Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VI.

State of affairs in EnglandIneffectual opposition of the friends

of America to the MinistryLord North succeeds the Duke of Grafton as first Lord of the Treasury His motion for the partial repeal of the Port Duties--Debates thereon-Riot at Boston between the Soldiers and Ropeniakers-Several of the people killed by the Soldiers-Mr. Hutchinson refuses to remove the troops from Boston-Funeral pomp at the burial of those killed-Liberty Poles erected in New York-Assembly of Massachusetts convened at Cambridge-Their remonstrance on account of it-Trial of Captain Preston and his Soldiers Honourable conduct of Mr. Adams and Mr. Quincy Mr. Hutchinson made Governour and Captain General-affair of the Gaspee at Rhode IslandInstructions of the town of Petersham to their constituents General feeling of the people on the first measures of Lord North's Administration.

We shall now be obliged for a few moments, to turn our attention to affairs in England. The Parliament met on the 9th of January 1770. The Earl of Chatlam, who had been so long detained from publick duties by ill health, whose mind had suffered almost as much as his body, and who had been long looked upon as dead to the world, now made his appearancehis health unexpectedly restored, and his intellectual faculties completely renovated. On the usual motion for an address to the Throne, this illustrious Statesman arose, and after declaring that nothing but the present alarming state of the nation, could have brought him from his retirement bowing as he was under the weight of infirmities, he lamented in his usual energetick manner, 'those unhappy measures which had alienated the Colonies from the Mother Country, and which had driven them into excesses he VOL. 1.

18

could not justify. “ But said he, such is my partiality for America, that I am disposed to make allowance eren for these excesses. The discontents of three millions of people deserve consideration : the foundation of those discontents ought to be removed.

His Lordship concluded his speech by moving an amendment to the Address, pledging the House to take into their speedy and serious consideration, the causes of the discontents which now distracted every part of his Majesty's Empire. But the amendment was negatived by a large majority.

On the 22d of January another attempt was made to come at the object of his Lordship, which proved more successful. The Marquis of Rockingham introduced the subject, in the following clear, concise, spirited and independent manner. He said, “ that the present unhappy condition of affairs, and the universal discontents of the people, did not arise from any immediate temporary cause, but had grown upon ' the nation by degrees from the moment of his Majesty's

accession to the throne : that a total change had then taken place in the old system of English Government, and a new maxim adopted fatal to the liberties of the country, viz. that the royal prerogative alone was sufficient to support government to whatever hands the administration should be committed. The operation of this principle (said his Lordship) can be traced through every act of government during the present reign, in which his Majesty's secret advisers could be supposed to have any influence. He recommended therefore strongly to their Lordships to fix an early day for taking into consideration the state of the coun-' try in all its relations and dependencies, foreign, provincial and domestick, for we had been injured in

[graphic]

them all. That consideration, he trusted, would lead their Lordships to advise the Crown, not only how to correct past errours, but how to establish a system of government more wise, more permanent, better suited to the genius of the people, and consistent with the spirit of the Constitution.” The noble Lord was seconded in this motion by the Duke of Grafton. Lord Chatham again arose on this occasion, and after declaring that his grace had anticipated him, he said, that “ his infirmities must fall heavy on him indeed, if he did not attend his duty in the House that day -he said that he wished his avowed approbation of the motion now made, to be understood as a publick demonstration of the cordial union that now subsisted between the noble Marquis and himself. There was indeed a time, (said he) when those who wished well to neither, found a sufficient gratification for their malignity against both. But the noble Lord and his friends, are now united with me and mine, upon a principle which, I trust, will be found as permanent as it is honourable;—not to share the emoluments af the State, but, if possible, to save it from impending ruin."

Before the day fixed upon for this important enquiry, the Duke of Grafton, resigned the office of First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, and was succeeded by Lord North, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who thus became the head of an Administration, which from that time to the close of the American Revolution directed the destinies of Great Britain, and by their errours and follies, reduced her mighty Empire in the West to the barren possession of the two Canadas.

AMERICAN

The avowed cause of the Duke of Grafton's unexpected resignation was the dismissal of his colleague Lord Camden, from whom the Great Seal had been most ungraciously taken, in consequence of his having voted with Lord Chatham on his amendment to the Address.

One of the first acts of Lord North's administration was a motion for the repeal of the port duties of 1767, with the exception of the duty on tea, which his Lord. ship expressly declared, he desired to keep on as an assertion of the supremacy of the Parliament. In vain it was contended that the reservation of this single article would keep up the contention, which it was so desirable to allay—that after giving up the prospect of a revenue from the Colonies, it was, absurd and impolitick to persevere in the assertion of an abstract claim of right, which if attempted in any mode to be carried into practice, would produce nothing but civil discord, and interminable opposition that in short if nothing more was meant by this omission of the tea 'in the repeal, than the mere declaration of Parliamentary Supremacy, the law already in existence, under the title of the Declatory Act, was abundantly sufficient for that purpose, and that the Americans had hitherto silently acquiesced in that law.

To all these arguments Lord North replied, in the following strain of supercilious insult-" Has the repeal of the Stamp Act taught the Americans obedience? Has our lenity inspired them with moderation? Can it be proper, while they deny one legal power to tax them, to acquiesce in the argument of illegality? and, by the repeal of the whole law, to give up that power? No! the properest time to exert our right to taxation is when the right is refused. To temporize

is to yield; and the authority of the Mother country, if it is now unsupported, will in reality be relinquisited for ever. A total repeal (he continued,) cannot be thought of, till America is PROSTRATE AT OUR FEET. -Thus did this new Minister, even while he professed to be making a concession to the Colonies, insult them with a threat of his future vengeance—and thus did he treat their pretentions to exemplion, at the moment that he was offering a measure for the avowed purpose of regaining their affections.

While these things were passing in England; the Colonies perhaps would have enjoyed something like a calm, contenting themselves with the observance of their non-importation agreement, but for the continuance of his Majesty's armed forces in the harbour and town of Boston. It was impossible for the people not to feel continual irritation at the presence of the soldiery, with whom they came in contact at every hour of the day, and at every corner of the streets. A knowledge that they were placed there for the purpose of keeping the citizens in awe, served too to render these soldiers, as well as their officers, overbearing and insolent upon all occasions. If this cause of offence had been removed, (as it would have been, some months before, had any other man than Bernard been at the head of the government,) it is more than probable, the people would soon have forgotten the causes which brought them there, and like their fellow-citizens of the other, Colonies, have settled down into a state of calm and tranquility.

But the temper of the patriotick citizens of Boston was further kept in a state of excitement, by the machipations of their Lieutenant Governour, Mr. Hutchinson, now acting as the Chief Magistrate, and who was but little behind his predecessor, in enmity to the

« ZurückWeiter »