Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Article Index

Immediately on receiving this answer, the meeting, without vote or comment, dissolved. "This sudden dissolution struck more terror into the consignees," says Hutchinson, "than the most minatory resolves;" and but for his efforts, they would have followed the example of those of Philadelphia, who had resigned six weeks before.

Next day (November 19), the consignees, in a petition to the governor and council, asked leave to resign themselves, and the property committed to their care, to his Excellency and their Honors, as guardians and protectors of the people, and that means might be devised for the landing and securing the teas, until the petitioners could safely dispose of them, or could receive directions from their constituents. Their action was the cause of much comment in the newspapers, and debate in the council. It was urged in opposition to the scheme, that it was no part of the legitimate functions of this body to act as trustees and storekeepers for certain factors of the East India Company.

In a letter to a friend, dated November 24, Hutchinson thus expresses his views of the situation. He says:

    "When I saw the inhabitants of the town of Boston, assembled under color of law, and heard of the open declaration that we are now in a state of nature, and that we have a right to take up arms; and when in a town meeting, as I am informed, a call to arms was received with clapping and general applause; when a tumultuous assembly of people can, from time to time, attack the persons and the property of the king's subjects; and when assemblies are tolerated from night to night, in the public town hall; to counsel and determine upon further unlawful measures, and dark proposals and resolutions are made and agreed to there; when the infection is industriously spreading and the neighboring towns not only join their committees with the committee of Boston, but are assembled in town meetings to approve of the doings of the town of Boston; and, above all, when upon repeated summoning of the Council, they put off any advice to me from time to time, and I am obliged to consent to it, because all the voices there, as far as they declare their minds, I have reason to fear, would rather confirm than discourage the people in their irregular proceedings,--under all these circumstances, I think it time to deliberate whether his majesty's service does not call me to retire to the castle, where I may, with safety to my person, more freely give my sense of the criminality of these proceedings than whilst I am in the hands of the people, some of whom, and those most active, don't scruple to declare their designs against me."

And he concludes this doleful story with the question, "What am I in duty bound to do?" His position was certainly a very uncomfortable one.

Frequent conferences with the consignees were held by the selectmen of Boston. "Though we labored night and day in the affair, all our efforts could not produce an agreement between them and the town." So wrote John Scollay,[9] chairman of the Board of Selectmen, who also informs us, in a letter written December 23, that there was a way by which the consignees might have avoided trouble. "Had they," writes he, "on the terms of first application to them, offered to have stored the tea, subject to the inspection of a committee of gentlemen, till they could write their principals, and until that time (agreed that) no duty should be paid,--which no doubt the customs officers would have consented to,--I am persuaded the town would have closed with them."

The selectmen told the consignees plainly that nothing less than sending the tea back to England would satisfy the people. Some of their Tory friends also urged them to arrange matters in this way, but they would only agree (Nov. 27) that nothing should be done in a clandestine way; that the vessels should come up to the wharves, and that when they received the orders that accompanied the teas, they would hand in proposals to the selectmen, to be laid before the town. They meant only to gain time. They were determined to make the issue with the popular leaders on this question. They were backed by the governor and the influential Tories, and no doubt believed that they could carry their point.

On Monday, the 22d, the committees of correspondence of Dorchester, Brookline, Roxbury and Cambridge, met the Boston committee at the selectmen's chamber, Faneuil Hall.

They resolved unanimously to use their joint influence to prevent the landing and sale of the teas; prepared a letter to be sent to the other towns, representing that they were reduced to the dilemma, either to sit down in quiet, under this and every burden that might be put upon them, or to rise up in resistance, as became freemen; to impress the absolute necessity of making immediate and effectual opposition to the detestable measure, and soliciting their advice and co-operation. Charlestown was "so zealous in the cause," that its committee was added to the others. This body continued to hold daily conferences, "like a little senate," says Hutchinson.

The "Gazette" of November 22, said: "Americans! defeat this last effort of a most pernicious, expiring faction, and you may sit under your own vines and fig trees, and none shall, hereafter, dare to make you afraid."

On the 26th, the men of Cambridge assembled, and after adopting the Philadelphia resolves, "very unanimously" voted, "That as Boston was struggling for the liberties of their country, they could no longer stand idle spectators, but were ready, on the shortest notice, to join with it, and other towns, in any measure that might be thought proper, to deliver themselves and posterity from slavery."

[Illustration: (_From the original, in the possession of_ GEORGE H. ALLAN, _Boston_.)]

[Illustration: Signature, Francis Rotch

1750-1822. Bond, April 3^d 1773. £1000.]

On Sunday, the 28th, the ship "Dartmouth," Captain Hall, owned by the Quaker, Francis Rotch,[10] arrived in Boston harbor, with one hundred and fourteen chests of tea, and anchored below the castle. As the news spread, there was great excitement. Despite the rigid New England observance of the Sabbath, the selectmen immediately met, and remained in session until nine o'clock in the evening, in the expectation of receiving the promised proposal of the consignees. These gentlemen were not to be found, and on the next day, bidding a final adieu to Boston, they took up their quarters at the castle.

[Illustration: Signature, F. Rotch]

Hutchinson advised the consignees to order the vessels, when they arrived, to anchor below the castle, that if it should appear unsafe to land the tea, they might go to sea again, and when the first ship arrived she anchored there accordingly, but when the master came up to town, Mr. Adams and others, a committee of the town, ordered him at his peril to bring the ship up to land the other goods, but to suffer no tea to be taken out.

The committee of correspondence, who also held a session that day, seeing that time was precious, and that the tea once entered it would be out of the power of the consignees to send it back, obtained the promise of the owner not to enter his ship till Tuesday, and authorized Samuel Adams to summon the committees and townspeople of the vicinity to a mass meeting, in Boston, on the next morning. The invitation read as follows:

    "A part of the tea shipped by the East India Company is now arrived in this harbor, and we look upon ourselves bound to give you the earliest intimation of it, and we desire that you favor us with your company at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock to-morrow forenoon, there to give us your advice what steps are to be immediately taken, in order effectually to prevent the impending evil, and we request you to urge your friends in the town, to which you belong, to be in readiness to exert themselves in the most resolute manner, to assist this town in its efforts for saving this oppressed country."

The journals of Monday announced that the "Dartmouth" had anchored off Long Wharf, and that other ships with the poisonous herb might soon be here. They also contained a call for a public meeting, as announced in the following handbill, already printed and distributed throughout the town:

    "Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in this harbor; the hour of destruction or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny stares you in the face; every friend to his country, to himself, and posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o'clock this day, (at which time the bells will ring,) to make a united and successful resistance to this last, worst and most destructive measure of administration.

    Boston, November 29, 1773."

[Illustration: Signature, Jon Williams]

At nine o'clock the bells were rung, and the people, to the number of at least five thousand, thronged in and around Faneuil Hall. This edifice, then about half as large as now, was entirely inadequate to hold the concourse that had gathered there. Jonathan Williams,[11] a citizen of character and wealth, was chosen moderator. The selectmen were John Scollay, John Hancock, Timothy Newell, Thomas Newhall, Samuel Austin, Oliver Wendell,[12] and John Pitts. The patriotic and efficient town clerk, William Cooper,[13] was also present. Samuel Adams, Dr. Warren, Hancock, Dr. Young and Molineux took the lead in the debate. The resolution offered by Adams, "that the tea should not be landed; that it should be sent back in the same bottom to the place whence it came, at all events, and that no duty should be paid on it," was unanimously adopted. On hearing of this vote the consignees withdrew to Castle William. For the better accommodation of the people, the meeting then adjourned to the Old South Meeting House.

The speeches made at the Old South have not been preserved. Some were violent, others were calm, advising the people by all means to abstain from violence, but the men in whom they placed confidence were unanimous upon the question of sending back the tea. Dr. Young held that the only way to get rid of it was to throw it overboard. Here we find the first suggestion of its ultimate fate. Both Whigs and Tories united in the action of the meeting. To give the consignees time to make the expected proposals, the meeting adjourned till three o'clock.

Of this assembly Hutchinson says: "Although it consisted principally of the lower ranks of the people, and even journeymen tradesmen were brought to increase the number, and the rabble were not excluded, yet there were divers gentlemen of good fortune among them." With regard to the speeches he observes: "Nothing can be more inflammatory than those made on this occasion; Adams was never in greater glory." And of the consignees he says: "They apprehended they should be seized, and may be, tarred and feathered and carted,--an American torture,--in order to compel them to a compliance. The friends of old Mr. Clarke, whose constitution being hurt by the repeated attacks made upon him, retired into the country, pressed his sons and the other consignees to a full compliance."

A visitor from Rhode Island who attended the meeting, speaking of its regular and sensible conduct, said he should have thought himself rather in the British senate than in the promiscuous assembly of the people of a remote colony.

At the afternoon meeting in the Old South, it was resolved, upon the motion of Samuel Adams, "that the tea in Captain Hall's ship must go back in the same bottom." The owner and the captain were informed that the entry of the tea, or the landing of it, would be at their peril. The ship was ordered to be moored at Griffins' wharf, and a watch of twenty-five men was appointed for the security of vessel and cargo, with Captain Edward Proctor as captain that night. It was also voted that the governor's call on the justices to meet that afternoon, to suppress attempted riots, was a reflection on the people.

Upon Hancock's representation that the consignees desired further time to meet and consult, the meeting consented, "out of great tenderness to them," and adjourned until next day. This meeting also voted that six persons "who are used to horses be in readiness to give an alarm in the country towns, when necessary." They were William Rogers, Jeremiah Belknap, Stephen Hall, Nathaniel Cobbett, and Thomas Gooding, and Benjamin Wood, of Charlestown.

The guard for the tea ships, which consisted of from twenty-four to thirty-four men, was kept up until December 16. It was armed with muskets and bayonets, and proceeded with military regularity,--indeed it was composed in part of the military of the town,--and every half hour during the night regularly passed the word "all's well," like sentinels in a garrison. It was on duty nineteen days and twenty-three hours. If molested by day the bells of the town were to be rung, if at night they were to be tolled. We have the names of those comprising the watch on November 29 and 30. They are:

  For November 29. Captain, EDWARD PROCTOR.

  Henry Bass. Foster Condy. John Lovell. John Winthrop. John Greenleaf. Benjamin Alley. Joshua Pico. James Henderson. Josiah Wheeler. Joseph Edwards. Jonathan Stodder. Stephen Bruce. Paul Revere. Moses Grant. Joseph Lovering. Dr. Elisha Story. Thomas Chase. Benjamin Edes. Joseph Pierce, Jr. Captain Riordan. John Crane. John McFadden. Thomas Knox, Jr. Robert Hitchborn.