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Real Weakness of the British Ministry. Newspaper Poetry. The Snake Device.
cause of all the colonies, and never were the British ministry really weaker in their government relations to America than when Lord North was forging, as he vainly thought, the setters of majestic law to bind the colonies indissolubly to the throne. In honorable concession alone lay his real strength, but of these precious locks the Delilah of haughty ambition had shorn him, and when he attempted to put forth his power, he found himself “like other men,” weak indeed
Royal Gazette," who called it a “scandalous and saucy reflection,” was answered as follows by a correspondent of the Journal :
“To the Author of the Lines in Mr. Rivington's Paper, on the Snake depicted in some of the American Newspapers.
“That New England's abused, and by sons of se-
i Rivington was the “king's printer" in New York city. His office was at the southeast corner of Pearl and Wall Streets. He had the entire confidence of the British authorities, and held the “rebels" in great contempt. He was a caustic writer, and his remarks were often remembered with bitterness for years. The following anecdote is illustrative of this fact:
Among those who cherished very hostile feelings toward Rivington was that dare-devil, General Ethan Allen, of Vermont, who swore he would “lick Rivington the very first opportunity he had.” Rivington himself, aware of his intentions, gave a most humorous description of his interview with Allen, showing, at the same time, his exceeding cleverness and tact, which may even at this day be profitable to his editorial brethren. Rivington was a fine, portly looking man, dressed in the extreme of fashion —curled and powdered hair, claret-colored coat, scarlet waistcoat trimmed with gold lace, buckskin breeches, and top boots— and kept the very best society.
The clerk below stairs saw Allen coming at a distance. “I was sitting,” said Rivington, “after a good dinner, alone, with my bottle of Madeira before me, when I heard an unusual noise in the street, and a huzza from the boys. I was in the second story, and, stepping to the window, saw a tall figure in tarnished regimentals, with a large cocked hat and an enormous long sword, followed by a crowd of boys, who occasionally cheered him with huzzas, of which he seemed insensible. He came up to my door and stopped. I could see no more. My heart told me it was Ethan Allen. I shut down my window, and retired behind my table and bottle. I was certain the hour of reckoning had come. There was no retreat. Mr. Staples, my clerk. came in paler than ever, and clasping his hands, said, “Master, he is come!' 'I know it.” “He entered the store, and asked “if James Rivington lived there." I answered, “Yes, sir.” “Is he at home?” “I will go and see, sir,” I said; and now, master, what is to be done? There he is in the store, and the boys peeping at him from the street.' I had made up my mind. I looked at the bottle of Madeira—possibly took a glass. “Show him up,' said I; “and if such Madeira can not mollify him, he must be harder than adamant.' There was a fearful moment of suspense. I heard him on the stairs, his long sword clanking at every step. In he stalked. "Is your name James Rivington?” “It is, sir, and no man could be more happy than I am to see Colonel Ethan Allen.’ “Sir, I have come—" "Not another word, my dear colonel, until you have taken a seat and a glass of old Madeira. “But, sir, I don't think it proper—' ‘Not another word, colonel. Taste this wine; I have had it in glass for ten years. Old wine. you know, unless it is originally sound, never improves by age. He took the glass, swallowed the wine, smacked his lips, and shook his head approvingly. 'Sir, I come—’ ‘Not another word until you have taken another glass, and then, my dear colonel. we will talk of old affairs, and I have some droll events to detail. In short, we finished two bottles of Madeira, and parted as good friends as if we never had cause to be otherwise."
General Gage at Boston. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Assembly. Proposition for a General Congress.
Scene IV. In Boston, while the Regulars were flying from Lexington.
LoRD Boston, surrounded by his Guards and a few Officers.
Lord Boston. If Colonel Smith succeeds in his embassy, and I think there's no doubt of it, I shall have the pleasure this evening, I expect, of having my friends Hancock and Adams's good company; I'll make each of them a present of a pair of handsome iron ruffles, and Major Provost shall provide a suitable entertainment for them in his apartment.
Officer. Sure they'll not be so unpolite as to refuse your excellency's kind invitation.
Lord Boston. Should they, Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn have my orders to make use of all their rhetoric and the persuasive eloquence of British thunder.
Enters a messenger in haste.
I bring your excellency unwelcome tidings—
Lord Boston. For Heaven's sake! from what quarter?
Messenger. From Lexington plains.
Lord Boston. 'Tis impossible!
Messenger. Too true, sir.
Lord Boston. Say—what is it? Speak what you know.
Messenger. Colonel Smith is defeated and fast retreating.
Lord Boston. Good God! what does he say? Mercy on me!
Messenger. They’re flying before the enemy.
Lord Boston. Britons turn their backs before the Rebels the Rebels put Britons to flight! Said you not so?
Messenger. They are routed, sir; they are flying this instant; the provincials are numerous, and hourly gaining strength; they have nearly surrounded our troops. A re-enforcement, sir, a timely succor, may save the shattered remnant. Speedily speedily, sir! or they're irretrievably lost. -
“The FALL of BRITish TYRANNY, or AMERICAN LIBERTY TRIUMPHANT.”
o: , ENERAL GAGE soon became a tyrant in the eyes of the people of Boston. However humane were his intentions, the execution of his commission necessarily involved harsh and oppressive measures. Pursuant to the provisions of the Port Bill, he proceeded, after the appointment of the members of the Council (see note 1, next page), to transfer the govern some 1, ment offices to Salem, and on the 31st of May the Assembly held its final 1774. session in Boston. By proclamation, Gage adjourned the House until the 7th of June, and ordered the next meeting at Salem. Anticipating this measure, the House appointed two members of the Assembly—Samuel Adams and James Warren—to act in the interim, as the exigencies of the case might require. These, with a few others already named, held private conferences, and arranged plans for the public good. On the third evening after the adjournment of the Assembly, their plans were matured. The suggestions of New York and other places, as well as X the hints thrown out by Pownall in the House of Commons respecting a general w Congress, were favorably considered. A plan was arranged for a Continental Con; gress; they also matured measures for making provisions for supplying funds and t munitions of war, prepared an address to the other colonies, inviting their co-operation in the measure of a general Congress, and drew up a non-importation agreement.
* This is a well-written drama, published by Styner and Cist, Philadelphia, in 1776. Its sub-title is, “A tragi-Comedy of Five Acts, as lately planned at the Royal Theatrum Pandemonium at St. James's. The principal place of action, in America.” It is dedicated “To Lord Boston [General Gage], Lord Kidmapper [Dunmore, governor of Virginia], and the innumerable and never-ending class of Macs and Donalds upon Donalds, and the remnant of the gentlemen Officers, Actors, Merry Andrews, Strolling Players, Pi
Boldness of the Patriots. Attempt to Dissolve the Assembly. The “League.”
These several propositions and plans were boldly laid before the General Court when it
June 7, reopened at Salem. The few partisans of the crown in that Assembly were filled 1774 with amazement and alarm at the boldness of the popular leaders; and as rank treason was developed in the first acts of the majority, a partisan of government determined, if possible, to put a stop to further rebellious proceedings. Feigning sudden illness, he was allowed to leave the Assembly. He went immediately to the governor and acquainted him with the proceedings in progress.” Gage sent his secretary to dissolve the Assembly by proclamation, but the patriots were too vigilant for him. The doors of the Assembly were locked, and the keys were safely deposited in Samuel Adams's pocket. The secretary read the proclamation on the stairs, but it was unheeded by the patriots within. They proceeded to adopt and sign a “Solemn League and Covenant,” in which all former non-importation agreements and cognate undertakings were concentrated, and a committee was appointed to send the covenant, as a circular, to every colony in America.” They also adopted the other plans matured by Adams and - o others, and a resolution that “a meeting of 2/ > Z committees, from the several colonies on †. a 22-2^ -.../zoa 2.2 2-4 continent, is highly expedient and necessary, to consult upon the present state of the country, and the miseries to which we are and must be reduced by the operation of certain acts of Parliament, and to deliberate and determine on wise and proper measures to be recom
rates, and Buccaneers in America.” As most of the real names of the dramatis personae are familiar to the readers of the few preceding chapters, I give the list as printed in the copy of the drama before me.
Lord Paramount . . . . . . BUTE. Charley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jenkinson.
* The political complexion of the new Council did not please Gage. He exercised the prerogative given to him by the charter to the fullest extent in rejecting thirteen of the elected counselors. The remainder were not much more agreeable to him.
* General Gage was then residing at the house of Robert Hooper, Esq., in Danvers, about four miles from Salem.
* All who felt an attachment to the American cause were called upon to sign it; and the covenanters were required to obligate themselves, in the presence of God, to cease all commerce with England, dating from the last of the ensuing month of August, until the late wicked acts of Parliament should be repealed and the Massachusetts colony reinstated in all its rights and privileges; to abstain from the use of any British goods whatsoever; and to avoid all commerce or traffic with those who refused to sign the League. Finally, it was covenanted that those who refused to sign the League should be held up to public scorn and indignation by the publication of their names. The articles of the League were transmitted by circulars to all the other provinces, with invitations to the inhabitants to affix their names thereto. Philadelphia alone, as a city, did not accept the invitation to join in such a measure, preferring to refer the matter to a general Congress, and agreeing to execute faithfully all measures therein agreed upon.
* A biographical sketch of this distinguished patriot will be found among those of the signers of the Dec. laration of Independence printed in the Appendix.
"Appointment of Delegates to a Continental Congress. , Denunciation of the “League." Closing of the Port of Boston.
mended to all the colonies for the recovery and re-establishment of our just rights and liberties, civil and religious, and the restoration of union and harmony between Great Britain and America, which is most ardently desired by all good men.” They designated the 1st of September as the time, and Philadelphia as the place of meeting. Thomas Cushing, the Speaker of the Assembly, James Bowdoin, many years a member of the Council, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Paine, were chosen delegates. A treasurer was appointed, and the towns were called upon to pay their respective shares of the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars, voted to the delegates in payment of their expenses. The whole business being ended, the Assembly adjourned indefinitely, and thus ended the last session of the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay, under a royal governor. Gage was greatly irritated by the proceedings of the Assembly, and the acts of the people of Boston in sustaining these traitorous measures. He refused to receive the answer of the General Court to his address, and issued a strong proclamation in denunciation of the League as an unlawful combination, hostile to the crown and Parliament, and ordering the magistrates to apprehend and bring to trial all who should be guilty of signing it. The people laughed at his proclamation, defied the pliant magistrates, and signed the League by thousands. Uncompromising hostility was aroused, and the arm of bold defiance was uplifted, even in the midst of distress and the menaces of foreign bayonets. At noon on the 1st of June the port of Boston was closed to all vessels that wished to enter, and, after the 14th, all that remained were not allowed to depart. The two regiments ordered to Boston by Gage had arrived, and were encamped on the Common. Soon afterward, these being re-enforced by several regiments from Halifax, Quebec, New York, and Ireland, the town became an immense garrison. The utter prostration of all business soon produced great distress in the city. The rich, deprived of their rents, became straitened, and the poor, denied the privilege of labor, were reduced to beggary. All classes felt the scourge of the oppressor, yet the fortitude and forbearance of the inhabitants were most remarkable. The sympathy of the people abroad was commensurate with the sufferings of the patriots, and from every quarter came expressions of friendship and substantial tokens of attachment to the sufferers. The people of Georgia sent the Bostonians sixtythree barrels of rice, and seven hundred and twenty dollars in specie. Wheat and other grain were forwarded to them from different points; Schoharie, in New York, alone sending five hundred and twenty-five bushels of wheat. The city of London, in its corporate capacity, subscribed one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the relief of the poor of Boston. The people of Marblehead and Salem offered the Boston merchants the free use of wharves and stores, for they scorned to enrich themselves at the expense of their oppressed neighbors. A committee was appointed in Boston to receive and distribute donations, and, in the midst of martial law, the suffering patriots were bold and unyielding. General Gage was warned to relax the rigor of his military rule, or open rebellion would ensue. He affected to disregard these warnings, yet he employed precautionary measures. Boston is situated upon a peninsula, at that time connected with the continent by a narrow strip of land called the Neck. Convinced that hostilities must ensue unless the home government should recede, and relying more upon soldiers than upon conciliatory deeds, Gage moved in subserviency to this reliance, and stationed a strong guard of armed men upon the Neck. He gave as a reason for this measure the shallow pretext that he wished to prevent desertions from his ranks. The people readily interpreted the meaning of his movement, and saw at once that the patriots of Boston were to be cut off from free communication with those in the country, and that arms and ammunition were not to be transported from the city to the interior. For the first time the free intercourse of New Englanders was interrupted, and the lightning of rebellion, that had for years been curbed within the hearts of the people, leaped forth in manifestations which alarmed the hitherto haughty hirelings of royalty. The members of the new Council, appointed by the governor under the act which changed, and indeed abrogated, the charter of Massachusetts, who had accepted office, were treated with disdain at every step, and a large proportion of them were forced to resign.
Peaceable Resistance of the People. Preparations for War. Recantation of the Hutchinson Addressor.
The courts of justice were suspended; the attorneys who had issued writs of citation were compelled to ask pardon in the public journals, and promise not to expedite others until the laws should be revoked and the charter re-established. The people occupied the seats of justice, that no room might be left for judges. When invited to withdraw, they answered that they recognized no other tribunals and no other magistrates than such as were established by ancient laws and usage.” Persuaded that war was inevitable, the people, throughout the-province, began to arm themselves and practice military tactics daily. Every where the fife and drum were heard, and fathers and sons, encouraged by the gentler sex, took lessons together in the art of war. The forge and hammer were busy in making guns and swords, and everything bore the animated but gloomy impress of impending hostility. The zeal of true patriots waxed warmer; the fears of the timid and lukewarm assumed the features of courage; the avowed friends of government became alarmed, and those Addressors, as they were called, who signed an address to Hutchinson on his departure, were obliged to make public recantations in the newspapers.” Some of the Boston clergy (particularly Dr. Cooper, the person who
* This picture is from an English print of the time. Then the principal portion of the town was upon the eastern slope and flats. There were a few houses upon the higher ground in the vicinity of Beacon Hill, around the Common, among which was that of John Hancock. In this picture, Beacon Hill is designated by the pole, which, with its barrel, is noticed in a preceding chapter. The peninsula originally contained about seven hundred acres. The hills have been razed and the earth carried into the water, by which means the peninsula is so enlarged that it now comprises about fourteen hundred acres.
* Otis's Botta, i., 124.
* There were many persons of some significance who were willing, at this stage of the controversy, to offer conciliatory measures, and they even gave encouragement to General Gage and his government. One hundred and twenty merchants and others of Boston signed an address to General Gage, expressing a willingness to pay for the tea destroyed. It is averred, also, that some of the wealthiest people of Boston actually endeavored to raise money to pay the East India Company for the tea, but the attempt failed. There were some others who protested against the course of the Committee of Correspondence and the action of a large portion of the ministers of the Gospel, who, they averred, were unduly exciting the people, and urging them headlong toward ruin. But these movements were productive only of mischief. They made the colonists more determined, and deluded the home government with the false idea that the most respectable portion of the people were averse to change or revolution. The following is a copy of the recantation, signed by a large number of the addressors: “Whereas we, the subscribers, did some time since sign an address to Governor Hutchinson, which, though prompted to by the best intentions, has, nevertheless, given great offense to our country; We do now declare, that we desire, so far from designing, by that action, to