Infomotions, Inc.The Eve of the Revolution; a chronicle of the breach with England / Becker, Carl Lotus, 1873-1945

Author: Becker, Carl Lotus, 1873-1945
Title: The Eve of the Revolution; a chronicle of the breach with England
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): colonies; adams; hutchinson; samuel adams; grenville; townshend; parliament; congress; boston; samuel; america; british; britain; governor; massachusetts; franklin; stamp; thomas hutchinson; liberty; john adams; great britain
Contributor(s): Streatfeild, R. A. (Richard Alexander), 1866-1919 [Contributor]
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Title: The Eve of the Revolution,
A Chronicle of the Breach with England

Author: Carl Becker

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This Book, Volume 11 In The Chronicles Of America Series, Allen
Johnson, Editor, Was Donated To Project Gutenberg By The James J.
Kelly Library Of St. Gregory's University; Thanks To Alev Akman.
The Project Gutenberg Etext of Robin Hood, by J. Walker McSpadden

The Eve Of The Revolution, A Chronicle Of The Breach With England

by Carl Becker


In this brief sketch I have chiefly endeavored to convey to the
reader, not a record of what men did, but a sense of how they
thought and felt about what they did. To give the quality and
texture of the state of mind and feeling of an individual or
class, to create for the reader the illusion (not DELUSION, O
able Critic!) of the intellectual atmosphere of past times, I
have as a matter of course introduced many quotations; but I have
also ventured to resort frequently to the literary device (this,
I know, gives the whole thing away) of telling the story by means
of a rather free paraphrase of what some imagined spectator or
participant might have thought or said about the matter in hand.
If the critic says that the product of such methods is not
history, I am willing to call it by any name that is better; the
point of greatest relevance being the truth and effectiveness of
the illusion aimed at--the extent to which it reproduces the
quality of the thought and feeling of those days, the extent to
which it enables the reader to enter into such states of mind and
feeling. The truth of such history (or whatever the critic wishes
to call it) cannot of course be determined by a mere verification
of references.

To one of my colleagues, who has read the entire manuscript, I am
under obligations for many suggestions and corrections in matters
of detail; and I would gladly mention his name if it could be
supposed that an historian of established reputation would wish
to be associated, even in any slight way, with an enterprise of
questionable orthodoxy.

Carl Becker.

Ithaca, New York, January 6, 1918.




CHAPTER I. A Patriot Of 1763

His Majesty's reign...I predict will be happy and truly
glorious.--Benjamin Franklin.

The 29th of January, 1757, was a notable day in the life of Ben
Franklin of Philadelphia, well known in the metropolis of America
as printer and politician, and famous abroad as a scientist and
Friend of the Human Race. It was on that day that the Assembly of
Pennsylvania commissioned him as its agent to repair to London in
support of its petition against the Proprietors of the Province,
who were charged with having "obstinately persisted in manacling
their deputies [the Governors of Pennsylvania] with instructions
inconsistent not only with the privileges of the people, but with
the service of the Crown." We may, therefore, if we choose,
imagine the philosopher on that day, being then in his
fifty-first year, walking through the streets of this metropolis
of America (a town of something less than twenty thousand
inhabitants) to his modest home, and there informing his "Dear
Debby" that her husband, now apparently become a great man in a
small world, was ordered immediately "home to England."

In those leisurely days, going home to England was no slight
undertaking; and immediately, when there was any question of a
great journey, meant as soon as the gods might bring it to pass.
"I had agreed with Captain Morris, of the Pacquet at New York,
for my passage," he writes in the "Autobiography," "and my stores
were put on board, when Lord Loudoun arrived at Philadelphia,
expressly, as he told me, to endeavor an accommodation between
the Governor and the Assembly, that his Majesty's service might
not be obstructed by their dissentions." Franklin was the very
man to effect an accommodation, when he set his mind to it, as he
did on this occasion; but "in the mean time," he relates, "the
Pacquet had sailed with my sea stores, which was some loss to me,
and my only recompence was his Lordship's thanks for my service,
all the credit for obtaining the accommodation falling to his

It was now war time, and the packets were at the disposal of Lord
Loudoun, commander of the forces in America. The General was good
enough to inform his accommodating friend that of the two packets
then at New York, one was given out to sail on Saturday, the 12th
of April--"but," the great man added very confidentially, "I may
let you know, entre nous, that if you are there by Monday
morning, you will be in time, but do not delay longer." As early
as the 4th of April, accordingly, the provincial printer and
Friend of the Human Race, accompanied by many neighbors "to see
him out of the province," left Philadelphia. He arrived at
Trenton "well before night," and expected, in case "the roads
were no worse," to reach Woodbridge by the night following. In
crossing over to New York on the Monday, some accident at the
ferry delayed him, so that he did not reach the city till nearly
noon, and he feared that he might miss the packet after all--Lord
Loudoun had so precisely mentioned Monday morning. Happily, no
such thing! The packet was still there. It did not sail that day,
or the next either; and as late as the 29th of April Franklin was
still hanging about waiting to be off. For it was war time and
the packets waited the orders of General Loudoun, who, ready in
promises but slow in execution, was said to be "like St. George
on the signs, always on horseback but never rides on."

Franklin himself was a deliberate man, and at the last moment he
decided, for some reason or other, not to take the first packet.
Behold him, therefore, waiting for the second through the month
of May and the greater part of June! "This tedious state of
uncertainty and long waiting," during which the agent of the
Province of Pennsylvania, running back and forth from New York to
Woodbridge, spent his time more uselessly than ever he
remembered, was duly credited to the perversity of the British
General. But at last they were off, and on the 26th of July,
three and a half months after leaving Philadelphia, Franklin
arrived in London to take up the work of his mission; and there
he remained, always expecting to return shortly, but always
delayed, for something more than five years.

These were glorious days in the history of Old England, the most
heroic since the reign of Good Queen Bess. When the provincial
printer arrived in London, the King and the politicians had
already been forced, through multiplied reverses in every part of
the world, to confer power upon William Pitt, a disagreeable man
indeed, but still a great genius and War Lord, who soon turned
defeat into victory. It was the privilege of Franklin, here in
the capital of the Empire, to share the exaltation engendered by
those successive conquests that gave India and America to the
little island kingdom, and made Englishmen, in Horace Walpole's
phrase, "heirs apparent of the Romans." No Briton rejoiced more
sincerely than this provincial American in the extension of the
Empire. He labored with good will and good humor, and doubtless
with good effect, to remove popular prejudice against his
countrymen; and he wrote a masterly pamphlet to prove the wisdom
of retaining Canada rather than Guadaloupe at the close of the
war, confidently assuring his readers that the colonies would
never, even when once the French danger was removed, "unite
against their own nation, which protects and encourages them,
with which they have so many connections and ties of blood,
interest, and affection, and which 'tis well known they all love
much more than they love one another." Franklin, at least, loved
Old England, and it might well be maintained that these were the
happiest years of his life. He was mentally so cosmopolitan, so
much at ease in the world, that here in London he readily found
himself at home indeed. The business of his particular mission,
strictly attended to, occupied no great part of his time. He
devoted long days to his beloved scientific experiments, and
carried on a voluminous correspondence with David Hume and Lord
Kames, and with many other men of note in England, France, and
Italy. He made journeys, to Holland, to Cambridge, to ancestral
places and the homes of surviving relatives; but mostly, one may
imagine, he gave himself to a steady flow of that "agreeable and
instructive conversation" of which he was so much the master and
the devotee. He was more famous than he knew, and the reception
that everywhere awaited him was flattering, and as agreeable to
his unwarped and emancipated mind as it was flattering. "The
regard and friendship I meet with," he confesses, "and the
conversation of ingenious men, give me no small pleasure"; and at
Cambridge, "my vanity was not a little gratified by the
particular regard shown me by the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor
of the University, and the Heads of the Colleges." As the years
passed, the sense of being at ease among friends grew stronger;
the serene and placid letters to "Dear Debby" became rather less
frequent; the desire to return to America was much attenuated.

How delightful, indeed, was this Old England! "Of all the
enviable things England has," he writes, "I envy it most its
people.... Why should this little island enjoy in almost
every neighborhood more sensible, virtuous, and elegant minds,
than we can collect in ranging one hundred leagues of our vast
forests?" What a proper place for a philosopher to spin out the
remnant of his days! The idea had occurred to him; he was
persistently urged by his friend William Strahan to carry it into
effect; and his other friend, David Hume, made him a pretty
compliment on the same theme: "America has sent us many good
things, gold, silver, sugar, tobacco; but you are the first
philosopher for whom we are beholden to her. It is our own fault
that we have not kept him; whence it appears that we do not agree
with Solomon, that wisdom is above gold; for we take good care
never to send back an ounce of the latter, which we once lay our
fingers upon." The philosopher was willing enough to remain; and
of the two objections which he mentioned to Strahan, the rooted
aversion of his wife to embarking on the ocean and his love for
Philadelphia, the latter for the moment clearly gave him less
difficulty than the former. "I cannot leave this happy island and
my friends in it without extreme regret," he writes at the moment
of departure. "I am going from the old world to the new; and I
fancy I feel like those who are leaving this world for the next;
grief at the parting; fear of the passage; hope for the future."

When, on the 1st of November, 1762, Franklin quietly slipped into
Philadelphia, he found that the new world had not forgotten him.
For many days his house was filled from morning till night with a
succession of friends, old and new, come to congratulate him on
his return; excellent people all, no doubt, and yet presenting,
one may suppose, a rather sharp contrast to the "virtuous and
elegant minds" from whom he had recently parted in England. The
letters he wrote, immediately following his return to America, to
his friends William Strahan and Mary Stevenson lack something of
the cheerful and contented good humor which is Franklin's most
characteristic tone. His thoughts, like those of a homesick man,
are ever dwelling on his English friends, and he still nourishes
the fond hope of returning, bag and baggage, to England for good
and all. The very letter which he begins by relating the
cordiality of his reception in Philadelphia he closes by assuring
Strahan that "in two years at fartherest I hope to settle all my
affairs in such manner as that I may then conveniently remove to
England--provided," he adds as an afterthought, "we can persuade
the good woman to cross the sea. That will be the great

It is not known whether it was this difficulty that prevented the
eminent doctor, revered in two continents for his wisdom, from
changing the place of his residence. Dear Debby, as docile as a
child in most respects, very likely had her settled prejudices,
of which the desire to remain on dry land may have been one, and
one of the most obstinate. Or it may be that Franklin found
himself too much occupied, too much involved in affairs after his
long absence, to make even a beginning in his cherished plan; or
else, as the months passed and he settled once more to the
familiar, humdrum life of the American metropolis, sober second
thought may have revealed to him what was doubtless a higher
wisdom. "Business, public and private, devours my time," he
writes in March, 1764. "I must return to England for repose. With
such thoughts I flatter myself, and need some kind friend to put
Perhaps, after all, Dear Debby was this kind friend; in which
case Americans must all, to this day, be much indebted to the
good woman.

At least it was no apprehension of difficulties arising between
England and the colonies that induced Franklin to remain in
America. The Peace of Paris he regarded as "the most
advantageous" of any recorded in British annals, very fitting to
mark the close of a successful war, and well suited to usher in
the long period of prosperous felicity which should properly
distinguish the reign of a virtuous prince. Never before, in
Franklin's opinion, were the relations between Britain and her
colonies more happy; and there could be, he thought, no good
reason to fear that the excellent young King would be distressed,
or his prerogative diminished, by factitious parliamentary

"You now fear for our virtuous young King, that the faction
forming will overpower him and render his reign uncomfortable [he
writes to Strahan]. On the contrary, I am of opinion that his
virtue and the consciousness of his sincere intentions to make
his people happy will give him firmness and steadiness in his
measures and in the support of the honest friends he has chosen
to serve him; and when that firmness is fully perceived, faction
will dissolve and be dissipated like a morning fog before the
rising sun, leaving the rest of the day clear with a sky serene
and cloudless. Such after a few of the first years will be the
future course of his Majesty's reign, which I predict will be
happy and truly glorious. A new war I cannot yet see reason to
apprehend. The peace will I think long continue, and your nation
be as happy as they deserve to be."

CHAPTER II. The Burden Of Empire

Nothing of note in Parliament, except one slight day on the
American taxes.--Horace Walpole.

There were plenty of men in England, any time before 1763, who
found that an excellent arrangement which permitted them to hold
office in the colonies while continuing to reside in London. They
were thereby enabled to make debts, and sometimes even to pay
them, without troubling much about their duties; and one may
easily think of them, over their claret, as Mr. Trevelyan says,
lamenting the cruelty of a secretary of state who hinted that,
for form's sake at least, they had best show themselves once in a
while in America. They might have replied with Junius: "It was
not Virginia that wanted a governor, but a court favorite that
wanted a salary." Certainly Virginia could do with a minimum of
royal officials; but most court favorites wanted salaries, for
without salaries unendowed gentlemen could not conveniently live
in London.

One of these gentlemen, in the year 1763, was Mr. Grosvenor
Bedford. He was not, to be sure, a court favorite, but a man, now
well along in years, who had long ago been appointed to be
Collector of the Customs at the port of Philadelphia. The
appointment had been made by the great minister, Robert Walpole,
for whom Mr. Bedford had unquestionably done some service or
other, and of whose son, Horace Walpole, the letter-writer, he
had continued from that day to be a kind of dependent or protege,
being precisely the sort of unobtrusive factotum which that
fastidious eccentric needed to manage his mundane affairs. But
now, after this long time, when the King's business was placed in
the hands of George Grenville, who entertained the odd notion
that a Collector of the Customs should reside at the port of
entry where the customs were collected rather than in London
where he drew his salary, it was being noised about, and was
presently reported at Strawberry Hill, that Mr. Bedford, along
with many other estimable gentlemen, was forthwith to be turned
out of his office.

To Horace Walpole it was a point of more than academic importance
to know whether gentlemen were to be unceremoniously turned out
of their offices. As far back as 1738, while still a lad, he had
himself been appointed to be Usher of the Exchequer; and as soon
as he came of age, he says, "I took possession of two other
little patent places in the Exchequer, called Comptroller of the
Pipe, and Clerk of the Estreats"--all these places having been
procured for him through the generosity of his father. The duties
of these offices, one may suppose, were not arduous, for it seems
that they were competently administered by Mr. Grosvenor Bedford,
in addition to his duties as Collector of the Customs at the port
of Philadelphia; so well administered, indeed, that Horace
Walpole's income from them, which in 1740 was perhaps not more
than 1500 pounds a year, nearly doubled in the course of a
generation. And this income, together with another thousand which
he had annually from the Collector's place in the Custom House,
added to the interest of 20,000 pounds which he had inherited,
enabled him to live very well, with immense leisure for writing
odd books, and letters full of extremely interesting comment on
the levity and low aims of his contemporaries.

And so Horace Walpole, good patron that he was and competent
letter-writer, very naturally, hearing that Mr. Bedford was to
lose an office to which in the course of years he had become much
accustomed, sat down and wrote a letter to Mr. George Grenville
in behalf of his friend and servant. "Though I am sensible I have
no pretensions for asking you a favour, ...yet I flatter
myself I shall not be thought quite impertinent in interceding
for a person, who I can answer has neither been to blame nor any
way deserved punishment, and therefore I think you, Sir, will be
ready to save him from prejudice. The person I mean is my deputy,
Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, who, above five and twenty years ago, was
appointed Collector of the Customs in Philadelphia by my father.
I hear he is threatened to be turned out. If the least fault can
be laid to his charge, I do not desire to have him protected. If
there cannot, I am too well persuaded, Sir, of your justice not
to be sure you will be pleased to protect him."

George Grenville, a dry, precise man of great knowledge and
industry, almost always right in little matters and very patient
of the misapprehensions of less exact people, wrote in reply a
letter which many would think entirely adequate to the matter in
hand: "I have never heard [he began] of any complaint against Mr.
Grosvenor Bedford, or of any desire to turn him out; but by the
office which you tell me he holds in North America, I believe I
know the state of the case, which I will inform you of, that you
may be enabled to judge of it yourself. Heavy complaints were
last year made in Parliament of the state of our revenues in
North America which amount to between 1,000 pounds and 9,000
pounds a year, the collecting of which costs upon the
establishment of the Customs in Great Britain between 7,000
pounds and 8,000 pounds a year. This, it was urged, arose from
the making all these offices sinecures in England. When I came to
the Treasury* I directed the Commissioners of the Customs to be
written to, that they might inform us how the revenue might be
improved, and to what causes they attributed the present
diminished state of it.... The principal cause which they
assigned was the absence of the officers who lived in England by
leave of the Treasury, which they proposed should be recalled.
This we complied with, and ordered them all to their duty, and
the Commissioners of the Customs to present others in the room of
such as should not obey. I take it for granted that this is Mr.
Bedford's case. If it is, it will be attended with difficulty to
make an exception, as they are every one of them applying to be
excepted out of the orders.... If it is not so, or if Mr.
Bedford can suggest to me any proper means of obviating it
without overturning the whole regulation, he will do me a
sensible pleasure.

* On the resignation of Lord Bute in April, 1763, Grenville
formed a ministry, himself taking the two offices of First Lord
of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There is no evidence to show that Mr. Bedford was able to do Mr.
Grenville this "sensible pleasure." The incident, apparently
closed, was one of many indications that a new policy for dealing
with America was about to be inaugurated; and although Grenville
had been made minister for reasons that were remote enough from
any question of efficiency in government, no better man could
have been chosen for applying to colonial administration the
principles of good business management. His connection with the
Treasury, as well as the natural bent of his mind, had made him
"confessedly the ablest man of business in the House of Commons."
The Governors of the Bank of England, very efficient men
certainly, held it a great point in the minister's favor that
they "could never do business with any man with the same ease
they had done it with him." Undoubtedly the first axiom of
business is that one's accounts should be kept straight, one's
books nicely balanced; the second, that one's assets should
exceed one's liabilities. Mr. Grenville, accordingly, "had
studied the revenues with professional assiduity, and something
of professional ideas seemed to mingle in all his regulations
concerning them." He "felt the weight of debt, amounting at this
time to one hundred and fifty-eight millions, which oppressed his
country, and he looked to the amelioration of the revenue as the
only mode of relieving it."

It is true there were some untouched sources of revenue still
available in England. As sinecures went in that day, Mr.
Grosvenor Bedford's was not of the best; and on any consideration
of the matter from the point of view of revenue only, Grenville
might well have turned his attention to a different class of
officials; for example, to the Master of the Rolls in Ireland,
Mr. Rigby, who was also Paymaster of the Forces, and to whose
credit there stood at the Bank of England, as Mr. Trevelyan
assures us, a million pounds of the public money, the interest of
which was paid to him "or to his creditors." This was a much
better thing than Grosvenor Bedford had with his paltry
collectorship at Philadelphia; and the interest on a million
pounds, more or less, had it been diverted from Mr. Rigby's
pocket to the public treasury, would perhaps have equaled the
entire increase in the revenue to be expected from even the most
efficient administration of the customs in all the ports of,
America. In addition, it should perhaps be said that Mr. Rigby,
although excelled by none, was by no means the only man in high
place with a good degree of talent for exploiting the common

The reform of such practices, very likely, was work for a
statesman rather than for a man of business. A good man of
business, called upon to manage the King's affairs, was likely to
find many obstacles in the way of depriving the Paymaster of the
Forces of his customary sources of income, and Mr. Grenville, at
least, never attempted anything so hazardous. Scurrilous
pamphleteers, in fact, had made it a charge against the minister
that he had increased rather than diminished the evil of
sinecures--"It had been written in pamphlets that 400,000 pounds
a year was dealt out in pensions"; from which charge the able
Chancellor, on the occasion of opening his first budget in the
House of Commons, the 9th of March, 1764, defended himself by
denying that the sums were "so great as alleged." It was scarcely
an adequate defense; but the truth is that Grenville was sure to
be less distressed by a bad custom, no law forbidding, than by a
law, good or bad, not strictly enforced, particularly if the law
was intended to bring in a revenue.

Instinctively, therefore, the minister turned to America, where
it was a notorious fact that there were revenue laws that had not
been enforced these many years. Mr. Grenville, we may suppose,
since it was charged against him in a famous epigram, read the
American dispatches with considerable care, so that it is quite
possible he may have chanced to see and to shake his head over
the sworn statement of Mr. Sampson Toovey, a statement which
throws much light upon colonial liberties and the practices of
English officials in those days:

"I, Sampson Toovey [so the statement runs], Clerk to James
Cockle, Esq., Collector of His Majesty's Customs for the Port of
Salem, do declare on oath, that ever since I have been in the
office, it hath been customary for said Cockle to receive of the
masters of vessels entering from Lisbon, casks of wine, boxes of
fruit, etc., which was a gratuity for suffering their vessels to
be entered with salt or ballast only, and passing over unnoticed
such cargoes of wine, fruit, etc., which are prohibited to be
imported into His Majesty's Plantations. Part of which wine,
fruit, etc., the said James Cockle used to share with Governor
Bernard. And I further declare that I used to be the negotiator
of this business, and receive the wine, fruit, etc., and dispose
of them agreeable to Mr. Cockle's orders. Witness my hand.
Sampson Toovey."

The curious historian would like much to know, in case Mr.
Grenville did see the declaration of Sampson Toovey, whether he
saw also a letter in which Governor Bernard gave it as his
opinion that if the colonial governments were to be refashioned
it should be on a new plan, since "there is no system in North
America fit to be made a module of."

Secretary Grenville, whether or not he ever saw this letter from
Governor Bernard, was familiar with the ideas which inspired it.
Most crown officials in America, and the governors above all,
finding themselves little more than executive agents of the
colonial assemblies, had long clamored for the remodeling of
colonial governments: the charters, they said, should be
recalled; the functions of the assemblies should be limited and
more precisely defined; judges should be appointed at the
pleasure of the King; and judges and governors alike should be
paid out of a permanent civil list in England drawn from revenue
raised in America. In urging these changes, crown officials in
America were powerfully supported by men of influence in England;
by Halifax since the day, some fifteen years before, when he was
appointed to the office of Colonial Secretary; by the brilliant
Charles Townshend who, in the year 1763, as first Lord of the
Treasury in Bute's ministry, had formulated a bill which would
have been highly pleasing to Governor Bernard had it been passed
into law. And now similar schemes were being urged upon Grenville
by his own colleagues, notably by the Earl of Halifax, who is
said to have become, in a formal interview with the first
minister, extremely heated and eager in the matter.

But all to no purpose. Mr. Grenville was well content with the
form of the colonial governments, being probably of Pope's
opinion that "the system that is best administered is best." In
Grenville's opinion, the Massachusetts government was good
enough, and all the trouble arose from the inattention of royal
officials to their manifest duties and from the pleasant custom
of depositing at Governor Bernard's back door sundry pipes of
wine with the compliments of Mr. Cockle. Most men in England
agreed that such pleasant customs had been tolerated long enough.
To their suppression the first minister accordingly gave his best
attention; and while Mr. Rigby continued to enjoy great
perquisites in England, many obscure customs officials, such as
Grosvenor Bedford, were ordered to their, posts to prevent small
peculations in America. To assist them, or their successors, in
this business, ships of war were stationed conveniently for the
intercepting of smugglers, general writs were authorized to
facilitate the search for goods illegally entered, and the
governors, His Excellency Governor Bernard among the number, were
newly instructed to give their best efforts to the enforcement of
the trade acts.

All this was but an incident, to be sure, in the minister's
general scheme for "ameliorating the revenue." It was not until
the 9th of March, 1764, that Grenville, "not disguising how much
he was hurt by abuse," opened his first budget, "fully, for
brevity was not his failing," and still with great "art and
ability." Although ministers were to be congratulated, he
thought, "on the revenue being managed with more frugality than
in the late reign," the House scarcely need be told that the war
had greatly increased the debt, an increase not to be placed at a
lower figure than some seventy odd millions; and so, on account
of this great increase in the debt, and in spite of gratifying
advances in the customs duties and the salutary cutting off of
the German subsidies, taxes were now, the House would easily
understand, necessarily much higher than formerly--"our taxes,"
he said, "exceeded by three millions what they were in 1754."
Much money, doubtless, could still be raised on the land tax, if
the House was at all disposed to put on another half shilling in
the pound. Ministers could take it quite for granted, however,
that country squires, sitting on the benches, would not be
disposed to increase the land tax, but would much prefer some
skillful manipulation of the colonial customs, provided only
there was some one who understood that art well enough to
explain to the House where such duties were meant to fall and
how much they might reasonably be expected to bring in. And
there, in fact, was Mr. Grenville explaining it all with "art and
ability," for which task, indeed, there could be none superior to
his Majesty's Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had so long
"studied the revenue with professional assiduity."

The items of the budget, rather dull reading now and none too
illuminating, fell pleasantly upon the ears of country squires
sitting there on the benches; and the particular taxes no doubt
seemed reasonably clear to them, even if they had no perfect
understanding of the laws of incidence, inasmuch as sundry of the
new duties apparently fell upon the distant Americans, who were
known to be rich and were generally thought, on no less an
authority than Jasper Mauduit, agent of the Province of
Massachusetts Bay, to be easily able and not unwilling to pay
considerable sums towards ameliorating the revenue. It was odd,
perhaps, that Americans should be willing to pay; but that was no
great matter, if they were able, since no one could deny their
obligation. And so country squires, and London merchants too,
listened comfortably to the reading of the budget so well
designed to relieve the one of taxes and swell the profits
flowing into the coffers of the other.

"That a duty of 2 pounds 19s. 9d. per cwt. avoirdupois, be laid
upon all foreign coffee, imported from any place (except Great
Britain) into the British colonies and plantations in America.
That a duty of 6d. per pound weight be laid upon all foreign
indigo, imported into the said colonies and plantations. That a
duty of 7 pounds per ton be laid upon all wine of the growth of
the Madeiras, or of any other island or place, lawfully imported
from the respective place of the growth of such wine, into the
said colonies and plantations. That a duty of 10s. per ton be
laid upon all Portugal, Spanish, or other wine (except French
wine), imported from Great Britain into the said colonies and
plantations. That a duty of 2s. per pound weight be laid upon all
wrought silks, Bengals, and stuffs mixed with silk or herbs; of
the manufacture of Persia, China, or East India, imported from
Great Britain into the said colonies and plantations. That a duty
of 2s. 6d. per piece be laid upon all callicoes...." The
list no doubt was a long one; and quite right, too, thought
country squires, all of whom, to a man, were willing to pay no
more land tax.

Other men besides country squires were interested in Mr.
Grenville's budget, notably the West Indian sugar planters,
virtually and actually represented in the House of Commons and
voting there this day. Many of them were rich men no doubt; but
sugar planting, they would assure you in confidence, was not what
it had been; and if they were well off after a fashion, they
might have been much better off but for the shameless frauds
which for thirty years had made a dead letter of the Molasses Act
of 1733. It was notorious that the merchants of the northern and
middle colonies, regarding neither the Acts of Trade nor the
dictates of nature, had every year carried their provisions and
fish to the foreign islands, receiving in exchange molasses,
cochineal, "medical druggs," and "gold and silver in bullion and
coin." With molasses the thrifty New Englanders made great
quantities of inferior rum, the common drink of that day,
regarded as essential to the health of sailors engaged in fishing
off the Grand Banks, and by far the cheapest and most effective
instrument for procuring negroes in Africa or for inducing the
western Indians to surrender their valuable furs for some
trumpery of colored cloth or spangled bracelet. All this thriving
traffic did not benefit British planters, who had molasses of
their own and a superior quality of rum which they were not
unwilling to sell.

Such traffic, since it did not benefit them, British planters
were disposed to think must be bad for England. They were
therefore willing to support Mr. Grenville's budget, which
proposed that the importation of foreign rum into any British
colony be prohibited in future; and which further proposed that
the Act of 6 George II, c. 13, be continued, with modifications
to make it effective, the modifications of chief importance being
the additional duty of twenty-two shillings per hundredweight
upon all sugar and the reduction by one half of the prohibitive
duty of sixpence on all foreign molasses imported into the
British plantations. It was a matter of minor importance
doubtless, but one to which they had no objections since the
minister made a point of it, that the produce of all the duties
which should be raised by virtue of the said act, made in the
sixth year of His late Majesty's reign, "be paid into the receipt
of His Majesty's Exchequer, and there reserved, to be from time
to time disposed of by Parliament, towards defraying the
necessary expences of defending, protecting, and securing the
British colonies and plantations in America."

With singularly little debate, honorable and right honorable
members were ready to vote this new Sugar Act, having the
minister's word for it that it would be enforced, the revenue
thereby much improved, and a sudden stop put to the
long-established illicit traffic with the foreign islands, a
traffic so beneficial to the northern colonies, so prejudicial to
the Empire and the pockets of planters. Thus it was that Mr.
Grenville came opportunely to the aid of the Spanish
authorities, who for many years had employed their guarda costas
in a vain effort to suppress this very traffic, conceiving it,
oddly enough, to be injurious to Spain and highly advantageous
to Britain.

It may be that the Spanish authorities regarded the West Indian
trade as a commercial system rather than as a means of revenue.
This aspect of the matter, the commercial effects of his
measures, Mr. Grenville at all events managed not to take
suffciently into account, which was rather odd, seeing that he
professed to hold the commercial system embodied in the
Navigation and Trade Acts in such high esteem, as a kind of
"English Palladium." No one could have wished less than Grenville
to lay sacrilegious hands on this Palladium, have less intended
to throw sand into the nicely adjusted bearings of the Empire's
smoothly working commercial system. If he managed nevertheless to
do something of this sort, it was doubtless by virtue of being
such a "good man of business," by virtue of viewing the art of
government too narrowly as a question of revenue only. For the
moment, preoccupied as they were with the quest of revenue, the
new measures seemed to Mr. Grenville and to the squires and
planters who voted them well adapted to raising a moderate sum,
part only of some 350,000 pounds, for the just and laudable
purpose of "defraying the necessary expences of defending,
protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in

The problem of colonial defense, so closely connected with the
question of revenue, was none of Grenville's making but was a
legacy of the war and of that Peace of Paris which had added an
immense territory to the Empire. When the diplomats of England
and France at last discovered, in some mysterious manner, that it
had "pleased the Most High to diffuse the spirit of union and
concord among the Princes," the world was informed that, as the
price of "a Christian, universal; and perpetual peace," France
would cede to England what had remained to her of Nova Scotia,
Canada, and all the possessions of France on the left bank of the
Mississippi except the City of New Orleans and the island on
which it stands; that she would cede also the islands of Grenada
and the Grenadines, the islands of St. Vincent, Dominica, and
Tobago, and the River Senegal with all of its forts and
factories; and that she would for the future be content, so far
as her activities in India were concerned, with the five
factories which she possessed there at the beginning of the year

The average Briton, as well as honorable and right honorable
members of the House, had known that England possessed colonies
and had understood that colonies, as a matter of course, existed
to supply him with sugar and rice, indigo and tobacco, and in
return to buy at a good price whatever he might himself wish to
sell. Beyond all this he had given slight attention to the matter
of colonies until the great Pitt had somewhat stirred his slow
imagination with talk of empire and destiny. It was doubtless a
liberalizing as well as a sobering revelation to be told that he
was the "heir apparent of the Romans," with the responsibilities
that are implied in having a high mission in the world. Now that
his attention was called to the matter, it seemed to the average
Briton that in meeting the obligation of this high mission and in
dealing with this far-flung empire, a policy of efficiency such
as that advocated by Mr. Grenville might well replace a policy of
salutary neglect; and if the national debt had doubled during the
war, as he was authoritatively assured, why indeed should not the
Americans, grown rich under the fostering care of England and
lately freed from the menace of France by the force of British
arms, be expected to observe the Trade Acts and to contribute
their fair share to the defense of that new world of which they
were the chief beneficiaries?

If Americans were quite ready in their easy going way to take
chances in the matter of defense, hoping that things would turn
out for the best in the future as they had in the past, British
statesmen and right honorable members of the House, viewing the
question broadly and without provincial illusions, understood
that a policy of preparedness was the only salvation; a policy of
muddling through would no longer suffice as it had done in the
good old days before country squires and London merchants
realized that their country was a world power. In those days,
when the shrewd Robert Walpole refused to meddle with schemes for
taxing America, the accepted theory of defense was a simple one.
If Britain policed the sea and kept the Bourbons in their place,
it was thought that the colonies might be left to manage the
Indians; fur traders, whose lure the red man could not resist,
and settlers occupying the lands beyond the mountains, so it was
said, would do the business. In 1749, five hundred thousand acres
of land had been granted to the Ohio Company "in the King's
interest" and "to cultivate a friendship with the nations of
Indians inhabiting those parts"; and as late as 1754 the Board of
Trade was still encouraging the rapid settling of the West,
"inasmuch as nothing can more effectively tend to defeat the
dangerous designs of the French."

On the eve of the last French war it may well have seemed to the
Board of Trade that this policy was being attended with
gratifying results. In the year 1749, La Galissomere, the acting
Governor of Canada, commissioned Celoron de Blainville to take
possession of the Ohio Valley, which he did in form, descending
the river to the Maumee, and so to Lake Erie and home again,
having at convenient points proclaimed the sovereignty of Louis
XV over that country, and having laid down, as evidence of the
accomplished fact, certain lead plates bearing awe-inspiring
inscriptions, some of which have been discovered and are
preserved to this day. It was none the less a dangerous junket.
Everywhere Blainville found the Indians of hostile mind;
everywhere, in every village almost, he found English traders
plying their traffic and "cultivating a friendship with the
Indians"; so that upon his return in 1750, in spite of the lead
plates so securely buried, he must needs write in his journal:
"All I can say is that the nations of those countries are ill
disposed towards the French and devoted to the English."

During the first years of the war all this devotion was
nevertheless seen to be of little worth. Like Providence, the
Indians were sure to side with the big battalions. For want of a
few effective garrisons at the beginning, the English found
themselves deserted by their quondam allies, and although they
recovered this facile allegiance as soon as the French garrisons
were taken, it was evident enough in the late years of the war
that fear alone inspired the red man's loyalty. The Indian
apparently did not realize at this early date that his was an
inferior race destined to be supplanted. Of a primitive and
uncultivated intelligence, it was not possible for him to foresee
the beneficent designs of the Ohio Company or to observe with
friendly curiosity the surveyors who came to draw imaginary lines
through the virgin forest. And therefore, even in an age when the
natural rights of man were being loudly proclaimed, the "Nations
of Indians inhabiting those parts" were only too ready to believe
what the Virginia traders told them of the Pennsylvanians, what
the Pennsylvania traders told them of the Virginians--that the
fair words of the English were but a kind of mask to conceal the
greed of men who had no other desire than to deprive the red man
of his beloved hunting grounds.

Thus it was that the industrious men with pedantic minds who day
by day read the dispatches that accumulated in the office of the
Board of Trade became aware, during the years from 1758 to 1761,
that the old policy of defense was not altogether adequate. "The
granting of lands hitherto unsettled," so the Board reported in
1761, "appears to be a measure of the most dangerous tendency."
In December of the same year all governors were accordingly
forbidden "to pass grants...or encourage settlements upon any
lands within the said colonies which may interfere with the
Indians bordering upon them."

The policy thus initiated found final expression in the famous
Proclamation of 1763, in the early months of Grenville's
ministry. By the terms of the Proclamation no further grants were
to be made within lands "which, not having been ceded to, or
purchased by us, are reserved to the said Indians"--that is to
say, "all the lands lying to the westward of the sources of the
rivers which fall into the sea from the west or the northwest."
All persons who had "either willfully or inadvertently seated
themselves" on the reserved lands were required "forthwith to
remove themselves"; and for the future no man was to presume to
trade with the Indians without first giving bond to observe such
regulations as "we shall at any time think fit
for the benefit of the said trade." All these provisions were
designed "to the end that the Indians may be convinced of our
justice and determined resolution to remove all reasonable cause
of discontent." By royal act the territory west of the
Alleghanies to the Mississippi, from Florida to 50 degrees north
latitude, was thus closed to settlement "for the present" and
"reserved to the Indians."

Having thus taken measures to protect the Indians against the
colonists, the mother country was quite ready to protect the
colonists against the Indians. Rash Americans were apt to say the
danger was over now that the French were "expelled from Canada."
This statement was childish enough in view of the late Pontiac
uprising which was with such great difficulty suppressed--if
indeed one could say that it was suppressed--by a general as
efficient even as Amherst, with seasoned British troops at his
command. The red man, even if he submitted outwardly, harbored in
his vengeful heart the rankling memory of many griefs, real or
imaginary; and he was still easily swayed by his ancient but now
humiliated French friends, who had been "expelled from Canada"
only indeed in a political sense but were still very much there
as promoters of trouble. What folly, therefore, to talk of
withdrawing the troops from America! No sane man but could see
that, under the circumstances, such a move was quite out of the

It would materially change the circumstances, undoubtedly, if
Americans could ever be induced to undertake, in any systematic
and adequate manner, to provide for their own defense in their
own way. In that case the mother country would be only too glad
to withdraw her troops, of which indeed she had none too many.
But it was well known what the colonists could be relied upon to
do, or rather what they could be relied upon not to do, in the
way of cooperative effort. Ministers had not forgotten that on
the eve of the last war, at the very climax of the danger, the
colonial assemblies had rejected a Plan of Union prepared by
Benjamin Franklin, the one man, if any man there was, to bring
the colonies together. They had rejected the plan as involving
too great concentration of authority, and they were unwilling to
barter the veriest jot or tittle of their much prized provincial
liberty for any amount of protection. And if they rejected this
plan--a very mild and harmless plan, ministers were bound to
think--it was not likely they could be induced, in time of peace,
to adopt any plan that might be thought adequate in England. Such
a plan, for example, was that prepared by the Board of Trade, by
which commissioners appointed by the governors were empowered to
determine the military establishment and to apportion the expense
of maintaining it among the several colonies on the basis of
wealth and population. Assemblies which for years past had
systematically deprived governors of all discretionary power to
expend money raised by the assemblies themselves would surely
never surrender to governors the power of determining how much
assemblies should raise for governors to expend.

Doubtless it might be said with truth that the colonies had
voluntarily contributed more than their fair share in the last
war; but it was also true that Pitt, and Pitt alone, could get
them to do this. The King could not always count on there being
in England a great genius like Pitt, and besides he did not
always find it convenient, for reasons which could be given, to
employ a great genius like Pitt. A system of defense had to be
designed for normal times and normal men; and in normal times
with normal men at the helm, ministers were agreed, the American
attitude towards defense was very cleverly described by Franklin:
"Everyone cries, a Union is absolutely necessary, but when it
comes to the manner and form of the Union, their weak noddles are
perfectly distracted."

Noddles of ministers, however, were in no way distracted but saw
clearly that, if Americans could not agree on any plan of
defense, there was no alternative but "an interposition of the
authority of Parliament." Such interposition, recommended by the
Board of Trade and already proposed by Charles Townshend in the
last ministry, was now taken in hand by Grenville. The troops
were to remain in America; the Mutiny Act, which required
soldiers in barracks to be furnished with provisions and utensils
by local authorities, and which as a matter of course went where
the army went, was supplemented by the Quartering Act, which made
further provision for the billeting and supplying of the troops
in America. And for raising some part of the general maintenance
fund ministers could think of no tax more equitable, or easier to
be levied and collected, than a stamp tax. Some such tax, stamp
tax or poll tax, had often been recommended by colonial
governors, as a means of bringing the colonies "to a sense of
their duty to the King, to awaken them to take care of their
lives and their fortunes." A crown officer in North Carolina, Mr.
M'Culloh, was good enough to assure Mr. Charles Jenkinson, one of
the Secretaries of the Treasury, backing up his assertion with
sundry statistical exhibits, that a stamp tax on the continental
colonies would easily yield 60,000 pounds, and twice that sum if
extended to the West Indies. As early as September 23, 1763, Mr.
Jenkinson, acting on an authorization of the Treasury Board,
accordingly wrote to the Commissioners of Stamped Duties,
directing them "to prepare, for their Lordships' consideration, a
draft of an act for imposing proper stamp duties on His Majesty's
subjects in America and the West Indies."

Mr. Grenville, who was not in any case the man to do things in a
hurry, nevertheless proceeded very leisurely in the matter. He
knew very well that Pitt had refused to "burn his fingers" with
any stamp tax; "and some men, such as his friend and secretary,
Mr. Jackson, for example, and the Earl of Hillsborough, advised
him to abandon the project altogether, while others urged delay
at least, in order that Americans might have an opportunity to
present their objections, if they had any. It was decided
therefore to postpone the matter for a year; and in presenting
the budget on March 9, 1764, the first minister merely gave
notice that "it maybe proper to charge certain stamp duties in
the said colonies and plantations." Of all the plans for taxing
America, he said, this one seemed to him the best; yet he was not
wedded to it, and would willingly adopt any other preferred by
the colonists, if they could suggest any other of equal efficacy.
Meanwhile, he wished only to call upon honorable members of the
House to say now, if any were so minded, that Parliament had not
the right to impose any tax, external or internal, upon the
colonies; to which solemn question, asked in full house, there
was not one negative, nor any reply except Alderman Beckford
saying: "As we are stout, I hope we shall be merciful."

It soon appeared that Americans did have objections to a stamp
tax. Whether it were equitable or not, they would rather it
should not be laid, really preferring not to be dished up in any
sauce whatever, however fine. The tax might, as ministers said,
be easily collected, or its collection might perhaps be attended
with certain difficulties; in either case it would remain, for
reasons which they were ready to advance, a most objectionable
tax. Certain colonial agents then in England accordingly sought
an interview with the first minister in order to convince him, if
possible, of this fact. Grenville was very likely more than ready
to grant them an interview, relying upon the strength of his
position, on his "tenderness for the subjects in America," and
upon his well-known powers of persuasion, to bring them to his
way of thinking. To get from the colonial agents a kind of assent
to his measure would be to win a point of no slight strategic
value, there being at least a modicum of truth in the notion that
just government springs from the consent of the governed.

"I have proposed the resolution [the minister explained to the
agents] from a real regard and tenderness for the subjects in the
colonies. It is highly reasonable they should contribute
something towards the charge of protecting themselves, and in aid
of the great expense Great Britain has put herself to on their
account. No tax appears to me so easy and equitable as a stamp
duty. It will fall only upon property, will be collected by the
fewest officers, and will be equally spread over America and the
West Indies.... It does not require any number of officers
vested with extraordinary powers of entering houses, or extend a
sort of influence which I never wished to increase. The colonists
now have it in their power, by agreeing to this tax, to establish
a precedent for their being consulted before any tax is imposed
upon them by Parliament; for their approbation of it being
signified to Parliament next year...will afford a forcible
argument for the like proceeding in all such cases. If they think
of any other mode of taxation more convenient to them, and make
any proposition of equal efficacy with the stamp duty, I will
give it all due consideration."

The agents appear at least to have been silenced by this speech,
which was, one must admit, so fatherly and so very reasonable in
tone; and doubtless Grenville thought them convinced, too, since
he always so perfectly convinced himself. At all events, he found
it possible, for this or for some other reason, to put the whole
matter out of his mind until the next year. The patriotic
American historian, well instructed in the importance of the
Stamp Act, has at first a difficulty in understanding how it
could occupy, among the things that interested English statesmen
at this time, a strictly subordinate place; and he wonders
greatly, as he runs with eager interest through the
correspondence of Grenville for the year 1764, to find it barely
mentioned there. Whether the King received him less coldly today
than the day before yesterday was apparently more on the
minister's mind than any possibility that the Stamp Act might be
received rather warmly in the colonies. The contemporaries of
Grenville, even Pitt himself, have almost as little to say about
the coming great event; all of which compels the historian,
reviewing the matter judiciously, to reflect sadly that
Englishmen of that day were not as fully aware of the importance
of the measure before it was passed as good patriots have since

There is much to confirm this notion in the circumstances
attending the passage of the bill through Parliament in the
winter of 1765. Grenville was perhaps further reassured, in spite
of persistent rumors of much high talk in America, by the results
of a second interview which he had with the colonial agents just
before introducing the measure into the House of Commons. "I take
no pleasure," he again explained in his reasonable way, "in
bringing upon myself their resentments; it is my duty to manage
the revenue. I have really been made to believe that, considering
the whole circumstances of the mother country and the colonies,
the latter can and ought to pay something to the common cause. I
know of no better way than that now pursuing to lay such a tax.
If you can tell of a better, I will adopt it."

Franklin, who was present with the others on this occasion,
ventured to suggest that the "usual constitutional way" of
obtaining colonial support, through the King's requisition, would
be better. "Can you agree," asked Grenville, "on the proportions
each colony should raise?" No, they could not agree, as Franklin
was bound to admit, knowing the fact better than most men. And if
no adequate answer was forthcoming from Franklin, a man so ready
in expedients and so practiced in the subtleties of dialectic, it
is no great wonder that Grenville thought the agents now fully
convinced by his reasoning, which after all was only an
impersonal formulation of the inexorable logic of the situation.

Proceeding thus leisurely, having taken so much pains to elicit
reasonable objection and none being forthcoming, Grenville, quite
sure of his ground, brought in from the Ways and Means Committee,
in February, 1765, the fifty-five resolutions which required that
stamped paper, printed by the government and sold by officers
appointed for that purpose, be used for nearly all legal
documents, for all customs papers, for appointments to all
offices carrying a salary of 20 pounds except military and
judicial offices, for all grants of privilege and franchises made
by the colonial assemblies, for Licenses to retail liquors, for
all pamphlets, advertisements, handbills, newspapers, almanacs,
and calendars, and for the sale of packages containing playing
cards and dice. The expediency of the act was now explained to
the House, as it had been explained to the agents. That the act
was legal, which few people in fact denied, Grenville, doing
everything thoroughly and with system, proceeded to demonstrate
also. The colonies claim, he said, "the privilege of all British
subjects of being taxed only with their own consent." Well, for
his part, he hoped they might always enjoy that privilege. "May
this sacred pledge of liberty," cried the minister with unwonted
eloquence, "be preserved inviolate to the utmost verge of our
dominions and to the latest pages of our history." But Americans
were clearly wrong in supposing the Stamp Act would deprive them
of the rights of Englishmen, for, upon any ground on which it
could be said that Englishmen were represented, it could be
maintained, and he was free to assert, that Americans were
represented, in Parliament, which was the common council of the
whole Empire.

The measure was well received. Mr. Jackson supposed that
Parliament had a right to tax America, but he much doubted the
expediency of the present act. If it was necessary, as ministers
claimed, to tax the colonies, the latter should be permitted to
elect some part of the Parliament, "otherwise the liberties of
America, I do not say will be lost, but will be in danger." The
one notable event of this "slight day" was occasioned by a remark
of Charles Townshend, who asked with some asperity whether "these
American children, planted by our care, nourished up by our
indulgence to a degree of strength and opulence, and protected by
our arms," would now be so unfilial as to "grudge to contribute
their mite to relieve us from the heavy burden under which we
lie?" Upon which Colonel Isaac Barre sprang to his feet and
delivered an impassioned, unpremeditated reply which stirred the
dull House for perhaps three minutes

"They planted by YOUR care! No; your oppression planted them in
America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated,
inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all
the hardships to which human nature is liable .... They nourished
up by your indulgence! They grew by your neglect of them. As soon
as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in
sending persons to rule them in one department and another, who
were, perhaps, the deputies of deputies to some members of this
house, sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their
actions, and to prey upon them; men whose behaviour on many
occasions has caused the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil
within them.... They protected by your arms! They have nobly
taken up arms in your defense; have exerted a valor amidst their
constant and laborious industry, for the defense of a country
whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts
yielded all its little savings to your emolument."

A very warm speech, and a capital hit, too, thought the honorable
members of the House, as they settled comfortably back again to
endure the routine of a dull day. Towards midnight, after seven
hours of languid debate, an adjournment was carried, as everyone
foresaw it would be, by a great majority--205 to 49 in support of
the ministry. On the 13th of February the Stamp Act bill was
introduced and read for the first time, without debate. It passed
the House on the 27th; on the 8th of March it was approved by the
Lords without protest, amendment, debate, or division; and two
weeks later, the King being then temporarily out of his mind, the
bill received the royal assent by commission.

At a later day, when the fatal effects of the Act were but too
apparent, it was made a charge against the ministers that they
had persisted in passing the measure in the face of strong
opposition. But it was not so. "As to the fact of a strenuous
opposition to the Stamp Act," said Burke, in his famous speech on
American taxation, "I sat as a stranger in your gallery when it
was under consideration. Far from anything inflammatory, I never
heard a more languid debate in this house.... In fact, the
affair passed with so very, very little noise, that in town they
scarcely knew the nature of what you were doing." So far as men
concerned themselves with the doings of Parliament, the colonial
measures of Grenville were greatly applauded; and that not alone
by men who were ignorant of America. Thomas Pownall, once
Governor of Massachusetts, well acquainted with the colonies and
no bad friend of their liberties, published in April, 1764, a
pamphlet on the "Administration of the Colonies" which he
dedicated to George Grenville, "the great minister," who he
desired might live to see the "power, prosperity, and honor that
must be given to his country, by so great and important an event
as the interweaving the administration of the colonies into the
British administration."

CHAPTER III. The Rights Of A Nation

British subjects, by removing to America, cultivating a
wilderness, extending the domain, and increasing the wealth,
commerce, and power of the mother country, at the hazard of their
lives and fortunes, ought not, and in fact do not thereby lose
their native rights.--Benjamin Franklin.

It was the misfortune of Grenville that this "interweaving," as
Pownall described it, should have been undertaken at a most
inopportune time, when the very conditions which made Englishmen
conscious of the burden of empire were giving to Americans a new
and highly stimulating sense of power and independence. The
marvelous growth of the colonies in population and wealth, much
commented upon by all observers and asserted by ministers as one
principal reason why Americans should pay taxes, was indeed well
worth some consideration. A million and a half of people spread
over the Atlantic seaboard might be thought no great number; but
it was a new thing in the world, well worth noting--which had in
fact been carefully noted by Benjamin Franklin in a pamphlet on
"The Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc."--that
within three-quarters of a century the population of the
continental colonies had doubled every twenty-five years, whereas
the population of Old England during a hundred years past had not
doubled once and now stood at only some six and a half millions.
If this should go on--and, considering the immense stretches of
free land beyond the mountains, no one could suppose that the
present rate of increase would soon fall off--it was not unlikely
that in another century the center of empire, following the
course of the sun, would come to rest in the New World. With
these facts in mind, one might indeed say that a people with so
much vitality and expansive power was abundantly able to pay
taxes; but perhaps it was also a fair inference, if any one was
disposed to press the matter, that, unless it was so minded, such
a people was already, or assuredly soon would be, equally able
not to pay them.

People in new countries, being called provincial, being often
told in effect that having made their bed they may lie in it,
easily maintain their self-respect if they are able to say that
the bed is indeed a very comfortable one. If, therefore,
Americans had been given to boasting, their growing wealth was
not, any more than their increasing numbers, a thing to be passed
over in silence. In every colony the "starving time," even if it
had ever existed, was now no more than an ancient tradition.
"Every man of industry has it in his power to live well,"
according to William Smith of New York, "and many are the
instances of persons who came here distressed in their poverty
who now enjoy easy and plentiful fortunes." If Americans were not
always aware that they were rich men individually, they were at
all events well instructed, by old-world visitors who came to
observe them with a certain air of condescension, that
collectively at least their material prosperity was a thing to be
envied even by more advanced and more civilized peoples.
Therefore any man called upon to pay a penny tax and finding his
pocket bare might take a decent pride in the fact, which none
need doubt since foreigners like Peter Kalm found it so, that
"the English colonies in this part of the world have increased so
much in...their riches, that they almost vie with old England."

That the colonies might possibly "vie with old England," was a
notion which good Americans could contemplate with much
equanimity; and even if the Swedish traveler, according to a
habit of travelers, had stretched the facts a point or two, it
was still abundantly clear that the continental colonies were
thought to be, even by Englishmen themselves, of far greater
importance to the mother country than they had formerly been.
Very old men could remember the time when English statesmen and
economists, viewing colonies as providentially designed to
promote the increase of trade, had regarded the northern colonies
as little better than heavy incumbrances on the Empire, and their
commerce scarcely worth the cost of protection. It was no longer
so; it could no longer be said that two-thirds of colonial
commerce was with the tobacco and sugar plantations, or that
Jamaica took off more English exports than the middle and
northern colonies combined; but it could be said, and was now
being loudly proclaimed--when it was a point of debate whether to
keep Canada or Guadeloupe--that the northern colonies had already
outstripped the islands as consumers of English commodities.

Of this fact Americans themselves were well aware. The question
whether it was for the interest of England to keep Canada or
Guadeloupe, which was much discussed in 1760, called forth the
notable pamphlet from Franklin, entitled "The Interest of Great
Britain Considered," in which he arranged in convenient form for
the benefit of Englishmen certain statistics of trade. From these
statistics it appeared that, whereas in 1748 English exports to
the northern colonies and to the West Indies stood at some
830,000 pounds and 730,000 pounds respectively, ten years later
the exports to the West Indies were still no more than 877,571
pounds while those to the northern colonies had advanced to
nearly two millions. Nor was it likely that this rate of increase
would fall off in the future. "The trade to our northern
colonies," said Franklin, "is not only greater but yearly
increasing with the increase of the people .... The occasion for
English goods in North America, and the inclination to have and
use them, is and must be for ages to come, much greater than the
ability of the people to buy them." For English merchants the
prospect was therefore an inviting one; and if Canada rather than
Guadeloupe was kept at the close of the war, it was because
statesmen and economists were coming to estimate the value of
colonies in terms of what they could buy, and not merely, as of
old, in terms of what they could sell. From this point of view,
the superiority of the continental over the insular colonies was
not to be doubted. Americans might well find great satisfaction
in this disposition of the mother country to regard her
continental colonies so highly and to think their trade of so
much moment to her; all of which, nevertheless, doubtless
inclined them sometimes to speculate on the delicate question
whether, in case they were so important to the mother country,
they were not perhaps more important to her than she was to them.

The consciousness of rapidly increasing material power, which was
greatly strengthened by the last French war, did nothing to dull
the sense of rights, but it was, on the contrary, a marked
stimulus to the mind in formulating a plausible, if theoretical,
justification of desired aims. Doubtless no American would say
that being able to pay taxes was a good reason for not paying
them, or that obligations might rightly be ignored as soon as one
was in a position to do so successfully; but that he should not
"lose his native rights" any American could more readily
understand when he recalled that his ancestors had without
assistance from the mother country transformed a wilderness into
populous and thriving communities whose trade was now becoming
indispensable to Britain. Therefore, in the summer of 1764,
before the doctrine of colonial rights had been very clearly
stated or much refined, every American knew that the Sugar Act
and also the proposed Stamp Act were grievously burdensome, and
that in some way or other and for reasons which he might not be
able to give with precision, they involved an infringement of
essential English liberties. Most men in the colonies, at this
early date, would doubtless have agreed with the views expressed
in a letter written to a friend in England by Thomas Hutchinson
of Boston, who was later so well hated by his compatriots for not
having changed his views with the progress of events.

"The colonists [said Hutchinson] claim a power of making laws,
and a privilege of exemption from taxes, unless voted by their
own representatives.... Nor are the privileges of the people
less affected by duties laid for the sake of the money arising
from them than by an internal tax. Not one tenth part of the
people of Great Britain have a voice in the elections to
Parliament; and, therefore, the colonies can have no claim to it;
but every man of property in England may have his voice, if he
will. Besides, acts of Parliament do not generally affect
individuals, and every interest is represented. But the colonies
have an interest distinct from the interest of the nation; and
shall the Parliament be at once party and judge?...

"The nation treats her colonies as a father who should sell the
services of his sons to reimburse him what they had cost him, but
without the same reason; for none of the colonies, except Georgia
and Halifax, occasioned any charge to the Crown or kingdom in the
settlement of them. The people of New England fled for the sake
of civil and religious liberty; multitudes flocked to America
with this dependence, that their liberties should be safe. They
and their posterity have enjoyed them to their content, and
therefore have endured with greater cheerfulness all the
hardships of settling new countries. No ill use has been made of
these privileges; but the domain and wealth of Great Britain have
received amazing addition. Surely the services we have rendered
the nation have not subjected us to any forfeitures.

"I know it is said the colonies are a charge to the nation, and
they should contribute to their own defense and protection. But
during the last war they annually contributed so largely that the
Parliament was convinced the burden would be insupportable; and
from year to year made them compensation; in several of the
colonies for several years together more men were raised, in
proportion, than by the nation. In the trading towns, one fourth
part of the profit of trade, besides imposts and excise, was
annually paid to the support of the war and public charges; in
the country towns, a farm which would hardly rent for twenty
pounds a year, paid ten pounds in taxes. If the inhabitants of
Britain had paid in the same proportion, there would have been no
great increase in the national debt."

Nor is there occasion for any national expense in America. For
one hundred years together the New England colonies received no
aid in their wars with the Indians, assisted by the French. Those
governments now molested are as able to defend their respective
frontiers; and had rather do the whole of it by a tax of their
own raising, than pay their proportion in any other way.
Moreover, it must be prejudicial to the national interest to
impose parliamentary taxes. The advantages promised by an
increase of the revenue are all fallacious and delusive. You will
lose more than you will gain. Britain already reaps the profit of
all their trade, and of the increase of their substance. By
cherishing their present turn of mind, you will serve your
interest more than by your present schemes.

Thomas Hutchinson, or any other man, might write a private letter
without committing his country, or, with due caution to his
correspondent, even himself; but for effective public and
official protest the colonial assemblies were the proper
channels, and very expert they were in the business, after having
for half a century and more devoted themselves with singleness of
purpose to the guardianship of colonial liberties. Until now,
liberties had been chiefly threatened by the insidious designs of
colonial governors, who were for the most part appointed by the
Crown and very likely therefore to be infected with the spirit of
prerogative than which nothing could be more dangerous, as
everyone must know who recalled the great events of the last
century. With those great events, the eminent men who directed
the colonial assemblies--heads or scions or proteges of the best
families in America, men of wealth and not without reading--were
entirely familiar; they knew as well as any man that the
liberties of Englishmen had been vindicated against royal
prerogative only by depriving one king of his head and another of
his crown; and they needed no instruction in the significance of
the "glorious revolution," the high justification of which was to
be found in the political gospel of John Locke, whose book they
had commonly bought and conveniently placed on their library

More often than not, it is true, colonial governors were but
ordinary Englishmen with neither the instinct nor the capacity
for tyranny, intent mainly upon getting their salaries paid and
laying by a competence against the day when they might return to
England. But if they were not kings, at least they had certain
royal characteristics; and a certain flavor of despotism,
clinging as it were to their official robes and reviving in
sensitive provincial minds the memory of bygone parliamentary
battles, was an ever-present stimulus to the eternal vigilance
which was well known to be the price of liberty.

And so, throughout the eighteenth century, little colonial
aristocracies played their part, in imagination clothing their
governors in the decaying vesture of old-world tyrants and
themselves assuming the homespun garb, half Roman and half
Puritan, of a virtuous republicanism. Small matters were thus
stamped with great character. To debate a point of procedure in
the Boston or Williamsburg assembly was not, to be sure, as high
a privilege as to obstruct legislation in Westminster; but men of
the best American families, fashioning their minds as well as
their houses on good English models, thought of themselves, in
withholding a governor's salary or limiting his executive power,
as but reenacting on a lesser stage the great parliamentary
struggles of the seventeenth century. It was the illusion of
sharing in great events rather than any low mercenary motive that
made Americans guard with jealous care their legislative
independence; a certain hypersensitiveness in matters of taxation
they knew to be the virtue of men standing for liberties which
Englishmen had once won and might lose before they were aware.

As a matter of course, therefore, the colonial assemblies
protested against the measures of Grenville. The General Court of
Massachusetts instructed its agent to say that the Sugar Act
would ruin the New England fisheries upon which the industrial
prosperity of the northern colonies depended. What they would
lose was set down with some care, in precise figures: the fishing
trade, "estimated at 164,000 pounds per annum; the vessels
employed in it, which would be nearly useless, at 100,000 pounds;
the provisions used in it, the casks for packing fish, and other
articles, at 22,700 pounds and upwards: to all which there was to
be added the loss of the advantage of sending lumber, horses,
provisions, and other commodities to the foreign plantations as
cargoes, the vessels employed to carry the fish to Spain and
Portugal, the dismissing of 5,000 seamen from their employment,"
besides many other losses, all arising from the very simple fact
that the British islands to which the trade of the colonies was
virtually confined by the Sugar Act could furnish no suffcient
market for the products of New England, to say nothing of the
middle colonies, nor a tithe of the molasses and other
commodities now imported from the foreign islands in exchange.

Of the things taken in exchange, silver, in coin and bullion, was
not the least important, since it was essential for the
"remittances to England for goods imported into the provinces,"
remittances which during the last eighteen months, it was said,
"had been made in specie to the amount of 150,000 pounds besides
90,000 pounds in Treasurer's bills for the reimbursement money."
Any man must thus see, since even Governor Bernard was convinced
of it, that the new duties would drain the colony of all its hard
money, and so, as the Governor said, "There will be an end of the
specie currency in Massachusetts." And with her trade half gone
and her hard money entirely so, the old Bay colony would have to
manufacture for herself those very commodities which English
merchants were so desirous of selling in America.

The Sugar Act was thus made out to be, even from the point of
view of English merchants, an economic blunder; but in the eyes
of vigilant Bostonians it was something more, and much worse than
an economic blunder. Vigilant Bostonians assembled in Town
Meeting in May, 1764, in order to instruct their representatives
how they ought to act in these serious times; and knowing that
they ought to protest but perhaps not knowing precisely on what
grounds, they committed the drafting of their instructions to
Samuel Adams, a middle-aged man who had given much time to the
consideration of political questions, and above all to this very
question of taxation, upon which he had wonderfully clarified his
ideas by much meditation and the writing of effective political
pieces for the newspapers.

Through the eyes of Samuel Adams, therefore, vigilant Bostonians
saw clearly that the Sugar Act, to say nothing of the Stamp Act,
was not only an economic blunder but a menace to political
liberty as well. "If our trade may be taxed," so the instructions
ran," why not our lands? Why not the produce of our lands, and
everything we possess or make use of? This we apprehend
annihilates our charter right to govern and tax ourselves. It
strikes at our British privileges which, as we have never
forfeited them, we hold in common with our fellow-subjects who
are natives of Great Britain. If taxes are laid upon us in any
shape without our having a legal representative where they are
laid, are we not reduced from the character of free subjects to
the miserable state of tributary slaves?" Very formidable
questions, couched in high-sounding phrases, and representing
well enough in form and in substance the state of mind of
colonial assemblies in the summer of 1764 in respect to the Sugar
Act and the proposed Stamp Act.

Yet these resounding phrases doubtless meant something less to
Americans of 1764 than one is apt to suppose. The rights of
freemen had so often, in the proceedings of colonial assemblies
as well as in the newspaper communications of many a Brutus and
Cato, been made to depend upon withholding a governor's salary or
defining precisely how he should expend a hundred pounds or so,
that moderate terms could hardly be trusted to cope with the
serious business of parliamentary taxation. "Reduced from the
character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary
slaves" was in fact hardly more than a conventional and dignified
way of expressing a firm but entirely respectful protest.

The truth is, therefore, that while everyone protested in such
spirited terms as might occur to him, few men in these early days
supposed the new laws would not take effect, and fewer still
counseled the right or believed in the practicability of forcible
resistance. "We yield obedience to the act granting duties,"
declared the Massachusetts Assembly. "Let Parliament lay what
duties they please on us," said James Otis; "it is our duty to
submit and patiently bear them till they be pleased to relieve
us." Franklin assured his friends that the passage of the Stamp
Act could not have been prevented any more easily than the sun's
setting, recommended that they endure the one mischance with the
same equanimity with which they faced the other necessity, and
even saw certain advantages in the way of self-discipline which
might come of it through the practice of a greater frugality. Not
yet perceiving the dishonor attaching to the function of
distributing stamps, he did his two friends, Jared Ingersoll of
Connecticut and John Hughes of Pennsylvania, the service of
procuring for them the appointment to the new office; and Richard
Henry Lee, as good a patriot as any man and therefore of
necessity at some pains later to explain his motives in the
matter, applied for the position in Virginia.

Richard Henry Lee was no friend of tyrants, but an American
freeman, less distinguished as yet than his name, which was a
famous one and not without offense to be omitted from any list of
the Old Dominion's "best families." The best families of the Old
Dominion, tide-water tobacco planters of considerable estates,
admirers and imitators of the minor aristocracy of England, took
it as a matter of course that the political fortunes of the
province were committed to their care and for many generations
had successfully maintained the public interest against the
double danger of executive tyranny and popular licentiousness. It
is therefore not surprising that the many obscure freeholders,
minor planters, and lesser men who filled the House of Burgesses
had followed the able leadership of that little coterie of
interrelated families comprising the Virginia aristocracy. John
Robinson, Speaker of the House and Treasurer of the colony, of
good repute still in the spring of 1765, was doubtless the head
and front of this aristocracy, the inner circle of which would
also include Peyton Randolph, then King's Attorney, and Edmund
Pendleton, well known for his cool persuasiveness in debate, the
learned constitutional lawyer, Richard Bland, the sturdy and
honest but ungraceful Robert Carter Nicholas, and George Wythe,
noblest Roman of them all, steeped in classical lore, with the
thin, sharp face of a Caesar and for virtuous integrity a very
Cato. Conscious of their English heritage, they were at once
proud of their loyalty to Britain and jealous of their well-won
provincial liberties. As became British-American freemen, they
had already drawn a proper Memorial against the Sugar Act and
were now, as they leisurely gathered at Williamsburg in the early
weeks of May, 1765, unwilling to protest again at present, for
they had not as yet received any reply to their former dignified
and respectful petition.

To this assembly of the burgesses in 1765, there came from the
back-country beyond the first falls of the Virginia rivers, the
frontier of that day, many deputies who must have presented, in
dress and manners as well as in ideas, a sharp contrast to the
eminent leaders of the aristocracy. Among them was Thomas
Marshall, father of a famous son, and Patrick Henry, a young man
of twenty-nine years, a heaven-born orator and destined to be the
leader and interpreter of the silent "simple folk" of the Old
Dominion. In Hanover County, in which this tribune of the people
was born and reared and which he now represented, there were, as
in all the backcountry counties, few great estates and few
slaves, no notable country-seats with pretension to architectural
excellence, no modishly dressed aristocracy with leisure for
reading and the cultivation of manners becoming a gentleman.
Beyond the tide-water, men for the most part earned their bread
by the sweat of their brows, lived the life and esteemed the
virtues of a primitive society, and braced their minds with the
tonic of Calvin's theology--a tonic somewhat tempered in these
late enlightened days by a more humane philosophy and the
friendly emotionalism of simple folk living close to nature.

Free burgesses from the back-country, set apart in dress and
manners from the great planters, less learned and less practiced
in oratory and the subtle art of condescension and patronage than
the cultivated men of the inner circle, were nevertheless staunch
defenders of liberty and American rights and were perhaps
beginning to question, in these days of popular discussion,
whether liberty could very well flourish among men whose wealth
was derived from the labor of negro slaves, or be well guarded
under all circumstances by those who, regarding themselves as
superior to the general run of men, might be in danger of
mistaking their particular interests for the common welfare. And
indeed it now seemed that these great men who sent their sons to
London to be educated, who every year shipped their tobacco to
England and bought their clothes of English merchants with whom
their credit was always good, were grown something too timid, on
account of their loyalty to Britain, in the great question of
asserting the rights of America.

Jean Jacques Rousseau would have well understood Patrick Henry,
one of those passionate temperaments whose reason functions not
in the service of knowledge but of good instincts and fine
emotions; a nature to be easily possessed of an exalted
enthusiasm for popular rights and for celebrating the virtues of
the industrious poor. This enthusiasm in the case of Patrick
Henry was intensified by his own eloquence, which had been so
effectively exhibited in the famous Parson's Cause, and in
opposition to the shady scheme which the old leaders in the House
of Burgesses had contrived to protect John Robinson, the
Treasurer, from being exposed to a charge of embezzlement. Such
courageous exploits, widely noised abroad, had won for the young
man great applause and had got him a kind of party of devoted
followers in the backcountry and among the yeomanry and young men
throughout the province, so that to take the lead and to stand
boldly forth as the champion of liberty and the submerged rights
of mankind seemed to Patrick Henry a kind of mission laid upon
him, in virtue of his heavenly gift of speech, by that Providence
which shapes the destinies of men.

It was said that Mr. Henry was not learned in the law; but he had
read in "Coke upon Littleton" that an Act of Parliament against
Magna Carta, or common right, or reason, is void--which was
clearly the case of the Stamp Act. On the flyleaf of an old copy
of that book this unlearned lawyer accordingly wrote out some
resolutions of protest which he showed to his friends, George
Johnston and John Fleming, for their approval. Their approval
once obtained, Mr. Johnston moved, with Mr. Henry as second, that
the House of Burgesses should go into committee of the whole, "to
consider the steps necessary to be taken in consequence of the
resolutions...charging certain Stamp Duties in the colonies";
which was accordingly done on the 29th of May, upon which day Mr.
Henry presented his resolutions.

The 29th of May was late in that session of the Virginia House of
Burgesses; and most likely the resolutions would have been
rejected if some two-thirds of the members, who knew nothing of
Mr. Henry's plans and supposed the business of the Assembly
finished, had not already gone home. Among those who had thus
departed, it is not likely that there were many of Patrick
Henry's followers. Yet even so there was much opposition. The
resolutions were apparently refashioned in committee of the
whole, for a preamble was omitted outright and four "Resolves"
were made over into five which were presented to the House on the
day following.

Young Mr. Jefferson, at that time a law student and naturally
much interested in the business of lawmaking, heard the whole of
this day's famous debate from the door of communication between
the House and the lobby. The five resolutions, he afterwards
remembered, were "opposed by Randolph, Bland, Pendleton,
Nicholas, Wythe, and all the old members, whose influence in the
House had, till then, been unbroken;...not from any question
of our rights, but on the ground that the same sentiments had
been, at their preceding session, expressed in a more
conciliatory form, to which the answers were not yet received.
But torrents of sublime eloquence from Mr. Henry, backed by the
solid reasoning of Johnston, prevailed." It was in connection
with the fifth resolution, upon which the debate was "most
bloody," that Patrick Henry is said to have declared that
"Tarquin and Caesar had each his Brutus, Charles the First his
Cromwell, and George the Third--"; upon which cries of "Treason"
were heard from every part of the House. Treason or not, the
resolution was carried, although by one vote only; and the young
law student standing at the door of the House heard Peyton
Randolph say, as he came hastily out into the lobby: "By God, I
would have given 500 guineas for a single vote." And no doubt he
would, at that moment, being then much heated.

Next day Mr. Randolph was probably much cooler; and so apparently
were some others who, in the enthusiasm of debate and under the
compelling eye of Patrick Henry, had voted for the last defiant
resolution. Thinking the matter settled, Patrick Henry had
already gone home "to recommend himself to his constituents," as
his enemies thought, "by spreading treason."

But the matter was not yet settled. Early on that morning of the
31st, before the House assembled, the young law student who was
so curious about the business of lawmaking saw Colonel Peter
Randolph, of his Majesty's Council, standing at the Clerk's
table, "thumbing over the volumes of journals to find a
precedent for expunging a vote of the House." Whether the
precedent was found the young law student did not afterwards
recollect; but it is known that on motion of Peyton Randolph the
fifth resolution was that day erased from the record. Mr. Henry
was not then present. He had been seen, on the afternoon before,
"passing along the street, on his way to his home in Louisa, clad
in a pair of leather breeches, his saddle-bags on his arm,
leading a lean horse." The four resolutions thus adopted as the
deliberate and formal protest of the Old Dominion were as mild
and harmless as could well be. They asserted no more than that
the first adventurers and settlers of Virginia brought with them
and transmitted to their posterity all the privileges at any time
enjoyed by the people of Great Britain; that by two royal
charters they had been formally declared to be as surely
possessed of these privileges as if they had been born and were
then abiding within the realm; that the taxation of the people by
themselves or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them
"is the only security against a burthensome taxation, and the
distinguishing characteristick of British freedom, without which
the ancient constitution cannot exist"; and that the loyal colony
of Virginia had in fact without interruption enjoyed this
inestimable right, which had never been forfeited or surrendered
nor ever hitherto denied by the kings or the people of Britain.
No treason here, expressed or implied; nor any occasion for 500
guineas passing from one hand to another to prove that the
province of Virginia was still the ancient and loyal Old

But Fate, or Providence, or whatever it is that presides at the
destinies of nations, has a way of setting aside with ironical
smile the most deliberate actions of men. And so, on this
occasion, it turned out that the hard-won victory of Messrs.
Randolph, Bland, Pendleton, and Wythe was of no avail. William
Gordon tells us, without mentioning the source of his
information, that "a manuscript of the unrevised resolves soon
reached Philadelphia, having been sent off immediately upon their
passing, that the earliest information of what had been done
might be obtained by the Sons of Liberty." From Philadelphia a
copy was forwarded, on June 17, to New York, in which loyal city
the resolutions were thought "so treasonable that their
possessors declined printing them"; but an Irish gentleman from
Connecticut, who was then in town, inquired after them and was
with great precaution permitted to take a copy, which he
straightway carried to New England. All this may be true or not;
but certain it is that six resolutions purporting to come from
Virginia were printed in the Newport "Mercury" on June 24, 1765,
and afterwards, on July 1, in many Boston papers.

The document thus printed did not indeed include the famous fifth
resolution upon which the debate in the House of Burgesses was
"most bloody" and which had been there adopted by a single vote
and afterwards erased from the record; but it included two others
much stronger than that eminently treasonable one:

"Resolved, That his Majesty's Liege people, the inhabitants of
this colony, are not bound to yield obedience to any law or
ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatsoever
upon them, other than the laws and ordinances of the General
Assembly aforesaid. Resolved, That any person who shall, by
speaking or writing, assert or maintain that any person or
persons, other than the General Assembly of this colony, have any
right or power to impose any taxation on the people here, shall
be deemed an enemy to his Majesty's colony."

These resolutions, which Governor Fauquier had not seen, and
which were perhaps never debated in the House of Burgesses, were
now circulated far and wide as part of the mature decision of the
Virginia Assembly. On the 14th of September, Messrs. Randolph,
Wythe, and Nicholas were appointed a committee to apprise the
Assembly's agent "of a spurious copy of the resolves of the last
Assembly...being dispersed and printed in the News Papers and
to send him a true copy of the votes on that occasion." In those
days of slow and difficult communication, the truth, three months
late, could not easily overtake the falsehood or ever effectively
replace it. In later years, when it was thought an honor to
have begun the Revolution, many men denied the decisive effect of
the Virginia Resolutions in convincing the colonists that the
Stamp Act might be successfully resisted. But contemporaries were
agreed in according them that glory or that infamy. "Two or three
months ago," said Governor Bernard, "I thought that this people
would submit to the Stamp Act. Murmurs were indeed continually
heard, but they seemed to be such as would die away. The
publishing the Virginia Resolutions proved an alarm-bell to the
disaffected." We read the resolutions, said Jonathan Sewell,
"with wonder. They savored of independence; they flattered the
human passions; the reasoning was specious; we wished it
conclusive. The transition to believing it so was easy, and we,
almost all America, followed their example in resolving that the
Parliament had no such right." And the good patriot John Adams,
who afterwards attributed the honor to James Otis, said in 1776
that the "author of the first Virginia Resolutions against the
Stamp Act...will have the glory with posterity of beginning...this
great Revolution.*

* Upon the death of George II, 1760, the collectors of the
customs at Boston applied for new writs of assistance. The grant
was opposed by the merchants, and the question was argued before
the Superior Court. It was on this occasion that James Otis made
a speech in favor of the rights of the colonists as men and
Englishmen. All that is known of it is contained in some rough
notes taken at the time by John Adams ("Works of John Adams,"
ii., 125). An elaboration of these notes was printed in the
"Massachusetts Spy," April 29, 1778, and with corrections by
Adams fifty years after the event in William Tudor's "Life of
James Otis," chs. 5-7. This is the speech to which Adams, at a
later date, attributed the beginning of the Revolution.

James Otis in 1765 declared the Virginia Resolutions to be
treasonable. It was precisely their treasonable flavor that
electrified the country, while the fact that they came from the
Old Dominion made men think that a union of the colonies, so
essential to successful resistance, might be achieved in spite of
all. The Old Dominion, counted the most English of the colonies
in respect to her institutions and her sympathies, had a
character for loyalty that, in any matter of opposition to
Britain, gave double weight to her action. Easy-going
tobacco-planters, Church of England men all, were well known not
to be great admirers of the precise Puritans of New England,
whose moral fervor and conscious rectitude seemed to them a
species of fanaticism savoring more of canting hypocrisy than of
that natural virtue affected by men of parts. Franklin may well
have had Virginia and Massachusetts in mind when he said, but a
few years earlier, no one need fear that the colonies "will unite
against their own nation...which 'tis well known they all
love much more than they love one another." Nor could anyone have
supposed that the "Ancient and Loyal Colony of Virginia" would
out-Boston Boston in asserting the rights of America. Yet this was
what had come to pass, the evidence of which was the printed
resolutions now circulating far and wide and being read in this
month of July when it was being noised about that a Congress was
proposed for the coming October. The proposal had in fact come
from Massachusetts Bay in the form of a circular letter inviting
all the colonies to send delegates to New York for the purpose of
preparing a loyal and humble "representation of their condition,"
and of imploring relief from the King and Parliament of Great

No very encouraging response was immediately forthcoming. The
Assembly of New Jersey unanimously declined to send any
delegates, although it declared itself "not without a just
sensibility respecting the late acts of Parliament," and wished
"such other colonies as think proper to be active every success
they can loyally and reasonably desire." For two months there was
no indication that any colony would think it "proper to be
active"; but during August and September the assemblies of six
colonies chose deputies to the congress, and when that body
finally assembled in October, less formally designated
representatives from three other colonies appeared upon the
scene. The Assembly of New Hampshire declined to take part.
Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina were also unrepresented,
which was perhaps due to the fact that the governors of those
provinces refused to call the assemblies together to consider the
Massachusetts circular letter. Of the 27 members of the Stamp Act
Congress, few if any were inclined to rash or venturesome
measures. It is reported that Lord Melbourne, as Prime Minister
of England, once remarked to his Cabinet, "It doesn't matter what
we say, but we must all say the same thing." What the Stamp Act
Congress said was to be sure of some importance, but that it
should say something which all could agree to was of even greater
importance. "There ought to be no New England man, no New Yorker,
known on the continent," wrote Christopher Gadsden of South
Carolina, "but all of us Americans." New Yorkers and New England
men could not indeed be so easily transformed over night; but the
Stamp Act Congress was significant as marking a kind of beginning
in that slow and difficult process. After eleven days of debate,
in which sharp differences of opinion were no doubt revealed, a
declaration of rights and grievances was at last adopted; a
declaration which was so cautiously and loyally phrased that all
could subscribe to it, and which was perhaps for that very reason
not quite satisfactory to anyone.

His Majesty's subjects in the colonies, the declaration affirmed,
are entitled to those "inherent rights and liberties" which are
enjoyed by "his natural born subjects" in Great Britain; among
which rights is that most important one of "not being taxed
without their own consent"; and since the people of the colonies,
"from local circumstances, cannot be represented in the House of
Commons," it follows that taxes cannot be "imposed upon them, but
by their respective legislatures." The Stamp Act, being a direct
tax, was therefore declared to have a "manifest tendency to
subvert the rights and liberties of the colonies." Of the Sugar
Act, which was not a direct tax, so much could not be said; but
this act was at least "burthensome and grievous," being
subversive of trade if not of liberty. No one was likely to be
profoundly stirred by the declaration of the Stamp Act Congress,
in this month of October when the spirited Virginia Resolutions
were everywhere well known.

"The frozen politicians of a more northern government," according
to the "Boston Gazette," "say they [the people of Virginia] have
spoken treason"; but the "Boston Gazette," for its part, thought
they had "spoken very sensibly." With much reading of the
resolutions and of the commendatory remarks with which they were
everywhere received, the treasonable flavor of their boldest
phrases no doubt grew less pronounced, and high talk took on more
and more the character of good sense. During the summer of 1765
the happy phrase of Isaac Barre--"these sons of liberty"--was
everywhere repeated, and was put on as a kind of protective
coloring by strong patriots, who henceforth thought of themselves
as Sons of Liberty and no traitors at all. Rather were they
traitors who would in any way justify an act of tyranny; most of
all those so-called Americans, accepting the office of Stamp
Master, who cunningly aspired to make a farthing profit out of
the hateful business of enslaving their own countrymen.

Who these gentry might be was not certainly known until early
August, when Jared Ingersoll, himself as it turned out one of the
miscreants, brought the commissions over from London, whereupon
the names were all printed in the papers. It then appeared that
the gentleman appointed to distribute the stamps in Massachusetts
was Andrew Oliver, a man very well connected in that province and
of great influence with the beet people, not infrequently
entrusted with high office and perquisites, and but recently
elected by the unsuspecting Bostonians to represent them in the
council of Massachusetts Bay Colony. It seemed inconsistent that
a man so often honored by the people should meanwhile pledge
himself to destroy their liberties; and so on the morning of the
14th of August, Mr. Oliver's effigy, together with a horned
devil's head peeping out of an old boot, was to be seen hanging
from the Liberty Tree at the south end of Boston, near the
distillery of Thomas Chase, brewer and warm Son of Liberty.
During the day people stopped to make merry over the spectacle;
and in the evening, after work hours, a great crowd gathered to
see what would happen. When the effigy was cut down and carried
away, the crowd very naturally followed along through the streets
and through the Town House, justifying themselves--many
respectable people were in the crowd--for being there by calling
out, "Liberty and Property forever; no Stamp." And what with
tramping and shouting in the warm August evening, the whole crowd
became much heated and ever more enthusiastic, so that, the line
of march by some chance lying past the new stamp office and Mr.
Oliver's house, the people were not to be restrained from
destroying the former and breaking in the windows of the latter,
in detestation of the hated Stamp Act and of the principle that
property might be taken without consent. Mr. Oliver hastened to
resign his office, which doubtless led many people to think the
methods taken to induce him to do so were very good ones and such
as might well be made further use of. It was in fact not long
afterwards, about dusk of the evening of the 26th of August, that
a mob of men, more deliberately organized than before, ransacked
the office of William Story, Deputy Registrar of the Court of
Admiralty, and, after burning the obnoxious records kept there,
they forcibly entered the house, and the cellar too, of Benjamin
Hallowell, Comptroller of the Customs. "Then the Monsters," says
Deacon Tudor, "being enflam'd with Rum & Wine which they got in
sd. Hallowell's cellar, proceeded with Shouts to the Dwelling
House of the Hon-l. Thos. Hutchinson, Esq., Lieut. Governor,
& enter'd in a voyalent manner." At that moment the
Lieutenant-Governor was sitting comfortably at dinner and had
barely time to escape with his family before the massive front
door was broken in with axes. As young Mr. Hutchinson went out by
the back way he heard someone say: "Damn him, he's upstairs,
we'll have him yet." They did not indeed accomplish this purpose;
but when the morning broke the splendid house was seen to be
completely gutted, the partition walls broken in, the roof partly
off, and the priceless possessions of the owner ruined past
repair: mahogany and walnut furniture finished in morocco and
crimson damask, tapestries and Turkey carpets, rare paintings,
cabinets of fine glass and old china, stores of immaculate linen,
India paduasoy gowns and red Genoa robes, a choice collection of
books richly bound in leather and many manuscript documents, the
fruit of thirty years' labor in collecting--all broken and cut
and cast about to make a rubbish heap and a bonfire. From the
mire of the street there was afterwards picked up a manuscript
history of Massachusetts which is preserved to this day, the
soiled pages of which may still be seen in the Boston library.
Mr. Hutchinson was no friend of the Stamp Act; but he was a rich
man, Lieutenant-Governor of the province, and brother-in-law of
Andrew Oliver.

Government offered the usual rewards--which were never
claimed--for evidence leading to the detection of any persons
concerned in the riots. Men of repute, including the staunchest
patriots such as Samuel Adams and Jonathan Mayhew, expressed
their abhorrence of mobs and of all licentious proceedings in
general; but many were nevertheless disposed to think, with good
Deacon Tudor, that in this particular instance "the universal
Obhorrance of the Stamp Act was the cause of the Mob's riseing."
It would be well to punish the mob, but punishing the mob would
not cure the evil which was the cause of the mob; for where there
was oppression the lower sort of people, as was well known, would
be sure to express opposition in the way commonly practiced by
them everywhere, in London as well as in Boston, by gathering in
the streets in crowds, in which event some deplorable excesses
were bound to follow, however much deprecated by men of substance
and standing. If ministers wished the people to be tranquil, let
them repeal the Stamp Act; if they were determined to persist in
it, and should attempt to land and distribute the stamps, loyal
and law-abiding citizens, however much they might regret the
fact, could only say that similar disorders were very likely to
become even more frequent and more serious in the future than
they had been in the past.

As the first of November approached, that being the day set for
the levying of the tax, attention and discussion came naturally
to center on the stamps rather than on the Stamp Act. Crowds of
curious people gathered wherever there seemed a prospect of
catching a glimpse of the bundles of stamped papers. Upon their
arrival the papers had to be landed; they could therefore be
seen; and the mere sight of them was likely to be a sufficient
challenge to action. It seemed a simple matter to resist a law
which could be of no effect without the existence of certain
papers, paper being a substance easily disposed of. And
everywhere in fact the stamps were disposed of--disposed of by
mobs, with the tacit consent and impalpable encouragement of many
men who, having a reputable position to maintain, would
themselves by no means endure to be seen in a common crowd; men
of good estate whom no one could think of as countenancers of
violence, but who were, on this occasion, as Mr. Livingston said,
"not averse to a little rioting" on condition that it be kept
within bounds and well directed to the attainment of their just

A little rioting, so easy to be set on foot, was difficult to
keep within reasonable bounds, as Mr. Livingston and his friends
in New York soon discovered, somewhat to their chagrin. In New
York, even after the stamps were surrendered by
Lieutenant-Governor Colden and safely lodged in the Town House,
there were many excesses wholly unnecessary to the attainment of
the original object. Mr. Colden's new chariot, certainly never
designed to carry the stamps, was burned; and on repeated
occasions windows were broken and "particulars" threatened that
their houses would presently be pulled down. Mr. Livingston was
himself the owner of houses, had an immense respect for property
rights and for the law that guaranteed them, and therefore wished
very much that the lower sort of people would give over their
mobbish practices now that the stamps had been disposed of. Since
the law could not now operate without stamps, what more was
necessary except to wait in good order, patiently denying
themselves those activities that involved a violation of the law,
until the law should be repealed? The Stamp Act Congress had
protested in a proper and becoming manner; merchants had agreed
not to import British goods; the Governor had closed the courts.
Stopping of business would doubtless be annoying and might very
likely produce some distress. But it would be legal and it would
be effective: the government would get no revenue; British
merchants no profit; and Americans could not be charged with
violating a law the failure of which was primarily due to the
fact that papers indispensable to its application were, for one
reason or another, not forthcoming.

Mr. Livingston, happily possessed of the conservative
temperament, was disposed to achieve desired ends with the least
possible disturbance of his own affairs and those of his country;
and most men of independent means, landowners and merchants of
considerable estates, moneyed men and high salaried officials
whose incomes were not greatly affected by any temporary business
depression, were likely to be of Mr. Livingston's opinion,
particularly in this matter of the Stamp Act. Sitting comfortably
at dinner every day and well knowing where they could lay hands
on money to pay current bills, they enjoyed a high sense of being
defenders of liberty and at the same time eminently law-abiding
citizens. They professed a decided preference for nullifying the
Stamp Act without violating it. Sitting at dinner over their
wine, they swore that they would let ships lie in harbor and rot
there if necessary, and would let the courts close for a year or
two years, rather than employ taxed papers to collect their just
debts; with a round oath they bound themselves to it, sealing the
pledge, very likely, by sipping another glass of Madeira. In the
defense of just rights, Mr. Livingston and his conservative
friends were willing to sacrifice much: they foresaw some months
of business stagnation, which they nevertheless contemplated with
equanimity, being prepared to tide over the dull time by living
in a diminished manner, if necessary even dispensing with
customary bottles of Madeira at dinner.

Men of radical temperament, having generally less regard for the
status quo, are quick to see ulterior motives back of
conservative timidity and solemn profession of respect for law
and order. It was so in the case of the Stamp Act. Small
shopkeepers who were soon sold out and had no great stock of "old
moth-eaten goods" to offer at enhanced prices, rising young
lawyers whose fees ceased with the closing of the courts,
artisans and laborers who bought their dinners (no Madeira
included) with their daily wage--these, and indeed all the lower
sort of people, contemplated the stopping of business with much
alarm. Mr. John Adams, a young lawyer of Braintree and Boston,
was greatly interested in the question of the courts of justice.
Were the courts to be closed on the ground that no legal business
could be done without stamped papers? Or were they to go on
trying cases, enforcing the 'collection of debts, and probating
wills precisely as if no Stamp Act had ever been heard of? The
Boston superior court was being adjourned continuously, for a
fortnight at a time, through the influence of Messrs. Hutchinson
and Oliver, to the great and steadily rising wrath of young Mr.
Adams. The courts must soon be opened, he said to himself; their
inactivity "will make a large chasm in my affairs, if it should
not reduce me to distress." Young Mr. Adams, who had, no less
than Mr. Oliver, a family to support and children to provide for,
was just at the point of making a reputation and winning a
competence "when this execrable project was set on foot for my
ruin as well as that of America in general." And therefore Mr.
Adams, and Mr. Samuel Adams, and Mr. Otis, and Mr. Gridley, in
order to avert the ruin of America in general, were "very warm"
to have the courts open and very bitter against Messrs.
Hutchinson and Oliver whose "insolence and impudence and
chicanery" in the matter were obvious, and whose secret motives
might easily be inferred. Little wonder if these men, who had
managed by hook or crook to get into their own hands or into the
hands of their families nearly all the lucrative offices in the
province, now sought to curry favor with ministers in order to
maintain their amazing ascendancy!

When the Stamp Act was passed, all men in America had professed
themselves, and were thought to be, Sons of Liberty. Even Mr.
Hutchinson had declared himself against ministerial measures. But
scarce a month had elapsed since the law was to have gone into
effect before it was clear to the discerning that, for all their
professions, most of the "better sort" were not genuine Sons of
Liberty at all, but timid sycophants, pliant instruments of
despotism, far more intent upon the ruin of Mr. Adams and of
America in general than any minister could be shown to be. For
the policy of dispensing with activities requiring stamped
papers, much lauded by these gentry as an effective and
constitutional means of defeating the law, was after all nothing
but "a sort of admittance of the legality of the Stamp Act, and
had a tendency to enforce it, since there was just reason to
apprehend that the secret enemies of liberty had actually a
design to introduce it by the necessity to which the people would
be reduced by the cessation of business." It was well, therefore,
in view of such insidious designs of secret enemies, that the
people, even to the lowest ranks, should become "more attentive
to their liberties, and more inquisitive about them, and more
determined to defend them, than they were ever before known or
had occasion to be."

To defend their liberties, not against ministers but against
ministerial tools, who were secret betrayers of America, true
patriots accordingly banded themselves in societies which took to
themselves the name of Sons of Liberty and of which the object
was, by "putting business in motion again, in the usual channels,
without stamps," to prevent the Stamp Act ever being enforced.
Such a society composed mainly of the lower orders of people and
led by rising young lawyers, was formed in New York. On January
7, at Mr. Howard's coffee house, abandoning the secrecy which had
hitherto veiled their activities, its members declared to the
world their principles and the motives that would determine their
action in the future:

"Resolved: That we will go to the last extremity and venture our
lives and fortunes effectively to prevent the said Stamp Act from
ever taking place in this city and province; Resolved: That any
person who shall deliver out or receive any instrument of writing
upon stamped paper...shall incur the highest resentment of
this society, and be branded with everlasting infamy; Resolved:
That the people who carry on business as formerly on unstamped
Paper...shall be protected to the utmost power of this society."

Malicious men said that the Sons of Liberty were "much concerned
that the gentlemen of fortune don't publically join them," for
which reason the society "formed a committee of correspondence
with the Liberty Boys in the neighboring provinces." In February,
the society did in fact appoint such a committee, which sent out
letters to all the counties of New York and to all the colonies
except Georgia, proposing the formation of an intercolonial
association of the true Sons of Liberty; to which letters many
replies were received, some of which are still preserved among
the papers of the secretary, Mr. John Lamb. The general sense of
these letters was that an intercolonial association and close
correspondence were highly necessary in view of the presence, in
nearly every colony, of many "secret and inveterate enemies of
liberty," and of the desirability of keeping "a watchful eye over
all those who, from the nature of their offices, vocations, or
dispositions, may be the most likely to introduce the use of
stamped paper, to the total subversion of the British

No doubt the society kept its watchful eye on every unusual
activity and all suspicious characters, but to what extent it
succeeded in "putting business in motion again, in the usual
channels, without stamps," cannot be said. Both before and after
the society was founded, much business was carried on in
violation of the law: newspapers and pamphlets continued to
flourish in the land; the inferior courts at least were sooner or
later opened in nearly every colony; and not infrequently
unstamped clearance papers were issued to shipmasters willing to
take the risk of seizure in London or elsewhere. Mr. John
Hancock, easily persuading himself that there should be no risk,
shipped a cargo of oil with the Boston packet in December. "I am
under no apprehensions," he wrote his London agent. "Should there
be any Difficulty in London as to Marshall's clearance, You will
please to represent the circumstances that no stamps could be
obtained, which case I think I am to be justified, & am
not liable to a seizure, or even run any risque at all, as I have
taken the Step of the Law, and made application for clearance, &
can get no other."

Notwithstanding such practices, which were frequent enough, it
was a dull winter, with little profit flowing into the coffers of
Mr. Hancock, with low wages or none at all for worthy artisans
and laborers; so that it must often have seemed, as Governor
Moore said, "morally impossible that the people here can subsist
any time under such inconveniences as they have brought on
themselves." Such inconveniences became more irksome as time
passed, with the result that, during the cold and dreary months
of February and March, it became every day a more pressing
question, particularly for the poor, to know whether the bad
times would end at last in the repeal or the admission of the
tyrannical act.

Confronted with this difficult dilemma, the faithful Sons of
Liberty were preparing in April to assemble a continental
congress as a last resort, when rumors began to spread that
Parliament was on the point of carrying the repeal. The project
of a congress was accordingly abandoned, and everywhere
recrimination gave place to rejoicing. On April 21, 1766, the
vigilant Boston Sons voted that when the rumors should be
confirmed they would celebrate the momentous event in a befitting
manner--would celebrate it "Under the deepest Sense of Duty and
Loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign King George, and in
respect and Gratitude to the Patriotic Ministry, Mr. Pitt, and
the Glorious Majority of both Houses of Parliament, by whose
Influence, under Divine Providence, against a most strenuous
Opposition, a happy Repeal of the Stamp Act, so unconstitutional
as well as Grievous to His Majesty's good Subjects of America, is
attained; whereby our incontestible Right of Internal Taxation
remains to us inviolate."

CHAPTER IV. Defining The Issue

A pepper-corn, in acknowledgement of the right, is of more value
than millions without it.--George Grenville.

A perpetual jealousy respecting liberty, is absolutely requisite
in all free states.--John Dickinson.

Good Americans everywhere celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act
with much festivity and joyful noises in the streets, and with
"genteel entertainments" in taverns, where innumerable toasts
were drunk to Liberty and to its English defenders. Before his
house on Beacon Hill, Mr. John Hancock, on occasion a generous
man, erected a platform and placed there a pipe of Madeira which
was broached for all comers. At Colonel Ingersoll's, where
twenty-eight gentlemen attended to take dinner, fifteen toasts
were drunk, "and very loyal they were, and suited to the
occasion"; upon which occasion, we are told, Mr. Hancock again
"treated every person with cheerfulness." Throughout the land men
with literary gifts, or instincts, delivered themselves of
vigorous free verse, founded upon the antithesis of Freedom and
Tyranny, and enforcing the universal truth that "in the unequal
war Oppressors fall, the hate, contempt, and endless curse of
all." In New York, on the occasion of the King's birthday, an ox
was roasted whole in the Fields, and twenty kegs of beer were
opened for a great dinner at the King's Arms; and afterwards,
through the generosity of the Assembly of that province, there
was erected on the Bowling Green a mounted statue--made of lead
but without present intention of being turned into bullets
representing His Majesty King George the Third, of ever glorious
memory, the Restorer of Liberty.

The joyful Americans could not know how little King George
aspired to be thought the Restorer of Liberty. In reality he was
extremely sulky in his silent, stubborn way over the repeal of
the Stamp Act, and vexed most particularly at the part which he
himself had been forced to play in it. The idea of a Patriot
King, conceived by Lord Bolingbroke (one-time Jacobite exile) and
instilled into the mind of the young Hanoverian monarch by an
ambitious mother, had little to do with liberty, either British
or colonial, but had much to do with authority. The Patriot King
was to be a king indeed, seeking advice of all virtuous men of
whatever connections, without being bound by any man or faction
of men. It was not to restore liberty, nor yet to destroy it, but
to destroy factions, that the King was ambitious; and for this
purpose he desired a ministry that would do his bidding without
too much question. If Mr. Grenville did not satisfy His Majesty,
it was not on account of the Stamp Act, in respect to which the
King was wholly of Mr. Grenville's opinion that it was a just law
and ought to be enforced. In July, 1765, when Mr. Grenville was
dismissed, there had indeed as yet been no open resistance in
America; and if the King had been somewhat annoyed by the high
talk of his loyal subjects in Virginia, he had been annoyed much
more by Mr. Grenville, who was disposed, in spite of his outward
air of humility and solemn protestations of respect, to be very
firm with His Majesty in the matter of ministerial prerogative,
reading him from time to time carefully prepared pedantic little
curtain lectures on the customs of the Constitution and the
duties of kings under particular circumstances.

Unable to endure Mr. Grenville longer, the King turned to Mr.
Pitt. This statesman, although extremely domineering in the
House, was much subdued in the presence of his sovereign, and
along with many defects had one great virtue in his Majesty's
eyes, which was that he shared the King's desire to destroy the
factions. The King was accordingly ready to receive the Great
Commoner, even though he insisted on bringing "the Constitution,"
and Earl Temple into the bargain, with him to St. James's Palace.
But when it appeared that Earl Temple was opposed to the repeal
of the Stamp Act, Mr. Pitt declined after all to come to St.
James's on any terms, even with his beloved Constitution;
whereupon the harassed young King, rather than submit again to
Mr. Grenville's lectures, surrendered himself, temporarily, to
the old-line Whigs under the lead of the Marquis of Rockingham.
In all the negotiations which ended in this unpromising
arrangement of the King's business, the Stamp Act had apparently
not been once mentioned; except that Mr. Grenville, upon
retiring, had ventured to say to His Majesty, as a kind of
abbreviated parting homily, that if "any man ventured to defeat
the regulations laid down for the colonies, by a slackness in the
execution, he [Mr. Grenville] should look upon him as a criminal
and the betrayer of his country."

The Marquis of Rockingham and his friends had no intention of
betraying their country. They had, perhaps, when they were thus
accidentally lifted to power, no very definite intentions of any
sort. Respecting the Stamp Act, as most alarming reports began to
come in from America, His Majesty's Opposition, backed by the
landed interest and led by Mr. Grenville and the Duke of Bedford,
knew its mind much sooner than ministers knew theirs. America was
in open rebellion, they said, and so far from doing anything
about it ministers were not even prepared, four months after
disturbances began, to lay necessary information before the
House. Under pressure of such talk, the Marquis of Rockingham had
to make up his mind. It would be odd and contrary to
well-established precedent for ministers to adopt a policy already
outlined by Opposition; and in view of the facts that good Whig
tradition, even if somewhat obscured in latter days, committed
them to some kind of liberalism, that the City and the mercantile
interest thought Mr. Grenville's measures disastrous to trade,
and that they were much in need of Mr. Pitt's eloquence to carry
them through, ministers at last, in January, 1766, declared for
the repeal.

Now that it was a question of repealing Mr. Grenville's measures,
serious attention was given to them; and honorable members, in
the notable debate of 1766, learned much about America and the
rights of Englishmen which they had not known before. Lord
Mansfield, the most eminent legal authority in England, argued
that the Stamp Act was clearly within the power of Parliament,
while Lord Camden, whose opinion was by no means to be despised,
staked his reputation that the law was unconstitutional. Mr.
Grenville, in his precise way, laid it down as axiomatic that
since "Great Britain protects America, America is therefore bound
to yield obedience"; if not; he desired to know when Americans
were emancipated. Whereupon Mr. Pitt, springing up, desired to
know when they were made slaves. The Great Commoner rejoiced that
America had resisted, and expressed the belief that three
millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as
voluntarily to submit to be made slaves would be very fit
instruments to make slaves of all Englishmen.

Honorable members were more disposed to listen to Mr. Pitt than
to vote with him; and were doubtless less influenced by his hot
eloquence than by the representations of English merchants to the
effect that trade was being ruined by Mr. Grenville's measures.
Sir George Seville, honorable member for Yorkshire, spoke the
practical mind of business men when he wrote to Lord Rockingham:
"Our trade is hurt; what the devil have you been doing? For our
part, we don't pretend to understand your politics and American
matters, but our trade is hurt: pray remedy it, and a plague of
you if you won't." This was not so eloquent as Mr. Pitt's speech,
but still very eloquent in its way and more easily followed than
Mr. Pitt's theory that "taxation is no part of the governing or
legislative power."

Constitutional arguments, evenly balanced pro and con, were not
certain to change many minds, while such brief statements as that
of Sir George Seville, although clearly revealing the opinion of
that gentleman, did little to enlighten the House on the merits
of the question. That members might have every opportunity to
inform themselves about America, the ministers thought it worth
while to have Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, printer and
Friend of the Human Race, brought before the bar of the House to
make such statements of fact or opinion as might be desired of
him. The examination was a long one; the questions very much to
the point; the replies very ready and often more to the point
than the questions. With much exact information the provincial
printer maintained that the colonists, having taxed themselves
heavily in support of the last war, were not well able to pay
more taxes, and that, even if they were abundantly able, the
sugar duties and the stamp tax were improper measures. The
stamps, in remote districts, would frequently require more in
postage to obtain than the value of the tax. The sugar duties had
already greatly diminished the volume of colonial trade, while
both the duties and the tax, having to be paid in silver, were
draining America of its specie and thus making it impossible for
merchants to import from England to the same extent as formerly.
It was well known that at the moment Americans were indebted to
English merchants to the amount of several million pounds
sterling, which they were indeed willing, as English merchants
themselves said, but unable to pay. Necessarily, therefore,
Americans were beginning to manufacture their own cloth, which
they could very well do. Before their old clothes were worn out
they "would have new ones of their own making."

Against the Stamp Act, honorable members were reminded, there was
a special objection to be urged. It was thought with good reason
to be unconstitutional, which would make its application
difficult, if not impossible. Troops might no doubt be sent to
enforce it, but troops would find no enemy to contend with, no
men in arms; they would find no rebellion in America, although
they might indeed create one. Pressed by Mr. Townshend to say
whether the colonies might not, on the ground of Magna Carta, as
well deny the validity of external as internal taxes, the Doctor
was not ready to commit himself on that point. It was true many
arguments had lately been used in England to show Americans that,
if Parliament has no right to tax them internally, it has none to
tax them externally, or to make any other law to bind them; in
reply to which, he could only say that "at present they do not
reason so, but in time they may possibly be convinced by these,

Whether the Parliament was truly enlightened and resolved by
statistical information and lofty constitutional argument is not
certainly known; but it is known that the King, whose steady mind
did not readily change, was still opposed to the repeal, a fact
supposed to be not without influence in unsettling the opinions
of some honorable members. Lord Mansfield had discreetly advised
His Majesty that although it was contrary to the spirit of the
constitution to "endeavour by His Majesty's name to carry
questions in Parliament, yet where the lawful rights of the King
and Parliament were to be asserted and maintained, he thought the
making His Majesty's opinion in support of those rights to be
known, was very fit and becoming."

The distinction was subtle, but perhaps not too subtle for a
great lawyer. It was apparently not too subtle for a Patriot
King, since certain noble lords who could be counted on to know
the King's wishes conveyed information to the proper persons that
those who found it against their conscience to vote for the
repeal would not for that reason be received coldly at St.
James's Palace. In order to preserve the constitution as well as
to settle the question of the repeal on its merits, Lord
Rockingham and the Earl of Shelburne obtained an interview with
the King at which they pointed out to him the manifest
irregularity of such a procedure, and in addition expressed their
conviction that, on account of the high excitement in the City,
failure to repeal the Stamp Act would be attended with very
serious consequences. Whether to preserve the Constitution, or to
allow the repeal to be determined on its merits, or for some
other reason, the King at last gave in writing his consent to the
ministers' measure. On February 22, by a vote of 275 to 167, Mr.
Conway was given leave to bring in the bill for a total repeal of
the Stamp Act. The bill was accordingly brought in, passed by
both houses, and on March 18 assented to by the King.

In the colonies the repeal was thought to be a victory for true
principles of government, at least a tacit admission by the
mother country that the American interpretation of the
Constitution was the correct one. No Englishman denied that the
repeal was an American victory; and there were some, like Pitt
and Camden, who preferred the constitutional theories of Daniel
Dulaney* to those of George Grenville. But most Englishmen who
took the trouble to have any views on such recondite matters,
having in general a poor opinion of provincial logic, easily
dismissed the whole matter with the convincing phrase of Charles
Townshend that the distinction between internal and external
taxes was "perfect nonsense." The average Briton, taking it for
granted that all the subtle legal aspects of the question had
been thoroughly gone into by Lord Mansfield, was content to read
Mr. Soame Jenyns, a writer of verse and member of the Board of
Trade, who in a leisure hour had recently turned his versatile
mind to the consideration of colonial rights with the happiest
results. In twenty-three very small pages he had disposed of the
"Objections to the Taxation of Our American Colonies" in a manner
highly satisfactory to himself and doubtless also to the average
reading Briton, who understood constitutional questions best when
they were "briefly considered," and when they were humorously
expounded in pamphlets that could be had for sixpence.

*Daniel Dulaney, of Maryland, was the author of a pamphlet
entitled "Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes on
the British Colonies." Pitt, in his speech on the repeal of the
Stamp Act, referred to in this pamphlet as a masterly

Having a logical mind, Mr. Jenyns easily perceived that taxes
could be objected to on two grounds: the ground of right and the
ground of expediency. In his opinion the right of Parliament to
lay taxes on America and the expediency of doing so at the
present moment were propositions so clear that any man, in order
not to bring his intelligence in question, needed to apologize
for undertaking to defend them. Mr. Jenyns wished it known that
he was not the man to carry owls to Athens, and that he would
never have thought it necessary to prove either the right or the
expediency of taxing our American colonies, "had not many
arguments been lately flung out...which with insolence equal
to their absurdity deny them both." With this conciliatory
preliminary disclaimer of any lack of intelligence on his own
part, Mr. Jenyns proceeded to point out, in his most happy vein,
how unsubstantial American reasoning really appeared when,
brushing aside befogging irrelevancies, you once got to the heart
of the question.

The heart of the question was the proposition that there should
be no taxation without representation; upon which principle it
was necessary to observe only that many individuals in England,
such as copyholders and leaseholders, and many communities, such
as Manchester and Birmingham, were taxed in Parliament without
being represented there. If Americans quoted you "Lock, Sidney,
Selden, and many other great names to prove that every Englishman still represented in Parliament," he would only ask why,
since Englishmen are all represented in Parliament, are not all
Americans represented in exactly the same way? Either Manchester
is not represented or Massachusetts is. "Are Americans not
British subjects? Are they not Englishmen? Or are they only
Englishmen when they solicit protection, but not Englishmen when
taxes are required to enable this country to protect them?"
Americans said they had Assemblies of their own to tax them,
which was a privilege granted them by charter, without which
"that liberty which every Englishman has a right to is torn from
them, they are all slaves, and all is lost." Colonial charters
were, however, "undoubtedly no more than those of all
corporations, which empower them to make bye-laws." As for
"liberty," the word had so many meanings," having within a few
years been used as a synonymous term for Blasphemy, Bawdy,
Treason, Libels, Strong Beer, and Cyder," that Mr. Jenyns could
not presume to say what it meant.

Against the expediency of the taxes, Mr. Jenyns found that two
objections had been raised: that the time was improper and the
manner wrong as to the manner, the colonies themselves had in a
way prescribed it, since they had not been able at the request of
ministers to suggest any other. The time Mr. Jenyns thought most
propitious, a point upon which he grew warm and almost serious.

"Can any time be more proper to require some assistance from our
colonies, to preserve to themselves their present safety, than
when this country is almost undone by procuring it? Can any time
be more proper to impose some tax upon their trade, than when
they are enabled to rival us in their manufactures by the
encouragement and protection which we have given them? Can any
time be more proper to oblige them to settle handsome incomes on
their governors, than when we find them unable to procure a
subsistence on any other terms than those of breaking all their
instructions, and betraying the rights of their Sovereign?...
Can there be a more proper time to force them to maintain an army
at their expence, than when that army is necessary for their own
protection, and we are utterly unable to support it? Lastly, can
there be a more proper time for this mother country to leave off
feeding out of her own vitals these children whom she has nursed
up, than when they are arrived at such strength and maturity as
to be well able to provide for themselves, and ought rather with
filial duty to give some assistance to her distresses?"

Americans, after all, were not the only ones who might claim to
have a grievance!

It was upon a lighter note, not to end in anticlimax, that Mr.
Jenyns concluded his able pamphlet. He had heard it hinted that
allowing the colonies representation in Parliament would be a
simple plan for making taxes legal. The impracticability of this
plan, he would not go into, since the plan itself had nowhere
been seriously pressed, but he would, upon that head, offer the
following consideration:

"I have lately seen so many specimens of the great powers of
speech of which these American gentlemen are possessed, that I
should be much afraid that the sudden importation of so much
eloquence at once would greatly endanger the safety of the
government of this country.... If we can avail ourselves of
these taxes on no other condition, I shall never look upon it as
a measure of frugality, being perfectly satisfied that in the
end, it will be much cheaper for us to pay their army than their

Mr. Jenyns's pamphlet, which could be had for sixpence, was
widely read, with much appreciation for its capital wit and
extraordinary common sense; more widely read in England than Mr.
James Otis's "Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved"
or Daniel Dulaney's "Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing
Taxes on the British Colonies"; and it therefore did much more
than these able pamphlets to clarify English opinion on the
rights of Parliament and the expediency of taxing America. No one
could deny that Government had yielded in the face of noisy
clamor and forcible resistance. To yield under the circumstances
may have been wise or not; but Government had not yielded on any
ground of right, but had on the contrary most expressly affirmed,
in the Declaratory Act, that "the King's Majesty, by and with the
advice of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons of Great
Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought
to have, full power and authority to make such laws and statutes
of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people
of America, subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, in all cases
whatsoever." Government had not even denied the expediency of
taxing America, the total repeal of the Stamp Act and the
modification of the Sugar Act having been carried on a
consideration of the inexpediency of these particular taxes only.
Taxes not open to the same objection might in future be found,
and doubtless must be found, inasmuch as the troops were still
retained in America and the Quartering Act continued in force
there. For new taxes, however, it would doubtless be necessary to
await the formation of a new ministry.

The formation of a new ministry was not an unusual occurrence in
the early years of King George the Third. No one supposed that
Lord Rockingham could hold on many months; and as early as July,
1766, all London knew that Mr. Pitt had been sent for. The coming
and going of great men in times of ministerial crisis was always
a matter of interest; but the formation of that ministry of all
the factions which the Patriot King had long desired was
something out of the ordinary, the point of greatest speculation
being how many irreconcilables Mr. Pitt (the Earl of Chatham he
was now) could manage to get seated about a single table. From
the point of view of irreconcilability, no one was more eligible
than Mr. Charles Townshend, at that moment Paymaster of the
Forces, a kind of enfant terrible of English politics, of whom
Horace Walpole could say, with every likelihood of being
believed, that "his speech of last Friday, made while half drunk,
was all wit and indiscretion; nobody but he could have made it,
nobody but he would have made it if he could. He beat Lord
Chatham in language, Burke in metaphors, Grenville in
presumption, Rigby in impudence, himself in folly, and everybody
in good humour."

This gentleman, much to his astonishment, one day received the
following note from Lord Chatham: "Sir: You are too great a
magnitude not to be in a responsible place; I intend to propose
you for Chancellor of the Exchequer, and must desire to have your
answer by nine o'clock tonight." Mr. Townshend was dismayed as
well as astonished, his dismay arising from the fact that the
office of Chancellor of the Exchequer was worth but 2700 pounds,
which was precisely 4300 pounds less than he was then receiving
as Paymaster of the Forces. To be a great magnitude on small pay
had its disadvantages, and Mr. Townshend, after remaining home
all day in great distress of mind, begged Mr. Pitt to be allowed
to retain the office of Paymaster; which was no sooner granted
than he changed his mind and begged Mr. Pitt to be allowed to
accept the Exchequer place, which Mr. Pitt at first refused and
was only persuaded to grant finally upon the intercession of the
Duke of Grafton. The day following, Mr. Townshend accordingly
informed the King that he had decided, in view of the urgent
representations of the Earl of Chatham, to accept the office of
Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Majesty's new ministry.

No one supposed, least of all himself, that this delightful man
would have any influence in formulating the policies of the
Chatham ministry. Lord Chatham's policies were likely to be his
own; and in the present case, so far as America was concerned,
they were not such as could be readily associated with Mr.
Townshend's views, so far as those views were known or were not
inconsistent. For dealing with America, the Earl of Shelburne,
because of his sympathetic understanding of colonial matters, had
been brought into the ministry to formulate a comprehensive and
conciliatory plan; as for the revenue, always the least part of
Lord Chatham's difficulties as it was the chief of Mr.
Grenville's, it was thought that the possessions of the East
India Company, if taken over by the Government, would bring into
the Treasury sums quite sufficient to pay the debt as well as to
relieve the people, in England and America at least, of those
heavy taxes which Mr. Grenville and his party had thought
necessarily involved in the extension of empire. It was a curious
chapter of accidents that brought all these welllaid plans to
nought. Scarcely was the ministry formed when the Earl of
Chatham, incapacitated by the gout, retired into a seclusion that
soon became impenetrable; and "even before this resplendent orb
was entirely set, and while the western horizon was in a blaze
with his descending glory, on the opposite quarter of the heavens
arose another luminary, and, for his hour, became lord of the
ascendant." This luminary was Mr. Charles Townshend.

Mr. Townshend was the "delight and ornament" of the House, as
Edmund Burke said. Never was a man in any country of "more
pointed and finished wit, or (where his passions were not
concerned) of a more refined, exquisite, and penetrating
judgment"; never a man to excel him in "luminous explanation and
display of his subject," nor ever one less tedious or better able
to conform himself exactly to the temper of the House which he
seemed to guide because he was always sure to follow it. In 1765
Mr. Townshend had voted for the Stamp Act, but in 1766, when the
Stamp Act began to be no favorite, he voted for the repeal, and
would have spoken for it too, if an illness had not prevented
him. And now, in 1767, Mr. Townshend was Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and as such responsible for the revenue; a man without
any of that temperamental obstinacy which persists in opinions
once formed, and without any fixed opinions to persist in; but
quite disposed, according to habit, to "hit the House just
between wind and water," and to win its applause by speaking for
the majority, or by "haranguing inimitably on both sides" when
the majority was somewhat uncertain.

In January, 1767, when Lord Chatham was absent and the majority
was very uncertain, Mr. Grenville took occasion, in the debate
upon the extraordinaries for the army in England and America, to
move that America, like Ireland, should support its own
establishment. The opportunity was one which Mr. Townshend could
not let pass. Much to the astonishment of every one and most of
all to that of his colleagues in the ministry, he supported Mr.
Grenville's resolution, declaring himself now in favor of the
Stamp Act which he had voted to repeal, treating "Lord Chatham's
distinction between internal and external taxation as
contemptuously as Mr. Grenville had done," and pledging himself
able, if necessary, to find a revenue in America nearly adequate
to the proposed project. The Earl of Shelburne, in great distress
of mind, at once wrote to Lord Chatham, relating the strange if
characteristic conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and
declaring himself entirely ignorant of the intentions of his
colleagues. It was indeed an anomalous situation. If Lord
Chatham's policies were still to be considered those of the
ministry, Mr. Townshend might be said to be in opposition, a
circumstance which made "many people think Lord Chatham ill at
St. James's" only.

Lord Chatham was not ill at St. James's. He was most likely very
well at St. James's, being unable to appear there, thus leaving
the divided ministry amenable to the King's management or
helpless before a factious Opposition. The opportunity of the
Opposition came when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in
February, proposed to continue the land tax at four shillings for
one year more, after which time, he thought, it might be reduced
to three shillings in view of additional revenues to be obtained
from the East India Company. But Opposition saw no reason why, in
view of the revenue which Mr. Townshend had pledged himself to
find in America, a shilling might not be taken from the land at
once, a proposal which Mr. Dowdeswell moved should be done, and
which was accordingly voted through the influence of Mr.
Grenville and the Duke of Bedford, who had formerly carried the
Stamp Act, aided by the Rockingham Whigs who had formerly
repealed it. If Lord Chatham was ill at St. James's, this was a
proper time to resign. It was doubtless a proper time to resign
in any case. But Lord Chatham did not resign: In March he came to
London, endeavored to replace Mr. Townshend by Lord North, which
he failed to do, and then retired to Bath to be seen no more,
leaving Mr. Townshend more than ever "master of the revels."

Mr. Townshend did not resign either, but continued in office,
quite undisturbed by the fact that a cardinal measure of the
ministry had been decisively voted down. Mr. Townshend reasoned
that if Opposition would not support the ministry, all
difficulties would be straightened out by the ministry's
supporting the Opposition. This was the more reasonable since
Opposition had perhaps been right after all, so far as the
colonies were concerned. Late reports from that quarter seemed to
indicate that the repeal of the Stamp Act, far from satisfying
the Americans, had only confirmed that umbrageous people in a
spirit of licentiousness, which was precisely what Opposition had
predicted as the sure result of any weak concession. The New York
Assembly, it now appeared, refused to make provision for the
troops according to the terms of the Quartering Act; New York
merchants were petitioning for a further modification of the
trade acts; the precious Bostonians, wrangling refined
doctrinaire points with Governor Bernard, were making
interminable difficulties about compensating the sufferers from
the Stamp Act riots. If Lord Chatham, in February, 1767, could go
so far as to say that the colonies had "drunk deep of the baneful
cup of infatuation," Mr. Townshend, having voted for the Stamp
Act and for its repeal, might well think, in May, that the time
was ripe for a return to rigorous measures.

On May 13, in a speech which charmed the House, Mr. Townshend
opened his plan for settling the colonial question. The growing
spirit of insubordination, which must be patent to all, he
thought could be most effectively checked by making an example of
New York, where defiance was at present most open; for which
purpose it was proposed that the meetings of the Assembly of that
province be totally suspended until it should have complied with
the terms of the Mutiny Act. As one chief source of power in
colonial assemblies which contributed greatly to make them
insubordinate was the dependence of executive officials upon them
for salaries, Mr. Townshend now renewed the proposal, which he
had formerly brought forward in 1763, to create an independent
civil list for the payment of governors and judges from England.
The revenue fox such a civil list would naturally be raised in
America. Mr. Townshend would not, however, venture to renew the
Stamp Act, which had been so opposed on the ground of its being
an internal tax. He was free to say that the distinction between
internal and external taxes was perfect nonsense; but; since the
logical Americans thought otherwise, he would concede the point
and would accordingly humor them by laying only external duties,
which he thought might well be on various kinds of glass and
paper, on red and white lead, and upon teas, the duties to be
collected in colonial ports upon the importation of these
commodities from England. It was estimated that the duties might
altogether make about 40,000 pounds, if the collection were
properly attended to; and in order that the collection might be
properly attended to, and for the more efficient administration
of the American customs in general, Mr. Townshend further
recommended that a Board of Customs Commissioners be created and
established in Massachusetts Bay. With slight opposition, all
these recommendations were enacted into law; and the
Commissioners of the Customs, shortly afterward appointed by the
King, arrived in Boston in November, 1767.

At Boston, the Commissioners found much to be done in the way of
collecting the customs, particularly in the matter of Madeira
wines. Madeira wines were much drunk in the old Bay colony, being
commonly imported directly from the islands, without too much
attention to the duty of 7 pounds per ton lawfully required in
that case. Mr. John Hancock, a popular Boston merchant, did a
thriving business in this way; and his sloop Liberty, in the
ordinary course of trade, carrying six pipes of "good saleable
Madeira" for the coffeehouse retailers, four pipes of the "very
best" for his own table, and "two pipes more of the best...for
the Treasurer of the province," entered the harbor on May 9,
1768. In the evening Mr. Thomas Kirk, tide-waiter, acting for the
Commissioners, boarded the sloop, where he found the captain, Nat
Bernard, and also, by some chance, another of Mr. Hancock's
skippers, young James Marshall, together with half a dozen of his
friends. They sat with punch served by the captain all round
until nine o'clock, when young James Marshall casually asked if a
few casks might not as well be set on shore that evening. Mr.
Kirk replied that it could not be done with his leave; whereupon
he found himself "hoved down" into the cabin and confined there
for three hours, from which point of disadvantage he could
distinctly hear overhead "a noise of many people at work,
a-hoisting out of goods." In due time Mr. Kirk was released,
having suffered no injury, except perhaps a little in his
official character. Next day Mr. Hancock's cargo was duly
entered, no pipes of Madeira listed; and to all appearance the
only serious aspect of the affair was that young James Marshall
died before morning, it was thought from overexertion and

Very likely few people in Boston knew anything about this
interesting episode; and a month later much excitement was
accordingly raised by the news that Mr. Hancock's sloop Liberty
had been ordered seized for nonpayment of customs. A crowd
watched the ship towed, for safe-keeping, under the guns of the
Romney in the harbor. When the Commissioners, who had come down
to see the thing done, left the wharf they were roughly handled
by the incensed people; and in the evening windows of some of
their houses were broken, and a boat belonging to a collector was
hauled on shore and burnt on the Common. Governor Bernard at last
informed the Commissioners that he could not protect them in
Boston, whereupon they retired with their families to the Romney,
and later to Castle William. There they continued, under
difficulties, the work of systematizing the American customs; and
not without success, inasmuch as the income from the duties
during the years from 1768 to 1774 averaged about 30,000 pounds
sterling, at an annual cost to the revenue of not more than
13,000 pounds. This saving was nevertheless not effected without
the establishment at Boston, on the recommendation of the
Commissioners, of two regiments of the line which arrived
September 28, 1768, and were landed under the guns of eight
men-of-war, without opposition. The cost of maintaining the two
regiments in Boston was doubtless not included in the 13,000
pounds charged to the revenue as the annual expense of collecting
30,000 pounds of customs.

In spite of the, two regiments of the line, with artillery,
Boston was not quiet in this year 1768. The soldiers acted
decently enough, no doubt; but their manners were very British
and their coats were red, and "their simple presence," conveying
every day the suggestion of compulsion, was "an intolerable
grievance." Every small matter was magnified. The people, says
Hutchinson, "had been used to answer to the call of the town
watch in the night, yet they did not like to answer to the
frequent calls of the centinels posted at the barracks; ...and
either a refusal to answer, or an answer accompanied with
irritating language, endangered the peace of the town." On
Sundays, especially, the Boston mind found something irreverent,
something at the very least irrelevant, in the presence of the
bright colored and highly secular coats; while the noise of fife
and drum, so disturbing to the sabbath calm, called forth from
the Selectmen a respectful petition to the general requesting him
to "dispense with the band."

These were but slight matters; but as time passed little
grievances accumulated on both sides until the relation between
the people and the soldiers was one of settled hostility, and at
last, after two years, the tense situation culminated in the
famous Boston Massacre. On the evening of March 5, 1770, there
was an alarm of fire, false as it turned out, which brought many
people into the streets, especially boys, whom one may easily
imagine catching up, as they ran, handfuls of damp snow to make
snowballs. For snowballs, there could be no better target than
red-coated sentinels standing erect and motionless at the post of
duty; and it chanced that one of these individuals, stationed
before the Customs House door, was pelted with the close-packed
missiles. Being several times struck, he called for aid, the
guard turned out, and a crowd gathered. One of the soldiers was
presently knocked down, another was hit by a club, and at last
six or seven shots were fired, with or without orders, the result
of which was four citizens lying dead on the snow-covered streets
of Boston.

The Boston Massacre was not as serious as the Massacre of Saint
Bartholomew or the Sicilian Vespers; but it served to raise
passion to a white heat in the little provincial town. On the
next day there was assembled, under the skillful leadership of
Samuel Adams, a great town meeting which demanded in no uncertain
terms the removal of the troops from Boston. Under the
circumstances, six hundred British soldiers would have fared
badly in Boston; and in order to prevent further bloodshed,
acting Governor Hutchinson finally gave the order. Within a
fortnight, the two small regiments retired to Castle William.
Seven months later Captain Preston and other soldiers implicated
in the riot were tried before a Boston jury. Ably defended by
John Adams and Josiah Quincy, they were all acquitted on the
evidence, except two who were convicted and lightly punished for

As it happened, the Boston Massacre occurred on the 5th of March,
1770, which was the very day that Lord North rose in the House of
Commons to propose the partial repeal of the Townshend duties.
This outcome was not unconnected with events that had occurred in
America during the eighteen months since the landing of the
troops in Boston in September, 1768. In 1768, John Adams could
not have foretold the Boston Massacre, or have foreseen that he
would himself incur popular displeasure for having defended the
soldiers. But he could, even at that early date, divine the
motives of the British government in sending the troops to
Boston. To his mind, "the very appearance of the troops in Boston
was a strong proof that the determination of Great Britain to
subjugate us was too deep and inveterate to be altered." All the
measures of ministry seemed indeed to confirm that view. Mr.
Townshend's condescension in accepting the colonial distinction
between internal and external taxes was clearly only a subtle
maneuver designed to conceal an attack upon liberty far more
dangerous than the former attempts of Mr. Grenville. After all,
Mr. Townshend was probably right in thinking the distinction of
no importance, the main point being whether, as Lord Chatham had
said, the Parliament could by any kind of taxes "take money out
of their pockets without their consent."

Duties on glass and tea certainly would take money out of their
pockets without their consent, and therefore it must be true that
taxes could be rightly laid only by colonial assemblies, in which
alone Americans could be represented. But of what value was it to
preserve the abstract right of taxation by colonial assemblies if
meanwhile the assemblies themselves might, by act of Parliament,
be abolished? And had not the New York Assembly been suspended by
act of Parliament? And were not the new duties to be used to pay
governors and judges, thus by subtle indirection undermining the
very basis of legislative independence? And now, in the year
1768, the Massachusetts Assembly, having sent a circular letter
to the other colonies requesting concerted action in defense of
their liberties, was directed by Lord Hillsborough, speaking in
his Majesty's name, "to rescind the resolution which gave birth
to the circular letter from the Speaker, and to declare their
disapprobation of, and dissent to, that rash and hasty
proceeding." Clearly, it was no mere question of taxation but the
larger question of legislative independence that now confronted

A more skillful dialectic was required to defend American rights
against the Townshend duties than against the Stamp Act. It was a
somewhat stubborn fact that Parliament had for more than a
hundred years passed laws effectively regulating colonial trade,
and for regulating trade had imposed duties, some of which had
brought into the Exchequer a certain revenue. Americans, wishing
to be thought logical as well as loyal, could not well say at
this late date that Parliament had no right to lay duties in
regulation of trade. Must they then submit to the Townshend
duties? Or was it possible to draw a line, making a distinction,
rather more subtle than the old one between internal and external
taxes, between duties for regulation and duties for revenue? This
latter feat was undertaken by Mr. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania,
anonymously, under the guise of a simple but intelligent and
virtuous farmer whose arcadian existence had confirmed in him an
instinctive love of liberty and had supplied him with the leisure
to meditate at large upon human welfare and the excellent British

Mr. Dickinson readily granted America to be dependent upon Great
Britain, "as much dependent upon Great Britain as one perfectly
free people can be on another." But it appeared axiomatic to the
unsophisticated mind of a simple farmer that no people could be
free if taxed without its consent, and that Parliament had
accordingly no right to lay any taxes upon the colonies; from
which it followed that the sole question in respect to duties
laid on trade was whether they were intended for revenue or for
regulation. Intention in such matters was of primary importance,
since all duties were likely to be regulative to some extent. It
might be objected that "it will be difficult for any persons but
the makers of the laws to determine which of them are made for
regulation of trade, and which for raising a revenue." This was
true enough but at present of academic importance only, inasmuch
as the makers of the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend
duties had conveniently and very clearly proclaimed their
intention to be the raising of a revenue. Yet this question,
academic now, might soon become extremely practical. The makers
of laws might not always express their intention so explicitly;
they might, with intention to raise a revenue, pass acts
professing to be for regulation only; and therefore, since "names
will not change the nature of things," Americans ought "firmly to
believe...that unless the most watchful attention be exerted,
a new servitude may be slipped upon us under the sanction of
usual and respectable terms." In such case the intention should
be inferred from the nature of the act; and the Farmer, for his
part, sincerely hoped that his countrymen "would never, to their
latest existence, want understanding sufficient to discover the
intentions of those who rule over them."

Mr. Dickinson's "Farmer's Letters" were widely read and highly
commended. The argument, subtle but clear, deriving the nature of
an act from the intention of its makers, and the intention of its
makers from the nature of the act, contributed more than any
other exposition to convince Americans that they "have the same
right that all states have, of judging when their privileges are

"As much dependent on Great Britain as one perfectly free people
can be on another," the Farmer said. Englishmen might be excused
for desiring a more precise delimitation of parliamentary
jurisdiction than could be found in this phrase, as well as for
asking what clear legal ground there was for making any
delimitation at all. To the first point, Mr. Dickinson said in
effect that Parliament had not the right to tax the colonies and
that it had not the right to abolish their assemblies through
which they alone could tax themselves. The second point Mr.
Dickinson did not clearly answer, although it was undoubtedly
most fundamental. To this point Mr. Samuel Adams had given much
thought; and in letters which he drafted for the Massachusetts
Assembly, in the famous circular letter particularly, and in the
letter of January 12,1769, sent to the Assembly's agent in
England, Mr. Dennys De Berdt, Mr. Adams formulated a theory
designed to show that the colonies were "subordinate" but not
subject to the British Parliament. The delimitation of colonial
and parliamentary jurisdictions Mr. Adams achieved by
subordinating all legislative authority to an authority higher
than any positive law, an authority deriving its sanction from
the fixed and universal law of nature. This higher authority,
which no legislature could "overleap without destroying its own
foundation," was the British Constitution.

Mr. Adams spoke of the British Constitution with immense
confidence, as something singularly definite and well known, the
provisions of which were clearly ascertainable; which singular
effect doubtless came from the fact that he thought of it, not
indeed as something written down on paper and deposited in
archives of state, but as a series of propositions which, as they
were saying in France, were indelibly "written in the hearts of
all men." The British Constitution, he said, like the
constitution of every free state, "is fixed," having its
foundation not in positive law, which would indeed give
Parliament an ultimate and therefore a despotic authority, but in
"the law of God and nature." There were in the British Empire
many legislatures, all deriving their authority from, and all
finding their limitations in, the Constitution. Parliament had
certainly a supreme or superintending legislative authority in
the Empire, as the colonial assemblies had a "subordinate," in
the sense of a local, legislative authority; but neither the
Parliament nor any colonial assembly could "overleap the
Constitution without destroying its own foundation." And
therefore, since the Constitution is founded "in the law of God
and nature," and since "it is an essential natural right that a
man shall quietly enjoy and have the sole disposal of his
property," the Americans must enjoy this right equally with
Englishmen, and Parliament must be bound to respect this right in
the colonies as well as in England; from which it followed
irresistibly that the consent of the colonies to any taxation
must be sought exclusively in their own assemblies, it being
manifestly impossible for that consent to be "constitutionally
had in Parliament."

It was commonly thought in America that Mr. Adams, although not a
judge, had a singular gift for constitutional interpretation.
Far-sighted men could nevertheless believe that a powerful party
in England, inspired by inveterate hatred of America and
irretrievably bent upon her ruin, would pronounce all his careful
distinctions ridiculous and would still reply to every argument
by the mere assertion, as a fact behind which one could not go,
that Parliament had always had and must therefore still have full
power to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever. If Britain
would not budge from this position, Americans would soon be
confronted with the alternative of admitting Parliament to have
full power or denying it to have any.

With that sharp-set alternative in prospect, it would be well to
keep in mind the fact that arguments lost carrying power in
proportion to their subtlety; and in the opinion of so good a
judge as Benjamin Franklin the reasoning of Mr. Adams and Mr.
Dickinson was perhaps not free from this grave disadvantage.

"I am not yet master [he was free to confess] of the idea
these...writers have of the relation between Britain and her
colonies. I know not what the Boston people mean by the
"subordination" they acknowledge in their Assembly to Parliament,
while they deny its power to make laws for them, nor what bounds
the Farmer sets to the power he acknowledges in Parliament to
"regulate the trade of the colonies," it being difficult to draw
lines between duties for regulation and those for revenue; and,
if the Parliament is to be the judge, it seems to me that
establishing such a principle of distinction will amount to
little. The more I have thought and read on the subject, the more
I find myself confirmed in opinion, that no middle ground can be
well maintained, I mean not clearly with intelligible arguments.
Something might be made of either of the extremes: that
Parliament has a power to make ALL LAWS for us, or that it has a
power to make NO LAWS for us; and I think the arguments for the
latter more numerous and weighty, than those for the former."

The good Doctor had apparently read and thought a great deal
about the matter since the day when Mr. Grenville had called him
in to learn if there were good objections to be urged against the
Stamp Act.

Practical men were meanwhile willing to allow the argument to
take whatever direction the exigencies of the situation might
require, being ready to believe that Mr. Dickinson counseled well
and that Mr. Franklin counseled well; being nevertheless firmly
convinced from past experience that an Englishman's ability to
see reason was never great except when his pocket was touched.
Practical men were therefore generally of the opinion that they
could best demonstrate their rights by exhibiting their power.
This happily, they could do by bringing pressure to bear upon
English merchants by taking money out of THEIR pockets--without
their consent to be sure but in a manner strictly legal--by means
of non-importation agreements voluntarily entered into.

As early as October, 1767, the Boston merchants entered into such
an agreement, which was however not very drastic and proved to be
of no effect, as it was at first unsupported by the merchants in
any other colony. In April, 1768, the merchants of New York,
seeing the necessity of concerted action, agreed not to import
"any goods [save a very few enumerated articles] which shall be
shipped from Great Britain after the first of October next;
provided Boston and Philadelphia adopt similar measures by the
first of June." Philadelphia merchants said they were not opposed
to the principle of nonimportation, but greatly feared the New
York plan would serve to create a monopoly by enabling men of
means to lay in a large stock of goods before the agreement went
into effect. This was very true; but the objection, if it was an
objection, proved not to be an insurmountable one. Before the
year was out, in the late summer for the most part, the merchants
in all the commercial towns had subscribed to agreements,
differing somewhat in detail, of which the substance was that
they would neither import from Great Britain any commodities, nor
buy or sell any which might inadvertently find their way in,
until the duties imposed by the Townshend act should have been

The merchants' agreements were, for whatever reason, much better
observed in some places than in others. Imports from Great
Britain to New York fell during the year 1769 from about 482,000
pounds to about 74,000 pounds. Imports into New England and into
Pennsylvania declined a little more than one half; whereas in the
southern colonies there was no decline at all, but on the
contrary an increase, slight in the case of Maryland and Virginia
and rather marked in the Carolinas. In spite of these defections,
the experiment was not without effect upon English merchants.
English merchants, but little interested in the decline or
increase of trade to particular colonies, were chiefly aware that
the total exportation to America was nearly a million pounds less
in 1769 than in 1768. Understanding little about colonial rights,
but knowing only, as in 1766, that their "trade was hurt," they
accordingly applied once more to Parliament for relief. The
commerce with America which was "so essential to afford
employment and subsistence to the manufactures of these kingdoms,
to augment the public revenue, to serve as a nursery for seamen,
and to increase our navigation and maritime strength"--this
commerce, said the Merchants and Traders of the City of London
Trading to America, "is at present in an alarming state of
suspension"; and the Merchants and Traders of the City of London
therefore humbly prayed Parliament to repeal the duties which
were the occasion of their inconveniences.

The petition of the London merchants came before the House on
March 5, 1770, that being the day fixed by Lord North for
proposing, on behalf of the ministry, certain measures for
America. No one, said the first minister, could be more free than
himself to recognize the importance of American trade or more
disposed to meet the wishes of the London merchants as far as
possible. The inconveniences under which that trade now labored
were manifest, but he could not think, with the petitioners, that
these inconveniences arose from "the nature of the duties" so
much as "through the medium of the dissatisfaction of the
Americans, and those combinations and associations of which we
have heard"--associations and combinations which had been called,
in an address to the House, "unwarrantable," but which he for his
part would go so far as to call illegal. These illegal
combinations in America were obviously what caused the
inconveniences of which the merchants complained. To the pressure
of illegal combinations alone Parliament ought never to yield;
and ministers wished it clearly understood that, if they were
about to propose a repeal of some of the duties, they were not
led to take this step from any consideration of the disturbances
in the colonies.

On the contrary, the duties which it was now proposed to
repeal--the duties on lead, glass, and paper--were to be repealed
strictly on the ground that they ought never to have been laid,
because duties on British manufactures were contrary to true
commercial principles. Last year, when ministers had expressed,
in a letter of Lord Hillsborough to the governors, their
intention to repeal these duties, some members had been in favor
of repealing all the duties and some were still in favor of doing
so. As to that, the first minister could only say that he had not
formerly been opposed to it and would not now be opposed to it,
had the Americans, in response to the Earl of Hillsborough's
letter, exhibited any disposition to cease their illegal
disturbances or renounce their combinations. But the fact was
that conditions in America had grown steadily worse since the
Earl of Hillsborough's letter, and never had been so bad as now;
in view of which fact ministers could not but think it wise to
maintain some tax as a matter of principle purely. They would
therefore recommend that the tax on tea, no burden certainly on
anyone, be continued as a concrete application of the right of
Parliament to tax the colonies.

In so far as they were designed to bring pressure to bear upon
the mother country, the merchants' agreements were clearly not
without a measure of success, having helped perhaps to bring
Parliament to the point of repealing the duties on lead, glass,
and paper, as well as to bring ministers to the point of keeping
the duty on tea. Americans generally were doubtless well pleased
with this effect; but not all Americans were able to regard the
experiment in non-importation with unqualified approval in other
respects. Non-importation, by diminishing the quantity and
increasing the price of commodities, involved a certain amount of
personal sacrifice. This sacrifice, however, fell chiefly on the
consumers, the non-importation not being under certain
circumstances altogether without advantage to merchants who
faithfully observed their pledges as well as to those who
observed them only occasionally. So long as their warehouses,
well stocked in advance, contained anything that could be sold at
a higher price than formerly, non-importation was no bad thing
even for those merchants who observed the agreement. For those
who did not observe the agreement, as well as for those who
engaged in the smuggling trade from Holland, it was no bad thing
at any time, and it promised to become an increasingly excellent
thing in exact proportion to the exhaustion of the fair trader's
stock and the consequent advance in prices. As time passed,
therefore, the fair trader became aware that the, non-importation
experiment, practically considered, was open to certain
objections; whereas the unfair trader was more in favor of the
experiment the longer it endured, being every day more convinced
that the non-importation agreement ought to be continued and
strictly adhered to as essential to the maintenance of American

The practical defects of non-importation were likely to be
understood, by those who could ever understand them, in
proportion to the decay of business; and in the spring of 1770
they were nowhere better understood than in New York, where the
decay of business was most marked. This decrease was greatest in
New York, so the merchants maintained, because that city had been
most faithful in observing the agreement, importation having
there fallen from 482,000 pounds to 74,000 pounds during the
year. It is possible, however, that the decay of business in New
York was due in part and perhaps primarily to the retirement, in
November, 1768, of the last issues of the old Bills of Credit,
according to the terms of the Paper Currency Act passed by
Parliament during Mr. Grenville's administration. As a result of
this retirement of all the paper money in the province, money of
any sort was exceedingly scarce during the years 1769 and 1770.
Lyon dollars were rarely seen; and the quantity of Spanish silver
brought into the colony through the trade with the foreign
islands, formerly considerable but now greatly diminished by,
they, stricter enforcement of the Townshend Trade Acts, was
hardly sufficient for local exchange alone, to say nothing of
settling heavy balances in London, although, fortunately perhaps,
there were in the year 1769 no heavy London balances to be
settled on account of the faithful observance of the
non-importation agreement by the merchants. The lack of money was
therefore doubtless a chief cause of the great decay of business
in New York; and some there were who maintained that the faithful
observance of the non-importation agreement by the merchants was
due to the decay of trade rather than the decay of trade being
due to the faithful observance of the non-importation agreement.

Whatever the true explanation of this academic point might be, it
was an undoubted fact that business was more nearly at a
standstill in New York than elsewhere. Accordingly, in the spring
of 1770, when money was rarely to be seen and debtors were
selling their property at one-half or one-third of its former
value in order to discharge obligations long overdue, the fair
trading merchants of New York were not disposed to continue an
experiment of which, as they said, they had borne the chief
burden to the advantage of others and to their own impending
ruin. Zealous Sons of Liberty, such as Alexander MacDougall and
John Lamb, popular leaders of the "Inhabitants" of the city, were
on the other hand determined that the non-importation agreement
should be maintained unimpaired. The hard times, they said, were
due chiefly to the monopoly prices exacted by the wealthy
merchants, who were not ruined at all, who had on the contrary
made a good thing out of the non-importation as long as they had
anything to sell, and whose patriotism (God save the mark!) had
now suddenly grown lukewarm only because they had disposed of all
their goods, including "old moth-eaten clothes that had been
rotting in the shops for years."

These aspersions the merchants knew how to ignore. Their
determination not to continue the non-importation was
nevertheless sufficiently indicated in connection with the annual
celebration, in March, of the repeal of the Stamp Act. On this
occasion the merchants refused to meet as formerly with the Sons
of Liberty, but made provision for a dinner of their own at
another place, where all the Friends of Liberty and Trade were
invited to be present. Both dinners were well attended, and at
both the repeal of the Stamp Act was celebrated with patriotic
enthusiasm, the main difference being that whereas the Sons of
Liberty drank a toast to Mr. MacDougall and to "a continuance of
the non-importation agreement until the revenue acts are
repealed," the Friends of Liberty and Trade ignored Mr.
MacDougall and drank to "trade and navigation and a speedy
removal of their embarrassments."

In the determination not to continue the old agreement, the
Friends of Liberty and Trade were meanwhile strongly confirmed
when it was learned that Britain was willing on her part to make
concessions. By the middle of May it was known that the Townshend
duties (except the duty on tea) had been repealed; and in June it
was learned that Parliament had at last, after many
representations from the Assembly, passed a special act
permitting New York to issue 120,000 pounds in Bills of Credit
receivable at the Treasury. It was thought that concession on the
part of Great Britain ought in justice to meet with concession on
the part of America. Accordingly, on the ground that other towns,
and Boston in particular, were more active "in resolving what
they ought to do than in doing what they had resolved," and on
the ground that the present non-importation agreement no longer
served "any other purpose than tying the hands of honest men, to
let rogues, smugglers, and men of no character plunder their
country," the New York merchants, on July 9, 1770, resolved that
for the future they would import from Great Britain all kinds of
commodities except such as might be subject to duties imposed by

The New York merchants were on every hand loudly denounced for
having betrayed the cause of liberty; but before the year was out
the old agreement was everywhere set aside. Yet everywhere, as at
New York, the merchants bound themselves not to import any
British teas. The duty on British teas was slight. Americans
might have paid the duty without increasing the price of their
much prized luxury; ministers might have collected the same duty
in England to the advantage of the Exchequer. That Britain should
have insisted on this peppercorn in acknowledgement of her right,
that America should have refused it in vindication of her
liberty, may be taken as a high tribute from two eminently,
practical peoples to the power of abstract ideas.

CHAPTER V. A Little Discreet Conduct

It has been his [Thomas Hutchinson's] principle from a boy that
mankind are to be governed by the discerning few, and it has been
ever since his ambition to be the hero of the few.--Samuel Adams.

We have not been so quiet these five years .... If it were not
for two or three Adamses, we should do well enough.--Thomas

In December, 1771, Horace Walpole, a persistent if not an
infallible political prophet, was of opinion that all the storms
that for a decade had distressed the Empire were at last happily
blown over; among which storms he included, as relatively of
minor importance, the disputes with the colonies. During two
years following, this prediction might well have appeared to
moderate minded men entirely justified. American affairs were
barely mentioned in Parliament, and a few paragraphs in the
"Annual Register" were thought sufficient to chronicle for
English readers events of interest occurring across the Atlantic.
In the colonies themselves an unwonted tranquillity prevailed.
Rioting, as an established social custom, disappeared in most of
the places where it had formerly been so much practised. The Sons
of Liberty, retaining the semblance of an organization, were
rarely in the public eye save at the annual celebrations of the
repeal of the Stamp Act, quite harmless occasions devoted to the
expression of patriotic sentiments. Merchants and landowners,
again prosperous, were content to fall back into accustomed
habits of life, conscious of duty done without too much stress,
readily believing their liberties finally vindicated against
encroachments from abroad and their privileges secure against
unwarranted and dangerous pretensions at home. "The people appear
to be weary of their altercations with the mother country," Mr.
Johnson, the Connecticut agent, wrote to Wedderburn, in October,
1771; "a little discreet conduct on both sides would perfectly
reestablish that warm affection and respect towards Great Britain
for which this country was once remarkable."

Discreet conduct was nowhere more necessary than in
Massachusetts, where the people, perhaps because they were much
accustomed to them, grew weary of altercations less easily than
in most colonies. Yet even in Massachusetts there was a marked
waning of enthusiasm after the high excitement occasioned by the
Boston Massacre, a certain disintegration of the patriot party.
James Otis recovered from a temporary fit of insanity only to
grow strangely suspicious of Samuel Adams. Mr. Hancock,
discreetly holding his peace, attended to his many thriving and
very profitable business ventures. John Adams, somewhat unpopular
for having defended and procured the acquittal of the soldiers
implicated in the Massacre, retired in high dudgeon from public
affairs to the practice of his profession; in high dudgeon with
everyone concerned--with himself first of all, and with the
people who so easily forgot their interests and those who had,
served them, and with the British Government and all fawning
tools of ministers, of whom Mr. Thomas Hutchinson was chief.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hutchinson, so roughly handled in the secret diary
of the rising young lawyer, was the recipient of new honors,
having been made Governor of the province to succeed Francis
Bernard. For once finding himself almost popular, he thought he
perceived a disposition in all the colonies, and even in
Massachusetts, to let the controversy subside. "Though there are
a small majority sour enough, yet when they seek matter for
protests, remonstrances, they are puzzled where to charge the
grievances which they look for." The new Governor looked forward
to happier days and an easy administration. "Hancock and most of
the party are quiet," he said, "and all of them, except Adams,
abate of their virulence. Adams would push the Continent into a
rebellion tomorrow, if it was in his power."

No one, in the year 1770, was better fitted than Samuel Adams,
either by talent and temperament or the circumstances of his
position, to push the continent into a rebellion. Unlike most of
his patriot friends, he had neither private business nor private
profession to fall back upon when public affairs grew tame, his
only business being, as one might say, the public business, his
only profession the definition and defense of popular rights. In
this profession, by dint of single-minded devotion to it through
a course of years, he had indeed become wonderfully expert and
had already achieved for himself the enviable position of known
and named leader in every movement of opposition to royal or
magisterial prerogative. In this connection no exploit had
brought him so much distinction as his skillful management of the
popular uprising which had recently forced Governor Hutchinson to
withdraw the troops from Boston. The event was no by-play in the
life of Samuel Adams, no amateur achievement accomplished on the
side, but the serious business of a man who during ten years had
abandoned all private pursuits and had embraced poverty to become
a tribune of the people.

Samuel Adams had not inherited poverty nor had he, after all,
exactly embraced it, but had as it were naturally drifted into it
through indifference to worldly gain, the indifference which men
of single and fixed purpose have for all irrelevant matters. The
elder Samuel Adams was a merchant of substance and of such
consequence in the town of Boston that in Harvard College, where
students were named according to the prominence of their
families, his son's name was fifth in a class of twenty-two. In
1748, upon the death of his father, Samuel Junior accordingly
inherited a very decent property, considered so at least in that
day--a spacious old house in Purchase Street together with a
well-established malt business. For business, however, the young
man, and not so young either, was without any aptitude whatever,
being entirely devoid of the acquisitive instinct and neither
possessing nor ever being able to acquire any skill in the fine
art of inducing people to give for things more than it cost to
make them. These deficiencies the younger Adams had already
exhibited before the death of his father, from whom he received
on one occasion a thousand pounds, half of which he promptly
loaned to an impecunious friend, and which he would in any case
doubtless have lost, as he soon did the other half, on his own
account. In such incompetent hands the malt business soon fell to
be a liability rather than an asset. Other liabilities
accumulated, notably one incurred by the tax collectors of the
town of Boston, of whom Samuel Adams was one during the years
from 1756 to 1764. For one reason or another, on Adams's part
certainly on account of his humane feelings and general business
inefficiency, the collectors fell every year a little behind in
the collections, and one day found themselves declared on the
official records to be indebted to the town in the sum of 9,878
pounds. This indebtedness Mr. Hutchinson and other gentlemen not
well disposed towards Samuel Adams conveniently and frequently
referred to in later years as a "defalcation."

In this year of 1764, when he had lost his entire patrimony
except the old house in Purchase Street, now somewhat rusty for
want of repair, Samuel Adams was married to Elizabeth Wells. It
was his second marriage, the first having taken place in 1749, of
which the fruit was a son and a daughter. Samuel Adams was
then--it was the year of the Sugar Act--forty-two years old; that
is to say, at the age when a man's hair begins to turn gray, when
his character is fixed, when his powers, such as they are, are
fully matured; well known as a "poor provider," an improvident
man who had lost a fair estate, had failed in business, and was
barely able, and sometimes not able, to support his small family.
These mundane matters concerned Samuel Adams but little. To John
Adams he said on one occasion that "he never looked forward in
life; never planned, laid a scheme, or formed a design for laying
up anything for himself or others after him." This was the truth,
inexplicable as it must have seemed to his more provident cousin.
It was even less than the truth: during the years following 1764,
Samuel Adams renounced all pretense of private business, giving
himself wholly to public affairs, while his good wife, with
excellent management, made his stipend as clerk of the Assembly
serve for food, and obtained, through the generosity of friends
or her own ingenious labors, indispensable clothes for the
family. Frugality, that much lauded virtue in the eighteenth
century, needed not to be preached in the old Purchase Street
home; but life went on there, somehow or other, decently enough,
not without geniality yet with evident piety. The old Bible is
still preserved from which each evening some member of the family
read a chapter, and at every meal the head of the house said
grace, returning thanks for God's benefits.

If Samuel Adams at the age of forty-two was known for a man who
could not successfully manage his own affairs, he was also known,
and very well known, for a man with a singular talent for
managing the affairs of the community; he could manage
successfully, for example, town meetings and every sort of
business, great or small, incidental to local politics. This
talent he may have inherited from his father, who was himself a
notable of the neighborhood,--one of the organizers of the "New
South" church, and prominent about 1724 in a club popularly known
as the "Caulkers' Club," formed for the purpose of laying "plans
for introducing certain persons into places of trust and power,"
and was himself from time to time introduced into such places of
trust and power as justice of the peace, deacon, selectman, and
member of the provincial assembly. From an early age, the younger
Samuel exhibited a marked aptitude for this sort of activity, and
was less likely to be found "in his countinghouse a-counting of
his money" than in some hospitable tavern or back shop discussing
town topics with local worthies. Samuel Adams was born to serve
on committees. He had the innate slant of mind that properly
belongs to a moderator of mass meetings called to aggravate a
crisis. With the soul of a Jacobin, he was most at home in clubs,
secret clubs of which everyone had heard and few were members,
designed at best to accomplish some particular good for the
people, at all events meeting regularly to sniff the approach of
tyranny in the abstract, academically safeguarding the
commonwealth by discussing the first principles of government.

>From the days of Anne Hutchinson, Boston never lacked clubs; and
the Caulkers' Club was the prototype of many, rather more secular
and political than religious or transcendental, which flourished
in the years preceding the Revolution. John Adams, in that Diary
which tells us so much that we wish to know, gives us a peep
inside one of these clubs, the "Caucus Club," which met regularly
at one period in the garret of Tom Dawes's house. "There they
smoke tobacco till you cannot see from one end of the garret to
the other. There they drink flip, I suppose, and there they
choose a moderator who puts questions to the vote regularly; and
selectmen, assessors, collectors, wardens, fire-wards, and
representatives are regularly chosen before they are chosen in
the town. Uncle Fairfield, Story, Ruddock, Adams, Cooper, and a
rudis indigestaque moles of others are members. They send
committees to wait on the merchants' club, and to propose and
join in the choice of men and measures." The artist Copley, in
the familiar portrait by which posterity knows Samuel Adams,
chose to represent him in conventional garb, on a public and
dramatic occasion, standing erect, eyes flashing and mouth
firmset, pointing with admonitory finger to the Charter of
Massachusetts Bay--a portrait well suited to hang in the Art
Museum or in the meeting place of the Daughters of the
Revolution. A different effect would have been produced if the
man had been placed in Tom Dawes's garret, dimly seen through
tobacco smoke, sitting, with coat off, drinking flip, in the
midst of Uncle Fairfield, Story, Cooper, and a rudis indigestaque
moles. This was his native habitat, an environment precisely
suited to his peculiar talent.

Samuel Adams had a peculiar talent, that indispensable
combination of qualities possessed by all great revolutionists of
the crusading type, such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Brown, or
Mazzini. When a man abandons his business or job and complacently
leaves the clothing of his children to wife or neighbors in order
to drink flip and talk politics, ordinary folk are content to
call him a lazy lout, ne'er-do-well, worthless fellow, or scamp.
Samuel Adams was not a scamp. He might have been no more than a
ne'er-do-well, perhaps, if cosmic forces had not opportunely
provided him with an occupation which his contemporaries and
posterity could regard as a high service to humanity. In his own
eyes, this was the view of the situation which justified his
conduct. When he was about to depart for the first Continental
Congress, a number of friends contributed funds to furnish him
forthwith presentable apparel: a suit of clothes, new wig, new
hat, "six pair of the best silk hose, six pair of fine thread
ditto, ....six pair of shoes"; and, it being "modestly
inquired of him whether his finances were not rather low than
otherwise, he replied it was true that was the case, but HE WAS
WERE OF ANY SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC; upon which the gentleman
obliged him to accept a purse containing about fifteen or twenty
Johannes." To accept so much and still preserve one's self-respect
would be impossible to ordinary men under ordinary circumstances.
Fate had so ordered the affairs of Samuel Adams that integrity of
character required him to be an extraordinary man acting under
extraordinary circumstances.

The character of his mind, as well as the outward circumstances
of his life, predisposed Samuel Adams to think that a great
crisis in the history of America and of the world confronted the
men of Boston. There was in him some innate scholastic quality,
some strain of doctrinaire Puritan inheritance diverted to
secular interests, that gave direction to all his thinking. In
1743, upon receiving the degree of Master of Arts from Harvard
College, he argued the thesis, "Whether it be lawful to resist
the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be
preserved." We may suppose that the young man acquitted himself
well, reasoning with great nicety in favor of the legality of an
illegal action, doubtless to the edification of Governor Shirley,
who was present and who perhaps felt sufficiently remote from the
performance, being himself only an actual supreme magistrate
presiding over a real commonwealth. And indeed for most young men
a college thesis is but an exercise for sharpening the wits,
rarely dangerous in its later effects. But in the case of Samuel
Adams, the ability to distinguish the speculative from the actual
reality seemed to diminish as the years passed. After 1764,
relieved of the pressure of life's anxieties and daily nourishing
his mind on premises and conclusions reasonably abstracted from
the relative and the conditioned circumstance, he acquired in a
high degree the faculty of identifying reality with propositions
about it; so that, for example, Liberty seemed threatened if
improperly defined, and a false inference from an axiom of
politics appeared the same as evil intent to take away a people's
rights. Thus it was that from an early date, in respect to the
controversy between the colonies and the mother country, Samuel
Adams became possessed of settled convictions that were capable
of clear and concise presentation and that were at once
impersonal and highly subjective, for which outward events--the
Stamp Act, the Townshend duties, the appointment of Thomas
Hutchinson as Governor, or whatever--furnished as it were the
suggestion only, the convictions themselves being largely the
result of inward brooding, the finespun product of his own
ratiocinative mind.

The crisis which thus threatened--in the mind of Samuel
Adams--was not an ordinary one: no mere complication of affairs,
or creaking of wornout institutions, or honest difference of
opinion about the expediency or the legality of measures. It was
a crisis engendered deliberately by men of evil purpose, public
enemies well known and often named. Samuel Adams, who had perhaps
not heard of even one of the many materialistic interpretations
of history, thought of the past as chiefly instructive in
connection with certain great epochal conflicts between Liberty
and Tyranny--a political Manicheanism, in which the principle of
Liberty was embodied in the virtuous many and the principle of
Tyranny in the wicked few. Those who read history must know it
for a notorious fact that ancient peoples had lost their
liberties at the hands of designing men, leagued and
self-conscious conspirators against the welfare of the human
race. Thus the yoke was fastened upon the Romans, "millions...
enslaved by a few." Now, in the year 1771, another of these
epochal conflicts was come upon the world, and Samuel Adams,
living in heroic days, was bound to stand in the forefront of the
virtuous against "restless Adversaries...forming the most
dangerous Plans for the Ruin of the Reputation of the People, in
order to build their own Greatness upon the Destruction of their

A superficial observer might easily fall into the error of
supposing that the restless adversaries and designing
conspirators against whom patriots had to contend were all in
England; on the contrary, the most persistent enemies of Liberty
were Americans residing in the midst of the people whom they
sought to despoil. One might believe that in England "the general
inclination is to wish that we may preserve our liberties; and
perhaps even the ministry could for some reasons find it in their
hearts to be willing that we should be restored to the state we
were in before the passing of the Stamp Act." Even Lord
Hillsborough, richly meriting the "curses of the disinterested
and better part of the colonists," was by no means "to be
reckoned the most inveterate and active of all the Conspirators
against our rights. There are others on this side of the
Atlantick who have been more insidious in plotting the Ruin of
our Liberties than even he, and they are the more infamous,
because the country they would enslave, is that very Country in
which (to use the words of their Adulators and Expectants) they
were 'born and educated.'" Of all these restless adversaries and
infamous plotters of ruin, the chief, in the mind of Samuel
Adams, was probably Mr. Thomas Hutchinson.

Judged only by what he did and said and by such other sources of
information as are open to the historian, Thomas Hutchinson does
not appear to have been, prior to 1771, an Enemy of the Human
Race. One of his ancestors, Mistress Anne Hutchinson, poor woman,
had indeed been--it was as far back as 1637--an enemy of the
Boston Church; but as a family the Hutchinsons appear to have
kept themselves singularly free from notoriety or other grave
reproach. Thomas Hutchinson himself was born in 1711 in Garden
Court Street, Boston, of rich but honest parents, a difficult
character which he managed for many years to maintain with
reasonable credit. In 1771, he was a grave, elderly man of sixty
years, more distinguished than any of his forebears had been,
having since the age of twenty-six been honored with every
important elective and appointive office in the province,
including that of governor, which he had with seeming reluctance
just accepted. It may be that Thomas Hutchinson was ambitious;
but if he elbowed his way into office by solicitation or by the
mean arts of an intriguer the fact was well concealed. He was not
a member of the "Caulkers' Club." So far as is known, he was not
a member of any club designed "to introduce certain persons into
places of trust and power"; except indeed of the club, if one may
call it such, composed of the "best families," closely
interrelated by marriage and social intercourse, mostly wealthy,
enjoying the leisure and the disposition to occupy themselves
with affairs, and commonly regarding themselves as forming a kind
of natural aristocracy whose vested duty it was to manage the
commonwealth. To this club Mr. Hutchinson belonged; and it was no
doubt partly through its influence, without any need of
solicitation on his part, that offices were thrust upon him.

One morning in September, 1760--it was the day following the
death of Chief Justice Sewall--Mr. Hutchinson was stopped in the
street by the first lawyer in the province, Jeremiah Gridley, who
assured him that he, Mr. Hutchinson, must be Mr. Sewall's
successor; and it soon appeared that other principal lawyers,
together with the surviving judge of the Superior Court, were of
the same opinion as Mr. Gridley. Although the place was an
attractive one, Mr. Hutchinson distrusted his ability to
discharge competently the duties of a Chief Justice, since he had
never had any systematic training as a lawyer. Besides, as he was
aware, James Otis, Sr., who desired the place and made no secret
of the fact that he had formerly been promised it by Governor
Shirley, at once became active in pressing his claims upon the
attention of Governor Bernard. In this solicitation he was joined
by his son, James Otis, Jr. Mr. Hutchinson, on the contrary,
refrained from all solicitation, so he tells us at least, and
even warned Governor Bernard that it would perhaps be wiser to
avoid any trouble which the Otises might be disposed to make in
case they were disappointed. This line of conduct may have been
only a shrewder form of solicitation, the proof of which, to some
minds, would be that Mr. Hutchinson was in fact appointed to be
Chief Justice. This appointment was afterwards recalled as one of
Mr. Hutchinson's many offenses, although at the time it seems to
have given general satisfaction, especially to the lawyers.

The lawyers may well have been pleased, for the new Chief Justice
was a man whose outstanding abilities, even more than his place
in society, marked him for responsible position. Thomas
Hutchinson possessed the efficient mind. No one surpassed him in
wide and exact knowledge, always at command, of the history of
the province, of its laws and customs, of past and present
practice in respect to the procedure of administration.
Industrious and systematic in his habits of work, conscientious
in the performance of his duties down to the last jot and tittle
of the law, he was preeminently fitted for the neat and
expeditious dispatch of official business; and his sane and
trenchant mind, habituated by long practice to the easy mastery
of details, was prompt to pass upon any practical matter, however
complicated, an intelligent and just judgment. It was doubtless
thought, in an age when the law was not too highly specialized to
be understood by any but the indoctrinated, that these traits
would make him a good judge, as they had made him a good
councilor. Not all people, it is true, are attracted by the
efficient mind; and Mr. Hutchinson in the course of years had
made enemies, among whom were many who still thought of him as
the man chiefly responsible for the abolition, some eleven years
before, of what was probably the most vicious system of currency
known to colonial America. Nevertheless, in the days before the
passing of the Stamp Act, Mr. Hutchinson was commonly well
thought of, both for character and ability, and might still
without offense be mentioned as a useful and honored public

Mr. Hutchinson did not, at any time in his life, regard himself
as an Enemy of the Human Race, or of America, or even of liberty
rightly considered. Perhaps he had not the fine enthusiasm for
the Human Race that Herder or Jean Jacques Rousseau had; but at
least he wished it well; and to America, the country in which he
was born and educated and in which he had always lived, he was
profoundly attached. Of America he was as proud as a cultivated
and unbigoted man well could be, extremely jealous of her good
name abroad and prompt to stand, in any way that was appropriate
and customary, in defense of her rights and liberties. To rights
and liberties in general, and to those of America in particular,
he had given long and careful thought. It was perhaps
characteristic of his practical mind to distinguish the word
liberty from the various things which it might conceivably
represent, and to think that of these various things some were
worth more than others, what any of them was worth being a
relative matter depending largely upon circumstances. Speaking
generally, liberty in the abstract, apart from particular and
known conditions, was only a phrase, a brassy tinkle in Mr.
Hutchinson's ear, meaning nothing unless it meant mere absence of
all constraint. The liberty which Mr. Hutchinson prized was not
the same as freedom from constraint. Not liberty in this sense,
or in any sense, but the welfare of a people neatly ordered for
them by good government, was what he took to be the chief end of
politics; and from this conception it followed that "in a remove
from a state of nature to the most perfect state of government
there must be a great restraint of natural liberty."

The limitations proper to be placed upon natural liberty could
scarcely be determined by abstract speculation or with
mathematical precision, but would obviously vary according to the
character and circumstances of a people, always keeping in mind
the "peace and good order" of the particular community as the
prime object. In all such matters reasonable men would seek
enlightenment not in the Utopias of philosophers but in the
history of nations; and, taking a large view of history, the
history more particularly of the British Empire and of
Massachusetts Bay, it seemed to Mr. Hutchinson, as it seemed to
John Locke and to Baron Montesquieu, that a proper balance
between liberty and authority had been very nearly attained in
the British Constitution, as nearly perhaps as common human
frailty would permit. The prevailing "thirst for liberty," which
seemed to be "the ruling passion of the age," Mr. Hutchinson was
therefore able to contemplate with much sanity and detachment.
"In governments under arbitrary rule" such a passion for liberty
might, he admitted, "have a salutary effect; but in governments
in which as much freedom is enjoyed as can consist with the ends
of government, as was the case in this Province, it must work
anarchy and confusion unless there be some external power to
restrain it."

In 1771, Thomas Hutchinson was perfectly convinced that this
passion for liberty, during several years rising steadily in the
heads of the most unstable part of the population, the most
unstable "both for character and estates," had brought
Massachusetts Bay to a state not far removed from anarchy. Not
that he was unaware of the mistakes of ministers. The measures of
Mr. Grenville he had regarded as unwise from every point of view.
In behalf of the traditional privileges of the
colonies--privileges which their conduct had well justified--and
in behalf of the welfare of the Empire, he had protested against
these measures, as also later against the measures of Mr.
Townshend; and of all these measures he still held the same
opinion, that they were unwise measures. Nevertheless, Parliament
had undoubtedly a legal right other rights in the political
sense, Mr. Hutchinson knew nothing of to pass them; and the
passing of legal measures, however unwise, was not to his mind
clear evidence of a conspiracy to establish absolute despotism on
the ruins of English liberty. Mr. Hutchinson was doubtless
temperamentally less inclined to fear tyranny than anarchy. Of
the two evils, he doubtless preferred such oppression as might
result from parliamentary taxation to any sort of liberty the
attainment of which might seem to require the looting of his
ancestral mansion by a Boston mob. In 1771, at the time of his
accession to the governorship, Mr. Hutchinson was therefore of
opinion that "there must be an abridgment of WHAT IS CALLED
English liberty."

The liberty Thomas Hutchinson enjoyed least and desired most to
have abridged was the liberty of being governed, in that province
where he had formerly been happy in the competent discharge of
official duties, by a self-constituted and illegal popular
government intrenched in the town of Boston. In a letter which he
wrote in 1765 but did not send, he said:

"It will be some amusement to you to have a more circumstantial
account of the model of government among us. I will begin with
the lowest branch, partly legislative, partly executive. This
consists of the rabble of the town of Boston, headed by one
Mackintosh, who, I, imagine, you never heard of. He is a bold
fellow, and as likely for a Masaniello as you can well conceive.
When there is occasion to burn or hang effigies or pull down
houses, these are employed; but since government has been brought
to a system, they are somewhat controlled by a superior set
consisting of the mastermasons, and carpenters, etc., of the town
of Boston. When anything of more importance is to be determined,
as opening the custom-house on any matter of trade, these are
under the direction of a committee of the merchants, Mr. Rowe at
their head, then Molyneaux, Soloman Davis, etc.: but all affairs
of a general nature, opening of the courts of law, etc., this is
proper for a general meeting of the inhabitants of Boston, where
Otis, with his mob-high eloquence, prevails in every motion, and
the town first determine what is necessary to be done, and then
apply either to the Governor or Council, or resolve that it is
necessary for the General Court to correct it; and it would be a
very extraordinary resolve indeed that is not carried into

This was in 1765. In 1770, the matter had ceased to be amusing,
for every year the model government was brought to a greater
perfection, so that at last the Town Meeting, prescriptively
composed of certain qualified voters and confined to the
determination of strictly local matters, had not only usurped all
the functions of government in the province, which was bad
enough, but was completely under the thumb of every Tom, Dick,
and Harry who might wish to attend, which was manifestly still
worse. "There is a Town Meeting, no sort of regard being had to
any qualification of voters, but all the inferior people meet
together; and at a late meeting the inhabitants of other towns
who happened to be in town, mixed with them, and made, they say
themselves, near 3000,--their newspapers say 4000, when it is not
likely there are 1500 legal voters in the town. It is in other
words being under the government of a mob. This has given the
lower part of the people such a sense of their importance that a
gentleman does not meet with what used to be common civility, and
we are sinking into perfect barbarism.... The spirit of
anarchy which prevails in Boston is more than I am able to cope
with." The instigators of the mob, it was well known, were
certain artful and self-seeking demagogues, of whom the chief had
formerly been dames Otis; but in late years Mr. Otis, "with his
mob-high eloquence," had given way to an abler man, Samuel Adams,
than whom, Mr. Hutchinson thought, there was not "a greater
incendiary in the King's dominion, or a man of greater malignity
of heart, [or one] who less scruples any measure however criminal
to accomplish his purposes."

The letter, undated and undirected, in which Thomas Hutchinson
pronounced this deliberate judgment on Samuel Adams, was probably
written about the time of his accession to the Governorship; that
is to say, about the time when Mr. Johnson, the Connecticut
Agent, was writing to Wedderburn that "the people seem to grow
weary of altercations," and that "a little discreet conduct on
both sides" would perfectly restore cordial relations between
Britain and her colonies. In the way of "a little discreet
conduct," even a very little, not much was to be hoped for from
either Governor Hutchinson or Samuel Adams in their dealings with
each other. Unfortunately, they HAD dealings with each other: in
the performance of official functions, their incommensurable and
repellent minds were necessarily brought to bear upon the same
matters of public concern. Both, unfortunately, lived in Boston
and were likely any day to come face to face round the corner of
some or other narrow street of that small town. That reciprocal
exasperation engendered by reasonable propinquity, so essential
to the life of altercations, was therefore a perpetual stimulus
to both men, confirming each in his obstinate opinion of the
other as a malicious and dangerous enemy of all that men hold
dear. Thus it was that during the years 1771 and 1772, when if
ever it appeared that others were "growing weary of
altercations," these honorable men and trusted leaders did what
they could to perpetuate the controversy. By giving or taking
occasion to recall ancient grudges or revive fruitless disputes,
wittingly or unwittingly they together managed during this time
of calm to keep the dying embers alive against the day when some
rising wind might blow them into devouring flames.

With Samuel Adams it was a point of principle to avoid discreet
conduct as much as possible. In his opinion, the great crisis
which was his soul's abiding place, wherein he nourished his mind
and fortified his will, admitted of no compromise. Good will was
of no avail in dealing with the "Conspirators against our
Liberties," the very essence of whose tactics it was to assume
the mask of benevolence, and so divide, and by dividing disarm,
the people; "flattering those who are pleased with flattery;
forming connections with them, introducing Levity, Luxury, and
Indolence, and assuring them that if they are quiet the Ministry
will alter their Measures." During these years there was no power
in the course of events or in the tongue of man to move him in
the conviction that "if the Liberties of America are ever
completely ruined, it will in all probability be the consequence
of a mistaken notion of prudence, which leads men to acquiesce in
measures of the most destructive tendency for the sake of present
ease." Never, therefore, were "the political affairs of America
in a more dangerous state" than when the people had seemingly
grown weary of altercations and Parliament could endure an entire
session "without one offensive measure." The chief danger of all
was that the people would think there was no danger. Millions
could never be enslaved by a few "if all possessed the
independent spirit of BRUTUS who to his immortal honor expelled
the proud Tyrant of Rome." During the years of apathy and
indifference Samuel Adams accordingly gave his days and nights,
with undiminished enthusiasm and a more trenchant acerbity, to
the task of making Brutuses of the men of Boston that the fate of
Rome might not befall America.

They were assured in many an essay by this new Candidus that

"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil
constitution, are worth defending at all hazards: and it is our
duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as
a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them
for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood;
and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring
an everlasting mark of infamy upon the present generation,
enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from
us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by
the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter we are in
most danger at present. Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us
contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to
maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former, for the
sake of the latter. Instead of sitting down satisfied with the
efforts we have already made, WHICH IS THE WISH OF OUR ENEMIES,
the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost
circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance. Let us
remember that "if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our
liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom!" It is
a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our

These were days when many a former Brutus seemed ready to betray
the cause. Deserted by James Otis, whom he had supplanted, and by
John Hancock, whose great influence he had formerly exploited and
whom he had "led about like an ape," as was currently reported,
Samuel Adams suffered a measure of eclipse. The Assembly would no
longer do his bidding in respect to the vital question of whether
the General Court might be called by the Governor to meet outside
of Boston; and it even imposed upon him, as one of a committee,
the humiliating task of presenting an address to Mr. Hutchinson,
acknowledging his right to remove the legislature to any place he
liked--"to Housatonic, in the western extreme of the province,"
if he thought fit. There was even grave danger that the Governor
would be satisfied with this concession and would recall the
Court to sit in Boston. Boston was indeed the very place where
Samuel Adams wished to have it sit; but to attain a right end in
a wrong manner would be to suffer a double defeat, losing at once
the point of principle and the grievance necessary for
maintaining the contention. Friends of the Government were much
elated at the waning influence of the Chief Incendiary; and Mr.
Sparhawk condescended to express a certain sympathy for their
common enemy, now that he was so much diminished, "harassed,
dependent, in their power." It was indeed under great
difficulties, during these years when Massachusetts was almost
without annals, that Samuel Adams labored to make Brutuses of the
men of Boston.

So far deserted by his friends, Samuel Adams might never have
succeeded in overcoming these difficulties without the assistance
presently rendered by his enemies. Of those who were of
invaluable aid to him in this way, Thomas Hutchinson was one. The
good Governor, having read his instructions, knew what his duties
were. One of them manifestly was to stand in defense of
Government; and, when Government was every day being
argumentatively attacked, to provide, as a counter-irritant,
arguments in defense of Government. Imagining that facts
determined conclusions and conclusions directed conduct, Mr.
Hutchinson hoped to diminish the influence of Samuel Adams by
showing that the latter's facts were wrong, and that his
inferences, however logically deduced, were therefore not to be
taken seriously. "I have taken much pains," he says, "to procure
writers to answer the pieces in the newspapers which do so much
mischief among the people, and have two or three engaged with
Draper, besides a new press, and a young printer who says he will
not be frightened, and I hope for some good effect."

The Governor had read his instructions, but not the mind of
Samuel Adams or the minds of the many men who, like the Chief
Incendiary, Were prepared "to cultivate the sensations of
freedom." Perhaps the only "good effect" of his "pieces" was to
furnish excellent theses for Samuel Adams to dispute upon, which
he did with unrivaled shrewdness each week in the "Boston
Gazette" under the thin disguise of Candidus, Valerius Poplicola,
or Vindex. To this last name, Vindex, Mr. Hutchinson thought
there might appropriately have been added another, such as
Malignus or Invidus. And indeed of all these disputative essays,
in the Boston Gazette or in Mr. Draper's paper, one may say that
the apparent aim was to win a dialectic victory and the obvious
result to prove that ill will existed by exhibiting it.

Thomas Hutchinson's faith in the value of disputation was not
easily disturbed; and after two years, when it appeared that his
able lieutenants writing in Mr. Draper's newspaper were still as
far as ever from bringing the controversy to a conclusion, he
could no longer refrain from trying his own practiced hand at an
argument--which he did in a carefully prepared address to the
General Court, delivered January 6, 1773. "I have pleased myself
for several years," he said, "with hopes that the cause [of the
"present disturbed and disordered state" of government] would
cease of itself, and the effect with it, but I am disappointed;
and I may not any longer, consistent with my duty to the King,
and my regard to the interests of the province, delay
communicating my sentiments to you upon a matter of so great
importance." The cause of their present difficulties Mr.
Hutchinson thought as evident as the fact itself: a disturbed
state of government having always followed, must have been caused
by the denial of the authority of Parliament to make laws binding
the province. Upon a right resolution of this question everything

The Governor accordingly confined himself to presenting, all in
good temper, a concise and remarkably well-articulated argument
to prove that "no line can be drawn between the supreme authority
of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies"; of
which argument the conclusion must be, inasmuch as the total
independence of the colonies was not conceivably any one's
thought, that supreme authority rested with Parliament. This
conclusion once admitted, it was reasonable to suppose that
disturbances would cease; for "if the supremacy of Parliament
shall no longer be denied, it will follow that the mere exercise
of its authority can be no matter of grievance." In closing, his
Excellency expressed the desire, in case the two Houses did not
agree with his exposition of the Constitution, to know their
objections. "They may be convincing to me, or I may be able to
satisfy you of the insufficiency of them. In either case, I hope
we shall put an end to those irregularities which ever will be
the portion of a government where the supreme authority is
controverted." In this roundabout way, Governor Hutchinson
finally reached as a conclusion the prepossession with which he
began; namely, that whereas a disturbed state of government is,
ex hypothesi, a vital evil, assertions or denials which tend to
cause the evil must be unfounded.

It happened that both Houses, the lower House especially,
remained unconvinced by the Governor's exposition of the
Constitution; and both Houses took advantage of his invitation to
present their objections. The committee which the lower House
appointed to formulate a reply found their task no slight one,
not from any doubt that Mr. Hutchinson was in error, but from the
difficulty of constructing an argument that might be regarded as
polemically adequate. At the request of Major Hawley, John Adams
was accordingly "invited, requested, and urged to meet the
committee, which he did every evening till the report was
finished." When the first draft of a reply, probably drawn by Dr.
Joseph Warren, was presented to Mr. Adams for his criticism, he
"modestly suggested to them the expediency of leaving out many
popular and eloquent periods, and of discussing the question with
the Governor upon principles more especially legal and
constitutional," there being in this first draft, so Mr. Adams
thought, "no answer, nor any attempt to answer the Governor's
legal and constitutional arguments, such as they were." And so,
being "very civilly requested" by the committee to make such
changes in the draft as seemed to him desirable, Mr. Adams "drew
a line over the most eloquent parts of the oration they had
before them, and introduced those legal and historical
authorities which appear on the record."

The reply, prepared in this way and finally adopted by the
Assembly, was longer and more erudite than Mr. Hutchinson's
address. To meet the Governor's major premise and thus undermine
his entire argument, legal precedents and the facts of history
were freely drawn upon to prove that the colonies were properly
"outside of the Realm," and therefore, although parts of the
Empire by virtue of being under the special jurisdiction of the
Crown, not subject in all matters to parliamentary legislation.
Law and history thus supported the contention, contrary to the
Governor's assertion, that a line not only could be but always
had been "drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and
the total independence of the colonies." Apart from any question
of law or fact, the Assembly thought it of high practical
importance that this line should be maintained in the future as
in the past; for, "if there be no such line," none could deny the
Governor's inference that "either the colonies are vassals of the
Parliament, or they are totally independent"; upon which the
Assembly would observe only that, "as it cannot be supposed to
have been the intention of the parties in the compact that we
should be reduced to a state of vassalage, the conclusion is that
it was their sense that we were thus independent." With very few
exceptions, everyone who was of the patriot way of thinking
regarded the Assembly's reply as a complete refutation of the
argument presented in Governor Hutchinson's address.

In the Governor's opinion, the disturbed state of government to
which he had referred in his address was at this time brought to
the highest pitch by the committees of correspondence recently
established throughout the province--an event long desired and
now brought to pass by Samuel Adams. That something might be done
by a coordinated system of local committees was an "undigested
thought" that dropped from Adams's mind while writing a letter to
Arthur Lee in September, 1771. At that time, such was the general
apathy of the people, it would clearly "be an arduous task for
any man to attempt to awaken a sufficient Number in the colonies
to so grand an undertaking." But Samuel Adams, who thought
"nothing should be despaired of," took upon himself the
performance of this arduous task. Such committees, if they were
anywhere needed, were certainly needed in Massachusetts, where
the people labored under a "state of perfect Despotism," daily
submitting to be ruled--by a native Governor who refused to accept
a grant from the General Court, received his salary from London,
and governed the province according to his instructions. "Is it
not enough," asked Valerius Poplicola in the "Gazette" "to have a
Governor...PENSIONED by those on whom his existence
depends? ...Is Life, Property, and Every Thing dear and
sacred, to be now submitted to the Decisions of PENSION'D JUDGES,
holding their places during the pleasure of SUCH a Governor, and
a Council PERHAPS overawed?"

Confronted by so unprecedented a situation, it occurred to Samuel
Adams that perhaps Mr. Hutchinson himself might be induced to
come to his assistance. Late in 1772 he accordingly got the
Boston town meeting to present to the Governor an address
expressing great alarm at the establishment of salaries for
judges, and praying that the legislature, which was to meet the
2d of December, might not be prorogued. It was possible that in
replying the Governor might take a "high tone," refusing the
request as an interference with his own prerogative; but, as it
was clearly the right of the people to petition, for the Governor
to refuse would be, Samuel Adams thought, to "put himself IN THE
WRONG, in the opinion of every honest and sensible man; the
consequence of which will be that such measures as the people may
determine upon to save themselves...will be the more
reconcilable even to cautious minds, and thus we may expect that
unanimity which we wish for." The Governor, in a tone that might
be called "high," did in fact object to the request as not
properly a function of town meetings and thus furnished the
occasion for organizing the committees which he thought so
disturbing to the state of government.

It was on November 2, 1772, upon a motion of Samuel Adams, that a
committee was appointed by a town meeting in Faneuil Hall "to
state the Rights of the colonies and of this Province in
particular, as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects; to
communicate and publish the same to the several Towns in this
Province and to the World as the sense of this Town, with the
Infringements and Violations thereof that have been, or from time
to time may be made...requesting of each Town a free
communication of their Sentiments on this Subject." The report of
the committee, adopted November 20, announced to the world that,
as men, the colonists, and those of Massachusetts in particular,
were possessed of certain "Natural Rights," among them the right
to life, liberty, and property; and that, inasmuch as "men enter
into voluntary consent," they still retained
"every Natural Right not expressly given up or by the nature of
the Social Compact necessarily ceded." Being Christians as well
as men, the colonists enjoyed also those rights formulated in
"the institutes of the great Lawgiver and head of the Christian
Church, ...written and promulgated in the New Testament."
Lastly, being Englishmen, the colonists were, "by the Common Law
and by the acts of the British Parliament...declared to be
entitled to all the Liberties and Privileges of Subjects
born...within the Realm." The infringements which had been made
upon these rights, although well known, were once more stated at
length; and all the towns of the province were requested, in
case they agreed with the sentiments of the Town of Boston, to
unite in a common effort "to rescue from impending ruin our
happy and glorious Constitution." For its part, the Town of
Boston was confident that the wisdom of the other towns, as
well as their regard for themselves and the rising generation,
would not suffer them "to dose, or set supinely indifferent on
the brink of destruction, while the Iron hand of oppression is
daily tearing the choicest Fruit from the fair Tree of Liberty."

Moderate men might think, in the winter of 1773, that "the Iron
hand of oppression tearing the choicest Fruit from the Fair Tree
of Liberty" was a figure of speech which did not shape itself
with nice flexibility to the exact form and pressure of
observable facts. It is the limitation of moderate men to be much
governed by observable facts; and if the majority could not at
once rise to the rhetoric of Samuel Adams, it was doubtless
because they had not his instinctive sense of the Arch
Conspirator's truly implacable enmity to America. The full
measure of this enmity Mr. Adams lived in the hope of some day

It was of course well known that Mr. Bernard had formerly written
home letters most injurious to the province; and in 1770 there
"was abundant reason to be jealous," as Samuel Adams, writing on
behalf of the Town of Boston, assured Benjamin Franklin, "that
the most mischievous and virulent accounts have been lately sent
to Administration from Castle William," no doubt from the
Commissioners of the Customs. Conveying malicious and unfounded
misrepresentations of America under the seal of official
correspondence had indeed long been a favorite means of mending
the fortunes of those decayed gentlemen and bankrupt politicians
whose ambition it was to rise in office by playing the sycophant
to some great man in England. Mr. Bernard had "played this game,"
and had been found out at it, as every one knew. But Mr. Bernard
was no American; and it was scarcely to be imagined that Mr.
Hutchinson, who boasted "that his Ancestors were of the first
Rank and figure in the Country, who...had all the Honors
lavished upon him which his Fellow-Citizens had it in their power
to bestow, who professed the strongest attachment to his native
Country and the most tender feelings for its Rights, ...should
be so lost to all sense of Gratitude and public Love as to aid
the Designs of despotick power for the sake of rising a single
step higher."

This was indeed scarcely to be imagined, yet Samuel Adams
imagined it perfectly. Before there was any material evidence of
the fact, he was able, by reasonable inference, to erect
well-grounded suspicions into a kind of working hypothesis. Mr.
Hutchinson, Governor of the Province, was an Enemy of Liberty
with many English friends; he would be required by official duty
and led by personal inclination to maintain a regular
correspondence with high officials in England; from which the
conclusion was that Thomas Hutchinson, professed friend of
America, was a traitor, in secret alienating the affections of
the King from his loyal subjects. Samuel Adams knew this well;
and now, after all these years, the material evidence necessary
to convince men of little faith was at hand. Under circumstances
that might be regarded as providential, Thomas Hutchinson was at
last unmasked.

The prelude to this dramatic performance was pronounced in the
Massachusetts Assembly, one day in June, 1773, by Mr. John
Hancock, who darkly declared that within eight and forty hours a
discovery of great pith and moment would be made to the House. On
the next day but one, Samuel Adams arose and desired the
galleries cleared, as there were matters to lay before the
members which the members only had a right to know of. When the
galleries were cleared he informed the House that certain
letters, written by high officials in the province and extremely
hostile to the rights and liberties of America, had been procured
in England and transmitted to a gentleman who had in turn placed
them in his, Mr. Adams's, hands, but with the strictest
injunction that they be returned without being copied or pitted.
Mr. Adams had given his pledge to this effect; and, if the House
would receive them on these terms, he would be glad to read the
letters, no restriction having been placed on their being read.
They were read accordingly; and a committee having been appointed
to make recommendations, it was at length resolved by the House
of Assembly that certain letters presented to it by Mr. Samuel
Adams tended and were manifestly designed to undermine the
Constitution and establish a despotic power in the province. The
proceedings of the House being spread abroad, it soon became
everywhere known that only the pledged word of the House stood in
the way of revelations highly damaging to the public character of
Governor Hutchinson.

This outcome of the matter, however gratifying to Samuel Adams,
did not satisfy Governor Hutchinson. After there had been "buzzed
about for three or four months a story of something that would
amaze everybody," and these dark rumors being "spread through all
the towns in the province and everybody's expectations...
raised," it was exasperating to his pragmatic nature to have
nothing more definite transpire than that the something which
would amaze everybody would indeed amaze everybody if only it
could be made known. It should at least be made known to the
person most concerned. The Governor therefore requested the
Assembly to furnish him copies of the letters which were
attributed to him and declared by the House to "be destructive of
the Constitution. In reply, the House sent certain dates only.
The House was of opinion that the Governor could easily make
authentic copies of whatever letters he had written at these
dates, if he had written any; and such copies, being furnished to
the Assembly, might be published, and the whole matter thus
cleared up without violating the pledged word of anyone.

With this request the Governor refused to comply, on the ground
that it would be improper to reveal his private correspondence
and contrary to instructions to reveal that of a public nature.
He would say, however, that he had written letters on the days
mentioned, but in these letters there was no statement of fact or
expression of opinion not already well known. What his opinions
were the Assembly and the world might very well gather from his
published speeches and his "History of Massachusetts Bay". It
could scarcely be maintained that he had ever lacked frankness in
the expression of his opinions; and while his opinions might be
thought destructive of the Constitution, it was rather late to be
amazed at them. In any case, the Assembly was assured by the
Governor that his letters neither tended "nor were designed to
subvert, but rather to preserve entire the constitution of
government" as established by the charter of the province.

A great many people besides the Governor desired to see letters
the substance of which could be so differently understood. Samuel
Adams probably preferred not to be forced to print them knowing
their contents, he may have thought that here was a case of those
"dangers which, being known, lose half their power for evil";
besides, having pledged his word, he wished to keep it. Yet the
pressure of public opinion, becoming every day greater, was
difficult to resist, particularly by men who were firm believers
in the wisdom of the people. Moreover, it presently appeared that
there was no longer any point in refusing to publish the letters,
inasmuch as Mr. Hancock assured the House that men on the street
were, in some way not known, possessed of copies, some of which
had been placed in his hands. Mr. Hancock's copies being found on
comparison to be accurate rescripts of the letters which had been
read in the House, a committee was accordingly appointed to
consider how the House might come into honorable possession of
the originals; from which committee Mr. Hawley soon reported that
Samuel Adams had informed them that the gentleman from whom he
had received the letters now consented to their being copied,
seeing that they had already been copied, and printed, seeing
that they were already widely circulated; whereupon the House,
considering itself in honorable possession, ordered the letters
all published.

Nevertheless it was thought expedient, before issuing the
letters, to print and circulate such a series of "Resolves" as
might prepare the public mind for what was to come later. This
was accordingly done. The "Resolves," bearing date of June 16,
1773, indicated clearly and at length the precise significance of
the letters; declared it to be the humble opinion of the House
that it was not to the interest of the Crown to continue in high
places persons "who are known to have, with great industry,
though secretly, endeavored to undermine, alter, and overthrow
the Constitution of the province"; and concluded by praying "that
his Majesty would be pleased to remove...forever from the
government thereof" the Honorable Andrew Oliver and his
Excellency Thomas Hutchinson.

His Majesty did not remove Mr. Hutchinson; but the Governor's
usefulness, from every point of view, was at an end. When the
notorious letters were finally printed, it appeared that there
were seventeen in all, of which six were written by Mr.
Hutchinson in the years 1768 and 1769. These latter documents did
not in fact add anything to the world's stock of knowledge; but
they had been so heralded, ushered in with so much portentous
explication that they scarcely needed to be read to be
understood. "Had they been Chevy Chase," the Governor said, the
people would have believed them "full of evil and treason." It
was indeed the perfect fruit of Samuel Adams's labors that the
significance of Mr. Hutchinson's letters had in some manner
become independent of their contents. So awake were the people to
the danger of being deceived, that whatever the Governor now said
or ever had written was taken to be but the substance of things
hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Meanwhile, the attention of all patriots was diverted from the
letters to a far more serious matter; and when, on December 16,
1773, a cargo of the East India Company's tea, consigned among
others to Thomas and Elisha Hutchinson, was thrown into Boston
harbor, the great crisis, which Samuel Adams had done so much to
make inevitable by virtue of thinking it so, was at last a
reality. It was a limitation of Thomas Hutchinson's excellent
administrative mind that lie was wholly unaware of this crisis.
In February of the next year, finding that "a little discreet
conduct," or indeed any conduct on his part, was altogether
without good effect, the Governor announced that he had "obtained
leave from the King to go to England." On the 1st of June,
driving from his home to the foot of Dorchester Heights, he
embarked on the Minerva and arrived in London one month later. It
was his expectation that after a brief absence, when General Gage
by a show of military force should have brought the province to a
reasonable frame of mind, he would return and assume again the
responsibilities of his office. He never returned, but died in
England on June 3, 1780, an unhappy and a homesick exile from the
country which he loved.

CHAPTER VI. Testing The Issue

The die is now cast; the colonies must either submit or
triumph.--George III.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable Rights, that among, these are Life, Liberty, and the
pursuit of Happiness.--Thomas Jefferson.

Two months and ten days after Mr. Hutchinson embarked for
England, John Adams, the Hon. Thomas Cushing, Mr. Samuel Adams,
and Robert Treat Paine set out "from Boston, from Mr. Cushing's
house, and rode to Coolidge's, where they dined...with a
large company of gentlemen, who went out and prepared an
entertainment for them at that place. A most kindly and
affectionate meeting we had, and about four in the afternoon we
took leave of them, amidst the kindest wishes and fervent prayers
of every man in the company for our health and success. The scene
was truly affecting, beyond all description affecting." The four
men who in this manner left Boston on the 10th of August, 1774,
were bound for Philadelphia to attend the first Continental
Congress. Even Samuel Adams, in excellent spirits, a little
resplendent and doubtless a little uncomfortable in his new suit
and new silk hose, could scarcely have known that they were about
to share in one of the decisive events in the history of the
modern world.

The calling of the Continental Congress had followed hard upon
those recent measures of the British Government which no
reasonable man could doubt were designed to reduce the colonies
to a state of slavery. In May, 1773, the East India Company,
whose privileges in India had just been greatly restricted, was
given permission to export tea from its English warehouses
directly to America, free of all English customs and excise
duties. The three-penny duty in America was indeed retained; but
this small tax would not prevent the Company from selling its
teas in America at a lower price than other importers, either
smugglers or legitimate traders, could afford. It was true the
Americans were opposed to the three-penny tax, and they had bound
themselves not to import any dutied tea; yet neither the
opposition to the tax nor the non-importation agreements entered
into had prevented American merchants from importing, during the
last three years, about 580,831 pounds of English tea, upon which
the duty had been paid without occasioning much comment.

With these facts in mind, hard-headed American merchants, to whom
the Company applied for information about the state of the tea
trade in the colonies, assured the directors that the Americans
drank a great deal of tea, which hitherto had been largely
smuggled from Holland; and that, although they were in principle
much opposed to the tax, "mankind in general are bound by
interest," and "the Company can afford their teas cheaper than
the Americans can smuggle them from foreigners, which puts the
success of the design beyond a doubt."

The hard-headed merchants were doubtless much surprised at the
universal outcry which was raised when it became known that the
East India Company was preparing to import its teas into the
colonies; and yet the strenuous opposition everywhere exhibited
rather confirmed than refuted the philosophical reflection that
"mankind in general are bound by interest." Neither the New York
and Philadelphia merchants who smuggled tea from Holland, nor the
Boston and Charleston merchants who imported dutied tea from
England, could see any advantage to them in having this
profitable business taken over by the East India Company. Mr.
Hancock, for example, was one of the Boston merchants who
imported a good deal of dutied tea from England, a fact which was
better known then than it has been since; and at Philadelphia
John Adams was questioned rather closely about Mr. Hancock's
violation of the non-importation agreement, in reply to which he
could only say: "Mr. Hancock, I believe, is justifiable, but I am
not certain whether he is strictly so." Justifiable or not, Mr.
Hancock would not wish to see the entire tea trade of America in
the hands of the East India Company.

And indeed to whose interest would it be to have an English
company granted a monopoly of a thriving branch of American
trade? To those, doubtless, who were the consignees of the
Company, such as the sons of Thomas Hutchinson, or Mr. Abram Lott
of New York. Certainly no private merchant "who is acquainted
with the operation of a monopoly...will send out or order tea
to America when those who have it at first hand send to the same
market." And therefore, since the Company have the whole supply,
America will "ultimately be at their mercy to extort what price
they please for their tea. And when they find their success in
this article, they will obtain liberty to export their spices,
silks, etc." This was the light in which the matter appeared to
the New York Committee of Correspondence.

John Dickinson saw the matter in the same light, a light which
his superior abilities enabled him to portray in more lurid
colors. The conduct of the East India Company in Asia, he said,

"has given ample proof how little they regard the laws of
nations, the rights, liberties, or lives of men. They have levied
war, excited rebellions, dethroned princes, and sacrificed
millions for the sake of gain. The revenues of mighty kingdoms
have centered in their coffers. And these not being sufficient to
glut their avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled
barbarities, extortions, and monopolies, stripped the miserable
inhabitants of their property and reduced whole provinces to
indigence and ruin.... Thus having drained the sources of that
immense wealth...they now, it seems, cast their eyes on
America, a new theater, whereon to exercise their talents of
rapine, oppression, and cruelty. The monopoly of tea, is, I dare
say, but a small part of the plan they have formed to strip us of
our property. But thank God we are not Sea Poys, nor Marattas,
but British subjects, who are born to liberty, who know its
worth, and who prize it high."

For all of these reasons, therefore--because they were in
principle opposed to taxation without consent, and by interest
opposed to an English company monopolizing the tea trade, and
perhaps because they desired to give a signal demonstration of
the fact that they were neither Sea Poys nor Marattas--Americans
were willing to resort to the use of force in order to maintain
their own rights by depriving the East India Company of its

When Capt. Curling's ship arrived in Charleston, the people in
that town, assembled to deal with the grave crisis, were somewhat
uncertain what to do with the Company's tea. On the very ship
which brought the Company's tea, there were some chests consigned
to private merchants; and certain enthusiastic patriots attending
the meeting of citizens affirmed that the importation of dutied
tea by private merchants contrary to the non-importation
agreement was no less destructive to liberty than the importation
of tea by the East India Company. "All this," it was said,
"evinced a desire of not entering hastily into measures." In the
end, the Company's tea was seized by the Collector and stored in
the vaults under the Exchange. At New York and Philadelphia, the
Company's tea ships were required to return to England without
landing; and it was only at Boston, where Governor Hutchinson,
whose sons had been appointed by the Company as its consignees,
refused return clearance papers, that the tea, some 14,000 pounds
worth of it, was thrown into the harbor.

Throwing the tea into the harbor raised a sharp sense of
resentment in the minds of Britons. The common feeling was that,
unless the British Government was prepared to renounce all
pretense of governing the colonies, something must be done. There
were a few, such as Josiah Tucker, who thought that the thing to
do was to give up the colonies; in their opinion, colonies were
in any case more of a burden than an advantage, the supposed
advantages of colonies being bound up with restrictions on trade,
and restrictions on trade being contrary to the natural law by
which commerce should be free. But the natural law was only a
recent discovery not yet widely accepted in England; and it did
not occur to the average Briton that the colonies should be given
up. The colonies, he supposed, were English colonies; and he
thought the time had come to establish that fact. He had heard
that the colonies had grievances. All he knew was that the
Government had good-naturedly made concessions for the last ten
years; and as for this new grievance about tea, the average
Briton made out only that the Americans could buy their tea
cheaper than he could himself.

Obviously the time had come for Old England to set the colonies
right by showing less concession and more power. Four regiments,
as General Gage said, would do the business. The average Briton
therefore gave his cordial approval to four "coercive" measures,
passed by overwhelming majorities in Parliament, which remodeled
the Massachusetts charter, authorized the Governor to transfer to
courts in other colonies or to England any cases involving a
breach of the peace or the conduct of public officers, provided
for quartering troops on the inhabitants, and closed the port of
Boston until the East India Company should have been compensated
for the loss of its tea. In order to make these measures
effective, General Gage, commander of the American forces, was
made Governor of Massachussetts. To what extent he would find it
necessary to use the military depended upon the Bostonians. "The
die is now cast," the King wrote to Lord North; "the colonies
must either submit or triumph." The King's judgment was not
always good; but it must be conceded that in this instance he had
penetrated to the very center of the situation.

Massachusetts, very naturally, wished not to submit, but whether
she could triumph without the support of the other colonies was
more than doubtful; and it was to obtain this support, to devise
if possible a method of resistance agreeable to all, that the
Congress was now assembling at Philadelphia. The spirit in which
the colonies received the news of the Boston Port Bill augured
well for union, for in every colony it was felt that this was a
challenge which could not be evaded without giving the lie to ten
years of high talk about the inalienable rights of Englishmen. As
Charles James Fox said, "all were taught to consider the town of
Boston as suffering in the common cause." This sentiment John
Adams found everywhere expressed--found everywhere, as he took
his leisurely journey southward, that people were "very firm" in
their determination to support Massachusetts against the
oppression of the British Government.

In respect to the measures which should be adopted to achieve the
end desired, there was not the same unanimity. Mr. Adams, at the
age of thirty-eight years, never having been out of New England,
kept his eyes very wide open as he entered the foreign colonies
of New York and Pennsylvania. In New York he was much impressed
with the "elegant country seats," with the bountiful hospitality,
and the lavish way of living. "A more elegant breakfast I never
saw"--this was at Mr. Scott's house--"rich plate, a very large
silver coffee-pot, a very large silver tea-pot, napkins of the
finest materials, toast, and bread and butter in great
perfection," and then, to top it off, "a plate of beautiful
peaches, another of pears, and another of plums, and a musk-melon
were placed upon the table." Nevertheless, in spite of the
friendliness shown to him personally, in spite of the sympathy
which, abstractly considered, the New Yorkers expressed for the
sad state of Boston, Mr. Adams was made to understand that if it
came to practical measures for the support of Massachusetts, many
diverse currents of opinion and interest would make themselves

New York was "very firm" in the cause, certainly, but "Mr.
MacDougall gave a caution to avoid every expression which looked
like an allusion to the last appeal. He says there is a powerful
party here who are intimidated by fears of a civil war, and they
have been induced to acquiesce by assurances that there was no
danger, and that a peaceful cessation of commerce would effect
relief. Another party, he says, are intimidated lest the leveling
spirit of the New England colonies should propagate itself into
New York. Another party are instigated by Episcopalian prejudices
against New England. Another party are merchants largely
concerned in navigation, and therefore afraid of non-importation,
nonconsumption, and non-exportation agreements. Another party are
those who are looking up to Government for favors."

These interests were doubtless well enough represented by the New
York deputies to the Congress, whom Mr. Adams now saw for the
first time. Mr. Jay, it was said, was a good student of the law
and a hard worker. Mr. Low, "they say, will profess attachment to
the cause of liberty, but his sincerity is doubted." Mr. Alsop
was thought to be of good heart, but unequal, as Mr. Scott
affirmed, "to the trust in point of abilities." Mr. Duane--this
was Mr. Adams's own impression--"has a sly, surveying eye, ...
very sensible, I think, and very artful." And finally there was
Mr. Livingston, "a downright, straightforward many" who reminded
Mr. Adams that Massachusetts had once hung some Quakers, affirmed
positively that civil war would follow the renunciation of
allegiance to Britain, and threw out vague hints of the Goths and

Confiding these matters to his "Diary" and keeping his own
opinion, Mr. Adams passed on to Philadelphia. There the
Massachusetts men were cordially welcomed, twice over, but
straightway cautioned against two gentlemen, one of whom was "Dr.
Smith, the Provost of the College, who is looking up to
Government for an American Episcopate and a pair of lawn
sleeves"--a very soft, polite man, "insinuating, adulating,
sensible, learned, insidious, indefatigable," with art enough,
"and refinement upon art, to make impressions even upon Mr.
Dickinson and Mr. Reed." In Pennsylvania, as in every colony, Mr.
Adams found, there was a tribe of people "exactly like the tribe,
in the Massachusetts, of Hutchinsonian Addressers." Some of this
tribe had managed to elbow their way into the committees of
deputies to the Congress, at least from the middle colonies, and
probably from South Carolina as well.

The "most spirited and consistent of any" of the deputies were
the gentlemen from Virginia, among whom were Mr. Henry and Mr. R.
H. Lee, said to be the Demosthenes and the Cicero of America. The
latter, Mr. Adams liked much, a "masterly man" who was very
strong for the most vigorous measures. But it seemed that even
Mr. Lee was strong for vigorous measures only because he was
"absolutely certain that the same ship which carries hence the
resolutions will bring back the redress." If he supposed
otherwise, he "should be for exceptions."

>From the first day of the Congress it was known that the
Massachusetts men were in favor of "vigorous measures;" vigorous
measures being understood to mean the adoption of strict
non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreements.
There were moments when John Adams thought even these measures
tame and unheroic: "When Demosthenes (God forgive the vanity of
recollecting his example) went ambassador from Athens to the
other states of Greece, to excite a confederacy against Phillip,
he did not go to propose a Non-Importation or Non-Consumption
Agreement...." For all this, the Massachusetts men kept
themselves well in the background, knowing that there was much
jealousy and some fear of New England leadership and well aware
that the recent experience with non-importation agreements had
greatly diminished, in the mercantile colonies of New York,
Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, the enthusiasm for such

The trouble with non-importation agreements, as Major Hawley had
told John Adams, was that "they will not be faithfully observed;
that the Congress have no power to enforce obedience to their
laws; that they will be like a legislative without an executive.
"Did Congress have, or could it assume, authority to compel men
to observe its resolutions, to compel them to observe, for
example, a non-importation agreement? This was a delicate
question upon which opinion was divided. "We have no legal
authority," said Mr. Rutledge, "and obedience to our
determinations will only follow the reasonableness, the apparent
utility, and necessity of the measures we adopt. We have no
coercive or legislative authority." If this was so, the
non-intercourse policy would doubtless prove a broken reed.
Massachusetts men were likely to be of another opinion, were
likely to agree with Patrick Henry, who armed that "Government is
dissolved. Fleets and armies and the present state of things show
that government is dissolved. We are in a state of nature, Sir!"
If they were indeed in a state of nature, it was perhaps high
time that Congress should assume the powers of a government, in
which case it might be possible to adopt and to enforce
non-intercourse measures. In this gingerly way did the deputies
lift the curtain and peer down the road to revolution.

The deputies, like true Britons, contrived to avoid the highly
theoretical question of authority, and began straightway to
concern themselves with the practical question of whether the
Congress, with or without authority, should recommend the
adoption of strict non-intercourse agreements. Upon this question,
as the chief issue, the deputies were divided into nearly equal
groups. Mr. Galloway, Mr. Duane, and Mr. Rutledge were perhaps
the leaders of those, probably a majority at first, who were
opposed to such vigorous measures, fearing that they were
intended as a cloak to cover the essentially revolutionary
designs of the shrewd New Englanders. "We have too much reason to
suspect that independence is aimed at," Mr. Low warned the
Congress; and Mr. Galloway could see that while the Massachusetts
men were in "behavior very modest, yet they are not so much so as
not to throw out hints, which like straws and feathers show from
which point in the compass the wind comes." In the early days of
the Congress, if we are to believe Mr. Hutchinson, this cold
north wind was so much disliked that the New York and New Jersey
deputies, "and others," carried a vote against the adoption of
non-intercourse agreements, "agreed to present a petition to the
King," and "expected to break up, when letters arrived from Dr.
Franklin which put an end to the petition."

The Journals of the Congress do not record any vote of this kind;
but a number of things are known to have occurred in the Congress
which the Journals do not record. On September 17, the famous
"Suffolk Resolves" were laid before the deputies for their
approval. The resolutions had been adopted by a county convention
in Massachusetts, and in substance they recommended to the
people of Massachusetts to form a government independent of that
of which General Gage was the Governor, urged them meanwhile to
arm themselves in their own defense, and assured them that "no
obedience is due from this province to either or any part" of the
Coercive Acts. These were indeed "vigorous measures"; and when
the resolutions came before Congress, "long and warm debates
ensued between the parties," Mr. Galloway afterwards remembered;
and he says that when the vote to approve them was finally
carried, "two of the dissenting members presumed to offer their
protest to it in writing which was negatived," and when they then
insisted that the "tender of the protest and the negative should
be entered on the minutes, this was also rejected."

Later in the month, September 28, Mr. Galloway introduced his
famous plan for a "British-American Parliament" as a method for
permanent reconciliation. The motion to enter the plan on the
minutes and to refer it for further consideration gave rise to
"long and warm debates," the motion being carried by a majority
of one colony; but subsequently, probably on October 21, it was
voted to expunge the plan, together with all resolutions
referring to it, from the minutes. Nothing, as Benjamin Franklin
wrote from England, could so encourage the British Government to
persist in its oppressive policy as the knowledge that
dissensions existed in the Congress; and since these dissensions
did unfortunately exist, there was a widespread feeling that it
would be the part of wisdom to conceal them as much as possible.

No doubt a majority of the deputies, when they first read the
Suffolk Resolutions, were amazed that the rash New Englanders
should venture to pledge themselves so frankly to rebellion.
Certainly no one who thought himself a loyal subject of King
George could even contemplate rebellion; but, on the other hand,
to leave Massachusetts in the lurch after so much talk of union
and the maintenance of American rights would make loyal Americans
look a little ridiculous. That would be to show themselves lambs
as soon as Britons had shown themselves lions, which was
precisely what their enemies in England boasted they would do.
Confronted by this difficult dilemma, moderate men without
decided opinions began to fix their attention less upon the exact
nature of the measures they were asked to support, and more upon
the probable effect of such measures upon the British Government.
It might be true, and all reports from England seemed to point
that way, that the British Government was only brandishing the
sword in terrorem, to see whether the Americans would not run at
once to cover; in which case it would be wiser for all loyal
subjects to pledge themselves even to rebellion, the prospect
being so very good that Britain would quickly sheathe its sword
and present instead the olive branch, saying, "This is what I
intended to offer." Therefore, rather than leave Massachusetts in
the lurch and so give the lie to the boasted unity of the
colonies, many moderate and loyal subjects voted to approve the
Suffolk Resolutions, which they thought very rash and ill-advised

Whatever differences still prevailed, if indeed practical men
could hold out after the accomplished fact, might be bridged and
compromised by adopting those petitions and addresses which the
timid thought sufficient and at the same time by subscribing to
and "recommending" those non-intercourse agreements which the
bolder sort thought essential.

This compromise was in fact effected. The Congress unanimously
adopted the moderate addresses which Lord Chatham afterwards
praised for their masterly exposition of true constitutional
principles; but it likewise adopted, also unanimously, a series
of resolutions known as the Association, to which the deputies
subscribed their names. By signing the Association, the deputies
bound themselves, and recommended the people in all the colonies
to bind themselves, not to import, after December 1, 1774, any
commodities from Great Britain or Ireland, or molasses, syrups,
sugars, and coffee from the British plantations, or East India
Company tea from any place, or wines from Madeira, or foreign
indigo; not to consume, after March 1, 1775, any of these
commodities; and not to export, after September 10, 1775, any
commodities whatever to Great Britain, Ireland, or the West
Indies, "except rice to Europe." It was further recommended that
a committee be formed in each city, town, and county, whose
business it should be to observe the conduct of all persons,
those who refused to sign the Association as well as those who
signed it, and to publish the names of all persons who did not
observe the agreements there entered into, "to the end that all
such foes of the rights of British-America may be publicly known
and universally condemned as the enemies of American liberty";
and it was likewise recommended that the committees should
inspect the customs entries frequently, that they should seize
all goods imported contrary to the recommendation of the
Association and reship them, or, if the owner preferred, sell
them at public auction, the owner to be recompensed for the first
costs, the profits, if any, to be devoted to relieving the people
of Boston.

Having thus adopted a Petition to the King, a Memorial to the
Inhabitants of the British Colonies, and an Address to the People
of Great Britain, and having recommended a certain line of
conduct to be followed by all loyal Americans, the first
Continental Congress adjourned. It had assumed no "coercive or
legislative authority"; obedience to its determinations would
doubtless depend, as Mr. Rutledge had said, upon "the
reasonableness, the apparent utility and necessity" of its

"There can be no doubt," the Earl of Dartmouth is reported to
have said, "that every one who had signed the Association was
guilty of treason." The Earl of Dartmouth was not counted one of
the enemies of America; and if this was his opinion of the action
of the first Continental Congress, Lord North's supporters in
Parliament, a great majority since the recent elections, were not
likely to take a more favorable view of it. Nevertheless, when
the American question came up for consideration in the winter of
1776, "conciliation" was a word frequently heard on all sides,
and even corrupt ministers were understood to be dallying with
schemes of accommodation. In January and February great men were
sending agents, and even coming themselves, to Dr. Franklin to
learn what in his opinion the colonies would be satisfied with.
Lord Chatham, as might be guessed, was meditating a plan. On the
29th of January, he came to Craven Street and showed it to
Franklin, who made notes upon it, and later went out to Hayes,
two hours' ride from London, where he remained for four hours
listening to the easy flow of the Great Commoner's eloquence
without being able to get any of his own ideas presented.

Fortified by the presence if not by the advice of Franklin, Lord
Chatham laid his plan before Parliament on the 1st of February.
He would have an explicit declaration of the dependence of the
colonies on the Crown and Parliament in all matters of trade and
an equally explicit declaration that no tag should be
imposed upon the colonies without their consent; and when the
Congress at Philadelphia should have acknowledged the supremacy
of the Crown and Parliament and should have made a free and
perpetual grant of revenue, then he would have all the obnoxious
acts passed since 1764, and especially the Coercive Acts, totally
repealed. Lord Sandwich, in a warm speech, moved to reject these
proposals at once; and when the vote was taken it was found that
61 noble lords were in favor of rejecting them at once, while
only 31 were opposed to so doing.

Lord North was perhaps less opposed to reconciliation than other
noble lords were. A few days later Franklin was approached by
Admiral Howe, who was understood to know the First Minister's
mind, to learn whether he might not suggest something for the
Government to go upon. The venerable Friend of the Human Race was
willing enough to set down on paper some "Hints" which Admiral
Howe might think advisable to show to ministers. It happened,
however, that the "Hints" went far beyond anything the Government
had in mind. Ministers would perhaps be willing to repeal the Tea
Act and the Boston Port Bill; but they felt strongly that the act
regulating the Massachusetts charter must stand as "an example of
the power of Parliament." Franklin, on the other hand, was
certain that "while Parliament claims the right of altering
American constitutions at pleasure, there can be no agreement."
Since the parties were so far apart, it seemed useless to
continue the informal negotiation, and on February 20, Lord North
laid before Parliament his own plan for effecting an

Perhaps, after all, it was not his own plan; for Lord North, much
inclined to regard himself as the King's minister, was likely to
subordinate his wishes to those of his master. King George III,
at all events, had his own ideas on conciliation. "I am a friend
to holding out the olive branch," he wrote in February, "yet I
believe that, when vigorous measures appear to be the only means,
the colonies will submit." Knowing the King's ideas, as well as
those of Dr. Franklin, Lord North accordingly introduced into
Parliament the Resolution on Conciliation, which provided that
when any colony should make provision "for contributing their
proportion to the common defense, ...and for the support of
the civil government, and the administration of justice in such
province, will be proper, ...for so long as such
provision shall be made, forbear, in respect of such
province, levy any Duty, Tax, or Assessment, ...except...
for the regulation of commerce." The minister's resolution,
although by most of his supporters thought to be useless, was
adopted by a vote of 274 to 88.

It was not the intention of the Government to hold out the olive
branch by itself. Lord North, and perhaps the King also, hoped
the colonies would accept it; but by all maxims of politics an
olive branch was more likely to be accepted if the shining sword
was presented at the same time as the only alternative. As early
as the 10th of February, Lord North had introduced into
Parliament a bill, finally passed March 30, "to restrain the
trade and commerce" of the New England colonies to "Great
Britain, Ireland, and the British islands in the West Indies,"
and to exclude these colonies from "carrying on any fishery on
the banks of Newfoundland," it being "highly unfit that the
inhabitants of the said provinces...should enjoy the same
privileges of which his Majesty's faithful and
obedient subjects are entitled." The provisions of this act were
extended to the other colonies in April; and meantime measures
were taken to strengthen the naval forces.

The first certain information that Lord North had extended the
olive branch reached New York April 24, 1775, two weeks before
the day fixed for the meeting of the second Continental Congress.
Important changes had taken place since the first Congress, six
months earlier, had sent forth its resolutions. In every colony
there was a sufficient number of patriots who saw "the
reasonableness, the apparent utility, and necessity" of forming
the committees which the Association recommended; and these
committees everywhere, with a marked degree of success,
immediately set about convincing their neighbors of the utility
and necessity of signing the non-importation agreement, or at
least of observing it even if they were not disposed to sign it.
To deny the reasonableness of the Association was now indeed much
more difficult than it would have been before the Congress
assembled; for the Congress, having published certain resolutions
unanimously entered into, had come to be the symbol of America
united in defense of its rights; and what American, if indeed one
might call him such, would wish to be thought disloyal to America
or an enemy of its liberties? It required a degree of assurance
for any man to set up his individual judgment against the
deliberate and united judgment of the chosen representatives of
all the colonies; and that must be indeed a very subtle mind
which could draw the distinction between an enemy of liberty and
a friend of liberty who was unwilling to observe the Association.

Some such subtle minds there were--a considerable number in most
colonies who declared themselves friends of liberty but not of
the Association, loyal to America but not to the Congress. One of
these was Samuel Seabury, an Episcopalian clergyman living in
Westchester County, New York, a vigorous, downright man, who at
once expressed his sentiments in a forcible and logical manner,
and with much sarcastic humor, in a series of pamphlets which
were widely read and much commended by those who found in them
their own views so effectively expressed. This Westchester
Farmer--for so he signed himself--proclaimed that he had always
been, and was still, a friend of liberty in general and of
American liberty in particular. The late British measures he
thought unwise and il-liberal, and he had hoped that the Congress
would be able to obtain redress, and perhaps even to effect a
permanent reconciliation. But, these hopes were seen to be vain
from the day when the Congress approved the Suffolk Resolutions
and, instead of adopting Mr. Galloway's plan, adopted the
Association. For no sane man could doubt that, under the thin
disguise of "recommendations," Congress had assumed the powers of
government and counseled rebellion. The obvious conclusion from
this was that, if one could not be a loyal American without
submitting to Congress, then it was impossible to be at the same
time a loyal American and a loyal British subject.

But, if the problem were rightly considered, Mr. Seabury thought
one might be loyal to America in the best sense without
supporting Congress; for, apart from any question of legality,
the Association was highly inexpedient, inasmuch as
non-importation would injure America more than it injured
England, and, for this reason if for no others, it would be found
impossible to "bully and frighten the supreme government of the
nation." Yet all this was beside the main point, which was that
the action of Congress, whether expedient or not, was illegal. It
was illegal because it authorized the committees to enforce the
Association upon all alike, upon those who never agreed to
observe it as well as upon those who did; and these committees,
as everyone knew, were so enforcing it and were "imposing
penalties upon those who have presumed to violate it." The
Congress talked loudly of the tyranny of the British Government.
Tyranny! Good Heavens! Was any tyranny worse than that of
self-constituted committees which, in the name of liberty, were
daily conducting the most hateful inquisition into the private
affairs of free British subjects? "Will you choose such
committees? Will you submit to them should they be chosen by the
weak, foolish, turbulent part of the...people? I will not.
No. If I must be enslaved, let it be by a KING at least, and not
by a parcel of upstart, lawless committeemen."

The Massachusetts men were meanwhile showing no disposition to
submit to the King. In that colony a Provincial Congress,
organized at Salem in October, 1774, and afterwards removed to
Cambridge, had assumed all powers of government in spite of
General Gage and contrary to the provisions of the act by which
Parliament had presumed to remodel the Massachusetts charter.
Outside of Boston at least, the allegiance of the people was
freely given to this extra-legal government; and under its
direction the towns began to prepare for defense by organizing
the militia and procuring and storing arms and ammunition.

To destroy such stores of ammunition seemed to General Gage quite
the most obvious of his duties; and Colonel Smith was accordingly
ordered to proceed to the little village of Concord, some
eighteen miles northwest of Boston, and destroy the magazines
which were known to be collected there. The night of the 18th of
April was the time fixed for this expedition; and in the evening
of that day patriots in Boston noted with alarm that bodies of
troops were moving towards the waterside. Dr. Joseph Warren,
knowing or easily guessing the destination of the troops, at once
despatched William Dawes, and later in the evening Paul Revere
also, to Lexington and Concord to spread the alarm. As the little
army of Colonel Smith--a thousand men, more or less--left Boston
and marched up into the country, church bells and the booming of
cannon announced their coming. Day was breaking when the British
troops approached the town of Lexington; and there on the green
they could see, in the early morning light, perhaps half a
hundred men standing in military array--fifty against a thousand!
The British rushed forward with huzzas, in the midst of which
shots were heard; and when the little band of minutemen was
dispersed eight of the fifty lay dead upon the village green.

The battle of Lexington was begun, but it was not yet finished.
Pushing on to Concord, the thousand disciplined British regulars
captured and destroyed the military stores collected there. This
was easily done; but the return from Concord to Lexington, and
from Lexington to Cambridge, proved a disastrous retreat. The
British found indeed no minutemen drawn up in military array to
block their path; but they found themselves subject to the deadly
fire of men concealed behind the trees and rocks and clumps of
shrubs that everywhere conveniently lined the open road. With
this method of warfare, not learned in books, the British were
unfamiliar. Discipline was but a handicap; and the fifteen
hundred soldiers that General Gage sent out to Lexington to
rescue Colonel Smith served only to make the disaster greater in
the end. When the retreating army finally reached the shelter of
Cambridge, it had lost, in killed and wounded, 247 men; while the
Americans, of whom it had been confidently asserted in England
that they would not stand against British regulars, had lost but

The courier announcing the news of Lexington passed through New
York on the 23d of April. Twenty-four hours later, during the
height of the excitement occasioned by that event, intelligence
arrived from England that Parliament had approved Lord North's
Resolution on Conciliation. For extending the olive branch, the
time was inauspicious; and when the second Continental Congress
assembled, two weeks later, on the l0th of May, men were
everywhere wrathfully declaring that the blood shed at Lexington
made allegiance to Britain forever impossible.

It might indeed have seemed that the time had come when every man
must decide, once for all, whether he would submit unreservedly
to the King or stand without question for the defense of America.
Yet not all men, not a majority of men in the second Continental
Congress, were of that opinion.

The second Congress was filled with moderate minded men who would
not believe the time had come when that decision had to be
made--men who were bound to sign themselves British-Americans
till the last possible moment, many of whom could not now have
told whether in the end they would sign themselves Britons or
Americans. Surely, they said, we need not make the decision yet.
We have the best of reasons for knowing that Britain will not
press matters to extremities. Can we not handle the olive branch
and the sword as well as Lord North? A little fighting, to
convince ministers that we can't be frightened, and all will be
well. We shall have been neither rebels nor slaves. The second
Congress was full of men who were, as yet, "Neither-Nor."

There was Joseph Galloway, once more elected to represent
Pennsylvania, ready to do what he could to keep Congress from
hasty action, hoping for the best yet rather expecting the worst,
discreetly retiring, at an early date, within the ranks of the
British loyalists. John Alsop, the "soft, sweet" man, was also
there, active enough in his mild way until the very last--until
the Declaration of Independence, as he said, "closed the last
door to reconciliation." There, too, was James Duane, with never
so great need of his "surveying eye" to enable him to size up the
situation. He is more discreet than any one, and sits quietly in
his seat, on those days when he finds it convenient to attend,
which is not too often--especially after November, at which time
he moved his effects to Duanesborough, and so very soon
disappears from sight, except perhaps vicariously in the person
of his servant, James Brattle, whom we see flitting obscurely
from Philadelphia to New York conveying secret information to
Governor Tryon. John Jay, the hard-reading young lawyer, who
favored Mr. Galloway's plan but in the end signed the
Association--here he is again, edging his way carefully along,
watching his step, crossing no bridges beforehand, well over
indeed before he seems aware of any gulf to be crossed. And here
is the famous Pennsylvania Farmer, leader of all moderate men,
John Dickinson; only too well aware of the gulf opening up before
him, fervently praying that it may close again of its own accord.
Mr. Dickinson has no mind for anything but conciliation, to
obtain which he will go the length of donning a Colonel's
uniform, or at least a Colonel's title, perfecting himself and
his neighbors in the manual of arms against the day when the King
would graciously listen to the loyal and humble petition of the

Mr. Dickinson, staking all on the petition, was distressed at the
rash talk that went on out of doors; and in this respect, no one
distressed him more than his old friend, John Adams, who thought
and said that a petition was a waste of time and who was all for
the most vigorous measures (such, doubtless, as Demosthenes might
have counseled),--the seizure of all crown officers, the
formation of state governments, the raising of an army, and
negotiations for obtaining the assistance of France. When Mr.
Dickinson, having marshaled his followers from the middle
colonies and South Carolina, got his petition before the
Congress, John Adams, as a matter of course, made "an opposition
to it in as long a speech as I commonly answer to
all the arguments that had been urged." And Adams relates in his
"Diary" how, being shortly called out of Congress Hall, he was
followed by Mr. Dickinson, who broke out upon him in great anger.
"What is the reason, Mr. Adams, that you New-England men oppose
our measures of reconciliation? There now is Sullivan, in a long
harangue, following you in a determined opposition to our
petition to the King. Look ye! If you don't concur with us in our
pacific system, I and a number of us will break off from you in
New England, and we will carry on the opposition by ourselves in
our own way." At that moment it chanced that John Adams was "in a
very happy temper" (which was not always the case), and so, he
says, was able to reply very coolly. "Mr. Dickinson, there are
many things that I can very cheerfully sacrifice to harmony, and
even to unanimity; but I am not to be threatened into an express
adoption or approbation of measures which my judgment reprobates.
Congress must judge, and if they pronounce against me, I must
submit, as, if they determine against you, you ought to

The Congress did decide. It decided to adopt Mr. Dickinson's
petition; and to this measure John Adams submitted. But the
Congress also decided to raise a Continental army to assist
Massachusetts in driving the British forces out of Boston, of
which army it appointed, as Commander-in-Chief, George
Washington, Esq.; and in justification of these measures it
published a "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up

"Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources
are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly
attainable .... Fortified with these animating reflections, we...
declare that...the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to
as same, we will...employ for the preservation of our liberties,
being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than live as
slaves .... We have not raised armies with ambitious
designs of separating from Great Britain .... We shall lay them
down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors...
With an humble confidence in the mercies of the supreme and
impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we...implore his
divine goodness to protect us happily through this great
conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on
reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the empire from the
calamities of civil war."

In these measures Mr. Dickinson acquiesced, as John Adams had
submitted to the petition. The "perfect" union which was thus
attained was nevertheless a union of wills rather than of
opinions; and on July 24, 1775, in a letter to James Warren, John
Adams gave a frank account of the state of mind to which the
perfect union had reduced him:

"In confidence, I am determined to write freely to you this time.
A certain great Fortune and piddling Genius, whose Fame has been
trumpeted so loudly, has given a silly Cast to our whole Doings.
We are between Hawk and Buzzard. We ought to have had in our
Hands a month ago the whole Legislative, executive, and judicial
of the whole Continent, and have completely modeled a
Constitution; to have raised a naval Power, and opened our Ports
wide; to have arrested every Friend of Government on the
Continent and held them as Hostages for the poor Victims of
Boston, and then opened the Door as wide as possible for Peace
and Reconciliation. After that they might have petitioned, and
negotiated, and addressed, etc., if they would. Is all this
extravagant? Is it wild? Is it not the soundest Policy?"

It seems that Mr. Adams would have presented the sword boldly,
keeping the olive branch carefully concealed behind his back. His
letter, intercepted by the British Government, and printed about
the time when Mr. Dickinson's petition vas received in London,
did nothing to make the union in America more perfect, or to
facilitate the opening of that refractory "Door...for Peace
and Reconciliation."

The truth is that John Adams no longer believed in the
possibility of opening this door, even by the tiniest crack; and
even those who still had faith in the petition as a means to that
end found it somewhat difficult to keep their faith alive during
the weary month of October while they waited for the King's
reply. Mr. Chase, although he had "not absolutely discarded every
glimpse of a hope of reconciliation," admitted that the prospect
was gloomy." Mr. Zubly assured Congress that he "did hope for a
reconciliation and that this winter may bring it"; and he added, as
if justifying himself against sceptical shrugs of shoulders, "I
may enjoy my hopes for reconciliation; others may enjoy theirs
that none will take place." It might almost seem that the idea of
reconciliation, in this October of 1775, was a vanishing image to
be enjoyed retrospectively rather than anything substantial to
build upon for the future. This it was, perhaps, that gave
especial point to Mr. Zubly's oft-repeated assertion that
Congress must speedily obtain one of two things--"a
reconciliation with Great Britain, or the means of carrying on
the war."

Reconciliation OR war! This was surely a new antithesis. Had not
arms been taken up for the purpose precisely of disposing their
adversaries "to reconciliation on reasonable terms"? Does Mr.
Zubly mean to say then that war is an alternative to
reconciliation--an alternative which will lead the colonies away
from compromise towards that which all have professed not to
desire? Is Mr. Zubly hinting at independence even before the King
has replied to the petition? No. This is not what Mr. Zubly
meant. What he had in the back of his mind, and what the Congress
was coming to have in the back of its mind, if one may judge from
the abbreviated notes which John Adams took of the debates in the
fall of 1775, was that if the colonies could not obtain
reconciliation by means of the non-intercourse measures very
soon--this very winter as Mr. Zubly hoped--they would have to
rely for reconciliation upon a vigorous prosecution of the war;
in which case the non-intercourse measures were likely to prove an
obstacle rather than an advantage, since they would make it
difficult, if not impossible, to obtain the "means of carrying on
the war."

The non-intercourse measures had been designed to obtain
conciliation by forcing Great Britain to make concessions; but if
Great Britain would make no concessions, then the non-intercourse
measures, by destroying the trade and prosperity of the colonies,
would have no other effect than to bring about conciliation by
forcing the colonies to make concessions themselves. This was not
the kind of conciliation that any one wanted; and so the real
antithesis which now confronted Congress was between war and
non-intercourse. Mr. Livingston put the situation clearly when
he said: "We are between hawk and buzzard; we puzzle ourselves
between the commercial and warlike opposition."

Through long debates Congress puzzled itself over the difficult
task of maintaining the Association and of obtaining the means
for carrying on the war. Doubtless a simple way out would be for
Congress to allow so much exportation only as might be necessary
to pay for arms and ammunition; and still not so simple either,
since it would at once excite many jealousies. "To get powder,"
Mr. Jay observed, "we keep a secret law that produce may be
exported. Then come the wrangles among the people. A vessel is
seen loading--a fellow runs to the committee." Well, it could not
be helped; let the fellow run to the committee, and let the
committee reassure him--that was the business of the committee;
and so the Congress authorized the several colonies to export as
much "produce, except horned cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry, as
they may deem necessary for the importation of arms, ammunition,
sulphur, and saltpetre." Thus powder might be obtained.

Nevertheless, war could not live by powder alone. The
imponderable moral factors had to be considered, chief of which
was the popular support or opposition which Congress and the army
might count upon under certain circumstances. No doubt people
were patriotic and wished to maintain their rights; but no doubt
people would be more patriotic and more enthusiastic and
practically active in their support of both Congress and the
army, if they were reasonably prosperous and contented than if
they were not. Self-denying ordinances were, by their very nature,
of temporary and limited efficacy; and it was pertinent to
inquire how long the people would be content with the total
stoppage of trade and the decay of business which was becoming
every day more marked. "We can live on acorns; but will we?" It
would perhaps be prudent not to expect "more virtue...from
our people than any people ever had"; it would be prudent "not to
put virtue to too severe a test, ...lest we wear it out." And
it might well be asked what would wear it out and "disunite us
more than the decay of all business? The people will feel, and
will say, that Congress tax them and oppress them more than
Parliament." If the people were to be asked to fight for their
rights, they must at all hazards not be allowed to say that
Congress oppressed them more than Parliament!

For the moment all this was no more than a confession that the
Association, originally designed as a finely chiseled
stepping-stone to reconciliation, was likely to prove a
stumbling-block unless the King graciously extended his royal
hand to give a hearty lift. It presently appeared that the King
refused to extend his hand. October 31, 1775, information reached
America that Richard Penn and Arthur Lee, having presented the
petition to Lord Dartmouth, were informed that the King would not
receive them, and furthermore that no answer would be returned to
the Congress. Ignoring the petition was to exhibit only one
degree more of contempt for that carefully prepared document than
the Congress had shown for Lord North's Resolution on
Conciliation; and now that the olive branch had been spurned on
both sides, it was a little difficult to see how either side
could possibly refuse the sword.

That the colonies would refuse the sword was not very likely;
but, as if to make a refusal impossible, the British Government,
on December 22, 1775, decided to thrust the sword into their
hands. This at all events was thought by many men to be the
effect of the Prohibitory Act, which declared the colonies
outside the protection of the Crown, and which, for the purpose
of reducing them to submission, laid an embargo upon all their
trade and proclaimed their ports in a state of blockade.

"I know not [John Adams wrote] whether you have seen the Act of
Parliament called the Restraining Act or Prohibitory Act, or
Piratical Act, or Act of Independency--for by all these titles is
it called. I think the most apposite is the Act of Independency;
the King, Lords, and Commons have united in sundering this
country from that, I think, forever. It is a complete
dismemberment of the British Empire. It throws thirteen colonies
out of the royal protection, and makes us independent in spite of
supplications and entreaties. It may be fortunate that the act of
Independency should come from the British Parliament rather than
from the American Congress; but it is very odd that Americans
should hesitate at accepting such a gift from them."

The majority of those who refused to accept it--and the number
was large--retired, with saddened hearts for the most part, into
the ranks of the British Loyalists; only a few, with John
Dickinson at their head, could still visualize the vanishing
image of reconciliation. Whether the Prohibitory Act made
reconciliation impossible or not, one thing at all events it made
clear: if Britain was bent on forcing the colonies to submit by
ruining their trade, it could scarcely be good policy for the
colonies to help her do it; of which the reasonable conclusion
seemed to be that, since the Parliament wished to close the ports
of America to the world, Congress would do well to open them to
the world. On February 16, 1776, Congress accordingly took into
"consideration the propriety of opening the ports." To declare
the ports open to the world was no doubt easily done; but the
main thing after all was to carry on trade with the world; and
this was not so easy since British naval vessels were there to
prevent it. "We can't carry on a beneficial trade, as our enemies
will take our ships"; so Mr. Sherman said, and of this he thought
the obvious inference was that "a treaty with a foreign power is
necessary, before we open our trade, to protect it.

"A treaty with a foreign power"--Mr. Wythe also mentioned this as
a possible way of reviving the trade of the colonies; but a
treaty with a foreign power was easier conceived of than made,
and Mr. Wythe thought "other things are to be considered before
we adopt such a measure." In considering these "other things,"
Mr. Wythe asked and answered the fundamental question: "In what
character shall we treat?--as subjects of Great Britain--as
rebels?...If we should offer our trade to the court of
France, would they take notice of it any more than if Bristol or
Liverpool should offer theirs, while we profess to be subjects?
No. We must declare ourselves a free people." Thus it appeared
that the character of British subjects, no less than the
Association, was a stumblingblock in the way of obtaining "the
means of carrying on the war." The sword, as an instrument for
maintaining rights, could after all not be effectively wielded by
America so long as her hand was shackled by even the half-broken
ties of a professed allegiance to Britain. Therefore, when the
Congress, on the 6th of April, opened the ports of the colonies
to the world, the Declaration of Independence was a foregone

The idea of independence, for many months past, had hovered like
a disembodied hope or menace about the entrance ways of
controversy. A few clear-sighted men, such as John Adams and
Samuel Seabury, had so long contemplated the idea without
blinking that it had taken on familiar form and substance. But
the great majority had steadily refused to consider it, except as
a possible alternative not needing for the present to be
embraced. All these moderate, middle-of-the-way men had now to
bring this idea into the focus of attention, for the great
illusion that Britain would not push matters to extremities was
rapidly dissolving, and the time was come when it was no longer
possible for any man to be a British-American and when every man
must decide whether it was better to be an American even at the
price of rebellion or a Briton even at the price of submission.
It is true that many never made up their minds on this point,
being quite content to swear allegiance to whichever cause,
according to time or place, happened to be in the ascendant. But
of all those thinking men whose minds could be made up to stay,
perhaps a third--this is the estimate of John Adams--joined the
ranks of the British Loyalists; while the rest, with more or less
reluctance, gave their support, little or great, to the cause of

When one has made, with whatever reluctance, an irrevocable
decision, it is doubtless well to become adjusted to it as
rapidly as possible; and this he can best do by thinking of the
decision as a wise one--the only one, in fact, which a sensible
person could have made. Thus it was that the idea of
independence, embraced by most men with reluctance as a last
resort and a necessary evil, rapidly lost, in proportion as it
seemed necessary, its character of evil, took on the character of
the highest wisdom, and so came to be regarded as a predestined
event which all honest patriots must rejoice in having had a hand
in bringing about.

This change in the point of view would doubtless have been made
in any case; but in rapidly investing the idea of independence
with the shining virtues of an absolute good to be embraced
joyously, a great influence must be ascribed to the little
pamphlet entitled "Common Sense", written by a man then known to
good patriots as Thomas Paine, and printed in January, 1776.
Intrinsically considered, "Common Sense" was indeed no great
performance. The matter, thin at best, was neither profoundly nor
subtly reasoned; the manner could hardly be described by even the
most complacent critic as humane or engaging. Yet "Common Sense"
had its brief hour of fame. Its good fortune was to come at the
psychological moment; and being everywhere read during the months
from January to July, 1776, it was precisely suited to convince
men, not so much that they ought to declare independence, as that
they ought to declare it gladly, ought to cast off lightly their
former false and mawkish affection for the "mother country" and
once for all to make an end of backward yearning looks over the
shoulder at this burning Sodom.

To a militant patriot like Thomas Paine it was profoundly
humiliating to recall that for ten years past Americans had
professed themselves "humble and loyal subjects" and "dutiful
children," yielding to none in "admiration" for the "excellent
British Constitution," desiring only to live and die as free
citizens under the protecting wing of the mother country.
Recalling all this sickening sentimentalism, Mr. Paine uttered a
loud and ringing BOSH! Let us clear our minds of cant, he said in
effect, and ask ourselves what is the nature of government in
general and of the famous British Constitution in particular.
Like the Abbe Sieyes, Mr. Paine had completely mastered the
science of government, which was in fact extremely simple. Men
form societies, he said, to satisfy their wants, and then find
that governments have to be established to restrain their
wickedness; and therefore, since government is obviously a
necessary evil, that government is best which is simplest.

Just consider then this "excellent British Constitution," and say
whether it is simple. On the contrary, it is the most
complicated, irrational, and ridiculous contrivance ever devised
as a government of enlightened men. Its admirers say that this
complexity is a virtue, on account of the nice balance of powers
between King, Lords, and Commons, which guarantees a kind of
liberty through the resulting inertia of the whole. The Lords
check the Commons and the Commons check the King. But how comes
it that the King needs to be checked? Can he not be trusted? This
is really the secret of the whole business--that Monarchy
naturally tends to despotism; so that the complication of the
British Constitution is a virtue only because its basic principle
is false and vicious. If Americans still accept the doctrine of
the Divine Right of Kings, well and good; if not, then in
Heaven's name let them cease to bow down in abject admiration of
the British Constitution!

And in ceasing to admire the British Constitution, Americans
should also, Thomas Paine thought, give up that other fatal
error, the superstition that up to the present unhappy moment the
colonies had derived great benefits from living under the
protecting wing of the mother country. Protection! "We have
boasted the protection of Great Britain, without considering that
her motive was interest not attachment; and that she did not
protect us from our enemies ON OUR OWN ACCOUNT, but from her
enemies ON HER OWN ACCOUNT, from those who have no quarrel with
us on any other account, and who will always be our enemies ON
THE SAME ACCOUNT." An odd sort of protection that, which served
only to entangle the colonies in the toils of European intrigues
and rivalries, and to make enemies of those who would otherwise
befriends! "Our duty to mankind at large, as well as to
ourselves, instructs us to renounce the alliance: because, any
submission to, or dependence upon, Great Britain, tends directly
to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels, and set
us at variance with nations who would otherwise seek our
friendship and against whom we have neither anger nor complaint."

What foolishness then to seek reconciliation, even if it were
possible! Reconciliation at this stage would be the ruin of
America. If King George were indeed clever, he would eagerly
repeal all the obnoxious acts and make every concession; for when
the colonies had once become reconciled he could accomplish by
"craft and subtlety, in the long run, what he cannot do by force
and violence in the short one." The colonies, having come to
maturity, cannot always remain subject to tutelage; like the
youth who has reached his majority, they must sooner or later go
their own way. Why not now? Beware of reconciliation and of all
those who advocate it, for they are either "interested men, who
are not to be trusted, weak men who cannot see, prejudiced men
who will not see, or a certain set of moderate men who think
better of the European world than it deserves."

Such arguments were indeed precisely suited to convince men that
independence, so far from being an event in which they had become
entangled by the fatal network of circumstance, was an event
which they freely willed. "Read by almost every American, and
recommended as a work replete with truth, against which none but
the partial and prejudiced can form any objection,
satisfied multitudes that it is their true interest immediately
to cut the Gordian knot by which the...colonists have been
bound to Great Britain, and to open their commerce, as an
independent people, to all the nations of the world." In April
and May, after the Congress had opened the ports, the tide set
strongly and irresistibly in the direction of the formal
declaration. "Every post and every day rolls in upon us," John
Adams said, "Independence like a torrent." It was on the 7th of
June that Richard Henry Lee, in behalf of the Virginia delegation
and in obedience to the instructions from the Virginia
Convention, moved "that these United Colonies are, and of right
ought to be, free and independent State... ; that it is
expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for
forming foreign Alliances; ...and that a plan of confederation
be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their
consideration and approbation."

The "resolution respecting independency," debated at length, was
postponed till the 1st of July, when it was again brought up for
consideration. It was still, on that day, opposed by many,
chiefly by John Dickinson, who now said that he should not be
against independence ultimately, but that he could not consent to
it at the present moment because it would serve to divide rather
than to unite the colonies. At the close of the debate on the 1st
of July, there seemed little prospect of carrying the resolution
by a unanimous vote. The Delaware deputies were evenly divided,
the third member, Caesar Rodney, not being at the moment in
Philadelphia; the Pennsylvania deputies were opposed to the
resolution, three against two; while the New York and South
Carolina deputies were not in a position to vote at all, having,
as they said, no instructions. The final vote was therefore again
postponed until the following day.

Which of the deputies slept this night is not known. But it is
known that Caesar Rodney, hastily summoned, mounted his horse and
rode post-haste to Philadelphia, arriving in time to cast the
vote of Delaware in favor of independence; it is known that John
Dickinson and Robert Morris remained away from Independence
Hall, and that James Wilson changed his mind and voted with
Franklin and Morton; and it is known that the South Carolina
deputies came somehow to the conclusion, over night, that their
instructions were after all sufficient. Thus it was that on July
2, 1776, twelve colonies voted that "these United Colonies are,
and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States." One week
later, the New York deputies, having been properly instructed,
cast the vote of their colony for the resolution also.

Meanwhile, a committee had been appointed to prepare a formal
declaration, setting forth the circumstances and the motives
which might justify them, in the judgment of mankind, in taking
this momentous step. The committee had many meetings to discuss
the matter, and, when the main points had been agreed upon, John
Adams and Thomas Jefferson were instructed to "draw them up in
form, and clothe them in a proper dress." Many years afterwards,
in 1822, John Adams related, as accurately as he could, the
conversation which took place when these two met to perform the
task assigned them. "Jefferson proposed to me to make the
draught. I said, 'I will not.' 'You should do it.' 'Oh! no.' 'Why
will you not? You ought to do it.' 'I will not.' 'Why?' 'Reasons
enough.' 'What can be your reasons?' 'Reason first--You are a
Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this
business. Reason second--I am obnoxious, suspected, and
unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third--You can
write ten times better than I can.' 'Well,' said Jefferson, 'if
you are decided, I will do as well as I can.'" In some such
manner as this it came about that Thomas Jefferson wrote the
Declaration of Independence, no doubt doing, as he said, the best
he could.

It is the judgment of posterity that Mr. Jefferson did very
well--which was doubtless due partly to the fact that he could
write, if not ten times better, at least better than John Adams.
Yet the happy phrasing of a brief paragraph or two could scarcely
By itself have won so much fame for the author; and perhaps much
Of the success of this famous paper came from the circumstance
That ten years of controversy over the question of political
rights had forced Americans to abandon, step by step, the
restricted ground of the positive and prescriptive rights of
Englishmen and to take their stand on the broader ground of the
natural and inherent rights of man. To have said, "We hold this
truth to be self-evident: that all Englishmen are endowed by the
British Constitution with the customary right of taxing themselves
internally" would probably have made no great impression on the
sophisticated European mind. It was Thomas Jefferson's good
fortune, in voicing the prevailing sentiment in America, to give
classic expression to those fundamental principles of a political
faith which was destined, in the course of a hundred years, to
win the allegiance of the greater part of the western world.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these, are Life, Liberty,
and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers
from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
Government, laying its foundation on such Principles and
organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

It is to these principles--for a generation somewhat obscured, it
must be confessed, by the Shining Sword and the Almighty Dollar,
by the lengthening shadow of Imperialism and the soporific haze
of Historic Rights and the Survival of the Fittest--it is to
these principles, these "glittering generalities," that the minds
of men are turning again in this day of desolation as a refuge
from the cult of efficiency and from faith in "that which is just
by the judgment of experience."


Contemporary Writings; Many of the most important documents for
this period are in the following brief collections: W. Macdonald,
"Select Charters and Other Documents," 1906; H. W. Preston,
"Documents Illustrative of American History," 5th ed., 1900; H.
Niles, "Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America," 1822;
J. Almon, "Collection of Papers Relative to the Dispute between
Great Britain and America," 1777 (commonly cited as "Prior
Documents"). The spirit of the times is best seen in the
contemporary newspapers, many extracts from which are printed in
F. Moore, "Diary of the American Revolution from the Newspapers
and Original Documents," 1863. Of the numberless controversial
pamphlets, the following are noteworthy: J. Otis, "Rights of the
British Colonies Asserted and Proved," 1764; D. Dulaney,
"Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes on the British
Colonies" 1765; J. Dickinson, "Letters from a Farmer in
Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, "1768
(also in "Writings of John Dickinson," 3 vols. 1895); W. Knox,
"The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies
Reviewed," 1769 (excellent pro-British reply to Dickinson); S.
Jenyns, "The Objections to the Taxation of Our American Colonies
...Briefly Considered," 1765; J. Wilson, "Considerations on
the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British
Parliament," 1774 (also in "The Works of James Wilson," 2 vols.
1896); S. Seabury, "Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the
Continental Congress," 1774; T. Paine, "Common Sense," 1776 (also
in "Writings of Thomas Paine," 4 vols. 1894-96). These pamphlets
are not available to most readers, but all of them, together with
many others, have been admirably described and summarized in M.
C. Tyler, "The Literary History of the American Revolution," 2
vols. 1897. The letters and public papers of the leaders of the
Revolution have been mostly printed, among which some of the most
valuable and interesting collections are: C. F. Adams, "The Works
of John Adams," 10 vols. 1856 (vol. II); J. Adams, "Familiar
Letters of John Adams and his Wife Abigail Adams," 1875; W. C.
Ford, "The Warren-Adams Letters," 1917 (vol. I); A. H. Smyth,
"The Writing's of Benjamin Franklin," 10 vols. 1905-1907 (vols.
IV-VI); P. L. Ford, "The Writings of John Dickinson," 3 vols.
1895; H. A. Cushing, "The Writings of Samuel Adams," 4 vols.
1904-1908; P. O. Hutchinson, "Diary and Letters of Thomas
Hutchinson," 2 vols. 1884. The following works give the history
of the time as it appeared to various contemporaries: W. Gordon,
"History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of American
Independence," 4 vols. 1788 (parts of the work taken bodily from
the "Annual Register"); D. Ramsey, "History of the Revolution of
South Carolina," 2 vols. 1785; A. Graydon, "Memoirs of His Own
Times," 1846; T. Hutchinson, "History of Massachusetts Bay," 3
vols. 1795-1828 (based on documents collected by the author, some
of which were destroyed in the Stamp Act riots); Mercy Warren,
"History of the American Revolution," 3 vols. 1805 (author was a
sister of James Otis); VP. Moultrie, "Memoirs of the American
Revolution so far as it Related to North and South Carolina," 2
vols. 1802; J. Drayton, "Memoirs of the American Revolution," 2
vols. 1821; T. Jones, "History of New York in the Revolutionary
War," 2 vols. 1879 (by a prominent New York Loyalist); "The
Annual Register," 1765-1776 (an English annual giving summaries
of political events supposed to have been prepared by Edmund
Burke); H. Walpole, "Memoirs of the Reign of George the Third," 4
vols. 1894.

Secondary Works: The best single volume on the Revolution is W.
E. H. Lecky, "The American Revolution," 1912. Other good
accounts: E. Charming, "History of the United States," vol. III,
1912; G. Howard, "Preliminaries of the American Revolution,"
1905; S. G. Fisher, "Struggle for American Independence," 2 vols.
1908 (controverts many traditional ideas. Interesting book by a
man who has been bored by the laudation of the heroic and
patriotic side of the Revolution). Of the more detailed
histories, the best are: G. Bancroft, "History of the United
States," 10 vols. 1834-1874 (vols. V-VIII deal with the period
1765-1776. Strongly prejudiced but accurate as to facts; based on
documents collected in European archives, some of which are not
easily obtainable elsewhere. Revised ed., 6 vols. 1885, omits
notes and references, and therefore not so valuable as the
original edition); G. O. Trevelyan, "The American Revolution," 6
vols. 1899 1914 (brilliantly written by an Englishman of Liberal
sympathies. On the whole the work on the Revolution best worth
reading). Studies of the beginnings of the Revolution in
particular colonies: C. H. Lincoln, "Revolutionary Movement in
Pennsylvania," 1901; H. J. Eckenrode, "The Revolution in
Virginia," 1916; C. L. Becker, "History of political Parties in
New York,1760-1776," 1909. The best account of the British policy
leading up to the Grenville measures is G. L: Beer, "British
Colonial Policy, 1754-1765", 1907. The interesting and important
subject of the Loyalists is sketched in C. H. Van Tyne, "The
Loyalists of the American Revolution," 1902. Interesting
biographies well worth reading: W. W. Henry, "Patrick Henry:
Life, Correspondence, and Speeches," 3 vols. 1891; J. K. Hosmer,
"Life of Thomas Hutchinson," 1896; J. K. Hosmer, "Samuel Adams,"
1893; M. Chamberlin, "John Adams," 1884; C. J. Stille, "The Life
and Times of John Dickinson," 1891; D. D. Wallace, "Life of Henry
Laurens," 1915; P. L. Ford, "The Many-Sided Franklin," 1899; J.
Parton, "Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," 2 vols. 1867.

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