Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The whole history of grandfather's chair ; or, True stories from New England history, 1620-1803 online

. (page 12 of 16)
Online LibraryNathaniel HawthorneThe whole history of grandfather's chair ; or, True stories from New England history, 1620-1803 → online text (page 12 of 16)
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inent and famous people of aU countries. Among


them Laurence found several who had formerly oc-
cupied our chair or been connected with its adven-
tures. While Grandfather walked to and fro across
the room, the imaginative boy was gazing at the his-
toric chair. He endeavored to summon up the por-
traits which he had seen in his volume, and to place
them, like living figures, in the empty seat,

" The old chair has begun another year of its exist-
ence, to-day," said Laurence. " We must make haste,
or it will have a new history to be told before we
finish the old one."

" Yes, my children," replied Grandfather, with a
smile and a sigh, " another year has been added to
those of the two centuries and upward which have
passed since the Lady Arbella brought this chair over
from England. It is three times as old as your Grand-
father ; but a year makes no impression on its oaken
frame, while it bends the old man nearer and nearer
to the earth ; so let me go on with my stories while I

Accordingly Grandfather came to the fireside and
seated himself in the venerable chair. The lion's head
looked down with a grimly good-natured aspect as the
children clustered around the old gentleman's knees.
It almost seemed as if a real lion were peeping over
the back of the chair, and smiling at the group of
auditors with a sort of lion-like complaisance. Little
Alice, whose fancy often inspired her with singular
ideas, exclaimed that the lion's head was nodding at
her, and that it looked as if it were going to open its
wide jaws and tell a story.

But as the lion's head appeared to be in no haste to
speak, and as there was no record or tradition of its
having spoken during the whole existence of the chair,
Grandfather did not consider it worth while to wait-



"Chakley, my boy," said Grandfather, "do you
remember who was the last occupant of the chair ? "

" It was Lieutenant - Governor Hutchinson," an-
swered Charley. " Sir Francis Bernard, the new gov-
ernor, had given him the chair, instead of putting
it away in the garret of the Province House. And
when we took leave of Hutchinson he was sitting by
his fireside, and thinking of the past adventures of
the chair and of what was to come."

" Very well," said Grandfather ; " and you recol-
lect that this was in 1763, or thereabouts, at the close
of the old French War. Now, that you may fully
comprehend the remaining adventures of the chair, I
must make some brief remarks on the situation and
character of the New England colonies at this period."

So Grandfather spoke of the earnest loyalty of our
fathers during the old French War, and after the con-
quest of Canada had brought that war to a triumphant

The people loved and reverenced the King of Eng
land even more than if the ocean had not rolled its
waves between him and them ; for, at the distance ol
three thousand miles, they could not discover his bad
qualities and imperfections. Their love was increased
by the dangers which they had encountered in order to
heighten his glory and extend his dominion. Through-


out the war the American colonists had fought side by
side with the soldiers of Old England ; and nearly
thirty thousand young men had laid down their lives
for the honor of King George. And the survivors
loved him the better because they had done and suf-
fered so much for his sake.

But there were some circumstances that caused
America to feel more independent of England than
at an earlier period. Canada and Acadia had now
become British provinces ; and our fathers were no
longer afraid of the bands of French and Indians who
used to assault them in old times. For a century and
a half this had been the great terror of New England.
Now the old French soldier was driven from the North
forever. And even had it been otherwise, the English
colonies were growing so populous and powerful that
they might have felt fully able to protect themselves
without any h^lp from England.

There were thoughtful and sagacious men, who be-
gan to doubt whether a great country like America
would always be content to remain under the govern-
ment of an island three thousand miles away. This
was the more doubtful, because the English Parlia-
ment had long ago made laws which were intended to
be very beneficial to England at the expense of Amer-
ica. By these laws the colonists were forbidden to
manufacture articles for their own use, or to carry on
trade with any nation but the English.

" Now," continued Grandfather, " if King George
III. and his counsellors had considered these things
wisely, they would have taken another course than
they did. But when they saw how rich and populous
the colonies had grown, their first thought was how
they might make more profit out of them than hereto*


fore. England was enormously in debt at the close
of the old French War ; and it was pretended that this
debt had been contracted for the defence of the Amer-
ican colonies, and that, therefore, a part of it ought to
be paid by them."

" Why, this was nonsense ! " exclaimed Charley.
^' Did not our fathers spend their lives, and their
money too, to get Canada for King George ? "

" True, they did," said Grandfather ; " and they
told the English rulers so. But the king and his min-
isters would not listen to good advice. In 1765 the
British Parliament passed a Stamp Act."

" What was that ? " inquired Charley.

''The Stamp Act," replied Grandfather, "was a
law by which all deeds, bonds, and other papers of
the same kind were ordered to be marked with the
king's stamp ; and without this mark they were de-
clared illegal and void. Now, in order to get a blank
sheet of paper with the king's stamp upon it, people
were obliged to pay threepence more than the actual
value of the paper. And this extra sum of threepence
was a tax, and was to be paid into the king's treas-

" I am sure three^^ence was not worth quarrelling
about ! " remarked Clara.

" It was not for threepence, nor for any amount of
money, that America quarrelled with England," re-
plied Grandfather ; " it was for a great principle. The
colonists were determined not to be taxed except by
their own representatives. They said that neither the
king and Parliament, nor any other power on earth,
had a right to take their money out of their pockets
unless they freely gave it. And, rather than pay
threepence when it was unjustly demanded, they re^


solved to sacrifice all the wealth of the country, and
their lives along with it. They therefore made a most
stubborn resistance to the Stamp Act."

" That was noble ! " exclaimed Laurence. " I un-
derstand how it was. If they had quietly paid the tax
of threepence, they would have ceased to be freemen,
and would have become tributaries of England. And
so they contended about a great question of right and
wrong, and put everything at stake for it."

" You are right, Laurence," said Grandfather, " and
it was really amazing and terrible to see what a change
came over the aspect of the people the moment the
English Parliament had passed this oppressive act.
The former history of our chair, my children, has
given you some idea of what a harsh, unyielding, stern
set of men the old Puritans were. For a good many
years back, however, it had seemed as if these charac-
teristics were disappearing. But no sooner did Eng-
land offer wrong to the colonies than the descendants
of the early settlers proved that they had the same
kind of temper as their forefathers. The moment be-
fore. New England appeared like a humble and loyal
subject of the crown ; the next instant, she showed
the grim, dark features of an old king-resisting Puri-

Grandfather spoke briefly of the public measures
that were taken in opposition to the Stamp Act. As
this law affected all the American colonies alike, it
naturally led them to think of consulting together in
order to procure its repeal. For this purpose the Leg-
islature of Massachusetts proposed that delegates from
every colony should meet in Congress. Accordingly
nine colonies, both Northern and Southern, sent dele*
gates to the city of New York,


" And did they consult about going to war with
England?" asked Charley.

" No, Charley," answered Grandfather ; " a great
deal of talking was yet to be done before England
and America could come to blows. The Congress
stated the rights and grievances of the colonists. They
sent a humble petition to the king, and a memorial to
the Parliament, beseeching that the Stamp Act might
be repealed. This was all that the delegates had it
in their power to do."

" They might as well have stayed at home, then,"
said Charley.

" By no means," replied Grandfather. " It was a
most important and memorable event, this first com-
ing together of the American people by their repre-
sentatives from the North and South. If England
had been wise, she would have trembled at the first
word that was spoken in such an assembly."

These remonstrances and petitions, as Grandfather
observed, were the work of grave, thoughtful, and pru-
dent men. Meantime the young and hot-headed peo-
ple went to work in their own way. It is probable
that the petitions of Congress would have had little or
no effect on the British statesmen if the violent deeds
of the American people had not shown how much ex-
cited the people were. Liberty Tree was soon heard
of in England.

" What was Liberty Tree ? " inquired Clara.

" It was an old elm-tree," answered Grandfather,
*' which stood near the corner of Essex Street, op-
posite the Boylston Market. Under the spreading
branches of this great tree the people used to assemble
whenever they wished to express their feelings and
opinions. Thus, after a while, it seemed as if the lib-
erty of the country was connected with Liberty Tree."











" It was glorious fruit for a tree to bear," remarked

" It bore strange fruit, sometimes," said Grand-
father. " One morning in August, 1765, two figures
were found hanging on the sturdy branches of Liberty
Tree. They were dressed in square-skirted coats and
small-clothes ; and, as their wigs hung down over their
faces, they looked like real men. One was intended
to represent the Earl of Bute, who was supposed to
have advised the king to tax America. The other was
meant for the effigy of Andrew Oliver, a gentleman
belonging to one of the most respectable families in

" What harm had he done ? " inquired Charley.

" The king had appointed him to be distributor
of the stamps," answered Grandfather. " Mr. Oli-
ver would have made a great deal of money by this
business. But the people frightened him so much
by hanging him in effigy, and afterwards by break-
ing into his house, that he promised to have nothing
to do with the stamps. And all the king's friends
throughout America were compelled to make the same



^' Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson," continued
Grandfather, "now began to be unquiet in our old
chair. He had formerly been much respected and be-
loved by the people, and had often proved himself a
friend to their interests. But the time was come
when he could not be a friend to the people without
ceasing to be a friend to the king. It was pretty
generally understood that Hutchinson would act ac-
cording to the king's wishes, right or wrong, like
most of the other gentlemen who held offices under
the crown. Besides, as he was brother-in-law of
Andrew Oliver, the people now felt a particular dis-
like to him."

" I should think," said Laurence, " as Mr. Hutch-
inson had written the history of our Puritan fore-
fathers, he would have known what the temper of the
people was, and so have taken care not to wrong

" He trusted in the might of the King of England,"
replied Grandfather, " and thought himself safe under
the shelter of the throne. If no dispute had arisen
between the king and the people, Hutchinson would
have had the character of a wise, good, and patriotic
magistrate. But, from the time that he took part
against the rights of his country, the people's love and
respect were turned to scorn and hatred, and he never
had another hour of peace.""


In order to show what a fierce and dangerous spirit
was now aroused among the inhabitants, Grandfather
related a passage from history which we shall call The
Hutchinson Mob.

On the evening of the 26th of August, 1765, a bon^
fire was kindled in King Street. It flamed high up-
ward, and threw a ruddy light over the front of the
Town House, on which was displayed a carved repre-
sentation of the royal arms. The gilded vane of the
cupola glittered in the blaze. The kindling of this
bonfire was the well-known signal for the populace of
Boston to assemble in the street.

Before the tar-barrels, of which the bonfire was
made, were half burned out, a great crowd had come
together. They were chiefly laborers and seafaring
men, together with many young apprentices, and all
those idle people about town who are ready for any
kind of mischief. Doubtless some school-boys were
among them.

While these rough figures stood round the blazing
bonfire, you might hear them speaking bitter words
against the high officers of the province. Governor
Bernard, Hutchinson, Oliver, Storey, Hallowell, and
other men whom King George delighted to honor,
were reviled as traitors to the country. Now and
then, perhaps, an officer of the crown passed along
the street, wearing the gold-laced hat, white wig, and
embroidered waistcoat which were the fashion of the
day. But when the people beheld him they set up a
wild and angry howl ; and their faces had an evil as-
pect, which was made more terrible by the flickering
blaze of the bonfire.

" I should like to throw the traitor right into that
blaze ! " perhaps one fierce rioter would say.


" Yes ; and all his brethren too ! " another might
reply ; " and the governor and old Tommy Hutchin-
son into the hottest of it ! "

"And the Earl of Bute along with them !" mut-
tered a third ; " and burn the whole pack of them
under King George's nose ! No matter if it singed
him ! "

Some such expressions as these, either shouted aloud
or muttered under the breath, were doubtless heard in
King Street. The mob, meanwhile, were growing
fiercer and fiercer, and seemed ready even to set the
town on fire for the sake of burning the king's friends
out of house and home. And yet, angry as they were,
they sometimes broke into a loud roar of laughtei, as
if mischief and destruction were their sport.

But we must now leave the rioters for a time, and
take a peep into the lieutenant-governor's splendid
mansion. It was a large brick house, decorated with
Ionic pilasters, and stood in Garden Court Street, near
the North Square.

While the angry mob in King Street were shouting
his name, Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson sat quietly
in Grandfather's chair, unsuspicious of the evil that
was about to fall upon his head. His beloved family
were in the room with him. He had thrown off his
embroidered coat and powdered wig, and had on a
loose-flowing gown and purple-velvet cap. He had
likewise laid aside the cares of state and all the
thoughts that had wearied and perplexed him through-
out the day.

Perhaps, in the enjoyment of his home, he had for-
gotten all about the Stamp Act, and scarcely remem-
bered that there was a king, across the ocean, who had
resolved to make tributaries of the New-Engianders,


Possibly, too, lie had forgotten liis own ambition, and
.vould not have exchanged his situation, at that mo-
ment, to be governor, or even a lord.

The wax candles were now lighted, and showed a
handsome room, well provided with rich furniture.
On the walls hung the pictures of Hutchinson's ances-
tors, who had been eminent men in their day, and were
honorably remembered in the history of the countryc
Every object served to mark the residence of a rich,
iristocratic gentleman, who held himself high above
the common people, and could have nothing to fear
from them. In a corner of the room, thrown care-
lessly upon a chair, were the scarlet robes of fh^ chief
justice. This high office, as well as those of lieuten-
ant-governor, councillor, and judge of probate, was
filled by Hutchinson.

Who or what could disturb the domestic quiet of
such a great and powerful personage as now sat in
Grandfather's chair?

The lieutenant-governor's favorite daughter sat by
his side. She leaned on the arm of our great chair,
and looked up affectionately into her father's face, re-
joicing to perceive that a quiet smile was on his lips.
But suddenly a shade came across her countenance.
She seemed to listen attentively, as if to catch a dis
tant sound.

" What is the matter, my child ? " inquired Hutch^

" Father, do not you hear a tumult in the streets ? ''
said she.

The lieutenant-governor listened. But his ears were
duller than those of his daughter ; he could hear no¬Ђ
thing more terrible than the sound of a summer breeze,
Sighing among the tops of the elm-trees.


" No, foolisli cMld ! " he replied, playfully patting
her cheek. " There is no tumult. Our Boston mobs
are satisfied with what mischief they have already
done. The king's friends need not tremble."

So Hutchinson resumed his pleasant and peaceful
meditations, and again forgot that there were any
troubles in the world. But his family were alarmed,
and could not help straining their ears to catch the
slightest sound. More and more distinctly they heard
shouts, and then the trampling of many feet. While
they were listening, one of the neighbors rushed
breathless into the room.

" A mob ! a terrible mob ! " cried he. " They have
broken into Mr. Storey's house, and into Mr. Hallo-
well's, and have made themselves drunk with the
liquors in his cellar ; and now they are coming hither,
as wild as so many tigers. Flee, lieutenant-governor,
for your life ! for your life ! "

" Father, dear father, make haste ! " shrieked his

But Hutchinson would not hearken to them. He
was an old lawyer ; and he could not realize that the
people would do anything so utterly lawless as to as-
sault him in his peaceful home. He was one of King
George's chief officers : and it would be an insult and
outrage upon the king nimself if the lieutenant-gov-
ernor should suffer any wrong.

" Have no fears on my account," said he. " I am
perfectly safe. The king's name shall be my protec-

Yet he bade his family retire into one of the neigh-
boring houses. His daughter would have remained ;
but he forced her away.

The huzzas and riotous uproar of the mob were now


heard, close at hand. The sound was terrible, and
struck Hutchinson with the same sort of dread as if
an enraged wild beast had broken loose and were roar-
ing for its prey. He crept softly to the window.
There he beheld an immense concourse of peoj)le, fill-
ing all the street and rolling onward to his house. It
was like a tempestuous flood, that had swelled beyond
its bounds and would sweep everything before it.
Hutchinson trembled ; he felt, at that moment, that
the wrath of the people was a thousand-fold more ter-
rible than the wrath of a king.

That was a moment when a loyalist and an arista
crat like Hutchinson might have learned how power-
less are kings, nobles, and great men, when the low
and humble range themselves against them. King
Greorge could do nothing for his servant now. Had
King George been there he could have done nothing
for himself. If Hutchinson had understood this les-
son, and remembered it, he need not, in after years^
have been an exile from his native country, nor finally
have laid his bones in a distant land.

There was now a rush against the doors of the
house. The people sent up a hoarse cry. At this in-
stant the lieutenant-governor's daughter, whom he had
supposed to be in a place of safety, ran into the room
and threw her arms around him. She had returned
by a private entrance.

" Father, are you mad ? " cried she. " Will the
king's name protect you now? Come with me, or
they will have your life."

" True," muttered Hutchinson to himself ; " what
care these roarers for the name of king ? I must flee,
or they will trample me down on the floor of my own


Hurrying away, he and liis daughter made their es-
cape by the private passage at the moment when the
rioters broke into the house. The foremost of them
rushed up the staircase, and entered the room which
Hutchinson had just quitted. There they beheld our
good old chair facing them with quiet dignity, while
the lion's head seemed to move its jaws in the unsteady
light of their torches. Perhaps the stately aspect of
our venerable friend, which had stood firm through a
century and a half of trouble, arrested them for an
instant. But they were thrust forward by those be-
hind, and the chair lay overthrown.

Then besran the work of destruction. The carved
and polished mahogany tables were shattered with
heavy clubs and hewn to splinters with axes. The
marble hearths and mantel-pieces were broken. The
volumes of Hutchinson's library, so precious to a stu-
dious man, were torn out of their covers, and the
leaves sent flying out of the windows. Manuscripts,
containing secrets of our country's history, which are
now lost forever, were scattered to the winds. \

The old ancestral portraits, whose fixed counte- J
nances looked down on the wild scene, were rent from
the walls. The mob triumphed in their downfall and
destruction, as if these pictures of Hutchinson's fore-
fathers had committed the same offences as their de- ^
scendant. A tall looking-glass, which had hitherto
presented a reflection of the enraged and drunken
multitude, was now smashed into a thousand frag-
ments. We gladly dismiss the scene from the mirror
of our fancy.

Before morning dawned the walls of the house were
all that remained. The interior was a dismal scene of
ruin. A shower pattered in at the broken windows :


and when Hutcliinson and his family returned, they
stood shivering in the same room where the last even-
ing had seen them so peaceful and happy.^

" Grandfather," said Laurence, indignantly, " if
the people acted in this manner, they were not w^orthy
of even so much liberty as the King of England wae
willing to allow them."

" It was a most unjustifiable act, like many othei
popular movements at that time," replied Grandfather.
" But we must not decide against the justice of the
people's cause merely because an excited mob was
guilty of outrageous violence. Besides, all these
things were done in the first fury of resentment. Af-
terwards the people grew more calm, and were more
influenced by the counsel of those wise and good men
who conducted them safely and gloriously through the

Little Alice, with tears in her blue eyes, said that
she hoped the neighbors had not let Lieutenant-Gov-
ernor Hutchinson and his family be homeless in the
street, but had taken them into their houses and been
kind to them. Cousin Clara, recollecting the perilous
situation of our beloved chair, inquired what had be-
come of it.

" Nothing was heard of our chair for some time
afterwards," answered Grandfather. " One day in
September, the same Andrew Oliver, of whom I
before told you, was summoned to appear at high
noon under Liberty Tree. This was the strangest
summons that had ever been heard of ; for it was
issued in the name of the whole people, who thus took
upon themselves the authority of a sovereign power.

^ Hutchinson's own account of the destruction of his house is
so graphic that we give it in the appendix, page 223.


Mr. Oliver dared not disobey. Accordingly, at the
ippointed hour he went, much against his will, to
Liberty Tree."

Here Charley interposed a remark that poor Mr.
Oliver found but little liberty under Liberty Tree^
Grandfather assented.

" It was a stormy day," continued he. '' The equi-
noctial gale blew violently, and scattered the yellow
leaves of Liberty Tree all along the street. Mr. Oli-
ver's wig was dripping with water - drops ; and he
probably looked haggard, disconsolate, and humbled
to the earth. Beneath the tree, in Grandfather's

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Online LibraryNathaniel HawthorneThe whole history of grandfather's chair ; or, True stories from New England history, 1620-1803 → online text (page 12 of 16)