Governor Bernard



GOVERNOR BERNARD had assured the Massachusetts Convention of his displeasure, and his intention to enforce the laws. He said to them, in a proclamation, when they assembled: "It is my duty to interpose this instant, before it is too late (for he declared the gathering unlawful). "I do, therefore, earnestly admonish you that instantly, and before you do any business, you break up this assembly, and separate yourselves. I speak to you now as a friend to the province and a well-wisher to the individuals of it. But if you should pay no regard to this admonition, I must, as governor, assert the prerogative of the crown in a more public manner; for, assure yourselves (I speak from instruction), the king is determined to maintain his entire sovereignty over this province, and whoever shall persist in usurping any of the rights of it will repent of his rashness." So spoke the governor bravely, when he knew that a fleet and army were near to support him. But the Convention, as we have observed, did not heed the admonition. They stayed in session six days until they had accomplished their intended business, and they had just adjourned, when the white sails of eight vessels-of-war appeared at the entrance to Boston Harbor, bearing two regiments of British soldiers, which General Gage had ordered from Halifax, commanded by Colonels Dalrymple and Carr. Gage had sent his engineer, Montressor, to assist the troops, if necessary. He was more than a student of credit.  That officer bore an order, in accordance with the wishes of Governor Bernard, to land the troops in the settled parts of Boston. Accordingly, on Saturday morning, the 1st day of October (1768), the ships moved up to the city, anchored with springs on their cables, and in spite of the solemn remonstrances of the people, the troops were landed on the Long Wharf, under cover of the guns of the war-vessels. The cowardly governor had gone into the country to avoid the expected storm of popular indignation, leaving the military to bear the brunt of the odium and its effects.

Bernard had tried to induce his council to sanction an order for quartering the troops in the town. They refused, and he took upon himself the whole responsibility of the act. The selectmen, regarding the order as illegal, refused to provide quarters for the soldier. Dalrymple blustered and threatened, but they were firm. He had prepared for wicked work by providing each of his soldiers with sixteen rounds of ammunition.  To his credit, he never played that card.  This fact he made known, and hoping to overawe the inhabitants, he marched his whole force through the town, with fixed bayonets, colors flying, drums beating, and a train of artillery following, with all the parade of a triumphant army entering a conquered city. The unarmed inhabitants looked on with sorrow but not with fear. They knew that a single act of violence on the part of the troops would cause twenty thousand men, from the hundred towns of Massachusetts, to spring up for their defence like the harvest of dragons' teeth; and that war once begun, a vast host would come from the other provinces like trailing clouds full of wrath and potency.

Dalrymple appeared before the selectmen, with one or two other officers, and haughtily demanded both food and shelter for his troops. "You will find both at the castle," said the guardians of the town, with the assurance that the law was upholding them. "And you will not furnish quarters for my soldiers?" asked the colonel. "We will not," responded the selectmen. Then Dalrymple turned away in wrath, and encamped one regiment in tents on the Common, while the other was compelled to bivouac as best they might in the chilly air of an October night. The compassion of the inhabitants was excited for the poor soldiers, whom they could not blame, and at nine o'clock the Sons of Liberty generously opened Faneuil Hall, and allowed the warriors to slumber there. The next day was the Sabbath. The unwise Dalrymple again paraded his troops through the streets when the people were engaged in public worship, disturbing them with the noise of the fife and drum. His soldiers challenged the citizens in the streets; and in various ways he tried to impress them with a sense of utter subjugation. These things only deepened their convictions of duty, and inflamed their resentment. Every strong feeling of the New Englander was violated. His Sabbath was desecrated, his worship was disturbed, and his liberty was infringed. Natural hatred of the troops, deep and abiding, was soon engendered, and the terms rebel and tyrant were freely bandied between them. The governor and the colonel used every means in their power to induce the council and the selectmen to provide for the troops. Planting themselves firmly on the law, these citizens were unmoved by entreaties or threats. Then the governor and sheriff tried to get possession of a dilapidated building belonging to the province in which to shelter the troops, but the occupants, supported by the law, successfully resisted. The governor now summoned all the acting magistrates to meet him, when he renewed the demand for quarter. "Not till the barracks are filled," was the response. The military officers could not put the soldiers into quarters, for the act might cause them to be cashiered on conviction before two justices of the peace, "the best of whom," wrote Gage, "the keeper of a paltry tavern." When the weather became so cold that tent-life could not be endured, the commanding officer was compelled to hire houses at exorbitant rates for shelter, and to furnish food for the troops at the expense of the crown. So, in this bloodless warfare with British regulars, the citizens of Boston, armed with chartered rights and statute law, were completely victorious. There was nothing for the troops to do, as the people were orderly and law-abiding. The soldiers being housed, the main guard was stationed opposite the State House, with cannon pointing toward the legislative hall. The people smiled at this covert threat, and Gage was convinced that more mischief had arisen from the follies and greed of the crown officers than from anything else; but he recommended the building of barracks and a fortification on Fort Hill, while Bernard, satisfied that the troops could not overturn the authority of the government, nor repress republicanism, again advised a forfeiture of the charter of the province. The commissioners of customs who had fled to Castle William on the Romncy now returned, and were more haughty than ever under the protection of armed men. They caused the arrest of Hancock and Malcom on false charges, claiming penalties for violations of acts of Parliament amounting to, in Hancock's case, almost half a million dollars. Hancock employed John Adams as his counsel, and "a painful drudgery I had of his case," said that advocate. Not a charge was established.

Soon after these events the British Parliament assembled, and the king, in his speech which he read from the throne, spoke of Boston as being in a "state of disobedience to all law and government," proceeding to "measures subversive of the constitution, and attended by circumstances that might manifest a disposition to throw off its dependence on Great Britain." He promised, with the support of Parliament, to "defeat the mischievous designs of those turbulent and seditious persons" who had, under false pretences, too successfully deluded numbers of his subjects in America. In both Houses of Parliament great indignation, because of the conduct of the Bostonians, was expressed. The Lords, in their address to the king, said: "We shall be ever ready to hear and redress any grievances of your majesty's American subjects; but we should betray the trust reposed in us, if we did not withstand every attempt to infringe or weaken our just rights, and we shall always consider it as one of our most important duties to maintain entire and inviolate the supreme authority of the legislature of Great Britain over every part of the British Empire." In the Commons, Henry Stanley indulged in bitter denunciations of the Americans. He condemned, in unmeasured terms, the nonimportation leagues, as "unwarrantable combinations among American tradesmen to cut off the commerce between the colonies and the mother country." "I contend, therefore," he said, "that men so unsusceptible of all middle terms of accommodation call loudly for our correction. What, sir, will become of this insolent town of Boston when we deprive the inhabitants of the power of sending out their rum and molasses to the coast of Africa? For they must be treated like aliens, as they have treated us upon this occasion. The difficulties in governing Massachusetts are insurmountable, unless its charter and laws shall be so changed as to give to the king the appointment of the council, and the sheriffs the sole power of returning juries."

In the upper House, Lord Barrington called the Americans "traitors, and worse than traitors, against the crown--traitors against the legislation of this country. The use of troops," he said, "was to bring rioters to justice." Even Camden, who opposed Pitt's declaratory act, now acquiesced in the harsh measures against Boston that were proposed, and was severely chastised by the tongue of Edmund Burke for his inconsistency. "My astonishment at the folly of his opinions is lost in indignation at the baseness of his conduct," said the gifted Irishman.

To gratify the prejudices of the king, Shelburne had been driven from the ministry, and Chatham, offended because of this act, had resigned. Lord North now commenced that long leadership of the ministry which continued until near the close of our struggle for independence. He took the initiative as the friend and champion of the king, by replying sharply to Alderman Beckford, who said: "Let the nation return to its good old nature and its old good humor; it were best to repeal the late acts and conciliate the colonies by moderation and kindness." To these wise words, North replied in falsification of history: "There has been no proof of any real return of friendship on the part of the Americans; they will give you no credit for affection; no credit for an attention to their commercial interests. If America is to be the judge, you must tax in no instance! You may regulate in no instance. Punishment will not be extended beyond the really guilty; and, if rewards shall be found necessary, rewards will be given. But what we do, we will do firmly. We shall go through our plan, now that we have brought it so near success. I am against repealing the last act of Parliament, securing to us a revenue out of America! I will never think of repealing it, until I see America prostrate at my feet."

The words of the King, Lords and Commons made a deep impression on the minds of the patriots of Massachusetts, and throughout the other provinces. Their liberties were more dangerously menaced than ever, and the instruments for their enslavement were seated in the New England capital and intrenched behind cannon. But the Sons of Liberty were more determined than ever to stand firmly by their rights, and at the same time to maintain a perfect adherence to the law. By this determination they conquered. Their worst enemies in Great Britain could not justly accuse them of treason for any act they had committed. They had a perfect right to cease trading with anybody. They had violated no law; and all the threats of the madmen in the government, and the presence of troops, could not alter their opinions. Their petitions, though rejected by the king with scorn, lost none of their vitality; and the official assurance that the monarch would not listen to "wicked men" who denied the supremacy of Parliament, did not move the patriots a single line from the path which they had prescribed for themselves. They felt that Colonel Barre prophetically read their hearts, when, in opposition to a resolution of Lord North, offered in March, 1769, to reject a respectful petition from New York, he said: "I predicted all that would happen on the passage of the stamp act; and I now warn ministers that, if they persist in their wretched course of oppression, the whole continent of North America will rise in arms, and these colonies perhaps be lost to England forever."

When the nonimportation agreements were renewed, the young women heartily seconded the action of their fathers and brothers, by engaging in domestic manufactures. The Irish flax-wheel performed an important part in the feminine opposition to British oppression in the spinning of linen thread for summer fabrics; and the hum of the big Dutch wool-wheel was heard in many families converting the fleecy rolls from the hand-cards into yarn. In Boston, a party of fifty young women, calling themselves "Daughters of Liberty," met at the hose of the venerated pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church there, the Rev. John Moorehead, where they amused themselves with spinning two hundred and thirty-two skeins of linen yarn, some very fine, which were given to the worthy white-haired minister. Several of the young women were members of his congregation. Many persons came in to see the novel sight and admire the fair spinners. They were regaled with refreshing fruit, cakes, coffee and comfits, after which anthems and liberty-songs were sung by many fine voices of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty. There were, at that time, more than one hundred spinners in Mr. Moorehead's society. In other colonies like zeal and industry were shown by the young women, and also by whole families. "Within eighteen months past," wrote a correspondent of the New York Mercury, from Newport, Rhode Island, "four hundred and eighty-seven yards of cloth and thirty-six pairs of stockings have been spun and knit in the family of James Nixon of this town. Another family, within four years past, hath manufactured nine hundred and eighty yards of woolen cloth, besides two coverlids and two bed-ticks, and all the stocking yarn for the family. We are credibly informed that many families in this colony within the year past have each manufactured upward of seven hundred yards of cloth of different kinds."

When the Massachusetts Assembly met at the close of May, 1769, they simply organized, and then resolved that it was incompatible with their dignity and freedom to deliberate while confronted by an armed force; and that the presence of a military and naval armament was a breach of privilege. They refused to enter upon the business of furnishing supplies of any kind, or discussing any topic excepting that of a redress of their grievances. They petitioned the governor to remove the troops from the town, but their reasonable request was met by a haughty refusal. Not only this, but the governor adjourned the Assembly to Cambridge, and informed them that he was going to England to lay a statement of the affairs of the colony before the king. The House instantly adopted a petition to his majesty, asking for the withdrawal of Bernard from the colony forever; and they also adopted a resolution declaring that the establishment of a standing army in the colony in time of peace, was not only an invasion of natural rights, but a violation of the British Constitution, highly dangerous to the people, and unprecedented. Perceiving the Assembly to be incorrigible, the governor dissolved them and sailed for England, leaving the province in the care of the Lieutenant-Governor, Thomas Hutchinson. Proofs of Bernard's duplicity, greed, petty malice, mischievous exaggeration, falsehoods, and continual plottings for the destruction of the Massachusetts free government, so well known here, had been sent to England by one of his political friends, and caused his immediate recall. He never recrossed the Atlantic, and died in 1779.

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