The Siege of Boston
by Allen French
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Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1911.

Norwood Press J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co. Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.

TO C. E. S.


In writing this book I have endeavored to produce a brief and readable account of the Siege of Boston, and of the events which brought it about. These were, of course, parts of a larger history, the connection with which I have carefully indicated. My main endeavor, nevertheless, has been to treat my subject as a single organic series of events. To select the more interesting and significant masses of detail, and properly to cooerdinate them, has not been an easy task. The minor incidents were conditioned by the scale of the book; the result, I hope, is fluency and a more evident connection between the larger events.

So far as possible, I have relied upon contemporary statements. But no writer on the Siege can fail to acknowledge his deep obligations to the "History of the Siege" by Richard Frothingham. This acknowledgment I gladly make. Since 1849, however, the date of the publication of the book, there has come to light interesting new material which I have endeavored to incorporate here. The other authorities upon which I have chiefly depended will be found by referring to the footnotes.





















OLD STATE HOUSE Frontispiece


FANEUIL HALL facing 58

SAMUEL ADAMS facing 69






THE MINUTE MAN facing 303








The Siege of Boston was the culmination of a series of events which will always be of importance in the history of America. From the beginning of the reign of George the Third, the people of the English colonies in the new world found themselves at variance with their monarch, and nowhere more so than in Massachusetts. Since the New England people were fitted by their temperament and history to take the lead in the struggle, at their chief town naturally took place the more important incidents. These, which were often dramatic, had nevertheless a political cause and significance which link them in a rising series that ended in a violent outbreak and the eleven months' leaguer.

As to the siege itself, it varies an old situation, for Boston was beset by its own neighbors in defence of the common rights. Previously the king's troops, though regarded as invaders, had been but half-hearted oppressors; it was the people themselves who persistently provoked difficulties. The siege proper is of striking military interest, for its hostilities begin by the repulse of an armed expedition into a community of farmers, continue with a pitched battle between regular troops and a militia, produce a general of commanding abilities, and end with a strategic move of great skill and daring. It is the first campaign of a great war, and precedes the birth of a nation. Politically, the cause of the struggle is of enduring consequence to mankind. Socially, the siege and its preliminaries bring to view people of all kinds, some weak, some base, some picturesque, some entirely admirable. The period shows the breaking up of an old society and the formation of a new. A study of the siege is therefore of value.

It will be observed that the siege cannot satisfactorily be considered as a distinct series of military or semi-military events, abruptly beginning and still more abruptly ending. Such a view would reduce the siege to a mere matter of local history, having little connection with the larger movements of the American Revolution, and appearing almost as an accident which might have happened at any other centre of sufficient population.[1] On the contrary, neither the siege nor the Revolution were accidents of history. That the Revolution was bound to come about, and that its beginnings were equally bound to be at Boston, these were conditioned in the nature, first of the colonists in general, and second of the New Englanders in particular. However striking were certain of the occurrences, they were of less importance than their causes and consequences.

Accordingly I shall consider as an organic series the more important of those events which happened in Boston during the reign of George the Third, and which ended when the last of his redcoats departed from the town. In fact, in order to be perfectly intelligible I must first devote a few pages to a consideration of previous conditions.

"Any one," wrote George E. Ellis in the "Memorial History of Boston,"[2] "who attempts to trace the springs, the occasions, and the directing forces of the revolt ... cannot find his clew a year short of the date when the former self-governed Colony of Massachusetts Bay became a Royal Province." He is right in pointing out that in 1692 the struggle took open form. Yet even then the controversy was not new. In other form it had been carried on for more than half a century previous. Its ultimate origin lay in the fact that the very charter under which the colony was planted differed from all other documents granted by any English king.

This difference lay in the omission of the condition, usual in such charters, that its governing board should meet in London practically for the purpose of supervision by the king. That the omission of this condition was the result of wisdom on the part of the founders, and stupidity on the part of the officers of the king, seems undeniable. The founders, unhappy and alarmed at the political and religious situation in England under Charles the First, were seeking to provide for themselves and their families a refuge from his oppressions. Secure in their charter, they presently left England for good. When they sailed for America they did all that could be done to cut themselves off from interference by the crown.

At intervals, extremely valuable for the future of America, the Massachusetts colony certainly was free of all restraint. Charles's benediction seems to have been "Good riddance!" From the crown the colonists received no assistance whatever, and it was long both their boast and their plea that they had planted the colony "at their own expense." They were left to work out their own salvation.[3] As a result, their passionate desire for freedom from interference by the king grew into the feeling that they had earned it as a right. Englishmen they were still, and subjects of the king; but to the privileges of Englishmen they had added the right to manage their own affairs. The English king and the English law were to help them in their difficulties and to settle cases of appeal. In return they would grant money and fight for the king when necessary; but in the meantime they would live by themselves.

Taking advantage of the clause in their charter which authorized them "to ordain and establish all manner of wholesome and reasonable orders, laws, statutes, and ordinances," they speedily took to themselves everything but the name of independence. They instituted courts for all purposes, set up their legislative government, raised their own taxes, whether general or local, and perfected that wonderful instrument of resistance to oppression, New England town government. They even coined money. And, different from most of the other colonies, they chose their governor from among their own number.

Distance and home difficulties—for the Stuart kings usually had their hands full of trouble with their subjects—favored the non-interference which the colonists craved. When, however, the Stuarts had any leisure at all, they at once devoted it to quarrelling with their subjects in New England. Even to the easy-going Charles II the cool aloofness of the colonists was a bit too strong; to his father and brother it was intolerable.

The invariable methods of the colonists, when facing a demand from the king, were evasion and delay. "Avoid or protract" were Winthrop's own words in 1635. In 1684 the General Court wrote advising their attorney, employed in England in defending the charter, "to spin out the case to the uttermost."[4] Once and once only until the Revolution—in the case of the seizing of Andros—did the men of Massachusetts proceed to action. Their habitual policy was safe, and, on the whole, successful. Slow communication (one voyage of commissioners from Boston to England took three months), and the existence in England of a strong party of friends, helped powerfully to obscure and obliterate the issues. Yet Charles I in 1640, and James II in 1689, made preparations to reduce the colony to proper subjection, by force if necessary.

It was doubtless well for Massachusetts that both Charles and James were presently dethroned, for against the power of England no successful resistance could then have been made. New England, indeed, might have been united against the king, but it is very unlikely that the other colonies would have given their help. Some generations more were needed before the aristocrats of Virginia could feel themselves at one with the Puritans of New England.

Yet it is interesting to notice the spirit of Massachusetts. On the news of Charles's intentions the colony prepared for resistance. In James's time it went a step further. When the news came of the expedition of William of Orange, Massachusetts cast in its lot with him. Without waiting to learn the result of the struggle, Boston rose against James's unpopular governor, and imprisoned him in the Castle. The act was heroic, for the Bloody Assizes had taught the world what punishment the cowardly king meted out to rebels.

It will be noticed that the political status of Massachusetts was already changed. After many delays Charles II had abrogated the charter. His death followed almost immediately, and Andros had been appointed at the head of a provisional government. Doubtless the resistance to him had been inspired by the hope that the old charter might be restored. Instead, William, when once secure on the throne, issued a new charter. Under its provisions the colony, now a province, lived until the Revolution. In order that the events leading up to the siege may be understood, it will be well to consider the provisions of the new governmental machinery.

At the head of the province were to be a governor and a lieutenant-governor, both appointed by the king. Their powers were executive, with the right of veto over legislation, and also over certain appointments by the legislature. Laws passed by this legislature and not vetoed by the governor or the king were to go in force three years after their enactment. The legislature had two houses, the lower a popular chamber, called the Assembly, elected by the towns. The upper branch was called the Council. The first Council was appointed by the king; later members were to be nominated by the Assembly for the approval of the governor. The Assembly and Council formed together the Great and General Court. Judges were to be chosen by the governor and Council, but all officers were to be paid by the General Court. As will be seen later, in the case of the Writs of Assistance, appeal could be taken to the English courts.

And now for the first time became evident the fact that three generations of practical independence had bred in America a race of men—or it may be better to say had fostered a school of thought—that never could agree in submitting to a distant and arbitrary authority. In the seventy years which followed, New England showed this spirit in many ways. The most prominent cause of disagreement was the question of the governor's prerogatives, resulting in constant bickerings with the crown.

The principle, of course, lay deeper still. On the one side were sovereigns whose powers were not yet definitely restricted, and who were likely to resent any apparent tendency to make them less. On the other side was a people who had progressed far in self-government, and who resisted any limitation of their rights. It is not the purpose of this book to trace the earlier unification of the colonies under pressure from without. By the year 1760 that process was approaching completion; there was, therefore, in America a stronger feeling than ever, while across the water was that new ruler into whose youthful ears his mother had continually dinned the words, "George, be king!"

It is well to understand the status of a colony in those days, and the difficulties with which its inhabitants struggled. Yet it is hard for the modern man to conceive the restrictions upon freedom. From earliest days there had been discontent with the king's claim to the finest trees in the public forests, the "mast trees" which, reserved for the king's navy, no man might lawfully cut.[5] Exportation of lumber, except to England and the British West Indies, was long illegal. Trade with the French and Spanish islands was prohibited entirely, and trade in many products of home manufacture (tobacco, sugar, wool, dye-stuffs, furs, are prominent examples) was forbidden "to any place but Great Britain—even to Ireland."[6] Certain merchandise might be imported at will, subject to duty; but most articles could be bought, and sold, only through Great Britain.

Further, internal commerce and manufacture were severely hampered. No wool or woollen product might be carried from one province to another. The Bible might not be printed. The making of hats was almost entirely suppressed. The manufacture of iron, on a scale sufficient to compete with English wares, was practically prohibited—as a "nuisance."[7]

Under all these restrictions the colonies were not as yet restive. To be sure there were smuggling and illicit trade, and grievances in plenty; yet the stress of colonial life, the continual danger from the north and west, had kept the provincials satisfied as a body. And now, at the opening of the reign of George III, with the French driven out of Canada and the Mississippi Valley, and the Indians subdued, there should have been concord between the colonists and the king.

The comparison between the two is very striking, while at the same time it is not easily brought home to the city dweller of to-day. City government gives the individual a chance to bury himself in the mass, and to avoid his duties; further, our cities are now many, and very large, while we are notoriously patient under misrule. In 1760, on the other hand, few towns had as yet adopted city government. Boston was the largest town, and its population was little more than fifteen thousand. So well did its enemies understand one reason for its truculence, that they even considered means to force upon the town a city charter. The question came, however, to no definite proposition. The town therefore proceeded with its open discussion of all public questions, with its right of free speech in town meetings extended even to strangers, and with its viva voce vote letting each man know where his neighbor stood. "The town" was an entity of which each man felt himself a part. As a whole, its self-consciousness was like that of an individual: it could feel a trespass on its privileges as quickly as could the haughtiest monarch of the old world. And all New England was filled with towns whose feelings, on all essential points, were one and the same.

Against the town-meetings of America stood George III, as determined to assert his prerogatives as was any member of the house of Stuart. Still comparatively young, he had not yet learned that there are limitations of power, even to a king. And it was to the misfortune of his empire that there were few in England to teach him.

For the old Puritan middle class of the Stuart days was gone. Its fibre had softened; the class itself had disappeared in the easier-going masses of a more prosperous day. For seventy-five years England had had no internal dissensions, and her foreign wars had added to her wealth and contentment. To her well-wishers it seemed as if the people had given itself to sloth and indulgence. "I am satisfied," wrote Burke, "that, within a few years, there has been a great change in the national character. We seem no longer that eager, inquisitive, jealous, fiery people which we have been formerly, and which we have been a very short time ago."[8] England was the country of Tom Jones, hearty and healthy, but animated by no high principles and keyed to no noble actions. It needed the danger of the Napoleonic wars to bring out once more the sturdy manliness of the nation. Through all the earlier reign of George III there was, to be sure, a remainder of the old high-minded spirit. Chatham and Rockingham, Burke, Barre, and others, spoke in public and private for the rights of the colonists, to whom their encouragement gave strength. But the greater part of the English people was so indifferent to the moral and political significance of the quarrel that the king was practically able to do as he pleased.

He proceeded on the assumption that every man had his price. The assumption was unhappily too correct, for he was able to gather round him, in Parliament or the civil service, his own party, the "King's Friends," who served him for the profit that they got. No tale of modern corruption can surpass the record of their plundering of a nation. With this goes a story of gambling, drinking, and general loose living which, while the attention is concentrated on it, rouses the belief that the nation was wholly degenerate, until the recollection of the remnant, Chatham and the party of the Earl of Rockingham, gives hope of the salvation of the country.

At any rate, for more than fifteen years of his reign the king was in the ascendant. There was no party to depose him, scarcely one strong enough to curb him, even at times of popular indignation. He was, therefore, as no other king had been before him, able to force the issue upon the colonies, in spite of the protests of the few friends of liberty. In complete ignorance of the strength of the colonists, both in resources and in purpose, he proceeded to insist upon his rights. When it is remembered that those rights, according to his interpretation of them, were to tax without representation, to limit trade and manufactures, and to interfere at will in the management of colonial affairs, it will be seen that he was playing with fire.

The danger will appear the greater if it is considered that the population of the colonies had not progressed, like that of England, to days of easy tolerance. The Americans, and especially the New Englanders, were of the same stuff as those who had beheaded Charles I, and driven James II from his kingdom. They had among their military officers plenty of such men as Pomeroy, who, destined to fight at Bunker Hill, wrote from the siege of Louisburg: "It looks as if our campaign would last long; but I am willing to stay till God's time comes to deliver the city into our hands."[9] Many besides himself wrote, and even spoke, in Biblical language. There were still heard, in New England, the echoes of the "Great Awakening"; the preaching of Whitefield and others had everywhere roused a keen religious feeling, and the people were as likely as ever to open town-meeting with prayer, and to go into battle with psalms.

Such, then, were the contestants in the struggle. On the one side was the king with his privileges, backed by his Parliamentary majority, and having at command an efficient army and navy, and a full treasury. There was at hand no one to resist him successfully at home, none to whose warnings he would listen. And on the other side were the colonists, quite capable of fighting for what they knew to be the "rights of Englishmen." Both hoped to proceed peaceably. In ignorance, each was hoping for the impossible, for the king would not retreat, and the colonists would not yield. As soon as each understood the other's full intention, there would be a rupture.


[1] It may appear to a hasty consideration that Frothingham's "Siege of Boston" treats the siege as an isolated military event. It must, however, be remembered that Mr. Frothingham had treated previous events in a preliminary volume, his "Life of Joseph Warren."

[2] "Memorial History of Boston," ii, 31.

[3] "They nourished by your indulgence? They grew up by your neglect of them!" Barre's speech in Parliament, February, 1765.

[4] "Memorial History of Boston," i, 340, 376.

[5] See, on this point, Sabine's "American Loyalists," 7.

[6] Bancroft's "United States," ed. 1855, v, 265. References to Bancroft will at first be to this edition.

[7] Bancroft's "United States," v, 266.

[8] Trevelyan, "American Revolution," Part i, 21.

[9] "Memorial History of Boston," ii, 116.



The men who, whether in America or England, took sides with the king or the colonies as Tories and Whigs, or as "prerogative men" and "friends of liberty," fall naturally into two classes. A line of cleavage could be seen at the time, and can even be traced now, among the supporters of either side, according as they followed principle or self-interest. There were those who sought profit in supporting the colonies, as well as those who knowingly faced loss in defending the king. It is well for Americans to remember, therefore, that while many sided with the king for what they could get, there were others whose minds could not conceive a country without a king, or a subject with inalienable rights. The best of the Tories honestly believed the Whig agitation to be "unnatural, causeless, wanton, and wicked."[10] Such Americans were, in the inevitable struggle, truly martyrs to their beliefs.

Nevertheless, just as there was naturally more profit or prominence (and the two were often the same) on the king's side, so his party had the more self-seekers. "The cause is not worth dying for," said Ingersoll, facing the Connecticut farmers, and spoke the sentiment of all the stamp-officers who resigned their positions at the demand of the people. The cause, however, did seem worth working for. There were many, in England and America, who, like those whom Otis saw around him, "built much upon the fine salaries they should receive from the plantation branch of the revenue." Position, pay, and the chance to exploit the revenues as this was done in England, were the temptations which brought many to the side of the king, and which made men unite to urge upon him the acts which he desired for less selfish reasons.

Urged by principle, then, or excited by self-interest, the proposers of new measures were strong. The earliest act of the king's reign showed what could and what would be done, and brought upon the Boston stage the first of the actors in the drama. On the one hand were the governor, the justices, and the minor officials, on the other the people's self-appointed—but willingly accepted—leaders.

Francis Bernard was the first Massachusetts governor under George III. Bernard arrived August 2, 1760; the old king died on October 25; and in November the customs officials, stimulated by orders from home to enforce the provisions of the Sugar Act of 1733, petitioned for "writs of assistance," to empower them to summon help in forcible entries in search of smuggled goods. Now there can be no doubt that there was smuggling in the colony, even in Boston itself. On the other hand, the officials were inquisitorial and rapacious. Once they were armed with writs of assistance, no dwelling would be safe from entry by them. The struggle was at once begun, and in the council chamber of the old Town House was fought out before the eyes of the province.

The scene is pictured on the walls of the modern State House. Chief among the justices sat Thomas Hutchinson, a man of property and education, and an excellent historian, but the very type of office-holder, and by prejudice and interest a partisan of the king. Against him stood James Otis, the first of the Massachusetts orators of liberty, a man of good family, and, like so many of the patriot leaders, a lawyer. His speech was the first definite pronouncement for a new order of things.

"I am determined," he said, "to sacrifice estate, ease, health, applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of my country." He referred to the "kind of power, the exercise of which cost one king of England his head and another his throne." Such language, publicly spoken, was new. His argument was, to Englishmen, irrefutable. No precedent, no English statute, could stand against the Constitution. "This writ, if declared legal, totally annihilates" the privacy of the home. "Custom-house officers might enter our houses when they please, and we could not resist them. Upon bare suspicion they could exercise this wanton power.... Both reason and the Constitution are against this writ.... Every act against the Constitution is void."[11] The speech, continued for four hours, was a brilliant example of keen logic combined with burning eloquence.

This is Otis's great service to the cause of the Revolution. Fiery and magnetic, but moody and eventually unbalanced, he gave place in the public confidence to men perhaps of lesser talents, but with equal zeal and steadier purpose. Yet his service was invaluable. His speech expressed for his countrymen the indignation of the hour, and it pointed the way to younger men. To one at least of his hearers, John Adams, it was "like the oath of Hamilcar administered to Hannibal."[12] To many it was the final appeal that settled them in their patriotism. For history the scene has been called the beginning of the Revolution.

Yet it had no immediate results, for Hutchinson—and the service was forgotten by neither his friends nor his opponents—secured delay of judgment in the case until the English courts could uphold him against his wavering associates. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that the public indignation secured moderate measures on the part of the customs officials, since we hear of few complaints. And the affair had its influence on the public attitude toward the Stamp Act, five years later.

The Stamp Act was the first definite assertion of the right to tax America. In 1763 the Sugar Act had been reenacted, but its provisions, taxing only importations from foreign colonies, yielded little revenue. The king's treasury was already feeling the drains upon it, and a pack of eager office-seekers was clamoring to be let loose upon the revenues of the colonies. Together the king and his friends pushed through Parliament the legislation which was to secure their purposes. To meet any such danger as in the recent French and Indian wars, ten thousand soldiers were to be quartered on the colonies, which were to pay for their maintenance. Certain sops to public sentiment were given, in the shape of concessions, yet new restrictions were laid on foreign trade. And finally and most important, a stamp-tax, the easiest to collect, was laid on business and legal formalities of all kinds. After its passage no land title might be passed, no legal papers issued, no ship might clear from a home port, without a stamp affixed to the necessary documents. Not even inheritances might be transferred, nor marriages be legalized.

This was the first internal taxation laid by England on America. A word is necessary as to the meaning of the phrase in those days. An external tax, perhaps merely an export duty, was levied and paid in England; its effect was seen in higher prices in the colonies. Internal taxation would include all taxes actually paid in America on goods coming from England. The provisions of the Sugar Act were regarded as "trade restrictions," and not as intended to raise an English revenue.

There is perhaps no better place to discuss the justice of the Revolution than right here. Even to-day the illegality, the utter wrongfulness of the American position, is occasionally raised among us by those who see the great obligations to the mother country under which the colonies lay, and who recall the needless hardships suffered by the wretched Tories, the martyrs of a lost cause. Doubtless wrongs were inflicted in the course of the struggle, and the great expenditures of England were in large part unrequited. But it must be remembered that the world had not yet reached the point where the losers in a war were gently treated, and that no amount of financial obligation will ever compel to the acceptance of political servitude. By habit of mind and force of circumstances America had developed a political theory puzzlingly novel to the old world and as yet not thoroughly understood by the new. It was upon this unformulated theory that all future differences were to arise. It interfered in all affairs in which the question arose: Should the colonies be governed, and especially should they be taxed, without a voice in their own affairs?

No one in England doubted that Parliament had a right to tax America without its consent. Customs restrictions were long familiar. As to internal taxation, why, it was asked, should the colonies have a voice in Parliament? Birmingham and Manchester, great centres of population, were not represented, while that uninhabited heap of stones, Old Sarum, sent a member to the Commons. Resting on these abuses, even Pitt and Burke were content to argue that taxation of America was just. For them it was a question whether that right should be exercised.

With the best will in the world to be on good terms with the mother country, America could not agree in such reasoning. The case had nothing to do with obligations. As for these, the colonists knew that England would never have won against the French in Canada without their aid. But that was not the question. Should those who for a hundred and thirty-five years had paid no tax to England pay one now? Were the people who for seventy years had drawn a fine distinction between paying their governor of their own accord and paying him at the command of the king, and who in every year of royal governorship had made their contention plain—were they to be satisfied to pay taxes because Birmingham did?

Undoubtedly there were other causes for discontent. "To me," says Sabine, in the preface to his "American Loyalists," "the documentary history, the state papers of the period teach nothing more clearly than this, namely, that almost every matter brought into discussion was practical, and in some form or other related to LABOR, to some branch of COMMON INDUSTRY." He reminds us that twenty-nine laws limited industry in the colonies, and concludes that "the great object of the Revolution was to release LABOR from these restrictions." Undoubtedly these restrictive laws had their effect upon the temper of the people. Undoubtedly also there was much fear lest there should be established in the colonies a bureaucracy of major and minor officials, corruptly, as in England, winning fortunes for themselves. Yet the question of taxation, a matter of merely theoretical submission, which produced no hardship and would not impoverish the country, was the main cause of trouble. The two branches of the race had long unconsciously parted their ways, and the realization of it was upon them.

Upon the proposal of the Stamp Act the colonies did everything in their power to prevent the passage of the bill. They urged that internal taxation had never been levied before. Protests, arguments, and petitions were sent across the water, but in vain. The Commons fell back upon its custom "to receive no petition against a money bill," and would listen to nothing. "We have the power to tax them, and we will tax them."[13] And following this utterance of one of the ministry, the bill was passed.

It is interesting to note that no resistance to the tax was expected. Its operation was automatic; there was no hardship in its provisions; of course the colonists would yield. Even Franklin, who should have known his countrymen better, expected submission. "The sun is down," he wrote, but "we may still light candles. Frugality and industry will go a great way toward indemnifying us." His correspondent, Charles Thomson, had in this case the truer foresight, and predicted the works of darkness.[14]

Throughout the colonies there was not only sorrow, but anger. When even Hutchinson had protested against the Stamp Act, it can be seen how the Whigs would feel. Non-importation agreements were widely signed, and people accustomed to silks and laces prepared to go into homespun. But the act, passed in February, 1765, was not to go into effect until November. Before that date, much could be done.

What was done came from the lower as well as the upper classes. The people acted promptly. One colony after another sent crowds to those who had accepted, in advance, the positions of stamp-officers. One by one, under persuasion or intimidation, the officers resigned until none were left. In New York the governor fled to the military for protection, and from the parapet of the fort looked helplessly on while the people burnt before his eyes his own coach, containing images of himself and the devil. But before this happened, Boston, first of all the capitals to take a positive stand, began to draw upon itself the particular resentment of the king.

Early in August came to Boston the news of the nomination of its stamp-collector, Andrew Oliver, long prominent upon the Tory side. The lower class of the inhabitants, after a week of delay, stirred itself to action. On the 14th the image of Oliver was seen hanging on the bough of a large elm, then known as the Great Tree. Hutchinson ordered the image down, but as the sheriff did not act, Bernard summoned his council, and until evening fruitlessly endeavored to urge them to action. Then the populace, having themselves removed the image, came to the Town House, and, passing directly through it, shouted to the council, still sitting upstairs, "Liberty, property, and no stamps!" Proceeding with perfect order, the crowd next tore down the frame of a building which Oliver was suspected of raising to use as his office, and, carrying the beams to Fort Hill, burnt them and the image before Oliver's house.

Hutchinson, who never lacked personal courage, called on the militia colonel to summon his men and disperse the crowd, but the colonel replied that his drummers were in the mob. Hutchinson then went with the sheriff to order the crowd to disperse, but was himself forced to depart in order to escape violence. The next day Bernard, the governor, whose courage left him at the very thought of another such night, fled to Castle William, behind whose ancient walls he considered himself safe. Oliver hastily resigned his office, lest the mob should visit him again.

The people were not satisfied with the conduct of Hutchinson, who, although he had actually opposed the passage of the Stamp Act, was under suspicion of secretly abetting and profiting by it. After twelve days there was a second outbreak; the mob began by burning the records of the vice-admiralty court, went on to invade the house of the comptroller of customs, and finally, worked to the usual pitch of a mob's courage, attacked Hutchinson's house. With his family he escaped, but the mob broke into the handsome mansion, and sacked it thoroughly. His library, with priceless manuscripts concerning the history of the colony, was scattered in the mud of the street.

This was the most disgraceful event that happened in Boston during all the long period preceding the Revolution. It was due to popular feeling, wrongly directed; and to new working-men's organizations, not as yet understanding the task that was before them. These organizations, as yet almost formless, and never so important that records were kept, called themselves the Sons of Liberty, after a phrase used by Isaac Barre, in a speech in Parliament opposing the Stamp Act. The tree on which they had hung the image of Oliver was from this time called Liberty Tree.

The better class of Boston citizens at once, in a town meeting called the following morning, declared their "detestation of these violent proceedings," and promised to suppress them in future. We shall see that one more such outbreak, and one only, was made by a Boston mob. There is here suggested an unwritten, perhaps never to be written, chapter of the history of this time. By what means did the Boston leaders, Samuel Adams chief among them, manage to control the Boston workmen? However it was done, by what conferences and through what reasoning, it is safe to say that the loose organizations of the Sons of Liberty, and still another set of clubs, the caucuses which met in various parts of the town, were utilized to control the lower classes. We know the names of a few of the leaders of the workmen: Edes the printer, Crafts the painter, and, most noted of them all, Paul Revere the silversmith. These sturdy men, and others in different trades, were the means of transmitting to the artisans of Boston the thoughts and desires of the upper-class Whigs. The organization was looser than that of a political party of to-day, but as soon as it was completed, it produced a subordination, secrecy, and self-control which cannot be paralleled in modern times.

The opposition to the Stamp Act continued. More formidable than mobs were the actions of the town meetings and legislatures. Protests and declarations were solemnly drawn up; for the first time was heard the threat of disaffection. Representatives from nine provinces met in the Stamp Act Congress, and passed resolutions against the new taxation.

It was impossible for England to ignore the situation. Reluctantly—it was an act which the king never forgot nor forgave—more than a year after its passage, when it was proved that its enforcement was impossible, the Stamp Act was repealed.

This was the time for England to change her whole policy. Not Boston alone, but all America, had declared against American taxation. The principles of liberty had again and again been clearly pointed out. Further, there would have been no disgrace in admitting a mistake. The whole colonial question was new in human history, for Roman practice was inadmissible. "The best writers on public law," reasoned Otis, "contain nothing that is satisfactory on the natural rights of colonies.... Their researches are often but the history of ancient abuses."[15] The natural rights of man should have been allowed to rule, as in the course of time, with England's other colonies, they came to do.

But, for better or for worse, sides had been taken. Few thought of turning back. In England there were no breaks in the ranks of the king's supporters; in America the office-holding class, the "best families," the people of settled income and vested rights, were as a rule, selfishly or unselfishly, for the king. Already "mobocracy," "the faction," "sedition," were familiar terms among them. England was ready to take, and the American Tories were ready to applaud, the next step. And Boston was being marked down as the most obnoxious of the towns of America.[16]


[10] The adjectives are those of Massachusettensis, the ablest Tory pamphleteer, as quoted in Frothingham's "Siege," 33.

[11] "Memorial History of Boston," iii, 5.

[12] "Memorial History of Boston," iii, 7.

[13] Bancroft's "United States," v, 247.

[14] Fiske, "American Revolution," illustrated edition, i, 17.

[15] Bancroft's "United States," v, 203.

[16] The Castle, or Castle William, referred to in this chapter, was the old fort on Castle Island. It was never put to any other use than as a barracks and magazine.



Unfortunately, when the Stamp Act was repealed, the way had been left open for future trouble. The Rockingham ministry, the most liberal which could then be assembled, even in repealing the Stamp Act thought it incumbent upon them to assert, in the Declaratory Act, the right to tax America. The succeeding ministry, called together under the failing Pitt, was the means of reasserting the right. Pitt, too ill to support the labor of leading his party in the Commons, entered the House of Lords as Earl of Chatham, thus acknowledging the eclipse of fame and abilities which in the previous reign had astounded Europe. It was during one of his periods of illness, when he was unable to attend to public affairs, that a subordinate insubordinately reversed his public policy by proceeding once more to tax America.

Charles Townshend was Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was he who had urged the reenactment of the Sugar Act in 1763, and he now saw opportunity to put through a more radical policy. In violation of all implied pledges, disdaining restraint from his colleagues, this brilliant but unstable politician introduced into Parliament a new bill for raising an American revenue. "I am still,"[17] he declared, "a firm advocate of the Stamp Act.... I laugh at the absurd distinction between internal and external taxation.... It is a distinction without a difference; if we have a right to impose the one, we have a right to impose the other; the distinction is ridiculous in the sight of everybody, except the Americans."

"Everybody, except the Americans!" The phrase, from an important speech at a critical moment, marks the fact that a world of thought divided the two parts of the Empire more truly than did the Atlantic. But not as yet so evidently. It is only in unconscious acknowledgments such as these that we find the English admitting the new classification. In studying the years before and after this event we find the Americans often called Puritans and Oliverians, while the possible rise of a Cromwell among them is admitted. Yet the parallel, though unmistakably apt, and containing a serious warning, was never taken to heart, even in America.

Americans were very slow in approaching the conclusion that colonists had irrefragable rights. Caution and habit and pride in the name of Englishman kept them from it; the colonist, visiting England for the first time, still proudly said that he was going "home." There was no reason why this feeling should ever change, if only the spirit of compromise, the basis of the British Constitution, had been kept in mind by Parliament. But the times were wrong. Hesitate as the colonists might before the syllogism which lay ready for completion, its minor and major premises were already accepted. That they were Englishmen, and that Englishmen had inalienable rights, were articles of faith among them. The conclusion would be drawn as soon as they were forced to it. And Townshend was preparing to force them.

Townshend proposed small duties on lead, paints, glass, and paper. Besides this, he withdrew the previous export duty, one shilling per pound, on tea taken from England to America, and instead of this he laid an import duty of threepence per pound. This was ingeniously new, being internal taxation in a form different from that of the Stamp Act. At the same time was abandoned the ancient contention that customs duties were but trade regulations. The new taxes were obviously to raise an English revenue. For the execution of the new laws provision was made in each colony for collectors to be paid directly by the king, but indirectly by the colonies. The head of these collectors was a board of Commissioners of the Customs, stationed at Boston. It will be seen that thus were begun new irritations for the colonies, in the shape of duties for the benefit of England, and of a corps of officials whose dependence on the crown made sure that they would be subservient tools.

While this was done, no change was made in the plan to maintain in America an army at colonial expense. Indeed, New York was punished for refusing to supply to the troops quartered in the city supplies that had been illegally demanded. Its assembly was not allowed to proceed with public business until the supplies should be voted. Thus every other colony was notified what to expect.

The Revenue Acts were passed in July, 1767. Upon receiving the news the colonies expressed to each other their discontent. Concerning the Customs Commissioners Boston felt the greatest uneasiness. "We shall now," wrote Andrew Eliot, "be obliged to maintain in luxury sycophants, court parasites, and hungry dependents." The strongest expression upon the general situation was in Dickinson's "Farmer's Letters."[18] "This," said he, "is an INNOVATION, and a most dangerous innovation. We being obliged to take commodities from Great Britain, special duties upon their exportation to us are as much taxes as those imposed by the Stamp Act. Great Britain claims and exercises the right to prohibit manufactures in America. Once admit that she may lay duties upon her exportations to us, for the purpose of levying money on us only, she will then have nothing to do but to lay those duties on the articles which she prohibits us to manufacture, and the tragedy of American liberty is finished."

There was but one way to meet the situation. In October the town of Boston resolved, through its town meeting, to import none of the dutiable articles. The example was followed by other towns until all the colonies had entered, unofficially, into a non-importation agreement. The question arose, What further should be done? Otis was beginning his mental decline. It was now that Samuel Adams, or Sam Adams, as Boston better loves to call him, came into the leadership which he ever after exercised.

He was a man of plain Boston ancestry, whose father had interested himself in public affairs, and who, like his son, was of doubtful business ability. Sam Adams's interests were evident from his boyhood, and when in 1743 he took his degree of Master of Arts at Harvard, he presented a thesis on the subject: "Whether it be Lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved." Although he inherited a little property from his father, and although from the year 1753 he served constantly in public offices, up to the year 1764 he had scarcely been a success. His patrimony had largely disappeared; further, as tax-collector he stood, with his associates, indebted to the town for nearly ten thousand pounds. The reason for this is not clear; the fact has been used to his disadvantage by Tory historians, the first of them being Hutchinson, who calls the situation a "defalcation." But in order to feel sure that the state of affairs was justified by circumstances, we need only to consider that in the same year Adams was chosen by the town on the committee to "instruct" its representatives, and a year later was himself made a legislator. From that time on, his influence in Boston and Massachusetts politics steadily grew.

His political sentiments were never in doubt. In his "instructions" of 1764 are found the words: "If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal representative where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves?"[19] Throughout the Stamp Act agitation he was active in opposing the new measures. He was found to be ready with his tongue, but especially so with his pen. For this reason he was constantly employed by the town and the Assembly to draft their resolutions, and some of the most momentous documents of the period remain to us in his handwriting. When at last, at the beginning of 1768, some one was needed to express the opinion of Massachusetts upon the Townshend Acts, Samuel Adams was naturally looked to as the man for the work.

He drafted papers which were, one after the other, adopted by the Massachusetts Assembly. The first was a letter of remonstrance, addressed to the colony's agent in London, and intended to be made public. It protested, in words seven times revised by the Assembly, against the proposed measures. Similar letters were sent to members of the ministry and leaders of English opinion. Another letter was addressed to the king. Of the success of this, Adams apparently had little hope, for when his daughter remarked that the paper might be touched by the royal hand, he replied, "More likely it will be spurned by the royal foot." The final one of these state papers was a circular letter addressed to "each House of Representatives or Burgesses on the continent." This expressed the opinion of Massachusetts upon the new laws, and invited discussion. That nothing in this should be considered underhanded, a copy of the circular letter was sent to England.

It is significant that at the same time the new revenue commission sent a secret letter to England, protesting against New England town meetings, "in which the lowest mechanics discussed the most important points of government with the utmost freedom,"[20] and asking for troops.

This begins the series of misrepresentations and complaints which, constantly sent secretly to England, became a leading cause of trouble. The working of the old colonial system is here seen in its perfection. Believing in the right to tax and punish, the Ministry appointed officers of the same belief. These men, finding themselves in hot water in Boston, were annoyed and perhaps truly alarmed, and constantly urged harsher measures and the sending of troops. The ministry, listening to its own supporters, and disbelieving the assertions of the American Whigs, more and more steadily inclined toward severity.

Perhaps no falser idea was created than that Boston was riotous. Says Fiske: "Of all the misconceptions of America by England which brought about the American Revolution, perhaps this notion of the turbulence of Boston was the most ludicrous." One of the most serious also. The chief cause was in the timorousness of Bernard, the governor. On the occasion of the anniversary of the repeal of the Stamp Act, when, as Hutchinson said, "We had only such a mob as we have long been used to on the Fifth of November," Bernard wrote that there was "a disposition to the utmost disorder." As a crowd reached his house, "There was so terrible a yell it was apprehended they were breaking in. It was not so; however, it caused the same terror as if it had been so." That such a letter should have any effect on home opinion is, as Fiske says, ludicrous. Yet the mischief caused by these reports is incalculable. "It is the bare truth," says Trevelyan, "that his own Governors and Lieutenant-Governors wrote King George out of America."[21]

Another little series of incidents at this time shows the official disposition to magnify reports of trouble. For some weeks the ship of war Romney had lain in the harbor, summoned by the commissioners of customs. That the ship should be summoned was in itself an offence to the town; but the conduct of the captain, in impressing seamen in the streets of Boston, was worse. Bad blood arose between the ship's crew and the longshoremen; one of the impressed men was rescued, but the captain angrily refused to accept a substitute for another. Trouble was brought to a head by the seizure, on the order of the commissioners of customs, of John Hancock's sloop, the Liberty, on alleged violation of regulations. Irritated by the seizure, and by the fact that the sloop was moored by the side of the Romney, a crowd threatened the customs house officers, broke the comptroller's windows, and, taking a boat belonging to the collector, after parading with it through the streets, burnt it on the Common.

This was the second disturbance in Boston which can be called a riot. But it was of small size and short duration; the influence of the Whig leaders, working through secret channels, quieted the mob, and there was no further trouble. Nevertheless, four of the commissioners of the customs seized the occasion to flee to the Romney, and to request of the governor protection in the Castle, declaring that they dared not return. But the remaining commissioner remained undisturbed on shore, and a committee of the council, examining into the matter, found that the affair had been only "a small disturbance." A committee from the Boston town meeting, going in eleven chaises to Bernard at his country seat, secured from him a promise to stop impressments, and a statement of his desire for conciliation. Nevertheless Bernard, Hutchinson, and the various officers of the customs, used the incident in their letters home to urge that troops were needed in Boston.

This was but an interlude, though an instructive one, in the main course of events. Massachusetts had protested against the new Acts. The next issue arose when the Assembly was directed, by the new colonial secretary, Lord Hillsborough, to rescind its Remonstrance and Circular Letter. The debate on the question was long and important; the demand was refused by a vote of seventeen to ninety-two. The curious can still see, in the Old State House, the punch-bowl that Paul Revere was commissioned to make for the "Immortal Ninety-two;" and there still exist copies of Revere's caricature of the Rescinders, with Timothy Ruggles at their head, being urged by devils into the mouth of hell. These are indications of the feelings of the times. The immediate result was that in June, 1768, Bernard dissolved the house, and Massachusetts was "left without a legislature." Upon the news reaching England, it was at last resolved to send troops to Boston. The crisis in Massachusetts was now serious. Against the governor and the expected troops stood only the council, with slight powers. Some machinery must be devised to meet the emergency, and the solution of the difficulty was found by Samuel Adams. His mind first leaped to the ultimate remedy for all troubles, and then found the way out of the present difficulty.

The ultimate solution was independence. Though in moments of despondency and exasperation the word had been used by both parties, until now no one had considered independence possible except Samuel Adams. From this period he worked for it, in secret preparing men's minds for the grand change. According to a Tory accusation made in a later year, Adams "confessed that the independence of the colonies had been the great object of his life; that whenever he met a youth of parts he had endeavored to instil such notions into his mind, and had neglected no opportunity, either in public or in private, of preparing the way for independence."[22]

Another Tory source, a deposition gathered when the Tories were preparing an accusation against Adams, shows the agitator at work. During the affair of the sloop Liberty, "the informant observed several parties of men gathered in the street at the south end of the town of Boston, in the forenoon of the day. The informant went up to one of the parties, and Mr. Samuel Adams, then one of the representatives of Boston, happened to join the same party near about the same time, trembling and in great agitation.... The informant heard the said Samuel Adams then say to the same party, 'If you are men, behave like men. Let us take up arms immediately, and be free, and seize all the king's officers. We shall have thirty thousand freemen to join us from the country.'"

The statement of the deposition is crude and overdone, yet there can be no doubt that from this time Adams did work for the one great end. At first he was alone, yet he recognized the temper of the continent, and saw the way that the political sentiments of the country were tending. The methods which he followed were not always open; for never did he avow his true sentiments, while often protesting, on behalf of the town or the province, loyalty to the crown. Doubtless he did train the young men up as he saw them inclined. In one case we know that he failed. "Samuel Adams used to tell me," said John Coffin, a Boston Tory, "'Coffin, you must not leave us; we shall have warm work, and want you.'"[23] But in other cases Adams succeeded: one by one John Hancock, Josiah Quincy, Jr., John Adams, and Joseph Warren were by him brought into prominence. And at the same time he began to accustom men's minds to new methods of political activity.

This Adams did in the present difficulty, when, in default of the Assembly, he yet needed an expression of the opinion of the province. Through his means was called a convention of the towns of Massachusetts, which met in Faneuil Hall, on the 22d of September, 1768.

The convention was self-restrained. It called upon the governor to convene the Assembly, and approved all the acts which had caused the Assembly's dismissal; it resolved to preserve order, and quietly dissolved itself. "I doubt," said the British Attorney-General, "whether they have committed an overt act of treason, but I am sure they have come within a hair's breadth of it."

Immediately afterwards arrived the ships with troops. These were landed with much parade, to find a peaceful town, yet one which from the first was able to annoy them. Demand was made for quarters for the soldiers; the Selectmen and Council replied by referring to the law which forbade such a requisition until the barracks at Castle William should be filled. By neither subtlety nor threats could the town be induced to yield; the troops camped on the Common until, at great expense, the crown officials were forced to hire quarters. It was but the beginning of the discomfort of the troops, openly scorned in a town where three-quarters of the people were against them. Where few women except their own camp-followers would have to do with the soldiers, where the men despised them and the boys jeered, where "lobster-back" was the mildest term that was flung at them, there was no satisfaction in wearing the king's uniform.

Eighteen months of this life wore upon the soldiers. The townsfolk became adepts at subtle irritations, against which there was not even the solace of interesting occupation; for except for daily drill there was nothing to do. In time the more violent among the troops were ripe for any affray; while the lower classes among the inhabitants, stanch Whigs and sober livers, were sick of the noisy ribaldry which for so long had made unpleasant the streets of the town. Out of these conditions grew what has been called the Boston Massacre.

The best contemporary, and in fact the best general authority for this event is the "Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston." This was published by the town for circulation in England, and is still extant in Doggett's reprint of 1849, and in Kidder's of 1870. In a report of a special committee the town rehearses both the events of the Massacre and the proceedings which followed it. Seventy-two pages of depositions are appended to the report of the committee: no other single event of those days is made so vivid to us.

The Massacre was preceded by minor disturbances. On the second of March, 1770, insults having passed between a soldier and a ropemaker, the former came to the ropewalk, "and looking into one of the windows said, by God I'll have satisfaction! ... and at last said he was not afraid of any one in the ropewalks. I"—thus deposes Nicholas Feriter, of lawful age, "stept out of the window and speedily knocked up his heels. On falling, his coat flew open, and a naked sword appeared, which one John Willson, following me out, took from him, and brought into the ropewalks." The soldier returned a second and a third time, each time with more men from his regiment. At the last they were "headed by a tall negro drummer, with a cutlass chained to his body, with which, at first rencounter," says valiant Nicholas, "I received a cut on the head, but being immediately supported by nine or ten more of the ropemakers, armed with their wouldring sticks, we again beat them off."

For three days there was, among the two regiments stationed in the town, anger which the inhabitants endeavored to allay by the discharge of the ropemaker who gave the original insult, and by agreements made with the commanding officer, Colonel Dalrymple. But, as afterwards appeared, there were warnings of further trouble. Cautions were given to friends of the soldiers not to go on the streets at night. The soldiers and their women could not refrain from dark hints of violence to come. It is even possible that violence was concerted. On the night of the fifth a number of soldiers assembled in Atkinson Street. "They stood very still until the guns were fired in King Street, then they clapped their hands and gave a cheer, saying, 'This is all that we want'; they then ran to their barracks and came out again in a few minutes, all with their arms, and ran toward King Street." "I never," so runs other testimony, "saw men or dogs so greedy for their prey as these soldiers seemed to be."

But the affray was of small proportions, and soon over. The actual outbreak originated in a quarrel between a barber's boy and a sentry, stationed in King Street below the east end of the Town House.[24] Boys and men gathered, the sentry called out the guard, fire-bells were rung, and the crowd increased. The captain of the guard was not the man for the emergency. Said Henry Knox, afterward general and Secretary of War, "I took Captain Preston by the coat and told him for God's sake to take his men back again, for if they fired his life must answer for the consequence; he replied he was sensible of it, or knew what he was about, or words to that purpose; and seemed in great haste and much agitated." The gathering still increased, there was crowding and jostling, snowballs and possibly sticks were thrown; the soldiers grew angry and the officer uncertain what to do. "The soldiers," testified John Hickling, "assumed different postures, shoving their bayonets frequently at the people, one in particular pushing against my side swore he would run me through; I laid hold of his bayonet and told him that nobody was going to meddle with them. Not more than ten seconds after this I saw something white, resembling a piece of snow or ice, fall among the soldiers, which knocked the end of a firelock to the ground. At that instant the word 'Fire!' was given, but by whom I know not; but concluded it did not come from the officer aforesaid, as I was within a yard of him and must have heard him had he spoken it, but am satisfied said Preston did not forbid them to fire; I instantly leaped within the soldier's bayonet as I heard him cock his gun, which that moment went off.... I, thinking there was nothing but powder fired, stood still, till ... I saw another gun fired, and the man since called Attucks, fall. I then withdrew about two or three yards.... During this the rest of the guns were fired, one after another, when I saw two more fall.... I further declare that I heard no other affront given them than the huzzaing and whistling of boys in the street."

After the firing, other soldiers were summoned to the spot, and more townspeople appeared. The soldiers, says the official narrative, "were drawn up between the State House and main guard, their lines extended across the street and facing down King Street, where the town people were assembled. The first line kneeled, and the whole of the first platoon presented their guns ready to fire, as soon as the word should be given.... For some time the appearance of things were dismal. The soldiers outrageous on the one hand, and the inhabitants justly incensed against them on the other: both parties seemed disposed to come to action."

Had the affair gone further, so that the soldiers fired again, or the townspeople stormed the barracks, then the affray would have resembled the riots not uncommon in Europe at that time, and known even in England. In such a case the turbulence of Boston might have been proved. But the good town was later able to claim that up to the actual breaking out of hostilities not one soldier or Tory had been harmed in Massachusetts. In the present case nothing further happened. The stubborn people stood their ground, but the eager troops were restrained and led away. The punishment of the offenders took place according to law, with John Adams and Josiah Quincy, Jr., leaders of the Whigs, as successful defenders of the captain.

The important consequences were political. Though the people dispersed that night, they assembled on the morrow in a crowded town meeting, where Samuel Adams guided the actions of the assembly. Adjourning from Faneuil Hall to the Old South, which itself could not accommodate them all, the throng passed the very spot of the Massacre and under the windows of the State House, where the lieutenant-governor viewed them. This man was Hutchinson, acting governor in the absence of Bernard, and at last about to arrive at the goal of colonial ambition.

Thomas Hutchinson has been too much condemned, and of late years almost too much commended. He had spent thirty years in the service of the colony, holding more offices, and more at the same time, than any man of his generation. Now he was unpopular and misjudged, yet he was a man for his day and party honest and patriotic; his end, in exile in England, was one of the tragedies of American loyalty. But though a braver man than Bernard and more public-spirited, his methods were equally underhanded, and he fatally mistook the capacity of his countrymen to govern themselves. A man who could wish for less freedom of speech in England was not the man to sympathize with the spirit of Americans.

He now, backed by a few councillors and officials, was to face Sam Adams and the Boston town meeting. With a committee from the meeting, Adams came to the State House to demand the withdrawal of the troops to the Castle. Hutchinson answered that he would withdraw one regiment, but had not the power to remove both. Retiring at the head of his committee, Adams passed through a lane of people on his way to the Old South. "Both regiments or none!" he said right and left as he passed, and every one took up the word. "Both regiments or none!" cried the meeting. Voting his report unsatisfactory, it sent him back to the governor to repeat his demand.

"Now for the picture," wrote John Adams many years after. "The theatre and the scenery are the same with those at the discussion of the writs of assistance. The same glorious portraits of King Charles the Second, and King James the Second, to which might be added, and should be added, little miserable likenesses of Governor Winthrop, Governor Bradstreet, Governor Endicott, and Governor Belcher, hung up in obscure corners of the room. Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson, commander-in-chief in the absence of the governor, must be placed at the head of the council-table. Lieutenant-Colonel Dalrymple, commander of his majesty's military forces, taking rank of all his majesty's councillors, must be seated by the side of the lieutenant-governor and commander-in-chief of the Province. Eight-and-twenty councillors must be painted, all seated at the council-board. Let me see,—what costume? What was the fashion of that day in the month of March? Large white wigs, English scarlet-cloth coats, some of them with gold-laced hats; not on their heads indeed in so august a presence, but on the table before them or under the table beneath them. Before these illustrious persons appeared SAMUEL ADAMS, a member of the House of Representatives and their clerk, now at the head of the committee of the great assembly at the Old South Church."[25]

It is this moment that Copley chose to represent Adams. Facing the governor, the officers, and the councillors, Adams stood in his simple "wine-colored suit," and appealed to the charter and the laws. "If you have power to remove one regiment, you have power to remove both. It is at your peril if you do not. The meeting is composed of three thousand people. They are become very impatient. A thousand men are already arrived from the neighborhood, and the country is in general motion. Night is approaching; an immediate answer is expected."[26]

Hutchinson was a man learned in the history of the province and the people, and the occasion had impressed him already. As the meeting had passed under his windows on the way to the Old South, a friend at his side had remarked that this was not the kind of men that had sacked his house. He had noted the resolute countenances of the best men of the town, and had—to use his own words—judged their spirit to be as strong, and their resolve as high, as those of the men who had imprisoned Andros. Adams, narrowly watching him now, marked the tumult in Hutchinson's mind.

"I observed his knees to tremble," said Adams afterward; "I saw his face grow pale; and I enjoyed the sight."[27] For Hutchinson, poorly supported and irresolute, the strain was too great. He temporized and parleyed, but he thought again of Andros, and gave way. It was a complete triumph for the town. The troops, until their removal to the Castle could be effected, were virtually imprisoned in their barracks by a patrol of citizens. From that time they bore the name of the "Sam Adams regiments."


[17] Bancroft, vi, 48.

[18] Farmer's Letters, quoted in Bancroft, vi, 105.

[19] Hosmer, "Life of Samuel Adams," 48.

[20] Bancroft's "United States," vi, 128.

[21] "American Revolution," Part 1, 43.

[22] Hosmer's "Life of Adams."

[23] Sabine's "Loyalists."

[24] King Street is now State Street, and the Town House is the Old State House.

[25] Hosmer's "Samuel Adams," 172.

[26] Bancroft, vi, 344.

[27] Bancroft, vi, 345.



Step by step the mother country and its colonies were advancing to a rupture. The first step was taken at the test concerning the writs of assistance, the second at the passage of the Stamp Act and its repeal, the third resulted in the Massacre and the withdrawal of the troops from Boston. Each time the colonies gained the practical advantages which they sought; each time the king's party, while yielding, became more exasperated, and presently tested the strength of the colonies once more; and each time it was Boston that stood as the head and front of opposition. The town was marked for martyrdom.

In the case of the Townshend Acts, the victory of the colonists was temporarily complete. The movement had come to a head at Boston in an actual outbreak, the Massacre, which obscured the greater issues; nevertheless the issues were won. America would not submit to the new revenue laws. Very calmly it had avoided them by refusing to import from England. A thorough test of nearly two years showed that from north to south the colonies were almost a unit in rejecting English and foreign goods, and in relying on home manufactures. From importations of more than a million and a quarter pounds, two-thirds fell clean away,[28] and the merchants of England felt the pinch. There was but one thing to do, and England grudgingly did it. The withdrawal of the troops from Boston was acquiesced in, and the revenue acts, the cause of all the trouble, were repealed, except for a duty still maintained upon tea.

The response was such that England was relieved. New York began to import those articles which had been made free of duty. The non-importation agreement was broken, as the colonies perceived. "You had better send us your old liberty pole," wrote Philadelphia scornfully to New York, "since you clearly have no further use for it."[29] Whigs and Tories both saw that, the agreement thus broken, other colonies would follow the example of New York.

The advantage was now clearly with the king, and he endeavored to make the most of it, not by abiding in peace, but by taking a further step. He ordered that colonial judges should in future be paid from the English treasury. No one in the colonies could fail to see that the blow was aimed directly at the independence of the judiciary.

Massachusetts was alarmed. Boston sent resolutions to the governor, but Hutchinson, now at last in the chair, refused to listen to the town meeting. In this moment of indignation, Samuel Adams conceived a scheme which was the longest step yet taken toward independence.

This was the idea of Committees of Correspondence, to be permanently maintained by each town and even by each colony. The idea of such committees was not novel. It had been suggested years before by Jonathan Mayhew, and had more than once been used in emergencies. But permanent committees, watching affairs and at any time ready to act, were new. Naturally composed of the best men in each town, they would at all times be ready to speak, and to speak vigorously. The plan, when perfected, eventually enabled the colonies to act as a unit. From the first it gave strength to the Americans; in the present instance it spread the news of the king's action and roused indignation, and before long it brought about an act which startled the English-speaking world.

This was the Boston Tea-Party. The king had a hand in making the fire hot. He had been vexed by his unsuccessful tariff, and was now especially irritated that his concessions had brought about no result in one important particular.

Until the present every shipmaster had been a smuggler, and all the Whigs dealt in smuggled goods. This was according to old English practice, but as a matter of fact illicit trade was more decorous in America than in England. Whereas in Cornwall the forces of the smugglers were so strong that they chased the revenue cutters into harbors and landed their goods by bright moonlight, in America the appearances of legality were gravely preserved.

Nevertheless the result was the same, and in one quarter was actually serious. The recent tariff had brought to the royal treasury scarcely three hundred pounds from tea. The situation was no better now that the tea-duty was the only one remaining. So completely did America, while still drinking tea in quantity, avoid the duly imported article, that the revenue of the East India Company fell off alarmingly. On pathetic representations of the financial state of the company, the king gave permission, through a subservient Parliament, for the company to export tea to America free even of the English duty. The company had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds since the Townshend Acts went in force; now by favorable terms it was to be enabled to undersell in the colonial market even the smuggled teas. Taking advantage of this new ruling, tea was promptly shipped, in the autumn of 1773, to different consignees in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

It was confidently expected that the colonies would buy the tea. No one in the government supposed that the Americans would be blind to their own interests. This much, indeed, was admitted by the leaders among the Whigs, that once the tea was on sale Yankee principle might be sorely tempted by Yankee thrift. Indignant at the insidious temptation, determined that no such test should be made, and resenting the establishment of a practical monopoly throughout the colonies, the leaders resolved that the tea should not be landed.

It is an odd fortune that connected the Chinese herb so closely with the struggle of principle in America. To this day, while the issues are obscured in the mind of the average American, he remembers the tax on tea, and that his ancestors would not pay it. Picturesque tales of ladies' associations depriving themselves of their favorite beverage, of men tarring and feathering unpopular tradesmen, have survived the hundred and thirty odd years which have passed since then; and the impression is general that the colonists would not pay a tax which bore heavy on them. But it will be noticed by those who have attentively read this account that the colonists were refusing to pay less, in order that they might have the satisfaction of paying more. They balked, not at the amount of the tax, but at its principle.

In the case of the tea-ships the duty of action fell upon Boston. Charleston and Philadelphia had taken a positive stand resolving not to receive the tea; but the ships were due at Boston first. The eyes of the continent were upon this one town. Boston made ready to act, yet of the preparations we know nothing. While the story as it is told is interesting enough, there is no record of the secret meetings in which the events were prepared. Hints are dropped, and it is asserted that within the Green Dragon tavern, a favorite meeting-place of the Whigs, were finally decided the means by which the workmen of the town should carry out the plans of the leaders. But of these meetings nothing is positively known; all we can say with certainty is that the plans worked perfectly, and that Sam Adams must have had a hand in their making.

The Sons of Liberty took the first step toward forcing the consignees of the tea to resign. "Handbills are stuck up," writes John Andrews, "calling upon Friends! Citizens! and Countrymen!" To Liberty Tree the "freemen of Boston and the neighboring towns" were invited, by placard and advertisement, "to hear the persons, to whom the tea shipped by the East India Company is consigned, make a public resignation of their office as consignees, upon oath."[30]

But the consignees did not come, though the freemen did. The townspeople, forming themselves into a "meeting," sent a committee to the consignees, demanding that they refuse to receive the tea. But the consignees believed themselves safe. They were merchants of family and property, the governor's sons were among them, and it was rumored that Hutchinson had a pecuniary interest in the success of the venture. They refused to give the pledge.

The official town meeting now took up the matter. Before the tea arrived, and again after the appearance of the first ship, the town called upon the consignees to resign. Each time the consignees refused. The second town meeting, after thus acting in vain, dissolved without the customary expression of opinion. Hutchinson himself records that "this sudden dissolution struck more terror into the consignees than the most minatory resolves." From that moment the matter was in the hands of the Boston Committee of Correspondence.

By means of the committee, at whose head was Adams, communication was held with the towns throughout Massachusetts. The province was greatly excited, and repeated demands for resignation were made upon the consignees, but they clung to their offices and the hope of profit. Delays were skilfully secured, and the first ship was entered at the customs, after which according to law it must within twenty days either clear for England or land its cargo. The governor was resolved not to grant a clearance, and rejoiced over his opponents. "They find themselves," he said, "in invincible difficulties."

But everything was prepared. To the last minute of the twenty days the Whigs were patient. Petition after petition, appeal after appeal, went to the governor or the consignees. There was no success. On the last day, the 16th of December, 1773, all three of the tea-ships were at Griffin's Wharf, watched by the patriots. A town meeting, the largest in the history of Boston, crowded the Old South, and again resolved that the tea should not be landed. "Who knows," asked John Rowe, "how tea will mingle with salt water?" The remark was greeted with cheers, yet one more legal step might be taken, and the meeting, sending Rotch, the master of the first tea-ship, to the governor at Milton to ask for a clearance, patiently waited while he should traverse the fifteen miles of his journey. During the hours of his absence there was no disturbance; when he returned, the daylight had gone, and the Old South was lighted with candles. Seven thousand people were silent to hear the report. It was brief, and its meaning was clear: the governor had refused; the last legal step had been taken. Then Samuel Adams rose.

"This meeting," he declared, "can do nothing more to save the country."

It was the expected signal. Immediately there was a shout from the porch, and the warwhoop sounded out of doors. The meeting poured out of doors and followed some fifty men in the garb of Indians, who suddenly appeared in the street. They hurried to Griffin's Wharf. There they posted guards, took possession of the tea-ships, and hoisting the chests from the holds, knocked them open and emptied the tea into the water. Under the moon the great crowd watched in silence, there was no interference from the troops or the war-ships, and in three hours the last of the tea was overboard. Nothing remained except what had sifted into the shoes of some of the "Indians," to be preserved as mementoes of the day.

"They say," wrote John Andrews dryly two days later, "that the actors were Indians from Narragansett. Whether they were or not, to a transient observer they appear'd as such, being cloath'd in Blankets with the heads muffled, and copper color'd countenances, being each arm'd with a hatchet or axe, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves. Not the least insult was offer'd to any person, save one Captain Conner, a letter of horses in this place, not many years since remov'd from dear Ireland, who had ript up the lining of his coat and waistcoat under the arms, and watching his opportunity had nearly fill'd 'em with tea, but being detected, was handled pretty roughly. They not only stripp'd him of his cloaths, but gave him a coat of mud, with a severe bruising into the bargain; and nothing but their utter aversion to make any disturbance prevented his being tar'd and feather'd."

Such was the Boston Tea-Party, "the boldest stroke," said Hutchinson, "that had yet been struck in America." Much has been written about it. It has been minimized into a riot and magnified into a deed of glory. As a matter of fact, it was neither the one nor the other, yet if either it was nearer the latter. Carried out by Boston mechanics, but doubtless directed by Boston leaders, it was a cool and deliberate law-breaking, the penalty for which, could the offenders but have been discovered, would have been severe. But none of the actors in the affair were betrayed at the time, though hundreds in the town must have had positive knowledge of their identity. Names, like those of the burners of the Gaspee eighteen months before, were not given out until after the Revolution, and even to-day the list of them is not complete.

The project of the king and the East India Company was a failure. In one way or other the other three seaports either destroyed or sent back their tea. But Boston was the first and most violent offender. It was on her that punishment was to descend.

The news of the Tea-Party came to England at a time when king and Parliament were less amiably disposed than usual toward Massachusetts. Some weeks before had happened the affair of the Hutchinson letters. Benjamin Franklin, then Postmaster-General of England, and agent for Massachusetts, had secured possession of certain letters written by Governor Hutchinson and by others in office in the colony. These letters proved beyond doubt that the Massachusetts officials had been secretly urging upon the home government repressive measures against the colony. This was but what Bernard had done, and what had been suspected of his successor; yet the actual proof was too much for Franklin. He sent the letters, under pledge of secrecy, home to be read by the leaders among the Massachusetts Whigs. But the pledge of secrecy could not be kept. The letters were read in the Assembly and then published. "He had written," says Bancroft of Hutchinson, "against every part of the Constitution, the elective character of the Council, the annual choice of the Assembly, the New England organization of the towns; had advised and solicited the total dependence of the judiciary on the Crown, had hinted at making the experiment of declaring Martial Law, and of abrogating English liberty; had advised to the restraint of the commerce of Boston and the exclusion of the Province from the fisheries."[31] Hutchinson's defence was that he "had never wrote any public or private letter that tends to subvert the Constitution." But he was thinking of the Constitution rather than the Charter. The province was thoroughly roused, and sent to England a firm yet respectful petition demanding his dismissal.

But Hutchinson had been serving the king as the king wished to be served. The wrath of the government fell upon Franklin. In a crowded meeting of the Privy Council, with scant respect for the forms of law, Franklin was subjected to elaborate abuse. There were none to defend him who could gain a respectful hearing; he stood immovable under the tongue-lashing of the Solicitor-General, and made no reply. "I have never," he said afterwards, "been so sensible of the power of a good conscience, for if I had not considered the thing for which I have been so much insulted, as one of the best actions of my life, and what I should certainly do again in the same circumstances, I could not have supported it."[32] The suit which he wore that day he put carefully away, and did not wear it again until as Commissioner for the United States he signed in Paris the treaty of alliance with France.

Franklin was deprived of his office under the crown, and the king who directed the punishment, the council who condemned him, and the Parliament which cheered them both on, were not yet satisfied. When the news of the Tea-Party came, they felt that their chance had come to strike at the real culprit. The king consulted General Gage, who was fresh from Boston, and listened eagerly to his fatally mistaken account of the situation. "He says," wrote the king to Lord North, "'They will be lions while we are lambs; but if we take the resolute part they will undoubtedly prove very meek.' Four regiments sent to Boston will, he thinks, be sufficient to prevent any disturbance."[33] On such a basis the king and his prime minister planned the laws which should punish the town of Boston.

The first act was the Boston Port Bill. It closed the port to all commerce until the East India Company should be paid for its tea, and the king satisfied that the town was repentant. Nothing except food and fuel was to be brought to the town in boats; in fact, as Lord North promised the Commons, Boston was to be removed seventeen miles from the ocean. For Salem was made the port of entry, and there the governor and the collector, the surveyor and the comptroller, and all underlings were to go. It was planned to station war-ships in Boston Harbor to enforce the law.

The second law was the "Bill for the better Regulating the Government of the Massachusetts Bay," generally called the Regulating Act. This virtually swept away the charter of Massachusetts. It provided first that the Council was to be appointed by the king, and next that without the consent of the Council the governor might appoint or remove all officers of justice, from judges to constables. By the provisions of the law even the jury lists could be controlled by appointive officers. Finally town meetings were made illegal throughout the province, except for the election of town officers, and other necessary local business.

The third proposal of the government was a bill "for the Impartial Administration of Justice," in proposing which "it was observed that Lord North trembled and faultered at every word of his motion." It provided that magistrates, officers, or soldiers might be tried for "murder, or any other capital offence," in Great Britain.

The fourth act made provision for quartering troops in Boston.

The bills went through Parliament without much opposition. Says Trevelyan, "Even after the lapse of a century and a quarter the debates are not pleasant reading for an Englishman."[34] It was assumed that the punishment was just, and that not only Boston but also the whole continent would take it meekly. A few voices were raised in protest, but as a rule even the Opposition was silent. One by one the bills became law. One more step was taken toward separation.


[28] Trevelyan, "American Revolution," Part I, 104.

[29] "A Card from the Inhabitants of Philadelphia," Bancroft, vi, 366.

[30] "Memorial History of Boston," iii, 45.

[31] Bancroft, vi, 461, 462.

[32] Bancroft, vi, 498.

[33] Avery, "History of the United States," v, 190.

[34] "American Revolution," Part I, 181.



Early in May of 1774 Hutchinson, ostensibly called to England to advise the king, gave up his offices in Massachusetts. His exile was approaching. Never again was he to see the fair hill of Milton, nor to look from its top upon the town and harbor that he loved. The Whigs exulted over the fall of "the damn'd arch traitor;" yet surely, though as an official he failed in his task, and as a patriot misread the temper and the capacity of his countrymen, he commands our pity. Amid the booming of the cannon which welcomed his successor he prepared for his departure. Except for his pathetic letters and journals he made no further mark upon his times or ours. His Milton estate remains, but his house is gone, and the very street that he lived on bears the name of Adams, his most persistent enemy.

Hutchinson's successor was Thomas Gage, the first governor sent to Boston with an army at his back. He was well known in the colonies, for he had fought well at Braddock's defeat, had married an American wife, and was courteous and affable. It remained to be seen whether one of his hesitating temperament could meet the situation. With four regiments he had undertaken to pacify Massachusetts. He had his four regiments and more, yet he must occasionally have wondered why he found no more signs of weakness in the ranks of his opponents.

At this time there were in Boston four chief classes of Whigs. The first were the ministers, and these for many years had been American to the core. As the first settlers of Massachusetts, whether Puritan or Pilgrim, had fled away from prelacy, so their spiritual descendants still hated the name of bishop. In fact, episcopacy in New England was still weak, and its greater part was concentrated in Boston itself. Some few of its ministers preached submission; but they either had to content themselves with Tory congregations, or lost their pulpits, or had them boarded up against them. The wiser part was taken by most in avoiding politics. The sole Congregational minister who supported the king was Mather Byles, famed for his witticisms, and he likewise declined to bring into the pulpit any mention of the affairs of the day. "In the first place," he told those who demanded an expression of his opinion, "I do not understand politics; in the second place you all do, every man and mother's son of you; in the third place you have politics all the week, so pray let one day in the seven be devoted to religion; in the fourth place I am engaged in work of infinitely greater importance. Give me any subject to preach on of more consequence than the truth I bring to you, and I will preach on it next Sabbath."[35]

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