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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

164 or merchandise whatsoever


Parliament was disdainful of

the rights of the American colonists and resentful at their assertion. The English country gentlemen who applauded the ministers and who howled at Burke seemed to be absolutely unconscious that the men of Massachusetts and the men of New York were not merely like themselves made in the same image, but brethren of their own race, blood of their blood and bone of their bone, children of the same stock whose resistance to oppression was recorded at Runnymede and Worcester, at the Boyne and at Culloden. Even if the colonists had been the knaves and fools and cowards that the Parliamentary majority appeared to think them, the action of that majority was of a kind eminently calculated to lend strength to the most feeble spirit and courage to the most craven heart. The coarse {163} contempt, the brutal menace which were the distinguishing features of all that ill-timed oratory might well have goaded into resistance men who had been slaves for generations till servility had grown a habit. Yet this contempt and menace were addressed to men trained by harsh experiences to be stubborn in defence and sturdy in defiance, men who had won their liberty from the sea and the wilderness, who were as tenacious of their rights and as proud of their privileges as they were tenacious of the soil which they had wrested from the red man and the wolf, and proud of the stately cities which had conquered the forest and the swamp. It was the descendants of Miles Standish and John Smith, of Endicott
and Bradford and Underhill and Winslow whom the Squire Westerns of Westminster were ready to insult and were eager to enslave.

It must, however, be remembered that even men who had advocated the claims of the colonies were, or professed to be, shocked at the daring deed of the men of Boston. Dean Tucker declared that mutinous colonies were no use to England, and had better be allowed to depart. Chatham found the action of the Boston people criminal, prompted by passions and wild pretences. In America George Washington disapproved of the exploit.

[Sidenote: 1774--Closing the port of Boston]

The East India Company, pressed by the pinch of financial difficulties, clamored for a revenge that the King was resolved to give them. Under his instigation Lord North, in the beginning of 1774, introduced the famous measure for closing the port of Boston against all commerce. The Bill declared that "in the present condition of the town and harbor the commerce of his Majesty's subjects cannot be safely carried on there." It was accordingly asserted to be "expedient that the officers of his Majesty's Customs should be forthwith removed from the said town." It was enacted that "from and after the first day of June, 1774, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons to lade, or cause to be laden, or put off from any quay, wharf, or other place within the town of Boston, or in or upon any part of the shore of the bay, commonly called the harbor of Boston, into any ship, vessel, boat, etc., any goods, wares, {164} or merchandise whatsoever . . . or to take up, discharge, or cause or procure to be taken up or discharged within the town, out of any boat, lighter, ship, etc., any goods, wares, or merchandise whatsoever . . . under pain of the forfeiture of the goods and merchandise and of the boat," and so on, in a long and drastic measure practically intended to ruin Boston. This was what the Government thought it well to describe by the word "expedient." This was not all. Comprehensive alterations of the laws of the province followed. The charter of Massachusetts was changed. The council for the province, which had hitherto been chosen by the people, was now to be chosen by the Crown, and the judges of the province were to be nominated by the Crown. Another measure authorized the Governor to send persons implicated in the disturbances to England for trial. Boston and the province were indeed to be heavily punished and sternly brought to their senses.


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