« PreviousContinue »
Barré's Speech rebuking Townshend. His Defense of the Americans. Effect of his Speech. Passage of the Stamp Act.
country, from the hands of those who should have been their friends. 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 behavior on many occasions has caused the blood of those sons of LIBERTY' to recoil within them—men promoted to the highest seats of justice; some who, to my knowledge, were glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of public justice in their own. They protected by your arms.' They have nobly taken up arms in your defense; have exerted a valor, amid 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 emoluments. And - believe me—remember I this day told you so— Colonel BARRK.” that same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first will accompany them still ; but prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this time speak from motives of party heat; what I deliver are the genuine sentiments of my heart. However superior to me, in general knowledge and experience, the respectable body of this House may be, I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant in that country. The people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has ; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them if ever they should be violated. But the subject is too delicate; I will say no more.” For a moment after the utterance of these solemn truths the House remained in silent amazement; but the utter ignorance of American affairs, and the fatal delusion wrought by ideas of royal power and colonial weakness, which prevailed in that assembly, soon composed their minds.” Very little debate was had upon the bill, and it passed the House after a single division, by a majority of two hundred and fifty to fifty. In the Lords it received scarcely any opposition. On the 22d of March the king cheerfully gave his assent, and the famous Stamp Act—the entering wedge for the dismemberment of the British empire—became a law. The protests of colonial agents, the remonstrances of London merchants trading with America, and the wise suggestions of men acquainted with the temper and resources of Americans were set at naught, and the infatuated ministry openly declared “that it was intended to establish the power of Great Britain to taz the colonies.” “The sun of liberty is set,” wrote Dr. Franklin to Charles Thomp
* This was the origin of the name which the associated patriots in America assumed when the speech of Barré reached the colonies, and organized opposition to the Stamp Act was commenced.
* Isaac Barré was born in 1727. His early years were devoted to study and military pursuits, and he attained the rank of colonel in the British army. Through the influence of the Marquis of Landsdowne he obtained a seat in the House of Commons, where he was ever the champion of American freedom. For several years previous to his death he was afflicted with blindness. He died July 1st, 1802, aged seventyfive years. Some have attributed the authorship of the celebrated Letters of Junius to Colonel Barré, the Marquis of Landsdowne, and Counselor Dunning, jointly, but the conjecture is unsupported by any argument.
* The apathy that prevailed in the British Parliament at that time respecting American affairs was astonishing, considering the interests at issue. Burke, in his Annual Register, termed it the “most languid debate” he had ever heard; and so trifling did the intelligent Horace Walpole consider the subject, that, in reporting everything of moment to the Earl of Hertford, he devoted but a single paragraph of a few lines to the debate that day on America. Indeed, Walpole honestly confessed his total ignorance of American affairs.
Excitement in America.
A Congress proposed. The Circular Letter of Massachusetts. Mrs. Mercy Warren
son' the very night that the act was passed; “the Americans must light the lamps of industry and economy.” When intelligence of the passage of the Stamp Act reached America, it set the whole country in a blaze of resentment. Massachusetts and Virginia—the head and the heart of the Revolution—were foremost and loudest in their denunciations, while New York and Pennsylvania were not much behind them in boldness and zeal. All the colonies were shaken, and from Maine to Georgia there was a spontaneous expression of determined resistance. In October, 1764, the New York Assembly appointed a committee to correspond with their agent in Great Britain, and with the several colonial Assemblies, on the subject of opposition to the Stamp Act and other oppressive measures of Parliament.” In the course of their correspondence, early in 1765, this committee urged upon the colonial Assemblies the necessity of holding a convention of delegates to remonstrate and protest against the continued violation of their rights and liberties. Massachusetts was the first to act upon this suggestion. That action originated with James Otis, Jr., and his father, while visiting a sister of the former one evening at Plymouth.” The recommendation of the New York committee was the subject of conversation. It was agreed to propose action on the subject in the General Assembly, and on the 6th of June the younger Mr. Otis, who was a member of the Legislature, made a motion in the House, which was adopted, that “It is highly expedient there should be a meeting, as soon as may be, of committees from the Houses of Representatives, or burgesses, in the several colonies, to consult on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are, and must be, reduced, and to consider of a general address—to be held at New York the first Tuesday in October.” The following circular letter was also adopted by the Assembly, and a copy ordered to be sent to the Speaker of each of the colonial Assemblies in America: “Boston, June, 1765. “SIR-The House of Representatives of this province, in the present session of general court, have unanimously agreed to propose a meeting, as soon as may be, of committees from the Houses of Representatives, or burgesses, of the several British colonies on this continent, to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are, and must be, reduced by the operation of the acts of Parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies; and to consider of a general and united, dutiful, loyal, and humble representation of their condition to his majesty and to the Parliament, and to implore relief. “The House of Representatives of this province have also voted to propose that such meeting be at the city of New York, in the province of New York, on the first Tuesday in October next, and have appointed a committee of three of their members to attend that service, with such as the other Houses of Representatives, or burgesses, in the several colonies, may think fit to appoint to meet them; and the committee of the House of Representatives of this province are directed to repair to the said New York, on the first Tuesday in October next, accordingly; if, therefore, your honorable House should agree to this proposal, it would
Mr. Thompson was afterward the Secretary of the Continental Congress. In reply to Franklin's letter he said, “Be assured, we shall light torches of another sort,” predicting the convulsions that soon followed.
* This committee consisted of Robert R. Livingston, John Cruger, Philip Livingston, William Bayard, and Leonard Lispenard. Mr. Cruger was then mayor of the city and Speaker of the Assembly.
* This sister was Mrs. Mercy Warren, wife of James Warren, Esq., of Plymouth, one of the members of the General Court. She wrote an excellent history of our Revolution, which was published in three volumes in 1805. She was born September 5th, 1728, at Barnstable, Massachusetts. Her youth was passed in the retirement of a quiet home, and reading, drawing, and needle-work composed the bulk of her recreations. She married Mr. Warren at the age of twenty-six. The family connections of both were extensive and highly respectable, and she not only became intimately acquainted with the leading men of the Revolution in Massachusetts, but was thoroughly imbued with the republican spirit. Her correspondence was quite extensive, and, as she herself remarks of her home, “by the Plymouth fireside were many political plans originated, discussed, and digested.” She kept a faithful record of passing events, out of which grew her excellent history. She wrote several dramas and minor poems, all of which glow with the spirit of th times. Mrs. Warren died on the 19th of October, 1814, in the eighty-seventh year of her aga.
Assembling of a Colonial Congress in New York. Defection of Ruggles and Ogden. The Proceedings. Stamp-masters
be acceptable that as early notice of it as possible might be transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of this province.”
This letter was favorably received by the other colonies, and delegates to the proposed Conoctober 7, gress were appointed. They met in the city of New York on the first Monday in 17* October. The time was earlier than the meeting of several of the colonial Assemblies, and, consequently, some of them were denied the privilege of appointing delegates. The Governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia refused to call the Assemblies together for the purpose. It was, therefore, agreed that committees from any of the colonies should have seats as delegates, and under this rule New York was represented by its corresponding committee. Nine of the thirteen colonies were represented, and the Assemblies of New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia wrote that they would agree to whatever was done by the Congress." The Convention was organized by the election, by ballot, of Timothy Ruggles, of Massachusetts, as chairman, and the appointment of John Cotten clerk. It continued in session fourteen consecutive days, and adopted a Declaration of Rights, a Petition to the King, and a Memorial to both Houses of Parliament, in all of which the principles that governed the leaders of the soon-following Revolution were clearly set forth. These documents, so full of the spirit of men determined to be free, and so replete with enlightened political wisdom, are printed in full in the appendix." All the delegates affixed their signatures of approval to the proceedings, except Mr. Ruggles, the president, and Mr. Ogden, of New Jersey, both of whom thus early manifested their defection from a cause which they afterward openly opposed. The conduct of the former drew down upon him a vote of censure from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and he was reprimanded, in his place, by the Speaker. He and Otis were the leaders of the opposite parties, and as the Revolution advanced Ruggles became a bitter Tory.” Ogden was also publicly censured for his conduct on that occasion, was burned in effigy, and at the next meeting of the Assembly of New Jersey was dismissed from the Speaker's chair, which honorable post he held at the time of the Congress. The deputies of three of the colonies, not having been authorized by their respective Assemblies to address the king and Parliament, did not sign the petition and memorial. All the colonies, by the votes of their respective Assemblies, when they convened subsequently, approved the measures adopted by the Congress; and before the day on which the noxious act was to take effect, Amer- November 1. ica spoke with one voice to the king and his ministers, denouncing the measure, 1765. and imploring them to be just. On the passage of the Stamp Act officers were appointed in the several colonies, to receive and distribute the stamped parchments and papers. The colonial agents in England were consulted, and those whom they recommended as discreet and proper persons were appointed. The agents generally had opposed the measure, but, now that it had become a law, they were disposed to make the best of it. Mr. Ingersoll, whom I have mentioned in
* The following delegates were present at the organization of the Convention: Massachusetts.-James Otis, Oliver Partridge, Timothy Ruggles. New York.-Robert R. Livingston, John Cruger, Philip Livingston, William Bayard, Leonard Lispenard. New Jersey.—Robert Ogden, Hendrick Fisher, Joseph Borden. Rhode Island.—Metcalf Bowler, Henry Ward. Pennsylvania.-John Dickenson, John Morton, George Bryan. Delaware.—Thomas M'Kean, Caesar Rodney. Connecticut.—Eliphalet Dyer, David Rowland, William S. Johnson. Maryland.—William Murdock, Edward Tilghman, Thomas Ringgold. South Carolina.-Thomas Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, John Rutledge. * The Declaration of Right was written by John Cruger; the Petition to the King, by Robert R. Livingston; and the Memorial to both Houses of Parliament, by James Otis. * In Mrs. Warren's drama called The Group, Ruggles figures in the character of Brigadier Hate-All. He fought against the Americans, at the head of a corps of Loyalists, and at the close of the war settled in Nova Scotia, where he has numerous descendants. G r:
Franklin's Advice to Ingersoll. Arrival of the Stamps. Patrick Henry's Resolutions. “Liberty Tree." Effigies
a former chapter as stamp-master in Connecticut, was in England at the time. Franklin advised him to accept the office, adding, “Go home and tell your countrymen to get children as fast as they can”—thereby intimating that the colonists were too feeble, at that moment, to resist the government successfully, but ought to gain strength as fast as possible, in order to shake off the oppressions which, he foresaw, were about to be laid upon them. But lit. tle did he and other agents suspect that the stamp-masters would be held in such utter detestation as they were, or that such disturbances would occur as followed, or they would not have procured the appointments for their friends. The ministry, however, seem to have anticipated trouble, for a clause was inserted in the annual Mutiny Act, authorizing as many troops to be sent to America as ministers saw fit, and making it obligatory upon the people to find quarters for them. During the summer and autumn the public mind was greatly disturbed by the arrival of vessels bringing the stamps, and the first of November was looked forward to with intense interest—by some with fear, but by more with firm resolution to resist the operations of the May 30, oppressive act. Virginia rang the alarum bell, by a series of resolutions drawn up 17* by Patrick Henry, sustained by his powerful oratory, and adopted by the House of Burgesses. Of these resolutions, and of Henry's eloquence on that occasion, I shall hereafter write. So much did the notes of that alarum sound like the voice of treason, that a manuscript copy which was sent to Philadelphia, and another to New York, were handed about with great privacy. In the latter city no one was found bold enough to print the resolutions, but in Boston they soon appeared in the Gazette of Edes and Gill, and their sentiments, uttered in the Assembly, were echoed back from every inhabited hill and valley in New England. Before any stamps had arrived in America symptoms of an outbreak appeared in Boston. A large elm-tree, which stood at the corner of the present Washington and Essex Streets, opposite the Boylston Market, received the appellation of “Liberty Tree,” from the circumstance that under it the association called SoNs of LIBERTY held meetings during the summer of 1765. From a limb of this tree several of the Sons of Liberty' suspended two effigies early on the morning of the 14th of August. One represented Andrew Oliver, secretary of the colony, and just appointed stamp distributor for Massachusetts; the other was a large boot, intended to represent Lord Bute, with a head and horns, to personify the devil peeping out of the top. A great number of people were attracted to these effi. gies in the course of the day, the authorities in the mean while taking no public notice of the insult, for fear of serious consequences. Indeed, Sir Francis Bernard, the royal governor, had thus far been almost non-committal on the subjects that were agitating the colonies, although he was strongly suspected of secretly encouraging the passage of the Stamp Act and kindred measures. In the evening the effigies were cut down
John Avery, Jr., Thomas Crafts, John Smith, Henry Wills, Thomas Chace, Stephen Cleverly, Henry Ross, and Benjamin Edes.
* I am indebted to the Hon. David Sears, of Boston, for this sketch of the “Liberty Tree,” as it appeared just previous to its destruction by the British troops and Tories, during the siege of Boston in August, 1775. Mr. Sears has erected a row of fine buildings upon the site of the old grove of elms, of which this tree was one; and within a niche, on the front of one of them, and exactly over the spot where the Liberty Tree stood, he has placed a sculptured representation of it, as seen in the picture. From the time of the Stamp Act excitement until the armed possession of Boston by General Gage and his troops in 1774, that tree had been the rallying-place for the patriots, and had fallen, in consequence, much in disfavor with the friends of government. It was inscribed “LIBERTY TREE,” and the ground under it was called “LIBERTY HALL.” The
Riot in Boston. Destruction of private Property. Attack on Hutchinson's House. Destruction of “Liberty Tree."
and carried in procession, the populace shouting, “Liberty and property forever! No stamps! No taxation without our consent!” They then proceeded to Kilby Street, and pulling down a small building just erected by Oliver, to be used, as they suspected, for selling stamps, they took a portion of it to Fort Hill and made a bonfire of it. The mob then rushed toward Oliver's house, beheaded his effigy before it, and broke all the front windows. His effigy was then taken to Fort Hill and burned. Returning to his house, they burst open the door, declaring their intention to kill him, and in brutal wantonness destroyed his furniture, trees, fences, and garden. Mr. Oliver had escaped by a rear passage, and the next morn- Augustus, ing,a considering his life in danger, he resigned his office. Four months afterward 1765. he was compelled by the populace to go under Liberty Tree, and there publicly read his resignation. In the evening the mob again assembled, and besieged the house of the late Chief. justice Hutchinson, now lieutenant governor of the province. They did but little damage, and finished their evening's orgies by a bonfire on the Common. On the 25th the Rev. Jonathan Mahew, minister of the West Church in Boston, preached a powerful sermon against the Stamp Act, taking for his text, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty: only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” On Monday evening following a mob collected in King Street, and, proceeding to the residence of Paxton, the marshal of the Court of Admiralty, menaced it. The owner assured them that the officer was not there, and, conciliating the populace by a present of a barrel of punch at a tavern nearby, saved his premises from injury. Maddened with liquor, they rushed to the house of Story, regis. trar of the Admiralty, and destroyed not only the public documents, but his private papers. They next plundered the house of Hallowell, the controller of customs; and, their numbers being considerably augmented and their excitement increased, they hurried to the mansion of Lieutenant-governor Hutchinson,” on North Square. Hutchinson and his family escaped
Essex Gazette of August 31st, 1775, in describing the destruction of the tree, says, “They made a furious attack upon it. After a long spell of laughing and grinning, sweating, swearing, and foaming with malice diabolical, they cut down the tree because it bore the name of liberty. A soldier was killed by falling from one of its branches during the operation.” In a tract entitled “A Voyage to Boston,” published in 1775, the writer thus alludes to the scene:
“Now shined the gay-faced sun with morning light,
* Galatians, v., 12, 13.
* Thomas Hutchinson was born in 1711, and graduated at Harvard College in 1727. He studied English constitutional law, with a view to public employment. For ten years he was a member of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, and three years its Speaker. He succeeded his uncle Edward as Judge of Probate in 1752; was a member of the Council from 1749 until 1756, and lieutenant governor from 1758 to 1771. He held the office of chief justice after the death of Sewall, in 1760. This office had been promised by Shirley to the elder Otis, and the appointment greatly displeased that influential family. Several acts of Hutchinson had made him unpopular with certain of the people. In 1748, the paper currency of the colony having depreciated to about an eighth of its original value, Hutchinson projected, and carried through the House, a bill for abolishing it, and substituting gold and silver. It was a proper measure, but displeased