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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 3


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Amongst the most powerful opponents to the bill appeared Charles James Fox. Fox had displayed no particular talent so long as he was in the ministerial ranks. He appeared quite satisfied to receive his salary, and to squander that and a great deal more in gambling; but no sooner did his father, lord Holland, set him at ease by paying off his debts, the amount of which was one hundred and forty thousand pounds, and he not yet twenty- five, than he showed himself considerably restive. On the opening of parliament he made speeches greatly to the astonishment and indignation of the king and his ministers. Remonstrance producing no effect, on the 24th of February a letter from lord North was put into his hands, in these laconic terms: - "Sir, his majesty has thought proper to order a new commission of the treasury to be made out, in which I do not perceive your name."

Thus summarily dismissed, Fox started forth a full-length reformer; opposed the Boston Port Bill in a style which startled his old colleagues, who had not suspected the volcano of talent and of freedom slumbering there. He again attacked the charter bill, contending that, before such a bill was passed, compensation should be demanded from the Bostonians for the teas destroyed, and that, till such compensation was refused, such a bill was premature. Pownall foretold that the corresponding committees, which were in full activity, would recommend a congress, and that it was easier to foresee the consequences than to prevent them; and Barre also prognosticated the application to France, and her ready assistance to the colonies, in revenge of the loss of Canada. Probably these suggestions of the opposition were the first hints to the colonies for the adoption of these very measures. The bill passed the commons by a majority of two hundred and thirty-nine against sixty-four; and it passed the lords by a majority of ninety-two against twenty.

Nor had government done with its bills. A bill was brought into the lords for the better quartering and regulating the troops in the colonies, and on the 27th of May Chatham attended, and spoke in strong condemnation of the conduct of the people of Boston, but in still stronger of the irritating acts of the ministers towards them. He recommended milder measures, and that then, should these not succeed, he was ready to join in more stringent ones, such as should make them feel what it was to offend a fond and forgiving parent.

But even now another bill passed the house of commons - a bill for removing to another colony for trial any inhabitant of Massachusetts Bay, who was indicted for any murder or other capital offence which the governor might deem to be perpetrated in the attempt to put down tumults and riots. This measure was still more vehemently opposed than the rest. Colonel Barre referred to the trial and acquittal of captain Preston, as a proof that the juries of Boston were to be trusted. But, in the midst of these debates, news arrived of a fresh ship, named the Fortune, which had been emptied of its teas at Boston, and the whole destroyed. On this, lord North exclaimed, " Gentlemen talk of the people of Boston seeing their error! Is this, sir, seeing their error? Is this, sir, reforming? this making restitution to the East India Company? Surely after this, no person will urge anything in their defence? "

Before the debate closed, Mr. Rose Fuller uttered these prophetic words: - " I will now take leave of your whole plan; you will commence your ruin from this day. I am sorry to say, that not only the house has fallen into this error, but the people; and, if ever there was a nation running headlong into ruin, it is this." In the lords it encountered an equally strenuous opposition, but it passed both houses by large majorities. Still, there was one more bill; but this related to the province of Canada. The French catholic inhabitants amounted to one hundred and fifty thousand, whilst the protestants were said to amount only to about four hundred. The French people had repeatedly petitioned for the recognition of their faith by law; and this bill, whilst it defined the boundaries of the colony, including in it all lands in the back settlements, not named in any previous charter, consented to the prayer of the majority of the inhabitants in favour of their religion. This gave extreme offence to the rigid puritan population of New England, but was undoubtedly the most judicious of all this batch of acts, for it rendered the natives of Canada loyal, and perfectly insensible to all the after attempts of the American insurgents to win them over to their party. Besides leaving the catholics in full enjoyment of their religion, but only within their own community, it made provision for the protestant faith, and it left the Canadians in possession of their ancient laws, except that in criminal cases the trial by jury was introduced. A provincial assembly was established, which was to be appointed and dismissed by the crown, and to take cognisance of all colonial matters, except taxation.

To commence a course of more rigour in Massachusetts, governor Hutchinson was recalled, and general Gage, a man who had seen service, and had the reputation of firmness and promptitude, was appointed in his stead. He set out for his new government with high expectations of what he should be able to effect, declaring that the Americans would only prove lions so long as the English continued lambs. Governor Hutchinson, on his arrival, confirmed the ministry in these ideas. Indeed, one of the great mistakes of the English altogether, had been always to entertain a contempt for the colonists. That they were nothing short of. cowards, had been openly asserted by lord Sandwich in the peers, and colonel Grant in the commons. The name of " Yankee " was become an epithet of ridicule, being originally merely the corruption of the word Anglois by the Indians. These remarks excited the deepest resentment in America.

But the mischief of the new acts became rapidly apparent, and all the prophecies of congresses and resistance were soon realised. Had the Boston Port Bill alone been passed, perhaps not much harm might have been done. There were numbers of people all over America who were of opinion that Boston had gone too far in destroying the tea, and might have remained passive if the Bostonians had been compelled to make compensation. But the fatal act was that which abolished the Massachusetts charter. That made the cause common; that excited one universal alarm. If the English government were thus permitted to strike out the colonial charters at pleasure, all security had perished. All the colonies determined to support their own cause in supporting that of Massachusetts. Those who adhered to the English government were henceforth known only as " tories;" and men like colonel Washington, who had hitherto belonged to the moderate party, now assumed a more hostile tone. The language of the opposition in England added to the encouragement of the most determined; and the death of Louis XV. of France kindled a hope that his more moral and well-disposed successor might be induced to sympathise with a people struggling for independence against the power which had driven France from the North American States.

The Virginians were the first to move to lead the movement. Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson took the initiative in a measure which would have better suited the character of the religious New Englanders. They rummaged, according to Jefferson's own memoirs, the old records of the parliamentary proceedings against Charles I. The school in which these new revolutionists studied is thus indicated: - " With the help of Rushton," says Jefferson, "whom we rummaged for revolutionary precedents, and from the puritans of that day, we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernising their phrases, for appointing the 6th of June, on which the Port Bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, to implore Heaven to avert from us the evil of civil war; to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of king and parliament to moderation and justice." Conscious, however, that neither of these concoctors of the resolutions had much venerability of character to add weight to such a motion, they applied to a solemn elder, Robert Carter Nicholas, to move it, which he did, and it passed without opposition.

The next day, however, being the 25th of May, lord Dunmore, the governor of the province, dissolved the assembly, expressing much displeasure at the resolution. The members, nothing daunted, retired to the Raleigh Tavern, and, in their favourite retreat, the Apollo Chamber, passed a series of resolutions. The chief of these were to purchase nothing of the East India Company, except saltpetre and spices, until their injuries were redressed; to request the members of all corresponding committees to take measures for the appointment of members to a general congress, thus immediately adopting the idea of governor Pownall; that the new members of the assembly (the writs for which were already issuing) should meet at Williamsburg, to elect delegates from that colony to the congress. This done, the members all separated to their own homes, having agreed to solicit the clergy to recommend from their pulpits the general keeping of the fast-day of the 1st of June. This recommendation was adopted by the clergy, and Jefferson says that its effect throughout the colony was electrical.

In the meantime, general Gage landed at Boston on the 13th of May. The Port Bill had preceded him a few days, and the tone of the other colonies rendered the Bostonians firmer in their temper than ever. Gage had married an American lady, and he was received with every show of cordiality and respect by the council, the magistrates, and principal gentlemen. He was invited to a public dinner, and the same evening Hutchinson was burnt in effigy. The next day a meeting was called, which showed what sort of stuff Gage would have to deal with. The resolve of the meeting was to stop all importation and exportation from Great Britain and the West Indies until the Port Act was repealed. The copy of the Port Act was printed with a broad black border, and the document was circulated all over the colonies, with fierce comments, and the denunciation of the act as " a barbarous, cruel, bloody, and inhuman murder." In many places it was burned publicly. At New York, where parties were more equally balanced, threats were used to compel the inhabitants to sympathise with the people of Boston. At Philadelphia, except the Quakers, who chiefly adhered to the government, there was a general agreement to keep the fast, and, under the name of "the Solemn League and Covenant," an association to refrain from consumption of English goods was formed, and a subscription was set on foot, and recommended generally through the corresponding societies, for the assistance of those Bostonians who should be sufferers from the loss of their trade.

On the 25th of May general Gage announced to the assembly at Boston the unpleasant fact, that he was bound! to remove, on the 1st of June, the assembly, the courts of justice, and all the public offices, to Salem, in conformity with the late act. As they petitioned him to set apart a day for fasting, he declined that, and, to prevent further I trouble, adjourned them to the 7tli of June, to meet at Salem. The first thing on their meeting was to appoint a committee to inquire into the state of the province; whilst this was sitting, Mr. Samuel Adams, acting in concert with Mr. Warren, employed himself in working up the members of the assembly by what was called a caucus, a word of mighty influence to the present day in America, meaning a private meeting to carry out certain cut-and-dried measures. Samuel Adams was a man who had lost character by having embezzled and applied to his own purposes a large amount of taxes, when collector; but, since these uneasy agitations commenced, he had shown so much talent for managing political movements, that his countrymen were willing to forget the past, and he had been rapidly growing into influence. Adams was so successful, that he had got more than thirty members ready to adopt his plans for raising the spirit of the colony against the act, the whole of this being kept unknown to the friends of government. The scheme was to vote the appointment of a committee, consisting of Samuel and John Adams, and three others, to meet the other provincial committees at Philadelphia on the 1st of September. On the 17th of June the assembly, therefore, suddenly closed their doors, and proceeded to vote this scheme, and five hundred pounds for the expenses of their delegates. A hint of the procedings, however, being carried to general Gage, he instantly sent his secretary to dissolve them. He found the doors closed, and was refused entrance, whereupon he read the proclamation upon the stairs in the hearing of a number of members who were shut out. But the members of the caucus had accomplished their object, and they dispersed in high glee at the carrying through of this not very creditable trick. The five hundred pounds had to be collected; but they found no difficulty in this, the people regarding the resolution as a valid act of assembly.

The citizens of New York favourable to the revolutionary movement entered into active correspondence with the other colonies for the summoning of the congress, and John Jay, one of the earliest and most zealous fathers of the revolution, has had the credit of being the first to suggest a congress, but we have seen that the people of Virginia had already done this, and that governor Pownall, still earlier, had thrown out the idea.

On the 1st of June, according to the arrangements of general Gage, as the clock struck twelve, all the public offices were closed, and the whole official business was transferred to Salem. But the wide discontent of the people met him there as much as at Boston. When the assembly met, which was in the following week, such was its spirit that general Gage felt that he must dissolve it again. Instead of the people of Salem rejoicing in the good fortune intended for them, by the transfer of the trade and the expenditure of government money there, they sent up an address, declaring that they should be dead to every idea of justice and feeling of humanity, if they thought of improving their fortunes at the expense of their Boston neighbours.

There were, however, a great many exceptions to the fiery and revolutionary spirit still. An address, signed by one hundred and twenty gentlemen and merchants of Boston, expressed their regret at the lawless violence of their countrymen and townsmen. The justices of the county of Plymouth, met in sessions, declared their deep concern at seeing committees of correspondence, and clergymen, whose office was to preach peace, entering into a league calculated to exasperate the mother country, and to destroy the order of society. There were others amongst the wealthy people of Boston who offered to raise money and pay the East India Company for their teas which had been destroyed; but the multitude were far beyond ideas so honourable, and these attempts a-t justice and moderation only, like oil flung upon fire, made the conflagration the more furious.

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

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