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a small seaport, at a few miles distance from Boston, and even those of Salem, offered the Bostonians their ports, wharves, and warehouses, free of all expense or remuneration.
During these occurrences, most of the civil magistrates had suspended the exercise of their functions ; for those who had been appointed under the new laws, had either declined acceptance, or were prevented by the people from acting in their several offices. The council only which assisted the governor, was permitted to despatch some affairs, as, out of thirty-six new counsellors, who had been appointed, only two bad declined; but the others, having been denounced to the public as enemies 10 the country, and the multitude collecting in fury about their houses, the greater part resigned. The courts of justice were suspended, because their members refused to take the oath prescribed by the laws, or to conform, in any shape, to its provisions. The attornies who had issued writs of citation, were compelled to ask pardon in the public journals, and promise not to expedite others, until the laws should be revoked, and the charters reestablished. The people rushed in a throng to occupy the seat of justice, that no room might be left for the judges; when invited to withdraw, they answered, that they recognised no other tribunals, and no other magistrates, but such as were established according to ancient laws and usages.
The greater part of the inhabitants, persuaded that things must, finally, terminate in open war, diligently provided themselves with arms, and exercised daily, in handling them. They succeeded in this with extreme facility, being naturally active, accustomed to fatigue, and experienced huntsmen. They excelled particularly in the use of the rifle, which they levelled with unerring aim. In all places, nothing was heard but the din of arms, or the sound of fifes and of drums; nothing was seen but multitudes intent upon learning the military exercise and evolutions ; young and old, fathers and sons, and even the gentle sex, all bent their steps towards these martial scenes; some to acquire instruction, others to animate and encourage. The casting of balls, and making of cartridges, were become ordinary occupations. All things offered the image of an approaching war.
The arrival of general Gage, at Boston, had been followed by that of two regiments of infantry, with several pieces of cannon. These
troops had been quartered in the city; they were reenforced by • several regiments, coming from Ireland, from New York, from
Halifax, and from Quebec; all directed upon this point, to sinother the kindling conflagration. The inhabitants beheld this with incredible jealousy, which was still increased by an order of the general, to place a guard upon the isthmus, which connects the peninsula, where Boston is situated, with the main land. The pretext assigned was, to prevent the desertion of the soldiers, but the real motive of this step was to intimidate the inhabitants, that they might not, se
freely as they had done heretofore, transport arms from the city into the country. Every day gave birth to new causes of contention between the soldiers and the citizens. Popular rumors were circulated rapidly, and heard with avidity ; at every moment the people collected as if ripe for revolt.
The governor, attentive to this agitation, and fearing some unbappy accident, resolved to fortify the isthmus, and proceeded in the works with great activity. The inhabitants of Boston, as well as those of the country, were extremely exasperated by it; they exclaimed, that this was an act of hostility on the part of the general, and a manifest proof that it was resolved to make every thing bend to military authority. Many conjectures were in circulation among the people, and violent menaces were thrown out. General Gage, apprehensive of an explosion, detached two companies of soldiers to seize the powder that was deposited in the magazine at Charlestown, Dear Boston. He considered this the more prudent, as the time was now approaching for the annual review of the militia ; when, if any hostile designs were in agitation, they might probably be put in execution.
The rage of the people had now reached its acme. They assembled from all quarters, and hastened, with arms, to Cambridge. The more prudent had great difficulty to prevent them from marching furiously to Boston to demand the restitution of the powder, or in case of refusal, to fall immediately upon the garrison.
But soon after, and probably by a secret device of the patriot chiess, to let the British soldiers perceive, that, if they should venture to offer the shadow of violence, a signal to the inhabitants of the province would suffice to make them repent of it, a report was circulated among this exasperated multitude, that the fleet and garrison had commenced hostilities, that their artillery was firing upon the town, and that the Bostonians were hard pressed to defend themselves. The rumor was spread with incredible rapidity through the whole province ; in a few hours, above thirty thousand men were under arms; they proceeded towards Boston with the utmost speed, and made no halt till they had full certainty that the alarm was premature.
This movement gave origin to many others; and it became an almost daily custom to attack the houses of such as either had accepted the new offices, or in any way had shown themselves favorable to English pretensions, or opposed to American privileges. No longer, therefore, able to find safety except within the city itself, the commissioners of the customs, and those under their authority, as well as all other public officers, who had removed to Salem for the exercise of their functions, went back to Boston. Thus, in the space of a few months, the regulations were annihilated, which the ministers had designed to jutroduce by means of the port bill.
The province of Massachusetts was not the only theatre of popular commotions; all had a part in this general convulsion. The inhabitants, at many points, fearing the governor might get the start of them in respect to seizing the powder, as he had done at Charlestown, flew to possess themselves of what lay in the forts and powder magazines of the king. Thus it happened at Portsmouth, in New Hainpshire, where the provincials stormed the fort, and carried off the powder and artillery. The inhabitants of Rhode Island did the same; the people of Newport rose, and took possession of forty pieces of cannon, which defended the harbor.
The removal of the powder at Charlestown, and the fortifications carrying on at Boston, together with the popular agitations, occasioned a meeting of delegates from the different towns and boroughs of the county of Suffolk, of which Boston is the capital. They took very spirited resolutions ; purporting, that no obedience was due to the late acts of parliament, but, on the contrary, hatred and execration, since they were attempts to enslave America; that the appointment of public officers by virtue of these acts, was contrary to constitutional statutes and principles; that the country would indemnify the subordinate officers, who should refuse to execute the orders of their superiors, appointed under the new laws; that the collectors of the public money should retain it in their hands, and make no payment, until the ancient laws of the colony should be reestablished, or until it should be ordered otherwise by the provincial congress; that those who had accepted the new offices must resign them before the 20th of September; and if not, they should be declared enemies to the country ; that officers of the militia should be chosen in every town, selecting for this purpose, individuals skilful in arms, and inflexibly attached to the rights of the people ; that, as it had been reported it was in contemplation to apprehend certain persons of the county, if this menace should be executed, the royal officers should be immediately seized, and detained as hostages; that the people should be exhorted to maintain tranquillity, and merit, by their moderation, by their steady, uniform and persevering resistance, in a contest so important, in a cause so solemn, the approbation of the wise, and the admiration of the brave, of every country, and of every age.
Another assembly, but of the entire province of Massachusetts, was held at Salem. The governor not choosing to sanction it by his presence, they formed themselves into a provincial congress, and elected Hancock president. After having addressed their complaints to the governor, of the fortifications of the isthmus, they took extraordinary measures for the defence of the province. They prepared munitions of war, they filled magazines with provisions, they enrolled twelve thousand of the militia, whom they called minute men; that is, soldiers that must hold themselves in readiness to march at a
minute's notice. The decrees and recommendations of the provincial congress were executed with the same exactness as if they had emanated from a legitimate authority.
Thus, the plans of the British ministers produced, in America, effects contrary to their intentions. Already, every appearance announced the approach of civil war.
In the midst of this agitation, and of apprehensions inspired by the future, the general congress assembled at Philadelphia ; it was composed of delegates from all the American colonies.
END OF BOOK THIRD.
1774. The deputies of the different colonies arrived in Philadelphia on the 4th of September, except those of North Carolina, who delayed their appearance until the 14th of the same month. All were men of note, and distinguished by the public favor. Far from being persons destitute of the goods of fortune, they were all landed proprietors, and some possessed even great opulence. Several had been instructed by their constituents, to exert their utmost endeavors to secure the liberty of America, by the most suitable means, and to restore the ancient course of things with England; others, to vote for resolutions relative to the exercise of commerce, calculated to induce the English goveroment to embrace milder counsels towards the colonies ; others, finally, were invested with unlimited authority to do whatsoever, in the present circumstances, they should judge most conducive to the public good.
Having met on the 5ih, they resolved that their deliberations should be kept secret, until the majority should direct them to be published; and that, in determining questions, each colony should have but one vote, whatever might be the number of its deputies. They elected for president, Peyton Randolph, of Virginia ; and for secretary, Charles Thomson. They were in number fifty-five.*
For a long time, no spectacle had been offered to the attention of mankind, of so powerful an interest as this of the present American congress. It was indeed a novel thing, and as it were miraculous, that a nation, hitherto almost unknown to the people of Europe, or only known by the commerce it occasionally exercised in their ports, should, all at once, step forth from this state of oblivion, and, rousing as from a long slumber, should seize the reigns to govern itself; that the various parts of this nation, hitherto disjoined, and almost in opposition to each other, should now be united in one body, and moved by a single will; that their long and habitual obedience should be suddenly changed for the intrepid counsels of resistance, and of open defiance, to the formidable nation whence they derived their origin and laws.
There had been observed, at intervals, it is true, in the vast dominions of Spain in America, some popular agitations ; but they were easily repressed by the government. "In the colonies of Portugal, the public repose had never been interrupted. France, in like manner, had always found her American subjects inclined to a willing submission. It was reserved for the English colonies, to afford the first example of resistance, and of a struggle to separate themselves from
See Note 1.