Colonial Assembly: The resistance of the Massachusetts assembly against England in 1767



Parliament, under the lead of Townshend, suspended the legislative powers of New York, as a punishment for their disobedience. This was a warning which could not be mistaken. In the other colonies, even when requisitions were complied with, there was careful evasion of obedience to the terms of the act, and sympathy with New York spread far and wide, carrying with it deep disquiet and indignation. Not content with beginning to enforce the Mutiny Act, Townshend carried measures to impose port duties on wine, oil, and fruit from Spain and Portugal, and on glass, paper, lead, colors, and tea. The revenue thus raised was to be used for the payment of the crown officers, and for the establishment of a civil list. This was a blow at the most vital rights of the colonies, for it took from them the control of their governments. The new policy, unchecked by the death of Townshend in the autumn of 1767, excited the utmost apprehension in America, and fanned into flame the smouldering embers of the opposition to the Stamp Act. Again non-importation agreements were discussed, but without combination or effect; and Massachusetts, thoroughly alarmed at the prospect of independent crown officers, determined on stronger measures. The Assembly resolved to send a petition to the king, and letters to the statesmen of England. In the petition, drawn, probably, by Samuel Adams, the Assembly set forth the conditions of their settlement, argued against taxation without representation, and protested against the presence of a standing army, and the project of rendering the judicial and executive officers independent of the people. They followed this action by a resolve inviting the other colonies to unite with them in petitions to the king against the new taxation. At every step Bernard and Hutchinson resisted the Assembly, which moved forward steadily, cautiously, and firmly, making no mistakes, and giving no openings. Bernard and the crown officers met the action of the Assembly by a counter-memorial, inveighing against the freedom and independent temper of the colonists, and advising the immediate presence of fleets and armies,--supporting their requests with tales of projected riots, for the people had begun to be restless, although there was really no danger of any serious outbreak.

Hillsborough, the new Secretary of State, and the king's friends were indignant at the action of Massachusetts, and letters were sent to the other colonies denouncing the Massachusetts circular, and to Bernard instructing him to order the House to rescind their resolve, and, if they refused, to dissolve them. Meantime, the excitement increased. John Hancock's sloop Liberty was seized, on the ground of evasion of the customs. There was a slight disturbance, and revenue officers, in pretended fear of their lives, took refuge on the Romney man-of-war, while the town and the governor quarreled about the affair. When the general court met, strengthened by the sympathy of Connecticut and New Jersey, and by the letter of Virginia, where their principles had been sustained by resolutions of the Burgesses, Hillsborough's letter was presented. The House, by an overwhelming vote, refused to rescind; the court was dissolved, and Massachusetts was left without a legislature. Boston town meeting took into its hands the power which Hillsborough and Bernard sought to crush. They called a convention of delegates from the towns of the province while troops were on their way to Massachusetts; and this convention came together, demanded in vain a general court, passed strong resolutions against taxation and a standing army, and adjourned. while the Council refused to make provision for the expected soldiers until the barracks were filled, and the old beacon was prepared as in the days of Andros. Soon after the convention dissolved, two regiments, presently increased to four, and artillery, landed and marched into the town. The Council refused quarters until the barracks were occupied; and, after camping for some time in the open air, the troops were finally quartered and supplied at the expense of the crown. No measure could possibly have been taken better calculated to produce civil war. The troops were sent to overawe, and they merely irritated the people. Into a peaceful town, into a province which had simply remonstrated and petitioned legally and properly in defence of their rights, were suddenly thrust royal regiments. The strong feeling of independence in a country where garrisons were absolutely unknown was outraged, while the bad character and licentious habits of the soldiery incensed a rigid, austere, and sober people. Attempts at military coercion and the presence of troops were sure to breed trouble; and, worse than this, they not only awakened the sympathy of the other colonies, but alarmed them for their own safety. It was outside pressure and peril in its strongest form, and nothing tended so strongly to produce the union which alone could be fatal to English rule.





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