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1773.]

DESTRUCTION OF THE TEA.

379

ships with tea, and sent them to various parts of the colonies. This brought matters to a crisis. One sentiment, one determination, pervaded the whole continent. Taxation was to receive its definitive blow. Whoever submitted to it was an enemy to his country. From New York and Philadelphia the ships were sent back, unladen, to London. In Charleston the tea was unloaded, and stored away in cellars and other places, where it perished. At Boston the action was still more decisive. The ships anchored in the harbor. Some small parcels of tea were brought on shore, but the sale of them was prohibited. The captains of the ships, seeing the desperate state of the case, would have made sail back for England, but they could not obtain the consent of the consignees, a clearance at the custom-house, or a passport from the governor to clear the fort. It was evident the tea was to be forced upon the people of Boston, and the principle of taxation established.

To settle the matter completely, and prove that, on a point of principle, they were not to be trifled with, a number of the inhabitants, disguised as Indians, boarded the ships in the night (18th December), broke open all the chests of tea, and emptied the contents into the sea. This was no rash and intemperate proceeding of a mob, but the well-considered, though resolute act of sober respectable citizens, men of reflection, but determination. The whole was done calmly, and in perfect order; after which the actors in the scene dispersed without tumult, and returned quietly to their homes.

The general opposition of the colonies to the principle of taxation had given great annoyance to govern

ment, but this individual act concentrated all its wrath upon Boston. A bill was forthwith passed in Parliament (commonly called the Boston port bill), by which all lading and unlading of goods, wares, and merchandise, were to cease in that town and harbor, on and after the 4th of June, and the officers of the customs to be transferred to Salem.

Another law, passed soon after, altered the charter of the province, decreeing that all counsellors, judges, and magistrates, should be appointed by the crown, and hold office during the royal pleasure.

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This was followed by a third, intended for the pression of riots; and providing that any person indicted for murder, or other capital offence, committed in aiding the magistracy, might be sent by the governor to some other colony, or to Great Britain, for trial.

Such was the bolt of Parliamentary wrath fulminated against the devoted town of Boston. Before it fell there was a session in May, of the Virginia House of Burgesses. The social position of Lord Dunmore had been strengthened in the province by the arrival of his lady, and a numerous family of sons and daughters. The old Virginia aristocracy had vied with each other in hospitable attentions to the family. A court circle had sprung up. Regulations had been drawn up by a herald, and published officially, determining the rank and precedence of civil and military officers, and their wives. The aristocracy of the "Ancient Dominion" was furbishing up its former splendor. Carriages and four rolled into the streets of Williamsburg, with horses handsomely caparisoned, bringing the

1774.]

HOUSE OF BURGESSES.

381

wealthy planters and their families to the seat of gov

ernment.

Washington arrived in Williamsburg on the 16th, and dined with the governor on the day of his arrival, having a distinguished position in the court circle, and being still on terms of intimacy with his lordship. The House of Burgesses was opened in form, and one of its first measures was an address of congratulation to the governor, on the arrival of his lady. It was followed up by an agreement among the members to give her ladyship a splendid ball, on the 27th of the month.

All things were going on smoothly and smilingly, when a letter, received through the corresponding committee, brought intelligence of the vindictive measure of Parliament, by which the port of Boston was to be closed on the approaching 1st of June.

The letter was read in the House of Burgesses, and produced a general burst of indignation. All other business was thrown aside, and this became the sole subject of discussion. A protest against this and other recent acts of Parliament was entered upon the journal of the House, and a resolution was adopted, on the 24th of May, setting apart the 1st of June as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation; in which the divine interposition was to be implored, to avert the heavy calamity threatening destruction to their rights, and all the evils of civil war; and to give the people one heart and one mind in firmly opposing every injury to American liberties.

On the following morning, while the Burgesses were engaged in animated debate, they were sum

moned to attend Lord Dunmore in the council chamber, where he made them the following laconic speech: "Mr. Speaker, and Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses: I have in my hand a paper, published by order of your House, conceived in such terms, as reflect highly upon his majesty, and the Parliament of Great Britain, which makes it necessary for me to dissolve you, and you are dissolved accordingly."

As on a former occasion, the Assembly, though dissolved, was not dispersed. The members adjourned to the long room of the old Raleigh tavern, and passed resolutions, denouncing the Boston port bill as a most dangerous attempt to destroy the constitutional liberty and rights of all North America; recommending their countrymen to desist from the use, not merely of tea, but of all kinds of East Indian commodities; pronouncing an attack on one of the colonies, to enforce arbitrary taxes, an attack on all; and ordering the committee of correspondence to communicate with the other corresponding committees, on the expediency of appointing deputies from the several colonies of British America, to meet annually in GENERAL CONGRESS, at such place as might be deemed expedient, to deliberate on such measures as the united interests of the colonies might require.

This was the first recommendation of a General Congress by any public assembly, though it had been previously proposed in town meetings at New York and Boston. A resolution to the same effect was passed in the Assembly of Massachusetts before it was aware of the proceedings of the Virginia Legislature. The measure recommended met with prompt and gen

1774.]

PROJECT OF A GENERAL LEAGUE.

383

eral concurrence throughout the colonies, and the fifth day of September next ensuing was fixed upon for the meeting of the first Congress, which was to be held at Philadelphia.

Notwithstanding Lord Dunmore's abrupt dissolution of the House of Burgesses, the members still continued on courteous terms with him, and the ball which they had decreed early in the session in honor of Lady Dunmore, was celebrated on the 27th with unwavering gallantry.

As to Washington, widely as he differed from Lord Dunmore on important points of policy, his intimacy with him remained uninterrupted. By memorandums in his diary, it appears that he dined and passed the evening at his lordship's on the 25th, the very day of the meeting at the Raleigh tavern. That he rode out with him to his farm, and breakfasted there with him on the 26th, and on the evening of the 27th attended the ball given to her ladyship. Such was the well-bred decorum that seemed to quiet the turbulence of popular excitement, without checking the full and firm expression of popular opinion.

On the 29th, two days after the ball, letters arrived from Boston giving the proceedings of a town meeting, recommending that a general league should be formed throughout the colonies suspending all trade with Great Britain. But twenty-five members of the late House of Burgesses, including Washington, were at that time remaining in Williamsburg. They held a meeting on the following day, at which Peyton Randolph presided as moderator. After some discussion, it was determined to issue a printed circular, bearing their signa

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