Abbildungen der Seite

lowed to be exported, except conditionally. In New Hampshire, however, the trade in timber was prosecuted with great zeal, during a great part of the period which intervened between the first and last hours of submission to the crown. Taxes were paid in boards and staves, at certain rates; and parcels of the different kinds of marketable wood, at one time, passed from man to man almost as currently as the king's coin, or the pine-tree shilling pieces of the old Commonwealth.

The action of parliament with regard to taxing lumber, admitting it free, or even encouraging its exportation by bounties, was eagerly watched. The mother country pursued all these courses at different times, and gave satisfaction, or created discontent, among the dealers in the article, as changes occurred in her policy; just as she does now, with those Colonial possessions which yet remain to her. Boston was the great mart, and the centre to which the proceeds of all mercantile operations tended. Besides the extensive business done there in shipments of lumber to the West Indies and Europe, much timber was used for the building of vessels for sale in the ports of England. Thus, there were in Boston, at one time, no less than twenty-seven shipyards; at one of which twelve vessels were built, and from all of which sixty were launched in a single year. The Colonial merchants of the days of which we are speaking, like those of the present Colonies, suffered immense losses on ships built and sent to England on their account; such "remittances" selling at prices less than cost, by twenty, and even forty, per cent., during the seasons of commercial depression, or an overstocked market.

The mast ships" at the North, like the "tobacco ships" at the South, were the common, and oftentimes the only, means for crossing the ocean; and royal governors and other high personages were occasionally compelled to embark in them. In these clumsy, ill-shapen vessels, also, went ladies and lovers to visit friends and see sights in that distant land, which some Americans yet call "home." Merchandise, fashions, and the last novel had a slow voyage back; but men and maidens were models of patience, and the arrival of the eleven weeks "master" gave as much joy when all was safe, as does that of the eleven days steamer now. In port, while loading, the "mast ships were objects


No. 123.


of interest, and their decks and cabins the scenes of hilarity and mirth. We hear of illuminations, and firings of cannon, of frolics and feasts. They brought news of victories achieved by British arms, of some peace concluded, or some act repealed which bore hard upon Colonial industry, or hurt Colonial pride. When ready for sea, if enemies of the crown hovered on the coast, vessels of war were ready to give them safe convoy; and the days of departures were seasons of excitement, busy preparation, and sad leavetaking.


The mast trade was confined to England; and the transportation of spars thither, and of the sawed and shaved woods required by the planter, to islands in the West Indies possessed by the British crown, were about the only lawful modes of exporting lumber for a long period. By the statute book, the king's mark was as much to be dreaded by the mariner, and the owner of the vessel, as by the "logger and the "mill-man." But the revenue officers caused less fear than the surveyors of the woods, until fleets and armies were employed to aid them; when the interdicted trade with the French and Spanish islands was nearly, if not entirely, broken up. No enactments of the mother country operated to keep down Northern industry so effectually, poorly as they were obeyed, as the navigation and trade laws; and on none did they bear more severely than upon that portion of the people whose position or necessities left them no choice of employments. There were some nor were they few— who were obliged to work up trees into marketable shapes, or starve. Included with these were the inhabitants of the coast, the mariners, and the fishermen. The interests of all these classes were identical; and to them, the maritime policy of the government was cruel in the extreme; since it robbed unremitting toil of half of its reward. Lumber and fish were inseparable companions in every adventure to the Caribbean sea. Enterprises to get either were hazardous, at the best; and, as practical men can readily perceive, all who engaged in obtaining them were obliged then, as they are now, to seek different markets; so that, to shut some marts, when access to all would barely remunerate the adventurers, was, in effect, to close the whole. These employments were among the most difficult and severe in the whole round of human pursuits; and attempts to alleviate the burdens of

[ocr errors]

oppressive parliamentary legislation upon both were made in Massachusetts, long before a whisper of discontent was elsewhere uttered in America. To the discussions on the one, we have already attended; a notice of the other does not come within our present purpose. These discussions had taken fast hold of the public mind, and when Otis at length spoke out, thousands, who never heard or read his reasonings, and might not have felt their force, if they had, were ready, at the first call, to clear the woods, and docks, and warehouses of the "swarms of officers" who "harassed" them, and "eat out their substance." England lost the affection of the North full a generation before she alienated the South. Free labor-inexcusable in this began with sacking houses, overturning public offices, and emptying tar barrels and pillow cases upon the heads of its victims; and when the skill and high intellect which were enlisted in its cause, and which vainly strove to moderate its excesses, failed to obtain a peaceable redress of the wrong, and were driven either to abandon the object, or to combine and wield the strength of those who were engaged in pursuing it, these men rallied upon the field, and embarked upon the sea, to retire from neither until the very frame-work of the Colonial system was torn away. To say, as some do, that points of "abstract liberty" severed the British empire, is to babble like modern politicians. "Abstractions,' indeed! Which of the twenty-nine acts of parliament touched so much as the "southwest side of a hair" of an "abstraction"? These acts inhibited "labor." They forbade the use of water-falls, the erecting of machinery, of looms and spindles, and the working of wool and iron; they set the king's arrow upon trees that rotted in the forest; they shut out markets for boards and fish, and seized sugar and molasses, and the vessels in which these articles were carried; and they defined the limitless ocean as but a narrow pathway to such of the lands that it embosoms, as wore the British flag. The revolution was created to release labor from these And yet the favorers of "abstractions" ask that labor shall resume its broken bonds!


nay, insist

[ocr errors]


Such are the opinions, at least, that we have formed on the questions upon which, among the mass of the people, the contest hinged; which finally united persons of every avocation in life in an endeavour to get rid of prohibitions,

that remonstrance could not repeal, or even humanize. There are two or three incidents, which, as they illustrate the remarks just made, and belong to our subject, we cannot forbear to mention. They show, that, though almost too remote and scattered for union and concert, the woodmen were not laggards in the irregular strifes with which the war commenced.

A gentleman of Boston, whose wife and daughter were at Machias among their friends, obtained leave of Admiral Graves, soon after the affair at Lexington, to visit them, and also to carry such supplies as might be needed at that distant settlement, on condition of returning with his vessel to Boston, then in possession of the royal troops, and deeply distressed for fuel, with a load of wood and lumber. But he was to be accompanied by the British schooner Margranetto, armed with four light guns, and fourteen swivels, and under command of midshipman Moir, a kinsman of the Admiral. The passage was safely made, and the lumberers, after consultation, and in view of their necessities, agreed that the lading of articles promised for the King's troops might be permitted; but the boldest among them determined, also, that the Margranetto* should become their prize. Embarking in a coaster and a sloop, and arming themselves with such weapons as were within reach, among which were the tools of their calling, they proceeded on their perilous enterprise. A sharp conflict ensued; Moir received a mortal wound, and about twenty others of both parties were killed or wounded. But success crowned the attempt; the victors received the thanks of the Provincial Congress, and commissions to cruise and capture under their authority. This brilliant little affair gave much joy, and was, undoubtedly," the Lexington of the seas, or first naval action, that occurred in the struggle for freedom.

[ocr errors]

In the autumn of the same year, Falmouth, the great mast and timber mart of Maine, was laid in ashes; and, singularly enough, its destruction grew out of matters directly


Cooper says "Margaretta." He relates the affair at some length, and though his account differs in some particulars from that derived from inhabitants of Machias, it may still be correct. He says of it, that it was "the first blow struck on the water, after the war of the American Revo. lution had actually commenced,' thus fully sustaining the remarks in the text; indeed, the words "Lexington of the seas are quoted from


[ocr errors]

connected with its chief business. Coulson,* a loyalist merchant there, having difficulties with the Whig authorities, about the rigging and fitting for sea a "mast ship" which he had built, applied to Mowatt, commander of the royal armed ship Canceau, for protection, which was afforded. Subsequently, he attempted to load his vessel; but the masts and timber, which he had procured for the purpose, were taken away, and towed to places to which he dared not go to recover them. Various other acts, interfering with his design, occurred in the course of the quarrel; and the result was, that Mowatt burned the dwellings, and most of the wharves and vessels, of that busy place. "Tell the people of Falmouth," said Admiral Graves to Philip Crandall, "that unless they allow Coulson to load, I will send a ship, or ships, and beat the town down about their ears." History will bear record that this infamous threat was fulfilled to the letter. After observing, that the lumberers of Winslow, on the Kennebec, were Whigs almost to a man, and that, being destitute of money, they voted "one hundred and twenty-five thousand shingles, and ten thousand clapboards, to purchase a town stock of ammunition," we pass to another topic.

The region of the United States, where tar is produced and exported, is now very distant from New England; but its manufacture at the North was once an object of much attention. In the narratives of the early voyagers of whom we have spoken, it will be recollected, that trees, which afforded the substances now known in commerce as navalstores, are mentioned as being abundant; and such was undoubtedly the fact. Abuses in the making of tar existed at Plymouth before 1670, as in that year the town voted, that none but townsmen, whose names were recorded, should

* Coulson himself, Pazan, another merchant, Wiswall, the Episcopal clergyman, and Pote and Wyer, ship-masters, who were his friends on this emergency, all abandoned the country, and are all named in the Massachusetts proscription act of 1778, which punished the first return of loyalist refugees with transportation, and the second with death.

In the documents of the times, this affair is called "Thompson's war." Thompson belonged to Brunswick. He came to Falmouth with a party of about fifty men. They bore a small spruce tree for a standard, and each one wore a spruce bough in his hat. But for the injudicious movements of this party, whose badges marked their calling, Falmouth might not have been given to the flames.

« ZurückWeiter »