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At one o'clock in the morning of the 2d of November, 1773, the consignees were aroused from their slumbers by a violent knocking at their doors, and a summons was left for them to appear at Liberty Tree on the following Wednesday, to resign their commissions; and not to fail at their peril. A handbill was, at the same time, posted about the town, notifying the people of Boston and the vicinity to be present at the same time and place, to witness their resignation.

[Illustration: Signature, Benjamin Church]

On the appointed day, a large flag was hung out at Liberty Tree. The public crier announced the meeting, at the top of his voice, and the church bells, were rung for an hour. At noon, five hundred persons assembled. Samuel Adams, John Hancock and William Phillips, representatives of Boston, were present, with William Cooper,--the patriotic town clerk,--and the board of selectmen. The consignees failing to appear, a committee, consisting of William Molineux, William Dennie, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church,[6] Henderson Inches, Edward Proctor, Nathaniel Barber, Gabriel Johonnot,[7] and Ezekiel Cheever, waited on them at Clarke's warehouse, at the foot of King (now State) Street, where they, together with a number of their friends, had assembled. As they passed the town house, still standing at the head of this street, Hutchinson, who saw the procession, says that "the committee were attended by a large body of the people, many of them not of the lowest rank."

[Illustration: Signature, Henderson Inches]

Molineux was the spokesman. "From whom are you a committee?" asked Clarke. "From the whole people," was the reply. "Who are the committee?" "I am one," said Molineux, and he named the rest. "What is your request?" "That you give us your word to sell none of the teas in your charge, but return them to London in the same bottoms in which they were shipped. Will you comply?" "I shall have nothing to do with you," was the rough and peremptory reply, in which the other consignees, who were present, concurred. Molineux then read the resolve, passed at Liberty Tree, declaring that those who should refuse to comply with the request of the people, were "enemies to their country," and should be dealt with accordingly.

When the committee reported the result to the crowd outside, the cry was raised, "Out with them! out with them!" Those within attempted to close the doors; but the people unhinged them, and carried them off. Justice Nathaniel Hatch, who, in the king's name, now commanded the peace, was hooted at and struck, when the people were persuaded to desist. The committee returned to Liberty Tree, where they reported to the meeting, which quietly dispersed. Of those composing this gathering, the consignees wrote to the East India Company, as follows: "They consisted chiefly of people of the lowest rank; very few respectable tradesmen, as we are informed, appeared amongst them. The selectmen say they were present to prevent disorder." There can be little doubt that the political assemblies of that day, as do those at the present time, fairly represented the body of the people. The mechanics of Boston, whatever their rank in the social scale, were the active patriots of the revolutionary period.

The Sons of Liberty having failed, and the Tories asserting that the meeting at Liberty Tree was irregular, petitioners for a town meeting declared that the people were alarmed at a report that the tea had been shipped to America, and feared that the tribute would be exacted, and that the liberties, for which they had so long contended, would be lost to them and their posterity. A meeting was therefore called by the selectmen for the next day, at ten o'clock in the forenoon.

That night a threatening letter was placed under the door of Mr. Faneuil, one of the consignees, warning them that a much longer delay in complying, would not fail to bring upon them "the just reward of their avarice and insolence."

The town meeting, held on the 5th of November, was fully attended, and was presided over by John Hancock. After due consideration, it adopted the resolves of the Philadelphians of October 18, declaring that freemen have an inherent right to dispose of their property; that the tea tax was a mode of levying contributions on them without their consent; that its purpose tended to render assemblies useless, and to introduce arbitrary government; that a steady opposition to this ministerial plan was a duty which every freeman owed to his country, to himself, and to his posterity; that the East India Company's importation was an open attempt to enforce this plan; and that whoever countenanced the unloading, vending or receiving the tea, was an enemy to his country. A committee, consisting of the moderator, Henderson Inches, Benjamin Austin, and the selectmen of the town, were chosen to wait on the consignees and request them, from a regard to their own characters, and the peace and good of the town and province, immediately to resign their appointment.

At this meeting, a Tory handbill, called the "Tradesmen's Protest," against the proceedings of the merchants on the subject of tea importation, was introduced. After the reading, without comment, the tradesmen present were desired to collect themselves at the south side of the hall, where the question was put whether they acknowledged the "Tradesmen's Protest," and the whole, amounting to at least four hundred, voted in the negative. The paper, its printer, and those who circulated it, were denounced as base, false and scandalous. This gave a finishing blow to the "Protest," of which nothing more was heard.

After voting that it was the just expectation of the town that no one of its merchants should, under any pretext whatever, import any tea liable to duty, the meeting adjourned until three o'clock.

[Illustration: Signature, Joseph Warren]

At that hour there was again a full assembly. The committee reported that they had communicated the resolves of the town to the Messrs. Clarke and Mr. Faneuil, who informed them that they must consult Thomas and Elisha Hutchinson, the other consignees, who were at Milton, and could not give an answer until the following Monday. Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and Molineux were then desired to acquaint Messrs. Clarke and Faneuil, that the town expected an immediate answer from them. This was very soon received, and pronounced unsatisfactory, by a unanimous vote. John Hancock, John Pitts, Samuel Adams, Samuel Abbott, Joseph Warren, William Powell, and Nathaniel Appleton,[8] were chosen a committee to wait on the Hutchinsons, and request an immediate resignation, and the meeting adjourned until the next day.