General Gage appointed Governor

THE Boston Port Bill reached Massachusetts early in May, 1774. It was preceded a few days by a commission sent to New York, for General Gage as governor of Massachusetts to succeed Hutchinson, who was recalled. The latter was mortified and alarmed. His recall seemed to be a pointed rebuke at that juncture, and he justly feared the resentment of the people whom he had misrepresented and misruled. He left Boston before Gage arrived, and remained in seclusion at his country-house at Milton until an opportunity offered for him to take refuge in Castle William. Hutchinson had many political as well as personal friends in Massachusetts. It must be remembered that the patriotic zeal which animated the Sons of Liberty was not universally felt, even in Boston. Those leaders were radicals, and were compelled to meet cold-hearted and hard-hearted conservatism at every turn.

Hutchinson had many political sympathizers; and when he was about to depart for England, whither he fled from the frowns of his countrymen, more than a hundred merchants in Boston, and a number of lawyers, magistrates and men of property there and in the neighborhood, signed an address to him, in which they expressed their entire approbation of his public acts, and affectionate wishes for his personal happiness. These "addressors" became objects of intense dislike. Many of them, yielding to popular clamor, retracted. Those who would not retract, felt compelled to leave the colony, and became the first of the host of "Loyal Refugees" who peopled British provinces after the war that ensued.

Ludlow found Boston quiet but firm. Gage had arrived from New York by sea, attended only by his staff, though he had taken the precaution to order additional regiments to Massachusetts. He had remained a few days at the Castle, in conference with Hutchinson; and he had landed at the Long Wharf on the 17th of May, without any military display. There he was courteously received as their governor by a large crowd of citizens, and was escorted to the State-House by a militia company under John Hancock, where a loyal address was presented to him, and where he read his commission. After that he was entertained at a public dinner in Faneuil Hall. He believed that an era of reconciliation through submission was at hand. That night an effigy of Hutchinson was burned in front of Hancock's house, and the new governor was somewhat disturbed by grave doubts.

At near the close of May of that year, the Massachusetts legislature chose the councillors for the governor for the ensuing year, as usual. Governor Gage used his prerogative, and rejected thirteen of them. The remainder were not much more satisfactory; for they, too, were stirred by the spirit of liberty around them. The Assembly asked the governor to appoint a day for fasting; but he refused, because, he wrote to Dartmouth, "the request was only to give an opportunity for sedition to flow from the pulpit." Perceiving that the inhabitants of Massachusetts had lost one tyrant only to be supplied with another, Samuel Adams was about to offer a proposition for a General Congress, when the governor prorogued the Assembly, to meet after ten days at Salem. In anticipation of this act, the Assembly appointed Samuel Adams and James Warren a committee to act for them during the interim, as the exigencies of the case might require. When the Assembly met at Salem, these active patriots were ready with a plan for a General Congress; for non-importation; for providing munitions of war and funds, and for arousing the other colonies to immediate action.

The port of Boston was closed at meridian on the 1st of June. At that hour, muffled church-bells in Philadelphia and other places tolled a funeral knell. The day had been appointed as a fast in many regions, and the churches were crowded with worshippers, who devoutly implored Heaven's mercies for the inhabitants of Boston, and strength and liberty for themselves. The law was rigorously enforced. Not a vessel of any kind was allowed to be used in the harbor. Not a pound of hay, nor a sheep or calf, could be brought in a boat from the islands, nor a stick of lumber, or package of merchandise, could be taken by water from wharf to wharf. Not a parcel of goods could be ferried across to Charlestown; and business of every kind was immediately paralyzed. A cordon of vessels-of-war inclosed the town, and several regiments that soon arrived made Boston an immense garrison. Orders came to Gage from England, to order his soldiers to shoot any citizens who should not be docile, and he was assured, for his comfort, that, by the provisions of a recent law, all trials of officers and troops for homicide in America would be removed to Great Britain. Gage had orders to arrest, when he should deem it prudent to do so, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Dr. Joseph Warren, and send them to England to be tried for treason. Adams knew this; and with the halter almost about his neck, he said of his beloved and stricken Boston: "She suffers with dignity; and rather than submit to the humiliating terms of an edict, barbarous beyond precedent under the most absolute monarchy, she will put the malice of tyranny to the severest test. An empire is rising in America; and Britain, by her multiplied oppressions, is accelerating that independency which she dreads. We have a post to maintain, to desert which would entail upon us the curses of posterity."

Return to Our Country, Vol II