Sedition·com (mature content)
History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard
» PART II. CONFLICT AND INDEPENDENCE
» CHAPTER V

«·Resumption of British Revenue and Commercial Policies · Retaliation by the British Government·»


Renewed Resistance in America

Samuel Adams
From an old print
Samuel Adams

The Massachusetts Circular (1768).—Massachusetts, under the leadership of Samuel Adams, resolved to resist the policy of renewed intervention in America. At his suggestion the assembly adopted a Circular Letter addressed to the assemblies of the other colonies informing them of the state of affairs in Massachusetts and roundly condemning the whole British program. The Circular Letter declared that Parliament had no right to lay taxes on Americans without their consent and that the colonists could not, from the nature of the case, be represented in Parliament. It went on shrewdly to submit to consideration the question as to whether any people could be called free who were subjected to governors and judges appointed by the crown and paid out of funds raised independently. It invited the other colonies, in the most temperate tones, to take thought about the common predicament in which they were all placed.

The Dissolution of Assemblies.—The governor of Massachusetts, hearing of the Circular Letter, ordered the assembly to rescind its appeal. On meeting refusal, he promptly dissolved it. The Maryland, Georgia, and South Carolina assemblies indorsed the Circular Letter and were also dissolved at once. The Virginia House of Burgesses, thoroughly aroused, passed resolutions on May 16, 1769, declaring that the sole right of imposing taxes in Virginia was vested in its legislature, asserting anew the right of petition to the crown, condemning the transportation of persons accused of crimes or trial beyond the seas, and beseeching the king for a redress of the general grievances. The immediate dissolution of the Virginia assembly, in its turn, was the answer of the royal governor.

The Boston Massacre.—American opposition to the British authorities kept steadily rising as assemblies were dissolved, the houses of citizens searched, and troops distributed in increasing numbers among the centers of discontent. Merchants again agreed not to import British goods, the Sons of Liberty renewed their agitation, and women set about the patronage of home products still more loyally.

On the night of March 5, 1770, a crowd on the streets of Boston began to jostle and tease some British regulars stationed in the town. Things went from bad to worse until some “boys and young fellows” began to throw snowballs and stones. Then the exasperated soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five and wounding half a dozen more. The day after the “massacre,” a mass meeting was held in the town and Samuel Adams was sent to demand the withdrawal of the soldiers. The governor hesitated and tried to compromise. Finding Adams relentless, the governor yielded and ordered the regulars away.

The Boston Massacre stirred the country from New Hampshire to Georgia. Popular passions ran high. The guilty soldiers were charged with murder. Their defense was undertaken, in spite of the wrath of the populace, by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, who as lawyers thought even the worst offenders entitled to their full rights in law. In his speech to the jury, however, Adams warned the British government against its course, saying, that “from the nature of things soldiers quartered in a populous town will always occasion two mobs where they will prevent one.” Two of the soldiers were convicted and lightly punished.

Resistance in the South.—The year following the Boston Massacre some citizens of North Carolina, goaded by the conduct of the royal governor, openly resisted his authority. Many were killed as a result and seven who were taken prisoners were hanged as traitors. A little later royal troops and local militia met in a pitched battle near Alamance River, called the “Lexington of the South.”

The Gaspee Affair and the Virginia Resolutions of 1773.—On sea as well as on land, friction between the royal officers and the colonists broke out into overt acts. While patrolling Narragansett Bay looking for smugglers one day in 1772, the armed ship, Gaspee, ran ashore and was caught fast. During the night several men from Providence boarded the vessel and, after seizing the crew, set it on fire. A royal commission, sent to Rhode Island to discover the offenders and bring them to account, failed because it could not find a single informer. The very appointment of such a commission aroused the patriots of Virginia to action; and in March, 1773, the House of Burgesses passed a resolution creating a standing committee of correspondence to develop coöperation among the colonies in resistance to British measures.

The Boston Tea Party.—Although the British government, finding the Townshend revenue act a failure, repealed in 1770 all the duties except that on tea, it in no way relaxed its resolve to enforce the other commercial regulations it had imposed on the colonies. Moreover, Parliament decided to relieve the British East India Company of the financial difficulties into which it had fallen partly by reason of the Tea Act and the colonial boycott that followed. In 1773 it agreed to return to the Company the regular import duties, levied in England, on all tea transshipped to America. A small impost of three pence, to be collected in America, was left as a reminder of the principle laid down in the Declaratory Act that Parliament had the right to tax the colonists.

This arrangement with the East India Company was obnoxious to the colonists for several reasons. It was an act of favoritism for one thing, in the interest of a great monopoly. For another thing, it promised to dump on the American market, suddenly, an immense amount of cheap tea and so cause heavy losses to American merchants who had large stocks on hand. It threatened with ruin the business of all those who were engaged in clandestine trade with the Dutch. It carried with it an irritating tax of three pence on imports. In Charleston, Annapolis, New York, and Boston, captains of ships who brought tea under this act were roughly handled. One night in December, 1773, a band of Boston citizens, disguised as Indians, boarded the hated tea ships and dumped the cargo into the harbor. This was serious business, for it was open, flagrant, determined violation of the law. As such the British government viewed it.


«·Resumption of British Revenue and Commercial Policies · Retaliation by the British Government·»