« PreviousContinue »
of twelve, including Bland and Archibald Cary, prepared a petition to the king, a memorial to the house of lords, and a remonstrance to the house of commons, which, after being carefully considered and amended, were unanimously adopted. On the fifteenth, Bland invited a conference with the council; and the council, with Blair, the acting president after Fauquier's death, agreed to the papers which the house had prepared, and which were penned in a still bolder style than those from Massachusetts.
After this, the burgesses of Virginia, to fulfil all their duty, not only assured Massachusetts of their applause for its attention to American liberty, but also directed their speaker to write to the respective speakers of all the assemblies on the continent, to make known their proceedings, and to intimate how necessary they thought it that the colonies should unite in a firm but decent opposition to every measure which might affect their rights and liberties.
In the midst of these proceedings of a representative body, which truly reflected the sentiments of a people, the thirteenth British parliament, the last which ever legislated for America, was returned. Of the old house, one hundred and seventy failed to be rechosen. Boroughs were sold openly, and votes purchased at advanced prices. The market value of a seat in parliament was four thousand pounds. Contested elections cost the candidates twenty to thirty thousand pounds apiece, and it was affirmed that in Cumberland one person lavished a hundred thousand pounds. The election was the most expensive ever known. The number of disputed seats exceeded all precedent; as did the riots of a misguided populace, indulged but once every seven years with the privilege of an election.
Wilkes was returned for Westminster. “ The expulsion of Wilkes must be effected,” wrote the king to Lord North, who stood ready to obey the unconstitutional mandate.
At the opening, the great question was raised, if strangers should be excluded from the debates. 6 I
May. ever wished,” said Grenville, “ to have what is done here well known.” The people no longer acquiesced in the secrecy of the proceedings of their professed representatives;
this is the last parliament of which the debates are not reported.
Out of doors, America was not without those who listened to her complaints. The aged Oglethorpe, founder of the
colony of Georgia, busied himself with distributing pamphlets in her behalf among the most consider
able public men. Franklin, in London, collected and printed the Farmer's Letters. “They are very wild,” said Hillsborough of them; many called them treasonable and seditious; yet Edmund Burke approved their principle. Translated into French, they were much read in Parisian saloons; their author was compared with Cicero; Voltaire joined the praise of “ the farmers of Pennsylvania” to that of the Russians who aspired to liberate Greece.
“In America, the Farmer is adored," said the governor of Georgia ; " and no mark of honor and respect is thought equal to his merit.” At that time, Georgia was the most flourishing colony on the continent. Lands there were cheap, and labor dear; it had no manufactures; though, of the poorer families, one in a hundred, perhaps, might make its own coarse clothing of a mixture of cotton and wool. Out of twenty-five members of the newly elected legislature, at least eighteen were professed “Sons of Liberty,” “ enthusiasts” for the American cause, zealous for “maintaining their natural rights.” They unanimously made choice of Benjamin Franklin as their agent; and nothing but their prorogation prevented their sending words of sympathy to Massachusetts. New Jersey expressed its desire to correspond and unite with the other colonies. The Connecticut assembly in May, after a solemn debate, concluded to petition the king only; “ because,” said they, “to petition the parliament would be a tacit confession of its right to lay impositions upon us, which right and authority we publicly disavow.” Nor would the court issue writs of assistance, although it was claimed that they were authorized by Townshend's revenue act. Some grew alarmed for consequences ; but others “were carried above fear."
At New York, the merchants held a meeting to join with the inhabitants of Boston in the agreement not to import
from Great Britain; and, against the opinion of the governor, the royal council decided that the meetings were legal; that the people did but assemble to establish
May. among themselves certain rules of economy; that, as they were masters of their own fortune, they had a right to dispose of it as they pleased.
While Massachusetts received encouragement from its sister colonies, its crown officers continued and extended their solicitations in England for large and fixed salaries, as the only way to keep the Americans in their dependence. Grenville's influence was the special resource of Hutchinson and Oliver, who had supported his stamp act and suffered as his martyrs; and they relied on Whately to secure for them his attention and favor, which they valued the more, as it seemed to them probable that he would one day supersede Grafton.
Bernard, on his part, addressed his importunities to Hillsborough, and asked leave to become an informer, under an assurance that no exposure should be made of his letters. Yet how could public measures be properly founded on secret communications, known only to the minister and the king ? Should the right of the humblest individual to confront witnesses against him be held sacred ? and should rising nations be exposed to the loss of chartered privileges and natural rights on concealed accusations ? With truer loyalty towards the mother country, Samuel Adams, through the agent, advised the repeal of the revenue acts, and the removal of a governor in whom the colonies could never repose confidence.
But Bernard went on persuading Hillsborough that Amer. ica had grown refractory in consequence of the feeble administration of the colonies during the time of Conway and Shelburne ; that it required “his lordship’s distinguished abilities” to accomplish the “ arduous task of reducing them into good order.” “ It only needs," said Hutchinson, “one steady plan, pursued a little while.” At that moment, the people of Massachusetts, confidently awaiting a favorable result of their appeal to the king, revived their ancient spirit of loyalty. At the opening of the political year, on
the last Wednesday in May, the new house of representatives came together, with a kindlier disposition towards England than had existed for several years. The two parties were nearer an equality. On the day of election, after hearing a sermon in which Shute, of Hingham, denied the supreme authority of parliament, and justified resistance to laws not based on equity, the legislature seemed willing to restore Hutchinson to the council; and, on the first ballot, he had sixty-eight votes where he needed but seventy-one.
He himself was the cause of his defeat. As the convention were preparing to ballot a second time, Samuel Adams rose to ask whether the lieutenant-governor was a pensioner; on which, Otis, the other “chief head of the faction," stood up and declared that Hutchinson had received a warrant from the lords of the treasury for two hundred pounds a year out of the proceeds of the new duties; and, distributing votes for Artemas Ward, he cried out: Pensioner or no pensioner, surely the house will not think a pensioner of the crown a fit person to sit in council.” “But for the warrant,” confessed Hutchinson, “I should have been elected."
And that,” added Bernard, “would have put quite a new face upon public affairs.” “The government,” repeated Bernard, “should insist upon it that the lieutenant-governor and secretary should have seats and votes at the council board without an election." 6. This annual election of the council spoils the constitution," wrote Hutchinson. “They will not come to a right temper, until they find that, at all events, the parliament will maintain its authority.” Such were the representations of men on whom Hillsborough was eager to bestow signal marks of his confidence; having resolved to reward Bernard's zeal with the lucrative post of lieutenant-governor of Virginia, and to leave the government of Massachusetts in the hands of Hutchinson.
Just at this time, the ministry in England received
the letters of March from the commissioners of the June.
customs and from Bernard; and, totally misconceiving the state of things, Hillsborough, on the eighth of June, ordered Gage to send a regiment to Boston, for the assist
ance of the civil magistrates and the officers of the revenue. The admiralty was also directed to send one frigate, two sloops, and two cutters to remain in Boston harbor; and the castle of William and Mary was to be occupied and repaired.
This first act of hostility on the part of Great Britain was adopted at a time when America thought of nothing more than peaceable petitioning and a non-importation agreement, which the adverse interests of the merchants had as yet rendered void.