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whilst much abler heads than my own have fully convinced me, that they are not only repugnant to natural right, but subversive of the laws and constitution of Great Britain itself. I shall conclude with remarking that, if you disavow the right of Parliament to tax us, unrepresented as we are, we only differ in the mode of opposition, and this difference principally arises from your belief that they (the Parliament I mean), want a decent opportunity to repeal the acts; whilst I am fully convinced that there has been a regular systematic plan to enforce them, and that nothing but unanimity and firmness in the colonies, which they did not expect, can prevent it. By the best advices from Boston, it seems that General Gage is exceedingly disconcerted at the quiet and steady conduct of the people of the Massachusetts Bay, and at the measures pursuing by the other governments. I dare say he expected to force those oppressed people into compliance, or irritate them to acts of violence before this, for a more colorable pretence of ruling that, and the other colonies, with a high hand."
Washington had formed a correct opinion of the position of General Gage. From the time of taking command at Boston, he had been perplexed how to manage its inhabitants. Had they been hot-headed, impulsive, and prone to paroxysm, his task would have been comparatively easy; but it was the cool, shrewd common sense, by which all their movements were regulated, that confounded him.
High-handed measures had failed of the anticipated effect. Their harbor had been thronged with ships; their town with troops. The port bill had put an end
TOWN MEETINGS KEPT ALIVE.
to commerce; wharves were deserted, warehouses closed; streets grass-grown and silent. The rich were growing poor, and the poor were without employ; yet the spirit of the people was unbroken. There was no uproar, however; no riots; every thing was awfully systematic and according to rule. Town meetings were held, in which public rights and public measures were eloquently discussed by John Adams, Josiah Quincy, and other eminent men. Over these meetings, Samuel Adams presided as moderator; a man clear in judgment, calm in conduct, inflexible in resolution; deeply grounded in civil and political history, and infallible on all points of constitutional law.
Alarmed at the powerful influence of these assemblages, government issued an act prohibiting them after the 1st of August. The act was evaded by convoking the meetings before that day, and keeping them alive indefinitely. Gage was at a loss how to act. It would not do to disperse these assemblages by force of arms; for, the people who composed them mingled the soldier with the polemic; and, like their prototypes, the covenanters of yore, if prone to argue, were as ready to fight. So the meetings continued to be held pertinaciously. Faneuil Hall was at times unable to hold them, and they swarmed from that revolutionary hive into old South Church. The liberty tree became a rallying place for any popular movement, and a flag hoisted on it was saluted by all processions as the emblem of the popular cause.
Opposition to the new plan of government assumed a more violent aspect at the extremity of the province, and was abetted by Connecticut. "It is very high,"
writes Gage, (August 27th,) "in Berkshire County, and makes way rapidly to the rest. At Worcester they threaten resistance, purchase arms, provide powder, cast balls, and threaten to attack any troops who may oppose them. I apprehend I shall soon have to march a body of troops into that township."
The time appointed for the meeting of the General Congress at Philadelphia was now at hand. Delegates had already gone on from Massachusetts. "It is not possible to guess," writes Gage, "what a body composed of such heterogeneous matter will determine; but the members from hence, I am assured, will promote the most haughty and insolent resolves; for their plan has ever been, by threats and high-sounding sedition, to terrify and intimidate."
MEETING OF THE FIRST CONGRESS OPENING CEREMONIES-ELOQUENCE OF PATRICK HENRY AND HENRY LEE-DECLARATORY RESOLUTION-BILL OF RIGHTS-STATE PAPERS-CHATHAM'S OPINIONS OF CONGRESSWASHINGTON'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH CAPT. MACKENZIE-VIEWS WITH RESPECT TO INDEPENDENCE-DEPARTURE OF FAIRFAX FOR ENGLAND.
WHEN the time approached for the meeting of the General Congress at Philadelphia, Washington was joined at Mount Vernon by Patrick Henry and Edmund Pendleton, and they performed the journey together on horseback. It was a noble companionship. Henry was then in the youthful vigor and elasticity of his bounding genius; ardent, acute, fanciful, eloquent. Pendleton, schooled in public life, a veteran in council, with native force of intellect, and habits of deep reflection. Washington, in the meridian of his days, mature in wisdom, comprehensive in mind, sagacious in foresight. Such were the apostles of liberty, repairing on their august pilgrimage to Philadelphia from all parts of the land, to lay the foundations of a mighty empire. Well may we say of that eventful period, "There were giants in those days."
Congress assembled on Monday, the 5th of September, in a large room in Carpenter's Hall. There were fifty-one delegates, representing all the colonies excepting Georgia.
The meeting has been described as "awfully solemn." The most eminent men of the various colonies were now for the first time brought together; they were known to each other by fame, but were, personally, strangers. The object which had called them together, was of incalculable magnitude. The liberties of no less than three millions of people, with that of all their posterity, were staked on the wisdom and energy of their councils.*
"It is such an assembly," writes John Adams, who was present, "as never before came together on a sudden, in any part of the world. Here are fortunes, abilities, learning, eloquence, acuteness, equal to any I ever met with in my life. Here is a diversity of religions, educations, manners, interests, such as it would seem impossible to unite in one plan of conduct."
There being an inequality in the number of delegates from the different colonies, a question arose as to the mode of voting; whether by colonies, or by the poll, or by interests.
Patrick Henry scouted the idea of sectional distinctions or individual interests. "All America," said he,
"is thrown into one mass.
Where are your land
marks-your boundaries of colonies ? They are all thrown down. The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders,
Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry, p. 224.