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Appearance of Pitt in Parliament. His Speech on American Affairs. His conciliatory Proposition.
maica, in favor of the colonies, were treated with disdain, and the Americans had every reason to believe that government was anxious to light up the flame of war, with the expectation of at once crushing the spirit of independence in the West by a single tread of its iron heel of power. Parliament, which adjourned until after the Christmas holidays, reassembled on the 20th of January. Greatly to the astonishment of every one, Lord Chatham (Pitt) was in his place in the Upper House on the following day. It was understood that he had washed his hands of American affairs, and that he would probably not be seen in Parliament during the session. It was a mistake, and the great statesman opened the business of the session by proposing an address to the king, asking him to “immediately dispatch orders to General Gage to remove his forces from Boston as soon as the rigors of the season would permit.” “I wish, my lords,” he said, “not to lose a day in this urgent, pressing crisis. An hour now lost may produce years of calamity. For my part, I will not desert, for a single moment, the conduct of this weighty business. Unless mailed to my bed by extremity of sickness, I will give it my unremitted attention. I will knock at the door of this sleeping and confounded ministry, and will rouse them to a sense of their impending danger. When I state the importance of the colonies to this country, and the magnitude of danger from the present plan of misadministration practiced against them, I desire not to be understood to argue for a reciprocity of indulgence between England and America. I contend not for indulgence, but justice to America; and I shall ever contend that the Americans owe obedience to us in a limited degree.” After stating the points on which the supremacy of the mother country was justly predicated, the great orator continued : “Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just ; and your vain declarations of the omnipotence of Parliament, and your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will be found equally incompetent to convince or to enslave your fellow-subjects in America, who feel that tyranny, whether ambitioned by an individual part of the Legislature or the bodies who compose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects.” He then drew a picture of the condition of the troops in Bostom, suffering from the inclemencies of winter, insulted by the inhabitants, wasting away with sickness and pining for action ; and finally, after alluding to the wisdom of the late Congress and the approval of their acts by the people, he exclaimed, “I trust it is obvious to your lordships that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation, must be vain— must be fatal. We shall be forced ultimately to retract; let us retract while we can, not when we must. . . . . . To conclude, my lords, if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the king, I will not say that they can alienate the affections of his subjects from his crown, but I will affirm that they will make the crown not worth his wearing. I will not say that the king is betrayed, but I will pronounce that the kingdom is undone.” Chatham's motion was negatived by a vote of sixty-eight to eighteen. Not at all discouraged, he immediately presented a bill, in which it was proposed to renounce the power of taxation, demand of the Americans an acknowledgment of the supreme authority of Great Britain, and invite them to contribute, voluntarily, a specified sum annually, to be employed in meeting the charge on the national debt. This accomplished, it proposed an immediate repeal of all the objectionable acts of Parliament passed during the current reign, and then in force." This, of course, ministers regarded as a concession to the colonies quite as injurious to national honor as any thing yet proposed, and more humiliating, even, than Dr. Tucker's propositions, then attracting much attention, that Parliament should, by solemn act, separate the colonies from the parent government, and disallow any application for restoration to the rights and privileges of British subjects, until, by humble petition, they should
' These were ten in number: the Sugar Act, the two Quartering Acts, the Tea Act, the Act suspending the New York Legislature (hereafter to be noticed), the two Acts for the Trial in Great Britain of Offenses committed in America, the Boston Port Bill, the Act for Regulating the General Government of Massachusetts, and the Quebec Act.
Virtual Declaration of War against the Colonists. Warm Debates in Parliament. Chatham and Franklin. Gibbon and Fox.
ask for pardon and reinstatement.' Chatham's proposition received very little favor in the House of Lords, though loudly applauded by the more intelligent people without,” and it was negatived, on the motion of the Earl of Sandwich to “reject the bill now and forever,” by a vote of sixty-one against thirty-two. The ministry, governed by the ethics of the lion (without his magnanimity), “might makes right,” followed up their foolish rejection of the olive branch, by proposing measures tantamount to an actual declaration of war upon the American colonists, as rebels. On the 2d of February, North proposed the first of a series of coercive measures. He moved, in the Commons, for an address to the king, affirming that the province of Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion; that Great Britain would not relinquish an iota of her sovereign rule in the colonies, and urging his majesty to take effectual measures for enforcing obedience to the laws. The address concluded with the usual resolution to support him with their “lives and fortunes.” On introducing the motion, North intimated that a part of his plan was to materially increase the military forces in America, and to restrain the entire commerce of New England with Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies. Fox moved an amendment, censuring the ministry and praying for their removal. Dunning and the great Thurlow engaged in the debate on the side of the opposition, which became very warm. Fox's amendment was negatived by a vote of three hundred - and four against one hundred and five, and North's Edward Gibbon. motion prevailed by a majority of two hundred and ninety-six to one hundred and six in the Commons, and in the Upper House by eighty-seven to twenty-seven; nine peers protesting.”
* Josiah Tucker, D.D., dean of Gloucester, was an able English divine, and son of Abraham Tucker, author of The Light of Nature Pursued, a work in nine octavo volumes. Dr. Tucker was a famous pamphleteer at the time of our Revolution. He was the only friend of the British ministry who wrote in favor of the independence of the colonies. * The corporation of the city of London passed a vote of thanks to him, and Franklin (to whom Chatham submitted the bill before offering it in the Senate) sent forth an address to the people of England, and to his own countrymen there, in which he portrayed the wickedness of rejecting this plan of reconciliation, the only feasible one that had been offered for years. Franklin and other agents asked to be examined at the bar of the House of Commons touching the demands of the general Congress; but even this courtesy, for it could be called nothing more, was roughly denied. * Gibbon the historian, author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, who had then a seat in Parliament, writing to his friend Sheffield, said, “We voted an address of ‘lives and fortunes, declaring Massachusetts Bay in a state of rebellion; more troops, but, I fear, not enough, to go to America, to make an army of ten thousand men at Boston; three generals, Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne | In a few days we stop the ports of New England. I can not write volumes, but I am more and more convinced that, with firmness, all may go well; yet I something doubt.” Gibbon was very much disposed to take sides with the Americans, and it is said that he publicly declared at Brooke's Coffee-house, that “there was no salvation for England, unless six of the heads of the cabinet council were cut off and laid upon the tables of the houses of Parliament as examples.” Gibbon had his price, and, within a fortnight after the above expression was uttered, took office under that same cabinet council, with a liberal salary and promise of a pension. His mouth was thus stopped by the sugar-plums of patronage. So says Bailey, author of “Records of Patriotism and Love of Country,” page 169. Bailey also gives the following poem, which he asserts was written by Fox: “King George, in a fright, lest Gibbon should write The story of Britain's disgrace, Thought no means more sure his pen to secure Than to give the historian a place. But his caution is vain, 'tis the curse of his reign That his projects should never succeed; Though he write not a line, yet a cause of decline In the author's example we read.
John Wilkes in Parliament. His Character and Career. Bill for destroying the New England Fisheries. A conciliatory Bill
In the debate on this bill the celebrated John Wilkes, then a member of Parliament, formerly editor of the North Briton, a radical paper, who had given the government a world of trouble during a portion of the first eight years of the reign of George III., took a conspicuous part in favor of the Americans. He declared that a proper resistance to wrong was revolution, and not rebellion, and intimated that if the Americans were successful, they might, in after times, celebrate the revolution of 1775 as the English did that of 1688. Earnest recommendations to pursue milder measures were offered by the opposition, but without effect. It was voted that two thousand additional seamen and one thousand four hundred soldiers should be sent to America. A few days afterward Lord North brought February in forth another bill, providing for the destruction 1775. John Wilkes. of the entire trade of the New England colonies, and of their fisheries.” It had a clause, excepting those individuals from the curse who should produce a certificate from their respective governors testifying to their general good conduct, and who should acknowledge the supremacy of the British Parliament. In addition to the opposition which the bill received in the Commons, the merchants of London presented an earnest remonstrance against it,” and so did the Quakers in behalf of their brethren in Nantucket, but without effect. It passed by a majority of one hundred and eighty to fifty-eight. Fresh intelligence from America, representing the general adhesion to the Continental Congress, arrived at this juncture, and another bill was speedily passed, in the form of an amendment, including all the colonies in the Restraining Act, except New York and North Carolina, where loyalty seemed to predominate. While the Restraining Act was under consideration, North astonished all parties by of fering what he pretended to be a conciliatory bill. It proposed that when the proper authorities, in any colony, should offer, besides maintaining its own civil government, to raise
His book well describes, how corruption and bribes
The first volume of Gibbon's Rome was published in 1776, and the sixth and last on his fifty-first birthday, in 1788. His bookseller, Mr. Cadell, on that day gave him forty thousand dollars. Gibbon died in January, 1794.
* This fearless political writer was born in 1727. He became a member of Parliament in 1757. In the forty-fifth number of the “North Briton,” published in 1763, he made a severe attack on government, for which he was sent to the Tower. On account of a licentious essay on woman he was afterward expelled from the House of Commons. Acquitted of the charge for which he was committed to the Tower, he prosecuted Mr. Wood, the Under Secretary, received five thousand dollars damages, and then went to Paris. He returned to England in 1768, sent a letter of submission to the king, and was soon afterward elected to a seat in Parliament for Middlesex. The seat was successfully contested by another. He was then elected alderman of London, and the same year obtained a verdict of twenty thousand dollars against the Secretary of State for seizing his papers. He was sheriff in 1771, and in 1774 was elected lord mayor, and took his seat in Parliament for Middlesex. He was made Chamberlain of London in 1779, and soon afterward retired from the field of party politics. He died at his seat in the Isle of Wight in 1797, aged seventy years. The likeness here given is copied from a medal struck in his honor. The obverse side has a pyramid upon a pedestal, beside which stands a figure of Time inscribing upon the pyramid the number 45. On the pedostal are the words Magna Charta, and beneath, IN MEMoRy of THE YEAR MDCCLXVIII. Wilkes had a most forbidding countenance, but his manners were pleasing. In his private character he was licentious, yet his talents and energy employed upon the popular side made him the idol of the people.
* According to testimony produced in Parliament, about 400 ships, 2000 fishing shallops, and 20,000 men were thus employed in the British Newfoundland fisheries.
* The people of New England were, at that time, indebted to the merchants of London nearly five million dollars. With the destruction of the trade of the colonists, all hope of collecting even a small share of this sum would be lost.
Singular Position of Lord North. His Triumph. Action of the London Merchants. The moral Spectacle in the Colonies.
a certain revenue and place it at the disposition of Parliament, it would be proper to forbear imposing any tax, except for the regulation of commerce. The ministerial party opposed it because it was conciliatory, and the opposition were dissatisfied with it because it proposed to abate but a single grievance, and was not specific. To his great astonishment, the minister found himself in the midst of a cross-fire from both parties; yet he stood his ground well, and adroitly carried the proposition through. Although he acknowledged that it was really a cheat with a fair exterior of honesty, and intended to sow division in the councils of the colonies, heedless members of Parliament gave it support, and the bill was passed by a vote of two hundred and seventy-four to eighty-eight. On the heel of this bill Burke proposed a conciliatory plan, and five days afterward Mr. Hartley offered a mild scheme, similar to Chatham's; but they were negatived by large majorities. The “lord mayor, aldermen, and livery of London,” urged by the merchants, who were smarting under the effects of the lash applied to the Americans, addressed the king in condemnation of the late measures toward the colonies. Armio They were sternly rebuked by his majesty, who expressed his astonishment that any 1775. of his subjects presumed to be abettors of the rebels. It was obvious that
“King, Commons, and Lords were uniting amain
and Franklin, abandoning all hope of reconciliation, sailed for America. For more than ten years the colonies had complained of wrongs, petitioned for redress, and suffered insults. Forbearance was no longer a virtue, and, turning their backs upon Great Britain, they prepared for war. In this movement Massachusetts took the lead. The Provincial Congress ordered the purchase of ammunition and stores for an army of fif. teen thousand men. They called upon the Congregational clergy to preach liberty from their pulpits, and hearty responses were given. “The towns, which had done so fearlessly and so thoroughly the preparatory work of forming and concentrating political sentiment, came forward now to complete their patriotic actions by voting money freely to arm, equip, and discipline ‘Alarm List Companies;’ citizens of every calling appeared in their ranks; to be a private in them was proclaimed by the journals an honor; to be chosen to office in them, a mark of the highest distinction. In Danvers, the deacon of the parish was elected captain of the minute men, and the minister his lieutenant. The minute men were trained often, the towns paying the expense; and the company, after its field exercises, would sometimes repair to the meeting-house to hear a patriotic sermon, or partake of an entertainment at the town-house, where zealous sons of liberty would exhort them to prepare to fight bravely for God and their country. Such was the discipline—so free from a mercenary spirit, so full of inspiring influences—of the early American soldiery. And thus an army, in fact, was in existence, ready at a moment's call, for defensive purposes, to wheel its isolated platoons into solid phalanxes, while it presented to an enemy only opportunity for an inglorious foray upon its stores.” Had the counsels of inflamed zeal and passion—inflamed by the most cruel and insulting oppression—prevailed, blood would have been shed before the close of 1774. Troops continued to arrive at Boston,” and the insolence of the soldiery increased with their numbers
* Frothingham's Siege of Boston, p. 42.
* In November, 1774, there were eleven regiments of British troops, besides the artillery, in Boston. In December, 500 marines landed from the Asia man-of-war, and, at the close of the month, all the troops ordered from the Jerseys, New York, and Quebec had arrived. A guard of 150 men was stationed at the lines upon the Neck. The army was brigaded. The first brigadier general was Earl Percy, Moncrief his brigade major; the second general was Pigott, his major, Small; third general, Jones, his major, Hutchinson, son of the late governor. The soldiers were in high spirits, and the officers looked with contempt upon the martial preparations of the people. “As to what you hear of their taking arms to resist the force of England,” wrote an officer, in November, 1774, “it is mere bullying, and will go no further than words; whenever it comes to blows, he that can run the fastest will think himself best off. Believe me, any two regiments here ought to be decimated, if they did not beat, in the field, the whole force of the Massachusetts province.”
Carrying Ammunition out of the City. Detection. Hostile Movements of Gage. Counteraction of the Whigs.
and strength ; but the Americans were determined that when collision, which was inevitable, should take place, the first blow should be struck by the British troops, and thus make government the aggressor. The occasion was not long delayed. General Gage discovered that the patriots were secretly conveying arms and ammunition out of Boston. In carts, beneath loads of manure, cannon balls and muskets were carried out; and powder, concealed in the panniers of the market-women, and cartridges in candle-boxes, passed unsuspected by the guard upon the Neck." On discovering these movements, and learning that some brass cannon and field-pieces were at Salem, Gage sent a detachment of troops to seize them. They were repelled by the people under Colonel Timothy Pickering, without bloodshed, as we have noticed on page 374. This movement aroused the utmost vigilance throughout March, the country. At a special session of the Connecticut Assembly, Colonel Wooster * was commissioned a major general, and Joseph Spencer and Israel Putnam were appointed brigadiers. Elbridge Gerry, a merchant of Marblehead, and afterward a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was at the head of the Massachusetts Committee of Supply, and under his directions munitions of war were rapidly accumulated, the chief deposit of which was at Concord, about twenty miles from Boston. Meanwhile, Sewall, the attorney general of the province, wrote a series of powerful articles, calling upon the people to cease resistance; and, greatly to the alarm of the patriots lest there should be defection in their strong-hold, Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, soon afterward offered to mediate between General Gage and the people of Boston, for the sake of preventing hostilities. Timothy Ruggles, president of the “Stamp Act Congress,” got up counter associations against those of the patriots, and a small number at Marshfield and other places signed the agreement, calling themselves the “Associated Loyalists.” But John Adams promptly replied to Judge Sewall; Governor Trumbull's apparent conservatism was soon understood to be but a testimony against government, to prove that offers of reconciliation had been made and rejected; the patriots made the “Associated Loyalists” recant, and the republicans assumed a bolder tone than ever of defiance and contempt. When spring opened, Gage's force amounted to about three thousand five hundred effective men. He determined, with this force, to nip the rebellion in the bud, and his first active movement was an attempt to seize or destroy the stores of the patriots at Concord, which were under the charge of Colonel James Barrett. Officers in disguise were sent to make sketches of the roads, and to ascertain the state of the towns. Bodies of troops were occasionally marched into the country, and a general system of reconnoissance around Boston was established. The ever-vigilant patriots were awake to all these movements. A nightwatch was established at Concord, and every where the minute men were ready with burnished muskets, fixed bayonets, and filled cartouches. Early in April, many who had taken a prominent part in the revolutionary proceedings at Boston, apprehending arrest, and probable transportation to England for trial, left the town.” Among those who remained was Dr. Joseph Warren, and he kept the patriots continually advised of the movements of Gage and his troops. Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were members of the Provincial Congress, were particularly obnoxious to General Gage, and, as it appeared afterward, he had resolved to arrest them on their return to the
* On the 18th of March the discovery was made, and the guard at the Neck seized 13,425 musket cartridges and a quantity of balls. In doing this, a teamster was severely handled. This circumstance, the oration of Dr. Joseph Warren, in the “Old South,” on the anniversary of the Massacre (March 5th), the tarring and feathering of a citizen of Billerica, charged with tempting a soldier to desert, and an assault upon the house of John Hancock, greatly excited the people.
* “A daughter of liberty, unequally yoked in point of politics, sent word by a trusty hand to Mr. Samuel Adams, residing, in company with Mr. Hancock, at Lexington, that the troops were coming out in a few days. Upon this, their friends in Boston were advised to move out their plate, &c., and the Committee of Safety voted that all the ammunition be deposited in nine different towns, and that other articles be lodged, some in one place and some in another; so, as to the 15 medicine-chests, 2000 iron pots, 2000 bowls, 15,000 canteens, and 1000 tents; and that the six companies of matrosses be stationed in different towns.” —Gordon, i., 309.