Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

him to appoint a day of public humiliation, for deprecating the wrath of heaven, but met with a refusal. When the assembly met at Salem they passed a resolution, de claring the necessity of a general Congress, composed of delegates from all the provinces ; in order that they might take the affairs of the colonies at large, under: their consideration ; and five gentlemen, who had been remarkable for their opposition, were chosen to represents that of Massachusetts Bay. They then proceeded, with all expedition to draw up a declaration, containing a detail of the grievances, which they laborired under, and the necessity of exerting themselves against lawless power; they set forth the disregard that had been paid to their peti, tions, and the attempts of Great Britain to destroy their ancient constitution ; and concluding with exhorting the inhabitants of the colony to obstruct, by every method in their power, such evil designs, recommending, at the same time, a total renunciation of every thing imported from Great Britain, until a redress of grievances could be procured.

Intelligence of this declaration was carried to the gavernor on the very clay that it was completed, on which he dissolved the assembly. This was followed by an address from the inhabitants of Salem, in favour of those of Poston, and concluding with these remarkable words, “By shutting

up the port of Boston some imagine that the course of “ trade might be turned hither, and to our benefit; but na“ ture, in the formation of our harbour, forbids our becom“ing rivals in commerce to that convenient mart; and " were it otherwise, we must be dead to every idea of jus“ tice, lost to all feelings of humanity, could we indulge “ one thought to seize on wealth, and raise our fortunes on " the ruin of our suffering neighbours.”

It had been foudly loped by the ministerial party in Ersland, that the advantages which other towns might derive from the annihilation of the trade of Boston, would make them readily acquiesce in the measure of shutting up that port, and rather rejoice in it than otherwise; but the words of the address above-mentioned, seemed to preclude all hope of this kind ; and subsequent transactions soon manifestid it to be altogether vain.

No sooner did intelligence arrive of the bills passed in the session of 1774, than the cause of Boston became the cause of all the colonies. The port-bill had already occasioned violent commotions throughout them all. It had been reprobated in provincial meetings, and resistance to the last, had been recommended against such oppression. In Virginia, the 1st of June, 1774, the day on which the port of Boston was to be shut up, was held as a day of humiliation, and a public intercession, in favour of America was recommended. The style of the prayer enjoined at this time, was, that “ God would give the people one heart, 6 and one mind, firinly to oppose every invasion of the 66 American rights."

The Virginians, however, did not content themselves with acts of religion, only ; they recommended, in the strongest manner, a general congress of all the colonies; as fully persuaded that an attempt to tax any colony in an arbitrary manner, was, in reality, an attack upon them all. The provinces of New York and Pennsylvania, were, hor. ever, less sanguine than the rest, being so closely connected in the way of trade with Great Britain, that the giving it up entirely, appeared a matter of the most serious magni. tude, and not to be thought of but after every other method had failed.

The intelligence of the remaining bills, respecting Boston, spread a fresh alarm through the continent, and fixed those who had appeared the most wavering. The proposal of giving up all commercial intercourse with Great Britain was again proposed ; contributions for the relief of the inhabitants of Boston, were raised in every quarter; and they received addresses from the other provinces commending them for the heroic courage with which they sustained their calamity.

The Bostonians, thus supported, did every thing in their power to promote the general cause. An agreement was framed, which, in imitation of former times, was called A solemn league and covenant. By this, the subscribers most religiously bound themselves to break off all communication with Great Britain after the expiration of the month of August ensuing, until the obnoxious acts were " pealed ; at the same time they engaged neither to pur.

chase, nor use, any goods imported after that time, and to renounce all connexion with those who did, or refused to subscribe to this covenant; threatening to publish the names of the refractory; which at this time was a punishment too serious to be despised.

Agreements of a similar nature, were immediately entered into throughout all America. And although general Gage attempted to counteract the covenant by a proclamation, wherein it was declared an illegal and traitorous combination, threatening with the pains of the law, such as subscribed or countenanced it. But it was now too late for proclamations to have any effect. The Americans retorted the charge of illegality on his own proclamation, and insisted that the law allowed subjects to meet, in order to consider of their grievances, and associate for relief from oppression.

Preparations were now made for holding a general Congress. Philadelphia, as being the most centrical, and considerable town, was chosen as the place of its meetinę. The delegates of whom it was composed, were elected by the representatives of each province, and were in number from two to seven from each colony, though no province had more than one vote.

The first Congress, which met at Philadelphia, in the beginning of September 1774, consisted of fifty-one delegates. The novelty and importance of the meeting, excited universal attention; and their transactions were such as fendered them respectable. The first act of Congress, was an approbation of the conduct of the inhabitants of Massachusetts Biy, and an exhortation to continue in the same spirit which they had begun. Supplies for the suffering inhabitants were strongly recommended, as they were reduced to great distress by the operation of the Port-bill; and it was declared, that in case an attempt should be made to enforce the obnoxious acts by arms, all America should join to assist the town of Bosion ; and should the inhabitants be obliged, during the course of hostilities, to remove further up into the country, the losses they might sustain should be repaired at the public expense.

They next addressed general Gage by letter; in which, kaving stated the grievances of the people of Massachu

setts colony, they informed him of the fixed and unal. terable determination of all the other provinces, to support their brethren, and to oppose the cruel and oppressive British acts of parliament; that they were appointed to watch over the liberties of America ; and entreated him to desist from military operations, lest such hostilities might be brought on, as would frustrate all hopes of reconciliation with the parent state.

The next step was to publish a declaration of their rights. These they summed up in the rights belonging to Englishmen'; and particularly insisted, that as their distance rendered it impossible for them to be represented in the British parliament, their provincial assemblies, with the governor appointed by the king, constituted the only legislative power within each province. They would however, consent to such acts of parliament, as were evidently calculated merely for the regulation of commerce, and securing for the parent state the benefits of the American trade; but would never allow that they could impose any tax on the colonies, for the purpose of raising a revenue, without their consent. They proceeded to reprobate the intention of each of the new acts of parliament; and insisted on all the rights they had enumerated, as being unalienable ; and what none could deprive them of. The Canada act they particularly pointed out as being extremely inimi. cal to the colonies, by whose assistance it had been conquered ; and they termed it, “ An act for establishing the Roman Catholic religion in Canada, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and establishing a tyran

They further declared in favour of a non-importation and non-consumption of British goods, until the acts were repealed, by which duties were laid upon tea, coffee, wine, sugar, and molasses imported into America, as well as the Boston Port-act, and the three others passed in the preceding session of Parliament.

The new regulations against the importation and consumption of British commodities, were then drawn up with great solemnity; and they concluded with returning the warmest thanks, to those members of Parliament who had, witia so much zeal, but without success, opposed the ob noxious acts of Parliament.

ny there."

Their next proceedings were, to draw up a petition to the king, an address to the British nation, and another to the colonies, all of which being in the usual strain of American language, adopted for some time past, that a repetition is altogether unnecessary. It is sufficient to say, they were executed in a masterly manner, both with respect to the style, and composition, and ought to have impressed the people of Engiand with more favourable senti. ments of the Americans, than they were at that time willing to entertain.

All this time the disposition of the people had corresponved with the warmest wishes of congress. The first of June had been kept as a fast, not only throughout Virginia, where it was first proposed, but through the whole continent. Contributions for the relief of the inhabitants of Boston were recommended, and raised throughout the country. Even those who were most likely to derive the greatest advantages from the Port bill, with a generosity unequalled, refused enrich themselves the expense of their suffering neighbours. The inhabitants of Marblehead who were among the number, though situated in the neighbourhood of Boston, and most likely to receive benefit from the stoppage of their trade, did not attempt to avail themselves of it ; but so far from it, that they generously offered the use of their harbour, wharves, and stores,

rent free.

In the mean time the British forces at Boston were continually augmenting in number, which greatly increased the general jealousy and disaffection ; the country people were ready to rise at a moment's warning; and the experiinent was tried, by giving a false alarm, that the communication was to be cut off between the town and country ; in order to reduce the former by famine to a compliance with the acts of parliament. On this intelligence, the country people assembled in great numbers, and could not be satisfied, till they had sent messengers into the city, to inquire into the truth of the report. These messengers were enjoined to inform the people in Boston, that if they shouid be so pusillanimous as to make a surrender

liberties, the province would not think irself bound by such examples; and that Britain, by breaking their original charter, had annulled the contract subsist

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »