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CHARLES TOWNSHEND USURPS THE LEAD IN GOVERNMENT.
CHATHAM'S ADMINISTRATION CONTINUED.
OCTOBER, 1766—JANUARY, 1767.
The people of Massachusetts lulled themselves into the belief that they were restored once more
to the secure enjoyment “of their rights and liberties ;
but their secret enemies, some from a lust of power, and others from an inordinate love of money, combined to obtain an American army and an American tribute, as necessary for the enforcement of the navigation acts, and even for the existence of government. When the soldiers stationed in New York had, in the night of the tenth of August, cut down the flagstaff of the citizens, the general reported the ensuing quarrel as a proof of “anarchy and confusion," and the requisiteness of troops for the support of “ the laws." Yet the New York association of the Sons of Liberty had been dissolved ; and all efforts to keep up “its glorious spirit” were subordinated to loyalty.“ A few individuals” at Boston, having celebrated the anniversary of the outbreak against the stamp act, care was taken to report how healths had been drunk to Otis, “the American Hampden, who first proposed the congress;" "to the Virginians," who sounded the alarm to the country; to Paoli and the struggling Corsicans; to the spark of liberty that was thought to have been kindled in Spain. From Bernard, who made the restraints on commerce intolerable by claiming the legal penalty of treble forfeits from merchants whom his own long collusion had tempted to the infraction of a revenue law, came unintermitted complaints of illicit trade. At Falmouth, now Portland, an attempt to seize goods,
under the disputed authority of writs of assistance, had been defeated by a mob; and the disturbance was made to support a general accusation against the province. Boston, Charles Paxton, the marshal of the court of admiralty, came, with the sheriff and a similar warrant, to search the house of Daniel Malcom for a second time; but the stubborn patriot refused to open his doors, which they dared not break down, so doubtful were they of their right; and, when the altercation attracted a crowd, they withdrew, pretending to have been obstructed by a riotous assemblage. These incidents, by themselves of little moment, were secretly reported as a general rising against the execution of the laws of trade. But the cabal relied most on personal importunity; and the untiring Paxton, who had often visited England, and was known to possess as much of the friendship of Charles Townshend as a selfish client may obtain from an intriguing patron, was sent over by the colonial crown officers, with special authority to appear as the friend of Oliver and of Hutchinson.
We are drawing near the measures which compelled the insurrection of the colonies; but all the stars in their courses were harbingers of American independence. No sooner were the prairies of Illinois in the possession of England, than Croghan, a deputy Indian agent, who from personal observation knew their value, urged their immediate colonization. Sir Williain Johnson, William Franklin, the royalist governor of New Jersey, several fur-traders of Philadelphia, even Gage himself, eagerly took part in a project by which they were to acquire vast estates in the most fertile valley of the world. Their proposal embraced the whole western territory bounded by the Mississippi, the Ohio, a line along the Wabash and Maumee to Lake Erie, and thence across Michigan, Green Bay, and the Fox River, to the mouth of the Wisconsin. The tract was thought to contain sixtythree millions of acres, the like of which could nowhere be found. Franklin favored the enterprise, which promised fortune to its undertakers, and to America some new security for a mild colonial administration. It was the wish of Shelburne, who loved to take counsel with the great phil
osopher on the interests of humanity, that the valley of the Mississippi might be occupied by colonies enjoying English liberty. But the board of trade, to which Hillsborough had returned, insisted that emigrants to so remote regions would establish manufactures for themselves; and, in the very heart of America, found a power which distance must emancipate. They adhered, therefore, to the proclamation of 1763, and to the range of the Alleghanies as the frontier of British settlements.
But the prohibition only set apart the great valley as the sanctuary of the unhappy, the adventurous, and the free;
of those whom enterprise or curiosity, or disgust at the forms of life in the old plantations, raised above
royal edicts; of those who had nowhere else a home; or who would run all risks to take possession of the soil between the Alleghanies and the Ohio. The boundless west became the poor man's city of refuge, where the wilderness guarded his cabin as inviolably as the cliff or the cedar-top holds the eagle's eyrie. The few who occupied lands under grants from the crown could rely only on themselves for the protection of their property, and refused to pay quit-rents till their legal right should be acknowledged. The line of
straggling settlements” beyond the mountains extended from Pittsburg up the Monongahela and its tributaries to the banks of the Greenbriar and the New River, and to the well-known upper valley of the Holston, where the military path from Virginia led to the country of the Cherokees. Explorers or hunters went still further to the west ; for it is recorded that in 1766 “eight men were killed on Cumberland River.”
In North Carolina, the people along the upland frontier, many of whom had sprung from Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, suffered from the illegal exactions of sheriffs and officials, whose pillaging was supported by the whole force of gov. ernment. To meet this flood of iniquity, the most approved advice came from Herman Husbands, an independent farmer, who dwelt on Sandy Creek, where his fields of wheat and his “ clover meadow were the admiration of all observers. Each neighborhood throughout Orange county
came together and elected delegates to a general meeting, who were to “examine” into “ abuses of power and into the public taxes, and inform themselves by what laws and for what uses they are laid."
In October, " the honest freeholders," about twelve in number, assembled on Enoe River, just outside of Hillsborough. But, to their repeated invitations to the officers to meet them, no answer came, except from Edmund Fanning. A favorite of Governor Tryon, he was at that time the representative of the county, one of its magistrates, holding the highest commission under the crown in its militia; and was amassing a fortune by oppression as an attorney and extortion as registrar, loading titles to estates with doubts, and charging illegal prices for recording deeds. He was, above all others, justly obnoxious to the people; and his message to them ran that their proposition to inquire “ judiciously” looked more like an insurrection than a settlement. “We meant,” replied the meeting, “no more than wisefully, carefully, and soberly to examine the matter in hand.” Their wrongs were flagrant and undeniable; and, since their “reasonable request” for explanations was unheeded, they resolved on "a meeting for a public and free conference yearly, and as often as the case might require,” that so they might reap the profit of their right, under the constitution, of choosing representatives and of learning what uses their money was called for.” Yet how could unlettered farmers succeed against the undivided administrative power of the province? and how long would it be before some indiscretion would place them at the mercy of their oppressors? The apportionment of members of the colonial legislature was grossly unequal; the governor could create boroughs ; the actual legislature, whose members were in part unwisely selected, in part unduly returned, rarely called together, and liable to be continued or dissolved at the pleasure of the executive, increased the poor man's burdens by voting an annual poll-tax to raise five thousand pounds, and the next year ten thousand more, to build a house for the governor at Newbern.
Moffat, of Rhode Island, asked of its legislature relief for
his losses by the riot against the stamp act; founding his claim on the resolves of the British house of commons and the king's recommendation. “Neither of them,” said the speaker of the assembly, “ought to influence the free and independent representatives of Rhode Island colony.” Moffat had leave to withdraw his first petition and substitute an inoffensive one, which was received, but referred to a future session. In Boston, the general court received like petitions. The
form of its answer was suggested by Joseph Hawley, the member for Northampton. He was the only son
of a schoolmaster, himself married, but childless; a very able lawyer, of whose singular disinterestedness his native town still preserves the tradition. Content with a small patrimony, he lived in frugal simplicity; closing his house door by a latch, without either bar or bolt. Inclined by temperament to moods of melancholy, his mind would again kindle with a brighter lustre, and be borne onwards by resistless impulses. All parties revered his purity of life and ardent piety; and no man in his neighborhood equalled him in the public esteem. He opposed relief, except on condition of a general amnesty. “Of those seeking compensation,” said he, “the chief is a person of unconstitutional principles, as one day or other he will make appear.”. The resolves of parliament were cited in reply. “The parliament of Great Britain," retorted Hawley, “has no right to legislate for us." At these words, Otis, rising in his place, bowed, and thanked him, saying: “He has gone further than I myself have as yet done in this house." It was the first time that the power of parliament had been totally denied in a colonial legislature. “No representation, no taxation," had become a very common expression; the colonies were beginning to cry: “No representation, no legislation." Having never shown bitterness of party spirit, Hawley readily carried the assembly with him, from their great opinion of his understanding and integrity; and a bill was framed, “granting compensation to the sufferers and pardon to the offenders,” even to the returning of the fines which had been paid. A recess was taken, that mem