Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: Proceedings of the Colonies in 1774, in consequence of the Boston Port Act, viz. - The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1
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CHAPTER IV: Proceedings of the Colonies in 1774, in consequence of the Boston Port Act, viz. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 1.
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Proceedings of the Colonies in 1774, in consequence of the Boston Port Act, viz.
The winter which followed the destruction of the tea in Boston, was an anxious one to those of the  colonists who were given to reflection. Many conjectures were formed about the line of conduct, Great-Britain would probably adopt, for the support of her dignity. The fears of the most timid were more than realized by the news of the Boston port bill.1774 This arrived on the 10th of May, and its operation was to commence the first of the next month. Various town meetings were called to deliberate on the state of public affairs. On the 13th of May, the town of Boston passed the following vote.
That it is the opinion of this town, that if the other colonies come into a joint resolution to stop all importation from Great-Britain and the West-Indies, till the act for blocking up this harbour be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North-America, and her liberties. On the other hand if they continue their exports and imports, there is high reason to fear that fraud, power, and the most odious oppression, will rise triumphant over justice, right, social happiness, and freedom. And moreover that this vote, be transmitted by the moderator, to all our sister colonies, in the name and behalf of this town.
Copies of this vote were transmitted to each of the colonies. The opposition to Great-Britain, had hitherto called forth the pens of the ingenious, and in some instances imposed the self denial of non-importation agreements: but the bulk of the people, had little to do with the dispute. The spirited conduct of the people of Boston, in destroying the tea, and the alarming precedents set by Great-Britain, in consequence thereof, brought subjects into discussion, with which every peasant and day labourer was concerned.
The patriots who had hitherto guided the helm, knew well, that if the other colonies did not support the people of Boston, they must be crushed, and it was equally obvious, that in their coercion a precedent, injurious to liberty, would be established. It was therefore the interest of Boston to draw in the other colonies. It was also the interest of the patriots in all the colonies, to bring over the bulk of the people, to adopt such efficient measures as were likely to extricate the inhabitants of  Boston from the unhappy situation in which they were involved. To effect these purposes much prudence as well as patriotism was necessary. The other provinces were but remotely affected by the fate of Massachusetts. They were happy, and had no cause, on their own account, to oppose the government of Great-Britain. That a people so circumstanced, should take part with a distressed neighbour, at the risque of incurring the resentment of the Mother Country, did not accord with the selfish maxims by which states, as well as individuals, are usually governed. The ruled are, for the most part, prone to suffer as long as evils are tolerable, and in general they must feel before they are roused to contend with their oppressors; but the Americans acted on a contrary principle.
They commenced an opposition to Great-Britain, and ultimately engaged in a defensive war, on speculation. They were not so much moved by oppression actually felt, as by a conviction that a foundation was laid, and a precedent about to be established for future oppressions. To convince the bulk of the people, that they had an interest in foregoing a present good, and submitting to a present evil, in order to obtain a future greater good, and to avoid a future greater evil, was the task assigned to the colonial patriots. But it called for the exertion of their utmost abilities. They effected it in a great measure, by means of the press. Pamphlets, essays, addresses and news paper dissertations were daily presented to the public, proving that Massachusetts was suffering in the common cause, and that interest and policy, as well as good neighbourhood, required the united exertions of all the colonies, in support of that much injured province. It was inculcated on the people, that if the ministerial schemes were suffered to take effect in Massachusetts, the other colonies must expect the loss of their charters, and that a new government would be imposed upon them, like that projected for Quebec. The king and parliament held no patronage in America, sufficient to oppose this torrent. The few who ventured to write in their favour found a difficulty in communicating their sentiments to the public.  No pensions or preferments awaited their exertions. Neglect and contempt were their usual portion, but popularity, consequence, and fame, were the rewards of those who stepped forward in the cause of liberty. In order to interest the great body of people, the few who were at the helm, disclaimed any thing more decisive, than convening the inhabitants, and taking their sense on what was proper to be done. In the mean time great pains were taken to prepare them for the adoption of vigorous measures.
The words whigs and tories, for want of better, were now introduced, as the distinguishing names of parties. By the former, were meant those who were for making a common cause with Boston, and supporting the colonies in their opposition to the claims of parliament. By the latter those who were at least so far favourers of Great-Britain, that they wished, either that no measures, or only palliative measures, should be adopted in opposition to her schemes.
These parties were so nearly balanced in New-York, that nothing more was agreed to at the first meeting of the inhabitants, than a recommendation to call a Congress.
At Philadelphia the patriots had a delicate part to act. The government of the colony being proprietary, a multitude of officers connected with that interest, had much to fear from convulsions, and nothing to expect from a revolution. A still greater body of people called Quakers, denied the lawfulness of war, and therefore could not adopt such measures for the support of Boston, as naturally tended to produce an event so adverse to their system of religion.
The citizens of Boston, not only sent forward their public letter, to the citizens of Philadelphia; but accompanied it with private communications to individuals of known patriotism and influence, in which they stated the impossibility of their standing alone, against the torrent of ministerial vengeance, and the indispensable necessity, that the leading colony of Pennsylvania, should afford them its support and countenance. The advocates in Philadelphia, for making a common cause  with Boston, were fully sensible of the state of parties in Pennsylvania. They saw the dispute with Great-Britain, brought to a crisis, and a new scene opening, which required exertions different from any heretofore made. The success of these they well knew, depended on the wisdom with which they were planned, and the union of the whole people, in carrying them into execution.May 20 They saw the propriety of proceeding with the greatest circumspection; and therefore resolved at their first meeting, on nothing more than to call a general meeting of the inhabitants, on the next evening.21 At this second meeting the patriots had so much moderation and policy, as to urge nothing decisive, contenting themselves with taking the sense of the inhabitants, simply on the propriety of sending an answer to the public letter from Boston. This was universally approved. The letter agreed upon was firm but temperate.
They acknowledged the difficulty of offering advice on the present occasion, sympathized with the people of Boston in their distress, and observed that all lenient measures, for their relief, should be first tried. That if the making restitution for the tea destroyed, would put an end to the unhappy controversy, and leave the people of Boston upon their ancient footing of constitutional liberty, it could not admit of a doubt what part they should act. But that it was not the value of the tea, it was the indefeasible right of giving and granting their own money, which was the matter in consideration. That it was the common cause of America; and therefore necessary in their opinion, that a congress of deputies from the several colonies should be convened to devise means for restoring harmony between Great-Britain and the colonies, and preventing matters from coming to extremities. Till this could be brought about, they recommended firmness, prudence, and moderation to the immediate sufferers, assuring them, that the people of Pennsylvania would continue to evince a firm adherence to the cause of American liberty.
In order to awaken the attention of the people, a series of letters was published well calculated to rouse  them to a sense of their danger, and point out the fatal consequences of the late acts of parliament. Every newspaper teemed with dissertations in favour of liberty—with debates of the members of parliament, especially with the speeches of the favourers of America, and the protests of the dissenting lords. The latter had a particular effect on the colonists, and were considered by them as irrefragable proofs, that the late acts against Massachusetts were unconstitutional and arbitrary.
The minds of the people being thus prepared, the friends of liberty promoted a petition to the governor, for convening the assembly. This they knew would not be granted, and that the refusal of it, would smooth the way for calling the inhabitants together.Jun. 18 The governor having refused to call the assembly, a general meeting of the inhabitants was requested. About 8000 met and adopted sundry spirited resolutions. In these they declared, that the Boston port act was unconstitutional—that it was expedient to convene a continental congress—to appoint a committee for the city and county of Philadelphia, to correspond with their sister colonies and the several counties of Pennsylvania, and to invest that committee with power, to determine on the best mode for collecting the sense of the province, and appointing deputies to attend a general congress.28 Under the sanction of this last resolve, the committee appointed for that purpose, wrote a circular letter to all the counties of the Province, requesting them to appoint deputies to a general meeting, proposed to be held on the 15th of July, part of this letter was in the following words:
We would not offer such an affront to the well known public spirit of Pennsylvanians, as to question your zeal on the present occasion. Our very existence in the rank of freemen, and the security of all that ought to be dear to us, evidently depends on our conducting this great cause to its proper issue, by firmness, wisdom, and magnanimity. It is with pleasure we assure you, that all the colonies from South-Carolina to New-Hampshire, are animated with one spirit, in the common cause, and consider that as the proper crisis for having our differences with the Mother Country  brought to some certain issue, and our liberties fixed upon a permanent foundation, this desirable end can only be accomplished by a free communication of sentiments, and a sincere and fervent regard for the interests of our common country.
The several counties readily complied with the request of the inhabitants of Philadelphia, and appointed deputies, who met at the time appointed, and passed sundry resolves, in which they reprobated the late acts of parliament—expressed their sympathy with Boston, as suffering in the common cause—approved of holding a congress, and declared their willingness to make any sacrifices that might be recommended by a congress, for securing their liberties.
Thus, without tumult, disorder, or divided counsels, the whole province of Pennsylvania was, by prudent management and temperate proceedings, brought into the opposition with its whole weight and influence. This is the more remarkable as it is probable, that if the sentiments of individuals had been separately taken, there would have been a majority against involving themselves in the consequences of taking part with the destroyers of the tea, at Boston.
While these proceedings were carrying on in Pennsylvania, three of the most distinguished patriots of Philadelphia, under color of an excursion of pleasure, made a tour throughout the province, in order to discover the real sentiments of the common people. They were well apprized of the consequences of taking the lead in a dispute which every day became more serious, unless they could depend on being supported by the yeomanry of the country. By freely associating and conversing with many of every class and denomination; they found them unanimous in that fundamental principle of the American controversy, “That the parliament of Great-Britain had no right to tax them.” From their general determination on this subject, a favourable prognostic was formed, of a successful opposition to the claims of Great-Britain.
In Virginia the house of burgesses on the 26th of May, 1774, resolved, that the first of June, the day on which  the operation of the Boston port bill was to commence, should be set apart by the members as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, “devoutly to implore the divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamities which threatened destruction to their civil rights, and the evils of a civil war—to give them one heart and one mind, to oppose by all just and proper means, every injury to American rights.” On the publication of this resolution, the royal governor, the Earl of Dunmore dissolved them. The members notwithstanding their dissolution, met in their private capacities, and signed an agreement, in which, among other things, they declared, “that an attack made on one of their sister colonies, to compel submission to arbitrary taxes, was an attack made on all British America, and threatened ruin to the rights of all, unless the united wisdom of the whole be applied.”
In South-Carolina the vote of the town of Boston of the 13th of May, being presented to a number of the leading citizens in Charleston, it was unanimously agreed to call a meeting of the inhabitants.
That this might be as general as possible, letters were sent to every parish and district in the province, and the people were invited to attend, either personally, or by their representatives at a general meeting of the inhabitants.July 18, 1774 A large number assembled, in which were some, from almost every part of the province. The proceedings of the parliament against the province of Massachusetts were distinctly related to this convention. Without one dissenting voice, they passed sundry resolutions, expressive of their rights, and of their sympathy with the people of Boston. They also chose five delegates to represent them in a continental Congress, and invested them “with full powers, and authority, in behalf of them and their constituents, to concert, agree to, and effectually to prosecute such legal measures as in their opinion, and the opinion of the other members, would be most likely to obtain a redress of American grievances.”
The events of this time may be transmitted to posterity, but the agitation of the public mind can never be fully comprehended, but by those who were witnesses of it.
 In the counties and towns of the several provinces, as well as in the cities, the people assembled and passed resolutions, expressive of their rights, and of their detestation of the late American acts of parliament. These had an instantaneous effect on the minds of thousands. Not only the young and impetuous, but the aged and temperate, joined in pronouncing them to be unconstitutional and oppressive. They viewed them as deadly weapons aimed at the vitals of that liberty, which they adored; as rendering abortive the generous pains taken by their forefathers, to procure for them in a new world, the quiet enjoyment of their rights. They were the subjects of their meditation when alone, and of their conversation when in company.
Within little more than a month, after the news of the Boston port bill reached America, it was communicated from state to state, and a flame was kindled, in almost every breast, through the widely extended provinces.
In order to understand the mode by which this flame was spread with such rapidity over so great an extent of country, it is necessary to observe, that the several colonies were divided into counties, and these again subdivided into districts, distinguished by the names of towns, townships, precincts, hundreds or parishes. In New-England the subdivisions which are called towns, were by law, bodies corporate—had their regular meetings, and might be occasionally convened by their proper officers. The advantages derived from these meetings, by uniting the whole body of the people in the measures taken to oppose the stamp act, induced other provinces to follow the example. Accordingly under the association which was formed to oppose the revenue act of 1767, committees were established not only in the capitals of every province, but also in most of the subordinate districts. Great-Britain, without designing it, had by her two preceding attempts at American revenue, taught her colonies not only the advantages, but the means of union. The system of committees, which prevailed in 1765, and also in 1767, was revived in 1774. By them there was a quick transmission of intelligence from the capital towns through  the subordinate districts to the whole body of the people, and a union of counsels and measures was effected among widely disseminated inhabitants.
It is perhaps impossible for human wisdom, to contrive any system more subservient to these purposes, than such a reciprocal exchange of intelligence, by committees. From the want of such a communication with each other, and consequently of union among themselves, many states have lost their liberties, and more have been unsuccessful in their attempts to regain them, after they have been lost.
What the eloquence and talents of Demosthenes could not effect among the states of Greece, might have been effected by the simple device of committees of correspondence. The few have been enabled to keep the many in subjection in every age, from the want of union among the latter. Several of the provinces of Spain complained of oppression under Charles the 5th, and in transports of rage took arms against him; but they never consulted or communicated with each other. They resisted separately, and were therefore separately subdued.
The colonists sympathizing with their distressed brethren in Massachusetts, felt themselves called upon, to do something for their relief; but to determine on what was proper to be done, did not so obviously occur. It was a natural idea, that for harmonising their measures, a Congress of deputies from each province should be convened. This early occurred to all, and being agreed to by all, was the means of procuring union and concert among inhabitants, removed several hundred miles from each other. In times less animated, various questions about the place and legality of their meeting, and about the extent of their power, would have produced a great diversity of sentiments; but on this occasion, by the special agency of providence, there was the same universal bent of inclination in the great body of the people. A sense of common danger, extinguished selfish passions. The public attention was fixed on the great cause of liberty. Local attachments and partialities, were sacrificed on the altar of patriotism.
There were not wanting moderate men, who would  have been willing to pay for the tea destroyed, if that would have put an end to the controversy, for it was not the value of the tea nor of the tax, but the indefeasible right of giving and granting their money, for which the colonists contended. The act of parliament was so cautiously worded, as to prevent the opening of the port of Boston, even though the East-India company had been reimbursed for all damages, “until it was made [to] appear to his majesty in council, that peace and obedience to the laws were so far restored in the town of Boston, that the trade of Great-Britain might be safely earried on there and his majesty’s customs duly collected.” The latter part of this limitation, “the due collection of his majesty’s customs,” was understood to comprehend submission to the late revenue laws. It was therefore inferred, that payment for the tea destroyed, would produce no certain relief, unless they were willing to give operation to the law, for raising a revenue on future importations of that commodity, and also to acquiesce in the late mutilation of their charter. As it was deliberately resolved, never to submit to either the most lukewarm of well informed patriots, possessing the public confidence, neither advised nor wished for the adoption of that measure. A few in Boston, who were known to be in the royal interest, proposed a resolution for that purpose, but they met with no support. Of the many who joined the British in the course of the war, there was scarcely an individual to be found in this early stage of the contriversy, who advocated the right of parliamentary taxation. There were doubtless many timid persons, who fearing the power of Britain, would rather have submitted to her encroachments, than risque the vengeance of her arms, but such for the most part suppressed their sentiments. Zeal for liberty, being immediately rewarded with applause, the patriots had every inducement to come forward, and avow their principles; but there was something so unpopular in appearing to be influenced by timidity, interest or excessive caution, when essential interests were attacked, that such persons shunned public notice, and sought the shade of retirement.
[122 ] In the three first months, which followed the shutting up of the port of Boston, the inhabitants of the colonies in hundreds of small circles, as well as in their provincial assemblies and congresses, expressed their abhorrence of the late proceedings of the British parliament against Massachusetts—their concurrence in the proposed measure of appointing deputies for a general congress, and their willingness to do and suffer whatever should be judged conducive to the establishment of their liberties.
A patriotic flame, created and diffused by the contagion of sympathy, was communicated to so many breasts, and reflected from such a variety of objects, as to become too intense to be resisted.
While the combination of the other colonies to support Boston, was gaining strength, new matter of dissention daily took place in Massachusetts. The resolution for shutting the port of Boston, was no sooner taken, than it was determined to order a military force to that town. General Gage, the commander in chief of the royal forces in North-America, was also sent thither, in the additional capacity of Governor of Massachusetts. He arrived in Boston on the third day after the inhabitants received the first intelligence of the Boston port bill. Though the people were irritated by that measure, and though their republican jealousy was hurt by the combination of the civil and military character in one person, yet the general was received with all the honours which had been usually paid to his predecessors. Soon after his arrival, two regiments of foot, with a detachment of artillery and some cannon, were landed in Boston. These troops were by degrees re-inforced, with others from Ireland, New-York, Halifax and Quebec.
The governor announced that he had the king’s particular command, for holding the general court at Salem, after the first of June. When that eventful day arrived, the act for shutting up the port of Boston commenced its operation. It was devoutly kept at Williamsburgh, as a day of fasting and humiliation. In Philadelphia it was solemnized with every manifestation of public calamity and grief. The inhabitants shut up their houses. After  divine service a stillness reigned over the city, which exhibited an appearance of the deepest distress.
In Boston a new scene opened on the inhabitants. Hitherto, that town had been the seat of commerce and of plenty. The immense business carried on therein, afforded a comfortable subsistence to many thousands. The necessary—the useful, and even some of the elegant arts were cultivated among them. The citizens were polite and hospitable. In this happy state they were sentenced on the short notice of twenty one days, to a total deprivation of all means of subsisting. The blow reached every person. The rents of the landholders, either ceased or were greatly diminished. The immense property in stores and wharfs, was rendered comparatively useless. Labourers, artifices and others, employed in the numerous occupations created by an extensive trade, partook in the general calamity. They who depended on a regular income, flowing from previous acquisitions of property, as well as they who with the sweat of their brow, earned their daily subsistence, were equally deprived of the means of support; and the chief difference between them, was that the distresses of the former were rendered more intolerable by the recollection of past enjoyments. All these inconveniences and hardships, were born with a passive, but inflexible fortitude. Their determination to persist in the same line of conduct, which had been the occasion of their suffering was unabated.
The authors and advisers of the resolution for destroying the tea, were in the town, and still retained their popularity and influence. The execrations of the inhabitants fell not on them, but on the British parliament. Their countrymen acquitted them of all selfish designs, and believed that in their opposition to the measures of Great-Britain, they were actuated by an honest zeal for constitutional liberty. The sufferers in Boston had the consolation of sympathy from the other colonists. Contributions were raised in all quarters for their relief. Letters and addresses came to them from corporate bodies, town meetings and provincial conventions, applauding their conduct, and exhorting them to perseverance.
 The people of Marblehead, who by their proximity were likely to reap advantage from the distresses of Boston, generously offered the merchants thereof, the use of their harbour, wharfs, warehouses, and also their personal attendance on the lading or unlading of their goods free of all expence.
The inhabitants of Salem in an address to governor Gage, concluded with these remarkable words,
By shutting up the port of Boston, some imagine that the course of trade might be turned hither, and to our benefit: But nature in the formation of our harbour, forbid, our becoming rivals in commerce with that convenient mart; and were it otherwise, we must be dead to every idea of justice, lost to all feelings of humanity, could we indulge one thought to seize on wealth, and raise our fortunes on the ruins of our suffering neighbours.
The Massachusetts general court met at Salem, according to adjournment, on the 7th of June. Several of the popular leaders took, in a private way, the sense of the members on what was proper to be done. Finding they were able to carry such measures as the public exigencies required, they prepared resolves and moved for their adoption. But before they went on the latter business, their door was shut.
One member nevertheless contrived means of sending information to governor Gage of what was doing. His secretary was sent off to dissolve the general court, but was refused admission. As he could obtain no entrance, he read the proclamation at the door, and immediately after in council, and thus dissolved the general court. The house while sitting with their doors shut, appointed five of the most respectable inhabitants as their committee, to meet committees from other provinces, that might be convened the first of September at Philadelphia—voted them 75 pounds sterling each, and recommended to the several towns and districts to raise the said sum by equitable proportions. By these means the designs of the governor were disappointed. His situation in every respect was truly disageeable. It was his duty to forward the execution of laws which were universally execrated. Zeal for  his master’s service, prompted him to endeavour that they should be earned into full effect, but his progress was retarded by obstacles from every quarter. He had to transact his official business with a people who possessed a high sense of liberty, and were uncommonly ingenious in evading disagreeable acts of parliament. It was a part of his duty to prevent the calling of the town meetings after the first of August, 1774. These meetings were nevertheless held. On his proposing to exert authority for the dispersion of the people, he was told by the select men, that they had not offended against the act of parliament, for that only prohibited the calling of town meetings, and that no such call had been made: A former constitutional meeting before the first of August, having only adjourned themselves from time to time. Other evasions, equally founded on the letter, of even the late obnoxious laws, were practised.
As the summer advanced, the people of Massachusetts received stronger proofs of support from the neighbouring provinces. They were therefore encouraged to farther opposition. The inhabitants of the colonies, at this time, with regard to political opinions, might be divided into three classes; of these, one was for rushing precipitately into extremities. They were for immediately stopping all trade, and could not even brook the delay of waiting till the proposed continental congress should meet. Another party, equally respectable, both as to character, property, and patriotism, was more moderate, but not less firm. These were averse to the adoption of any violent resolutions, till all others were ineffectually tried. They wished that a clear statement of their rights, claims, and grievances, should precede every other measure. A third class disapproved of what was generally going on. A few from principle, and a persuasion that they ought to submit to the Mother Country; some from the love of ease, others from self-interest, but the bulk from fear of the mischievous consequences likely to follow: All these latter classes, for the most part, lay still, while the friends of liberty acted with spirit. If they, or any of them, ventured to oppose popular measures, they  were not supported, and therefore declined farther efforts. The resentment of the people was so strong against them, that they sought for peace by remaining quiet. The same indecision that made them willing to submit to Great-Britain, made them apparently acquiesce in popular measures which they disapproved. The spirited part of the community, being on the side of liberty, the patriots had the appearance of unanimity; though many either kept at a distance from public meetings, or voted against their own opinion, to secure themselves from resentment, and promote their present ease and interest.
Under the influence of those who were for the immediate adoption of efficacious measures, an agreement by the name of the solemn league and covenant, was adopted by numbers. The subscribers of this, bound themselves to suspend all commercial intercourse with Great-Britain, until the late obnoxious laws were repealed, and the colony of Massachusetts restored to its chartered rights.
June 29General Gage published a proclamation, in which he stiled this solemn league and covenant, “An unlawful, hostile, and traitorous combination.” And all magistrates were charged, to apprehend and secure for trial, such as should have any agency in publishing or subscribing the same, or any similar covenant. This proclamation had no other effect, than to exercise the pens of the lawyers, in shewing that the association did not come within the description of legal treason, and that therefore the governor’s proclamation was not warranted by the principles of the constitution.
The late law, for regulating the government of the provinces, arrived near the beginning of August, and was accompanied with a list of 36 new counsellors, appointed by the crown, and in a mode, variant from that prescribed by the charter. Several of these in the first instance, declined an acceptance of the appointment. Those, who accepted of it, were every where declared to be enemies to their country. The new judges were rendered incapable of proceeding in their official duty. Upon opening the courts, the juries refused to be sworn, or to act in any manner, either under them, or in conformity to the late  regulations.Aug. 4 In some places, the people assembled, and filled the court-houses and avenues to them in such a manner, that neither the judges, nor their officers could obtain entrance; and upon the sheriff’s commanding them, to make way for the court, they answered, “That they knew no court independent of the ancient laws of their country, and to none other would they submit.”
In imitation of his royal master, governor Gage issued a proclamation “for the encouragement of piety and virtue, and for the prevention and punishing vice, prophaneness and immorality.” In this proclamation, hypocrisy was inserted as one of the immoralities against which the people were warned. This was considered by the inhabitants, who had often been ridiculed for their strict attention to the forms of religion, to be a studied insult, and as such was more resented than an actual injury. It greatly added to the inflammation which had already taken place in their minds.
The proceedings and apparent dispositions of the people, together with the military preparations which were daily made through the province, induced general Gage to fortify that neck of land which joins Boston to the continent.
He also seized upon the powder which was lodged in the arsenal at Charlestown.
Sept. 1This excited a most violent and universal ferment. Several thousands of the people assembled at Cambridge, and it was with difficulty they were restrained from marching directly to Boston, to demand a delivery of the powder, with a resolution in case of refusal to attack the troops.
The people thus assembled, proceeded to lieutenant governor Oliver’s house, and to the houses of several of the new counsellors, and obliged them to resign, and to declare that they would no more act under the laws lately enacted. In the confusion of these transactions a rumor went abroad, that the royal fleet and troops were firing upon the town of Boston. This was probably designed by the popular leaders, on purpose to ascertain what aid they might expect from the country in case of extremities. The result exceeded their most sanguine expectations.  In less than twenty four hours, there were upwards of 30,000 men in arms, and marching towards the capital. Other risings of the people took place in different parts of the colony, and their violence was such, that in a short time the new counsellors, the commissioners of the customs, and all who had taken an active part in favour of Great-Britain, were obliged to skreen themselves in Boston. The new seat of government at Salem was abandoned, and all the officers connected with the revenue were obliged to consult their safety, by taking up their residence in a place which an act of parliament had proscribed from all trade.
About this time, delegates from every town and district in the county of Suffolk, of which Boston is the county town, had a meeting, at which they prefaced a number of spirited resolutions, containing a detail of the particulars of their intended opposition to the late acts of parliament, with a general declaration, “That no obedience was due from the province to either, or any part of the said acts, but that they should be rejected as the attempts of a wicked administration to enslave America.” The resolves of this meeting were sent on to Philadelphia, for the information and opinion of the Congress, which, as shall be hereafter related, had met there about this time.
The people of Massachusetts rightly judged, that from the decision of congress on these resolutions, they would be enabled to determine what support they might expect. Notwithstanding present appearances they feared that the other colonies, who were no more than remotely concerned, would not hazard the consequences of making a common cause with them, should subsequent events make it necessary to repel force by force. The decision of Congress exceeded their expectations. They “most thoroughly approved the wisdom and fortitude with which opposition to wicked ministerial measures had been hitherto conducted in Massachusetts, and recommended to them perseverance in the same firm and temperate conduct as expressed in the resolutions of the delegates from the county of Suffolk.”1774 By this approbation and advice, the  people of Massachusetts were encouraged to resistance, and the other colonies became bound to support them. The former, more in need of a bridle than a spur, proceeded as they had begun, but with additional confidence.
Oct. 4Governor Gage had issued writs for holding a general assembly at Salem; but subsequent events, and the heat and violence which every where prevailed, made him think it expedient to counteract the writs by a proclamation for suspending the meeting of the members. The legality of a proclamation for that purpose was denied, and in defiance thereof 90 of the newly elected members met at the time and place appointed. They soon after resolved themselves into a provincial congress, and adjourned to Concord, about 20 miles from Charlestown. On their meeting there, they chose Mr. Hancock president, and proceeded to business. One of their first acts was to appoint a committee to wait on the governor, with a remonstrance, in which they apologized for their meeting, from the distressed state of the colony; complained of their grievances, and, after stating their apprehensions, from the hostile preparations on Boston neck, concluded with an earnest request, “That he would desist from the construction of the fortress at the entrance into Boston, and restore that pass to its natural state.” The governor found some difficulty in giving them an answer, as they were not, in his opinion, a legal body, but the necessity of the times over-ruled his scruples. He replied, by expressing his indignation at the supposition, “That the lives, liberties or property of any people, except enemies, could be in danger, from English troops.” He reminded them, that while they complained of alterations made in their charter, by acts of parliament, they were by their own acts subverting it altogether. He therefore warned them of the rocks they were upon; and to desist from such illegal and unconstitutional proceedings. The governor’s admonitions were unavailing. The provincial congress appointed a committee to draw up a plan for the immediate defence of the province. It was resolved to inlist a number of the inhabitants under the name of minute men, who were to be under obligations to turn out at a  minute’s warning. Jedediah Pribble, Artemas Ward and Seth Pomeroy, were elected general officers to command those minute men and the militia, in case they should be called out to action. A committee of safety, and a committee of supplies were appointed. These consisted of different persons and were intended for different purposes. The first were invested with an authority to assemble the militia when they thought proper, and were to recommend to the committee of supplies the purchase of such articles as the public exigencies required; the last were limited to the small sum of £15,627.15s. sterl. which was all the money at first voted to oppose the power and riches of Great Britain. Under this authority, and with these means, the committees of safety and of supplies, acting in concert, laid in a quantity of stores, partly at Worcester and partly at Concord.Nov. 23 The same congress met again, and soon after resolved to get in readiness twelve thousand men to act on any given emergency; and that a fourth part of the militia should be inlisted as minute men, and receive pay. John Thomas and William Heath were appointed general officers. They also sent persons to New-Hampshire, Rhode-Island and Connecticut, to inform them of the steps they had taken and to request their co-operation in making up an army of 20,000 men. Committees from these several colonies met with a committee from the provincial congress of Massachusetts, and settled their plans. The proper period of commencing opposition to general Gage’s troops, was determined to be whenever they marched out with their baggage, ammunition and artillery. The aid of the clergy was called in upon this occasion, and a circular letter was addressed to each of the several ministers in the province, requesting their assistance “in avoiding the dreadful slavery with which they were threatened.”
As the winter approached, general Gage ordered barracks for his troops to be erected, but such was the superior influence of the popular leaders, that on their recommendation the workmen desisted from fulfilling the general’s wishes, though the money for their labour would have been paid by the crown.
1774An application to New-York was equally unsuccessful,  and it was with difficulty that the troops could be furnished with winter lodgings. Similar obstructions were thrown in the way of getting winter covering for the soldiery. The merchants of New-York on being applied to, answered, “That they would never supply any article for the benefit of men who were sent as enemies to the country.” The inhabitants of Massachusetts encouraged the desertion of the soldiers; and acted systematically in preventing their obtaining any other supplies but necessary provisions. The farmers were discouraged from selling them straw, timber, boards and such like articles of convenience. Straw, when purchased for their service, was frequently burnt. Vessels, with bricks intended for their use, were sunk, and carts with wood were overturned, and the king’s property by one contrivance or other, was daily destroyed.
A proclamation had been issued by the king, prohibiting the exportation of military stores from Britain, which reached America in the latter end of the year 1774.Dec. 14 On receiving intelligence thereof, in Rhode-Island, the people seized upon and removed from the public battery about 40 pieces of cannon; and the assembly passed resolutions for obtaining arms and military stores by every means, and also for raising and arming the inhabitants: soon after 400 men beset his majesty’s castle at Portsmouth. They sustained a fire from three four-pounders and small arms, but before they could be ready for a second fire, the assailants stormed the fort, and secured and confined the garrison till they broke open the powder house, and took the powder away. The powder being secured, the garrison was released from confinement.
Throughout this whole season, civil government, legislation, judicial proceedings and commercial regulations were in Massachusetts, to all appearance, annihilated. The provincial Congress exercised all the semblance of government which existed. From their coincidence, with the prevailing disposition, of the people, their resolutions had the weight and efficacy of laws.1774 Under the simple stile of recommendation, they organized the militia, made ordinances respecting public monies and such farther regulations  as were necessary for preserving order, and for defending themselves against the British troops.
In this crisis it seemed to be the sense of the inhabitants of Massachusetts to wait events. They dreaded every evil that could flow from resistance, less than the operation of the late acts of parliament, but at the same time were averse to be the aggressors in bringing on a civil war. They chose to submit to a suspension of regular government, in preference to permitting the streams of justice to flow in the channel prescribed by the late acts of parliament, or to conducting them forcibly in the old one, sanctioned by their charter. From the extinction of the old, and the rejection of the new constitution, all regular government was for several months abolished. Some hundred thousands of people, were in a state of nature without legislation, magistrates or executive officers: there was nevertheless a surprising degree of order. Men of the purest morals were among the most active opposers of Great-Britain. While municipal laws ceased to operate, the laws of reason, morality and religion, bound the people to each other as a social band, and preserved as great a degree of a decorum as had at any time prevailed. Even those who were opposed to the proceedings of the populace when they were prudent and moderate, for the most part enjoyed safety both at home and abroad.
Though there were no civil officers, there was an abundance of military ones. These were chosen by the people, but exercised more authority than any who had been honoured with commissions from the governor. The inhabitants in every place devoted themselves to arms. Handling the musket, and training, were the fashionable amusements of the men, while the women by their presence, encouraged them to proceed. The sound of drums and fifes was to be heard in all directions. The young and the old were fired with a martial spirit. On experiment it was found, that to force on the inhabitants, a form of government, to which they were totally averse, was not within the fancied omnipotence of parliament.
1774During these transactions in Massachusetts effectual  measures had been taken by the colonies for convening a continental Congress, though there was no one entitled to lead in this business, yet in consequence of the general impulse on the public mind, from a sense of common danger, not only the measure itself, but the time and place of meeting, were with surprising unanimity agreed upon. The colonies though formerly agitated with local prejudices, jealousies and aversions, were led to assemble together in a general diet, and to feel their weight and importance in a common union. Within four months from the day on which the first intelligence of the Boston port bill reached America, the deputies of eleven provinces had convened in Philadelphia, and in four days more, by the arrival of delegates from North-Carolina, there was a complete representation of twelve colonies, containing three millions of people, disseminated over 260,000 square miles of territory. Some of the delegates were appointed by the constitutional assemblies[;] in other provinces, where they were embarrassed by royal governors, the appointments were made in voluntary meetings of the people. Perhaps there never was a body of delegates more faithful to the interest of their constituents than the Congress of 1774. The public voice elevated none to a seat in that august assembly, but such as in addition to considerable abilities, possessed that ascendancy over the minds of their fellow citizens, which can neither be acquired by birth nor purchased by wealth. The instructions given to these deputies were various, but in general they contained strong professions of loyalty, and of constitutional dependence on the Mother Country: the framers of them acknowledged the prerogatives of the crown, and disclaimed every wish of separation from the Parent State. On the other hand, they were firm in declaring that they were entitled to all the rights of British born subjects, and that the late acts respecting Massachusetts were unconstitutional and oppressive.
1774They particularly stated their grievances, and for the most part concurred in authorising their deputies to concert and agree to such measures in behalf of their constituents , as in their joint opinion would be most likely to obtain a redress of American grievances, ascertain American rights, on constitutional principles, and establish union and harmony between Great-Britain and the colonies. Of the various instructions, on this occasion, those which were drawn up by a convention of delegates, from every county in the province of Pennsylvania, and presented by them in a body to the constitutional assembly, were the most precise and determinate. By these it appears, that the Pennsylvanians were disposed to submit to the acts of navigation, as they then stood, and also to settle a certain annual revenue on his majesty, his heirs and successors, subject to the control of parliament, and to satisfy all damages done to the East-India company, provided their grievances were redressed, and an amicable compact was settled, which, by establishing American rights in the manner of a new Magna Charta, would have precluded future disputes.
Of the whole number of deputies, which formed the Continental Congress, of 1774, one half were lawyers. Gentlemen of that profession had acquired the confidence of the inhabitants by their exertions in the common cause. The previous measures in the respective provinces had been planned and carried into effect, more by lawyers than by any other order of men. Professionally taught the rights of the people, they were among the foremost to decry every attack made on their liberties. Bred in the habits of public speaking, they made a distinguished figure in the meetings of the people, and were particularly able to explain to them the tendency of the late acts of parliament. Exerting their abilities and influence in the cause of their country, they were rewarded with its confidence.
On the meeting of Congress, they chose Peyton Randolph their president, and Charles Thomson their secretary. They agreed as one of the rules of their doing business, that no entry should be made on their journals of any propositions discussed before them, to which they did not finally assent.
1774This august body, to which all the colonies looked up  for wisdom and direction, had scarcely convened, when a dispute arose about the mode of conducting business, which alarmed the friends of union. It was contended by some, that the votes of the small provinces should not count as much as those of the larger ones. This was argued with some warmth and invidious comparisons were made between the extensive dominion of Virginia, and the small colonies of Delaware and Rhode-Island. The impossibility of fixing the comparative weight of each province, from the want of proper materials, induced Congress to resolve, that each should have one equal vote. The mode of conducting business being settled, two committees were appointed. One, to state the rights of the colonies, the several instances in which these rights had been violated, and the means most proper to be pursued for obtaining a restoration of them; the other, to examine and report the several statutes which affected the trade and manufactures of the colonies. The first committee were farther instructed to confine themselves to the consideration of such rights as had been infringed since the year 1763.
Congress soon after their meeting, agreed upon a declaration of their rights, by which it was among other things declared, that the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, were entitled to life, liberty and property; and that they had never ceded to any sovereign power whatever, a right to dispose of either, without their consent.1774 That their ancestors, who first settled the colonies were entitled to all the rights, liberties and immunities of free and natural born subjects within the realm of England, and that by their migrating to America, they by no means forfeited, surrendered or lost any of those rights; that the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government was, a right in the people to participate in their legislative council, and that as the English colonists were not, and could not be properly represented in the British parliament, they were entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their  several provincial legislatures, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign. They then run the line, between the supremacy of parliament, and the independency of the colonial legislatures by provisoes and restrictions, expressed in the following words.
But from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interests of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bona fide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the Mother Country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members, excluding every idea of taxation; internal and external for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent.
This was the very hinge of the controversy. The absolute unlimited supremacy of the British parliament, both in legislation and taxation, was contended for on one side; while on the other, no farther authority was conceded than such a limited legislation, with regard to external commerce, as would combine the interest of the whole empire. In government, as well as in religion, there are mysteries from the close investigation of which little advantage can be expected. From the unity of the empire it was necessary, that some acts should extend over the whole. From the local situation of the colonies it was equally reasonable that their legislatures should at least in some matters be independent. Where the supremacy of the first ended and the independency of the last began, was to the best informed a puzzling question. Happy would it have been for both countries, had the discussion of this doubtful point never been attempted.
Congress also resolved, that the colonists were entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage. That they were entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes as existed at the time of their colonization, and which they had found to be applicable to their local circumstances, and also to the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters or secured  by provincial laws.1774 That they had a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king; that the keeping a standing army in the colonies, without the consent of the legislature of the colony where the army was kept, was against law. That it was indispensibly necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other, and that therefore, the exercise of legislative power, in several colonies by a council, appointed during pleasure by the crown, was unconstitutional, dangerous and destructive to the freedom of American legislation. All of these liberties, Congress in behalf of themselves and their constituents, claimed, demanded and insisted upon as their indubitable rights, which could not be legally taken from them, altered or abridged by any power whatever, without their consent. Congress then resolved, that sundry acts, which had been passed in the reign of George the Third, were infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists, and that the repeal of them was essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between Great-Britain and the colonies. The acts complained of, were as follow: The several acts of 4 George III. ch. 15 and ch. 34; 5 Geo. III. ch. 25; 6 Geo. III. ch. 52; 7 Geo. III. ch. 41 and ch. 46; 8 Geo. III. ch. 22 which imposed duties for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, extended the power of the admiralty courts beyond their ancient limits, deprived the American subject of trial by jury, authorized the judges certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages, that he might otherwise be liable to requiring oppressive security from a claimant of ships and goods seized before he was allowed to defend his property.
1774Also 12 Geo. III. ch. 24 entitled, “An act for the better securing his majesty’s dock yards, magazines, ships, ammunition and stores,” which declares a new offence in America, and deprives the American subject of a constitutional trial by jury of the vicinage, by authorizing the trial of any person charged with the committing any offence described in the said act out of the realm, to be indicted  and tried for the same in any shire or county within the realm.
Also the three acts passed in the last session of parliament for stopping the port and blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the charter and government of Massachusetts Bay, and that which is entitled, “An act for the better administration of justice, &c.”
Also the act passed in the same session, for establishing the Roman Catholic religion in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there to the great danger (from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law and government) of the neighbouring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country had been conquered from France.
Also the act passed in the same session, for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his majesty’s service in North-America.
Also that the keeping a standing army in several of these colonies in time of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony in which such army was kept, was against law.
Congress declared, that they could not submit to these grievous acts and measures. In hopes that their fellow subjects in Great-Britain would restore the colonies to that state in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, they resolved for the present only to pursue the following peaceable measures: 1st, To enter into a non-importation, non-consumption and non-exportation agreement or association; 2d, To prepare an address to the people of Great-Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America; and 3dly, to prepare a loyal address to his majesty.
1774By the association they bound themselves and their constituents,
from and after the 1st day of December next, not to import into British America, from Great-Britain or Ireland, any goods, wares or merchandize, whatsoever; not to purchase any slave, imported after the said first day of December; not to purchase or use any tea, imported on account of the East-India company, or  any on which a duty hath been or shall be paid; and from and after the first day of the next ensuing March, neither to purchase or use any East-India tea whatever. That they would not after the tenth day of the next September, if their grievances were not previously redressed, export any commodity whatsoever, to Great-Britain, Ireland or the West-Indies, except rice to Europe. That the merchants should, as soon as possible, write to their correspondents in Great-Britain and Ireland, not to ship any goods to them on any pretence whatever; and if any merchant there, should ship any goods for America, in order to contravene the non-importation agreement, they would not afterwards have any commercial connexion with such merchant; that such as were owners of vessels, should give positive orders to their captains and masters, not to receive on board their vessels, any goods prohibited by the said non-importation agreement; that they would use their endeavors to improve the breed of sheep and increase their numbers to the greatest extent; that they would encourage frugality, oeconomy and industry, and promote agriculture, arts and American manufactures; that they would discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, and that on the death of relations or friends, they would wear no other mourning than a small piece of black crape or ribbon; that such as were venders of goods, should not take any advantage of the scarcity so as to raise their prices; that if any person should import goods after the first day of December, and before the first day of February, then next ensuing, the same ought to be immediately reshipped or delivered up to a committee to be stored or sold: in the last case, all the clear profits to be applied towards the relief of the inhabitants of Boston; and that if any goods should be imported after the first day of February, then next ensuing, they should be sent back without breaking any of the packages; that committees be chosen in every county, city and town, to observe the conduct of all persons touching the association, and to publish in gazettes, the names of the violaters of it, as foes to the rights of British America; that the committees of correspondence  in the respective colonies frequently inspect the entries of their custom houses, and inform each other from time to time of the true state thereof; that all manufactures of America should be sold at reasonable prices; and no advantages be taken of a future scarcity of goods; and lastly, that they would have no dealings or intercourse whatever, with any province or colony of North-America, which should not accede to, or should violate the aforesaid associations.
These several resolutions, they bound themselves and their constituents, by the sacred ties of virtue, honour and love of their country, to observe till their grievances were redressed.
In their address to the people of Great-Britain they complimented them for having at every hazard maintained their independence, and transmitted the rights of man and the blessings of liberty to their posterity, and requested them not to be surprised, that they who were descended from the same common ancestors, should refuse to surrender their rights, liberties and constitution. They proceeded to state their rights and their grievances, and to vindicate themselves from the charges of being seditious, impatient of government and desirous of independency. They summed up their wishes in the following words, “Place us in the same situation that we were, at the close of the last war, and our former harmony will be restored.”
In the memorial of Congress to the inhabitants of the British colonies, they recapitulated the proceedings of Great-Britain against them, since the year 1763, in order to impress them with a belief, that a deliberate system was formed for abridging their liberties. They then proceeded to state the measures they had adopted to counteract this system, and gave the reasons which induced them to adopt the same. They encouraged them to submit to the inconveniences of non-importation and non-exportation by desiring them “to weigh in the opposite balance the endless miseries, they and their descendants must endure from an established arbitrary power.”1774 They concluded with informing them “that the schemes agitated against the colonies, had been so conducted as to render it prudent  to extend their views to mournful events, and to be in all respects prepared for every contingency.”
In the petition of Congress to the king, they begged leave to lay their grievances before the throne. After a particular enumeration of these, they observed that they wholly arose from a destructive system of colony administration, adopted since the conclusion of the last war. They assured his majesty that they had made such provision for defraying the charges of the administration of justice, and the support of civil government, as had been judged just and suitable to their respective circumstances, and that for the defence, protection and security of the colonies, their militia would be fully sufficient in time of peace, and in case of war they were ready and willing, when constitutionally required, to exert their most strenuous efforts in granting supplies and raising forces. They said, “we ask but for peace, liberty and safety. We wish not a diminution of the prerogative, nor do we solicit the grant of any new right in our favour. Your royal authority over us, and our connexion with Great-Britain, we shall always carefully and zealously endeavour to support and maintain.” They then solicited for a redress of their grievances, which they had enumerated, and appealing to that Being, who searches thoroughly the hearts of his creatures, they solemnly professed, “that their counsels had been influenced by no other motives, than a dread of impending destruction.” They concluded with imploring his majesty, “for the honor of Almighty God, for his own glory, for the interests of his family, for the safety of his kingdoms and dominions, that as the loving father of his whole people, connected by the same bonds of law, loyalty, faith and blood, though dwelling in various countries, he would not suffer the transcendent relation formed by these ties, to be farther violated by uncertain expectation of effects, that if attained never could compensate for the calamities through which they must be gained.”
The Congress also addressed the French inhabitants of Canada. In this they stated the right they had on becoming English subjects, to the benefits of the English  constitution.1774 They explained what these rights were, and pointed out the difference between the constitution imposed on them by act of parliament, and that to which as British subjects they were entitled. They introduced their countryman Montesquieu, as reprobating their parliamentary constitution, and exhorting them to join their fellow colonists in support of their common rights. They earnestly invited them to join with the other colonies in one social compact, formed on the generous principles of equal liberty, and to this end recommended, that they would chuse delegates to represent them in Congress.
All these addresses were written with uncommon ability. Coming from the heart, they were calculated to move it. Inspired by a love of liberty, and roused by a sense of common danger, the patriots of that day spoke, wrote and acted, with an animation unknown in times of public tranquility; but it was not so much on the probable effect of these addresses, that Congress founded their hopes of obtaining a redress of their grievances, as on the consequences which they expected from the operation of their non-importation, and non-exportation agreement. The success that had followed the adoption of a measure similar to the former, in two preceding instances, had encouraged the colonists to expect much from a repetition of it. They indulged, in extravagant opinions of the importance of their trade to Great-Britain. The measure of a non-exportation of their commodities was a new expedient, and from that, even more was expected than from the non-importation agreement. They supposed that it would produce such extensive distress among the merchants and manufacturers of Great-Britain, and especially among the inhabitants of the British West-India islands, as would induce their general co-operation in procuring a redress of American grievances. Events proved that young nations, like young people, are prone to over rate their own importance.
October 26Congress having finished all this important business, in less than eight weeks, dissolved themselves, after giving their opinion, “that another Congress should be held on the 10th of May next ensuing at Philadelphia, unless  the redress of their grievances should be previously obtained,”1774 and recommended “to all the colonies to chuse deputies as soon as possible, to be ready to attend at that time and place, should events make their meeting necessary.”
On the publication of the proceedings of Congress, the people obtained that information which they desired. Zealous to do something for their country, they patiently waited for the decision of that body, to whose direction they had resigned themselves. Their determinations were no sooner known, than they were cheerfully obeyed. Though their power was only advisory, yet their recommendations were more generally and more effectually carried into execution, than the laws of the best regulated states. Every individual felt his liberties endangered, and was impressed with an idea, that his safety consisted in union. A common interest in warding off a common danger, proved a powerful incentive to the most implicit submission; provincial congresses and subordinate, committees were every where instituted. The resolutions of the Continental Congress, were sanctioned with the universal approbation of these new representative bodies, and institutions were formed under their direction to carry them into effect.
The regular constitutional assemblies also gave their assent to the measures recommended. The assembly of New-York, was the only legislature which withheld its approbation. Their metropolis had long been head quarters of the British army in the colonies, and many of their best families were connected with people of influence in Great-Britain. The unequal distribution of their land, fostered an aristocratic spirit. From the operation of these and other causes, the party for royal government, was both more numerous and respectable in New-York, than in any of the other colonies.
The assembly of Pennsylvania, though composed of a majority of Quakers, or of those who were friendly to their interests, was the first legal body of representatives that ratified unanimously the acts of the general Congress.1774 They not only voted their approbation of what that  body had done, but appointed members to represent them in the new Congress, proposed to be held on the 10th day of May next ensuing, and took sundry steps to put the province in a posture of defence.
To relieve the distresses of the people of Boston, liberal collections were made throughout the colonies, and forwarded for the supply of their immediate necessities. Domestic manufactures were encouraged, that the wants of the inhabitants from the non-importation agreement might be diminished, and the greatest zeal was discovered by a large majority of the people, to comply with the determinations of these new made representative bodies. In this manner, while the forms of the old government subsisted, a new and independent authority was virtually established. It was so universally the sense of the people, that the public good required a compliance with the recommendations of Congress, that any man who discovered an anxiety about the continuance of trade and business, was considered as a selfish individual, preferring private interest to the good of his country. Under the influence of these principles, the intemperate zeal of the populace, transported them frequently so far beyond the limits of moderation, as to apply singular punishments to particular persons, who contravened the general sense of the community.
The British ministry were not less disappointed than mortified at this unexpected combination of the colonies. They had flattered themselves with a belief, that the malcontents in Boston were a small party headed by a few factious men, and that the majority of the inhabitants would arrange themselves on the side of government, as soon as they found Great-Britain determined to support her authority, and should even Massachusetts take part with its offending capital, they could not believe that the other colonies would make a common cause in supporting so intemperate a colony: but should even that expectation fail, they conceived that their association must be founded on principles so adverse to the interests and feelings of individuals, that it could not be of long duration.1774 They were encouraged in these ill founded opinions by  the recollection that the colonies were frequently quarrelling about boundaries, clashing in interest, differing in policy, manners, customs, forms of government and religion, and under the influence of a variety of local prejudices, jealousies and aversions. They also remembered the obstacles which prevented the colonies from acting together, in the execution of schemes, planned for their own defence, in the late war against the French and Indians. The failure of the expected co-operation of the colonies in one uniform system at that time, was not only urged by the British ministry, as a reason for parliamentary control over the whole, but flattered them with a delusive hope, that they never could be brought to combine their counsels and their arms. Perhaps the colonists apprehended more danger from British encroachments on their liberties, than from French encroachment on Indian territories, in their neighbourhood: or more probably the time to part being come, the Governor of the Universe, by a secret influence on their minds, disposed them to union. From whatever cause it proceeded, it is certain, that a disposition to do, to suffer, and to accommodate, spread from breast to breast, and from colony to colony, beyond the reach of human calculation. It seemed as though one mind inspired the whole. The merchants put far behind them the gains of trade, and cheerfully submitted to a total stoppage of business, in obedience to the recommendations of men, invested with no legislative powers. The cultivators of the soil, with great unanimity assented to the determination, that the hard earned produce of their farms, should remain unshipped, although in case of a free exportation, many would have been eager to have purchased it from them, at advanced prices. The sons and daughters of ease, renounced imported conveniences, and voluntarily engaged to eat, drink, and wear, only such articles as their country afforded. These sacrifices were made, not from the pressure of present distress, but on the generous principle of sympathy, with an invaded sister colony, and the prudent policy of guarding against a precedent which might, in a future day, operate against their liberties.
1774This season of universal distress, exhibited a striking proof, how practicable it is for mankind to sacrifice ease, pleasure, and interest, when the mind is strongly excited by its passions. In the midst of their sufferings, cheerfulness appeared in the face of all the people. They counted every thing cheap in comparison with liberty, and readily gave up whatever tended to endanger it. A noble strain of generosity and mutual support was generally excited. A great and powerful diffusion of public spirit took place. The animation of the times, raised the actors in these scenes above themselves, and excited them to deeds of self denial, which the interested prudence of calmer seasons can scarcely credit.