Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 1.djvu/529
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, OCTOBER 21, 1774.
"have a fair prospect of having in all other business nothing but good to say of the proceedings of the House."
"They have acted in all things, even in their Remonstrance, with temper and moderation; they have avoided some subjects of dispute, and have laid a foundation for removing some causes of former altercation."
"I shall make such a prudent and proper use of this Letter as, I hope, will perfectly restore the peace and tranquillity of this Province, for which purpose considerable steps have been made by the House of Representatives."
The vindication of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, contained in these Letters, will have greater force, if it be considered that they were written several months after the fresh alarm given to the Colonies by the Statutes passed in the preceding year.
In this place it seems proper to take notice of the insinuation of one of those Statutes, that the interference of Parliament was necessary to provide for "defraying the charge of the Administration of Justice; the support of Civil Government; and defending the King's Dominions in America."
As to the two first articles of expense, every Colony had made such provision as by their respective Assemblies, the best judges on such occasions, was thought expedient, and suitable to their several circumstances: respecting the last, it is well known to all men the least acquainted with American affairs, that the Colonies were established, and generally defended themselves without the least assistance from Great Britain; and that, at the time of her taxing them, by the Statutes before mentioned, most of them were labouring under very heavy debts contracted in the last war. So far were they from sparing their money when their Sovereign constitutionally asked their aids, that during the course of that war, Parliament repeatedly made them compensations for the expenses of those strenuous efforts, which, consulting their zeal rather than their strength, they had cheerfully incurred.
Severe as the Acts of Parliament before mentioned are, yet the conduct of Administration hath been equally injurious and irritating to this devoted country.
Under pretence of governing them, so many new institutions, uniformly rigid and dangerous, have been introduced as could only be expected from incensed masters, for collecting the tribute, or rather the plunder of conquered Provinces.
By an order of the King, the authority of the Commander-in-chief and under him, of the Brigadier Generals, in time of peace, is rendered supreme in all the Civil Governments in America; and thus, an uncontrollable military power is vested in officers not known to the Constitution of these Colonies.
A large body of Troops, and a considerable armament of Ships of War have been sent to assist in taking their money without their consent.
Expensive and oppressive offices have been multiplied, and the acts of corruption industriously practised to divide and destroy.
The Judges of the Admiralty and Vice Admiralty Courts are empowered to receive their salaries and fees from the effects to be condemned by themselves.
The Commissioners of the Customs are empowered to break open and enter houses without the authority of any Civil Magistrate, founded on legal information.
Judges of Courts of Common Law have been made entirely dependent on the Crown for their commissions and salaries.
A Court has been established at Rhode-Island, for the purpose of taking Colonists to England to be tried.
Humble and reasonable Petitions from the Representatives of the people have been frequently treated with contempt; and Assemblies have been repeatedly and arbitrarily dissolved.
From some few instances, it will sufficiently appear, on what pretences of justice those dissolutions have been founded.
The tranquillity of the Colonies have been again disturbed, as has been mentioned by the Statutes of the year 1767. The Earl of Hillsborough, Secretary of State, in a Letter to Governour Bernard, dated April 22, 1768, censures the presumption" of the House of Representatives for "resolving upon a measure of so inflammatory a nature as that of writing to the other Colonies on the subject of their intended representations against some late Acts of Parliament," then declares that "his Majesty considers this step as evidently tending to create unwarrantable combinations, to excite an unjustifiable opposition to the constitutional authority of Parliament:"—and afterwards adds, "it is the King's pleasure that as soon as the General Court is again assembled at the time prescribed by the Charter, you should require of the House of Representatives in his Majesty's name, to rescind the Resolution which gave birth to the Circular Letter from the Speaker, and to declare their disapprobation of, and dissent to that rash and hasty proceeding."
"If the new Assembly should refuse to comply with his Majesty's reasonable expectation, it is the King's pleasure that you should immediately dissolve them."
This Letter being laid before the House, and the Resolution not being rescinded, according to order, the Assembly was dissolved. A Letter of a similar nature was sent to other Governours to procure Resolutions, approving the conduct of the Representatives of Massachusetts Bay, to be rescinded also; and the Houses of Representatives in other Colonies refusing to comply, Assemblies were dissolved.
These mandates spoke a language to which the ears of English subjects had for several generation been strangers. The nature of Assemblies implies a power and right of deliberation; but these commands, proscribing the exercise of judgment on the propriety of the Requisitions made, left to the Assemblies only the election between dictated submission and threatened punishment: a punishment too, founded on no other act than such as is deemed innocent even in slaves—of agreeing in Petitions for redress of grievances that equally affect all.
The hostile and unjustifiable invasion of the Town of Boston soon followed these events in the same year; though that Town, the Province in which it is situated, and all the Colonies from abhorrence of a contest with their parent state, permitted the execution even of those Statutes against which they so unanimously were complaining, remonstrating, and supplicating.
Administration, determined to subdue a spirit of freedom which English Ministers should have rejoiced to cherish, entered into a monopolizing combination with the East India Company, to send to this Continent vast quantities of Tea, an article on which a Duty was laid by a Statute that in a particular manner attacked the liberties of America, and which therefore the inhabitants of these Colonies had resolved not to import. The cargo sent to South Carolina was stored, and not allowed to be sold. Those sent to Philadelphia and New-York were not permitted to be landed. That sent to Boston was destroyed, because Governour Hutchinson would not suffer it to be returned.
On the intelligence of these transactions arriving in Great Britain, the publick spirited Town last mentioned, was singled out for destruction, and it was determined the Province it belongs to should partake of its fate. In the last session of Parliament, therefore, were passed the Acts for shutting up the Port of Boston, indemnifying the murderers of the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay, and changing their chartered Constitution of Government. To enforce these Acts, that Province is again invaded by a Fleet and Army.
To mention these outrageous proceedings, is sufficient to explain them. For though it is pretended that the Province of Massachusetts Bay has been particularly disrespectful to Great Britain, yet, in truth, the behaviour of the people in other Colonies has been an equal "opposition to the power assumed by Parliament." No step, however, has been taken against any of the rest. This artful conduct conceals several designs. It is expected that the Province of Massachusetts Bay will be irritated into some violent action that may displease the rest of the Continent, or that may induce the people of Great Britain to approve the meditated vengeance of an imprudent and exasperated Ministry. If the unexampled pacifick temper of that Province shall disappoint this part of the plan, it is hoped the other Colonies will be so far intimidated as to
- January 21, 1768.
- January 30, 1768.
- February 2, 1768.