Oscar Jewell Harvey.

A history of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, from its first beginnings to the present time; online

. (page 104 of 107)
Online LibraryOscar Jewell HarveyA history of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, from its first beginnings to the present time; → online text (page 104 of 107)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

King's policy — as a recent writer has stated — "to nullify the public
control over Parliament as well as the control of Parliament over the
Government ; to obtain a Parliament unconnected with the people, and
a Ministry unconnected with a Parliament."

The opinions of Shelburne and Barr£ and the Government were too
divergent in 1768 for the two men to remain members of the Cabinet
any longer, and so in the Autumn of that year they resigned their
respective offices. About the same time the resignation of Chatham left
the Duke of Grafton in name, as he had long been in reality, Prime
Minister. The followers of Grenville, Rockingham and Chatham (who
composed the Opposition) were, it is true, constantly at variance, but

♦The leading spirit of the Chatham Ministry was Charles Townshend (mentioned on page 684), a
brilliant statesman, but unscrupulous and unwise. His opinions were arbitrary ; he regretted the repeal
of the Stamp Act. as did also the King and the Parliament in general, who felt themselves to have been
humiliated. Three measures affecting America were introduced in the House of Commons by Townshend
May 18, 1707. They were : A suspension of the functions of the legislature of New York for contumacy
in the treatment of the Royal troops ; the establishment of Commissioners of the Customs, appointed
with large powers to superintend laws relating to trade ; and, lastly, an impost duty on glass, red and
white lead, painters' colors, paper and tea. This last was an "external" duty, to which the Colonists had
theretofore expressed a willingness to submit. A revenue of £40,000 a year was expected from the tax,
which was to be applied to the support of a •'civil list"— namely, the paying the salaries of the new Com-
missioners of Customs and of the Judges and Governors in the Colonies, who were to be relieved wholly

r legisl
ned I*c

seen, Townshend suddenly died ; but in the new Ministry tnat was presently
to the front and adopted the policy of his predecessor— receiving in this course
e III, whose activity and interest in public affairs were so great that he "became

formed Lord North came
the firm support of George
his own Minister."

t From Hugh F. Elliot's "Colonel Barre and His Times"— previously mentioned.

Digitized by



they united in their ranks the most brilliant speakers of their time —
Edmund Burke, John Dunning (see page 609) and Isaac Barr£ standing
almost unrivalled in the House of Commons. At the beginning of his
opposition Barr£ found all the materials at hand to make that opposition
fierce and effective.

u During this period the position of the Government was difficult to
the highest degree. The law imposed upon it the duty of maintaining
order, but the police force at its disposal was composed of a few broken-
down old men, who had become policemen simply because they were
too aged or decrepit for other trades. Time and prescription had handed
down to the House of Commons a vast mass of privileges which, to a
certain extent, the Government was bound to protect, or, at all events,
not to see lightly abused. The privileges of the House of Commons
were now attacked by furious mobs. London became one seething mass
of sedition. [See pages 543 and 547.] * * Not a day passed with-
out its riot. The people rose in their trades. There were mobs of
sailors, of weavers, of coal-heavers, of Thames watermen, of tailors, of
hatters. The doors of Parliament were beset by an unruly multitude,
who loudly called for redress, and beat the Members whom they
considered hostile. The position was critical. Lord Mansfield prophe-
sied that there would be a rebellion in ten days — but the Government
called in the troops and the riots were quelled."

In January, 1770, Lord North became Prime Minister, but no
change occurred in the policy of the Government. The country seemed
united against the Premier, and numberless petitions praying for a dis-
solution of Parliament were sent up to the King. A foreign war was
imminent — Spain laying claim to the sovereignty of one of the Falkland
Islands. Barr£ and those acting with him declared that the negligence
of the Government amounted to a trifle less than treason, and the country
was nearly involved in an expensive war for "an island which was little
better than a barren moor, which had a detestable climate, no inhabit-
ants, no trees, no commercial advantages, and no living creatures but the
snipe and the flocks of wild geese which haunted its bogs." Next — in
the Spring of 1771— came the quarrels between the House of Commons
and the printers. (See page 554.) Barr6 took a most active part in at-
tempting to avert the blow from Lord Mayor Crosby. He tried all the
Parliamentary usages by which, in those days, a feeble minority could
oppose a tyrannous majority. The House had never "divided" so often
in one night. The Speaker complained that he was tired to death, and
did not know how the question would ever be settled. At last, when
every expedient had failed, Barr£ got up and attacked the Government.
As the speech which he then delivered affords a fair specimen of Barry's
declamatory style, and is also an illustration of the violence occasionally
introduced into the Parliamentary debates of that period, the following
passages from it are here introduced.

14 What can be your [the Ministers'] intention in such an attack upon all honor and
virtue ? Do you mean to bring all men upon a level with yourselves, and to extirpate all
honesty and independence ? Perhaps you imagine that a vote will settle the whole con-
troversy. Alas ! you are not aware that the manner in which your vote is procured
remains a secret to no man. Listen ; for, if you are not totally callous, if vour con-
sciences are not seared, I will speak daggers to your souls and awake you to all the hells
of a guilty recollection. Guilt, as the poet justly observes, is the source of sorrow.
Trust me, therefore, your triumph shall not be a pleasing one. I will follow you with
whips and with stings through every maze of your unexampled turpitude, and plant
eternal thorns beneath the rose of Ministerial reprobation. * * *

Digitized by



"But it is in vain thatvou hope by fear and terror to extinguish every spark of the
ancient fire of this Isle. The more sacrifices, the more martyrs, you make, the more
numerous will the Sons of Liberty become. They will multiply like the Hydra's heads,
and hurl down vengeance on your devoted heads. Let others act as they will, while I
have a tongue or an arm they shall be free ; and that I may not be a witness of this
monstrous proceeding, / will leave the House ! Nor do I doubt but every independent,
every honest, man will follow me. These walls are unholy, they are baleful, they are
deadly, while a prostitute majority holds the bolt of Parliamentary omnipotence, and
hurls its vengeance upon the virtuous !"

As Barr£ retired from the House there were loud cries, "To the
bar ! To the bar !" but the Ministers wisely declined to increase their
embarrassments by calling him to account. Sir George Savile protested
against the action of the Government and then, accompanied by several
of his friends, followed Barr£ from the House.

Barr£ continued steadfast in opposition, but the Court was not to
be braved with impunity. In January, 1773, Lieutenant Colonel Mor-
rison of the army, who was Barry's junior, was promoted over his head
to the rank of Colonel. Barr£ immediately wrote to Lord Chatham as
follows :

"The particular manner in which His Majesty has been advised to make a late pro-
motion in the army, has so much the appearance of a premeditated affront to me that I
feel myself under an absolute necessity of retiring from a profession in which I have
served six and twenty years. * * This new discipline, my Lord, is surely not cal-
culated to cherish the spirit of an army which your Lordship has taught to conquer in
every clime. Directed as it has been lately, I am proud of renouncing the profession.
To enable me to take this step with propriety to myself, and with decent respect to the
King, I feel that I stand in need of the long experience and sound judgment of much
abler men than myself. "

Chatham advised Barr£ to formally petition the King for promotion

in his proper turn. This he did, but nothing resulting from it he

resigned from the army February 21, 1773. Both Prime Minister North

and the Hon. Richard Rigby, Paymaster General of the Forces, expressed

regret for the manner in which Colonel Barr£ had been treated, and

there can be little doubt that the course pursued by the War Office with

respect to Barr£ was suggested by the King.* In 1773 the Opposition

party was dead, and its members, according to Walpole, were wriggling

themselves into Court as fast as possible. Not a cloud, even the size of

a man's hand, appeared in the sky. Late in February, 1774, however,

news reached England that on the night of December 16, 1773, at

Boston, in Massachusetts, a band of "Mohawks" had thrown overboard

into the cold waters of the harbor, from three ships lying there, 342

chests of tea belonging to the East India Company and valued at £18,000.

March 18, 1774, Lord North presented in the House of Commons a Bill

for the immediate removal of the officers concerned in the collection and

management of His Majesty's custom-duties at Boston, and to discontinue

the landing and discharging of goods at that port. In the course of the

long and earnest debate on this Bill — known as u The Boston Port Bill"

— it was stated that Boston was u the port of the greatest consequence to

England of any existing." In discussing the Bill Colonel Barr£ said,

among other thingsf :

* * "The Bill before you is the first vengeful step that you have taken. * *
As long as I sit here among you I will oppose the taxing of America. * * Keep your
hands out of the pockets of the Americans and they will be obedient subjects. I think
this Bill a moderate one, but I augur that the next proposition will be a black one. * *
You have not a loom nor an anvil but what is stamped with America ; it is the main prop
of your trade. * * America employs all your workmen here ; nourish and protect it,
that they may be supported.*'

* See page 001. f See "American Archives," Fourth Series, 1 : 46.

Digitized by



When the Bill came up on its final passage through the House
Barr6 voted for it. He admitted afterwards* that he had supported the
Administration in blocking the port of Boston, "but," said he, "I think
I have no great guilt on that head, as I thought it was a measure adopted
to produce a compromise for the damage the East India Company had
sustained. The Ministers had given the most explicit assurances that
the merchants of Boston desired such a Bill, and that the people of
Massachusetts would, as soon as it was passed, immediately return to
their duty." On March 31st, His Majesty "being seated on the throne
in the House of Lords, adorned with his crown and regal ornaments,
and attended by his officers of State — the Commons also being in at-
tendance" — the Royal assent was pronounced on the Boston Port Bill.

Great Britain had now come, with respect to her American Colonies,
to that fatal dilemma : "Resist, and we will cut your throats ; submit,
and we will tax you !" April 15, 1774, on motion of Lord North, there
was brought before the House of Commons a measure entitled : "An
Act for the Impartial Administration of Justice in the cases of persons
questioned for any acts done by them in execution of the law, or for the
suppression of riots and tumults, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay
in New England." With respect to this measure the Premier said he
hoped that it would effectually secure the Province of Massachusetts from
future disturbances. Further, it "was to give every man a fair and im-
partial trial." Continuing, Lord North said :

"If it shall be found that a man is not likely to meet with a fair and impartial trial,
the Governor will be empowered to send him to any of the other Colonies where the same
kind of spirit has not prevailed ; but if it should be thought that he could not have such
fair and impartial trial in any of the Colonies, in that case he is to be sent to Great Britain,
to be tried before the Court of King's Bench. * * * A measure such as this will show
to that country that this nation is roused to defend its rights and protect the security of
peace in its Colonies ; and when roused, that the measures which it takes are not cruel
nor vindictive, but necessary and efficacious. Temporary distress requires temporary
relief. I shall, therefore, propose this Bill only for the limited time of three or four years.

"We must consider that everything that we have that is valuable to us is now at
stake. * * * Governor Hutchinson comes home, and His Majesty has appointed as
Commander and Governor-in-chief General Gage —a man whose great abilities and exten-
sive knowledge of that country will give him a superior advantage. * * There is one
thing I much wish, which is the punishment of those individuals who have been the ring-
leaders and forerunners of these mischiefs. A prosecution has already been ordered against
them by His Majesty's servants, but I cannot promise myself any very good effect until
this law shall have reached the Province."

During the discussion of this Bill in the House Colonel Barr£

delivered a speech which attracted considerable attention at the time,

particularly in America ; and which, for many years thereafter, was

largely instrumental in keeping alive the regard and affection of the

patriotic people of this country for Colonel Barr£ — for American writers

and orators of the Revolutionary period often referred to the speech.

Seventy years ago, and earlier, it was one of the stock pieces printed in

the leading school "Readers" and "Speakers" of the country. In the

circumstances, therefore, it seems appropriate to introduce it here.

"I rise with ereat unwillingness to oppose this measure — in its very infancy, before
its features are well formed — or to claim that attention which this House seems to bestow
with so much reluctance on any arguments in behalf of America. But I must call you to
witness that I have been hitherto silent or acquiescent to an unexpected degree of modera-
tion. While your proceedings, severe as they were, had the least color oi foundation in
justice I desisted from opposing them. Nay, more ! Though your Bill for stopping up
the port of Boston contained in it many things most cruel, unwarrantable and unjust,
yet, as they were couched under those general principles of justice, retribution for injury,
and compensation for loss sustained, I not only desisted from opposing, but assented to,
♦Sec "American Archives," Fourth Series, VI : 286 ; also this page, last paragraph.

Digitized by



its passing. The Bill was a bad way of doing what was right ; but still it was doing what
was right. I would not, therefore, by opposing it, seem to countenance those violences
which had been committed abroad, and of which no man disapproves more than I do.

"Upon the present question I am totally unprepared. The motion itself bears no
sort of resemblance to what was formerly announced. The noble Lord [North] and his
friends have had every advantage of preparation. They have reconnoitered the field and
chosen their ground. To attack them in these circumstances may, perhaps, savor more
of the gallantry of a soldier than of the wisdom of a senator. But, sir, the proposition is
so glaring, so unprecedented in any former proceedings of Parliament, so unwarranted by
any delay, denial or preservation of justice in America, so big with misery and oppression
to that country and with danger to this, that the first blush of it is sufficient to alarm and
rouse me to opposition. It is proposed to stigmatize a whole people as persecutors of in-
nocence and men incapable of doing justice ; yet you have not a single fact on which to
ground that imputation.

"I expected the noble Lord would have supported this motion by producing in-
stances of the officers of Government in America having been prosecuted with unremitting
vengeance, and brought to cruel and dishonorable deaths, by the violence and injustice
of American juries. But he has not produced one such instance ; and I will tell you more,
sir — he cannot produce one. The instances which have happened are directly in the
teeth of his proposition. Captain Preston and the soldiers who shed the blood of the
people [see page 594, ante] were fairly tried and fully acquitted. It was an American
jury — a New England jury, a Boston jury — which tried and acquitted them. Captain
Preston has, under his hand, publicly declared that the inhabitants of the very town, in
which their fellow-citizens had been sacrificed, were his advocates and defenders. Is
this the return you make them ? Is this the encouragement you give them to persevere
in so laudable a spirit of justice and moderation ?

"When a Commissioner of the Customs, aided by a number of ruffians, assaulted
the celebrated Mr. [James] Otis in the midst of the town of Boston, and with the most
barbarous violence almost murdered him, did the mob— which is said to rule that town —
take vengeance on the perpetrators of this inhuman outrage against a person who is sup-
posed to be their demagogue ? No ! sir, the law tried them ; the law gave heavy damages
against them, which the irreparably-injured Mr. Otis most generously forgave, upon an
acknowledgment of the offense. Can you expect any more such instances of magnanimity
under the principle of the Bill now proposed ? But the noble Lord says : * We must now
show the Americans that we will no longer sit quiet under their insults !' Sir, I am sorry
to say that this declamation is unbecoming the character and place of him who utters it.
In what moment have you been quiet ? Has not your government, for many years past,
been a series of irritating and offensive measures, without policy, principle or moderation ?
Have not your troops and your ships made a vain and insulting parade in their streets
and in their harbors ? It has seemed to be your study to irritate and inflame them. You
have stimulated discontent into disaffection, and you are now goading that disaffection
into rebellion.

"You know, sir, what constant care is taken in this country to remind the military
that they are under the restraint of the civil power. In America their superiority is felt
still greater. * * I have been bred a soldier ; have served long. I respect the profession,
and live in the strictest habits of friendship with a great many officers ; but there is not a
country gentleman of you all who looks upon the army with a more jealous eye, or would
more strenuously resist the setting them ai>ove the control of the civil power. No man is
to be trusted in such a situation. It is not the fault of the soldier, but the vice of human
nature, which, unbridled by law, becomes insolent and licentious, wantonly violates the
peace of society and tramples upon the rights of human kind. With respect to those
gentlemen who are destined to this service — they are much to be pitied. It is a service
which an officer of feeling and of worth must enter upon with infinite reluctance ; a ser-
vice in which his only merit must be to bear much and do little.

"When I stand up as an advocate for America, I feel myself the firmest friend of
this country. We stand upon the commerce of America. Alienate your Colonies and
you will subvert the foundation of your riches and your strength. Let the banners be
once spread in America, and you are an undone people. You are urging this desperate,
this destructive, issue. You are urging it with such violence — and by measures tending
so manifestly to that fatal point — that, but for that state of madness which only could
inspire such an intention, it would appear to be your deliberate purpose. In assenting
to your late Bill I resisted the violence of America, at the hazard of my popularity there.
I now resist your frenzy, at the same risk here. You have changed your ground. You
are becoming the aggressors, and are offering the last of human outrages to the people of
America by subjecting them, in effect, to military execution. I know the vast superiority
of your disciplined troops over the Provincials ; but, beware how you supply the want of
discipline by desperation. Instead of sending them the olive branch, you have sent the
naked sword. By the olive branch, / mean a repeal of all the late laws — fruitless to you
and oppressive to them.

"Ask their aid in a constitutional manner, and they will give it to the utmost of
their ability. . They never yet refused it, when properly required. Your journals bear
the recorded acknowledgments of the zeal with which they have contributed to the

Digitized by



general necessities of the State. What madness is it that prompts you to attempt obtain-
ing that by force which you may more certainly procure by requisition ? They may be
flattered into anything, but they are too much like yourselves to be driven. Have some
indulgence for your own likeness ; respect their sturdy English virtue ; retract your
odious exertions of authority, and remember that the first step towards making them con-
tribute to your wants is to reconcile them to your government."

This Bill, which Colonel Barr£ opposed with so much vigor, was
passed by both Houses of Parliament, and May 20, 1774, received the
Royal assent. At the same time there was pending in the House of
Commons a Bill for the better regulating of the government of the
Province of Massachusetts. With respect to this measure Colonel Barr6
spoke as follows* :

"The question now before us is, whether we will choose to bring over the affections
of all our Colonies by lenient measures, or to wage war with them. I shall content my-
self with stating that when the Stamp Act was repealed it produced quiet and ease. Was
it then in the contemplation of any sober, honest mind that any other tax would be laid on
for at least a century? [Colonel Barre* then, with all his eloquence, blamed the late
Charles Townshend for loading America with a tax,] nor was he [Townshend] sufficiently
cautious in choosing proper Commissioners for executing his trust. It was this which
disgusted the inhabitants of Boston, and there has been nothing but riots ever since.
You sent over troops in 1768, and in 1770 you were obliged to recall them. The people
were fired at by the lawless soldiery, and seven or eight innocent persons were killed.
They were carried about the town as victims of your revenge, to incite the compassion of
the friends and relations of the deceased, and the next morning you were forced to
order the troops out of town.

[Colonel Barre* next condemned the behavior of Governor Hutchinson, as an ac-
complice in the prevailing disturbances, and commended the behavior of Governor Tryon,
who, knowing that he could land the tea only at the muzzles of his guns, prudently sent
it back to England. Continuing, the Colonel said :] "All other Colonies have behaved
with nearly the same degree of resistance, and yet you point all your revenge at Boston
alone ; but I think you wiU soon have the rest of the Colonies on your back. I will tell
the House a story that happened to us when we marched at Ticonderoga [see page 580,
ante]. The inhabitants of that town looked upon the officers of the Corps as suj>erior
beings to themselves, and the youngest among the officers, I will answer for it, was highly
treated and indulged by the fair sex to the utmost of our wishes ; even their wives and
daughters were at our service. If the same degree of civility prevails, think you that it
is possible the execution of this Bill can ever be observed by your army ? I was of the
profession myself, and I beg leave to tell the House that I am no deserter from it. I was
forced out of it bv means which a man of spirit could not submit to. I take this oppor-
tunity to say again that I am no deserter from my profession !

*'I think this Bill is, in every shape, to be condemned, for that law which shocks
Equity is Reason's murderer ; and all the protection that you mean to give to the military
whilst in the execution of their duty will serve but to make them odious. You are by
this Bill at war with your Colonies. You may march your troops from North to South
and meet no enemy ; but the people there will soon turn out — like the sullen Hollanders

Online LibraryOscar Jewell HarveyA history of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, from its first beginnings to the present time; → online text (page 104 of 107)