History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution/Chapter IV
It is ever painful to a candid mind to exhibit the deformed features of its own species; yet truth requires a just portrait of the public delinquent, though he may possess such a share of private virtue as would lead us to esteem the man in his domestic character, while we detest his political, and execrate his public transactions.
The barriers of the British constitution broken over, and the ministry encouraged by their sovereign, to pursue the iniquitous system against the colonies to the most alarming extremities, they probably judged it a prudent expedient, in order to curb the refractory spirit of the Massachusetts, perhaps bolder in sentiment and earlier in opposition than some of the other colonies, to appoint a man to preside over them who had renounced the quondam ideas of public virtue, and sacrificed all principle of that nature on the altar of ambition.
Soon after the recall of Mr. Bernard, Thomas Hutchinson, Esq., a native of Boston, was appointed to the government of Massachusetts. All who yet remember his pernicious administration and the fatal consequences that ensured, agree that few ages have produced a more fit instrument for the purposes of a corrupt court. He was dark, intriguing, insinuating, haughty and ambitious, while the extreme of avarice marked each feature of his character. His abilities were little elevated above the line of mediocrity; yet by dint of industry, exact temperance, and indefatigable labor, he became master of the accomplishments necessary to acquire popular fame. Though bred a merchant, he had looked into the origin and the principles of the British constitution, and made himself acquainted with the several forms of government established in the colonies; he had acquired some knowledge of the common law of England, diligently studied the intricacies of Machiavellian policy, and never failed to recommend the Italian master as a model to his adherents.
Raised an distinguished by every honor the people could bestow, he supported for several years the reputation of integrity, and generally decided with equity in his judicial capacity; [Judge of probate for the county of Suffolk, and chief justice of the Supreme Court] and by the appearance of a tenacious regard to the religious institutions of his country, he courted the public eclat with the most profound dissimulation, while he engaged the affections of the lower classes by an amiable civility and condescension, without departing from a certain gravity of deportment mistaken by the vulgar for sanctity.
The Inhabitants of the Massachusetts were the lineal descendants of the puritans, who had struggle din England for liberty as early as the reign of Edward V; and though obscured in the subsequent bloody persecutions, even Mr. Hume has acknowledged that to them England is indebted for the liberty she enjoys [Hume's History of England]. Attached to the religious forms of their ancestors, equally disgusted with the hierarchy of the Church of England, and prejudiced by the severities their fathers had experienced before their emigration, they had, both by education and principle, been always led to consider the religious as well as the political characters of those they deputed to the highest trust. Thus a profession of their own religious mode of worship, and sometimes a tincture of superstition, was with many a higher recommendation than brilliant talents. This accounts in some measure for the unlimited confidence long placed in the specious accomplishments of Mr. Hutchinson, whose character was not thoroughly investigated until some time after Governor Bernard left the province.
But it was known at St. James's, that in proportion as Mr. Hutchinson gained the confidence of administration, he lost the esteem of the best of his countrymen; for his reason, he advancement to the chair of government was for a time postponed or concealed, lest the people should consider themselves insulted by such an appointment, and become too suddenly irritated. Appearances had for several years been strong against him, though it was not then fully known that he had seized the opportunity to undermine the happiness of ;the people, while he had their fullest confidence, and to barter the liberties of his country by the most shameless duplicity. This was soon after displayed beyond all contradiction, by the recovery of sundry letters to administration under his signature.
Mr. Hutchinson was one of the first in America who felt the full eight of popular resentment. His furniture was destroyed, and his house leveled to the ground, in the tumults occasioned by the news of the Stamp Act. Ample compensation was indeed afterwards made him for the loss of property, but the strong prejudices against his political character were never eradicated.
All pretenses to moderation on the part of the British government now laid aside, the full appointment of Mr. Hutchinson to the government of the Massachusetts was publicly announced at the close of the year 1769. On his promotion, the new governor uniformly observed a more high-handed and haughty tone than his predecessor. He immediately, by an explicit declaration, avowed his independence on the people, and informed the legislative that his Majesty had made ample provision for his support without their aid or suffrages. The vigilant guardians of the rights of the people directly called upon him to relinquish the unconstitutional stipend, and to accept the free grants of the General Assembly for his subsistence, as usually practiced. He replied that an acceptance of this offer would be a breach of his instructions from the kind. This was his constant apology for every arbitrary step.
Secure of the favor of his Sovereign, an now regardless of the popularity he had formerly courted with such avidity, he decidedly rejected the idea of responsibility to, or dependence on, the people. With equal inflexibility he disregarded all arguments used for the removal of the troops from the capital, and permission to the Council and House of Representatives to return to the usual feat of government. Ht silently heard their solicitations for this purpose, and as if with a design to pour contempt on their supplications and complaints, he within a few days after withdrew a garrison, in the pay of the province, from a strong fortress in the harbor of Boston; placed two regiments of the King's troops in their stead, and delivered the keys of the castle to Colonel Dalrymple, who then commanded the King's troops through the province.
These steps, which seemed to bid defiance to complaint, created new fears in the minds of the people. I required the utmost vigilance to quiet the murmurs and prevent the total consequences apprehended from the ebullitions of popular resentment. But cool, deliberate and persevering, the two houses continued to resolve, remonstrate, and protest, against the infractions on their charter, and every dangerous innovation on their rights and privileges. Indeed, the intrepid and spirited conduct of those, who flood forth undaunted at this early crisis of hazard, with dignify their names so long as the public records shall remain to witness their patriotic firmness.
Many circumstances rendered it evident that the ministerial party wished a spirit of opposition to the designs of the Court might break out into violence, even at the expense of blood. This they thought would in some degree have sanctioned a measure suggested by one of the faction in America, devoted to the arbitrary system. "That some method must be devised "to take off the original incendiaries [See Andrew Oliver's letter to one of the ministry, dated Feb. 13, 1769.] whose writings instilled the position of sedition through the vehicle of the Boston Gazette. [This gazette was much celebrated for the freedom of its disquisitions in favor of civil liberty. I has been observed that "it will be a treasury of political intelligence "for the historians of this country. Otis, Thacher, Dexter, Adams, Warren and Quincy, Doctors Samuel Cooper and Mayhew, stars of the first magnitude in our northern hemisphere, whose glory and brightness distance ages will admire; these gentlemen of character and influence offered their first essays to the public through the medium of the Boston Gazette, who which account the paper became odious to the friends of prerogative, but not more disgusting to the Tories and High Church than it was pleading to the Whigs." See collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.]
Had this advice been followed and a few gentlemen of integrity and ability, who had spirit sufficient to make an effort in favor of their country in each colony, have been seized at that same moment and immolated early in the contest on the bloody altar of power, perhaps Great Britain might have held the continent in subjection a few years longer.
That they had measures of this nature in contemplation there is not a doubt. Several instances of a less atrocious nature confirmed this opinion, and the turpitude of design which at this period actuated the court party was clearly evinced by the attempted assassination of the celebrated Mr. Otis, justly deemed the first martyr to American freedom; and truth will enroll his name among the most distinguished patriots who have expired on the "bloodstained theater of human action."
This gentleman, whose birth and education was equal to any in the province, possessed an easy fortune, independent principles, a comprehensive genius, strong mind, retentive memory, and great penetration. To these endowments may be added that extensive professional knowledge, which at once forms the character of the complete civilian and the able statesman.
In his public speeches, the fire of eloquence the acumen of argument, and the lively sallies of wit, at once warmed the bosom of the stoic and commanded the admiration of his enemies. To his probity and generosity in the public walks were added the charms of affability and improving converse in private life. His humanity was conspicuous, his sincerity acknowledged, his integrity unimpeached, his honor unblemished, and his patriotism marked with the disinterestedness of the Spartan. Yet he was susceptible of quick feelings and warm passions, which in the ebullitions of zeal for the interest of his country sometimes betrayed him into unguarded epithets that gave his foes an advantage, without benefit to the cause that lay nearest his heart.
He had been affronted by the partisans of the crown, vilified in the public papers, and treated (after his resignation of office [Office of judge advocate in Governor Bernard's administration.]) in a manner too gross for a man of his spirit to pass over with impunity. Fearless of consequences, he had always given the world his opinions both in his writings and his conversation, and had recently published some severe strictures on the conduct of the commissioners of the customers and others of the ministerial party, and bidding defiance to resentment, he supported his allegations by the signature of his name.
A few days after this publication appeared, Mr. Otis, with only one gentleman in company, was suddenly assaulted in a public room, by a band of ruffians armed with swords and bludgeons. They were headed by John Robinson, one of the commissioners of the customers. The lights were immediately extinguished, and Mr. Otis covered with wounds was left for dead, while the assassins made their way through the crowd which began to assemble; and before their crime was discovered, fortunately for themselves, they escaped soon enough to take refuge on board one of the King's ships which then lay in the harbor.
In a state of nature, the savage may throw his poisoned arrow at the man whose soul exhibits a transcript of benevolence that upbraids his own ferocity, and may boast his bloodthirsty deed among the hordes of the forest without disgrace; but in a high stage of civilization, where humanity is cherished, and politeness is become a science, for the dark assassin then to level his blow at superior merit, and screen himself in the arms of power, reflects an odium on the government that permits it, and puts human nature to the blush.
The party had a complete triumph in this guilty deed; for though the wounds did not prove mortal, the consequences were tenfold worse than death. The future usefulness of this distinguished friend of his country was destroyed, reason was shaken from its throne, genius obscured, and the great man in ruins lived several years for his friends to weep over, and his country to lament the deprivation of talents admirably adapted to promote the highest interests of society.
This catastrophe shocked the feelings of the virtuous not less than it raised the indignation of the brave. Yet a remarkable spirit of forbearance continued for a time, owing to the respect still paid to the opinions of this unfortunate gentleman, whose voice though always opposed to the strides of despotism was ever loud against all tumultuous and illegal proceedings.
He was after a partial recovery sensible himself of his incapacity for the exercise of talents that had shone with peculiar luster, and often invoked the messenger of death to give him a sudden release from a life become burdensome in every view but when the calm interval of a moment permitted him the recollection of his own integrity. In one of those intervals of beclouded reason he forgave the murderous band, after the principal ruffian had asked pardon in a court of justice; [On a civil process commenced against him, John Robinson was adjudge to pay 5000 pounds sterling damages; but Mr. Otis despising all pecuniary compensation, relinquished it on the culprit's asking pardon and setting his signature to a very humble acknowledgment.] and at the intercession of the gentleman whom he had so grossly abused, the people forbore inflicting that summary vengeance which was generally though due to so black a crime.
Mr. Otis lived to see the independence of America, though in a state of mind incapable of enjoying fully the glorious event which his own exertions had precipitated. After several years of mental derangement, as if in consequence of his own prayers, his great soul was instantly set free by a flash of lightning, from the evils in which the love of his country had involved him. His death took place in May, 1783, the same year the peace was concluded between Great Britain and America.
[A sister touched by the tenderest feelings, while she has thought it her duty to do justice to a character neglected by some, and misrepresented by other historians, can exculpate herself from all suspicion of partiality by the testimony of many of his countrymen who witnessed his private merit and public exertions. But she will however only subjoin a paragraph of a letter written to the author of these annals, on the news of Mr. Otis' death, by John Adams, Esq. then minister plenipotentiary from the United States to the Court of France: "Paris, September 10, 1783 "It was, Madam, with very afflicting sentiments I learned the death of Mr. Otis, my worthy master. Extraordinary in death as in life, he has left a character that will never die while the memory of the American Revolution remains; whose foundation he laid with an energy, and with those masterly abilities, which no other man possessed." The reader also may not be displeased at an extemporary exclamation of a gentleman of poetic talents on hearing of the death of Mr. Otis: "When God in anger saw the spot, On earth to Otis given, In thunder as from Sinai's Mount, He snatched him back to heaven."]
Though the parliamentary system of colonial regulations was in many instance similar, and equally aimed to curtail the privileges of each province, yet no military force had been expressly called in aid of civil authority in any of them, except the Massachusetts. From this circumstance some began to flatter themselves that more lenient dispositions were operating in the mind of the King of Great Britain, as well as in the Parliament and the people towards America in general.
They had grounded these hopes on the strong assurances of several of the plantation governors, particularly Lord Botetourt, who then presided in Virginia. He had a speech to the Assembly of the colony, in the winter of 1769, declared himself so confident that full satisfaction would be given to the provinces in the future conduct of administration, that he pledge his faith to support to the last hour of his life the interest of American. He observed that he grounded his own opinions and his assurances to them on the intimations of the confidential servants of the King which authorized him to promise redress. He added that to his certain knowledge his Sovereign had rather part with his crown than preserve it by deception.
The credulity of this gentleman was undoubtedly imposed upon; however, the Virginians, ever steady and systematic in opposition to tyranny, were for a time highly gratified by those assurances from their first magistrate. But their vigilance was soon called into exercise by the mal-administration of a succeeding governor, though the fortitude of this patriotic colony was never shaken by the frown of any despotic master or masters. Some of the other colonies had listened to the soothing language of moderation used by their chief executive officers, and were for a short time influenced by that, and the flattering hopes held up by the Governor of Virginia.
But before the period to which we have arrived in the narration of events, these flattering appearances had evaporated with the breath of the courtier. The subsequent conduct of administration baffled the expectations of the credulous. The hand of government was more heavily felt through the continent; and from South Carolina to Virginia, and from Virginia to New Hampshire, the mandate of a minister of the signal for the dissolution of their assemblies. The people were compelled to resort to conventions and committees to transact all public business, to unite in petitions for relief, or to take the necessary preparatory steps if finally obliged to resist by arms.
In the mean time, the inhabitants of the town of Boston had suffered almost every species of insult from the British soldiery; who, countenanced by the royal party, had generally found means to screen themselves from the hand of the civil officers. Thus all authority rested on the point of the sword, and the partisans of the Crown triumphed for a time in the plenitude of military power. Yet the measure and the manner of posting troops in the capital of the province, had roused such jealousy and disgust as could not be subdued by the scourge that hung over their heads. Continual bickerings took place in the streets between the soldiers and the citizens; and the insolence of the first, which had been carried so far as to excite the African slaves to murder their masters, with the promise of impunity, [Captain Wilson of the 29th regiment was detected in the infamous practice; and it was proved beyond a doubt by the testimony of some respectable citizens, who declared on oath, that they had accidentally witnessed the offer of reward to the blacks, by some subaltern officers, if they would rob and murder their masters.] and the indiscretion of the last, was often productive of tumults and disorder that led the most cool and temperate to be apprehensive of consequences of the most serious nature.
No previous outrage had given such a general alarm, as the commotion on March 5, 1770. Yet the accident that created a resentment which emboldened the timid, determined the wavering, and awakened an energy and decision that neither the artifices of the courtier, nor the terror of the sword could easily overcome, arose from a trivial circumstance; a circumstance which but from the consideration that these minute accidents frequently lead to the most important events, would be beneath the dignity of history to record.
A sentinel posted at the door of the custom house had seized and abused a boy for casting some opprobrious reflections on an office of rank; his cries collected a number of other lads, who took the childish revenge of pelting the soldier with snow balls. The main guard, stationed in the neighborhood of the custom house, was informed by some persons from thence, of the rising tumult. They immediately turned out under the command of a Captain Preston, and beat to arms. Several fracas of little moment had taken place between the soldiery and some of the lower class inhabitants, and probably both were in a temper to avenge their own private wrongs. The cry of fire was raised in all parts of the town. The mob collected, and the soldiery from all quarters ran through the streets sword in hand, threatening and wounding the people, and with every appearance of hostility, they rushed furiously to the center of the town.
The soldiers thus ready for execution, and the populace grown outrageous, the whole town was justly terrified by the unusual alarm. This naturally drew out persons of higher condition and more peaceably disposed, to inquire the cause. Their consternation can scarcely be described when they found orders were given to fire promiscuously among the unarmed multitude. Five or six persons fell at the first fire, and several more were dangerously wounded at their own doors.
These sudden popular commotions are seldom to be justified, and their consequences are ever to be dreaded. It is needless to make any observations on the assumed rights of royalty in a time of peace to disperse by military murder the disorderly and riotous assemblage of a thoughtless multitude. The question has frequently been canvassed; and was on this occasion thoroughly discussed by gentlemen of the first professional abilities.
The remains of loyalty to the Sovereign of Britain were not yet extinguished in American bosoms, neither were the feelings of compassion which shrunk at the idea of human carnage obliterated. Yet this outrage enkindled a general resentment that could not be disguised; but every method that prudence could dictate was used by a number of influential gentlemen to cool the sudden ferment to prevent the populace from attempting immediate vengeance, and to prevail on the multitude to retire quietly to their own houses, and wait the decisions of law and equity. They effected their humane purposes; the people dispersed; and Captain Preston and his party were taken into custody of the civil magistrate. A judicial inquiry was afterwards made into their conduct; and so far from being actuated by any partial or undue bias, some of the first counselors at law engaged in their defense; and after a fair and legal trial, they were acquitted of premeditated or willful murder by a jury of the County of Suffolk.
The people, not dismayed by the blood of their neighbors thus wantonly shed, determined no longer to submit to the insolence of military power. Colonel Dalrymple, who commanded in Boston, was informed the day after the riot in King Street, "that he must withdraw his troops from the town within a limited term or hazard the consequences."
The inhabitants of the town assembled in Faneuil Hall, where the subject was discussed with becoming spirit, and the people unanimously resolved that no armed force should be suffered longer to reside in the capital; that if the King's troops were not immediately withdrawn by their own officers, the governor should be requested to give orders for their removal, and thereby prevent the necessity of more rigorous steps. A committee from the body was deputed to wait on the governor, and request him to exert that authority which the exigencies of the times required from the supreme magistrate. Mr. Samuel Adams, the chairman of the committee, with a pathos and address peculiar to himself, exposed the illegality of quartering troops in the town in the midst of peace; he urged the apprehensions of the people, and the fatal consequences that might ensue if their removal was delayed.
But no arguments could prevail on Mr. Hutchinson, who either from timidity or some more censurable cause evaded acting at all in the business and grounded his refusal on a pretended want of authority. [See extracts of Mr. Hutchinson's letters, Note 8 at the end of this chapter]. After which, Colonel Dalrymple, wishing to compromise the matter, consented that the 29th regiment, more culpable than any other in the late tumult, should be sent to Castle Island. This concession was by no means satisfactory. The people, inflexible in their demands, insisted that not one British soldier should be left within the town. Their requisition was reluctantly complied with, and within four days the whole army decamped. It is not to be supposed that this compliance of British veterans originated in their fears of an injured and incensed people, who were not yet prepared to resist by arms. They were undoubtedly sensible they had exceeded their orders and anticipated the designs of their master; they had rashly begun the slaughter of Americans, and enkindled the flames of civil war in a country where allegiance had not yet been renounced.
After the hasty retreat of the King's troops, Boston enjoyed, for a time, a degree of tranquility to which they had been strangers for many months. The commissioners of the customs and several other obnoxious characters retired with the army to Castle William, and their governor affected much moderation and tenderness to his country; at the same time he neglected no opportunity to ripen the present measures of administration or to secure his own interest, closely interwoven therewith. The duplicity of Mr. Hutchinson as soon after laid open by the discovery of a number of letters under his signature, written to some individuals in the British cabinet. These letters detected by the vigilance of some friends in England, were procured and sent on to America. [The original letters which detected his treachery were procured by Doctor Franklin and published in a pamphlet at Boston. They may also be seen in the British Annual Register, and in a large collection of historical papers printed in London, entitled the Remembrancer. The agitation into which many were thrown by the transmission of these letters, produced important consequences Doctor Franklin was shamefully vilified and abused in an outrageous philippic pronounced by Mr. Wedderburne, afterwards Lord Longborough. Threats, challenges, and duels took place, but it was not discovered by what means these letters fell into the hands of Doctor Franklin, who soon after repaired to America, where he was eminently serviceable in aid of the public cause of his native America.]
Previous to this event there were many persons in the province who could not be fully convinced that at the same period when he had put on the guise of compassion to his country, when he had promised all his influence to obtain some relaxation of the coercive system, that at that moment Mr. Hutchinson should be so lost to the ideas of sincerity as to be artfully plotting new embarrassments to the colonies in general, and the most mischievous projects against the province he was entrusted to govern. Thus conflicted as the grand incendiary who had sown the seeds of discord, and cherished the dispute between Great Britain an the colonies, his friends blushed at the discovery that his enemies triumphed, and his partisans were confounded. In these letters, he had expressed his doubt of the propriety of suffering the colonies to enjoy all the privileges of the parent state: he observed that "there must be an abridgment of English liberties in colonial administration," and urged the malignant art of necessity of the resumption of the charter of Massachusetts.
Through this and the succeeding year the British nation were much divided in opinion relative to public measures, both at home and abroad. Debates and animosities ran high in both houses of parliament. Many of their best orators had come forward in defense of America, with that eloquence and precision which provided their ancestry, and marked the spirit of a nation that had long boasted their own freedom. But reason and argument are feeble barriers against the will of a monarch, or the determinations of potent aristocratical bodies. Thus the system was fixed, the measures were ripening, and a minister had the boldness to declare publicly that "America should be brought to the footstool of Parliament," and humbled beneath the pedestal of majesty. [Lord North's speech in the House of Commons].
The inhabitants of the whole American continent appeared even at this period nearly ready for the last appeal, rather than longer to submit to the mandates of an overbearing minister of state or the execution of his corrupt designs. The masterly writers of this enlightened age had so clearly defined the nature and origin of the government, the equal claims and natural rights of man, the principles of the British constitution, and the freedom the subject had a right to enjoy thereby; that it had become a prevailing opinion, that government and legislation were instituted for the benefit of society at large, and not for the emolument of a few; and that whenever prerogative began to stretch its rapacious arm beyond certain bounds, it was an indispensable duty to resist.
Strongly attached to Great Britain, not only by the impression of ancient forms and the habits of submission to government, but by religion, manners, language, and consanguinity, the colonies still stood suspended in the pacific hope that a change of ministry or a new parliament might operate in their favor and restore tranquility, by the removal of the causes and the instruments of their sufferings.
Not yet conscious of her own strength, and scarcely ambitious of taking an independent rank among the nations, America still cherished the flattering ideas of reconciliation. But these expectations were finally dissipated by the repeated attempts to reduce the colonies to unlimited submission to the supreme jurisdiction of parliament, and the illegal exactions of the Crown, until by degrees all parliamentary decisions became as indifferent to an American ear, as the rescripts of a Turkish divan.
The tame acquiescence of the colonies would doubtless have given great advantages to the corrupt party on one side of the Atlantic, while their assiduous agents on the other did not revolt at the meanest and most wicked compliances to facilitate the designs of their employers or to gratify their own inordinate passion for power and wealth. Thus for a considerable time, a struggle was kept up between the power of one country and the perseverance of the other, without a possibility of calculating consequences.
A particular detail of the altercations between the representatives, the burgesses, and the provincial governors, the remonstrances of the people, the resolves of their legislative bodies, and the dissolution of their assemblies by the fiat of a governor, the prayers of corporate and occulational societies, or the petitions of more public and respectable bodies; the provocations on the side of government, and the riotous and, in some degree, unjustifiable proceedings of the populace, in almost every town on the continent, would be rather tedious than entertaining, in a compendious narrative of the times. It may, therefore, be well to pass over a year or two that produced nothing but a sameness of complaint and a similarity of opposition on the one side, and on the other a systematic effort to push the darling measure of an American taxation, while neither party had much reason to promise themselves a speedy decision.
It has already been observed that the revenue acts which had occasioned a general murmur had been repealed, except a small duty on all India teas, by which a claim was kept up to tax the colonies at pleasure, whenever it should be thought expedient. This was an articled used by all ranks in America — a luxury of such universal consumption that administration was led to believe that a monopoly on the ales of tea might be so managed as to become a productive source of revenue.
It was generally believed that governor Hutchinson had stipulated for the agency for his sons, as they were the first in commission; and he had solicited for them and obtained this odious employment by a promise that if they were appointed sole agents to the East India Company, the sales should be so executed as to give perfect satisfaction both to them and to administration. All communities furnish examples of men sufficiently base to share in the spoils of their country; nor was it difficult to find such in every colony, who were ready enough to execute this ministerial job. Thus in consequence of the insinuations of those interested in the success of the measure, a number of ships were employed by government to transport a large quantity of teas into each of the American colonies. The people throughout the continent, apprised of the design and considering at that time all teas a pernicious article of commerce, summoned meetings in al the capital towns and unanimously resolved to resist the dangerous project by every legal opposition before they proceeded to any extremities.
The firs step taken in Boston was to request the consignees to refuse the commission. The inhabitants warmly remonstrated against the teas being landed in any of their ports and urged the return of the ships, without permitting them to break bulk. The commissioners at New York, Philadelphia, an several other colonies were applied to with similar requests; most of them complied. In some places the teas were stored on proper conditions; in others sent back without injury. But, in Massachusetts, their difficulties were accumulated by the restless ambition of some of her own degenerate sons. Not the smallest impression was made on the feelings of their governor by the united supplications of the inhabitants of Boston and its environs. Mr. Hutchinson, who very well knew that virtue is seldom a sufficient restrain to the passions, but that, in spite of patriotism, reasons, or religion, the scale too frequently preponderates in favor of interest or appetite, persisted in the execution of his favorite project. As by force of habit, this drug had become almost a necessary article of diet, the demand for teas in America was astonishingly great, and the agents in Boston, sure of finding purchasers if once the weed was deposited in their stores, haughtily declined a resignation of office, and determined when the ships arrived, to receive and dispose of their cargoes at every hazard.
Before either time or discretion had cooled the general disgust at the interested and supercilious behavior of these young pupils of intrigue, the long-expected ships arrived which were to establish a precedent thought dangerously consequential. Resolved not to yield to the smallest vestige of parliamentary taxation, however disguised, a numerous assembly of the most respectable people of Boston and its neighborhood, repaired to the public hall, and drew up a remonstrance to the governor, urging the necessity of his order to send back the ships without suffering any part of their cargoes to be landed. His answer confirmed the opinion that he was the instigator of the measure; it irritated the spirits of the people, and tended more to increase, than allay the rising ferment.
A few days after this, the factors had the precaution to apply to the governor and council for protection to enable them to receive and dispose of their consignments. As the council refused to act in the affair, the governor called on Colonel Hancock, who commanded a company of cadets, to hold himself in readiness to assist the civil magistrate if any tumult should arise in consequence of any attempt to land the teas. This gentleman, thought professedly in opposition to the court, had oscillated between the parties until neither of them at that time had much confidence in his exertions. It did not, however, appear that he had any inclination to obey the summons; neither did he explicitly refuse; but he soon after signed his commission and continued in future, unequivocally opposed to the ministerial system. On the appearance of this persevering spirit among the people, Governor Hutchinson again resorted to his usual arts of chicanery and deception; he affected a mildness of deportment, and by many equivocal delays detained the ships and endeavored to disarm his countrymen of that many resolution which was their principal fort.
The storage or detention of a few cargoes of teas is not a object in itself sufficient to justify a detail of several pages; but as the subsequent severities toward the Massachusetts were grounded on what the ministry termed their refractory behavior on this occasion. And as those measures were followed by consequences of the highest magnitude both to Great Britain and the colonies. A particular narration of the transactions of the town of Boston is indispensable. There the sword of civil discord was first drawn, which was not resheathed until the emancipation of the thirteen colonies from the yoke of foreign domination was acknowledged by the diplomatic seals of the first powers in Europe. This may apologize, if necessary, for the appearance of locality in the preceding pages, and for it farther continuance in regard to a colony on which the bitterest cup of ministerial wrath was poured for a time, and where the energies of the human mind were earlier called forth than in several of the sister states.
Not intimidated by the frowns of greatness, nor allured by the smiles of intrigue, the vigilance of the people was equal to the importance of the event Though expectation was equally awake in both parties, yet three or four weeks elapsed in a kind of inertia; the one side flattered themselves with hopes, that as the ships were suffered to be so long unmolested, with their cargoes entire, the point might yet be obtained; the other thought it possible that some impression might yet be made on the Governor, by the strong voice of the people.
Amidst this suspense a rumor was circulated that Admiral Montague was about to seize the ships and dispose of their cargoes at public auction within 24 hours. This step would as effectually have secured the duties, as would as effectually have secured the duties as it sold at the shops of the consignees, and was judged to be only a finesse, to place them there on their own terms. On this report, convinced of the necessity of preventing so bold an attempt, a vast body of people convened suddenly and repaired to one of the largest and most commodious churches in Boston; where, previous to any other steps, many fruitless messages were sent both to the Governor and the consignees, whose timidity had prompted them to a seclusion from the public eye. Yet they continued to refuse any satisfactory answer; and while the assembled multitude were in quiet consultation on the safest mode to prevent the sale and consumption of an herb, noxious at least to the political constitution, the debates were interrupted by the entrance of the sheriff with an order from the Governor, styling them an illegal assembly, and directing their immediate dispersion.
This authoritative mandate was treated with great contempt, and the sheriff instantly hissed out of the house. A confused murmur ensured both within and without the walls; but in a few moments all was again quiet and the leaders of the people retuned calmly to the point in question. Yet every expedient seemed fraught with insurmountable difficulties and evening approaching without any decided resolution, the meeting was adjourned without delay.
Within an hour after this as known abroad, there appeared a great number of persons, clad like the aborigines of the wilderness, with tomahawks in their hands, and clubs on their shoulders, who without the least molestation marched though the streets with silent solemnity and, amidst innumerable spectators, proceeded to the wharves, boarded the ships, demanded the keys, and with much deliberation knocked open the chests, and emptied several thousand weight of the finest teas into the ocean. No opposition was made, though surrounded by the King's ships; all was silence and dismay.
This done, the procession returned through the town in the same order and solemnity as observed in the outset of their attempt. No other disorder took place, and it was observed, the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months. This unexpected event struck the ministerial party with rage and astonishment; while, as it seemed to be an attack upon private property, many who wished well to the public cause could not fully approve the measure. Yet perhaps the laws of self-preservation might justify the deed, as the exigencies of the times required extraordinary exertions, and every other method had been tried in vain to avoid this disagreeable alternative. Besides, it was alleged, and doubtless it was true, the people were ready to make ample compensation for all the damages sustained, whenever the institutional duty should be taken off and other grievances radically redressed. But there appeared little prospect that any conciliatory advances would soon be made. The officers of government discovered themselves more vindictive than ever: animosities daily increased and the spirits of the people were irritated to a degree of alienation, even from their tenderest connections, when they happened to differ in political opinion.
By the frequent dissolution of the General Assemblies, all public debate had been precluded and the usual regular intercourse between the colonies cut off. The modes of legislative communication thus obstructed at a period when the necessity of harmony and concert was obvious to every eye, no systematical opposition to gubernatorial intrigues supported by the king and parliament of Great Britain, was to be expected without the utmost concord, confidence, and union of all the colonies. Perhaps no single step contributed so much to cement the union of the colonies and the final acquisition of independence as the establishment of committees of correspondence. This supported a chain of communication from New Hampshire to Georgia that produced unanimity and energy throughout the continent. As in these annals there has yet been no particular mention made of this institution, it is but justice to name at once the author, the origin, and the importance of the measure.
At an early period of the contest, when the public mind was agitated by unexpected events and remarkably pervaded with perplexity and anxiety, James Warren, Esq. of Plymouth first proposed this institution to a private friend, on a visit at his own house. [Samuel Adams, Esq. of Boston] Mr. Warren had been an active and influential members of the General Assembly from the beginning of the troubles in America, which commenced soon after the demise of George II. The principles and firmness of this gentleman were well known and the uprightness of his character had sufficient weight to recommend the measure. As soon as the proposal was communicated to a number of gentlemen in Boston, it was adopted with zeal, and spread with the rapidity of enthusiasm, from town to town, and from province to province. [The general impulse at this time seemed to operate by sympathy before consultation could be had; thus it appeared afterwards that the vigilant inhabitants of Virginia had concerted s similar plan about the same period.] Thus an intercourse was established, by which a similarity of opinion, a connection of interest, and a union of action appeared, that set opposition at defiance, and defeated the machinations of their enemies through all the colonies.
The plan suggested was clear and methodical; it proposed that a public meeting should be called in every town; that a number of persons should be selected by a plurality of voices; that they should be men of respectable characters, whose attachment to the great cause of American had been uniform; that they should be vested by a majority of suffrages with power to take cognizance of the state of commerce, of the intrigues of toryism, of litigious ruptures that might create disturbances, and everything else that might be thought to militate with the rights of the people, and to promote everything that tended to general utility.
The business was not tardily executed. Committees were everywhere chosen, who were directed to keep up a regular correspondence with each other, and to give information of all intelligence received relative to the proceedings of administration, so far as they affected the interest of the British colonies throughout America. The trust was faithfully and diligently discharged, and when afterwards all legislative authority was suspended, the courts of justice shut up and the last traits of British government annihilated in the colonies, this new institution became a kind of juridical tribunal. Its injunctions were influential beyond the hopes of its most sanguine friends, and the recommendations of the committees of correspondence had the force of law. Thus, as despotism frequently springs from anarchy, a regular democracy sometimes arises from the severe encroachments of despotism.
This institution had given such a general alarm to the adherents of administration and had been replete with such important consequences through the union, that it was justly dreaded by those who opposed it, and considered by them as the most important bulwark of freedom. A representation of this establishment and its effects had been transmitted to England and laid before the King and Parliament, and Mr. Hutchinson had received his Majesty's disapprobation for the measure. With the hope of impeding its farther operation, by announcing the frown and the censure of Royalty, and for the discussion of some other important questions, the Governor had thought proper to convene the Council and House of Representatives, to meet in January 1773.
The Assembly of the preceding year had passed a number of very severe resolves, when the original letters mentioned above, written by Governor Hutchinson and Lieutenant-Governor Oliver were detected, sent back to the Massachusetts, and laid before the House. They had observed that "the letters contained wicked and injurious misrepresentations, designed to influence the ministry and the nation, and to excite jealousies in the breast of the King against his faithful subjects." [See 11th resolve in the sessions of 1772.] They had proceeded to an impeachment and unanimously requested that his Majesty would be pleased to remove both Mr. Thomas Hutchinson and Mr. Andrew Oliver from their public functions in the province, forever. [Journals of the House.] But before they had time to complete their spirited measures, the Governor had, as usual, dissolved the Assembly. This was a stretch of power, and a manifestation of resentment that had been so frequently exercised both by Mr. Hutchinson and his predecessor, that it was never unexpected, and now totally disregarded. This mode of conduct was not confined to the Massachusetts; it was indeed the common signal of resentment exhibited by most of the colonial governors: they immediately dissolved the legislative assemblies on the discovery of energy, enterprise, or patriotism among the members.
When the new House of Assembly met at Boston the present year, it appeared to be composed of the principal gentlemen and landholders in the province; men of education and ability, of fortune and family, of integrity and honor; jealous of the infringement of their rights, and faithful guardians of a free people.
Their independence of mind was soon put to the test. On the opening of the new session, the first communication from the Governor was that he had received his Majesty's express disapprobation of all committees of correspondence; and to enforce the displeasure of the Monarch, he very discreetly ventured himself to censure with much warmth this institution and every other stand that the colonies had unitedly made to ministerial and parliamentary invasions. To complete the climax of his own presumption, he, in a long and labored speech, imprudently agitated the grand question of a parliamentary right of taxation without representation; [see Note 9 "Extracts from Governor Hutchinson's letters urging his designs", at the end of this chapter] he endeavored to justify both by law and precedent every arbitrary step that had been taken for ten years past to reduce the colonies to a disgraceful subjugation.
This gave a fair opening to the friends of their country which they did not neglect, to discuss the illegality, injustice, and impolicy of the late innovations. They entered on the debate with freedom of inquiry, stated their claims with clearness and precision, and supported them with such reasoning and perspicuity that a man of less hardiness than Mr. Hutchinson would not have made a second attempt to justify so odious a cause, or to gain such an unpopular point by dint of argument. But whether owing to his own intemperate zeal, or whether instigated by his superiors on the other side of the Atlantic to bring on the dispute previous to the disclosure of some extraordinary measures then in agitation, is uncertain. However, this was, he supported his opinions with industry and ingenuity, and not discouraged by strong opposition, he spun out the debate to a tedious and ridiculous length. Far from terminating to the honor of the Governor, his officious defense of administration served only to indicate the necessity of the most guarded watchfulness against the machinations of powerful and designing men; and fanned, rather than checked the amor patriae characteristic of the times.
Soon after this altercation ended, the representative body took cognizance of an affair that had given great disgust and created much uneasiness through the province. By the royal charter granted by William and Mary, the Governor, Lieutenant- Governor and Secretary were appointed by the King; the Council were chosen by the representatives of the people, the Governor being allowed a negative voice; the judges, justices, and all other officers, civil and military, were left to his nomination, and appointed by him, with the advice and consent of a board of counselors. But as it is always necessary in a free government that the people should retain some means in their own hands to check any unwarrantable exercise of power in the executive, the legislature of Massachusetts had always enjoyed the reasonable privilege of paying their own officers according to their ability and the services rendered to the public.
It was at this time well known that Mr. Hutchinson had so far ingratiated himself as to entitle him to peculiar favor from the Crown; and by a handsome salary from the King, he was rendered entirely independent of the people. His brother-in-law, also, the Lieutenant-Governor, had obtained by misrepresentations, thought by some to have been little short of perjury, [See Lieutenant-Governor Oliver's affidavit on the Council books] a pension which he had long solicited; but chagrin at the detection of his letters and the discovery of his duplicity soon put a period to a life that might have been useful and exemplary, had he confined his pursuits only to the domestic walks of life.
A strong family as well as political connection, had for some time been forming among those who had been writing in favor of colonial regulations and urging the creation of a patrician rank from which all officers of government should in future be selected. Intermarriages among their children in the near degree of consanguinity before the parties were of age for maturity of choice had strengthened the union of interests among the candidates for preferment. Thus by a kind of compact, almost every department of high trust as it became vacant by resignation, suspension or death was filled by some relation or dependent of Governor Hutchinson; and no other qualification was required except a suppleness of opinion and principle that could readily bend to the measures of the Court.
But it was more recently discovered that the judges of the Superior Court, the near relations or coadjutors of Mr. Hutchinson, and a few of them more scrupulously delicate with regard to the violation of the rights of their country than himself, had taken advantage of the items and successfully insinuated that the dignity of their offices must be supported by an allowance from the Crown sufficient to enable them to execute the designs of government exclusively of any dependence on the General Assembly. In consequence of these representations, the judges were appointed to hold their places during the King's pleasure, and a yearly stipend was granted them to be paid out of the new revenue to be raised in America.
The General Court had not been convened after the full disclosure of this system before the present period; of course no constitutional opposition could be made on the infraction of their charter until a legal assembly had an opportunity to meet and deliberate. Uncertain how long the intriguing spirit of the Governor would permit them to continue in existence, the sitting assembly judged it necessary early in the session to proceed to a parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of their judiciary officers. Accordingly, the judges of the Supreme Court were called upon to receive the grants for their services as usual from the treasury of the province; to renounce all institutional salaries, and to engage to receive no pay, pension or emolument in reward of services as justices of the court of judicature, but from the free grants of the legislative assembly.
Two of the judges, Trowbridge and Ropes, readily complied with the demand and relinquished the offensive stipend. A third was William Cushing, Esq. a gentleman rendered respectable in the eyes of all parties by his professional abilities and general integrity. He was a sensible, modest man, well acquainted with law, but remarkable for the secrecy of his opinions: this kept up his reputation through all the ebullitions of discordant parties. He readily resigned the royal stipend without any observations of his own; yet it was thought at the time that it was with a reluctance that his taciturnity could not conceal. By this silent address he retained the confidence of the court faction, nor was he less a favorite among the republicans. He was immediately placed on the bench of justice after the assumption of government in the Massachusetts. [The talents, the manner, and the urbanity of Mr. Cushing procured his advancement to the supreme bench under the new constitution afterwards adopted by the United States. In this station he was useful to his country, and respected by every class through all the changes of party and opinion which he lived to see.]
The next that was called forward for Foster Hutchinson, a brother of the Governor's, a man of much less understanding and as little public virtue; in short, remarkable for nothing but the malignancy of his heart. He, after much altercation and abuse of the General Assembly, complied with a very ill grace with the requisitions of the House.
But the chief seat of justice in the extraordinary administration was occupied by a man unacquainted with law, and ignorant of the first principles of government. [Peter Oliver, Esq. a brother-in-law of the Governor's.] He possessed a certain credulity of mind that easily seduced him into erroneous opinions; at the same time a frigid obstinacy of temper that rendered him incapable of conviction. His insinuating manners, his superficial abilities, and his implicit devotion to the Governor, rendered him a fit instrument to give sanction by the forms of law to the most atrocious acts of arbitrary power. Equally deaf to the dictates of patriotism and to the united voice of the people, he peremptorily refused to listen to the demands of their representatives; and boldly declared his resolution to receive an annual grant from the Crown of England in spite of the opinions or resentment of his country: he used as an excuse the depreciation of his private fortune by his judicial attentions. His station was important and influential and his temerity was considered as holding a bribe to execute the corrupt measures of the British Court.
The House of Representatives not interrupted in their system, nor intimidated by the presumption of the delinquent, proceeded directly to exhibit articles of impeachment against Peter Oliver, Esq. accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors, and laid their complaints before the Governor and Council. On a division of the House there appeared 92 members in favor of the measure and only 8 against it. The Governor, as was expected, both from personal attachment and a full approbation of Mr. Oliver's conduct, refused to act or sit on the business; for course all proceedings were for a time suspended.
When a detail of these spirited measures reached England, exaggerated by the colorings of the officers of the Crown, it threw the nation, more especially the trading part, into a temporary fever. The ministry rose in their resentment, and entered on the most severe steps against the Massachusetts, and more particularly the town of Boston. It was at this period that Lord North ushered into the House of Commons the memorable bill for shutting up the port of Boston, also the bill for better regulating the government of the Massachusetts.
The port bill enacted that after June 1, 1774, "Every vessel within the points Alderton and Nahant, (the boundaries of the harbor of Boston,) should depart within six hours, unless laden with food or fuel." That no merchandise should be taken in or discharged at any of the stores, wharves, or quays within those limits; and that any ship, barge of boat attempting to convey from other parts of America either stores, goods or merchandise to Boston (one of the largest maritime towns on the continent) should be deemed a legal forfeiture to the Crown.
This act was opposed with becoming zeal by several in both Houses of Parliament, who still inherited the generous spirit of their ancestors, and darted to stand forth the defenders of English liberty, in the most perilous seasons. Though the cruelty and injustice of this step was warmly criminated, the minister and his party urged the necessity of strong measures; nor was it difficult to obtain a large majority to enforce them. An abstract of an act for the more impartial administration of justice in the province of Massachusetts accompanied the port bill. Thus by one of those severe and arbitrary acts, many thousands of the best and most loyal subjects of the House of Brunswick were at once cut off from the means of subsistence; poverty stared in the face of affluence, and a long train of evils threatened every rank. No discriminations were made; the innocent were equally involved with the real or imputed guilty, and reduced to such distresses afterwards that, but from the charitable donations of the other colonies, multitudes must have inevitably perished.
The other bill directed that on an indictment for riot, resistance of the magistrate, or impeding the laws of revenue in the smallest degree any person at the option of the Governor, or, in his absence, the Lieutenant-Governor, might be transported to Great Britain for trial, and there be ordered to wait amidst his foes, the decisions of strangers unacquainted with the character of the prisoner, or the turpitude of a crime, that should subject him to be transported a thousand leagues from his own vicinity, for a final decision on the charges exhibited against him. Several of the southern colonies remonstrated warmly against those novel proceedings toward the Massachusetts, and considered it as a common cause. The House of Burgesses in Virginia vigorously opposed this measure and passed resolutions expressing "their exclusive right to tax their constituents, and their right to petition their Sovereign for redress of grievances, and the lawfulness of procuring the concurrence of the other colonies in praying for the Royal interposition in favor of the violated rights of America: and that all trials for treasons, or for any crime whatsoever committed in that colony ought to be before his Majesty's courts within the said colony; and that the seizing any persons residing in the said colony, suspected of any crime whatsoever committed therein, and sending such person to places beyond the sea to be tried, was highly derogatory of the rights of British subjects."
These acts were to continue in full force until satisfaction should be made to the East India Company for the loss of their teas; nor were any assurances given that in case of submission and compliance they should be repealed. The indignation which naturally arose in the minds of the people on these unexpected and accumulated grievances was truly inexpressible. It was frequently observed that the only melioration of the present evils was that the recall of Mr. Hutchinson accompanied the bills and his leaving the province at the same period the port bill was to be put in operation seemed to impress a dawn of hope from time, if not from his immediate successor.
Every historical record will doubtless witness that he was the principal author of the sufferings of the unhappy Bostonians, previous to the convulsions which produced the revolution. So deeply rooted was this opinion among his enraged countrymen that many apprehended the summary vengeance of an incensed populace would not suffer so notorious a parricide to repair quietly to England. Yet such were the generous and compassionate feelings of a people too virtuous to punish without a legal process that he escaped the blow he had reason to fear would overtake him when stripped of authority and no longer acting as the representative of Majesty.
Chagrined by the loss of place, mortified by the neglect of some and apprehensive from the resentment of others, he retired to a small village in the neighborhood of Boston, and secluded himself from observation until he embarked for London. This he did on the same memorable day when by act of parliament the blockade of Boston took place. Before his departure, the few partisans that still adhered to the man and his principles procured by much assiduity a complimentary address, thanking him for past services and held up to him the idea that by his talents he might obtain a redress of grievances, which they well knew had been drawn on their country by the agency of Mr. Hutchinson. Much derision fell on the character of this group of flatterers, who were long distinguished only by the appellation of Hutchinson's addressers.
Mr. Huthcinson, furnished with these pitiful credentials, left his native country forever. On his arrival in England, he was justified and caressed by his employers; and notwithstanding the criminality of his political conduct had been so fully evinced by the detection and recovery of his original letters, his impeachment, which was laid before the Lords of the Privy-Council, was considered by them in a very frivolous light. A professional character, by some thought to have been hired for the purpose, was permitted to abuse the petitioners and their agent in the grossest terms scurrility could invent; and the Lords reported that "the petition is groundless, vexatious, and scandalous, and calculated only for the seditious purposes of keeping up a spirit of discontent ...; that nothing had been laid before them which did or could, in their opinion, in any manner or in any degree impeach the honor, integrity or conduct of the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor;" who had been at the same time impeached.
But eh operation of his measures, while Governor of the Massachusetts, was so productive of misfortune to Great Britain, as well as to the united colonies, that Mr. Hutchinson soon became the object of disgust to all parties. He did not live to see the independence of America established, but he lived long enough to repent in bitterness of soul that part he had acted against a country once disposed to respect his character. After his mind had been involved many months in a state of chagrin, disappointment, and despair, he died on the day the riots in London, excited by Lord George Gordon, were at the height, in the year 1780. Those of the family who survived their unhappy father remained in obscurity in England.
It must, however, be acknowledged that Governor Hutchinson was uniform in his political conduct. He was educated in reverential ideas of monarchic government, and considered himself the servant of a King who had entrusted him with very high authority. As a true disciple of passive obedience, he might think himself bound to promote the designs of his master, and thus he might probably release his conscience from the obligation to aid his countrymen in their opposition to the encroachments of the crown. In the eye of candor, he may therefore be much more excusable than any who may deviate from their principles and professions of republicanism, who have not been biased by the patronage of kings, nor influenced in favor of monarchy by their early prejudices of education or employment.
A few extracts form the letters of Mr. Hutchinson to Mr. Jackson, Bollan, and others, the year previous to the disturbance in March, 1770, fully evince his sentiments of stationing and retaining troops in the capital of the Massachusetts.
"Boston, January 1769
"Dear Sir, "I sent you under a blank cover, by way of Bristol and Glasgow, the account of proceedings in New York Assembly, which you will find equal to those of the Massachusetts Perhaps if they had no troops, the people too would have run riot as we did. Five or six men of war, and three or four regiments disturb nobody but some of our grave people, who do not love assemblies and concerts, and cannot bear the noise of drums upon a Sunday. I know I have not slept in town any three months these two years, in so much tranquility as I have done the three months since the troops came."
Extract of a letter from Mr. Bollan to Mr. Hutchinson.
"Henrietta Street, August 11, 1767
"Mr. Paxton has several times told me that you and some other of my friends were of opinion that standing troops were necessary to support the authority of the government at Boston and that he was authorized to inform me this was your and their opinion. I need not say that I hold in the greatest abomination such outrages that have taken place among you, and am sensible it is the duty of all charter or other subordinate governments to take due care and punish such proceedings; and that all governments must be supported by force, when necessary; yet we must remember how often standing forces have introduced greater mischiefs than they retrieved, and I am apprehensive that your distant situation from the center of all civil and military power, might in this case, sooner or later, subject you to peculiar difficulties.
"When Malcolm's bad behavior made a stir here, a minister who seemed inclined to make use of standing forces, supposing this might not be agreeable to me, I avoided giving an opinion, which then appeared needless and improper, but afterwards, when it was confidently said, that preparations were making to send a considerable number of standing troops in order to compel obedience, I endeavored to prevent it."
Mr. Bolan goes on to observe that "he had informed some influential gentlemen in England that he had the highest reason to believe that whoever should be instrumental in sending over standing troops to America would be cursed to all posterity."
Extract from Governor Hutchinson's letters to Governor Pownal. It is uncertain on what occasion the following assertion was made, but it discovered the spirit and wishes of the writer.
"Boston, June 22, 1772
"The union of the colonies is pretty well broken; I hope I shall never see it renewed. Indeed our sons of liberty are hated and despised by their former brethren in New York and Pennsylvania, and it must be something very extraordinary ever to reconcile them."
Extracts from Mr. Hutchinson's letters to Mr. Jackson, Pownal, and others
"Boston, August 27, 1772
"But before America is settled in peace, it would be necessary to go to the bottom of all the disorder which has been so long neglected already. The opinion that every colony has a legislature within itself, the acts an doings of which are not to be controlled by Parliament and that no legislative power ought to be exercised over the colonies, except by their respective legislatures gains ground every day, and it has an influence upon all the executive parts of government. Grand juries will not present; petit juries will not convict the highest offenders against acts of Parliament; our newspapers publicly announce this independence every week; and, what is much more, there is scarce an assembly which has not done it at one time or another. The assembly of this province has done as much the last session by their public votes and resolves, and by an address which they have sent to Doctor Franklin to be presented to the King; so there is sufficient grounds for Parliament to proceed, if there is a disposition. What, it will be said, can be done? A test as general as the oaths required instead of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, would be most effectual; but this there is reason to fear would throw American into a general confusion, and I doubt the expediency. But can less be done than affixing penalties and disqualifications or incapacities upon all who by word or writing shall deny or call in question the supreme authority of parliament over all parts of the British dominions? Can it be made necessary for all judges to be under oath, to observe all acts of Parliament in their judgments? And may not the oaths of all jurors, grand and petit, be so framed as to include acts of Parliament as the rule of law, as well as law in general terms? And for assemblies or bodies of men, who shall deny the authority of Parliament, may not all their subsequent proceedings be declared to be ipso facto null and void, and every member who shall continue to act in such assembly be subject to penalties an incapacities? I suggest these things for consideration. everything depends on the settlement of this grand point. We owe much of our troubles to the countenance given by some in England to this doctrine of independence. If the people were convinced that the nation with one voice condemned the doctrine, or that Parliament at all events, was determined to maintain its supremacy, we should soon be quiet. The demagogues who generally have no property would continue their endeavors to inflame the minds of the people for some time; but the people in general have real estates, which they would not run the hazard of forfeiting, by any treasonable measures. If nothing more can be done, there must be further provisions for carrying the Act of Trade into execution, which I am informed administration are very sensible of, and have measures in contemplation. Thus you have a few of my sudden thoughts, which I must pray you not to communicate as coming form me, lest I should be supposed here to have contributed to any future proceedings respecting America. I have only room to add that I am, with sincere respect and esteem, Yours, etc."
"Boston, December 8, 1772
"To Mr. Jackson (private)
"They succeed in their unwearied endeavors to propagate the doctrine of independence upon Parliament, and the mischiefs of it every day increase. I believe I have repeatedly mentioned to you my opinion of the necessity of Parliament's taking some measures to prevent the spread of this doctrine as well as to guard against the mischiefs of it. It is more difficult now than it was the last year, and it will become more and more so every year it is neglected, until it is utterly impracticable. If I consulted nothing but my own ease and quiet, I would propose neglect and contempt of every affront offered to Parliament by the little American assemblies, but I should be false to the King, and betray the trust he has reposed in me. ...
"You see no difference between the case of the colonies and that of Ireland. I care not how favorable a light you look upon the colonies, if it does not separate us form you. You will certainly find it more difficult to retain the colonies than you do Ireland. Ireland is near and under your constant inspection. All officers are dependent, and removable at pleasure. The colonies are remote, and the officers generally more disposed to please the people than the King or his representative. In the one, you have always the ultimate ratio; in the other, you are either destitute of it, or you have no civil magistrate to direct the use of it. Indeed, to prevent a general revolt, the naval power may for a long course of years be sufficient, but to preserve the peace of the colonies, and to continue them beneficial to the mother country, this will be to little purpose; but I am writing to a gentleman who knows these things better than I do."
"Boston, January 1773
"John Pownal, Esquire
"My Dear Sir,
I have not answered your very kind and confidential letter of the 6th of October. Nothing could confirm me more in my own plan of measures for the colonies than finding it to agree with your sentiments. You know I have been begging for measures to maintain the supremacy of Parliament. While it is suffered to be denied, all is confusion, and the opposition to government is continually gaining strength."
"Boston, April 19, 1773
"John Pownal, Esquire
"Our patriots say that the votes of the town of Boston, which they sent to Virginia, have produced the resolves of the assembly there, appointing a committee of correspondence; and I have no doubt it is their expectation that a committee for the same purpose will be appointed by most of the other assemblies on the continent. If anything therefore be done by Parliament respecting America, it now seems necessary that it should be general, and not confined to particular colonies, as the same spirit prevails everywhere, though not in the like degree."
"Boston, October 18, 1773
"John Pownal, Esquire (private)
"The leaders of the party give out openly that they must have another convention of all the colonies; and the speaker has made it known to several of the members that the agent in England recommends it as a measure necessary to be engaged in without delay, and proposes, in order to bring the dispute to a crisis, that the rights of the colonies should be there solemnly and fully asserted and declared; that there should be a firm engagement with each other, that they will never grant any aid to the Crown, even in case of war, unless the King and the two houses of Parliament first recognize those rights; and that the resolution should be immediately communicated to the Crown; and assures them that in this way they will finally obtain their end.
"I am not fond of conveying this sort of intelligence; but as I have the fullest evidence of the fact, I do not see how I can be faithful to my trust and neglect it; therefore, though I consider this as a private letter, yet I leave it to you to communicate this part of it, so far as His Majesty's service may require, and as I have nothing but that in view, I wish it may go no further. the measure appears to me, of all others, the most likely to rekindle a general flame in the colonies."
These above extracts were taken form Governor Hutchinson's letter book, found after he repaired to England, deposited in a secret corner of his house in Milton. If the reader wishes a further gratification of his curiosity in regard to the subtle stratagems of Mr. Hutchinson, he is referred to the whole collection, as published in England.