Mobs openly landed goods that had paid no tax, and some
times tarred and feathered the customs officials.
239. To check such resistance to law, parliament, in 1769,
added to its offenses by providing that a colonist, accused of trea
son, might be carried to England for trial, in flat defiance of
the ancient English principle of trial by a jury of the neighbor
hood. This threat roused Virginia again. Virginia was still
the most important colony. It had been less affected by the
Townshend regulations than the commercial colonies had
been; and the ministry had been particularly gentle toward
240] THE TOWNSHEND ACTS 201
it, hoping to draw it away from the rest of America. But
now the Assembly unanimously l adopted resolutions denounc
ing both the Towiisheiid law and this recent attack on jury
trial as unconstitutional and tyrannical. Nicholas, one of the
Virginia leaders, declared that the new law was " fraught with
worse evils than the Stamp Act, by as much as life is more
precious than property " ; and George Washington affirmed
that it touched a matter " on which no one ought to hesitate to
take up arms"
The governor punished the House by immediate dissolution
(Source Book, 121). But other Assemblies copied the Vir
ginia resolutions or adopted similar ones ; and non-importa
tion agreements, enforced by semi-revolutionary committees,
became nearly universal.
240. During this turmoil, came the Boston " Massacre."
Two regiments of British regulars had been sent to Boston,
in the fall of 1768, to overawe that turbulent community.
This quartering of soldiery upon the town in time of peace,
not for protection, but for intimidation, was one more infringe
ment of fundamental English liberties. Incessant bickerings
followed. Town officials quarreled with the royal governor ;
and the townspeople and the soldiers squabbled and indulged
in fisticuffs in the streets. The troops were subjected to con
stant and bitter insult ; and on the evening of March 5, 1770,
came the long-delayed collision. Soldiers and people had been
called into the streets by an alarm of fire. Various fracases
occurred. In particular, a sentinel on duty was pelted with
epithets and snowballs. Six or seven of his companions,
under an officer, came to his rescue. One of them, hit by a
club, shot an assailant, and immediately the rest of the squad,
believing an order to fire had been given, discharged a volley
into the crowd. Five persons were killed and six injured.
The next day, on the demand of a crowded town meeting,
and as the only way to prevent an organized attack by the
1 The Assembly had progressed since the close division on the Henry reso
lutions four years before.
202 REVOLUTIONARY AGITATION, 1765-1775 [ 241
citizens upon the troops, Governor Hutchinson removed the
regiments to a fort in the harbor. The troops had behaved
well for many months, under intense provocation, and are
not seriously to be blamed. The mob, no doubt, deserved
blame. But the chief condemnation falls upon the British min
istry, which had deliberately created the situation that made
this " Massacre " inevitable.
Some months later, the soldiers were tried before a Boston jury.
John Adams and Josiah Quincy, leading patriots, volunteered as their
counsel, risking gallantly their popularity and influence. Two of the
soldiers were punished lightly ; the rest were acquitted.
241. The Townshend Acts were a failure. They had driven
the colonies to the verge of rebellion. Each penny collected
under them had cost the English treasury a shilling, and Eng
lish merchants were suffering keenly from the colonial non
importation policy. On the day of the Boston Massacre, Lord
North moved the repeal, except for the insignificant tax on tea,
giving notice also that the government would lay no more
taxes in America. The tea tax was kept, at the King's insist
ence, to mark the principle of parliamentary supremacy.
242. But instead of seeking real reconciliation, the British
ministry took just this time to hector the various colonial
Assemblies by arbitrary " orders " on many different subjects.
When the Assemblies protested, the governors, under strict
instructions, dissolved them ; and at other times the usual
liberties of the Assemblies, such as the choice of Speaker and
place of meeting, were needlessly infringed.
During these disorders, America learned to organize itself in a semi-
revolutionary manner. Committees of correspondence here and there
had been a familiar feature of the agitation ; but now standing commit
tees took the place of the old legal Assemblies and town meetings.
243. On the motion of Samuel Adams, in November, 1772, a
Boston town meeting appointed a committee of twenty-one to main
tain correspondence with the other towns of the province upon the
infringements of their liberties (Source Book, No. 122). Some
such device was made necessary by the fact that the Massa-
THE BOSTON MASSACRE
204 REVOLUTIONARY AGITATION, 1765-1775 [ 244
chusetts Assembly was no longer free. The two hundred
towns responded promptly by appointing similar committees,
and soon a vigorous correspondence was going on throughout
this complicated network. +
" Sam Adams" was the first American political " boss," in the better
sense of the word. He played with unfailing skill upon the many strings
of the town meeting, working his will through committees and faithful
lieutenants. He has been called "the wedge that split England and
America asunder." Dr. Howard says of him (Preliminaries of the Revo
lution, 253, 254) : "He possessed precisely the qualities which belong to
a consummate revolutionary leader. The very narrowness of view which
often prevented him from seeing the merits of his adversaries only added
to this power. He had unbounded faith in democratic self-government
. . . and was almost fanatical in his zeal for constitutional liberty. He
had indomitable will, great tenacity of purpose, and unflinching courage.
. . . He was poor in worldly goods, simple in manner and dress, and
able to enter sympathetically into the thoughts and feelings of plain men.
Much of his power lay in his ability to persuade and lead the fishermen,
rope-makers, and ship-masters of Boston. . . . [He] had a rare talent
for practical politics. He displayed a capacity for organization sometimes
lapsing into intrigue, and a foresight sometimes sinking into cunning." 1
244. But after all, each colony was fairly certain, sooner or
later, to find a way to express itself through some revolutionary
organization. It was not so certain that the thirteen colonies
could be united by revolutionary machinery.
Here the first step was taken by Virginia. The occasion arose
out of the burning of the Gaspee, a revenue schooner, off the
Rhode Island coast whose commander had become extremely
obnoxious to the colony. In pursuit of a smuggler's boat, the
Gaspee ran aground. It was then boarded by an armed mob,
led by a prominent merchant. The commander was shot, the
crew put on shore, and the vessel burned. The English gov
ernment created a special commission to secure the offenders
for trial in England. But, though the actors were well known
1 Every student should read Dr. Hosmer's delightful biography of Samuel
Adams (Statesmen Series). In a much earlier essay (in the Johns Hopkins
University Studies) , Dr. Hosmer gave to his hero the title by which he is best
known, " The Man of the Town Meeting."
246J THE BOSTON TEA PARTY 205
to large numbers of people, no evidence against them could be
secured ; and, indeed, Stephen Hopkins, Chief Justice of the
colony, declared he would commit to prison any officer who
should attempt to remove a citizen from the limits of the
Meantime, as in 1769 ( 239), the attempt to send Americans
to England for trial called forth ringing resolutions from the
Virginia Assembly (March 12, 1773). But this time the As
sembly did more than pass resolutions. It appointed a stand
ing committee for intercolonial correspondence, and by formal
letter invited all other Assemblies in America to appoint similar
means of intercourse (Source Boole , No. 123 6). Within three
months, committees had been set up in half the colonies, and
ere long the machinery was complete. July 2, the New Hamp
shire Gazette said of this movement :
" The Union of the Colonies which is now taking place is big with the
most important Advantages to this Continent. . . . Let it be the study
of all to make the Union firm and perpetual, as it will be the great Basis
for Liberty and every public Blessing in America. ' '
245- The next step toward revolutionary government was to develop
from the local committees a Provincial Congress, in colony after colony,
and from the intercolonial committees of the continent a Continental Con
gress. This was brought about in the summer and fall of 1774, as the result
of three events, (i) the attempt of the ministry to force taxed tea down
the throats of the colonists ; (2) the answer of the Boston Tea Party ;
and (3) the punishment of Boston by the Port Bill.
246. Ever since the repeal of the other Townshend duties,
the animosities of the conflict had been focused on the one taxed
article, tea. For six years the colonists, for the most part, had
done without that luxury except for the smuggled article.
In April of 1773 Lord North tried an appeal to American avarice.
Tea paid a tax of a shilling a pound on reaching England, and,
under the Townshend Act, threepence more pn importation into
America. Parliament now arranged that a rebate of the Eng
lish tax (and of some other burdens) should be given the Tea
Company on tea reexported to America, so that the colonists
206 REVOLUTIONARY AGITATION, 1765-1775 [ 247
would pay only the threepence tax, and would get their tea cheaper
than Englishmen could, and cheaper than it could be smug
gled. Ships loaded with this gross bait were at once dispatched
to the chief American ports.
247. But everywhere, by forcible resistance, the colonists kept
the tea out of the market. At Charleston it was stored for years,
until seized by the Revolutionary government in 1776. At New
York, Annapolis, and Philadelphia, mobs frightened the gov
ernors or the ship captains into sending back the tea-ships with
out breaking cargo.
A tea ship was expected at Philadelphia in September. The "Liberty
Boys" of that city distributed a handbill among the Delaware pilots :
"... We need not point out the steps you ought to take if the tea
ship falls in your way. . . . This you may depend upon, that what
ever pilot brings her into the river, such pilot will be marked for his
treason. . . . Like Cain, he will be hung out as a spectacle to the nations
... as the damned traitorous pilot who brought up the tea ship. . . .
(Signed) THE COMMITTEE FOR TARRING AND FEATHERING."
Another broadside was addressed to the Captain of the expected ship :
"What think you, Captain, of a Halter round your Neck, ten gallons
of liquid Tar decanted on your Pate, with the feathers of a dozen wild
Geese laid over that, to enliven your appearance."
All this was weeks before the Boston episode. The Philadelphia ship,
however, did not arrive at the mouth of the river until four or five days
after the Boston Tea Party ; and it then sailed back to England without
trying to reach the city.
In Boston the " Tories " were made of sterner stuff, and
the dash was more serious. Governor Hutchinson had stationed
warships in the channel to prevent the timid owner of three
tea vessels from sending them away ; and the customs officials
prepared to land the tea by a force of marines as soon as the
legal interval should expire. (Ships were allowed to remain
only twenty days .in the harbor without unloading.) Boston
exhausted all means but actual violence, and then used that
so skillfully as to avoid bloodshed. At the last moment, a
town meeting resolved itself into a band of Mohawks (" with
249] THE BOSTON PORT BILL 207
whom," says Carlyle, "Sam Adams could speak without an
interpreter "), and, seizing the vessels before they passed into
the hands of the officials, emptied into Boston harbor some
ninety thousand dollars' worth of tea (December 16, 1773).
248. The short-sighted English government replied with a series
of " repressive acts " * to punish Massachusetts. Town meetings
were forbidden, except as authorized in writing by the governor,
and for business specified by him. All courts, high and low,
with all their officials, were made absolutely dependent upon
his appointing and removing power. /So far as the election of
the Council was concerned, the charter of 1691 was set aside, and
the appointment given to the crown. Most effective in rousing
American indignation was another act of this series, the Boston
Port Bill, which closed the port of Boston to commerce, with
provision for a blockade by ships of war.
Since the entire population depended, directly or indirectly, upon com
merce for their living, the town was threatened with starvation. Food
and fuel at once became scarce and costly, and great numbers of men
were unemployed. But all parts of America joined in sending money
and supplies. South Carolina gave cargoes of rice ; Philadelphia gave a
thousand barrels of flour ; from Connecticut came Israel Putnam driving
before him his flock of sheep.
249. May 12, two days after the arrival of the news of
the " Intolerable Acts," the committees of eight near-by towns
met at Boston. This gathering sent letters to the correspon
dence committees of the thirteen colonies suggesting that all
America should " consider Boston as suffering in the common
cause, and resent the injury inflicted upon her."
1 Classed with these acts, in the minds of the colonists, was the Quebec Act
which was passed at the same time. This legalized the Catholic religion, and
restored part of the French law, for Canada. The design was to conciliate
the French settlers (almost the sole population) , and to set up some authority
to deal with the existing anarchy in the fur-trade regions. No act of the
series, however, caused more bitter suspicion among the English colonies,
with their bigoted fear of Catholicism. The same act extended "Quebec" to
include the unsettled district west of the mountains between the Great Lakes
and the Ohio.
208 REVOLUTIONARY AGITATION, 1765-1775 [ 250
The first official response came from Virginia. May 24, 1774,
the House of Burgesses set apart June 1 (when the Port Bill
was to go into effect) "as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation,
and Prayer, devoutly to implore the divine interposition for
averting the heavy Calamity which threatens Destruction to
our Civil Rights, and the Evils of civil War, and to give us
one heart and one Mind firmly to oppose by all just and proper
means every injury to American Rights." Two days later the
governor dissolved the Assembly with sharp rebuke.
On the following day, the ex-Burgesses (influential citizens
still) met at the Raleigh Tavern, and recommended an annual
congress of delegates from all the colonies " to deliberate on those
general measures which the united interests of America may
from time to time require.' 7 Here was a suggestion for permanent
continental revolutionary government. A second meeting of the
ex-Burgesses, on May 31, catted a Convention of deputies from
Virginia counties, to meet at Williamsburg on August 1, in order
to appoint Virginia delegates for the proposed continental con-
gress and to consider a plan for non-intercourse with England.
During June and July all the counties of Virginia ratified this
call in county courts, by authorizing their ex-Burgesses to act
for them at the proposed Convention, or by choosing new rep
resentatives to do so. Here ivere the germs of revolutionary
machinery for county and state.
250. On this suggestion from Virginia, all the colonies but
Georgia chose delegates to a congress, to meet September 1 at
Philadelphia. We know this " First Continental Congress " of
1774 only from letters and later recollections of some of its
members and from imperfect notes taken at the time by two
or three delegates (Source Book). It sat six weeks, and was a
notable gathering, although forty years afterwards John
Adams described it as '"one third Tories, one third Whigs and
the rest Mongrels."
The Moderate party (Adams' " Tories ") desired still to use
only constitutional agitation to secure redress of grievances.
This element was led by Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania,
VIRGINIA CALLS A CONGRESS
supported by John Jay of New York and Edward Rutledge of
South Carolina. The Radicals insisted that, as a prelude to
reconciliation with England, the ministry must remove its
troops and repeal its acts.
After strenuous debate, Galloway's proposals were rejected
by a vote of six colonies to five. The Congress then recommended
the Radical plan of a huge universal boycott, in the form of a
solemn Association. The signers were to bind themselves
neither to import any
British goods nor to ex
port their own products
to Great Britain. To
enforce this agreement,
efficient machinery was
recommended. Every town
and county was advised to
choose a committee, act
ing under the supervi
sion of the central com
mittee of its province, " to
observe the conduct of
all persons," and to have
all violations " published
in the gazette," that the
foes to the rights of
America might be "uni
CARPENTERS' HALL, PHILADELPHIA, where
met the Continental Congress. From a
251. The "First Continental Congress " was not a legislature nor a
government. The name "congress" was used to indicate its informal
character. No governing body had ever held that name. It was a meet
ing for consultation. It claimed no authority to do more than advise and
The delegates had been elected in exceedingly informal fashion, 1 by
a part of a legislature, called together perhaps in an irregular way ; or by
a committee of correspondence ; or by a mass meeting of some small part
1 Details are given in West's American History and Government.
210 REVOLUTIONARY AGITATION, 1765-1775 [ 251
of a colony, claiming to speak for the whole ; or, in six colonies, by a new
sort of gatherings known as provincial conventions, similar to that in
Virginia ( 249). None of this first series of provincial conventions sat
more than five or six days (most of them only for a day) : and none took
any action except to appoint delegates to Philadelphia 'and to instruct
them, except that one or two provided for a second convention, to be
held after the Continental Congress.
EXERCISE. Distinguish between a Continental Congress and a Pro
vincial Congress, or Provincial Convention (both names were used).
Note the series of events leading to the First Continental Congress. If
you could name only one of those events as the occasion, what one would
you select? Distinguish, for this period, between a "provincial conven
tion" and a "provincial Assembly."
FOR FURTHER READING. The Source Book is very full for this and
the following chapter. The history of the Revolution in Virginia may
be traced, in outline, in that volume, Nos. 120-129. For secondary
authorities on the whole period, Howard's Preliminaries of the Revolution
and VanTyne's American Revolution (" American Nation" series) make
together an admirable treatment. Woodburn's Lecky's American Rev
olution should be accessible, as a scholarly treatment by a great English
historian. Fiske's two volumes on the Revolution are delightful reading.
Trevelyan's American Revolution is probably the best history of the
period, but it is rather bulky for high school students. Though written
by an Englishman, it is sympathetically American in tone, and it is
brilliant in treatment. Channing's third volume, dealing with the Revo
lution, is a critical study, but less readable than his earlier volumes.
FROM COLONIES TO COMMONWEALTHS, 1775-1776
252. The Assemblies of New York and Georgia refused to
ratify the recommendations of the Continental Congress. But
within six months all other colonies had adopted the Association
either by their regular Assemblies or by " conventions " ;
and everywhere "committees of public safety" and mobs
were terrorizing reluctant individuals into signing. Tar and
feathers and " the birch seal " became common means of per
suasion ; and Moderates complained bitterly that, in the name
of liberty, the populace refused all liberty of speech or action.
A great revolution, however righteous, is sure to have its ugly
253. The issue had changed. The question, now, was not
approval or disapproval of Parliamentary taxation, but whether
resistance should be forcible. The radical " Patriots " were
probably a minority ; but they were aggressive and organized,
and eventually they whipped into line the great body of timid
and indifferent people. On the other hand, many earnest
" Patriots " of the preceding period now became " Tories "
from repugnance to armed rebellion or to mob rule. 1 Thus
party lines were drawn more clearly.
In the few cities the revolutionary movement fell largely to
the democratic artisan class. June 1, 1774, the governor of
New York, writing to the English government on the excite
ment about the Boston Port Bill, says :
"The Men who call'd themselves the Committee [in New York]
who acted and dictated in the name of the People were many of them
of the lower Rank, and all the warmest zealots. . . . The more con-
1 See, in Source Book, No. 140, how even John Adams was disturbed by
the glee of his horse-jockey client at the closing of the courts.
212 FROM COLONIES TO COMMONWEALTHS [ 254
siderable Merchants and Citizens seldom or never appeared among them,
but, I believe, were not displeased with the Clamor and opposition that
was shown against internal Taxation by Parliament."
254. In the winter and spring of 1775, regular legal govern
ment broke down. In colony after colony, the governors re
fused to let the legislature
meet, and the people re
fused to let the governors-
courts or other officials
act. Then in many places,
to prevent absolute law
lessness, county meetings
or local committees set up
some sort of provisional
government, to last until
" the restoration of har
mony with Great Brit-
During this turbulent
disorder, second provincial
conventions were held in
several colonies, to act
upon the recommenda
tions of the First Conti
nental Congress. Some
of these bodies became
de facto governments.
They organized troops,
raised money, and as
sumed civil powers far
enough to alleviate the
1 Action of this kind in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 30,
1775, through distorted recollections and inaccurate statements, gave rise,
years later, to the curious but groundless legend of a Mecklenburg " Declara
tion of Independence."
2 A statue by Daniel C. French at Concord Bridge. The stanza on the base
is from Emerson's " Concord Hymn " :
THE CONCORD MINUTE MAN. 2
LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
existing anarchy. In form, their acts were still recommen
dations; but the local committees enforced them as law.
Of course the "Tories "had refused to pay any attention to the
"illegal" elections of such provincial conventions. Indeed, in some
cases, they were even excluded from voting by test oaths. In this way
the Radicals came to control the only governments in existence.
255. These second con- , ,
ventions in most of the
colonies appointed dele
gates to the Second Con
tinental Congress. Be
tween the election of that
body and its meeting (May
10), General Gage, com
mander of the British
troops in Boston, tried to
seize Massachusetts mili
tary stores at Concord,
and so called from " em
battled farmers " " the
shot heard round the
world" (April 19, 1775).
Gage had sown dragon's
teeth. From New Eng
land's soil twenty thou
sand volunteers sprang up
to besiege him in Boston.
War had come.
In consequence, the Second
Continental Congress swiftly be-
THE WASHINGTON ELM AT CAMBRIDGE.
From a photograph taken in 1895. The
inscription runs :
Under this tree
first took command
July 3, 1775.
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
Across the stream, in a curve of the stone fence, is the grave of two
British soldiers, over which have been carved the lines from Lowell :
They came three thousand miles and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne.
214 FROM COLONIES TO COMMONWEALTHS [ 256