Abbildungen der Seite


time being." Copies of these resolutions yrere ordered to be forwarded by the speaker to the legislatures of the other colonies, with a request for their concurrence.

Other proceedings of the Burgesses showed their sympathy with their fellow-patriots of New England. A joint address of both Houses of Parliament had recently been made to the king, assuring him of their support in any further measures for the due execution of the laws in Massachusetts, and beseeching him that all persons charged with treason, or misprision of treason, committed within that colony since the 30th of December, 1767, might be sent to Great Britain for trial.

As Massachusetts had no General Assembly at this time, having been dissolved by government, the legislature of Virginia generously took up the cause. An address to the king was resolved on, stating that all trials for treason, or misprision of treason, or for any crime whatever committed by any person residing in a colony, ought to be in and before his Majesty's courts within said colony, and beseeching the king to avert from his loyal subjects those dangers and miseries which would ensue from seizing and carrying beyond sea any person residing in America suspected of any crime whatever, thereby depriving them of the inestimable privilege of being tried by a jury from the vicinage, as well as the liberty of producing witnesses on such trial.

Disdaining any further application to Parliament, the House ordered the speaker to transmit this address to the colonies' agent in England, with directions to cause it to be presented to the king, and afterwards to be printed and published in the English papers.

Lord Botetourt was astonished and dismayed when he heard of these high-toned proceedings. Repairing to the capitol on the following day at noon, he summoned the speaker and members to the council-chamber, and addressed them in the following words: "Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen of the House of Burgesses,—I have heard of your resolves, and augur ill of their effects. You have made it my duty to dissolve you, and you are dissolved accordingly."

The spirit conjured up by the late decrees of Parliament ■was not so easily allayed. The Burgesses adjourned to a private house. Peyton Randolph, their late speaker, was elected moderator. Washington now brought forward a draft of the articles of association concerted between him and George Mason. They formed the groundwork of an instrument signed by all present, pledging themselves neither to import, nor use any goods, merchandize, or manufactures, taxed by Parliament to raise a revenue in America. This instrument was sent throughout the country for signature, and the scheme of non-importation, hitherto confined to a few northern colonies, was soon universally adopted. For his own part, "Washington adhered to it rigorously throughout the year. The articles proscribed by it were never to be seen in his house, and his agent in London was enjoined to ship nothing to him while subject to taxation.

The popular ferment in Virginia was gradually allayed by the amiable and conciliatory conduct of Lord Botetourt. His lordship soon became aware of the erroneous notions with which he had entered upon office. His semi-royal equipage and state were laid aside; he examined into public grievances; became a strenuous advocate for the repeal of taxes; and, authorized by his despatches from the ministry, assured the public that such repeal would speedily take place. His assurance was received with implicit faith, and for a while Virginia was quieted.


Hood at Boston—The General Court refuses to do business under Military sway—Resists the Billeting Act—Effect of the Non-Importation Association—Lord North promises—Duties revoked except on Tea—The Boston Massacre—Disuse of Tea—Conciliatory Conduct of Lord Botetourt—His Death.

"the worst is past, and the spirit of sedition broken," writes Hood to Grenville, early in the spring of 1769.1 When the commodore wrote this his ships were in the harbour, and troops occupied the town, and he flattered himself that at length turbulent Boston was quelled. But

1 Grenville Papers, vol. iii.


it only awaited its time to be seditious according to rale; there was always an irresistible " method in its madness."

In the month of May, the General Court, hitherto prorogued, met according to charter. A committee immediately waited on the governor, stating it was impossible to do business with dignity and freedom while the town was invested by sea and land, and a military guard was stationed at the state-house, with cannon pointed at the door; and they requested the governor, as his Majesty's representative, to have such forces removed out of the port and gates of the city during the session of the Assembly.

The governor replied that he had no authority over either the ships or troops. The court persisted in refusing to transact business while so circumstanced, and the governor was obliged to transfer the session to Cambridge. There he addressed a message to that body'in July, requiring funds for the payment of the troops, and quarters for their accommodation. The Assembly, after ample discussion of past grievances, resolved that the establishment of a standing army in the colony in a time of peace was an invasion of natural rights; that a standing army was not known as a part of the British constitution, and that the sending an armed force to aid the civil authority was unprecedented, and highly dangerous to the people.

After waiting some days without receiving an answer to his message, the governor sent to know whether the Assembly would, or would not, make provision for the troops. In their reply, they followed the example of the legislature of New York, in commenting on the mutiny, or billeting act, and ended by declining to furnish funds for the purpose specified, "being incompatible with their own honour and interest, and their duty to their constituents." They were, in consequence, again prorogued, to meet in Boston on the 10th of January.

So stood affairs in Massachusetts. In the meantime, the non-importation associations, being generally observed throughout the colonies, produced the effect on British commerce which Washington had anticipated, and Parlia mont was incessantly importuned by petitions from British merchants, imploring its intervention to save them from ruin.

Early in 1770, an important change took place in the British cabinet. The Duke of Grafton suddenly resigned, and the reins of government passed into the hands of Lord North. He was a man of limited capacity, but a favourite of the king, and subservient to his narrow colonial policy. His administration, so eventful to America, commenced with an error. In the month of March, an act was passed, revoking all the duties laid in 1767, excepting that on tea. This single tax was continued, as he observed, "to maintain the parliamentary right of taxation,"—the very right which was the grand object of contest. In this, however, he was in fact yielding, against his better judgment, to the stubborn tenacity of the king.

He endeavoured to reconcile the opposition, and perhaps himself, to the measure, by plausible reasoning. An impost of three-pence on the pound could never, he alleged, be opposed by the colonists, unless they were determined to rebel against Great Britain. Besides, a duty on that article, payable in England, and amounting to nearly one shilling on the pound, was taken off on its exportation to America, so that the inhabitants of the colonies saved ninepence on the pound.

Here was the stumbling-block at the threshold of Lord North's administration. In vain the members of the opposition urged that this single exception, while it would produce no revenue, would keep alive the whole cause of contention; that so long as a single external duty was enforced, the colonies would consider their rights invaded, and would remain unappeased. Lord North was not to be convinced; or rather, he knew the royal will was inflexible, and he complied with its behests. "The properest time to exert our right of taxation," said he, "is when the right is refused. To temporize is to yield; and the authority of the mother country, if it is now unsupported, will be relinquished for ever: a total repeal cannot be thought of, till America is prostrate at our feet."1

On the very day in which this ominous bill was passed in Parliament, a sinister occurrence took place in Boston. Some of the young men of the place insulted the military

s Holme's Amer. Annals, vol. ii., p. 173.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

whilo under arms; the latter resented it; the young men, after a scuffle, were put to flight, and pursued. The alarm bells rang, — a mob assembled; the custom-house was threatened; the troops, in protecting it, were assailed with clubs and stones, and obliged to use their fire-arms, before the tumult could be quelled. Four of the populace were killed, and several wounded. The troops were now removed from the town, which remained in the highest state of exasperation; and this untoward occurrence received the opprobrious and somewhat extravagant name of " the Boston massacre."

The colonists, as a matter of convenience, resumed the consumption of those articles on which the duties had been repealed; but continued, on principle, the rigorous disuse of tea, excepting such as had been smuggled in. New England was particularly earnest in the matter; many of the inhabitants, in the spirit of their Puritan progenitors, made a covenant to drink no more of the forbidden beverage, until the duty on tea should be repealed.

In Virginia the public discontents, which had been allayed by the conciliatory conduct of Lord Botetourt, and by his assurances, made on the strength of letters received from the ministry, that the grievances complained of would be speedily redressed, now broke out with more violence than ever. The Virginians spurned the mock remedy, which left the real cause of complaint untouched. His lordship also felt deeply wounded by the disingenuousness of ministers which had led him into such a predicament, and wrote home demanding his discharge. Before it arrived, an attack of bilious fever, acting upon a delicate and sensitive frame, enfeebled by anxiety and chagrin, laid him in his grave. He left behind him a name endeared to the Virginians by his amiable manners, his liberal patronage of the arts, and, above all, by his zealous intercession for their rights. Washington himself testifies that he was inclined "to render every just and reasonable service to the people whom he governed." A statue to his memory was decreed by the House of Burgesses, to be erected in the area of the capitol. It is still to be seen, though in a mutilated condition, in Williamsburg, the old seat of government, and a county in Virginia continues to bear hia honoured name.

« ZurückWeiter »