Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1765. Sept.

and soon the main body of about five hundred men, farmers

and freeholders, all bearing long and large staves, i white from being freshly rinded, all on horseback,

two abreast, preceded by three trumpeters, and led by two militia officers in full uniform. They opened and received him; and then, to the sound of trumpets, rode forward through the alluvial farms that grace the banks of the “lovely” Connecticut, till they came into Wethersfield. There in the broad main street, twenty rods wide, in the midst of neat dwelling-houses, and of a people that owned the soil and themselves held the plough, in the very heart of New England culture, where the old Puritan spirit, as it had existed among 6 the Best” in the days of Milton, had been preserved with the least admixture, the cavalcade halted, and bade their stamp-master resign. “Is it fair," said he, “ that the counties of New London and Windham should dictate to all the rest of the colony ?” “ It don't signify to parley," they answered; “here are a great many people waiting, and you must resign.” “I wait,” said he, “ to know the sense of the government.” Entering a house with a committee, he sent word to the governor and assembly of his situation; and for three hours kept the people at bay by evasive proposals." This delay," said several of the members, “is his artifice to wheedle the matter along till the assembly shall get ensnared in it.” “I can keep the people off no longer," said the leader, coming up from below, with a crowd following in the passage. It is time to submit,” thought Ingersoll; and saying, “ The cause is not worth dying for,” he publicly resigned, making a written declaration that it was his own free act, without any equivocation or mental reservation. “Swear to it,” said the crowd ; but from that he excused himself. “Then,” cried they, 6 shout, “Liberty and property,' three times ;” and, throwing his hat into the air, he shouted, “ Liberty and property, liberty and property, liberty and property,” on which the multitude gave three loud huzzas.

After dinner, a cavalcade, by this time numbering near one thousand men, escorted him along the road, studded with farm houses, from Wethersfield into Hartford, and

1765. Sept.

dismounted within twenty yards of the hall where the assembly was sitting. The main body, led by Durkee, with their white cudgels in their hands, marched in ranks, four abreast, to the sound of trumpets, round the courthouse, and formed a semicircle. Ingersoll then read 5.2 the paper which he had signed within the hearing of the legislature. This was succeeded by the cry of “liberty and property,” and three cheers; soon after which the people, than whom better men never a walked in glory behind the plough,” having done their work thoroughly, rode home to their several villages.

There the Calvinist ministers nursed the flame of piety and of civil freedom. Of that venerable band, none did better service than the American-born Stephen Johnson, pastor of the first church of Lyme. “Bute, Bedford, and Grenville,” said he to the people, “ will be had in remembrance by Americans as an abomination, execration, and curse. These measures tend to a very fatal civil war; and France and Spain will make advantage of the crisis. If they are pursued, this people cannot bear it, till they have lost the memory of their dear fathers and their affection to their posterity. They will call to mind revolution principles, such as where there is a right, there is a remedy. Their uneasiness is not the sudden heat of passion, from the novelty of the tax; but is the more deep rooted, the more attentively it is considered.

" The advocates for these measures seem to be counsellors of Rehoboam's stamp. Instead of hearing the cries and redressing the grievances of a most loyal and injured people, they are for adding burden upon burden, till they make the little finger of his present majesty a thousand times heavier than the loins of his good grandfather, and would bind all fast with a military chain. Such counsels ended in Israel in such a revolt and wide breach as could never be healed. That this may end in a similar event is not impossible to the providence of God, nor more improbable to Britons than five years ago this stamp-tax was to Americans.”

CHAPTER XVII.

MINISTRY

AMERICA REASONS AGAINST THE STAMP ACT.

OF ROCKINGHAM CONTINUED.

SEPTEMBER, 1765.

1765. Sept.

com almost daihad John ay in E

DURING these acts of compulsory submission, and while

Boston, in a full town-meeting, unanimously asked the pictures of Conway and Barré for Faneuil Hall,

the lords of the treasury in England, Rockingham, Dowdeswell, and Lord John Cavendish being present, held meetings almost daily, to carry the stamp act into effect; they completed the lists of stamp officers; provided for the instant filling of vacancies that might result from death or neglect; signed warrants for the expense of preparing the American stamps; and enjoined the governor to superintend and assist their distribution. These minutes might have had their excuse in the principle that there existed no power to dispense with the law of the land; but Dartmouth, from the board of trade, adopting the worst measure of corruption, which Grenville had resisted, proposed to make the government of each province independent of its provincial legislature for its support.

Every thing implied confidence in the obedience of the colonies, yet the tide of opinion in America was swelling and becoming irresistible. Every colony was resolved to run all hazards rather than submit. When they were asked, 6 What will you do after the first of November ?” “ Do?" they replied, “do as we did before.” “Will you violate the law of parliament?” “The stamp act," repeated every one over and over, “is against Magna Chartà; and Lord Coke says an act of parliament against Magna Charta is for that reason void.”

1765. Sept.

In a more solemn tone, the convictions and purposes of America found utterance through the press. John Adams, of Massachusetts, a fiery Protestant, claiming intellectual freedom as the birthright of man, at once didactic and impetuous, obeying the impulses of “a heart that burned for his country's welfare,” summoned the whole experience of the human race, and human nature herself, to bear witness that, through the increase and diffusion of intelligence, the world was advancing towards the establishment of popular power. Full of hope, he set liberty and knowledge over against authority and ignorance ; America over against Europe; the modern principle of popular freedom over against the middle age and its tyrannies; the New World over against the Old.

“ The people,” thus he continued,“ the populace, as they are contemptuously called, have rights antecedent to all earthly government; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the great Legislator of the universe.” Tracing the gradual improve. ment of human society from the absolute monarchy of the earliest ages, and from the more recent tyrannies of the canon and the feudal law, he saw in the Reformation the uprising of the people, under the benign providence of God, against the confederacy of priestcraft and feudalism, of spiritual and temporal despotism.

" This great struggle,” these are his words, “peopled America. Not religion alone, a love of universal liberty projected, conducted, and accomplished its settlement. After their arrival here, the Puritans formed their plan, both of ecclesiastical and civil government, in direct opposition to the canon and feudal systems. They demolished the whole system of diocesan episcopacy. To render the popular power in their new government as great and wise as their principles of theory, they endeavored to remove from it feudal inequalities, and establish a government of the state, more agreeable to the dignity of human nature than any they had seen in Europe.

Convinced that nothing could preserve their posterity from the encroachments of the two systems of tyranny but

1765. Sept.

knowledge diffused through the whole people, they laid very early the foundations of colleges, and made provision

by law that every town should be furnished with a 6. grammar school. The education of all ranks of peo

ple was made the care and expense of the public, in a manner unknown to any other people, ancient or modern; so that a native American who cannot read and write is as rare an appearance as a comet or an earthquake.

“ There seems to be a direct and formal design on foot in Great Britain to enslave all America. Be it remembered, Liberty must at all hazards be defended. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees for the people; and, if the trust is insidiously betrayed or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute abler and better agents. We have an indisputable right to demand our privileges against all the power and authority on earth.

“The true source of our sufferings has been our timidity. Let every order and degree among the people rouse their attention and animate their resolution. Let us study the law of nature, the spirit of the British constitution, the great examples of Greece and Rome, the conduct of our British ancestors, who have defended for us the inherent rights of mankind against kings and priests. Let us impress upon our souls the ends of our own more immediate forefathers in exchanging their native country for a wilderness. Let the pulpit delineate the noble rank man holds among the works of God. Let us hear that consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust. Let the bar proclaim the rights delivered down from remote antiquity; not the grants of princes or parliaments, but original rights, coequal with prerogative and coeval with government, inherent and essential, established as preliminaries before a parliament existed, having their foundations in the constitution of the intellectual and moral world, in truth, liberty, justice, and benevolence. Let the colleges impress on the tender mind the beauty of liberty and virtue, and the deformity and turpitude of slavery and vice, and spread far and wide the ideas of right and the sensation of freedom. No one of

« ZurückWeiter »