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The Eve of Revolution.


It was during the agitation arising out of the Stamp Act that the idea of a General Congress of the States was suggested. A loud cry for union had arisen.“ Join or die," was the prevailing sentiment. The Congress met in New York. It did little more than discuss and petition. It is interesting merely as one of the first exhibitions of a tendency towards federal union in a country whose destiny, in all coming time, this tendency was to fix.

The repeal of the Stamp Act delayed only for a little the fast-coming crisis. A new Ministry was formed, with the Earl of Chatham at its head. But soon the great earl lay sick and helpless, and the burden of government rested on incapable shoulders. Charles Townshend, a clever, captivating, but most indiscreet man, became the virtual Prime Minister. The feeling in the public mind had now become more unfavorable to America. Townshend proposed to levy a variety of taxes from the Americans. The most famous of his taxes was one of threepence per pound on tea. All his proposals became law.

This time the more thoughtful Americans began to despair of justice. The boldest scarcely ventured yet to suggest revolt against England, so powerful and so loved. But the grand final refuge of independence was silently brooded over by many. The mob fell back on their customary solution. Great riots occurred. To quell these disorders, English troops encamped on Boston Common. The town swarmed with redcoated men, every one of whom was a humiliation. Their drums beat on the Sabbath, and troubled the orderly men of Boston even in church. At intervals fresh transports dropped in, bearing additional soldiers, till a great force occupied the town. The galled citizens could ill brook to be thus bridled. The ministers prayed to Heaven for deliverance from the presence of the soldiers. The General Court of Massachusetts called vehemently on the Governor to remove them. The Governor had no powers in that matter. He called upon the Court to make suitable provision for the king's troops, a request which it gave the Court infinite pleasure to refuse.

The universal irritation broke forth in frequent brawls between soldiers and people. One wintry moonlight night in March, when snow and ice lay about the streets of Boston, a more than usually determined attack was made upon a party of soldiers. The mob thought the soldiers dared not fire without the order of a magistrate, and were very bold in the strength of that belief. It proved a mistake. The soldiers did fire, and the blood of eleven slain or wounded persons stained the frozen streets. This was “ the Boston Massacre," which greatly inflamed the patriot antipathy to the mother country.

One day ships destined for Boston loaded with taxed tea show their tall masts in the bay. The citizens run together to hold council. It is Sunday, and the men of Boston are strict. But here is an exigency, in presence of which all ordinary rules are suspended. The crisis has come at length. If that tea is landed it will be sold; it will be used ; and American liberty will become a byword upon the earth.

Samuel Adams was the true king in Boston at that time. He was a man in middle life, of cultivated mind and stainless reputation, a powerful speaker and writer, a man in whose sagacity and moderation all men trusted. He resembled the old Puritans in his stern love of liberty, his reverence for the Sabbath, his sincere, if somewhat formal, observance of all religious ordinances. He was among the first to see that there was no resting-place in this struggle short of independence. “ We are free,” he said, “and want no king.” The men of Boston felt the power of his resolute spirit, and manfully followed where Samuel Adams led.

It was hoped that the agents of the East India Company

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would have consented to send the ships home. But the agents refused. Several days of excitement and ineffectual negotiation ensued. People flocked in from the neighboring towns. The time was spent mainly in public meeting. The city resounded with impassioned discourse. But meanwhile the ships lay peacefully at their moorings, and the tide of patriot talk seemed to flow in vain. Other measures were visibly necessary. One day a meeting was held, and the excited people continued in hot debate till the shades of evening fell. No progress was made. At length Samuel Adams stood up in the dimly lighted church, and announced, “ This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.” With a stern shout the meeting broke up. Fifty men disguised as Indians hurried down to the wharf, each man with a hatchet in his hand. The crowd followed. The ships were boarded ; the chests of tea were brought on deck, broken up, and flung into the bay. The approving citizens looked on in silence. It was felt by all that the step was grave and eventful in the highest degree. So still was the crowd that no sound was heard but the stroke of the hatchet and the splash of the shattered chests as they fell into the sea. tions about the disposal of those cargoes of tea at all events are now solved.

This is what America did. It was for England to make the next move. Lord North was now at the head of the British government. It was his lordship's belief that the troubles in America sprang from a small number of ambitious persons, and could easily, by proper firmness, be suppressed. “ The Americans will be lions while we are lambs,” said General Gage. The king believed this. Lord North believed it. In this deep ignorance he proceeded to deal with the great emergency. He closed Boston as a port for the landing and shipping of goods. He imposed a fine to indemnify the East India Company for their lost teas. He withdrew the charter

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