Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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

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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 14 of 16)
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" There never was a greater contrast than between
Samuel Adams and John Hancock," said Grandfather.
" Yet they were of the same side in politics, and had
an equal agency in the Revolution. Hancock was
born to the inheritance of the largest fortune in New
England. His tastes and habits were aristocratic. He
loved gorgeous attire, a splendid mansion, magnificent
furniture, stately festivals, and all that was glittering
and pompous in external things. His manners were
so polished that there stood not a nobleman at the
footstool of King George's throne who was a more
skilful courtier than John Hancock might have beeUc
Nevertheless, he in his embroidered clothes, and Sam=
uel Adams in his threadbare coat, wrought together
in the cause of liberty. Adams acted from pure and
rigid principle. Hancock, though he loved his coun-
try, yet thought quite as much of his own popularity
as he did of the people's rights. It is remarkable that
these two men, so very different as I describe them,
were the only two exempted from pardon by the king's


On the next leaf of the book was the portrait of
General Joseph Warren. Charley recognized the
name, and said that here was a greater man than
either Hancock or Adams.

" Warren was an eloquent and able patriot," replied
Grandfather. " He deserves a lasting memory for his
zealous efforts in behalf of liberty. No man's voice
was more powerful in Faneuil Hall than Joseph War-
ren's. If his death had not happened so early in the
contest, he would probably have gained a high name
as a soldier."

The next portrait was a venerable man, who held
his thumb under his chin, and, through his spectacles,
appeared to be attentively reading a manuscript.

" Here we see the most illustrious Boston boy that
ever lived," said Grandfather. " This is Benjamin
Franklin. But I will not try to compress into a few
sentences the character of the sage, who, as a French-
man expressed it, snatched the lightning from the sky
and the sceptre from a tyrant. Mr. Sparks must help
you to the knowledge of Franklin." ^

The book likewise contained portraits of James Otis
and Josiah Quincy. Both of them. Grandfather ob-
served, were men of wonderful talents and true patri-
otism. Their voices were like the stirring tones of a
trumpet arousing the country to defend its freedom.
Heaven seemed to have provided a greater number of
eloquent men than had appeared at any other period,
in order that the people might be fully instructed as
to their wrongs and the method of resi?tance.

^ Hawthorne himself wrote a sketch of Franklin. See RiveV'
side Literature Series, No. 10. But the best account of Franklin
is his Autobiography, published in Riverside Literature Series, Nos.
19 and 20.


" It is marvellous," said Grandfather, " to see how
many powerful writers, orators, and soldiers started up
just at the time when they were wanted. There was a
man for every kind of work. It is equally wonderful
that men of such different characters were all made
to unite in the one object of establishing the freedom
and independence of America. There was an over-
ruling Providence above them."

" Here was another great man," remarked Lau
rence, pointing to the portrait of John Adams.

" Yes ; an earnest, warm-tempered, honest and most
able man," said Grandfather. " At the period of
which we are now speaking he was a lawyer in Bos-
ton. He was destined in after years to be ruler over
the whole American people, whom he contributed so
much to form into a nation."

Grandfather here remarked that many a New-Eng-
lander, who had passed his boyhood and youth in ob-
scurity, afterward attained to a fortune which he never
could have foreseen even in his most ambitious dreams.
John Adams, the second President of the United
States and the equal of crowned kings, was once a
schoolmaster and country lawyer. Hancock, the first
signer of the Declaration of Independence, served his
apprenticeship with a merchant. Samuel Adams,
afterwards governor of Massachusetts, was a small
tradesman and a tax-gatherer. General Warren was
a physician. General Lincoln a farmer, and Genera]
Knox a bookbinder. General Nathaniel Greene, the
best soldier, except Washington, in the Revolutionary
army, was a Quaker and a blacksmith. All these be-
came illustrious men, and can never be forgotten in
American history.

" And any boy who is born in America may look


forward to the same things," said our ambitious friend

After these observations, Grandfather drew the book
of portraits towards him and showed the children sev-
eral British peers and members of Parliament who
had exerted themselves either for or against the rights
jf America. There were the Earl of Bute, Mr. Gren-
ville, and Lord North. These were looked upon as
deadly enemies to our country.

Among the friends of America was Mr. Pitt, after-
ward Earl of Chatham, who spent so much of his won-
drous eloquence in endeavoring to warn England of
the consequences of her injustice. He fell down on
the floor of the House of Lords after uttering almost
his dying words in defence of our privileges as free-
men. There was Edmund Burke, one of the wisest
men and greatest orators that ever the world produced.
There was Colonel Barre, who had been among our
fathers, and knew that they had courage enough to
die for their rights. There was Charles eJames Fox,
who never rested until he had silenced our enemies
in the House of Commons.

" It is very remarkable to observe how many of the
ablest orators in the British Parliament were favor-
able to America," said Grandfather. " We ought to
remember these great Englishmen with gratitude ; for
their speeches encouraged our fathers almost as much
as those of our own orators in Faneuil Hall and under
Liberty Tree. Opinions which might have been re-
ceived with doubt, if expressed only by a native Amer-
ican, were set down as true, beyond dispute, when they
came from the lips of Chatham, Burke, Barre, or

" But, Grandfather," asked Lawrence, " were there


no able and eloquent men in this country who took
the part of King George ? "

" There were many men of talent who said what
they could in defence of the king's tyrannical pro-
ceedings," replied Grandfather. " But they had the
worst side of the argument, and therefore seldom said
anything worth remembering. Moreover, their hearts
were faint and feeble ; for they felt that the people
scorned and detested them. They had no friends, no
defence, except in the bayonets of the British troops.
A blight fell upon all their faculties, because they
were contending against the rights of their own na-
tive land."

" What were the names of some of them ? " inquired

" Governor Hutchinson, Chief Justice Oliver, Judge
Auchrauty, the Rev. Mather Byles, and several other
clergymen, were among the most noted loyalists," an-
swered Grandfather.

" I wish the people had tarred and feathered every
man of them ! " cried Charley.

" That wish is very wrong, Charley," said Grand-
father. " You must not think that there is no integ-
rity and honor except among those who stood up for
the freedom of America. For aught I know, there
was quite as much of these qualities on one side as on
the other. Do you see nothing admirable in a faith-
ful adherence to an unpopular cause ? Can you not
respect that principle of loyalty which made the roy=
alists give up country, friends, fortune, everything,
rather than be false to their king ? It was a mistaken
principle ; but many of them cherished it honorably,
and were martyrs to it."

'' Oh, I was wrong ! " said Charley, ingenuously.


" And I would risk my life rather than one of those
good old royalists should be tarred and feathered."

" The time is now come when we may judge fairly
of them," continued Grandfather. "Be the good and
true men among them honored ; for they were as much
our countrymen as the patriots were. And, thank
Heaven, our country need not be ashamed of her sons,
= — of most of them at least, — whatever side they took
in the Revolutionary contest."

Among the portraits was one of King George HI,
Little Alice clapped her hands, and seemed pleased
with the bluff good-nature of his physiognomy. But
Laurence thought it strange that a man with such a
face, indicating hardly a common share of intellect,
should have had influence enough on human affairs to
convulse the world with war. Grandfather observed
that this poor king had always appeared to him one of
the most unfortunate persons that ever lived. He was
so honest and conscientious, that, if he had been only a
private man, his life would probably have been blame-
less and happy. But his was that worst of fortunes, —
to be placed in a station far beyond his abilities.

*' And so," said Grandfather, " his life, while he re-
tained what intellect Heaven had gifted him with, was
one long mortification. At last he grew crazed with
care and trouble. For nearly twenty years the mon-
arch of England was confined as a madman. In his
old age, too, God took away his eyesight ; so that his
royal palace was nothing to him but a dark, lonesome



" Our old chair " resumed Grandfather, " did not
now stand in the midst of a gay circle of British
officers. The troops, as I told yon, had been removed
to Castle William immediately after the Boston mas-
sacre. Still, however, there were many tories, cus-
tom-house officers, and Englishmen who used to
assemble in the British Coffee House and talk over
the affairs of the period. Matters grew worse and
worse ; and in 1773 the people did a deed which
incensed the king and ministry more than any of
their former doings."

Grandfather here described the affair, which is
known by the name of the Boston Tea Party. The
Americans, for some time past, had left off import^
ing tea, on account of the oppressive tax. The East
India Company, in London, had a large stock of tea
on hand, which they had expected to sell to the
Americans, but could find no market for it. But
after a while, the government persuaded this company
of merchants to send the tea to America.

" How odd it is," observed Clara, " that the lib^
^.rties of America should have had anything to do
vvith a cup of tea! "

Grandfather smiled, and proceeded with his nar-
rative. When the people of Boston heard that several
cargoes of tea were coming across the Atlantic, they


held a great many meetings at Faneuil Hall, in the
Old South Church, and under Liberty Tree. In the
midst of their debates, three ships arrived in the
harbor with the tea on board. The people spent more
than a fortnight in consulting what should be done.
At last, on the 16th of December, 1773, they demanded
of Governor Hutchinson that he should immediately'
send the ships back to England.

The governor replied that the ships must not leave
the harbor until the custom-house duties upon the tea
should be paid. Now, the payment of these duties
was the very thing against which the people had set
their faces ; because it was a tax unjustly imposed
upon America by the English government. Therefore,
in the dusk of the evening, as soon as Governor
Hutchinson's reply was received, an immense crowd
hastened to Griffin's Wharf, where the tea-ships lay.
The place is now called Liverpool Wharf.

" When the crowd reached the wharf," said Grand-
father, "they saw that a set of wild-looking figures
were already on board of the ships. You would have
imagined that the Indian warriors of old times had
come back again ; for they wore the Indian dress, and
had their faces covered with red and black paint, like
the Indians when they go to war. These grim figures
hoisted the tea-chests on the decks of the vessels,
broke them open, and threw all the contents into the

" Grandfather," said little Alice, " I suppose Indians
don't love tea ; else they would never waste it so."

" They were not real Indians, my child," answered
Grandfather. " They were white men in disguise ; be-
cause a heavy punishment would have been inflicted
on them if the king's officers had found who they were.


But it was never known. From that day to this,
though the matter has been talked of by all the world,
nobody can tell the names of those Indian figures.
Some people say that there were very famous men
among them, who afterwards became governors and
generals. Whether this be true I cannot tell."

When tidings of this bold deed were carried tc
England, King George was greatly enraged. Parlia-
ment immediately passed an act, by which all vessels
were forbidden to take in or discharge their cargoes
at the port of Boston. In this way they expected to
ruin all the merchants, and starve the poor people, by
depriving them of employment. At the same time
another act was passed, taking away many rights and
privileges which had been granted in the charter of

Governor Hutchinson, soon afterward, was sum-
moned to England, in order that he might give his
advice about the management of American affairs.
General Gage, an officer of the old French War,
and since couimander-in-chief of the British forces in
America, was appointed governor in his stead. One
of his first acts was to make Salem, instead of Boston,
the metropolis of Massachusetts, by summoning the
General Court to meet there.

According to Grandfather's description, this was the
most gloomy time that Massachusetts had ever seen.
The people groaned under as heavy a tyranny as in
the days of Sir Edmund Andros. Boston looked as
if it were afflicted with some dreadful pestilence, —
so sad were the inhabitants, and so desolate the streets.
There was no cheerful hum of business. The mer-
chants shut up their warehouses, and the laboring men
stood idle about the wharves. But all America felt


interested in the good town of Boston ; and contribu.
fcions were raised, in many places, for the relief of the
poor inhabitants.

"Our dear old chair ! " exclaimed Clara. " How
dismal it must have been now ! "

" Oh," replied Grandfather, " a gay throng of offi-
cers had now come back to the British Coffee House \
so that the old chair had no lack of mirthful companvo
Soon after General Gage became governor a great
many troops had arrived, and were encamped upon
the Common. Boston was now a garrisoned and for-
tified town ; for the general had built a battery across
the Neck, on the road to Roxbury, and placed guards
for its defence. Everything looked as if a civil war
were close at hand."

" Did the people make ready to fight ? " asked Char-

" A Continental Congress assembled at Philadel-
phia," said Grandfather, " and proposed such meas-
ures as they thought most conducive to the public
good. A Provincial Congress was likewise chosen in
Massachusetts. They exhorted the people to arm and
discipline themselves. A great number of minute-
men were enrolled. The Americans called them min-
ute-men, because they engaged to be ready to fight at
a minute's warning. The English officers laughed,
and said that the name was a very proper one, because
the minute-men would run away the minute they saw
the enemy. Whether they would fight or run was soon
to be proved."

Grandfather told the children that the first open
resistance offered to the British troops, in the province
of Massachusetts, was at Salem. Colonel Timothy
Pickering, with thirty or forty militia-men, prevented


the English colonel, Leslie, with four times as many
regular soldiers, from taking possession of some mili-
tary stores. No blood was shed on this occasion ; but
8oon afterward it began to flow.

General Gage sent eight hundred soldiers to Con-
cord, about eighteen miles from Boston, to destroy
some ammunition and provisions which the colonists
had collected there. They set out on their march on
the evening of the 18th of April, 1775. The next
morning the general sent Lord Percy with nine hun-
dred men to strengthen the troops that had gone be-
fore. All that day the inhabitants of Boston heard
various rumors. Some said that the British were mak-
ing great slaughter among our countrymen. Others
affirmed that every man had turned out with his mus-
ket, and that not a single soldier would ever get back
to Boston.

" It was after sunset," continued Grandfather, " when
the troops, who had marched forth so proudly, were
seen entering Charlestown. They were covered with
dust, and so hot and weary that their tongues hung
out of their mouths. Many of them were faint with
wounds. They had not all returned. Nearly threp
hundred were strewn, dead or dying, along the road
from Concord. The yeomanry had risen up'on the
invaders and driven them back."

"Was this the battle of Lexington?" asked Char^

" Yes," replied Grandfather ; " it was so called, be-
cause the British, without provocation, had fired upon
a party of minute-men, near Lexington meeting-house,
ind killed eight of them. That fatal volley, which
was fired by order of Mai or Pitcairn, began the war
of the Revolution-"


About this time, if Grandfather had been correctly
informed, our chair disappeared from the British Cof-
fee House. The manner of its departure cannot be
satisfactorily ascertained. Perhaps the keeper of the
Coffee House turned it out of doors on account of its
old-fashioned aspect. Perhaps he sold it as a curios^
ity. Perhaps it was taken, without leave, by some
person who regarded it as public property because it
had once figured under Liberty Tree. Or perhaps the
old chair, being of a peaceable disposition, has made
use of its four oaken legs and run away from the seat
of war.

" It would have made a terrible clattering over the
pavement," said Charley, laughing.

" Meanwhile," continued Grandfather, " during the
mysterious non-appearance of our chair, an army of
twenty thousand men had started up and come to the
siege of Boston. General Gage and his troops were
cooped up within the narrow precincts of the penin-
sula. On the 17th of June, 1775, the famous battle
of Bunker Hill was fought. Here General Warren
fell. The British got the victory, indeed, but with
the loss of more than a thousand officers and men."

"Oh Grandfather," cried Charley, "you must teU
us about that famous battle."

"No, Charley," said Grandfather, "I am not like
other historians. Battles shall not hold a prominen'
place in the history of our quiet and comfortable ola
chair. But to-morrow evening, Laurence, Clara, and
yourself, and dear little Alice too, shall visit the Dio-
rama of Bunker Hill. There you shall see the whole
business, the burning of Charlestown and all, with
your own eyes, and hear the cannon and musketry
with your own ears."



The next evening but one, when the children had
given Grandfather a full account of the Diorama of
Bunker Hill, they entreated him not to keep them
any longer in suspense about the fate of his chair.
The reader will recollect that, at the last accounts, i'i
had trotted away upon its poor old legs nobody knew
«vhither. But, before gratifying their curiosity. Grand-
father found it necessary to say something about pub
lie events.

The Continental Congress, which was assembled at
Philadelj^hia, was composed of delegates from all the
colonies. They had now apj)ointed George Washing-
ton, of Virginia, to be commander-in-chief of all the
American armies. He was, at that time, a member of
Congress ; but immediately left Philadelphia, and be-
gan his journey to Massachusetts. On the 3d of July,
1775, he arrived at Cambridge, and took command of
the troops which were besieging General Gage.

" O Grandfather," exclaimed Laurence, " it makes
my heart throb to think what is coming now. We
are to see General Washington himself."

The children crowded around Grandfather and
looked earnestly into his face. Even little Alice
opened her sweet blue eyes, with her lips apart, and
almost held her breath to listen ; so instinctive is the
ceverence of childhood for the father of his country.


Grandfather paused a moment ; for he felt as if it
might be irreverent to introduce the hallowed shade
of Washington into a history where an ancient elbow-
chair occupied the most prominent place. However,
he d-etermined to proceed with his narrative, and speak
of the hero when it was needful, but with an unam-
bitious simplicity.

So Grandfather told his auditors, that, on General
Washington's arrival at Cambridge, his first care was
to reconnoitre the British troops with his spy-glass,
and to examine the condition of his own army. He
found that the American troops amounted to about
fourteen thousand men. They were extended all round
the peninsula of Boston, a space of twelve miles, from
the high grounds of Roxbury on the right to Mystic
River on the left. Some were living in tents of sail-
cloth, some in shanties rudely constructed of boards,
some in huts of stone or turf with curious windows
and doors of basket-work.

In order to be near the centre and oversee the vvhole
of this wide-stretched army, the commander-in-chief
made his headquarters at Cambridge, about half a
mile from the colleges. A mansion-house, which per-
haps had been the country seat of some Tory gentle
man, was provided for his residence.

" When General Washington first entered this man
sion," said Grandfather, " he was ushered up the stair
case and shown into a handsome apartment. He sat
down in a large chair, which was the most conspicuous
object in the room. The noble figure of Washington
would have done honor to a throne. As he sat there,
with his hand resting on the hilt of his sheathed
pword, which was placed between his knees, his whole
ftPipect we)l befitted the chosen man on whom hi.<


country leaned for tbe defence of her dearest rights.
America seemed safe under his protection. His face
was grander than any sculptor had ever wrought in
marble ; none could behold him without awe and rev-
erence. Never before had the lion's head at the sum-
mit of the chair looked down upon such a face and
form as Washington's."

" Why, Grandfather ! " cried Clara, clasping her
hands in amazement, " was it really so ? Did Genera}
Washington sit in our great chair ? "

'' I knew how it would be," said Laurence ; " I fore-
saw it the moment Grandfather began to speak."

Grandfather smiled. But, turning from the per-
sonal and domestic life of the illustrious leader, he
spoke of the methods which Washington adopted to
win back the metropolis of New England from the

Ihe army, when he took command of it, was with-
out any discipline or order. The privates considered
themselves as good as their officers ; and seldom
thought it necessary to obey their commands, unless
they understood the why and wherefore. Moreover,
they were enlisted for so short a period, that, as soon
as they began to be respectable soldiers, it was time to
discharge them. Then came new recruits, who had to
be taught their duty before they could be of any ser-
vice. Such was the army with which Washington
had to contend against more than twenty veteran
British regiments.

Some of the men had no muskets, and almost all
vere without bayonets. Heavy cannon, for battering
^he British fortifications, were much wanted. There
was but a small quantity of powder and ball, few tools
to build intrenchments wdth, and a great deficiency of


provisions and clothes for the soldiers. Yet, in spite
of these perplexing difficulties, the eyes of the whole
jpeople were fixed on General Washington, expecting
him to undertake some great enterprise against the
hostile army.

The first thing that he found necessary was to bring
his own men into better order and discipline. It is
wonderful how soon he transformed this rough mob of
country people into the semblance of a regular army.
One of Washington's most invaluable characteristics
was the faculty of bringing order out of confusion.
All business with which he had any concern seemed
to regulate itself as if by magic. The influence of
his mind was like light gleaming through an unshaped
world. It was this faculty, more than any other, that
made him so fit to ride upon the storm of the Revolu-
tion when everything was unfixed and drifting about

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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 14 of 16)