« AnteriorContinuar »
by private friends, but by many others who knew him only as a spirited partisan in the cause of liberty.
From this time, the whigs were determined to support him to the utmost of their power. He had been always on their side, was firm and sagacious, one of the best writers in the newspapers, ready upon every question, but especially conversant with all matters which related to the dispute between Great Britain and the colonies.
We have said that there was a private political club in Bogton, where decisive measures originated, which gave a secret spring and impulse to the motions of the public body, and that Mr. Adams was one of the patriotic conclave. This confederacy came to a determination to resist every infringement of their rights. The stamp act was a flagrant violation of them, and to suffer it quietly to be carried into effect, would establish a precedent, and encourage further proceedings of a similar nature. Mr. Adams was one of those who opposed it in every step. He was not averse to the manner in which the people evinced their determinate opposition, by destroying the stamped papers and office in Boston; but he highly disapproved of the riots and disorders which followed, and personally aided the civil power to put a stop to them.
The taxes upon tea, oil, and colours, were still more odious to the Americans than the stamp act; especially to the inhabitants of Boston, where the board of commissioners was established. The people looked to Mr. Adams as one of the champions of liberty, who must stand forth against every claim of Great Britain, and deny the right of the parent state to lay a tax; nor were they disappointed. He was so strenuous in his exertions to make the people sensible of their charter privileges, that he obtained the appellation of the patriot Samuel Adams.
In 1765, he was elected a member of the general assembly of Massachusetts. He was soon chosen clerk, and he gradually acquired influence in the legislature. This was an eventful time. But Mr. Adams possessed a courage which no dangers could shake. He was undismayed by the prospect, which struck terror into the hearts of many. He was a member of the legislature near ten years, and he was the soul which animated it to the most important resolutions. No man did so much. He pressed his measures with ardour; yet he was prudent; he knew how to bend the passions of others to his purpose.
The congress which assembled at New York, at this period, was attributed to a suggestion made by Mr. Adams. It has been said, with confidence, that he was the first man who proposed it in Massachusetts.
In consequence of the act imposing duties, in 1767, Mr. Adams suggested a non-importation agreement with the merchants. This was agreed to, and signed by nearly all of them in the province. They bound themselves, if the duties were not repealed, not to import, or to order any, but certain enumerated articles, after the first of January, 1769.
On the evening of the fifth of March, 1770, an affray took place between the military quartered in Boston, and some citizens, which resulted in a loss of lives on both sides. On the following morning, a public meeting was called, and Samuel Adams addressed the assembly, with that impressive eloquence which was so peculiar to himself. The people, on this occasion, chose a committee to wait upon the lieutenant governor, to require that the troops be immediately withdrawn from the town. The mission, however, proved unsuccessful, and another resolution was immediately adopted, that a new committee be chosen to wait a second time upon governor Hutchinson for the purpose of conveying the sense of the meeting in a more peremptory manner. Mr. Adams acted as chairman. They waited on the lieutenant governor, and communicated this last vote of the town; and, in a speech of some length, Mr. Adams stated the danger of keeping the troops longer in the capital, fully proving the illegality of the act itself; and enumerating the fatal consequences that would ensue, if he refused an immediate compliance with the vote. Lieutenant governor Ižutchinson, with his usual prevarication, replied, and roundly asserted, that there was no illegality in the measure; and repeated, that the troops were not subject to his authority, but that he would direct the removal of the twenty-ninth regiment. Mr. Adams again rose. The mag: nitude of the subject, and the manner in which it was treated by lieutenant governor Hutchinson, had now roused the impetuous feelings of his patriotic soul. With indignation strongly expressed in his countenance, and in a firm, resolute, and commanding manner, he replied, “that it was well known, that, acting as governor of the province, he was, by its charter, the commander in chief of his majesty's military and naval forces, and as such, the troops were subject to his orders; and if he had the power to remove one regiment, ho had the power to remove both, and nothing short of this would satisfy the people, and it was at his peril, if the vote of the town was not immediately complied with, and if it be longer delayed, he, alone, must be answerable for the fatal consequences that would ensue." This produced a momentary silence. It was now dark, and the people were waiting in anx. jous suspense for the report of the committee. A conference in whispers followed between lieutenant governor Hutchinson
and colonel Dalrymple. The former, finding himself so close. ly pressed, and the fallacy and absurdity of his arguments thus glaringly exposed, yielded up his positions, and gave his consent to the removal of both regiments; and colonel Dalrymple pledged his word of honour, that he would begin his preparations in the morniug, and that there should be no unnecessary delay, until the whole of both regiments were removed to the castle.
At a very early period of the controversy between the mother country and the colonists, Mr. Adams was impressed with the importance of establishing committees of correspondence. In 1766, he made some suggestions on this subject in a letter to a friend in South Carolina; but it was found to be either impracticable or inexpedient before the year 1772, when it was first adopted by Massachusetts, on a motion of Mr. Adams at a public town meeting in Boston. This plan was followed by all the provinces. Mr. Adams's private letters may have advanced this important work. In a letter to Richard Henry Lee, Esq. of Virginia, which, unfortunately, is without a date, is the following remark: “I would propose it for your consideration, whether the establishment of committees of correspondence among the several towns in every colony, would not tend to promote the general union upon which the security of the whole depends." It will be remembered that the resolutions for the establishment of this institution in Virginia, were passed March 12, 1773, which was more than four months subsequently to the time it had been formed in Boston.
Every method had been tried to induce Mr. Adams to abandon the cause of his country, which he had supported with so much zeal, courage, and ability. Threats and caresses had proved equally unavailing. Prior to this time there is no certain proof that any direct attempt was made upon his virtue and integrity, although a report had been publicly and freely circulated, that it had been unsuccessfully tried by governor Bernard. Hutchinson knew him too well to make the attempt. But governor Gage was empowered to make the experiment. He sent to him a confidential and verbal message by colonel Fenton, who waited upon Mr. Adams, and after the customary salutations, he stated the object of his visit. He said that an adjustment of the disputes which existed between England and the colonies, and a reconciliation, was very desirable, as well as important to both. That he was authorized from governor Gage to assure him, that he had been empowered to confer upon him such benefits as would be satisfactory, upon the condition, that he would engage to cease in his opposition to the measures of government. He also
observed, that it was the advice of governor Gage, to him, not to incur the further displeasure of his majesty ; that his conduct had been such as made him liable to the penalties of an act of Henry VIII. by which persons could be sent to England for trial of treason, or misprison of treason, at the discretion of a governor of a province, but by changing his political course, he would not only receive great personal advantages, but would thereby make his peace with the king. Mr. Adams listened with apparent interest to this recital. He asked colonel Fenton if he would truly deliver his reply as it should be given. After some hesitation he assented. Mr. Adams required his word of honour, which he pledged.
Then rising from his chair, and assuming a determined manner, he replied, “I trust I have long since made MY PEACE WITH THE KING OF KINGS. No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. Tell governor Gage, it is THE ADVICE OF SAMUEL ADAMS TO him, no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated
With a full sense of his own perilous situation, marked out an object of ministerial vengeance, labouring under severe pecuniary embarrassment, but fearless of consequences, he steadily pursued the great object of his soul, the liberty of the people.
The time required bold and inflexible measures. Common distress required common counsel. The aspect was appalling to some of the most decided patriots of the day. The severity of punishment which was inflicted on the people of Boston, by the power of England, produced a melancholy sadness on the friends of American freedom. The Massachusetts house of Assembly was then in session at Salem. A committee of that body was chosen to consider and report the state of the province. Mr. Adams, it is said, observed, that some of the committee were for mild measures, which he judged no way suited to the present emergency. He conferred with Mr. Warren, of Plymouth, upon the necessity of spirited measures, and then said, “ do you keep the committee in play, and I will go and make a caucus by the time the evening arrives, and do you meet me.” Mr. Adams secured a meeting of about five principal members of the house at the time specified, and repeated his endeavours for the second and third nights, when the number amounted to more than thirty. The friends of the administration knew nothing of the matter. The popular leaders took the sense of the members in a private way, and found that they would be able to carry their scheme by a sufficient majority. They had their whole plan completed, prepared their resolutions, and then determined to
bring the business forward ; but, before they commenced, the door-keeper was ordered to let no person in, or suffer any one to depart. The subjects for discussion were then introduced by Mr. Adams, with his usual eloquence on such great occasions. He was chairman of the committee, and reported the resolutions for the appointment of delegates to a general congress to be convened at Philadelphia, to consult on the general safety of America. This report was received by surprise and astonishment by the administration party. Such was the apprehension of some, that they were apparently desirous to desert the question. The door-keeper seemed uneasy at his charge, and wavering with regard to the performance of the duty assigned to him. At this critical juncture, Mr. Adams relieved him, by taking the key and keeping it himself. The resolutions were passed, five delegates, consisting of Samuel Adanis, Thomas Cushing, Robert Treat Paine, John Adams, and James Bowdoin, were appointed, the expense was estimated, and funds were voted for the payment. Before the business was finally closed, a member made a plea of indisposition, and was allowed to leave the house. This person went directly to the governor, and informed him of their bigh-banded proceedings. The governor immediately sent his secretary to dissolve the assembly, who found the door locked. He demanded entrance, but was answered, that his desire could not be complied with, until some important business, then before the house, was concluded. Finding every method to gain admission ineffectual, he read the order on the stairs for an immediate dissolution of the assembly. · The order, however, was disregarded by the house. They continued their deliberations, passed all their intended measures, and then obeyed the mandate for dissolution.
The battle of Lexington, which took place on the 19th of April, 1775, now announced the commencement of the revolutionary war. Adams and Hancock were in Lexington the very night the British troops left Boston. To gain possession of the papers of Messrs. Adams and Hancock, who lodged together in the village, was one of the motives, it is said, of the expedition which led to that memorable conflict. The design, though covered with great secrecy, was anticipated, and the victims escaped upon the entrance of their habitation by the British troops. General Joseph Warren, who was the first victim of rank who fell in the revolutionary contest with Great Britain, despatched an express, at ten o'clock at night, to Adams and Hancock, to warn them of their danger. A friend of Mr. Adams spread a report that he spake with pleasure on the occurrences of the 19th of April. It is a fine day,” said he, walking in the field after the day dawned.