BEING A COLLECTION OF LETTERS AND DOCUMENTS
RELATING TO THE SHIPMENT OF
TO THE AMERICAN COLONIES IN THE YEAR 1773, BY THE
East India Tea Company
NOW FIRST PRINTED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION, NOTES, AND BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES OF THE BOSTON TEA PARTY,
FRANCIS S. DRAKE.
A.O. CRANE. 1884.
Entered according to Act of Congress, at Washington, DC., 1884, By A.O. CRANE, Boston, Mass.
Smith & Porter, Printers, Boston.
The collection of letters and documents which has occasioned the preparation of the present volume, though it has been so long buried in obscurity, appears to have been originally made with a view to publication. It was for many years, and until his decease, in the possession of Mr. Abel Bowen, a well-known engraver and publisher, of Boston, sixty years ago, and was obtained by him from a person who procured it in Halifax, N.S., whither many valuable papers, both public and private, relating to New England, were carried, when in March, 1776, the British and Tories evacuated Boston. It contains interesting information relative to the tea troubles that preceded the American Revolution, much of it new to students of that eventful period.
To the kindness of Mrs. Benjamin Phipps and Mrs. Charles G. Butts, of Chelsea, daughters of Mr. Bowen, the publisher is indebted for permission to make public this valuable contribution to American history.
When contemplating the publication of "Tea Leaves," we issued a circular, stating our intention, and that, judging from the material then in our possession, the book would contain about two hundred and fifty pages, with six illustrations, three of them portraits.
We are happy to announce on the completion of the work, not only fulfillment of our promises, but much that is additional thereto. Included in its four hundred pages are twenty portraits, taken from family paintings, (one-half never before published,) eight other illustrations, fifty autographs, one hundred and twelve names of members of the Tea Party, (fifty-eight more than have been heretofore publicly known), and ninety-six biographies of the same.
Our circular called for a subscription book. All our paper-covered copies have been subscribed for. The balance of the edition is nicely bound in cloth, with embellished covers. Price, (as before), five dollars.
The publisher will welcome all new matter relating to the Tea question, and will be especially grateful for any hitherto unpublished portraits. Such material is desired for possible publication in a companion work to "Tea Leaves."
All who desire the Portraits and Illustrations separate from this volume, to be used in works on American history, can obtain them from the Publisher.
In conclusion, we thank our friends who have kindly assisted us, and if we have not given all credit by name, the neglect has been unintentional.
2169 WASHINGTON ST.,
Among the causes which led to the American Revolution, the one most prominent in the popular judgment is the "tax on tea," imposed by Great Britain on her American colonies. The destruction, in Boston harbor, in December, 1773, of the cargoes of tea sent to that port by the East India Company, was undoubtedly the proximate cause of that memorable event, and in view of this fact, the occurrence,—"by far the most momentous in the annals of the town," says the historian Bancroft,—merits a more thorough and particular consideration than it has yet received.
The silence necessarily preserved by the actors in this daring exploit, respecting their connection with it, has rendered this part of the task one of no little difficulty. Their secret was remarkably well kept; and but for the family traditions which survive, we should know very little of the men who composed the famous Boston tea party.
Nevertheless, the attempt to gather up the scattered fragments of personal reminiscence and biography, in order to give a little more completeness to this interesting chapter of our revolutionary history, is here made. The fortunate recovery, by the publisher of this volume, of the letters of the American consignees to the East India Company, and other papers shedding light upon the transaction, affords material aid in the accomplishment of our purpose.
* * * * *
When King Charles II. had finished that first cup of tea ever brewed in England,—the gift of the newly-created East India Company,—no sibyl was at hand to peer into the monarch's cup and foretell from its dregs, the dire disaster to his realm, hidden among those insignificant particles. Could a vision of those battered tea chests, floating in Boston harbor, with tu doces, in the legible handwriting of history, inscribed upon them, have been disclosed to him, even that careless, pleasure-loving prince would have been sobered by the lesson. It was left for his successor, George III., who failed to read the handwriting on the wall,—visible to all but the willfully blind,—to realize its meaning in the dismemberment of an empire.
* * * * *
A survey of the progress of the revolution up to the beginning of the year 1773, will help us to understand the political situation. Ten years of constant agitation had educated the people of the colonies to a clear perception of their rights, and also to a knowledge that it was the fixed purpose of the home government to deprive them of the one they most valued, namely, that of being taxed with their own consent, through their local assemblies, as had always been the custom, and not at the arbitrary will of the British parliament—a body in which they were not and could not be represented—three thousand miles away. The strange thing about this is, that the people of Great Britain should not have seen in the light of their own past history—what they have since seen clearly enough—that the Americans were only contending for principles for which their own ancestors had often fought, and which they had more than once succeeded in wresting from the grasp of arbitrary and tyrannical sovereigns.
Their difficulty seems to have been that they looked upon the Americans, not as equals, but as inferiors, as their subjects, and as having no rights that an Englishman was bound to respect. Even the celebrated moralist, Dr. Johnson, could say of the Americans, "They are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging." King George III., that obstinate but well-meaning monarch, and his ministers, no doubt honestly believed that the republican tendencies of the colonists endangered British supremacy. Perhaps they were right in this, for it was the kind and degree of supremacy that was really in question. But in entertaining the belief that these tendencies could be eradicated at a blow, they were, as the event proved, grievously mistaken.
Another moving cause for the new policy toward the colonies was the heavy taxation at home,—a result of the late war. Some of this burden they hoped to transfer from their own shoulders to those of their transatlantic brethren.
* * * * *
The stamp act of 1765, repealed in the year following, was in 1767, succeeded by Charles Townshend's revenue acts, imposing duties on paper, painters' colors, glass and tea. The Americans opposed this measure with the only weapon at their command—the policy of non-importation. This policy, while causing much inconvenience to themselves, yet helped them materially in two ways. In the first place it stimulated home manufactures, and accustomed the people to do without luxuries, and in the second place by distressing British merchants and manufacturers, it brought the united influence of these two powerful bodies to bear upon parliament for a change in its policy.
The people of the colonies everywhere seconded the non-importation movement, entering at once upon a course of rigid self-denial, and their legislatures commended the scheme. An agreement, presented in the Virginia House of Burgesses, by Washington, was signed by every member. For more than a year, this powerful engine of retaliation waged war upon British commerce, in a constitutional way, before ministers would listen to petitions and remonstrances; and it was not until virtual rebellion in the British capital, born of commercial distress, menaced the ministry, that the expostulations of the Americans were noticed, except with sneers. Early in the year 1770, the obnoxious act was repealed, except as regarded tea. This item was retained in order that the right of parliamentary taxation of the colonies might be upheld. The liberal leaders of parliament did their best to prevent this exception, and the subject was fully and ably discussed, but they were overruled.
Besides these acts, which had aroused in the colonies a sentiment of union, and embodied an intelligent public opinion, there were others which had contributed to the same result. Such were the royal instructions by which, among other things, accused persons were to be sent to England, for trial. Still another, was the publication of a collection of letters from Governor Hutchinson, and other prominent colonial officials, revealing their agency in instigating the obnoxious measures. These and other aggravating causes had at length brought about that, without which, no revolution can succeed,—organization. Committees of correspondence, local and general, had been created, and were now in full operation.
One thing more was essential to the success of the colonists,—union. Instead of pulling different ways, as from a variety of causes they had hitherto done, the different colonies must bring their combined efforts to bear in order to effect the desired result. This was brought about by the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor, and by the Boston port bill, and other coercive measures, its immediate consequence.
The impolitic reservation of the duty on tea produced an association not to drink it, and caused all the merchants, except a few in Boston, to refuse its importation.
Three hundred women of Boston, heads of families, among them many of the highest standing, had, as early as February, 1770, signed an agreement not to drink any tea until the impost clause of the revenue acts was repealed. The daughters of liberty, both north and south, did the same. The young women of Boston followed the example of their mothers, and subscribed to the following pledge:
"We, the daughters of those patriots who have, and do now appear for the public interest, and in that principally regard their posterity, as such do with pleasure engage with them in denying ourselves the drinking of foreign tea, in hopes to frustrate a plan that tends to deprive a whole community of all that is valuable in life."
From this time forth tea was a proscribed beverage throughout the colonies. "Balsamic hyperion," made from the dried leaves of the raspberry plant; thyme, extensively used by the women of Connecticut; and various other substitutes came into general use. The newspapers of the day abound with details of social gatherings, in which foreign tea was totally discarded. They also voiced the public abhorrence for it, or what it represented, by applying to it all the objurgatory and abusive epithets they could muster—and their vocabulary was by no means limited—such as "detestable," "cruel," "villainous," "pernicious," "fatal," "devilish," "fiendish," etc.
Of course there were those who would not deny themselves the use of tea,—drinking it clandestinely in garrets, or preparing it in coffee-pots to deceive the eye, resorting to any subterfuge in order to indulge in the use of their favorite beverage. These people, when found out, did not fail to receive the condemnation of the patriotic men and women, who, from principle, abstained. There was still a considerable consumption of tea in America, as the article could be obtained more cheaply from Holland than from the English East India Company, and on arrival here could easily be smuggled ashore. It was supposed that of the three millions of inhabitants of the colonies, one-third drank tea twice a day, Bohea being the kind preferred; and it was estimated that the annual consumption, in Massachusetts alone, was two thousand four hundred chests, some eight hundred thousand pounds.
Tea continued to arrive in Boston, but as no one would risk its sale, it was stored. The "Boston Gazette," in April, 1770, said: "There is not above one seller of tea in town who has not signed an agreement not to dispose of any tea until the late revenue acts are repealed."
John Hancock offered one of his vessels, free of charge, to re-ship the tea then stored in Boston. His offer was accepted, and a cargo despatched to London. So strict was the watch kept upon the traders, that many of those suspected of illicit dealings in tea, among whom was Hancock himself, found it convenient to publish cards declaring their innocence. Governor Hutchinson wrote at this time (April, 1770,) to Lord Hillsborough, the English secretary, "That the importers pleaded that they should be utterly ruined by this combination, but the Boston zealots had no bowels, and gave for answer, 'that if a ship was to bring us the plague, nobody would doubt what was necessary to be done with her;' but the present case is much worse than that." Theophilus Lillie, who was selling tea contrary to the agreement, found, one morning, a post planted before his door, upon which was a carved head, with the names of some tea importers on it, and underneath, a hand pointing towards his shop. One of his neighbors, an informer, named Richardson, asked a countryman to break the post down with his cart. A crowd gathered, and boys threw stones and chased Richardson to his house. He fired into them with a shotgun, and killed a German lad of eleven years, named Snider. At his funeral, five hundred children walked in front of the bier; six of his school-fellows held the pall, and a large procession moved from liberty tree to the town-house, and thence to the burying-place. This exciting affair, preceded by a few days only, the memorable "Boston massacre" of March 5, 1770.
* * * * *
The application of the East India Company to the British government for relief from pecuniary embarrassment, occasioned by the great falling off in its American tea trade, afforded the ministry just the opportunity it desired to fasten taxation upon the American colonies. The company asked permission to export tea to British America, free of duty, offering to allow government to retain sixpence per pound, as an exportation tariff, if they would take off the three per cent. duty, in America. This gave an opportunity for conciliating the colonies in an honorable way, and also to procure double the amount of revenue. But no! under the existing coercive policy, this request was of course inadmissible. At this time the company had in its warehouses upwards of seventeen millions of pounds, in addition to which the importations of the current year were expected to be larger than usual. To such a strait was it reduced, that it could neither pay its dividends nor its debts.
By an act of parliament, passed on May 10, 1773, "with little debate and no opposition," the company, on exportation of its teas to America, was allowed a drawback of the full amount of English duties, binding itself only to pay the threepence duty, on its being landed in the English colonies.
In accordance with this act, the lords-commissioners of the treasury gave the company a license (August 20, 1773,) for the exportation of six hundred thousand pounds, which were to be sent to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, S.C., the principal American ports. As soon as this became known, applications were made to the directors by a number of merchants in the colonial trade, soliciting a share of what promised to be a very profitable business. The establishment of a branch East India house, in a central part of America, whence the tea could be distributed to other points, was suggested. The plan finally adopted was to bestow the agency on merchants, in good repute, in the colonies, who were friendly to the administration, and who could give satisfactory security, or obtain the guaranty of London houses.
The company and its agents viewed this matter solely in a commercial light. No one supposed that the Americans would oppose the measure on the ground of abstract principle. The only doubt was as to whether the company could, merely with the threepenny duty, compete successfully with the smugglers, who brought tea from Holland. It was hoped they might, and that the difference would not compensate for the risk in smuggling. But the Americans at once saw through the scheme, and that its success would be fatal to their liberties.
The new tea act, by again raising the question of general taxation, diverted attention from local issues, and concentrated it upon one which had been already fully discussed, and on which the popular verdict had been definitely made up. Right and justice were clearly on their side. It was not that they were poor and unable to pay, but because they would not submit to wrong. The amount of the tax was paltry, and had never been in question. Their case was not—as in most revolutions—that of a people who rose against real and palpable oppression. It was an abstract principle alone for which they contended. They were prosperous and happy. It was upon a community, at the very height of its prosperity, that this insidious scheme suddenly fell, and it immediately aroused a more general opposition than had been created by the stamp act. "The measure," says the judicious English historian, Massey, "was beneficial to the colonies; but when was a people engaged in a generous struggle for freedom, deviated by an insidious attempt to practice on their selfish interests?"
"The ministry believe," wrote Franklin, "that threepence on a pound of tea, of which one does not perhaps drink ten pounds a year, is sufficient to overcome all the patriotism of an American." The measure gave universal offence, not only as the enforcement of taxation, but as an odious monopoly of trade. To the warning of Americans that their adventure would end in loss, and to the scruples of the company, Lord North answered peremptorily, "It is to no purpose making objections, the king will have it so. The king means to try the question with America." How absurd was this assertion of prerogative, and how weak the government, was seen when on the first forcible resistance to his plans, the king was compelled to apply to the petty German states for soldiers. Lord North believed that no difficulty could arise, as America, under the new regulation, would be able to buy tea from the company at a lower price than from any other European nation, and that buyers would always go to the cheapest market.
Before receiving intelligence of the passage of the new act, in the summer of 1773, political agitation in the colonies had in great measure subsided. The ministry had abandoned its design of transporting Americans to England for trial; the people were prosperous; loyal to the king; considered themselves as fellow subjects with Britons, and indignantly repelled the idea of severing their political connection. The king, however, was obstinately bent upon maintaining the supreme authority of parliament to make laws binding on the colonies "in all cases whatsoever." He was unfortunate in having for his chief adviser, Lord North, who sought to please the king even against his own better judgment. He was still more unfortunate in North's colleagues,—Mansfield, Sandwich, Germaine, Wedderburne and Thurlow,—violent or corrupt men, wholly unfit for the grave responsibilities they had assumed.
Governor Hutchinson asserts that "when the intelligence first came to Boston it caused no alarm. The threepenny duty had been paid the last two years without any stir, and some of the great friends to liberty had been importers of tea. The body of the people were pleased with the prospect of drinking tea at less expense than ever. The only apparent discontent was among the importers of tea, as well those who had been legal importers from England, as others who had illegally imported from Holland, and the complaint was against the East India Company for monopolizing a branch of commerce which had been beneficial to a great number of merchants."
The circular-letter of the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence of October 21, 1773,—by which time the public sentiment against the new regulation had been thoroughly aroused,—said of it: "It is easy to see how aptly this scheme will serve both to destroy the trade of the colonies and increase the revenue. How necessary then it is that each colony should take effectual methods to prevent this measure from having its designed effects."
One of the Boston consignees writing to London, says, under date of 18th October: "But what difficulties may arise from the disaffection of the merchants and importers of tea to this measure of the East India Company, I am not yet able to say. It seems at present to be a matter of much speculation, and if one is to credit the prints, no small opposition will be made thereto.... My friends seem to think it will subside; others are of a contrary opinion." Another, under date of October 30th, gives it as his opinion that the uneasiness is fomented, if not originated, by persons concerned in the Holland trade, a trade which, he is informed, is much more practiced in the Southern governments than here.
In a letter dated New York, November 5th, Abraham Lott, one of the New York consignees, says, that if the tea arrives subject to duty, "there will be no such thing as selling it, as the people would rather buy so much poison, as they say it is calculated to enslave them and their posterity, and are therefore determined not to take what they call the nauseous draught." The tenor of these letters and of the American newspapers, must have given the British public an inkling of what was to come.
It was thought by all the colonies that this was the precise point of time when it was absolutely necessary to make a stand, and that all opposition to parliamentary taxation must be for ever given up, if this critical moment was neglected. The only practical way open to defeat the measure seemed to be through popular demonstrations.
The press now became more active than ever in its political discussions. As to the mode of payment of the tea duty, it said: "We know that on a certificate of its being landed here, the tribute is, by agreement, to be paid in London. The landing, therefore, is the point in view, and every nerve will be strained to obtain it." It was asked in New York, "are the Americans such blockheads as to care whether it be a hot red poker, or a red hot poker which they are to swallow, provided Lord North forces them to swallow one of the two?"
"All America is in a flame on account of the tea exportation," wrote a British officer at New York to a friend in London. "The New Yorkers, as well as the Bostonians and Philadelphians, it seems, are determined that no tea shall be landed. They have published a paper in numbers called the 'Alarm.' It begins, 'Dear countrymen,' and goes on exhorting them to open their eyes, and then, like sons of liberty, throw off all connection with the tyrant—the mother country.' They have on this occasion raised a company of artillery, and every day almost, are practicing at a target. Their independent companies are out, and exercise every day. The minds of the townspeople are influenced by the example of some of their principals. They swear that they will burn every tea-ship that comes in; but I believe that our six and twelve pounders, with the Royal Welch Fusileers, will prevent anything of that kind."
Philadelphia, the largest town in the colonies, led off in the work of opposing the plans of the home government. In a handbill signed "Scaevola," circulated there, with the heading, "By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall," the factors appointed, by the East India Company were characterized as "political bombardiers to demolish the fair structure of liberty;" and it was said that all eyes were fixed on them, and they were urged to refuse to act.
At a large meeting held at the State House on October 18, resolutions were passed declaring that the duty on tea was a tax imposed on the colonists without their consent, and tended to render assemblies useless; that the shipment by the East India Company was an attempt to enforce the tax, and that every one who should be concerned in the unloading, receiving or vending the tea, was an enemy to his country. In accordance with one of the resolutions of the meeting, a committee was appointed to wait on the consignees in that city, to request them, from regard to their own characters and the public peace, and good order of the city and Province, immediately to resign their appointment. The Messrs. Wharton gave a satisfactory answer, which was received with shouts of applause. Groans and hisses greeted the refusal of another firm to commit themselves, until the tea arrived. So general and so commanding was the movement, however, that in a few days they also resigned. "Be assured," wrote Thomas Wharton, one of the consignees, "this was as respectable a body of inhabitants as has been together on any occasion, many of the first rank. Their proceedings were conducted with the greatest decency and firmness, and without one dissentient voice."
A few days after the action of Philadelphia, a meeting was held at the city hall, New York, (October 26,) when the tea consignees were denounced, and the attempted monopoly of trade was stigmatized as a "public robbery." The press was active, and handbills were circulated freely among the people. A series of these called the "Alarm," has been already mentioned. "If you touch one grain of the accursed tea you are undone," was the sentiment it conveyed. "America is threatened with worse than Egyptian slavery.... The language of the revenue act is, that you have no property you can call your own, that you are the vassals, the live stock, of Great Britain." Such were the bold utterances of the New Yorkers. Within three weeks the New York agents withdrew from the field. It was thereupon announced that government would take charge of the tea upon its arrival.
The New York Sons of Liberty at once reorganized; owners and occupants of stores were warned against harboring the tea, and all who bought, sold or handled it, were threatened as enemies to the country. Handbills were issued, notifying the "Mohawks" to hold themselves in readiness for active work. At the very moment when the tea was being destroyed in Boston, handbills were circulating in New York calling a meeting of "all friends to the liberties and trade of America," for one o'clock the next day, at the city hall, "on business of the utmost importance."
John Lamb, one of the most active of the Sons of Liberty of New York, afterwards a colonel of artillery in the Revolutionary army, was the speaker at the meeting, and the large assembly unanimously voted that the tea should not be landed. The governor sent a message to the people by the mayor, engaging upon his honor that the tea should not be sold, but should remain in the barracks until the council advised to the delivery of it, or orders were received from England how to dispose of it, and that it should be delivered in an open manner at noon-day. The mayor having asked if the proposals were satisfactory, there was a general cry of "no! no!" The people were at length quieted with the assurance that the ship should be sent back.
It was at Boston, the ringleader in rebellion, that the issue was to be tried. It was then the most flourishing commercial town on the continent, and contained a population of about sixteen thousand, almost exclusively of English origin. Though there were no sidewalks in the town, and, except when driven aside by carts or carriages, every one walked in the middle of the street, "where the pavement was the smoothest," an English visitor had twenty years before pronounced it to be, "as large and better built than Bristol, or any other city in England except London." The only land communication between Boston and the surrounding towns at that period, was by way of the narrow neck at its southern extremity. Her inhabitants were industrious, frugal and enterprising, and were equally distinguished for their pertinacity and independence. They were nearly all of the same church, and were strict in the observance of Sunday. Though many had acquired a competence, few were very rich or very poor, and their style of living had little diversity. In her free schools all were taught to read and write. A score of enterprising booksellers, among them Henry Knox, imported into the colony all the standard books on law, politics, history and theology, while a free press and town meetings instructed her citizens in political affairs. Her mechanics, many of whom were ship-builders, were active in all town meetings. Ever jealous of her rights, she had grown up in their habitual exercise, and was early and strenuous in her opposition to the claims of parliamentary supremacy. Even her divines, many of whom were distinguished by their learning and eloquence, gave the sanction of religion to the cause of freedom. For these reasons Boston was the fittest theatre for the decisive settlement of the grave question at issue.
Two men of very different metal were especially prominent in Boston at this time,—Thomas Hutchinson, the royal governor, and Samuel Adams, the man of the people. Both were natives of the town, and graduates of Harvard College. Hutchinson, during a public life of over thirty years, had held the offices of representative, councillor, chief justice and lieutenant-governor. No man was so experienced in the affairs of the colony, no one so familiar with its history, usages and laws. As a legislator and as a judge he had manifested ability and impartiality.
Unfortunately for his peace of mind, and for his reputation, he set himself squarely against the popular movement. He advised altering the charters of the New England provinces; the dismemberment of Massachusetts; the establishment of a citadel in Boston; the stationing of a fleet in its harbor; the experiment of martial law; the transportation of "incendiaries" to England, and the prohibition of the New England fisheries, at the same time entreating of his correspondents in England to keep his opinions secret.
For these errors of judgment he paid dearly in the obloquy heaped upon him by his countrymen, and his exile from his native land, in which he earnestly desired that his bones might be laid. The recent publication of his diary and letters shows that he not only acted honestly and conscientiously in opposing the popular current, but that he, at the same time, used his influence to mitigate the severe measures of government. He counselled them against the stamp act; against closing the port of Boston, and against some features of the regulating act, as too harsh and impolitic. It was his sincere wish that his countrymen would admit the supremacy of parliament, and he believed that such a result could be attained without bloodshed. He was courteously received in England,—where his course was very generally approved,—and offered a baronetcy, which, however, he declined on the score of the insufficiency of his estate. His judgment in American affairs, though often sought by the ministry, seems to have been seldom followed. Candor requires that in the light of his letters and diary, in which his real sentiments appear, the harsh judgment usually passed upon Hutchinson, should be materially modified.
His opponent, Samuel Adams, the great agitator, possessed precisely those qualities that the times required. His political creed was, that the colonies and England had a common king, but separate and independent legislatures, and as early as the year 1769, he had been a zealous advocate of independence. He was the organizer of the Revolution, through the committees of correspondence, which he initiated, and was one of those who matured the plan of a general congress. A genuine lover of liberty, he believed in the capacity of the Americans for self-government. It was Samuel Adams who, the day after the "massacre" of March 5, 1770, was chosen chairman of the committee, to demand of the governor the immediate removal of the troops from the town of Boston. The stern and inflexible patriot clearly exposed the fallacy of Hutchinson's reply to the demand, and compelled the governor to yield. No flattery could lull his vigilance, no sophistry deceive his penetration. Difficulties did not discourage, nor danger appall him. Though poor, he possessed a lofty and incorruptible spirit, and though grave and austere in manner, was warm in his feelings. His affable and persuasive address, reconciled conflicting interests, and promoted harmonious action. As a speaker he was pure, concise, logical and impressive, and the energy of his diction was not inferior to the depth of his mind. As a political writer he was clear and convincing, and was the author of able state papers. No man had equal influence over the popular mind with Samuel Adams, who has been aptly styled, "the last of the Puritans."
At Boston, where the feeling against receiving the tea was strongest, the consignees were, "by a singular infelicity," either relatives of the hated governor, or in sympathy with the odious administration. Two of them were his sons. Richard Clarke was his nephew. One of Clarke's daughters married Copley, the painter, and became the mother of Lord Lyndhurst, the future lord-chancellor of England. Benjamin Faneuil and Joshua Winslow were respectable merchants. All but Faneuil were connected by marriage. They were well aware of the temper of the people, and of the proceedings in Philadelphia and New York; and would doubtless have yielded to the popular demands, but for Hutchinson. Public sentiment was stimulated against them by representing them as crown officers, whereas they were only factors. They were thus put upon the footing of the obnoxious stamp officers.
* * * * *
The North End Caucus, composed mostly of mechanics, met frequently to consider what should be done, and voted (October 23d,) that they would oppose with their lives and fortunes, the vending of any tea that might be sent to the town for sale by the East India Company. "We were so careful," says Paul Revere, "that our meetings should be kept secret, that every time we met, every person swore upon the Bible not to discover any of our transactions, but to Hancock, Warren or Church, and one or two more leaders."
The Caucus and the Long-Room Club were local organizations, and were all included in the larger and more important one, known as "The Sons of Liberty." This association pervaded nearly all the colonies. It was first known in Boston as the "Union Club," and gained its later name from the phrase employed in the British parliament by Col. Barre, in his famous speech. It was formed in 1765, soon after the passage of the stamp act, and had among its members most of the leading patriots of the day. Their organization was secret, with private pass-words, to protect them from Tory spies. On public occasions, each member wore, suspended from his neck, a medal, on one side of which was the figure of a stalwart arm, grasping in its hand a pole, surmounted with a cap of liberty, and surrounded by the words, "Sons of Liberty." On the reverse was a representation of Liberty Tree. It was under this tree, in the open space known as "Liberty Hall,"—at the junction of Newbury, Orange and Essex Streets,—that their public meetings in Boston were held.
The Sons of Liberty issued warrants for the arrest of suspected persons; arranged in secret caucus the preliminaries of elections, and the programme for public celebrations; and in fact were the mainspring, under the guidance of the popular leaders, of every public demonstration against the government. In Boston they probably numbered about three hundred. The 14th of August,—the anniversary of the repeal of the stamp act,—was celebrated by them for several years, with grand display and festivity.
Under date of January 15, 1766, John Adams says, in his diary: "I spent the evening with the Sons of Liberty, at their own apartment, in Hanover Square, near the Tree of Liberty. It is a counting-room, in Chase & Speakman's distillery; a very small room it is. There were present, John Avery, a distiller, of liberal education; John Smith, the brazier; Thomas Crafts, the painter; Benjamin Edes, the printer; Stephen Cleverly, brazier; Thomas Chase, distiller; Joseph Fields, master of a vessel; Henry Bass; George Trott, jeweller; and Henry Welles. I was very cordially and respectfully treated by all present. We had punch, wine, pipes and tobacco, biscuit and cheese, etc. They chose a committee to make preparations for grand rejoicings upon the arrival of the news of a repeal of the stamp act." The counting-room of which Adams speaks, could, from its small size, have been the committee-room of the body only.
Governor Bernard wished to send some of the leading Sons of Liberty to England, for trial, but did not dare do so. New York was the centre of the organization, to which all communications from the other colonies were sent. A correspondent in London kept them informed of the proceedings and designs of the British ministry.
* * * * *
At one o'clock in the morning of the 2d of November, 1773, the consignees were aroused from their slumbers by a violent knocking at their doors, and a summons was left for them to appear at Liberty Tree on the following Wednesday, to resign their commissions; and not to fail at their peril. A handbill was, at the same time, posted about the town, notifying the people of Boston and the vicinity to be present at the same time and place, to witness their resignation.
On the appointed day, a large flag was hung out at Liberty Tree. The public crier announced the meeting, at the top of his voice, and the church bells, were rung for an hour. At noon, five hundred persons assembled. Samuel Adams, John Hancock and William Phillips, representatives of Boston, were present, with William Cooper,—the patriotic town clerk,—and the board of selectmen. The consignees failing to appear, a committee, consisting of William Molineux, William Dennie, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church, Henderson Inches, Edward Proctor, Nathaniel Barber, Gabriel Johonnot, and Ezekiel Cheever, waited on them at Clarke's warehouse, at the foot of King (now State) Street, where they, together with a number of their friends, had assembled. As they passed the town house, still standing at the head of this street, Hutchinson, who saw the procession, says that "the committee were attended by a large body of the people, many of them not of the lowest rank."
Molineux was the spokesman. "From whom are you a committee?" asked Clarke. "From the whole people," was the reply. "Who are the committee?" "I am one," said Molineux, and he named the rest. "What is your request?" "That you give us your word to sell none of the teas in your charge, but return them to London in the same bottoms in which they were shipped. Will you comply?" "I shall have nothing to do with you," was the rough and peremptory reply, in which the other consignees, who were present, concurred. Molineux then read the resolve, passed at Liberty Tree, declaring that those who should refuse to comply with the request of the people, were "enemies to their country," and should be dealt with accordingly.
When the committee reported the result to the crowd outside, the cry was raised, "Out with them! out with them!" Those within attempted to close the doors; but the people unhinged them, and carried them off. Justice Nathaniel Hatch, who, in the king's name, now commanded the peace, was hooted at and struck, when the people were persuaded to desist. The committee returned to Liberty Tree, where they reported to the meeting, which quietly dispersed. Of those composing this gathering, the consignees wrote to the East India Company, as follows: "They consisted chiefly of people of the lowest rank; very few respectable tradesmen, as we are informed, appeared amongst them. The selectmen say they were present to prevent disorder." There can be little doubt that the political assemblies of that day, as do those at the present time, fairly represented the body of the people. The mechanics of Boston, whatever their rank in the social scale, were the active patriots of the revolutionary period.
The Sons of Liberty having failed, and the Tories asserting that the meeting at Liberty Tree was irregular, petitioners for a town meeting declared that the people were alarmed at a report that the tea had been shipped to America, and feared that the tribute would be exacted, and that the liberties, for which they had so long contended, would be lost to them and their posterity. A meeting was therefore called by the selectmen for the next day, at ten o'clock in the forenoon.
That night a threatening letter was placed under the door of Mr. Faneuil, one of the consignees, warning them that a much longer delay in complying, would not fail to bring upon them "the just reward of their avarice and insolence."
The town meeting, held on the 5th of November, was fully attended, and was presided over by John Hancock. After due consideration, it adopted the resolves of the Philadelphians of October 18, declaring that freemen have an inherent right to dispose of their property; that the tea tax was a mode of levying contributions on them without their consent; that its purpose tended to render assemblies useless, and to introduce arbitrary government; that a steady opposition to this ministerial plan was a duty which every freeman owed to his country, to himself, and to his posterity; that the East India Company's importation was an open attempt to enforce this plan; and that whoever countenanced the unloading, vending or receiving the tea, was an enemy to his country. A committee, consisting of the moderator, Henderson Inches, Benjamin Austin, and the selectmen of the town, were chosen to wait on the consignees and request them, from a regard to their own characters, and the peace and good of the town and province, immediately to resign their appointment.
At this meeting, a Tory handbill, called the "Tradesmen's Protest," against the proceedings of the merchants on the subject of tea importation, was introduced. After the reading, without comment, the tradesmen present were desired to collect themselves at the south side of the hall, where the question was put whether they acknowledged the "Tradesmen's Protest," and the whole, amounting to at least four hundred, voted in the negative. The paper, its printer, and those who circulated it, were denounced as base, false and scandalous. This gave a finishing blow to the "Protest," of which nothing more was heard.
After voting that it was the just expectation of the town that no one of its merchants should, under any pretext whatever, import any tea liable to duty, the meeting adjourned until three o'clock.
At that hour there was again a full assembly. The committee reported that they had communicated the resolves of the town to the Messrs. Clarke and Mr. Faneuil, who informed them that they must consult Thomas and Elisha Hutchinson, the other consignees, who were at Milton, and could not give an answer until the following Monday. Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and Molineux were then desired to acquaint Messrs. Clarke and Faneuil, that the town expected an immediate answer from them. This was very soon received, and pronounced unsatisfactory, by a unanimous vote. John Hancock, John Pitts, Samuel Adams, Samuel Abbott, Joseph Warren, William Powell, and Nathaniel Appleton, were chosen a committee to wait on the Hutchinsons, and request an immediate resignation, and the meeting adjourned until the next day.
On Saturday, Faneuil Hall was again crowded. The committee reported that it could not find Elisha Hutchinson, either at Milton or Boston. Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., informed them, in a letter, that when he and his brother were appointed factors, and the tea arrived, they would be sufficiently informed to answer the request of the inhabitants.
This reply stirred up some of the hot blood in the assembly, and a cry of "to arms! to arms!" was received with applause and clapping of hands. Discretion, as usual, prevailed, and the meeting voted that the replies were "daringly affrontive" to the town, and then dissolved. The governor tried to collect evidence of the inflammatory speeches that had been made, but could find no person willing to give it.
A quiet week followed. The tea-ships were nearing the harbor, and the journals were filled with political essays generally, strong, well put, and elevating in tone. Locke, in the "Boston Gazette," said: "It will be considered by Americans whether the dernier ressort, and only asylum for their liberties, is not an American Commonwealth." It was evident to the leaders on both sides, that a crisis was at hand. Hutchinson foresaw that this "would prove a more difficult affair than any which had preceded it;" and in his letters admits that the mass of the people acted in the conviction that their rights were invaded. Believing the supremacy of parliament was in issue, he determined, though standing almost alone, and in opposition to the advice of his political friends, to make no concession. In a letter written at this period, to Lord Dartmouth, Secretary for the Colonies, he describes, with minuteness, the state of political affairs. He says:
... "At present, the spirits of the people in the town of Boston are in a great ferment. Everything that has been in my power, without the Council, I have done, and continue to do, for the preservation of the peace and good order of the town. If I had the aid, which I think the Council might give, my endeavors would be more effective. They profess to disapprove of the tumultuous, violent proceedings of the people, but they wish to see the professed end of the people in such proceedings attained in the regular way; and, instead of joining with me in proper measures to discourage an opposition to the landing of the teas expected, one and another of the gentlemen, of the greatest influence, intimate that the best thing that can be done to quiet the people, would be the refusal of the gentlemen to whom the teas are consigned, to execute the trust; and they declare they would do it if it was their case, and would advise all their connexions to do it. Nor will they ever countenance a measure which shall tend to carry into execution an act of parliament which lays taxes upon the colonies, for the purpose of a revenue. The same principle prevails with by far the greater part of the merchants who, though in general they declare against mobs and violence, yet they as generally wish the tea may not be imported. The persons to whom the teas are consigned, declare that whilst they can be protected from violence to their persons, they will not give way to the unreasonable demands which have been made of them. I wish the vessels bound to New York may arrive before those designed to this Province. Governor Tryon I know to be well disposed to do his duty, and the people there are less disposed to any violent proceedings, as I have reason to think, than they are here, and an example of peace and good order there may have its influence here."
Samuel Adams, Hancock, Warren, Molineux and Young, the most prominent of the popular leaders, apprehended fully the responsibilities of the hour. They had a great principle to maintain, and the courage to uphold it. They knew that, though the people were with them, the failure to obtain the resignation of the consignees had inspired doubt in other quarters, as to whether Boston would meet the expectations of the patriots of other colonies. To such as questioned whether it was not premature to push matters to extremities, they replied, that if fidelity to the common cause was likely to bring on a quarrel with Great Britain, this was the best time for it to come. "Our credit," they said, "is at stake; we must venture, and unless we do, we shall be discarded by the Sons of Liberty in the other colonies, whose assistance we may expect, upon emergencies, in case they find us steady, resolute and faithful." With men like these "to the fore," though independence was scarcely dreamed of, revolution was a foregone conclusion.
Thomas Mifflin, an active patriot of Philadelphia, subsequently a general, and governor of Pennsylvania, when in Boston, said to some of these men, "will you engage that the tea shall not be landed? if so, I will answer for Philadelphia." And they pledged their honor that its landing should be prevented.
On November 11, Hutchinson issued the following order:
"Massachusetts Bay. By the Governor.
To Colonel John Hancock, Captain of the Governor's Company of Cadets, &c.
The Cadet company, under your command, having signalized itself heretofore upon a very necessary occasion, and the late tumultuous proceedings in the town of Boston requiring that more than usual caution should be taken at this time for the preservation of the peace, I think it proper that you should forthwith summon each person belonging to the company to be ready, and to appear in arms at such place of parade as you think fit, whensoever there may be a tumultuous assembly of the people, in violation of the laws, in order to their being aiding and assisting to the civil magistrate as occasion may require."
This company, which was immediately under the governor's orders, had been of service during the stamp act riots, and had often been complimented for its discipline. The evident intent of this order, to use military force to suppress public assemblages, and the stationing of companies of British troops in the neighboring towns, augmented the uneasiness already felt. There was now, besides the soldiers at the castle, a considerable naval force in the harbor, under Admiral John Montagu.
* * * * *
On the morning of November 17, a little party of family friends had assembled at the house of Richard Clarke, Esq., known as the "Cooke House," near the King's Chapel, on School Street, to welcome young Jonathan Clarke, who had just arrived from London. All at once the inmates of the dwelling were startled by a violent beating at the door, accompanied with shouts and the blowing of horns, creating considerable alarm. The ladies were hastily bestowed in places of safety, while the gentlemen secured the avenues of the lower story, as well as they were able. The yard and vicinity were soon filled with people. One of the inmates warned them, from an upper window, to disperse, but getting no other reply than a shower of stones, he discharged a pistol. Then came a shower of missiles, which broke in the lower windows, and damaged some of the furniture. Influential patriots had by this time arrived, and put a stop to the proceedings, and the mob quietly dispersed. The consignees now called on the governor and council for protection.
During the day, an arrival from London brought the news that three ships, having the East India Company's tea on board, had sailed for Boston, and that others had cleared for Philadelphia.
A petition for a town meeting was at once presented to the selectmen, representing that the teas were shortly expected, and that it was apprehended that the consignees might now be sufficiently informed on the terms of its consignment, to be able to give their promised answer to the town. A meeting was therefore appointed for the next day.
John Hancock was the moderator of the last town meeting, in which public sentiment was legally brought to bear upon the consignees. It was held on the 18th. The meeting was quiet and orderly, and its business was speedily transacted.
A committee was appointed to wait on the consignees for a final answer to the request of the town, that they resign their appointment. This was their reply:
"BOSTON, November 18, 1773.
Sir,—In answer to the message we have this day received from the town, we beg leave to say that we have not yet received any order from the East India Company respecting the expected teas, but we are now further acquainted that our friends in England have entered into general engagements in our behalf, merely of a commercial nature, which puts it out of our power to comply with the request of the town.
We are, sir, your most humble servants,
RICHARD CLARKE & SONS, BENJ. FANEUIL, JR., for self and JOSHUA WINSLOW, Esq., ELISHA HUTCHINSON, for my Brother and self."
Immediately on receiving this answer, the meeting, without vote or comment, dissolved. "This sudden dissolution struck more terror into the consignees," says Hutchinson, "than the most minatory resolves;" and but for his efforts, they would have followed the example of those of Philadelphia, who had resigned six weeks before.
Next day (November 19), the consignees, in a petition to the governor and council, asked leave to resign themselves, and the property committed to their care, to his Excellency and their Honors, as guardians and protectors of the people, and that means might be devised for the landing and securing the teas, until the petitioners could safely dispose of them, or could receive directions from their constituents. Their action was the cause of much comment in the newspapers, and debate in the council. It was urged in opposition to the scheme, that it was no part of the legitimate functions of this body to act as trustees and storekeepers for certain factors of the East India Company.
In a letter to a friend, dated November 24, Hutchinson thus expresses his views of the situation. He says:
"When I saw the inhabitants of the town of Boston, assembled under color of law, and heard of the open declaration that we are now in a state of nature, and that we have a right to take up arms; and when in a town meeting, as I am informed, a call to arms was received with clapping and general applause; when a tumultuous assembly of people can, from time to time, attack the persons and the property of the king's subjects; and when assemblies are tolerated from night to night, in the public town hall; to counsel and determine upon further unlawful measures, and dark proposals and resolutions are made and agreed to there; when the infection is industriously spreading and the neighboring towns not only join their committees with the committee of Boston, but are assembled in town meetings to approve of the doings of the town of Boston; and, above all, when upon repeated summoning of the Council, they put off any advice to me from time to time, and I am obliged to consent to it, because all the voices there, as far as they declare their minds, I have reason to fear, would rather confirm than discourage the people in their irregular proceedings,—under all these circumstances, I think it time to deliberate whether his majesty's service does not call me to retire to the castle, where I may, with safety to my person, more freely give my sense of the criminality of these proceedings than whilst I am in the hands of the people, some of whom, and those most active, don't scruple to declare their designs against me."
And he concludes this doleful story with the question, "What am I in duty bound to do?" His position was certainly a very uncomfortable one.
Frequent conferences with the consignees were held by the selectmen of Boston. "Though we labored night and day in the affair, all our efforts could not produce an agreement between them and the town." So wrote John Scollay, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, who also informs us, in a letter written December 23, that there was a way by which the consignees might have avoided trouble. "Had they," writes he, "on the terms of first application to them, offered to have stored the tea, subject to the inspection of a committee of gentlemen, till they could write their principals, and until that time (agreed that) no duty should be paid,—which no doubt the customs officers would have consented to,—I am persuaded the town would have closed with them."
The selectmen told the consignees plainly that nothing less than sending the tea back to England would satisfy the people. Some of their Tory friends also urged them to arrange matters in this way, but they would only agree (Nov. 27) that nothing should be done in a clandestine way; that the vessels should come up to the wharves, and that when they received the orders that accompanied the teas, they would hand in proposals to the selectmen, to be laid before the town. They meant only to gain time. They were determined to make the issue with the popular leaders on this question. They were backed by the governor and the influential Tories, and no doubt believed that they could carry their point.
On Monday, the 22d, the committees of correspondence of Dorchester, Brookline, Roxbury and Cambridge, met the Boston committee at the selectmen's chamber, Faneuil Hall.
They resolved unanimously to use their joint influence to prevent the landing and sale of the teas; prepared a letter to be sent to the other towns, representing that they were reduced to the dilemma, either to sit down in quiet, under this and every burden that might be put upon them, or to rise up in resistance, as became freemen; to impress the absolute necessity of making immediate and effectual opposition to the detestable measure, and soliciting their advice and co-operation. Charlestown was "so zealous in the cause," that its committee was added to the others. This body continued to hold daily conferences, "like a little senate," says Hutchinson.
The "Gazette" of November 22, said: "Americans! defeat this last effort of a most pernicious, expiring faction, and you may sit under your own vines and fig trees, and none shall, hereafter, dare to make you afraid."
On the 26th, the men of Cambridge assembled, and after adopting the Philadelphia resolves, "very unanimously" voted, "That as Boston was struggling for the liberties of their country, they could no longer stand idle spectators, but were ready, on the shortest notice, to join with it, and other towns, in any measure that might be thought proper, to deliver themselves and posterity from slavery."
On Sunday, the 28th, the ship "Dartmouth," Captain Hall, owned by the Quaker, Francis Rotch, arrived in Boston harbor, with one hundred and fourteen chests of tea, and anchored below the castle. As the news spread, there was great excitement. Despite the rigid New England observance of the Sabbath, the selectmen immediately met, and remained in session until nine o'clock in the evening, in the expectation of receiving the promised proposal of the consignees. These gentlemen were not to be found, and on the next day, bidding a final adieu to Boston, they took up their quarters at the castle.
Hutchinson advised the consignees to order the vessels, when they arrived, to anchor below the castle, that if it should appear unsafe to land the tea, they might go to sea again, and when the first ship arrived she anchored there accordingly, but when the master came up to town, Mr. Adams and others, a committee of the town, ordered him at his peril to bring the ship up to land the other goods, but to suffer no tea to be taken out.
The committee of correspondence, who also held a session that day, seeing that time was precious, and that the tea once entered it would be out of the power of the consignees to send it back, obtained the promise of the owner not to enter his ship till Tuesday, and authorized Samuel Adams to summon the committees and townspeople of the vicinity to a mass meeting, in Boston, on the next morning. The invitation read as follows:
"A part of the tea shipped by the East India Company is now arrived in this harbor, and we look upon ourselves bound to give you the earliest intimation of it, and we desire that you favor us with your company at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock to-morrow forenoon, there to give us your advice what steps are to be immediately taken, in order effectually to prevent the impending evil, and we request you to urge your friends in the town, to which you belong, to be in readiness to exert themselves in the most resolute manner, to assist this town in its efforts for saving this oppressed country."
The journals of Monday announced that the "Dartmouth" had anchored off Long Wharf, and that other ships with the poisonous herb might soon be here. They also contained a call for a public meeting, as announced in the following handbill, already printed and distributed throughout the town:
"Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in this harbor; the hour of destruction or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny stares you in the face; every friend to his country, to himself, and posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock this day, (at which time the bells will ring,) to make a united and successful resistance to this last, worst and most destructive measure of administration.
Boston, November 29, 1773."
At nine o'clock the bells were rung, and the people, to the number of at least five thousand, thronged in and around Faneuil Hall. This edifice, then about half as large as now, was entirely inadequate to hold the concourse that had gathered there. Jonathan Williams, a citizen of character and wealth, was chosen moderator. The selectmen were John Scollay, John Hancock, Timothy Newell, Thomas Newhall, Samuel Austin, Oliver Wendell, and John Pitts. The patriotic and efficient town clerk, William Cooper, was also present. Samuel Adams, Dr. Warren, Hancock, Dr. Young and Molineux took the lead in the debate. The resolution offered by Adams, "that the tea should not be landed; that it should be sent back in the same bottom to the place whence it came, at all events, and that no duty should be paid on it," was unanimously adopted. On hearing of this vote the consignees withdrew to Castle William. For the better accommodation of the people, the meeting then adjourned to the Old South Meeting House.
The speeches made at the Old South have not been preserved. Some were violent, others were calm, advising the people by all means to abstain from violence, but the men in whom they placed confidence were unanimous upon the question of sending back the tea. Dr. Young held that the only way to get rid of it was to throw it overboard. Here we find the first suggestion of its ultimate fate. Both Whigs and Tories united in the action of the meeting. To give the consignees time to make the expected proposals, the meeting adjourned till three o'clock.
Of this assembly Hutchinson says: "Although it consisted principally of the lower ranks of the people, and even journeymen tradesmen were brought to increase the number, and the rabble were not excluded, yet there were divers gentlemen of good fortune among them." With regard to the speeches he observes: "Nothing can be more inflammatory than those made on this occasion; Adams was never in greater glory." And of the consignees he says: "They apprehended they should be seized, and may be, tarred and feathered and carted,—an American torture,—in order to compel them to a compliance. The friends of old Mr. Clarke, whose constitution being hurt by the repeated attacks made upon him, retired into the country, pressed his sons and the other consignees to a full compliance."
A visitor from Rhode Island who attended the meeting, speaking of its regular and sensible conduct, said he should have thought himself rather in the British senate than in the promiscuous assembly of the people of a remote colony.
At the afternoon meeting in the Old South, it was resolved, upon the motion of Samuel Adams, "that the tea in Captain Hall's ship must go back in the same bottom." The owner and the captain were informed that the entry of the tea, or the landing of it, would be at their peril. The ship was ordered to be moored at Griffins' wharf, and a watch of twenty-five men was appointed for the security of vessel and cargo, with Captain Edward Proctor as captain that night. It was also voted that the governor's call on the justices to meet that afternoon, to suppress attempted riots, was a reflection on the people.
Upon Hancock's representation that the consignees desired further time to meet and consult, the meeting consented, "out of great tenderness to them," and adjourned until next day. This meeting also voted that six persons "who are used to horses be in readiness to give an alarm in the country towns, when necessary." They were William Rogers, Jeremiah Belknap, Stephen Hall, Nathaniel Cobbett, and Thomas Gooding, and Benjamin Wood, of Charlestown.
The guard for the tea ships, which consisted of from twenty-four to thirty-four men, was kept up until December 16. It was armed with muskets and bayonets, and proceeded with military regularity,—indeed it was composed in part of the military of the town,—and every half hour during the night regularly passed the word "all's well," like sentinels in a garrison. It was on duty nineteen days and twenty-three hours. If molested by day the bells of the town were to be rung, if at night they were to be tolled. We have the names of those comprising the watch on November 29 and 30. They are:
For November 29. Captain, EDWARD PROCTOR.
Henry Bass. Foster Condy. John Lovell. John Winthrop. John Greenleaf. Benjamin Alley. Joshua Pico. James Henderson. Josiah Wheeler. Joseph Edwards. Jonathan Stodder. Stephen Bruce. Paul Revere. Moses Grant. Joseph Lovering. Dr. Elisha Story. Thomas Chase. Benjamin Edes. Joseph Pierce, Jr. Captain Riordan. John Crane. John McFadden. Thomas Knox, Jr. Robert Hitchborn.
November 30. Captain, EZEKIEL CHEEVER.
Thomas Urann. William Dickman. Samuel Peck. Thomas Bolley. John Rice. Joseph Froude. Obadiah Curtis. George Ray. Benjamin Ingerson. Adam Collson. Daniel Hewes. Joseph Eayres. William Sutton. Ebenezer Ayres. William Elberson. Benjamin Stevens. James Brewer. Rufus Bant. William Clap. Nicholas Pierce. Thomas Tileston. Richard Hunnewell.
Hancock and Henry Knox were members of this volunteer guard. Volunteers were, after the first night, requested to leave their names at the printing-office of Edes and Gill; the duty of providing it having devolved upon the committee of correspondence.
Obadiah Curtis, born in Roxbury, Mass., in 1724; died in Newton, Mass., November 11, 1811. He was a wheelwright by trade, and his wife, Martha, kept an English goods store, at the corner of Rawson's Lane, (now Bromfield Street,) and Newbury (now Washington) Street, and accumulated a handsome estate. Becoming obnoxious to the British authorities, Mr. Curtis removed with his family to Providence, remaining there until after the evacuation of Boston. A person who saw him at this time thus describes his appearance: "He was habited according to the fashion of gentlemen of those days,—in a three-cornered hat, a club wig, a long coat of ample dimensions, that appeared to have been made with reference to future growth, breeches with large buckles, and shoes fastened in the same manner."
James Henderson was a painter, in Boston, at the beginning of this century.
Daniel Hewes, a mason by trade, resided on Purchase Street, where he died July 9, 1821; aged 77. He was a brother of George Robert Twelves Hewes.
Robert Hitchborn was a cooper, on Anne Street, in 1789.
Thomas Knox, Jr., a branch pilot, died in Charlestown, Mass., in April, 1817; aged 75. He joined the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew in 1764. In 1789 his residence was on Friend Street.
Joseph Lovering was a tallow chandler. He lived on the corner of Hollis and Tremont Streets, opposite Crane and the Bradlees. Joseph Lovering, Jr., held the light by which Crane and others disguised themselves in Crane's carpenter's shop, on the evening of December 16. Lovering was a prominent member of the Charitable Mechanic Association, was many years a selectman and a fireward under the old town government of Boston, and was also a member of the first Board of Aldermen, under Mayor Phillips. He followed his father's business, and was some years a partner in the firm of J. Lovering & Sons.
Joshua Pico, a cooper, on Sheaffe Street, residing on Clarke Street; died in January, 1807.
Joseph Pierce, Jr., was a merchant, at 58 Cornhill, in 1799.
Nicholas Pierce was a bricklayer, on Back (Salem) Street, in 1800.
John Rice was deputy-collector at Boston, 1789.
Benjamin Stevens was a tailor, at 33 Marlboro' Street, in 1789.
Jonathan Stodder was a member of St. Andrew's Lodge of Freemasons, in 1779.
Thomas Tileston, born September 21, 1735, was a carpenter on Purchase Street, in 1789. His father, Onesiphorous Tileston, also a housewright and a man of wealth, was captain of the Artillery Company in 1762.
John Winthrop resided in Cambridge Street, and died February 12, 1800; aged 53.
The power and influence of the Boston committee of correspondence, which played so important a part in the tea affair, can best be estimated by a glance at the list of names of its members. They were, Samuel Adams, James Otis, Joseph Warren, William Molineux, Dr. Benjamin Church, William Dennie, William and Joseph Greenleaf, Dr. Thomas Young, William Powell, Nathaniel Appleton, Oliver Wendell, Josiah Quincy, Jr., John Sweetser, Richard Boynton, John Bradford, William Mackay, Nathaniel Barber, Caleb Davis, Alexander Hill, and Robert Pierpont.
After the dissolution of the meeting of November 29, the committee met, and called on the committees from other towns to join them on all necessary occasions. Besides sending accounts of these events to all the towns, they also wrote to the committees of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and Philadelphia, explaining their course, acting, as they said, "in the faith that harmony and concurrence in action uniformly and firmly maintained, must finally conduct them to the end of their wishes, namely, a full enjoyment of constitutional liberty." They received cheering replies and encouraging assurances from all quarters.
At the meeting next morning, a letter to John Scollay from the consignees, containing their long-delayed proposals, was read. They expressed sorrow that they could not return satisfactory answers to the two messages of the town, as it was utterly out of their power to send the teas back, but said they were willing to store them until they could communicate with their constituents, and receive their further orders respecting them. This letter irritated the meeting, and it declined to take action upon it.
Before taking final leave of these obstinate gentlemen, I make a few citations from the recently published volume of "The Diary and Letters of Thomas Hutchinson." Writing to his son at the castle on November 30, Hutchinson says: "The gentlemen (consignees), except your uncle Clarke, all went to the castle yesterday. I hope they will not comply with such a monstrous demand." Hancock and Adams, he says, were two of the guard of the tea ship.
Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., to his brother Elisha:
"CASTLE WILLIAM, December 14, 1773.
... I imagine you are anxious to know what the poor banished commissioners are doing at the castle. Our retreat here was sudden, but our enemies do not say we came too soon. How long we shall be imprisoned 'tis impossible to say.... I hear there is a meeting of the mobility to day, but don't know the result. I hardly think they will attempt sending the tea back, but am more sure it will not go many leagues. The commissioners are all with us, and we are as comfortable as we can be in a very cold place, driven from our families and business, with the months of January and February just at hand.
P.S.—Our situation is rendered more agreeable by the polite reception we met with from Col. Leslie, and the other gentlemen of the army."
And on January 9, 1774, he writes:
"The Bostonians say we shall not return to town without making concessions. I suppose we shall quit the castle sometime this week, as we are all provided with retreats in the country. I have had a disagreeable six weeks of it, but am in hopes the issue will be well."
And again, on January 21, dated Milton:
"I wrote you some time ago I was in hopes our harassment was drawing to a close, and that we should leave the castle last week. Mr. Faneuil and myself coming off caused a supposition that we intended for Boston, which was the cause of Saturday's notification which I sent you. Mr. Faneuil is since returned to the castle, and I am really more confined than if I was there, as I keep pretty close to my home. Mr. Jonathan Clarke sails in a few days for England, of which I am very glad, as it may prevent misapprehension of our conduct on that side of the water.
A proclamation from the governor was brought in to the meeting by Sheriff Greenleaf, which he begged leave of the moderator to read. Objection was made, but at the suggestion of Samuel Adams the meeting consented to hear it. The governor charged that the meeting of the previous day "openly violated, defied and set at naught the good and wholesome laws of the Province, and as great numbers were again assembled for like purposes, I warn," he said, "exhort and require you, and each of you, thus unlawfully assembled, forthwith to disperse, and to surcease all further unlawful proceedings at your peril." The reading was received with general and continued hisses, and a vote that the meeting would not disperse. Mr. Copley, the son-in-law of Mr. Clarke, inquired whether the meeting would hear the Messrs. Clarke, and whether they would be safe while coming to and returning from the meeting, and whether two hours would be allowed him in which to consult with them. The request of Copley, who was sincerely desirous of effecting a peaceful solution of the difficulty, was granted, and the meeting then adjourned until two o'clock.
The proceedings of this afternoon briefly stated were, the promise of Rotch, the owner, and Hall, the captain of the "Dartmouth," and the owners of the two other vessels expected with teas, that that article should not be landed, but should go back in the same ships, and the apology of Mr. Copley for the time he had taken, he having been obliged to go to the castle, where the consignees decided that it would be inexpedient for them to attend the meeting, but added to their former proposal that the tea should be submitted to the inspection of a committee, and also saying that as they had not been active in introducing the tea, they should do nothing to obstruct the people in returning it.
This was voted unsatisfactory. Resolves were then passed to the effect that all who imported tea were enemies to the country; that its landing and sale should be prevented, and that the tea should be returned to the place whence it came. And the meeting also voted to send these resolves to every seaport in the colonies and to England. The committee of correspondence was charged to make provision for the continuation of the watch, and "the brethren from the country" were thanked for their "countenance and union," and desired to afford their assistance on notice being given, and it was also declared to be "the determination of this body to carry their votes and resolves into execution at the risk of life and property."
Speaking of this meeting, Hutchinson says: "A more determined spirit was conspicuous in this body than in any of the former assemblies of the people. It was composed of the lowest as well, and probably in as great proportion, as of the superior ranks and orders, and all had an equal voice. No eccentric or irregular motions were suffered to take place. All seemed to have been the plan of a few, it may be of a single person."
And in a private letter, dated December 1, Hutchinson writes:
"While the rabble was together in one place, I was in another, not far distant, with his majesty's council, urging them to join with me in some measure to break up this unlawful assembly, but to no purpose. I hope the consignees will continue firm, and should not have the least doubt of it if it was not for the solicitation of the friends of Mr. Clarke. If they go the lengths they threaten, I shall be obliged to retire to the castle, as I cannot otherwise make any exertions in support of the king's authority."
The committee of correspondence omitted no step that prudence or caution could suggest to carry out the determination of the town. A letter from Philadelphia, just then received, said: "Our tea consignees have all resigned, and you need not fear, the tea will not be landed here nor at New York. All that we fear is that you will shrink at Boston. May God give you virtue enough to save the liberties of your country!"
A second and a third vessel soon arrived, and the selectmen gave peremptory orders, to prevent clandestine landing of the tea, and directed them to be anchored by the side of the "Dartmouth," at Griffin's Wharf. One guard answered for the three vessels. As the time drew near for the landing or return of the tea, the excitement of the community increased. "Where the present disorder will end," wrote Hutchinson, "I cannot make a probable conjecture; the town is as furious as in the time of the stamp act." "The flame is kindled," so wrote the wife of John Adams, "and like lightning, it catches from soul to soul.... My heart beats at every whistle I hear, and I dare not express half my fears."
Twenty days after her arrival in the port, a vessel was liable to seizure for the non-payment of duties on articles imported in her, nor on landing a portion of her cargo, could she be legally cleared. On official advice from the governor to Colonel Leslie, commander of the castle, and Admiral Montagu, the latter ordered the ships of war, "Active" and "King Fisher," to guard the passages to the sea, and permit no unauthorized vessels to pass. "The patriots," said Hutchinson, "now found themselves in a web of inextricable difficulties." "But where there is a will there is a way," and the patriots had more resources than the governor dreamed of.
Rotch, the owner of the "Dartmouth," was summoned before the committee (December 11), and was asked by Samuel Adams, the chairman, why he had not kept his pledge, to send his vessel and tea back to London. He replied that it was out of his power to do so. He was advised to apply for a clearance and a pass. "The ship must go," said Adams, "the people of Boston and the neighboring towns absolutely require and expect it."
The journals of the day are filled with items concerning the tea question. Little else was now thought of. They contained the resolves of the Massachusetts towns, encouraging Boston to stand firm, and assuring her of their support, and accounts from Philadelphia and New York of the determination to nullify the tea act, and of the declination of the consignees in the latter place.
The "Gazette," of December 13, editorially says: "The minds of the public are greatly irritated at the delay of Mr. Rotch, to take the necessary steps towards complying with their peremptory requisition." On this day an important session of the committee of the five towns already named took place at Faneuil Hall. "No business transacted matter of record," is the brief but suggestive entry as to its doings.
Dorchester, in legal town meeting, declared that, "should this country be so unhappy as to see a day of trial for the recovery of its rights by a last and solemn appeal to Him who gave them, they should not be behind the bravest of our patriotic brethren." Marblehead affirmed that the proceedings of the brave citizens of Boston, and of other towns, in opposition to the landing of the tea, were rational, generous and just; that they were highly honored for their noble firmness in support of American liberty, and that the men of the town were ready with their lives to assist their brethren in opposing all measures tending to enslave the country." Under date of December 3, the people of Roxbury voted that they were in duty bound to join with Boston, and other sister towns, to preserve inviolate the liberties handed down by their ancestors. Next day the men of Charlestown declared themselves ready to risk their lives and fortunes. Newburyport, Malden, Lexington, Leicester, Fitchburg, Gloucester, and other towns, also proferred their aid when needed.
The "Gazette," under date of Salem, December 7, has the following: "By what we can learn from private intelligence, as well as the public proceedings of a number of principal towns contiguous to the capital, the people, if opposed in their proceedings with respect to the tea, are determined upon hazarding a brush, therefore those who are willing to bear a part in it in preserving the rights of this country, would do well to get suitably prepared." This looked like business.
On the morning of December 14, the following handbill appeared in Boston:
Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! The perfidious act of your reckless enemies to render ineffectual the late resolves of the body of the people, demands your assembling at the Old South Meeting House, precisely at ten o'clock this day, at which time the bells will ring."
The meeting thus called was largely attended. Samuel Phillips Savage, of Weston, was chosen moderator. Bruce, the master of the "Eleanor," promised to ask for a clearance for London, when all his goods were landed, except the tea, but said that, if refused, "he was loth to stand the shot of thirty-two pounders." Rotch, accompanied by Samuel Adams, Benjamin Kent, and eight others, applied to the collector of the port for a clearance, and reported, on his return, that the collector desired to consult with the comptroller, and promised an answer on the following morning. The meeting then adjourned until Thursday.
Next day Rotch, with the Committee, proceeded to the Custom House. Harrison, the Collector, and Comptroller Hallowell, were both present. The owner said that he was required and compelled at his peril by the meeting to make the demand for the clearance of his vessel for London, with the tea on board, and one of the committee stated that they were present only as witnesses. The Collector unequivocally and finally refused to grant his ship a clearance until it should be discharged of the teas. The result was reported to the meeting on the following morning.
* * * * *
The eventful Thursday, December 16, 1773, a day ever memorable in the annals of the town, witnessed the largest gathering yet seen at the Old South Meeting House. Nearly seven thousand persons constituted the assembly. Business was laid aside, and notwithstanding the rain, at least two thousand people flocked in from the country for twenty miles around. This time there was no need of handbills—there were none. No effort was required to bring together the multitude that quietly but anxiously awaited the outcome of the meeting. The gravity of the situation was universally felt. Immediate action was necessary, as the twenty days allowed for clearance terminated that night. Then the revenue officials could take possession, and under cover of the naval force land the tea, and opposition to this would have caused bloody work. The patriots would gladly have avoided the issue, but it was forced upon them, and they could not recede with honor.
The committee having reported the failure of its application for a clearance, Rotch was directed to enter a protest at the Custom House, and to apply to the governor for a pass to proceed on this day with his vessel on his voyage for London. He replied that it was impracticable to comply with this requirement. He was then reminded of his promise, and on being asked if he would now direct the "Dartmouth" to sail, replied that he would not. The meeting, after directing him to use all possible dispatch in making his protest and procuring his pass, adjourned until three o'clock.
At the afternoon meeting, information was given that several towns had agreed not to use tea. A vote was taken to the effect that its use was improper and pernicious, and that it would be well for all the towns to appoint committees of inspection "to prevent this accursed tea" from coming among them. "Shall we abide by our former resolution with respect to the not suffering the tea to be landed?" was now the question. Samuel Adams, Dr. Thomas Young and Josiah Quincy, Jr., an ardent young patriot devotedly attached to the liberties of his country, were the principal speakers. Only a fragment of the speech of Quincy remains. Counselling moderation, and in a spirit of prophecy, he said:
"It is not, Mr. Moderator, the spirit that vapors within these walls that must stand us in stead. The exertions of this day will call forth the events which will make a very different spirit necessary for our salvation. Whoever supposes that shouts and hosannas will terminate the trials of the day, entertains a childish fancy. We must be grossly ignorant of the importance and value of the prize for which we contend; we must be equally ignorant of the power of those who have combined against us; we must be blind to that malice, inveteracy and insatiable revenge which actuates our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosom, to hope that we shall end this controversy without the sharpest, the sharpest conflicts; to flatter ourselves that popular resolves, popular harangues, popular acclamations, and popular vapor will vanquish our foes. Let us consider the issue. Let us look to the end. Let us weigh and consider before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrific struggle this country ever saw."
But the time for weighing and considering the business in hand had passed. Time pressed and decisive action alone remained. "Now that the hand is at the plough," it was said, "there must be no looking back."
At half-past four it was unanimously voted that the tea should not be landed. An effort was now made to dissolve the meeting, but it was continued at the request of some of those present from the country, who wished to hear the result of Rotch's application to the governor.
It was an unusual time of the year to be at a country seat, but Governor Hutchinson was found at his Milton residence by Rotch, who renewed his request for a pass. Questioned by the governor as to the intentions of the people, Rotch replied that they only intended to force the tea back to England, but that there might be some who desired that the vessel might go down the harbor and be brought to by a shot from the castle, that it might be said that the people had done everything in their power to send the tea back. "Catching at this straw, with the instinct of a drowning man," Hutchinson offered Rotch a letter to Admiral Montagu, commending ship and goods to his protection, if Rotch would agree to have his ship haul out into the stream, but he replied that none were willing to assist him in doing this, and that the attempt would subject him to the ill will of the people. Hutchinson then sternly repeated his refusal of a pass, as it would have been "a direct countenancing and encouraging the violation of the acts of trade." Thus closed the last opportunity for concession.