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The coercive acts were carried through Parliament by immense majorities. Even friends of America, like Barre and Conway, voted for the Boston port bill. On the government side, the most violent counsels were given. According to Charles Van, the "offense in the Americans" was "flagitious"; the "town of Boston ought to be knocked about their ears, and destroyed.

You will never meet with that proper obedience to the laws of this country until you have destroyed that nest of locusts." Lord George Germain favored the regulating act in the interest of class - privilege. "Put an end to their town meetings," he cried. "I would not have men of a mercantile cast every day collecting themselves together and debating about political matters; I would have them follow their occupations as merchants, and not consider themselves as ministers of that country."

But the coercive measures were not adopted without solemn warnings from an enlightened opposition. The port bill, said Rose Fuller, cannot be carried "into execution without a military force." In reply, Lord North said he "should not hesitate a moment" to use military force to compel "due obedience to the laws of this country." The bill for transporting persons for trial called out a protest in the Lords. Chatham, who had now returned to his place in that body and was taking a deep interest in American affairs, spoke with his old-time power against the bill for quartering troops on the colonists.

Burke agreed with Franklin, that it would be wise to go back to the state of things before the Grenville policy was tried. In supporting a motion for the repeal of the Tea Act he delivered his famous speech on taxation. "Revert to your old principles," he advised; leave "America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into a distinction of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions. I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. ... Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it. Let this be your reason for binding their trade. Do not burthen them with taxes; you "were not used to do so from the beginning. Let this be your reason for not taxing. These are the arguments of states and kingdoms. Leave the rest to the schools; for there only they may be discussed with safety."

The advice of Burke came too late. The die was cast, and the king was "infinitely pleased." The first response of America to the port bill left small doubt as to the consequences of his folly. A copy of the act reached Boston on May 10. Two days later a meeting of the committee of correspondence with the committees of eight other towns addressed the committees in all the provinces, recommending a suspension of trade with Great Britain, and "suggesting that the single question was whether the other colonies would consider Boston as suffering for the common cause, and resent the injury inflicted on her." The next day a letter was sent out by the town meeting making the same suggestion of commercial non-intercourse in these words: "Voted, Nem. Con. that it is the opinion of this Town, that if the other Colonies come into a joint resolution, to stop all importations from Great Britain and exportations to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the Act for Blocking up this Harbor be repealed, the same will prove the Salvation of North America & her Liberties."

On the very same day General Gage, coming to supersede Hutchinson as governor, entered the harbor, bringing with him, or soon followed by four more regiments. Promptly on June 1 the blockade of the port was put in force by a cordon of British ships, and the official records were removed to Salem, which a royal order had made the seat of government. A few days later troops and artillery were landed unmolested, and from this time forward Boston was virtually in the hands of a hostile army. "Cannon was planted on its eminences and at the single outlet into the country; troops daily paraded the streets, and the place wore the aspect of a garrison."

Starvation threatened the town, for directly or indirectly its people were mainly dependent upon commerce for a living. Food and fuel soon became scarce and dear; work was hard to find; the ship-yards and rope-walks were idle; house-building stopped for want of materials. A committee of the town meeting adopted various expedients for giving employment to the poor: a brickyard was opened on the neck; streets were repaved; and "wool, flax, and cotton were bought to give labor to poor women"; leather "was furnished to the shoemakers and iron to the blacksmiths, and their finished work taken in payment." The appeal for aid found a generous response. Windham, Connecticut, sent a flock of sheep; Marblehead granted free use of her harbor, wharves, and warehouses; a gift of rice came from South Carolina. Money was contributed by various cities, including New York, London, and even Montreal. The Quakers of Pennsylvania sent £2540. A subscription list in Fairfax County, Virginia, was headed by George Washington, who gave £50.

Thus the port bill and the other coercive acts as they were successively announced drew the colonists together in neighborly sympathy. At the same time they served as a powerful revolutionary agent; for the discussion of the Boston proposal of commercial non-intercourse as a means of retaliation speedily led to a continental union. The formation of committees of correspondence went on swiftly, and from various quarters came the demand for a congress. In New York and Philadelphia, the policy of suspending trade with Great Britain without general consultation was not received with favor; and in each of these cities, a committee of the people recommended the appointment of delegates to a general congress. The Quakers shrank from any course which might provoke an appeal to arms; while in both New York and Pennsylvania there was already evidence of the existence of a powerful loyalist party.

Virginia was the first to take definite action. May 24, 1774, the House of Burgesses, in resolutions drafted by Jefferson, set aside June 1 — when the port bill went into effect — 'as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer; devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights, and the evils of civil war; to give us one heart and one mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper means, every injury to American rights; and that the minds of his Majesty and his Parliament may be inspired from above with wisdom, moderation, and justice, to remove from the loyal people of America all cause of danger, from a continued pursuit of measures pregnant with their ruin."

Two days later, inasmuch as this paper reflected "highly upon his majesty and the parliament of Great Britain," Dunmore dissolved the house. At the Raleigh tavern, May 27, the burgesses, no longer acting as an official legislative body, adopted a resolution recommending an annual congress of all the colonies, "to deliberate on those general measures which the united interests of America may from time to time require." This was sent to the other assemblies asking for their concurrence, and a convention of delegates from the several counties of the province was called to meet at Williamsburg on the first day of the following August.

The first response came from Rhode Island, where delegates were chosen on June 15. At Salem, two days later, the Massachusetts House elected five delegates to a continental congress to be held in Philadelphia on the first day of September. With the designation of the time and place for the meeting, the call for the congress was now complete. During the next two months — while the people were intensely excited by the passage of the regulating act and the proceedings of Gage in putting it in force — similar action was taken by ten other colonies.

The delegates were selected in various ways. In Pennsylvania and Rhode Island they were chosen by the legislature; in Massachusetts by the lower house. Sometimes they were appointed in conventions or provincial congresses of town or county delegates called for the purpose, as in New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina. In Connecticut they were chosen by the committee of correspondence under the authority of the assembly; in South Carolina by a public meeting of inhabitants of the province held in Charleston, whose action the assembly ratified. New York, where party antagonism was growing bitter, was irregularly and imperfectly represented. In seven wards of the city, five delegates were elected "by duly certified polls, taken by proper persons." These same deputies were approved by the districts in Westchester and Dutchess and by the city and county of Albany. Separate delegates were sent by Suffolk, Orange, and Kings. The rest of the province was unrepresented.

This body, later called the First Continental Congress, began its work in Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, on September 5, 1774. It was composed, when complete, of fifty -five members from twelve colonies. Among them were many of the ablest men of the country: Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island; Roger Sherman and Silas Deane from Connecticut; John Adams and Samuel Adams from Massachusetts; James Duane and John Jay from New York; Joseph Galloway, John Dickinson, and Thomas Mifflin from Pennsylvania; Caesar Rodney, George Read, and Thomas McKean from Delaware; Henry Middleton, Christopher Gadsden, and the two Rutledges from South Carolina; and from Virginia an illustrious group comprising Peyton Randolph, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, Edmund Pendleton, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, and George Washington. One, Stephen Hopkins, had taken part in the Albany convention just twenty years before; eight were in the Stamp Act Congress; but very few of the others had ever seen one another before coming to Philadelphia.

Not the least important result of the congress was the broadening influence produced by the personal contact of its members. A rare opportunity for social intercourse was afforded. Philadelphia was the richest and most cultivated city in America. Under the genial glow of its lavish hospitality, sectional, political, and religious prejudice became softened or melted away entirely. The deputies were banqueted by the city and by the Pennsylvania assembly, and a ceaseless round of entertainment was provided for them in private houses. During his fifty-four days in Philadelphia, Washington suffered to dine but nine times at his lodgings. John Dickinson drove into the city "day after day in his coach drawn by four white horses to take delegates out to his beautiful country home where they could dine and talk politics."

In particular, it is enlightening to observe how the provincialism of John Adams gradually gave way under the charm of the freer environment. Even his sturdy puritanism became somewhat toned down. October 9 — probably for the first time in his life — he "went, in the afternoon, to the Romish chapel, and heard a good discourse upon the duty of parents to their children, founded in justice and charity. The scenery and the music are so calculated to take in mankind, that I wonder the Reformation ever succeeded." Much of his Diary is devoted to the breakfasts and dinners to which he was invited. "A most sinful feast again," he exclaims on September 8; "everything which could delight the eye or allure the taste; curds and creams, jellies, sweetmeats of various sorts, twenty sorts of tarts, fools, trifles, floating islands, whipped sillabubs, . . . Parmesan cheese, punch, wine, porter, beer, &c." Yet, after seven weeks' exposure to such good cheer, he could write, "Took our departure, in a very great rain, from the happy, the peaceful, the elegant, the hospitable city of Philadelphia," the city of which he had formed anything but a flattering opinion before this visit.

The Congress of 1774 was not thought of by the people as a congress in the modern legislative sense. It was rather a convention of ambassadors of subordinate, but distinct communities which had found it needful to take counsel of one another regarding a crisis in their common relations to the parent state, in order, if possible, to adopt some common plan of action. It was essentially an advisory or consultative body. In another aspect, it may be regarded as the completion of the revolutionary party organization of which the basis was laid in the committees of correspondence. It undertook no acts of "sovereign" authority; although through the functions which it exercised, notably the sanction of the Association, it prepared the way for the gradual assumption of such authority by the Congress of 1775. The character of the body is disclosed in the instructions or powers of its members. These instructions are very similar in substance. The assembly of Pennsylvania, to take a typical example, resolved:

"That there is an absolute necessity that a Congress of deputies from the several colonies, be held as soon as conveniently may be, to consult together upon the present unhappy state of the colonies, and to form and adopt a plan for the purpose of obtaining redress of American grievances, ascertaining American rights upon the most solid and constitutional principles, and for establishing that union and harmony between Great Britain and the colonies, which is indispensably necessary to the welfare and happiness of both."

At the first session of the Congress, an organization was affected. Peyton Randolph was chosen president and Charles Thompson secretary. Although not a member, Thompson was a reputable merchant and leader of the "liberty men" in Philadelphia. An oath of secrecy was taken, and for seven weeks—until October 26 — the deliberations were carried on behind locked doors. After a long and warm discussion, it was decided that each colony, small or great, should have one vote. It was while debating this question that Patrick Henry uttered the famous words, "Fleets and armies and the present state of things show that government is dissolved. ... The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."

No record of the debates was made, and just what was said during the seven weeks of discussion we shall never know. From the few incidents recorded by John Adams and others, we are able to judge that the proceedings of the Congress were often discordant and its actions far from unanimous. That a policy of resistance rather than of concession was adopted is due mainly to the ability and stern determination of the men from Virginia and Massachusetts, and especially to the political craft and organizing power of Samuel Adams. According to his antagonist, Joseph Galloway, Adams, "though by no means remarkable for brilliant abilities, yet is equal to most men in popular intrigue and the management of a faction. He eats little, drinks little, sleeps little, thinks much, and is most decisive and indefatigable in the pursuit of his objects. It was this man, who, by his superior application, managed at once the faction in Congress at Philadelphia and the factions in New England."

On the second day, though a strict Congregationalist, Adams moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopalian clergyman, should open the session with prayer. "I am no bigot," he said; "I can hear a prayer from a man of piety and virtue, who is at the same time a friend of his country." This proved to be a masterstroke of political finesse in disarming religious prejudice. Again, it was through Adams's planning that on September 17 the revolutionary resolves of the Suffolk convention were placed before Congress. These declared that "no obedience is due from this Province to either or any part" of the recent acts of Parliament; advised the meeting of a provincial congress; directed the tax collectors to pay no money into the treasury until the constitution should be restored; denounced the "mandamus" councillors who refused to resign as "obstinate and incorrigible enemies of this country"; and virtually threatened armed resistance if the obnoxious measures were enforced. The resolves were published by Congress together with its own resolutions approving the course taken by Boston and the convention in resisting the parliamentary measures.

The crisis in the deliberations came on September 28, when Congress found itself at the parting of the ways and had to choose between compromise and revolution. Joseph Galloway, leader of the party of conciliation — of those who censured the ministerial policy but who at all hazards would oppose independence — presented a "Plan for a Proposed Union between Great Britain and the Colonies."

It provided for a president-general to be appointed by the crown and a grand council composed of deputies chosen every three years by the legislatures of the several colonies and meeting at least once a year. The council was to be "an inferior and distinct branch of the British parliament." Its acts were to be subject to the veto of Parliament, while in turn, it might reject the measures of Parliament relating to the colonies. 1 It was a worthy and sagacious effort to preserve the empire and to prevent the calamity of civil war. It represented, it is said, the views of Golden of New York, and Franklin of New Jersey, and it was vigorously supported by such men as James Duane and John Jay. Edward Rutledge thought it "almost a perfect plan"; and it is highly significant that it was defeated only by a majority of one in a vote of eleven colonies.

The great acts of the Congress are the Declaration of Rights and Grievances and the Association. By the Declaration, in compact and noble phrase, a long list of grievances recalling every phase of the unhappy controversy of ten years is set forth; and the rights claimed by the "inhabitants of the English colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts" are asserted. Thirteen acts of Parliament are, formally enumerated as being "infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists" whose repeal was "essentially necessary in order to restore harmony" between them and Great Britain. In particular, the five coercive acts are condemned as "impolitic, unjust, and cruel, as well as unconstitutional, and most dangerous and destructive of American rights."

The Association was designed to put in force the suspension of trade with Great Britain which Congress had already resolved upon. On behalf of themselves and the inhabitants of the colonies represented, to obtain redress of grievances the deputies solemnly declare that after December 1, 1774, they will neither import nor consume tea or any other British goods; nor will they export goods to Great Britain, Ireland, or the West Indies after September 10, 1775. Furthermore, "we will neither import nor purchase, any slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time, we will wholly discontinue the slave trade." Frugality, industry, and domestic manufactures are encouraged. To enforce the agreement, in every county, city, and town a committee is to be chosen, "whose business it shall be attentively to observe the conduct of all persons," and if anyone violates the Association, forthwith to cause the truth "to be published in the Gazette," to the end that the foes to the rights of British America may be "publicly known" and "universally contemned." The committees of correspondence in the respective colonies are charged frequently to "inspect the entries of their custom houses," and to keep each other informed regarding all matters touching the Association.

In the history of the American nation the Association of 1774 holds an honorable place. It is virtually the beginning of the federal union. It is the only thing resembling at all a written constitution which the people had until the Articles of Confederation were finally ratified nearly seven years later.

Besides the two organic acts already considered, congress presented a petition to the king; an address to the people of Quebec inviting them to send delegates to the congress called for the following year, both drafted by Dickinson; an address to the people of Great Britain, of which Jay was the author; and a memorial to the people of the colonies. All these papers are marked by sobriety, dignity, and power. When laid before Parliament in 1775, Chatham declared that for "solidity of reason, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion under a complication of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men, can stand in preference to the general congress at Philadelphia."