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Reign of George III. (Continued) page 11


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On this occasion the commissioners prepared to secure the duties on the cargo. They sent on board an excise officer, duly instructed, who, being as usual invited to take punch with the captain in the cabin, declined, and other and more tempting proposals being made him, he declined them too. Whereupon, he was immediately seized, and locked up in the cabin whilst the wine was carried on shore. Next morning the skipper entered a few pipes of wine at the custom house as the whole of his cargo; but the commissioners, disregarding this false entry, immediately ordered the comptroller to seize the sloop in the king's name, and mark the broad arrow upon her. The comptroller signalled the Romney man-of-war, lying at anchor off Boston, to take the sloop in tow and carry her under her guns. Crowds, meantime, had gathered on the quay, and Malcolm, the smuggler, heading them, commenced measures for resistance. The captain of the Romney sent out his boat's crew to haul in the sloop, and the mob, instigated by Malcolm, attacked with stones. The man-of-war's men, notwithstanding, executed their task, and carried the Liberty under the guns of the Romney.

But the success of the capture only intensified the commotion on shore. Malcolm and his mob attacked the custom-house officers with all their fury. The tumult continued the next day; the mob broke the windows of the houses of the commissioners and the custom-house officers; they dragged the collector's boat on shore, and made a bonfire of it. These officers fled for their lives - first on board the Romney, and then to Castle William, a fortress at the mouth of the harbour. The third day was Sunday, and the Bostonians kept the day with the decorum customary with New Englanders; but on the Monday the riot was resumed with unabated vigour. Placards were carried round the town, calling on the Sons of Liberty to meet on. Tuesday at ten o'clock. The Sons of Liberty were members of the non-importation associations, which had been established there, and in many parts of America. They had adopted that designation from a phrase in a speech of colonel Barre's, delivered in parliament as early as 1765. Daughters of Liberty existed as well as Sons of Liberty, who mutually bound themselves to drink no tea, as well as to wear nothing imported after the passing of these duties.

The meeting sent a deputation to the governor to inquire why the sloop had been removed from the quay, which, they asserted, implied an unworthy suspicion of the people of Boston. The answer was easy. They who forced goods on shore, sword in hand, and locked up tide-waiters, were not very likely to respect the royal authority in regard to the ship. The magistrates, however, made a point of executing their duty. They issued a proclamation, offering a reward for the apprehension of the ringleaders of the riot, and a few of the lower orders were taken up; but on the grand jury sate the supreme ringleader, Malcolm, and his associates, who, of course, found no true bill against them. This was a proceeding which demonstrated beyond any doubt, that all civil control over the colonists was at an end, so long as the obnoxious act of parliament existed, and henceforth, in default of its repeal, martial law must prevail.

In the midst of this commotion, governor Barnard dissolved the assembly. The seizure of the sloop and the dissolution of the assembly raised the resentment of the people of Boston to the highest pitch. They were wound up to a spirit of silent desperation, and further causes were already in operation to drive the matter to a crisis. Two days before the seizure of the sloop, namely, the 8th of June, lord Hillsborough, in consequence of the dispatches of governor Barnard - that the laws could not be enforced without a more powerful body of troops - sate down, and was writing an order to general Gage, the commander-in- chief for North America, to dispatch, from Halifax to Boston, two regiments and four ships of war. The day after the seizure, lord Hillsborough was also in England, writing to governor Barnard to inform him of his order in his behalf.

Whilst these measures were in progress, the people of Boston were exerting themselves to arouse the people of the other colonies to unite in the resistance to the import duties, and to the mutiny act, which authorised the magistrates to break into any house, by day or night, in search of deserters. They sent out addresses to every quarter, concluding with, the words: - " United, we conquer; divided, we die!"

They entered into a new anti-import duty league, to the effect that, after the 1st of January, they would not purchase any articles from England except salt, coals, fishing-tackle, hemp and duck, bar-lead and shot, wool-cards, and card- wire. The people of New York and the merchants of Salem to a great extent subscribed to this agreement, though both in these places and in Boston the more moderate men refused. The Bostonians insisted that, if the Americans ceased to import, the merchants in Britain would suffer so severely that they would grow desperate, and compel parliament to repeal the acts.

Early in September arrived the news that troops were coming from Halifax. On the 12th, the inhabitants appointed a deputation to request of governor Barnard that he would convene an assembly, but he replied that he could not do so without his majesty's commands and at the same time confirmed the news that troops were on the way. At this announcement a meeting of the inhabitants was immediately called, and a resolution was passed declaring that the people of Boston would take every means of defending the rights and privileges secured to them in their royal charter, at the peril of their lives and fortunes; and a second, asserting that as there was an apprehension in the minds of many of an approaching war with France, those inhabitants who were not provided be requested to provide themselves forthwith with arms. They also appointed a committee of management, and appointed a convention to be held in Faneuil Hall, in Boston, on the 22nd of September.

The plea for the convention was, that Barnard, on being requested to call an assembly, had declined; and that, although an assembly must meet in regular course in May next, the circumstances of the time would not allow of the delay. Accordingly, deputies were elected and sent from eight districts and ninety-six towns, who met on the day fixed in Faneuil Hall. Barnard addressed a letter to the convention, warning them of the illegal course they were pursuing; and the convention, after sitting five or six days, holding several communications with the governor, and drawing up a petition to the king, quietly dispersed. But the example had been set, and from this day we may date these conventions, which, becoming more and more common, exercised the most decided influence over the progress of events, and eventually assumed the whole political authority of the colonies.

Probably the arrival of the troops hastened the dissolution of the convention, for the very same day the ships of war were seen entering the harbour. These cast anchor near the Romney with their guns ready shotted in case of resistance. The next day, October 1st, colonel Dalrymple landed the two regiments, with their artillery trains, the whole not exceeding 700 men. The governor desired the town council to provide quarters for the troops, but they refused, alleging that they were not bound to do so by the Quartering Act, so long as there were barracks which could accommodate them, and that the barracks at the castle were amply sufficient. Barnard said these barracks he had reserved for the two other regiments coming from Ireland, and both he and colonel Dalrymple insisted on their being received into the town. Barnard requested them to order the preparation of what was called the "manufacturing house," occupied by anumber of poor families; they again declined, and Barnard himself endeavoured to clear out the families, but, encouraged by the townsmen, they stood firm, and refused to evacuate the house. Meantime, the troops were landing, and marched into the town with drums beating and flags flying. One of the regiments was permitted to take up its temporary quarters in Faneuil Hall; the other was compelled to encamp on the neighbouring common. Thence they removed to the town, or state house, which the governor ordered to be vacated for them, all but the council chamber, and there the soldiers made good their entrance. This was opposite to the principal meeting house; and the strict presbyterian frequenters of it were scandalised to see cannon planted in front of it, and to hear the sound of drum and fife whilst at their worship.

General Gage, commander-in-chief for the colonies, came himself to Boston, to enforce the finding of proper quarters for the troops, but the council and magistrates still refused, neither would they find any provisions according to the Mutiny Act; and Gage was obliged to hire houses and make the necessary supplies at the government cost. Nothing could be worse than the spirit existing between the Bostonians and the soldiers. They regarded the soldiers as the tools of despotism, and the soldiers had been taught to look on them as a smuggling, canting, and rebel population. The obstinacy shown in Boston, with the accounts they disseminated all over the colonies, wonderfully encouraged others in the same temper. The same resistance to the demands of the governor and officials manifested itself, and governors and assemblies assumed a menacing attitude towards each other; and, unfortunately, the system by which governors and other officials had been supplied, which still is too much in practice, was ill calculated to stand the test of a crisis like this. Instead of men chosen for their abilities and respectability, they had been sent out because they were the relatives or dependents of great families. The idea was to find places for men who would not be tolerated at home - not suitable governors and magistrates for the colonies. General Huske had, in 1758, spoken pretty plainly on this subject: - "As to the civil officers appointed for America, most of the places in the gift of the crown have been filled with broken members of parliament, of bad, if any, principles, valets-de-chambre, electioneering scoundrels, and even livery servants. In one word, America has been for many years made the hospital of England." Is it any wonder that the high-spirited colonies should yearn to be rid of this incubus?

Such, then, was the state of affairs at the meeting of parliament in November, 1768. These events in America claimed immediate attention. The petition of the convention of Massachusetts, on its arrival, was rejected indignantly. The opposition called for the production of the correspondence with the civil and military authorities there on the subject, but this demand was negatived.

In January, 1769, the house of lords took up the subject in a lofty tone. They complained of the seditious and treasonable proceedings of the people of Boston and of Massachusetts generally; and the duke of Bedford, affirming that it was clear that no such acts could be punished by the magistrates or tribunals of the colony, moved an address to the king recommending that the criminals guilty of the late outrages should be brought to this country and tried here, according to an act of the 35th of Henry VIII. It was certainly a strange proceeding for a descendant of the whigs of 1688 to rake up an act of one of the greatest tyrants of our history, in order to punish men contending for the very same thing as was contended for in 1688 - the maintenance of the liberty of the subject against unconstitutional proceedings on the part of the crown; yet this monstrous resolution was carried triumphantly through the lords. On the 26th of January it was introduced to the commons. There it excited a very spirited opposition from colonel Barre, alderman Beckford, Messrs. Burke, Dowdeswell, Pennant, the member for Liverpool, governor Johnstone, governor Pownall, and Cornwall. George Grenville, forgetting his indignation at their resistance to his stamp act, expressed his astonishment at the lords naming this act of Henry VIII., which was entitled u an act concerning the trials of treasons committed out of his majesty's dominions," and therefore implying that the Americans were out of his majesty's dominions.

Dowdeswell declared that this was a direct attack on the rights of juries; that they could not bring an American to be tried here, where he would be cut off from his native place, his friends, and witnesses. They could not send backward and forward three thousand miles for witnesses, and, without that, a man could not have a fair trial. It was a monstrous proposition. The lords had no brother peers in America; they might overlook the interests of the inhabitants of that country; but that it did not become the commons to put men on trial in a manner which could neither be justified at the bar of justice or of reason. Pownall, who had himself been governor of Massachusetts, and knew the Americans well, accused the lords of gross ignorance of the charters, usages, and character of the Americans; and governor Johnstone as strongly condemned the motion, which was carried by one hundred and fifty - five to eighty-nine.

On the 8th of February Mr. Rose Fuller moved to have the address recommitted, and that brought on a fresh debate on this important subject. He warned the house of the danger there was of our quarrel with our American subjects encouraging the French to renew the war in Europe, and what serious difficulties we might involve ourselves in, if our forces and resources were engaged in contending with America. He believed that France would not have dared to seize Corsica had it not been for these unhappy quarrels; and now a general European war would, in all probability, arise. Alderman Trecothick denounced the attempt to tax the Americans as one never likely to succeed, and as destructive to the commerce of this country. It was not only taxing the Americans, but the merchants of England. He severely censured the conduct of the new commissioners, who had dismissed the old revenue officers of the crown - good men, approved of both there and here. He thought we had done mischief enough, and had now a better opportunity of relaxing our measures than we might have again. Alderman Beckford characterised the whole proceeding as having all the aspect of a plan for ruling by military force; declared that they had no right to tax the colonies, and that the attempt was as unprofitable as it was foolish; the whole endeavour had not produced a single shilling - the money was all eaten up by the number of officers employed to collect it.

Dunning, the new solicitor-general, who began as a patron of Wilkes, and professed himself a zealous whig, defended the measure as necessary; that it was applicable to Ireland, and therefore to America. Chatham was so struck with the reasoning and abilities of Dunning some time before, that he said "he was not a lawyer, but the law itself." In this case, his office, which led him on to the title of lord Ashburton, blinded him to the greatest of our constitutional principles. Hannah More represented "his manners as insufferable, coughing and spitting at every word; but his sense and expression finished to the last degree." In this case, he spit in the face of the Americans to the last degree, and was followed by Mr. Vansittart and Mr. Dyson on the same side. But the bulk of the speakers energetically condemned this flagrant violation of the right of jury. Sir William Meredith, quoting lord Bacon, that "to ramble back into antiquity was the same as to innovate," observed, what a monstrous idea it must give the Americans of the English parliament to see it raking up the acts of the most arbitrary times in order to punish her; and sir William Pownall quoted the charter of Massachusetts, and observed that it expressly prohibited the bringing over any man for treasonable acts out of the colony, to try him. He reminded them that these very people quitted this country to avoid tyrannical government, and he was certain that they would now rise to a man rather than submit to any kind of taxation which their own assemblies had not sanctioned. If they would not believe it, at least ministers were now warned.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued) page 11

Benjamin Franklin
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William Pitt
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The Princess Amelia
The Princess Amelia >>>>
Riots at Boston
Riots at Boston >>>>
Lord Clive
Lord Clive >>>>
John Wilkes
John Wilkes >>>>
Wilkes triumphal entry into the city
Wilkes triumphal entry into the city >>>>
Town and Harbour of Boston
Town and Harbour of Boston >>>>
Faneuil hall
Faneuil hall >>>>
British troops entering Boston
British troops entering Boston >>>>

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