Results of the First Continental Congress



There was a general impression after the close of the Continental Congress, that war was inevitable. Before they met, many patriots thought so. Samuel Adams proclaimed it as his belief, all through the summer of 1774. Major Joseph Hawley, one of the boldest of the patriots of Massachusetts, was one of those who "snuffed the battle from afar." He submitted to the delegation in Congress from Massachusetts, a paper entitled "Broken Hints," which was full of wise thoughts. It began with these remarkable words: "We must fight, if we cannot otherwise rid ourselves of British taxation, all revenues, on the constitution or form of government enacted for us by the British Parliament." He continued: "There is not heart enough yet for battle. Constant, and a sort of negative resistance of government, will increase the heat and blow the fire. There is not military skill enough. That is improving, and must be encouraged and improved, but will daily increase. Fight we must, finally, unless Britain retreats." When John Adams read these words to Patrick Henry, that patriot said, with emphasis, "I am of that man's mind."

Britain did not intend to retreat. Her pride had been wounded by the successful defiance of her daughter, and she would neither forget nor forgive. Gage was instructed to do his duty fearlessly and with vigor. He did so, but not judiciously. He had not the rare art of conciliating enemies. His suavity was all for his friends.

Gage had summoned the Assembly of Massachusetts to meet at Salem on the 5th of October to legislate under the new act of Parliament. The attitude of the Continental Congress made the patriots bolder than ever, and their town-meetings were so seditious in aspect, that the governor countermanded his order for the session of the Assembly. But most of the members, denying his right to countermand, met there on the appointed day, ninety in number, waited two days for the governor, who did not appear, and then organized themselves into a Provincial Congress, with John Hancock as President, and Benjamin Lincoln, Secretary. They adjourned to Concord, where, on the 11th, two hundred and sixty members took their seats. Then they adjourned to Cambridge, whence they sent a message to the governor, telling him that for want of a legal Assembly they had organized a Convention. They complained of the recent acts of Parliament which suspended the functions of their charter, expressed their loyalty to the king, and protested against the fortifying of the Neck. Gage replied, as he had done before, that it was only for defence; and he pointed to the sounds of the fife and drum, the military drills, the manufacture of arms, and warlike preparations all over the province, for his justification. He concluded by denouncing the Convention as an illegal body, and warning them to desist from further action.

Gage's denunciations increased the zeal of the patriots. The Convention appointed a Committee of Safety, to whom they delegated large powers, among others to call out the militia of the province. Another committee was appointed to procure ammunition and military stores, and for that purpose they appropriated sixty thousand dollars. Henry Gardner was appointed Receiver-General, into whose hands the constables and tax collectors were directed to pay all public moneys that might be gathered by them. Provision was also made for arming the people of the province; and Jeremiah Preble, Artemas Ward, and Seth Pomeroy, all veterans of wars with the French and Indians, were chosen general officers of the militia. Only Ward and Pomeroy consented to serve, and they entered immediately upon the duty of organizing the militia. Mills were erected for manufacturing gunpowder; establishments were set up for the making of arms, and encouragement was given to the production of saltpetre. Ammunition and military stores were collected at Woburn, Concord, near Salem, and at other places; and late in November, as we have observed, the Provincial Congress authorized the enrollment of twelve thousand Minute-men. That Provincial Congress assumed legislative and executive powers, and received the allegiance of the people generally. Gage found himself at the close of 1774 unsupported excepting by his troops, a few government officials in Boston, and passive loyalists who were under the protection of his regiments. All outside of Boston wore the aspect of rebellion. Made afraid of his own weapons--fearing the people might turn the muzzles of the cannon which he had planted upon Fort Hill upon himself and his troops, he ordered a party of sailors to be sent in the night from a man-of-war in the harbor to spike all the guns in battery there. That was a confession of weakness that made the patriots strong.





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