Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

which, they cannot but think, is contrary to the rights of man, subversive of the English constitution, and directly tending to bring them into a state of abject slavery and vassalage: that they purchased and settled this country, without expense to Great Britain, and have cheerfully contributed to advance her glory and prosperity, and therefore expect all the privileges of citizens of that government: that they esteem it an essential privilege to be taxed by their representatives, and that they had no voice in levying the stamp act, so burdensome, especially, upon the widow and fatherless.” The instructions also refer to the stretch of admiralty pow. ers of the court, more alarming then the stamp act itself, “ by which, every man, at the option of a malicious informer, is liable to be carried a thousand miles before a court of vice admiralty ; there tried without jury, amerced by an arbitrary judge, and taxed with costs, as he shall please; and if the parties have not wherewith to satisfy the game, to die in prison in a foreign land, without friends to bury them: this we apprehend to be repugnant to the magna charta, by which no freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, or deprived of his liberties, or free customs, por passed upon, nor condemned, but by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. The love we bear to our fellow subjects of Great Britain, the love and duty we owe to ourselves and posterity, yea, the first instinct of nature, the great law of self preservation, all appear contrary to said act.” They proceed to lament the state into wbich the country was thrown, and reprobate, in the strongest terms, the riots that had taken place: they express their surprise and regret at the Governor's imputing these to the people of the Province ; charge the representative by no means to agree to any thing which might show a willingness to submit to the obnoxious acts of Parliament, nor to consent to make good the damages sustained by the Governor in the riot, since that might lead to such practices in future.

Our extracts, though somewhat liberal, convey but a slight idea of the spirit, or style and language of the paper. Its length alone, precludes our inserting it entire ; for nothing can better show the precise state of public feeling, at that time, than documents like this, in which it is so undisguisedly expressed. We cannot but again repeat our surprise, at the high state of excitement which so early prevailed in a community, which was, comparatively, destitute of newspapers and posts, by which, at the present day, a feeling in, one part of the nation is, at once, communicated to every part. The

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

men, who, in language like that we have transcribed, could talk of
the principles of the British constitution, the magna charta, and of
trial by jury, were but a chance selection from the general mass
of the people, pursuing the same callings, and possessing the same
advantages with them, and during an adjournment of their meeting
for an hour, wrought such sentiments into a report which was unan-
imously accepted by the people of the town. It is unnecessary to
repeat, that the efforts of their representative, in pursuance of his
instructions, were unavailing. The continued aggressions of the
crown disclosed, how little the government regarded the first mov-
ings of that mighty food that was to overwhelm them.

After the dissolution of the General Court of the Province, by
the Governor, in 1768, the town of Boston passed several very spir-
ited resolutions ; in accordance with these, and in consequence of
the alarming crisis of affairs, this town adopted sundry resolutions,
in wbich they condemn the dissolution of General Court, and the
delay in summoning another, as real grievances, and chose a dele.
gate to meet with a convention, in Boston, called by the recommen-
dation of the people of that town, in consequence of the delay of
the Governor in calling a new General Court. Capt. John Brown
was chosen their delegate, and instructed not to suffer any thing to
be done rashly, and that every mild measure be adopted that might
be consistent with the duties of Englishmen, claiming their rights.

This town very promptly united in preventing the importation of English goods, with those, who hoped, by this measure, to make the people in the various sections, feel the importance of the American market for their prosperity, and therefore combine, to prevent the ministry from persevering in measures, so ruinous to the mother country, as well as the colonies. At a town meeting, held in January, 1770, they voted not to purchase of those mercbants in Boston, who imported goods from Great Britain ; and at the same time, voted their thanks to those merchants, who, by refusing to import such goods, sacrificed their own interest to the good of their country.*

* This meeting was callesi, in consequence of the following petition, from eundry individuals to the Selectmen, dated Dec. 25, 1769, viz.- Whereas, there are several persons in this province who have sordidly detached them. selves from the public interest, and have taken advantage of the agreement entered into by the inerchants for non-importation, thereby endeavoring to defeat their poble design of saving their country from slavery: We, the subscribers, will endeavor, by all lawful means, to prevent their base designs, and for that end, we pray that you will grant a warrant for the calling a town meeting, to act on the following articles, viz.-To vote that any person,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The defect of newspapers at that day was, so far as the opposition to the crown was concerned, pretty well supplied by pamphlets and similar publications from the press, wbich were liberally scattered through the land. Whatever was thus sent, was sure to be read. The selectmen of this town, having received one of these, together with a circular letter from the town of Boston, in 1772, immediately summoned the town together to hear them read. The pamphlet was one “wherein the rights of the colonists, and the infringement thereof, are set forth.” After hearing it, the town voted, that " the rights, as there stated, do belong to the inhabitants of this province," and chose a committee, of which Capt. Brown was chairman, to prepare resolutions in accord with the pamphlet. Among these, they express their allegiance to the King; their willingness to risk their lives and fortunes in defence of their rights ; that Parliament had passed laws subversive of their rights and privileges; that “ the British Parliament, or any other power on earth, had no right to dispose of one cent of their property without their consent, in person, or by representatives ; and that carrying any person out of this province, or beyond sea, for any supposed crime, is contrary to the magna charta, and unconstitutional.” They, at the same time, gave instructions to their representative, Thomas Denny, Esq. wherein they recapitulate the wrongs to be redressed. Among others, that the Governor is independent of the people for his salary, and the Judges dependent on the crown, when they ought to be independent both of prince and people, in order to an impartial administration of justice; and upon this subject they quote being an inhabitant of Leicester, who shall, directly, or indirectly, purchase any goods, or merchandize, of John Barnard, James and Patrick McMasters, John Mein, Anne and Elizabeth Cummings, all of Boston, Henry Barnet, of Marlborough, Dunkin & Campbell, of Worcester, or any other person who imports goods from Great Britain, or shop keeper who purchases goods of an importer, contrary to the agreement entered into by the merchants of Boston, such persons, so offending, shall be deemed enemies to America, and as such, shall be recorded in the town's book of records."

This was from the pen of Col. William Henshaw, and was signed by twenty eight persons, among whom were Nathan Sargent, David Henshaw, Jobn Southgate, Thomas Newhall, &c.

In May, 1770, a company of forty six men, from this town, formed themselves into a body, for the purpose of learning the manual exercise, drill, &c. of the soldier. They elected Wm. Henshaw their Captain, Seth Washburn, Lieutenant, and Samuel Denny, Ensign ; and so intent were they upon becoming properly instructed in these essential qualifications of soldiers, that they devoted certain afteraoons in each week for the purpose, and punctually attended to the duty, although the season of the year seemed to require their constant attention to their farms. Five only of the company yet survive : Benjamin Watson, William Watson, Marmaduke Earle, Abner Dunbar, and Jonathan Hubbard.




[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

freely, from a popular and patriotic work of the day, whose author
is not given. They urge a petition to the King, in hopes of success,
as the Earl of Hillsborough had then been dismissed from the min.
istry and a nobleman friendly to the colonies succeeded him. They,
at the same time, recommended an intercourse with the other col-
onies 66 as we are embarked in a common cause." “In fine, when
we reflect upon the evils our forefathers underwent in the settle-
ment of this country, the dangers to which they stood continually
exposed from an insidious and blood thirsty foe, and the blood and
treasure they expended, we think ourselves justly entitled to all
the calamities an envious despot can heap upon us, should we tame-
ly and pusillanimously suffer the execution of them,” (the laws re-
specting the colonies.) “ It would be despising the bounties of our
creator; an infamous prostitution of ourselves, and a total disregard
to posterity.”

We do not feel at liberty, in the space allotted us, to make ex-
tracts from all the resolutions which were passed by the inhabitants
of this town: for there was not a year elapsed, in which they did
not express a sepse of their grievances, and that with a degree of
determination, constantly gaining strength and boldness, as the strug-
gle progressed. We cannot forbear adding a few more extracts, to
those we have already given.

In 1773, the town again chose Thomas Denny their Representative, and, among other instructions to him, recommend a standing committee of correspondence, as suggested by the House of Burgesses of Virginia, and enjoin upon him an effort to put an end to slavery and the slave trade in this province. In December, of the same year, they expressed their feelings upon the continued encroachments of the Crown, and denounced the levy of duties on imported articles, pledging themselves to oppose, to the utmost of their power, and at the hazard of their lives, any imposition unconstitutionally laid upon them. They, at the same time, resolved that they would not use any tea, " while loaded with a tribute, contrary to their consent," and that, whoever shall use “that destructive herb,” shall be deemed inimical to bis country, as endeavoring to counteract the doings of those, who were zealous for its wellfare. A resolution of thanks to Boston, was voted. A committee of fourteen was appointed, to examine as to the use of tea in town, and to report the names of those who made use of it. And a copy of these resolutions was sent to the committee of correspondence in Boston.

In May, 1774, after the harbor of Boston bad been blocked up, by order of the British Parliament, a circular letter was received from Boston, to which the town immediately replied, expressing a spirit of becoming indignation at such an act of tyranny, and assured the Bostonians of the readiness of the people of this town to stand by them in their distress. “ The cause,” say they, “ is interesting to all America, and all America must be convinced of this great truth, that by uniting, we shall stand.”

The Court of Sessions of this county, this year, had made an address to the Governor, in which they reflected, with great severity, upon the conduct of the friends of liberty, calling their meetings, mutinous and tumultuous. This, immediately, in July, brought the inhabitants of this town together, and in a series of spirited resolutions, they expressed the feelings which that address had excited. They lamented the melancholy state of affairs, and, after stating that “their meeting was not holden riotously, tumultuously, and seditiously, but soberly and seriously, as men, as freemen, and as christians,” they recapitulated their rights under the charters of Charles, and William and Mary, " to the end that posterity may know what our claims are, and to what struggles we are called in defence of them.” They then resolved, “that any power that shall attempt to nullify, or destroy said charter, in the whole, or in part, put, itself into a state of war with the Province :" that they would, “even to the risque of their lives and fortunes, support and maintain the execution of the laws of this Province, as established by the charter and Legislature thereof :" that they would not purchase any goods imported from England, after the 31st of August, then next, nor purchase of any importer, any goods, until the harbor of Boston be opened and the tea duty taken off :" and that “it is the duty of all of the age of discretion, to inform themselves of their rights as men, as members of society, and by the English constitution.” In addition to these, which are but a part of a series of the resolutions then passed, they deny the assertions contained in the address of the Court,and condemn, it in the strongest terms. A covenant not to purchase goods imported from England, had, before this time, been signed by many in town, and a committee was appointed to present this covenant to all persons who had not already signed it. This, it will be recollected, was in July, 1774: in September, of the same year, the town met, and voted, to mount their cannon, and directed the selecimen to attend to all those not provided with fire arms. They also voted, that all differences between individuals should be settled by reference.

« PreviousContinue »