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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 5


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Gage had troops sufficient to irritate, but not to overawe, and he found himself in the greatest straits. It was almost impossible to procure carpenters to build the necessary barracks for his soldiers. He was obliged to bring all his provisions by sea; and he was in danger of having the royal guns of the town batteries turned upon him. and he sent a party of sailors by night to spike them.

The newly-constituted provincial congress of Massachusetts now openly declared for commencement of hostilities. They proposed to fix a day for an attack on the king's troops. Those who disapproved of these violent proceedings, without being able to check them, began to absent themselves from the congress, under pleas of indisposition; but the sultry-souled Samuel Adams soon put a stop to this backsliding, by carrying a motion, that all members incapable of attendance should immediately resign, and their places be filled up by their constituents. It was resolved that general Gage's troops should be attacked whenever they marched out of their present entrenchment with baggage and ammunition. They called on Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, to augment the militia from twelve thousand to twenty thousand men; and they issued an address to all dissenting ministers to exhort their congregations to take their stand against the attempts of England to reduce the colonies to slavery. Early in December this provincial congress prorogued itself; but the spirit it had sent abroad was not for a moment prorogued.

News arrived that the king, by proclamation, had prohibited the exportation of all arms and military stores to America. This news was received with a burst of rage. The people of Rhode Island, who had burnt the king's schooner, Gaspeo, seized forty pieces of cannon on the batteries defending the harbour, and carried them into the country. The people of New Hampshire surprised a small fort called " William and Mary," garrisoned only by one officer and five men, and carried off all the ordnance, arms, ammunition, and military stores. Everywhere orders were issued for the purchase of arms and ammunition; for training the militia; for erecting powder mills, and manufactories of arms and shot, as well as for making saltpetre. So far as it depended on the people of Massachusetts, it was already rebellion. Still, however, the other colonies, except, perhaps, Virginia, were far from this bellicose temper. The colonies, in general, thought the measures of the late congress too strong; and the state of New York, spite of the impetuosity of such men as Jay, carried a vote rejecting the resolutions of the congress.

In England, their indefatigable agent, Franklin, lost no time in giving all possible publication to the resolutions and addresses of the congress as they arrived, especially those which warned the English people that the slavery of America was meant only to introduce the destruction of their own rights. He sent his sub-agents throughout the manufacturing towns of the north of England, to show to the people there how their trade would suffer through the non-importation of their goods by the Americans, and to excite them to petition for the rights of the colonies.

To neutralise Franklin's active representatives, Adam Smith, the celebrated author of the " Wealth of Nations,'' implored Dr. Roebuck, of Birmingham, an eminent physician, to make a tour through the manufacturing districts, and unveil to the people the real objects of the American colonists. This movement was managed by Wedderburn, the solicitor-general, who exerted himself in other ways to discredit the proceedings of Franklin.

The parliament of England had now nearly run its septennial course, and was accordingly dissolved on the 30th of September. Such was the feeling of resentment in this country against the proceedings of the Americans, that the new parliament sent up gave the ministers an increased majority. In Middlesex, notwithstanding, no competitor appeared against Wilkes and Glynn, and they were both returned. In the city the opposition also triumphed, and Wilkes was elected lord mayor. Thus at once he saw himself member for Middlesex and chief magistrate of the city. Whilst the condition of the colonies occasioned them so much anxiety, the government had wisely determined to drop further opposition to Wilkes at home; and the event might have shown them how much wiser it would have been to have let him alone from the first, for, the moment he was permitted to take his seat in parliament, he sank into insignificance. A mere cipher in the commons, he managed to secure the office of city chamberlain, which he held to his death in 1797. Such was the change in the feeling of parliament on this subject that, after having so long incensed the whole country, and actually violated the constitution in opposition to Wilkes, they allowed him, in 1782, to carry a vote for expunging the whole of the proceedings against him from the journals. Wilkes became a constant supporter of Pitt's administration, and attended the king's levees, where George became so convinced, by closer observation, of the smallness of the man whom the folly of his ministers had exalted into a hero, that he used to address very gracious observations to his old bugbear; and on one occasion, asking Wilkes after his friend Glynn, with his characteristic impudence Wilkes replied, " Pray, sir, do not call sergeant Glynn my friend; he was a Wilkesite, which, I can assure your majesty, I never was!"

The new parliament met on the 29th of November. The king, in his speech, alluded to the determined resistance to the imperial authority of the American colonists, and preeminently of those of Massachusetts Bay. He called upon parliament to support him in his endeavours to restore order. There was strong opposition to the addresses in both houses, demands being made for a full production of all papers and correspondence on this great subject. Burke, in the Annual Register, says, the great speakers in the opposition never declared themselves more ably and eloquently; but the addresses were carried by large majorities.

What, however, astonished the public was, that after such a declaration of the insurrectionary condition of the American colonies, ministers proposed only the usual peace establishment of four thousand seamen and sixteen thousand troops. The same fatal blindness still continued to distinguish the ministry, which allowed them to see only disorders which they could at any time quell, and left them still strong in acts of parliament and feeble in active preventive measures. Now was the time to pour into the New England colonies such an amount of force as should utterly preclude resistance; and, having assumed that strong position, then gracefully to retract their unconstitutional one, and repeal the obnoxious statutes, granting to the assemblies their undoubted right to vote the necessary taxes. But ministers despised the military talent and bravery of men of their own blood and lineage, and let the mischief grow till it became irremediable.

The year 1775 opened with fresh intelligence of alarm from America. The news came down to the taking of Fort William and Mary. There was a state of great anxiety, and many speculations whether Chatham would come to town and exert himself to bring ministers to a sense of the ruin they were bringing about. Some said that he had resolved to interfere no more regarding America; but at this very time Chatham had resolved on one more great effort to avoid the calamities which the incompetent ministers were preparing for the country. He wrote to his wife, who was in town, to say that he would be up and make a motion on American affairs, if the gout did not absolutely nail him to his bed. On the 19th of January he wrote to lord Stanhope that he would certainly be in town the next; day, and knock at the minister's door to awake him. Accordingly, on the morrow, there he was, lame with the gout, but otherwise in full vigour; and there was an awful silence as he entered the house, for he had let no one but his most intimate friends know the nature of the motion that he meant to propose. He had begged that Franklin might be present, and he and numerous other Americans were seeking admittance to the bar of the house of lords. Chatham introduced Franklin himself, saying to the doorkeepers, " This is Dr. Franklin!" a circumstance which caused much speculation.

Chatham, on rising, severely blamed ministers for the course which they had pursued, and which had driven the colonies to the verge of rebellion. He censured them for not sooner having laid the necessary papers before the houses of parliament; but now that they were there, he would endeavour to convey to his majesty and the country his ideas upon them. He moved that an address be immediately sent to his majesty, praying that measures might be taken, without loss of time, for settling the unhappy differences with the colonies; that the troops were useless at Boston, because no magistrate could be found to sanction their use for putting down the riots. He wished, he said, that not a day should be lost in doing this; a day, an hour, might produce years of calamity. He condemned the people of Massachusetts for their violence, but he condemned still more the arbitrary conduct of ministers which had provoked that violence. It was clear, by his still asserting that we had a right to regulate the trade of America, that he had acquired no fresh light on the real nature of import duties, and the like; but he declared that the resistance of the colonies to all internal taxation was just. He reproduced the acts of parliament which had lately passed, and in his censure of these, he certainly censured the Declaratory Act, which was his own work. M Resistance to your acts," he said, "was necessary as it was just; and your vain declarations of the omnipotence of parliament" - these were his own declarations - "and your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will be found equally competent to convince or to enslave your fellow-subjects in America, who feel that tyranny, whether attempted by an individual part of the legislature, or the bodies who compose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects."

He drew a vivid picture of the situation of general Gage, who, not allowed to act against the insurgents, was only an object of irritation and contempt; and he cried - " Laying of papers on your table, or counting members in a division, will not avert or postpone the hour of danger; it must arrive, my lords; unless those fatal acts of last session are done away, it must arrive in all its horrors." He added, that it was " not merely repealing these acts of parliament - it is not cancelling a piece of parchment," he said, " that can win back America to our bosom. You must repeal her fears and her resentments."

He eulogised the conduct of the congress, and remarked that it was obvious that all attempts to impose servitude on such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal. " We shall be forced," he said, "ultimately, to retract; let us retract while we can - not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo these violently oppressive acts; they must be repealed. You will repeal them; I pledge myself for it that you will, in the end, repeal them. I stake my reputation oil it. I will consent to be taken for an idiot if they are not finally repealed. Avoid, then, this humiliating, this disgraceful necessity."

He declared that the cause of America and England was one; that it was the glorious spirit of whiggism which animated the colonists. " It is liberty to liberty engaged. In this great cause they are immovably allied; it is the alliance of God and nature - immutable, eternal - fixed as the firmament of heaven. You cannot force them, united as they are, to your unworthy terms of submission. It is impossible. And when I hear general Gage censured for inactivity, I must retort with indignation on those whose headlong measures and improvident counsels have betrayed him into his present situation. His situation reminds me, my lords, of the answer of a French general, in the civil wars of France - Monsieur de Conde - opposed to marshal Turenne. He was asked how it happened that he did not take his enemy prisoner, as he was often very near him. ' Because,' replied Conde, very honestly, 'I was afraid he might take me!' "

He concluded a speech of upwards of an hour, and, according to his son, William Pitt, who was present, one of the finest speeches ever delivered, except by himself, in these words: - " If the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the king, I will not say that they can alienate the affection of his subjects from his crown, but I will affirm that they will make the crown not worth his wearing; I will not say that the king is betrayed, but I will pronounce that the kingdom is undone."

It is clear that this language of Chatham, if it did not induce the government to alter its insane policy, must wonderfully encourage the Americans; and that is the unalterable nature of our free institutions, that our members of parliament are the first to proclaim to the whole world our follies and our weaknesses; to apprise our enemies what we are going to do, or not to do, and how best to defeat us. This inevitable consequence of our free deliberation on all subjects should therefore teach us never to violate the laws of justice and liberty; for, if we do, our own tongues will punish us by instructing and invigorating our antagonists. Well would it have been had the ministers been sensible of their folly, and frankly have abandoned their obstinate purpose of taxing without representation. Lords Shelburne, Camden, and Rockingham, and the duke of Richmond, zealously supported the views of Chatham, but the ministerial party opposed the motion as obstinately as ever; and it was rejected by sixty-eight votes against eighteen. The duke of Cumberland, who was now full of vengeance against the king, on account of the Royal Marriage Act, and his exclusion from court, voted in the minority.

Chatham, undeterred by the fate of his motion, determined to make one more effort, and bring in a bill for the pacification of the colonies, and he called upon Franklin to assist in framing it. Franklin had, in the preceding autumn, been introduced at Hayes, through lord Stanhope, and Chatham had expressed his regret at what he heard, viz., that the Americans were bent on absolute separation from the mother-country. Franklin warmly protested against any such idea being entertained. He says himself, "I assured his lordship, that, having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company - eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely - I never heard, in any conversation, from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America." These most positive assurances at once satisfied Chatham, as well they might, that this was the true state of the case. But what was the fact? We have the evidence of Josiah Quincy, a young American from Boston, who had taken a very active part amongst the " Sons of Liberty," and who, as the son of an old friend, was now constantly with Franklin in London. Writing at the very time that Franklin was making this solemn and earnest statement to Chatham to a friend in Boston - namely, on the 27th of November, 1774 - he says, " Dr. Franklin is an American in heart and soul. You may trust him; his ideas are not contracted within the narrow limits of exemption from taxes, but are constructed upon the broad scale of total emancipation! He is explicit and bold upon the subject."

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 5

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