty, and the rights of the country, by regular corresponding committees; and at the same time a more general alarm was given, by publishing the most spirited pieces in favour of liberty and their country's rights.

In November, a town meeting was called in Boston, and a committee of correspondence appointed accordingly.-rThis committee entered pretty extensively into the field of natural liberty, and the rights of man, accompanied with a list of resolves, contradictory to the supremacy of British tyranny, and calling upon the citizens to awake from their slumbers, and rouse to the interest, and wrest the tree of liberty from the iron grasp of tyranny, and not suffer the ruthless hand of a despot to continue to waste her choicest fruits. Six hundred copies of these circulars were struck off and distributed. These were directed to the selectmen in the several towns, and laid before their town meetings, where they were cordially received; and corresponding committees appointed, who transmitted the resolves of the several towns to the committee at Boston. Notwithstanding the governor exerted himself, with his frieuds, to counteract and defeat this plan, it succeeded to admiration, and the sons of liberty were thereby united in one undissoluble bond, that could never be broken.

These several town meetings passed generally a number of spirited resolves, which their committees transmitted to the committee at Boston, which are too numerous and lengthy to be inserted in this work. They may all be summed up in this one:

"Resolved, That it is the first and highest social duty of this people, to consider of, and seek ways and means for a speedy redress of these mighty grievances, and intolerable wrongs; and that for the obtaining of this end, this people are warranted, by the laws of God and nature, in the use of every rightful act, and energy of policy, stratagem and force."

The governor, in order the more effectually to counter act this force, trumped up, in his speech to the assembly, the supremacy of Parliament, which served only to fan the flame ; and the council in their reply assured him, that "the stamp act, with others of a similar nature, was the origin of all the uneasiness that has since taken place, and originated an enquiry into the nature, and extent of the authority by which they were made." All which is verified by the whole history of the subsequent proceedings.

It had ever been the custom for the governor and council, to dine in Fanuel Hall, at all general elections, with

« ZurückWeiter »