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Reign of George III. (continued.) page 3


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Chatham and his party gave the most energetic support to these questions in the house of lords. Never, in any part of his career, had he used stronger language. He declared that a minister who was bold enough to spend the people's money before it ivas granted, even though it were not for the purpose of corrupting their representatives, deserved death! What a slaughter would such a rigour have occasioned amongst ministers from that day to ours, before our present national debt had grown to what it is!

Here the great orator was reminded that he himself had granted pensions. " It is true!" he exclaimed, " and here's the list of them! You will find it consists of such names as general Amherst, Sir Edward Hawke, lord Camden - men who had earned their rewards in a different sort of campaign to those at Westminster - actions full of honour or of danger to themselves, of glory and benefit to the nation, not by corrupt votes of baseness and of destruction to their country. You will find no secret there!" he thundered.

At these stinging words there was a fierce cry of " To the bar! to the bar with him!" and lord Marchmont, who some time before had dared to talk of employing a foreign power to quell the people, demanded that his words should be taken down. " I second that motion!" cried Chatham. " My words shall not be retracted, they shall be reaffirmed. I will see whether I may presume to hold up my head as high as the noble lord who moved to have my words taken down;" and then he burst into that celebrated passage in which he drew so luminous a line betwixt judicious and pernicious government expenditure: - " I will trust no sovereign in the world with the means of purchasing the liberties of the people. When I had the honour of being the confidential keeper of the king's intentions, he assured me that he never intended to exceed the allowance which was made by parliament; and therefore, my lords, at a time when there are no marks of personal dissipation in the king, at a time when there are no marks of any considerable sums having been expended to procure the secrets of our enemies, that a request of an inquiry into the expenditure of the civil list should be refused, is to me most extraordinary. Does. the king of England want to build a palace equal to his rank and dignity? Does he want to encourage the polite and useful arts? Does he mean to reward the hardy veteran, who has defended his quarrel in many a rough campaign, whose salary does not equal that of some of your servants? Or does he mean, by obtaining the purse-strings of his subjects, to spread corruption through the people; to procure a parliament like a packed jury, ready to acquit his ministers at all adventures? I do not say, my lords, that corruption lies here, or that corruption lies there, but if any gentleman in England were to ask me whether I thought both houses of parliament were bribed, I should laugh in his face, and say, 'Sir, it is not so!'"

Whilst Chatham was thus heading the opposition in a most determined onslaught on the government, they were compelled themselves to face the awkward American question. Great hopes had been entertained that the people of Boston would be much calmer after the departure of governor Barnard. Hutchinson, the deputy-governor, was not only an American, but a man of a mild temper. But the temper of the Bostonians was now so much excited, that the leaders of the non-importation act were more vehement than ever. The English merchants presented a petition to parliament showing that, in consequence of the import duties and the combinations of the colonists to resist them, the exports from England to these colonies had fallen off in the year 1769 to the amount of seven hundred and forty thousand pounds; that the revenue received from duties paid in America had fallen off from one hundred and ten thousand pounds per annum to thirty thousand pounds.

It was under these circumstances that lord North, on the 5th of March, 1770, brought forward his bill, based on the terms of lord Hillsborough's letter to the American governors, to repeal all the import duties except that on tea. This was one of those juste milieu measures which never succeed; it abandoned the bulk of the duties, but retained the really obnoxious thing - the principle. Grenville very truly told them that they should retain the whole, or repeal the whole. Lord Barrington and Welbore Ellis, in their dogged toryism, protested against repealing a single item of them; and the opposition, Barre, Conway, Meredith, Pownall, &c., as earnestly entreated them to remove the duties altogether, and with them all cause of irritation. The motion for leave to bring in the bill was carried by two hundred and four votes to one hundred and forty- two.

Another attempt was made to get rid of the tea duty by a separate motion, but it was rejected on the plea that this duty was a mere bagatelle; that it did not, probably, amount to more than ten thousand pounds or twelve thousand pounds a-year to the whole of the colonies. Nay, it was represented to be a real gain to the Americans, for that, whilst the duty on tea thus imported was only threepence in the pound, a drawback was allowed on all East India teas exported from this country to the American colonies of five- and-twenty per cent. This being the case, it was wonderful that the government did not perceive how much better it would have been to have allowed a less drawback than have imposed a direct duty there. Instead of threepence per pound, they might thus have enjoyed a shilling a pound at home without any pretence for the Americans murmuring. But the mischief lay in the avowed determination of the cabinet to maintain the authority of parliament. During this debate, it was shown that, during the financial year, the American tea duties had produced - not the calculated ten or twelve thousand, but less than three hundred pounds! For such a sum did our legislators risk a civil war. As a last effort on this question at this time, the opposition, on the 1st of May, called for the correspondence with America; and, on the 9th, Burke moved nine resolutions on the general topic. They were not only negatived, but a similar motion, introduced into the peers by the duke of Richmond, met the same fate.

At the very time that these measures were occupying the English parliament, the Bostonians were driving affairs to a crisis. In nearly all the seaports committees were in active operation for examining all cargoes of ships, and reporting the result. These committees also kept a keen observation on each other, and visited publicly any that appeared lukewarm. Boston, as usual, distinguished itself most prominently in this business. Regular meetings were held in Faneuil Hall, and votes passed denouncing all who dared to import the prohibited goods. The names of offenders were paraded in the newspapers with branding appellatives of slaves and traitors. At the same time, it appears, by the admission of American writers, that this persecution was carried on in a most partial manner, and that the friends of the leaders of the mob were allowed to sell the prohibited articles in secret, and to put their own prices on them, because they were not to be obtained anywhere else. All informers, and all who would not go along with these measures, were in danger of tarring and feathering, and they had their houses pelted and daubed with tar and filth, so as to make them almost unendurable.

A Mr. Theophilus Lillie, a Boston shopkeeper, who persisted in selling what he pleased, had a sort of Guy Fawkes placed opposite his door, to mark his house for attack. When one of his shopmen, named Richardson, would have removed the guy, he was mobbed by a rabble of boys, who pelted him back into the shop, and broke the windows. Richardson, enraged at the persevering attack of the young rabble, snatched up a loaded gun, and, firing into the crowd, shot a lad named Christopher Snider. Though Richardson was an American, and defending an American shop, the lad Snider was proclaimed the first martyr of liberty, though, in fact, he was the martyr of resistance to free trade. He was followed to the grave by a procession said to be a quarter of a mile long, and every circumstance was employed to represent the affair as one in which the English were concerned.

Lieutenant-governor Hutchinson exerted himself to form an association amongst the traders in opposition to these anti-importers, but he tried in vain. Upon the death of Snider, which took place in February, the compulsory proceedings of the mob paid for by the leaders became more stringent than ever, They insisted that the merchants who had imported goods in their shops and warehouses should be compelled to ship them back to those who had sent them. One merchant, more stubborn than the rest, was immediately waited on by a deputation, headed by an axeman and a carpenter, as if prepared to behead and bury him; and he was told that a thousand men awaited his decision, and they could not be answerable for his safety if he refused to comply.

Under this reign of mob tyranny there was nothing for it but compliance. Yet, amid all this, it was whispered that John Hancock, and others of the very firmest opponents to importation, were secretly importing themselves, or were allowing others to do it in their vessels. The people of New York, who would willingly have followed a gentler course, and had been sharply upbraided for it, and styled backsliders and no patriots, now retorted on the Bostonians reproaches as vehement, coupled with the name of " pedlars."

The animosity against the soldiers at Boston was actively kept up. The sentinel could not stand at his post without insult. Every day menaced a conflict. The fictitious account of an affray betwixt the soldiers and the people of New York was circulated at Boston, in which the soldiers were beaten. This gave immediate impetus to the aggressive temper of the Bostonians. On the 2nd of March, a soldier, insulted by the men at Gray's rope-walk, resented it; they came to blows, and the soldier was overpowered. He fetched up some of his comrades, who, in their turn, beat and chased the rope-makers through the town. The passions of the mob were inflamed, and they began to arm themselves for an attack on the soldiery. In a few days the crowd assembled and assaulted a party of them in Dock square. The officer prudently withdrew them to the barracks. As the evening advanced, the mob increased. They cried, "Turn out, and do for the soldiers!" They attacked and insulted a sentinel at the Custom House. A party of soldiers was sent by Captain Preston to the officers on duty to protect the man. The mob pelted them with pieces of wood, lumps of ice, &c., and denounced them as cowards, red-lobster rascals, bloody-backs, and the like. The soldiers stood to defend the Custom House till they were fiercely attacked, and at length they fired in self-defence, killed three persons, and wounded several others - one mortally.

To prevent further carnage, a committee of the townsmen waited on the governor and council, and prevailed on them to remove the soldiers from the town to Castle William. The successful rioters carried the bodies of the killed in procession, denounced the soldiers as murderers, and spread the most exaggerated accounts of the affray through the newspapers, under the name of "the massacre." Captain Preston and his men were arrested and put upon their trials before a jury of the irate townsmen. Nobody, for a time, would act as counsel for the defence; but at length John Adams, a young lawyer, undertook the office, and made the case so plain, that not only captain Preston, but all the soldiers were acquitted, except two, who had fired without orders, and these were convicted only of manslaughter. The five judges concurred so fully in the verdict, that judge Lynde, in their behalf, declared from the bench that he was happy to find the conduct of captain Preston so excellent, and, at the same time, " deeply concerned that the affair turned out so much to the disgrace of every person concerned against him, and so much to the shame of the town in general."

The arrival of the news of lord North's repeal of all the duties, except tea, produced little effect on the minds of the people of Boston. They declared that the unconstitutional principle was the real offence, and that it was still retained. The people of New York, however, had long inclined to gentler measures They agreed to import all other articles except tea. Pennsylvania and other colonies followed their example; and they declared that they who wanted tea must smuggle it. The more fiery patriots declared against this lukewarmness; but the desire for the English goods was so great that, during the years 1770 and 1771, the importations were greater than they had ever been. Nevertheless, though the colonies appeared returning to order and obedience, the efforts of the republican party never relaxed, and, especially in Massachusetts, there was a tone of sullen discontent. "Liberty poles" were still erected; exciting harangues were delivered on the anniversary of " the massacre," and the assembly continued to manifest a stubborn resistance to the will of the lieutenant-governor.

On the 19th of May the parliament was prorogued; but, before the prorogation, alderman Beckford, now again lord mayor, heading the corporation of London, presented a strong petition to the king at St. James's. Wilkes, who was now out of prison, was soon an alderman of the city, and a new impulse was given to the popular tendencies of the metropolitan corporate body. The petition now presented prayed that parliament might be dissolved, and contained a protest against every vote of the commons as invalid since the rejection of Wilkes. It complained also of a secret and malign influence at court. The reply of the king, as prepared by the minister, was one of firmness and displeasure. The commons resented the language of the corporation to the throne, and passed a strong vote of censure on the proceeding. But this only roused the corporation to present a second address and remonstrance on the 23rd of May, when no parliament was sitting to comment on it. In this address they expressed themselves extremely loyal, and regretted that the king should feel displeasure towards them for the discharge of their duty. The king, in his prepared reply, answered that the sentiments he had uttered continued unchanged.

At the close of the royal reply, Beckford, contrary to all custom, and to the consternation of the courtiers, stepped forward, and addressed the king in an extempore speech. The king was taken by surprise; and Beckford went on expressing, on the part of the city, the most profound loyalty and affection; and adding that, should " any man dare to insinuate to the contrary, or attempt to alienate his majesty's affections from them, that man is an enemy to your person and family, a violator of the public peace, and a betrayer of our happy constitution, as it was established at the glorious revolution."

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (continued.) page 3

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