Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. I., Chapter XX.







Death of George II. announced to his Heir. – Influence of the Earl of Bute. – Cool Treatment of Mr. Pitt. – Character of Bute. – His Influence over the King. – Discontents. – Resignation of Pitt. – Secret Agents sent to America. – Writs of Assistance. – Opposition. – James Otis. – Episcopacy designed for America. – Enforcement of Revenue Laws. – Resignation of Bute. – Grenville Prime Minister. – Opposition to Episcopacy. – The Stamp Act proposed. – Right to tax the Americans asserted. – Stamp Act not new. – Postponement of Action on it. – Opposition to Taxation by the Colonies. – Instructions to their Agents. – The Stamp Act introduced in Parliament. – Townshend. – Barré’s Speech rebuking Townshend. – His Defense of the Americans. – Effect of his Speech. – Passage of the Stamp Act. – Excitement in America. – A Congress proposed. – The Circular Letter of Massachusetts. – Mrs. Mercy Warren. – Assembling of a Colonial Congress in New York. – Defection of Ruggles and Ogden. – The Proceedings. – Stamp-masters. – Franklin’s Advice to Ingersoll. – Arrival of the Stamps. – Patrick Henry’s Resolutions. – "Liberty Tree." – Effigies. – Riot in Boston. – Destruction of private Property. – Attack on Hutchinson’s House. – Destruction of "Liberty Tree." – Destruction of Governor Hutchinson’s Property. – Character of the Rioters in Boston. – "Constitutional Courant." – Proceedings in Boston in Relation to the Stamp Act. – Effigies burned. – Effect of the Stamp Act. – Non-importation Associations. – The Non-importation Agreements. – Rockingham made Prime Minister. – Apathy in Parliament. – Domestic Manufactures. – Meeting of Parliament. – Speeches of Pitt and Grenville. – Boldness of Pitt. – Proposition to repeal the Stamp Act. – Position of Lord Camden. – Repeal of the Stamp Act. – Causes that effected it. – Rejoicings in England and America. – Rejoicing in Boston. – Release of Prisoners for Debt. – Pyramid on the Common. – Poetic Inscriptions. – Hancock’s Liberality. – Liberality of Otis and others. – The Rejoicings clouded. – New Acts of Oppression. – Insolence of Public Officers. – Pitt created Lord Chatham. – Picture of his Cabinet by Burke. – New Scheme of Taxation. – Commissioners of Customs. – Fresh Excitement in the Colonies. – Increasing Importance of the Newspapers. – "Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer." – Honors to John Dickenson. – Massachusetts’s Circular Letter. – Boldness of Otis and Samuel Adams. – The "Rescinders." – Treatment of a Tide-waiter. – Seizure of the Sloop Liberty. – Excitement of the People. – Public Meeting in Boston. – Attempted Bribery of Patriots. – Soundness of their Principles. – Proposed Convention in Boston. – Organization of the Meeting. – Governor Bernard’s Proclamation. – Meeting of the Convention. – Arrival of Troops at Boston. – Origin of Yankee Doodle. –Landing of the Troops. – Imposing Military Display. – Exasperation of the People. – Non-importation Associations. – The Duke of Grafton. – The King’s Speech, and the Response. – Proposed Re-enactment of a Statute of Henry VIII. – Lord North. – Colonel Barré’s Warnings. – General Gage in Boston. – No Co-operation. – Dissolution of Assemblies. – Bernard. – Departure of Governor Bernard for England. – Effect of the Non-importation Agreements. – Hillsborough’s Circular Letter.


"In a chariot of light from the regions of day

The goddess of Liberty came,
Ten thousand celestials directed the way,
And hither conducted the dame.
A fair budding branch from the garden above,
Where millions with millions agree,
She brought in her hand as a pledge of her love,
And the plant she named Liberty Tree.
. . . . . . .
"The celestial exotic struck deep in the ground,
Like a native it flourish’d and bore;
The fame of its fruit drew the nations around,
To seek out this peaceable shore.
Unmindful of names or distinction they came,
For freemen, like brothers, agree;
With one spirit indued, they one friendship pursued,
And their temple was Liberty Tree.
. . . . . . .
"But hear, O ye swains (‘tis a tale most profane),
How all the tyrannical powers,
Kings, Commons, and Lords, are uniting amain
To cut down this guardian of ours.
From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,
Through the land let the sound of it flee;
Let the far and the near all unite with a cheer
In defense of our Liberty Tree."




From an anonymous print.

The intelligence of the death of his grandfather was communicated to George, the heir apparent, on the morning of the 25th of October, while he was riding on horseback, near Kew Palace, with his inseparable companion, the Earl of Bute. William Pitt, afterward Earl of Chatham, was the prime minister of the deceased king. He immediately repaired to Kew, where the young sovereign (then in his twenty-third year) remained during the day and night. On the 26th [1760.] George 1 went to St. James’s, where Pitt waited upon him, and presented a sketch of an address to be pronounced by the monarch at a meeting of the Privy Council. The minister was politely informed that a speech was already prepared, and that every preliminary was arranged. He at once perceived that the courtier, Bute, the favorite of the king’s mother, and his majesty’s tutor and abiding personal friend, had made these arrangements, and that he would doubtless occupy a conspicuous station in the new administration.

Bute was originally a poor Scottish nobleman, possessed of very little general talent, narrow in his political views, but favored with a fine person and natural grace of manners. He was a favorite of George’s father, and continued to be an intimate friend of the king’s mother after Prince Frederic’s death. Indeed, scandal uttered some unpleasant suggestions respecting this intimacy, even after the accession of George. "Not contented with being wise," said Earl Waldegrave, "he would be thought a polite scholar and a man of great erudition, but has the misfortune never to succeed, except with those who are exceedingly ignorant; for his historical knowledge is chiefly taken from tragedies, wherein he is very deeply read, and his classical learning extends no further than a French translation." 2 Such was the man whom the young monarch unfortunately chose for his counselor and guide, instead of the wise and sagacious Pitt, who had contributed, by his talents and energy, so much to the glory of England during the latter years of the reign of George II. Like Rehoboam, George "forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him." It was a sad mistake, and clouds of distrust gathered in the morning sky of his reign. The opinion got abroad that he would be ruled by the queen dowager and Bute, and that the countrymen of the earl, whom the English disliked, would be subjects of special favor. Murmurs were heard in many quarters, and somebody had the boldness to put up a placard on the Royal Exchange, with these words: "No petticoat government – no Scotch minister – no Lord George Sackville."


From a sketch by Gear.

Thus, at the very outset of his reign, the king had opponents in his own capital. A general feeling of discontent pervaded the people as soon as it was perceived that Pitt, their favorite, was likely to become secondary among the counselors of the king, or, which seemed more certain, would leave the cabinet altogether. The latter event soon followed. Disgusted by the assurance and ignorance of Bute, and the apathetic submission of George to the control of the Scotch earl, and perceiving that all his plans, the execution of which was pressing his country forward in a career of glory and prosperity, were thwarted by the supple tools of the favorite, he resigned his office. The regrets of the whole nation followed him into retirement, while George, really esteeming him more highly than any other statesman in his realm, in testimony of his appreciation of his services, granted a peerage to his lady, and a pension of fifteen thousand dollars.

Greater discontents were produced in the colonies by the measures which the new administration adopted in relation to them. By the advice of Bute, who was the real head of the government, George set about "a reformation of the American charters." Secret agents were sent to travel in the different colonies, to procure access to the leading men, and to collect such information respecting the character and temper of the people as would enable ministers to judge what regulations and alterations could be safely made in the police and government of the colonies, in order to their being brought more effectually under the control of Parliament. The business of these agents was also to conciliate men of capital and station, hoping thereby to enlist a large number of dependents; but herein they erred. Unlike men in a similar condition in England, the man of wealth here could influence very few; and in New England such was the general independence of the people, that such agency was of no avail. The object of the agents was too apparent to admit of doubt; the proposed reform was but another name for despotism, and the gossamer covering of deceit could not hide the intention of the ministry.

The first reform measure which aroused the colonies to a lively sense of their danger was the issuing of WRITS OF ASSISTANCE [1762.]. These were warrants to custom-house officers, giving them and their deputies a general power to enter houses or stores where it might be suspected that contraband goods were concealed. The idea of such latitude being given to the "meanest deputy of a deputy’s deputy" created general indignation and alarm. It might cover the grossest abuses, and no man’s privacy would be free from the invasion of these ministerial hirelings. Open resistance was resolved upon. In Boston public meetings were held, and the voice of the fearless James Otis the younger called boldly upon the people to breast any storm of ministerial vengeance that might be aroused by opposition here. The Assembly sided with the people, and even Governor Bernard was opposed to the measure. Respectful remonstrances to Parliament and petitions to the king were sent, but without effect. That short-sighted financier, George Grenville, was Bute’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. An exhausted treasury needed replenishing, and ministers determined to derive a revenue from the colonies, either by direct taxation or by impost duties, rigorously levied and collected. They had also determined in council upon bringing about an entire subservience of the colonies, politically, religiously, and commercially, to the will of the king and Parliament. 3 The idea of colonial subserviency was, indeed, general in England, and, according to Pitt, "even the chimney-sweepers of the streets talked boastingly of their subjects in America." 4 The admiralty undertook the labor of enforcing the laws, in strict accordance with the letter, and intrusted the execution thereof to the commanders of vessels, whose authoritative habits made them most unfit agents for such a service against such a people. Vessels engaged in contraband trade were seized and confiscated, and the colonial commerce with the West Indies was nearly annihilated.


From causes never clearly understood, Lord Bute resigned the premiership on the 6th of April, 1763, and was succeeded by George Grenville, who, for a time, had fought shoulder to shoulder with Pitt, but had deserted him to take office under the Scotch earl. Grenville is represented as an honest statesman, of great political knowledge and indefatigable application; but his mind, according to Burke, could not extend beyond the circle of official routine, and was unable to estimate the result of untried measures. He proved an unprofitable counselor for the king, for he began a political warfare against the celebrated journalist, John Wilkes, which resulted in the most serious partisan agitation throughout the kingdom; and he originated the Stamp Act, by which Great Britain lost her American colonies.

Grenville found an empty treasury, and the national debt increased, in consequence of recent wars, to nearly seven hundred millions of dollars. To meet the current expenses of government, heavy taxation was necessary, and the English people were loudly complaining of the burden. Grenville feared to increase the weight, and looked to the American colonies for relief. He conceived the right 6 to draw a revenue from them to be undoubted, and, knowing their ability to pay, he formed a plan to tax them indirectly by levying new duties upon foreign articles imported by the Americans. A bill for levying these duties passed the House of Commons in March, 1764, without much notice, except from General Conway, who saw in it the seeds of further encroachments upon the liberties of the colonists. The Assembly of Massachusetts, acting in accordance with instructions given to the Boston representatives, had already denied the right to impose duties. Mr. Otis had published a pamphlet called "The Rights of the British Colonists asserted," which was highly approved here, and a copy was sent to the Massachusetts agent in England. In that pamphlet Mr. Otis used the strong language, "If we are not represented we are slaves!"

Thatcher, of Boston, also published a tract against Parliamentary taxation, and similar publications were made by Dulaney, the secretary of the province of Maryland, by Bland, a leading member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, and "by authority" in Rhode Island.

On the 5th of May [1764.] Mr. Grenville submitted to the House of Commons an act proposing a stamp duty, 7 at the same time assuring the colonial agents, with whom he had conferred, that he should not press its adoption that session, but would leave the scheme open for consideration. He required the colonies to pay into the treasury a million of dollars per annum, and he would leave it to them to devise a better plan, if possible, than the proposed stamp duty. The idea was not original with Mr. Grenville. It had been held out as early as 1739, by a club of American merchants, at the head of whom were Sir William Keith, governor of Pennsylvania, Joshua Gee, and others. In the colonial Congress at Albany, in 1754, a stamp act was talked of, and at that time Dr. Franklin thought it a just plan for taxing the colonies, conceiving that its operations would affect the several governments fairly and equally. Early in January (1764) Mr. Huske, a native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who had obtained a seat in Parliament, desirous of displaying his excessive loyalty, alluded to the proposition of a stamp duty made at the Albany Convention, and delighted the House by asserting the ability of the colonists to pay a liberal tax, and recommending the levying of one that should amount annually to two and a half millions of dollars. 8 With these precedents, and the present assurance of Huske, Grenville brought forward his bill. It was received, and, on motion of the mover, its consideration was postponed until the next session.

When the new impost law (which was, in fact, a continuation of former similar acts) and the proposed Stamp Act reached America, discontent was every where visible. Instead of being in a condition to pay taxes, the colonies had scarcely recovered from the effects of the late war; and the more unjust appeared the Stamp Act, when the previous act was about to intercept their profitable trade with the Spanish main and the West Indies, whence they derived much of their means to pay a tax. The right to tax them was also strenuously denied, and all the colonial Assemblies, wherever the subject was brought up, asserted their sole right to tax themselves. New England passed strong resolutions of remonstrance, and forwarded earnest petitions to the king to pause; and Virginia and New York adopted the same course, using firm, but respectful, language. They demonstrated, by fair argument, that the colonies were neither actually, nor virtually represented in the British Parliament; they declared that they had hitherto supposed the pecuniary assistance which Great Britain had given them (the Parliamentary grants during the war) offered from motives of humanity, and not as the price of their liberty; and if she now wished a remuneration, she must make allowance for all the assistance she had received from the colonies during the late war, and for the oppressive restrictions she had imposed upon American commerce. They plainly told Great Britain that, as for her protection, they had full confidence in their own ability to protect themselves against any foreign enemy.

Remonstrances and petitions were sent by the colonies to their agents in London (some of whom had not opposed the Stamp Act), with explicit instructions to prevent, as far as they had power to act, the adoption of any scheme for taxing Americans. At this crisis Franklin was appointed agent for Pennsylvania; and other colonies, relying upon his skill and wisdom in diplomacy, his thorough acquaintance with government affairs, his personal influence in England, and, above all, his fearlessness, also intrusted him with the management of their affairs abroad. When he arrived in London, Grenville and other politicians waited upon him, and consulted him respecting the proposed Stamp Act. He told them explicitly that it was an unwise measure; that Americans would never submit to be taxed without their consent, and that such an act, if attempted to be enforced, would endanger the unity of the empire. Pitt, though living in retirement at his country seat at Hayes, was not an indifferent spectator, and he also consulted Franklin upon the important subject.

No doubt the expressed opinion of Franklin delayed, for a while, the introduction of the Stamp Act into the House of Commons, for it was not submitted until the 7th of February following [1765.]. In the mean while respectful petitions and remonstrances were received from America, indicating a feeling of general opposition to ministers, and a determination not to be sheared by the "Gentle Shepherd." 9 The king, in his speech on the opening of Parliament [January 10, 1765.], alluded to American taxation, and the manifest discontent in the colonies; yet, regardless of the visible portents of a storm, recommended the adoption of Grenville’s scheme, and assured Parliament that he should use every endeavor to enforce obedience in America. The bill, containing fifty-five resolutions, was brought in [February 7, 1765.], and Mr. Charles Townshend, the most eloquent man in the Commons, in the absence of Pitt, spoke in its favor, concluding with the following peroration: "And now will these Americans, children planted by our care, nourished up by our indulgence until they are grown to a degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms, will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy weight of that burden which we lie under?"


Colonel Barré arose, and, echoing Townshend’s words, thus commented: "They planted by your care! No, your oppressions planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny, to a then uncultivated and inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and, among others, to the cruelties of a savage foe, the most subtle, and I will take upon me to say, the most formidable of any people upon the face of God’s earth; yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all hardships with pleasure compared with those they suffered in their own 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 11 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 – 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. 12 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 tax the colonies." "The sun of liberty is set," wrote Dr. Franklin to Charles Thompson 13 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. 14 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. 15 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 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 Congress were appointed. They met in the city of New York on the first Monday in October [October 7, 1765.]. 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. 16

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 still regarded as model state papers. 17

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. 18 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 [November 1, 1765.], America spoke with one voice to the king and his ministers, denouncing the measure, 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 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 little 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 oppressive act. Virginia rang the alarum bell [May 30, 1765.], by a series of resolutions drawn up 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 20 suspended two effigies early on the morning of the 14th of August [1765.]. 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 effigies 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 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 morning [August 15, 1765.], considering his life in danger, he resigned his office. Four months afterward 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." 21 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 near by, saved his premises from injury. Maddened with liquor, they rushed to the house of Story, registrar 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, 22 on North Square. Hutchinson and his family escaped in time to save their lives, for the mob were prepared, by liquor and other excitement, for any deed. It was now midnight. With yells and curses they entered, and by four o’clock in the morning "one of the best finished houses in the colony had nothing remaining but the bare walls and floors." Every thing but the kitchen furniture was taken from the dwelling or utterly destroyed. The rioters carried off between four and five thousand dollars in money, a large quantity of plate, family pictures, and clothing, and destroyed the fine library of the lieutenant governor, containing a large collection of manuscripts relating to the history of the colony, which he had been thirty years collecting. This loss was irreparable. The street in front of the house was next morning strewed with plate, rings, and money – destruction, not plunder, being the aim of the mob.

These proceedings were disgraceful in the extreme, and mar the sublime beauty of the picture exhibited by the steady and dignified progress of the Revolution. While no apology for mob rioters should be attempted, extenuating circumstances ought to have their due weight in the balance of just judgment. All over the land the public mind was excited against ministers and their abettors, and leading men in the colonies did not hesitate to recommend forcible resistance, if necessary, to the oppressions of the mother country. The principles underlying the violent movement in Boston were righteous, but the mass were too impatient for their vindication to await the effects of remonstrance and petition, argument and menace, employed by the educated and orderly patriots. As is commonly the fact, the immediate actors in these scenes were the dregs of the population. Yet it was evident that they had, in a degree, the sympathy of, and were controlled by, the great mass of the more intelligent citizens. The morning after the destruction of Hutchinson’s house, a public meeting of leading men was held; expressions of abhorrence for the act were adopted, and the lieutenant governor received a pledge from the meeting that all violence should cease, if he would agree not to commence legal proceedings. He acquiesced, and order was restored.

The disturbances thus begun in Boston were imitated elsewhere during the summer and autumn. These will be hereafter considered. It may properly be mentioned here that the opposition to the Stamp Act was not confined to the continental colonies. The people of the West India plantations were generally opposed to it, and at St. Kitts the stamp-master was obliged to resign. Canada and Halifax, on the continent, submitted, and remained loyal through the Revolution that followed.

Boston, our present point of view, kept up the spirit of liberty, but avoided acts of violence. A newspaper appeared under the significant title of "THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURANT, containing matters instructing to liberty, and no ways repugnant to loyalty; printed by Andrew Marvel, at the sign of the Bribe Refused, on Constitution Hill, North America." Its head-piece was a snake cut into eight pieces (see page 508), the head part having N. E., the initials of New England, inscribed upon it, and the other pieces the initials of the other colonies. Accompanying the device was the motto, JOIN OR DIE.

The morning of the 1st of November, the day appointed for the Stamp Act to take effect in America, was ushered in at Boston by the tolling of muffled bells, and the vessels in the harbor displaying their flags at half mast, as on the occasion of a funeral solemnity. On Liberty Tree were suspended two effigies, representing George Grenville and John Huske; the latter the American member of Parliament whom I have mentioned as suggesting a heavy tax upon the colonies before the Stamp Act was proposed. A label, with a poetic inscription, was affixed to the breast of each. 23 The figures remained suspended until about three o’clock in the afternoon, when they were cut down in the presence of several thousand people of all ranks, who testified their approbation by loud huzzas. The effigies were placed in a cart, and taken to the court-house, where the Assembly were sitting, followed by a vast concourse in regular procession; thence the people proceeded to the Neck, and hung the figures upon a gallows erected there. Speeches were made at the place of execution, and, after the lapse of an hour, they were taken down, torn in pieces, and the limbs thrown in the air. The people were now desired, by one of the leaders of the pageant, to go quietly home. They acquiesced, and Boston that night was remarkably tranquil.

The Stamp Act had now become a law. As none but stamped paper was legal, and as the people were determined not to use it, business was suspended. The courts were closed, marriages ceased, vessels were delayed in the harbors, and the social and commercial operations of America were suddenly paralyzed. Few dared to think of positive rebellion; the strong arm of government held the sword of power above them, and a general gloom overspread the colonies. Yet hope was not extinct, and it pointed out a peaceable, but powerful, plan for effecting a repeal of the noxious act. The commerce between Great Britain and the colonies had become very important, and any measure that might interrupt its course would be felt by a large and powerful class in England, whose influence was felt in Parliament. The expediency of striking a blow at the trade occurred to some New York merchants, and, accordingly, on the 31st of October [1765.], the day before the act went into operation, a meeting was held, and an agreement entered into not to import from England certain enumerated articles after the first day of January ensuing. 24 The merchants of Philadelphia readily responded to the measure, and on the 9th of December those of Boston entered into a similar agreement. Nor were the pledges confined to merchants alone, but the people in general ceased using foreign luxuries; articles of domestic manufacture came into general use, and the trade with Great Britain was almost entirely suspended. 25


From an English print.

In July [1765.] the Marquis of Rockingham, an honorable and enlightened statesman, succeeded Grenville in the premiership. His cabinet was composed chiefly of the friends of America, and, for a while, the colonists hoped for justice. General Conway, who had raised the first voice of opposition to ministers in their relations to the colonies, was made one of the Secretaries of State, and Edmund Burke, one of the earliest friends of America, was Rockingham’s private secretary. But the new ministry, against the determined will of the king and the influence of a strong power behind the throne, found it difficult to depart from the line of policy toward the colonies adopted by Grenville, and the hopes of the Americans faded in an hour.

A strange apathy concerning American affairs seemed still to prevail in England, notwithstanding every vessel from America carried tidings of the excited state of the people there. Parliament met in December [December 17.]. The king, in his speech, mentioned that something had occurred in America which might demand the serious attention of the Legislature; but that body almost immediately adjourned until after the Christmas holidays, and it was the 14th of January [1766.] before they reassembled. The king alluded to the disturbances in America, and assured the Houses that no time had been lost in issuing orders to the governors of the provinces, and to the commanders of the forces there, to use all the power of the government in suppressing riots and tumults. Pitt, who was absent on account of gout when the passage of the Stamp Act was under consideration, was now in his place, and, leaning upon crutches, nobly vindicated the rights of the colonies. After censuring ministers for their delay in giving notice of the disturbances in America, and animadverting severely upon the injustice of the Stamp Act, he proceeded to vindicate the Americans. "The colonists," he said, "are subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the natural rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen; equally bound by its laws, and equally participating in the Constitution of this free country. The Americans are the sons, not the bastards, of England. Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. Taxes are the voluntary gift or grant of the Commons alone. . . . . . . When, therefore, in this House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an American tax what do we do? We, your majesty’s Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to your majesty, what? our own property? No; we give and grant to your majesty the property of your majesty’s Commons of America. It is an absurdity in terms."

Grenville also censured ministers for their delay. "The disturbances," he said, "began in July, and now we are in the middle of January; lately they were only occurrences; they are now grown to disturbances, to tumults and riots. I doubt they border on open rebellion; and, if the doctrines of this day be confirmed, that name will be lost in revolution." And so it was. Grenville also defended his own course, and dissented from Mr. Pitt respecting the right to tax the colonies. He claimed obedience from America, because it enjoyed the protection of Great Britain. "The nation," he said, "has run itself into an immense debt to give them protection; and now they are called upon to contribute a small share toward the public expense – an expense arising from themselves – they renounce your authority, insult your officers, and break out, I might almost say, into open rebellion." Fixing his eyes intently upon Pitt, he exclaimed, with great emphasis, "The seditious spirit of the colonies owes its birth to factions in this House. Gentlemen are careless of the consequences of what they say, provided it answers the purposes of opposition."

When Grenville ceased speaking, several members arose to their feet, among whom was Pitt. There was a loud cry of "Mr. Pitt, Mr. Pitt," and all but he sat down. He immediately fell upon Grenville, and told him that, since he had challenged him to the field, he would fight him on every foot of it. "The gentleman tells us," he said, "that America is obstinate, America is almost in open rebellion. I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest." Alluding to the alleged strength of Great Britain and the weakness of America, he said, "It is true, that in a good cause, on a good ground, the force of this country could crush America to atoms; but on this ground, on this Stamp Act, many here will think it a crying injustice, and I am one who will lift up my hands against it. In such a cause your success would be hazardous. America, if she fall, would fall like the strong man; she would embrace the pillars of the State, and pull down the Constitution along with her," 26 Pitt concluded his speech with a proposition for an absolute and immediate repeal of the Stamp Act, at the same time recommending an act to accompany the repeal, declaring, in the most unqualified terms, the sovereign authority of Great Britain over her colonies. This was intended as a sort of salvo to the national honor, necessary, as Pitt well knew, to insure the repeal of the act. Burke, who had been elected to a seat in the House of Commons, 27 Conway, Barré, and others, seconded the views of Pitt, and with that great statesman were the principal advocates of a repeal. Chief-justice Pratt, now become Lord Camden, was the principal friend of the measure in the Upper House, but was opposed to the Declaratory Act proposed by Pitt. "My position is this," he said, in the course of debate; "I repeat it; I will maintain it to the last hour – taxation and representation are inseparable. The position is founded in the law of nature. It is more: it is itself an eternal law of nature."

On the 18th of March [1766.] a repeal bill was passed by a large majority of the men who, a few months previous, were almost unanimously in favor of the Stamp Act. It was carried in the House of Commons by a vote of two hundred and seventy-five to one hundred and sixteen. It met strenuous opposition in the House of Lords, where it had a majority of thirty-four. Thirty-three peers entered a strong protest, in which they declared that "such a submission of king, Lords, and Commons, in so strange and unheard-of a contest," would amount to an entire surrender of British supremacy.

The change in the opinions of members of the House of Commons was wrought more by the petitions, remonstrances, and personal influence of the London merchants, than by appeals from America, or by disturbances there. Ministers would not receive the petitions of the colonial Congress held at New York, because that assembly had not been legally summoned to meet by the supreme power. It was the importunities of London merchants and tradesmen, suffering severely from the effects of the non-importation agreements, that wrought the wondrous change. Half a million of dollars were then due them from the colonies, and, under the existing state of things, not a dollar of it was expected to be paid. Their trade with the colonies was suddenly suspended, and nothing but bankruptcy and ruin was before them. London being the business heart of the kingdom, with a cessation of its pulsations paralysis spread to other portions. Nothing but a retraction could save England from utter commercial ruin, and, perhaps, civil war. These were the considerations which made the sensible men in Parliament retrace their steps. According to Pitt’s recommendation, a Declaratory Act, which affirmed the right of Parliament "to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever," accompanied the bill. The repeal of the Stamp Act became a law, by the reluctant signature of the king, on the day of its enactment [March 18, 1766.].


From an English print.

Great joy was manifested in London when the Repeal Act passed. Pitt had all the honor of the measure, and as he came out to the lobby of the House of Commons he was greeted by the crowd with the most extravagant demonstrations of joy. They clung about him like children upon a long-absent father. The ships in the river displayed their colors; houses at night, all over the city, were illuminated; and the most fulsome adulation was bestowed upon the king and Parliament for their goodness and wisdom!

Equally great was the joy that filled the colonies when intelligence of the repeal of the Stamp Act arrived. The Declaratory Act, involving, as it really did, the kernel of royal prerogatives which the colonists rejected, was, for the moment, overlooked, and throughout America there was a burst of loyalty and gratitude. New York voted statues to the king and to Pitt, both of which were presently erected; 28 Virginia voted a statue to the king; Maryland passed a similar vote, and ordered a portrait of Lord Camden; and the authorities of Boston ordered full-length portraits of Barré and Conway for Fanueil Hall.

The Repeal Act reached Boston at about noon on Friday, the 13th of May [1766.]. It was brought by the brig Harrison, a vessel belonging to John Hancock. Great was the general joy. The church-bells were immediately rung; the colors of all the ships were hoisted; cannons were discharged; the Sons of Liberty gathered under their favorite tree, drank toasts, and fired guns; and bonfires and illuminations enlivened the evening. A general celebration was arranged by the select-men for the following Monday. The dawn, bright and rosy, was ushered in by salvos of cannon, ringing of bells, and martial music. Through the liberality of some citizens, every debtor in the jail was ransomed and set at liberty, to unite in the general joy. "This charitable deed originated in a fair Boston nymph." The whole town was illuminated in the evening. On the Common the Sons of Liberty erected a magnificent pyramid, illuminated by two hundred and eighty lamps, the four upper stories of which were ornamented with figures of the king and queen, and "fourteen of the patriots who had distinguished themselves for their love of liberty." On the four sides of the lower apartment were appropriate poetic inscriptions. 29 "John Hancock, Esq.," says a newspaper of the day, from which I have drawn this account, "who gave a grand and elegant entertainment to the genteel part of the town, and treated the populace to a pipe of Madeira wine, erected at the front of his house, which was magnificently illuminated, a stage for the exhibition of his fire-works.". . . . . . "Mr. Otis, and some other gentlemen who lived near the Common, kept open house the whole evening, which was very pleasant." At eleven o’clock, on a signal being given, a horizontal fire-wheel on the top of the pyramid was set in motion, "which ended in the discharge of sixteen dozen serpents in the air, which concluded the show. To the honor of the Sons of Liberty, we can with pleasure inform the world that every thing was conducted with the utmost decency and good order."


His majesty’s Council, by a previous invitation of the governor, met at the Province House in the afternoon, where many loyal toasts were drunk, and in the evening they went to the Common to see the fire-works. Past animosities were forgotten, and the night of the 16th of May was a happy one for Boston.

The glad sounds of rejoicing because of the repeal of the Stamp Act were not mellowed into the harmony of confident hope, before the ministry of England, by its unwise and unjust acts, again awakened loud murmurs of discontent throughout America. That germ of new oppressions, the Declaratory Act, which appeared so harmless, began to expand in the genial soil of ministerial culture. The House of Commons, by resolutions, demanded of the colonies restitution to the crown officers who had suffered loss by the Stamp Act riots. This was just, and the colonies complied; Massachusetts, however, in passing the Indemnification Bill, inserted a provision that a free pardon should be extended to all concerned. Much bad feeling was engendered by the insolent manner in which the settlement of the claims was demanded. Governor Bernard of Massachusetts was so peremptory and insulting, that the people of Boston flatly refused to pay; and it was not until the governor had lowered his authoritative tone very much that they complied. 31

A new clause in the Annual Mutiny Act 32 was properly viewed as disguised taxation, and a measure calculated not only to strengthen the royal power in America, but to shift a heavy burden from the shoulders of the home government to those of the colonies. The clause provided that the British troops that might be sent here should be furnished with quarters, beer, salt, and vinegar at the expense of the people. It was a comparatively small tax, and easy to be borne, but it involved the same principles, substantially, that were avowed in the Stamp Act, and was more odious, because it was intended to make the people support bayonets sent to abridge their liberties. New York and Massachusetts refused to comply with its provisions, and opposition, as zealous as that against the Stamp Act, was soon aroused. The insolent soldiers met rebuffs at every corner, and at times serious outbreaks were apprehended in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

On the 2d of August, 1766, the Rockingham cabinet was suddenly dissolved. It was too liberal for "the king’s friends," and was unable to stem the current of opposition flowing from royalty itself. The new cabinet was formed, by his majesty’s commands, under the control of Mr. Pitt, just created Earl of Chatham. 33 This honor was conferred on the 29th of July. The transformation of the great Commoner into an earl was not more surprising than the curious medley of politicians that formed his cabinet, so diversified and discordant that neither party knew what confidence to repose in it. "He made an administration so checkered and speckled," said Burke; "he put together a piece of joinery so crossly indented and whimsically dove-tailed; a cabinet so variously inlaid; such a piece of diversified mosaic; such a tesselated pavement without cement; here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white; patriots and courtiers, king’s friends and republicans; Whigs and Tories; treacherous friends and open enemies; that it was, indeed, a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch and unsure to stand on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards stared at each other, and were obliged to ask, ‘Sir, your name?’ ‘Sir, you have the advantage of me.’ ‘Mr. Such-a-one, I beg a thousand pardons.’ I venture to say it did so happen that persons had a single office divided between them, who had never spoken to each other in their lives until they found themselves they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle-bed." 34 Had the general direction of affairs been assumed by Pitt, even this incongruous cabinet might not have done much mischief; but frequent and serious attacks of gout kept the great orator confined at Hayes, his country seat in Kent. "Having," said Burke, "put so much the larger part of his enemies and opposers into power, the confusion was such that his own principles could not possibly have any effect or influence in the conduct of affairs. If ever he fell into a fit of the gout, or any other cause withdrew him from public cares, principles directly contrary to his own were sure to predominate. . . . . . . When his face was hid for a moment, his whole system was one wide sea without chart or compass." It was during one of these attacks of illness that Grenville proposed a tax of two millions of dollars upon America, for the support of troops, &c. [January, 1767.]. Charles Townshend, Pitt’s chancellor of the Exchequer, upon whom devolved the duty of suggesting financial measures, agreed with Grenville as to the right thus to tax the colonies, but, in view of the late excitement produced by the Stamp Act, thought it inexpedient, at the same time pledging himself to the House to find a revenue in America sufficient to meet expenses. This pledge he attempted to redeem in May [May 13.], by asking leave to bring in a bill to impose a duty upon paper, glass, painters’ colors, lead, and tea imported by the Americans. Leave was granted, and an act levying such duties became a law by royal assent on the 29th of June. Another bill became a law on the 2d of July, which provided for taking off a shilling on a pound of the export tax on all black and single tea, and granting a drawback upon all teas exported to Ireland and America. The object of this act was to encourage the exportation of tea to America, in the belief that the reduced price of the article would cause a great increase in the consumption, and, consequently, augment the revenue arising from it under the new act. But in this ministers reckoned neither wisely nor well.

Another bill was passed, reorganizing the colonial custom-house system, and the establishment of a Board of Revenue Commissioners for America, to have its seat at Boston. There was a provision in the first bill for the maintenance of a standing army in America, and enabling the crown, by sign manual, to establish a general civil list throughout every province, fixing the salaries of governors, judges, and other officers, such salary to be paid by the crown. Thus the executive and judicial officers, from whom the people were to expect good government and the righteous administration of laws, were made entirely independent of the people, and became, in fact, mere hireling creatures of the crown. This had been the object of almost every minister from the time of Charles II. 35

When intelligence of these acts reached America, the excitement throughout the colonies was as great as that produced by the Stamp Act, but action was more dignified and efficient. The royal governors and their retainers, elated with the prospect of being independent of the colonial Assemblies, eagerly forwarded the schemes of the ministry, and aided greatly in fostering opposition among the people. The ministry seemed totally blind to every light of common sense, and disregarded the warnings of Lord Shelburne and others in Parliament, and the opinions of just observers in America. 36

The colonists clearly perceived the intention of government to tax them in some shape, and took the broad ground asserted by Otis in his pamphlet, that "taxes on trade, if designed to raise a revenue, were just as much a violation of their rights as any other tax." The colonial newspapers, now increased to nearly thirty in number, began to be tribunes for the people, through which leading minds communed with the masses upon subjects of common interest. They teemed with essays upon colonial rights, among the most powerful of which were the "Letters of a Farmer of Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies," written by John Dickenson, 37 and first published in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. They were twelve in number, and appeared during the summer and autumn of 1767. Their effect, like that of the "Crisis," by Thomas Paine, a few years later, was wonderful in forming and controlling the will of the people, and giving efficiency to the strong right arm of action. In a style of great vigor, animation, and simplicity, Dickenson portrayed the unconstitutionality of the conduct of Great Britain, the imminent peril to American liberty which existed, and the fatal consequences of a supine acquiescence in ministerial measures – more fatal as precedents than by the immediate calamities they were calculated to produce. 38 The people of Boston, at a public meeting, passed a vote of thanks to Dickenson, and some who were afterward leading men of the Revolution composed the committee to write the letter. In May, 1768, an association in Philadelphia, called the Society of Fort St. David, presented an address to Mr. Dickenson, "in a box of heart of oak." The following inscriptions were neatly done upon it, in gold letters. On the top was represented the cap of liberty on a spear, resting on a cipher of the letters J. D. Underneath the cipher, in a semi-circular label, the words PRO PATRIA. Around the whole, the following: "The gift of the Governor and Society of Fort St. David to the author of THE FARMER’S LETTERS, in grateful testimony to the very eminent services thereby rendered to this country, 1768." On the inside of the top was the following inscription: "The liberties of the British colonies in America asserted with Attic eloquence and Roman spirit by John Dickenson, Esq., barrister at law." Spirited resolutions were adopted by the colonial Assemblies, denouncing the acts of Parliament, and new non-importation associations were formed, which almost destroyed the commerce with England.

A special session of the Massachusetts Assembly was asked for in October [1767.], to "consider the late acts of Parliament," but Governor Bernard unwisely refused to call one. At the opening of the regular session, in December, a large committee was appointed to "consider the state of the province." It elaborated several measures, the first of which was a petition to the king, asserting the principles for which they were contending. A bolder step, and one that most displeased the British ministry, was now taken [February, 1768.]; the Assembly adopted a circular letter, to be addressed to all the colonies, imbodying the sentiments expressed in the petition to the king, and inviting their co-operation in maintaining the liberties of America. When intelligence of this letter reached the ministers, Lord Hillsborough, the colonial Secretary, sent instructions to Governor Bernard to call upon the General Assembly of Massachusetts to rescind its resolutions, and, in the event of non-compliance, to dissolve that body. But the Assembly, or House of Representatives, consisting of one hundred and nine members, much the largest legislative Convention in America, 39 were not easily frightened, and, instead of complying with the governor’s demand, made that very demand a fresh cause of complaint. Mr. Otis and Samuel Adams were the principal speakers on the occasion. The former made a speech which the friends of government pronounced "the most violent, insolent, abusive, and treasonable declaration that perhaps ever was delivered." "When Lord Hillsborough knows," said Otis, "that we will not rescind our acts, he should apply to Parliament to rescind theirs. Let Britons rescind their measures, or they are lost forever." For nearly an hour he harangued the Assembly with words like these, until even the Sons of Liberty trembled lest he should tread upon the domain of treason. The House refused to rescind, passed resolutions denunciatory of this attempt to arrest free discussion and expression of opinion, and then sent a letter to the governor [June 30, 1768.], informing him of their action. "If the votes of this House," they said, "are to be controlled by the direction of a minister, we have left us but a vain semblance of liberty. We have now only to inform you that this House have voted not to rescind, and that, on a division on the question, there were ninety-two yeas and seventeen nays." The seventeen "rescinders" became objects of public scorn. The governor, greatly irritated, proceeded to dissolve the Assembly; but, before the act was accomplished, that body had prepared a list of serious accusations against him, and a petition to the king for his removal. Thus Britain, through her representative, struck the first blow at free discussion in America. Massachusetts, however, felt strong, for the answer to her circular letter from other colonies glowed with sympathy and assurances of support.

A new scene in the drama now opened. The commissioners of customs had arrived in May [1767.], and were diligent in the performance of their duties. The merchants were very restive under the strictness of the revenue officers, and these functionaries were exceedingly odious in the eyes of the people generally. On the 10th of June the sloop Liberty, Nathaniel Bernard master, belonging to John Hancock, arrived at Boston with a cargo of Madeira wine. It was a common practice for the tide-waiter, upon the arrival of a vessel, to repair to the cabin, and there to remain, drinking punch with the master, while the sailors were landing the dutiable goods. 40 On the arrival of the Liberty, Kirke, the tidesman, went on board, just at sunset, and took his seat in the cabin as usual. About nine in the evening Captain Marshall, and others in Hancock’s employ, entered the cabin, confined Kirke below, and landed the wine on the dock without entering it at the custom-house, or observing any other formula. Kirke was then released and sent ashore. Captain Marshall died suddenly during the night, from the effects, it was supposed, of over-exertion in landing the wine. In the morning the commissioners of customs ordered the seizure of the sloop, and Harrison, the collector, and Hallowell, the controller, were deputed to perform that duty. Hallowell proceeded to place the broad arrow upon her (the mark designating her legal position), and then, cutting her moorings, he removed the vessel from Hancock’s Wharf to a place in the harbor under the guns of the Romney ship of war.

This act greatly inflamed the people. Already a crowd had collected to prevent the seizure; but when the vessel was cut loose and placed under the protection of British cannon, a strong feeling of anger pervaded the multitude. The assemblage of citizens became a mob, and a large party of the lower class, headed by Malcomb, a bold smuggler, pelted Harrison amid others with stones, attacked the offices of the commissioners, and, dragging a custom-house boat through the town, burned it upon the Common. The commissioners, alarmed for their own safety, applied to Governor Bernard for protection, but he told them he was utterly powerless. They found means to escape on board the Romney, and thence to Castle William, a fortress upon Castle Island, in the harbor, nearly three miles southeast of the city, where a company of British artillery was stationed. 41


From an English print of the time.

The Sons of Liberty called a meeting at Faneuil Hall on the afternoon of the 13th. 43 A large concourse assembled, and the principal business done was preparing a petition to the governor, asking him to remove the man-of-war from the harbor. The Council passed resolutions condemnatory of the rioters, but the House of Representatives took no notice of the matter. Legal proceedings were commenced against the leading rioters, but the difficulty of procuring witnesses, and the bad feeling that was engendered, made the prosecutors drop the matter in the following spring.

Alarmed by these tumultuous proceedings, the governor requested General Gage, then in New York, and captain general of all the British forces in America, to act upon a permission already given him by Lord Hillsborough, in a secret and confidential letter, to order some royal troops from Halifax to Boston. Intelligence of this request leaked out, and the people of Boston were greatly irritated. The arrival of an officer sent by Gage to prepare quarters for the coming troops occasioned a town meeting, and a committee, consisting of James Otis, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and John Adams, was appointed to wait upon the governor, ascertain whether the report was true, and request him to call a special meeting of the Assembly [September 12, 1768.]. The governor frankly acknowledged that troops were about to be quartered in Boston, but refused to call a meeting of the Assembly until he should receive instructions from home. Bernard was evidently alarmed; he perceived the great popularity of the leaders who stood before him, and his tone was far more pacific than it had recently been. Nor did his pliancy end here; he actually stooped to the base alternative of endeavoring to make some of those leaders his friends by bribes. He gave Hancock a commission honoring him with a seat in the Council, but the patriot tore the parchment into shreds in the presence of the people. He offered John Adams the lucrative office of advocate general, in the Court of Admiralty, but Adams hurled back the proffered patronage with disdain. Bernard also approached that sturdy representative of the Puritans, Samuel Adams, but found him, though poor in purse, as Hutchinson on another occasion said, "of such an obstinate and inflexible disposition that he could never be conciliated by any office or gift whatsoever."

The governor having peremptorily refused to convene the Assembly, the meeting recommended a convention of delegates from all the towns in the province, to meet in Boston within ten days. "A prevailing apprehension of war with France" was made the plausible pretense for calling the meeting; and they requested the people to act in accordance with a law of the colony, authorizing each one to provide himself with a musket and the requisite ammunition. Every town and district but one – more than a hundred in number 44 – sent a delegate. They met on the 22d [September.], chose Mr. Thomas Cushing, late Speaker of the Assembly, as their chairman, and petitioned Governor Bernard to summon a General Court. The governor refused to receive their petition, and denounced the Convention as treasonable, notwithstanding the conservatism which the delegates from the country infused into the proceedings. 45 They disclaimed all pretension to political authority, and professed to have met "in this dark and distressing time to consult and advise as to the best manner of preserving peace and good order." The governor warned them to desist from further proceedings, and admonished them to separate without delay. But the Convention, while it was moderate in its action, was firm in its assumed position. It remained in session four days, during which time a respectful petition to the king was agreed to; also a letter to De Berdt, the agent of the colony in England, the chief topic of which was a defense of the province against the charge of a rebellious spirit. They also adopted an address to the people, in which the alarming state of the country was set forth; but submission to legal authority and abstinence from violent tumults were strongly inculcated. This was the first of those popular assemblies in America which speedily assumed the whole political power in the colonies. Two regiments of troops from Halifax, under Colonels Dalrymple and Carr, borne by a considerable fleet, arrived at Boston the day after the adjournment of the Convention [September 27, 1768.]. The people had resolved to oppose their landing. There was room for the troops in the barracks upon Castle Island, and the inhabitants insisted upon their being landed there. But the governor and General Gage determined to have the troops near at hand, and, pretending that the barracks were reserved for two other regiments, ordered by the home government from Ireland, proceeded to provide quarters in the town. The governor’s Council refused to act in concert with him, and he took the responsibility upon himself.

On Sunday morning the fleet sailed up the harbor, 46 invested the town, and, under cover of the guns of the ships, the troops, about seven hundred in number, landed with charged muskets, fixed bayonets, colors flying, drums beating, and every other military parade usual on entering a conquered city of an enemy. A part of the troops encamped on the Common, and part occupied Faneuil Hall and the town-house. Cannons were placed in front of the latter; passengers in the streets were challenged, and other aggravating circumstances attended the entrance of the troops. Every strong feeling of the New Englander was outraged, his Sabbath was desecrated, his worship was disturbed, his liberty was infringed upon. The people became greatly exasperated; mutual hatred, deep and abiding, was engendered between the citizens and the soldiers, and the terms rebel and tyrant were daily bandied between them.

All Americans capable of intelligent thought sympathized with Massachusetts, and the engine of non-importation agreements, which worked so powerfully against the Stamp Act, was put in motion with increased energy. 47 These associations became general in all the colonies, under the sanction of the Assemblies. An agreement, presented by Washington in the House of Burgesses of Virginia, was signed by every member, and the patriotism of the people was every where displayed by acts of self-denial. 48


From an English print.

Let us consider for a moment the acts of the British Parliament at this juncture. it assembled on the 8th of November [1768.]. Pitt was ill at his country seat, Townshend was dead, and the Duke of Grafton, who had been one of the Secretaries of State in the Rockingham administration, was really at the head of this unpopular ministry. He was an able, straight-forward politician, a warm admirer and friend of Pitt, and a firm supporter of his principles. 49 The king, in his speech from the throne, alluded to fresh troubles in America, and denounced, in strong terms, the rebellious spirit evinced by Massachusetts. The response of ministers assured the king of their determination to maintain "the supreme authority of Great Britain over every part of the British empire." The address was adopted in the House of Lords, but met considerable opposition in the Commons, where the oppressive acts of the government toward America were severely criticised.

Early in January the consideration of American affairs was taken up in Parliament. The petition from the Boston Convention was contemptuously rejected; the Lords recommended, in an address to the king, the transmission of instructions to the Governor of Massachusetts to obtain full information of all treasons, and to transmit the offenders to England, to be tried there under a statute of the 35th of Henry VIII., which provided for the punishment of treason committed out of the kingdom. The address was opposed in the Commons by Pownall (who had been Governor of Massachusetts [1757.]), Burke, Barré, and Dowdeswell. The latter denounced the measure as "unfit to remedy the disorders," and as "cruel to the Americans and injurious to England." He also censured Hillsborough for taking the responsibility, during the recess of Parliament, of ordering colonial governors to dissolve the Assemblies. Burke thundered his eloquent anathemas against the measure. "At the request of an exasperated governor," he exclaimed, "we are called upon to agree to an address advising the king to put in force against the Americans the Act of Henry VIII. And why? Because you can not trust the juries of that country! Sir, that word must convey horror to every feeling mind. If you have not a party among two millions of people, you must either change your plan of government, or renounce the colonies forever." Even Grenville, the author of the Stamp Act, opposed the measure as futile and unjust. Yet the address and resolutions accompanying it were concurred in by a majority of one hundred and fifty-five against eighty-nine [January 26, 1769.]. 50

On the 8th of February Mr. Rose Fuller moved to recommit the address, for he saw in the proposed rigor toward the Americans the portents of great evil to the nation. He alluded to the miserable attempts to collect a revenue in America, and the monstrous evils growing out of them. "As for money," he said, "all that sum might be collected in London at less than half the expense." 51 Pownall, after alluding to the early settlement of America, the privations of the people, their virtues and courage, perseverance and enterprise, remarked, "But now that spirit, equally strong and equally inflamed, has but a slight and trifling sacrifice to make; the Americans have not a country to leave, but a country to defend; and have not friends and relatives to leave and forsake, but friends and relatives to unite with and stand by in one common union." But all efforts to avert the evil were vain; Mr. Fuller’s motion was negatived by a majority of one hundred and sixty-nine against sixty-five.


Lord North had succeeded Charles Townshend as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He began his long career of opposition to the Americans by offering a resolution, on the 14th of March [1769.], that a respectful petition or remonstrance from the people of New York should not be received. This proposition, which was adopted, called up Colonel Barré. He reminded the House that he had predicted all that would happen on the passage of the Stamp Act, and he now plainly warned ministers that, if they persisted in their wretched course of oppression, the whole continent of North America would rise in arms, and those colonies, perhaps, be lost to England forever. But the British Legislature, blinded by ignorance of Americans when the Stamp Act was passed, seemed now still more blind, because of films of prejudice generated by a false national pride. The motion of Lord North prevailed – the petition was refused acceptance.

Gage went to Boston in October [1768.], to enforce the requisitions of the Quartering Act. But he found none to co-operate with him except Governor Bernard, whose zeal in his majesty’s service had procured him a baronetcy, at the king’s expense. The Council and the select-men declined to act, and Gage was obliged to hire houses for the troops, and provide many articles for them out of his own military chest. Thus matters remained until spring, when intelligence of the several acts of Parliament against Massachusetts aroused the fiercest sentiments of opposition, short of actual rebellion, throughout the colonies. Legislative Assemblies spoke out boldly, and for this crime they were dissolved by royal governors. Yet amid all the excitement the colonists held out the olive branch of peace and reconciliation.

The Massachusetts Assembly convened in May, and resolved [May 31, 1769.] that it was inconsistent with their dignity and freedom to deliberate in the midst of an armed force, and that the presence of a military and naval armament was a breach of privilege. They refused to enter upon the business of supplies, or any thing else but a redress of grievances, and petitioned the governor to remove the troops from Boston. He not only refused, but adjourned the Assembly to Cambridge, when he informed them that he was going to England to lay a statement of the affairs of the colony before the king. The House unanimously voted a petition to his majesty, asking the removal of Bernard forever; and also adopted a resolution, declaring that the establishment of a standing army in the colony, in time of peace, was an invasion of natural rights, a violation of the British Constitution, highly dangerous to the people, and unprecedented, The governor, finding the members incorrigible, dissolved the Assembly [August 1, 1769.], and sailed for England, 53 leaving the colony in charge of his lieutenant, Thomas Hutchinson.

The effects of the non-importation agreements upon English commerce again brought ministers to their senses. The English merchants were really more injured by the acts of Parliament than the Americans, and they joined their petitions with those of the colonists for a repeal of the noxious acts. 54 Under the direction of Lord North, Hillsborough sent a circular letter to the colonies, intimating that the duties upon all articles enumerated in the late act would be taken off, as a measure of expediency, except on tea. This would be a partial relief from the burden, but not a removal of the cause of complaint. The principle was the same whether duties were exacted on one article or a dozen, and so long as the assumed right of Parliament to tax the colonies was practically enforced in the smallest degree, so long the Americans felt their rights infringed. Principle, not expediency, was their motive of action, and, therefore, the letter of Hillsborough had no effect in quieting the disturbed ocean of popular feeling. The year 1769 closed without any apparent approximation of Great Britain and her American colonies to a reconciliation.




From a print by Worlidge.

1 George III. was the son of Frederic, prince of Wales, by the Princess Augusta, of Saxe Gotha. He was born May 24th, 1738, about three months after the birth of George Washington. He was married in September, 1761, nearly a year after his accession, to the Princess Charlotte, of Mecklenberg Strelitz, daughter of the late duke of that principality. Her character resembled that of her husband. Like him, she was domestic in her tastes and habits, decorous, rigid in the observance of moral duties, and benevolent in thought and action. George was remarkable for the purity of his morals; even while a young man, in the midst of the licentious court of his grandfather, and through life, he was a good pattern of a husband and father. He possessed no brilliancy of talents, but common sense was a prime element in his intellectual character. He was tender and benevolent, although he loved money; and his resentments against those who willfully offended him were lasting. He was always reliable; honest in his principles and faithful to his promises, no man distrusted him. Their majesties were crowned on the 22d of September, 1761, soon after their marriage, and a reform in the royal household at once commenced. Their example contributed to produce a great change in manners. "Before their time," says M‘Farland, "the Court of St. James had much of the licentiousness of the Court of Versailles, without its polish; during their time it became decent and correct, and its example gradually extended to the upper classes of society, where it was most wanted."

For two years, from 1787 to 1789, his majesty was afflicted with insanity. The malady returned in 1801, and terminated his political life. He died on the 29th of January, 1820, aged nearly eighty-two years, this being the sixtieth year of his reign. His queen died in 1818.

2 Waldegrave’s Memoirs.

3 Dr. Gordon says he was informed by Dr. Langdon, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that as the Rev. Mr. Whitfield was about leaving that place, he said to Dr. Langdon, and Mr. Haven, the Congregational minister, "I can’t, in conscience, leave this town without acquainting you with a secret. My heart bleeds for America. O poor New England! There is a deep-laid plot against both your civil and religious liberties, and they will be lost. Your golden days are at an end. You have nothing but trouble before you. My information comes from the best authority in Great Britain. I was allowed to speak of the affair in general, but enjoined not to mention particulars. Your liberties will be lost." – Gordon, i., 102. It was known that, among other reforms, the Puritan, or dissenting, influence in religious matters was to be curtailed, if not destroyed, by the establishment of Episcopacy in the colonies. The throne and the hierarchy were, in a measure, mutually dependent. In 1748 Dr. Secker, the archbishop of Canterbury, had proposed the establishment of Episcopacy in America, and overtures were made to some Puritan divines to accept the miter, but without effect. The colonists, viewing Episcopacy in its worst light, as exhibited in the early days of the American settlements, had been taught to fear such power, if it should happen to be wielded by the hand of a crafty politician, more than the arm of civil government. They knew that if Parliament could create dioceses and appoint bishops, it would introduce tithes and crush heresy. For years controversy ran high upon this subject, much acrimony appeared on both sides, and art was brought in requisition to enforce arguments. In the Political Register for 1769 is a picture entitled "An attempt to land a Bishop in America." A portion of a vessel is seen, on the side of which is inscribed The Hillsborough. * She is lying beside a wharf, on which is a crowd of earnest people, some with poles pushing the vessel from her moorings. One holds up a book inscribed Sidney on Government; another has a volume of Locke’s Essays; a third, in the garb of a Quaker, holds an open volume inscribed Barclay’s Apology; and from the mouth of a fourth is a scroll inscribed No lords, spiritual or temporal, in New England. Half way up the shrouds of the vessel is a bishop in his robes, his miter falling, and a volume of Calvin’s works, hurled by one on shore, about to strike his head; from his mouth issues a scroll inscribed, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." In the foreground is a paper inscribed, "Shall they be obliged to maintain bishops that can not maintain themselves?" and near it is a monkey in the act of throwing a stone at the bishop. This print well illustrates the spirit of the times.

William Livingston, afterward governor of New Jersey, seems to have been one of the most eminent writers against Episcopacy, and Dr. Chandler and Samuel Seabury (afterward bishop) were among its chief supporters. An anonymous writer, whose alias was Timothy Tickle, Esq., wrote a series of powerful articles in favor of Episcopacy, in Hugh Gaines’s New York Mercury, in 1768, supposed by some to be Dr. Auchmuty, of Trinity Church. The Synod of Connecticut passed a vote of thanks to Livingston for his essays, while in Gaines’s paper he was lampooned by a shrewd writer in a poem of nearly two hundred lines. Livingston wrote anonymously, and the poet thus refers to the author:

"Some think him a Tindall, some think him a Chubb,
Some think him a Ranter that spouts from his Tub;
Some think him a Newton, some think him a Locke,
Some think him a Stone, some think him a Stock
But a Stock he at least may thank Nature for giving,
And if he’s a STONE, I pronounce it a LIVING."

Episcopacy was introduced into America, took root, and flourished; and when the Revolution broke out, seven or eight years afterward, there were many of its adherents found on the side of liberty, though, generally, so intimate was its relation, through the Mother Church, to the throne, Its loyalty became a subject of reproach and suspicion, for the Episcopal clergy, as a body, were active or passive Loyalists.

* Lord Hillsborough was then the Colonial Secretary, and it was presumed to be a plan of his to send a bishop to the colonies.

4 Parliamentary Debates, iii., 210.

5 George Grenville was born in 1722, and in 1750 became a member of the House of Commons, where he was distinguished for his eloquence and general knowledge. He was made Treasurer of the Navy in 1754, and in 1760 was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. He became First Lord of the Treasury, or prime minister, in 1763, and the next year originated the famous Stamp Act. He resigned his office to Rockingham in 1765, and died on the 13th of November, 1770, aged fifty-eight years. He married the daughter of Sir William Wyndham. The late Marquis of Buckingham, who inherited the family estates in Buckinghamshire, was his eldest son.

6 Early in March, 1764, it was debated in the House of Commons whether they had a right to tax the Americans, they not being represented, and it was determined unanimously in the affirmative. Of this vote, and the evident determination of ministers to tax the colonies, Mr. Mauduit, the agent of Massachusetts, informed the Assembly, and that body immediately resolved, "That the sole right of giving and granting the money of the people of that province was vested in them as the legal representatives; and that the imposition of taxes and duties by the Parliament of Great Britain, upon a people who are not represented in the House of Commons, is absolutely irreconcilable with their rights – That no man can justly take the property of another without his consent; upon which original principle the right of representation in the same body which exercises the power of making laws for levying taxes, one of the main pillars of the British Constitution, is evidently founded."

7 It provided that every skin, or piece of vellum, or parchment, or sheet, or piece of paper used for legal purposes, such as bills, bonds, notes, leases, policies of insurance, marriage licenses, and a great many other documents, in order to be held valid in courts of law, was to be stamped, and sold by public officers appointed for that purpose, at prices which levied a stated tax on every such document. The Dutch had used stamped paper for a long time, and it was familiar to English merchants and companies, but in America it was almost wholly unknown.

8 Gordon, i., 110; Jackson’s letter to Lieutenant-governor Hutchinson, December 26th, 1765.

9 In the course of a debate on the subject of taxation, in 1762, Mr. Grenville contended that the money was wanted, that government did not know where to lay another tax; and, addressing Mr. Pitt, he said, "Why does he not tell us where we can levy another tax?" repeating, with emphasis, "Let him tell me where – only tell me where!" Pitt, though not much given to joking, hummed in the words of a popular song, "Gentle shepherd, tell me where!" The House burst into a roar of laughter, and christened George Grenville THE GENTLE SHEPHERD. – Pictorial History of the Reign of George III., i., 34.

10 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 seventy-five 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.

11 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.

12 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 every thing 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.

13 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.

14 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.

15 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 the times. Mrs. Warren died on the 19th of October, 1814, in the eighty-seventh year of her age.

16 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, Cæsar Rodney.

Connecticut. – Eliphalet Dyer, David Rowland, William S. Johnson.

Maryland. – William Murdock, Edward Tilghman, Thomas Ringgold.

South Carolina. – Thomas Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, John Rutledge.

17 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.

18 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.

19 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 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,
All nature gazed, exulting at the sight,
When swift as wind, to vent their base-born rage,
The Tory Williams and the Butcher Gage
Rush’d to the tree, a nameless number near,
Tories and negroes following in the rear;
Each, axe in hand, attack’d the honor’d tree,
Swearing eternal war with Liberty;
Nor ceased his stroke till each repeating wound
Tumbled its honors headlong to the ground;
But ere it fell, not mindless of its wrong,
Avenged, it took one destined head along.
A Tory soldier on its topmost limb;
The genius of the Shade look’d stern at him,
And mark’d him out that self-same hour to dine
Where unsnuff’d lamps burn low at Pluto’s shrine;
Then tripp’d his feet from off their cautious stand;
Pale turn’d the wretch – he spread each helpless hand,
But spread in vain – with headlong force he fell,
Nor stopp’d descending till he stopp’d in hell."

20 John Avery, Jr., Thomas Crafts, John Smith, Henry Wills, Thomas Chace, Stephen Cleverly, Henry Ross, and Benjamin Edes.

21 Galatians, v., 12, 13.

22 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 many. He also favored the law granting Writs of Assistance; and on the bench, in the Council, and in the Assembly he was always found on the side of the ministry. These facts account for the violent feelings of the mob against him. In 1768 he was an active coadjutor of Governor Bernard in bringing troops to Boston, which made him still more unpopular. When Bernard left the province, in 1769, the government devolved wholly upon Hutchinson. In 1770 the Boston massacre occurred, and much of the responsibility of that outrage was laid upon him. He was appointed governor in 1771, and from that time until he left for England, in 1774, he was in continual trouble with the Assembly. The popular feeling against him was greatly increased by the publicity given to certain letters of his sent to ministers, in which he recommended stringent measures against the colonies. Toward the close of 1773 the destruction of tea in Boston Harbor was accomplished. The Sons of Liberty had then paralyzed the government, and there was not a judge or sheriff who dared to exercise the duties of his office against the wishes of the inflamed people. Hutchinson then resigned his office, and sailed for England in the spring of 1774. He died at Brompton, England, June 30th, 1780, aged sixty-nine years.

23 The following are copies of the labels. On that representing Grenville, holding out a Stamp Act in his left hand:

"YOUR Servant, Sirs; do you like my Figure?
YOU’ve seen one Rogue, but here’s a bigger.
Father of Mischief! how I soar
Where many a Rogue has gone before.
Take heed, my Brother Rogues, take heed,
In me your honest Portion read:
Dear cousin PETER, no Excuse,
Come dance with me without your shoes;
‘Tis G------le calls, and sink or swim,
You’d go to h--l to follow him."

On the figure representing John Huske:


"What, Brother H-ske? why, this is bad!
Ah, indeed! but I’m a wicked Lad;
My Mother always thought me wild;
‘The Gallows is thy Portion, Child,’
She often said: behold, ’tis true,
And now the Dog must have his due;
For idle Gewgaws, wretched Pelf,
I sold my Country, d----d myself;
And for my great, unequal’d Crime
The D---l takes H-ske before his time.
But if some Brethren I could name,
Who shared the Crime, should share the shame,
This glorious tree, though big and tall,
Indeed would never hold ’em all!"

24 The meeting was held at the house of George Burns, inn-keeper. As the agreement entered into there is a type of those adopted by the merchants and people of other colonies, I copy from the New York Mercury of November, 1765, the portion of the proceedings of the meeting containing the resolutions. These were, "First, That in all orders they send out to Great Britain for goods or merchandise of any nature, kind, or quality whatsoever usually imported from Great Britain, they will direct their correspondents not to ship them, unless the Stamp Act be repealed. It is, nevertheless, agreed that all such merchants as are owners of, and have, vessels already gone, and now cleared out for Great Britain, shall be at liberty to bring back in them, on their own accounts, crates and casks of earthen-ware, grindstones, and pipes, and such other bulky articles as owners usually fill up their vessels with. Secondly, It is further unanimously agreed that all orders already sent home shall be countermanded by the very first conveyance; and the goods and merchandise thereby ordered not to be sent, except upon the condition mentioned in the foregoing resolution. Thirdly, It is further unanimously agreed that no merchant will vend dry-goods or merchandise sent upon commission from Great Britain, that shall be shipped from thence after the first day of January next, unless upon the condition mentioned in the first resolution. Fourthly, It is further unanimously agreed that the foregoing resolutions shall be binding until the same are abrogated at a general meeting hereafter to be held for that purpose. In witness whereof we have hereunto respectively subscribed our names." [Here followed the names of more than two hundred of the principal merchants.] In consequence of the foregoing resolutions, the retail merchants of the city entered into an agreement not to buy or sell any goods shipped from England after the 1st of January.

This was the beginning of that system of non-importation agreements which hurled back upon England, with such force, the commercial miseries she had inflicted upon the colonies.

25 The following extracts from a letter written by a gentleman in Newport, Rhode Island, to Hugh Gaine, the editor of the New York Mercury, and published in that paper early in 1768, will give the reader an idea of the industry of the colonists at that time: "Within eighteen months past four hundred and eighty-seven yards of cloth and thirty-six pairs of stockings have been spun and knit in the family of James Nixon of this town. Another family, within four years past, hath manufactured nine hundred and eighty yards of woolen cloth, besides two coverlids, and two bed-ticks, and all the stocking yarn for the family. Not a skein was put out of the house to be spun, but the whole performed in the family. We are credibly informed that many families in this colony, within the year past, have each manufactured upward of seven hundred yards of cloth of different kinds."

Another letter, dated at Newport, 1765, says, "The spirit of patriotism is not confined to the sons of America, but glows with equal fervor in the benevolent breasts of her daughters; one instance of which we think is worthy of notice. A lady of this town, though in the bloom of youth, and possessed of virtues and accomplishments, engaging, and sufficient to excite the most pleasing expectations of happiness in the married state, has declared that she should rather be an old maid than that the operation of the Stamp Act should commence in these colonies."

26 History, Debates, &c., of the British Parliament, iv., 292-7.

27 At this time Burke commenced his brilliant career as a statesman and an orator. Dr. Johnson asserted that his two speeches on the repeal of the Stamp Act "were publicly commended by Mr. Pitt, and filled the town with wonder."

28 The statue of the king was equestrian, and made of lead. It stood within the present inclosure at the foot of Broadway, New York, called the Bowling Green. The statue of Pitt was of marble, and stood at the intersection of William and Wall Streets. The mutilated remains of this statue are now within an iron railing of the Fifth Ward Hotel, on the corner of Franklin Street and West Broadway. A sketch of the broken statue will be found on page 593, Vol. II.

29 The following are the poetic inscriptions referred to. They allude to emblematic figures on the lower story:

"O thou whom next to Heaven we most revere,
Fair Liberty! thou lovely Goddess, hear!
Have we not wooed thee, won thee, held thee long,
Lain in thy Lap, and melted on thy Tongue –
Through Death and Dangers, rugged Paths pursued,
And led thee, smiling, to this SOLITUDE –
Hid thee within our Hearts’ most golden cell,
And braved the Powers of Earth and Powers of Hell?
GODDESS! we can not part, thou must not fly,
Be SLAVES! we dare to scorn it – dare to die."

"While clanking Chains and Curses shall salute
Thine ears, remorseless G------le, thine, O B-te,
To you, bless’d PATRIOTS! we our cause submit,
Illustrious CAMBDEN, Britain’s guardian, PITT!
Recede not, frown not, rather let us be
Deprived of being than of LIBERTY.
Let Fraud or Malice blacken all our crimes,
No disaffection stains these peaceful climes;
O save us, shield us from impending Woes,
The Foes of Britain only are our Foes."

"Boast, foul Oppression, boast thy transient Reign,
While honest FREEDOM struggles with her Chain;
But now the Sons of Virtue, hardy, brave,
Disdain to lose through mean Despair to save;
Aroused in Thunder, awful they appear,
With proud Deliverance stalking in their rear:
While Tyrant Foes their pallid Fears betray,
Shrink from their Arms, and give their Vengeance way;
See, in the unequal War, OPPRESSORS fall,
The Hate, Contempt, and endless Curse of all."

"Our Faith approved, our LIBERTY restored,
Our Hearts bend grateful to our sovereign Lord:
Hail, darling monarch! by this act endear’d,
Our firm Affections are our best Reward;
Should Britain’s self against herself divide,
And hostile Armies form on either side –
Should Hosts rebellious shake our Brunswick’s Throne,
And as they dared thy Parent, dare the Son,
To this Asylum stretch thy happy Wing.
And we’ll contend who best shall love our KING."

30 The Province House, the residence of the colonial governors, is still standing, in the rear of stores on Washington Street, opposite Milk Street. It is a large brick building, three stories high, and was formerly decorated with the king’s arms richly carved and gilt. A cupola surmounted the roof. In front of the house was a pretty lawn with an iron fence, and on each side of the gate was a large oak-tree. The ground sloped, and in front were about twenty stone steps. Its grounds are now covered with buildings, and the house can not be seen without entering Province Court. The king’s arms are in the cabinet of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

31 The amount of indemnification claimed in Boston was as follows: Hutchinson, $12,000; Oliver, $646; Story, $255; Hallowell, $1446.

32 The Mutiny Act granted power to every officer, upon obtaining a warrant from a justice, to break into any house, by day or by night, in search of deserters. Like the Writs of Assistance, these powers might be, and, indeed, were, used by unprincipled men for other than ostensible purposes; and the guaranty of the British Constitution that every man’s house shall be his castle, and inviolate, was subverted.

33 Three weeks before the installation of the new cabinet Pitt received an autograph letter from the king, commanding him to arrange a new administration. Pitt spoke of his age and infirmities (he was then fifty-eight), and proposed taking to himself the office of the privy seal, which implied and necessitated his removal to the House of Lords! The king was greatly astonished, but so desperately tangled were the public affairs, and so great seemed the necessity of having the powerful Pitt among his friends, that the king was obliged to yield. The witty Lord Chesterfield, alluding to the ambition of Pitt to acquire a coronet, said, "Every body is puzzled to account for this step. Such an event was, I believe, never heard or read of, to withdraw, in the fullness of his power and in the utmost gratification of his ambition, from the House of Commons (which procured him his power, and which could alone insure it to him), and to go into that hospital of incurables, the House of Lords, is a measure so unaccountable, that nothing but proof positive could make me believe it; but so it is." Chesterfield called it a "fall up stairs – a fall which did Pitt so much damage that he will never be able to stand upon his legs again."

34 Speech on American Taxation.

35 Gordon, i., 146.

36 Gerard Hamilton (known as Single Speech Hamilton, because when a member of Parliament he made but one speech) was then in America, and, writing to Colcraft, a member from Lincolnshire, said, "In the Massachusetts government in particular there is an express law, by which every man is obliged to have a musket, a pound of powder, and a pound of bullets always near him; so there is nothing wanting but knapsacks (or old stockings, which will do as well) to equip an army for marching, and nothing more than a Sartonius or a Spartacus at their head requisite to beat your troops and your custom-house officers out of the country, and set your laws at defiance."

37 John Dickenson was born in Maryland, November 13th, 1732. His father was Samuel Dickenson, first judge, in Delaware, of the Court of Common Pleas, about 1740. His father was wealthy, and John had every means given him for acquiring learning which the colonies afforded. He studied law in Philadelphia, and was for three years at the Temple in London. He first appeared in public life as a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1764. He was a member from Pennsylvania of the "Stamp Act Congress" in 1765. He soon afterward began his essays upon various political subjects, and his pen was never idle during the conflict that succeeded. Dr. Franklin caused his "Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer" to be republished in London in 1768, and in 1769 they were translated into French and published in Paris. Mr. Dickenson was a member of the first Continental Congress in 1774. He wrote the Declaration of the Congress of 1775, setting forth the causes and the necessity for war. He was opposed to a political separation from Great Britain, and was intentionally absent from Congress when the final vote on the Declaration of Independence was taken on the 4th of July, 1776. In 1777 he received the commission of brigadier general. In 1780 he took his seat in the Assembly of Delaware, and in 1782 was elected President of Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Convention that framed the Federal Constitution, and was its warm friend. He continued in public life, in various ways, until his death, which occurred at Wilmington on the 14th of February, 1808, at the age of seventy-five.

38 American Portrait Gallery, vol. iii.

39 About this time the debates in the Assembly began to be so interesting to the public at large, that a gallery was prepared for the use of spectators, which was usually crowded with citizens.

40 Gordon.

41 The present fort upon Castle Island is called Fort Independence, so named by the elder Adams while visiting it when he was President of the United States, in 1799. It stands at the entrance of the harbor, and is one of the finest forts in America.

42 Faneuil Hall has been denominated "the cradle of American liberty," having been the popular gathering-place of the Sons of Liberty during the incipient stages of the Revolution. It was erected in 1742, at the sole expense of Peter Faneuil, Esq., of Boston, and by him generously given to the town – the basement for a market, with a spacious and most beautiful hall, and other convenient rooms above, for public meetings of the citizens. It was burned in 1761, nothing but the brick walls remaining. The town immediately ordered it to be rebuilt. Mr. Faneuil had then been dead several years. The engraving shows it as it appeared during the Revolution. It was enlarged in 1805, by the addition of another story, and an increase of forty feet in its width. The hall is about eighty feet square, and contains some fine paintings of distinguished men. The lower part is no longer used as a market. From the cupola is obtained a fine view of the city and harbor. The original vane still turns upon the pinnacle. It is in the form of a huge grasshopper, an emblem of devouring, and significant of the original occupation of the basement story.

43 The private meeting-place of the Sons of Liberty, according to John Adams, was the counting-room in Chase and Speakman’s distillery, in Hanover Square, near the Liberty Tree.

44 At that time Massachusetts contained sixty-six regularly organized towns.

45 The following is a copy of the governor’s proclamation on the occasion. Being short, I give it entire, as a fair specimen of the mildest tone assumed by the royal representatives in America toward the people:


"To the Gentlemen assembled at Faneuil Hall under the name of a Committee or Convention:

"As I have lately received from his majesty strict orders to support his Constitutional authority within this government, I can not sit still and see so notorious a violation of it as the calling an assembly of people by private persons only. For a meeting of the deputies of the towns is an assembly of the representatives of the people to all intents and purposes; and it is not the calling it a Committee or Convention that will alter the nature of the thing. I am willing to believe that the gentlemen who so hastily issued the summons for this meeting were not aware of the high nature of the offense they were committing; and they who have obeyed them have not well considered of the penalties which they will incur if they should persist in continuing their session, and doing business therein. A present ignorance of the law may excuse what is past; a step further will take away that plea. It is, therefore, my duty to interpose this instant, before it is too late. I do, therefore, earnestly admonish you that instantly, and before you do any business, you break up this assembly, and separate yourselves. I speak to you now as a friend to the province and a well-wisher to the individuals of it. But if you should pay no regard to this admonition, I must, as governor, assert the prerogative of the crown in a more public manner. For assure yourselves (I speak from instruction) the king is determined to maintain his entire sovereignty over this province, and whoever shall persist in usurping any of the rights of it will repent of his rashness.


"Province House, Sept. 22d, 1768."


A respectful reply to this proclamation, signed by Mr. Cushing in behalf of the Convention, was sent to the governor, but he refused to receive the message.

46 There were eight ships – the Beaver, Senegal, Martin, Glasgow, Mermaid, Romney, Launceston, and Bonetta. In the Boston Journal of the Times of September 29th, 1768, I find the following: "The fleet was brought to anchor near Castle William; that night there was throwing of sky-rockets, and those passing in boats observed great rejoicings, and that the Yankee Doodle Song * was the capital piece in the band of music. . . . . . . We now behold Boston surrounded, at a time of profound peace. by about fourteen ships of war, with springs on their cables and their broadsides to the town! If the people of England could but look into the town, they would see the utmost good order and observance of the laws, and that this mighty armament has no other rebellion to subdue than what existed in the brain or letter of the inveterate G------r B----d and the detested commis-----rs of c-----s."

"October 3. In King [now State] Street, the soldiers being gathered, a proclamation was read, offering a reward of ten guineas to such soldier as should inform of any one who should attempt to seduce him from the service."

"October 6. In the morning nine or ten soldiers of Colonel Carr’s regiment were severely whipped on the Common. To behold Britons scourged by negro drummers was a new and very disagreeable spectacle."

* This air, with quaint words about "Lydia Locket" losing "her pocket," was known in Cromwell’s time. Our lyric poet G. P. MORRIS, ESQ., in the following pleasant song, in meter adapted to the air, gives a version of


Once on a time old Johnny Bull flew in a raging fury,
And swore that Jonathan should have no trials, sir, by jury;
That no elections should be held across the briny waters:
And now said he, "I’ll tax the TEA of all his sons and daughters."
Then down he sate in burly state, and bluster’d like a grandee,
And in derision made a tune call’d "Yankee doodle dandy."

"Yankee doodle" – these are facts – "Yankee doodle dandy:
My son of wax, your tea I’ll tax; you – Yankee doodle dandy."

John sent the tea from o’er the sea, with heavy duties rated;
But whether hyson or bohea I never heard it stated.
Then Jonathan to pout began – he laid a strong embargo –
"I’ll drink no TEA, by Jove!" so he threw overboard the cargo.
Then Johnny sent a regiment, big words and looks to bandy,
Whose martial band, when near the land, play’d "Yankee doodle dandy."
Yankee doodle – keep it up – Yankee doodle dandy –
I’ll poison with a tax your cup; you – Yankee doodle dandy."

A long war then they had, in which John was at last defeated,
And "Yankee doodle" was the march to which his troops retreated.
Cute Jonathan, to see them fly, could not restrain his laughter;
"That tune," said he, "suits to a T. I’ll sing it ever after."
Old Johnny’s face, to his disgrace, was flush’d with beer and brandy,
E’en while he swore to sing no more this "Yankee doodle dandy."
Yankee doodle – ho, ha, he – Yankee doodle dandy,
We kept the tune, but not the tea – Yankee doodle dandy.

I’ve told you now the origin of this most lively ditty,
Which Johnny Bull dislikes as "dull and stupid" – what a pity!
With "Hail Columbia" it is sung, in chorus full and hearty –
On land and main we breathe the strain John made for his tea party.
No matter how we rhyme the words, the music speaks them handy,
And where’s the fair can’t sing the air of "Yankee doodle dandy!"
Yankee doodle, firm and true – Yankee doodle dandy –
Yankee doodle, doodle doo, Yankee doodle dandy.

47 The non-importation agreement of the people of Boston was, substantially, that they would not import any goods for the fall of 1768, except those already ordered; that they would not import any goods from Great Britain from the 1st of January, 1769, to the 1st of January, 1770, except salt, coals, fish-hooks and lines, hemp and duck, bar lead and shot, wool cards and card wires; that they would not import on their own account, or on commission, or purchase from any who should import, from any other colony in America, from January, 1769, to January, 1770, any tea, paper, glass, or painters’ colors, until the act imposing duties on those articles should be repealed.

48 A letter from Newport, published in a New York paper in January, 1768, remarks that, at an afternoon visit of ladies, "It was resolved that those who could spin ought to be employed in that way, and those who could not should reel. When the time arrived for drinking tea, bohea and hyperion were provided, and every one of the ladies judiciously rejected the poisonous bohea, and unanimously, to their very great honor, preferred the balsamic hyperion." The hyperion here spoken of was of domestic manufacture – the dried leaves of the raspberry plant.

In Boston a party of some forty or fifty young ladies, calling themselves Daughters of Liberty, met at the house of the Rev. Mr. Morehead, where they amused themselves during the day with spinning "two hundred and thirty-two skeins of yarn, some very fine, which were given to the worthy pastor, several of the party being members of his congregation." Numerous spectators came in to admire them. Refreshments were indulged in, and "the whole was concluded with many agreeable tunes, anthems, and liberty songs, with great judgment; fine voices performing, which were animated, in all their several parts, by a number of the Sons of Liberty." It is added that there were upward of one hundred spinners in Mr. Morehead’s society.

49 The Duke of Grafton was the nobleman to whom the celebrated "Junius" addressed eleven of his scorching letters. In these he is represented as a most unscrupulous libertine in morals. He succeeded his grandfather in the family honors in 1757. He died on the 11th of March, 1811, aged seventy-five years.

50 Cavendish’s Debates.

51 It has been said that when Charles Townshend’s project of taxation was in agitation, the English merchants offered to pay the taxes, or an equivalent for them, rather than run the risk of provoking the Americans and losing their trade. – Pictorial History of the Reign of George III., i., 72.

52 Frederic, Earl of Guilford, better known as Lord North, was a man of good parts, sincerely attached to English liberty, and conscientious in the performance of all his duties. Like many other statesmen of his time, he utterly misapprehended the character of the American people, and could not perceive the justice of their claims. Devoted to his king and country, he labored to support the dignity of the crown and the unity of the realm, but in so doing he aided in bringing fearful misery upon the Americans for a time. He was a persuasive orator, a fair logician, amiable in private life, and correct in his morals. He was afflicted with blindness during the last years of his life. He died July, 1792, aged sixty years.

53 Francis Bernard was Governor of New Jersey after Governor Belcher, in 1756. He succeeded Pownall as Governor of Massachusetts in 1760, and held the office nine years. The first years of his administration were satisfactory to the inhabitants, but, associating himself with ministers in their taxation schemes, he became odious to the Massachusetts people. His first false step was the appointment of Hutchinson chief justice instead of the elder Otis. When difficulties arose under the Stamp Act and kindred measures, Bernard was unfit for his position, for he had no talent for conciliation, and was disposed to use British power more prodigally than British justice in maintaining the supremacy of the laws. He was created a baronet in the summer of 1769. He never returned to America after leaving it, and died in England in June, 1779.

54 The exports from England to America, which in 1768 had amounted to $11,890,000, $660,000 being in tea, had fallen in 1769 to $8,170,000, the tea being only $220,000. – Murray’s United States, i., 352.

Pownall, in the course of a speech in Parliament, also showed that the total produce of the new taxes for the first year had been less than $80,000, and that the expenses of the new custom-house arrangements had reduced the net profits of the crown revenue in the colonies to only $1475, while the extraordinary military expenses in America amounted, for the same time, to $850,000. – Hildreth ii., 552.



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