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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2


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When such acts as the burning of the Gaspee had been done with impunity, and whilst the American mind was rankling with all the Franklin poison of the purloined letters, three vessels arrived at Boston, laden with tea, under the conditions of lord North's bill. These ships had been for some time expected; and tumultuous meetings had been held, and mobs had assembled menacing the houses of the consignees with destruction. On their not assenting to send back the tea, their windows had been broken, their doors forced in, and themselves compelled to flee to Castle William for safety.

On the arrival of the ships the commotion was intense. Another meeting was held, to which the people of the neighbouring towns flocked in; and a resolution which had been passed at Philadelphia, that the tea ships were sent to enslave and poison the free men of America, was unanimously adopted; and it was agreed that the tea should not be landed, but be sent back again.

The consignees proposed that the tea should be allowed to come on shore, and be stowed in locked-up warehouses till farther instructions should arrive, as had been done at Charleston; but this proposal was rejected with indignation. The Bostonians filled the streets in riotous mobs, menacing in the most deadly manner not only the captains of the tea ships, but all who should give them any assistance. The mob was armed with muskets, rifles, swords, and cutlasses, and kept guard on the port day and night to prevent the landing of the teas. The captains themselves would gladly have sailed away with their obnoxious cargoes in safety, but the governor very foolishly gave orders that they should not pass the ports without a permit from himself, and he sent admiral Montague to guard the passages out of the harbour with two ships of war. Whatever the pretences of the Bostonians might be - and they still protested that they desired to remain a dependence of England - their acts now were revolutionary. The home government was set at defiance by arms; and it would have been sufficient for the tea ships to have returned and reported their inability to remain in the port of Boston without certain destruction of cargo, to have called forth the executive powers of the nation.

A meeting was held in Boston on the 16th of December, at which Josiah Quincey, junior, told the people that the contest must end in bullets and cannon balls; that they who imagined that shouts and hosannas could terminate the trials of the day, deceived themselves. A message was sent from the meeting demanding of the governor that the ships should be sent home again, and, on the governor refusing, a man, disguised as an Indian, gave a wild war-whoop in the meeting, and the meeting hastened to separate.

But it separated only to reassemble again in a different shape. As the evening grew dark, those who had quitted the meeting were met by whole mobs arrayed as wild

Indians, who hurried down to Griffin's Wharf, where the tea ships lay, and rushing tumultuously on board, and hoisting out the tea chests, emptied them into the sea amid much triumph and noise. Having thus destroyed teas to the amount of eighteen thousand pounds, the mob retreated to their houses; but, says John Adams, in his private diary, "many persons wished that as many dead carcases were floating in the harbour as there were chests of tea." The rancour of the Bostonians had reached the blood heat. Governor Hutchinson hastened to inform his government of what had taken place, and to assure it that it had not been in his power to prevent the destruction of the tea, unless he had yielded the authority reposed in him by the crown of England. It never seems to have occurred to Hutchinson to call out the troops and land the goods under their protection. In the whole of this contest with the American colonies it will be seen that nothing could exceed the weakness of the governors there, the miserable mediocrity of the commanders, or the headstrong fatuity of the government at home, which was continually passing irritating acts, or sending out irritating orders, without taking the necessary precautions of having force in the colonies capable of supporting the executive in its functions.

The parliament opened its session on the 13th of January, 1774. There were the usual questions mooted as to the amount of the navy, the motion of alderman Sawbridge for the shortening of parliaments, and for inquiring into the acts of government regarding the Middlesex election. But the chief measure passed was the bill for rendering perpetual the act of Grenville for referring questions regarding controverted elections to committee, which was passed by two hundred and fifty votes to one hundred and twenty-two against government. Lord North, with his usual impolicy, was decided against rendering this useful act necessary, and found himself deserted by a whole host of the usual supporters of ministers. Such a blind and unpopular act would have broken up North's cabinet, had not the news arrived from Boston and engaged the passions of the nation on the same side with him.

On the 7th of March the king sent a message to both houses, announcing the proceedings at Boston, the destruction of the teas; and a mass of papers was sent down to the house of commons, including the dispatches of governor Hutchinson, of admiral Montague, letters from the consignees of the teas, and other communications from governors and officers of the other colonies, with copies of the numerous inflammatory handbills, pamphlets, manifestoes, &c., which had been circulated in America. The sensation was intense. A warm debate ensued as to the course of action necessary, and an address to the king was agreed to, strongly condemning the conduct of the Rhode Islanders and the Bostonians. At this juncture, Mr. Bollan, the agent for the Massachusetts council, begged to lay before the house of commons the charters of queen Elizabeth and her successors, securing the liberties of that colony. The charters were received and laid on the table.

The news from Boston could not have arrived at a moment when the public mind was more ill-disposed towards the Americans. The affair of the abstraction of Mr. Whately's private letters from his house or office, and their publication, contrary to all custom and to its own engagement, by the Massachusetts assembly, had produced a deep conviction in all classes in England of the utter disregard of honour both in the American colonists and of their agent, Franklin. This disgraceful violation of the sacred security of private papers roused the indignation of Mr. William Whately, banker, in Lombard-street, and brother to the late Mr. Thomas Whately. He conceived strong suspicions of John Temple, afterwards Sir John Temple, lieutenant-governor of New Hampshire, and, though one of the commissioners of customs at Boston, really hostile to the commission, and a strong partisan of Franklin. Whately challenged Temple, and was severely wounded in the rencontre. At this, Franklin came forward with an avowal that neither the late Mr. Whately nor Mr. Temple had anything to do with the carrying off of the letters; that he alone was responsible for this act. Franklin then proceeded to state what was perfectly untrue - that these were not private letters between friends, but by public officers on public affairs, and intended to procure public measures. This was contrary to the whole of the facts which we have stated; and Franklin proceeded to assert what was equally untrue - that the only secrecy attached to the letters was, that they should not be put into the hands of any colonial agent, who might send them, or copies of them, to America. If even the smallest part of this were true - for Franklin was such an agent - he had acted contrary to his own pledge to keep the secret, being the very man to send them to the public assembly of Massachusetts.

In consequence of these circumstances, occasion was taken, on the presentation of the petition of the people of Boston, for the removal of the governor and lieutenant of Massachusetts, to the privy council, to animadvert severely on Franklin's conduct. This took place on the 29th of January, when Dunning and Lee were retained on the part of the petition, and Wedderburn, the solicitor-general, appeared for the crown. There were no less than thirty-five privy councillors present, amongst them lord North, and lord Gower at their head, as lord president. There was an intense excitement on the occasion, and a severe crush to obtain entrance; and, amongst the persons struggling in, were Burke and Dr. Priestley.

Neither Dunning nor Lee spoke effectively, but as if they by no means relished the cause in which they were engaged; while Wedderburn seemed animated by extraordinary life and bitterness. He was the friend of Whately, who was now lying in a dangerous state from his wound. After speaking of the charter and the insubordinate temper of the people of Massachusetts, he fell with withering sarcasm on Franklin, who was present. Hitherto," he said, " private correspondence had been held sacred, even in times of the most rancorous party fury. But here was a gentleman who had a high rank amongst philosophers, and should be the last to sanction such infamous breaches of honour, openly avowing his concern in them. He asked where, henceforth, Dr. Franklin could show his face; that henceforth he must deem it a libel to be termed 'a man of letters.' Amidst tranquil events, here is a man who, with the utmost insensibility of remorse, starts up and avows himself the author of all. I can compare him only to Zanga, in Dr. Young's 'Revenge:' -

Know, then, 'twas I;
I forged the letter - I disposed the picture -
I hated - I despised - and I destroy!

I ask, my lords, whether the revengeful temper attributed to the bloody African is not surpassed by the coolness and apathy of the wily American? "

Priestley, in a letter, describes the effect of Wedderburn's address as received with what must seem a mad merriment by the council. " Mr. Wedderburn had a complete triumph. At the sallies of his sarcastic wit, all the members of the council, the president himself, lord Gower, not excepted, frequently laughed outright; and no person belonging to the council behaved himself with decent gravity, except lord North, who came in late."

Franklin is said to have felt so keenly the invectives of Wedderburn and the laughter of the council, that from that day he resolved to himself to do his utmost to effect the separation of the colonies. That the not undeserved castigation which he received did deepen the feeling, is most probable, but the feeling had evidently been long in his bosom, and all his actions showed it. It is added, that from that hour he carefully laid by the dress of figured Manchester velvet, which he wore on that occasion, until the day on which he signed the treaty which acknowledged the independence of the United States. Yet, both Franklin and the other leaders of the colonists still kept on the mask of moderation, and of a pretended desire to retain the union with the mother country, though we have it, on the authority of Adam Smith, that Franklin said, with much triumph, in the presence of a particular friend of his, that, " whatever measures Great Britain might choose to pursue, whether mild or rigorous, they would equally tend to bring about that great and desirable event - the entire independence of America."

The privy council decided that the petition from Massachusetts was framed on false and exaggerated allegations, and was groundless, vexatious, and scandalous. Two days afterwards, the king dismissed Franklin from the office, which he had till now held, of deputy - postmaster of America - a circumstance calculated to deepen his animosity, for, from all that we can gather from Franklin's writings, he had a much deeper and more lively idea of the value of money than of the value of high principles in matters of diplomacy.

And what were the measures which the British government resorted to in order to reduce the rebellious colonies to obedience? The obvious measure was to send out fresh troops, and to maintain such a garrison in all the great seaports as should back the civil authorities in just and prudent acts. But it has been well observed by a modern historian, that however the separation of America must have occurred at some later period, its severance then was the work " of the most marvellous and incredulous combination of accident, craft, imbecility, and madness," that ever arose. Instead of strengthening its power, the government hastened to pass a series of bills, each more calculated to enrage the Bostonians than another, without thinking of a single means of enforcing these bills. So far from this enforcement, they were obviously not capable of maintaining the laws already in existence.

On the 14th of March lord North moved to bring in a bill to take away from Boston the customs, the courts of justice, and government offices, and give them to New Salem. This bill was carried through both houses with little opposition. Bollan, the agent of the council of Massachusetts, desired to be heard against the bill, but was refused. It received the royal assent on the 31st of March, and the trade of Boston was annihilated.

On the 19th of April Mr. Rose Fuller moved that the house, in committee, should consider the propriety of repealing the obnoxious tea duty. The ministers replied that certainly this was not the moment to argue that question; that every act of concession so far had only produced augmented insolence on the part of the colonists; and as to the right of taxing the Americans through customs, port duties, &c., the weight of legal and philosophical authority was in favour of it. To say nothing of Grenville, Townshend, and Rockingham, Chatham, Gibbon, Burke, Hume, Dr. Johnson, Adam Smith, Soame Jenyns, and others, had always held that right as unquestionable.

Whilst this bill was passing the lords, on the 28th of March lord Go wer brought a fresh one into the commons, which had no less object than the repeal of the charter of Massachusetts. It was entitled, " A bill for the better regulating government in the province of Massachusetts Bay." It went to remove the nomination of the members of the council, of the judges and magistrates, &c., from the popular constituencies to the crown. Lord North observed that the charter of William III. had conferred these privileges on Massachusetts as exceptional to all other colonies, and that the consequence was that the governor had no power whatever. Strong opposition was made to this proposed bill by Dowdeswell, Sir George Saville, Burke, Barre, governor Pownall, and general Conway. Conway asked of what crimes and errors the New Englanders had been really guilty, and prophecied only just exasperation, misfortune, and ruin. Lord North, in reply, said, " Do you ask what the people of Boston have done? I will tell you, then. They have tarred and feathered your subjects, plundered your merchants and your ships, denied all obedience to your laws and authority. Our conduct has been clement and long-forbearing; but now it is incumbent to take a different course. Whatever may be the consequence, we must risk something, or all is lost."

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2

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