Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. thirteen, among them James Bowdoin, Samuel Dex

v ter, William Phillips, and John Adams, than whom 1774. the province could not show purer or abler men.

The desire of the assembly that he would appoint a fast was refused; "for," said he to Dartmouth, “the request was only to give an opportunity for sedition to flow from the pulpit.” On Saturday, the twentyeighth, Samuel Adams was on the point of proposing a general congress, when the assembly was unexpectedly prorogued, to meet after ten days, at Salem.

The people of Boston, then the most flourishing commercial town on the continent, never regretted their being the principal object of ministerial vengeance. “We shall suffer in a good cause,” said the thousands who depended on their daily labor for bread; "the righteous Being, who takes care of the ravens that cry unto him, will provide for us and

ours."

CHAPTER III.

VOICES FROM THE SOUTH.

May, 1774, CONTINUED.

III.

[ocr errors]

HEARTS glowed more warmly on the banks of the CHAP. Patapsco. That admirable site of commerce, whose river side and hill-tops are now covered with stately 1774. warehouses, mansions and monuments, whose bay sparkles round the prows of the swiftest barks, whose wharves receive to their natural resting-place the wealth of the West Indies and South America, and whose happy enterprise sends across the mountains its iron pathway of many arms to reach the valley of the Mississippi, had for a century been tenanted only by straggling cottages. But its convenient proximity to the border counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia had at length been observed by Scotch Irish Presbyterians, and other bold and industrious men; and within a few years they had created the town of Baltimore, which already was the chief emporium within the Chesapeake Bay, and promised to become one of the most opulent and populous cities of the world. When the messages from the old com

[blocks in formation]

CHAP. mittee of New York, from Philadelphia, and from - Boston, reached its inhabitants, they could not “ see 1774. the least grounds for expecting relief from a petition

and remonstrance." They called to mind the contempt with which for ten years their petitions had been thrust aside, and were “convinced that something more sensible than supplications would best serve their purpose.”

After consultation with the men of Annapolis, to whom the coolness of the Philadelphians seemed like insulting pity, and who promptly resolved to stop all trade with Great Britain, the inhabitants of the city and county of Baltimore advocated suspending commerce with Great Britain and the West Indies, chose deputies to a colonial convention, recommended a continental congress, appointed a numerous committee of correspondence, and sent cheering words to their “ friends” at Boston, as sufferers in the com

The Supreme Disposer of all events," said they, “will terminate this severe trial of your patience in a happy confirmation of American freedom." For this spirited conduct Baltimore was applauded as the model; and its example kindled new life in New York.

On the twenty-eighth, the assembly of New Hampshire, though still desiring to promote harmony with the parent land, began its organization for resisting encroachments on American rights.

Three days later the people of New Jersey declared for a suspension of trade and a congress, and claimed to be fellow-sufferers with Boston in the cause of liberty."

On South Carolina the restrictive laws had never

mon cause.

III.

pressed with severity. They had been beneficially CHAP. modified in favor of its great staple, rice; and the character of the laborers on its soil forbade all 1774.

May. thought of rivalling British skill in manufactures. Its wealthy inhabitants, shunning the occupations of city life, loved to reside in hospitable elegance on their large and productive estates. Its annual exports to the northern provinces were of small account, while to Great Britain they exceeded two millions of dollars in value. Enriched by this commerce, its people cherished a warm affection for the mother country, and delighted in sending their sons "home." as England was called, for their education. The harbor of Charleston was almost unguarded, except by the sand-bar at its entrance. The Creeks and Cherokees on the frontier, against whom the English government had once been solicited by South Carolina herself to send over a body of troops as a protection, were still numerous and warlike. The negro slaves who, in the country near the ocean very far outnumbered all the free, were so many hostages for the allegiance of their masters. The trade of Charleston was in the hands of British factors, some of whom speculated already on the coming confiscation of the rice swamps and indigo fields of “many a bonnie rebel.” The upland country was numerously peopled by men who felt no grievances, and were blindly devoted to the king. And yet the planters, loving their civil rights more than security and ease, refused to take counsel of their interests or their danger. “Boston,” said they, “is but the first victim at the altar of tyranny.” Reduced to the dilemma either to consent to hold their liberties only

III.

CHAP. as tenants at will of the British house of commops,

or to prepare for resistance, their choice was never in 174. doubt. “The whole continent,” they said, “ must be

animated with one great soul, and all Americans must resolve to stand by one another even unto death. Should they fail, the constitution of the mother country itself would lose its excellence.” They knew the imminent ruin which they risked; but they “remembered that the happiness of many generations and many millions depended on their spirit and constancy."

The burgesses of Virginia sat as usual in May. The extension of the province to the west and northwest was their great ambition, which the governor, greedy of large masses of land, and of fees for conniving at the acquisitions of others, selfishly seconded, in flagrant disregard of his instructions. To Lady Dunmore, who had just arrived, the assembly voted a congratulatory address, and its members joined to give her a ball. The feeling of loyalty was still predominant; the thought of revolution was not harbored; but they none the less held it their duty to resist the systematic plan of parliamentary despotism, and without waiting for an appeal from Boston, they resolved on its deliverance. First among them as an orator stood Patrick Henry, whose words had power to kindle in his hearers passions like his own. But eloquence was his least merit; he was revered as the ideal of a patriot of Rome in its austerest age. The approach of danger quickened his sagacity, and his language gained the boldness of prophecy. He was borne up by the strong support of Richard Henry Lee and Washington. It chanced that George Ma

« PreviousContinue »