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Full text of "The colonial merchants and the American revolution, 1763-1776"

l«|W»***H. 



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TO 



MY MOTHER AND FATHER 



369963 






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PREFACE 

A greater number of investigations of the American 
revolutionary epoch have been made in the last three or 
four decades than in all the preceding years. This dili- 
gence has been the outgrowth of the modern spirit of 
historical research and has been productive of results 
which completely discredit the simple formulae by which 
the earlier historians explained the colonial revolt. In 
the light of these studies it is now almost universally 
agreed that the revolutionary movement was the product 
of a complexity of forces, governmental and personal, 
British and colonial, social, economic, geographical and 
rehgious. No definitive history of the American Revol- 
ution can be written until it becomes possible to appraise 
each one of these factors at its true value. 

In the present work attention is focused on the part 
which the colonial merchants played — willingly and un- 
willingly — in bringing about the separation of the thir- 
teen colonies from the mother country. This has ren- 
dered necessary some discussion of the evolution of the 
radical party, with its shifting program, membership and 
methods ; but the latter theme, so fascinating in its pos- 
sibilities, is entirely incidental to the main purpose of 
the book. 

The most distinctive activity undertaken by the mer- 
chants was the formation of non-intercourse agreements. 
These agreements, because of the peculiar part they 
played in the development of revolutionary sentiment, 
receive extended consideration in the present work. No 

5 
) 



6 PREFACE 

reader will leave these pages without perceiving the 
source of inspiration for the Jefifersonian policy of com- 
mercial coercion adopted in the early nineteenth century. 
If the latter years of the revolutionary movement be 
taken for the purpose, the similarity will be seen to be 
more than superficial. In each case the non-mercantile 
elements holding the reins of power were driving a re- 
luctant minority of merchants into a sacrifice of trading 
interests for a good desired only by the former. 

John Adams once wrote that the great problem of the 
revolutionary movement was to get the thirteen clocks 
to strike at the same time. M}^ own belief is that in- 
stead of thirteen revolutionary movements, as Adams 
suggests, there v/ere fundamentally only two, one func- 
tioning along characteristic lines in the northern pro- 
^^ vinces, and the other developing in a characteristic vvay 
in the southern provinces. This view of events has fur- 
nished the mode of attack which has been utilized in 
dealing with the multitudinous happenings of the indivi- 
dual provinces. 

This volume appears deep-freighted with my obliga- 
tions to many fellow-workers in the field of history. In 
particular I am greatly indebted to Professor Herbert L. 
Osgood, of Columbia University, who first directed my 
attention to the subject of colonial non-intercourse and 
whose constructive criticism has improved my work in 
content and form. To my colleague. Professor Henry 
R. Spencer, I am deeply grateful for many helpful sug- 
gestions made in the course of reading the manuscript. 
Indirectly I owe much to the example of certain inspiring- 
teachers, particularly to that of Dean George Wells 
Knight, of Ohio State University, who in my under- 
graduate days first awakened in me a scholarly interest 
in history. I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to 



PREFACE y 

Mr. John Bennett, of Charleston, S. C, for kindly gath- 
ering material for me in the Loyalist Transcripts. I 
desire also to say that Professor C. M. Andrews' splendid 
essay on " The Boston Merchants and the Non-Importa- 
tion Movement" {CoL Soc. Mass. Pubs.y vol. xix) did 
not reach my hands in time to be of assistance to me : 
but I have availed myself of the opportunity to make 
footnote references to it from time to time. I could not 
conclude these personal acknowledgments without reg- 
istering the deep sense of my obligation to my wife, 
Elizabeth Bancroft, who has been of great assistance to 
me at every stage of my labors. 

Through the generosity of the editors of the Political 
Science Quarterly I have been enabled to make free use 
of material which appeared in an article entitled " The 
Uprising against the East India Company," in vol. xxxii, 
no. I. Finally, I take great pleasure in recording my 
appreciation of the untiring courtesy and unfailing help- 
fulness of the ofiftcers and assistants of the following 
libraries : Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical 
Society, Massachusetts State Library, Boston Public 
Library, New York Public Library, Columbia University 
Library, New York Historical Society, Historical Society 
of Pennsylvania, Maryland Historical Society, Charleston 
Library Society, Ohio State Archaeological and Histor- 
ical Society, Greene County (Ohio) Library Association, 
Ohio State University Library, and Ohio State Library, 

A. M. S.' 
Ohio State University, 
October, 1917. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 
The Old Order Changeth 

PAGE 

Effects of British commercial and financial supervision on the colonies ... 15 

Economy of commercial provinces 22 

Dominance of merchant class in commercial provinces 27 

Economy of plantation provinces 3^ 

Leadership of planting class in plantation provinces 34 

Survey of colonial smuggling to 1763 39 

CHAPTER II 
The First Contest for Commercial Reform (1764-1766) 

—♦Restrictive acts of 1764 50 

Sectionalization of discontent 54 

First stage of industrial depression 5^ 

Beginning of organized opposition on part of merchants 59, 

• Broadening the basis of protest 62 

Early movement for retrenchment in commercial provinces 63 

•-♦Stamp Act (1765) and its economic burden 65 

Popular demonstrations in commercial provinces 7 ^ 

Contrast with plantation provinces 73 

Union of commercial and plantation provinces in Stamp Act Congress ... 75 

Organized efforts for economic relief in commercial provinces 76 

Remedial legislation of Parliament (1766) 82 

CHAPTER III 
The Second Movement for Commercial Reform (1767-1770) 

-» Position of merchant class early in 1767 91''^ 

-•Townshend legislation (1767) 93 

General modes of oppo ition 9^ 

Opposition to regulations against smuggling (1767-1770) 97 

_# General character of non-importation movement 105 

9 



lO ^ CONTENTS 

PAGE 

New England town movement for non-consumption (October, 1767 — Feb- 
ruary, 176S) 106 

Efforts for a tri-city mercantile league of non-importation (March — June, 

1768). . . .' 113 

Independent boycott agreements in chief trading towns (August, 176S — 

March, 1769) 120 

Attempt to extend scope of mercantile agreements (October, 1769) . . . . 131 

Non-importation movement in plantation provinces 134 

In Virginia 135 

In Maryland 13S 

In South Carolina 140 

In Georgia 147 

In North Carolina 148 

Boycott agreements in minor northern provinces , 149 

In Delaware 149 

In New Jersey 150 

In Connecticut 150 

In Rhode Island 152 

In New Hampshire : 155 

CHAPTER IV 
Enforcement and Breakdown of Non-Importation (1768-1770) 

Difficulties of judging execution of non-importation 156 

Enforcement at Boston 156 

Enforcement at New York 186 

Enforcement at Philadelphia 191 

Enforcement in other northern provinces , 194 

Accession of New Ham.pshire to non-importation . 194 

Qncandid course of Rhode Island 195 

Enforcement in Delaware, New Jersey and Connecticut 196 

CHAPTER V 

Enforcement and Breakdown of Non-Importation {^Continued) 

C'peration of non-importation in plantation provinces 197 

Situation in Virginia 198 

Situation in Maryland 199 

Enforcement in South Carolina 202 

Enforcement in North Carolina 208 

Early defection of Georgia 209 

General trend toward relaxation of non importation 209 



CONTENTS 4 II 



PAGE 



Movement of great trading towns to terminate non-importation (April — 

October, 1770) 217 

Collapse of non-importation in plantation provinces (October, 1770 — July, 

1771) • 233 

Coercive effects of non-importation in England 236 



CHAPTER VI 

Colonial Prosperity and a New Peril (1770-177 3) 

Alienation of merchant class from radicals 240 

Return of prosperity ...,,, 241 

Widespread acquiescence in tea duty 244 

Continuance of smuggling , 246 

>f Attempt of radicals to revive agitation (November, 1772 — July, 1773). . . 253 

« CausR for renewal of opposition : tea act of 1773 262 

\ Analysis of literature of protest 265 

CHAPTER VII 

The Struggle With the East India Company (1773-1774) 

Inauguration of movement of opposition at Philadelphia 279 

Development of Boston opposition to tea shipments 281 

Course of opposition at Philadelphia 290 

Course of opposition at New York 291 

Course of opposition at Charleston 294 

Effect of Boston Tea Party on colonial opinion 298 



CHAPTER VIII 

Contest of Merchants and Radicals for Dominance in the Commer- 
cial Provinces (March — August, 1774) 

Passage of coercive acts of 1774 305 

Effect of coercive acts on American opinion • 306 

Movement in commercial provinces for non-intercourse 311 

In New England 311 

In New York 327 

In Pennsylvania 341 

In New Jersey 356 

In Delaware , , 357 



12 CONTENTS 

PAGB 

CHAPTER IX 

Contest of Merchants and Radicals for Dominance in the Planta- 
tion Provinces (May— October, 1774) 

Factors conditioning the non-intercourse movement in plantation provinces . 359 

Action of Maryland 360 

Measures of Virginia 362 

Attitude of North Carolina 370 

Course of South Carolina 373 

Backwardness of Georgia 379 

Indications of rising tide of radicalism in British America 386 

Combination of workingmen at Boston and New York against Gage . 386 

Destruction of the Peggy Stewart at Annapolis 388 

CHAPTER X 

The Adoption of the Continental Association 
(September — October, 1774) 

Genesis of First Continental Congress 393 

Factors determining the policy of Congress 396 

Proceedings of First Continental Congress , 410 

CHAPTER XI 

Ratification of the Continental Association 
(November, 1774 — ^June, 1775) 

Position of moderates after First Continental Congress . 432 

Literature of protest 435 

Establishment of Association in commercial provinces 440 

■: In Massachusetts • • 44° 

In New Hampshire 442 

In Rhode Island 444 

In Connecticut 444 

In New York 447 

In New Jersey 455 

In Pennsylvania 456 

In Delaware 460 

Establishment of Association in plantation provinces 460 

In Maryland 461 

In Virginia 461 

In North Carolina 462 

In South Carolina 464 

Failure of Georgia to ratify 469 



CONTENTS 13 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XII 

Five Months of the Association in the Commercial Provinces 
(December, 1774 — April, 1775) 

General conditions affecting operation of Association 473 

N Workings of Association in Massachusetts 476 

Workings of Association in New Hampshire 483 

Workings of Association in Rhode Island 485 

Workings of Association in Connecticut 486 

Workings of Association in New York 489 

Workings of Association in New Jersey 493 

Workings of Association in Pennsylvania 495 

Workings of Association in Delaware . . • 502 



CHAPTER XIII 

Five Months of the Association in the Plantation Provinces 
General Conclusions 

Contrast with commercial provinces 504 

Workings of Association in Maryland 504 

Workings of Association in Virginia 509 

W^orkings of Association in North Carolina 519 

Workings of Association in South Carolina 525 

Employment of provincial boycott 529 "v' 

Regulation of coastwise trade 534 

# General conclusions as to non-importation regulation in all provinces ... 535 . 

H Effects of Continental Association on Great Britain . . , 536 



CHAPTER XIV 

Transformation of the Association (April, 1775— July, 1776) 

Cause of transformation of Continental Association 541 

Widespread adoption of defense associations 542 

Belated accession of Georgia to Continental Association 546 

Changing functions of committees of observation 552 

Early adoption of non-exportation for military purposes 559 

Modifications in Continental Association made by Second Continental Con- 
gress 563 

Advent of non-exportation 570 



14 CONTENTS 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XV 

Transformation of the Association {Continued) 

Nullification of acts of navigation and trade 576 

Relaxation of tea non-consumption 581 

Removal of restraint on prices 584 

Merchant class and the supreme decision 591 

Appendix 607 

Bibliography , 614 

Index 631 



CHAPTER I 
The Old Order Changeth 

The century closing with the treaty of Paris of 1763 
was the Golden Age of commerce for the merchants of 
the thirteen continental English colonies. The location 
of these colonies in the temperate zone and the relative 
newness of some of them had caused the mother country 
to accord to them a treatment different from that ex- 
tended to the tropical colonies. In particular they had 
been enabled to escape most of the injurious restraints 
which a thorough application of the mercantilist theory 
would have involved — a theory dear to the economic 
writers of the times and to the Board of Trade, and one 
which would have converted the colonies into mere 
sources of supply and markets for the English merchants 
and manufacturers. Under these favoring circumstances, 
the colonists acquiesced without serious complaint in the 
British commercial system, and found the burdens which 
it imposed counterbalanced by corresponding benefits/ 

The foundation stone of the commercial system was 

^ The summary of the effects of the British commercial policy, which 
follows, is based principally upon the anonymous pamphlet, The In- 
terest of the Merchants and Manufacturers of Great Britain in the 
Present Contest with the Colonies Stated and Considered (London, 
1774); and upon the following monographic studies: Ashley, W. J., 
" The Commercial Legislation of England and the American Colonies, 
1660-1760," in Surveys Historic and Economic (New York, 1900), and 
Beer, C L., The Commercial Policy of England toward the American 
Colonies (Col. U. Studies, vol. iii, no. 2). 

IS 



l6 THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

the navigation act of 1660, which confined the colonial 
carrying trade wholly to English and colonial shipping. 
Under operation of this monopoly, ship building had 
become a lucrative source of wealth for colonial capital- 
ists and of employment for colonial artisans and sailors. 
T< The most comprehensive regulation affecting the dis- 
tribution of goods was the requirement that European 
commodities imported into the colonies must be laden and 
shipped in England.' The hardship which this restric- 
tion imposed on the colonies w^as theoretical rather than 
actual. For one thing the Americans generally found 
it more profitable to buy British manufactures than for- 
eign wares because of the superior quality and lower 
price of the former. This position of superiority, en- 
joyed by the English merchant and manufacturer inde- 
pendent of any legal advantage, made it possible for them 
to retain their American market even after the colonies 
had established independence. ^. Furthermore, England 

^ There were a few exceptions; e. g., wines from Madeira and the 
Azores ; salt from any port of Europe for the New England fisheries, 
and, at a later time, for Pennsylvania and New York; provisions, 
horses and servants from Ireland and Scotland ; and later, linen from 
Ireland. 

' Lord Sheffield, bj'- comparing the prices of standard British manu- 
factures with foreign-made wares, made it apparent that " the pre- 
ference formerly given [by the American colonists] was not the effect 
of our restrictions . . ." Obserz'ations on the Commerce of the 
American States (London, 1783), p. 234. So, also, a London merchant 
in the American trade testified before the House of Commons in 
1775 that printed calicoes and other colored and striped goods, and 
probably also muslins and silk handerchiefs, could be procured on 
better terms in England than in Holland. All these were important 
articles of American consumption. Stevens, B. P., FarsimUes of Mss. 
in European Archives etc. (London, 1889-98), vol. xxiv, no. 2037, p. 
16. Madison wrote in 1785 that "our trade was never more compleatly 
monopolized by G. B., when it was under the direction of the British 
Parliament than it is at this moment." ]Madison, James, Writings, 
(Hunt, G., ed.), vol. ii, p. 147. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 17 

was, by virtue of her geographical position with refe- 
rence to continental Europe, the natural entrepot for 
most of the outgoing European trade to the colonies. 
In the case of non-English manufactures, usually the 
the greater portion of the English import duty was re- 
funded, or " drawnback," upon re-shipment of the goods 
to America, with the result that certain goods, such as 
German linens, sold more cheaply in the colonies than 
in the home country/ If the parliamentary regulations % 
did sometimes tend to cramp American commercial op- 
portunities, the colonists were apt to ignore thefrestric- 
tions and, as Lord Sheffield says with a large measure of 
truth, " it is well knovv^n that from the first they uni- 
formly did evade them whenever they found it to their 
interest." ^ < 

As for the colonial export commerce, little or no re- y 
I straint was imposed on the trade of the northern col- 
onies with foreign countries, except in so far as the law- 
governing imports compelled the colonial shipmasters 
to take their return cargoes back to America by way 
of England. They might send their articles of commerce 
the world over, wherever a market could be found, with 
the exception during the eighteenth century of naval 
stores, which, being confined to the English market, 
were favored with governmental bounties. Only on their 
trade with the mother country were the restrictions on 
exports of any apparent importance. By the terms of 
the so-called corn laws, English ports were closed, 
either absolutely or by heavy duties, to colonial cereals 
and meats ; and a discriminatory duty was laid on oil and 
blubber imported in colonial vessels. This deprived the 

'The drawback amounted to all but one-half of the "Old Subsidy" 
of 1660, or about 2^%,. Vide Va. Mag. Hist, and Biog., vol. xi, p. 142. 
'0/>. cit., p. 234. 



l8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

northern colonists of convenient articles of exchange for 
British manufactures and would have proved a serious 
restraint had they not been free to seek elsewhere com- 
modities that could be marketed in England. 
< Like naval stores, the staple of Virginia and Maryland 
was an '' enumerated " article, and thus the tobacco of 
these colonies could be exported only to the home coun- 
try; but careful provision was made that colonial to- 
bacco should enjoy a monopoly of the home market even 
at the expense of English farmers and foreign importers. A 
In the case of South CaroHnia and Georgia, the ex- 
portation of rice was early in the eighteenth century 
confined to Great Britain where it also was given a 
monopoly of the market. After 1730 this staple, upon 
payment of one-half of the British duties, was admitted 
directly to the southern countries of Europe, whither 
nearly one-fourth of the exported crop went. "^North 
Carolina was affected by the regulations as to tobacco 
and rice and, more largely, by the restraint on the ex- 
portation of naval supplies ; but, as has^-beejx-noted, this 
last industry was subsidized by the British government, 
and without such help it could not have maintained it- 
self against the competition of Sweden.^ 
^Notwithstanding that colonial tobacco and rice could 
under most circumstances be sent only to the home 
country, these products enjoyed fairly free access to the 
continental European market, for on re-exportation from 
England the whole or the greater part of the import 
duty, as the law at any given time provided, was re- 
mitted as a " drawback. 'V Thus, toward the end of the 
colonial era four-fifths of the tobacco carried to England 
was re-shipped by British merchants to the continent, 
and nearly three-fourths of the American rice was re-ex- 
ported to the North German and Dutch manufacturing 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH jg 

towns. As England was on the direct route between ^ 
the colonies and the European ports north of Cape Fin- 
isterre, the additional freight charge was not high. 
Even if colonial vessels had gone directly to the conti- 
nental ports and thus deprived the British middlemen of 
their profits, they would have found it dif^cult to secure 
return cargoes. 

So far as the regulations of exports and imports were 
concerned, the colonies north of Maryland were not ser- 
iously affected ; and the restraints on the southern col- 
onies wefeTialanced by governmental subsidies and vested 
privileges in the English market. But other features of 
the commercial system bore a somewhat closer relation 
to the industrial life of the northern colonies. Most 
notable in this connection was the Molasses Act of 1733,. 
which was designed by means of prohibitive duties to 
compel the rum distillers and dealers of New England 
and elsewhere to buy molasses, sugar and rum of British, 
instead of foreign, colonies in the West Indies. But, as 
we shall see, this law, oppressive in intent but not ia 
execution, had its chief effect in increasing the volume 
of colonial smuggling. 

Restraints were also placed upon the exportation of 
certain manufactures. If the British merchants and the 
Board of Trade could have had their way, these restric- 
tions would have been sweeping and effectual ; but as it 
was, no earnest effort was made either to prevent manu- 
factures generally or to prohibit any manufacturing for pri- 
vate consumption within a colony. In 1699 it was enacted 
that no woolen manufactures should be exported from 
the colonies, transported from one colony to pother or 
/from one place to another in the same colonA* In 1732 
the exportation of locally-made hats from a colony was 
forbidden. In the middle of the century a third law for- 



20 THE- COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

bade the erection of any new steel furnaces or slitting- 
mills, although country forges where nails and farm im- 
plements were wrought were not in any wise ailected. 
This last restriction worked some hardship on the col- 
onies north of Maryland ; but the ill wind blew favorably 
for Virginia and Maryland, for these colonies profited 
by the special encouragement which the act granted for 
the American production of bar iron and pig iron. 

The three laws against manufacturing may, in general, 
be considered as having had little eitect, for the reason 
that even the northern colonies showed small promise 
of developing important m.anufacturing interests. Causes 
unconnected with the British commercial system oper- 
ated against the establishment of manufacturing, except 
for household purposes : the abundance of land in propor- 
tion to the population ; the resulting high price of labor ; 
and the want of sufficient capital.' The thousands of 
British workingmen who migrated to America in the 
last quarter-century of the colonial era found it more 
profitable and congenial to become farmers or seafarers 
than to labor at their old occupations. Colonial capital- 
ists found a better investment for their capital in com.m.erce 

' Gallatin assigned the same reasons for the natural industrial back- 
wardness of the country in 1810 in his ''Report on Manufactures." 
Am. St. Papers, Finance, vol. ii, pp. 425-426. Colonists and Englishmen 
at home widely appreciated that natural conditions in the colonies 
were unfavorable to the development of manufacturing. E. g., zide 
" An Essay on the Trade of the Northern Colonies " in Bos. Eve. Post, 
Jan. 30, Feb. 6, 1764; article by "A North American," copied into 
iV. Y. Merc., June 10, 1765; article in Conn. Cour., Aug. 17, 1767; the 
pamphlet, The Int. of Merchants and Mfrs., pp. 20-21 ; reports of 
following governors to home government : Moore, of N. Y., N. Y. 
Col. Docs., vol. vii, pp. 888-889; Wentworth, of N. H., British Papers 
("Sparks Mss."), vol. i, p. 6; Sharpe, of Md., Md. Arch., vol. xiv, pp. 
496-497; Franklin, of N. J., i N. J. Arch., vol. x. pp. 3^-32; Macpherson, 
D., Annals of Commerce (London, 1805). vol. iii, pp. 186- 191 ; Franklin, 
Benj.. Writings (Smyth, A. H., ed.), vol. v, p. 116. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 21 

or agriculture, and refused to hazard their resources in 
manufacturing enterprises of any size, even in later times 
when non-importation agreements were creating an arti- 
ficial demand for colonial wares.' 

An act of Parliament of 1732 sought to safeguard 
British investments in colonial businesses by protecting 
creditors at home against discriminatory colonial legis- 
lation designed to impede the collection of their debts. 
The act was passed upon petition of som.e London mer- 
chantsT Tt~provided that the affidavit of a British sub- 
ject at home should have the same force as evidence 
given in open court in the colonies and that the lands, 
tenements and negroes owned by the colonists should 
be liable for the payment of debts in much the same 
manner as real estate w^as in England. The undoubted 
effect of the law was that colonial merchants and planters 
of substance were enabled to secure a more generous 
credit; the chief hardship of the regulation fell on the 
unthrifty and unfortunate in the colonies. 

'xA.nother regulation of Parliament, aimed solely at New 
England, prohibited the issue of legal-tender paper 
money after 1751. Beginning in 1690, Massachusetts 
had been beguiled into the use of paper currency through 
the heavy expenses entailed by the successive French 
and Indian wars. Merchants of substance and the royal 
officials in the colony viewed this deluge of paper money 
with dismay. Other colonies followed the example of 
Massachusetts, with varying degrees of good faith. The 
upshot was the act of 1751 directed against the New 
England governments where the evil was worst.- This 

^"A. Z." in Bos. Gas., Feb. 20, 1769. 

^ Davis, A. AIcF., Currency and Banking in Massachusetts Bay (3 
Am. Econ. Assn. Pubs.), vol. i, pp. 253-265; Russell, E. B., The Re- 
view of American Colonial Legislation by the King in Council (Col. 
U. Studies, vol. biiv, no. 2), pp. 120-124. 



22 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

law, though failing to meet the need which undoubtedly- 
existed for a more abundant circulating medium, insured 
a safe currency and stabilized business conditions to the 
satisfaction of the men of means and the creditor class 
generally in New England. 

It would appear, then, that the business men of the col- 
onies north of Maryland had little reason to quarrel with 
'the British commercial and financial regulations as they 
-factually operated prior to the reign of George III. In- 
deed, under parliamentary supervision, the colonies had 
made such progress in wealth and population as to at- 
tract the attention of all Europe. There were besides, as 
we shall see presently, other powerful ties of interest 
that bound the colonial business and planting class to 
the mother country. It was a perception of these facts 
that prompted Franklin to say in 1754 of the restrictive 
regulations of Parliament: "These kind of secondary 
taxes, however, we do not complain of, though we have 
no share in the laying or disposing of them;"' and 
caused James Otis to declare in 1764: "The act of navi- 
gation is a good act, so are all that exclude foreign 
manufactures from the plantations, and every honest man 
will readily subscribe to them."^ 

From north to south, the colonial economy revealed 
marked contrasts which were destined to have far-reach- 
ing consequences. Fundamentally, the provinces fell 
into two clearly differentiated groups. ^ North of Mary- 

^ Franklin, Writings (Smyth), vol. iii, p. 236. 
^ The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (Boston, 
1764), pp. 54-55. 

^Viewing the matter from a somewhat different angle, Professor 
C. M. Andrews has made this luminous remark : " The real dift'erence 
between the north and the south in colonial times lay not in politics, 
law, rehgion, education, in manners, customs, or mental attitudes. It 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 23 

land were the commercial provinces, regions in which / 
the economic life centered chiefly in marine activity, as 
in New England, or else depended very largely upon 
trading, with agriculture as an important local feeder, as 
in the Middle Provinces/ In the commercial provinces 
the most influential men were merchants or lawyers \A 
allied with them, and political life radiated from the 
trading centers. South of this group lay tht plantation 
provinces, w^here the native economic interests were 
almost exclusively agricultural along specialized lines 
and the trading relations were managed by merchants 
of the mother country or coastwise by northern mer- 
chants. Here towns were small and for the most part 
unimportant, and political leadership fell to the owners 
of the great plantations. 

Each group of provinces displayed a wide diversity of 
industry and trade within itself." A facetious member 
of the South Carolina Assembly was heard to remark 
when a proposal for a Stamp Act Congress was under 
consideration : " If you agree to the proposition of com- 

is to be found in the fact that the southern colonies from the beginning 
to the end of the colonial period represented a purely agricultural 
form of Ufe without towns, trading communities, variety of industrial 
interests and competition, and consequently without that ingenuity and 
scientific skill which is essential to the spread of democratic ideas and 
the increase of wealth." The Colonial Period (New York, 1912), pp. 
105-106. 

^ One New England writer said : " 'Tis not difficult to prove clearly, 
the whole Product of the Lands to the Northward of Mar3'-land is not 
equal in Value to the fourth Part of our Imports from Great Britain." 
Bos. Post-Boy, Nov. 28, 1763. 

^ The subject of colonial economic conditions had been treated in 
innumerable places. For excellent general discussions, vide Ford, W. 
C, " Colonial America," Col. Sojc. Mass. Pubs., vol. vi, pp. 340-370 ; ^ 
and Johnson, E. R., History of Domestic and Foreign Commerce of 
the United States (Washington, 1915), vol. i, pp. 3-121. 



24 THE COLQXIAL MERCHAXTS : 1763-1776 

posing a Congress of deputies from the different British 
colonies, what sort of a dish will you make. New-Eng- 
land will throw in fish and onions. The middle states 
flax-seed and flour. Maryland and Virginia will add 
tobacco. North-Carolina, pitch, tar and turpentine. 
South-Carolina, rice and indigo, and Georgia will sprinkle 
the whole composition with saw-dust. Such an absurd 
jumble will you make if you attempt to form a union 
am^ong such discordant materials as the thirteen British 
provinces."' The ingredients of the continental dish 
were even more variegated than the South Carolinian 
asserted. 

Of the commercial provinces, the enterprising mer- 
chants of New England developed a network of trade 
routes that covered well-nigh half the world. Possess- 
ing within themselves no staple with which to make 
returns for their vast consumption of English drygoods 
and other wares, the main resources of trade of these 
provinces were the fisheries, the molasses-rum trade, the 
marketing of slaves and the coastwise traffic.^ All these 
sources were vigorously exploited in ofder to pile up a 
favorable balance of specie to send as remittance to 
England. 

^ Ramsay, D., History of the Revolution of South Carolina (Trenton, 
1785), vol. i, pp. 12-13. 

^ This statement of Xew England conditions is based largely upon the 
following materials: representation of R. I. Assembly in R. I. Col. 
R'ecs., vol. vi, pp. 378-383 ; " Essay on Trade of Northern Colonies," in 
Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 30, Feb. 6, 1764; Postlethwayt, M., The Universal 
Dictionary of Trade and Commerce (London, 1751), vol. i, pp. 366- 
367; Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, vol. iii, pp. 397-398, 570; Com- 
merce of Rhode Island (7 M. H. S. Colls., vols, ix and x) ; Weeden, 
W. B., Economic and Social History of New England (Boston, 1890), 
and Early Rhode Island (Nev^^ York, 1910) ; statistics of fisheries, i M. 
H. S. Colls., vol. viii, pp. 202-203; examination of merchants before 
Parliament, 4 American Archives (Force, P., ed.), vol. i, pp. 1638-1652, 
1663-1670. 



THE OLD ORDER C HAN GET H 2" 

In 1764 forty-five thousand tons of shipping and up- 
wards of three thousand men were employed in the fish- 
eries. After the fish had been caught and cured, the 
merchants exported the '' merchantable " variety to 
Spain, Portugal and Italy, where it was sold for cash or 
bills of exchange, save a sm^all portion which was ex- 
changed for salt, lemons and raisins for the return 
voyage. Such fish as was unfit for the European market 
was exported for slave consumption in the West Indies 
in exchange for more cash and for molasses. 
j The circuit of trade based upon West Indian molasses 

I brought even more generous returns and indeed consti- 
tuted the chief source of specie supply. The molasses 
^^became marketable when it was distilled into rum, for 
throughout British America it had great popularity as a 
tipple and as an article in the Indian trade, and it also 
played an important part in the African trade. Most of 
the output of rum was carried by coasting vessels to 
other provinces and" exchanged for products which might 
be used as remittances to England or as cargoes to the 
West Indies. The remainder — about one-seventh in the 
case of Rhode Island — was sent to Africa where it was 
sold for slaves or for gold-dust and ivory. The last two 
articles served directly as remittances to England ; the 
slaves were sold for hard money in the West Indies and 
the proceeds used to pay English debts. 

Under the stimulus of this ceaseless round of activity, 
trading communities sprang up in many parts of New 
England, with^qstqn_ and ..HeA^^porL^^ 
Ship building leaped into prominence as a leading indus- 
try, so that New England built annually twice as great 
a tonnage of vessels as all the other continental prov- 
inces. The rum industry grew apace, being represented 
in Rhode Island in 1763 by nearly thirty distilleries 



26 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

"erected at vast expense," with hundreds of persons de- 
pendent upon them for subsistence, and in Massachusetts 
in 1774 by sixty distilleries producing two milHon seven 
hundred thousand gallons annually. '^^In short," de- 
clared Macpherson, " their earnest application to fisheries 
and the carrying trade, together with their unremitting 
attention to the most minute article which could be 
made to yield a profit, obtained them the appellation of 
^ke Dutchmen of America?' Connecticut alone seemed 
to stand apart, possessing no first-rate ports, having re- 
sources of grain and stock more like the Middle Prov- 
inces, and confining its trading activities chiefly to 
coasting voyages and West Indian trade. Its trans- 
Atlantic trade was for many years handled through 
Boston, but after the parliamentary act of 1751 prohibit- 
ing the emission of legal-tender money in New England, 
the merchants diverted their trade to New York.^ 

The provinces next to the southward had the advan- 
tage of possessing both staples of export and a mercan- 
tile population equal to the opportunity.^ The great 
ports of New York and Philadelphia possessed a hinter- 
land of large and small farms producing a wealth of grain 
and livestock. New York was the commercial capital 

^ Referring to this dominant position of New York, " A Connecticut 
Farmer" expressed the pious wish that "the plumes of that domineer- 
ing city may yet feather the nests of those whom they have long 
plucked." New London Gaz., Aug. 17, 1770. Vide also Conn. Jouni., 
Jan. 19, 1770. 

^ This statement of conditions in the Middle Provinces is based 
largely upon the following materials: petition of the New York mer- 
chants to House of Commons, in Weyler's A^. Y. Gas., May 4, 1767; 
Tryon's report to Board of Trade, A'. Y. Col. Docs., vol. viii, pp. 434- 
457; Postlethwayt, Diet, of Com., vol. i, p. 366; Kalm, P., Travels into 
North Ameriea (Warrington and London, 1770-1771), vol. i, pp. 31, 
49-50, 253-258; reports of Gov. Franklin, i N. J. Arch., vol. ix, pp. 402- 
404, 442-444. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 



27 



of Connecticut and old East Jersey, just as Philadelphia 
was the entrepot of West Jersey and the Delaware 
Counties. Less dependent than New England on circui- 
tous trading for remittances to England, nevertheless 
the West Indian trade was essential to the prosperity of 
thesQ provinces, also. The wheat, lumber and meat of 
the farmers were sent by the merchants to the West 
Indies, where they were, in part, bartered for sugar, 
cotton and indigo, which served directly as remittances 
to Great Britain, and, in part, for rum and molasses. 
The last two commodities were converted into cash 
through the triangular trade with Africa and the West 
Indies, or, by being exchanged for New England fish or 
South Carolina rice, served indirectly as a means of draw- 
ing coin from Spain, Portugal and Italy. The fur trade 
with the Indians produced a commodity acceptable to 
English merchants, also. The exportation of colonial 
flaxseed to Ireland brought a favorable balance of trade 
with respect to that article ; and the carrying to Europe 
of logwood obtained from the Bay of Honduras proved 
another means of procuring specie. 

Throughout New England and the Middle Provinces, 
the merchants and their lawyer-allies constituted the 
dominant element in colonial society, an ascendency 
shaTMlnTliie~C3[re''HTrevrT'ork with the landed gentry. 
The chief trading communities of the commercial pro- 
vinces v/ere : Philadelphia, which by 1760 with a popu- 
lation of almost nineteen thousand had usurped the place 
of Boston as the greatest emporium of British Amjcrica; 
Boston, which ranked second with more than fifteen 
thousand population ; New York, a city somewhat smaller 
than Boston but destined to outstrip her in a few years ; 
and Newport, the fifth city on the continent with more 



^28 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



than seven thousand people/ In each center, wealthy 
merchant families had come into existence. \Vho were 
better or more favorably known than the Whartons, 
Pembertons, Willings and Morrises of Philadelphia; the 
Amorys and Faneuiis, the Hancocks and Boylstons of 
Boston ; the Livingstons and Lows, Crugers and Wal- 
tons of New York ; the Wantons and Lopezes of New- 
port, or the Browns, — "Nicky, Josey, John and Mosey," 
— of Providence? 

Dependent upon the merchants for a livelihood were 
^ great numbers of petty shopkeepers, vendue-masters, 
ropemakers, sailm.akers, sailors, coopers, caulkers, smiths, 
carpenters and the like. These men '' were that numer- 
ous portion of the community in republics, styled the 
People ; in monarchies. The Populace, or still more irre- 
verently The Rabble, or Canaille," as a contemporary 
said ; ^ and they were, for the most part, unenfranchised, 
unorganized, and unaware that in their numerical super- 
iority they possessed a vast potential power in the com- 
munity. 

At Philadelphia, the merchant-aristocracy ruled the 
city w^th a rod of iron ; their miethods of harrying the 
price-cutting vendue-masters and of discouraging coun- 
try peddling were similar in kind to those which modern 
business integration has rendered famnliar.s The same 
was true, in lesser degree perhaps, at New York, Boston 
and Newport. 

In their business activities, the merchants shov;ed a 
capacity for joint undertakings that revealed their kin- 
ship with the race that had built up the great East India 

^ A Century of Population Growth (Washington, 1909), pp. 11-15. 
^ Graydon, A,, Memoirs of LLis Own Time (Philadelphia, 1846), p. 122. 
3 Lincoln, C. H., Revolutionary Movement in Pennsylvania (U. of Pa. 
Pubs, in Hist., no. i), pp. 80-89. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 29 

Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. The New 
York company "for Settling a Fishery in these parts," 
established in 1675, the Free Society of Traders, a Penn- 
sylvania corporation founded in 1682, and the Philadelphia 
Contributionship for the Insuring- of Houses from Loss 
by Fire were a few instances of their aptitude for organiz- 
ation/ The New-London Society United for Trade and 
Commerce, formed in 1732, was an example of a promis- 
ing enterprise that was soon wrecked through the op- 
position of a farmer-controlled legislature to its plan to 
issue bills of credit.^ Mercantile organizations some- 
times crossed provincial boundaries and it is not alto- 
gether improbable that the historian of the future will 
cite such an enterprise as the spermaceti candle combine 
of 1 761-1769 as revealing an interprovincial solidarity of 
interest perhaps as great as the more pretentious New 
England Confederation of earlier times. ^ 

Less intent on politics than business, the merchants 
as a class did not ordinarily concern themselves with 
political questions. But when their interests were jeop- 
ardized, they entered politics with a vim, and might be 
expected to carry things their own way. Thus, the 
merchants of Boston contributed powerfully toward de- 
feating the land bank project of 1740, which was being 
pushed by the farmers and debtor class generally in the 
province.'* 

^ Baldwin, S. E., " American Business Corporations before 1789," 
Am. Hist. Assn. Reps. {1902), vol. i, pp. 253-274; Clark, V. S., History 
of Manufactures in United States (Washington, 1916), pp. 182-185. 

^ Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. v, pp. 96-1 11 ; vol. vi, pp. 6-1 1. 

^ R. I. Commerce, vol. i, pp. 88-92, 97-100; Mason, G. C, "The 
United Company of Spermaceti Chandlers, 1761," Mag. N. Engl. Hist., 
vol. ii, pp. 165-169; Weeden, Early Rhode Island, pp. 328-329; Hunt's 
Merchants' Magazine, vol. xxxii, pp. 386-387. 

* Davis, Currency and Banking in Mass. Bay, vol. i, pp. 406-412 ; vol. 
ii, pp. 130-235. 



20 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

No one understood better than the merchants that the 
rock of their prosperity was the maintenance of the 
British empire. The system of parliamentary regulations 
had yielded benefits without great corresponding disad- 
vantages in actual practice. Furthermore, American 
commerce had prospered under the protection of the 
British flag and British navy/ and colonial merchants 
saw their potential world market widening with each 
new conquest. These w^ere advantages that the colonial 
merchant received in common with his brother at home 
and to an extent at the latter's expense. Of great im- 
portance, also, were the liberal credits which the English 
merchants extended to the colonial merchants. The 
Americans could not have secured such favorable terms 
from foreign houses ; and without such indulgence they 
would have found difficulty in financing their under- 
takings." 

^ For example, there were the advantages which came to American 
merchants from the presents of Great Britain to the Barbary States, 
amounting to nearly $300,000 annually. At the outbreak of the War 
for Independence, it was estimated that one-sixth of the wheat and 
flour exported from British America, and one-fourth of the dried and 
pickled fish, and a quantity of rice, found their best market in the ports 
of the Mediterranean. In this commerce, there were employed eighty 
to one hundred ships. Moore, J. B., American Diplomacy (New York, 
1905), p. 65. 

^ The slow development of Canada and Grenada before they came 
under British control was attributed to the short credits granted by the 
merchants in France. The Int. of Merchants and Mfrs., pp. 32-36. 
The British merchant usually granted twelve months' credit without 
interest and thereafter made an annual charge of 5%. CoUins, Stephen, 
Letters (L. C. Mss.), vol. xvii, Feb. 18, 1774; Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. 
xxiv, no. 2037, pp. 11-12, 17. As late as 1810, Gallatin spoke of "the 
vastly superiour capital of the first mapafacturing nation of Europe 
which enables her merchants to give." cry long credits, to sell on small 
profits, and to make occasional sa rifices." Am. St. Papers, Finance, 
vol. ii, pp. 42S-426. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 3 1 

This business entente between the mother country and 
the merchant class in the colonies was a centripetal force 
of great importance in the last century of colonial history, 
making for imperial stability and union when other in- 
fluences were tending toward disruption. It was with a 
fine appreciation of these impalpable, but sinewy, bonds 
that the Committee of Merchants of Philadelphia wrote 
to the Committee of Merchants of London at a critical 
juncture of the revolutionary movement: ''We consider 
the Merchants here and in England as the Links of the 
Chain that binds both Countries together. They are 
deeply concerned in preserving the Union and Connec- 
tion. Whatever tends to alienate the Affections of the 
Colonies or to make them averse to the Customs, Fash- 
ions and Manufactures of Great Britain, hurts their In- 
terests. While some, therefore, from ambitious Views 
and sinister Motives, are labouring to widen the Breach, 
we whose private Interest is happily connected with the 
Union or, which is the same, the Peace and Prosperity 
of both Countries, may be allowed to plead for an End 
to these unhappy Disputes ... by a Repeal of the offen- 
sive Acts . . ."' 

On the other hand, the merchants were sensitive and 
articulate with regard to their interests as members of 
the British empire. They were ever on the alert to 
obtain the best terms possible from the home govern- 
ment. Thus, the merchants of Boston and Portsmouth 
endeavored in 1710 to introduce improvemicnt into the 
administration of the bounty on naval stores ; ^ and in 
1731 the Philadelphia merchants and many others re- 

1 Letter of Nov. 25, 1769, Lon. Chron., Mch. 3, 1770; also Pa. Gaz., 
May 10. 

^Lord, E., Industrial Experiments in the British Colonies (J. H. U. 
Studies, extra vol., 1898), pp. 69-70. 



.< 



32 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

monstrated against the passage of the proposed molasses 
act.' They also knew the passages to governmental 
favor in Great Britain, as Bellomont testified when he 
wrote in 1698 that twenty-eight merchants of New York 
had contributed one hundred pounds for use in obtain- 
ing royal approval for an indemnity bill.^ 

: To understand rightly the agitation against Parliament 
after 1763, it is im.portant to note that a century of ex- 
V ceptional opportunities had given to the colonial mer- 
chants a sense of power in dealing with Parliament and 

\ had developed between the chief trading tow^ns in America 
7I a consciousness of a fundamental identity of interests. 
^ Therefore, when Parliament in 1764 began to pass legis- 
lation injurious to their commerce, the merchants of 
Boston, New York and Philadelphia undertook to create 
a public opinion favorable to preserving the conditions 
that had brought them prosperity. Their object was 
reform, not rebellion ; their motives were those of a 
group of loyal subjects in any country intent upon 
securing remedial legislation. 

The plantation provinces, stretching from Maryland 
to Georgia, had an industrial and mercantile system in 
sharp contrast w^ith that of the northern provinces. 
Virginia and Maryland, almost from their first settlement 
and under persistent encouragement by Great Britain, 
had made tobacco their staple ; and it long continued to 
constitute the most valuable export not only of these 

1 Channing, E., History of United States (New York, 1909 in prog- 
ress), vol. ii, pp. 517-518. 

^ Later, Bellomont informed the British authorities that, on the third 
reading of a bill before the New York Council, a member declared 
that there would be i40,ooo available " to stop the King's approbation in 
England." Russell, E. B., Review of American Colonial Legislation by 
the King in Council, p. 220. 



THE OLD ORDER CHAXGETH 33 

provinces but of all the continental colonies as well.* 
The exportation of tobacco was confined by law t6 Great 
Britain ; and by the middle of the eighteenth century, 
two hundred sail of ships were employed in the.,trade, 
most of them owned in England. Sweet-scented tobacco 
from the region of the York River was highly esteemed 
by English epicures, and thus only the inferior varieties, 
like the " Oronoac," were re-exported to* 'Holland, Ger- 
many and Sweden. The planters invested their capital' 
solely in the growing of the weed ; and on man's w^eak- 
ness for smoking and snuf!ing was built up a great 
agricultural and social system. 

In South Carolina and Georgia, almost as great atten- 
tion was devoted to the culture of rice, although Georgia, 
as a newer settlement, was backward agriculturally as 
compared with South Carolina.^ Not of indigenous 
growth, the plant nevertheless became the staple of these 
provinces in the eighteenth century ; and American rice 

^ This statement of conditions in the tobacco provinces is based 
largely upon the following materials : Postlethwayt, Diet, of Com., vol. 
i, p. 364; Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, p. 569; Burnaby, A^, 
Travels through the Middle Settlements in North America (London, 
^775), pp. 15-17, 26-30; American Husbandry (London, 1775), vol. i, pp. 
225-231, 237-238, 244-245; report of Lt. Gov. Sharpe, Md. Elist. Mag., 
vol. ii, pp. 354-362; article on Md. commerce in Pa. Chron., Feb. 5, i77o; 
Morriss, M. S., Colonial Trade of Maryland, 1689-1715 (J. H. U. 
Studies, vol. xxxii, no. 3) ; Bruce, P. A., Economic History of Va. in 
the Seventeenth Century (New York, 1896) ; report of Gov. Fauquier 
of Va., British Papers ("Sparks Mss."), vol. iii, p. 212. 

^ This statement of conditions in the rice provinces is based very 
largely upon the following materials : Political Magazine (1780), p. 172; 
Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, pp. 570-572; table of rice and 
indigo exports from Charleston, 1748-1773, S. C. Gas., June 21, 1773; 
McCrady, E., 5". C. under the Royal Government (New York, 1901), 
pp. i262-27i, 388-398; report of Gov. Wright of Ga.. Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., 
vol. iii, pp. 164-167; Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., no. 8133B (L. C. Tran- 
scripts), pp. 164-165. 



24 THE COLOXIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

•had the reputation of being the best in the world. Al- 
though an "enumerated" article, it monopolized the 
Dutch, German and Portuguese markets and had gained 
a foothold in Spain. Near the middle of the eighteenth 
century, another plant was introduced, which quickly 
gave promise of pushing rice for pre-eminence. This 
was indigo, the production of which was greatly stimu- 
lated by parliamentary bounties. Though its exportation 
was confined to the mother country, many of the indigo 
planters, it was said, were able to double their capital 
every three or four years. 

North Carolina, by virtue of her midway geographical 
position, displayed some characteristics of both adjoining 
provinces, growing tobacco in her northerly parts and 
indigo and rice in the southern counties.' Her chief 
articles of export, however, were the products and by- 
products of her forested areas — tar, pitch, turpentine 
and many varieties of lumber. In 1767, there were on 
the Cape Fear River and its tributaries fifty saw- mills, 
cutting annually a total of seven and one-half million 
feet of boards. 

The most striking feature of the southern economy 
was the fact that native capital, in its larger aspects, was 
invested almost exclusively in plantation production. 
Out of these large landed estates there grew up a great 
social and political system, with its aristocracy of birth 
and leadership and its vital distinction between slave 
labor and gentlemanly leisure. Towns in the plantation 
provinces were neither large nor numerous. Charleston, 
possessing a population of almost eleven thousand in 
1770, was the chief port of the South and the fourth city 
in British America. Each province had some place of 

^American Husbandry, vol. i, pp. 331-351; report of Gov. Tryon, X. 
C. Col. Recs., vol. vii, pp. 429-430. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 35 

which it could be said that " trade is more collected here 
than in any other place . . . " ; ' thus, Baltimore in 
Maryland, Norfolk in Virginia, Wilmington in North 
Carolina and Savannah in Georgia. 

Native Americans did not ordinarily become merchants, 
and commerce was handled in British bottoms in one of 
two ways, each of which was uneconomical for the 
planter,'' The wealthy planter employed the London or 
Bristol or Glasgow merchant as a sort of commission 
merchant, to dispose of his tobacco or rice and to lay 
out the probable proceeds in goods of one kind or an- 
other, to be delivered at the planter's wharf in the fol- 
lowing season. This system resulted in careless and 
wasteful management on the part of the merchant in 
England, high commissions and freight rates, and 
chronic overbuying on the part of the colonist. 

For ordinary trading purposes, the British merchant 
maintained an agent or "factor" in the colonies, who 
kept up a stock of merchandise the year round, worked 
up business, and acted as financial agent and confidential 
adviser of his employer. The factors were almost alto- 
gether "foreigners," as the local vernacular termed 
them — that is, natives of Scotland. They had the repu- 
tation of being shrewd, hard business men, veritable 
Shylocks ; and from the point of view of their patrons 
they undoubtedly were, for they demanded, from as 
wasteful a race of gentlemen-farmers as ever lived, 
punctual payment for goods sold or money loaned. ^ 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 2,7^-2,7^. 

"^ Bassett, J. S., " The Relation between the Virginia Planter and the 
London Merchant," Am. Hist. Assn. Reps. (iQOi), vol. i, pp. 551-575; 
Schaper, W, A., "Sectionalism in S. C," ibid. {1900), vol. i, pp. 287- 
288, 297 ; Sioussat, St. G. L., " Virginia and the EngHsh Commercial 
System," ibid. (1905), vol. i, pp. 71-97. 

^ For an able defense of the Scotch merchants, vide " A Scotchman " 
in Pinkney's Va. Gas., Mch. 23, 1775. 



0/5 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Here again, there were large profits for the British 
dealers and shipowners, and lavish buying on the part of 
the colonist. 

The British capitalist advanced money and gave gen- 
erous credit to the planter, but this merely served to 
com.plicate matters; the planter continually operated on 
borrowed capital and found his next crop mortgaged 
before it was planted. For more than a quarter of a 
century, Colonel Byrd of Virginia, struggled to repay 
indebtedness contracted with a London firm for the sake 
of enlarging his plantations. In 1736, he was "selling 
off land and negroes to stay the stomach " of his hungry 
creditors ; and he asserted that they allowed him twenty- 
five per cent less for tobacco than they gave to other 
people, knowing that they had him for a customer until 
the debt was discharged.' 

The result of this financial system, in its various ram- 
ifications, was the economic bondage of the planting 
class to the British merchants. The planter, Thomas 
Jefferson, declared that in Virginia " these debts had be- 
come hereditary from father to son, for many genera- 
tions, so that the planters were a species of property, 
annexed to certain mercantile houses in London." ^ 
When the statute of 1732 was enacted by Parliam.ent to 
protect the debts of British creditors in the colonies, the 
Virginia Assembly drew up a mem.orial, the " whole aim 
and intent" of which, says Professor Sioussat, was "ex- 
pressive of a revolt against the domineering and ' graft- 
ing ' rule of the combination of merchant creditors," in 
its various manifestations. From time to time, the 

^ Bassett, J. S., IVritwgs of Colonel William Byrd (New York, 1901), 
pp. li, Ixxxiv. 

'Jefferson, Writings (Ford, P. L., ed.), vol, iv, p. 155. l''ide also "A 
Planter" in Dixon & Hunter's Va. Gaz., Apr. 13, 1774. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 37 

colonists tried to improve their situation by passing lax 
bankruptcy laws and other legislation prejudicial to non- 
resident creditors ;' but their efforts were usually blocked 
by fhe royal veto/ Toward the close of the colonial era, 
their condrtion was becoming v/ell-nigh insupportable. 

The situation was especially acute in Virginia/ In 
1748, the Virginia Assembly provided that, in actions 
for the recovery of sterling debts, the amount adjudged 
could be settled in currency at twenty-five per cent ad- 
vance, notwithstanding the fact that exchange fluctuated 
and was at times as high as forty per cent. Seven years 
later, the Assembly was induced to modify the law to 
the extent that the Virginia courts should be empowered 
to fix the rate of exchange. This law was hardly more 
satisfactory to the British merchants than the earlier one ; 
and their dissatisfaction was sharpened by the fact that, 
about this time, Virginia began to issue legal-tender 
paper money. This money depreciated steadily; and, as 
a large portion of the debts of the British merchants was 
in paper, the action of Virginia had the effect of partial 
repudiation. 

But the resourcefulness of Virginia was not yet ex- 
hausted. In 1758, a law was passed, permitting persons, 
who owed tobacco for debts, contracts, fees or salaries, 
to discharge their obligations during the following year 
in money at the rate of twopence a pound. This " Two- 
Penny Act" was passed because of a sharp rise in" the 
price of tobacco ; and it aroused the bitter opposition, 

^ The plantation provinces displayed much greater activity along these 
lines than the commercial provinces. This legislation is conveniently 
summarized in Dr. Russell's Review of American Colonial Legislation, 
pp. 125-136. 

2 Beer, G. L., British Colonial Policy, 1754-1765 (New York, 1907),. 
pp. 179-188. 



38 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



not only of British creditors, but also of the Mrginia 
clergy. In 1759, the merchants of London interested in 
Virginia trade presented a memorial against the act, 
showing that large quantities of tobacco were owing to 
them in Virginia, and that under this law the debts could 
be commuted in money at the rate of twopence per 
pound notwithstanding that at the time the market price 
of tobacco was considerably higher. The act thus had 
the effect of annulling contracts that had turned out un- 
favorably to the planters; and in August, 1759, an order 
in council disallowed it, as well as others of a similar 
nature enacted prior to 1758. 

The local clergy were in a similar dilemma, since an 
earlier law had established their salary at a fixed quantity 
of tobacco. They believed that they should reap the 
benefit of any advance in the price inasmuch as they had 
always suffered by its decline. One of the suits, brought 
by the "parsons" to recover the full market price of the 
tobacco, gave opportunity for the first grandiose decla- 
ration of the rights of the colonists in the matter. The 
question of justice had already been decided in favor of 
the "parson "-plaintiff, when young Patrick Henry was 
called in by the vestry to exhort the jury to scale down 
the amount of the verdict which should be assessed. 
Arguing vigorously for the natural right of the com- 
munity to govern for itself in the matter, he persuaded 
the jury to award nominal damages of one penny.' 

The peculiar economic situation in the plantation 
provinces shaped the developments of the decade 1764- 
1774 in fundamental contrast with those of the commer- 
cial provinces. Whereas, in the latter, financial power 

^ Henry, W. W., Patrick Henry (New York, 1891), vol. i, pp. 30-46; 
Maury, A., Memoirs of a Huguenot Family (New York, 1872), pp. 
418-423. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 39 

and political power were vested in the hands of the same 
class in the early years of the decade, in the plantation 
provinces financial control and political leadership be- 
longed to two classes, dissimilar in nativity, social man- 
ners and political sympathy. The important result was 
that when the new policy of Parliament adopted in 1764 
threatened to inflict serious injury on the merchants of 
the North, the planters of the South felt an instinctive 
afftnity for their oppressed brethren and were moved to 
join them in their demands for remedial legislation and 
a larger measure of colonial autonomy. Oliver Wolcott 
went so far in later years as to say with reference to 
the chief plantation province : '' It is a firmly established 
opinion of men well versed in the history of our revolu- 
tion, that the whiggism of Virginia was chiefly owing to 
the debts of the planters ^^ 

Thus far it has not been necessary to distinguish be- 
tween legal commerce and illicit commerce, for the reason 
that the mother country failed to draw sharply the dis- 
tinction until the closing years of the colonial era."* The 

^British Iniluence on the Affairs of the United States Proved and 
Explained (Boston, 1804), quoted by Beard, C. A., Economic Origins 
of Jeffersonian Democracy (New York, 1915), pp. 297-298. It will be 
recalled that the question of payment of the pre-Revolutionary private 
debts toi British merchants occupied the attention of the British and 
American governments in the treaties of 1783 and 1794 and in the con- 
vention of 1802. The claims presented against the commercial prov- 
inces amounted to £218,000; those against the plantation provinces, 
£3,869,000. The former figure consisted, in large part, of claims on 
behalf of American loyalists for compensation, while this was not true 
in the latter case. Ibid. 

' This summary of smuggling is based largely upon the following 
materials: Postlethwayt, M., Great Britain's Commercial Interest Ex- 
plained and Improved (London, i759), vol. i, pp. 485-498; "An Essay 
on the Trade of the Northern Colonies," Prov. Gaz., Jan. 14, 21, 1764; 
report of commissioners of the customs, Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., no. 



40 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

business of smuggling was made easy and attractive by 
several favoring circumstances — the extensive and irreg- 
ular coastline, the distance of the colonies from England, 
the inefncient system of administration, and, it must be 
said, the practice of custom-house officials " of shutting 
their eyes or at least of opening them no further than 
their own private interest required."' Smuggling was 
almost exclusively a practice of merchants of the com- 
mercial provinces. " The Saints of New England," wrote 
Colonel Byrd of Virginia acridly, "... have a great 
dexterity at palliating a perjury so well as to leave no 

8133c (L. C. Transcripts), ft. 85-86; Hutchinson, History of Mass. Bay, 
vol. iii, pp. 160-163; and other sources noted from time to time. The 
conclusions presented do not differ materially from those given in : 
Andrews, C. -.1., " Colonial Commerce," Am. Hist. Rev., vol. xx, pp. 
61-62; Ashley, W. J., "American Smuggling, 1660-1760," Surveys His- 
toric and Economic, pp. 336-^60; Beer, G. L., British Colonial Policy, 
1754-^7^5, PP- 235-246, and Commercial Policy of England, pp. 130-143; 
McClellan, W. S., Smuggling in the American Colonies (New York, 
1912), chap, iii; Root, W. T., Relations of Pennsylvania with the Brit- 
ish Government (New York, 1912), pp. 61-76. As to the quantity of 
illicit trade, every student will agree with Professor Andrews that " it 
is doubtful if satisfactory conclusions can ever be reached . . . owing 
both to the lack of evidence and to its unsatisfactory character." 

^ " Essay on Trade of Northern Colonies," Prov. Gaz., Jan. 14, 21, 
1764. Surveyor General Temple accused Governor Bernard of sharing 
in such illegal gain. Quincy, S. L., Mass. Reports, 1761-1772, pp. 423- 
424. Hutchinson wrote on Sept. 17, 1763: "The real cause of the 
illicit trade in this province has been the indulgence of the officers of 
the customs, and we are told that . . . without bribery and corruption 
they must starve." Ibid., p. 430. On Feb. 8, 1764, Governor Franklin 
of New Jersey reported to the Board of Trade that the custom-house 
officers entered " into a Composition with the Merchants and took a 
Dollar a Hogshead, or some such small matter, in Lieu of the Duties 
imposed by Act of Parhament," and he had no knowledge that they 
ever remitted the "Composition Money" to England. 1 N. J. Arch., 
vol. ix, pp. 403-404. It should be noted that by lavv^ the collectors had a 
discretionary power to accept partial payment of duties as full payment 
(13 and 14 Charles H, c. 11). 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 4I 

taste of it in the mouth, nor can any people like them 
slip through a penal statute." ' 

For the most part, colonial smuggling topk_ two 
forms. ^ First, there was a direct traffic, back and forth 
across the Atlantic, between the British provinces and 
foreign countries.' The outgoing commerce was likely 
to infringe the regulation which confined certain colonial 
exports to Great Britain alone ; and the incoming trade 
unavoidably violated the requirement that practically all 
products of Europe and Asia should reach the colonies 
ma England. The illicit traffic in colonial exports was 
apparently very small. Of much larger proportions was 
the clandestine importation of foreign commodities and 
manuTactures, although its relation to the total volume 
of legitimate trade w^as not important. Colonial mer- 
chants carrying legal cargoes to Holland, Hamburg and 
France sometimes returned with drygoods, tea, v/ines 
and gunpowder, which they had not troubled to enter at 
a British port.^ Or these wares found a more circuitous 
entrance into the colonies by w^ay of the foreign islands 
in the West Indies. Or New England merchants, hav- 
ing disposed of their fish in Portugal, Spain or Italy and 
having, in accordance with the law, loaded all the salt 
they wished, completed their cargoes with fruit, oil and 

^Letter of July 12, 1736, Am-. Hist. Rev., vol. i, p. 88. 

^ One form of smuggling disappeared after the seventeenth century 
and is not discussed here. This was the direct exportation of colonial 
tobacco to Scotland. The illegal character of this traffic was removed 
when the acts of trade were extended to Scotland in 1708. Morriss, 
Colonial Trade of Maryland, pp. 1 16-120. 

^ E. g., vide reports of Lt. Gov. Colden of New York, Golden, Letter 
Books, 1760-177 s (A". ^- Hist. Soc. Colls., vols, ix and x), vol. i, pp. 
257-259, 27S-,2>7^', letter of William Bollan, Feb. 26, 1742, Col. Soc. Mass. 
Puhs., vol. vi, pp. 299-304. The letter of an Amsterdam commission 
house to a Rhode Island merchant, dated Jan. 31, 1764, is interesting 
first-hand evidence on this point. R. L Commerce, vol. i, pp. 105-106. 



42 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

wine, and made straightway for America. Governor 
Bernard of Massachusetts spoke of ''an Indulgence time 
out of mind allowed in a trifling but necessary article, 
. . . the permitting Lisbon Lemons & wine in small 
quantities to pass as Ships Stores";' and, acting upon 
the same understanding, Peyton Randolph, attorney 
general of Virginia, drew upon himself the withering 
wrath of Governor Dinwiddle, for dismissing a case in- 
volving this breach — " inconsistant W'ith Justice, the 
Sense and Spirit of the Laws that were produc'd on the 
Tryal," as Dinwiddle declared.^ 

By far the greatest mass of contraband trade consisted 
in the importation of undutied molasses, sugar and rum 
from the foreign West Indies, particularly molasses. 
The heavy restrictions of 1733 had been imposed regard- 
less of the protests of colonial merchants, the avowed 
purpose of Parliament being to give to the British 
planters in the West Indies a monopoly of marketing 
their molasses in the commercial provinces. The act 
had been passed at the behest of the "West India in- 
terest" in Parliament; 3 and to colonial merchants, it 
appeared a sinister piece of exploitation intended to en- 
able " a few pamper'd Creolians " to " roll in their gilded 

^ He added : " I have always understood that this was well known in 
England, — allowed, as being no object of trade, or if it was, no way- 
injurious to that of Great Britain/' Quincy, op. eit., pp. 430-431. Vide 
also article in Bos, Eve. Post, Jan. 2, 1764. S. Toovey, clerk to the 
customs collector at Salem, described, in convincing detail, how the 
customs entries were manipulated for this purpose, in a deposition of 
Sept. 27, 1764. Bos. Gas., June 12, 1769. 

' Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie (Richmond, 1884), vol. ii, pp. 
679-681. Gov. Fauquier of Virginia reported on Nov. 20, 1764, that 
ships returning from Lisbon generally brought a small quantity of 
fruit and sometimes wine. Brit. Papers {''Sparks Mss'*), vol. ii, p. 43. 

^ About forty members were usually so classified. Bos, Eve. Post, 
Nov. 21, 1763; Bos. Post-Boy, Aug. 4, 1766. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 43 

equipages thro' the streets" of London, at the expense 
of two million American subjects/ 

If any serious attempt had been made to enforce the 
statute, the prosperity of the commercial provinces 
would have been laid prostrate. It was the West India 
trade, more than anything else, which had enabled them 
to utilize their fisheries, forests and fertile soil, to build 
up their towns and cities, to supply cargoes for their 
merchant marine, and to liquidate their indebtedness to 
British merchants and manufacturers. The entire mo- 
lasses output of the British islands did not equal two- 
thirds of the quantity imported into Rhode Island alone, 
and was estimated to amount to only about one-eighth 
of the quantity consumed annually by all the provinces. "^ 
Moreover, the prices of the British planters were twenty- 
five to forty per cent higher than those asked at the 
foreign islands; and the foreign planters were willing to 
transact business on a cash basis. ^ That smuggling with 
the foreign islands was extensive and important, the 
evidence is plentiful and uncontradicted. It is to be 
found in such a variety of sources as letters of colonial 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, July 8, 1765, quoting an article by "Anti-Smuggler" 
in the London Public Ledger. Vide also ibid., Jan. 2, 1764. For the 
best explanation of the motives of Parliament in passing this law, vide 
Andrews, C. M., " Anglo-French Commercial Rivalry," Am. Hist. Rev., 
vol. XX, pp. 761-780. 

^ Of the 14,000 hogsheads of molasses imported into Rhode Island 
«ach year, 11,500 hogsheads came from the foreign West Indies, pay- 
ing no duty. Representation of R. I. Assembly, in R. L Col. Recs., vol. 
vi, pp. 378-383. Of the 15,000 hogsheads imported into Massachusetts 
in 1763, all but 500 came from the foreign islands. Bernard', F., Letters 
vOM Trade, p. 7; evidence of William Kelly before a committee of Par- 
liament, Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., no. 33030 (L. C. Transcripts) , i. 135 

' Postlethwayt, Great Britain's Interest, etc., vol. i, p. 494; letter from 
New York in London Chronicle, Oct. 2, 1764. There were also heavy 
duties levied on the products of the British sugar plantations at expor- 
tation. Channing, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 511. 



^ THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

governors and customs officials, newspaper articles and 
merchants' letter books, instructions to governors, and 
the writings of economists/ 

Although of decided econom.ic advantage to the com- 
mercial provinces, the non-enforcement of the Molasses 
Act proved a serious political blunder for the home gov- 
ernment. As British statesmanship should have foreseen, 
it gave to colonial smuggling every aspect of respecta- 
bility. Numbers have becomie "reconciled to it by ex- 
am^ple, habit, and custom," declared a contemporary 
observer, " and have gradually consented to amuse them- 
selves with some very superficial arguments in its favour, 
such as, that every man has a natural right to exchange 
his property with whom he pleases, and where he can 
make the most advantage of it ; that there is no injustice 
in the nature of the thing, being no otherwise unlawful 
than as the partial restrictions of power have made it ; 
arguments which may be . . . adopted in extenuation 
of man}^ other disorderly and pernicious practices."^ 

"There is no error in a comm^ercial nation so fruitful 
of mischief," was the keen observation of another writer, 
'' as making acts and regulations oppressive to trade [with- 
out enforcing them]. This opens a door to corruption. 
This introduces a looseness in m.orals. This destroys the 

^ E. g., the commissioners of the customs in England reported on 
Sept. i6, 1763, that "it appears to Us, from the Smallness of the Sum 
Collected from these Duties and from other Evidence, that they have 
been for the most part, either wholly evaded or Fraudulently Com- 
pounded . . ." Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., no. 8133c (L. C. Transcripts) . 
A writer in the Bos. Eve. Post, Nov. 21, 1763, voiced the current colo- 
nial opinion when he averred : " The sugar act has from its first pub- 
lication been adjudged so unnatural that hardly any attempts have been 
made to carry it into execution." 

^"A Tradesman of Philadelphia" in Pa. Joiirn., Aug. 17, 1774. Cf. 
Bollan's letter, Col Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. vi, p. 300. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 



45 



reverence and regard for oaths, on which government so 
much depends. This occasions a disregard to those acts 
of trade which are calculated for its real benefit. This 
entirely destroys the distinction which ought invariably 
to be preserved in all trading communities between a 
merchant and a smuggler. But the sugar act has thrown 
down all distinction : Before this w^as published, a mer- 
chant disdain'd to associate with the unfair trader." ' 
The truth was that the income of many wealthy families 
in the North — yea, the prosperity of whole provinces — 
depended upon a trade which was approved by a robust 
public opinion but forbidden by parliamentary statute. - 
The " Sm.uggling Interest" became a factor of great 
potential strength in public affairs in the trading towns 

of the North." 

Colonial smugglers felt the first impact of an opposing 
imperial interest during the last intercolonial v>'ar, 
when, covetous of large profits, they supplied the French 
belligerents in America with foodstuffs, whereby they 
were enabled to prolong the war.^ In defiance of pa- 
triotic duty, acts of Parliament, and the efforts of the 
British and provincial administrations, not only was the 
old illicit intercourse wnth the French continued but 
many new^ routes were opened up. The early efforts of 
the British government to suppress the traffic resulted 
in more than doubling the average annual revenue from 
the Molasses Act during the war, at a time, however, 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, Nov. 21, 1763. 

2 Vide the important letters of Richard Oswald to Lord Dartmouth 
in Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. xxiv, nos. 2032, 2034, 2037; Sagittarius's 
Letters and Political Speculations (Boston, 1775). nos. i and iii, passim. 

^ The present account is based largely upon the excellent treatment 
in Beer, Brit. Col. Policy, 1754-1765, pp. 72-131, and Root, Rels. of Pa. 
with Brit. Govt., pp. 76-84. 



46 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

when the volume of smuggling had probably trebled or 
quadrupled.' [Fn 1760 and 1761, a vigorous employment 
of the navy resulted in disturbing the centers of smug- 
gling in the West Indies and in further disminishing its 
volume.! 

The experience of the British government during the 
war sharply revealed the strength, sordidness and energy 
of the forces supporting the contraband trade. Prov- 
incial governors had been bought out by the smugglers 
in one or two instances ; and from Massachusetts to 
South Carolina, the Americans managed pretty success- 
fully to control the vice-admiralty courts in their favor. 
Governor Hamilton, of Pennsylvania, reported in 176c 
that the most eminent lawyers of that province vvere re- 
tained by the smugglers. In New York, Lieutenant 
Governor Golden complained in 1762 that his efforts 
against illicit trade had failed of the desired effect be- 
cause the enforcement of the law rested largely with 
persons who had connections with smugglers or who 
feared their resentment.^ A prominent Rhode Island 
lawyer averred that the courts of vice-admiralty had be- 
come "subject to mercantile influence; and the king's 
revenue sacrificed to the venality and perfidiousness of 
courts and officers." ^ 

In Massachusetts, the smuggling merchants struggled 

^The extent of this partial enforcement is indicated by the aggregate 
amount of the revenue derived from the Molasses Act. The total 
duties paid on molasses from 1734 to the close of 1755 amounted to 
i5,686, or a yearly average of ^259. In the seven years, 1756- 1762, 
^4.375 was collected, the yearly average being ^625. For the years 1760 
and 1761 the amounts v^^ere £1,170 and £1,189. Beer, op. cit., pp. 115- 
116 and f. n. 

^Letter Books, vol. i, pp. 195-196. 

^ Howard, M., A Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax to his Friend 
in Rhode Island (Newport, 1765). 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 47 

hard to impair the efficiency of the customs collection 
by instituting damage suits against customs officials in 
unfriendly common-law courts. Toward the end of the 
war, the services of James Otis, recently prosecuting 
officer for the local vice-admiralty court and the most 
eloquent lawyer of the province, were retained by the 
merchants of Boston and Salem, in an attack on the leg- 
ality of the general search warrants, or ''writs of assist- 
ance," which had proved an efrective means of locating 
contraband goods. Like Henry in Virginia, Otis made 
a perfervid plea for the ''inherent, inalienable, and inde- 
feasible " rights of the colonists and particularly for the 
privacy of one's home and warehouses from prying 
customs officers acting under general search warrants.^ 
But he lost his case. This failure led the Massachusetts 
General Court to pass an act, which, if Governor Bernard 
had not vetoed it, would have drawn the teeth from the 
writs. This bill, the governor assured the Board of 
Trade, was " the last effort of the confederacy against 
the custom-house and Laws of Trade."'' 

The suppression of smuggling had been originally 
undertaken by the British government as a war measure ; 
but before the war had termiinated, it became apparent 
that a strict enforcement of the acts of trade was to be a 
permanent peace policy. Pitt's circular dispatch of 
August 23, 1760 marked the transition; 3 the year 1763 
brought a succession of unqualified steps in this direc- 
tion. An act of Parliament of that year authorized the 

^For a bibliography of Otis's speech, vide Green, S. A., 2 M. H. S. 
Procs., vol. vi, pp. 190-196. 

* Palfrey, J. G., Compendious History of New England (Boston, 
1884), vol. iv, p. 313. 

^ Text in Qnincy, Mass. Reports, p. 407. 



48 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



use of the navy against smuggling in the colonies/ The 
vicious practice of absenteeism in the customs service 
was terminated : all colonial customs officials residing in 
England were ordered to repair to their stations in 
Amierica.^ In July, special instructions were sent to 
colonial governors and naval commanders to suppress 
illicit trade, especially the clandestine traffic carried on 
directly with continental Europe. ^ In the last days of 
the year, strict orders were issued from all the custom 
houses in the northern district, requiring masters of 
vessels to conform to the old Molasses Act ''in all its 
parts." -^ Early in 1764, American newspapers recorded 
the arrival of warships at various ports. The frequency 
of seizures increased. ^ 

The publication of the orders to enforce the Molasses 
Act " caused a greater alarm in this country than the 
taking of Fort William Henry did in 1757," declared 
Governor Bernard, of Massachusetts. ° He reported that 
it was common talk am.ong Boston merchants that the 
trade of the province was at an end, "sacrificed to the 
West Indian Planters," and that every prudent man 
should resort to farming and homespun. Lieutenant 

^3 George III, c. 22. 

' Kimball, G. S., ed., Correspondence of the Colonial Governors of 
Rhode Island, 1723-1775 (Boston, 1902), vol. ii, p. 355. 

^Md. Arch., vol. xiv, pp. 102-103; Erov. Gaz., Sept. 24, 1763, also 
Mass. Gaz. and News-Letter, Sept. 29. 

* Bos. Fost-Boy, Jan. 2 and 9, 1764, contained such orders, under 
date of Dec. 26, 1763, from the custom houses of the ports of Boston, 
Salem, Piscataqua and Falmouth; Newport; New London and New 
Haven; New^ York; Perth Amboy, Burhngton and Salem, N. J. 

^ Hutchinson, Hist, of Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 160-163. 

^ Bernard, Letters, p. 9. Commenting on this comparison, John 
Adams declared in 1818: "This I fully believe and certainly know to 
be true; for I was an eye and an ear witness to both of these alarms." 
Works (Adams, C. F., ed.), vol. x, p. 345. 



THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH 49 

Governor Golden at New York warned the Board of 
Trade that the stoppage of trade with the foreign West 
Indies would reduce importations from England and 
force the people to do their own manufacturing. The 
legislature of that province granted a bounty on hemp, 
with the hope of providing a staple commodity for ex- 
port to England in place of commodities from the foreign 
West Indies.' Governor Franklin, of New Jersey, in- 
formed the Board of Trade : '' At present there are great 
Murmurings among the Merchants, and others, in North- 
America, on account of the Stop put to " the trade with 
the foreign West Indies.^ ''Trade [is] very dull," wrote 
a smuggling merchant of Philadelphia as early as Nov- 
ember 12, 1763, after noting the presence of two men-of- 
v^ar in the river. '' I suppose the number of Vessells 
in this harbour, at this time, exceeds any that ever was 
Knowne here & people not knowing v^hat to do with 
them." At various times in the next twelvemonth he 
lamented the great scarcity of cash and the vigilance of 
the warships. They " are so very strict that the smallest 
things don't escape their notice," he complained. ^ There 
was, beyond question, a gloomy prospect ahead for the 
smuggling merchants. 

^ Colden, Letter Books, vol. i, pp. 312-313 ; Weyler's A^". F. Gaz., Apr. 
2, 1764. " The intercourse between the Dutch &c, & the Colonies (I 
mean Dry Goods everywhere) ought to be entirely suppress'd, but the 
rigorous execution of the Sugar [Act] is injurious," wrote Jonathan 
Watts, a member of the New York council. 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. x, 
p. 507. 

' / A^ /. Arch., vol. ix, p. 404. 

^"Extracts from the Letter-Book of Benjamin Marshall, 1762-17^," 
Pa. Mag., vol. xx, pp. 204-212. 



/ 



CHAPTER II 

The First Contest for Commercial Reform 
(1 764- 1 766) 

Events were shaping themselves in England to accen- 
tuate the economic distress which the commercial provinces 
had already begun to feel. The Peace of Paris of 1763 
marked a turning point in the relations of Great Britain 
to her colonies. The mother country faced the complex 
Y task of recasting her imperial policy, of safeguarding her 
newly-acquired world empire, of readjusting the acts of 
trade to meet the new situation and of improving their ad- 
ministration.^ The particularistic course of the colonial 
legislatures during the recent war had shown that the re- 
quisition system could not be depended upon to furnish a 
permanent revenue for a colonial military establishment; 
and the lawlessness of the colonial merchants had revealed 
the need for reforming the machinery of administering the 
trade laws. Forced to action by these conditions, Parlia- 
ment, under the leadership of George Grenville, proceeded 
to adopt an imperial policy which in its main principles 
conformed to the views long maintained by the British mer- 
cantile interests and their apologist, the Board of Trade. 

In the light of subsequent history, the most important 

1 " The several changes of territories, which at the last Peace took 
place in the Colonies of the European world, have given rise to A 
New System of Interests ; have opened a new channel of business; 
and brought into operation a new concatenation of powers, both com- 
mercial and political." Pownall, T., The Administration of the British 
Colonies (London, 1768), vol. i, p. i. 
SO 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 51 

feature of the legislation of 1764 was the fact that, for the ' ^ 
first time, Parliament provided specifically for the raising ^ 
of a revenue in America. But as watchful colonists at the 
time viewed the unwonted legislative activity, they were im- 
pressed almost solely with the idea that their business inter- 
ests were being vitally affected. It goes without saying that 
they did not perceive or appreciate the problem of imperial 
reorganization with which Parliament was wrestling. They 
stood for a Ptolemaic conception of the empire, with Eng- 
land as the sun and America the earth about which the sun 
revolved; while the statesmen at home justified their course 
in the terms of the Copernican theory.^ 

The program of Parliament, therefore, so far as the ,• 
colonists were concerned, had to stand or fall upon its merits 
as legislation dealing solely with colonial interests. The 
group of enactments thus readily divided itself into two 
parts, those provisions favorable to American commerce 
and industry, and those detrimental. 

The beneficial portions were of minor importance and 
affected chiefly the plantation provinces where relief was 
not particularly needed. South Carolina and Georgia were 
allowed, upon payment of a slight duty, to export rice to 
any part of America to the southward of those provinces, 
in order that they might continue to dominate the markets 
which they had entered during British occupation of certain 
West India islands in the recent war.- As a means of en- 
couraging the indigo industry, a protective duty was placed 

* Vide Beer, British Colonial Policy, 1754-1765, pp. 193-251, 274-286, 
for an excellent presentation of the imperialistic point of view. Vide 
Macphefson, Annals of Commerce, vol. iii, pp. 395-399, for a well- 
balanced statement of the colonial view; also Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., 
vol. xiii, pp. 431-433. 

' 4 George III, c. 27. This liberty was extended to North Carolina, 
in the following year. 5 George III, c. 45. 



/ 



^2 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

on foreign indigo imported into the provinces.^ On the 
other hand, New England fishermen received concessions in 
England, by which American whale-fins succeeded in secur- 
ing a practical monopoly of the home market;^ and colonial 
rum distillers were favored by an absolute prohibition of 
the introduction of foreign rum.^ 

The detrimental features of the acts were far-reaching 
and fundamental in their influence upon American pros- 
perity.* Resolute measures were taken against smuggling. 
Customs officials were granted ampler authority, and the 
pTDwers of the admiralty courts were enlarged. In order 
to protect customs officials from damage suits in common 
law courts, it was provided that, in cases where the court 
held there had been a probable cause for making a seizure, 
the officers should not be liable for damages. In addition, 
the burden of proof was placed on the owner of the seized 
goods or vessel; and all claimants of such goods had to 
deposit security to cover the costs of the suit. Stricter 
registration of vessels was required. Because of the amen- 
ability of vice-admiralty courts to local opinion in the vari- 
ous provinces, a vice-admiralty court for all America was 
authorized, in which an informer or prosecutor might bring 
his suit in preference to the local court, if he so chose. 

Equally alarming to the commercial provinces was the 
plan to make the old Molasses Act really productive through 
a reduction of rates. The former duty on molasses im- 

* 4 George III, c. 15. 

^ 4 George III, c. 29, Instead of employing eighty or ninety sloops 
in the whale fishery as prior to this time, New Englanders were em- 
ploying one hundred and sixty before 1775. Macpherson, op. cit, vol. 
iii, pp. 401, 567-568. 

' 4 George III, c. 15. 

* 4 George III, c. 15. Only the main provisions are noted here. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 53 

ported from the foreign West Indies was reduced from six- 
pence per gallon to threepence, with the understanding that 
the new rate would be collected. The old duty on raw 
sugar was continued ; and an additional duty was levied on 
foreign refined sugar. 

Other changes were made, which affected colonial mer- 
chants only in lesser degree. The purpose of certain of 
these was to enlarge the market for British merchandise 
in America by enhancing the price of foreign manufactures. 
Thus, the amount of the duty withheld in England upon 
reshipment of foreign goods to the colonies was doubled.^ 
Import duties were placed, for the first time, upon certain 
varieties of Oriental and French drygoods when they were 
landed in America. Wines, which hitherto had been im-r 
ported directly from Madeira and the Azores without duty, 
were now required to pay a high tariff, while Spanish and 
Portuguese wines, which as before were to be imported by 
way of Great Britain, were to pay only a low duty.^ Im- 
port duties were also imposed on foreign indigo and foreign 
coffee brought into the colonies. The list of articles which 
could be sent to Great Britain alone was increased by the 
addition of iron, whale-fins, hides, raw silk, potashes and 
pearlashes. Slight duties were placed on coffee and pimento 
when shipped from one colony to another. 

The only regulation that directly concerned the planta- 
tion provinces in any unfavorable way was the prohibition 
of further issues of legal-tender currency in the provinces 
outside of New England. This restraint was imposed upon 
the complaint of some British merchants engaged in Vir- 

1 Prior to this time, the amount had been about 2^ per cent, 
^ The colonists had desired to obtain permission to make direct im- 
portations of wine, fruit and oil from Spain and Portugal. Pa. Journ., 
June 7, 1764; Bos. Gac, June 11. 



/ 



/ 



/ 



54 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



ginia trade and was merely an extension of the principle 
which had been applied in 1751 to New England/ 

Dissatisfaction with the acts of 1764 was thus largely 
a sectional matter, affecting chiefly the commercial prov- 
inces. It is not surprising that the chief polemic efforts of 
the colonists came from provinces such as Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island and Pennsylvania ; or that, in the one instance, 
the author was a lawyer, who time and again had been 
employed by smugglers and who sympathized with them 
temperamentally ; - in the next instance, a merchant, who 
was largely concerned in illicit trade with the West Indies ; ^ 
in the third, a gentleman-farmer and lawyer, fully cognizant 

^4 George III, c. 34; Franklin, Writings (Smyth), vol. v, pp. 85-86, 
187-189; Russell, Review of American Colonial Legislation, pp. 120-124. 

* Otis, James, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and 
Proved (Boston, 1764), This pamphlet, largely speculative, made the 
novel assertion that the duties of 1764 were as truly a fiscal measure 
as taxes on real estate would be. It should be remembered that Otis 
had been retained by the merchants of Boston and Salem to attack the 
legality of the writs of assistance in 1761. Otis, wrote Peter Oliver in 
1781, " engrafted his self into the Body of Smugglers, and they em- 
braced him so close, as a Lawyer and an usefull Pleader for them, 
that he soon became incorporated with them." Brit. Mus. Egerton 
Mss., no. 2671 (L. C. Transcripts) . Leading merchants of Boston, like 
Thomas Hancock and his nephew John, lost no opportunity to recom- 
mend Otis as a law3^er to commercial houses in Engknd. Brown, A. E'., 
John Hancock His Book (Boston, 1898), p. 33 et seq. Vide also Hutch- 
inson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 201. 

Closer to the economic roots of the troubles was the forceful pamph- 
let, The Sentiments of a British American (Boston, 1764), written by 
Oxenbridge Thacher, who had been Otis' colleague in the writs of 
assisfahce case. Thacher died in 1765, before his usefulness to the 
anti-parhamentary party had fully developed. For a characterization 
of the two men, vide Adams, John, Works, vol. x, pp. 284-292. 

^Hopkins. Stephen, Tl:e Rights of the Colonies Examined (Provi- 
dence, 1764). Hopkins also had three sons and four nephews, all cap- 
tains of vessels. Weeden, Econ. and Soc. Hist, of New Engl., vol. ii, 
pp. 584, 656, 658. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 55 

of the sources from which the prosperity of his community 
arose/ 

For the most part, this hterature of protest contained a 
cogent presentation of the economic springs of mercantile 
prosperity. The prevaihng note was sounded by a com- 
ment in Thacher's pamphlet on the recent action of Parlia- 
ment : "' Does not this," he asked, " resemble the conduct 
of the good wife in the fable who killed her hen that every 
day laid her a Golden Egg? " The new measures for en- 
forcing the acts of trade were roundly denounced, especially 
the provisions for protecting customs officers from damage 
suits in case of mistaken seizures, and the provisions grant- 
ing to the informer or prosecutor the right to choose the 
court in which he wished to sue. These regulations were 
termed a denial of the common law and of trial by jury. 
The new duties on foreign wines were complained of, on the 
ground that wines had now to be brought to America by a 
roundabout and expensive route. The restricting of iron 
exports to Great Britain caused protest, especially in Penn- 
sylvania, because cargoes of iron had always found a ready 
market in Portuguese ports. 

The chorus of denunciation rose loudest on the subject of 
the new molasses duties. This appeared to the pamphleteers 
a species of economic strangulation by which the colonies 
were cut off from the source of their specie supply. " The 
duty of 3d. per gallon on foreign molasses is well known 

^ Dickinson, John. The Late Regulations respecting the British Colo- 
nies . . . considered (Philadelphia, 1765). Though published after the 
passage of the Stamp Act, attention was given almost exclusively to 
the economic effects of the acts of 1764. Note the striking similarity of 
Dickinson's views to Charles Thomson's arguments, urged in a letter 
of November, 1765, to a London mercantile house, Thomson. Papers 
(N. Y, Hist. So£. Colls., vol, xi), pp. 7-12, Thomson was an importer 
and also had interests iir^iron manufacturing and in rum distilling. 
Harley, L. R., Life of Charles Thomson (Philadelphia, 19C0), passim. 



5^ 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



to every man in the least acquainted with it to be much 
higher than that article can possibly bear and therefore must 
operate as an absolute prohibition," declared Hopkins. If 
the merchants and distillers suffered losses, the provincial 
farmers would become deeply involved, because their surplus 
stock and products had been sent to the foreign islands in 
exchange for molasses. If there were no specie in cir- 
culation, debts could not be paid to England, importations 
must be reduced, and local manufacturing undertaken. 
With the volume of money rapidly shrinking, it was charged 
that the prohibition of further issues of legal-tender money 
was calculated to heighten the distress, since paper money 
had generally served a useful purpose as a circulating 
medium within provincial boundaries. Finally, some 
warmth was displayed in referring to the commercial sys- 
tem as a whole, and the question asked whether the dis- 
advantages which the colonies suffered under it and the en- 
hanced prices which the colonists paid for British importa- 
tions loaded with British taxes at home were not equivalent 
to a tax directly levied in America. 

The assumptions and arguments, urged by the pamph- 
leteers, received substantial confirmation from the prostra- 
tion of industry which began to be apparent throughout the 
.commercial provinces. This period of economic depression 
(was not, as they contended, produced entirely by the re- 

y'-strictive legislation of 1764. The begiiming of the change 
was traceable to the more vigorous enforcement of the old 

, Molasses Act in 1763. A more important cause was the 
collapse of the artificial war-time prosperity which the pro- 
vinces had enjoyed.^ The presence of British forces in 

^Franklin, IVritings (Smyth), vol. v, pp. 71-73; speech of P. Cust, 
M. P., in Bos. Chron., June 11, 1770; Golden, Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 
77-78; article in Pa. Journ., Mch. 21, 1765; Burke's '' Observations on 
the Right Honourable Mr. Grenville's State of the Nation," Bos. 
Chron., June 26, 1769; "A Friend to the Colony" in Prov. Gaz., Mch. 
26, 1768; "The Citizen" in Pa. Journ., Jan. 26, 1769. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 



57 



America had caused a great influx of coin for the paying 
and provisioning of the troops; and the high cash prices 
paid by the French for foodstuffs added to the supply of 
specie. Under such stimulus, prices soared; merchants in- 
creased their stocks and undertook speculative risks; farm- 
ers enlarged their operations; people generally began to 
adopt more luxurious modes of living. The close of the 
war and the disbanding of the greatest part of the army 
dried up these sources of abundant specie. Merchants and 
farmers found themselves deprived of their profitable mar- 
kets, with an overplus of supplies on hand. An especially 
serious blow was administered to those merchants who had 
succeeded during the war in monopolizing the trade of 
Havana and the French West Indian islands, after these 
colonies had fallen into the possession of England. The 
restoration of these islands at the conclusion of peace greatly 
diminished this trade. The rice planters of South Carolina 
and Georgia would have shared in the distress, had not 
Parliament enabled them by the act of 1764 to continue to 
export their staple to these new markets. 

But the chief cause of the hard times was the restrictive 
legislation of 1764. The Boston Post-Boy of June 3, 1765 .^ 
declared that not one-fifth as many vessels were employed 
in the West Indian trade as before the regulations of the 
preceding year, and that cash had practically disappeared 
from circulation. The mercantile community experienced 
*' a most prodigious shock " at the failure of Nathaniel 
Wheelwright, John Scollay, Joseph Scott and certain other 
Boston merchants of note. John Hancock, whose ow^n 
trading connections were with many parts of the world, 
wrote that " times are very bad, . . . the times will be 
worse here, in short such is the situation of things here that 
we do not know who is and who [is] not safe.' 



" 1 



^ ^/ 



^ John Hancock His Book, pp. 61-62, He concluded: "The affair of 



58 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



Conditions were bad at Newport, also/ A statement, 
issued by leading citizens of New York, lamented the 
dwindling of trade, the extreme scarcity of cash, the pro- 
hibition of paper money and the recent restrictions placed 
on commerce." >^A^ New York merchant of twenty years' 
standing withdrew from trade because he was apprehensive 
of the effects of the new regulations. - He testified before 
a committee of Parliament that, whereas the price of mo- 
lasses at New York had formerly been is. 6d. to is. Qd. per 
gallon, the threepenny duty had increased it by one or two- 
pence, and the price of the rum distilled from it had ad- 
vanced sufficiently to enable Danish rum to undersell the 
American on the Guinea coast. The ten or a dozen New 
York vessels, formerly engaged in the slave trade, were now 
idle.^ In Pennsylvania, it was complained that " Trade is 
become dull, oMoney very scarce, Contracts decrease, Law- 
Suits increase so as to double the number of Writs issued 
in every County within tvro Years past . . ." * The farm- 
Wheelwright's failure with such aggravated Circumstances is the great- 
est shock to trade that ever happened here." In another letter he 
wrote : " Money is l^xtremeh'- Scarce & trade verj^ dull. If we are not 
reliev'd at home we must hve upon our own produce & manufactures." 
Ibid., pp. 63-64. Hancock had taken over his uncle's business upon the 
latter's death in August, 1764; and, according to Thomas Hutchinson, 
old Thomas Hancock had amassed great wealth by " importing from 
St. Eustatia great quantities of tea in molasses hogsheads, which sold 
at a verj' great advance." Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 297-298. 

^ Newport Merc, Feb. 25, 1765. 
- * Statement of the Society of Arts, Agriculture and Oeconomy, Wey- 
ler's A''. Y. Gas., Dec. 10, 1764. 

3 Testimony of William Kelly, Feb. 11, 1766. Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., 
no. 33030 (L. C. Transcripts), ff. 130, I34-I35, I37- 

* " The Farmer " in Pa. lourn., Aug. 23, 1764. The Philadelphia 
merchant, Benjamin Marshall, wrote on Oct. 22, 1764: "Cash Mon- 
strous scarce (I believe we must learn to Barter), as the Men of War 
are here so strict that nothing can escape them . . ." Pa. Mag., vol. 
XX, p. 208. Vide also the business correspondence of S. Rhoads, Jr., at 
this period. Ibid., vol. xiv, pp. 421-426. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 59 

ers of the commercial provinces were involved in the gen- 
eral distress. "Merchants and Farmers are breaking and 
all things going into confusion," wrote a New Englander 
despondently/ " What is your City without Trade, and 
what the Country without a Market to vend their Com- 
modities?" queried a Pennsylvania writer.^ 

The merchants did not remain idle while their profits y^ 
evaporated and their debts accumulated. They had been 
excited to activity by the first rumors that the old Molasses 
Act might again be renewed in 1764. A keen observer de- 
clared in retrospect, several years later, that the union among 
the colonies had derived " its original source from no Object 
of a more Respectable Cast than that of a Successful prac- 
tice in Illicit Trade, I say contrived, prompted and pro- 
moted by a Confederacy of Smuglers in Boston, Rhode 
Island and other Seaport Towns on that Coast." ^ This 
gentry were aided and abetted by the rum-distillers, who 
were particularly powerful in New England.* John Adams 
was franker than most historians when he reflected in his 
old age: " I know not why we should l)lush to confess that 
•molasses was an essential ingredient in American inde- 
pendence." ^ 

The first move was made by the merchants of Boston, 
in April, 1763, when they organized the " Society for 
•encouraging Trade and Commerce within the Province 

1 N. H. Gas,, Dec. 7, 1764- 

2 " The Farmer " in Pa. Jotirn., Aug. 23, 1764. 

^ Letter of Richard Oswald, a native American and a Londoner in 
the American trade, to Dartmouth, Feb. 9, I775; Stevens, Facsimiles, 
vol. xxiv, no. 2032, pp. 3-4. 

* In another portion of his letter Osv^ald alluded to " the great Rum 
Distillers of Boston who began all this disturbance." Ihid. 

^ He added sagely : " Many great events have proceeded from much 
smaller causes." Works, vol. x, p. 345. 



6o THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of Massachusetts Bay." ^ There was to be a standing: 
comniittee of fifteen to watch trade affairs and to call 
a general meeting of members whenever occasion de- 
manded. A memorial was draw^n up for presentation to 
the General Court; and accounts of their activities were 
sent to the merchants in other provinces. The committee 
also corresponded with influential members of Parliament.^ 

Further action was called for by an article in the 
Boston Evening Post, November 21 and 28, 1763. The 
writer proposed that, at the instance of the Boston mer- 
chants, a provincial committee of merchants representing 
the maritime towns should urge the General Court to peti- 
tion Parliament for a revision of the acts of trade, par- 
ticularly for the removal or substantial reduction of the 
duties on foreign molasses and sugar. Perhaps in response 
to this suggestion, a sub-committee of the Boston merchants 
requested a meeting with committees of the merchants of 
Marblehead, Salem and Plymouth; and the result was that 
the merchants of these ports also presented memorials to the 
General Court. 

The merchants of New York w^ere the next to take action. 
Of these merchants. Lieutenant Governor Golden said: 
" Many of them have rose suddenly from the lowest Rank 
of the People to considerable Fortunes, & chiefly by illicit 
Trade in the last AVar. They abhor every limitation of 
Trade and Duty on it, & therefore gladly go into every 
Measure whereby they hope to have Trade free." ^ They 

^ M. H. S. Ms., 91 L, pp. 23-25. The rules of organization were 
signed by one hundred forty-seven merchants. For a more detailed 
account of this organization, vide Andrews, C. M., " The Boston 
Merchants and the Non-Importation Movement," Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., 
vol. xix, pp. 161-167. 

2 Bos. Gas., Jan. 16, Oct. 29, 1764. 

^Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 68. Vide also PayJiamentary History of 
England (Cobbett, W., ed.), vol. xvi, p. 125. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 6l 

met at Burn's Long Room on January 27, 1764 and took 
under consideration the declining state of trade. A com- 
mittee was appointed to memorialize the legislature on the 
situation and to ask their interposition with Parliament. 
The committee later established regular meeting nights,^ 
A communication in the New York Gazette and Post-Boy 
of February 2 commended the rational action of the mer- 
chants and declared riotous opposition would be " seditious 
and injurious to Government " when redress might be ob- 
tained by dutiful petition. At the suggestion of the New 
York Committee of Merchants, the merchants of Phila- 
delphia became active, and appointed a committee to urge 
the Pennsylvania Assembly to solicit Parliament to dis- 
continue the molasses duties of 1733.^ 

In every case the legislatures took the desired step, al- 
though little was done until after the new duties of 1764 
had become a law.^ Only Rhode Island had been fore- 
handed enough to petition for the repeal of the old Molasses 
Act prior to the new legislation of Parliament. In June, 
the Massachusetts House of Representatives ordered its 
agent in London to press for a repeal of the new duties and 
also to protest against the Stamp Act, which was on the 
government's program for 1765. A committee was ap- 
pointed to urge the other legislatures on the continent to 
join in the movement. In July the Rhode Island Assembly 
appointed a committee for the same purpose; and a com- 
mittee of the New York Assembly began a similar pro- 
paganda in October.* 

1 Weyler's A^. Y. Gas., Jan. 30, 1764; N. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Feb. 2; 
N. Y. Merc, Mch. 5, 1764. The memorial was read in the provincial 
assembly on Apr. 20, 1764. 

' Bos. Post-Boy, Mch. 26, 1764. 

' Frothingham, R., The Rise of the Republic of the United States 
(Boston, 1881), pp. 173-174. 

* The New York committee was instructed to correspond " on the 



62 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

;: The problem of the commercial provinces was to enlist 
the support of the plantation provinces in their campaign 
^ for remedial legislation. In this way, a united front could 
be shown to Parliament and the chances for success greatly 
increased. The tobacco provinces were readier of response 
than any of the others, because of the unsatisfactory condi- 
«y_ tion of crops and crop prices and because of the scarcity 
W-^of money. "The Courts are filled with Law-Suits, and 
many People are obliged to sell their Estates," wrote a Vir- 
ginian.^ George Washington, one of the large Virginia 
planters, was forced to explain to a creditor that he had 
fallen '' so much in arrears " because he had not had '' even 
tolerable crops " for three straight years, and when he had 
one, it did not sell well.^ But these conditions could not 
be attributed to the acts of 1764, and did not seem to pre- 
vail in the more southerly provinces. 

The position of the commercial provinces was greatly 
strengthened strategically by the fact that the Stamp Act 
was on the board for American consideration by Parliament 
in 1765. A stamp tax w^as clearly a departure from the 
ancient custom of the home government. It was more 
purely a fiscal measure than was the so-called Sugar Act of 
1764, its incidence was more obvious and it fell on people in 
all the provinces. Thus, the proposed stamp duty afforded 
an opportunity to the mercantile interests to stir up a 

Subject Matter of the Act, commonly called the Sugar Act; on the 
Act restraining Paper Bills of Credit in the Colonies from being a 
legal Tender; and of the several other Acts of Parliament lately passed^ 
with relation to the Trade of the Northern Colonies : And also on the 
Subject of the impending Dangers which threaten the Colonies, of being 
taxed by Laws to be passed in Great-Britain." Note the sequence. 
Pa. Gaz., Nov. 28, 1764. 

^Virginia and Maryland news in Prov. Gaz., Jan. 19, 1765; Bos^ 
Post-Boy, June 10, July 29. 

' Writings (Ford, W. C, ed.), vol. ii, pp. 200-202. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 63 

general discontent as well as to increase local dissatisfaction. 
Consciously or not, the northern legislatures made the most 
of the occasion. In their official utterances, they dovetailed 
in with their economic indictment of the Sugar Act a protest 
against the proposed Stamp Act as an inexpedient and un- 
constitutional measure.^ Their efforts to secure continental 
co-operation were successful : petitions and remonstrances 
were sent from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, 
and, with considerable reluctance, from Georgia.' 

Meantime, the hard times had been causing people in the 
commercial provinces to retrench expenses; and in some 
cases this object was accomplished by concerted effort. A 
clear-seeing writer in the Providence Gazette, October 6, 

1764, proposed a continental agreement to suspend trade 
with the British West Indies, in order to strike a body blow 
at the West India interest in Parliament; but it was ten 
years too soon for such a proposal to win favorable re- 
sponse. Fifty merchants of Boston set an example in 
August, 1764, by signing an agreement to discard laces and 
ruffles, to buy no English cloths but at a fixed price, and 
to forego the elaborate and expensive mourning of the 
times for the very simplest display.^ The mourning reso^ 

^ As Oswald observed to Dartmouth in 1775, the disgruntled mer- 
chants had had "the art to interweave in their System of Grievances 
. . . some others of a political nature and apparently of a more liberal 
cast than do[e]s really lye at the bottom of their designs." Stevens, 
Facsimiles, vol. xxiv, no. 2032, p. 5. 

' Of the commercial group, Connecticut and Pennsylvania now joined 
in with the others. The southern legislatures generally included a com- 
plaint against certain restrictions placed in 1764 upon the exportation 
of lumber, a matter that was satisfactorily adjusted by Parhament in 

1765. South Carolina also complained of the Currency Act. Docu- 
mentary History of the American Revolution (Gibbes, R. W., ed.), vol. 
ii, pp. 1-6. The Virginia Committee of Correspondence expressed 
alarm at the duties on Madeira wine but seemed pleased at the Cur- 
rency Act. Va. Mag., vol. xii, pp. 6-1 1. 

^Newport Merc, Aug. 20, 1764; also iV. Y.Gaz. & Post-Boy, Aug, 30. 



64 THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

lutions were so well kept by the people generally that it was 
reported that there had been only one or two violations after 
four months' trial, although almost one hundred funerals 
had occurred ; and it was estimated that the savins: would be 
more than £10,000 sterling a year/ Burials '' according to 
the new mode " were recorded by the newspapers in New 
Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York. 

In September the tradesmen of Boston followed in the 
path of the merchants, by agreeing to wear only leather of 
Massachusetts manufacture for their work clothes.^ In 
November the students of Yale took unanimous action to 
abstain from the use of foreign liquors.^ The people of 
New York apparently took no formal action; but five fire 
companies of Philadelphia attempted to counteract the high 
price of mutton by agreeing to refrain from the purchase of 
lamb.* One company added a pledge against the drinking 
of imported beer. 

The logical counterpart of the efforts for the disuse of 
imported superfluities was the encouragement of domestic 
manufactures. This movement had greatest vitality in New 
York, where a number of prominent men in December, 1764, 
organized the " Society for the Promotion of Arts, Agri- 
culture and Oeconomy," and proceeded to award premiums 
for a great variety of local productions, to print informing 
pamphlets, and to promote the formation of similar societies 
throughout the province.^ In other provinces, the news- 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 21, 1765; Bos. Post-Boy, Oct. i, 8, 1764, July I, 
1765. 

^ Ibid., Oct. I, 1764. 

' iV. Y. Gas. & Post-Boy, Nov. 22, 1764. 

^ Pa. Gaz., Feb. 28, Mch. 7, 14, May 16, 1765. 

^ Files of Weyler's A^". Y. Gaz. and of the A^. F. Merc, from Dec. 3, 
1764, to June I, 1767. The notice of Dec. 3. 1764, declared that the 
society was formed upon a plan " wholly detached from all Party 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 



65 



papers teemed with instructive articles on the methods and 
opportunity of American manufactures; and the provinces 
north of Maryland showed many instances of increased pro- 
duction of linen and woolen homespun. Outside of New 
York, greatest progress seems to have been made at Boston, 
where the '' Linen Manufactory " produced four hundred 
yards of " Bengals, Lillepusias and Broglios " in a period 
of three months, and " Lynn Shoes " won a merited popu- 
larity/ y 

On March 22, 1765, the Stamp Act received the royal as- -^C^ 
sent, and by its terms was to go into effect on November 
the first of that year. The act was an integral part of the 
taxation program inaugurated by Grenville in 1764. Stamp j 
duties were placed on commercial papers of various kinds, 
on deeds, bonds, leases and other legal documents, on pam- 
phlets, newspapers and advertisements, and on articles of 
apprenticeship, liquor licenses, etc. Heavy fines and for- 
feitures were provided for infractions of the law, and these 
might be collected through the vice-admiralty courts at the 
option of the inform.er or prosecutor." '__J^ 

In view of the later revolutionary movement, it is not too ] 
much to say that the Stamp Act derived its__chief import- 
ance from the fact that it lilted the controversy from the 
profit-and-loss considerations of the northern colonists and! 
furnished a common ground on which the planting provinces 
might join with the commercial provinces in protest. The 
eighteenth century Anglo-Saxon liked nothing better than 

Spirit, personal Interest, political Views or private Motives." The next 
week, it was stated that the severe times had caused the formation of 
the society. 

^ Bos. Post-Boy, Oct. 8, 1764, Jan. 24, 1765. John Hancock's wealthy 
uncle had bequeathed i200 to this society on his death on Aug. i, 1764. 
Ibid., Aug. 13, 1764. 

^ 5 George III, c. 12. 



66 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the expansive phrases of the natural rights theory; and the 
Stamp Act readily lent itself to protests against *' taxation 
___without representation" and "trial without jury." ^ 

The economic burden of the new law, as in the case of the 
duties of 1764, fell very largely on the commercial provinces. 

y The merchants, lawyers and printers were the classes par- 
ticularly affected ; and these classes, as we shall see, felt im- 
pelled to take a leading part in instigating popular demon- 
strations against the measure. 
. The taxes on commercial documents threatened to 

j paralyze such business as had survived the restrictive legis- 
lation of the preceding year. " Under this additional 
Burthen of the Stamp Act," wrote one of the merchant 
princes of Boston, '' I cannot carry it [trade] on to any 
profit and we were before Cramp'd in our Trade & suffi- 
ciently Burthen'd, that any farther Taxes must Ruin us." 
In another letter, Hancock declared that if the act were 
carried into execution, it '' will entirely Stagnate Trade 
here, for it is universally determined here never to submit 

^ Colonel George Mercer, of Virginia, told a committee of Parliament 
in Feb., 1766: "I have heard the Complaints of Right and oppression 
blended together. But the thinking people don't speak so plainly on 
the right as others; they complain of the oppression" ; he apprehended 
that " the Idea of Oppression awakened the Idea of Right." Brit. Mus. 
Addl Mss., no. 33030 (L. C. Transcripts), ff. 126, 129. A letter from a 
New Yorker to an EngHsh friend said: "It is thought the stamp act 
would not have met with so violent an opposition if the colonies had 
not previously been chagrined at the rigorous execution of the laws 
against their trade." Bos. Eve. Post, Feb. 17, 1766. Dean Tucker 
wrote in his pamphlet, A Letter from a Merchant in London to his 
Nephew in North America (1766) : "What is the Cause of such an 
amazing Outcry as you raise at present? Not the Stamp Duty itself; 
. . . none can be so ignorant, or so stupid, as not to see that this is a 
mere Sham and Pretence. What, then, are the real Grievances . . , ? 
Why, some of you are exasperated against the Mother Country on the 
Account of the Revival of certain (Restrictions laid upon their Trade."" 
Pa. Mag., vol. xxvi, p. 86. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 67 

to it, and the principal merchants here will by no means 
carry on Business under a Stamp." Early in October, he 
told Governor Bernard that he would rather perform the 
severest manual labor than continue business under the bur- 
den of the pending Stamp Act, and that " I am Determin'd 
as soon as I know that they are Resolv'd to insist on this act 
to Sell my Stock in Trade & Shut up my Warehouse Doors." 
In a letter a few days later, he protested that " there is not 
cash enough here to support it." Hancock's commercial 
correspondence of this period sounded a genuine note of 
despair; and only as an afterthought did he allude, once or 
twice, to the unconstitutionality of the act.^ 

Voicing the apprehensions of the merchants of Pennsyl- 
vania, John Dickinson questioned whether, under present 
panic conditions, a merchant's commerce could bear " the 
payment of all the taxes imposed by the Stamp Act on his 
policies, fees with clerks, charter parties, protests, his other 
notarial acts, his letters, and even his advertisements." He 
showed that hard times were having a cumulative effect. 
Money, where any remained, had gone into hiding. When 
creditors took out executions, they discovered that the lands 
and personal estates could be sold only at a fraction of their 
value. The records of the courts attested that the number 
of debtors had increased enormously; at the last term, no 
less than thirty-five persons from Philadelphia County alone 
had sought relief under the insolvency act, although the law 
applied only to those who owed no single debt above £150. 
This being the situation, said Dickinson, ^' from whence is 
the silver to come, with which the taxes imposed by this act, 
and the duties imposed by other late acts, are to be paid ? " ^ 

^ Brown, John Hancock His Book, pp. 83, 87, 88, 90. Vide also pp. 
69, 70, 81, 86-90, 103-104, 115. 

^The Late Regulations etc., Dickinson, Writings (Ford, L., ed.), 
pp. 227-230. Vide also pp. 440-441. 



68 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Jonathan Watts, a member of the New York Council, 
was writing home in the same strain : " I cannot conceive 
there will be silver or gold enough to carry this Act and the 
high duties that are laid, through, and what shall people 
then do in a new country where property so frequently 
changes hands, must everything stagnate, and will not a 
universal discontent prevail? ]\Ian is man, and will feel 
and will resent, too . . . " ^ The Philadelphia merchant, 
Stephen Collins, repeated the plaintive note in many letters 
to London creditors, alleging that, owing to the stagnation 
of trade, " I have not been able to Forward your Remitances 
more timely." " 

Benjamin Franklin believed that the new act would fall 
" particularly hard on us lav/yers and printers." ^ The 
lawyers throughout British America were affected by the 
duties imposed on all important legal documents. " It is 
well known," commented a writer in the New York Gazette 
mid Post-Boy, February 20, 1766, ''that some of the 
Lawyers in the several Provinces have been, and still con- 
tinue, the principal Writers on the Side of American 
Liberty." Indeed, one of the ablest pamphlets against the 
Stamp Act was written by Daniel Dulany, the foremost 
lawyer of ]\Iaryland, a man who opposed no subsequent tax 
of Great Britain and who eventually became a loyalist.^ 

^ 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. X, p. 576. " N " claimed in the Pa. lourn., 
Sept. 5, 1765, that there was not nearh^ enough money in America to 
pay the current debt to British merchants, let alone the new taxes. 
"Publicola" calculated in the N. Y. Gas. & Post-Boy, May 30, 1765, 
that all the gold and silver would be drained off in two years at most. 

'Letter Book, 1760-1773 (L. C. Mss.), May 18, June 24, 1765; Aug. 
14, Nov. 10, 1766. 

^Writings (Smyth), vol. iv, pp. 361-363- 

* Considerations on the Propriety of imposing Taxes in the British 
Colonies (October, 1765), reprinted in Md. Hist. Mag., vol. vi, pp. Z7^ 
406, Dulany was largely responsible for the nulHfication of the Stamp 



^ 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 6o 

Although he based his opposition largely on constitutional 
grounds, he did not fail to show that the tax fell on a prov- 
ince, '' not in proportion to its wealth, but to the multi- 
plicity of juridical forms, the quantity of vacant land, the 
frequency of transferring landed property, the extent of 
paper negotiations, the scarcity of money, and the number 
of debtors," and he argued that '' the principal part of the 
revenue will be drawn from the poorest individuals in the 
poorest colonies, from mortgagers, obligors, and defend- 
ants." Lieutenant Governor Golden of New York had 
" the strongest presumption from numerous Circumstances 
to believe that the Lawyers of this Place are the Authors, 
Promoters & Leaders " of the local opposition to the stamp 
duties/ 

Printers were directly involved in the new act as pub- 
lishers of newspapers and pamphlets. The formost printer 
of the continent, Benjamin Franklin, wrote to his fellow- 
publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette that he believed the 
Stamp Act " will affect the Printers more than anybody,, 
as a Sterling Halfpenny Stamp on every Half Sheet of a 
Newspaper, and Two Shillings Sterling on every Adver- 
l:isement, will go near to knock up one Half of both. There 

Act in Maryland. Latrobe, J. H., " Daniel Dulany," Pa. Mag., vol. iii, 
pp. 4-5. Vide also the views of William Smith, Jr., a New York lawyer 
whom Colden characterized as " a violent republican independent " and 
an organizer of mobs. 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. x, pp. 570-57I- 

* Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 61-62. He continued : " People in general 
believe it, and many must with certainty know it. I must add that all 
the Judges have given too much Countenance to their Proceedings . . .'* 
Vide also ibid., p. 92. The lawyers of New York were discontented 
with other matters besides the Stamp Act; and Colden claimed that 
they were more powerful there than anywhere else in America. " Noth- 
ing is too wicked for them to attempt which serves their purposes — 
the Press is to them what the Pulpit was in times of Popery." Ihid.. 
p. 71. 



^O THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

is also Fourpence Sterling on every Almanack." ^ The 
thirty-odd newspapers of America carried on a tremend- 
ously effective propaganda against the Stamp Act,- and in 
no later crisis exhibited such unanimity of protest. 

Aside from their influence as directors of popular opposi- 
tion, the merchants, lawyers and printers were faced with 
the problem of making a living while their business w^as 
legally subject to the use of stamps. The merchants re- 
fused to use stamps in their business transactions and usu- 
ally succeeded in keeping the ports open for commerce, when 
it became apparent to the authorities that the sale of stamps 
was impracticable or impossible.^ The lawyers, in first 
instance, agreed that all legal business should be suspended 
until the Stamp Act should be repealed; but when their 
purses began to grow lean from lack of clients' fees and the 
merchants and creditors clamored for the opportunity to 
collect their debts, they generally induced the courts to open 
for business without stamps.* " This long interval of in- 
dolence and idleness will make a large chasm in my affairs." 
wTote the lawyer John Adams in the period before the 
courts were re-opened. He added : " I have groped in dark 
obscurity, till of late, and had but just known and gained a 
small degree of reputation, when this project was set on 
foot for my ruin as well as that of America in general, and 

'^ JVritings (Smyth), vol. iv, pp. 363-364. 

^ E. g., Jonathan Watts, of New York, wrote on Sept. 24, 1765 : 
" You will think' the printers all mad, Holt particularly, who has been 
cautioned over and over again, and would have been prosecuted, but 
people's minds are so inflamed about this stamp act, it would only be 
exposing Government to attempt it." 4 M. H. S., vol. x, p. 576. Holt 
published the New York Gazette and Post-Boy at this time. 

^ E. g., vide Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 141 ; 4 M. H. S., vol. 
X, p. 587. 

* E. g., vide i N. J. Arch., vol. ix, pp. 540-548; A^ Y. Merc., Dec. 9, 23, 
1765; Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 138, 141-142. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 71 

of Great Britain." ^ All but a few newspapers continued 
publication without stamps; and those few newspapers re- 
appeared when it became evident that infractions of the 
law would entail no penalty. 

The period between the enactment of the Stamp x\ct and 
the date of its operation was marked by a series of popular 
demonstrations, designed to coerce the colonial stamp 
agents into resigning. Distressed by non-employment and 
temperamentally inclined to boisterous forms of expression, ^ x^ 
the rougher elements in the leading seaports responded 
readily to the leadership of the classes disaffected by the 
legislation of 1764 and 1765. 

This appeared clearly in the case of Boston, where the 
most serious disturbances occurred." In the first of the 
August riots, the stamp office was razed by a mob, and 
Hutchinson declared : " It is said that there were fifty gentle- 
men actors in this scene, disguised with trousers and jackets 
on." ^ In the succeeding riots, the mob, led by a shoe- 
maker named Mackintosh, secured a promise of resignation 
from Oliver, the stamp collector, and showed its animus 
by attacking the houses of the registrar of the admiralty and' 
the comptroller of the customs and by destroying the 
records of the admiralty court. Lieutenant Governor 
Hutchinson's house was also visited and despoiled. Hut- 
chinson believed that this last outrage was inspired by cer- 
tain smuggling merchants who had just learned of certain 
depositions sworn against them before him several months 
before. We have it on the word of one merchant writing 
to another that Oliver's promise was not deemed decisive 
enough, and that therefore the " Loyall Nine " repaired 

^ Works, vol. ii, pp. 155-156. 

^ Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 120-125 ; Parliamentary History, vol. 
xvi, pp. 126-131 ; Palfrey, History of New Engl., vol. iv, pp. 389-394. 
^ Letter of Aug. 15, to Halifax; Palfrey, op. cit., vol. iv, p. 391. 



72 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

to '' Liberty Hall " and planned a public resignation under 
oath, which was duly carried out on December 17. " We 
do ever}1:hing," added the merchant a little anxiously, " to 
keep this and the first affair Private; and are not a little 
pleas'd to hear that Mcintosh has the Credit of the whole 
Affair. We Endeavour to keep up the Spirit which I think 
is as great as ever." ^ The Sons of Liberty, composed of 
Boston workingmen, performed the actual work of vio- 
lence. It is perhaps not without significance that their reg- 
ular meeting-place was the counting-room of a distillery; 
and John Adams records that, when he was invited to attend 
one night, he found there two distillers, a ship captain, the 
printer of the popular organ and four mechanics.^ 

^ Henry Bass to Samuel P. Savage, Dec. 19, 1765. M. H. S. Procs., 
vol. xliv, pp. 688-689. 

^ Chase and John Avery; Joseph Field; Benjamin Edes, a publisher 
of the Boston Gazette; John Smith and Stephen Cleverly, braziers, 
Thomas Crafts, painter, and George Trott, jeweler. Works, vol. ii, pp. 
178-179. 

Hutchinson's own analysis of mob government at this period was as 
follows : " It will be some amusement to you to have a more circum- 
stantial account of the model of government among us. I will begin 
with the lowest branch, partly legislative, partly executive. This con- 
sists of the rabble of the town of Boston, headed by one Mackintosh, 
who, I imagine, you never heard of. He is a bold fellow, and as likely 
for a Masaniello as you can well conceive. When there is occasion to 
bum or hang effigies or pull down houses, these are employed ; but 
since government has been brought to a system, they are somewhat 
controlled by a superior set consisting of the master-masons, and car- 
penters, &c., of the town of Boston. . . . When anything of more im- 
portance is to be determined, as opening the custom-|iouse on any mat- 
ters of trade, these are under the direction of a committee of merchants, 
Mr. Rowe at their head, then Molyneux, Solomon Davis, &c. : but all 
affairs of a general nature, opening all the courts of law, &c., this is 
proper for a general meeting of the inhabitants of Boston, where Otis, 
with his mob-high eloquence, prevails in every motion, and the town 
first determine what is necessary to be done, and then apply either to 
the Governor or Council, or resolve that it is necessary the General 
Court correct it ; and it would be a very extraordinary resolve indeed 
that is not carried into execution." Quoted by Hosmer, J. K., The Life 
of Thomas Hutchinson (Boston, 1896), pp. 103-104. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 



73 



Conditions probably were not greatly different at Phila- 
delphia. Although the stamp collector there was inclined 
to lay the popular outbreak to the machinations of the 
" Presbyterians and proprietary minions," it seems rather 
more significant that the committee which asked him to re- 
sign was composed of five merchants, one attorney and one 
printer/ In New York, as we have seen, ^, the la\v}^ers 
seemed to be at the bottom of the tumults, aided beyond 
a doubt by the merchants and printers. 

Popular outbreaks also occurred in the plantation prov- 
inces; but, lacking the multiplied resentments accumulated 
by two years of hostile legislation, the demonstrations were 
neither as frequent nor usually as violent as in the commer- 
cial provinces. The planters generally were wedded to the 
notion of dignified protests by representative assemblies; 
and a compact working-class element w^as non-existent, ex- 
cept at Charleston. The agitation of the newspapers aided 
in spreading the tumultuous spirit of the northern trading 
towns to the South. Governor Bull, of South Carolina, 
testified that the people of Charleston were generally dis- 
posed to obey the Stamp x\ct, *' but by the artifices of some 
busy spirits the minds of men here were sO' universally 
poisoned with the principles W'hich were imbibed and propa- 
gated from Boston and Rhode Island (from which Towns, 
at this time of the year, vessels very frequently arrive) that 
after their example the People of this Town resolved to 
seize and destroy the Stamp Papers . . ." ^ ' There was in- 
deed a shortage of currency, chiefly in Virginia and South 
Carolina, which bore hardV on men owing money and which 

^ Robert Morris, Charles Thomsan, Archibald McCall, John Cox 
and William Richards ; James Tilghman ; and William Bradford, editor 
of the Pennsylvania Journal. 

' Smith, W. R., South Carolina as a Royal Province, i/ig-i;^y6 (New 
York, 1903), p. 351. 



74 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the Currency Act of 1764 made it difficult to relieve. 
" This private distress which every man feels," wrote Gov- 
ernor Fauquier, of Virginia, " encreases the general dis- 
satisfaction at the duties l^id by the late Stamp Act, which 
breaks out and shews itself on every trifling occasion." ^ 
However, the inconvenience was not great enough to cause 
the people to take part in the efforts to establish domestic 
manufacturing or to boycott British goods. 

The merchants and factors generally lent the weight of 
their influence against popular demonstrations. Henry 
Laurens, of Charleston, was a representative of the best that 
the class had to offer. \\^ealthy, of an excellent American 
family and a disapprover of the Stamp Act, he did all he 
could to discourage " those infamous inglorious feats of riot 
and dissipation which have been performed to the No'ward 
. . ." He believed that " the Act must be executed and . . . 
that if a stamp officer were so timid as to resign and a Gov- 
ernor so complisant as not to appoint another in his stead — 
we should in one fortnight ... go down on our knees and 
pray him to give life to that law. \\^hat, else, would become 
of our estates, particularly ours who depend upon com- 
merce? " The searching of houses by mobs he regarded as 
" burglary and robbery " and he saw in the zeal of the rioters 
only a desire to postpone the payment of their debts. ^ 
Laurens's attitude, although consistent with itself, aroused 
popular suspicion and brought the mob down on his own ears. 

^ Brit. Papers ("Sparks Mss."), vol. ii, p. 44. Other evidence of 
money stringency in the various plantation provinces may be found in : 
Bos. Post-Boy, Mch. 17, 1766; N. C. Col. Recs., vol. vii, p. 144; Gibbes, 
Doc. Hist., vol. ii, pp. 1-6; S. C. Gas., Dec. 17, 1765; Ga. Hist. Soc. 
Colls., vol. vi, pp. 44-46. 

^Wallace, D. D., Henry Laurens (New York, 1915), pp. 116-122. 
Laurens's business was that of factor and, to a lesser extent, inde- 
pendent trader, importing and exporting on his own account. He also 
had planting interests. Ibid., pp. 16, 21, 44-47, 69, 123-136. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 



75 



In Georgia, some of the merchants, whoi at first had 
talked against the act, drew off and even endeavored to sup- 
press the spirit of opposition by converting the majority of 
the shipmasters to their change of view. In the latter part 
of December they circulated a petition asking the governor 
to appoint a new stamp agent. When the mob got wind of 
this and protested to the governor, he declared he would act 
as he thought best; and forty merchants, with their clerks, 
and several ship captains evinced their approbation by 
arming and guarding the governor until danger of violence 
subsided.^ Some stamps were actually used in Georgia. 

Christopher Gadsden, a Charlestonian possessing large 
mercantile and planting interests, represented a different 
spirit. A radical by temperament, he was, for years, to be 
a contradiction of anything that might be said of the factors 
who managed most of the trade of the South. He em- 
ployed his talents on the present occasion in instructing the 
leaders of the mob, meeting wnth them frequently under 
Liberty Tree for that purpose.^ 

The two groups of provinces met on common ground in 
the Stamp Act Congress at New York in October, 1765. 
This event, so important in light of the subsequent trend 
toward union, received scarcely any contemporary mention 
in the newspapers, even at New York. The lower houses 
of the various provincial legislatures had been invited by 
Massachusetts to send committees to a continental congress 
to confer on " the difficulties to which they are and must 
be reduced by the operation of the acts of parliam,ent for 
levying duties and taxes on the colonies " and to unite on 
petition for redress.^ Delegates from nine provinces ap- 
peared. 

* Letter from Georgia in Newport Merc, Feb. 10, 1766. Vide also 
S. C. Gas., Feb. 25. 
' Gibbes. op. cit., vol. ii, pp. lo-ii; Wallace, op. cit., p. 120. 
' Bos. Eve. Post. Aug. 26. 1765. 



76 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



.--it was clearly the design of the Massachusetts House of 
Representatitves that the congress should remonstrate 
chiefly against the restrictive and revenue measures passed 
by the Parliament in the years 1764-1765. When the mem- 
bers of congress assembled, they found it necessary to make 
certain alterations in their ideas before a common ground 
could be reached. In particular, there was much skirmish- 
ing as to the form in which the various arguments and views 
should be presented. Gadsden, the South Carolina radical, 
displayed great political acumen in insisting that all sections 
could harmonize in their opposition by urging their views 
" on the broad, common ground " of natural rights.^ The 
official utterances of the congress show the result of this 
plan. A great deal was said about the theoretical rights of 
the colonists, and the stamp tax and the laws enabling ad- 
miralty courts to try breaches of the trade laws were roundly 
denounced as heinous invasions of such rights. Neverthe-^ 
less, all trace of the spirit of the Massachusetts summons 
was not obliterated : each memorial, with varying degrees of 
emphasis, set forth the alarming scarcity of hard money 
and requested the repeal of the laws restricting trade and en- 
larging the jurisdiction of the admiralty courts!, as well as 
the act imposing the stamp duty.^ 

Meantime, in the commercial provinces, the increasing 
evidences of economic distress had stimulated the people to 
multiply their efforts to retrench expenses. Leading cit- 
izens of New York and Boston, as well as of Philadelphia, 
signed resolutions not to purchase or eat lamb, and to boy- 
cott any butcher who sought to counteract the resolutions.^ 

^ Frothingham, Rise of Republic, p. 188. 

"^Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at 
Nezv York, in MDCCLXV, On the Subject of the Stamp Act (1767). 
The petition to the House of Commons is especially explicit on these 
points. 

» Weyler's N. Y. Gaz., Feb. 10, 17, I7^; Bos. Post-Boy, Apr. 8, 1765^ 
Mch. 10, 1766; Pa. Gaz., Feb. 13, 1766. 



. FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM yy 

I The movement for simpler mourning, so popular farther 
> north, now spread to Philadelphia/ Articles in newspapers 
advocated the superiority of sage, sassafras and balm to the 
enervating beverage of tea." The New York Society for 
the Promotion of Arts, Agriculture and Oeconomy now 
reached the zenith of its activity, increasing its list of 
premiums for local manufactures, establishing spinning 
schools, and conducting a fortnightly market for the sale of 
New York manufactures. The ser\nce of the society in en- 
couraging flax culture and linen manufacture was of more 
than temporary importance. In the making of linen, more 
than three hundred persons were employed from the middle 
of 1765 to the close of 1766.^ Philadelphia took over the 
idea of a market, and three times a week linens, shalloons, 
flannels, ink-powder and other wares of Pennsylvania fabri- 
cation were offered for sale. Nearly two hundred poor 
women were employed in spinning flax in the factory.* In 
Rhode Island the thrifty maids and matrons improved the 
shining hours by gathering in groups and spinning, usually 
" from Sunrise to Dark." The maids of Providence and 
Bristol displayed the extent of their resolution by bravely 
agreeing to admit the addresses of no man who favored the 
Stamp Act.^ 

It did not take the Americans long to perceive that their 
: measures of economic self-preservation might be capitdized 
/ to good advantage as political arguments for the repeal of 
L4he obnoxious laws. In face of the fact that British im- 
ports were rapidly diminishing from natural causes, news- 

^ Pa. Journ., May 16, Sept. 12, 1765; Pa. Gaz., Jan. 9, 1766. 

* Pa. Journ., May 9, 1765; N. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, May 30. 

' iV. Y. Journ., Dec. 17, 31, 1767. 

^ Pa. Journ., Nov. 28, 1765, Jan. 23, 1766; The Record of the Cele- 
bration of the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Franklin (Hays, I. M., 
ed.), vol. ii, p. 57. 

^Newport Merc., Apr. 14, May 12, 1766; .Y. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, 
J\pr. 3, 1766; A Prov. Gas., Aug. 24, 1765. 






! y% THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

^^^SLpQT writers in New York and Connecticut urged in Sep- 
tember, 1765, that the people should abstain from the use 
of British manufactures until the trade restrictions and 
taxes were removed!^ About the same time, a number of 
Bos"ton'merchants, in writing for spring goods, ordered 
them to be sent only w^hen the Stamp Act should be re- 
pealed.^ But to New York belongs the credit of taking the 
first formal action for thelSbycotting of British goods. 
Four days before the Stamp Act was to go into operation, 
,--— most of the gentlemen of New^ York signed an agree- 
^ ' ment to buy no European wares until the Sugar Act should 
be altered, trade conditions relieved and the Stamp Act re- 
^ pealed. Three days later the merchants held a general meet- 
ing and agreed to make all pasland juturejQxders- for British 
merchandise contingent upon the repeal of the Stamp Act. 
,/ Such merchants as w^efe shipowaiers were to be permitted 
to bring their vessels back to port with cargoes of coal, 
grindstones or other bulky articles. Two hundred merch- 
ants affixed their signatures to the agreement. In order to 
protect the merchants from the unrestricted importers of 
other provinces, the retail dealers of the city bound them- 
, selves to buy no goods whatsoever which should be shipped 
/ from Great Britain after January i, 1766, until the repeal 
,' of the Stamp Act.^ The merchants of Albany agreed unani- 
\ mously to accept the New York resolutions.^ 

^A^. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Sept. 12, 1765; Conn. Gas., Sept. 13. 

2 5^j_ £^^_ po^t^ Sept^ 23, 1765 ; also .V. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Sept. 26. 

'iV. Y. Merc, Oct. 28, 31, Nov. 11, 1765; A^. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, 
Nov. 7. A London newspaper of Dec. 17 noted: "We hear that the 
merchants upon 'change on Wednesday last received upwards of one 
hundred letters from New- York, countermanding their orders for 
goods." Newport Merc, Feb. 24, 1766. Colden said of the non-impor- 
tation agreement, that " the people in America will pay an extravagant 
price for old moth eaten Goods, and such as the Merchants could not 
otherwise Sell." Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 78. 

* Weyler's A''. Y. Gaz., Jan. 27, 1766. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 



79 



The merchants of Philadelphia got under way about a 
Veek after New York. With a prefatory statement that 
the trading difficulties were due to " the Restrictions, Pro- 
hibitions, and ill advised Regulations, made in the several 
Acts of the Parliament of Great-Britain, lately passed " and 
that they regarded the Stamp Act as the last straw, they 
united in an agreement similar to that of the New Yorkers/^ 
More than four hundred merchants and traders signed the 
agreement, and a committee was appointed to observe its ex- 
ecution and to report violations to the body of subscribers. 
Printed forms for countermanding former orders were^ 
distributed to every local merchant.' The merchants also 
sent a memorial to the merchants and manufacturers of 
Great Britain, urging their assistance in the repeal of the 
Stamp Act and the removal of commercial restrictions, 
particularly the restraints on paper currency, the mo- 
lasses duty, the prohibition of the exportation of bar 
iiron to foreign ports in Europe, the heavy duties on Ma- 
?deira, and the requirement that European wines and fruits 
■must be imported by way of Great Britain.^ The retailers 
of Philadelphia supported the merchants by refusing to buy 
any goods, shipped from Great Britain after January i,' 
1766, except those approved by the merchants' committee. 

^ Local shipowners were permitted to include in the return cargo of 
their vessels from abroad dye-stuffs and utensils for manufacturing, as 
well as bulky articles. The agreement was limited to May i, 1766, 
when another meeting should consider the advisability of continuing it. 
Pa. Jotirn., Nov. 14, 21, 1765; also N. Y. Merc, Nov. 25. The original 
copy of the agreement, in the library of the Historical Society of Penn- 
sylvania, contains the signatures of all the subscribers. 

- For samples of conditional orders of Philadelphia merchants, vide 
letters of Benjamin Marshall, Pa. Mag., vol. xx, pp. 209-211, and of 
Charles Thomson, N. Y. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ix, pp. 6-8. 

^ Pub. Rec. Off., C. 0. 5, no. 114 (L. C. Transcripts), pp. 161-169; Pa, 
Gaz., Nov. 28, 1765; Pa. Mag., vol. xx, p. 211. 



go THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1762-1776 

The principal backcountry dealers cheerfully acquiesced 
_. in this regulation. 

On December 9, 1765, the merchants of Boston drew up a 
formal agreement to import no goods from England until 
the Stamp Act should be repealed, except utensils for manu- 
facturing, certain bulky articles, and articles absolutely 
necessary for the fishery. Two hundred and fifty merchants 
and traders quickly signed.^ Salem and Marblehead, the 
)orts of next importance, came into the same measure, and, 
soon after, Plymouth and Newbury. - 

Only a few instances of enforcement are recorded in the 
case of the several provinces, a fact which indicates lack 
of infraction and not an absence of zeal. Money was 
tight; business men in Great Britain and America were 
retrenching. It has already been suggested that the non- 
importation agreements derived their im.portance less as 
economic measures than as political protests. Indeed, mort 
than three months before the first non-importation agree- 
ment had been signed, London houses had begun to notice 
a sharp falling-off of American orders, due to the hard times 
from which the colonies wxre suffering. Thus, a Londor 
concern stated on July 5, 1765 that " so few and so smal 
are the orders from America . . . that the ships latel) 
sailed thither have not had half their lading." ^ It was 
^estimated in England that, for the entire summer, Americar 
/' r^^ commissions for English goods were £600,000 less than hac 
^ \ . been known for thirty years, and that the fall orders hac 
j not been so sm.all " in the memory of man." * Britisl 

V — ^ 1 The agreement was limited to May i, 1766, when it might be re 
newed. Bos. Post-Boy, Dec. 9, 16, 23, 1765. For orders of Hancock ii 
accordance with this agreement, nide Brown, John Hancock His Book 
pp. 103, 106, 108, 112, 114, 115, 117. 

2 Adams, J., Works, vol. ii, p. 176. 

3 Pa. Gas., Sept. 12, 1765. Vide also ih'id., Oct. 24. 

^ Paid., Jan. 2, 1766. Jlde also ibid., Feb. 27; Bos. Eve. Post, Feb. i/ 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 8 1 

merchants in comparing accounts were alarm.ed at the ex- 
tent of their debts, and, knowing the precarious state of 
c.ljnial commerce, they contracted their credits to the seri- 
ous embarrassment of their American correspondents/ In 
November, a London house declared that more bills from 
America had been protested within six months than in the 
preceding six 3-ears.^ On the other hand, the Boston Post- 
Boy of December 23, 1765 declared: " A Merchant of the 
first Rank in the Town Re-ship'd in one of the last Vessels 
for London above £300 Sterling worth of Goods on Ac- 
count of Money's being so scarce that they would not vend." 
The adoption of non-importation agreements added no new 
difficulty to the situation already existing. 

The first attempt to introduce forbidden British mer- 
chandise occurred at Philadelphia. A Liverpool brig ar- 
rived there with goods debarred by the merchants' agree- 
ment. The Committee of Merchants took the matter in 
hand and ordered that the goods be locked up until news 
of the repeal of the Stamp Act should arrive.^ A little 
later the Prince George arrived at New York with goods 
from Bristol, shipped on account of the British owners. 
At the demand of the '' Sons of Liberty," the goods were 
delivered into their care, to be returned to Bristol at first 
opportunity.* 

^ "A Merchant" in Public Ledger, Apr. i, 1765; letter from London, 
A^ H. Gas., Nov. 22; Burke in Bos. Chron., June 26, 1769; R. I. Com- 
merce, vol, i, pp. 168-169, 172-173. On the basis of statements from the 
merchants of London, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. 
Trecothick, a leading London merchant in American trade, told a com- 
mittee of Parhament in February, 1766, that the American debts to 
those cities amounted to more than £4,450,000. Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., 
no. 33030 (L. C. Transcripts), ff. 88, 104. 

' Pa. Ga3., Feb. 6, 1766. Vide also petition of London merchants to 
House of Commons, Jan. 17, 1766. Pari. Debates, vol. xvi, pp. 133-135. 

^ Pa. Gas., Apr. 24, 1766. 

* iV. Y. Merc, Apr. 28, 1766. 



82 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Two Other ports, one of which was not bound by any 
formal agreement of non-importation apphed the prin- 
ciple of the secondar}^ boycott to ports where the stamp tax 
was being paid. The country people at Newburyport at- 
tempted to prevent the sailing of a schooner for Halifax ; and 
when other means failed, they informed the customs officers 
of irregularities in her cargo and occasioned a seizure of 
the vessel.^ At Charleston, S. C, the fire company, com- 
posed of radicals, agreed that no provision should be shipped 
" to that infamous Colony Georgia in particular nor any 
other that make use of Stamp Paper," on penalty of death 
for the offenders, if they persisted in error, and the burnings 
of the vessel. A schooner, laden with rice for Georgia, 
attempted to put to sea by night; but the master and the 
owner were stopped by a threat that the letter of the reso- 
lution would be carried out, and they discharged the cargo." 

About the middle of 1766, official news reached the 
colonies that Parliament had given heed to the American 
situation and had made sweeping alterations in the trade 
and revenue laws of 1764- 1765. This had come as the 
result of a combination of circumstances, fortuitous and 
natural, which had spelled victor}^ for the colonists.^ Lead- 
ing among these circumstances were the distress of the 
British merchants, manufacturers and workingmen, and the 
examination of Dr. Franklin before the House of Commons. 
Figures at the London custom house showed that English 
exportations to the commercial colonies had declined from 
£1,410,372 in 1764 to £1,197,010 in 1765 ; and from £515,- 

^ A^ H. Gaz., Jan. 10, 1766. 

^Newport Merc, Mch. 17, 31, 1766; S. C. Gaz., Feb. 25; Pa. Journ., 
Mch. 20. 

'Hodge, H. H., "Repeal of Stamp Act," Pol. Sci. Quar., vol. xix^ 
pp. 252-276. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 83 

192 to £383,224 to the tobacco colonies — a loss which was 
far from being offset by an increase from £324,146 to 
£363,874 in the exportations to North Carolina and the 
rice colonies/ Dr. Frankhn had laid bare the economic 
reasons for the American commotions, declaring them to V, 
be " the restraints lately laid on their trade, by which the / 
bringing of foreign gold and silver into the Colonies was 
prevented; the prohibition of making paper money among 
themselves; and then demanding a new and heavy tax by 
stamps; taking away, at the same time, trials by jury, and 
refusing to receive and hear their humble petitions." ^ 

Whether or not Franklin's analysis was a complete state- 
ment of the case, the remedial legislation of Parliament 
:ollowed generally the lines indicated by him. The first f^i 

step taken was the total repeal of the Stamp Act, upon an/j '"^^^ 
understanding, embodied in the accompanying Declaratory 
Act, that Parliament, nevertheless, possessed authority tO' 
bind the colonies " in all cases whatsoever." ^ When Sec- 
retary Conway communicated this news to the colonial gov- 
ernors in a letter of March 31, 1766, he assured them that 
Parliament would at once undertake to " give to the Trade 
& Interests of America every Relief which the true State of 
their Circumstances demands or admits." * A second letter 
of June 12, signed by the Duke of Richmond as secretary, 
announced the accomplishment of this latter object — that 
" those Grievances in Trade which seemed to be the first 
and chief Object of their Uneasiness have been taken into 
the most minute Consideration, & such Regulations have 

^ Bos. Chron., Jan. 30, 1769. 

2 Writings (Smith), vol. iv, p. 420. 

'6 George III, c. 11 and c. 12. 

* T N. J. Arch., vol. ix, pp. 550-552. As early as Feb. 14, Henry 
Cruger had written with the assurance of one who knew the facts that 
the molasses duty would be reduced to one penny. R. I. Commerce,^ 
vol. i, p. 143. 



c;, THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

been established as will, it is hoped, restore the Trade of 
America . . ." ^ 

The new regulations of Parliament did indeed remove 
the chief economic objection to the restrictive act of 1764.' 
The threepenny duty on foreign molasses was taken off 
and in its place a very low duty of one penny a gallon waj 
substituted upon all molasses, whether imported from Brit- 
ish or foreign possessions. The high duties on foreign sugai 
were retained; but the cost of British West Indian sugai 
was reduced by removing the long-established export duties 
at the islands. It was provided, for the discouragement oi 
smuggling, that all sugars exported to Great Britain fron 
the continental colonies should be classed as '' French ' 
and charged with higher duties accordingly. 

It was further enacted that all colonial products, whethei 
" enumerated " or not, must thereafter be entered at ar 
English port, if destined for a European port north of Cap( 
Finisterre (other than the Spanish ports in the Bay o: 
Biscay). The imposts on foreign textiles that had beer 
collected upon importation into America were in the futur< 
to be collected at the time of exportation from England 
The export duties on British colonial pimento and coffee 
were replaced by low duties upon their importation int( 
other British colonies. 

The new duty on molasses met the wishes of the agent: 
of the continental colonies; and it w^ould appear that th( 
merchants of Boston, so vitally concerned, had intimatec 

1 / A'. /. Arch., vol. ix, pp. 553-554- 

2 6 George III, c. 52. The British West Indies had been suffering 
hard times also, and Parliament passed special legislation at this timi 
with a view of reheving the distress there ; 6 George III, c. 49, for thi 
establishment of free ports at Jamaica and Dominica. Vide Edwards 
B., The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in thi 
West Indies (London, I793), vol. i, pp. 239-243. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 85 

in advance their willingness to accept suck a reduction/ 
It was understood that the rum business of the commercial 
provinces could easily support a small tax. Franklin be- 
lieved that the new regulations afforded " reasonable relief 
... in our Commercial grievances " ^ and the Rhode Island 
agent wrote, even more exuberantly, to the governor of 
Rhode Island that " every grievance of which you com- 
plained is now absolutely and totally removed, — a joyful 
and happy event for the late disconsolate inhabitants of 
America." ^ 

If the colonists had been more intent on their theoretical 
rights than on immediate business concessions, the keener 
minds would have perceived that rejoicing was premature. 
Far more ominous to American liberties than the Declara- 
tory Act was the fact that the new molasses duty applied 
to all molasses imported, British as well as foreign. By no 
possible interpretation could it be construed in any other \ 
light than a tariff for revenue. It was an unvarnished con- t 
tradiction of the colonial claim to '' no taxation without ' 
representation." 

However, the remedial legislation of 1766 was received 
in America with great popular satisfaction. Measures 

^ Beer, British Colonial Policy, 17 54-1765, p. 279; / M. H. S. Colls., 
vol. vi, p. 193 ; Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 261 n. ; Quincy, Mass, 
Reports, p. 435 ; Brit. Mus., Egerton Mss., no. 2671 (L. C. Transcripts) ; 
Sagittarius's Letters, no. xix, pp. 84-88. Dennys de Berdt, agent of the 
Massachusetts House of Representatives, informed Lord Halifax that 
a duty of one penny on molasses, " colected with the good will of the 
people, will produce more neat money than 3 pence collected by the 
dint of Officers." Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. xiii, p. 430. Dickin:on 
had said in his powerful arraignment of " the late regulations " that 
" we should willingly pay a m.oderate duty upon importations from the 
French and Spaniards, without attempting to run them." IVritings 
(Ford), vol. i, p. 224. 

^ Writings (Smyth), vol. iv, p. 411. 

' R. I. Col. Recs., vol. vi, pp. 491-493. 



g5 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

against the use and importation of British goods collapsed. 
The widespread enthusiasm for local manufacturing greatly 
diminished or entirely vanished. The New York Society 
for the Promotion of Arts, Agriculture and Oeconomy de- 
clined temporarily into a comatose state/ The majority of 
the people again bowed to the custom of expensive funerals 
and lavish mourning. At a public entertainment in Phila- 
delphia, the citizens resolved unanimously to give their 
homespun to the poor and on June the fourth, the king's 
birthday, to dress in new suits of English fabrication.^ 
When news of the repeal of the Stamp Act reached Boston, 
Hancock wrote : " You may rest assured that the people 
in this country will exert themselves to show^ their Loyalty 
& attachment to Great Britain " and he promised his " best 
Influence & endeavors to that purpose." ^ Charles Thom- 
son, of Philadelphia, wrote to Franklin of " a heartfelt joy, 
seen in every Eye, read in every Countenance; a Joy not 
expressed in triumph but with the warmest sentiments of 
Loyalty to our King and a grateful acknowledgment of 
the Justice and tenderness of the mother Country." * 

The generality of the merchants in the commercial 
provinces were not so unreservedly gratified by the action 
of Parliament. Important concessions had been made in 
response to the American propaganda; indeed, the leading 
grievances had been removed. Yet trade had not been re- 
stored to the footing which it had enjoyed before the pass- 

^ A". Y. Journ., Dec. 17, 24, 1767. During the Townshend Acts, as 
we shall see, the society revived its activities, and traces of its proceed- 
ings may be found in the Journal as late as Mch. 29, 1770. 

^ Pa. Gaz., May 22, 1766; Franklin Bicentennial Celebration, vol. ii, 
pp. 58-59. Weyler's N. Y. Gazette, May 26, 1766, suggested that this 
action proceeded from the desire of the anti-proprietary party to curry 
favor with the king. 

^ Brown, John Hancock His Book, pp. 124-12S. 

* .V. F. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. xi, p. 16. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 87 

age of the laws of 1764 and 1765. To that extent, the 
merchants had fallen short of their goal. 

In Novemberi, 1766, the New York merchants summed 
up their outstanding grievances in a petition to the House 
of Commons, containing two hundred and forty signatures.^ 
In the following January, the merchants of Boston followed 
their example.^ These two papers covered substantially 
the same ground. The Bostonians seized this early op- 
portunity to deny that rum could be profitably distilled from 
molasses that bore a duty amounting to practically ten per 
cent ad valorem, as did the one-penny duty. They also 
protested against the administrative regulations of 1764, 
declaring that one part of them made the proper registra- 
tion of a vessel an expensive and tedious process, and that 
another part granted naval officers autocratic powers of 
seizure, together with protection from damage suits. ^ The 

^ Weyler's A^. Y. Gas., May 4, 1767; Pitt, Wm., Correspondence 
(London, 1838), vol. iii, p. 186. Vide also the statement of "Americus," 
•copied into Weyler's A^. Y. Gaz., Jan, 19, 1767, from a London news- 
paper. 

' M. H. S, Mss.: gi L, pp. 27, 31 ; Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. xiii, pp. 
451-452. 

* The New Englanders had a special grievance, which was of first 
importance while it lasted. In 1765 Governor Palliser, of Newfound- 
land, had prevented American fishermen from taking cod off Labrador 
and in the Strait of Belle Isle. His action was based upon a narrow 
interpretation of the statutes relating to the Newfoundland fisheries, 
and upon a belief that a smuggling trade was being carried on with the 
French of Miquelon and St. Pierre. A petition of the Massachusetts 
House of Representatives, presented about this time, asked for an act 
of Parliament to prevent such restraints in the future. The ministry 
would not concede this ; but in March, 1767, they agreed to revise Pal- 
liser's instructions so as to preclude any further interruption of the 
legitimate fishing-trade. This action apparently settled the matter 
satisfactorily. Ihid., pp. 447-448, 451-452; 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, pp. 
347-348; 5 M. H. S. Colls., vol. ix, pp. 219-220; Andrews, " Boston Mer- 
chants and Non-Importation Movement," Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. 
xix, pp. 173-174. 



gg THE CGLGXIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

New Yorkers, on the other hand, stood alone in their conten- 
tion that the exclusion of foreign rum from the colonies 
was a hardship, averring that it was a necessary article of 
exchange at the Danish West Indies particularly. 

On most points the two petitions were in essential agree- 
ment. The high duty on foreign sugar was said to elim- 
inate it as an article of trade, although it was a commodity 
frequently used to fill out a return cargo. This excessive 
duty, said the New York merchants, '' had induced the 
Fair Trader to decline that Branch of Business, while it 
presents an irresistable Incentive to Smuggling to People 
less scrupulous." The requirement that all sugars exported 
to Great Britain from the continental colonies should be 
classed as '' French " was said to prevent a valuable return 
to Great Britain for her manufactures. The high duty 
on Madeira wine was objected to as a discouragement to its 
importation into America and, therefore, to the exportation 
of American foodstuffs and lumber to the Wine Islands. 
The requirement as to the importation of fruit and wine from 
Spain and Portugal was again held up as a grievance.^ The 
new regulation, which required all outgoing commodities to 
be entered at a British port before going on to European 
ports north of Finisterre, was said to increase the cost of 
voyages unduly and preclude the competition of colonial 
merchants in European markets. The exportation of for- 
eign logwood and of colonial lumber, provisions and flax- 
seed was especially affected by this restriction. 

Of the grievances here enumerated, the regulations 
against smuggling had already begun to prove less irksome 

^ In 1767, Townshend desired to remove this grievance, but was un- 
successful. It was urged that a direct trade between Portugal and 
America would be a hazardous relaxation of the acts of trade. 5 M. 
H. S., vol. ix. pp. 231, 236; Pa. Gaz., July 16, 1767. 



FIRST CONTEST FOR REFORM 89 

in practice than they appeared on paper/ Thus, in 1764, 
y'the Rhode Island legislature had forbidden the governor toi 

jl administer the oaths to British customs officials, and the 
latter had been forced to suspend operations. In 1765, a 
customs collector in Maryland had been violently assaulted ; 
and in Massachusetts and New York, the officials were 
afraid to execute the laws after the Stamp Act riots. For 
the future, the necessity for smuggling seemed somewhat 
lessened by the radical reduction of the niiolasses duty. 

One grievance had not been included by the petitioners — 
the failure of Parliament tO' provide relief for the currency 
situation. The colonial merchants had probably placed 
reliance upon the assurance of the London merchants, com- 
miunicated the preceding June, that the government, after 
much deliberation, had concluded to postf>one a regulation 

' of colonial paper money until the colonies could be consulted 
upon a scheme for a general paper currency upon an inter- 
colonial basis. ^ Unfortunately, however, nothing was to 

*- come of this plan f and the money stringency, though some- 

*Beer, British Colonial Policy, 17 54-1765, pp. 301-302; Arnold, S. G., 
History of Rhode Island (New York, i860), vol. ii, pp. 257-259; Col- 
den, Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 124. 

2 Pa. Gas., Aug-. 21, 1766, also Weyler's N. Y. Gaz., Aug. 25; New- 
port Merc, Sept. i ; Bos. Post-Boy, Sept. i ; A^. H. Gas., Sept. 4. 
Franklin had confidently expected action from Parliament on this sub- 
ject while revision of the trade laws was being undertaken. Writings 
(Smyth), vol. iv, p. 411. 

'The dilatory course of the British government in this matter seems 
scarcely excusable. The British merchants in the Am.erican trade, with 
the backing of the colonial agents, worked for the repeal of the Cur- 
rency Act of 1764, and proposed a plan by which colonial bills of credit 
should be legal tender for everything except sterling debts payable in 
Great Britain. The ministry refused in 1767 to listen to this plan, 
partly because of irritation over New York's cavalier treatment of the 
Quartering Act. Pa. Gas., Apr. 9, 1767; Pa. Joitrn., Apr. 22, July 30. 
In the same year Grenville proposed in Parliament a plan for a gen- 
eral paper currency which was intended as a means of increasing the 



QO THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

what relieved by the reopening of trade with the foreign 
West Indies, was to become increasingly distressing in the 
next three or four years as the redemption periods of the 
outstanding paper money arrived and the volume of legal 
tender thereby became greatly contracted. Thus, the real 
trial in New York began with the redemption of its paper 
money in November, 1768.^ In these later years, com- 
plaints of the scarcity of money came chiefly from the prov- 
inces outside of New England, and were voiced by govern- 
ors, newspaper writers and legislative petitions.^ Many 
sagacious men of the time believed that the British govern- 
ment was guilty of grave injustice, particularly in the case 
of those provinces where the power to issue legal-tender 
money had never been abused.* 

American revenue. This did not receive serious consideration. 5 M. 
H. S. Colls., vol. ix, p. 231. New York was given relief from the severe 
money stringency by a special act of 1770: 10 George III, c. 35. Fin- 
ally, an act of 1773 (13 George III, c. 57) permitted colonial paper 
money to be received as a legal tender for payment of colonial duties, 
taxes, etc. Vide infra, pp. 243-244. 

^ Becker, C. L., The History of Political Parties in the Province of 
New York, 1760-17/6 (Univ. Wis. Bull, no, 286), pp. 65-71, 77-79, 88, 
95, and references. 

2 E. g,, N. Y. Col Docs., vol. viii, pp. 175-176; i N. J. Arch., vol. xvlii, 
p. 46; "Mercator" in Pa. Journ., Sept. 14, 1769; Brit. Papers C Sparks 
MssJ'), vol. ii, pp. 184-186, 220-225, 263-267. Vide also Franklin, Writ- 
ings (Sm3rth), vol. V, pp. 71-73- 

' For a statement of the case of New York, vide 4 M. H. S. Colls., 
vol. X, pp. 520-521; of Pennsylvania, Franklin, Writings (Smyth), vol. 
V, pp. 1-14. 



CHAPTER III 

The Second Movement for Commercial Reform 
(1767- I 770) 

Although the colonial merchants had won their chief de- 
mands in their contest with Parliament, they had yet fallen 
short, in several respects, of attaining their ultimate goal, 
i. e. a restoration of the commercial system as it existed in 
the days before 1764. This purpose was the objective of 
the mercantile provinces in the subsequent years, and was 
relinquished by them only when it became apparent that 
their agitation for commercial redress was unloosing social 
forces more destructive to business interests than the mis- 
guided acts of Parliament. The typical merchant cared little 
about academic controversies over theoretical right ; but he 
was vitally concerned in securing every practicable conces- 
sion he could without endangering the stability of the 
empire. Paul Wentworth, in writing his " Minutes re- 
specting political Parties in America " in 1778, took care to 
differentiate the merchant class from all other groups of 
malcontents in the period leading tO' the Revolutionary War. 
After showing their purpose, he made it clear that their 
influence controlled a very large majority of the people 
throughout the provinces at the outset.^ The ultimate 
success of the merchants depended upon their ability to 
retain this position of leadership, to control public opinion 
in America, and to direct the course of oppO'sition. 

The experience of the years 1764- 1766 gave the merchant 
class food for sober reflection. Intent on making out a 

1 Stevens, Facsimiles, vol, v, no. 487. 

91 



02 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

complete case for themselves, they had, in their zeal, over- 
reached themselves in calling to their aid the unruly elements 
of the population. These unprivileged classes had never 
before been awakened to a sense of their muscular influence 
in community affairs; and, under the name oif '^ Sons of 
Liberty," they had instinctively stretched out for alliance 
with their brethren in other cities/ Dimly the merchants 
began to perceive the danger of an awakened self-conscious 
group of the radical elements; well might they be apprehen- 
sive, as Golden recorded, '' whether the Men who excited 
this seditious Spirit in the People have it in their power to 
'suppress it." ^ Men of large propertied interests were un- 
doubtedly more sensitive to the danger than were the smaller 
merchants ; some of the f onmer had exhorted the people of 
New York city against " mob government " whixc- the Stamp^ 
Act riots were still under way.^ 

- The violence of the colonial propaganda had alienated 
from the mercantile side such influential men; as Governor 
Bernard and Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson, of Massa- 
chusetts,* and had cooled the ardor of such important fig- 
ures as Dulany, of Maryland, and Joseph Galloway, of 

* Ramifications of the Sons of Liberty were to be found in New 
York, Albany and other New York towns, in Philadelphia, Boston, 
Providence, Portsmouth, several towns of Connecticut and New Jersey, 
and in Baltimore and Annapolis. Becker, N. Y. Parties, pp. 46-48. 

' Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 99. Vide also p. iii. Even Charles Thom- 
son, the Philadelphia merchant, hoped that the whole people would not 
be credited with the " acts of some individuals provoked to madness 
and actuated by despair." A^, Y. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. xi, p. 16. The 
merchants of Brunswick, N. J., apologized to the Committee of Mer- 
chants of London for the "riots or tumults" as being "the follies of 
less considerate men " than themselves, i N. J. Arch., vol. xxv, pp. 
23S-237. 

^ Becker, vY. Y. Parties, chap. ii. 

4 An excellent modern example of the same type of mind may be 
found by reading Peabody, A. P.. " Boston Mobs before the Revolu- 
tion," Atl. Monthly, vol. Ixii, pp. 321-333- 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 



93 



Pennsylvania/ For the future, the merchants as a class 
^vere resolved to rely upon orderly methods of protest — 
memorials and the boycott. A first step had been taken by 
the merchants of New York and Boston, in accordance with 
this new policy, by the sending of petitions to Parliament 
for trade redress in the winter of 1 766- 1767." 

Such was the situation when Parliament made its next 
attempt to reorganize British imperial policy. The new 
plan found its justification in the fact that colonial theorists 
had, as yet, discovered nothing " unconstitutional " or 
" tyrannical " in revenue duties collected at American ports. 
The recent molasses duty was the best, but not the only, ex- 
ample of the willingness of Americans to pay an " external 
tax " without protest.^ Charles Townshend was, thus, act- 
ing within the best traditions of British practical statesman- 
ship, whcxi he proposed to build a revenue act based upon 
the colonists' own views, of the powers of Parliament. 

Townshend's policy, enacted as the will of Parliament 
about the middle of 1767, not only dealt with taxation, but 
,also proposed to strengthen the customs service where re- 
cent experience had shown it to be inadequate. A third 
measure, designed to meet a temporary emergency, was the 
suspension of the legislative functions of the New York 
Assembly until that body should comply with all the pro- 
visions of the Quartering Act."^ 

^ Galloway's biographer analyzes the character of his propertied in- 
terests and then adds : " He feared the tyranny of mob rule more than 
the tyranny of ParHament." Baldwin, E? H., " Joseph Galloway," Pa. 
Mag., vol. xxvi, pp. 163-164, 289-294. 

- Vide supra, pp. 87-88. 

^ The colonists also paid revenue duties on enumerated goods im- 
ported from another British colony (25 Charles II. c, 7), on coffee 
and pimento imported from British possessions (6 George III, c. 52), 
and on imported wines (4 George III, c. 15). 

* It is not necessary to recount here this famihar episode. The mer- 



C,4 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

, The revenue feature of Townshend's policy was accom- 
plished by adding a list of po ft duties to those already in 
force. The following articles were to be taxed at the time 
of their landing in America: five varieties of glass, red and 
white lead, painters' colors, sixty-seven grades of paper, and 
tea/ All these articles were British manufactures, except 
tea, w^hich was handled by the greatest British monopoly of 
./the times, the East India Company. The imposition of 

/ -the three-penny tea tax in America was accompanied by the 
, remission of the duty paid at the time that the tea was im- 
ported into Great Britain, the object being to enable dutied 
tea to undersell any tea that was smuggled into the colonies.- 
One portion of the revenue act was designed " for more 
effectually preventing the clandestine running of goods. . /' 
With this purpose in view, it was provided that the revenue 

' produced by the duties should be used to free the judges and 
civil officers in such colonies as *' it shall be found neces- 
sary " from financial dependence on the local legislatures. 
More immediately to the point, express legalization was 
given to the hitherto questionable practice of the colonial 
supreme courts in issuing writs of assistance to customs 
officials. By means of these writs, customs officers were to 
receive power to search for contraband goods in any house 
or shop, and, in case of resistance, to break open doors, 
chests, etc., and seize the goods in question. 

Other regulations were designed to strengthen the ad- 
ministrative side of the customs service.^ These made 

. chant class were not interested in this act of Parliament; and in the 
various non-importation agreements adopted later, this law was not 
once named for repeal. 

^ 7 George III, c. 46. 

' 7 George III, c. 56. The East India Company was required to make 
good any deficiency in the revenues which might result from the dis- 
continuance of certain tea duties. Farrand, Max, " Taxation of Tea., 
i767-iy72>" Am. Hist. Rev., vol. iii, pp. 266-269. 

' 7 George III, c. 41. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 9^ 

possible the establishment of a board of commissioners of 
the customs at Boston, with entire charge of the collection of 
customs throughout the continent as well as at Bermuda and 
the Bahamas. The commissioners were given power to 
place the customs service on a basis of comparative effic- 
iency. Disputes, which had hitherto been carried to the 
Commissioners of the Customs at London for settlement, 
were to be determined by this new American board with 
much less trouble, delay and expense to the parties con- 
cerned. 

Certain changes in the interest of greater efficiency were " 
also made in the system of colonial courts of vice-admiralty.^ 
In addition to the courts already existing in the several ^ 
provinces, vice-admiralty courts of large powers were es- 
tablished at Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston with orig- 
inal jurisdiction over the capture of vessels in their respec- 
tive districts and with appellate jurisdiction over the 
subordina^te vice-admiralty courts. 

The situation in which the merchants of the commercial 
provinces found themselves in the latter months of 1767 
was not unlike their situation in the latter part of 1764, 
save that on this later occasion Philadelphia did not seem to 
be as greatly affected as the other ports. Again, the mer- 
chants were confronted with trade restrictions — some of 
them hanging over from 1764 — which reduced business 
profits. Again, they faced new and rigorous regulations y 
against smuggling, regulations which betokened a serious- 
ness of purpose on the part of the government which was 
not open to misconstruction. And again, they perceived 
that the burden of seeking redress must fall upon; their own 
shoulders, the planters of the South being involved less 
directly and less obviously in the new legislation. 

^8 George III, c. 22. Vide also N. C. Col. Recs., vol. vii, pp. 459-460. 



C)6 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The determination of the merchants to conduct their 
campaign for redress along legal and peaceable lines was 
at once made manifest. On November 20, 1767, the day 
the Townshend acts became effective, James Otis, the lawyer 
of the Boston merchants, presided over a town meeting; 
and after telling the people that relief should be sought 
'' in a legal and constitutional way," he roundly denounced 
mob riots, even to the extent of declaring that " no possi- 
ble circumstances, though ever so oppressive, could be sup- 
posed sufficient to justify private tumults and disorders 
. . ." The selectmen, most of whom were merchants by 
trade, appealed to the people a few days later, in an article 
over their signatures, to avoid '' all outrage or lawless pro- 
ceeding " and stand firm " in a prudent conduct and cautious 
behaviour." ^ In a similar spirit, John Dickinson, the 
wealthy Pennsylvania lawyer, in his " Letters from a 
Farmer in Pennsylvania," published serially during the sub- 
sequent three months, took frequent and emphatic occasion 
to condemn '' turbulence and tumult " and to laud '' con- 
stitutional modes of obtaining relief."^ This was the spirit 
in which the second contest for commercial reform got 
under way. Had the conflict been of shorter duration, 
the desires of the leaders might have been realized. But the 
length of the contest, with the increasing restlessness and 
self-confidence of the radical elements, made the introduc- 
tion of mob methods inevitable. 

The course of opposition pursued by the merchants par- 

^ l^lde Bos. Post-Boy, Nov. 30, 1767, and Frothingham, Rise of Re- 
public, pp. 206-20S, for these and other instances. Vide also Hutchin- 
son, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 180-181. 

2 The twelve articles appeared originally in issues of the Pa. Chronicle 
from Dec. 2, 1767 to Feb. 15, 1768. For Dickinson's views on " hot, 
rash, disorderly proceedings," vide in particular Letter III; Writings 
(Ford), vol. i, pp. 322-328. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 07 

took of a double character. On the one hand, there were 
the activities of the smuggHng merchants, protected by 
popular opinion and bent upon the pursuit of gain in de- 
fiance of parliamentary restrictions. On the other hand, 
there stood the whole merchant class, confident of their 
power to coerce the nation of shopkeepers into concessions 
through exercise of the boycott, and prepared to develop 
this instrument beyond anything dreamed of during Stamp 
Act times. 

Smuggling proved to be the first channel through which 
violence was injected into the struggle. There occurred 
the usual vicious sequence: evasion of the law leading to 
defiance of the law, and defiance of the law breeding vio- 
lence. After the revision of the trade laws in 1766 and the 
passage of ITTelfew acts of 1767, the character of colonial 
contraband trade changed greatly. The running of mo- 
lasses, which had formerly formed the great bulk of illicit 
traffic, had been rendered considerably less profitable by 
the reduction of the duty.^ The Townshend duties, with 
a single exception, fell on articles manufactured in Great 
Britain; and inst^d of encouraging smuggling in these 
articles, served as a stimulus to their production in the 
colonies. 

The exception noted, the duty on tea, was so ingeniously 

^ Since the duty has been reduced, " the whole, tho' grievous, has 
been regularly paid." Observations of the Merchants at Boston upon 
Several Acts of Parliament, etc. (1770), pp. 29-30. It should further 
be noted that, beginning with the year 1768, a succession of temporary 
acts removed the prohibition from the exportation of American meats 
and butter to Great Britain, and sometimes from cereals and raw hides 
as well. E. g., vide 8 George III, c. 9; 9 George III, c. 39; 10 George 
III, c. I, c. 2; II George III, c. 8; 13 George III, c. i, c. 2, c. 3, c. 4, 
c. 5 ; 15 George III, c. 7. The passage of these acts made it less neces- 
sary for colonial merchants to seek in foreign markets commodities 
which might serve as remittances to England and thus reduce the 
temptation to smuggling. 



V'--' 



q8 the COLOXIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

contrived as to have the immediate effect of lowering the 
price of customed tea in America below that of any that 
could be smuggled from Holland or elsewhere/ This con- 
dition lasted until 1769 when the East India Company, 
hard pressed by creditors and seeking to recoup some of its 
losses, advanced the upset price of tea at the public auctions 
in Great Britain. This caused the exporting merchant, who 
bid in the tea, to raise the price to the American merchant,, 
and the American merchant to raise the price to the colonial 
retailer. So that the colonial consumer thereafter found 
it advantageous to drink Dutch tea; and tea smuggling be- 
gan to thrive.- 

Until that time, it would appear that the chief concern 
of the smugglers was the running of wine from Madeira 
and the Azores, a traffic vastly stimulated by the high duty 
demanded for legal importation.^ In view of the com- 
motions that resulted, one might add in supplementation 
of John Adams' remark concerning molasses that wine w^as 
another essential ingredient of American independence. 
The importation of Dutch, French and German manu- 
factures without stoppage at Great Britain, as required by 

^ Tea imported from Great Britain became ninepence cheaper per 
pound. Bos. Gas., Aug. 15, 1768; Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Dec. 19, 1774, 

^ Hutchinson to Hillsborough, Aug. 25, 1771, Bos. Gaz., Nov. 27, 1775. 
Vide infra, p. 250. 

'This duty was no less than seven pounds per tun under the act of 
1764. As Kelly, the New York merchant, told a committee of Parlia- 
ment, " wherever there is a great difference of Price, there will be a 
Daring Spirit to attempt [smuggling] notwithstanding all Preventions." 
Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., no. 33030 (L. C. Transcripts), f. 136. For ex- 
ample, an official report, made evidently for the Customs Board, stated 
that thirty vessels, entering at New York from Madeira and the Azores, 
had not entered sufficient goods to load one vessel. Ibid., no. 15484, f. 6. 
Colden said that few New York merchants were not engaged in con- 
traband trade and that " Whole Cargoes from Holland and Ship Loads 
of Wine " had been brought in without the payment of duties. Letter 
Books, vol. ii, pp. 133-134. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM C)^ 

law, probably continued much as before; and there may- 
have been a slight increase in the volume of the illicit export 
trade, due to the fact that after 1766 all American com- 
modities, shipped for European ports north of Cape Finis- 
terre, must first be entered at a British port. 

The continuance of smuggling after 1767 should not be 
made to argue the total failure of Townshend's endeavor 
to reform the customs administration. The Board of Cus- 
toms Commissioners at Boston performed a vastly creditable 
service in reducing peculation and laziness on the part of 
officials and in establishing a stricter system of coast con- 
trol. The number of customs employees was greatly in- 
creased — in the case of Philadelphia, trebled in the years 
1767-1770.^ Writs of assistance were more generally and 
more effectively used than at any earlier period. Revenue 
cutters were stationed at leading ports ; and smaller vessels, 
belonging to the navy and acting under deputation of the 
commissioners, searched out suspected ships in the numer- 
ous rivers and inlets. A representation of the Boston mer- 
chants, made in 1 770, declared that the Customs Board had 
employed upward* of twenty vessels that year, and that 
some of the captains had purchased small boats of their 
own to search in shallow waters." Undoubtedly the total 
volume of illicit trade was smaller after 1767 than at any 
period subsequent to the enactment of the Molasses Act in 
17335 ^ 3.nd this was due, in some degree, to the activities 
of the Customs Board.* 

^ Channing-, History of United States, vol. iii, pp. 88-89. 

^ Observations of the Merchants at Boston, etc., pp. 24-25. 

' On the other hand. Golden claimed, in November, 1767, and re- 
peatedly in the following months, that at New York " a greater quan- 
tity of Goods has been Run without paying Duties since the Repeal of 
the Stamp Act than had been done in ten years before." Letter Books, 
vol. ii, pp. 133-134, 138' 148, 153, 163, 172. 

* Note the table of penalties and seizures, quoted by Professor Chan- 



lOO ^^£ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Two conditions militated against the success of the Cus- 
toms Board in wiping out smugghng. One was the extent 
of the coastUne to be watched. The other was the active 
sympath}^ which the populace extended to the smugglers. 
The importance of this latter factor was shown by the 
peremptory treatment of those who were reckless enough 
to reveal to a customs officer the secret of their neighbors' 
prosperity. Thus, an informer cowered before a gathering 
of merchants and inhabitants of New Haven in September, 
1769, and humbly acknowledged his iniquity in attempting 
to inform against Mr. Timothy Jones, Jr., for " running 
of goods." ^ During the following month an informer at 
Boston was tarred and feathered and paraded through the 
principal streets ; ^ and three others of his kind in New 
York received similar treatment — " to the great Satisfac- 
tion of all the good Inhabitants of this City, and to the 
great Terror of evil doers," as one loyal New Yorker 
averred.^ 

Popular sympathy also produced collisions with the cus- 
toms officials. While in discharge of his duty, Jesse Saville, 
a tide waiter of the custom house at Providence, was viol- 

ning. op. cit., vol. iii, p. 89 n. Eloquent evidence of the prevalence of 
smuggling as late as 1770 is shown in a survey of the customs districts 
and ports, made, it would appear, for the Customs Board. This report 
is entitled, " Ports of North America." It shows clearly that wide 
stretches of coast were free from proper customs supervision and 
makes detailed recommendations for stricter oversight. Considerable 
smugghng is also alleged in the plantation provinces at this period 
Brit. Mus. Addl. Mss., no. 15484 (L. C. Transcripts). 

^ New London Gaz., Sept. 29, 1769; also Mass. Gaz. & News Letter, 
Oct. 5. 

"^ Ibid., Nov. 2, 9. 1769; Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 259-260. 

3 Mass. Gas. & News Letter, Oct. 12, 1769. Colden wrote in January, 
1768, to Grenville: "No man dare inform, so that whole cargoes have 
been run without entry in the Custom House." Letter Books, vol. ii, 
p. 153. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM lOi 

ently assaulted and then tarred and feathered, in 1769. A 
reward of fifty pounds sterHng for the perpetrators of this 
act was vainly offered by the Customs Board/ In July 
of the same year, a mob at Newport dismantled and burnt 
the revenue sloop Liberty, which had just brought into the 
harbor two vessels suspected of smuggling.^ " Both vessels 
that were seized have since proceeded on their respective 
voyages," noted the Newport Mercury laconically on July 
22. At Philadelphia, the revenue officials attempted in 
April, 1769, to get possession of about fifty pipes of Ma- 
deira wine that had been imported without payment of 
duties. Their efforts stirred up a mob which stole away the 
booty from under their very noses and maltreated some 
of the officers. Later, the merchants offered to restore 
the wine; and, after some delay, they returned "not near 
the Quantity that was taken " and, instead of Madeira, 
"no better than mean Fyall [Fayal]." A revenue em- 
ployee who had been active in this affair went to Boston 
to recuperate from his injuries, because, as he earnestly 
avowed, " I could not think of tarrying among a sett of 
People under my present circumstances whose greatest 
pleasure would be to have an oppo[rtunity] of burying 
me." ^ 

Even from the plantation provinces came echoes of in- 
dignation against the officiousness of customs officers and 
the new powers of the vice-admiralty courts. Infringe- 
ments of the acts of trade were comparatively rare in that 
portion of British America; and it was the boast of the. 

^ Arnold, Rhode Island, vol. ii, p. 294. 

"^ R. I. Col. Re£S., vol. vi, pp. 593-596; Gammel, W., Samuel Ward {2 
Lihr. Am. Biog., vol. ix), pp. 288-290. For instances of forcible im- 
portation in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, vide Weeden, Ec. and 
Sac. Hist, of New Engl., vol. ii, p. 762. 

^ 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. X, pp. 611-617. 



102 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



wealthy Charleston merchant and factor, Henry Laurens, 
that he had never intentionally violated them. Yet, in spite 
of the efforts of the Customs Board to secure higher admin- 
istrative efficiency, the customs officers at Charleston were 
unprincipled and corrupt; and the merchants of that port 
were subjected to petty tyrannies, from which the local 
vice-admiralty court afforded no relief. Laurens himself 
was put to great expense through the seizure on technical 
charges in 1767 and 1768, of three of his vessels, two of 
which were eventually released. A conservative from 
temperamental as well as business reasons, his emotions 
were, for the first time, deeply stirred to the defense of 
so-called x\merican liberties, and in 1769 he produced an 
able controversial pamphlet setting forth his new views 
under the title, So7ne General Observations on American 
custom house officers and Courts of Vice- Admiralty. 
Thoroughly academic and unemotional as he had been in 
his objections to the Stamp Act, he could write in 1769 to 
a London friend that " the enormous created powers vested 
in an American Court of Vice-Admiralty threatens future 
generations in America with a curse tenfold worse than 
the Stamp Act." ' 

The most important work performed by the Customs 
Board was the breaking of the power of the smugglers at 
Boston. This was accomplished only through a resort to 
extreme measures. In the years immediately following 
1766, there were a number of cases at Boston of forcible 
landing of contraband goods, of rescue of lawful seizures, 
and of mobbing of revenue officers." John Robinson, one 
of the Customs Board, in his testimony before the Privy 

^ For this incident, vide Wallace, Henry Laurens, pp. 137-149. Vide 
also Prov. Gas., Oct. 3, 1/67, July 23, 1768. 

'^ Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial, vol. v, no. 155. Vide also 
Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 188. 



J 



/ 

COMMERCIAL REFORM IO3 

Council in 1770, stated that he hesitated to say that ''the 
Disturbances may be properly called Riots, as the Rioters 
appear to be under Discipline." 

Feeling unable to cope with the situation, the Customs 
Board, in February, 1768, asked Commodore Hood at 
Halifax for a public vessel to protect them in the discharge 
of their functions. " We have every reason," they shid, 
'' to expect that we shall find it impracticable to enforce 
the execution of the revenue laws, until the hand of gov- 
ernment is properly strengthened. At present, there is not 
a ship-of-war in the province, nor a company of soldiers 
nearer than New York." ^ In answer to repeated requests, 
the man-of-war Roniney was stationed at Boston a few 
months later. The board now pressed for additional ships 
and for the presence of troops, but their requests failed of 
effect. 

Affairs came to a crisis a few months later, when John 
Hancock's sloop Liberty arrived in port from Madeira with 
a quantity of wine. A tidesman went on board and ob- 
jected to the landing of any wine until entry was made at 
the custom house; whereupon the fellow was heaved into 
the cabin and kept there while the cargo was expeditiously 
removed. On June 10, about a month later, the vessel was 
seized by order of the Customs Board. A crowd assembled 
and, in great uneasiness, watched the removal of the vessel 
to within gun-range of the Romney. Soon they lost their 
restraint; and, in the rioting that ensued, the custom-house 
officers were assaulted and the houses of several of them 
pelted, and other damage done." 

^ Bancroft, G., History of United States (Boston, 1876), vol. Iv, p. 75. 

"^ The Liberty was condemned by the vice-admiralty court. Bos. 
Chron., June 13, 1768; Sears, L., John Hancock (Boston, 1912), pp. iio- 
114; Brown, John Hancock His Book, p. 156; Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, 



104 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Alleging helplessness, the Customs Board retired to Castle 
William and again renewed their demand for troops. This 
time they had made good their case ; two regiments arrived 
on the scene about four months after the riot, and the 
customs commissioners resumed their headquarters at 
Boston. From this time forward Boston lost its importance 
as a smuggling port; and the great centers of contraband 
trade became New York and Philadelphia, with Newport 
as a center of minor importance.^ 

However justfiable the action may have appeared from 
an administrative point of view, the British government 
made a bad tactical error in sending soldiers to Boston. 
The statesmanlike policy of maintaining a standing army 
to protect the empire from foreign enemies had degenerated 
into an employment of the troops as a military police to 
enforce hated laws on the people themselves. The worst 
fears of the radicals were vindicated. Their efforts and 
those of the merchants were used for the next two years 
to procure the removal of the troops. Sporadic outbreaks 
of resistance to customs officials continued to occur." 

Of greater interest and significance in the controversy 

vol. iii, pp. 189-194. For Hancock's letters ordering the wine, vide 
Brown, op. cit., pp. 149-150. 

After referring to the Liberty affair, John Adams writes in his 
diary: "Mr. Hancock was prosecuted upon a great number of libels, 
for penalties upon acts of Parliament, amounting to ninety or an hun- 
dred thousand pounds sterling. He thought fit to engage me as his 
counsel and advocate, and a painful drudgery I had of his cause. There 
were few days through the whole winter, when I was not summoned 
to attend the Court of Admiralty. . . . this odious cause was sus- 
pended at last only by the battle of Lexington, which put an end, for- 
ever, to all such prosecutions." Works, vol. ii, pp. 215-216. 

^Letters of Thomas Hutchinson; Hosmer, Hutchinson, p. 432; Mass. 
Arch., vol. xxvii, p. 317. Vide also infra, chap. vi. 

^ E. g., vide 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 26. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 105 

with Parliament was the endeavor of the merchants to con- 
trol the economic life of their communities and by use of 
the boycott to starve Great Britain into a surrender of her 
trade restrictions. This movement of a class-conscious 
group within the leading provinces constituted the one tre- 
mendous fact of the revolutionary movement prior to the 
assembling of the First Continental Congress. Striving for 
reform, not rebellion, the merchants, nevertheless, through 
the effect of their agitation and organized activity upon 
the non-mercantile population, found themselves, when 
they wished to terminate their propaganda, confronted 
with forces too powerful for them to control. 

The efforts at combination from 1767 to 1770 suffered 
from all the disadvantages which inhered in an attempt to 
bind together thirteen disparate communities. The story 
of these endeavors is a long and devious one, bringing to 
light many instances of discord and harmony, of good 
faith and broken pledges, which should go far toward 
revealing the secret springs of human action. 

The trading communities of New England and New 
York took the lead in the movement, Philadelphia hanging 
back at first ; and it was not until 1 769 that the co-operation 
of the plantation provinces was secured. In the trading 
centers of the commercial provinces several stages were 
clearly apparent in the development of organized efforts 
for boycott against Great Britain : the initial movement | ^* 
promoted by town meetings in Xew England for the pur- 
pose of effecting a non-consumption of certain imports 
from Britain; second, the efforts, futile in their outcome, 
for a non-importation league of the merchants of the great 
northern seaports ; third, the period in which the merchants 
of the great towns entered into non-importation agree- 
ments independently of each other; fourth, the renewal, 
but without success, of efforts for a non-importation league 



To5 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of merchants along more comprehensive Hnes; fifth, the 
accession of the minor northern provinces to non-importa- 
tion. 

The first phase of the movement originated in the fall 
of 1767 in New England where evidences of hard times 
; had at once become apparent, and had for its primary ob- 
ject a reduction of the cost of living/ The efforts took 
j the form of agreements not to purchase a stated list of 
imported wares, and to lend all encouragement to domestic 
manufactures. In contrast to Stamp Act times, these 
agreements were not in first instance drawn up by import- 
ing merchants, but were adopted by town meetings and 
circulated among the people for general signing. It is 
clear that the framers of the agreements were not greatly 
concerned with the abstract question of the parliamentary 
right of taxation, since no town meeting placed more than 
one or two dutied articles on the blacklist. Indeed, the 
great merchant, John Hancock, ordered a consignment of 
dutied glass for his personal use as late as December 17, 
1767, apparently without compunction." 

The movement received its first impulse from the action 

1 References to hard times were plentiful in New England after 
the passage of the Townshend Acts. The Newport merchant, George 
Rome, wrote to England in December, 1767, that creditors at home 
would lose £50,000 in Rhode Island, owing to " deluges of bankrupt- 
cies." Bos. Eve. Post, June 28, 1773. " A Friend to the Colony," writ- 
ing in the Prov. Gas., Mch. 26, 1768, painted a doleful picture of the 
trade situation of Rhode Island. The Mass. Post-Boy of Oct. 26, 1767 
spoke of " the present alarming Scarcity of Money and consequent 
Stagnation of Trade" and "the almost universally increasing Com- 
plaints of Debt & Poverty." It later adopted the popular slogan. 
" Save your ]\Ioney and Save your Country." The A'. H. Gaz., in its 
issue of Nov. 13, 1767, referred to "this time of great distress and 
grievous complaining among tradesmen about the dullness of trade 
and uncommon scarcity of money." 

2 Brown, John Hancock His Book, p. 151. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 107 

of a Boston town meeting on October 28, 1767. A form 
of subscription was adopted, which attributed the prevail- 
ing commercial depression to the high war taxes, the loss 
of trade in late years and the many burdensome trade re- 
strictions, the money stringency and the unfavorable 
balance of trade with England. The agreement pledged 
all who should sign it to the patronage of colonial manu- 
factures, especially those of Massachusetts, and to the ob- 
servance of frugal regulations about mourning; further, 
it bound all subscribers not to purchase, after December 
31, 1767, a long list of imported articles/ In view of the 
Townshend duties, it was agreed that the colonial manu- 
facture of glass and paper should receive particular en- 
couragement. Considerable enthusiasm was aroused when 
townsmen present exhibited samples of starch, glue and 
hair powder, and of snuff equal to Kippen's best, all of 
which had been made in Boston. A committee was ap- 
pointed to consider the feasibility of reviving the manu- 
facture of linen in order tO' employ the poor of the town. 
Copies of the Boston agreement were ordered to be sent to 
every tow^n in the province and to the chief towns of the 
other provinces. At Boston, the subscription rolls filled 
rapidly. 

^ Bos. Post-Boy, Oct. 26, Nov. 2, 23, 1767; also Boston Town Records, 
I758-I76g, pp. 220-225. This list was typical of a great many others, 
and was as follows : " Loaf Sugar, Cordage, Anchors, Coaches, Chaises 
and Carriages of all Sorts, Horse Furniture, Men and Womens Hatts, 
Mens and Womens Apparel ready made. Household Furniture, Gloves, 
Mens and Womens Shoes, Sole Leather, Sheathing and Deck Nails, 
Gold and Silver and Thread Lace of all Sorts, Gold and Silver But- 
tons, Wrought Plate of all Sorts, Diamond, Stone and Paste Ware, 
Snuff, Mustard, Clocks and Watches, Silversmiths and Jewellers Ware, 
Broad Cloaths that cost above los. per Yard, Muffs Furrs and Tippets, 
and all Sorts of Millenary Ware, Starch, Womens and Childrens Stays, 
Fire Engines, China Ware, Silk and Cotton Velvets, Gauze, Pewterers 
hollow Ware Linseed Oyl, Glue, Lawns, Cambricks, Silks of all Kinds 
for Garments, Malt Liquors & Cheese." 



I08 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The Boston agreement faithfully reflected the general 
opinion of the community in favor of a retrenchment of 
expenses. Nevertheless, it did not escape without criticism. 
There were those who objected to the boycott of only cer- 
tain enumerated articles and declared that all British im- 
ports should be included; furthermore, they urged that all 
persons who failed to sign the agreement should be boy- 
cotted. Others felt that at least all the dutied articles 
should have been placed on the blacklist.^ The chief ob- 
jection was the failure of the agreement to provide against 
the drinking of tea, one of the dutied articles. 

Efforts were at once made to remedy this oversight. 
The newspapers teemed with articles urging the ladies, 
in spite of the silence of the agreement, to abandon the use 
of '* the most luxurious and enervating article of Bohea 
Tea, in which so large a sum is spent annually by the 
American colonists." ^ A clever bit of verse, which went 
the rounds of the press of the commercial provinces, con- 
cluded with this appeal to the ladies : 

Throw aside your Bohea and your Green Hyson Tea, 

^\nd all things with a new fashion duty; 

Procure a good store of the choice Labradore, 

For there'll soon be enough here to suit ye; 

These do without fear, and to all you'll appear 

Fair, charming, true, lovely and clever; 

Though the times remain darkish, young men may be sparkish. 

And love you much stronger than ever.^ 

'' A Countryman " wrote piteously that in recent years he 
had found the expenses of living higher than ever before; 

1 " Pelopidas " and " A Friend to Britain and her Colonies," quoted 
by A^ 7. Journ., Nov. 19, Dec. 3, 1767. 

' Bos. Post-Boy, Nov. 16, 1767. Vide quotations from the Boston 
press in the N. Y. Journ., Nov. 12, 26, Dec. 10. 

^ Bos. Post-Boy, Nov. 16, 1767; N. Y. Gas. & Post-Boy, Nov. 26;. 
Pa. Journ., Dec. 3. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM lOo 

for '' there is my daughters Jemima and Keziah, two hearty 
trollups as any in town, forenoon and afternoon eat almost 
a peck of toast and butter with their Tea; and they have 
learned me and their mother to join thenii." On the auth- 
ority of his doctor he held tea responsible for many modern 
complaints; '' for you never used to hear so much of such 
strange disorders as people have now a days!, tremblings, 
appoplexies, consumptions and I don't know what all." ^ ^ 

Early in December, 1767, a large number of the ladies 
agreed that they would use no foreign teas for a year 
beginning on the tenth of that month. ^ One tart dissent 
was entered to these proceedings. The fair writer expati- 
ated on the depravity resulting from " hard drinking," and 
then asked " where the Reformation ought to begin, whether 
among the Gentlemen at Taverns & Coffee Houses where 
they drink scarcely any Thing but Wine and Punch; or 
among the Ladies at those useful Boards of Trade called 
Tea Tables, where it don't cost half so much tO' entertain 
half a dozen Ladies a whole Afternoon, as it does to entertain 
one Gentlemen only one Evening at a Tavern." ^ 

The committee appointed by the town to propose meas- 
ures for employing the poor reported in due time in favor 
of the establishment of the manufacture of duck (or sail): 
cloth, hitherto imported from Russia. This material could 
be made from either flax or hemp and thus held an advan- 
tage over linen. The committee proposed that the project 
be financed by public subscriptioai ; and they were author- 
ized by the town to go ahead. Four months later, they had 
succeeded in collecting less than one-half of the amount 

^ Bos. Gas., Aug. 29, 1768. " Trahlur " in Bos. Post-Boy, Nov. 30, 
1767, held the same view of modern ailments. 

^ N. Y. Journ., Dec. 14, 1767. 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, Dec. 28, 1767; also Netvport Merc, Dec. 14. 



no THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

that was necessary for making a beginning. Further efforts 
were unproductive; and the project was given up/ 

Reports filled the newspapers with reference to the in- 
crease and perfection of local manufactures. From grind- 
stones and precious stones to shoes and shalloons, the gamut 
of praise was run. The man who made the paper which the 
Boston Gazette was printed on stated that the people of the 
province were so intent on saving rags for his mills that he 
now received more tons than he formerly did hundreds.^ 
The theses of the graduates at Harvard were printed " on 
_ fine white Demy Paper manufactured at Milton " and the 
/ men received their degrees garbed in homespun.^ By 1770 
l_ a leading newspaper of the town declared that: " The ex- 
traordinary and ver)^ impoverishing custom of wearing 
deep jMourning at Funerals is now almost entirely laid 
aside in the Province." ^ 

The Boston plan spread rapidly to other towns of the 
province. By the middle of January, 1768, the names of 
twenty-four towns had been published, which had voted to 
conform to the Boston agreement.^ Salem alone was re- 
corded as having refused to co-operate.^ At a town meet- 
ing on December 22, 1767, Boston had unanimously voted 
instructions to her representatives in the General Court, 
recommending bounties for the establishment of domestic 

^ Bos. Town Recs. {17 58-1769), pp. 226-227, 230-232, 239-240, 249-250. 

"^ Bos. Post-Boy, Jan. 18, 1768; Bos. Gaz., Jan. 25. 

^ N. Y. Joiirn., Aug. 4, 1768. 

* Bos. Gaz., May 7, 1770. 

^ Abington, Ashbuniham, Bolton, Braintree, Brookfield, Charlestown, 
Dartmouth, Dedham, Eastham, Grafton, Harwich, HoUeston, Kingston, 
Leicester, Lexington, Middleborough, Milton, Mendon, Newton, Ply- 
mouth, Roxbury, Sandwich, Spencer, Truro. Bos. Post-Boy, Nov. 23, 
Dec. 14, 1767; Bos. Gaz., Jan. 11, Mch. 28, 1768; iV. Y. Journ., Dec. 3, 
24, 1767, Jan. 28, 1768; Prov. Gaz., Dec. 26, 1767. 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, Dec. 21, 1767. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 1 1 1 

manufactures, and suggesting a petition to Parliament for 
the repeal of the recent duties/ On February ii, 1768, the 
Hous€ of Representatives adopted the famous circular letter \ 
to the other assemblies on the continent, suggesting concerted i 
opposition in the way of constitutional discussions and peti- [ 
tions. In the latter days of the month, other resolutions ^ 
were passed, reciting the decay of trade and pledging the 
support of all the members against the use of foreign super- 
fluities and in favor of Massachusetts manufactures.^ The 
House also sent resolutions of protest against the Town- 
shend Acts to the king. 

Two other New England provinces followed in the wake 
of Boston. The letter of the Boston selectmen, announcing 
the non-consumption agreement and suggesting like meas- ^ 
ures, convinced towns outside of Massachusetts of the \vis- 
dom of pursuing a similar course. The people of Rhode 
Island were in particularly hard straits, due to the dimin- 
ished profits of rum production and the falling-off of the 
carrying trade. ^ Providence, the second port of Rhode 
Island, was the first town to act. At a town meeting on 
December 2, 1767, largely attended by merchants and per- 
sons of wealth, a more stringent agreement was adopted 
than that of Boston. In place of a resolution of mere non- ^' 
consumption, it was agreed not to import, after January i, 
1768. a list of articles which exceeded the Boston list byX 
twelve items. The agreement contained a pledge against 1 
the use of any teas, chinaware or spices, a resolution against / 
expensive mourning, and one favorable to wool and flax/ 
production. The compact was to be enforced by a dis- 

^ Bos. Post-Boy, Dec. 28. 1767; also Bos. Town Recs. {1758-1769), pp. 
227-2^. 

^ These resolutions passed by a vote of eighty-one to one. Bos. Gas., 
Feb. 29, 1768; also N. Y. Journ., Mch. 10. 

^ E. g., vide " A Friend to this Colony," Prov. Gaz., Nov. 14, 1767. 



112 THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

countenancing, " in the most effectual but decent and lawful 
Manner," of any person who failed to sign or conform to 
these regulations. A few weeks later, the subscription rolls 
were reported to be filling rapidly/ 

Tw^o days after the action of Providence, a town meeting 
at Newport adopted an agreement of non-consumption, 
modeled ver}' closely on that of Boston, save that it was to 
become effective one month later. Mourning resolutions 
were also adopted.- In the following two months, the 
Newport agreement was concurred in by other Rhode Island 
towns, including Middletown, Little Compton and Tiverton.^ 

'' Liber Nov-Anglus," writing in the Connecticut Joiir- 
nul, December 25, 1767, was one of the first to urge the 
Boston agreement on the people of Connecticut. The 
larger towns soon began to take action, Norwich leading 
the way. In the subsequent weeks, non-consumption agree- 
ments, patterned more or less after the Boston plan, were 
adopted by town meetings at New London, \^^indham. 
]\Iansfield and New Haven.* In both Rhode Island and 
Connecticut, the newspapers gave abundant evidence of the 
wide drinking of *' Labradore or Hyperion tea," and of 
increased activity in the production of homespun.^ The 
Newport Mercury inserted, free of charge, all advertisements 
of Rhode Island textiles. 

Owing perhaps to the fact that the movement in New 
England was engineered by town meetings, it did not spread 

^ Prov. Gas., Nov. 14, 28, Dec. 5, 12, 1767; Newport Merc, Dec. 14. 
"^Newport Mcr£., Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 1767; Prov. Gas., Dec. 12. 
^ Newport Merc., Jan. 25, Feb. 29, 1768. 

* Prov. Gas., Dec. 26, 1767; A^ Y. Journ., Feb. 11, Mch. 17, 1768; 
Bos. Gas., Feb. 15, Mch. 28; Nezvport Merc, Feb. 15. 

^Newport Merc, Dec. 7, 1767, Jan. 11, 18. 25, 1768; Nezu London 
Gas., Dec. 18, 1767; A^ H. Gas., i\Ich. 11, 1768; A'. Y. Journ., Jan. 28, 
Feb. 18. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM I j 3 

m its present form to any of the other commercial provinces, 
where those potent agencies of local opinion did not exist. 
The interest of the people at New York and Philadelphia 
was aroused, however. " A Tradesman," writing in the 
A/>ze; York Journal^ December 17, 1767, asked pertinently 
why the example of Boston had not been followed by New 
York. '' Are our Circumstances altered?" he asked. '' Is 
Money grown more plenty? Have our Tradesmen full 
Employment? Are we more Frugal? Is Grain cheaper? 
xA.re our Importations less?" On December 29, 1767, a 
public meeting was held, and a committee was appointed to 
report on a plan for retrenching expenses and for employing 
local tradesmen and the deserving poor. At a meeting on 
February 2. 1768, the report of the committee was approved, 
and instructions were given for carrying it into execution.^ 
Contemporary records do not reveal the nature of the New 
York plan; but it is probable that it did not include an 
agreement of non-consumption. A public meeting, held at 
Philadelphia to discuss the action of Boston, did not ven- 
ture further than to vote an expression of sympathy for that 
city.' 

By the beginning of spring, 1768, it was apparent to all 
interested that the sumptuary regulations of the New Eng- 
land tow^ns would fail to secure relief from the hard times. 
The non-mercantile elements of the population were not, as 
yet, sufficiently co-ordinated or self-coaiscious to secure 
obedience tO' their mandates; and the merchants hesitated 
to lend their support until they had assurance that their 



^ iV. Y. Journ., Jan. 23, 28, Feb. 4, 1768. 
'Dickinson, Writings (Ford), vol. i, pp. 409-410. 

' " Few of the trading part have subscribed," wrote Andrew Eliot, 
of Boston, with reference to the agreement on Dec. 10, 1767. 4 M. H. S. 



114 '^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Without such an understanding, they felt that their own 
self-denial would have no other result than to deliver up 
their customers to their competitors at New York and 
Philadelphia. Meantime, importations continued as before, 
though in somewhat lessened degree. 

The basis for an appeal for a non-importation plan of a 
wider geographical scope was supplied by " The Letters- 

^^from a Farmer in Pennsylvania," which were published 
serially in the newspapers of the various provinces during 
December, 1767, and through the first two months of 
1768.^ The author, in language more legalistic than bucolic, 
reminded the Americans of the success of the legislative 
petitions and non-importation agreements in effect-mg* the 
repeal of the Stamp Act, and exhorted them to revive those- 
agencies of protest. These articles were read everywhere 

I and helped to prepare the public mind for the mercantile 

? opposition of the next few years. 

The Boston merchants now took active steps to bring 
about a non-importation league of the leading ports. The 
body of the merchants were moved by the necessity of com- 
mercial reform; but individuals were not unmindful of the 
fact that a suspension of trade would enable them to clean 
out their old stock at monopoly prices.^ At the instigation 
of Captain Daniel Malcom, a notorious smuggler, and a few 
others, the merchants and traders gathered at the British 
Coffee-House on the evening of March i, 1768 " to consult 
on proper Measures relative to our Trade under its present 
Embarrassments." ^ At this and several subsequent meet- 
Co//,?., vol. iv, p. 418. The leaders of the non-consumption movement 
consist "chiefly of persons who have no property to lose," declared "A 
Trader " in the Bos. Eve. Post, Oct. 12, 1767. 

^ The text has been reprinted in Dickinson, Writings (Ford), vol. i, 
pp. 305-406. 
^Bos. Post-Boy, Sept. 28, 1767. 
^ Bos. Gas., Feb. 29, 1768. "This may be said to be the first Move- 



COMMERCIAL REFORM ; Hg J 

ings, an agreement was drawn up and adopted, which 
pledged all merchants who should sign it, to refrain for 
one year from importing merchandise from Great Britain 
(save such as was absolutely necessary for the fisheries) in 
case the merchants at New York and Philadelphia should 
take like action. This conditional agreement was circulated 
about Boston and was almost universally signed by the 
merchants. The merchants of Salem, Marblehead and 
Gloucester concurred in the same measure.^ 

Events now awaited the action of the merchants at New 
York and Philadelphia. At the former port several meet- 
ings of the merchants and traders were held early in April' 
to consider the matter. About the middle of the month, 
an agreement was adopted to import no goods shipped f ram*" " 
Great Britain after October i, 1768 until the Townshend. 
duties should be repealed, provided that Boston should 
continue and Philadelphia adopt similar measures by the-, 
second Tuesday of June.^ 

ment of the Merchants against the Acts of Parliament," Governor Ber- 
nard told Hillsborough in a letter of Mch. 21, 1768. Bos. Eve. Post, 
Aug. 21, 1769. 

^ The chief facts concerning this agreement of Boston and the other 
towns may be found in : 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, pp. 350-351 ; M. H. 
S. Mss., 91 L, p. 2>7, 70-74; Bos. Gas., Feb. 29, Mch. 7, 1768; Bernard 
to Hillsborough, Bos. Eve. Post, Aug. 21, 1769. The merchants of 
Portsmouth, N. H., refused to accede to this agreement. Brit. Papers 
("Sparks Mss."), vol. i, pp. 7-8. 

2 .V. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Apr. 18, 1768; A^. Y. Journ., June 28, 1770. The 
terms of this agreement had not been formulated without considerable 
difference of opinion. Some of the more radical merchants wished to 
include the Quartering Act with the Townshend duties as the object 
of the non-importation. But this proposal was rejected by the major- 
ity. Others insisted that the Boston plan of immediate non-importation 
should be followed, for the six months' interval would enable unscru- 
pulous men to enlarge their orders and defeat the purpose of the 
agreement. This again met with little favor. Article by "G" in ibid., 
Apr. 21, 1768. 



lib 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 




The agreement was signed by every merchant and trader 
in New York, save tvv'O or three unimportant ones, w^itnin 
less than two days. Another outcome of the conferences 
of the merchants was the formation of the New York 
Chamber of Commerce, with the avowed purpose of en- 
couraging commerce and industry and of procuring better 
trade laws/ The Committee of Merchants at Boston were 
informed of the New York agreement; and an answer was 
returned that, although the Boston merchants considered the 
New Yorkers mistaken in not stopping trade immediately, 
nevertheless, for the sake of unanimity, they would accept 
their proposal.^ 

In Philadelphia, the movement for co-operation with 
Boston and New York was devoid of any real vitality, not- 
withstanding that the great proponent of non-importation, 
John Dickinson, was an influential citizen of that place. 
The merchants as a whole did not yet suffer from the trade 
embarrassments, which the sea ports farther north were 
experiencing or which they themselves had experienced 
during the critical years 1764-1766.^ "A. B." represented 
the merchants' point of view in a set of queries in the 
Pennsylvania Chronicle, July 25, 1768. The anonymous 
author, probably Joseph Galloway, questioned the wisdom 
of severing commercial connections with England except in 

^ Bos. News-Letter, Jan. 5, 1769; Memorial History of the City of 
New York (Wilson, J. G., ed.), vol. iv, p. 516. 

^ Letter of N. Y. Merchants' Committee to Philadelphia Committee, 
N. Y. Jonrn., June 28, 1770. The Boston meeting to consider the New 
York proposal was probably held on May 2. Bos. Gas., May 2, 1768. 

^ Dickinson's " Farmer's Letters," in contrast to his pamphlet against 
"The Late Regulations" of 1764-1765, made no claim to severe times; 
and only a few articles in the newspapers spoke of business stagnation 
and currency stringency or advocated local manufactures, thus " Philo- 
Patriae " in Pa. Chron., Dec. 2, 1767; "Lover of Pennsylvania" in 
ibid., Jan. 4, 11, 1768; "Freeborn American" and "Monitor" in Pa. 
Gas., Feb. 9, Apr. 14, 1768. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 



117 



cases of dire necessity, for he declared that all the wool in 
North America would not supply the colonists with hats and 
stockings alone. Among his queries were these: Had the 
merchants in their letters to England done all they could to 
induce the mercantile houses there to agitate for repeal? 
If the merchants should take action, ought not non-impor- 
tation to be restricted to dutied imports alone? Was the 
provincial legislature not the proper body tO' take cognizance 
of the situation, and would anarchy not ensue from the 
adoptio'n of other measures? Even if it were prudent for 
New England merchants to resort to non-importation, might 
it not be imprudent for Pennsylvania and other provinces 
where the circumstances differed widely? Was it consis- 
tent with the rights of mankind for one province to insist 
that another should adopt its measures, more especially for 
a people who called themselves " Sons of Liberty " ? 

" A Chester County Farmer " claimed that the farmers 
would be slow to be inveigled into local manufacturing 
again after their experience during Stamp Act days, for 
the '* ill-timed Resolution," made at the time of the repeal, 
to cast aside all homespun, had dealt a staggering blow 
to the people who had invested their capital in pastures, 
sheep, looms, spinners, etc.'^ The situation was further 
complicated by the long-standing local controversy over 
the desirability of continuing the proprietary government." 
A meeting of the merchants and traders of Philadelphia 
was held on March 26, 1768, to act upon the proposal of 
the Boston merchants. The Boston letter was not favor- 

^ Pa. Gas., June 16, 1768. It should be noted that the pseudonym was 
another one of Joseph Galloway's, according to Ford in his edition of 
Dickinson's Writings, vol. i, p. 435. 

^ " A. L." in Pa. Chron., May 30, 1768. In this controversy Galloway 
and Dickinson were the local leaders of the royal and proprietary par- 
ties respectively. 



Il8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ably received and, after a heated debate, the meeting ad- 
journed without taking action.^ 

On April 25, John Dickinson addressed a merchants' 
meeting in order to induce favorable action. He first dwelt 
eloquently on the effort of Great Britain to check the in- 
dustrial and commercial development of the colonies. He 
cited the prohibition of steel furnaces and slitting mills, 
the acts against the exportation of hats and woolens, the 
requirement of exporting logwood by way of England, 
and the heavy restraints on the v/ine trade. He maintained 
that the acts of trade compelled the colonists to pay twenty 
to forty per cent higher for goods from England than they 
could be gotten from other countries. He then reviewed 
the Quartering Act and the Townshend Acts and showed 
that their tendency was to diminish the control of the people 
over their provincial governments, i. e. their " Liberty." 
"As Liberty is the great and only Security of Property; 
as the Security of Property is the chief Spur to Industry," 
he urged the merchants to join with Boston and New York, 
to forego a present advantage, and to stop importation 
from Britain until the unconstitutional acts were repealed."^ 

Remaining unconvinced by these appeals to an alleged 
self-interest, the merchants were fiercely assailed from 
another angle. Under the signature of "A Freeborn 
American," Charles Thomson, himself not disinterested in 
his cause as an iron manufacturer and distiller, quoted the 

[^ '^ Dickinson, Writings (Ford), vol. i, p. 410; Pci- Gaz., Mch. 31, 1768. 
^ Pa. Joiirn., Apr. 28, 1768; also Dickinson, Writings (Ford), vol. i, 
pp. 411-417. On the same day as Dickinson's speech, the Pennsylvania 
Chronicle contained an able article entitled, "Causes of the American 
Discontents before 1768," written by Benjamin Franklin under the 
signature " F. and S." This was a trenchant analysis covering many 
of the same points, and had been published originally for English con- 
sumption in the London Chronicle, Jan. 7, 1768. Franklin, Writings 
(Smyth), vol. V, pp. 78-89. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM I in 

words of the " Pennsylvania Farmer " to the effect that : 
" A people is travelling fast to destruction, when indi- 
viduals consider their interests as distinct from those of 
the public." The merchants were told that the eyes of 
their customers, as well as of God, had been on them ex- 
pectantly for a long time; and that eagerness for a few 
pence or pounds should not deter them from joining 
strength with Boston and New York.^ A contributor in 
the Pennsylvania Gazette of June 2 urged that the people 
of the city take affairs into their own hands and agree 
to buy only American manufactures. A few days later, 
the merchants received a letter from the Committee of 
Merchants at New York, reminding them that, unless they 
adopted non-importation by June 14, the merchants of 
New York and Boston would be absolved from their agree- 
ments.^ The Philadelphia merchants remained unmoved; 
the appointed day arrived and passed; and the project of 
a non-importation league of the great trading towns 
collapsed. 

The delinquency of the merchants occasioned a most 
virulent attack on their motives by John Dickinson in the 
form of a broadside, entitled " A Copy of a Letter from 
a Gentleman of Virginia to a Merchant in Philadelphia." 
The manuscript copy, which the printer used in getting 
up the broadside, was in the handwriting of a third person, 
making it evident, so the editor of Dickinson's Writings 
thinks, that Dickinson desired to conceal his connection 
with it. The writer did not mince words in charging that 
the merchants were actuated b}^ self-interest. During the 
Stamp Act, when their " Patriotism and private Interests " 

^ Pa. Gas., May 12, 1768. Ford, op. cit., vol. i, p. 435, ascribes the 
pseudonym to Thomson. 

^ Letter of Jmie 6, 1768; A^. Y. Journ., June 28, 1770. 



120 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

were intimately connected, the merchants had entered into a 
non-importation agreement, he said. But they had been able 
to shift the burden of the Townshend taxes on their cus- 
tomers, and the abstract question of right did not concern 
them. The principle involved they considered of slight 
importance as compared with their personal comfort and 
profit/ 

The failure to bring about a non-importation union placed 
the Boston merchants in the dilemma of either resigning 
themselves nervelessly to business depression or pursuing 
a vigorous course independently of the other great ports. 
After one or two meetings for discussion, the merchants 
chose the latter alternative in an agreement drawn up Au- 
gust I, 1768.^ The preamble attributed the commercial 
distress to money stringency — a condition growing daily 
more severe because of '' the large Sums collected by the 
Officers of the Customs for Duties on Goods imported," 
to restrictions on trade laid by the recent acts of Parlia- 
ment, to the heavy war taxes, and to bad success in the 
cod and whale fisheries. All subscribers of the agreement 
pledged themselves to send no further orders for fall goods, 
to discontinue all importations from Great Britain for 
one year beginning January i, 1769,^ except coal, wool- 
cards, duck, cardwire, shot, and four or five articles neces- 
sary for carrying on the fisheries, and to cease the im- 
portation of tea, glass, paper and painters' colors until the 
duties on them should be removed. Several days later, 

^ Writings, vol. i, pp. 435-445. 

^ Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Nov. 17, 1769; Bos. Gas., July 25, Aug. 
I, 8, 15, 1768; Bos. Post-Boy, May 8, 1769; Bos. Eve. Post, May 8, 1769; 
Hosmer, Hutchinson, p. 432; Brown, John Hancock His Book, p. 163. 

^ At a meeting on Oct. 17, 1769, the merchants removed the one-year 
limitation and made the period of operation contingent upon the repeal 
of the Townshend duties. Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Nov. 9, 17, 1769. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 12 1 

Hutchinson informed an English friend that all the mer- 
chants in town, save only sixteen, had signed the agreement. 

The example of the Boston merchants stimulated the 
other trading towns of the province to emulation. Within 
the next few^ months, agreements were signed by the mer- / 
chants of Salem, Plymouth, Cape Ann and Nantucket. '^ 
Marblehead, somewhat belated, joined in October of the 
following year.^ New vigor was also injected into the 
movement for the non-consumption of tea. The Boston 
Gazette reported " from the best Authority " that fifteen 
hundred families of Boston had relinquished the use of 
tea, and that most of the inhabitants of Charlestown, Lex- 
ington, Dedham, Weymouth and Hingham, as well as the 
students at Harvard, had done likewise.^ The Boston 
town meeting revived its efforts to provide work for the 
poor of the town, ** whose Numbers and distresses are 
dayly increasing by the loss of its Trade & Commerce." 
Rejecting the earlier plan of a popular subscription, the 
town, on March 13, 1769, voted a subsidy out of town funds 
for a free spinning school, and placed it under charge of 
William Molineux. The venture proved sufficiently suc- 
cessful for the town meeting, three years later, to vote 
thanks to the manager for the faithful performance of his 
duties.^ --- 

Within a year of the date of the merchants' agreement, 
news reached Boston that the ministry was prepared to 
yield up all the Townshend duties except the tax on tea ; * ! 
and the merchants were forced to consider whether it was 

^ Essex Gaz., Sept. 6, 1768; N. Y. Journ., June 22, 1769; Mass. Gas. 
& News-Letter, Nov. 2, 1769. 

' Issues of Oct. 24, 1768; Mch. 27, 1769. 

^ Bos. Town Recs. {17 58-1769), pp. 273-277 ', ibid. (i770-i777), P- 73- 

* Hillsborough's circular letter of May 13, 1769. iV. Y. Col. Docs., 
vol. viii, pp. 164-165. 



i 



122 THE COLOXIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

worth while to continue the controversy under the cir- 
cumstances. On July 26, 1769, they voted unanimously 
that such a partial repeal would by no means relieve the 
\ trade situation and was designed to prevent the establish- 
ment of colonial manufactures. At this meeting and a 
succeeding one of August 11, they materially strengthened 
/>-the enforcement feature of the non-importation agree- 
/ ment by providing for a boycott of all.;v£5sels and all m.er- 
j chants dealing in merchandise proscribed by the agree- 
j mehC At the same time, the list of articles which might 
Ibe imported v/as somewhat extended.^ They agreed, 
further, on October 17. that, if any British merchandise 
should be consigned to them on commission, they would 
either refuse to receive it or ship it back at the first oppor- 
tunity.- A paper was also circulated among the inhabi- 
tants of Boston, pledging them to buy no goods imported 
contrary to the merchants' agreement, and to support the 
merchants in any further efforts to render the measures 
effectual." 

Meantime, domestic manufacturing entered a new stage : 
spinning was taken up by women's circles in churches all 
over New England and thus popularized as a social diver- 
sion. The atrabilious Peter Oliver declared : " The female 
spinners kept on spinning six Days of the \\'eek ; and on the 
seventh, the Parsons took their turns and spun out their 
pra}'ers and sermons to a long thread of Politics." * From 

.^ Mass. Gas., July 31, 1769; Bos. Gas., Aug. 14. In a meeting on 
April 27, the merchants had already resolved to buy of no one articles 
which were imported, contrary to the agreement, from Great Britain or 
an}^ province. Ihid., May i. 

^Mass. Gas. & News Letter, Nov. 9, 17, 1769. 

'Jlf. H. S. Ms.: 151, I, 15. With a similar purpose in view, the 
vendue-masters and brokers signed an agreement not to handle any 
goods debarred by the merchants' agreement. Bos. Gas., Aug. 21. 1769. 

* Brit. Mus., Egerton Mss., no. 2671 (L. C. Transcripts). 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 123 

January to September, 1769, twenty-eight spinning bees 
were noted in the newspapers ; and this probably represented 
a fraction of the entire number held. Many instances of in- 
dividual industry were cited ; and the little town of Middle- 
town, Mass., established a record of weaving 20,522 yards 
of cloth in the year 1769, an average of more than forty 
yards for every adult and child in the population.^ Money 
prizes were occasionally offered for the making of textiles ; 
and efforts were even made to foster silk culture in this way." 
All this pother resulted in some progress toward a greater 
independence of imported textiles.^ 

Nevertheless, it is clear that the people were interested 
jOnly in tiding over a difficult period and not in laying the 
! foundations of permanent industries. It was an exceptional 
case when men, like Upham and his associates at Brookfield, 
Mass., " erected a Building 50 Feet in Length and two 
Stories high, for a Manufactory House," and installed 
looms and collected workmen for the weaving of woolens.* 
Manufacturing enterprises, which would, in all probability, 
collapse the moment trade w^ith England was renewed, 
did not appeal as attractive investments to men of capital ; 
and as a class they refused to lend support.^ The news- 

^ Mass. Gas. & Posf-Boy, Mch. 12, 1770. 

2 Bos. Gas., Apr. 10, Oct. 16, 1769; May i, 1770. 

^ Note, for example, the articles offered for sale by John Gore, Jr., in 
the Boston Gazette, June 12, 1769: "North-American Manufactures, 
viz Blue, black, claret coloured and mix'd Cloths, Whilton mix'd Cotton 
and Linnen, masqueraded ditto, superfine mix'd double Camblet for 
Mens Summer or Womens Winter Ware, half-yard and 3 qr Diaper, 
fine 7-8th Nutfield Linnen, fine Hatfield Thread, Mens ribb'd worsted 
Hose, white cotton and linnen Tow-cloth, Lynn Shoes, Pole Combs, 
Cards, &c. N. B. All sorts of Mens and Womens Ware manufactured 
in New England, taken in Exchange for EngHsh Goods." 

* Bos. Gaz., Oct. 3, 1768. For a similar enterprise, vide the advertise- 
ment of Thomas Mewse in Bos. Post-Boy, Sept. 11, 1769. 

^ E. g., vide article by " A. Z." and an advertisement of Charles Mil- 
ler in Bos. Gas., Feb. 20, 1769. 



124 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

papers of New England and elsewhere made a great fuss; 
over local manufactures ; and it was no doubt the propagan- 
dist character of such notices that caused many Americans- 
to refer to them as '' great puffs " and " new^spaper manu- 



Not many days elapsed after the first merchants' agree- 
ment of Boston before the New York merchants decided 
to take a similar stand. On August 27, 1768, an agreement 
was signed by nearly all the merchants and traders, which, 
was more stringent in its terms than the Boston agreement. 
The subscribers were obligated to countermand all orders 
sent to England after August 15 and to cease the importation 
of goods shipped from Great Britain after November i, 
until the Tow^nshend duties should be repealed.^ Some 
concession was made to the criticism that the project w^as 
promoted chiefly by smuggling merchants, by providing that 
no goods should be imported from Hamburg and Holland, 
directly or indirectly, other than had already been ordered, 
except tiles and bricks/ Any goods sent over contrar}' to 
the agreement were to be stored in a public warehouse until 
the Townshend duties were repealed. Finally, it was pro- 
vided that any subscribers who violated the agreement 
should be deemed " Enemies to their Country." 

A few days later, the tradesmen of the city signed an 
agreement to withhold patronage from all merchants, who 
refused to sign or to obey the merchants' agreement, and 



^ Franklin, Writings (Smyth), vol. v, p. 116; "True Patriot" in Bos. 
Ez-e. Post, Nov. 23, 1767. 

^ N. Y. Gas. & Merc, Mch. 13, 1769; also A'. Y. Journ., Sept. 8, 170S.. 
Excepted from this general prohibition were : coal, salt, sail cloth, 
woolcards, card-wire, grindstones, chalk, lead, tin, sheet-copper and 
German steel. 

^ This list of exceptions was later extended to include corn-fans, rr.ill- 
stones, and all those articles which were permitted to be imported from 
Great Britain. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 1 25 

frcm any European mercantile houses that imported con- 
trary to the agreement/ The importers at Albany con- 
curred in the New York merchants' agreement, not, how- 
ever, without protest frcm some of the merchants on the 
score that the importation of goods for the Indian trade 
should be continued.^ Some of the small inland towns re- 
solved to buy no British or Scotch goods/ On April 10, 
1769, the provincial House of Representatives, on motion 
of Philip Livingston, an eminent merchant of the city, 
passed a vote of thanks to the merchants of the city and 
province for their patriotic conduct in decHning importation 
from Great Britain/ Andrew Oliver, of Boston, wrote 
from New York on August 12, 1769, that, although his 
business there led him to associate with the best citizens, 
they universally approved of the non-importation combina- 
tion, an attitude which appeared to him " little less than as- 
suming a negative on all acts of parliament which they do 
not like." ' 

On September i, 1768, the Committee of Merchants of 
New York sent a copy of their agreement to the Philadel- 
phia merchants, explaining that it was " widely different " 
from the Boston plan, then in operation, in that its bind- 
ing force extended to the repeal of the Townshend duties, 
-and trusting that they would now feel free to enter into a 
-similar compact/ Newspaper contributors at Philadelphia 

1 A'". Y. Jonrn., Sept. 15, 1768. This agreement was dated September 5. 
^ A^. Y. Gas. & Merc, Aug. 14, 1769. 
3 A^ Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, July 31, 1769. 
* A^ Y. Col. Docs., vol. viii, pp. 194-195. 
^ N. Y. Journ., July 29, 1773. 

^ Ms. in Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The original Boston 
.agreement was to last for one year beginning January i, 1769. This 
•clause was changed to correspond with the New York provision on 
October 17, 1769. 



126 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

were again fired by the example of the trading towns to the 
north; and 'Tradesman," ''Agricola" and others lent their 
persuasive pens to pleas for non-importation and non-con- 
sumption regulations.^ Letters from correspondents in 
London urged these steps, also.^ 

The great Quaker merchants dominated the situation; 
and they were determined not to resort to trade suspension 
until all ordinary means of obtaining redress had been ex- 
hausted. In accord with their wishes, the Pennsylvania As- 
sembly, on September 22, 1768, sent petitions to the king 
and to the houses of Parliament, praying for a repeal of 
the Townshend Acts. They based their plea on their claim 
to constitutional exemption from parliamentary taxation; 
it was not deemed necessary to include arguments against 
the economic expediency of the British measures. 

The merchants continued to betray no outward signs of 
activity. Their apparent callousness provoked a bitter 
article in the New York Journal, October 10, 1768, signed 
by " A North American," charging a few drygoods mer- 
chants of Philadelphia with preventing an agreement there. 
Shall a few selfish, dastardly merchants, it was asked, be 
permitted to defy the desires of the vast majority of the 
people and defeat a great public purpose? Under sting of 
this attack, the merchants began to grow restive. An in- 
spired contributor, '' Philadelphus," disclosed to the public 
the true condition of affairs.^ As soon as they had been 
informed of the Boston agreement, the Philadelphia mer- 
chants had appointed a committee to canvass a similar pro- 
posal. The committee labored in vain to obtain a general 
concurrence, and then concentrated its efforts on enlisting 

^ Pa. Chron., Oct. 10, Nov. 28, 1768; Pa. Journ., Jan. 26, 1769. 
^ Pa. Journ., Jan. 26, Apr. 6, 13, 1769. 
3 Pa. Gas., Oct. 20, 1768. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 12/ 

the support of eight or ten mercantile firms, whose backing 
would give prestige to the project. None of these firms 
would go further than to recommend a non-importation of 
dutied articles and certain luxuries; and this proposal was 
rejected by the committee as unsatisfactory. On September 
22, the committee had called a general meeting of merchants 
and traders; but, as not one-fourth of the drygoods mer- 
chants attended, this was deemed conclusive that the ma- 
jority disapproved of a general non-importation. 

The disposition of the merchants and of conservative- 
thinking people generally was to await the result of the 
legislative petitions.^ But, within two weeks after " Phila- 
delphus " spoke, the merchants were moved to send a 
memorial of their own to the merchants and manufacturers 
of Great Britain, representing the deplorable situation of 
trade. The idea was to prod the British business interests 
to bring pressure to bear upon Parliament. The memorial 
was sent on November i, 1768; it was conservative in tone. 
The British merchants and manufacturers were asked to 
solicit a repeal of the statutes imposing the anti-commercial 
and unconstitutional Townshend duties and to obtain 
" further relief from the other Burthens which the Ameri- 
can trade has long laboured under." It was affirmed as 
^' a Solemn Truth " that, if the various discouragements 
to trade continued unabated, the Americans must, " from 
necessity if not from Motives of Interest," establish their 
own manufactures and curtail importations. The memorial 
further stated that many of the present trade restrictions 
had been complained of by the Philadelphia merchants in 
their petition of November, 1765. The chief grievances, 
other than the Townshend duties, were declared to be : the 

^ Letter of Philadelphia Merchants' Committee to London Merchants* 
Committee, London Chron., June 10, 1769; also Pa. Mag., vol. xxvii, 
pp. 84-87. 



128 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

prohibition of paper money as a legal tender; the heavy 
duty on ]^*Iadeira wine which barred it as an article of ex- 
change with England; the unnecessary trouble and expense 
incurred by the roundabout shipment of Portuguese wines 
and fruit to America through England; the prohibition 
against exporting American bar iron to continental Europe; 
and the regulation which classified all sugars imported from 
the American continent into England as foreign and thus 
deprived the colonists of an advantageous remittance/ 

The transmission of the memorial w^as followed by a 
lull in public interest in the non-importation question, for 
the signers of the memorial pledged themselves to adopt 
non-importation in the spring, provided their appeal met 
with no success.- Early in February, 1769, various fire 
companies in the city adopted resolutions to abstain from 
buying mutton, as a measure to aid the woolen manufac- 
tures ; and a number of citizens asserted their independence 
of English fashions by agreeing to w^r leather jackets 
thereafter.^ CX 

- Events now forced the commercial class to take more 
decisive action. Several merchants were planning to send 
orders for fall goods by a vessel which departed for England 
in the middle of February. As no information had yet 
been received of remedial micasures by Parliament, the body 
of merchants apprehended that these orders might seriously 
complicate the non-importation agreement, to which they 
were conditionally pledged for the spring. Meeting to- 
gether on February 6, they resolved that all orders, already 
sent for fall goods, should be cancelled unless the goods be 

^ Pub. Rec. Office: C. O. 5, no. 114 (L. C. Transcripts), pp. 161-169. 

^Papers of the Merchants of Philadelphia {"Sparks Mss." vol. Ixii, 
sub-vol. vii), pp. 1-2. 

^ Pa. Joiirn., Feb. 9, 16, Mch. 16, 1769; Pa. Chron., Feb. 20. 




COMMERCIAL REFORM I2q 

shipped before April i, and that no further orders be sent' 
before March lo, by which time they expected to learn 
definitely of the outcome of their memorial/ News soon 
arrived that the hopes of the petitioners had been misplaced. 
The London merchants professed to be willing to use their 
influence for repeal; but, on the advice of Burke and other 
of their friends in Parliament, they had been convinced that 
it v/as an unpropitious time to press the matter. They re- 
gretfully informed the Philadelphia merchants of their 
determination.^ 

March the tenth arrived and the merchants took the final 
step. Justifying their action as a consequence of heavy ^ 
debts and the ruinous effects of the revenue acts, and as " 
the only means of stimulating their British creditors to 
activity for repeal, they adopted an agreement to import no' — "'] 
^oods shipped after April i from Great Britain, until the ; 
Townshend duties should be repealed, except twenty-two / 
articles useful for local manufacturing, ship-ballast and < t 
medicinal and educational purposes. With the apparent--'^ 
purpose of denying special advantages to smugglers, these 
conditions were extended to include imports from the rest 
of Europe, except linens and provisions directly from Ire- 
land. The subscribers of the agreement were pledged to 
buy no goods imported contrary to the agreement, and to 
discountenance " by all lawful and prudent measures " any 
person who defied the agreement. The agreement was to 
continue until the repeal of the Townshend duties or until 

^ Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 1-2. For a countermanding order 
of Stephen Collins under this agreement, mde his Letter-Book 1760-1773 
(L. C. Mss.) under date of February 6. 

"^Col. Sac. Mass. Pubs., vol. xiii, pp. 355-356; Papers of Phila. Mer- 
chants, p. 7. For an explanation of their failure to urge the petition 
in the subsequent m.onths, vide Franklin Papers, Misc. (L. C. Mss.), 
vol. i, no. 71 ; and Pa. Joiirn., May 4, 1769. 



130 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

a general meeting of the subscribers should determine other- 
wise.^ The paper was circulated among the merchants 
and traders of the city and " a very great majority " signed 
in the course of the next few weeks. At a later meeting, 
it was determined that goods arriving at Philadelphia con- 
:rary to the agreement should not be stored but be sent back. 
The principle of the boycott was further extended : any 
person violating the word or spirit of the agreement should 
be stigmatized " an Enemy of the Liberties of America/' 
and it was held proper that his name should be published 
in the newspapers.^ 

No conspicuous activity in local manufacturing was dis- 
played until the high price of imported goods, produced by 
the non-importation regulation, caused people to turn their 
energies in that direction.^ Even then their activity was 
not comparable with that of the provinces farther north. A 
report to the American Philosophical Society showed that, 
in the little town of Lancaster, fifty looms and seven hundred 
spinning-wheels were in constant use. In the twelvemonth 
beginning May i, 1769, the net output was close to thirty- 
five thousand yards.* An effort was made to foster the 
production of domestic silks. In 1769 sixty-four families 
raised silkworms, many of them raising from ten to twenty 
thousand: but little benefit came of the venture because of 
the inexpertness of the people in reeling the silk. To over- 
come this obstacle, a number of citizens subscribed £250, in 
March. 1770, for the erection of a filature. Some of the 

^Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 2-5, 19-21. For orders for all kinds 
of goods, to be shipped when the revenue acts were repealed, vide 
Stephen Collins's Letter-Book 1760-177 3, under the dates Mch. 12, 15, 
Sept. 23, Oct. 14, Nov. 6, 25, Dec. 11, 12, 1769; Apr. 7, 1770. 

' August 2, 1769. Pa. Gas., Aug. 3, 1769. 

' Pa. Chrofi., July 24, 1769. Article by "A Merchant." 

* Pa. Gaz., June 14, 1770; also Gentleman's Magazine (1770), p. 348. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM I31 

leading merchants of the city were chosen on the board of 
managers; and by November, 1771, one hundred and fifty- 
five pounds of raw silk had been exported to England. The 
Society for the Promotion of Silk Culture offered annual 
premiums for silk production until the outbreak of the war/ 

By the spring of 1769, the three great ports had finally Ij'-V 
united in non-importation measures against the mother ' 
country, Philadelphia acting tardily about six months later 
than the merchants of Boston and New York. This con- 
summation soon prompted the progressive merchants of 
Boston to urge on their brethren more radical measures for 
trade redemption. The Townshend revenue acts, against 
which all the existing agreements were directed, represented 
only one source of mercantile distress. The wine duties 
and the revised duty on molasses drew from them con- 
siderably more cash than the imposts of 1767," and violated 
as seriously the new American notion of the unconstitu- 
tional character of revenue tariffs. The New Englanders 
realized that the mere repeal of the Townshend duties would 
not restore their prosperity; and, despite the fact that they 
had failed to denominate the earlier taxes as unconstitutional 
. in their petition of January, 1767, they now decided to take 
I an advanced stand in conformity with the recent develop- 
'' ments in colonial theory. In a letter of September 2, 1769, 
they pressed the merchants of Philadelphia to extend their 
agreement to comprehend the repeal of all revenue acts, 

^ Pa. Gas., Mch. 15, 22, 1770, and passim to 1775; Franklin Bicenten- 
nial Celebration, vol. ii, p. 126; Pa. Mag., vol. xxvi, pp. 304-305. 

- For all the colonies, the Townshend duties on tea, etc., amounted to 
£17,912 in the period from September 8, 1767 to January 3, 1770. In 
the same length of time, the wine duties (6 George II and 4 George 
III) amounted to £20,130, and the molasses duty (6 George III) to 
£22,652. Channing, History of U. S., vol. iii, p. 90 n. 



..^^ 



lyj THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

including the molasses and wine duties; and they revised 
their own agreement on October 17 to incorporate the new 
demands/ A letter of October 25 carried the news of the 
new agreement to Philadelphia, with an urgent plea for 
similar action there. It was probably not a coincidence that 
John Hancock was in Philadelphia at this time for the ex- 
press purpose of visiting the author of the " Farmer's Let- 
ters," who was also the great advocate of non-importation 
in that city.' If his visit had a political motive, his mission 
was a failure. 

In reply to the Boston letters, the Committee of T^Ierchants 
at Philadelphia admitted " that the acts of the 4th and 6th 
George 3rd, being expressly for the purpose of raising a 
revenue and containing many grievous and unreasonable 
burdens upon trade, are ... as exceptionable as " the 
Townshend duties ; and they agreed " that the design of the 
Merchants through the continent was not only to procure a 
repeal of any Single Act but to give weight to the petitions 
... of their representatives in Assembly met against the 
Parliament's claim to tax the Colonies and to prevent apy 
future attempts of like Nature, that a precedent admitted 
will operate against us, and that an acquiescence under the 
acts of the 4th and 6th, even though that of the 7th of 
George 3d should be repealed, will be establishing a pre- 
cedent." Nevertheless, they declared that, as this con- 
sideration " has unfortunately been so long neglected, our 
Merchants are extremely averse to making it now an object 
of their non-importation agreement." They refused, 
furthermore, to prohibit all incoming trade from Great 
Britain, for the reason that this restriction would simply 

^ Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Nov. 9, 17, 1769. This revised agree- 
ment was widely signed, only ten or twelve importers declining. 

2 Letter of William Palfrey; M. H. S. Procs., vol. 47, pp. 211-212. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 1 33 

divert the trade to laxer ports. They did promise, how- 
ever, that if Parhament failed to remove all the revenue 
acts, they would then be ready to unite with the other 
colonies *' in any measure that may be thought prudent and 
practicable for obtaining a full redress of all grievances." ^ 

The Boston proposal met with the same sort of treatment 
at the hands of the New York merchants; ^ and, at a meet- 
ing on December 4, the Boston merchants reluctantly yielded 
up their project upon a plea of the necessity for uniformity 
among the chief trading towns. ^ 

The tangible outcome of this episode was the publication, 
in the same month, by the merchants of Boston, of a pamph- 
let, entitled Observations on several Acts of Parliament 
passed in the 4th, 6th and yth years of his present Majesty's- 
Reign; and also on the Conduct of the Oncers of the Ctis- 
toms since those Acts were passed, and the Board of Com- 
missioners appointed to reside in America^ This pamphlet^ 
was the clearest and strongest statement ever formulated of 
the position of the American merchant class, particularly 
that of New England. In the compass of some thirty pages 

^ These quotations are from letters of Sept. 21 and Nov, 11, 1769. 
Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 27-28, 37-42. In their next letter to 
the London Committee of Merchants, the Philadelphia Committee 
wrote : Though the merchants have confined their agreements to the 
repeal of the Townshend duties, " yet nothing less than a Repeal of alt 
the Revenue Acts and putting Things on the same Footing they were 
before the late Innovations, can or will satisfy the Minds of the 
People." London Chron., Mch. 3, 1770; also Pa. Gas., May 10. 

^ Colden, Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 193. 

^ Mass. Arch., vol. xxvi, pp. 411, 413; Am. Hist. Rez'., vol. viii, pp. 
313-314. 

* Mss. iy4S-iyyo (in M. H. S.), p. 15, contain the letter of the Com- 
mittee of Merchants to Dennys de Berdt, explaining the inception of 
the pamphlet. The committee, which was appointed to draft the 
pamphlet, was composed of Arnold Welles, Henderson Inches, William 
Dennie, WiHiam Molineux and Isaac Smith. Mass. Gas., July 31, 1769,. 



134 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

a well-reasoned argument, buttressed with evidence, was pre- 
sented for a restoration of American trade to the footing it ' 
had enjoyed before the passage of the old Molasses Act of 
1733. This step, it was asserted, would unite Great Britain 
and the colonies on a lasting foundation and eliminate all 
clandestine trade. The repeal of the recent Townshend 
duties would not suffice; for the colonies must again enjoy 
the free importation of molasses, sugars and Madeira wine, 
and must obtain the right of a free and direct importation 
of fruit, wine and oil from Spain and Portugal. The acts 
of Parliament prior to 1764 had been intended merely as 
regulations of trade and, in one instance, a duty had been 
placed on foreign molasses in order to encourage the British 
West Indies; but the present statute could not be so con- 
strued, for it imposed duties en all molasses and expressly 
for the purpose of raising a revenue. According to the 
figures cited in the pamphlet, the various restraints on 
trade with the foreign West Indies, Africa, Madeira and 
Southern Europe had rendered unprofitable the employment 
of four hundred vessels in the fisheries, and of one hun- 
dred and eighty vessels in the lumber and provisions trade 
to the West Indies, not to mention the decrease in the 
coasting-trade and other channels of commerce. The ship- 
building industry had also been seriously affected, only one 
hundred vessels being built annually instead of three hun- 
dred as before the late restrictions on trade. In closing, 
a representation was made of the embarrassments to com- 
merce, due to the unlimited amount of red tape required 
for trading voyages, and to the excessive power, officious- 
ness and unlawful conduct of the customs officers and the 
Customs Board. 

The non-importation movement ran a different course in 
the plantation provinces from that in the commercial prov- 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 135 

inces, due to the characteristic methods of doing business 
in each section. The marketing of the staples of the South 
was largely in the hands of English and Scotch merchants 
and factors, whose business had been very little affected by 
the parliamentary duties of 1766 and 1767. The planters 
constituted the chief discontented class, because of their 
losing struggle to pay the debts they owed to their mercan- 
tile creditors. Animated by a desire to curtail living ex-/ 
penses and to strike at their creditors, the planters assumed 
the initiative in promoting non-importation associations, / 
while the southern trading class stood aloof or were ac- 
tively hostile. These circumstances caused the non-impor- 
tation movement to assume many of the characteristics of 
the non-consumption movement that had been promoted by 
New England town meetings in late 1767 and early 1768. 
As one contemporary said, the associations of the planta- 
tion provinces, besides being less restrictive than the north- 
ern agreements, " excluded a great number of articles which 
are mere luxuries, confin'd their importations from Britain 
to the necessaries of life, and thereby answered the purpose 
of a sumptuary law." ^ 

George Washington, of Virginia, spoke of the peculiari- 
ties of the local trading situation when he transmitted a copy 
of the Philadelphia non-importation agreement, in a letter 
of April 5, 1769, to his neighbor, George Mason. He ex- 
pressed approval of a non-importation plan for Virginia; 
but he pointed out that it could be made successful only by 
going over the heads of the factors and inducing the people 
throughout the province to buy no imported articles, except 
certain enumerated ones. He proposed the meeting of the 
Assembly in Alay as the best time for launching the project 
with any prospect of uniform action by the several counties.^ 

^Bos. Gaz., Jan. 29, 1770; also Pa. Journ., Feb. 15. 
^ Writings (Ford), vol. ii, pp. 263-267. 



fi 



136 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 17 63-177 6 



Mason agreed cordially with Washington's vicAvs, and yet 
made it clear that no plan could be enforced in the tobacco 
provinces unless it should be considerably more liberal in the 
number of importations permitted. Mason seemed to be 
aware of the lack of support for the measure in a well- 
fertilized public opinion, as in the North ; and, like a good 
propagandist, he urged the necessity of publishing " some- 
thing preparatory to it in our gazettes, to warn the people 
of the impending danger and to induce them the more 
readily and cheerfully to concur in the proper measures to 
avert it." He proposed also that the association should 
provide for the non-exportation of tobacco/ 

The House of Burgesses convened at Williamsburg in 
May. Washington found ready backing for a non-importa- 
tion measure among such men as Peyton Randolph, Richard 
Bland, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and Thomas 
Jefferson. But the house proceeded first to declare, in a set 
of resolutions, its official opinion that the sole right of 
taxing Virginians lay with that body and to state its ob- 
jections to certain recent acts of the British administration; 
whereupon Governor Botetourt peremptorily dissolved the 
body. The members, though now divested of their legal 
character, met at a private house in town and, electing 
Peyton Randolph their chairman, promulgated a plan of 
non-importation.^ 

The association bore the date May 18, 1769. In the pre- 

1 Washington, Writings (Ford), pp. 267-268 n. 

"^Pa. Journ., June i, 1769; also S. C. Gaz., July 20. This plan of 
association was presented by Washington ; and in its essentials fol- 
lowed a draft, made several weeks before, by George Mason. One pro- 
posal of Mason's was rejected, however, viz., if the other measures 
proved ineffectual, a non-exportation of tobacco and naval supplies 
should go into effect. Washington, Writings (Ford), vol. ii, pp. 268- 
269 n. ; Rowland, K. M., Life of George Mason (New York, 1892), vol., 
h pp. 392-393. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM i^y 

amble, it was declared that the debt for British merchandise 
was very great and that the means of paying were becoming 
more and more precarious because of the restrictive legis- 
lation of Parliament, particularly the Townshend Acta. ^ 

The subscribers pledged themselves never thereafter to im- 
port any goods, which were then or should thereafter be 
subject to a revenue duty, save paper not exceeding eight j 
shillings per ream. They agreed, further, not to import ^~ 
thereafter a long list of luxuries and fineries from Great 
Britain or any part of Europe, this abstention to continue 
while the duties continued or until a general meeting of 
subscribers decided otherwise/ In all cases, orders already 
sent for goods might be received ; and the subscribers were 
not restricted from buying such goods in local trade until 
September i. They further agreed to buy no slaves im- 
ported after November i. There were also resolutions to 
encourage frugality and to prevent the killing of lambs. 

Copies of the association were carried back to the coun- 
ties by the gentlemen who attended the Williamsburg meet- 
ing. One month later Washington was able to report from 

^ Certain Irish wares imported from Ireland were excluded. This 
blacklist was typical of similar lists in other of the plantation provinces 
and is here given in full : '* Spirits, Wines, Cyder, Perry, Beer, Ale, 
Malt, Barley, Pease, Beef, Pork, Fish, Butter, Cheese, Tallow, Candles, 
Oil, Fruit, Sugar, Pickles, Confectionary, Pewter, Hoes, Axes, Watches, 
Clocks, Tables, Chairs, Looking Glasses, Carriages, Joiners and Cab- 
inet Work of all Sorts, Upholstery of all Sorts, Trinkets and Jewellery, 
Plate and Gold, and Silversmith's Work of all Sorts, Ribbons and 
Millinery of all Sorts, Lace of all Sorts; India Goods of all Sorts, ex- 
cept Spices ; Silks of all Sorts except Sewing Silk ; Cambrick, Lawn, 
Muslin; Gauze except Boulting Cloths; CalHco or Cotton Stuffs of 
more then 2s. per Yard; Linens of more than 2s. per Yard; Woollens, 
Worsted Stuffs of all Sorts of more than is. 6d. per Yard; Broad 
Cloths of all Kinds at more than 8s. per Yard; Narrow Cloths of all 
Kinds at more than 3s. per Yard; Hats; Stockings (Plaid and Irish 
Hose excepted) ; Shoes and Boots, Saddles and all Manufactures of 
Leather and Skins of all Kinds." 



138 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Fairfax county that " the association in this and in the two 
neighboring counties of Prince WilHam and Loudoun is 
compleat, or near it." ^ In Dinwiddie county nearly one 
thousand people signed. Its reception generally was favor- 
able, the merchants being the only class to hold aloof .^ As 
we shall see, after a year's experience under the association 
it was found necessary to adopt a new plan, which the mer- 
chants evinced a willingness to support. 

Meantime, a similar movement had been going forward 
in Maryland. In the middle of March, 1769, the Mer- 
chants' Committee of Philadelphia had transmitted their 
asfreement to the merchants of Baltimore and Chester with 
the admonition that, " though the i^Ierchants and traders 
here have entered into this agreement without any condition, 
yet many will be very uneasy under it if you do not come 
into the Like." ^ The result was that, on March 30, the 
merchants of Baltimore adopted an agreement. 

Outside of this chief commercial center, there was total 
apathy among the traders and factors. ''Atticus " came 
forward in the Maryland Gazette, May 11, 1769, with a plea 
to the inhabitants of the province not to wait on the factors 
to act — for they were powerless because of their English 
connections — but to take measures for themselves against 
the use of British fineries. The principal inhabitants of 
Annapolis and Anne Arundel county led the way on May 
23 with an association for a limited importation. Soon 
similar associations had been entered into by most of the 

MVashington, Writings (Ford), vol. ii, p. 269 n. 

^A^ Y. Jonrn., Aug. 10, 1769; S. C. Gaz., Sept. 12. 

' Papers of PJiila. Merchants, pp. 5-6. A letter of April 17 from 
Bristol, England, to Philadelphia affirmed : " Some People here are 
evading the Resolution of your Merchants. Large Quantities of Goods 
now are shipping for Maryland which are intended for your Place and 
New York." A'. Y. Journ., June 29, 1769. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 1 39 

counties of the province/ The promoters of the original 
AnnapoHs association now invited representatives from each 
county to meet at AnnapoHs and draw up a uniform associa- 
tion for the whole province. '' Merchants, Traders, Free- 
holders, Mechanics and other Inhabitants " were represented 
at the meeting on June 22. 

The association adopted closely resembled the Virginia 
agreement in its preamble of justification, its pledges against 
lamb consumption, and its resolutions against the importa- 
tion of dutied articles and of foreign luxuries, save that in 
the latter case the Maryland list was more than twice as 
long. In providing machinery of enforcement, the Mary- 
land association went beyond any plan yet formulated in any 
province. The subscribers, whether merchants, tradesmen 
or manufacturers, agreed not to take advantage of the pros- 
pective scarcity of goods but to maintain the prices usual, 
during the last three years. Business relations were to be 
severed with any persons acting contrary to the spirit of 
the association; they were to be considered '' Enemies to 
the Liberties of America " and treated '' on all Occasions 
with the Contempt they deserve." The subscribers further 
pledged themselves not to purchase from any other province 
the articles that were debarred ¥yrthe agreement. The 
association was" to cohtifiue in force until the Townshend 
revenue act was repealed or until a general meeting of county 
representatives should decide otherwise. Twelve copies of 
the paper were sent to each county to be signed by the 
people.- 

^ Md. Hist. Mag., vol. iii, p. 144. 

^ Ibid., pp. 144-149; also Md. Gas., June 29, 1769. Again on December 
21, a numerous meeting assembled at Annapolis, including many mem- 
bers of the county committees, and resolved unanimously that the asso- 
ciation be " most strictly adhered to and preserved inviolate." Ibid., 
Dec. 21, 1769; also Pa. Gas., Jan. 4, 1770. 



J 



I^o THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The mercantile influence in South CaroHna politics was 
stronger than in any of the other plantation provinces, al- 
though, of course, it was very different in character from 
that in the commercial provinces. Charleston w^as the most 
important trading town of the South ; and its citizens domin- 
ated the politics of the province. The movement for non- 
importation was supported by the workingmen of Charles- 
ton, who, for some years, had been developing a degree of 
group consciousness, and by the planters of the province 
In the election of the new lower house of the Assembly in 
October, 1768, the mechanics of the two town parishes ven- 
tured to make up a slate and succeeded in securing the 
election of three of their men, or one-half of their ticket.^ 
In the same election, the planting representation in the 
legislature was vastly increased, because of the admission 
of four thousand freeholders to the electorate through the 
establishment of parish boundaries in the interior.' 

The chief leader of the forces for non-importation was 
Christopher Gadsden, a native-born merchant who had 
learned business methods in the commercial provinces and 
who possessed large planting interests, also. His indomit- 
able spirit was illustrated by his conduct upon the death of 
his wife in January, 1769, when he appeared in a suit of 
blue homespun at the funeral rather than wear imported 
black cloth. ^ His chief lieutenant among the mechanic 
class was Peter Timothy, printer of the South Carolina 
Gazette and correspondent of the Massachusetts Adamses. 
The members of the new Assembly lent moral support to 
the cause. The standing order for the wearing of wigs 

1 S. C. Gas., Oct. 3, 10, 1768. 

^ Brit. Papers ("Sparks MssJ'), vol. ii, pp. I93-I95- 
■' " The whole expense of her funeral, of the manufacture of England, 
did not amount to m.ore than 3I. los. our currency." Bos. News-Letter, 
Mch. 9, 1769. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 



141 



and stockings was altered so as to permit members to 
transact committee business in caps and long trousers. If 
the Assembly had occasion to send a committee to greet a 
newly-arrived governor, wrote a shocked contemporary, 
" he would probably from their dress take them for so 
many unhappy persons ready for execution who had come 
to petition him for a pardon." ^ 

In September, 1768, a letter arrived from the Boston 
Committee of Merchants, urging the Charleston merchants 
to adopt regulations of non-importation. The letter was 
handed about among several of the principal merchants but 
received no favor ; and the body of merchants were not even 
called together to confer upon it.^ Governor Bull wrote 
home approvingly of this "silent neglect;" but a great 
many people began to feel differently, especially when re- 
ports of the widespread adoption of agreements in the 
North continued to pour in and hope of relief from Parlia- 
ment grew smaller. The South Carolina Gazette of Febru- 
ary 2, 1769 published a form of agreement for the non- 
consumption of imports, which all people were advised to 
adopt unless news of the repeal of the Townshend duties 
should come speedily. A few days later, "A Planter " 
wrote in favor of an association to buy no newly-imported 
slaves until American rights should be restored.^ In the 
latter part of May, another " Planter " urged his brethren 
to foster local manufacturing and to patronize non-importers 
only. '' You cannot expect the merchants will begin this 
matter themselves," he wrote. ". . . Oblige them to it, by 
declaring you will deal with none that do import extra 
articles," and, by this method, you will bring about " a 

^ S. C. Gas., Nov. 2, 1769. 

"^ S.C. & Am. Gen. Gas., July 10, 1769; Brit. Papers {"Sparks Mss"), 
vol. ii, p. 195. 
^ S. C. Gas. &• Country Journ., Feb. 7, 1769. 



1^2 ^^^^ COLOXIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

happy Coalition of our Interest and that of ^\Ierchants into- 
one immediate self-interest:' ^ These various pleas brought; 
no satisfactory results.^ 

Evidently the time had arrived to force the issue on the 
merchants. Gadsden opened the hostilities on June 22 by 
writing an article, under the pseudonym, '* Pro Grege et 
Rege," addressed to the " Planters, ]Mechanicks and Free- 
holders ... no ways concerned in the importation of 
British manufactures." ^ The importers of European goods 
were stigmatized as strangers in the province, many of 
them of a very few years' residence. To listen to any 
more assurances that the revenue acts would be repealed if 
the people remained quiet, was declared to be folly. Had 
the people had enough real friends among the merchants to 
obtain even one meeting to consult what they could do to 
aid the general good, though every newspaper informed 
them of the generous actions of the merchants to the north- 
ward? On the contrary, had not the people been "af- 
fronted with numberless zceak and groundless reasons . . . 
in order to frighten and deter " them from acting as they 
ought ? Could it be prudent to entrust the public good to a 
body ''whose private interest is glaringly against us?" 
Let the freeholders and fixed settlers resolve upon non- 
consumption, and the merchants would immediately decide 
not to import. A suggested form of agreement was ap- 
pended to the article. 

^ S. C. Gaz., June i, 1769. 

' It was claimed that a number of people in different parts of the 
province did come into the association, proposed on February 2, b}' a 
show of hands; but the evidence of this is not very satisfactory. Ibid., 
June 8, 1769. 

^ S. C. Gac. June 22, 1769. Rephes were made by "The Merchants 
of Charles-Town," S. C. & Am. Gen. Gaz., July 10, and by " Pro 
Libertate et Lege," 5^. C. Gaz., July 13; but Gadsden's views were not 
effectively refuted. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM I^^ 

The following week, the South Carolina Gazette pub- 
lished a non-importation agreement, which was being pushed 
by Gadsden and Peter Timothy and which had already been 
subscribed by a number of people, including twenty-five 
members of the Assembly. This form was recommended 
as one suitable for workingmen and planters; and it was 
announced that the present measure would supersede any 
earlier forms that might have been accepted. Necessity for 
this measure was attributed to the heavy and unconstitu- 
tional burden of the Townshend revenue acts and the failure 
of petitions to secure relief. The agreement was to be oper- 
ative until the acts were repealed. By its provisions, the 
subscribers agreed to stop all importation from Great 
Britain thereafter, and to countermand all orders, wherever 
possible, except for negro cloth, osnaburgs and duffel 
blankets, workmen's tools, nails, woolcards, cardwire, can- 
vas, ammunition, books, salt and coal. They agreed that 
prices should not advance; and that they would promote 
American manufactures and discard the use of mourning. 
The inhabitants were given notice to sign the subscription 
within one month, on pain of being boycotted.^ 

The mechanics of Charleston met under Liberty Tree on 
July 3 and 4 to act upon the agreement; and after inserting 
two new articles, the amended agreement was quickly signed 
by two hundred and thirty people. The added parts pro- 
vided that no goods, usually imported from Britain, should 
be purchased from transient traders ; and that no negroes 
should be bought who were brought into the province after 
January i, 1770. A few days later, some of the mechanics 
began to make a list of the merchants who signed the agree- 
ment with the avowed purpose of trading only with such.^ 

The great body of the merchants would have nothing 

* 5". C. Gac, June 20. 1769. ^ ^^^'c?., July 6, 13. 1769. 



144 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

to do with these proceedings, objecting' bitterly to the 
non-representative character of the meetings which had 
formed the agreement, and denouncing the measure as 
" an unjust attempt of one part of the community ... to 
throw a burthen on the rest, more grievous than ever was 
conceived by the most arbitrary minister of the most des- 
potic King." They charged that the agreement was so 
framed as to enable the planters and mechanics to import 
the articles that they deemed indispensable, while the mer- 
chants received no special favors ; and thc}^ considered that 
their interests were assailed by the mourning agreement, 
since their stores were well stocked with mourning ma- 
terials.^ The merchants held their first meeting to con- 
sider the situation on Friday afternoon, June 30, and, after 
appointing a committee to draw up a report, adjourned to 
July 7, when final action was taken. Nearly eighty mer- 
chants were present at the adjourned meeting. The non- 
importation regulations, which the meeting adopted, were 
much less rigorous than those of the other inhabitants. 
The agreement was limited to January i, 1771, unless the 
revenue acts should be repealed sooner; and a larger and 
different list of articles was permitted to be imported. All 
the other terms of the rival agreement were taken over by 
the merchants, except the pledges for prom.oting local 
manufacturing and for casting aside mourning apparel. In 
addition, it was specified that, because of the heavy duty, 
no wine should be imported or marketed during the year 

1770.' 

Affairs were now in a bad state of confusion. Two 
forms of agreement were being actively circulated for signa- 
tures ; and the feeling of animosity between the classes w^as 

^"The Merchants of Charles-Town/' S. C. & Am, Gen. Gas., July 
13, 1769. 
2 6^. C. Gas., July 6, 13, 1769. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 14^ 

growing each day more acute, "A Mechanic " demanded 
of the pubHc how the planters and mechanics could be ex- 
pected to subscribe to an agreement which did not contain 
one syllable in favor of American manufactures or any 
provision against the use of mourning.^ The intolerable 
situation was brought to an end by overtures from the 
merchants for a joint committee to draft a uniform agree- 
ment containing the essentials of the two forms. The 
joint committee completed its work on Wednesday, July 19. 
On the following day, the merchants unanimously accepted 
the plan that had been agreed upon, and appointed a com- 
mittee of thirteen to act as an executive body for doing 
** whatever might be farther necessary to give Force to the 
new Association." ^ On Saturday, the twenty-second, a 
great meeting was held, under Liberty Tree, of the me- 
chanics and such planters as happened to be in town. 
Christopher Gadsden read the new form, paragraph by 
paragraph, so that objections might be offered, but the whole 
was immediately voted satisfactory.^ The association 
was quickly signed by two hundred and sixty-eight people, 
headed by the members of the House of Representatives 
who were in town. A committee of thirteen planters and 
of as many mechanics was appointed to serve with the 
merchants' committee as one General Committee of thirt}^- 
nine, for the purpose of supervising the enforcement of 
the association.* By the following Thursday, one hundred 
and forty-two merchants had signed the new resolutions. 

^ S. C. Gas., July 13, 1769. 

^ Ihid., July 27, 1769; also Bos. News-Letter, Aug. 17. 

'6". C. Gas., July 27, 1769; Bos. Gas., Aug. 14, The names of the 
members of the General Committee may be found in MoCrady, S. C. 
under Royal Govt., p. 651 n. 

* Among the planters named were some who had mercantile interests 
as well. Before the vote was taken, Gadsden withdrew his own name, 
and induced the meeting to strike out of the planters' list all others 
who were similarly situated. 



1^6 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



.yf 



The new association represented a victory for the non- 
j mercantile classes, in most respects, although it contained 
most of the provisions of both earlier associations. In one 
.respect, it was the most comprehensive agreement on the 
/ -continent, for it was to remain in operation until the various 
regulatory acts of Parliament, including the establishment 
of the Customs Board and the extension of vice-admiralty 
jurisdiction, were repealed. The subscribers contracted to 
import no European or East Indian goods from Great 
Britain or elsewhere, except such orders as it was too late 
to countermand and excluding a list of articles which com- 
prehended all those of the earlier agreements. They en- 
gaged to maintain the usual prices; to foster provincial 
r^^ manufactures ; to dispense with mourning apparel ; to trade 
with no transient vessels for any goods after November i, 
save salt and coal; to import no negroes from Africa dur- 
ing the year 1770 nor to import any wine after January i, 
1 770. Finally a boycott was declared a^ainst^eyery resident 
of the province, who failed to sign within one month ; and 
any subscriber who became delinquent was to be treated with 
" the utmost' contempt." Later in the year, the General 
t Committee amended the association so as to include a non- 
exportation of tanned leather until the revenue acts w^ere 
repealed, since saddlery and shoes were no longer to be im- 
ported from abroad.^ 

Effects of the mourning regulation wxre soon manifest; 
and by October the use of scarves and gloves at funerals 
was totally discarded at Charleston.^ The practice of the 
wealthier families of educating their sons in Great Britain 
was, in a number of cases, given up, " now that the Mother 
Country seems unfriendly to us." Thus, in August, 1769, 



^ S. C. Gaz.. Oct. 26, i7( 
""Ibid., Oct. 5, 1769. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 1 47 

seven youths sailed on the same vessel to Philadelphia to 
enter the college there/ Some sporadic interest was shown 
in manufacturing. 

The situation in Georgia revealed the same discord be- 
tween the merchants and the other inhabitants that existed 
elsewhere in the plantation provinces. Spurred on by a 
letter from the General Committee of South Carolina, a 
radical group, known as the " Amicable Society," met at 
Liberty Hall in Savannah, and issued a call for a meeting 
of all inhabitants on Tuesday, September 12, to consider 
methods of obtaining relief from the Townshend Acts,, 
Notwithstanding the claim that " Merchants, Planters, 
Tradesmen and others " attended the public gathering, it is 
evident that the merchants, if any were present, formed an 
ineffective minority. A committee was appointed to submit, 
a form of agreement to the inhabitants a week later. ^ 

The merchants of Savannah now determined to head ofiF 
the popular movement ; and three days before the appointed 
time they assembled at a private house and adopted an agree- 
ment against the importation of dutied articles alone. In 
the preamble, the recent acts of Parliament were declared 
unconstitutional; and the particular grievance of Georgia 
was asserted to be the requirement that the duties should 
be paid in specie, this in face of the fact that the stoppage 
of the Spanish trade, some years before, had plugged the 
source of specie supply.^ 

Their efforts proved unavailing. The mass meeting of 
September 19 adopted a comprehensive agreement, pat- 
terned after that of South Carolina of July 20 and 22. The 
terms of the agreement were to expire with the repeal of the 

1 vS". C. Gaz., Aug. 24, 1769. 

2 Ga. Gaz., Sept. 6, 13, 1769. 

^ Ibid., Sept. 20, 1769; also White, Ga. Hist. Colls., p. 42. 



148 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



Townshend duties. The subscribers engaged to import no 
European or East Indian goods, save thirty-seven varieties 
and such former orders as it was too late to countermand. 
They pledged themselves to sell goods at the customary 
rates; to promote provincial manufactures, and to discard 
mourning; to import no negroes from Africa after June i, 
1770 nor to import any wine after I\Iarch i of the same 
year. All trade should be severed with inhabitants of the 
province and with transient traders who neglected to sign 
the agreement within five weeks ; and every violator should 
be deemed '' no Friend to his Country." ^ This agreement 
adopted, it remained for the future to reveal whether the 
merchants would deem themselves bound by an ordinance 
not of their own making. 

All the southern provinces but North Carolina had now 
taken action. The excellent example of the neighboring prov- 
inces seemed to make little impression on North Carolina. 
Here, as elsewhere in the South, the merchants of the chief 
trading community used their influence to retard the move- 
ment.^ Finally, on September 30, 1769, under the leader- 
ship of Cornelius Harnett, the " Sons of Liberty " of Wil- 
mington and Brunswick adopted resolutions of non-im- 
portation.^ The next step was the adoption of a provincial 
association ; and this was accomplished under circumstances 
closely parallel to those in Virginia six months earlier. It 
was the verhatim adoption of the defiant resolutions of Vir- 
ginia that caused Governor Try on to dissolve the North 
Carolina Assembly. The members, in their private capaci- 
ties, then held a meeting in the courthouse at Newbern ; and 

* Ga. Gaz., Sept. 20, 1769; also Ga. Rev. Recs., vol. i, pp. 8-11. Jona- 
than Bryan was suspended from the provincial council because he pre- 
sided over this meeting. Brit. Papers {"Sparks Mss."), vol. ii, p. 284. 

'5. C. Gas., Oct. 26, 1769; S. C. Gaz. & Country Journ., Sept. 12. 

' Cape Fear Merc, July 11, 1770; also 5". C. Gas., Aug. 9. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM I^g 

on the next day, November y, 1769, an association of 
non-importation was agreed upon and signed by the sixty- 
four members present. The first part of the association 
attributed the current depression to the revenue acts and 
other statutes depriving Americans of their rights as Eng- 
lishmen, and called upon all inhabitants of the province to 
concur in the association until the oppressive acts should 
be repealed. Derelict subscribers were " to be treated with 
the utmost contempt;" the customary standard of prices for 
domestic goods was to be maintained ; and the terms of the 
document were to go into effect beginning January i, 1770. 
In other respects, the association was almost precisely like 
that of Virginia of May 18. The subscribers agreed not to 
import the same list of foreign wares, nor to buy newly im- 
ported slaves, nor ever again to import dutied goods, except » 
paper. There were also similar regulations for encourag- 
ing economy and preventing the killing of lambs. ^ 

While the non-importation movement was making head- 
way in the plantation provinces, most of the minor provinces 
in the commercial group had expressed formal allegiance 
to the measure. Since these provinces were, in most cases, 
tributary commercially to the great trading-towns, their 
action was not of great importance. Only two provinces, 
Rhode Island and New Hampshire, held off for a while; 
and the course of Rhode Island created a situation of some 
perplexity because of the importance of Newport as a com- 
mercial center. 

Delaware was the first of the minor provinces to act. At 
the August session of the grand jury of Newcastle county 
on the Delaware, a " compact " w^as entered into to con- 
form to the spirit of the Philadelphia agreement, and to 

^ S. C. Gaz. & Country lourn., Dec. 8, 1769; also N. C. Booklet, vol. 
viii, pp. 22-26. 



iy 



1^0 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

boycott and publish any offenders against it. On Saturday, 
August 26, 1769, a meeting of the principal freeholders of 
the county approved and unanimously signed the compact/ 
Apparently no action was taken by the other counties on 
the Delaware. 

On October 18, the members of the House of Assembly of 
New Jersey passed a vote of thanks to the merchants and 
traders of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania " for 
their disinterested and public spirited Conduct in withhold- 
ing their Importations of British Merchandize." ^ The 
only other evidence of formal action on the part of the in- 
habitants came at mass meetings in Essex county and at New 
Brunswick in June, 1770, when loyalty to non-importation 
was pledged and a sentence of boycott pronounced upon all 
importers and their allies." 

On April 26, 1769, the Committee of Merchants at New 
York wrote a letter to the merchants at New Haven, the 
chief trading place in Connecticut, appealing to them to 
adopt the same measures that Boston, New York and Phila- 
delphia had united upon.* The merchants of New Haven 
met for that purpose on July 10, and agreed neither to 
receive nor purchase any goods from Great Britain until 
the Townshend duties should be repealed, with the exception 
of certain specified articles and such commodities as were 
excluded by the Boston and New York agreements. Delin- 
quent subscribers were to be boycotted as " enemies to their 
Country." ^ In August the merchants at New London 
and Groton adopted regulations of a similar tendency.^ 

^ Pa, Joiirn., Aug. 31, 1769; also 5. C. Gaz., Oct. 12. 
2 Pa. Gas., Oct. 26, 1769; also i N. J. Arch., vol. xxvi, p. 546. 
^ A^ /. Joiirn., June 7, 28, 1770; also i N. J. Arch., vol. xxvii, pp. 169- 
172, 186-189. 
* Conn. Coiir., July 30, 1770; also A'. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Aug. 6. 
^ Bos. Eve. Post, Aug. 7, 1769; Conn. Cour., July 30, 1770. 
^ Bos. Chron., Aug. 28, 1769. 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 



i=;i 



The support of the farmers of the province was manifested 
in a resolution passed, on October 12, by the House of 
Representatives, a body which they entirely centrolled. 
High approval was expressed of the merchants of Con- 
necticut and the other provinces for stopping importation 
from Great Britain/ On Christmas day, a town meeting 
at Wethersfield congratulated the merchants on their con- 
duct, and voted to use no goods debarred by the merchants' 
agreement. Silas Deane, a local merchant in the West 
Indian trade, had worked actively for these resolutions and 
was made chairman of the committee of enforcement.^ 
Norwich followed the example of Wethersfield a month 
later.' 

Now occurred a movement to standardize the agreements 
of the various towns ; and a call was sent forth for a meet- 
ing of the principal merchants and traders at Middletown 
on February 20, 1770, to take proper measures. The mer- 
cantile convention met at the appointed time and there were 
also *' a Number of the respectable Inhabitants " in attend- 
ance. After a three days' session, the meeting formulated 
a program of action, designed to free the province from 
the economic domination not only of England but of the 
neighboring provinces as well. A uniform agreement of 
non-importation was drawn up.* Old prices were to con- 
tinue; violators of the non-importation, whether merchants 
or others, were to be boycotted ; and a similar treatment was 
to be visited on any provinces that did not observe non- 
importation. A project was launched for a " society for 

^ N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Nov. 20, 1769. 

^Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 22, 1770. 

' Ibid., Feb. 5, i77o. 

* About thirty articles were permitted to be imported, most of which 
were useful for local manufacturing. This list was further extended 
at a general meeting of September 13. Conn. Cour., Sept. 17, 1770. 



1-2 THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

the purpose of promoting and extending the arts, agricul- 
ture, manufactures, trade and commerce of this colony;" 
and a committee was appointed to float the enterprise by 
means of popular subscriptions/ Another committee was 
instructed to seek preferential treatment from the legis- 
lature for the exportation of Connecticut flour in Con- 
necticut vessels, for local ships in the fisheries, and for the 
establishment of a glass factory. The convention further 
resolved that, in view of the extreme scarcity of cash, they 
would urge the legislature at its ^lay session " to make 
notes of hand negotiable with us, under proper regula- 
tions, as they are in Great Britain, and in some of our 
sister colonies." ^ 

At first thought, it may seem strange that the merchants 
of Rhode Island were not abreast of Boston and New York 
in opposition to the trade restrictions of Parliament. With 
the course of these greater towns their true interest un- 
doubtedly lay; but the temptation in hard times to turn the 
self-denial of their neighbors to their own immediate ad- 
vantage proved too great. ^ ^^loreover, they had so long 

* This society was duly organized ; and, at its first meeting, on May 
22, 1770, it offered premiums for domestic wheat, wool, textiles, stock- 
ings and nails. N ezv-London Gas., June 15, 1770. But the breakdown 
of the non-importation movement later in the j^ear prevented this soci- 
ety from accomplishing its purpose. 

^ Conn. Journ., Jan. 19, 1770; Conn. Cour., Feb. 26. 

^ Thus, newspapers in New York and Boston alluded to recent " large 
Importations of British Goods into Rhode Island with Intent to take 
an Advantage of the Sister Colonies." N. Y. Journ., June 29, Nov. 30, 
1769; Mass. Gas., July 10. Vide also R. L Commerce, vol. i, p. 246. 
In August, 1769, two British manufacturers, who had been expelled 
from Charleston, S. C, and later from New London, Conn., for trying 
to sell imported British wares, journeyed on to Newport and quickly 
disposed of their goods there. Bos. Chron., Aug. 28, 1769; A\ Y. Gas. 
& Post-Boy, Aug. 28. In December, a trader in " a Country Town 
Southv/ard of Boston" complained that the trade of the western part 



COMMERCIAL REFORM I^^ 

accustomed themselves to defiances of the trade regulations 
of Parliament that it violated no moral scruple to ignore 
the extra-legal ordinances of nearby provinces. The mer- 
chants of Newport, the leading town, were the chief of- 
fenders. As one observer put it, the merchants there '' have 
been pretty unanimous in disputing fees with their Col- 
lector &c." but have failed to adopt non-importation meas- 
ures. " They have been busy in killing flies while they 
should have been destroying wolves and tygers ! '' ^ 

After some preliminary agitation on the part of the local 
merchants, a town meeting at Providence on October 24, 
1769 resolved not to import or purchase any of the com- 
modities listed in the old town agreement of December 2, 
1767." This, it should however be noted, was an ex- 
tremely liberal form of non-importation regulation in com- 
parison with the agreements in the other commercial prov- 
inces. As the snow Tristram was soon expected from 
London with goods forbidden by the agreement, the various 
importers, some of whom had been unmoved before, arose 
in the meeting and agreed to store the goods with a com- 
mittee of the town. Later, precaution was taken to prevent 
inhabitants from buying goods, which local merchants were 
forbidden to sell, from strolling vendors, all purchasers 
being warned that their names would be publicly advertised.^ 

of Massachusetts was being absorbed by Rhode Island merchants, be- 
cause prices at Newport were twenty per cent cheaper than at Boston. 
Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Dec. 21, 1769. "A Bostonian" charged in 
the Boston Chronicle, Feb. 5, 1770, that Providence had developed a 
considerable trade with western Massachusetts. In like vein, the 
Chronicle, Dec. 11, 1769, reported that twenty chests of tea had been 
brought overland from Rhode Island within the fortnight. 

^ N. Y. Jotirn., Nov. 9, 1769. 

"^ Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Oct. 16, 1769; Bos. Gas., Oct. 30; Mass. 
Gas. & News-Letter, Nov. 2, Dec. 14. Vide supra, p. iii. 

^ Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Nov. 17, 1769. 



I-^ THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The Newport merchants were more refractory. A letter 
of October 21,1 769 from the Philadelphia Merchants' Com- 
mittee notified them that a plan was under way to sever 
commercial relations with them unless they united in the 
measures of the other provinces/ A Boston newspaper 
announced that " all intercourse with Rhode Island is nearly 
shut up, as if the plague w^ere there;" ^ and the South 
Carolina Gazette of November 14 asserted that similar meas- 
ures were about to be adopted at Charleston. Under this 
outside pressure, the body of Newport merchants met on 
October 30, and agreed to import no British manufactures or 
East India goods after January i, 1770.^ Their design 
was quickly detected. The Philadelphia Merchants' Com- 
mittee informed them that the agreement was unsatisfactory 
in two respects : by confining themselves to British and East 
India goods, they still were at liberty to import from Great 
Britain German, Russian and other European commodities ; 
and, by postponing the operation of the agreement until 
the first of January, they might import vast quantities of 
goods, ordered especially for the interval. Unless these 
matters were rectified and a " determinate answer " given 
by December 10, they were told that Philadelphia would 
boycott them.* At New York, the merchants instituted an 
immediate boycott, subject to removal when the Newport 
merchants conformed to conditions somewhat similar to 
those imposed by Philadelphia.^ The Newport merchants 
now adopted a new agreement, which was acceptable in 
every respect, save that the imports lately arrived were not 

^ Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 31-34. 
'^ Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Oct. S, 1769. 
^ N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Nov. 13, 1769. 
* Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 43-45. 
° Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Nov. 2Z, 1769- 



COMMERCIAL REFORM 



155 



to be stored/ Although not entirely satisfied, the Phila- 
delphia merchants, upon strong assurance of strict observ- 
ance in the future, determined to continue trade relations ; 
and, some weeks later, the New Yorkers re-opened trade 
with Newport." Nevertheless, the equivocal course of the 
Newport merchants did not promise well for the future 
conscientious performance of pledges reluctantly given. 

The inaction of New Hampshire was due, for the most 
part, to causes of a different character. The province was 
in the midst of a period of unusual prosperity, and taxes 
were lower than they had been for years." The predomin- 
ant interests of the province were agricultural ; and, lacking 
a first-rate trading-town, there was no aggressive mer- 
cantile class to disturb the general complacency. Moreover, 
most of the seats of power in the province were occupied 
by relatives of Governor Wentworth, the royal appointee.* 
Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that Governor 
Wentworth was able to write to the home government as 
late as February 18, 1770: " There are not any non-impor- 
tation committees or associations formed in this province, 
tho' daily solicited."* He added that some Scotch merchants 
had now sent their European importations there and were 
carrying on their business " without the least molestation." ^ 
No steps were taken in New Hampshire to join the union 
of the other provinces until the alarming news arrived of 
the Boston Massacre. 

^ Bos. Gas., Jan. 29, 1770; also Pa. Jouni., Feb. 15. 

* A^. F. Joiirn., Jan. 25, 1770; N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Jan. 29. 

spry, W. H., New Hampshire as a Royal Province (Col. U. Studies, 
vol. xxix, no. 2), p. 420. 

* It would appear that, of the nine members of the council, eight were 
connected with the governor by blood or marriage ties; Judge Atkin- 
son of the Superior Court was the governor's uncle; and the clerk of 
the Superior Court was the judge's nephew. Bos. Eve. Post, June 25, 
1770. 

^ Brit. Papers ("Sparks Mss."), vol. iii, p. 205. 



CHAPTER IV 

Enforcement and Breakdown of Non- 
Importation (1768-1770) 

I By the autumn .^i_J-76g non-importation agreements 

I had been adopted in every province save New Hampshire. 
^^ But if these paper manifestoes were to accompHsh their 
purpose of coercing the mother country, they must be 
accompanied by a firm enforcement. It is appropriate, 
therefore, to inquire to what extent the boycott against 
Great Britain was actually executed. Certain difficul- 
ties, inherent in the inquiry, will render dogmatic con- 
clusions impossible. Thus, the agreements of the sev- 
eral provinces went into operation at different times, 
some being separated by long intervals of time. Their 
provisions varied widely in their comprehensiveness. 
Furthermore, the evidence, upon which conclusions 
must be based, is voluminous in the case of some pro- 
vinces, and very scanty for others. Custom house 
figures are of doubtful assistance in gauging the earn- 
estness of the non-importers, since they do not indicate 
whether the goods imported were allowed or proscribed 
by the agreements, and they do not at all take into ac- 
count the peculiar obstacles with which the non-impor- 
ters may have had to contend in any particular locality. 

In no province were the difRculties of enforcement 
■ greater than in Massachusetts. The actual good faith 
of the merchant body of Boston was impugned by many 
156 



NON-IMP OR TA TION I -7 

people at the time ; and the writers of history have found 
it easy to follow this example since.' But the story of the 
enforcement at Boston will show that the merchants were 
laboring earnestly, and with a large measure of effec- 
tiveness, to establish the non-importation against un- 
usually heavy odds. " I wonder for my part," wrote a 
Boston merchant in 1770 to a New York friend, "how 
we have been able to continue and so strictly to adhere to 
the agreement as we have done." Besides the usual 
obstacles, ''we have had a governor, together with a 
board of commissioners, with their train of officers and 
dependants who have exerted every nerve to render 
abortive the non-importation agreement," and they have 
had support from the military power. "We have had a 
government on each side of us who have imported as 
usual without the least restraint;" and "we have six or 
seven ports within our government to attend to besides 
our own." "" The writer might have added that the Bos- 
ton merchants were the first on the continent to adopt 
a non-importation agreement and had anticipated the 
action of most of the provinces by many months. Finally 
and not least, he should have noted that the opponents 
of non-importation had a giant of strength on their side 
in the person of the shrewdest and most pertinacious 
controversialist in British America, John Mein of the 
Boston Chronicle. 

The merchants' agreement went into effect on January 
I, 1769. On April 21, a meeting of the merchants ap- 
pointed a committee to inspect the manifests, or official 
cargo lists, of vessels which were then arriving from 

^E.g., editorial note in Dickinson, Wt'itings (Ford), vol. i, p. 436; 
Becker, A^. Y. Parties, 1760-1776, p. 85. 

' N. Y. Journ., July 5, 1770. 



I^g THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Great Britain with spring shipments and to report back 
to the body the names of merchants who had imported 
in defiance of the agreement.' On the twenty-seventh, 
the merchants heard the report : six subscribers of the 
agreement had received a few articles, the residue of 
former orders, and six or seven, who were not signers, 
had imported small quantities of prohibited articles. 
The former had readily agreed to store their importa- 
tions with the committee, while the committee was in- 
structed to confer further with the latter.^ An inspired 
statement a few days later informed the public that the 
merchants' agreement had been "strictly adhered to" 
by its signers, and that there had not been imported " in 
all the ships from England more Goods than would fill 
a Long-Boat." 3 

A campaign that was destined to continue through 
many months was begun to discredit utterly those who 
violated the merchants' agreement. On May 8, the 
Boston town meeting expressed its high satisfaction over 
the scrupulous conduct of the merchants and recom- 
mended to the inhabitants to withdraw their patronage 
from "those few persons" who had imported goods 
contrary to the agreement.'^ Within the next two weeks, 
some thousands of handbills were dispersed through 
Massachusetts and the neighboring provinces, advising 

^Bos. Gaz., Apr. 24, 1769; also N. V. Journ., May 4. 

"^Bos. Gaz., May i, 1769. This account contained no names. The 
complete report of the committee, with the names of the importers, 
eU., may be found in M. H. S. Ms., 91 L., p. 42. There were actually 
twenty-eight importers who were non-signers, but the contents of their 
orders were not known in most instances. 

^Bos. Gaz., May i, 1769; also A^ Y. Gaz. & Merc, May 8. 

^Bos. News-Letter, May 11, 1769; also Bos. Tow7i Recs. {1758-1769) , 
p. 289. 



NON-IMPORTATION I^g 

all people to shun the shops of the following firms as 
men who preferred private advantage to public welfare : 
William Jackson, Jonathan Simpson, J. and R. Selkrig,' 
John Taylor, Samuel Fletcher, Theophilus Lillie, James 
McMasters & Co., Thomas and Elisha Hutchinson, and 
Nathaniel Rogers.^ Thomas and Elisha Hutchinson, it 
should be noted, were sons of the lieutenant governor 
and carried on a business of tea importation in which 
the elder Thomas himself was interested.^ Nathaniel 
Rogers, another of the proscribed men, was a nephew of 
the lieutenant governor. All these men were respected 
merchants of the city ; and so far as any records would 
indicate, none of them were interested in illicit traffic or 
even in the West Indian trade. No doubt most of them, 
like the Hutchinsons, were conducting lawful businesses 
which throve best under the regulations of Parliament ; 
and a number of them had friends and relatives among 
the official class. They were not Tories in any political 
sense, and neither then nor afterwards did they hold 
posts under the government. They were men who, how- 
ever, objected as fiercely to a direction of their affairs by 
the populace as the smugglers of 1761 did to an inter- 
ference with their business by a governmental writ of 
assistance. 

The effort to inaugurate a boycott against these men 
brought to their defense the doughty champion, to whom 
reference has already been made, John Mein, a co-pub- 

^ Also spelled Selkridge and Selking. 

^N. Y. Journ., June 29, 1769. 

^ Vide infra, p. 282. I have found no evidence to support William Pal- 
frey's allegation, made in a private letter to John Wilkes, October 30, 
1770, that the elder Hutchinson, after graduation at Harvard, "was for 
many years in the Holland trade, where he constantly practised all the 
various methods of sm.uggling." Palfrey, J. G., William Palfrey {2 
Libr. Am. Biog., Sparks, ed., vol. vii), pp. 368-369. 



l6o THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

lisher of the Boston Chronicle. Mein was a native of 
Scotland and had been a book dealer in Boston since his 
arrival in October, 1764. He had received a good 
education, he possessed a faculty for effective literary ex- 
pression and made himself a useful citizen generally. He 
had established a circulating library ; and in December, 
1767, he founded, with John Fleeming, the Boston Chron- 
icle, which quickly showed itself to be the most enter- 
prising sheet on the continent in content as well as 
typographical appearance. After a time, he converted it 
from a weekly to a semi-weekly, without any addition in 
price, and it thus became the only journal in New Eng- 
land published with such frequency. Mein had hitherto 
avoided any part in the turmoil of the times and, with 
the other editors, he had published the entire series of 
the Farmer s Letters. In arousing the ire of John Mein, 
the merchants of Boston had stirred up a veritable hor- 
net's nest.' 

^ For the facts of Mein's life, vide Thomas, I., History of Printing 
in America (Albany, 1874), vol. i, pp. 151-154, vol. ii, pp. 59-61; Ayer, 
M. F., and Mathews, A., Check-List of Boston Newspapers 1704-1780 
{Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. ix), pp. 480-481. Thomas inclines to the 
contemporary opinion that Mein was in the pay of the government at 
this period. Hutchinson's correspondence in the Mass. Archives fails 
to give any hint of such a connection. Mein himself denied again and 
again that he was acting in behalf of " a Party," and he maintained 
that he was "unbiassed by fear or affection, prejudice or party." It is 
evident, of course, that he held the confidence of the Customs Board 
and had access to the information contained in their books. There are 
some reasons for thinking that Mein left America in November, 1769, 
and never returned. The present account has assumed, for good 
reasons, that he was not away from Boston for any perceptible length 
of time. E. g., vide Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 260. After all, 
the chief consideration is that the articles in the Chronicle, of which he 
was universally reputed to be the author, continued to appear without 
interruption until the Chronicle ceased publication. Professor Andrews 
has recently brought to light some new facts concerning Mein's exper- 
iences in Boston in "The Boston Merchants and the Non-Importation 
Movement," Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. xix, pp. 227-230. 



NON-IMPOR TA TION 1 6 j 

Mein's first blast came in an unsigned article in the 
Chronicle of June i, 1769. Declaring that the handbills, 
recently circulated, gave the impression that the firms 
named were the only importers of British goods in the 
city, the article asserted that it was only just to make 
known the truth. An exact account showed that twenty- 
one vessels had arrived from Great Britain at Boston 
from January i, the date on which the agreement became 
operative, to June i, 1769; and that one hundred and 
ninety different persons, many of them signers of the 
agreement, had imported 162 trunks, 270 bales, 182 cases, 
233 boxes, 1 1 16 casks, 139 chests, ^2 hampers, and other 
quantities, all carefully detailed. 

The attack elicited a quick response. A writer, evi- 
dently speaking for the Committee of Merchants, replied 
in the Boston Gazette of June 12. In the number of 
importers, he declared that Mein included almost one 
hundred belonging to other ports, also clergymen, 
masters of vessels and private persons who had imported 
only a single article for family use. He called attention 
to the fact that Mein had stated the quantity of goods 
without differentiating between those permitted and 
those debarred by the agreement and without noting the 
number of packages imported for army and navy use. 
Mein, he averred, included four vessels which, but for 
storms and other delays, would have reached Boston be- 
fore the agreement went into effect, and three vessels 
from Scotland, belonging to strangers who had come 
over to build ships. These being omitted from the list, 
it was evident that the merchandise imported by the 
people of Boston in violation of the agreement was " tri- 
fling and of little Value." So far as signers were con- 
cerned, the report of the merchants' committee of 
inspection was cited to prove that they had imported, 



1 62 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

contrary to the agreement, only 14 cases, 27 chests, 
mostly of oil, 36 casks of beer, linseed oil and cheese, 
50 hampers, chiefly of empty bottles, and 15 bundles; 
all of which had been immediately placed under direction 
of the committee. Not a single article of woolens nor 
any kind of piece-goods had been imported by the signers. 
The author of the earlier article was called upon to pub- 
lish the names of the importers and to point out any 
signers who had failed to submit their goods to the 
committee of inspection. 

Mein closed the discussion, for the time, simply by 
announcing in his issue of the nineteenth that a list of 
importers and manifests, from which his facts had been 
drawn, was now lodged at the Chronicle office, and could 
there be consulted by the candid and impartial public. 
Up to this point, the chief effect of Mein's pugnacity on 
public opinion concerning him was his expulsion from 
the Free American Fire Society, on grounds that he was 
an importer and was concerned in a *' partial, evasive and 
scandalous " attack on the respectable merchants of the 
town.' 

Realizing the necessity for more effective measures of 
dealing with importing merchants, the Boston trade 
proceeded to work out an ingenious system of boycott. 
At a meeting of July 26, 1769, they agreed to w^ithhold 
their business from any vessel which should load at any 
British port with goods forbidden by the agreement. 
In addition, a committee was appointed to examine the 
manifests of any vessels which should arrive from Great 
Britain before January i, 1770, and to insert in the public 
prints the names of violators of the agreement, unless 
they should deliver the goods into charge of the stand- 

^ Bos. Gaz. July 10, 1769. 



NON-IMPORTATION 163 

ing committee of the merchants. Another committee 
was appointed to secure a subscription of Boston inhab- 
itants to boycott those men whose names had been pub- 
lished in the handbills/ A few days later, a house-to- 
house canvass was made among the citizens for signa- 
tures to buy no goods debarred by the merchants' agree- 
ment, and to support any further measures of the mer- 
chants.^ Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson, in a letter 
about this time, wrote angrily that merchants' meetings 
" are called and held by adjournments, whose resolutions 
are come into. Committees appointed, and other proceed- 
ings had in as formal a manner as in a body corporate 
legally assembled and known and established by the Con- 
stitution ; and those meetings have had such effect that 
. , . most of the Traders who until now had firmness to 
stand out have joined in the subscription to import no 
goods." 3 Indeed, of the importers who had been ex- 
posed by the handbill, Jackson, Simpson, the Selkrigs,, 
Taylor and Fletcher now hastened to accept the agree- 
ment and to promise that their fall importations would 
be stored with the Committee of Merchants.^ 

Having made such headway, the merchants determined 
to press their advantage. At a meeting at Faneuil 
Hall on August 11, they voted that, whereas all the *' Well 
Disposed Merchants " (note well the expression !) of 
almost every province on the continent had resolved on 
non-importation, local merchants who persisted in defy- 
ing the agreement " must be considered as Enemies to 

^ Mass. Gaz, July 31, 1769; also A^. Y, Gaz. & Merc, Aug. 7. 

"^ M. H. S. Ms., 151, I, 15. This non-mercantile agreement, dated 
July 31, was soon signed by 113 persons. 

^Letter to Hillsborough, Aug. 8, 1769. Brit. Papers {''Sparks 
Mss."), vol. i, p. III. 

^ Bos. Gaz., Aug. 14, 1769 ; A^. Y. Journ., Feb. 8, 1770. 



164 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



the Constitution of their Country, and must expect that 
those who have any Regard for it will endeavour in every 
constitutional Way to prevent their Building- themselves 
up on the ruin of their Fellow-Citizens." Thereupon, 
the names of the following men were ordered to be in- 
serted in the newspapers as objects of boycott : Theo- 
philus Lillie, McMasters & Co., T. and E^ Hutchinson 
and Nathaniel Rogers, all unrepentant though named in 
the original handbills, and, in addition, John Mein, John 
Bernard and Richard Clarke & Son. Richard Clarke 
was another nephew^ of Hutchinson. John Greenlaw, 
being called before the meeting upon charge of having 
bought goods of violators of the agreement, acknowl- 
edged his fault, and he surrendered the goods to the 
custody of the committee.' A few days later Clarke & 
Son, who had been pubnshed as importers, fully acceded 
to the agreement and were ordered to be reinstated in 
the public estimation. =* 

These new developments brought John Mein to the 
firing-line again. In the Chronicle of August 17, he 
devoted almost three entire pages to a vindication of 
his conduct and leveled a charge of dishonesty against 
the signers of the agreement. In his various occupa- 
tions, he declared, he daily supported seventeen people, 
fourteen of whom lived under his own roof and most of 
whom would have lost employment if he had signed the 
agreement. In his two years as printer, he had purchased 
something like £400 worth of paper from the mill at 
Milton. He employed four or five people in his book- 
bindery and paid his foreman a yearly salary of £69 6s. 8d., 
lawful money. Moreover, it was notorious, he continued, 

^ Bos. Gaz., Aug. 14, 1769 ; also A^ F. Gaz. & Merc, Aug. 28. 
^ Bos. Gaz. Aug. 21, 1769. 



NON-IMPOR TA TION 1 5 - 

that the non-importation was not generally observed. 
In support of his statement, he announced his design to 
publish, in the course of the following months, a detailed 
account of the cargoes of the vessels which had arrived 
at Boston since the beginning of the year. He began by 
presenting the itemized manifest of the snow Pi^^, which 
had arrived at Boston on June i. 

This was the opening gun of a bitter campaign, which 
continued at semi-weekly intervals, almost without in- 
terruption, until the event of the Boston Massacre in 
March, 1770.' Mein's usual course was to place at the 
head of the first column of page one of the Chronicle a 
copy of the merchants' agreement, with the allowed 
articles in enlarged black letters ; then to follow with a 
trenchant attack on the good faith of signers of the 
agreement ; and to conclude with a manifest, which pur- 
ported to show, by name and item, that signers were 
continuing to import clandestinely. Mein revealed him- 
self to be a keen and relentless disputant ; he utiHzed 
every favorable point to the utmost, and was a past 
master of phrase and retort. For instance, inasmuch as 
the merchants' resolutions of August 11 had alluded to 
the advocates of non-importation as the '* Well Dis- 
posed," Mein never lost a chance to apply the term to 
the Committee of Merchants; and he did it with many a 
satiric turn that must have entirely destroyed the peace 
of mind of those worthies. 

The statement of '' the Merchants of the Town of 
Boston" on August 28, with the fusillade of personal 

^ These articles were published during the period August 17, 1769 to 
March i, 1770. After the issue of October 19, the publication of mani- 
fests, though not of jibes and queries directed at the Committee of 
Merchants, ceased until December 11, when they were resumed. Fifty- 
five cargoes were listed in all. 



l66 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

vindications that followed, was a fair example of the 
answering volleys which the supporters of the agreement 
delivered/ Taking the five manifests which had been 
published up to that time, they analyzed the figures care- 
fully and showed that in no case had a signer deliberately 
sought to evade the spirit of the agreement, and that 
when a fault had been committed unintentionally, the 
goods had been stored. Their analysis of the manifest 
of the PzU will sufBce for purposes of illustration. Of 
the thirty-one importers interested in the cargo, only 
fifteen were Bostonians ; and, of these, only four were 
signers : Timothy Newell, John Rowe, John Erving and 
the Hubbards. Newell had imported tin and iron plates, 
which, it was stated, though not inserted in the original 
agreement as permissible, were so understood from the 
beginning and had since been made so by express vote, 
and also several other articles open to importation in 
other provinces. Rowe had imported shot and lines, 
allowed by the agreement, and blankets and lines, con- 
signed to him for use of the army. Erving had imported 
Irish linen and beer, which had been ordered prior to 
the agreement and were now under care of the com.mit- 
tee. The goods sent to the Messrs. Hubbard had been 
directed to their care for Stephen Ayrault, the Newport 
merchant. Of the four other manifests discussed by the 
committee, three of the vessels, Lydia, Last Attempt 
and Paolt, were owned by John Hancock; and each 
cargo contained articles forbidden by the agreement. 
In one instance, that of N. Green, it was shown that the 
34 casks of pork, which he had imported, had originally 
been sent by him to London and had failed of sale. In 
numerous cases, it was shown that the packages had been 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, Aug. 28, 1769; also Bos. Neivs-Letter, Aug. 31. 



NON-IMPORTATION 15^ 

wrongly labeled in the manifests. In conclusion, the 
committee reiterated their former position that the 
agreement was being closely obeyed, except by a few 
non-signers ; and Mein was charged with an attempt to 
misrepresent and defraud. 

Replies to Mein's attacks came from other sources as 
well, usually in the form of flat disclaimers from the in- 
dividual merchants accused.' Mein again paid his re- 
spects to the Committee of Merchants in a lengthy reply 
in the Chronicle of October 9 and 12. He made much 
of the admission that Newell's importations were ad- 
mitted on June i although not made an allowed article 
until July 26, a palpable injustice to other dealers. He 
had "good reason" to believe that Rowe's blankets 
were not for army use ; and he demanded to know just 
where or how Erving's importations had been stored. 
As for N. Green's pork, even admitting the circumstances, 
was pork an allowed article? ''Do the Public begin to 
suspect," he wrote on October 23 in his " Catechism of 
the ' Well Disposed '," " that a certain scheme is princi- 
pally calculated to crush all the young Merchants and 
Importers, that the trade may still remain in the hands 
of a few grave ''well disposed'' Dons, who are believed 
to be exceedingly well stocked with Goods ? " 

Perhaps the most interesting charge which Mein 
made was against John Hancock, merchant prince and 

^Thus, John Avery denied absolutely that he had imported china 
and British linen from London in the Sukey and declared that he had 
imported nothing from Great Britain for two years. Bos. News-Letter, 
Aug. 31, 1769. Vide statem.ents of F. Johonnot and Benj. Andrews in 
the same issue. Francis Green declared wrathily that he "did not de- 
viate from the Agreement in any Instance, of Course did not import 
any Tea," and he dubbed Mein a " Mushroom Judge " and "conceited 
empty Noddle of a most profound Blockhead." Ibid., Sept. 21. For 
examples of Mein's rejoinders, vide Bos. Chron., Sept. 4, 25. 



1 58 ^^'^^ COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

non-importer, for having imported five bales of " British 
Linen" in the Lydia, which arrived at Boston on April 
1 8, 1769. As that gentleman was out of the city, his 
manager, William Palfrey, came to his defense in a sworn 
statement that the contents of the bales had been misre- 
presented by Mein, and that they were, in reality, '' Rus- 
sia Duck," allowed by the agreement. Mein replied by 
publishing a copy of the cocket, certified by the customs 
collector and comptroller, which attested the correctness 
of his description. This verbal exchange continued for 
some time,^ and received some attention in the Newport 
Mercury, September 4, 1769, where it was observed that 
Hancock as '' one of the foremost of the Patriots in Boston 
. . . would perhaps shine miore conspicuously ... if he 
did not keep a number of vessels running to London and 
back, full freighted, getting rich, by receiving freight on 
goods made contraband by the Colonies."^ Hancock him- 
self took no notice of Mein's attack until a letter from the 
New York Committee of Merchants made allusion to it ; 
and in a signed statement he announced : ''This is Once 
For All to certify to whom it may concern. That I 
have not in one single Instance, directly or indirectly, 
deviated from said Agreement ; and I now publickly defy 
all Mankind to prove the Contrary." 3 The truth 
seems to be that the worst irregularity of which he was 
guilty was an occasional carelessness on the part of his 
ship-masters in receiving prohibited goods as freight ; 
and this did not become an oiTense under the Boston 

^ For this dispute, vide Bos. Chron., Aug. 21, 28, Sept. 4, 18, Oct. 
9; and Bos. News-Leiter, Aug. 31, 1769. 

^"Civis" in the N. H. Gaz., July 6, 13, 1770, expressed surprise 
that " Mr. Hancock would suffer a consignment of 35 chests of tea to 
a gentleman in this town, to come in a vessel of his from London . . ." 

' Under date of January 4. N. Y. Jotir7i. Jan. 18, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTATION l6g 

agreement until July 26, 1769/ The discrepancy be- 
tween the description in the manifest and the actual con- 
tents of Hancock's bales was, in all probability, due to 
clerical carelessness or possibly to the notorious practice 
of merchants to doctor their freight lists in order to 
evade export duties in England. 

In the Chronicle of October 19, Mein announced that, 
if the "'well disposed' Committee" did not discontinue 
" their abusive hints and publications either here or at 
New York, the Public shall be entertained with Anec- 
dotes of the lives and practices of many of these Worthies 
as individuals ; for all due pains shall be taken to unkennel 
them ; and already ... a great store of materials has 
been collected." This promised expose, however, never 
progressed further than a preliminary description, a week 
later, of '' The Characters of some who are thought to 
be * W. D.'," wherein much was said of '' Deacon Clod- 
pate, alias Tribulation Turnery, Esq.," ''William the 
Knave,"* and other personages scarcely recognizable by 
readers of the twentieth century. A few weeks later, 
Mein collected the various controversial articles and 
published them in a pamphlet of one hundred and thirty 

^Hancock's vessel, Boston Packet, arrived on August 10 with 54 
chests :of tea in her cargo. Hancock wrote on Sept. 6, 1769 to his 
London representatives, Haley & Hopkins: "The merchants of this 
town having come into a new agreement not to suffer any freight to be 
taken on board their vessels, I beg you would note the same, & prevent 
any of it, except Coals, Hemp, Duck & Grindstones being put on board 
any of my vessels. You will please to inform my ship masters that 
they may conform themselves accordingly." Brown, John Hancovk 
His Book, p. 166. 

'^Probably John Barrett and William Palfrey. Barrett had imported 
wcolcards but had been credited on the manifest with " turnery." This 
labored performance gave " great offense" to the tion-importing party, 
according to Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 259. 



lyo THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

pages, under the title, State of the Importations from 
Great Britahi into Bostoji, fj'om Jan. 1769 to Aug, 17 y 
1769^ Editions were gotten out the following year 
which tabulated the later importations. These pam- 
phlets were widely read in the other commercial prov- 
inces and were frequently dispersed by employees of the 
Customs Board.' 

The merits of the dispute between Mein and the mer- 
chants may now be sufftciently clear. The strength of 
Mein's position lay in being a literalist in his interpreta- 
tion of the agreement; in failing to differentiate between 
permissible and prohibited importations ; and in testing 
the efificacy of the agreement by examining the importa- 
tions of non-signers as well as signers, of outsiders as 
well as Bostonians, of non-merchants as well as mer- 
chants. The success of the non-importation regulation, 
on the other hand, lay in the sagacious exercise of a rule 
of reason by the Committee of Merchants with regard 
to the interpretation of the agreement, meantime placing 
stress upon the performance of signers, and bringing all 
possible pressure to bear upon recalcitrant merchants. 
This was the course of action that was adroitly carried 
out by the merchants. 

While Mein was the one unrelenting opponent of non- 
importation, it should not be thought that he was with- 
out earnest support. Opponents of non-importation 
began, after a time, to perceive the apparent contradic- 
tion between the methods of the merchants and their 
shibboleths. Shall we '' still pretend to talk of Liberty, 
Property and Rights without a blush?*' demanded 
" Martyr." " Have we not . . . established courts of 
inquisition in the colonies unparalleled in any!:'age or na- 

'^ Boston Ckro?i., Nov. 20, 1769. ^ Pa. Joiirn., June 28, 1770. 



NON-IMPOR TA TION 1 7 j 

tion? where . . . was there ever an instance of men, free 
men, being summoned by illegal and mock authority to 
answer for actions as offences, which are warranted by 
the laws of the land, the law of nations and the law of 
God ? — ' for he that will not provide for his family is worse 
than an infidel '." ' Theophilus Lillie, one of the pro- 
scribed merchants, declared : '' I had rather be a slave 
under one master, for if I know who he is, I may per- 
haps be able to please him, than a slave to an hundred 
or more who I don't know where to find nor what they 
will expect from me."'' Another merchant, Colburn 
Barrell, placed his failure to re-ship certain goods, as he 
had agreed, partly on the ground that " it was an un- 
lawful agreement made with what I must call an unlaw- 
ful assembly ; such an agreement as both the laws of my 
Maker and my Country forbid me to stand to."^ He 
maintained, further, that the laboringmen in town and 
country could better afford to pay the Townshend duties 
the remainder of their lives than to pay the prices ex- 
acted by the merchants that winter for the necessary 
articles of baize and other woolens/ Another newspaper 
writer argued pleasantly that he thought all marrying 
should discontinue until the revenue acts should be re- 
pealed. ''Those who marry," he observed, "may possi- 
bly have children ; and if we have one spark of genuine 
Liberty animating our breasts, can we bear the thought 
of transmitting the most abject slavery to another gen- 
eration? Besides, the Ministry at home, when they see 

^Bos. Ckron., Jan. 15, 1770. Fide also "A Bostonian" in idid., 
Feb. 5. 
^Mass. Gaz., Jan. 11, 1770; also Bos. Citron., Jan. 15. 
^Mass. Gaz. (^News-Letter, Nov. 17, 1769. 
^Bos. Chron., Dec. 11, 1769. 



1-2 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS : 176S-1776 

our fixed determination to depopulate the country, will 
be more shockingly mortified than ... by any of our 
resolutions to impoverish by Non-Importation.'' In 
short, he confided that his plan was to have all the 
women stored and a committee appointed for keeping the 
keys, of which he himself should be chairman. '' If any 
man should refuse to deliver up his wife or daughter 
upon such an interesting occasion, he must be deemed 
An Enemy To His Country." ' 

Thomas Hutchinson got close to the root of the situ- 
ation in frequent letters to the home government. He 
denounced " the confederacy of the merchants " as unlaw- 
ful, and showed that statutes of Parliament would al- 
ways be nullified in America " if combinations to prevent 
the operation of them and to sacrifice all who conform 
to them are tolerated, or if towns are allowed to meet 
and vote that measures for defeating such acts are legal." 
With the utmost persistence, he urged an act of Parlia- 
ment for punishing all persons concerned in such con- 
federacies.'' 

^Meantime, in face of ]\Iein's virulent efforts, more and 
more pressure w^as brought to bear upon the little band of 
obdurate importers." On October 4, 1769, the town meet- 
ing, ruled by the non-importers, voted its indignation that 

^Boston Ckfon., Jan. 18, 1770. 

^ Letters quoted by Hosmer, Hutchinson, pp. 166-168, 437-438 ; Wells, 
Samuel Adams, vol. i, pp. 281, 301. 

^ Thus, the Seniors at Harvard College resolved never again to deal 
with John IMein. Bos. Gaz., Sept. 4, 1769. The Committee of Mer- 
chants published the name of a storekeeper who, under false repre- 
sentations, had disposed of two chests of tea which had come from 
the store of T, and E. Hutchinson. Ihid., Sept. 11. The merchants 
called before them three dealers who had imported tabooed goods and 
induced them to re-ship the goods. Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Oct. 5- 



NON-IMPORTATION I^^ 

any citizens should persist in importation, and gave an 
appearance of legality to the merchants' boycott of August 
II by declaring that the seven men then proscribed (not 
counting the repentant Clarke & Son) should be entered 
by name on the town records '' that posterity may know 
who those persons were that preferred their little private 
advantages to the common interest of all the colonies . . . " ^ 
Armed with this resolution, the merchants, who met the 
same day, sought again to convince the importers of the 
error of their ways. A committee of the merchants con- 
ferred with T. and E. Hutchinson, at their own request, 
and these gentlemen felt impelled to accede to every article 
of the agreement, and they agreed to surrender eighteen 
chests of tea, recently imported, as well as any goods which 
might arrive later. A letter of the lieutenant governor, 
written on the next day to an English friend, explained the 
action of his sons : '' My sons tell me they have sold their 
T to advantage . . . tho' with the utmost difficulty; but 
the spirit rose too high to be opposed any longer, and be- 
sides the danger to their persons they had good reason to 
fear there was a design to destroy the T;" and he con- 
cluded by observing that : " It was one of the sellers of 
Dutch T who made the greatest clamour; and had they im- 
ported any other goods than T, they would not have sub- 
mitted." " Theophilus Lillie entered into similar engage- 
ments with the merchants. McMasters, Rogers and Ber- 
nard returned answers ''highly insolent;" and Mein, for 
obvious reasons, was not approached. The merchants 

^Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Oct. 5, 1769; also Bos. Tozvn Recs. 
{1758-1769), pp. 297-298. 

^ Mass. Arch., vol. xxvi, p. 386. Lillie was likewise intimidated by- 
popular clamor, according to his statement in the Mass. Gaz., Jan. 11, 
1770. 



174 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



voted unanimously that these four men " were unworthy 
of the future countenance and favour of the pubHc in any 
respect," and appointed a committee to pubHsh the names 
of all persons who should thereafter deal with them.^ 

Several days later, Nathaniel Rogers gave up his op- 
position to the agreement: and the number of firms adver- 
tised as " fJwse who x\UDACIOUSLY continue to counter- 
act the UNITED SENTIMENTS of the Body of Mer- 
chants thro'out North-America " was reduced to three.^ 
The Committee of Merchants continued its work of super- 
vising the enforcement of non-importation with great assi- 
duity; and its transactions were made public from time to 
time. About the middle of December, the names of A. and 
E. Cummings, of Boston, and Henry Barnes, a Marlboro 
trader, were added to the list of those " audaciously " of- 
fending.^ 

Those importers, who had become eleventh-hour con- 
verts to non-importation, had yielded chiefly on the sup- 
position that the agreement would expire on January i, 
1770. Imagine, then, their consternation when, on October 
17, the merchants made the operation of the agreement con- 
tingent upon the repeal of the Townshend duties ! ^ Still 
other importers began to regard pledges that had been wrung 
from them through intimidation as having no binding force. ^ 
This was a situation pregnant with trouble. Late in 
December, the merchants' committee of inspection made an 

^Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Oct. 9, 1/69; also N. Y. Gas. & Merc, 
Oct. 16. 

"^ Bos. Gaz., Oct. 9, 1769; Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Oct. 19. 

^ Bos. Gas., Dec. 11, 1769; also Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Dec. 14. 

* Ibid., Nov. 9, 17, 1769; Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 266. 

* E. g., vide statements of John Taylor and Theophilus Lillie, Bos. 
Eve. Post, Jan. 15, 1770, and Mass. Gas., Jan. 11. 



NON-IMPORTATION I-r^ 

examination of the goods which had been stored by the 
various merchants in their own shops in rooms for which 
the committee held keys. They found a considerable quan- 
tity wanting in the instance of John Taylor and Theophilus 
Lillie, and they heard several other merchants declare their 
intention to sell their stored goods after January i, 1770. 
A meeting of the Boston merchants on December 28 voted ' \ i 
a boycott against Taylor and Lillie and all those who should J / 
trade with them. The committee of inspection were di-----^^ 
rected to examine all stored goods at least once a week; 
and their diligence brought immediate result in placing 
Benjamin Greene & Company under the ban on the follow- 
ing day.^ But, in spite of these measures, other merchants, ^ 
the Hutchinsons among them, were not deterred from re- 
newing the sale of their merchandise after January i. 

The merchant body was evidently facing another crisis. 
On Wednesday, January 17, 1770, a large number of the 
merchants gathered at Faneuil Hall to consider more drastic 
measures than hitherto had been employed, and they ad- 
journed from day to day, increasing their numbers with each 
adjournment.^ It was claimed by the Chronicle that pains 
had been taken to induce many workingmen to swell the 
attendance — men " who find it their interest to proscribe 
foreign commerce because they can better dispose of the 
articles they make at any extravagant price." ^ William 
Phillips acted as moderator. At the first day's session, 
the recreant merchants were summoned to appear before the 
meeting. When they refused, committees were sent to wait 
on them separately, but with no result save a verbal promise 

'^ Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. i, 1770; also N. Y. Journ., Jan. 18. 

^ For these proceedings, vide letter of S. Cooper, Am. Hist. Rev., vol. 
viii, pp. 314-316; Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 22, 29, 1770; A''. Y. Journ., Feb. 
I, 8, 15, Mch. I ; Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 266-267. 

^ Bos. Chron., Feb. 5, 1770. Article by " A Bostonian." 



1^5 ^^-S COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

from the Hutchinsons to turn over their teas to the com- 
mittee of inspection. Even this sHght advantage was lost 
when the Hutchinsons refused, on the next day, to perform 
their promise. The meeting now voted unanimously that 
the offending merchants, eight in number,^ had forfeited all 
favor and confidence of their fellow-citizens. The whole 
body of more than a thousand persons then proceeded, in 
impressive and orderly array, to the houses or stores of 
each of these men; and, through William Molineux as 
spokesman, demanded that the goods, which had once been 
placed in store, should be immediately deposited with the 
committee of inspection. Only Gary made the concession 
demanded. At the Hutchinson home, no one was permitted 
to enter, but His Honor the Lieutenant Governor threw up 
the window and chose to regard the crowd as making a 
tumultuous and threatening application to him in his official 
capacity. Molineux insisted that they had come in peace- 
able fashion to confer with his sons about '* their dishonour- 
able Violation of their own contract;" whereupon Hutchin- 
son replied angrily that " a contract without a consider- 
ation was not valid in law." But under the influence of 
cooler thought, he sent for the moderator early next morn- 
ing and effected arrangements for his sons, by which the 
teas that remained unsold were delivered to the committee 
and the equivalent in money paid over for the balance. The 
body of merchants met later in the day and adjourned until 
the Tuesday following, in order to give the other delinquents 
further time to make their peace. In the interim, the 
Greenes repented of their ways ; but Taylor, Lillie, Rogers 
and Jackson continued obdurate. 

On Tuesday, January 23, the merchants voted to with- 

^ John Taylor, Theophilus Lillie, Greene & Son, T. and E. Hutchinson, 
Nathaniel Rogers, William Jackson and Nathaniel Gary. 



NON-IMPORTATION ^JJ 

hold from these four men " not only all commercial dealings 
but every Act and Office of common Civility." Then turn- 
ing their attention to John Mein and the merchants who had 
been placed on the proscribed list prior to the recent un- 
pleasantness, they voted that " they deserve to be driven 
to that Obscurity from which they originated and to the Hole 
of the Pit from whence they were digged." The proceed- 
ings of that day were spread upon handbills, distributed 
through the nearby provinces and pasted up over the 
chimney-pieces of the better known public houses. 

The lieutenant governor took occasion, on this day, to 
make a trial of strength between the merchants and the 
government. For some months, he had been trying to con- 
vince his council that '' the Confederacy of the Merchants 
and the proceedings of the town of Boston " were " un- 
warrantable," but he could not persuade a majority to his 
view.^ He now decided to act without the consent of his 
council ; and, while the merchants were in the midst of their 
discussions at Faneuil Hall, he sent the sheriff with a mes- 
sage denouncing their present meeting as unjustifiable " by 
any authority or colour of law," and their house-to-house 
marchings en masse as conducive to terror and dangerous 
in tendency. As representative of the crown, he required 
them to disperse and " to forbear all such unlawful as- 
semblies for the future . . ." ^ Later, by dint of impor- 
tunity, the lieutenant governor succeeded in getting the 
council to approve his action by a bare majority. As for 
the merchants, they merely paused long enough to vote their 
unanimous opinion that their meeting was lawful, and re- 
sumed their transactions. 

* Letters of Hutchinson in Brit. Papers (" Sparks Mss."), vol. i, p. 
114, and N. Engl. Chron., June 22, 1775. 

"^Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 29, 1770; M. H. S. Ms., 61 J, no; Hutchinson, 
Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 267-268. 



1^8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The renewed activity of the merchants drew another 
volley from Mein. The Chronicle of January 22, 1770, 
published an itemized list of the dutied goods imported into 
the port of Boston during the year 1769, with the names 
of the persons who had paid the duties. Tea, paper, green 
glass and painters' colors were the most frequent entries; 
and, although most of the goods had gone to notorious im- 
porters, the names of some of the '' Well Disposed " were 
on the list also, especially for consignments of glass. 
These charges were answered by signed statements of the 
various merchants accused.^ The glass was, in some in- 
stances, alleged to be bottles containing drugs, etc. ; in others, 
consignments for persons in Rhode Island and New Hamp- 
shire addressed in care of local merchants. Mein replied 
in the Chronicle of February i, analyzing these explanations, 
accepting some as satisfactory and rejecting others. The 
career of the Chronicle was fast drawing to a close. Its 
subscription list was depleted ; its advertising columns were 
neglected by the non-importers; Mein himself was being 
prosecuted for debt by John Hancock in behalf of London 
creditors ; ^ and his physical whereabouts were unknown. 
On June 25, the Chronicle closed its meteoric career with 
the commonplace statement to subscribers that " the 
Chronicle, in the present state of affairs, cannot be carried 
on, either for their entertainment or the emolument of the 
Printers . . ."' 

Public opinion was thereafter entirely molded by the 
Committee of Merchants.' Through a strange transposition 

^ Bos. Eve. 'Post, Jan, 29, 1770; Bos. Gac, Jan. 29. 

2 Brown, John Hanrock His Book, p. 94; Murray, J., Letters (N. M.. 
Tiffany, ed.), pp. 169-171, I73-I74. 

^ In May, 1772, Mein petitioned Parliament for compensation for his 
losses while " endeavoring to support Administration at the time of 
the late American Revenue Acts." Bos. Eve. Post, Aug. 10, 1772. 



NON-IMPOR TA TION I yr^ 

of terms, people had come to speak of merchandise, legally 
imported but brought in contrary to the agreement, as 
** contraband." '' Tea from Holland may lawfully be sold," 
wrote Hutchinson. '* Its a high crime to sell any from 
England." ^ The Customs Board were now without an 
organ in Boston. However, on August 2y, they succeeded 
in inserting in the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury 
2l statement of British importations to Boston from Janu- 
ary I to June 19, 1770, filling five columns of that journal. 

The high tension which public affairs had reached ripened 
the public mind for violence. Already in 1768, popular 
demonstrations in behalf of the smugglers had caused the 
stationing of troops in Boston. In September, 1769, had 
occurred the affray between James Otis and one of the 
customs commissioners at the British Coffee House — an 
affair which the radicals spoke of as " the intended as- 
sassination of Mr. Otis." " Sometime later, John Mein; 
and his partner had been assaulted while walking along; 
King Street; and before the mob would desist, the two 
regiments had to be ordered to their arms.^ Thereafter^ 
the customs officials and army officers occupied the bar- 
room of the coffee house to the exclusion of the citizens of 
Boston, until the fact was noted, when a group of the 
radicals made it their business to frequent the place in 
order to assert their equ41 rights.* 

The zeal of some school children over non-importation 
brought on the first death of a townsman.^ On Thursday 

^Letter to Hillsborough, Apr. 27, 1770; Mass. Arch., vol. xxv, p. 391. 
2 Palfrey to John Wilkes; M. H. S. Procs., vol. 47, p. 211. 
' Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, pp. 259-261. 

* Letter of Thomas Young, Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. xi, p. 7. 

* Bos. Eve. Post, Feb. 26, Mch. 5, 1770; Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii,^ 
pp. 269-270. 



l8o THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

morning, February 22, 1770, some boys placed a crude 
figure representing four importers, in front of Theophilus 
Lillie's door. Richardson, an " infamous Informer," re- 
monstrated with the youths, and finally endeavored to de- 
stroy the efiig}^ Failing in this, he retreated to his house 
nearby to the shrill jeers of ''Informer! Informer!" Here 
he was joined by his wife and a man: and the two sides 
pelted each other with rubbish until the better marksmxan- 
ship of the children was clearly established. Then from 
inside the house, Richardson fired several times into the 
crowd, killing Christopher Snider, an eleven-year-old boy, 
and wounding the little son of Captain John Gore. Snider's 
funeral was made the occasion for a great demonstration; 
and the lad became the " little hero and first martyr to the 
noble cause." 

Less than two weeks later occurred the unfortunate street- 
affray, which was glorified by the radicals as the " Boston 
Massacre." It was the inevitable result of the festering 
ill-feeling, which had been caused by the altercations over 
smuggling and non-importation and by the unaccustomed 
presence of troops in the midst of a civil population. The 
familiar story of the night of ]\Iarch the fifth need not be 
recounted here. Like earlier clashes, the trouble was begun 
by irresponsible youths on the street: but it closed with 
the fatal shooting of five men and the wounding of several 
others by the soldiers. It is possible that some of the shots 
into the crowd w^ere fired from the windows of the custom 
house nearby.^ While the bloodshed was wholly accidental, 
the radicals immediately made it a pretext for procuring 
the removal of the soldiers to Castle AMlliam in the harbor, 

^ On this point, Tide Channing, History of United States, vol. iii, pp. 
1 19- 120 n. For a different view, vide Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, 
pp. 279-280. Vide also Murray, Letters, p. 165. 



NON-IMPORTATION l8l 

where the Customs Board found it prudent to join them 
for a time.^ 

Resorts to mob violence now became more frequent. 
When Hutchinson sought to get a wealthy importer to pro- 
mote an association in opposition to non-importation, he 
was told that such a project would only serv^e to expose the 
signers to " popular rage." " Nathaniel Rogers, the un- 
redeemed, was forced to flee the Boston mob only to find 
conditions equally bad in New York, his place of refuge; 
and he returned to Boston to sue humbly but fruitlessly for 
a restoration to public favor at the hands of the Committee 
of Merchants.^ One of the proscribed McMasters was 
carted about Boston by a mob on June 19 and saved from 
a " suit of the modern mode " only by his promise that he 
would at once depart the town.* " Boston people are run 
mad," wrote Hutchinson on August 26. " The frenzy was 
not higher when they banished my pious great-grandmother, 
when they hanged the Quakers, when they afterwards 
hanged the poor innocent witches . . ." ^ 

The intense feeling aroused by the Massacre undoubt- 
edly put new life into the non-importation cause in New 
England at a time when sentiment in its favor was waning 
throughout the continent. On March 13, the town of 
Boston appointed a committee to circulate an agreement 
among the shopkeepers against the sale of any more tea 
until the duties should be removed ; and more than two hun- 
dred and twelve dealers responded. On the nineteenth, the 
town, by unanimous vote, entered in the town records the 

^ Letters of S. Cooper, Am. Hist. Rev., vol. viii, pp. 317, 319. 

^ Mass. Arch., vol. xxv, pp. 393-394. 

^ Ibid., vol. xxvi, pp. 488, 491; Bos. Eve. Post, May 21, June 11, 1770. 

* Ibid., June 25, 1770. 

^ Mass. Arch., vol. xxvi, p. 540. 



1^2 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



names of all those proscribed by the merchants on January 
2^. A week later it was decided by the town that three 
ships should be constructed in order to give employment to 
the poor/ In the following two months, the merchants 
rejected several offers of importers and Scotch merchants 
to construct ships because of the invariable condition that 
the latter should have the privilege of a free sale of goods.^ 
What degree of success did the non-importers attain in 
enforcing the agreement at Boston? As already stated, 
trade statistics are not satisfactory on this point, as no dis- 
tinction was made between allowed and prohibited articles, 
or between importation into Massachusetts and into New 
England in general. And it should be recalled that two 
provinces of New England were admittedly dilatory or 
derelict in their professions of non-importation. Neverthe- 
less, even such figures show a decrease of British imports 
of almost fifty per cent, the imports from Great Britain into 
all New England falling from £430,806 in 1768 to £223,694 
in the following year.^ It is certain that Lieutenant Gov- 
ernor Hutchinson believed that the non-importation agree- 
ment was well enforced, and that in contrast to the forces 
supporting it the powers of the government were insignifi- 
cant.* The retired Governor Bernard informed a commit- 
tee of the Privy Council in June, 1770, that "a sort of 
vState Inquisition " had been erected in Boston and that the 
agreements " were intirely done by force and to this Hour 

^ Bos. Town Recs. (1770-1777), pp. 12-13, 16-17, 20. 

"^ Bos. Gaz., Apr. 9, ]\Iay 7, 1770. 

^ Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, p. 486, 494-495. The figures 
for the year 1770 are even less informing, as trade was re-opened in 
October of that year. Nevertheless, only £394.451 was imported as 
compared with £1,420,119 in 1771. Ibid., pp. 508, 518-519. 

* Hosmer, Hutchinson, pp. 166-168, 437-438. 



NON-IMPORTATION ig^ 

intirely effected by having a trained Mob." ^ It would 
seem that two friendly eye-witnesses of these events were 
singularly restrained in their judgments on the execution 
of the non-importation regulation. Wrote William Palfrey : 
'' the agreement has been as generally and strictly adhered 
to as was possible from the nature of so extensive an under- 
taking, notwithstanding all the opposition it has met with 
from a few individuals." ' And said Dr. Andrew Eliot 
in a private letter : " That there hath been deceit among 
some individuals cannot be doubted. But the Town in gen- 
eral has been honest, and has suffered incredibly; more, I 
am persuaded, than any Town on the continent." ^ Even 
that exacting radical, Sam Adams, wrote to a congenial 
spirit : " Thro the Influence of the Comers & Tories, Boston 
has been made to appear in an odious Light. The Mer- 
chants in general have punctually abode by their Agreement, 
to their very great private loss." * In view of all the evi- 
dence, these seem conclusions which the student of history^ 
may fairly accept. 

Outside of the environs of Boston, the problem of secur- 
ing enforcement of the non-importation in other ports and 
towns of Massachusetts also presented some difficulties. 
It proved difficult to scrutinize the conduct of Falmouth 
on remote Casco Bay; and this port probably provided en- 
trance for some debarred goods into the province. The 
traders and inhabitants there did not formally adopt an 
agreement until June 26, 1770.^ Salem and Marblehead, 

^ Acts of Privy Council, Colonial, vol. v, no. 155. 
' Bos. News-Letter, Aug. 31, 1769. 

' Letter of Jan. 26, 1771 ; 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, p. 457. 
* Letter of Nov. 21, 1770 to Peter Timothy; Adams, Writings (Cush- 
ing), vol. ii, p. 65. 
^ Bos. Gaz., Oct. 30, 1769, July 9, 1770. 



184 THE COLOXIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

the chief trading towns next to Boston, proved more faith- 
ful. The merchants of Salem adopted an agreement in Sep- 
tember, 1768, similar to that of Boston of the preceding 
month/ On May i, 1769, the Essex Gazette published an 
itemized account of the spring importations, and concluded : 
" There has not been any Goods imported here or expected 
that has been wrote for since the Agreement," save, of 
course, certain permitted articles. During the following 
year, public notices from time to time showed that the 
Salem Committee of Inspection was alert in detecting for- 
bidden importations and in procuring the storing of goods. ^ 
In September, 1770, four dealers whose importations had 
been placed in store obtained possession of them through 
the assistance of a " process of law " and a doughty under- 
sheriff. These persons were proscribed, as were also the 
inhabitants who dealt at their stores. The town meeting 
solemnly resolved that an account of the dealers' defiant 
conduct should be publicly read at every annual meeting for 
the next seven years. ^ 

The Marblehead merchants exhibited the first symptoms 
of joining with Boston and Salem on October 19, 1769, 
when a chest of tea, purchased of a Boston importer, was 
carted ceremoniously about the streets and then returned 
to its starting-point in Boston.* A week later the mer- 
chants of Marblehead signed an agreement to dispense with 

^ Essex Gaz., Sept. 6, 1768; also Bos. Gaz., Sept. 12. 

^ Bos. Post-Boy, July 4, 1769; Essex Gas., Aug. 15, 1769; Bos. Gaz.^ 
Aug. 27, 1770. Upon news of the partial repeal of the Townshend 
duties, the town meeting on May i, 1770 voted an agreement against 
the drinking of tea; and within a week three hundred, sixty persons, 
almost all heads of families, attached their signatures. Essex Gaz., 
May 8, 1770. 

^ Ibid., Oct. 2, g, 16, 23, 1770. 

* Bos. Gaz., Oct. 23, 1769. 



NON-IMPORTATION ig- 

British importations, save certain articles, until the repeal 
of the Townshend duties/ Under this agreement, im- 
portations were duly stored with the committee by all the 
merchants, except four whose names were published." A 
signed statement of the committee of inspection, in the 
Essex Gazette, May 22, 1770, affirmed that a strict scrutiny 
of all importations since the adoption of the agreement had 
revealed only a few forbidden articles and these had been 
sent to Boston for re-shipment to London. As was to be 
expected, whispers began to reach Boston that Salem, 
Marblehead, Newbury and Haverhill had deviated from non- 
importation; and finally, on July 31, 1770, the merchants 
and inhabitants of Boston appointed a committee to visit 
the towns and make report of their observations. A week 
later the committee was able to report that the towns in 
question had honorably carried out their agreements and 
the assembled body passed resolutions congratulating them 
on their steadfastness.^ 

In addition to the places already mentioned, a host of 
inland towns joined, in 1770, in resolutions to boycott the 
Boston importers and to consume no more tea..„- Although 
Charlestown took this step in Febr«afyn;1ie vast majority 
adopted their measures coincident with the Boston Massacre 

* Mass. Gas. & News Letter, Nov. 2, 1769. 

2 The proscribed merchants entered a vigorous defense and promised 
future adherence to the agreement; but they won no lenience. Essex 
Gas., Dec. 19, 26, 1769; Jan. 16, 1770; Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Dec. 
28, 1769. On learning of the partial repeal of the Townshend duties, 
the town meeting voted on May 10, 1770 a continuation of the agree- 
ment and ordered that, whereas 719 heads of families had signed an 
agreement to use no tea, the ten delinquents should be stigmatized in 
the newspapers. It was also voted that the town should pay the freight 
in sending back such goods as had arrived in consequence of the 
partial repeal. Essex Gas., May 15, 1770. 

^ Mass. Spy, Aug. 14, 1770; also A^ Y. lourn., Aug. 23. 



1 85 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

and the ensuing period of excitement. On the very day of 
that affair, nine towns entered such resolutions/ Before 
the first of April, seventeen more towns followed their ex- 
ample; " and in May, at least four other towns joined in the 
resolutions.^ 

The enforcement of non-importation at New York did 
not present any very unusual features. The agreement 
went into operation after November i, 1768; and in the 
following March, before the spring shipments began to 
arrive, a committee of inspection was appointed by the 
merchants who were subscribers to the agreement, with 
Isaac Low at its head.^ Low represented the best type of 
merchant-reformer, and was long to head merchants' com- 
mittees in their efforts to obtain trade concessions from 
Parliament. He possessed wide commercial connections 
and was financially interested in a slitting mill.^ The doc- 
trinaire phrase of '' no taxation without representation " 
meant to him merely a cover for carrying on business with 
a modicum of parliamentary restraint. In the stormy days 
of 1 774- 1 775, he retained the confidence of both radicals 
and conservatives, but his own influence was thrown against 
the dismemberment of the empire; when war came, his 
choice lay with the home countr}^ 

^ Acton, Dedham, Holliston, Littleton, Maiden, Medway, Waltham, 
Watertown, Westford, Most of the resolutions of this period may be 
found in the Bos, Eve. Post, Mch. 19 to July 9, 1770. 

^ Abington, Attleborough, Billerica, Brookfield, Cambridge, Gloucester, 
Groton, Hingham, Lancaster, Medford, Milton, Pembroke, Plymouth, 
Roxbury, Salisbury, Sandwich, Sudbury. 

' Andover, Boxford, Danvers, Taunton. 

* A''. Y. Gas. & Merc, Mch. 20, 1769. For names of the committeemen, 
vide Becker, N. Y. Parties, 1760-1776, p. 75, n. 106. 

^ P. Curtenius to Boston Committee of Correspondence, Aug. 26, 1774. 
Bos. Co)n. Cor. Papers (N. Y. Pub. Libr.), vol. ii, pp. 381-385. 



NON-IMPORTATION 1 87 

The operations of the committee of inspection differed 
from those of its counterpart in Boston chiefly in requir- 
ing merchandise, imported contrary to the agreement, to 
be kept in a public store under the lock and key of the com- 
mittee. This arrangement placed a stopper on a possible 
leakage of stored goods, and created public confidence in the 
good faith of the non-importing merchants. In the New 
York Journal, May 11, 1769, the committee stated officially 
that the several vessels which had lately arrived had brought 
some packages upon consignment, which were under ban of 
the agreement and which had been placed in the public 
store, in all but one or two instances.^ The New York 
Gazette and Weekly Mercury of May 8 averred that the 
dutied goods imported in the preceding fall amounted to 
some hundreds of pounds sterling but that the amount did 
'' not exceed 40s. this Spring." Later in the year, ship 
masters whose cargoes contained prohibited articles found 
it necessary to publish sworn statements, explaining and ex- 
cusing their inadvertence.^ 

The most difficult problem that the committee of in- 
spection dealt with was to prevent clandestine importations 
from neighboring provinces, Pennsylvania in particular. 
Since the Philadelphia agreement went into effect four 
months after New York, there was a constant temptation 
to introduce into New York goods that had been imported 
at Philadelphia later than was permitted by the local agree- 
ment. Such an instance caused *' uneasiness " among the 
inhabitants in April, 1769, and the offending merchant 

^ The public were asked to boycott these delinquents and all those 
who traded with them. For the enforcement of the agreement upon 
the arrival of the Britannia from L-^ndon, April 29, 1769 (probably 
the first case of enforcing non-importation), vide N. Y. Gas. 6r Merc, 
May I, 1769; Bos. Chron., May 15. 

^ Vide two instances in N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Nov. 20, 1769. 



1 88 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

" voluntarily " returned the goods to Philadelphia/ Two 
months later, the committee commended to the public the 
action of Peter Clopper, for returning to Philadelphia, of 
his own accord, some fineries which he had purchased there 
for his family.^ Alexander Robertson, another merchant, 
was not so tractable. Some New Jersey people examined 
his casks of goods in transit from Philadelphia and re- 
ported the nature of his shipment to the committee of in- 
spection. With an air of injured surprise, he avowed to 
the committee his innocence of evil intent, implored the 
pardon of the public in a published statement, and agreed 
to send back the goods. It quickly developed that he did 
conscientiously return the casks, but their contents remained 
in the cellar of the ferry-house for a later introduction into 
New York. This duplicity brought upon him all the rigors 
of a boycott.^ 

The shopkeepers and other inhabitants had adopted an 
agreement which confirmed and buttressed the merchants' 
combination. This element of the population soon began 
to grow impatient with the deliberate measures of the mer- 
chants, and they recalled with relish the swift effective meth- 
ods of Stamp Act days. When, therefore, the silversmith^ 
Simeon Cooley, was proscribed by the committee on July 
20, 1769, for insolent defiance of non-importation, it did not 
seem sufficient to the inhabitants in general that his behavior 
should be dismissed with a declaration of boycott. A mass 
meeting was held the following day in the Fields to treat 
with him; and when he refused to appear for fear of per- 
sonal violence, the crowd moved en masse upon his house. 

^ N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Apr. 17, 1769. 

^ A''. Y. Journ., June 29, 1769. 

^ N. Y. Gas. & Merc, June 19, 1769; N. Y. Journ., June 29, July 6; 
Bos. News-Letter, June 29, For Willett's offense of a similar char- 
acter, vide N. Y. Gas. & Merc, July 17. 



NON-IMPORTATION l8g 

Fleeing to the fort, he prevailed upon Major Pitcairn to send 
a file of soldiers to guard the house ; but these were suddenly 
withdrawn, apparently upon sober second thought of the 
military. Cooley agreed to meet the crowd the next after- 
noon; and there he '' publickly acknowledged his Crimes; 
. . . engaged to store an Equivalent to the Goods he had 
sold, together with all those he had in Possession," and to 
conduct himself faultlessly in the future. The boycott re- 
mained; and two months later he disposed of his business 
and departed in disgust for Jamaica with a pocket-book 
much the lighter for his pertinacity.^ On September 19, 
an assemblage of inhabitants again met to deal with a 
jeweller who had been proscribed by the merchants. A 
scaffold was erected near Liberty Pole ; the culprit, Thomas 
Richardson by name, was then called before them; and, 
mounted on the rostrum, he discovered a readiness to ask 
the forgiveness of the public and to agree to store his goods. ^ 
With each application of mob law the merchants as a class 
became more fearful. The employment of violence was 
not a part of their program for obtaining trade reforms; 
they had every reason to desire to hold the populace in leash. 
As events progressed, the rift between the merchants and 
the " Sons of Liberty " widened. As Colden remarked, at 
this time, of attempts to instigate violence, '' People in gen- 
eral, especially they of property, are aware of the dangerous 
Consequences of such riotous and mobish proceedings." ^ 
On Tuesday, June 26, 1770, a transient named Hills was de- 
tected in the act of peddling wares debarred by the agree- 

^ A'. Y. Joiini., July 20, 1769; .V. Y. Gas. & Merc, July 24, Sept. 18. 
Coole)''s version, first published in the London Public Ledger, may 
be found in Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Nov. 22,. 

' A''. Y. Journ., Sept. 21, 1769. 

' Colden, Letter Books, vol, ii, p. 200. 



IQO THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ment, and on the demand of the committee of inspection he 
surrendered his goods, worth almost £200, to be stored.. 
About one o'clock that night a number of persons in dis- 
guise took forcible possession of the goods and committed 
the whole to the flames. Without further warning, Hills 
fled the town. The committee of inspection made this the 
occasion for a solemn preachment and warning. In a. 
signed statement, the midnight visitation was stigmatized 
as '' a high Insult " offered to the committee and to the city 
by " some lawless Ruflians/' and every good citizen was 
urged to do all in his power " to bring the Authors, Aiders 
and Abettors of so unwarrantable an Act to speedy Justice." ^ 
Naturally the offenders continued undiscovered; but these 
new instances of mob assertion had a controlling influence 
on the course of the merchants in the subsequent years. 

There is every reason to believe that non-importation was 
exceedingly well enforced in New York. The committee 
had no difficulty to contend with, except the greed of those 
merchants who sought to import goods at the prevailing high 
prices. It was claimed in December, 1769, that every bit of 
goods brought in contrary to the agreement had been placed 
in the public store." Although this high standard of per- 
fection was not reached, the figures show that the importa- 
.tions from Great Britain in 1769 had fallen to £75,930, as 
compared with £490,673 in the preceding year, a record 
which was not equalled or even approached in any other 
province.^ 

^ A''. Y. Joiirn., June 28, July 5, 1770. 

^Letter from New York; Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Dec. 21, 1769. 

^ Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, pp. 486, 494-495. The British 
importations into New York in 1770 amounted to £475,991. Ibid., p. 
508. It is, of course, impossible to know what proportion of the 
goods imported during these years was permissible under the agree- 
ment. It will be remembered that the agreement was also directed 



NON-IMPOR TA TION I g i 

In Philadelphia the opposition to non-importation, once 
that measure had been adopted, was even milder in char- 
acter. The body of merchants were its hearty supporters, 
although there was a pronounced feeling on the part of the 
importers of British drygoods that the provisions of the local 
agreement discriminated unjustly against them. Their com- 
plaint was that their commerce was cut off, while the mer- 
chants who traded with the West Indies and the Wine 
Islands continued their business as before the agreement; 
and they pointed out that these prospering traders were 
paying duties upon importations of molasses and wines and 
thus counteracting the principle of home rule in taxation, 
for which the Americans professed to be fighting. More- 
over, the merchants of Maryland and Albany, acting under 
more liberal agreements, were importing goods for the In- 
dian trade, a privilege that was denied to the Philadelphia 
merchants.^ Their dissatisfaction with the agreement took 
the form of efforts to modify it or repeal it rather than 
clandestine attempts to violate it. 

The Society of Friends, in which some of the great mer- 
chants were very influential, found an early occasion to take 
an official stand against it. At the time of the Stamp Act, 
more than fifty of them, including such prominent Quakers 
as Israel and James Pemberton, had signed the agreement; 
and indeed the measure appeared to be a Quaker method of 
resistance. But the present agreement was more rigorous 
in its terms ; and when the Charming Polly episode disclosed 
that the populace, most of whom '' were incapable of judg- 
ing prudently on a matter of so great importance," might 

against smuggled importations from Hamburg and Holland. There 
were no published accounts of efforts to enforce these latter restric- 
tions. " A, B." in the A^ Y. Journ., Nov. 23, 1769, made an incidental 
reference to the storing of large consignments from foreign merchants. 
^ Pa. Gaz., Jan. 25, 1770; Pa. Mag., vol. xiv, p. 42. 



ig2 THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

be called in to exert force in executing the agreement, the 
monthly meeting of Philadelphia advised Friends to have 
nothing to do with non-importation measures/ Neverthe- 
less, many prominent Quakers were concerned in the agree- 
ment, including John Reynell who headed the committee 
of inspection. 

The Philadelphia merchants established an excellent rec- 
ord of enforcement. On Monday, July jy, 1769. occurred 
the first effort to violate the agreement, when the Charming 
Polly with a cargo of malt arrived in port. Amos StrettelL 
the consignee, was able to show that he had not ordered 
the malt; and at a public meeting the following day the 
brewers of the city presented an agreement that they would 
have none of it. The meeting voted unanimously that any 
person who bought any of the malt or helped to unload it 
should be deemed an " Enemy to his Country." A week 
later, the captain of the brig, not perhaps lacking a sense of 
humor, sailed with his malt to Cork." On July 29, the brig 
Speedwell arrived with some debarred goods, which had been 
ordered prior to the agreement; these were placed in a 
public store. ^ 

The expeditious return of imports commended itself as 
a better device than the storing of them on either the New- 
York or the Boston plan. The Philadelphia Committee 
believed it w^ould defeat the scheme of " some monied peo- 
ple " in England " to buy up quantities of manufactures on 
easy terms and lodge them in the principal towns in America 
to be ready for the first opening of the markets after the 
repeal." ^ Therefore, at a meeting of August 2, the mer- 

^ Sharpless, I., The Quakers in the Revolution (Philadelphia, 1899), 
pp. 77-80; Lincoln, Revolutionary Movement in Pa., p. 151. 
^ Pa. Journ., July 20, 1769; also A'. Y. Gaz. & Merc, July 24. 
'Pa. Journ., Aug. 3, 1769. 
* Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 29-31. 



N ON -I MP OR T ATI ON 1^3 

chants decided that all goods, which arrived from England 
on consignment or which had been ordered after February 
6, should not be stored as other goods but should be sent 
back/ This plan was followed thereafter. A notable case 
of enforcement occurred when the Friend's Good Will ar- 
rived on September 30 with a great quantity of merchandise 
shipped by British merchants on speculation. These goods 
were said to have been offered to eighty-four merchants in 
vain; and the brig returned with her cargo intact." In 
December, the signers of the agreement authorized the com- 
mittee to auction off such stored goods as were likely to 
perish from prolonged storing, the profits of such sale to 
be devoted to some public use.^ 

The committee of inspection continued its activities far 
into the year 1 770 and did not find it necessary to proscribe 
offenders by name until June of that year.* Statistics show 
that British imports had been reduced in value from £441,- ^ 
829 in 1768 to £204,978 in the year 1769, and to £134,881 
in 1770.^ Next to New York, this was the best record of 
any province for the year 1769, and the best record on the 
continent for the year 1770. The enforcement of non- 
importation was free from all exhibitions of mob violence, 

^ Pa. Gaz., Aug. 3, 1769; also Pa. Journ., Aug. 3. 

^ Pa. Journ., Oct. 5, 1769; S. C. Gas., Nov. 16. The committee of 
inspection also had to be watchful to detect fraudulent practices on 
the part of British merchants. In one instance, Stephen Collins 
solemnly informed the London merchant, Samuel Elam. " thy Brother 
Emanuel was found to have antedated his Invoices and Letters in 
sutch a manner as to Lead people here [toj talke very freely of them." 
A few months later, he returned a bale of cloth sent by Samuel Elam 
himself contrary to orders, with the admonition : " I am realy sorry 
for thy sake it has happened, as many people seem mutch Disaffected." 
Collins, Letter Book 1760-177 3, Sept. 18, Dec. 11, 1769. 

' Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 64-67. 

* E. g., vide Pa. Journ., July 5, 12, 28, 1770. 

* Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, pp. 4^5, 494-495, 5o8. 



194 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

largely because goods violative of the agreement were im- 
mediately re-shipped to Great Britain. 

Of the minor provinces in the commercial group, New 
Hampshire took a belated stand on the side of non-importa- 
tion when the emotions of the people were deeply stirred 
by the news of the Boston Massacre. As late as February, 
1770, Governor Wentworth had written that some Scotch 
merchants were plying a trade in imported wares undis- 
turbed.^ After the fateful fifth of March, all indifference 
vanished among the people. " The cry of Blood, reechoed 
from one to the other, seems to infuriate them," wrote the 
governor. " Upon this event the Assembly were prevailed 
upon to forward their petition, which would otherwise have 
slept forever; the people will not be persuaded but that the 
Commissioners of the Customs and the Revenue Acts are 
exerted to destroy the lives and absorb the property of the 
people." ^ The first action was taken by town meetings at 
New Ipswich and Exeter, two towns located not far from 
the Massachusetts line. New Ipswich was a sparsely settled 
township with trading relations solely with Boston ; and on 
March 19, they resolved to purchase no articles forbidden 
by the Boston agreement and to boycott all importers.^ 
The inhabitants of Exeter, notwithstanding the reputation 
they enjoyed of living up to " the tip top of the Fashion." 
agreed a week later to discourage the use of foreign luxuries 
and to stop totally the consumption of tea until the duty 
should be removed.* No action was taken by Portsmouth, 
the chief port, until McMasters. a proscribed importer of 

^ Vide supra, p. 155. 

^ Brit. Papers ("Sparks Mss/'), vol. i, p. 17. Letter of Apr. 12, 1770 
to Hillsborough. 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, Apr. 9, 1770. 

*iV. H. Gas., Apr. 13, May 11, 1770. 



NON-IMPOR TA TION 1 95 

Boston, sought to introduce his wares there. The town 
meeting, on April 11, resolved to have no dealings with 
McMasters or any other importer, and to boycott vendue 
masters and coasting vessels that were in any way connected 
with them. They even threatened to cancel the licenses of 
tavern-keepers who permitted such goods to be exposed 
for sale in their houses.^ The movement in New Hamp- 
shire partook too much of the nature of an emotional revival 
to be lasting in its effects ; and, as we shall see, the merchants, 
at Portsmouth resumed importation as soon as the excite- 
ment subsided. 

Of the remaining northern provinces, Rhode Island was. 
the only province whose conduct resembled, in any respect, 
that of New Hampshire. Dragged into the non-importa- 
tion league by threats of boycott by the great trading-towns^, 
the merchants at Newport regarded their tardy agreement 
with keenest disrelish. Hutchinson voiced the commor^ 
opinion of other provinces when he said : '' Rhode Island 
professed to join but privately imported to their great 
gain." ^ When John Maudsley, a member of the Sons of 
Liberty, returned from London with goods forbidden by 
the agreement, which had been adopted during his absence, 
he *' cheerfully submitted " the goods to be stored, accord- 
ing to the account in the Newport Mercury, April 9, 1770. 
But if "Americanus," of Swanzey, is to be believed in the 
Boston Gazette, May 7, the goods in question were placed 
in Maudsley's store on the wharf, and, after dark, were 
carted to his house, immediately opened and publicly sold 
to almost every shop in Newport, unnoticed by the Mer- 
chants' Committee. This tale bears the color of truth. 
Certain it is that the Merchants' Committee at Newport 

1 N. H. Gas., Apr. 13, 1770; also Bos. Eve. Post, Apr. 16. 
^ Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 261 n. 



Iq5 the colonial MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

never displayed any noticeable activity in detecting tabooed 
importations. 

All evidence would indicate that New Jersey, the Dela- 
ware Counties and Connecticut were true to their profes- 
sions of non-importation and non-consumption. In the case 
of Connecticut, "A Freeman of Connecticut " wrote in July, 
1770, with every assurance of truth, that the various agree- 
ments of the towns had been kept " save in three or four 
trivial instances, inadvertently and inconsiderately done; 
and in every instance, one excepted, public satisfaction has 
been given and the goods stored." ^ The exception was a 
small importation of tea from Boston. 

1 Conn. Couranf, July 30, 1770. A case, which gained local notoriety, 
was the importation of some coarse woolens by Mr. Verstille, of Weath- 
ersfield, a man who had been in England when the non-importation 
agreement was adopted. As the merits of the case were not at all 
clear, some merchants cut the knot by buying the goods from Verstille 
and placing them in store at their expense. Ibid., Mch. 5. 



CHAPTER V 

Enforcement and Bbeakdown of Non-Importation 
(Continued) 

In the plantation provinces, non-importation and the prob- 
lems of its enforcement were much less a part of the fabric 
of everyday life than in the commercial provinces. The 
agreements and associations had been promoted by the plant- 
ing class in opposition to the small, active mercantile class ; 
and in the general absence of trading centres, it was difficult 
for the planting element to implant the fear of discipline 
in the hearts of the merchants. The geographical distribvi- 
tion of southern society deprived the planters of the oppor- 
tunity of exerting their influence compactly, except at the 
periodical meetings of the legislative assemblies. Further- 
more, since the economic discontent in the South was not 
directly traceable to the Townshend duties and restrictions, 
a literal obedience to the agreements did not always seem 
imperative to the planters themselves.^ The result was that 

^ The conduct of George Washington probably typified the attitude 
of many of the planters toward the non-importation association. On 
July 25, 1769, he ordered a bill of goods from a London house, with 
instructions that: "If there are any articles contained in either of 
the invoices (paper only excepted) which are taxed by act of Parlia- 
ment ... it is my express desire . . . that they may not be sent." 
Washington ignored the fact that a long list of household luxuries and 
personal fineries were equally under the ban with the dutied articles. 
Vide supra, p. 137 n. A little more than a year later, however, he place<i 
orders in London for goods, which seemed to correspond entirely 
with the provisions of the Virginia association. Washington, Writings 
(Ford), vol. ii, pp. 270 n., 284 n. 

197 




THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



-^axnport^ from England to the plantation provinces actually 
increased somewhat in the years 1769 and 1770, whereas, in 
the commercial provinces, they declined two-thirds in the 
year 1769 as compared with the year 1768, and fell below 
the level of 1768 even in the year 1770 when the agreements 

_ collapsed. Virginia appears to have been the worst of- 
fender quantitatively. To Maryland and South Carolina 
falls the distinction of having made the most honorable 
record. 

Soon after the adoption of the Virginia Association of 
May 18, 1769, it became evident that the factors dominated 
the situation in the province and that, unless their aid was 
enlisted, the association could be hardly more than a glitter- 
ing futility.^ A new and even more liberal plan was there- 
fore drafted; and on June 22, 1770, it was jointly adopted 
b}' the members of the House of Burgesses and the merchant 
body of Williamsburg. The new association was a lengthy 
document which covered the essential points of the earlier 
agreement. Several changes were made in the list of articles 
enumerated for non-importation. A regulation was added 
to boycott importers who defied the association or who 
bought goods imported into Virginia because rejected in 
other provinces; and a committee of inspection was au- 
thorized for each county with instructions to publish the 
names of ail offenders. The association was signed by the 
moderator, Peyton Randolph, by Andrew Sprowle, chairman 
of the Williamsburg traders, and by one hundred and sixty- 
six others. Copies of the association were sent to the coun- 
ties for signing." Only one or two attempts to enforce the 

* Bland, Papers (Campbell, C, ed.), vol. i, pp. 28-30; Washington, 
Writings (Ford), vol. ii, pp. 280-283. 

^ Pa. Gas., July 12, 1770; also A^ Y. Joiirn., July 19. A copy, signed 
by sixty-two inhabitants of Fairfax County, is in the Library of 
Congress. 



NON-IMPORTA TION I gg 

association were noted in the newspapers. In one instance, 
Captain Spier of the Sharpe, whose conduct at Philadelphia 
had caused his proscription, arrived at Norfolk to ply his 
trade. Although the signers of the association took occa- 
sion to express their belief that the landing or storing of his 
goods would be an offense against the association, neverthe- 
less the merchants, William and John Brown, received goods 
from him and defied the local committee. In Rind's Vir- 
ginia Gazette of August 2, 1770, the committee published the 
facts of the affair, with the statement : " What is further 
necessary to be done ... is submitted to the Consideration 
of the Virginia Associators." 

Considerably more pains were taken to enforce the as- 
sociation in Maryland and with greater success. The non- 
importation combination in that province gained much 
strength from the proximity of the Maryland ports to 
Philadelphia and from the fact that non-importation had re- 
ceived some local mercantile support from the beginning. 
The number of native merchants was greater than in Vir- 
ginia; and indeed Baltimore was showing indications of 
becoming a commercial rival of Philadelphia.^ The execu- 
tion of the Maryland pact was jealously scrutinized by the 
merchants at Philadelphia, and for a time the good faith 
of the Baltimore merchants was suspected. This feeling 
took definite shape in November, 1769, when the Baltimore 
Committee of Merchants permitted two merchants to bring 
in goods, valued at £2600, that violated the local agreement 
of March 30. In the one case, the importer had satisfied a 
meeting of associators that he had received a special exemp- 
tion covering the fall shipments; and, in the other, it had 
been shown that the goods were permitted by the general 
Maryland association which postdated the local agreement. 

^Lincoln, Revolutionary Movement in Pa., pp. 59-65- 



200 THE COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

These occurrences brought a sharp letter from the Philadel- 
phia Committee of Merchants, with an intimation that the 
Marylanders were plotting to deflect trade from Phila- 
delphia and a warning that their conduct would surely bring 
on them a rigorous boycott. When they got further light, 
however, the Philadelphia Committee freely admitted their 
error and expressed pleasure at the upright conduct of Balti- 
more/ In view of no evidence to the contrary, the mer- 
chants of Baltimore seem to have merited this good opinion. 
Thus, in May, 1770, a meeting of merchants refused to 
permit a shipment, valued at £1292, to be landed.^ 

In all Maryland, the best known case of enforcement was 
that of the brigantine Good Intent at Annapolis in Febru- 
ary, 1770.^ Courts of law have seldom sat on cases involv- 
ing nicer points of interpretation; and few better examples 
could be found of the application of a rule of conduct 
against the wish and interest of individuals. The Good 
Intent arrived from London heavily laden with European 
goods for a number of mercantile houses of Annapolis. 
James Dick and Anthony Stewart, the largest importers and 
respected merchants of the town, admitted that their own 
shipment amounted to £1377, of which only £715 worth con- 
sisted of articles permitted by the agreement. Believing 
that the character of the importations w^as being widely 
misunderstood, Dick & Stewart requested a joint meeting 

^ Md. Gas., Dec. 28, 1769; Papers of Phila. Merchants, pp. 45-47, 62-63. 

^ Pa. Gas., June 7, 1770; also N. Y. Journ., June 7. 

• The Proceedings of the Committee Appointed to examine . . . 
Brigantine Good Intent . . . (Annapolis, 1770), reprinted in Md. Hist. 
Mag., vol. iii, pp. 141-157, 240-256, 342-363; statement of minority of 
this committee in Md. Gas., Apr. 19, 1770. An abstract of the pam- 
phlet was published in ibid., Feb. 14, and copied into N. Y. Journ., Mch. 
8. Vide also Governor Eden's correspondence with reference to this 
affair in 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. x, pp. 621-626. 



NON-IMPORTA TION 201 

of the committees of the counties of Baltimore, Prince 
George and Anne Arundel to render judgment in the matter, 
and agreed that no goods should be removed from the 
vessel for twelve days after its arrival. Before this joint 
committee a vast mass of evidence was laid by the various 
importers, consisting of correspondence, manifests, invoices, 
shop-notes, bills of lading and other papers. After careful 
consideration, ''Abundant and satisfactory Proofs " ^ made 
it clear that the importers had ordered their goods before 
any association had been formed in Maryland ; but the com- 
mittee held that, long since, the orders had properly become 
" dead," because of the protracted delay of the London 
shipper in sending the goods after hearing of the Maryland 
Association, and because of countermanding orders in other 
cases. The shipper's belated performance of his orders was 
attributed to his " ungenerous Principle ... in trumping 
up old Orders to colour a premeditated Design to subvert 
the Association." Therefore, the committee resolved that 
merchandise debarred by the association should not be 
landed, and that, as the allowable articles were packed in 
with them, no goods at all should be landed. The im- 
porters made several pointed protests, emphasizing that they 
had not violated the letter of the association and that many 
practical difficulties lay in the way of returning the goods. 
Nevertheless, they were forced to yield: and the Good 
Intent with all goods on board sailed for London on Tues- 
day, February 2y. The principle upon which the committee 
acted was that, if the present cargo were admitted, *' every 
Merchant in London, trading to this Province, might send 
in any quantities of Goods he pleased, under Orders that he 
must in Course of Business have refused to comply with." 
Although Baltimore and Annapolis were the chief trading 

^ The committee's own expression. 



202 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

centres, committees of inspection were established through- 
out the province; and a number of instances of enforcement 
were noted in the newspapers/ 

The efforts to execute the non-importation association at 
Charleston, South Carolina, developed a situation which 
contained some unusual features. Sam Adams has been 
fX^ ^ said to have had his counterpart in Chris Gadsden of South 
A r ^y^ Carolina. Likewise, it may be said that the course of Wil- 
liam Henry Drayton at this period reflected the stormy 
career of John Mein. Drayton was a young man scarce 
twenty-seven, a gentleman of independent wealth. Fear- 
less, hotblooded, and of brilliant parts, he was by nature a 
conservative. His later conversion to the radical cause has 
been attributed to personal ambition, but can be more rightly 
ascribed to his intense Americanism and to a change of 
British policy in 1774 that outraged his sense of justice 
as deeply as the situation he faced in 1769. Drayton was 
the foremost adversary of non-importation in South Caro- 
lina; and unlike John Mein, his tendency was to place his 
opposition on legal and constitutional grounds, although he 
indulged in furious abuse upon occasion. Whether he 
knew of Mein or not is uncertain; but Mein knew of him 
and copied some of his most effective strictures into the 
columns of the Boston Chronicle. 

Drayton opened the attack in an article in the South 
Carolina Gazette, August 3, 1769, under the signature 
" Free-man." Centering his attention on the clause of the 
association which proscribed all persons who failed to at- 
tach their signatures within one month, he likened it to " the 
Popish method of gaining converts to their religion by fire 
and faggot. To stigmatize a man . . . with the infamous 

^ Particularly in the counties of Prince George, St. Mary's, Talbot 
and Charles. Md. Gaz., Apr. 12, May 24, July 12, 1770; Pa. Gaz., Nov. 
30, 1769. 



NON-IMPORTA TION 203 

name of an enemy to his country can be legally done by no 
authority but by that of the voice of the Legislature." Of 
Gadsden he declared, in a transparent allusion, " this man 
who sets up for a patriot and pretends to be a friend to 
Liberty, scruples not, like Cromwell, who was the patriot 
of his day, to break through and overthrow her fundamental 
laws, while he declared he would support and defend them 
all, and to endeavour to enslave his fellow-subjects, while 
he avowed that he only contended for the preservation of 
their liberties." Doubtful as to whether this patriot were 
" a traitor or madman," he proposed that, to avoid any ill 
consequences of his disorder, " he may be lodged in a certain 
brick building, behind a certain white house near the old 
barracks, and there maintained, at least during the ensuing 
change and full of the moon, at the public expence." 

The next issue of the Gazette brought an answer from 
"' C. G.", full of abuse and personaHties ; and he was an- 
swered in kind by " Freeman " the following week. On the 
afternoon of September i, 1769, a general meeting of the 
inhabitants of Charleston was held under Liberty Tree to 
take counsel over the persistence of a few people in refusing 
to sign the agreement. It was voted that the delinquents 
should be given until September 7 to redeem themselves.^ 
When that day arrived, handbills were distributed over the 
city containing the names of all non-subscribers. It ap- 
peared that, exclusive of crown officials, only thirty-one per- 
sons had withheld their signatures.^ Among the names pub- 
lished were those of William Henry Drayton, William 
Wragg and John Gordon. All three men hastened to issue 
protests,^ but the burden of the controversy clearly rested 

^ S. C. Gas., Sept. 7, 1769; also A^. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Oct. 30. 
^ 5. C. Gas., Sept 14, 1769; also A'. Y. Gas. & Merc, Oct. 30. 
* Gordon announced that he had signed the early merchants* agree- 
ment; but that in the profusion of agreements, attempted and signed, 



204 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



with the energetic and caustic pen of Drayton. Drayton 
dwelt long and emphatically on the charge that the com- 
mittee — *' that Harlequin Medley Committee " — had vio- 
lated the first principle of liberty while pretending to strive 
for it. He denounced " the laying illegal Restraints upon 
the free Wills of free Men, who have an undoubted Right 
to think and act for themselves;" and he declared: ''The 
profanum vulgns is a species of mankind which I respect as 
I ought, — it is humani generis. — But I see no reason why I 
should allow my opinion to be controlled by theirs." ^ 

Gadsden replied in an article bristling with insinuation 
and disparagement. He maintained that the proceedings of 
the association did not violate a single law of the land ; and, 
turning Drayton's own phrase, he held that freemen had a 
right to associate to deal with whom they pleased." The 
mechanic members of the General Committee, aroused by 
Drayton's supercilious allusions, expressed their gratifica- 
tion in print that he had '* been pleased to allow us a place 
amongst human beings," and added reprovingly: "Every 
man is not so lucky as to have a fortune ready provided to 
his hand, either by his own or his wife's parents." ^ 

" Freeman " returned to the controversy in two more 
articles, addressing himself largely to the task of refuting 
Gadsden's assertion that the association did not violate the 
law. He showed, to his own satisfaction, that the associa- 

he would not be " bandyed from resolutions to resolutions " and, 
moreover, he would not adopt a measure of which he disapproved. 
5'. C. Gas., Sept. 14, 1769. Wragg wrote that he had not signed, be- 
cause he did not believe in subscribing to an agreement to starve him- 
self; and he argued that the agreement would not accomplish the 
end desired. Ibid., Sept. 21. 

^ Ibid., Sept. 21, i76g; also Bos. Chron., Oct. 30. 

' S. C. Gaz., Sept. 28, 1769. 

^Ibid., Oct. 5, 1769. 



NON-IMPORTATION 205 

tion bore the legal character of a '* confederacy " in that it 
was a voluntary combination by bonds or promises to do 
damage to innocent third parties, and that therefore the as- 
sociators were punishable by law/ Gadsden now advanced 
to a truly revolutionary position. Passing over the charges 
of the illegal character of the association, and citing the his- 
tory of England as his best justification, he affirmed that, 
whenever the people's rights were invaded in an outrageous 
fashion by a corrupt Parliament or an abandoned ministry, 
mankind exerted '' those latent^ though inherent rights of 
SOCIETY, which no climate, no time, no constitution, no 
contract, can ever destroy or diminish;" that under such 
circumstances petty men who cavilled at measures were 
properly disregarded.^ 

Drayton was precluded from seeking redress for his 
injuries in a court of law, as a majority of the common 
pleas judges were signers of the association and as the jury 
would probably consist entirely of signers, also. On De- 
cember 5, 1769, he therefore had recourse to the legislature; 
but his petition was rejected by the lower house without a 
reading. The petition was afterwards published; ^ it con- 
tained a powerful summary of the arguments he had used 
in the Gazette as well as eloquent evidence of the efficacy of 
the boycott measures. He freely admitted that " his com- 
modities which heretofore were of ready sale now remain 
upon his hands," and that possible purchasers, as soon as 
they learned of his ownership of the comm.odities, " im- 

^ Ibid., Oct. 12, 26, 1769. William Wragg, maintaining the same 
point, argued that it did not follow that a number of persons as- 
sociating together had a right to do what one man might do, and he 
said that Parhament had acted on this doctrine in punishing tailors 
for combinations to increase wages. Ihid., Nov. 16. 

' " A Member of the General Committee," ihid., Oct. 18, 1769. 

^ Ihid., Dec. 14, 1769; also Bos. Chron., Jan. 11, 1770. 



2o6 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

mediately declined any further treaty for the purchase of 
them, because of the Resolutions." Realizing that he was 
a beaten man, he sailed for England on January 3, 1770, in 
a ship that, appropriately enough, carried goods outlawed 
by the association/ 

A vigorous execution of the association at Charleston 
was insured by the fact that two-thirds of the General Com- 
mittee consisted of planters and mechanics, only one-third 
being merchants and factors. So successful was the en- 
forcement that a recountal of even the striking instances 
would be tedious and purposeless.^ The General Com- 
mittee met regularly every Tuesday; subordinate to them 
was a vigilant committee of inspection, which saw to the 
storing of goods or their reshipment, as the importer pre- 
ferred.* Almost every issue of the South Carolina Gazette 
contained statements of the arrival of vessels and of the 
transactions of the committee thereon. In only one in- 
stance was the good faith of the committee impugned. Ann 
and Benjamin Mathews having been publicly proscribed for 
selling goods stored by them, Mrs. Mathews retorted, in a 
printed article, that the goods had been ordered prior to the 
association, that her son had given the promise to store 
while she was lying very ill, and that stern necessity had 
compelled her to open the goods. She charged that in- 
dividual members of the committee, whom she named, had 
been permitted to receive articles ordered before the associa- 
tion had been adopted, and that in one or two instances their 
articles had arrived after hers. The only difference between 
her offense and that of Mr. Rutledge, who had recently 

^ S. C. Gas., Jan. 4, 1770. 

* An interesting account may be found in McCrady, S. C. under 
Royal Govt., pp. 664-676. 

' S. C. Gas., Nov. 14, 1769. 



NON-IMPORTATION 207 

imported two horses in consequence of an old order, was, 
she averred, that he was a man who would not be trifled 
with, while she was a poor widow living within two doors 
of a leading man of the committee and thus in a position to 
take a little cash from some of his customers. By way of 
vindication, the committee was able to show that the im- 
portations of the Mathews' had been purchased after copies 
of the South Carolina Association had arrived in England, 
a fact not obtaining in the other cases. A few months later, 
the son appeared before the committee, acknowledged guilt 
and heartfelt contrition, and promised to deliver all goods, 
remaining unsold, into charge of the committee.^ 

The provision for the immediate reshipment of slaves was 
rigidly enforced. For instance, Captain Evans arrived on 
May 2, 1770, from Africa with three hundred and forty- 
five negroes; and after attending a public meeting held to 
consider his case, he filled his casks and set sail with his 
cargo for the more hospitable shores of Georgia.^ It was 
estimated by friends of non-importation that Great Britain 
had lost not less than £300,000 sterling, at a moderate com- 
putation, through the South Carolina regulations against 
slave importation.^ Some little difficulty was experienced 
in preventing violations of the association at Georgetown 
and Beaufort; but this was obviated when committees of 
inspection were appointed there early in February, 1770.* 

Governor Bull wrote on December 6, 1769, to the home 
government that " the people persevere under much in- 
convenience to trade in the strict observance of the associa- 
tion ; " on March 6 following, that the royal officials who 

'^ S. C. & Am. Gen. Gas., June 15, 1770; S. C. Gas., May 31, June 28, 
Oct. 4. 
^ Ibid., May 17, 1770. 
^Ibid., May 24, 1770. 
* Ibid., Feb. i, 1770. 



2o8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

had declined the association '' daily experience great losses 
thereby, as Subscribers are forbidden to purchase Rice, 
Indigo &c from non Subscribers;" and again on October 
20, that the subscribers to the non-importation were '' tak- 
ing large strides to enforce the rigid observing of their 
Resolutions " through " the vigilance and industry of the 
leaders, whose impetuosity of behaviour and reproachful 
language deter the moderate, the timid and the dependent." ^ 
Trade statistics substantiate this view of the situation : 
English imports into the Carolinas dropped from £306,600 
in 1769 to £146,273 in 1770.^ 

Facts throwing light on the observance of non-importa- 
tion in North Carolina are meager ; but it would appear that 
the province-wide association, inaugurated by the assembly 
in November, 1769, was generally ignored by the mer- 
chants. On June 2, 1770, a general meeting was called at 
Wilmington by the " Sons of Liberty " and was attended 
by " many of the principal inhabitants of six large and 
populous counties," mostly planters. The meeting agreed 
to boycott and publish all who imported or purchased goods 
contrary to the agreement. A letter, issued later by the 
General Committee of the Sons of Liberty upon the Cape 
Fear, expressed the hope that the merchants' " own interest 
will convince them of the necessity of importing such 
articles, and such only, as the planters will purchase." Com- 
mittees of inspection were established in the six counties, 
and those for the towns of Wilmington and Brunswick 
were instructed to use particular vigilance.^ Thereafter, 
the conditions of enforcement improved. The Cape Fear 
Mercury of July 11, 1770, presented some instances of the 

^ Brit. Papers ("Sparks Mss."), vol. ii, pp. 202, 206, 217. 

' Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, pp. 494-495, 508, 

^ Cape Fear Merc, July 11, 1770; Connor, Harnett, pp. 55-56. 



NON-IMPORTATION 209 

activity of the Wilmington Committee of Inspection, al- 
though it admitted that some merchants were " daily pur- 
chasing wines and many other articles " prohibited by the 
agreement, a course of conduct which would surely lead to 
the publication of their names. At the town of Newbern 
no formal steps were taken to adopt an agreement; but it 
was claimed in September, 1 770, that " the whole town 
cannot now furnish a single pound of Bohea Tea," and that 
" all the merchants here cannot produce for sale a single 
yard of osnabrigs, negro cloth, coarse linens or scarcely 
any European goods at all." ^ 

In Georgia, the non-importation association, which had 
been so reluctantly adopted, was speedily disregarded. ■ 
Attempts were made to introduce slaves overland into South 
Carolina; but this clandestine trade was closely watched.^ 
On June 2y, 1770, a general meeting of Charleston inhabi- 
tants voted solemnly, without a dissenting voice, that 
Georgia ought "to be amputated from the rest of their 
brethren, as a rotten part that might spread a dangerous 
infection," and that all commercial intercourse should be 
severed, after fourteen days.* The desertion of Georgia 
had no important results, since Georgia had no trading re- 
lations of importance. 

At first thought it may provoke surprise that the move- 
ment for a general relaxation of non-importation should 
be promoted by the merchants of two of the chief commercial 
provinces. The merchants of the northern provinces were 
certain to receive important material benefits from a repeal 

^ S. C. Gaz. & Coun. Journ., Oct. 2, 1770. 

* Brit. Papers (" Sparks Mss."), vol. ii, p. 286. 
' S. C, Gas., May 17, 1770. 

* Ibid., June 28, Aug. 23, 1770. 



^ 



210 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of the various trade and revenue statutes; and it was this 
purpose that had caused them to undertake the great non- 
importation union of the provinces at the outset. But as 
the months passed, they began to discover that the character 
of their utihtarian revolt was changing under their eyes; 
that self-styled '' Sons of Liberty " conceived of them as 
bearing the standard in a great struggle for constitutional 
rights; and they were chagrined to realize that they had, in 
some instances, given grounds for such an interpretation. 

Furthermore, the chief burden of the non-importation 
had fallen upon the commercial provinces, imports from 
England decreasing two-thirds in the year 1769 whereas 
they actually increased somewhat in the plantation provinces. 
In the early months, the checking of the stream of British 
manufactures had increased the demand for goods which 
had long cluttered their shelves; and the merchants dis- 
posed of much old stock to advantage.^ Debts, long out- 
standing from their customers, were called in; and remit- 
tances were made to England at fifteen to twenty per cent 
advantage on the £100 sterling.^ But when, after a time, 
their stocks became depleted, they began to feel the injustice 

^ The merchants obHged us at this time " to take old moth-eaten 
cloths that had lain rotting in the shops for years and to pay a mon- 
strous price for them;" this was the statement made later by a bitter 
opponent of the non-importation movement of 1774. Seabury, S., 
Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress. . . . 
By a Farmer (New York, i774), P- 12. 

^ Conn. Cour., July 30, 1770; Pa. Gas., ^lay 31; Mass. Gas. & Post 
Boy, Sept. 24. Governor Pownall declared in Parliament in March, 
1770, that a monthly record of the rate of exchange for the last eight 
years at the three leading ports of America showed an average rate 
of 1673^ for the iioo sterling at Philadelphia, i7i5o at New York, 
and 133^ at Boston ; while the current rate at the same ports was 
145, 162 and 125-123, The rise and fall of exchange, he asserted, 
was the barometer of trade, a falling exchange signifying a doubly 
great loss of trade. Parliamentary History, vol, xvi, p. 860. 



NON-IMPORTATION 2 1 1 

of bearing the brunt of a struggle, from which the whole 
populace expected to reap large benefits. 

When they advanced their prices, they were accused by 
the populace of being " monopoHsts " and "extortioners;" 
and no countenance was given to their plea that high profits 
were necessary in order to offset the general falling-off of 
business. The storm centre of controversy was the price 
of Bohea tea. At Philadelphia a memorial was pre- 
sented to the Committee of Merchants, in January, 
1770, which complained that the price of Bohea had 
reached 5s. a pound and upward in face of an agree- 
ment of dealers to maintain it at 3s. gd. ; and "A. B.", 
writing in the Chronicle, declared he would post a. 
list of all offenders in his shop and distribute it among his. 
neighbors.^ At New York, the Committee of Merchants 
advertised in the New York Journal, September 28, 1769, 
that a careful investigation had failed to disclose any en- 
hancement of prices; but on February 24, 1770, they found 
it necessary to call the tea dealers before them and extract 
a promise to keep the retail price of Bohea down to 5s. 6d. 
and the wholesale price at 4s. 6d.^ A few weeks later, the 
inhabitants of the city assembled, and called some of the 
delinquents before them.^ Nevertheless, the price of tea 
continued its ascent. Bohea reached los. a pound at 
Annapolis by the middle of the year; and when Williams 
& Company, the worst offenders, refused to conform to the 

^ Pa. Chron., Jan. 29, 1770. It was announced in the same issue 
that thereafter the size of the Chronicle would be smaller, because of 
the rise in the price of paper. In the issue of July 2Z, a writer 
claimed that tea had reached the " unconscionable sum of los.," a 
paper of pins had advanced from lod. to 2s. pd., and other articles 
were equally high in proportion. 

' N. Y. Gas. & Merc, Feb. 26, 1770. 

^ Ibid., Mch. 12, 1770; N. Y. lourn., July 12. 



212 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

demand of the committee of inspection, the firm was pro- 
scribed in the newspapers.^ A few complaints were also 
heard at Boston against high prices, although apparently no 
attempts were made to regulate prices there." 

While the importing merchants were suffering a decline 

'. in trade and the radical class in the population was beginning 

to dominate the situation, a further affliction came in the 

./ '.form of a decrease in the export trade to England. An 
excessive exportation of American products to England in 
1768 produced a slump in the export market in the year 
1769, and there was only a slow recovery in the next few 
years. This condition bore proportionately more severely 
upon New York and Pennsylvania than upon New Eng- 
land.^ " Interest, all powerful Interest, will bear down 
Patriotism," predicted a Quaker merchant on December 9, 
1769. " . . . Romans we are not as they were formerly, 
when they despised Riches and Grandeur, abode in extreme 
poverty and sacrificed every pleasant enjoyment for the 
love and service of their Country." * 

Thus, the seeds of discontent were pretty generously sown 
among the merchants when news reached America that 

'^ : Parliament had, on April 12, 1770, repealed the most im- 
• portant portions of the law against which their agreements 
were directed.^ This news did not come as a surprise, as 
the governors had been notified by a letter of May 13, 1769 
that such a measure was under contemplation and that the 
taxes on glass, paper and colors had been laid " Contrary 

1 N. Y. Journ., Aug. 2, 1770. 

^ Bos. Chron., Dec. 11, 1769; Mass, Gas. & News-Letter, Dec. 21. 

' There was some decrease in the export trade of the plantation 
provinces, also; but the merchants there did not dominate the non- 
importation movement. 

* Letter of Henry Drinker; Pa. Mag., vol. xiv, p. 41. 

*» 10 George III, c. 17. To be operative on December i, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTATION 213 

to the true principles of Commerce." ^ The reasons stated 
for the proposed repeal coincided exactly with those urged 
in the formal utterances of the merchant class in America."^ 
When Lord North carried through the repeal bill on the plea 
that the duties affected were anti-commercial, the merchants 
throughout the commercial provinces, with the exception of 
the Bostonians, who had taken an advanced stand in their 
pamphlet of December, 1769, had a right to feel self-gratu- 
latory. They had obtained all the remedial legislation that 
they had been specifically demanding, save only the rescind- 
ing of the tea duty which had been withheld because the 
king believed that " there must always be one tax to keep 
up the right." ^ 

The only question before them was whether they, as 
practical men of business, would be justified in continuing 
their costly boycott against Great Britain for the sake of 
the one remaining tax.* As in 1766, they felt it was no 
concern of theirs that the tea tax was retained as an assertion 
of the right of Parliament to tax the colonies for revenue 

^ I N. J. Arch., vol. x, pp. 109-110. 

' North was primarily interested in the fact that the duties were 
anti-commercial from the standpoint of the home merchants, declaring 
" SO) many articles, the manufactures of Great Britain, are, by the Act 
in question, subject to taxation, that it must astonish every reason- 
able man to think how so preposterous a law could originally obtain 
existence from a British legislature." Parliamentary History, vol. 
xvi, pp. 853-855. 

' Donne, W. B. Correspondence of George III with Lord North 
(London, 1867), vol. i, p. 202. 

^ E. g. vide letter of Phila. Comm. to N. Y. Comm., May 15, 1770, 
in N. Y. lourn., Aug. 16, 1770. Asi "Cethegus" put it, "It is vain to 
think that we can hold Breath always . . . We have only to chuse 
whether to unite in maintaining an Agreement of a more restricted 
Nature, or to go on disputing about a Shadow which cannot longer be 
realized." A^. Y. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Oct. 8, 1770; also i .V. /. Arch., 
vol. xxvii, pp. 282-283. 



X 



214 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

only ; or that earlier revenue duties remained on the statute 
books ; or that the Declaratory Act continued in its pristine 
vigor as a part of the imperial constitution. To these gen- 
eralizations, the merchants of Massachusetts constituted an 
exception, probably because the warp of their prosperity w3ls 
v/oven so closely with the woof of an unrestricted foreign 
commerce. 

Upon hearing that the bill for partial repeal of the Towns^ 
hend duties was pending passage in Parliament, the South 
Carolina General Committee addressed a circular letter to 
the committees of the other provinces on April 25, 1770. 
The letter recounted that the provinces had adopted agree- 
ments differing " in Extent of Matter and Limitations of 
Time," and that South Carolina, being among the last to 
act, had been the most comprehensive in her plan, specifying 
among her sine qua non demands the disestablishment of the 
Customs Board and of the oppressive vice-admiralty juris- 
diction. The committee asserted that, if any province should 
take advantage of the repeal of " these trifling duties " to 
re-open trade with Great Britain, it would have been in- 
finitely better to have submitted to the yoke from the begin- 
ning.^ In this letter and in a later one, the northern prov- 
inces were exhorted to extend their agreements to cover all 
the demands named in the South Carolina Association." 

Authentic news of the passage of the repeal bill reached 
America early in May, 1770. Outside of Boston and a 
few other places of minor importance, there ensued, through- 
out the commercial provinces, several perplexing months of 
indecision, interrupted only by the premature break of 

^ N. C. Col. Recs., vol. viii, pp. i97-i99; published at the time in S. 
C. Gas., May 17, 1770; Pa. Gaz., May 24; N. Y. Journ., May 17; Bos. 
Gas., May 28. 

2 The second letter was dated June 2/; S. C. Gas., June 28, 1770; 
also A^. Y. Journ., July 12. 



NON-IMPORTATION 21 5 

Albany, the Rhode Island ports and Portsmouth from the 
non-importation combination. The merchants of Albany 
rescinded their agreement on May 10 in favor of the non- 
importation of tea alone ; but when, after a few weeks, they 
learned that Boston and New York remained steadfast, they 
hastened to resume their agreement and to countermand the 
orders which had been sent to England in the meantime/ 

Only a few days behind Albany, the merchants of New- 
port and Providence cast aside their agreements and dis- 
charged their committees of inspection.^ " They were 
dragged in the first place like an ox to the slaughter, into 
the non-importation agreement . . .," wrote a contempor- 
ary. "Adherence to the non-importation agreement in them 
would have been acting out of character and in contradiction 
to the opinion of the country." ^ Within a week the answer 
came from the great ports : mass meetings at Philadelphia 
and New York and a meeting of merchants at Boston de- 
clared ~an absolute boycott against the merchants of Rhode 
Island.* The town of Providence now took things in hand, 
and followed the prudent example set by Albany by scurry- 
ing back under cover of the agreement, announcing a boy- 
cott against any who should have dealings with the aban- 
doned Newport importers.^ The merchants of Newport 
re-enacted their agreement also; but their resolution to 
store rather than re-ship the goods recently arrived inclined 
the other provinces to believe that the action of Newport 
was merely a screen for clandestine importations. A wave 

1 Ms. in Hist. Soc. of Pa.; A^ Y. Journ., Aug. 23, 30, 1770; N. Y. 
Gaz. & Merc, Sept. 24. 

' Bos. Gaz., May 28, 1770. 

^ "iRachd" in New London Gazette, June 22, 1770. 

*■ Pa. Gaz., May 24, 1770; A^ Y. Journ., June 7; Bos. Eve. Post, 
May 28. 

^ Prov. Gaz.. June 2, 9, 1770. 



2i6 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of anger swept up and down the coast ; and by the early days 
of July trading relations had been suspended by the leading 
ports of eight provinces/ The Rhode Islanders began to 
perceive, as Stephen Collins had predicted, that where they 
gained a penny in the trade of British drygoods, they stood 
a chance of losing a pound in their coastwise trade.^ The 
Boston trade sent a committee, headed by Molineux, to 
Newport and Providence to induce the merchants to enter 
new resolutions. Both towns acceded — the Newport mer- 
chants on August 20 ^ — and, on a recommendation of the 
Boston merchants, the merchants of Philadelphia and 
Charleston now re-established trading connections with the 
city/ 

In New Hampshire, the merchants had remained un- 
sympathetic with the non-importation movement all along; 
but, it will be remembered, the inhabitants in general had 
been inflamed to resolutions of protest and non-importation 
by the event of the Boston Massacre. Several weeks later, 
the Boston trade learned that Portsmouth merchants were 
importing British merchandise on a larger scale than ever be- 
fore; and on June 18, they instituted a boycott against that 
province.^ The trading towns on the Connecticut river 
followed the example of Boston.® The inhabitants of the 
little parish of Rye, New Hampshire, near the Massachu- 

1 Mass., N. Y., Conn., Pa., Md., Del., N. C, S. C. Vide files of N. Y. 
Journ. Newport coasting-sloops were actually turned back at Marble- 
head, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Chester, Baltimore, Nor- 
ifolk and Charleston, S. C. 

* Collins, Letter-Book 1760-1773, June 8, 1770. 
^Newport Merc, Aug. 27, i77^\ N. Y. Journ., Aug. 30. 

*Mass, Spy, Aug. 14, 1770; Pa. Gaz., Sept. 20; 6". C. Ga::., Oct. 18, 25. 
^ Bos. Eve. Post, June 11, 25, 1,770. For an mstance of enforcement, 
vide ibid., July 9. 

* Essex Gas., July 2, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTATION 217 

setts border, voted unanimously to unite with Boston in non- 
importation ; ^ but Portsmouth, the chief centre of popula- 
tion, remained unmoved. '' One of the Boston zealots was 
immediately dispatched here," wrote Governor Wentworth 
to the home government; and he carried with him a ready- 
prepared report, " expressed in the most abusive terms," 
for adoption by the town meeting. But his machinations 
were in vain; he ''decamped precipitately for Boston" in 
fear of tar and feathers; and the town meeting, by a poll 
of ten to one, dismissed the whole matter and dissolved 
the meeting.^ 

After all, the bone and sinew of the non-importation 
movement were the agreements of the great trading towns 
of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. On the action of 
these towns depended the integrity of the commercial com- 
bination. Should the merchants of any of these towns accept 
the partial repeal as satisfactory and proceed to revoke their 
boycott of British importations, this breach in the non-im- 
portation dike would render the whole barrier useless. 
There was no indecision at Boston. When the merchants 
there learned, at a meeting of April 25, 1770, that some of 
their number had ordered goods to be shipped upon the 
passage of the partial repeal, it was agreed that this event 
would not justify a re-opening of trade, and it was voted that 
the goods should be re-shipped immediately upon their 
arrival.^ But in both Philadelphia and New York, there 
was a sharp division of sentiment, the alignment being be- 

^iV. H. Gaz., July 27, 1770; also Bos. Eve. Post, July 30. 

2 Brit. Papers C Sparks Mss."), vol. i, p. 18 ; N. H. Gaz., July 13, 1770. 

* Letter of Boston Comm. in N. Y. Journ., May 10, 1770. Tea was 
excepted from this vote upon the belief that the act of 11 George I, 
c. 30, sec. 8, would thereby be violated. Ibid., July 5. The merchants 
were later obliged to publish the names of five merchants who refused 
to obey. Mass. Spy, Aug. 14. 



2i8 THE COLOXIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

tween tlie leading merchants, who were willing to accept 
the remedial legislation of Parliament as the best that could 
Y be attained under the circumstances, and the non-mercantile, 
property-less population, who were fired with the current 
political %'iews and considered the issue of taxation un- 
changed until ever}^ one of the Townshend duties had been 
removed. In both cities, there was an active dispute over 
the merits of the situation, and a further controversy over 
the question of where the power lay to re-open importation. 
It was clear that the merchants had been the prime movers 
in non-importation: but they had depended upon the popu- 
lace for endorsement and support. Could the merchants 
give up their agreement without the consent of the populace ? 
At Philadelphia, the importers of British goods had been 
nursing a particular grievance because the importers of 
wines and molasses remained undisturbed in their traffic, 
notwithstanding that duties derived from these sources were 
piling up in the British treasurv*. Moreover, the ^Maryland 
Agreement, differing f rem the Philadelphia .A^eement, per- 
mitted the importation of coarse woolens, an article neces- 
S2sy for the Indian trade : and the Marvdand merchants were 
running away with their trade. ^ As a protest, four mem- 
bers, including John Re}-nell. tlie chairman, resigned from 
the Committee of Alerchants, and three others ceased to at- 
tend meetings: the committee was reduced to twelve mem- 
bers.' These ex-members, \\-ith other interested merchants, 
began to agitate a relaxation of tlie agreement, and quickly 
drew the fire of tlie newspaper writers. 

-An article in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, May 7, 1770, 

• maintained that the mercliants would be betra^-ing the 

American cause, if importation were resumed, and that the 

^ Pa. Mag., toL xiv, pp. 4-2-43. 

* Circular letter of the "late Committee." Pq. Chr^^-. Oct. i 1770. 



NON-IMPORTATION 219 

consuming class would buy no goods from them in such a 
contingency.^ Other writers denied that two or three hun- 
dred signers of the agreement had " the sole right to deter- 
mine a question of liberty that most nearly concerns every 
freeman of this province." " A meeting of the subscribers 
of the non-importation was called for Monday afternoon, 
May 14. As many of the signers were not in the import- 
ing business and were thus likely to vote a continuance of 
the agreement, the importing merchants held several sessions 
in preparation for the occasion and agreed that each should 
be present promptly at the hour set and bring with him a 
friend. This scheme was detected at the last moment and 
exposed in a broadside, addressed to the artificers, manu- 
facturers and mechanics, probably written by Charles Thom- 
son.^ As a result, the meeting, when it assembled, was 
prevailed upon to postpone definite action until June 5 and, 
in the meantime, to consult with the merchants of New 
York and Boston.* 

The merchants of the sister ports, however, declared 
a-gainst any change in their agreements, Boston on principle, 
New York because of the hope that the tea duty would be 
repealed in the next few weeks. ^ On May 23, a meeting 
of the workingmen and tradesmen of Philadelphia resolved 
their unanimous determination '' to render the non-importa- 
tion, as it now stands, permanent," and agreed to support 
this action at the meeting of June 5.^ About the same time, 

^ For similar arguments, vide ''Tradesman" in ibid., May 21, 1770; 
■" Nestor " in Pa. Journ., July 12, Aug. 9. 

'"Cato" in Pa. Chron., June 4, 1770; "Son of Liberty" in Pa. 
Gas., May 31 ; letter from Philadelphia in N. Y. loiirn.. May 31. 

'Pa. Chron., May 14, 1770; Pa. Mag,, vol. xiv, pp. 43-44- 

*A^. Y. Journ., Aug. 16, 1770. 

^ Bos. Eve. Post, May 28, 1770; K. Y. Journ., May 24, Aug. 16. 

^ Pa. Gaz., May 24, 1770; also N. Y. Journ., May 31. 



220 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

letters were received by Joseph Galloway and Charles Thom- 
son from Doctor Franklin in England, urging Philadelphia 
to persist in the agreement; and his advice had "wonder- 
ful effects." ^ The trend of events was distinctly turning in 
favor of the opponents of change; and at the general meet- 
ing of inhabitants on June 5, the signers of the agreement, 
having first met by themselves, agreed, with only four dis- 
senting votes, to make no alteration in it " at this time/' ^ 

The inhabitants of New York engaged in a similar con- 
troversy, although the outcome was different. The non- 
importation pact was there based upon an agreement of the 
merchants, confirmed and supported by a separate agree- 
ment of the tradesmen and workingmen. The issue be- 
tween the two groups was made clear in the opening sen- 
tences of a broadside issued about the middle of May: 
" Nothing can be more flagrantly wrong than the Assertion 
of some of our Mercantile Dons that the Mechanics have 
no Right to give their Sentiments about the Importation of 
British Commodities. . . . What particular Class among 
us has an exclusive Right to decide a Question of General 
Concern ?" ^ 

At a meeting on May 18, prompted by the letter from 
Philadelphia, the merchants decided, as we have seen, " to 
wait a few Weeks longer in Hopes of hearing the Duty on 
Tea would also be repealed " before taking any action.^ 
This brought about a meeting of the inhabitants of all ranks, 
who voted by a large majority to preserve the non-importa- 
tion inviolate and to boycott all persons who should trans- 
gress it. They also issued a pronunciamento against the 

^ Pa. Mag., vol. xlv, p. 45 ; Colden, Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 223. 

"^ Pa. Gas., June 7, 1770. 

' Broadside in N. Y. Pub. Libr., signed " Brutus." 

* N. Y. Joiirn., May 24, Aug. 16, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTATION 22 1 

cargo of a Glasgow vessel then in the harbor, a matter al- 
ready dealt with in regular manner by the Committee of 
Merchants/ The Committee of Merchants accepted the 
issue, resigned their seats because of the irregular proceed- 
ings of the mass meeting, and had the satisfaction of being 
re-elected at a public meeting of citizens.^ On the strength 
of this vindication, the Committee of Merchants, now con- 
vinced that hope of a total repeal of the Townshend duties 
was illusory, determined to abandon the agreement and con- 
fine non-importation only to dutied articles; and for this 
purpose they invited the merchants of the non-importing 
commercial provinces to send delegates to a congress at 
Norwalk on June i8, " to adopt one general solid System 
for the Benefit of the Whole, that no one Colony may be 
liable to the Censure or Reproaches of another . . ." ^ 

The invitation found the other trading towns in anything 
but a receptive mood. The Boston trade voted unanimously 
to have nothing to do with it, chiefly for the reason that any 
deviation from the present agreement would create an im- 
pression in England prejudicial to a further redress of 
grievances/ The merchants of Essex County, New Jersey, 
asked pointedly : " Shall we meet to consult whether we have 
Honour or Eaith or public Virtue ... If you had proposed 
a Meeting for strengthening . . . the Resolutions of the 
Colonies, we should have joined you." ^ Hardly less de- 
cisive were the answers of meetings at Newark and New 

^ This meeting occurred on May 30. Ihid., June 7, 1770, 

^ The re-election occurred on June i. N. Y. Gan. & Merc, June 4, 
1770; N. Y. Joiirn., June 7. 

^Circular letter of June 2; New London Gaz., June 15, 1770; also 
N. Y. Journ., June 28, Aug. 16. 

* The Boston meeting occurred on June 8. Bos. Eve. Post, June 11, 
1770; also N. Y. Journ., June 21. 

Ihid., July 5, 1770; also i N. J. Arch., vol. xxvii, pp. 193-194. 



5 



222 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Brunswick a few days later, although the people of the latter 
place agreed to accept the conclusions of the Norwalk con- 
gress/ Even the Philadelphia merchants, stiffened by the 
action of the public meeting of June 5, advised against pre- 
cipitate measures, and refused to take part in the proposed 
congress.^ Only at Hartford and Providence did the mer- 
chants actually appoint delegates; and the latter rescinded 
their action when they learned of Boston's decHnation.^ 
The New Yorkers were thus forced to solve their problem 
according to their own lights. 

It was probably the unfavorable action of the Boston 
merchants that determined the New York promoters of 
importation to abandon the project of a congress and to 
concentrate their efforts at once on the local situation. 
Their plan was to ascertain the sentiments of the inhabitants 
by a house-to-house poll. When " a number of selfish, mer- 
cenary importers and a few mechanicks " proposed this 
course to the Committee of Merchants, that body, while 
withholding official assent, made it clear that they would not 
discountenance the proceedings.* How deeply individual 
members of the committee were interested in this scheme 
was revealed on June 14 when the ultra-radical Isaac Sears 
and the shopkeeper Peter Vander Voort resigned member- 
ship on the ground that many of the committee were work- 
ing to break through the agreement.^ Beginning on June 

^ N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Aug. 6, 1770; A''. 7. Journ., June 28. 

2 Letter of June 18; ibid., Aug. 9, 1770. 

^ New London Gas., June 15, i77o; Prov. Gas., June 16. 

*N. Y. Journ., June 21, 1770. The words quoted are taken from 
an account by "A Son of Liberty" in the same issue. Vide also A^. 
y. Gas. & Post-Boy, July 2. 

^ N. Y. Journ., June 21, 1770. Jacob Watson and Edward Laight 
were among those who worked openly for an alteration of the agree- 
ment. Ibid., July 12. 



NON-IMPORTATION 223 

12, the poll was taken by persons appointed in each ward, 
each inhabitant being asked if he approved of confining non- 
importation to tea and other dutied articles, provided Boston 
and Philadelphia concurred; or if he preferred the continu- 
ance of the present agreement. Now, as the promoters of 
the poll knew of the unfaltering resolution of Boston, it is 
clear, as the non-importers charged, that their motive was 
to feel the pulse of the people with a view of determining 
whether it would be safe to ask their support later when 
it was learned that the other two towns had refused to co- 
operate. The canvass showed that 1180 persons favored 
re-opening trade in concert with Boston and Philadelphia, 
about 300 wxre indifferent or unwilling to talk, and a minor- 
ity, whose number was not stated, preferred the existing 
system. Colden noted that " the principal Inhabitants " 
voted for importation and that '' few of any distinction de- 
clared in opposition to it." ^ The opposition protested that 
the voters for importation were hardly one-fourth of the 
city people entitled to vote, and that the country f olk| should 
have been consulted. 

On June 16, letters were despatched to Boston and Phila- 
delphia with news of the New York vote. The merchants 
in those places, however, saw no reason for revising their 
former decisions.^ On July 4 a broadside, scattered about 

^ Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 223. 

^ AT. Y. Journ., July 5, 1770; Bos. Eve. Post, July 2. The Boston 
Committee of Merchants reminded the New York Committee that, 
as the preamble of the Townshend Act remained unrepealed, it was 
clear that the tea duty was retained expressly for raising a revenue. 
Furthermore, they asserted that the sentiment of Boston had been 
ascertained in the surest way, '' that is, not by appointing Gentlemen 
to go thro' the several Wards, asking Persons singly, but by calling 
a Meeting and there coming to a Conclusion after fair Debate and 
reasoning upon the Point." N. Y. Gaz. & Merc, July 30. From 
the merchants at Hartford, where Silas Deane was a member of the 
committee, came likewise a letter protesting against any alteration. 
Conn. Journ., July 27. 



224 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

New York, inquired of the public whether, in face of this 
uniform response, it would be just or pohtic or honorable for 
New York to undertake a measure " independent of the Ap- 
probation of those whose hearty Concurrence we have hither- 
to solicited ? " New York was reminded of having origin- 
ated non-importation at the time of the Stamp Act ; " and 
shall New York be the first to disgrace an Expedient origin- 
ally devised by itself . . . ?" ^ 

But this appeal and others like it fell on deaf ears. The 
latter days of June brought to New York authentic news that 
an act of Parliament had been passed with the sole view of 
relieving business stringency in that province. This was the 
statute exempting New York temporarily from the opera- 
tions of the general prohibition of legal-tender currency, 
enacted in 1764, and authorizing her to issue £120,000 in 
legal-tender paper money.^ This event removed any re- 
maining misgivings that the merchants may have felt; the 
body of the trade worked with precision and speed. The 
group solidarity of the merchants was clearly revealed by 
an article from New York in a Boston newspaper, contain- 
ing the names of some of those who were working hardest 
for a re-opening of trade. Of the one hundred and twenty- 
eight persons named in the article, eighty-five were classed 
as merchants or importers; eighteen as dealers or shop- 
keepers ; three as vendue-masters ; two as brewers. Of work- 
ingmen (such as carpenters, blacksmiths, rope-makers, etc.), 
there were but twelve.^ Fifteen of the one hundred and 
twenty-eight were members of the Committee of Mer- 

1 Signed "Fabius;" N. Y. Journ., July 12, 1770. 

2 10 George III, c. 35 ; Becker, N. Y. Partks, 1760-177^, PP- 69-71, 
77-79, 88. 

2 "Bona Fide" in Bos. Gas., July 23, 1770. To complete the list, 
there were three lawyers, three royal officials, Hugh Gaine, editor of 
the New York Gazette and Mercury, and James DeLancey, Esq., 
member of the General Assembly. 



NON-IMPORTA TION 225 

chants (of which there were at that time twenty-two mem- 
bers in all) ; and among the fifteen was Isaac Low, the 
chairman. Colden is authority for the assertion that all 
the members of the governor's council, with a single ex- 
ception, and the city representatives in the Assembly were 
zealous advocates of importation/ The merchants had an 
excellent talking-point in the exaggerated charges of viola- 
tions of non-importation at Boston ; and especially convinc- 
ing for their purpose proved a timely pamphlet from John 
Mein's press, which purported to give an account of British 
importations into Boston from January i to June 19 of 
the current year." 

The first step taken by the New York Committee of Mer- 
chants, upon hearing from Boston, was to call a meeting of 
citizens and read the replies that had come from Philadelphia 
and Boston.^ The crowd that assembled was not as small 
as the promoters of the meeting had apparently intended, 
for a large majority opposed the proposal for taking another 
poll of the city. A motion was then made that the letters 
read should be published, so that the people might better 
judge of the expediency of departing from the agreement; 
but the committee, through their chairman, declined to per- 
mit publication. A few days later, on Saturday, July 7, a 
number of merchants conferred privately with several 
members of the committee, and decided, notwithstanding 
the public vote, that a poll of the city should be taken at 
once. With the sanction of the committee, two persons, one 

^ Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 229. 

2 Reprinted in A^. 7. Gas. & Merc, Aug. 27, 1770. For a pointed 
correspondence between the Boston and New York committees with 
regard to this pamphlet, vide the A^, Y. Journ., Aug. 9, and Bos. Eve. 
Post, Sept. 10. 

^ For this meeting and the troubles during the poll, vide two letters 
in Bos. Eve. Post, July 16, 1770; "A Citizen" in N. Y. Gas. & Merc, 
July 23; accounts in A''. Y. Col. Docs., vol. viii, pp. 218-220. 



226 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of each party, were therefore appointed to canvass each ward, 
presenting to the citizens, without comment, this propo- 
sition : as the people of Boston and Philadelphia are in 
favor of maintaining their agreements unchanged, is it your 
judgment '' that we should also abide by our present Non- 
Importation Agreement; or to import every Thing except 
the Articles which are, or may hereafter be, subject to 
Duty?" 

At noon the same day, the radicals, led by Isaac Sears 
and Alexander McDougall, met at the City Hall, declared 
unanimously against an importation, and agreed to use all 
lawful means to oppose it. In the evening a mob collected, 
parading the streets with a flag inscribed with the legend, 
" Liberty and no Importation but in Union with the other 
Colonies," hissing and hooting at the doors of those who 
favored importation. A crowd of the opposition gathered, 
and under the leadership of Elias Desbrosses, magistrate 
of the city and already slated for the next presidency of the 
Chamber of Commerce, they came in collision with the riot- 
ers in Wall Street, where stiff blows were exchanged with 
cane and club and the non-importers finally dispersed. 

By Monday evening, July 9, the canvass was completed ; 
and the vote resulted in a victory for the merchants. A 
protest signed by many inhabitants later declared that " only 
794 Persons in this populous City, including all Ranks and 
both Sexes," signed for importation, notwithstanding " the 
Co-operation of Interest, Necessity and Influence." ^ It 
was further claimed that the great number of those entitled 
to vote had abstained because they considered the proceeding 
irregular.^ Nevertheless, the merchants accepted the poll as 

^A''. Y. Joimu, July 26, Aug. 2, 1770. 

* Ibid., July 12, 1770. Another method employed to discredit the 
poll is illustrated by the recantation of Charles Prosser for signing 
in favor of importation when " too much in Liquor to be trusted with 
the common Rights of ^Mankind." Conn. Coiir., Aug. 20. 



NON-IMPORTATION 227 

conclusive; and within two days a vessel departed for Eng- 
land with orders for a general importation of goods, except 
tea or any other dutied articles/ 

The late Committee of Merchants of New York made all 
haste to inform their brethren in Philadelphia and Boston 
of the new developments. When a copy of the letter 
reached Princeton, James Madison and his fellow-students, 
garbed in black gowns, solemnly witnessed the burning of 
the letter by a hangman, while the college bell tolled funereal 
peals.^ This was an augury of the reception that the letter 
was to receive elsewhere. At Philadelphia, a great meeting 
of the inhabitants of the city and county adopted numerous 
resolutions, condemning the action of New York as "a sor- 
did and wanton Defection from the common Cause " and 
declaring a boycott against that city except for five neces- 
sary articles.^ At Boston, a meeting of the trade at Fan- 
euil Hall voted unanimously that the New York letter, " in 
just indignation, abhorrence and detestation, be forthwith 
torn into pieces and thrown to the winds as unworthy of 
the least notice;" which was accordingly done.* The New 
York Committee received a scathing letter from the mer- 
chants of Albany, remarking on their " unaccountable Dup- 
licity " and quoting cruelly from their recent letter of cen- 
sure on Albany for wavering in their non-importation.^ 

^ N. Y. Journ., Julj^ 12, 1770; N. Y. Col. Docs., vol. viii, pp. 220-221. 
On Nov. 26, Isaac Low advertised that, although he had lately been 
" distinguished as Chairman of a certain Committee," he had freshly 
imported goods in stock. N. Y. Gas. & Merc, Nov. 26. 

"^N. Y. Journ., July 19, 1770; Madison, Writings (Hunt), vol. i, 
pp. 6-7. 

^ A/Teeting of July 14; Pa. Chron., July 16, 1770; also Pa. Gaz., July 
19. The excepted articles were : alkaline salt, skins, furs, flax and hemp. 

* Meeting of July 24; Bos. Eve. Post, July 30, 1770; also N. Y. Journ., 
Aug. 2, 9. A New York sloop with a cargo of pork was turned away 
from Marblehead by the Committee of Merchants there. Essex Gaz., 
Aug. 14. 

^ N. Y. Journ., Aug. 2Z, ^77o. A town meeting at Huntington in 



228 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

New Jersey was aflame with indignation. " Shall we be 
humbug'd out of our Liberty and enslaved only by a Sett 
of Traders?" wrote the committee of Somerset County/ 
Formal resolutions of censure and boycott were adopted by 
mass meetings in Woodbridge and New Brunswick and in 
the counties of Essex, Sussex and Burlington.^ A New 
Yorker, daring to hawk fruit at Woodbridge, was " gen- 
teelly ducked to cool his courage." ^ The inhabitants of 
Sussex County, in the extreme northwestern corner of the 
province, resolved that, although they had hitherto patron- 
ized New York markets " by a long and tedious land- 
carriage," they would now turn their trade of wheat and 
iron " by the more natural and easy water-carriage down 
the River Delaware " to Trenton and Philadelphia.* 

The people of Connecticut were equally incensed. The 
New Haven merchants and other inhabitants resolved to buy 
no British imports from New York and, when a general 
importation occurred, to exert their influence either to di- 
vert the trade of Connecticut to Boston or Philadelphia or 
to give preference to local merchants.^ Before very many 
towns had followed this example, a public meeting at Hart- 
ford started a movement for a general meeting of ^' the 
mercantile and landed interest of the several towns " at 

the eastern part of Long Island denounced the " mercenary and per- 
fidious Conduct" of New York and resolved to maintain the non- 
importation inviolate. Ibid., Aug. 30. 

^ A^. Y. Gas. & Post-Boy, Sept. 24, 1770; also i N. J. Arch., vol. 
xxvii, pp. 253-254. 

"^N. Y. Journ., July 26, Aug. 9, Sept. 27, Oct.ir, 1770; also i N. J. 
Arrh., vol. xxvii, pp. 206-207, 215-217, 218-219, 252-253, 260-262. 

'A^. Y. Journ., Aug. 9, 1770; also i N. J. Arch., vol. xxvii, p. 220. 

^AT. F. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Sept. 24, 1770; also i N. J. Arch., vol. 
xxvii, pp. 252-253. 

^ Meeting of July 26; Conn. Journ., Aug. 3, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTA TION 



229 



New Haven on September 13 to adopt uniform measures 
in dealing with New York/ At this meeting, attended by 
delegates from a great majority of the towns, resolutions 
were passed to sever all intercourse with New York so far 
as the purchase of British imports was concerned.^ From 
the plantation provinces, also, came expressions of in- 
dignation.^ 

The patriotic indignation of the other provinces at the 
defection of New York was splendid to behold. But the 
merchants throughout the continent realized in their hearts 
that the prostration of the stalwart pillar of New York 
would cause the whole great edifice to topple. The dry- 
goods importers at Philadelphia were stirred to re-open the- 
agitation there. Some frankly placed their demand for 
alteration on the ground that a non-importation of tea would 
accomplish every desirable object, and that the defection of 
New York precluded any possibility of distressing British 
merchants at the same time that it made Pennsylvania 
traders a prey to the merchants of that city.* Others re- 

^ New London Gaz,, Aug. 17, 1770; also Mass. Spy, Aug. 21. 

^ Conn. Cour., Sept. 17, 1770; also A^. Y. Journ., Sept. 20. 

' Considerably less notice was attracted in the plantation provinces 
than in the commercial provinces. The inhabitants of Talbot County 
in Maryland resolved to cut off all trade relations with the province 
of New York. Pa. Gaz., Aug. 2Z, 1770. A general meeting of mer- 
chants and inhabitants of Wilmington and Brunswick in North Caro- 
lina took occasion to renew their agreement " with great spirit and 
unanimity." Mass. Spy, Sept. [Dec] 3, 1770. At Charleston, South 
Carolina the keenest interest was displayed. A general meeting of 
August 22 unanimously voted that the " scandalous Revolt from the 
common Cause of Freedom " should be punished by an absolute boy- 
cott; and in the subsequent months, New York skippers were actually 
forbidden trading rights in the port. S. C. Gaz., Aug. 20, 23, Sept. 6, 
27, Nov. 22, 1770. 

*" Philo- Veritas " in Pa. Gaz., Aug. 2, i77^', " Philadelphian " in 
iUd., Aug. 16; CoUins, Letter-Book 1761-1773, Nov. 24. 



230 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

vived the old complaint that the persons most violent in 
favor of the existing agreement were in general " Men 
little or not at all interested in the [drygoods] Trade " but 
who were cheerfully paying duties on molasses, sugar and 
wine in the course of their trade with the West Indies and 
the Wine Islands/ 

To these arguments came the answer of " Juris Prudens " 
in exalted strain — that if the wine and molasses merchants 
were little affected, the glory of the drygoods merchants was 
all the greater; and he recalled that ''the Weight of the 
Stamp Act fell upon the Lawyers, they generously bore it 
and desired not Partners in Distress." ^ Rather more 
pointed was the reminder given by "Amor Patriae " that 
the merchants had deliberately chosen to make the Towns- 
liend duties the sole object of repeal, even to the point of 
rejecting a proposition from Boston for including the wine 
and molasses duties as objects; that therefore reflections 
upon these latter merchants had no bearing upon the matter 
under discussion.^ Other writers emphasized that the tea 
act was, in principle, just as much a violation of American 
rights as the duties that had been repealed, and that the 
material condition of the poor in Pennsylvania was better 
than it had been in years.* 

Matters came to a head when the seven ex-members of 
the Committee of Merchants joined with seven other mer- 
cantile firms, on September 12, 1770, to request the com- 
mittee to canvass the sentiments of the subscribers of the 
agreement in a house-to-house poll. The committee, headed 

1 " Philo-Veritas " in Pa. Gaz., July 19. 1770; " Talionis " in Pa, 
Chron., Aug. 8. 
' Pa. Gas., Aug. 2, 1770. 
^ Ihid., July 26, 1770. 
* " True Philadelphian " and " Pennsylvanian " in ibid., Aug. 23, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTA TION 23 1 

by Charles Thomson and WiUiam Fisher, repHed that the 
agreement itself provided the only method of its amend- 
ment, — through a general meeting of subscribers after three 
days' notice/ Without consulting the committee further, 
the fourteen sent notices around to the subscribers to meet 
at Davenport's Tavern on Thursday, September 20.^ Only 
one hundred and thirty-five persons attended, and the im- 
porters had, through assiduous effort, succeeded in collect- 
ing a majority favorable to their design. The committee 
appeared, made a fervent appeal to the meeting to be loyal 
to the liberties of America, and presented a list of three 
carefully worded questions to be voted on, with the purptjse 
of preventing any alteration except in concert with the other 
provinces and of patterning the alteration, should any be 
made, on the Maryland or Virginia association. The im- 
porters submitted a counter-list of questions, which put 
squarely before the gathering the expediency of restricting 
non-importation to tea and other dutied articles, as the New 
Yorkers had done. The meeting voted to consider the last 
list of questions first and passed them in the affirmative. 
A trial vote on one of the committee's questions showed 
an adverse vote of 89 to 45. The committee then contended 
that the inhabitants in general should have a vote in the 
matter and that, in any case, the subscribers not present 
should be consulted. But they could make no headway 
against the majority; and Charles Thomson, speaking for 
the eleven members of the committee, declared that they 
deemed that the agreement had been broken and announced 
their resignation. 

The people of Philadelphia did not accept the decision 

1 Pa. Gaz., Sept. 20, 1770. 

'For accounts of this meeting, vide ibid., Sept. 27, Oct. 11, 1770; and 
especially the circular letter of the " late Committee " in Pa, Chron., 
Oct. I. 



232 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



without loud protest. A grand jury, of which John Gibson, 
one of the resigned committeemen, was foreman, declared 
that they would unite with their fellow-citizens to discoun- 
tenance the use of British goods until the parliamentary 
claim to colonial taxation was relinquished, the tea duty 
repealed, the jurisdiction and power of the vice-admiralty 
courts restricted, the Customs Board dissolved, and the 
standing army removed or placed under direction of the 
civil authority.^ A mass meeting of inhabitants voted, with 
only one dissenting voice, to adopt the resolutions which 
the committee had submitted in vain to the merchants' meet- 
ing; and a formal request was made that the merchants 
should re-consider their action.^ Meantime, the merchants 
had chosen a new committee to supervise enforcement of 
the altered agreement; and on Saturday, the twenty-ninth, 
the London Packet sailed with the orders of the merchants 
for British merchandise.^ 

It was scarcely to be expected that the merchants at Bos- 
ton should continue their non-importation when all about 
them yielded to the stern call of necessity. '' Some who 
have been leaders would have been glad to hold out longer," 
wrote Dr. Andrew Eliot, " but persons in trade were weary, 
and, as interest is generally their god, began to be furious." * 
After all, their purpose of bringing pressure to bear upon 
British merchants and manufacturers was already defeated 
by the defection of New York and Philadelphia. The first 
\ indication of weakening came when the merchants, not- 
I withstanding their intense indignation, failed to pass reso- 
I lutions of boycott when New York departed the agreement.^ 

^September 24; Pa. Gas., Sept. 27, 1770. 

' September 27; ibid., Oct. 4, 1770. 

^ Pa. Chron., Sept. 24, 1770; A^. Y. Journ., Oct. 11. 

*4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, p. 458. 

* Vide sarcastic comment in Newport Merc, Aug. 6, 1770; also 



NON-IMPORTATION 233 

On September 11, a few days before the final steps to dis- 
solve the Philadelphia agreement had been taken, a great 
meeting of the Boston trade was held, at which it was esti- 
mated that not less than one thousand were present, includ- 
ing " a very great Number of the principal and most wealthy 
Merchants, as well as the most respectable Tradesmen of 
the Town." The assemblage voted to propose to Phila- 
delphia an interprovincial congress of merchants to plan 
ways and means of strengthening the union of the prov- 
inces.^ The letter reached Philadelphia after the committee 
of that city had become non-existent. The news of the 
desertion of Philadelphia brought the Boston merchants to 
a decision after a few weeks of irresolution; on October 12, 
they met at the British Coffee House and unanimously voted 
to open the importation of all British goods, except tea and 
such other articles as were or might be subject to revenue 
duties.^ A week later, the goods which had been placed in 
store were delivered up to their owners.^ 

The downfall of ncfn-importation in the commercial prov- 1 
inces meant that the associations to the southward must soon 
crumble also. The merchants of Baltimore lost little time 
in sending forth a call for a meeting of the General Com- 
mittee of Maryland at Annapolis whten they learned that the 
Philadelphia merchants had forsaken their agreement. 
They resolved, furthermore, that if the provincial meeting 

Mass. Spy, Aug. 14. The Mass. Spy on November 5 quoted from a 
London paper that " at a late Meeting of the American Merchants, 
it was agreed to give imlimited Credit to such of the Colonies as 
should follow the Example of New York, by a general Importation." 
Such rumors, whether true or not, served no doubt to increase the 
sentiment for renewing importation. 

^ Bos. Gaz., Sept. 17, 1770; Pa. Chron., Oct. i. 

^ Mass. Spy, Oct. 13, 1770; also Mass Gas. & Post-Boy, Oct. 15. 

^Mass. Spy, Oct. 20, 1770. 



234 ^^^ COLOXIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

should not be held, they would consider the association dis- 
solved and open the importation of all goods save tea and 
other dutied articles/ A provincial meeting was duly held 
on October 25, but it proved a rather heterogeneous gather- 
ing, consisting of a majority of the Assembly, several 
Annapolis merchants, some members of the Council, a num- 
ber of planters, and of properly chosen deputations from 
only three counties. Jonathan Hudson, representing the 
Baltimore merchants, defiantly informed the meeting that his 
constituents were determined to depart the association not- 
withstanding any resolutions they might adopt, and that he 
had been instructed to agree to no terms short of a dis- 
solution of the association. The meeting answered by 
voting that the association should be strictly adhered to and 
that all trade should be stopped with the Baltimore mer- 
chants or any other violators." The Annapolis incident 
proved to be only a piece of theatricalism so far as the mer- 
chants of the province were concerned. "A Merchant of 
Maryland " ridiculed the gathering as '' a fortuitous Col- 
lection, not of Merchants, but of Counsellors, Representa- 
tives, Lawyers, and others, who . had been convened at 
AnnapoHs on other public Business;" and he remarked 
" how absurd, not to say indecent, it is for Men whose Occu- 
pations and Employments lie altogether in a different Walk, 
to attempt giving Law to the mercantile Part of the Com- 
munity." ^ The subsequent months showed that he spoke 
with entire truthfulness when he said that the merchants did 
not intend to pay '' the least Regard to those flaming and 
ridiculous Resolutions which were lately flashed off," but 
that they would confine their non-importation only to tea 
and other dutied articles. 

^ October 5, Md. Gas., Oct. 11, 1770; also Pa. Gas., Oct. 18. 
^ Md. Gas., Nov. i, 1770; also Pa. Gas., Nov. 8. 
' Ibid., Dec. 13, 1770. 



NON-IMPORTATION 235 

In the latter part of October the South Carolina Gen- 
eral Committee addressed a circular letter to the northern 
provinces with the purpose of learning whether the body of 
the people acquiesced in the decision of the mercantile por- 
tion in altering the non-importation/ While the liberal 
terms of the South Carolina Association and its compara- 
tively recent adoption had prevented the growth of the in- 
tense dissatisfaction which had disrupted the northern 
agreements, yet the defection of the commercial provinces, 
joined with a widespread belief that the declining price of 
rice was due to the non-importation,^ resulted in seriously 
weakening the sentiment in South Carolina. On November 
20, the General Committee announced that a meeting of the 
subscribers of the association would be held on December 
13 to decide as to their future course.^ The merchant, 
Henry Laurens, presided at the meeting. The non-import- 
ing faction were led by Thomas Lynch, planter and radical, 
who came fifty miles for the purpose and '' exerted all his 
eloquence & even the trope of rhetorical tears for the ex- 
piring liberty of his dear country which the merchants would 
sell like any other merchandize." * It was quickly evident 
that the importers controlled a majority; a motion to delay 
action until the General Assembly met, and an effort to con- 
tinue the association with an open importation from Holland, 
met with defeat. The assemblage thereupon voted to limit 

^ S. C. Ga/j., Nov. I, 1770; also Mass. Spy, Jan. 3, 1771. 

""A Planter" in 5. C. Gas., Dec. 27, 1770. Current newspapers 
5how that rice averaged 70s. per hundredweight in 1768 (before the 
non-importation) ; 60s. during 1769; 45s. during 1770. 

' S. C. Gaz., Nov. 22, 1770. For an account of the meeting, vide ibid., 
Dec. 13. 

* Bull to Hillsborough, quoted in McCrady, S. C. under Royal 
Govt., pp. 682-683. 



236 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

non-importation and non-consumption to tea and other 
articles subject to duty/ 

In Virginia, the non-importation spirit, which had been 
feeble throughout, gradually subsided. A meeting of as- 
sociators was called for December 14, 1770, at Williams- 
burg; but so few attended that they did nothing but adjourn 
until the following summer.^ In February Thomas Jeffer- 
son sent an order for goods to an English merchant with 
instructions to send immediately only such goods as were 
admissible by the association; by June he felt so confident 
that the approaching meeting would repeal the association, 
except for dutied articles, that he took time by the forelock 
and ordered the shoes and other debarred articles to be 
shipped at once.^ Early in July the Virginia meeting took 
the action that Jefferson had anticipated.* In North Caro- 
lina, no record apparently remains of the passing of the 
non-importation. 

Before leaving the subject of the second non-importation 
movement, it would appear desirable to determine the effects 
of the colonial plan of commercial coercion on Great Britain. 
Statistics of trade show that the English merchants and 
manufacturers dependent upon American commerce suf- 

^ A committee was appointed to send a protest in behalf of South 
Carolina against the conduct of the northern provinces. There ap- 
peared to be a strong sentiment in favor of stopping trade with those 
parts, especially since it was held that that commerce drained specie 
from South Carolina "mostly for mere Trash." But this action was 
not taken, apparently because " the defection not having been among 
the Landholders, Farmers and Mechanicks ... it would be unjust to 
retaUate upon them, for the Injuries received from some of the Mer- 
chants in those Colonies." 5*. C. Gaz., Dec. 27, 1770. 

^Brit. Papers {"Sparks Mss."), vol. ii, p. 70. 

3 Writings (Ford), vol. i, pp. 387-389, 394-395- 

* Washington, Writings (Ford), vol. ii, pp. 334-338. 



NON-IMPORTATION ( 237 / 

f ered a great loss of trade/ Friends of parliamentary tstxa-*'' 
tion in England were quick to claim that the colonies were 
being partially supplied by means of a clandestine trade by 
way of Quebec and Halifax; but there was little basis for 
this charge in fact.^ Yet, notwithstanding the decline of 
American trade, very little actual distress was experienced 
in England during the period of the non-importation. This 
was the result of several fortuitous circumstances uncon- 
nected with the American situation. Crops in England 
were better than they had been in years, and the material 
condition of the workingmen was much improved by the 
general reduction of the price of provisions.^ Further than 
this, the Russo-Turkish war, which broke out in 1768, 
and the increased demand for woolens in Germany, as well 
as other unusual circumstances, served to neutralize the ef- 
fects which the American non-importation agreements 
would otherwise have produced.* 

*' Not a manufacturing village in this kingdom complains 

^ Exports to the thirteen colonies fell from £2,157,218 in 1768 to 
^1,336,122 in 1769; imports from the colonies, from £1,251,454 to 
£1,060,206. Vide Macpherson, Annals of Com., vol. iii, under the ap- 
propriate dates, for these and the other figures cited hereafter. 

2 Pa. Gaz., June 21, Sept. 6, 1770; A''. Y. Joiirn., Aug. 30, Sept. 6. 
There was probably some evasion of non-importation by way of Canada, 
for the purpose, it would appear, of providing Albany traders with 
merchandise for the Indian trade, English importations at Quebec 
increased from £110,598 in 1768 to £174,435 in 1769; at Newfoundland, 
from £46,761 to £64,080; at Nova Scotia, there was a small decrease. 
A suspicious increase of imports occurred at Jamaica, from £473,146 in 
1768 to £570,468 in the following year ; but contemporary writers failed 
to prefer any charges on this score. 

^ Bos. Chron., Nov. 16, 1769; also N. Y. Gas. & Merc, Nov. 27. 

* This was repeatedly averred. E. g., vide 5 M. H. S. Colls., vol. ix, 
pp. 384-385; Pa. Gas., Jan. 4, Sept. 6, 1770; Bos. Chron., June 11; 
N. Y. Gas. & Post-Boy, May 21; N. Y. Journ., Sept. 27; Mass. Spy, 
Sept. 15; Adams, John, Works, vol. ii, p. 35^; N- Y. Gas. & Merc, 
Nov. 27, 1769. 



238 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of a slack trade," declared a London newspaper of Novem- 
ber 27, 1768, " nay, what is more, when some of them were 
applied to, at the close of last session to sign a petition 
setting forth their distresses arising from the suspension 
of the American orders, they said that they were then so 
fully employed that they could not, with any colour of truth,, 
sign such a petition." ^ An American travelling in England 
wrote back to Philadelphia friends in May, 1770, that goods 
were scarce and prices advanced at Birmingham, Halifax 
and Leeds, and only at Sheffield were prices lower than 
formerly.^ Even the merchant, Barlow Trecothick, while 
arguing before the House of Commons for a total repeal 
of the Townshend duties in April, 1770, admitted that ** at 
present all our manufacturers were employed and all our 
manufactures vended," pointing out, however, that the 
woolens trade with Germany and northern Europe was only 
transitory, "a passing cloud." ^ 

" The merchants here," wrote Dr. Franklin from London 
in March, 1770, " were at length prevailed on to present a 
petition, but they moved slowly, and some of them, I 
thought, reluctantly." * Some of the merchants in Ameri- 
can trade w^ere buoyed up by the rumors from Boston that 
the agreements were collapsing ; ° others declared impatiently 
that non-importation " is now a stale device and will not 
do a second time ;" ^ still others had gotten their share of 

^ A^. Y. Journ,, Feb. 22, 1770. 

2 Pa. Gaz., Aug. 16, 1770; also A^ Y. Journ., Aug. 30. 

^Bos. Chron., June 11, 1770; 5 M. H. S. Colls., vol. ix, pp. 430-431. 
In face of this universally accepted evidence, however, it should be 
noted that the statistics in Macpherson's Annals of Commerce do not 
disclose any abnormal increase in English exportations to Russia^ 
Holland or Germany. 

* Writings (Smyth), vol. v, p. 252. 

^ Bos. Chron., Jan. 8, 1770; also A'". Y. Journ., Jan. 18. 

6 .Y. Y. Gaz. & Merc, Sept. 3, I770. 



NON-IMPORTATION 239 

the new trade with northern Europe. At the instigation 
of the colonial agents, the merchants in American trade at 
Bristol and London finally petitioned Parliament in Janu- 
ary and February, 1770, for a total repeal of the Towns- 
hend duties/ The manufacturing towns absolutely refused 
to move; and thus the memorials lacked the solid business 
support which had been given to the demand for the repeal 
of the Stamp Act. The petition of the London merchants 
furnished merely the occasion, not the cause, for Lord 
North's motion to repeal all the Townshend duties save 
the tea tax. The ministry had announced its intention as 
early as 1 769 so to proceed ; and Lord North's motion was 
based on the claim that the Townshend law, the product of 
a former ministry, was " preposterous " in so far as it im- 
posed taxes on British manufactures.^ He did not deny 
that " dangerous combinations " had been formed beyond 
the Atlantic and that the British merchants with American 
connections were discontented; but it was clear that the 
former consideration made him reluctant to make any con- 
cessions at all, while the force of the latter was minimized by 
the practical certainty that the non-importation agreements 
could not continue much longer. In conclusion, then, it 
would appear that the effects of American trade coercion 
were off-set by a fortuitous expansion of British commerce; 
and that the partial repeal was produced by a desire to 
correct a law, passed by a former ministry and based upon 
a principle injurious to British commercial interests. 

if 

• ^Fo. Mag., vol. xii, p. 164; Pa. Gas., Apr. 26, 1770. 

' Parliamentary History, vol. xvi, pp. 853-855 ; 5 M. H. S. Colls., vol. 
ix, pp. 421-422. 



CHAPTER VI 
Colonial Prosperity and a New Peril (1770-1773) 

The three years that followed the breakdown of the 
great mercantile combination were, for the most part, years 
of material prosperity and political calm. In the earlier 
years the merchants of the commercial provinces had been 
the backbone of the demand for a restricted parliamentary 
control; but in the period following the autumn of 1770 
the alliance of the commercial interests and the radicals 
was broken. The merchants were dominated by a desire to 
prevent any further strengthening of non-mercantile power 
in provincial politics and by a substantial satisfaction in the 
concessions that Parliament had made. The influence of 
the moderates generally was thrown in favor of " letting 
well enough alone; " and the return of better times seemed 
an irrefutable argument in favor of this position. Happy it 
would have been for the merchant class and for the stability 
of the British empire if the merchants had not been induced 
to depart from this position during a few critical weeks in 
the fall of 1773! 

Colden at New York observed : "All Men of property are 
so sensible of their danger, from Riots and tumults, that 
they will not rashly be induced to enter into combinations, 
which may promote disorder for the future, but will en- 
deavour to promote due subordination to legal authority." ^ 
Even Thomas Cushing, v/ho as speaker of the Massachusetts 
House of Representatives had been a leading spokesman for 

^ iV. Y. Col Docs., vol. viii, p. 217. 
240 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 24 1 

radical colonial demands and who as a merchant continued 
somewhat restive under the existing trade regulations, pre- 
ferred that " high points about the supreme authority of 
Parliament " should " fall asleep " lest there be " great 
danger of bringing on a rupture fatal to both countries." ^ 
John Adams wrote in his diary at this time that he had 
learned wisdom from his experience in fighting in behalf 
of the people's rights : '^ I shall certainly become more re- 
tired and cautious. I shall certainly mind my own farm 
and my own business." ^ As " Chronus " expressed it, 
the public had become impatient with the " group of gloomy 
mortals " who prated unceasingly of tyranny. He noted 
that justice was duly administered by " learned and judicious 
men who have estates and property of their own and who 
are therefore likely to be as tenacious of the public rights 
and liberties as any other person can be ; " that shops were 
filled with merchandise, business thriving; that ships were 
plying a brisk trade abroad and farmers were busily cultivat- 
ing their own lands. Were such men slaves groaning from 
lack of liberty? he queried; and he reminded his readers 
of the evils resulting in the past from following " officious 
Patriots," men who " have nothing to lose, but when public 
rule and order are broken in upon and all things are thrown 
into confusion, they may be gainers." ^ 

After six years of almost continuous agitation and bad 
business conditions, the merchants turned, with a sense of 
profound relief, to the pleasant task of wooing the profits 
of commerce. Conditions generally were favorable to the 
pursuit of this beguiling occupation. The non-importation 
had caused a net balance of trade in favor of the com- 

^ 4 M.H. S. Colls., vol. iv, p. 360. 

' Works (Adams, C. F.), vol. ii, p. 260. 

' Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Jan. 6, 1772. 



242 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

mercial provinces; and for the first time in memory, gold 
was imported from England in the course of commerce. 
The great demand for com in France, Spain and Italy, 
caused by devastating floods, had enabled the American 
merchants to pay off their standing debts in England ; and, 
due to the non-importation, they had ordered their balance 
to be transmitted to them in bullion instead of in the form 
of merchandise/ It was with great elation that a Phila- 
delphia newspaper announced that the brig Dolphin had 
brought to Philadelphia £6000 sterling in specie from Lon- 
don, and a little later, that two vessels had arrived with 
£10,000 more, " this being some of the golden fruits of 
the Non-Importation. . ." ^ The same thing went on at 
other ports. ^ 
, With so much inactive capital on hand, the re-opening- 
f of trade in the last months of 1770 caused the colonial 
^ merchants to invest in great quantities of British wares. 
\ English houses met them more than half way with liberal 
extensions of credit in order to regain the American market. 
' In such centres as New England and Pennsylvania, British 
importations increased three- to fivefold. "Commerce never 
was in a more flourishing state." * In fact, business was 
experiencing too rapid a recovery from depression ; the mer- 
chants became greatly overstocked, and in the course of the 
next year or so, competition at times caused goods to sell 
lower than the first cost and charges.^ Meantime, however, 

^ Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Sept. 24, 1770; Mass. Spy, Oct. 30; London 
Chron., Nov. 8; Parliamentary History, vol. xvi, p. 861. 

^ Pa. Journ., Aug. 30, Nov. i, 1770. 

^ 5. C. Gac, Nov. 22, 1771 ; Am. Hist. Rev., vol. viii, p. 320. 

* Hutchinson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 350. 

"* Collins, Letter-Book 1761-1773, Dec. 6, 1771; Feb. 28, Oct. 8, 1772; 
Mch. 22,, Apr. 28, Aug. 3, 1773; Brown, John Hancock His Book, p. 175;: 
"A Merchant" in Mass. Spy, Jan. 9, 1772. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



243 



the merchants felt they were enjoying a deserved feast after 
a long and trying fast. 

The newspaper advertising indicated that colonial agricul- 
tural products and certain varieties of domestic manufac- 
tures were enjoying a wider sale than ever before. The 
Bostonian and New Yorker could expect to find in the local 
shops Pennsylvania flour and iron, '' Choice Philadelphia 
Beer," potash kettles cast at Salisbury, Conn., Rhode Island 
cheese, Virginia tobacco, and Carolina pitch, indigo and 
rice. The first volume of Blackstone was reprinted at 
Boston for two dollars although the price of the British, 
edition war three times as great. Lynn shoes for women,, 
New England cod-fish hooks, Milton paper and Boston- 
made sails had an established clientele. Philadelphia news- 
papers advertised locally-made watches, bar steel, pot and 
pearlashes. Governor Franklin of New Jersey transmitted 
to the home government the report that, during the non- 
importation struggle, a new slitting mill had been erected in 
Morris County, so contrived as to be an appendage to a 
grist mill and in such a manner as to evade the parliamentary 
prohibition.^ 

The general satisfaction of the merchants was not dis- 
turbed by the vestiges of the old restrictive and revenue 
measures which still remained on the statute book. Even 
complaints against the absence of a circulating medium 
ceased, until the resumption of commercial relations with 
Great Britain again drained off the gold supply ; and in May, 
1773, Parliament took steps to ameliorate the condition of 
currency stringency that had been potentially present since 
the prohibition of legal tender in 1764. This act provided 
that paper, issued by the colonies as security to their public 

^ I N. J. Arch., vol. x, p. 444. 



244 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

creditors, might be made, by the colonial assemblies, a lega 
tender for the payment of provincial duties and taxes/ 

The conduct of the merchants and their customers towar( 
the importation and use of duty-laden tea during this perio( 
throws considerable light upon their philosophical attitud 
toward those '' high points about the supremacy of Parlia 
ment " which, according to Gushing, should best " fal 
asleep." Outside of the ports of New York and Philadel 
phia, the tea duty was universally acquiesced in, notwith 
standing the widespread resolutions of boycott that had beei 
adopted against customed articles in 1770. No efforts what 
soever were made to enforce the non-importation in thes 
provinces, so far as the newspapers recorded ; ^ and th 
popular apathy f aisled to provoke criticism or protest. Eve 
the arch-radicalV* J^ohn Adams, could confide to his diar^ 
on February 14, 1771, that he had '' dined at Mr. Hancock' 
with the members, Warren, Church, Cooper, &c. and Mi 
Harrison, and spent the whole afternoon, and drank greei 
tea, from Holland, I hope, but don't know." ^ 

When in the autumn months of 1773 public sentimen 
underwent an abrupt and radical change for reasons tha 
will be discussed later, further light was thrown on the stat 
of public mind that had existed prior to that time. Thus 
in August, 1774, Robert Findlay was adjudged by th 
Charles County, Md., Committee to have " fully and satis 
factorily exculpated himself of any intention to counterac 
the resolutions of America " because he showed that hi 

^ 13 George III, c. 57. Vide also Macpherson, Annals of Com., vo 
iii, p. 538. 

2 The single recorded instance in any of the thirteen provinces wa 
the case of John Turner, a New York shopkeeper, who was detected i: 
the act of selling some dutied tea about six weeks after the New Yor 
agreement had been adopted. A". Y. Gas. & Merc, Aug. 20, 1770. 

» Works (Adams, C. F.), vol. ii, p. 255. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



245 



orders for dutied tea had been sent in the fall of 1773/ 
Likewise T. C. Williams & Company of Annapolis issued a 
statement in October, 1774, with reference to the tea con- 
signed to them in the Peggy Stewart, in which they declared : 

When we ordered this tea [in May, 1774], we did nothing more 
than our neighbours ; for it is well known that most merchants, 
both here and in Baltimore, that ordered fall goods, ordered 
tea as usual ; and to our certain knowledge, in the months of 
April, May and June last, near thirty chests were imported into 
this city by different merchants, and the duties paid without 
the least opposition. . . . We therefore think it hard, nay cruel 
usage, that our characters should be thus blasted for only doing 
what most people in this province that are concerned in trade, 
have likewise done.^ 

At Charleston, S. C, the importation of dutied tea had 
also been carried on during the years 1 771- 1773 with ab- 
solutely no attempt at concealment.^ At the public meeting, 
held in December, 1773, upon the arrival of the East India 
Company's ship, it was strongly argued that *' Tea had ever 
been spontaneously imported and the Duty paid ; that every 
subject had an equal right to send that article from the 
Mother Country into their Province, and therefore it was 
unreasonable to exclude the Hon. East India Company from 
the same privilege." * Indeed, while the people were still 
in session, some dutied teas on board the tea-ship, not owned 
by the East India Company, were landed and carted past the 
meeting-place to the stores of private merchants ! ° 

^ Md. Gas., Aug. 11, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 703-704. 
""Md. Gaz., Oct. 27, 1774. 
' S. C. Gaz., Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 20, 1773. 
* iV. Y. Gazetteer, Dec. 23, 1773. 

^Drayton, J., Memoirs of the American Revolution (Charleston, 
1821), vol. i, p. 98. 



246 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

This contemporary evidence ^ is abundantly supported by 
the official figures of the British government on the tea 
importations into the colonies." At Boston, a total of 
373,077 pounds of dutied tea was imported from December 
I, 1770 to January 5, 1773 without articulate protest from 
the radicals.^ " Three hundred whole and fifty-five half 
Chests came in Vessels belonging to Mr. John Hancock the 
Patriot," stated the comptroller of customs at Boston in a 
letter of September 29, 1773, to John Pownall, under-secre- 
tary of state in the colonial department.* In the other 
importing provinces, the amount of dutied tea received from 
December i, 1770 to January 5, 1773 was less in quantity 
but probably about equal in proportion to their normal 
volume of trade. At Rhode Island, the quantity of dutied 
tea entered was 20,833 pounds; at Patuxent, Md., 33,304 
pounds; at the several Virginia ports, 79,527 pounds; at 
Charleston, S. C, 48,540 pounds; and at Savannah, 12,931 
pounds. The total for all provinces, always excepting New 
/ York and Pennsylvania, was 580,831 pounds, on which the 
/ duty was paid without arousing comment. 

New York and Philadelphia were the only parts of 
British America where the people faithfully observed the 

^ For further confirmatory evidence, vide, in the case of Massachu- 
setts, Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Dec. 6, 1773; for Maryland, Md. Gas., 
Aug. 18, 1774; for Georgia, Ga, Gaz., July 27, 1774. Cf. Meredith's 
statement in House of Commons, 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1624-1625. 

'^ Abstract prepared in the office of the inspector of imports and ex- 
ports; quoted by Channing, History of U. S., vol. iii, p. 128 n. 

3 " Q " in the Bos. Eve. Post, Nov. 15, 1773, declared that 173 different 
merchants were concerned in this importation ; but a letter from Boston 
in the Pa. Packet, Dec. 13, 1773, claimed that the number of importers 
had been confounded with the number of importations. 

* Letter of Benjamin Hallo well; Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. xxiv, no. 
2029, p. 5. A chest contained 340 pounds. Vide also John Adams's 
Works, vol. ii, p. 381. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 247 

boycott against dutied tea/ These places were the chief ^ 
centers for tea-smugghng in America. Unembarrassed by 
the presence of the Customs Board, the enterprising mer- 
chants of these ports drove a brisk trade with Holland, 
Sweden and Germany and with the Dutch island of St. 
Eustatius for contraband tea, powder and other supplies but 
particularly for the forbidden tea.^ Lieutenant Governor 
Golden and Lord Dartmouth exchanged views on the sub- 
ject, agreeing in the sentiment that the illicit trade between 
New York and Holland prevailed '' to an enormous de- 
^ee." ^ " It is well known," wrote Samuel Seabury in 
1774, " that little or no tea has been entered at the Gustoms 
House for several years. All that is imported is smuggled 
from Holland, and the Dutch Islands in the West Indies." * 
Gilbert Barkly, a Philadelphia merchant of sixteen years' 
standing, wrote in May, 1773, of the extensive smuggHng 
of tea " from Holland, France, Sweden, Lisbon &c, St. 
Eustatia, in the West Indies &c." ^ Smuggling " has amaz- 
ingly encreased within these twenty years past," asserted 
"A Tradesman of Philadelphia." ^ Hutchinson informed 
the home government that " in New York they import 
scarce any other than Dutch teas. In Rhode Island and 
Pennsylvania, it is little better." '^ Since smuggled tea was 

^ Contemporaries realized this. E. g., vide "A Tradesman of Phila- 
delphia" in Pa. Journ., Aug. 17, 1774. 

^-Letters of Hutchinson in Mass. Arch., vol. xxvii, p. 317; Bos. Gaz., 
Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 1775 ; A^". Engl. Chron., July 29. 

^ N. Y. Col. Docs., vol. viii, pp. 487, 510-512. 

* Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress . . . 
By a Farmer (1774). Also vide Becker, A^. Y. Parties, 1760-1776, p. 84, 
n. 158. 

5 Drake, F. S., Tea Leaves (Boston, 1884), p. 201. 

^Pa. Journ., Aug. 17, 1774. 

■^ Letter of Sept. 10, 1771 ; Bos. Gaz., Nov. 27, 1775. Newport prob- 
ably ranked next in importance to New York and Philadelphia as a 
centre for tea-smuggling. Vide Drake, op. cit., pp. 194-197. 



248 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

cheaper for the consumer to drink than dutied tea and the 
profits of the tea dealer greater, the systematic neglect of 
the dutied article in New York and Philadelphia corres- 
ponded as much to self-interest as devotion to principle, 
and gave fair occasion for the coining of the epigram that 
'' a smuggler and a whig are cousin Germans . . ." ^ 

The smuggling merchants experienced little difficulty in 
getting their teas into America. Notwithstanding all the 
regulations of recent years, there were still many secluded 
landing places on the extensive coast line and all the tricks 
which the mind of a resourceful skipper could invent to 
deceive the customs officials.^ There were, furthermore, 
customs officials who, from lack of reward from the govern- 
ment, did not care to risk " the rage of the people," ^ or 
who, because of the forehandedness of the smugglers, 
found rich reward in conniving at the traffic. Golden cited 
the case of his grandson, recently appointed surveyor and 
searcher of the port of New York, who was given to under- 
stand by interested parties that *' if he would not be officious 
in his Duty, he might depend upon receiving £1500 a year." * 

The views of contemporary observers throw some light 
on the proportion of imported tea which failed to pay the 
parliamentary duty. Governor Hutchinson, who seems to 
have furnished the brains for the tea business carried on 

^ " Massachusettensis " in Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Jan. 2, 1775. 

^ E. g., filling the interstices of a lumber cargo with tea, carrying 
false bills of lading, and the like; private letters in Pub. Rec. Off.: 
C. O. 5, no. 138 (L. C. Transcripts) , pp. 151-152, 175. Vide the sailing 
orders of Captain Hammond for obtaining a tea cargo at Goteborg or 
Hamburg and for running it past the customs officials at Newport. 
R. L Commerce, vol. i, pp. 332-333. 

'Letters of Hutchinson to Hillsborough, Aug, 25, Sept. 10, 1771, in 
Bos. Gas., Nov. 27, 1775. 

* Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 370-372. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 249 

by his sons at Boston, estimated that the total annual 
consumption of teas in America was 19,200 chests or 6,- 
528,000 pounds.^ For approximately the same period, the 
amount of tea that paid the duty was about 320,000 pounds.^ 
Hutchinson's estimate was evidently wide of the mark, for 
even Samuel Wharton, who gravely averred that the fron- 
tiersmen and many Indians shared the popular habit of im- 
bibing tea twice a day, placed the total consumption at a 
million and a half pounds less.^ The London tea merchant, 
William Palmer, judged more dispassionately when he 
hazarded a figure about half of that named by Hutchinson, 
remarking that Hutchinson's estimate of " 19,200 chests 
is more than has been hitherto annually imported from 
China by all foreign companies." * Assuming Palmer's 
conservative figure to be approximately correct, the con- 
clusion would seem valid that in a year, like 1771, marked 
by unusually large importations of customed tea, more ? ;^ ^ 
than nine-tenths of the tea consumed was illicitly imported. '^ 1 

The incentive to smuggling existed in spite of the well- 
intentioned efforts of the British government. The Towns- 
hend act of 1 767, although imposing a small import duty of 
threepence a pound in America, had removed all British im- 

^ Bos. Gas., Nov. 27, 1775. 

' The amount of dutied tea imported from Dec. i, 1770 to Jan. 5, 1772 
was 344,771 pounds, according to an abstract prepared in the office of the 
inspector of imports and exports; quoted by Channing, op. cit., vol. iii, 
p. 128 n. 

^ " Observations," Pa. Mag., vol. xxv, p. 140. 

* Drake, op. cit., p. 197. 

'" Hutchinson in 1771 set the figure at nine-tenths for New York and 
Philadelphia and five-sixths for Massachusetts. Bos. Gas., Nov. 27, 
1775. He said elsewhere that the contraband tea consumed at Boston 
came there by way of New York and Philadelphia. Mass. Arch., vol. 
xxvii, p. 317. 



250 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



port duties from tea exported to America/ and had thus, 
for a time at least, reduced the cost of English tea to the 
American consumer below that of the contraband article. 
This advantageous situation of English tea could, in the 
nature of things, continue only so long as the wholesale 
price of the tea in the English market did not go up, or the 
price of smuggled tea fall. The former occurred. The 
East India Company, although not permitted to sell at 
retail, were permitted to name an upset price at their public 
auction sales. Treading the edge of a quicksand of bank- 
ruptcy and obliged by the act of 1767 to make good any 
deficiency in the revenues resulting from the discontinuance 
of certain tea duties, the company sought to recoup their 
losses by advancing the upset price of tea. Governor Hutch- 
inson wrote to Lord Hillsborough on August 25, 1771 : " If 
the India company had continued the sale of their teas at 2s. 
2d. to 2s. 4d. as they sold two years ago, the Dutch trade 
would have been over by this time; but now that the teas 
are at 3s. the illicit traders can afford to lose one chest in 
three . . ." ^ Meantime, Dutch teas were selling in Hol- 
land from i8d. to 2s. per pound and paid no import duty 
into America.^ Hutchinson urged constantly in his busi- 
ness and political correspondence that " by some means or 
other the price of Teas in England to the Exporter ought 
to be kept nearer to the price in Holland." * 

The next act of Parliament dealing with the East India 

1 7 George III, c. 56. Vide Farrand's article already referred to, in 
Am. Hist. Rev. vol. iii, pp. 266-269. 

2 Bos. Gaz., Nov. 27, 1775. 

^ Drake, op. cit., pp. 191, 192, 194-197. Hutchinson calculated the cost 
of landing smuggled tea at five per cent. 

* Letters to William Palmer and Lord Hillsborough, in Mass. Arch., 
vol. xxvii, pp. 206-207; Bos. Gas., Nov. 27, Dec. 4, I77S- Vide also me- 
morial of Barkly, the Philadelphia merchant, to the same purpose. 
Drake, op. cit., pp. 199-202. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 25 1 

Company, enacted in June, 1772, relieved the company from 
future liability for deficiency in the tea revenues but granted 
a drawback of only three-fifths of the English import duties 
on tea exported to America instead of a complete reim- 
bursement as formerly/ This act failed to alter the situ- 
ation materially, so far as the American dealer in dutied 
teas was concerned." The tea smuggler continued to con- 
trol the situation, particularly at New York and Philadel- 
phia; and in the period from December i, 1770 to the ter- 
mination of the customs service in 1775, only 874 pounds 
of customed tea were imported at New York and 128 pounds 
at Philadelphia.^ 

Illicit traffic in other commodities was also carried on, 
although probably in lesser volume than ever before. The 
total duties collected on wines and molasses in all the colonies 
increased steadily until 1773.* During the year 1772, ships- 
of-war all along the coast displayed greater activity and 
more than doubled the amount of their seizures.^ Exces- 

^ 12 George III, c. 60. The East India Company were obliged to pay 
the British government more than £115,000 as a result of the falling off 
of the tea revenues during the first four years under the act of 1767. 

* It would appear that certain other trading conditions discouraged 
the merchants of the Middle Colonies from undertaking the importation 
of English teas. English ports, unlike those of Holland: and certain 
other foreign countries, were seldom open for the importation of 
American corn and flour; and even when they were, the sales of the 
East India Company occurred at such irregular intervals that colonial 
merchants did not know when to direct their proceeds to be invested 
in teas as homeward freight. Moreover, American merchants received 
preferential treatment at the foreign ports, — a moderate price and 
"Advantageous Terms of Discount, Difference of Weight &c, amount- 
ing in the whole, to near 20 per Centum." Pa. Mag., vol. xxv, p. 140. 

^ Channing, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 128 n. 

* Vide table compiled from accounts of cashier of the American cus- 
toms ; quoted by Channing, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 90 n. 

^ Seizures by ships-of-war amounted to £719 in 1771 ; £2017 in 1772. 



252 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



sive zeal on the part of the customs officials still had a ten- 
dency to excite popular fury ; and indeed it was an incident 
^growing out of this situation that produced the first serious 
^/clash between the British government and the colonists 
?' during this period. Already in November, 1771, the comp- 
troller of the customs at Falmouth had been aroused from 
his slumbers by disguised men and, at the point of a pistol, 
forced to divulge the name of the person who had lodged 
an information with him/ In the same month, a mob of 
thirty disguised men had overcome, with some brutality, 
the crew of a revenue schooner anchored near Philadelphia, 
and had rescued a captive vessel that was laden with contra- 
band tea, claret and gin.^ 

Resistance to customs authority reached its climax in the 
destruction of the revenue vessel Gaspee on the night of June 
9, 1772. The commander of the vessel. Lieutenant Dud- 
ingston, had, in patrolling Narragansett Bay and the con- 
necting waters, displayed " an intemperate, if not a repre- 
hensible zeal to aid the revenue service." ^ He had made 
himself obnoxious to legitimate traders as well as to smug- 
glers, and was believed to have contributed, through his 
officiousness, " not a little to enhance the price of fuel and 
provisions " in Rhode Island.* One day while pursuing a 

However, seizures by land officers fell from £607 to £3,7^. Vide Chan- 
ning, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 89 n. Notices of the Vice-Admiralty Court in 
the Boston newspapers showed that large quantities of goods were being 
condemned for illegal importation, especially molasses, sugars and 
wines. For an example of increased activity at New York, vide R. L 
Commerce, vol. i, p. 383. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 26-27. 

' Pa. Col. Recs., vol. x, pp. 8-15. 

'Report of the royal Commission of Inquiry; Bartlett, J. R., A His- 
tory of the Destruction of His Britannic Majesty's Schooner Gaspee 
. . . (Providence, 1861), p. 128. 

■* Governor Wanton to Hillsborough ; ibid., p. 39. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



253 



colonial vessel, the Gaspee ran aground on a narrow spit of 
land about six miles from Providence. Led by John Brown, 
the most opulent merchant of that town, and by Abraham 
Whipple, a ship captain in the West Indian trade, a band of 
citizens boarded the vessel in the night, seized the crew and 
set the vessel on fire/ A commission of inquiry was ap- 
pointed by the king to sift the matter and to convey the 
perpetrators out of the colony for trial. Although the names 
of those who had taken part in the affair were known to at 
least a thousand persons, no one could be found to inform 
the commissioners against them. Moreover, Stephen Hop- 
kins, chief justice of Rhode Island and a shipbuilder and ex- 
smuggler himself, declared that not a person should be 
removed for trial outside of the colony's limits. The com- 
missioners abandoned the inquiry and reported their failure 
to the home government. The latter did not appear anxious 
to make an issue of the Gaspee incident. Lieutenant Dud- 
ingston was sued by some Rhode Island merchants for al- 
leged unlawful conversion of sundry casks of rum and sugar. 
After three trials in local courts, he acknowledged himself 
beaten, and the Customs Board at Boston made good his 
losses to the extent of £363.^ In general, revenue vessels 
relaxed their vigilance during the year 1773; and their 
seizures fell off almost three-fifths.^ 

The keener minds among the radicals were not blind to 
the change that had come over the merchant class and to the 
resulting paralysis which had seized on the public mind. 

1 Based on statement of a participant many years later; ihid., pp. 19-20. 
"Many of them appeared like men of credit and tradesmen; and but 
few like common men," declared the deposition of Midshipman Dickin- 
son. Ihid., p. 31. 

' Channing, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 126. 

' Ibid., p. 89 n. ; Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. xxiv, no. 2029, p. 5. 



254 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776- 

Sam Adams's comment when the Boston merchants decided 
to abandon their general suspension of trade for tea non- 
importation alone showed keen appreciation of the economic 
basis of mercantile discontent. Admitting freely that the 
merchants had held out longer than he had expected and 
that his connection with them had been '' but as an Auxiliary 
in their Nonimportation Agreement," he wrote to a brother 
radical in South CaroHna in this strain : 

Let the Colonies still convince their implacable Enemies that 
they are united in constitutional Principles, and are resolved 
they will not be Slaves ; that their Dependance is not uporr 
Merchants or any particular Class of Men, nor is their dernier 
resort a resolution barely to withhold Commerce with a nation 
that would subject them to despotic Power/ 

In effect, he was saying that the merchant class had been 
utilized to the utmost as fertilizers of discontent; that 
their spirit for trade redress had sustained them surpris- 
ingly well in their opposition to England but that hence- 
forth the struggle of the colonies must be divorced from the 
self-interest of the merchant class and rest on a broader 
popular basis. 

Adams labored hard to keep alive radical sentiment in 
Boston. James Otis, in his intervals of sanity, was pursuing 
a strongly reactionary course.^ John Adams withdrew him- 
self from public hfe, devoting himself to his profession; 
and for a time he ceased even to use his pen in defense of 
popular rights. Sam Adams's chief care was to keep hot the 
coals of Hancock's resentment against Parliament, for Han- 
cock was the local Croesus,^ and some of his funds and all 

^To Peter Timothy, Nov. 21, 1770; Adams, Writings (Gushing),, 
vol. ii, p. 65. Vide also ihid., p. 58. 

^ Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, p. 2^. 

' John Adams credited the statement that " not less than one thou- 
sand families were, every day in the year, dependent on Mr. Hancock for 
their daily bread." Ihid., vol. x, p. 260. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



255 



of his influence had been employed to promote the anti- 
parliamentary movement in the preceding years. But, as 
was the case with many another merchant, Hancock's busi- 
ness affairs had gone awry while he was playing the politi- 
cian; ^ and he was averse to any further agitation by the 
radicals while the golden fruits of commerce invited pick- 
ing. "All friendship between them was suddenly at an end/' 
wrote Hutchinson in his history, " and Mr. Hancock ex- 
pressed his dissatisfaction with the party, and with their 
extending their designs further than appeared to him war- 
rantable." ^ For the next couple of years, Hancock, al- 
though resisting all efforts of Governor Hutchinson to com- 
mit him to the other side, pursued the course of the typical 
merchant, and at several critical times threw his influence 
and vote in favor of conciliation and against the disturbing 
schemes of Adams. ^ 

What the radical cause lacked was, first, a compelling ^^ 
issue, and, second, an organization divorced from the con- 
trol of the merchant class. The home government supplied 
promising material for the first when the report reached 
Boston in late September, 1772, that the salaries of the 
judges would thereafter be paid out of the customs revenue. 
No propagandist ever utilized an opportunity more dexter- 
ously than did Sam Adams on this occasion. Masquerad- 
ing under the signature *' Valerius Poplicola," he appeared 
in the Boston Gazette of October 5, 1772 in an eloquent pro- 
test against the innovation. '' The Merchants of this Con- 
tinent," he declared, 

have passively submitted to the Indignity of a Tribute; and 

^ Brown, John Hancock His Book, pp. 158, 163, 168. 

^ Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 346. See also Wells, Samuel Adams, vol. i,. 
pp. 458, 459. 

' Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 348, 356, 361 ; Wells, op. cit., vol. i^ 
pp. 465-475. 



V" 



256 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the Landholders, tho' Sharers in the Indignity, have been per- 
haps too unconcern'd Spectators of the humiliating Scene. . . . 
Had the Body of this People shown a proper Resentment, at 
the time when the proud Taskmasters first made their appear- 
ance, we should never have seen Pensioners multiplying like 
the Locusts in Eg}^pt. ... Is it not High Time for the People 
of this Country explicitly to declare, whether they will be 
Freemen or Slaves? . . . Let us . . . calmly look around us and 
consider what is best to be done. . . . Let it be the topic of con- 
versation in every social Club. Let every Town assemble. 
Let Associations & Combinations be everywhere set up to 
consult and recover our just Rights.^ 

AVith the radical program so outlined, Adams decided to 
work out the plan through. the agency of the town meeting. 
Of these town meetings, Hutchinson had already written 
several months earlier : they are '' constituted of the lowest 
class of the people under the influence of a few of a higher 
class, but of intemperate and furious dispositions and of 
desperate fortunes. Men of property and of the best char- 
acter have deserted these meetings, where they are sure of 
being affronted." ^ According to Adams' plan, a petition 
for a town meeting w^as at once presented to the selectmen. 
Hancock was a selectman and, with three or four others, 
he unhesitatingly rejected the petition, disapproving of w^hat 
seemed to him precipitate measures. Other petitions were 
then set on foot, and finally, after more than three ^veeks' 
delay, the selectmen yielded to the pressure.^ The meeting 

^ Adams, S., Writings (Gushing), vol. ii, pp. 33^-337- 
^ This letter of Mch. 29, 1772 to Hillsborough continued: "By the 
constitution £40 stg., which they say may be in cloaths, household 
furniture or any sort of property, is a qualification ; and even with that 
there is scarce ever any inquiry, and anj^thing with the appearance of a 
man is admitted without scrutiny." Hosmer, Hutchinson, p. 231. 

'Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 361-362; Wells, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 
490-491. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



257 



occurred on Wednesday, October 28, and two adjourned 
sessions were needed to carry on an animated colloquy with 
Governor Hutchinson over the question of the judges' 
salaries/ At the last meeting, on November 2, the temper 
of the citizens had reached the proper pitch; Adams seized 
the moment to introduce a motion for a standing committee 
of correspondence with the purpose 

to state the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in 
particular . . . , to communicate and publish the same to the 
several Towns in this Province and to the World as the sense 
of this Town, with the Infringements and violations thereof 
that have been or from time to time may be made ; also request- 
ing of each Town a free Communication of their Sentiments.^ 

The motion was carried unanimously. 

Adams had succeeded in arousing the town meeting; he-1 
had yet to convince the men who had been leaders in the 
late agitation against the Townshend duties of the propriety 
of his course. A number of these men, although asked to 
serve on the committee, declined their appointments. Three 
of the Boston representatives in the Assembly, Speaker 
Gushing, Hancock and William Phillips, and three select- 
men, Samuel Austin, John Scollay and Thomas Marshall, 
all merchants, excused themselves, each alleging " his private 
Business would not then admit of it." At least three others 
took a like step.^ James Otis was induced to accept the 
chairmanship. The twenty-one men who composed the 
committee were the best who could be obtained under the 
circumstances, and probably served Adams' purposes better 

* Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Nov. 2, 9, 1772. 

' Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. i, p. i ; also Bos. Town Recs. {1770-1777), 
pp. 92-93- 

• Benjamin Austin, Benjamin Kent and Samuel Swift. " Q. E. D." 
in Mass. Gas. & News-Letter, Nov. 12, 1772. 



258 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1768-1776 

than if the more weighty citizens had been persuaded to 
sacrifice their private interests. Otis soon retired to the 
madhouse ; and the '' Grand Incendiary of the Province " ^ 
himself assumed the chairmanship, a substitution which, 
to Hutchinson's view, w^as probably little better than a 
change from Philip drunk to Philip sober. In the commit- 
tee as completed, the merchant element was in the minor- 
ity; and the effective activity of the committee was largely 
directed by the chairman. Hutchinson had as yet no sus- 
picion that " the foulest, subtlest and most venomous ser- 
pent that ever issued from the eggs of sedition " ^ was 
growing before his eyes. '' The restless faction," he wrote 
jeeringly to England, were unable ** to revive the old plan 
of mobbing; and the only dependence left is to keep up a 
correspondence through the Province by committees of the 
several towns, which is such a foolish scheme that they must 
necessarily make themselves ridiculous." ^ 

The plan began to yield fruit when the committee re- 
ported to the town meeting on November 20 a cogently 
reasoned paper, written by Adams, which was unanimously 
accepted by the three hundred men present. This docu- 
ment revealed the consummate ability of the master agita- 
tor. Frankly designed to arouse the public from their 
lethargic sleep, the paper bristled with allusions to past irri- 
tations and future perils; it gave to current abstractions a 
practical application; it made bold appeals to the self-inter- 
est of smuggling merchants and to the self-esteem of home- 
manufacturing farmers; it pictured the dwindling sphere 

* Hutchinson's characterization of Adams; Wells, op. cit., vol. i, p. 488. 

* The well known phrase of " Massachusettensis," in Mass. Gaz. & 
Post-Boy, Jan. 2, 1775. 

^Letter of Nov. 13, 1772 to Secretary Pownall; Hosmer, op. cit., 
p. 235. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 259 

of provincial self-government, and dangled the bogey of an 
American episcopate. The lengthy " List of Infringements 
& Violations of Rights " was presented in terms which could 
be understood by the least imaginative. The revenue duty 
on tea was represented as an entering wedge for other taxes 
which might affect lands; the arbitrary powers of the cus- 
toms officials with respect to searching vessels or houses for 
smuggled goods were fully dilated upon; the presence of 
" Fleets and Armies " for supporting '* these unconstitu- 
tional Officers in collecting and managing this unconstitu- 
tional Revenue" was noted; the extension of the power of 
the vice-admiralty courts was once more condemned; the 
laws against slitting mills and the transportation of hats 
and wool were cited as " an infringement of that right with 
which God and nature have invested us." Regarding the 
payment of the governor's and judges' salaries, i. e. of 
" the men on whose opinions and decisions our properties 
liberties and lives, in a great measure, depend," the divorcing 
of these branches from popular control was deplored as fatal 
to free government. References were also made to inter- 
ferences in provincial home rule through the agency of royal 
instructions, and to minor matters.^ 

This document, which, according to Hutchinson, " was 
calculated to strike the colonists with a sense of their just 
claim to independence, and to stimulate them to assert it," ^ 
was sent to all the towns in the province, with a circular 
letter urging that they freely communicate their own senti- 
ments and give appropriate instructions to their representa- 
tives in the Assembly. The maneuver of Boston met with 
immediate success. Groups of extremists in the various 

^ Bos. Town Recs. (1770-i/yy), pp. 94-108; also Adams, S., Writings 
(Gushing), vol. ii, pp. 350-374- 

^ Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 366. 



26o THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

localities engineered town meetings, which approved the 
Boston resolutions or adopted others more radical, and ap- 
pointed standing committees of correspondence composed of 
radicals. In all, seventy-eight such meetings, mostly of 
inland towns but including the ports of Plymouth, Marble- 
head and Newburyport, were noted in the journals of the 
Boston Committee of Correspondence or in the newspapers, 

Thus, all on a sudden, from a state of peace, order, and general 
contentment, as some expressed themselves, the province, more 
or less from one end to the other, was brought into a state oi 
contention, disorder and general dissatisfaction; or, as others 
would have it, were aroused from stupor and inaction, to sen 
sibility and activity.^ 

The merchants as a class continued to hold aloof from the 
jDrganized popular clamor." When the Assembly met ir 
February, 1773, Governor Hutchinson, now keenly alive tc 
the danger, denounced the committee of correspondence sys- 
tem as unwarrantable and of dangerous tendency, and askec 
the body to join him in discountenancing such innovations.' 
This unwise action produced a storm of messages and re- 
plies that, for the time, fanned higher the flame which was 
already beginning to die for lack of fuel. 

Indeed the weakness of Adams' plan Avas that the mani- 
festo of the Boston town meeting was largely a recitatior 
of old grievances, and the leading new issue could scarcel) 

^ Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 370 n. Note some of the extravagan 
protests against " these mighty grievances and intolerable wrongs," sc 
freshly discovered ! Ibid., pp. 369-370 n. 

^ It is significant that Salem failed to take action, and that twenty- 
nine of substance and character at Marblehead expressed their " entir( 
disapprobation." Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Dec. 28, 1772; Adams, S. 
JVritings (Gushing), vol. ii, p. 350. The little town of Weston refusec 
to appoint a committee by a large vote. 

'Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 37O390; Hosmer, op. cit., pp. 39^ 
et seq. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 26 1 

be an enduring one to a people who had been complaining 
for generations against the burden of paying high salaries 
to governors and judges. Moreover, the radical propaganda 
had not yet advanced to a stage where it could be sustained 
without the support of the merchant class. Adams, how- 
-ever, had an abiding faith in the efficacy of a campaign of 
education and agitation, and in the establishment of a popu- 
lar organization which would be ready for action when the 
time should arrive. 

The matter of salaries was in form a local issue, and . 
was not likely to stir the people of other provinces to the . 
point of organization. However, the radicals of the Vir- y 
ginia House of Burgesses, in March, 1773, seized the op- 
portunity to establish a single committee of correspondence 
for the whole province, when news reached them that a 
royal commission of inquiry of large powers had been ap- 
pointed to investigate the Gaspee affair. This committee, 
composed almost entirely of radical planters, was empowered' 
" to obtain the most early and authentic intelligence of all. 
such acts and resolutions of the British parliament, or pro- 
ceedings of administration, as may relate to or affect the 
British colonies in America," and to carry on a correspond- 
ence with the sister provinces respecting these matters.^ 
On April 10, 1773, Adams wrote to a member of the Vir- 
ginia committee, urging the establishment of municipal com- 
mittees of correspondence in every province;^ but he did 
not understand, as they did, that political leadership in Vir- 
ginia was held by the planting class and that the few urban 
centres were dominated by the narrow views of merchants 
and factors. The Virginia type of committee became at 

^ Frotbingham, Rise of Republic, pp. 279-281. Collins, E. D., " Com- 
mittees of Correspondence of the American Revolution," Am. Hist. 
Assn. Rep. (1901), vol. i, pp. 243-271, is important in this connection. 

^ To R. H. Lee; Writings (Cushing), vol. iii, p. 26. 



262 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

once the popular plan of organization among the radicals; 
and by July, 1773, ^^e assemblies had followed the lead of 
that province/ It was not until Great Britain adopted meas- 
\ ures which affected all provinces alike and which aroused the 
i powerful merchant class once more to protest that the or- 
i ganization of committees in local subdivisions throughout 
]^ the continent was made possible. After July, 1773, the 
flurry of discontent stirred up by the radicals of Massachu- 
setts and Virginia quickly subsided." The mercantile and 
conservative classes had made their influence felt once more. 
General apathy again reigned. 

As destiny would have it, Lord North, not Sam Adams, 
was responsible for the abrupt determination of the mer- 
chant class to take up cudgels again in a struggle for com- 
mercial rights in the fall of 1773. ^^ was the enactment 
of a new tea act by Parliament in May, 1773, that caused the 
merchants to throw discretion to the winds and to seek again 
popular support for commercial reform. Like the earlier 
tea legislation, this act was designed to accomplish a double 
purpose : to help the East India Company to sell their surplus 
tea stock, amounting to seventeen million pounds; and to 
enforce the collection of the parliamentary tax in America.^ 

^ R. I., Conn., N. H., Mass., S. C. A second group of assemblies 

acted from September, 1773, to February, 1774: Ga., Md., Del., N. Y., 

N. J. Vide Collins's article, loc. cit. There seemed to be little or no 

J-- -connection between the later movement and the agitation against the 

L. East India Company which was developing concurrently. 

^ For one thing, the commission to investigate the Gaspec affair had 
failed to exercise any of their extraordinary powers. 

' With reference to the second purpose, the revenue arising from all 
the various duties in America during 1772 had yielded a balance of less 
than £85 above the expenses of collection, not counting the cost of main- 
taining ships-of-war for the suppression of smuggling. FrankUn, Writ- 
ings (Smyth), vol. v, p. 460; vol. vi, pp. 2-3. Under the circumstances, 
it was cheaper for the home government to adopt some expedient for 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 263 

The act of 1773 involved no new infringement of the con- 
stitutional or natural rights of the Americans, so far as the 
taxation principle was concerned. Continuing the three- 
penny import duty in America, the act provided that, in place 
of a partial refund, a full drawback of English import duties 
should be given on all teas re-shipped to America, thus re- 
storing the arrangement which had existed under the Towns- 
hend Act save that the company were not to be liable for 
deficiencies in the revenue. The radical innovation was in- 
troduced in the provision which empowered the East India 
Company, if they so chose, to export tea to America or 
to " foreign parts " from their warehouses and on their own 
account, upon obtaining a license from the commissioners of 
the treasury.^ 

--•^In other words, the East India Company, which hitherto 
had been required by law to sell their teas at public auction 
to merchants for exportation, were now authorized to be- 
come their own exporters and to establish branch houses in 
, America. This arrangement swept away, by one stroke, 
the English merchant who purchased the tea at the com- 
pany's auction and the American merchant who bought it 
of the English merchant; for the East India Company, by 
dealing directly with the American retailer, eliminated all 
the profits which ordinarily accumulated in the passage of 
the tea through the hands of the middlemen. From another 
point of view, as Joseph Galloway has pointed out, 

the consumer of tea in America was obliged to pay only one 

carrying out Hutchinson's oft-repeated suggestion of sinking the selling 
price of tea. The particular method adopted had already been suggested 
by Samuel Wharton in London and Gilbert Barkly, the Philadelphia 
merchant, and by others. Pa. Mag., vol. xxv, pp. 139- 141 ; Drake, op. cit., 
pp. 199-202. 

1 13 George III, c. 44. Such exportation was to be permitted only 
when the supp'y of tea in the company's warehouses amounted to at 
least io,ooo,ooc pounds. 



264 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

profit to the Company, another to the shopkeeper. But before 
the act, they usually paid a profit to the Company, to the London 
merchant, who bought it of the Company and sold it to the 
American merchant, and also to the American merchant, be- 
sides the profit of the retailer. So that, by this act, the con- 
simier of this necessary and common article of subsistence 
was enabled to purchase it at one-half of its usual price . . ?■ 

t^ The colonial merchant class saw at once that the new act, 
if permitted to go into effect, would enable the American 
consumer to buy dutied teas, imported directly by the East 
India Company, at a cheaper rate than dutied teas imported 
in the customary manner by private merchants or than 
Dutch teas introduced by the illicit traders. Therefore, 
when the colonial press announced in September, 1773, that 
the East India Company had been licensed to export more 
than half a million pounds of tea to the four leading ports 
of America, an alliance of powerful interests at once ap- 
peared in opposition to the company's shipments. 

As Governor Hutchinson at Boston put it in a letter of 
January 2, 1774: 

Our liberty men had lost their reputation with Philadelphia 
and New York, having been importers of Teas from England 
for three or four Years past notwithstanding the engagement 
they had entrd into to the contrar}'. As soon as the news 
came of the intended exportation of Teas [by the] E. I. Com- 
pany which must of course put an end to all Trade in Teas by 
private Merchants, proposals were made both to Philadelphia 
and York for a new Union, and they were readily accepted, for 
although no Teas had been imported from England at either of 
those places, yet an immense profit had been made by the Im- 
portation from Holland, which wou'd entirely cease if the Teas 

^Galloway, Historical' and Political Rejections on the Rise and Pro- 
gress of the American Rebellion (London, 1780), pp. 17-18. For similar 
statements, vide also " Z " in Boston Eve. Post, Oct. 25, 1773, and 
" Massachusettensis " in Mass. Gazette and Post-Boy, Jan. 2, 1775. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 265 

from the E. I. Company should be admitted. This was the 
consideration which engaged all the merchants.^ 

An extended controversy began in newspaper and broad- 
side, which not only revealed the fundamental antagonism 
between the undertaking of the British trading corporation 
and the interest of the colonial tea merchants, but also 
pointed out the far-reaching menace which the new act held 
for American merchants in general. To broaden the basis 
of the popular protest, the old theoretical arguments against ■ 
the taxing authority of Parliament were exhumed ; and new j 
and bizarre arguments were invented. 

An examination of the propagandist literature and of a 
few private letters will bear out this preliminary analysis. 
Most of the writings against the tea shipments issued from 
the presses of Boston, New York and Philadelphia and, with 
varying emphasis, covered substantially the same ground. 
The Charleston newspapers reprinted many of the northern 
arguments, and the events there may therefore be said to 
have been determined in large part by the same sentiments. 

At Boston, the newspaper writers laid great stress on the 
fact that the legitimate traffic in English teas was assailed 
with destructive competition. "A Consistent Patriot " de- 
clared that the new statute would displace the men in the 
American tea trade and force them to seek their living else- 
where " in order to make room for an East India factor, 
probably from North-Britain, to thrive upon what are now 
the honest gains of our own IVferchants." " " Surely all the 

1 Mass. Archives, vol. xxvii, p. 610. Such also was the view of the An- 
nual Register (1774), p. 48: "All the dealers, both legal and clandestine, 
. . . saw their trade taken at once out of their hands. They supposed 
it would fall into the hands of the company's consignees, to whom they 
must become in a great measure dependent, if they could hope to trade 
at all." Vide also Ramsay, History of the American Revolution (Phila- 
delphia, 1789), vol. i, p. 96. 

' Mass. Spy, Oct. 14, i773- 



266 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

London Merchants trading to America and all the American 
Merchants trading with Britain," said " Reclusus," *' must 
highly resent such a Monopoly, considered only as it effects 
their private Interest " and without regard to the fact that 
everyone who buys the tea will be paying tribute to the 
"harpy Commissioners" and to ParHament; the newly- 
appointed tea consignees " can't seriously imagine that the 
Merchants will quietly see themselves excluded from a con- 
siderable branch of Trade . . . that they and the odious 
Commissioners may riot in luxury." ^ "A Merchant " ex- 
pressed surprise that the merchants and traders had not met 
to take action in the crisis, noting, among other commercial 
ills, that " those gentlemen that have dealt in that article 
will altogether be deprived of the benefit arising from such 
business." ^ The loyalist town of Hinsdale, N. H., resolved 
unanimously that the tumult against the tea was not due 
to objections against a revenue tax, " but because the in- 
tended Method of Sale in this Country by the East India 
Company probably would hurt the private Interest of many 
Persons who deal largely in Tea." ^ 

At New York and Philadelphia, the chief smuggling ports, 
I greater emphasis was placed on the threatened ruin awaiting 
the illicit tea traffic. The Philadelphia merchant, Thomas 
Wharton, pointed out that " it is impossible always to form 
a true judgment from what real motives an opposition 
springs, as the smugglers and London importers may both 
declare that this duty is stamping the Americans with the 
badge of slavery." * A tea commissioner at Boston believed 

^ Boston Eve. Post, Oct. i8, 1773. 

^ Mass. Spy, Oct. 28, I773- 

' A^. H. Gazette, June 17, 1774. Other acts of Parliament, added the 
town meeting, infringe our rights more than that law — thus, the 
molasses duty and the late act estabHshing custom-house fees — and 
yet no complaint is made against them. 

* Drake, op. cit., p. 273. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 267 

that the agitation against the act was " fomented, if not ori- 
ginated, principally by those persons concerned in the Hol- 
land trade/' a trade " much more practised in the Southern 
Governments than this way." ^ "A Citizen" conceded cau- 
tiously in the New York Journal of November 11, 1773, 
that " we have not been hitherto altogether at the mercy of 
those monopolists [the East India Company], because it 
has been worth the while for others to supply us with 
tea at a more reasonable price," but that hereafter " if tea 
should be brought us from any foreign market, the East 
India Company might occasionally undersell those concerned 
in it, so as to ruin or deter them from making many experi- 
ments of the kind." A loyalist writer expressed the same 
thought from a different point of view when he affirmed to 
the people of New York that every measure of the radical 
cabal 

is an undoubted proof that not your liberties but their private 
interest is the object. To create an odium against the British 
company is the main point at which they have laboured. They 
have too richly experienced the fruits which may be reaped 
from a contraband trade ... to relinquish them to others with- 
out a struggle.^ 

One of the tea commissioners at New York declared that 
" the introduction of the East India Company's tea is vio- 
lently opposed here by a set of men who shamefully live by 
monopolizing tea in the smuggling w^ay." ^ Governor Tryon 
and others entertained a similar .opinion.* 

1 Drake, op. cit., pp. 261-262. 

^N. Y. Gazetteer, Nov. 18, 1773. 

^Abram Lott to W. Kelly, Nov. 5, 1773; Drake, op. cit., p. 269. 

^A''. Y. Col. Docs., vol. vlii, pp. 400, 408. A similar opinion was 
shared by Haldimand, at New York, Brit. Papers ("Sparks Mss."), 
vol. iii, p. 175; and by the anonymous authors of letters in 4 Am. Arch., 
vol. i, p. 302 n., and of an address in ibid., p. 642. 



268 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

To rob the new law of the appeal it held for the pocket- 
books of the tea purchasers, the writers impeached the good 
faith of the company in undercutting prices. '' Reclusus " 
predicted confidently that " tho' the first Teas may be sold 
at a low Rate to make a popular Entry, yet when this mode 
of receiving Tea is well established, they, as all other Mono- 
polists do, will meditate a greater profit on their Goods, and 
set them up at what Price they please." ^ " Hampden " 
wrote : 

Nor let it be said, to cajole the poor, that this importation of 
tea will lower the price of it. Is any temporary abatement of 
that to be weighed in the balance with the permanent loss that 
will attend the sole monopoly of it in future, which will enable 
them abundantly to reimburse themselves by raising the price 
as high as their known avarice may dictate ? ^ 

In the words of " Mucins," 

Every puchaser must be at their mercy . . . The India Com- 
pany would not undertake to pay the duty in England or Amer- 
ica — pay enormous fees to Commissioners &c &c unless they 
were well assured that the Americans would in the end reim- 
burse them for every expence their unreasonable project should 
bring along with it? 

The writers sought to show that the present project of the 
East India Company was the entering wedge for larger 
and more ambitious undertakings calculated to undermine 
the colonial mercantile world. Their opinion was based on 
the fact that, in addition to the article of tea, the East India 
Company imported into England vast quantities of silks, 

* Boston Eve. Post, Oct. i8, 1773. Vide also Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. 
vi, p. 452. 
^ A''. Y. Journal, Oct. 28, 1773. 
3 Pa. Packet, Nov. i, 1773. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



269 



calicoes and other fabrics, spices, drugs and chinaware, all 
commodities of staple demand; and on their fear that the 
success of the present venture would result in an extension 
of the same principle to the sale of the other articles. Per- 
haps no argument had greater weight than this ; nor, indeed, 
was such a development beyond the range of possibility/ 

If they succeed in their present experiment with tea, 
argued *'A Mechanic," 

they will send their own Factors and Creatures, establish 
Houses among US, Ship US all other East-India Goods ; and, 
in order to full freight their Ships, take in other Kind of Goods 
at under Freight, or (more probably) ship them on their own 
Accounts to their own Factors, and undersell our Merchants, 
till they monopolize the whole Trade. Thus our Merchants are 
ruined. Ship Building ceases. They will then sell Goods at 
any exorbitant Price. Our Artificers will be unemployed, and 
every Tradesman will groan under dire Oppression.- 

" Hampden " warned the New Yorkers : 

If you receive the portion [of tea] designed for this city, you 
will in future have an India warehouse here ; and the trade of 
all the commodities of that country will be lost to your mer- 

^ In a letter of Oct. 5, 1773 to Thomas Walpole, Thomas Wharton pro- 
posed the extension of the East India Company's trade, under the new 
regulations, to include pepper, spices and silks. Drake, op. cit., pp. 274- 
275. Dickinson, in an essay in July 1774, quoted a contemporary writer 
in England as proposing " that the Government, through the means of a 
few merchants acquainted with the American trade . . . , should estab- 
lish factors at Boston, New-York, and a few other ports, for the sale 
of such cargoes of British manufactures as should be consigned to them; 
and to consist of such particularly as were most manufactured in the 
Province, with directions immediately and continually to undersell all 
such Colony manufactures." 4 Am. Archives, vol. i, p. 575 n. The 
probability of some such scheme was also contemplated by "An Ameri- 
can Watchman" in Pinkney's Va. Gazette, Jan. 26, 1775. 

' Pa. Gazette, Dec. 8, 1773. Vide also a letter in Pa. Chron., Nov. 15, 
1773, and "A Countryman " in Pa. Packet, Oct. 18, 1773. 



2^0 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

chants and be carried on by the company, which will be an im- 
mense loss to the colony.^ 

A customs commissioner writing to the home govern- 
ment from Boston noted that it was pretended that " when 
once the East India Company has estabhshed Warehouses 
for the Sale of Tea, all other articles commonly imported 
from the East Indies and Saleable in America, will be sent 
there by the Company." ^ 

That the fear of monopoly was the mainspring of Ameri- 
can opposition is further evidenced by the trend of discus- 
sion in the early wrecks before it was known definitely that 
the new law provided for the retention of the threepenny 
import duty. The report gained currency that the tea 
shipped by the East India Company was to be introduced 
free of the American import duty. This understanding 
was based upon a misreading of that portion of the statute 
which empowered the company '' to export such tea to any 
of the British colonies or plantations in America, or to for- 
eign parts, discharged from the payment of any customs or 
duties whatsoever, anything in the said recited act, or any 
other act, to the contrary notwithstanding." ^ Had this 
been a correct interpretation of the law, there is every reason 
to believe that the course of American opposition would have 
developed unchanged and the tea would then have been 
dumped into the Atlantic as an undisguised and unmixed 
protest against a grasping trading monopoly. 

^ N. Y. Journal, Oct. 28, 1773. 

2 Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. xxiv, no. 2029, p. 4. Vide also Hancock's 
view, expressed in the annual oration of ]Mar. 5, 1774. i M. H. S. 
Procs., vol. xiii, p. 187. 

' Unsigned article in -V. Y. Gazetteer, Oct. 28, 1773. Vide also 
" Poplicola," 'ihid., Nov. 18, 1773. "A construction strongly implied by 
the liberty granted to export the same Commodity to foreign Countries 
free of Duties," wrote Tryon to Dartmouth, Nov. 3, 1773- -V. Y. Col 
Docs., vol. viii, pp. 400-401, 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



271 



Governor Tryon, of New York, in a letter to the home 
government made reference to the animated discussion over 
the question ; and added : 

If the Tea comes free of every duty, I understand it is then to 
be considered as a Monopoly of the East India Company in 
America; a monopoly of dangerous tendency, it is said, to 
American liberties ... So that let the Tea appear free or not 
free of Duty those who carry on the illicit Trade will raise 
objections, if possible, to its being brought on shore and sold.^ 

Tryon's analysis of the situation is confirmed by the tone 
of newspaper discussion during the weeks of uncertainty. 

Even if the tea bears no duty, wrote a New Yorker to his 
friend in Philadelphia, " would not the opening of an East- 
India House in America encourage all the great Companies 
in Great Britain to do the same? If so, have we a single 
chance of being any Thing but Hewers of Wood and Draw- 
ers of Waters to them? The East Indians are a proof of 
this." ^ In like spirit, "A Mechanic " declared scornfully 
that it made no difference whether the tea was dutied or 
not. " Is it not a gross and daring insult, to pilfer the 
trade from the Americans, and lodge it in the hands of the 
East India Company?" he queried. "It will first most 
sensibly affect the Merchants ; but it will also very materially 
affect . . . every Member of the Community." ^ 

In the vigorous words of "A Citizen," " Whether the duty 
on tea is taken off or not, the East India Company's scheme 
has too dangerous an aspect for us to permit an experiment 
to be made of it." In the same letter he said : 

The scheme appears too big with mischievous consequences 

^ N. Y. Col. Docs., vol. viii, p. 400. 
^Pa. Chron., Nov. 15, 1773. 
3 Pa. Gazette, Dec. 8, 1773. 



272 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



and dangers to America, [even if we consider it only] ... as it 
may create a monopoly ; or, as it may introduce a monster, too 
powerful for us to control, or contend with, and too rapacious 
and destructive, to be trusted, or even seen without horror, that 
may be able to devour every branch of our commerce, drain 
us of all our property and substance, and wantonly leave us to 
perish by thousands . . } 

All ambiguity as to the true meaning of the statute was 
removed by the lucid pen of John Dickinson and others and 
finally by a reported opinion of His Majesty's attorney and 
solicitor general. It was shown, by careful analysis of the 
act, that the East India Company were merely exempted 
from the payment of all duties and customs chargeable in 
England and that the American import duty remained as 
j before.^ Even after this time, the New Yorkers were afraid 
^ that Parliament might heed the American protest against 
taxation and proceed to repeal the threepenny duty without 
rescinding the monopoly rights granted to the East India 
Company. In a remarkable letter written more than two 
months after the Boston Tea Party, the Ne\v York Commit- 
tee of Correspondence asserted frankly : 

Should the Revenue Act be repealed this Session of Parliament, 
as the East India Company by the Act passed the last Session 
have liberty to export their own Tea, which is an advantage 
they never had before and which their distress will certainly 
induce them to embrace, we consider such an event as dan- 
gerous to our Commerce, as the execution of the Revenue Act 
would be to our Liberties. For as no Merchant who is ac- 
quainted with the certain opperation of a Monopoly on that 

^ A^. Y. Journal, Nov. 4, 1773. 

2 " Y. Z." (Dickinson) in Pa. Journal, Nov. 3, 1773, also in Dickinson's 
Writings (Ford, P. L., ed.), vol. i, pp. 457-458; "*Cato" and "A Trades- 
man" in iV. Y. Gazetteer, Nov. 4, 18, 1773; "A Citizen" in A''. Y. Journal, 
Nov. 4, 1773; letter in Pa. Journal, Nov. 10. 1773. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 273 

or this side the Water will send out or order Tea to America 
when those who have it at first hand send to the same market, 
the Company will have the whole supply in their hands. Hence 
it will necessarily follow that we shall ultimately be at their 
Mercy to extort from us what price they please for their Tea. 
And when they find their success in this Article, they will 
obtain liberty to export their Spices, Silk etc. . . . And there- 
fore we have had it long in contemplation to endeavor to get 
an Agreement signed not to purchase any English tea till so 
much of the Act passed the last session of Parliament enabling 
the Company to ship their Tea to America be repealed. Noth- 
ing short of this will prevent its being sent on their account.^ 

In view of the subordinate place which the argument of 
violated rights held in the minds of the propagandists, pro- 
tests against '' taxation without representation " were made 
chiefly for rhetorical effect.^ This may be shown by a 
few examples. In a letter written by a committee of the 
Massachusetts Assembly after the Boston Tea Party, the 
new act was characterized as '' introductive of monopolies 
which, besides the train of evils that attend them in a com- 
mercial view, are forever dangerous to public liberty," also 
as " pregnant with new grievances, paving the way to 
further impositions, and in its consequences threatening 
the final destruction of liberties." ^ "A Consistent Patriot" 

1 Letter to Boston Committee of Correspondence, Feb. 28, 1774; Bos. 
Com. Cor. Mss., vol. ix, pp. 742-746. The letter added that the committee 
would " feel the pulse " of the Philadelphia Committee and the other 
committees to the southward and requested the Boston Committee to 
urge the matter on the committees at Rhode Island, Philadelphia and 
Charleston, S. C. I have found no replies to the New York proposal. 

^ The smugglers and dissatisfied merchants " m.ade a notable stalking 
horse of the word LIBERTY." declared "A Tradesman of Philadel- 
phia," " and many well meaning persons were duped by the specious 
colouring of their sinister zeal." Pa. Journal, Aug. 17, 1774. 

^ Letter of Dec, 21, 1773, to Arthur Lee, signed by Thomas Cushing. 
Samuel Adams, John Hancock and William Phillips ; 4 M. H. S. Colls., 
vol. iv, p. Z77' 



274 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



stigmatized the act as '' a plan not only destructive to trade^ 
in which we are all so deeply interested but . . . designed 
to promote and encrease a revenue extorted from us against 
our consent." ^ The new statute, declared " Causidicus," 
was a case of 

taxation without consent and monopoly of trade establishing 
itself together. . . . Let the trade be monopolized in particular 
hands or companies, and the privileges of these companies lye 
totally at the mercy of a British ministry and how soon will 
that ministry command all the power and property of the 
empire ? ^ 

Even the members of the First Continental Congress treated 
the matter from an unchanged viewpoint when they declared, 
on October 21, 1774, in their Memorial to the Inhabitants of 
the British Colonies that ''Administration . . . entered into 
a monopolizing combination with the East India Company, 
to send to this Continent vast quantities of Tea, an article 
on which a Duty was laid. . . ." ^ 

Protests against the tea act as a violation of a theoretical 
right caused a tea commissioner at Boston to remark skep- 
tically : 

But while there is such a vast quantity [of tea] imported every 
Year, by so considerable a number of persons who all pay the 
duty thereof on its arrival, I do not see why every importer, 
nay every consumer thereof, do not as much contribute to en- 
force the Tea act as the India Company themselves, or the 
persons to whom they may think proper to consign their Tea 
for sale.* 

^ Mass. Spy, Oct. 14, 1773. 

^ Ibid., Nov. 4. 1773. Vide also "Joshua, the son of Nun," ibid., Oct. 
14, 1773, and " Scaevola" in Pa. Chron., Oct. 11, 1773. 
^ Journals of the Continental Congress (L. C. edn.), vol. i, p. 98. 
^ Drake, op. cit., pp. 261-262. 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 



275 



The people of New York and Philadelphia might, with 
clearer conscience, discuss the tea tax as an invasion of 
American liberties ; but, as " Z " pointed out, all Americans 
were guilty of a glaring inconsistency in denouncing that 
trifling duty whilst silently passing over " the Articles of 
Sugar, Molasses, and Wine, from which more than three 
quarter parts of the American Revenue has and always will 
arise, and when the Acts of Parliament imposing Duties on 
these Articles stand on the same Footing as that respecting 
Tea and the Moneys collected from them are applied to the 
same Purposes." ^ 

Of the other arguments used to stir up opposition, the 
most interesting was the attempt to discredit the present 
I undertaking of the East India Company by reason of the 
I company's notoriously bad record in India. John Dickin- 
son was the most forceful exponent of this view in a broad- 
side which had wide popularity in both Philadelphia and 
New York. Writing under the signature of '* Rusticus/^ 
he declared : 

Their conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given ample 
Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, 
Liberties, or Lives of Men. They have levied War, excited 
Rebellions, dethroned Princes, and sacrificed Millions for the 
Sake of Gain. The Revenues of mighty Kingdoms have cen- 
tered in their Coffers. And these not being sufficient to glut 
their Avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled Barbarities, 
Extortions and Monopolies, stripped the miserable Inhabitants 
of their Property, and reduced whole Provinces to Indigence 
and Ruin. Fifteen hundred Thousand, it is said, perished by 
Famine in one Year, not because the Earth denied its Fruits, 
but this Company and its Servants engrossed all the Necessar- 
ies of Life, and set them at so high a Rate, that the Poor could 
not purchase them. Thus having drained the Sources of that 

* Bos. Eve. Post, Oct. 25, 1773. 



276 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

immense Wealth . . . , they now, it seems, cast their Eyes on 
America, as a new Theatre, whereon to exercise their Talents 
of Rapine, Oppression and Cruelty. The ^Monopoly of Tea, 
is, I dare say, but a small Part of the Plan they have formed to 
strip us of our Property. But thank God, we are not Sea 
Poys, nor Marrattas, but British Subjects, who are born to 
Liberty, who know its Worth, and who prize it high.^ 

v/' The hygienic objections to tea drinking, much agitated at 
the time of the colonial opposition to the Townshend duties, 
were again called up. It was not altogether without signi- 
ficance that one of the leading men to urge this view was 
Dr. Thomas Young, a physician who spent more time in 
the Boston Committee of Correspondence meditating a rigor- 
ous physic for the body politic than in prescribing for private 
patients.^ Dr. Young cited Dr. Tissot, professor of physic 
at Berne, and other eminent authorities, to prove that the 
introduction of tea into Europe had caused the whole face 
of disease to change, the prevailing disorders now being 
" spasms, vapors, hypochondrias, apoplexies of the serous 
kind, palsies, dropsies, rheumatisms, consumptions, low 
nervous, miliary and petechial fevers." ^ '' Philo-Alethias " 

1 Writings, vol. i, pp. 459-463. According to "A Mechanic," " The 
East-India Company, if once they get Footing . . . , will leave no Stone 
unturned to become your Masters. . . . They themselves are well versed 
in Tyranny, Plunder, Oppression and Bloodshed" and so on. Pa. 
Gazette, Dec. 8, 1773. A town meeting at Windham, Conn., on June 23, 
1774, denounced the East India Company, declaring: "Let the Spanish 
barbarities in Mexico and the name of a Cortez be sunk in everlasting 
oblivion, while such more recent, superior cruelties bear away the palm, 
in the history of their rapine and cruelty." Mass. Spy, July 7, 1774. 
Vide also "A. Z." in Pa. Journal, Oct. 20. 1773, and "Hampden" in 
A^ Y. Journal, Oct. 28, 1773- 

2 Edes, H. H., " Dr. Thomas Young," Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. xi, 
pp. 2-54. 

^Bos. Eve. Post, Oct. 25, 1773. Vide also his article in the Mass. 
Spy, Dec. 30. I773- 



I 



COLONIAL PROSPERITY 277 

added '' the great Boerhaave " and Dr. Cullen, professor of 
medicine at Edinburgh, to the authorities already noted, and 
suggested seventeen possible substitutes, beneficial in their 
effects, that could be brewed from plants of American 
growth/ ''An old Mechanic " recalled with a sigh 

the time when Tea was not used, nor scarcely known amongst 
us, and yet people seemed at that time of day to be happier, 
and to enjoy more health in general than they do now. [Since 
those days, a sad change has occurred] ... we must be every 
day bringing in some new-fangled thing or other from abroad, 
till we are really become a luxurious people. No matter how 
ugly and deformed a garment is ; nor how insipid or tasteless, 
or prejudicial to our healths an eatable or drinkable is, we must 
have it, if it is the fashion.^ 

"A Woman's " intuition suggested the fitting retort to 
these alarmist writings when she remarked scornfully that 
no one had heard of these " scarecrow stories " until tea 
had become a political issue. ^ The little town of Hinsdale, 
N. H., undertook to expose the hypocrisy of the health 
advocates in a different way. Assembled in town meeting, 
the inhabitants resolved unanimously that '' the Conse- 
quences attending the use of New England Rum are much 
more pernicious to Society than the Consequences attend- 
ing the use of Tea," destroying " the Lives and Liberties 
of Thousands where Tea hath or ever will One," and that 
Hinsdale would banish the use of tea when those towns and 
persons who declaimed so loudly against tea should abstain 
from the use of rum.* 

* Pa. Journal, Dec. 22, 1773 ; also Mass. Spy, Jan. 27, 1774. 
2 Pa. Journ., Oct. 20, 1773. 

' Mass. Spy, Dec. 23, 1773. 

* N. H. Gazette, June 17, 1774. 



2^8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

If the colonists stood ready to back their words with 
resolute measures, it began to appear that tea would soon be 
added to molasses and wine as among those essential ingre- 
dients which the historian of later days, in imitation of 
John Adams, might record as entering into American inde- 
pendence. 



CHAPTER VII 

The Struggle with the East India Company 
(1773-1774) 

Due to the animated discussion, public opinion was well 
fertilized by the time that news reached America that the 
shipments of the East India Company were on their way 
across th« Atlantic. The thought of the newspaper writers 
was quickly translated into action by mass meetings in the 
great trading towns. These meetings spoke the crisp ver- 
nacular of popular rights rather than the colorless phrases 
of mercantile profit and loss; but their activities were 
directed by merchants who believed that their business ex- 
istence was jeopardized. In the great trading towns, the 
chief object was to form combinations to prevent the land- 
ing of the tea, it being well understood that the only way 
to prevent consumers from partaking of the forbidden herb 
was to remove the temptation.^ 

The first public meeting of protest was held at Philadel- 
phia, partly because the merchant-aristocracy was excep- 
tionally strong there, partly because the workingmen had 
recently developed a sense of their collective importance, 
and, perhaps, partly also because the city had a direct 
acquaintance with the unscrupulous methods of the East 
India Company. It was none other than Charles Thomson 
who declared afterward that " the merchants led the people 
into an opposition to the importation of the East India 

1 Annua! Register {1774), p. 48; Galloway, Rejections, p. 58. 

279 



28o THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Company's tea." ^ The workingmen had emerged from the 
struggle against the Townshend duties conscious for the 
first time of their power in the community. At the first 
election after the termination of the non-importation, an 
article, signed by "A Brother Chip," called upon the me- 
chanics and tradesmen to unite in support of one or two 
mechanics as members of the assembly.^ This plan appar- 
ently met with success in this and the succeeding annual 
election ; and the workingmen then effected a formal secret 
organization, under the significant name of "' Patriotic 
Society," for the purpose of voting en bloc at elections.^ 
As for the local bitterness toward the East India Company, 
only as recently as two years before, the first manufacture 
of chinaware had been begun in Pennsylvania ; immediately 
the price of imported china fell five shillings in the pound, 
through the reputed manipulation of that company; and 
the new manufacture survived only through appeals for 
popular support.* 

1 Stille, Life of Dickinson, p. 345. Vide also Reed, W. B., Life and 
Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Philadelphia, 1847), vol. i, pp. 54-55- 

^The writer pointed out that the usual custom was for a coterie of 
leading men to nominate a ticket of candidates without consulting the 
mechanics, who formed the great mass of the population of the city, 
and that '' the Assembly of late Years has been chiefly composed of 
Merchants, Lawyers and Millers (or Farmers) . . ." The mechanics 
were held up as a class with interests which should have representation ; 
and it was declared " the greatest Imprudence to elect Men of enor- 
mous Estates," who thus added political power to the influence of their 
wealth. Pa. Gas., Sept. 27, 1770. 

2 Ibid., Aug. 19, 1772. 

* " The East-India Company would avail themselves of these Foibles 
of Humanity," said this appeal; "if they could demolish one noted 
Manufacture, they would certainly clip twenty Years from the Growth 
of American Improvements ; and what they lost in the present and fol- 
lowing Year by lowering their Prices, they would gain in succeeding 
Years, with sufficient Interest." Ibid., Aug. i, 1771. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 281 

Shortly after news of the new tea statute reached Phila- 
delphia, the inhabitants met at the State House and adopted 
a set of eight resolutions which became the model for 
similar votes in other cities. The tea duty was branded as 
taxation without representation, and the shipment of teas 
by the East India Company was denominated an open at- 
tempt to enforce the ministerial plan. Anyone in any wise 
countenancing this plan was denounced as " an enemy to 
his country." Finally, a committee was appointed to wait 
on the tea consignees and request them to resign.^ With 
some natural reluctance, these latter acquiesced. A second 
public meeting was then held, which gave their undivided 
voice against the entry of the tea ship upon its arrival at 
the custom house and against the landing of the tea.^ 
Sometime later, dire threats in the form of broadsides 
issued forth to the Delaware pilots, asking them to prevent 
the arrival of the tea ship or, if that were impossible, to 
give the merchants timely notice of the event. ^ In this 
posture affairs remained for the time. 

At Boston the course of opposition assumed a somewhat 
different aspect because of the peculiar situation of things 
at that port. As the seat of the Customs Board and the 
apex of the revenue system of the continent, there were, 
from the outset, grave possibilities of friction and violence 
at Boston, although an executive bent upon conciliation 
might have avoided disaster. Governor Hutchinson was 
not now such a man, notwithstanding his moderation 
during non-importation times and his yielding to the pop- 
ular demand in withdrawing the troops after the Massacre. 
No doubt he was led to overestimate the influence of the 

^ October 16, 1773. Pa. Packet, Oct. 18, 1773. 

^ Pa. Chron., Jan. 3, 1774. 

^ Pa. Mag., vol. xv, pp. 390-391 ; Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Dec. 13, 1773- 



2S2 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

conservative elements in the community by reason of the 
tranquilHty of recent years ; ^ but he had other reasons for 
firmness. Among the beneficiaries of the new law at Bos- 
ton were his sons, Thomas and Elisha, and his nephew, 
Richard Clarke. He himself, as his correspondence shows, 
acted as business mentor to his sons ; and it is probable that 
he was also financially interested in the firm. At any rate, 
he was in the habit of writing long letters to William Pal- 
mer, the great tea merchant, inquiring about the tea market 
at London, ordering shipments of the herb for the firm, and 
dickering about the prices and quality of the teas sent." 
His personal interest in the treatment of the tea, the landing 
of which some people in Boston were determined to pre- 
vent, could not have been without effect on the bold unyield- 
ing course he adopted toward the opposition. 

It is not necessary here to recount the oft-repeated tale 
of the tea destruction at Boston. The story need not be re- 
told until some skilled detective of historical research has 
brought to light such elusive facts as the transactions of the 
radicals at the home of Edes, publisher of the Boston Ga- 
zette; the whispered conferences of the more radical mer- 

^ Thus, Hutchinson wrote to the Directors of the East India Com- 
pany, Dec. 19, 1773: "As double the quantity of Tea proposed to be 
ship'd by Company had been imported in a year and the duty paid 
without any disturbance, I flattered myself for several months after I 
first heard of the intentions to ship on account of that Company that I 
should find no more difficulties than upon Teas [which] have been 
ship'd by private merchants." Mass. Arch., vol. xxvii^ pp. 597-59S. 

"^ Mass. Arch., vol. xxv, pp. 200, 528, 542; vol. xxvii, pp. 203. 206-207, 
234, 274, 317, 413, 460, 483. Bancroft was aware of Hutchinson's per- 
sonal interest in the sale of the teas: History of U. S. ^1876), vol. vi, 
pp. ^73, 174, 175, 183, 271. Vide also Barry, J. S., History of Massa- 
chusetts (Boston, 1855-1857), vol. ii, p. 467. Governor Hutchinson was 
criticised by a speaker in Parliament in 1774 for having permitted his 
sons to be appointed consignees. Parliamentary History, vol. xvii, p. 
1209. Besides those named, the Boston consignees were Benjamin 
Faneuil, Jr., and Joshua Winslow, 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 283 

chants in their counting-rooms; the infinite craft and re- 
sourcefulness of the deus ex machina, Sam Adams. Adams 
had his long awaited opportunity. His effort to foster a 
continuous discontent throughout the province had failed 
of success because it lacked a substantial issue and the 
backing of the business classes. The opposition to the East 
India Company received a wide support from the mer- 
chants ; the clear inference from his course of action is that; 
he designed to utilize this discontent to drive the populace 
to extreme measures, thereby to commit the province irre- 
vocably to the cause of revolution and independence.^ 

Several features of the Boston transactions need to be 
noted.^ From the beginning, the merchants as a class joined 
in the popular demand for the resignation of the consignees 
and against the landing of the tea. Their vehicle of action 
was a legal gathering of the town; further than that the 
majority of them, at the beginning, had no desire to go: 
popular tumult and the destruction of life and property 
were not normally in their program to secure relief from a 
commercial grievance.^ The effort, therefore, of the bulk 
of the merchant class was, on the one hand, to give effective 
expression to the popular will through the town meeting; 
on the other hand, to restrain or prevent mob outrages. 
They were outmaneuvered by the strategy of Adams and 
the obstinacy of Hutchinson. 

Almost a month before the arrival of the first of the tea- 

* Cf. Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 439-440. 

' The principal documents relative to the tea episode may be found in : 
Bos. Town Recs. {1770-1777) ; i M.H. S. Procs., vol. xiii, pp. 155-183; 
vol. XX, pp. 10-17; Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., vol. viii, pp. 78-89; Boston 
newspapers, Nov. and Dec; Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. vi, pp. 452-459. 

^ Referring to " the greater part of the merchants," Hutchinson wrote 
on Nov. 15, 1773: "though in general they declare against mobs and 
violence, yet they as generally wish the teas may not be imported." 
I M. H. S. Proc's., vol. xiii, p. 165. 



284 I'HE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ships, a mob gathered under Liberty Tree to witness the 
consignees resign their commissions ; and when they found 
they were to be cheated out of their performance, they 
stormed the store of Richard Clarke & Sons and were 
driven off only with great difficulty by the consignees and 
their friends. It was this exhibition of violence which ap- 
parently convinced the more substantial classes that further 
developments should be under the visible authority of the 
tow^n meeting. Accordingly, two days later, on November 
5 and 6, a town meeting assembled over which John Han- 
cock presided as moderator. The four hundred tradesmen 
among those present took occasion to disavow unanimously 
their authorship of a handbill, thrown about Faneuil Hall, 
which accused the merchants of fomenting discontent for 
purposes of self-aggrandizement. The meeting adopted the 
Philadelphia resolutions and further voted their expecta- 
tion that no merchant should thereafter import any dutied 
tea. A committee of the body was appointed to secure the 
resignation of the consignees ; but those gentlemen declined 
to comply, upon the ground that they did not yet know 
what obligations, moral or pecuniary, they were under to 
fulfil their trust. On the seventeenth, the mob once more 
took matters into its own hands and attacked the home of 
Richard Clarke with bricks and stones. Again the town 
meeting was quickly summoned, with Hancock in the 
chair; but demands upon the consignees only brought the 
response that advices from England now informed them 
that their friends there had entered into engagements in 
their behalf which put it out of their power to resign. 

Adams now called into being a new agency of the pop- 
ular will, which was destined to supplant the merchant- 
controlled town meeting and which was the natural fruit- 
age of the committee of correspondence system. This was 
a joint meeting of the committees of Boston, Dorchester, 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 285 

Roxbury, Brookline and Cambridge, representing a largely 
rural and therefore less conservative constituency than the 
Boston committee alone. This new body, meeting on No- 
vember 22, resolved unanimously " to use their Joint influ- 
ence to prevent the Landing and Sale of the Teas . . . ," 
and the Boston committee was instructed to arouse all the 
towns to an " immediate and effectual opposition." 

The first tea ship, the Dartmouth, made its appearance 
in the harbor on Saturday, November 27, the other two 
arriving some days later. This was the signal for the next 
progressive step in the development of the radical organ- 
ization — a meeting of all the inhabitants of the towns 
represented in the joint committee. It was this irrespon- 
sible mass-gathering of inhabitants of Boston and the 
nearby towns that now assumed direction of events, the 
town meeting being entirely superseded.^ The mass meet- 
ing sat through Monday and Tuesday and, because of great 
numbers, adjourned from Faneuil Hall to Old South Meet- 
ing House.- One of the very first votes was a unanimous 
resolution that the tea shipped by the East India Company 
" shall not only be sent back but that no duty shall be paid 
thereon/' and this was later supplemented by a vote apply- 

1 " Massachusettensis," writing in the Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Jan. 2, 
177s, remarked on this supplanting of the town meeting, observing 
that : " A body meeting has great advantages over a town-meeting, as 
no law has yet ascertained the qualification of the voters; each person 
present, of whatever age, estate or country, may . . . speak or vote at 
such an assembly; and that might serve as a skreen to the town where 
it originated, in case of any disastrous consequence." 

^ " A more determined spirit was conspicuous in this body than in 
any of the former assembhes of the people. It was composed of the 
lowest as well, and probably in as great proportions, as of the superior 
ranks and orders, and all had an equal voice. No eccentric or irreg- 
ular motions, however, were suffered to take place. All seemed to 
have been the plan of but few, it may be, of a single person." Hutch- 
inson, Mass. Bay, vol. iii, p. 433. 



y 



286 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ing the same principles to private shipments of tea. These 
resolves constituted the ultimatum of the radicals, who 
were now clearly in the ascendant: the town meeting had 
never gone beyond the demand that the tea should be re- 
turned unladen. Henceforth the destruction of the tea was 
inevitable, unless Hutchinson should weaken. The gover- 
nor gave no indications of a faltering resolution, for the 
sheriff in his name confronted the assemblage with a proc- 
lamation commanding them " to disperse and to surcease 
all further unlawful proceedings;" but the only effect was 
to arouse '' a loud and very general hiss." The meeting 
carried on negotiations with the consignees, and with Rotch, 
owner of the Dartmouth, but failed to secure satisfactory 
concessions. The meeting adjourned after establishing 
watches for the Dartmouth and the other tea ships as they 
should arrive. Copies of the transactions were sent to 
Philadelphia and New York. 

The excitement at Boston prompted the committees of 
correspondence in other towns of the province to secure the 
passage of resolutions, pledging their support to Boston and 
decreeing the non-importation of dutied teas.^ 

Monday, December 13, arrived — the seventeenth day 
after the arrival of the Dartmouth; and Rotch still lin- 
gered in his preparations to send the vessel to sea. The 
situation had become somewhat complicated through the 
fact that the vessel had been entered at the custom house in 
order to unload drygoods and other merchandise belonging 
to the merchants.^ Under a statute of William HI, this 
entry made the vessel liable to seizure at the end of twenty 

^ From Nov. 26 to Dec. 16, the following towns acted, in the order 
named : Cambridge, Brookline, Roxbury, Charlestown, Marblehead, 
Plymouth, Maiden, Gloucester, Lexington, Groton, Newburyport, Lynn 
and Medford. Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vols, vi and vii, passim. 

' Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 430 n. ; Pa. Mag., vol. xiv, p. 78. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 287 

days by the customs officers for the non-payment of duties. 
Affairs had reached a critical stage. On Tuesday afternoon 
the mass meeting again assembled and " enjoined " Rotch 
to demand a clearance for his ship at the custom house. 
The plan was that, in case of refusal, he should enter a pro- 
test, and then, securing a permit from the governor, pro- 
ceed to sea. Accompanied by a committee of ten, Rotch 
made the demand, but the customs collector refused an 
answer until he had had time to consult with his colleagues. 
Thursday was the last of the twenty-day period; and early 
in the morning the country people began to pour into town 
by the fifties and the hundreds. Almost eight thousand 
people attended the meeting which was to hear the outcome 
of the conference. Greatest impatience was manifested 
when they were told that a clearance had been refused while 
the dutiable articles remained on board. Rotch was or- 
dered upon his peril to enter a protest and to demand of the 
governor a permit for his ship to pass the Castle. 

Hutchinson, meantime, had not been idle.^ He had re- 
newed in writing the orders which used to be given to the 
commander of the Castle to allow no vessel to pass the 
fortress without a permit; and a number of guns were 
loaded in anticipation of trouble. Fearing that the vessel 
might try to escape through a different channel, two war- 
ships, which had been laid up for the winter, were, at his 
request, sent to guard the passages out of the harbor. Was 
it a portent that, on the very day the storm broke, the 
armed brig Gaspee should arrive from Rhode Island for 
action? When Rotch made his request of Hutchinson, the 
governor, feeling his mastery of the situation, replied that 
he " could not give a pass till the ship was cleared by the 

^ Hutchinson's own account to Hillsborough; Mass. Arch., vol. xxvii, 
pp. 586-587. 



288 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Custom-House." ^ The waiting assemblage learned the 
news with greatest exasperation. There were angry 
speeches in the flickering candle-light. Then Sam Adams 
arose to his feet and pronounced clearly the talismanic 
words : '' This meeting can do nothing more to save the 
country." There was an answering war-whoop out of 
doors; and a disciphned mob, disguised as Mohawk In- 
dians, hastened to the wharf, and with great expedition 
dumped into the harbor not only the tea on board the Dart- 
mouth but also that on board the other two ships. No 
other property was injured; no person was harm.ed; no tea 
was allowed to be carried away; and a great crowd on the 
shore looked quietly on. 

The mob that worked silently and systematically that 
night was evidently no ordinary one. Exhaustive research 
many years later brought forth a list of participants; but, 
as very few of the men ever cared to avow their connection 
with the lawless undertaking, the identity of the persons 
will never definitely be known.- However, it is evident that 

^ " His granting a pass to a vessel which had not been cleared at the 
custom-house, would have been a direct violation of his oath, by mak- 
ing himself an accessary in the breach of those laws which he had 
sworn to observe." Hutchinson, op. cit., vol. iii, pp. 436-437. This is 
the best defense of Hutchinson's action. Vide also Hutchinson, Diary 
and Letters of Thomas Hutchinson, vol. i, pp. 103-104; Mass. Arch., 
vol. xxvii, p. 611. Nevertheless, in the preliminary weeks Hutchinson 
had every opportunity, through his personal relations with the tea 
consignees, to prevent the situation from reaching such an acute 
stage. Had the public mind been less inflamed, the merchants as a 
class would never have lent their support to the act of destruction. In 
view of the dire consequences, which Hutchinson might very well have 
foreseen, it would appear that he should have stretched his discretion- 
ary powers to the point of permitting Rotch to depart without clear- 
ance. In this connection it is worth noting that Lord Mahon in his 
History of England (Boston, 1853-1854), vol. vi, p. 2, thought that 
Hutchinson was " perhaps unwise " in refusing the permit. 

2 Vide Drake, Tea Leaves. Cf. Pierce, E. L., " Recollections as a 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 289 

the better class of citizens toiled side by side with carpen- 
ters, masons, farmers, blacksmiths and barbers. The names 
of fifteen merchants of the more radical stamp, including 
William Molineux and Henry Bass, have been included in 
the list ; and it is known that Lendall Pitts, brother to John 
Pitts, the selectman, had charge of one portion of the mob. 
John Hancock was probably speaking the truth when he 
disclaimed all knowledge of any detail of the tea destruc- 
tion/ But it is clear that many merchants, who went into 
the movement against the East India Company with the in- 
tention of resorting only to peaceful opposition, were swept 
by the surge of popular feeling into measures of which 
their best judgment disapproved." Two days after the tea 
affair. Governor Hutchinson described in some amazement 
the apparent callousness of the public toward the destruc- 
tion of £15,000 of property belonging to the English com- 
pany. The Stamp Act riots had excited horror and pity, 
he declared, because the great loss fell upon two or three 
individuals ; but now no pity was expressed for " so great 

Source of History," 2 M. H. S. Procs., vol. x, pp. 473-480. Drake's list 
includes iii names. Contemporary accounts fixed the number of par- 
ticipants variously from 50 to 200. Hutchinson said : " So many of the 
actors and abettors were universally known, that a proclamation, with 
a reward for discovery, would have been ridiculed." Mass. Bay, vol. 
iii, p. 439. Edes, at whose house the " Indians " rested in waiting, was, 
according to his son, the only person who had a complete list of par- 
ticipants ; and after his death the list was taken, it would appear, by 
the merchant, Benjamin Austin, as a paper whose contents he wished 
not to be publicly known. Thereafter it disappeared, i M. H. S. Procs., 
vol. xii, pp. 174-176. 

^ Brown, John Hancock His Book, p. 178. Loyalist contemporaries 
claimed insistently that he was one of the mob. 

' Hutchinson wrote shortly after the tea destruction : "All this time 
nobody suspected they would suffer the tea to be destroyed, there being 
so many pien of property active at their meetings, as Hancock, Phillips, 
Rowe, Dennie, and others, besides the selectm.en and the town clerk 
who was clerk of all the meetings." t M. H. S. Procs., vol. xiii, p. 170. 



290 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

a body as the East India Company; it is said to be a loss 
which will never be felt." ^ 

At Philadelphia, the eventful day arrived some days later 
than at Boston. In the weeks following the public resolu- 
tions of October 16 there had seemed for a time serious 
danger that the workingmen of Philadelphia would sep- 
arate themselves from the opposition to the East India 
Company because of the unreasonably high prices which 
shopkeepers were demanding for the smuggled tea. E^rly 
in December, however, a committee of investigation was 
appointed by the inhabitants; and, after some difficulty, 
they succeeded in forcing the price of tea down to a level 
of six shillings a pound." This allayed the mutterings. On 
Saturday evening, December 25, it was learned that the 
tea ship, commanded by Captain Ayres, had arrived at 
Chester; and armed by this forewarning, the vessel was 
stopped the next day at Gloucester Point, about four miles 
from the city.^ Captain Ayres, being brought ashore, was 
made acquainted with the feeling of the townsmen ; and he 
promised that he would go to sea when the people had so 
expressed themselves in public meeting. Upon Monday,, 
eight thousand people of all ranks assembled in the Square, 
and in spirited resolutions directed Captain Ayres not to 
enter the vessel at the custom house but to depart imme- 
diately for England. So it came about that, within six days 
after the tea ship entered the Capes, she was on her way 
out again with her cargo undisturbed. By preventing entry 

^ Mass. Arch., vol. xxvii, p. 594. A fourth tea-ship, not yet arrived, 
was cast ashore on the back of Cape Cod by a storm about this time. 
Ihid., p. 587. 

*Pa. Gas., Dec. 8, 1773; also Pa. Chron., Dec. 13. 

' The principal documents relative to the tea episode in Philadelphia 
may be found in Pa. Mag., vol. xv, pp. 385-30'^. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 29 1 

at the custom house, the Philadelphians succeeded in avoid- 
ing the difficulties which the Bostonians had faced, ahhough 
thereby Thomas Wharton found himself deprived tempo- 
rarily of the use of a fine chariot which was consigned to 
him, and other merchants had to go without their winter 
stocks.^ 

The public meeting, after voting instructions for Ayres's 
guidance, resolved their hearty approval of the destruction 
of the tea at Boston. The passage of this resolve awoke 
the only discord at the meeting, for the committee, which 
had prepared the other resolutions in advance, had rejected 
this one by a vote of ten to two. The tenor of the resolu- 
tion was contrary to the sentiments of *' the substantial 
thinking part," and had been carried in open meeting only 
through the eloquence of the two advocates and the un- 
thinking enthusiasm of the crowd.' 

At New York, as elsewhere, the merchants were active r^'\ 
in stirring up opposition to the East India Company's ship- 
ments; but the development of events revealed, more 
clearly than elsewhere, the fundamental conflict between 
merchants and radicals as to the proper mode of procedure.^ 
Preparations for the arrival began on November 10, when 
a printed notice, signed by '* Legion," directed the pilots to 
refuse to guide the tea ship into the harbor. As the vessel 
was expected sometime in December, a committee of citi- 
zens exerted pressure upon the consignees to resign their 

* Pa. Mag., vol. xiv, pp. 78-79. 

' Wharton to Walpole; Wharton, Letter-Book (Hist. Soc. of Pa.), pp. 
33-34. 

* The best accounts of these events are : the narrative by " Brutus " 
in A^. Y. Gazetteer, May 12, 1774, reprinted in 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
251-258 n. ; and the modern treatment of Becker, N. Y. Parties, 1760- 
^776, PP- 102- 1 1 1. Vide also the New York newspapers during this 
period. 



292 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



commissions; and this they cheerfully did on December i, 
although m.eantime an open threat of violence had been 
made against them in a broadside issued by the " Mo- 
hawks." It was clearly necessary to reach an agreement as 
to the nature of the opposition which should be directed 
against the expected tea ship; and for this purpose a docu- 
ment, entitled the " Association of the Sons of Liberty," 
was prepared as a common platform for all classes. This 
paper denounced all persons who should aid in the intro- 
duction of dutied teas as enemies to their country and de- 
clared a boycott against them. As an onlooker of the 
event put it, this document embodied " the strongest terms 
of opposition, without actual violence . . . , leaving [by 
implication] the use of force ... to be resolved in some 
future time in case any emergency might thereafter render 
the measure necessary." ^ The association was general 
enough in its terms to be signed by a great number of in- 
habitants, including " most of the principal lawyers, mer- 
chants, landholders, masters of ships, and mechanics." 

The radicals were content with the association as a be- 
ginning; and one of the ultra-radicals, Alexander McDou- 
gall, assured Sam Adams in a letter of December 13 that: 
" The worst that can or will happen here is the landing of 
the Tea and storing it in the Fort." - The boldness of the 
people grew^ with the news of the early transactions at Bos- 
ton; and in order to capitalize the excitement, the Sons of 
Liberty and " every other Friend to the Liberties and 
Trade of America " were summoned to a mass meeting on 
December 16. Two thousand were present notwithstand- 
ing the inclement weather, and they readily agreed to the 
suggestion of the radical, John Lamb, that a committee of 

* " Brutus," loc. cit. 

^Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. vi, pp. 472-473. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 293 

correspondence be appointed to communicate with the other 
provinces. The assemblage formally ratified the associa- 
tion ; and when the mayor appeared with a proposition from 
the governor that the tea upon its arrival should be stored 
in the Fort and not be removed except at noonday, the offer 
was greeted with a thrice-repeated negative and indications 
of intense indignation. The radicals had advanced beyond 
the stage of halfway measures. 

This meeting alarmed the more conservative merchants, X 
who saw plainly that affairs were drifting in the direction ^^ 
of mob control. Four days later, a few persons, among 
whom Isaac Low and Jacob Walton were most active, cir- 
culated a paper, the avowed purpose of which was to pledge 
the signers not to resort to force in opposing the introduc- 
tion of the tea. The project made some headway, but was 
abandoned on the next day because of the excitement; 
aroused by the receipt of news of the Boston Tea Party.. 
From that moment, as Governor Tryon informed Dart- 
mouth, all hope of a temperate opposition was gone.^ The 
consignees felt no uncertainty as to the peril, and on De- 
cember 2y wrote to Captain Lockyer, of the tea- ship, a 
letter to be delivered upon his arrival at Sandy Hook, 
notifying him of their resignation and advising him to re- 
turn to sea '' for the safety of your cargo, your vessel, and 
your person . . ." - But the master of the tea ship had 
already heard echoes of the clamor at Boston and elsewhere 
in far-off Antigua, whither adverse winds had driven him 
while making for New York.^ When he arrived at Sandy 

^ " The landing, storing and safe keeping of the Tea when stored 
could be accomplished, but only under the protection of the Point of 
the Bayonet and Muzle of the Cannon . . . /' wrote Tryon. N. Y. Col, 
Docs., vol. viii, pp. 407-408. 

' Drake, op. cit., p. 358. 
' Mass. Spy, Apr. 7, 1774. 



294 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



Hook on Monday, April i8, 1774, he pursued a most cir- 
cumspect course, refusing to betake himself personally to 
the city without permission of the committee of correspond- 
ence, and promising not to make entry at the custom house 
and to continue speedily on his way. 

Capain Lockyer saved the property of the East India 
Company by his caution; for the populace were alert and 
ready for violent measures. This was show^n by an inci- 
dent which occurred before Lockyer returned to sea. On 
Friday of this week Captain Chambers arrived in the Lon- 
don with a personal consignment of eighteen chests of tea, 
whose presence on board he attempted in vain to conceal. 
The facts were laid before a meeting of citizens and the 
" -Mohawks " were prepared for action at a concerted 
signal, when some impatient souls thronged on board the 
vessel, stove in the chests, and cast the tea into the waters.^ 
The New Yorkers had now surpassed the Bostonians in 
their radicalism, for the latter had exhausted all other ex- 
pedients before employing force. The New Yorkers acted 
in resentment of the glaring duplicity of Captain Chambers, 
who only six months before had received the gratitude 
of a New York meeting for having been one of the first 
captains to refuse a tea consignment of the East India 
Company. 

The course of opposition in the commercial centers of the 
North thus took the form of an uncompromising refusal to 
permit the tea to be landed. In every instance, the move- 
ment was crowned with success, because it was engineered 
by an alliance of radicals and the generality of the mer- 
chants. The fourth port to which the tea was consigned 

* "Several persons of reputation were placed below to keep tally and: 
about the companion to prevent ill-disposed persons from going below 
the deck." " Brutus," loc. cit. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 295 

presented a situation in which such a union of forces was 
difficult to accomplish ; and therefore the resistance to the 
East India Company yielded results only partially suc- 
cessful. 

When news of the new commercial advantages granted 
to the East India Company reached Charleston, the news- 
papers hardly did more than to reprint some of the more 
trenchant pieces from the northern newspapers. The 
Charlestonians in general experienced considerable difficulty 
in discovering why they should be alarmed at receiving 
dutied tea directly from the East India Company when they 
had complaisantly accepted it from merchants who had 
themselves bought it of the company. It was some of the '^ 
more radical planters who began to propagate the doctrine ^"" 
of an active resistance to the East India Company and in- 
vented the pleasant fiction that the private orders of cus- 
tomed tea had been imported in the belief that the duty 
would soon be repealed by Parliament/ The merchants 
were loath to take any part in the movement, many of them 
being factors and thus bearing a relationship to their Eng- 
lish firms not unlike that of the tea consignees to the East 
India Company. Furthermore, a non-importation of dutied 
teas would inure to the benefit of a very small smuggling 
class, and the merchants had no reason to prefer their wel- 
fare to that of a legitimate trading company. The mer- 
chants also had large quantities of dutied teas in their stores 
and, in any event, desired to dispose of this stock before 
opposing the East India Company. The problem of the 
radicals was to secure the backing of the mercantile ele- 
ment, and to accomplish this end by making as few conces- 
sions as possible. 

On Thursday morning, December 2, the tea ship London 

^"Junius Brutus" in S. C. Gas., Nov. 29, 1773. 



296 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

came to anchor before the town, containing the consign- 
ment of the East India Company as well as several tea con- 
signments to private merchants. At once handbills were 
distributed about the streets inviting all inhabitants and 
particularly the landholders to assemble at the Exchange 
the next day/ The people responded in such numbers as to 
cause the main beams of the structure to give way. In the 
heated debates, it was urged that the East India Company 
had the same right to import dutied teas as the private mer- 
chants had been enjoying; but the greater number held 
otherwise. They prevailed upon the tea consignees to re- 
sign their commissions, and framed an agreement, pledging 
the merchants who should sign it to a non-importation of 
dutied teas. Captain Curling, of the tea ship, being present, 
was instructed to return to England with the tea; but no 
action was taken with reference to the private tea orders 
on board, which were publicly landed by their owners. 

The committee entrusted with the circulation of the 
agreement, headed by Chris Gadsden and composed mostly 
of planters, met with little success. Even the appearance 
of a new agreement, signed by the '' principal planters and 
landholders " and threatening boycott against dealers in 
dutied teas, had no visible effect on the merchants. Their 
objection was that the proposed agreement was aimed 
against dutied teas only and would directly enrich and en- 
large the smuggling class. ^ The cause of the merchants 
was suffering from lack of organization; and in order to 
secure a greater solidarity, they established, on December 9, 
the " Charles-Town Chamber of Commerce," which there- 
after devoted itself to promoting mercantile interests, polit- 

^ For the events of Dec, 2 and 3, I'ide S. C. Gaz., Dec. 6, 1773; N. F. 
Gazetteer, Dec. 22,', Drayton, Memoirs, vol. i, pp. 97-98. 

'Two letters of the Charleston consignees; Pub. Rec. Off., C. 0. 5, 
no. 133 (L. C. Transcripts), i. 4od. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 297 

ical as well as economic/ The planters met at Mrs. Swal- 
low's tavern on Wednesday, the fifteenth, in preparation 
for a general meeting which had been called for Friday; 
and it was probably more than a coincidence that their nat- 
ural allies, the mechanics, held a meeting there at the same 
time. The merchants took occasion to hold a secret meet- 
ing of preparation on the following day. Under these cir- 
cumstances, the crowd assembled at the Exchange on Fri- 
day, December 17. The chairman, George Gabriel Powell, 
opened the meeting by strongly recommending moderation. 

Both radicals and merchants were represented by able 
speakers; the former appeared at first to have the upper 
hand, and a vote was passed for the non-importation of 
dutied teas. The moderates now rallied their forces, and 
succeeded in amending the motion to include all teas " from 
any Place whatsoever." By this amendment, legitimate 
traders and smugglers were placed on an equal footing. 
The merchants gained a further point in that six months 
were allowed for the consumption of the teas on hand. The 
radicals made a final attempt to commit the meeting to the 
fundamental principle of "no taxation without representa- 
tion;" a motion was made to prohibit from the province 
wine, molasses and everything else subject to a revenue 
duty imposed by Parliament. On the plea that the hour 
was late, the meeting adjourned with a resolution to take up 
the matter for consideration at a meeting early in Jan- 
uary.^ This, as the sequel showed, proved to be a final 
disposition of the matter.^ 

Meantime the period for the payment of the tea duty 
expired on Tuesday night, December 21, As in the case of 

^ 6". C. Gas., Dec. 13, 1773; 6". C. Gas. & Coun. Journ., Dec. 28. 
' Draj'-ton, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 97-98; S. C. Gas., Dec. 20, 1773; Pub. 
Rec. Off., C. O. 5, no. 133 (L. C. Transcripts), f. 4od. 
* Drayton, op. cit., vol. i, p. 100. 



298 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



the Boston tea ship, Captain Curling had entered at the cus- 
tom house and landed a part of his cargo. The resolutions 
of the two public meetings foreboded a spirited resistance 
to the seizure of the tea by the customs officials, but the 
lukewarm support given by the merchants was a cold douche 
to the hopes of the radicals/ The customs officers began 
to land the tea about seven o'clock Wednesday morning, 
and by noon all of it was placed on shore and about half of 
it in the warehouse. " There was not the least disturbance,*' 
wrote the comptroller of the customs ; " the gentlemen that 
came on the wharf behaved with their usual complaisance 
and good nature to me . . ." ^ The tea remained undis- 
turbed in the government warehouse for three years, when 
it was auctioned off for the benefit of the new revolutionary 
government. 

It is apparent from this recital of events that the British 
I government and its reluctant ally, the East India Company, 
had been foiled in their attempt to effect the sale of dutied 
tea, owned by the company, in the colonies. The results 
of this politico-business venture were to be far reaching. 
Meantime the radicals and merchants of America, having 
beheld the fruits of their coalition, found time to reflect on 
the situation in which they found themselves. Of the four 
instances of opposition to the East India Company, the 
Boston Tea Party was best calculated to enkindle the public 
mind ; but, to the surprise of the radicals, there was no burst- 
ing forth of the flame that had swept over the country at 
• the time of the Stamp Act and again during the Townshend 

^ Governor Bull believed that, if the merchants had been a little more 
aggressive in showing disapprobation of the public meetings and the 
consignees had shown a little more backbone, the plan of the East 
India Company would have been put peaceably into operation. Drake, 
op. cit., pp. 339-341- 

' Ibid., p. 342. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 299 

Acts, save in Massachusetts where the fuse had been care- 
fully laid by the committees of correspondence. The mer- 
chant class generally was shocked into remorseful silence 
by the anarchy that had laid profane hands upon property 
belonging to a private trading company; and many other 
people, more liberally inclined, were of their cast of mind. 
As a conservative Boston journal quoted with approval : 

Whenever a factious set of People rise to such a Pitch of 
Insolence, as to prevent the Execution of the Laws, or destroy 
the Property of Individuals, just as their Caprice or Humour 
leads them; there is an end of all Order and Government, 
Riot and Confusion must be the natural Consequence of such 
Measures. It is impossible for Trade to flourish where Prop- 
erty is insecure : Whether this has not been the Case at Boston 
for some time past, you are the best Judge. There is a strange 
Spirit of Licentiousness gone forth into the World, which 
shelters itself under the venerable and endearing Name of 
Liberty, but is as different from it as Folly is from Wisdom.^ 

Furthermore, what right did the Bostonians have to pose 
as the jealous guardians of the principle of local taxation, it 
was asked in many parts of British America, when Boston- 
ians had been the most notorious importers of dutied teas 
during the last two or three years? Even Dr. Franklin, 
who from his official position at London represented all 
America more nearly than any other one man, called the 
tea destruction '' an Act of violent Injustice on our part." 
He wrote at length to the Massachusetts Committee of Cor- 
respondence : 

I am truly concern'd as I believe all considerate Men are with 
you, that there should seem to any a Necessity for carrying 
Matters to such Extremity, as, in a Dispute about Publick 

^ Words of an Englishman writing to an American friend ; Mass. 
<^a.::. & News-Letter, Nov. 17, 1774. 



300 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



Rights, to destroy private Property. ... I cannot but wish 
& hope that before any compulsive Measures are thought of 
here, our General Court will have shewn a Disposition to re- 
pair the Damage and make Compensation to the Company.^ 

As has been suggested, Sam Adams's committee system 
taught the inhabitants of Massachusetts and the nearby^ 
provinces to react differently, although even here the mari- 
time town of Bristol, R. I., saw fit to qualify its resolutions 
against the East India Company by declaring : 

Some may apprehend there is danger from another quarter, 
generally unforeseen and unsuspected; that anarchy and con- 
fusion, which may prevail, will as naturally establish tyranny 
and arbitrary power, as one extreme leads to another; many 
on the side of liberty, when they see it degenerating into an- 
archy, fearing their persons are not safe, nor their property 
secure, will be likely to verge to the other extreme. . . .^ 

From the moment of the sinking of the tea at Boston, 
public sentiment in Massachusetts entirely escaped any 
bounds that the mercantile element could have set for it. It 
has been shown how, in the earlier months, the popular de- 
mands, originally directed against the dutied shipments of 
the British trading monopoly alone, w^ere extended to in- 
clude consignments to private merchants as well. Imme- 
diately after the tea destruction, the radicals proceeded to 
take the logical next step — the boycott of all teas, whether 
dutied or smuggled. This may have been done to propitiate 
the dealers in legal teas; but it also had the effect of pre- 
venting the selling of customed teas to unsuspecting persons 
\vho believed they w^ere buying the contraband article." 

^ Letter of Feb. 2, 1774; Writings (Smyth), vol. vi, pp. 178-180. Vide 
also ihid., p. 223. 

2 R. I. Col. Recs., vol. vii, pp. 274-275. 

'"Concordia" and "Deborah Doubtful" in Mass. Spy, Jan. 13, 27^ 
^774. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 301 

Many believed this step to be " chimerical;" ^ certainly the 
smugglers were robbed of their pecuniary interest in the 
struggle, but they were too deeply involved to withdraw 
their support now. Within a week after the tea destruc- 
tion, the tea dealers of Boston agreed to suspend the sales 
of all teas, dutied or otherwise, after January 20, 1774. 
When that day arrived, two barrels of Bohea still unsold 
were publicly burned in front of the custom house.^ 

The nearby town of Charlestown co-operated with the 
Boston measures ; and the Boston plan was also adopted by 
Worcester, Acton, Lunenburgh, and perhaps by other towns. ^ 
Most Massachusetts towns, however, were content to -de- 
cree merely the abstention from dutied teas. Up until the 
first of April, 1774, forty towns had passed resolutions;* 
most of them affixed a boycott as the sanction of the re- 
solves; and several towns appointed belated committees of 
correspondence. The height of radical fervor was reached 
in a resolution of the town of Windham, which declared : 
*' That neither the Parliament of Britain nor th^ Parlia- 
ment of France nor any other Parliament but that which 
sits supreme in our Province has a Right to lay any Taxes 

* Mass. Spy, Jan. 13, 20, 1774. 

' Seventy-nine dealers agreed to the resolutions ; nine would oppose 
-dutied tea only; and four refused even a qualified assent. Mass. Spy, 
Dec. 30, 1773, Jan. 20, 1774; Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 24, Feb. 7, 1774. 

' Mass. Spy, Dec. 30, 1773, Jan. 6, Feb. 10, 1774; Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., 
vol. viii, pp. 644-649, 681-683. 

* Abington, Bedford, Berwick, B'everly, Bolton, Boxford, Braintree, 
Cape Elisabeth, Colerain, Concord, Dedhani, Dorchester, Eastham, Fal- 
mouth, Framingham, Gorham, Grafton, Harvard, Hull, Ipswich, Lin- 
coln, MedUeld, Medway, Newton, Newbury, Pembrooke, Salem, Sand- 
wich, Scarborough, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, TopsHeld, Town- 
shend, Truro, Watertown, V/elMeet, Wells, Westford, Windham. For 
these resolutions, vide the current newspapers and Bos. Com. Cor. 
Mss., vols, vi, vii and viii, passim. The towns italicized included the 
boycott. 



302 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



on us for the purpose of Raising a Revenue." Only a few 
towns took unfavorable action, Marshfield hoping to see the 
perpetrators of the Boston violence brought to justice, and 
Littleton discharging its committee of correspondence/ At 
Sandwich the radicals defeated unfriendly action by re- 
fusing to hold a meeting; and at Eastham they succeeded 
in rescinding the condemnatory resolves of an earlier meet- 
ing.' 

The excitement over the tea was utilized by the Boston 
radicals, though with only partial success, in an attempt to 
stir up the nearby provinces to protest and action. Accord- 
ing to Governor Wentworth, of New Hampshire, " the un- 
wearied applications from Boston communicated the flame 
here." ^ A town meeting met at Portsmouth on December 
1 6, 1773, and passed strong resolutions against the impor- 
tation of dutied teas similar to the Philadelphia resolutions 
of October 16.* Shortly after, several other towns fol- 
lowed the example of the capital.^ It was not until the end 

^ In both cases the radicals signed their names to published protests. 
Mass. Spy, Feb. 10, 24, 1774. 

^ Mass. Spy, Apr. 7, 1774; Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. iii, pp. 307-310, 
The sincerity of the widespread resolutions was quickly evidenced by 
a number of instances of enforcement. E. g., vide Mass. Spy, Jan. 13, 
Feb. 17, Mch. 17, 31, Apr. 7, July 21, 1774. The country peddler proved 
to be the most persistent offender. At Boston the determination to 
prevent the shipment of customed teas to private merchants led to a 
second Tea Party on March 8, 1774, when 28]^ chests of tea on board 
the brig Fortune were cast into the harbor by the omnipresent '* In- 
dians." The Boston Committee declared in a letter that " this event 
must convince the Merchants in England that the extorted duty on 
that Article is as disagreeable to the good People of this Province as 
the intended monopoly of the East India Company." Bos. Com. Cor. 
Mss., vol. ix, pp. 726-729; Mass. Spy, Mch. 10, 17, 1774. 

^ Brit. Papers {"Sparks Mss."), vol. i, p. 21. 

* N. H. Gas., Dec. 24, 1773. 

* Barrington, Exeter, Hampton, Haverhill, Newcastle. Mass. Spy, 
Jan. 13, 1774; Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Jan. 10; N. H. Gas., Feb. 25^ 
Mch. 4. 



STRUGGLE WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY 303 

of June, 1774, that the flame, whereof Wentworth had 
spoken, showed how defective were its incendiary proper- 
ties. On the twenty-fifth, a vessel arrived at Portsmouth 
with a consignment of twenty-seven chests of dutied tea for 
a private merchant. The tea was landed ; the town meeting 
which assembled to consider the situation was temperate 
beyond the hope of the governor. A committee, composed 
chiefly of ''discreet men who . . . detested every idea of 
violating property," was appointed to treat with the con- 
signee, while the town meeting chose " a guard of free- 
holders to protect and defend the Custom House and the 
tea from any attempt or interruption." The merchant 
readily accepted the committee's offer to export the tea to 
any market he chose at the town's expense; and thereupon 
the duty was openly paid and the tea publicly carted back 
to the vessel. The whole episode passed off without dis- 
turbance, an incipient attempt being quelled by the towns- 
men themselves.^ 

The people at Newport, R. I., were even more belated in 
adopting resolutions, although urged to do so by a letter 
from the Boston Committee of Correspondence. Finally, 
on Saturday, January i, 1774, a notice was mysteriously 
posted at the Brick Market, signed by " Legion," and 
threatening that the town officials would surely be opposed 
in any oflice in town or colony to which they might aspire, 
unless a town meeting were called to adopt resolutions like 
Boston and the other towns. The notice had its effect : a 
town meeting w^as held on the following Tuesday, and at 
an adjournment on January 12 the town adopted the Phila- 
delphia resolutions verbatim and appointed a committee of 
correspondence.^ This prompted the smaller towns to pass 

^ .V. H. Gas., July i, 8, 1774; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 512-513. 
^ Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Jan. 17, 1774; Bos. Eve. Post, Jan. 24. 



304 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



similar resolutions and became a signal for the establish- 
ment of the committee of correspondence system through- 
out Rhode Island/ Only one New England province re- 
mained silent; and no amount of urging from Boston was 
sufficient to arouse the people of Connecticut to a sense of 
danger." 

At New York we have seen that news of the Boston 
vandalism had, for the moment, turned the tide in favor of 
the radicals, and that at Philadelphia resolutions of ap- 
proval had been impulsively adopted contrary to the judg- 
ment of the " substantial thinking part." Nevertheless, the 
sober judgment of both towns and of the remaining prov- 
inces was against the action of the Bostonians. Several 
meetings of the people of Charleston, S. C, prompted by 
the radicals in January and ]\Iarch, 1774, proved futile in 
their outcome.^ The ebbing of the radical movement seemed 
apparent on almost every hand. 

^ By the end of March, Providence, Bristol, Richmond, New Shore- 
ham, Cumberland and Barrington had acted. R. /. Col. Recs., vol. vii, 
pp. 272-2^, 283. The town of Scituate chose a committee in Sep- 
tember. 

' Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. ix, pp. 717-718. 

^S. C. Gas., Jan. 24, Mch. 7, 21, 28, 1774; Drayton, Memoirs, vol. i, 
p. 100. At the Charleston meeting of Mch. 16, a standing committee 
of forty-five was appointed with power to act as executive body and to 
call the inhabitants together upon occasion. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Contest of Merchants and Radicals for Dominance 

IN THE Commercial Provinces (March-August, 

1774) 

The enactment of the coercive acts by Parliament called 
forth the union of interests and action in America, which 
the opposition to the East India Company in the leading 
seaports had failed to evoke. The chief of these laws were 
intended to deal with the lawless conditions which had 
arisen in the province of Massachusetts Bay out of the tea 
commotions. The first of the series, the Boston Port Act, 
received the royal assent on the last day of March, 1774.^ 
This act provided for the closing of the harbor of Boston 
to commerce from and after June i and the transfer of the 
custom house to Marblehead and the capital to Salem. The 
port of Boston was to be re-opened when the East India 
Company and the customs officers and others had been re- 
imbursed for the losses sustained by them during the riots, 
and when the king in privy council was satisfied that trade 
might be safely carried on there and the customs duly col- 
lected. 

After an interval of two months, two other acts were 
passed which provided for thorough-going alterations of 
the constitution of the province.^ The governor's council, 
which, being elective by the Assembly, had hitherto ob- 

1 14 George III, c. 19. For the parliamentary debates on this and the 
following acts, vide ParUamentary History, vol. xvii, pp. 1 159-1325. 

2 14 George III, c. 45, c. 39. 

305 



3o6 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



structed all efforts to suppress rioting, was now made ap- 
pointive by the king, as in all other royal provinces. A 
direct blow was aimed at the system of committees of cor- 
respondence by the provision placing town meetings under 
the immediate control of the governor from and after 
August I, and permitting only the annual meeting for the 
election of officers to be held without his express authoriza- 
tion. The way was prepared for a rigorous execution of 
the customs laws by providing that a person might be tried 
in another province or in Great Britain, who w^as charged 
w^ith a capital crime committed ** either in the execution of 
his duty as a magistrate, for the suppression of riots or in 
the support of the laws of revenue, or in acting in his duty 
as an officer of revenue," or as acting in a subordinate. 
capacity in either case. The three acts passed with great 
majorities.^ A motion to rescind the tea duty called forth 
a remarkable speech in favor of repeal by Edmund Burke ; 
but the motion was lost by a large vote. 

The receipt of the news of the Boston Port Act put a 
new face on public affairs in America. It changed com- 
pletely the nature of the contest with Parliament which had 
been going on intermittently since 1764. It created the 
basis for a realignment of forces and strength, the impor- 
tance of which was to be a fundamental factor in the later 
development of events. Hitherto the struggle with Parlia- 
ment had been, in large part, Inspired and guided by tlu 
demand of the mercantile class for trade reforms. Each 
new act of Parliament had accentuated or ameliorated busi- 
ness distress in the colonies : and in proportion to the reme- 
dial character of the legislation, the barometer of American 
discontent had risen or fallen. To carry on their propa- 

^ In June, the Quebec Act and the Quartering Act were added to the 
trilogy- of measures already enacted. These acts merely added fuel to 
the blaze that had already started in the colonies. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



307 



ganda successfully, the merchants had found it necessary to > 
form alliances with their natural enemies in society — with 
the intelligent, hopeful radicals who dreamed of a semi- 
independent American nation or something better, and with „ 

'the innumerable and nameless individuals whose brains \ • 

111. • 

were in their b iceps, men who were useful as long as they 
coulcl be held in leash. The passage of the Boston Port Act ^'" 
and the other laws brought things to an issue between these 
two elements, already grown suspicious of each other. ^The , 
question in controversy between Parliament and the colo- , 
nies was changed in an instant from a difference over | 
trade reforms to a political dispute, pure and simple, over 
the right of Parliament to punish and prevent mob violence 
through blockading Boston and expurgating the Massachu- ; 
setts constitutional' 

^ Gouverneur Morris flippantly described the development of events 
in New York in thefse terms : " It is needless to premise, that the lower 
orders of mankind are more easily led by specious appearances than 
those of a more exalted station. . . . The troubles in America, during 
Grenville's administration, put our gentry upon this finesse. They 
stimulated some daring coxcombs to rouse the mob into an attack upon 
the bounds of order and decency. These fellows became the Jack* 
Cades of the day, the leaders in all the riots, the belwethers of the 
flock. The reason of the manoeuvre in those who wished to keep fair 
with the Government, and at the same time to receive the incense of 
popular applause, you will readily perceive. On the whole, the shep- 
herds were not much to blame in a politic point of view. The bel- 
wethers jingled merrily, and roared out liberty, and property, and re- 
ligion, and a multitude of cant terms, which every one thought he un- 
derstood, and was egregiously mistaken. For you must know the shep- 
herds kept the dictionary of the day; and, like the mysteries of the 
ancient mythology, it was not for profane eyes or ears. This answered 
many purposes; the simple flock put themselves entirely under the 
protection of these most excellent shepherds. By and bye behold a great 
metamorphosis, without the help of Ovid or his divinities but entirely 
effectuated by two modern Genii, the god of Ambition and the god- 
dess of Faction. The first of these prompted the shepherds to shear 
some of their flock, and then, in conjunction with the other, converted 
the belwethers into shepherds. That we have been in hot water with; 



3o8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763.1776 

In this new aspect of the controversy the merchants 
found themselves instinctively siding with the home gov- 
ernment. : No commercial principle was at stake in the co- 
ercive acts; and the Boston violence was a manifestation of 
mob rule which every self-respecting merchant abhorred 
from his very soul. -' Nor could he see any commercial ad- 
vantage which might accrue from pursuing the will-o'-the- 
wisp ideas of the radicals. The uncertain prospect which 
the radical plans held forth was not comparable with the 
tangible benefits which came from membership in the British 
empire under existing conditions ; even absolute freedom of 
trade meant little in view of the restrictive trade systems 
of the leading nations of the world, the comparative ease 
with which the most objectionable parliamentary regulations 
continued to be evaded, and the insecure, if not dangerous, 
character of any independent government which the rad- 
icals might establish. [^When all was said and done, the mer- 
chants knew that their welfare depended upon their con- 
nection with Great Britain — upon the protection afforded 
by the British navy, upon the acquisition of new markets by 

the British Parliament since every body knows. Consequently these 
new shepherds had their hands full of employment. The old ones kept 
themselves least in sight, and a want of confidence in each other was 
not the least evil which followed. The port of Boston has been shut 
up. These sheep, simple as they are, cannot be gulled as heretofore. 
In short, there is no ruling them; and now, to change the metaphor, 
the heads of the mobihty grow dangerous to the gentry, and how to 
keep them down is the question." Letter to Penn, May 20, 1774; 
Sparks, J., Life of Gouverneur Morris (Boston, 1832), vol. i, pp. 23-26; 
also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 342-343. Vide also an unsigned letter in 
ibid., 302 n., and Governor Martin's letter in A'. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, 
pp. 1083-1087. In the case of Massachusetts, zide the statement of "A 
Converted Whig" who, although a member of the Boston Committee 
of Correspondence, began to desert the radical cause after the Boston 
Tea Party. 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 103-106. For a similar view in 
the case of Pennsylvania, vide Charles Thomson's letter to Drayton, 
Stille, Life of Dickinson, p. 345. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 309 

British arms, upon legislation which fostered their shipping, 
subsidized certain industries and protected the merchants 
from foreign competition in British markets/J Many de- 
tails of this legislation had proved defective, but Parliament 
had shown a disposition to correct the worst features ; and 
this disposition would, in all probability, continue, since 
British capital invested in American trade had a powerful 
representation in Parliament. 

I^From the time of the passage of the coercive acts by 
Parliament, thus, there became evident a strong drift on the ] 
part of the colonial mercantile class to the British view- I 
point of the questions at issue. J Many merchants at once 
took their stand with the forces of government and law and 
order; these men may properly be classed as conserva- 
tives, or loyalists, in the same sense that the royal official 
class were. Others believed that all was not yet lost and 
that, by remaining in the movement, they could restrain its 
excesses and give it a distinctly conservative cast. Such 
men were, for the time being at least, moderates, being will- 
ing, though for partisan reasons, to indulge in extra-legal 
activities. 

LBut the coercive acts were equally important in making 
converts to the radical position. Whereas the mob destruc- 
tion of the tea had antagonized many people, the enactment 
of the severe punitive acts served, in the judgment of many 
of them, to place the greater guilt on the other side. A sig- 
nificant instance was the case of Dr. Franklin, who in Feb- 
ruary, 1774, had denounced the Boston Tea Party as an un- 
justifiable act of violence. Writing after the passage of the 
acts, he declared to his loyalist son : 

^ For contemporary expositions of this view, vide The Interest of the 
Merchants and Manufacturers of Great Britain in the Present Contest 
with the Colonies Stated and Considered (London, 1774) ; broadside, 
"To the Inhabitants of New- York," 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 886-888; 
"Mercurius" in Ga. Gas., Sept. 28, 1774. 



3IO THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

I do not so much as you do wonder that the Massachusetts 
[Assembly] have not offered Payment for the Tea . . . 
[Parliament and the ministry] have extorted many Thousand 
Pounds from America unconstitutionally, under Colour of 
Acts of Parliament, and with an armed Force. Of this Money 
they ought to miake Restitution. They might first have taken 
out Payment for the Tea, &c. and returned the rest.^ 

Another conspicuous and important instance of conver- 
sion was that of William Henry Dra}1:on, the wealthy 
young South Carolinian who, wdth fiery zeal, had excoriated 
Chris Gadsden and the non-importers in 1769. A nephew 
of Governor Bull and favored by appointment to various 
offices in the gift of the king, he now turned definitely to 
tlie side of the popular party. To use his own words : 

The same spirit of indignation which animated me to condemn 
popular measures in the year 1769, because although avowedly 
in defence of liberty, they absolutely violated the freedom of 
society, by demanding men, under pain of being stigmatized, 
and of sustaining detriment in property, to accede to resolu- 
tions, which, however well meant, could not . . . but be . . . 
very grating to a freeman, so, the same spirit of indignation 
. . . actuates me in like manner, now to assert my freedom 
against the malignant nature of the late five Acts of Parliament.^ 

His course was consistent, he asserted : '' I opposed suc- 
ceeding violations of my rights, then, by a temporary democ- 
racy, now, by an established monarchy." " 

Governor Penn described the transformation of opinion 
at Philadelphia. " They look upon the chastisement of 

^ Letter of Sept. 7, I774; Writings (Smyth), vol. vi, p. 241. 

'"Letter from Freeman" Aug. 10, 1774; Gibbes, Documentary His- 
tory, vol. ii, pp. 12-13. Drayton felt it necessary to deny the aspersion 
of his enemies that his change of faith was occasioned by disap- 
pointment at falling to receive a permanent appointment as assistant 
judge. Indeed, this charge will not bear serious analysis. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 311 

Boston to be purposely rigorous, and held up by way of 
intimidation to all America . . . ," he wrote. "Their 
delinquency in destroying the East India Company's tea is 
lost in the attention given to what is here called the too / 
severe punishment of shutting up the port, altering the Con- 
stitution, and making an Act, as they term it, screening the 
officers and soldiers shedding American blood." .^ In Vir- 
ginia a similar change of opinion was revealed in the reso- 
lutions adopted by county meetings. Patrick Henry's own 
county of Hanover acknowledged in its resolutions : 

Whether the people there [at Boston] were warranted by 
justice when they destroyed the tea, we know not; but this we 
know, that the Parliament by their proceedings have made us 
and all North America parties in the present dispute . . . 
insomuch that, if our sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay is 
enslaved, we cannot long remain free.^ 

The counties of Middlesex and Dinwiddle condemned with- 
out qualification the Boston Tea Party as an '' outrage," 
and added their determined protest and opposition to the 
force acts of Parliament.^ 

The Boston Port Act reached Boston on May 10, 1774. 
The people realized at once that the prosperity of the great 
port hung in the balance, and two groups were quickly 

* Letter to Dartmouth, July 5, 1774; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 514. 

' Ihid., vol. i, p. 616. Vide the similar resolutions of a mass meeting 
of Granville County, N. C. N. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1034-1036. 

'4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. SSi-553. Equally significant is the fact that 
the passage of the coercive acts served as a signal for the people of 
r the tobacco provinces to manifest their first opposition to private ship- 
I ments of dutied tea. Vide the affair of the Mary and Jane in Mary- 
Wand and Virginia; Md. Gas., Aug. 11, 18, 1774, and Rind's Va. Gaz., 
^Aug. 25; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 703-705, 727-728. 



91^ THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 , 

J 

formed as to the course which should be pursued.^ The 
•extremists, including the more radical merchants, opposed 
any restitution to the East India Company and insisted on 
an immediate commercial opposition, which should go to 
lengths hitherto unattempted, including not only non-impor- 
tation but also non-exportation, and affecting not only Great 
Britain but also every part of the West Indies, British and 
foreign.- This party believed that the salvation of Boston 
and the province depended upon swift and effective coer- 
cion of Great Britain, and they were entirely willing to 
sacrifice temporary business benefits for what they esteemed 
a larger political good. The other party, composed of mer- 
chants and of conservatives generally, held that the Tea 
Party had been an unjustifiable act of mob violence, and 
that the best good of port and province would be served by 
paying for the tea and conforming to the conditions im- 
posed by the act.^-' A member of this group analyzed the 
division in public affairs in this manner : " the merchants 
who either will not or cannot make remittances, the smug- 
glers, the mechanicks, and those who are facinated with the 
extravagant notion of independency, all join to counteract 
the majority of the merchants, and the lovers of peace and 
good order." " 

^ '* The present dispute," wrote one of the radicals, " seems confined 
to these two sentiments : either to pay, or not to pay for the tea.'* 
Ibid., vol. i, pp. 487-489. 

^ They wished to include the British West Indies in the boycott be- 
cause an important group in Parliament owned sugar plantations 
there; and they demanded that the foreign islands should likewise be 
placed beyond the pale in order to make the boycott easier to admin- 
ister and also to cause the French, Danish and Dutch governments to 
protest to Great Britain. Thomas Young to John Lamb, May 13, i774', 
Leake, L O., Memoir of the Life' and Times of General John Lamb 
(Albany, 1850), p. 85. 

'4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 506-508. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 313 

On Friday, May 13, 1774, the town meeting of Boston 
adopted a resolution which was designed to arouse the 
united opposition of the continent to the act threatening 
Boston. The resolution was worded to attract the support 
of moderate folk throughout the commercial provinces, but 
in general, though not absolutely, it advocated the meas- 
ures desired by the Boston radicals. It was resolved 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 harbour be repealed, the same will 
prove the salvation of North America and her Liberties;" 
otherwise " there is high reason to fear that fraud, power 
and the most odious oppression will rise triumphant over 
right, justice, social happiness and freedom." ^ A commit- 
tee was appointed to carry the resolutions in person to 
Salem and Marblehead, both towns being beneficiaries of 
the odious law^* and the committee of correspondence was 
ordered to dispatch messengers with the vote to the other 
towns of Massachusetts and to the other provinces. 

The resolution of May 13, soon to become famous 
throughout British America, was seconded by a circular 
letter sent forth the same day by the Boston Committee of 
Correspondence with the concurrence of the committees of 
eight adjoining towns." The single question, according to 
this letter, was : do you consider Boston as now suffering 
in the common cause of America? if so, may we not " rely 
on your suspending Trade with Great Britain at least . . ." 
A few days later the town meeting resolved : 

^Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, May 16, 1774; also Bos. Town Recs. {1770- 
J777), pp. 172-174. 

' Charlestown, Cambridge, Brookline, Dorchester, Lexington, Lynn, 
Newton and Roxbury. Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. x, pp. 810-81 1. 



314 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



That the trade of the town of Boston has been one essential 
link in that vast chain of commerce, which,- in the course of a 
few ages, has raised New England to be what it is, the 
Southern provinces to be what they are, the West Indies to 
their wealth, and, in one word, the British Empire to that 
heighth of oppulence, power, pride and splendor, at which it 
now stands/ 

The radicals waited to hear the response to the Boston ap- 
peal before pushing for more extreme measures. 

Town meetings at Salem and ]\Iarblehead rose splendidly 
to the occasion in spite of their privileged position under the 
act, and endorsed the Boston resolutions.^ Their benefits 
from the act \vere indeed more imaginary than actual, 
" Boston being the grand engine that gives motion to all the 
wheels of commerce " in the province and supplying in par- 
ticular an entrepot for the West Indian imports of those 
ports." Tw^enty-eight merchants of Marblehead invited the 
merchants of Boston to use their storerooms and wharves 
free of charge.* Without at present considering the atti- 
tude of the seaports in other provinces, other towns in 
Massachusetts responded favorably to the appeal of Boston.^ 

The town of Boston faced a difficult problem, that of 

^ May i8. Mass. Spy, May 19, I774; also Bos. Town Recs. {1770- 
1777), pp. 174-175. 

^ Essex Gas., May 24, 17741 Bos. Gaz., May 30. The Marblehead 
resolutions omitted mention of non-intercourse but expressed willing- 
ness to enter any " rational " agreement that might be generally 
adopted. 

'Letter of John Scollay, 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 369-370; address of 
Salem merchants, Mass. Spy, June 23, 1774. 

* Ibid. 

' E. g., the towns of Gloucester, Lunenburgh, Salisbury and Glassen- 
burg and the merchants of Newburyport acted before the end of June. 
Ibid., May 19, 1774; Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. ii, pp. 155, 233; Bos. 
Com. Cor. Mss., vol. viii. p. 713 ; vol. x, p. 802. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 315 

providing labor and sustenance for the hundreds of work- 
ingmen thrown out of employment by the closing of the 
port. The task of feeding the poor was somewhat simpli- 
fied by the generous donations of food and money which 
poured in from neighboring towns and from provinces as 
far away as South Carolina/ But this outside aid entailed 
a responsibiHty for administering the donations equitably; 
and the inevitable, though ill-founded, charges of corrup- 
tion appeared.' The committee appointed to deal with the 
unemployment question resorted to all sorts of expedients 
(such as, for instance, the building of a wharf with capital 
furnished by the wealthier citizens) ; but the best results 
were gotten from the employing of men to repair pave- 
ments, clean public docks, dig public wells, etc., from the 
establishment of a brickyard on town land, and the subsi- 
dizing of cotton and flax spinning.^ 

While the first anger aroused by the receipt of the Boston 
Port x\ct was still high, the merchants of the town were 
prevailed upon by the committee of correspondence to sign 
an agreement for severing all trade relations with Great 
Britain upon condition that their brethren in the other com- 
mercial provinces should embrace the same measure.* But 
of what they did in haste they soon repented at leisure. 
At a town meeting on May 30, the merchants and trades- 

^ For the correspondence of the Boston committee with the contrib- 
utors of the donations, vide 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, pp. 1-278. 

2'* A Friend to Boston" in A^ Y. Journ., Sept. 15, 1774; refutation 
of the committee, 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, pp. 277-278. 

* Bos. Town Recs. {1770-1777^, pp. 174-175, 181, 185-189; 4 M. H. S. 
Colls., vol. iv, pp. 275-277. 

* May 21, 1774. Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. iii, p. 187. This action 
was pressed through in face of the zealous opposition of merchants 
whom the committee of correspondence characterized as "the tools of 
Hutchinson and of the Commissioners." Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. x, 
pp. 808-810. 



3i6 THE COLOXIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

men attended two or three hundred strong, most of them 
determined to use their endeavors to secure payment for 
the tea. 

But [if a contemporary may be beHeved] so artful and in- 
dustrious were the principal heads of the opposition to gov- 
ernment, that they placed themselves at the doors of the hall 
and told the tradesmen as they entered that now was the time 
to save our country. That if they gave their voice in favor 
of paying for the tea, we should be undone, and the chains of 
slavery- rivitted upon us ! which so terrified many honest well 
meaning persons, that they thought it prudent not to act at all 
in the affair . . .^ 

The meeting succeeded in adopting a mild non-consumption 
agreement, the signers whereof agreed not to purchase any 
British manufactures that could be obtained in the province 
and to boycott those who conspired against the measures 
of the town." 

The impending departure of Governor Hutchinson for 
England and the arrival of the new governor, Thomas 
Gage, gave the merchants and conserv^atives an opportunity 
to make a quasi-official statement of their principles in public 
form. An address from " the Merchants and Traders of 
the town of Boston and others '' was presented to Hutch- 
inson on May 30. This document, shrewdly enough, con- 
tained a well-reasoned criticism of the Boston Port Act at 
the same time that it pledged the signers in opposition to 
the plans of the radicals. It praised the " wise, zealous, 
and faithful Administration " of Hutchinson, expressed a 
belief that the Boston Port Act would have been more just 

•^ Gray, H., A Few Remarks upon Some of the Votes and Resolutions 
of the Continental Congress . . . (Boston, 1775), pp. 6-7. Reprinted 
in Mag. N. Engl. Hist., vol. ii, pp. 42-58. 

^Bos. Town Recs. {1770-177/'), pp. 175-176. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES qt- 

if Boston had been given the alternative of conforming to 
its conditions within a specified period or of suffering the 
harsh consequences, bore solemn testimony against popular 
tumults, and asked Hutchinson to inform the king that the 
signers of the address would gladly pay their share of the 
<iamages suffered by the East India Company/ The paper 
was signed by one hundred and twenty-four men, of w^hom 
sixty-three were merchants and shopkeepers by admission 
of the radicals themselves and four others were employees 
of merchants." According to the lawyer, Daniel Leonard, 
the signers consisted " principally of men of property, 
large family connections, and several were independant in 
their circumstances and lived wholly upon the income of 
their estates. ... A very considerable proportion were 
persons that had of choice kept themselves from the polit- 
ical vortex . . . while the community remained safe " but 
now rallied to the cause of law and order. ^ When five 
gentlemen went to Governor Gage and inquired what the 
value of the tea destroyed was, he intimated that they would 

^ Mass. Spy, June 2, 1774; also i M. H. S. Procs., vol. xii, pp. 43-44- • 
The address of welcome of the merchants, traders and others to the 
new governor expressed substantially the same sentiments, condemning 
" lawless violences " and promising support in reimbursing the East 
India Company. Bos. Ere. Post, June 13, 1774. One hundred and 
twenty-seven signatures were attached. Loyal addresses, purporting to 
•come from the merchants, traders and other inhabitants of Marblehead 
and of Salem, were hkewise sent to the two gentlemen. Curwen, 
Journal, pp. 426-427, 431-432. 

' A complete tabulation shows 37 merchants and factors, 4 employees, 
26 shopkeepers, 7 distillers, 12 royal officials, 6 retired or professional 
men. 20 artisans or mechanics, 5 farmers, 7 uncertain, i M. H. S. 
Procs.. vol. xi, pp. 392-394. A number of the merchants had made 
themselves unpopular in the earlier non-importation movement, such as 
William Jackson, Benjamin Greene & Son, Colburn Barrell, Theophilus 
Lillie, James Selkrig, and J. & P. McMasters. 

* " Massachusettensis " in Mass. Ga::. & Post-Boy, Jan. 2, 1775. 



3i8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1768-1776 

learn when either the town of Boston in its corporate 
capacity or the General Court appHed to him.^ 

Fortunately for the merchants, an opportunity came to 
them to retrace the step they had taken in proposing a joint 
agreement of non-intercourse to the other merchants of the 
commercial provinces. In the early days of June, word 
arrived that the merchants in the leading ports outside of 
Massachusetts were not willing to join in this measure.^ 
The members of the trading body at Boston considered 
themselves absolved from their conditional pact, and refused 
absolutely to accept the repeated suggestions of Sam Adams 
and the radicals to go ahead independently in the matter. 
The Reverend Charles Chauncy, of Boston, voiced radical 
opinion, when he wrote on May 30, 1774, with reference to 
the merchants : 

so many of them are so mercenary as to find within themselves 
a readiness to become slaves themselves, as well as to be 
accessory to the slavery of others, if they imagine they may by 
this means serve their own private separate interest. Our de- 
pendence, under God, is upon the landed interest, upon our free- 
holders and yeomonry. By not buying of the merchants what 
they may as well do without, they may keep in their own 
pockets two or three millions sterling a year, which would 
otherwise be exported to Great-Brittain. I have reasons to 
think the effect of this barbarous Port-act will be [such] an 
agreement . . .^ 

Such indeed was the strategy of which the radicals now 
availed themselves. Convinced that the merchants could 

^ Letter to Philadelphia friend; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 380. The mer- 
chant, George Erving, for instance, was willing to subscribe £2000 
sterling toward a reimbursement fund for the East India Company. 
/ M. H. S. Procs., vol. viii, p. 329. 

2"Y. Z." in Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, June 27, 1774; " Candidus '^ 
(Sam Adams) in Bos. Gaz., June 27, and Mass. Spy, July 7. 

^ 2 M. H. S. Procs., vol. xvii., pp. 2^-2^. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 319 

not be relied upon to adopt the policy of non-intercourse, 
they decided to appeal to the people directly, over, their / 
heads. fOn June 5, 1774, the Boston Committee of Cor- 
respondence adopted a form of agreement for country 
circulation and adoption, which, in the fulness of their 
political sagacity, they named the '' Solemn League and 
Covenant." i^ It was hoped, no doubt, that the country 
people would be inspired by recollections of the doughty 
pact which their Cromwellian progenitors had made against 
King Charles more than a century before. The object of the 
agreement was not the reform of commercial legislation but / 
the repeal of punitive laws '' tending to the entire subver- 
sion of our natural and charter rights." / For this purpose, 
the subscribers, who might be of either sex, covenanted 
with each other " in the presence of God, solemnly and in 
good faith " to suspend all commercial intercourse with 
Great Britain thencelofth, and" herther'Io~pufchase nor use 
any British imports whatsoever after October i. All per- 
sons who refused to sign this or a similar covenant were to 
be boycotted forever, and their names made public to the 
world. 

i In fathering the Covenant, the Boston Committee of 
Correspondence acted secretly, without authorization of 
the town, and without intending to circulate the Covenant 
among the people of Boston. In truth, it was the purpose 
of the committee to have the Covenant appear to be the 
spontaneous action of the non-mercantile population of the 

^ On June 2 a sub-committee, consisting of Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. 
Benjamin Church and Mr. Greenleaf, had been instructed "to draw up 
a Solemn League and Covenant." Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. ix, pp. 
763-764. According to Sam Adams, the committee bestowed " care, 
pains, repeated and continued consideration upon a subject confessedly 
the most difficult that ever came before them." " Candidus " in Mass. 
^Py, July 7, 1774. For text of the Covenant, vide Mass. Gas. & Post- 
Boy, June 27; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 397-398. 



320 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



province. Thus the radical organ, the Boston Gazette, de- 
clared on June 13 : 

We learn from divers Parts of the Country that the People in 
general, having become quite impatient by not hearing a Non- 
Importation Agreement has yet been come into by the Mer- 
chants, are now taking the good Work into their own Hands, 
and have and are solemnly engaging not to purchase any Goods 
imported from Great-Britain, or to trade with those who do 
import or purchase such Goods. • • -T 

A few days later, the committee felt no. qualms in declaring 
unequivocally in their correspondence : ;,"-this Effectual Plan 
has been origanated and been thus far carried thro' by the 
two venerable orders of men stiled Mechanicks & husband- 
men, the strength of every community." ^ 

The merchants importing goods from England were, 
almost without exception, totally opposed to the Covenant 
when they learned of its circulation in the country towns. ^ 
A formal protest, signed by many merchants, declared that 
the Covenant was '' a base, wicked and illegal measure, cal- 
culated to distress and ruin many merchants, shopkeepers 
and others in this metropolis, and affect the whole commer- 
cial interest of this Province." " The argument w-as taken 

^ Letter to X. Y, Committee. June iS, 1774; Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. 
X, pp. 819-820. Vide also Mass. Spy, June 30, 1774; "Candidus" in 
ibid., July 7, and in Bos. Gas., June 27. When concealment of the 
truth was no longer possible, the committee simpl}'- claimed that the 
plan had been " intimated to them by their brethren in the country." 
Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. x, pp. 822-824. 

'Adams, S., Writings (Gushing), vol. iii, p. 145; letters of John An- 
drews in / M. H. S. Procs.s vol. viii, pp. 329-332 ; " An Old INIan " in 
Mass. Spy, July 21, 1774. 

' They declared that the staple articles of trade would cease, such as 
oil, pot and pearlash, flax seed, naval stores and lumber, and that ship- 
building would be seriously affected. Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, July 4, 
1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 490-491. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



321 



up by many newspaper writers in the mercantile interest, 
who declaimed against the harebrained scheme and under- 
handed methods of the committee of correspondence/ ; The 
very legality of the existence of the committee of coirres- 
pondence was questioned in view of the fact that it had 
been appointed in November, 1772, to perform a particular 
task and its tenure could not continue longer than the end 
of that year at the furthest." 

In anticipation of the gathering storm, the radicals has- 
tened to call a town meeting on June 17, which furnished 
the committee of correspondence with the formal legal 
sanction which its existence had lacked. The committee 
were thanked for the faithful discharge of their trust and 
desired to continue their vigilance and activity.^ Though 
taken by surprise, the merchants and conservatives deter- 
mined to bring about the discharge of the committee of 
correspondence. xA.fter a number of secret conferences, 
they decided that the effort shotdd be made at a town meet- 
ing on Monday, June 2y^ Great numbers of both parties 

^ The whale fishery and the- cod fishery, which employed so many, 
would be ruined, declared some, and without these profits merchants 
would be unable to pay debts owing to entirely blameless persons in 
England. Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, June 23, July 4, 1774. How could 
tw'o-thirds of the traders in the seaports live ? queried " Zach Free- 
man." Ibid., July 18. "Y. Z." spoke tearfully of his "sweet little 
prattling Innocents " who were now being threatened with " all the 
Horrors of Poverty, Beggary and Misery." Ibid., June 27. Others 
pointed out that the boycott feature made the Covenant " as tyrannical as 
the Spanish inquisition." Ibid., July 4, 18. 

' Vide particularly the protest signed by John Andrews, Thomas 
Amory, John Amory, Caleb Blanchard, Samuel Eliot and four others. 
Ibid., July 4, 1774- 

^ Ibid., June 20, 1774; also Bos. Town Recs. {i770-i777), PP- 17^-177- 

4 The official account of this meeting is in ibid., pp. 177-178; also 
Mass. Spy, June 30, 1774. For other contemporary accounts, vide 
^' Candidus " in Mass. Spy, July 7; Gage's account, 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 
pp. S14-515; letter of William Barrell, M. H. S. Mss., 41 F 66; anony- 
mous account in Mass. Spy, June 30. 



322 



THE COLOXIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



attended, and Sam Adams was chosen moderator. A mo- 
tion was passed for the reading of all letters sent by the 
committee of correspondence since the receipt of the Boston 
Port Act; and when this performance promised to be too 
lengthy, another motion w^as carried for confining the read- 
ing to the Covenant and letters particularly called for. This 
done, Mr. [Harrison?] Gray offered the momentous motion 
that the committee of correspondence be censured and dis- 
missed from further service. Adams now voluntarily 
vacated the chair until the subject of the committee, whereof 
he was chairman, should be disposed of; and a moderate 
radical, Thomas Gushing, was chosen in his stead. The 
debates which ensued lasted far into dusk ; and the meeting 
was adjourned to the following morning to continue the 
discussion. The speakers on the mercantile side marshaled 
forth all the arguments which had been ventilated in the 
newspapers ; and even some of the more radical merchants 
complained against the shortness of time allowed for re- 
ceiving goods from England before the Govenant went into 
effect. Ardent enthusiasm and a well-knitted organization 
now served well the purposes of the radicals; the motion 
for censure was lost by a large majority, not more than 
fifty or sixty hands being in favor. The town then voted 
their approval of " the upright Intentions and . . . honest 
Zeal of the Committee of Correspondence . . ." To Gov- 
ernor Gage the whole affair appeared to be clearly a case 
of '' the better sort of people " being " out voted by a great 
majority of the lower class." 

Defeated in their main purpose, the merchants now used 

\ such means as were yet at hand to discredit the Covenant. 

» One hundred and twenty-nine inhabitants of the town signed 
a protest against the doings of the town meeting, and a 
second protest, dift'ering but slightly, appeared with eight 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 323 

signatures/ Governor Gage also issued a proclamation 
which denounced '' certain persons calling themselves a 
Committee of Correspondence for the town of Boston," 
for attempting to excite the people of the province '' to 
enter into an unwarrantable, hostile and traitorous com- 
bination," and which commanded all magistrates to arrest 
all persons who circulated the so-called Covenant.^ 

The disapproval of the Boston merchants and of the 
government served only to increase the popularity of the 
Covenant in the rural districts. At Hardwicke, a magis- 
trate, brave old Brigadier Ruggles, announced that he would 
conform to Gage's proclamation and jail any man who 
signed the paper; w^hereupon almost one hundred men 
signed and left him powerless/ Worcester adopted a modi- 
fied form of the Covenant, inserting the date August i in 
place of October i as the time after which all British im- 
ports should be boycotted/ The Worcester alteration soon 
superseded the Boston plan in popular favor. Exclusive of 
the places already named, the Covenant in one form or 
other was adopted by at least thirteen towns, before the 
meeting of the Continental Congress in September, 1774/ 
Many other towns sympathized with the intent of the Cove- 
nant but postponed action because of the certainty that an 

^ Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, July 4, 1774; also i M. H. S. Procs., vol. xi, 
PP- 394-395. 

^ Mass. Spy, June 30, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 491-492. The 
justices of the County of Plymouth also adopted an address, in which 
they promised to maintain order and justice in face of all illegal com- 
binations. Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, July 18, 1774; also Am. Arch., vol. 
i, pp. 515-516. 

2 Bos. Gas., July 4, 1774. 

* Pickering Papers, vol. xxxix, p. 54. 

^ Athol, Bernardston. Billerica, Braintree, Brimneld, Cape Elizabeth, 
Charlton, Colerain, Gloucester, Gorham, Hopkinton, Lincoln, Shrews- 
bury. Vide correspondence of Bos. Com. Cor. and current newspapers. 



324 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



interprovincial congress would assemble to deal with the 
whole question/ Of serious opposition, there was little or 
none.^ 

The covenant movement gained further impetus by reason 
of the fact that various county conventions took an in- 
terest in the matter ; and when the provincial convention of 
Massachusetts met in October, that body resolved, on the 
twenty-eighth of the month, that whereas no explicit direc- 
tions had yet arrived from the Continental Congress (which 
had adjourned but two days before), and as the great 
majority of the people of the province had entered into 
agreements of non-importation and non-consumption, they 
earnestly recommended to all the inhabitants of Massachu- 
setts to conform to these regulations until the Continental 
Congress or the provincial convention should direct other- 
wise. The convention recommended that all recalcitrant 
importers be boycotted, and declared the non-consumption 
of " all kinds of East India teas," urging the local commit- 
tees to post the names of violators.^ The action of the pro- 

^ The committees of the maritime towns of Marblehead and Salem 
named this as the cause of their inactivity, and entered the further 
objection that Boston herself had not adopted the Covenant. Bos. Com. 
Cor. Papers, vol. iii, pp. 475-477, 491-492 ; Pickering Papers, vol. xxxiii, 
p. 96. At least six other towns announced themselves in favor of the 
principles of the Covenant, but declared they would await the outcome 
of the Continental Congress : Acton, Charlemont, Charlestown, Fal- 
m.outh, Palm.er, Springfield. Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. iii, passim; 
Pickering Papers, vol. xxxiii, passim. 

^ Forty-six traders and freeholders of Easton announced to Governor 
Gage, under their signatures, that they were opposed to the Covenant 
and to riots and routs. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 613-614; also Mass. 
Gas. & Post-Boy, July 25, 1774. At Worcester, the conservatives made 
an abortive attempt to unseat the local committee of correspondence. 
Ibid., July 4. Vide also Mass. Spy, Dec. 8. 

'4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 840, 848; also Mass. Spy, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, 
1774. County conventions in Berkshire, Suffolk, Plymouth and Bristol 
had gone furthest in their resolutions of non-importation and non- 
consumption. Ibid., July 28, Sept. 15, Oct. 6, 13. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES ci2s 

vincial convention capped the movement that had begun in 
a small way through locally adapted covenants. Because 
of the lateness of the occurrence, however, the event had 
no practical importance. 

Outside of Massachusetts the Solemn League and Cove- 
nant failed to make headway, although the Boston Com- 
mittee urged it on all the New England provinces. The 
Portsmouth, N. H., Committee sent out a covenant for 
adoption closely modeled on the Worcester plan, but it was 
apparently adopted nowhere.^ The towns of Rhode Island 
and Connecticut objected to the measure as inexpedient. 
As Silas Deane wrote to the Boston Committee in behalf of 
the Connecticut General Assembly, it was the general opin- 
ion that : 

A congress is absolutely necessary previous to almost every 
other measure . . . The resolves of merchants of any indi- 
vidual town or province, however generously designed, must 
be partial when considered in respect to the whole Colonies 
in one general view ; while, on the other hand, every measure 
recommended, every resolve come into by the whole united 
colonies must carry weight and influence with it on the mind 
of the people and tend effectually to silence those base insinu- 
ations ... of interested motives, sinister views, unfair prac- 
tices and the like, for the vile purposes of sowing seeds of 
jealousy between the Colonies . . r 

In Rhode Island the towns of Providence, Newport and 
Westerly expressed their willingness to enter into a plan of 

^ 2 M. H. S. Procs., vol. ii, pp. 481-486. Vide also 4 Am. Arch.^ vol. i, 
pp. 745-746. 

'Letter of June 3, 1774; A^. F. Journ., Mch. 9, 1775; also 4 Am. 
Arch., vol. i, pp. 303-304. Vide also Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. ii, pp. 
111-112, 251-253; Conn. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ii, pp. 129-130; Adams, S., 
Writings (Gushing), vol. iii, pp. 114-116, 125-126. 



326 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

joint non-intercourse, as proposed in the Boston circular 
letter of May 13; and Providence instructed her deputies 
in the General Assembly to propose a continental congress 
as the best means of devising an effective plan/ In Con- 
necticut New Haven responded favorably to the Boston 
circular letter on May 23; and in June, town meetings in 
at least fourteen towns pledged their support to any reason- 
able plan of non-intercourse drawn up by a general con- 
gress." In almost every case committees of correspond- 
ence were appointed; and thus this occasion marks the ex- 
tension to Connecticut of the plan of municipal committees 
for radical propaganda. 

The truth was that the Covenant was a device that was 
particularly well adapted to the purposes of the radicals of 
Massachusetts, where there had been imminent danger that 
the conservative merchants would stem the tide of opposi- 
tion. But there was no very good reason why other New 
England provinces should join in the measure; the Boston 

^ These instructions, adopted ]\'Iay 17, were the first instance of agi- 
tation for a continental congress by a pubHc body. R. L Col. Recs., vol. 
vii, pp. 280-281, 289-290; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 343-344- 

' Canterbury, Farmington, Glastenbury, Groton, Hartford, Lyme, 
Middletown, New Haven, New London. Norfolk, Norwich, Preston, 
Wethersfield, Windham. Five towns adopted similar resolves later: 
Bolton, Enfield, Goshen, Greenwich, Windsor. Vide files of Conn. Ga::;., 
Conn. Cour. and Conn. Joiirn. in this period. Only two communities, 
Brooklyti parish in Pomfret and the town of Stonington, entered an 
immediate agreement of non-consumption along the lines of the Cove- 
nant. Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. ii, 199-200, 215-218, 237-239. As late 
as September an effort was made by the Hartford Committee, while 
Silas Deane was absent at the Continental Congress, to call a provin- 
cial convention in order to adopt a general non-consumption agreement 
for the province. On September 15, delegates from four counties 
gathered to consider the matter, but concluded upon vigorous resolu- 
tions in support of the anticipated measures of the Continental Con- 
gress. Conn. Cour., Sept. 19, I774; Conn. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ii, pp. 
151-152. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 327 

invitation of May 13 for co-operative measures among the 
provinces commended itself as a more feasible mode of pro- 
cedure. As the movement for a continental congress gained 
ground in other provinces, the New England provinces did 
not lag in taking effective action in that direction. The 
radicals used the instruments which came readiest to hand. 
On June 15 the General Assembly of Rhode Island chose 
delegates to the Continental Congress.^ In Connecticut the 
House of Representatives delegated the function to the 
legislative committee of correspondence, which designated 
delegates to the congress on July 13.^ The path of the 
radicals in New Hampshire was beset with greater difficul- 
ties. Early in July the legislative committee of correspond- 
ence called a meeting of the late members of the House of 
Representatives at Portsmouth for the selection of dele- 
gates to Congress ; but when the gentlemen convened. Gov- 
ernor Wentworth confronted them with doughty speech 
and deterrent proclamation, and they betook themselves to 
the tavern where, over the warming victuals, they agreed to 
call a provincial convention to accomplish what they had 
failed to do. This convention, composed of representatives 
from many towns, met on July 21 and duly chose delegates 
to the congress.^ 

The Boston circular letter of May 13 was carried to the 
main ports throughout the commercial provinces by Paul 
Revere. Before the swift rider had started for New York, 
however, a copy of the Port Act had arrived there; and 
Isaac Sears and Alexander McDougall, acting, it would 
appear, for the ultra-radical committee of correspondence 
appointed during the anti-tea commotions, transmitted to 

^ Mass. Spy, June 23, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 416-417. 

^ Conn. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ii, p. 138 n. 

' Letters of Wentworth, 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 516, 536, 745-746- 



328 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the Boston Committee a promise of ardent support. The 
writers stated that they had '* stimulated " the merchants to 
meet on the next evening in order to agree upon non-inter- 
course with England and a limited non-exportation to the 
West Indies.^ Apparently they had no suspicion that they 
would not be able to carry things their own way; but they 
had strangely misapprehended the situation. For their task, 
the radicals, confronted with heavy odds, needed a leader 
of the caliber of Sam Adams. Could their forces have been 
directed by a man of dominant personality, with a mind 
skilled in political artifice and a single-minded devotion to 
a great idea, the story of the subsequent two months might 
have been different. Instead, these qualities were possessed 
by the moderate party; and the fate of the radical cause 
was in the hands of men of second-rate ability, who sought 
to promote their ends by a species of indirection and who 
were, in the disappointing sense of the word, opportunists. 
McDougall was regarded by the moderates as "the Wilkes 
of New York," " Sears as " a political cracker " and a 
" quidnunc in politics ;" ^ and they experienced '' great 
pain ... to see a number of persons [such as John Morin 
Scott and John Lamb, no doubt] who have not a shilling to 
lose in the contest, taking advantage of the present dispute 
and forcing themselves into public notice." * As for the 
committee of correspondence, it was composed ''of eight 
or ten flaming patriots without property or anything else 
but impudence." ^ Colden correctly pictured the reaction 

^ Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, vol. ii, pp. 343-346. Letter of ]\Iay 15. 

' Colden to Dartmouth, Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 346-347. 

^"A Merchant of New York" in A'. Y. Gazetteer, Aug. 18, 1774. 

*"Mercator" in ihid., Aug. 11, 1774. 

^ Letter from New York in London Morning Post, reprinted in .V. Y. 
Journ., Aug. 25, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 299-302 n. Vide 
also Colden's characterization, Letter Books, vol. ii. pp. 339-340. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 329 

which had set in since the destruction of the tea at New 
York, when he wrote on September 7, 1774 :_^'' the Gentle- 
men of Property and principal Merchants attended the 
meetings of the populace, when called together by their 
former Demagogues, who thereby have lost their Influence 
and are neglected. The Populace are now directed by Men 
of different Principles & who have much at stake." ^ 

The merchants' meeting was duly held on Monday eve- 
ning. May 16, and the radicals who attended found that, 
instead of having their own way, the existing committee 
was discharged, their slate for a new committee of twenty- 
five was rejected, and a new committee of fifty, proposed 
by the men of property, was nominated.^ The committee 
thus nominated included in its membership such men as 
Sears and McDougall as a concession to the radicals, but 
the majority of the members were " the most considerable 
Merchts and Men of cool Tempers w^ho would endeavour 
to avoid all extravagant and dangerous Measures." ^ Some 
of them had never before " join'd in the public proceedings 
of the Opposition and were induced to appear in what they 
are sensible is an illegal Character, from a Consideration 
that if they did not the business would be left in the same 
rash Hands as before."* Others, such as the chairman, 
Isaac Low, had been the prime movers in the earlier con- 
tests for remedial trade legislation, and were now deter- 
mined to master the whirlwind which they had then so 
recklessly sown. At least twenty-five of the fifty committee- 

1 Letter to Dartmouth ; Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 359-360. 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 393-394. In this and all later accounts of 
New York politics, the author has frequently and gratefully consulted 
Professor Becker's History of Political Parties in the Province of 
New York, 1760-1776. 

* Colden, Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 346-347. 

* Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 339-341. Vide also unsigned letter, 4 Am. Arch.^ 
vol. i, p. 302 n. 



330 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



men had been among those merchants and traders who had 
" exerted themselves in a most extraordinary manner " to 
cause New York to break through the non-importation 
agreement in July, 1770/ 

A mass meeting of the city and county was called for 
Thursday, May 19, to confirm the nominations made at the 
merchants' meeting." When the citizens assembled, Gouv- 
erneur Morris stood watching them from the balcony of the 
Coffee House. "On my right hand," he wrote later, "were 
ranged all the people of property, with some poor depend- 
ants, and on the other all the tradesmen, &c., who thought 
it worth their while to leave daily labour for the good of 
the country." ^ The merchants quickly showed their supe- 
rior strength by the selection of Isaac Low as chairman of 
the meeting. The merchants' slate was confirmed with little 
difficulty; as an eleventh-hour and unimportant concession 
to the radicals, the name of Francis Lewis was added to the 
committee by unanimous consent, making the membership 
fifty-one.* At the very first meeting of the Fifty-One, the 
Committee of Mechanics, which had now superseded the 
Sons of Liberty as the radical organization, sent in a letter, 
according their concurrence in the election of the new com- 
mittee.® 

^ J^ide list of the latter in Bos. Gas., July 23, 1770. Nineteen members 
of the committee later became avowed loyalists. Becker, op. cit., p. 
116, n. 16. 

2 The notice of the meeting declared, by way of reassurance, that 
" the gentlemen appointed are of the body of merchants ; men of 
property, probity, and understanding, whose zeal for the public good 
cannot be doubted, their own several private interests being so inti- 
mately connected with that of the whole community . . ." 4 Am. Arch., 
vol. i, p. 293 n. 

' Sparks, Goiivernenr Morris, vol. i, pp. 23-26. 

*4 Am-. Arch., vol. i, pp. 294-295. For names of the original fifty, 
vide ibid., p. 293. 

' Ibid., vol. i, p. 295. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 331 

Gouvemeur Morris, who himself possessed strong mod- 
erate sympathies, reflected upon the election of the Fifty- 
One in this wise : 

The spirit of the English Constitution has yet a little influence 
left, and but a little. . . . The mob begin to think and to 
reason. Poor reptiles ! it is with them a vernal morning ; they 
are struggling to cast off their winter's slough, they bask in 
the sunshine, and ere noon they will bite, depend upon it. The 
gentry begin to fear this. Their Committee will . . . deceive 
the people, and again forfeit a share of their confidence. And 
if these instances of what with one side is policy, and with 
the other perfidy, shall continue to increase, and become more 
frequent, farewell aristocracy.^ 

At their very first meeting on May 23, the Committee of 
Fifty-One, thus constituted and controlled, drew up a reply 
to the Boston circular letter of May 13. Phrased with ex- 
cessive caution, this answer expressed deep concern at the 
dilemma of Boston, but declared in favor of postponing all 
active measures until an interprovincial congress should be 
held." On June 3, they sent a letter to the supervisors of all 
the counties, proposing the appointment of committees of 

^ Sparks, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 23-26. 

*4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 297-298. No course could have been more 
unsatisfactory to the leaders of the popular party at Boston, as they at 
once made clear. The Boston Committee responded that, even if the 
congress assembled with the greatest possible expedition, it would be 
many months before a non-intercourse could become effective, whereas 
an immediate suspension of trade would have " a speedy and irresis- 
table operation " upon the British government. Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, 
vol. X, pp. 807-808. Furthermore, the Bostonians were aware, even if 
they were silent on the point, that the postponement opened a wide 
door for the importation of British goods at New York in anticipation 
of a possible non-intercourse later. The New York Committee remained 
unmoved. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 303-304; A^- ^- Journ., June 2, 1774 



332 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776- 

correspondence in the various towns. ^ The motive of the 
Fifty-One seems to have been to adapt the Massachusetts 
plan of radical agitation to the sterling purposes of con- 
servative indoctrination. They took this step with the 
greater assurance, because the rural towns, except Albany, 
had been notoriously apathetic, if not unsympathetic, dur- 
ing the troubles over the Stamp Act and the Townshend 
duties. The instinctive conservatism of the great land- 
owners, and the natural intellectual torpidity of the small 
farmers, undisturbed by the yeast of a constant exercise in 
local government or by the machinations of a group of city 
politicians (as in Massachusetts), seemed in this ..instance 
to make the rural population the natural allies of the great 
merchants. The latter failed to perceive, however, that the 
mass of inland people, engaged in the pressing task of mak- 
ing a livelihood, would be inclined to be unresponsive to any 
approaches from outside, whether from the one side or the 
other; either that, or, as the canny Golden feared, "the 
Business in the Counties will be left to a few fonvard in- 
temperate Men, who will undertake to speak for the whole 

}} 2 

Both eventualities seem to have occurred. The invita- 
tion of the Fifty-One met wnth little response, only four 
towns, it would appear, appointing committees of corres- 
pondence in the subsequent two months ; and three of these 
towns belonged to Suffolk County at the eastern end of 
Long Island, which had been founded by natives of Con- 
necticut. The resolutions of these towns were more ex- 
treme than the Fifty-One wished, all of them favoring 
some form of non-intercourse along the lines proposed by 

1 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 300-301. 

' " Could their sentiments be fairly known I make no doubt a large 
Majority would be for the most Moderate & Prudent Measures." Col- 
den to Tryon, June 2, 1^74; Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 345. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 333 

Eoston/ In Cumberland County, the supervisors deliber- 
ately withheld the letters from the towns ; but when in Sep- 
tember the existence of the letters became known, delega- 
tions from two towns insisted that the instructions of the 
Fifty-One be carried out, and in October a county conven- 
tion was held at Westminster, which adopted vigorous reso- 
lutions of a radical character." 

Defeated in their original fight for a friendly committee 
of correspondence, the radical leaders at New York City 
now undertook to turn the tables "on the moderates by de- 
vising a method of selecting delegates to the impending 
congress, who would go pledged to carry out radical ideas. 
Realizing their inability to attain their ends through the aid 
of the moderate majority of the Fifty-One, the radicals , 
now began to claim for the Committee of Mechanics a co- 
ordinate authority in nominating a ticket of delegates to the 
congress.^ On June 29, McDougall made a motion that a 
ticket of five names should be proposed by the Fifty-One, 
sent to the Committee of Mechanics for their concurrence, 
and then submitted to the freeholders and freemen of city 
and county for their ratification. When the discussion be- 
cam.e protracted, a vote on the question was postponed until 
the next meeting on July 4, when the radical plan was 
swamped by a vote of 24 to 13.* A motion providing for 

^ Southhaven, Easthampton and Huntington in Suffolk County; 
Orange Town in Orange County. Becker, op. cit., pp. 136-138 and 
references. Other towns may have acted. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 218-219, 1064-1066. 

' It will be recalled that the election of the Fifty- One had been for- 
mally assented to by the Committee of Mechanics, though this action 
came without any solicitation from the moderates. 

* This vote reveals the personnel of the radical minority, as follows : 
Abraham Brasher, John Broome, Peter T. Curtenius, Joseph Hallett, 
Francis Lewis, Leonard Lispenard, P. V. B. Livingston, Abraham P. 
Lott, Alexander McDougall, John Moore, Thomas Randall, Isaac Sears, 
Jacobus Van Zandt. However, on later votes Moore sided with the 
majority. Ibid., vol. i, pp. 307-308. 



334 ^^^ COLOXIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

exclusive nomination by the Fifty-One and later ratification 
by the freeholders and freemen was at once adopted by 
nearly the same numbers. Sears immediately placed in 
nomination the names of Isaac Low, James Duane, Philip 
Livingston, John Morin Scott and Alexander McDougall 
for the coveted positions. This list was offered by the 
radicals with a genuine hope of its adoption, for it was 
composed of two confirmed moderates, Low and Duane, 
merchant and lawyer; the merchant, Livingston, who pos- 
sessed inclinations both ways ; ^ and the two out-and-out 
radicals. But the majority failed to see any occasion for 
compromise; and they substituted the moderates, John Jay 
and John Alsop, lawyer and merchant, for the two radical 
nominees. They then passed a motion calling a public meet- 
ing for Thursday, July 7, to concur in their nominations or 
to choose others in their stead." 

The radicals had an interv^al of two days before the meet- 
ing of the seventh in which to retrieve the disaster which 
had again been visited upon them, and they set to work to 
accomplish this through the agency of the Committee of 
Mechanics. On Tuesday, July 5, that body took under 
consideration the nominations made by the " Committee of 
Merchants," as they preferred to style the Fifty-One, and 
placed a negative on Duane and Alsop, substituting Mc- 
Dougall and Lispenard in their stead. They issued an ap- 
peal to the public, explaining that " the Committee of ^ler- 
chants did refuse the ^Mechanics a representation on their 
body, or to consult with their committee, or offer the names 
of the persons nominated to them for their concurrence," 
and they exhorted '' the mechanics . . . and every other 
friend to the liberty of his country " to rally to the support 

^ Vide Becker's note on Livingston, op. cit., p. 122, n. 29. 
^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 308-309. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 335 

of the new ticket at the Thursday's meeting/ The radicals 
next arranged a pubHc demonstration in the Fields on the 
following evening, July 6, the night before the meeting 
called by the Fifty-One. Naturally no moderates attended; 
and the '' numerous meeting " under the chairmanship of 
the energetic McDougall adopted unanimous resolutions in 
support of Boston, and forthwith " instructed, empowered 
and directed " the New York delegates to the congress to 
agree for the city to a non-importation and to " all such 
other measures " as Congress should deem necessary for a 
redress of American grievances.^ The radicals expected to 
accomplish a coup d'etat; obviously the giving of instruc- 
tions properly belonged to the public meeting regularly 
called by the Fifty-One. 

The labors of the radicals were not without effect, al- 
though the results fell short of what they desired to accom- 
plish. When the public meeting assembled Thursday noon, 
it was unanimously voted that a canvass of the freeholders, 
freemen and taxpayers of the city should be made on the 
two tickets, under the joint supervision of the Fifty-One 
and the Committee of Mechanics.^ The moderate majority 
had thus been forced to recognize the Committee of Me- 
chanics and to extend the franchise beyond the freeholders 
and freemen ; indeed, all later canvasses of the city, with a 
single unimportant exception, were on the basis of this ex- 

^ Advertisement of July 6; Broadsides (N. Y. Hist. Soc), vol. i. 

' A^ Y. Gas., July 11, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 312-313. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 309-310. Freemen were those who had purchased 
the privilege of engaging in certain occupations within the corporations 
of New York and Albany. The electoral freeholders were those who 
possessed, free of incumbrance, an estate in fee, for life, or by cour- 
tesy, of the value of £40. The proportion of electors to the total popu- 
lation was about 12 per cent in 1790, and no doubt smaller in the earlier 
years. Becker, op. cit., pp. lo-ii. 



336 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

tended suffrage. But in a session the same evening, the 
Fifty-One formally disavowed, by the usual majority, the 
proceedings of the irregular meeting of the night before on 
the ground that they were intended to reflect on the Fifty- 
One and create divisions among the citizens; and they ap- 
pointed a committee of their own to draw up proper in- 
structions/ While a motion was being made to depart 
from the usual custom of secrecy maintained by the Fifty- 
One and to publish this vote of disavowal, a number of the 
radicals withdrew in a rage, ordering their names to be 
struck from the committee roster and shouting along the 
streets, " The Committee is dissolved, the Committee is dis- 
solved." ^ 

On the next day matters between the radicals and the 
moderates came to a head. The conference between the 
sub-committees of the Fifty-One and the Committee of Me- 
chanics reached an absolute deadlock over the manner of 
conducting the canvass of the city; ^ arrangements for a 
vote thus came to a halt. Later in the day eleven radical 
members of the Fifty-One announced their resignation in a 
public statement, alleging as their chief reason the vote of 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 310-312. 

■^ " One of the Committee" in ibid., vol. i, pp. 314-315; also N. Y. 
Gazetteer, July 14, 1774. 

' The former insisted that the voters must make a blanket choice 
between the two lists. The latter held that the voters should select any 
five of the seven candidates. (It will be recalled that, although the two 
tickets contained ten names, the names of Low, Livingston and Jay 
appeared on both tickets.) As the real contest lay between Duane and 
Alsop of the moderate slate and McDougall and Lispenard of the 
radical slate, the voting of a spht ticket, it was believed, would work 
to the benefit of McDougall, who was a man of considerable popularity; 
while it was not thought that many voters would be willing to sacrifice 
both Duane and Alsop in order to vote for him. McDougall withdrew 
his candidacy, alleging the unfairness of the plan of the Fifty-One. 
McDougall to the Freeholders, July 9, 1774; Broadsides, vol. i. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 337 

disavowal and censure passed by the committee on the pre- 
vious evening/ Until July 13, matters remained at a 
deadlock, each side apparently awaiting some move of the 
other. On the evening of July 13, the "Fifty-One" 
adopted a set of resolutions, which defined their platform 
of public policy in sharp contrast with that of the radicals. 
They called a public meeting at the Coffee House for Tues- 
day, July 19, in order to act on these resolutions and to 
ratify the committee's nominations for, Congress. As a ;^ 
matter of fact, these resolutions marked little or no ad- 
vance beyond the non-committal letter written by the Fifty- 
One on May 23 in answer to the Boston circular letter. 
On the issues of primary concern, they asserted that, while ^ 
all delegates ought to go to .Congress empowered to bind a 
the provinces they represented, it would be premature for 
any one province to anticipate,,Congress's conduct by giving -U^x 
instructions; that only dire necessity would justify commer- 
cial opposition; and that a non-importation, only partially 
observed like the last one, would be worse than none at all.^ 
Of the public meeting of July 19 no satisfactory account 
remains ; but it is clear that the generalship of the moder- 
ates proved temporarily inadequate. The resolutions pro- 
posed by the " Fifty-One " were rejected as '' void of 
vigour, sense and integrity;" and the meeting, determined 
to decentralize the power of the " Fifty-One," entrusted 
the formulation of new resolutions to a specially-created 
committee, consisting of ten radicals and five moderates. 
As for the ticket of delegates submitted to the meeting, it 
would appear that three of the nominations (Low, Alsop 
and Jay) were ratified and two " unexceptionable friends 

^ Brasher, Broome, Hallett, Lewis, Lispenard. P. V. B. Livingston, 
Lott, McDougall, Randall, Sears and Van Zandt. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 
pp. 313-314. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 315; Broadsides, vol. i. 



338 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763.1776 

of liberty " were added. ^ The moderates at once bent 
every energy to discredit completely the doings of the public 
gathering. At a session in the evening the " Fifty-One " 
wrote into their minutes their opinion that " as only a, small 
proportion of the citizens attended the meeting " at noon 
and "the sentiments of the majority" continued "uncer- 
tain," a canvass of the town should be made to ascertain 
the opinion of the people on this matter and also on the 
ticket of delegates nominated by the Fifty-One.^ In other 
words, they repudiated entirely the public meeting which 
they themselves had called. Their action gained moral 
weight the next day when Low, Alsop and Jay declared 
that they could not deem themselves or any others as prop- 
erly nominated as delegates until the sentiments of the town 
had been ascertained with greater precision. Likewise, four 
of the five moderates, appointed on the new committee of 
fifteen for drawing up resolutions, resigned their appoint- 
ments.^ This committee, however, with depleted member- 
ship, went ahead with its w^ork and prepared resolutions 
for public ratification which, in substance if not in spirit, 
resembled the radical platform of July 6.* But the mod- 
erates were again in control of the situation ; and when the 

^ N. Y. Gas., July 25, 1774; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 315, 3i7-3i8- 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 315-317. For this purpose the resolutions of the 
" Fifty-One " were slightly modified but in no important respect. Vide 
summary in Becker, op. cit., p. 133, n. 57. 

' Duane, the fifth moderate, was not in town. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 
pp. 317-318- 

* The tenth resolution promised obedience to the conclusions of the 
Continental Congress, and the twelfth declared that it was " highly 
necessary" that Congress should adopt a non-importation with Great 
Britain. An innovation was the eleventh resolution, which proposed a 
provincial convention as the proper mode of electing delegates. A''. Y.. 
Gaz., July 25, 1774. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 339 

meeting, called to endorse the radical resolutions, assembled 
on July 25, " nothing decisive was resolved upon." ^ 

The subsequent events leading to the election of delegates ^x 
"can be explained only on the theory that the radicals real- 
ized that the moderates were the dominant factor in mold- 
ing public opinion, and that therefore they felt, in order to 
save any part of their platform, they must resort to oppor- 
tunism.^ The " Fifty-One " at their meeting of July 25 y 
voted that a poll be opened on Thursday, July 28, at the 
usual places of election in each ward to elect delegates to 
Congress ; and the Committee of Mechanics were invited to 
co-operate with them in helping to superintend the election.^ 

On the following day a group of radicals sent a communi- 
cation to the delegates nominated by the Fifty-One, prom- y 
ising their support in case the candidates pledged their 
" utmost endeavours " at the congress in support of a non- 
importation agreement; that otherwise a rival ticket would: 
be nominated. The candidates responded that they would: 
use their " utmost endeavours " to promote every measure- 
at the congress that might " then " be thought conducive to- 
the general welfare, and that '' at present " they believed: 
that a " general non-importation faithfully observed " 
would prove the best means for procuring redress.^ This 
reply clearly failed to make the concession which the inter- 
rogators had demanded and which had been the sine qua non 
of the radical position all along. Indeed the only detail in 
which the reply differed from the resolutions proposed by 

^ N. Y. Gaz., Aug. i, 1774. 

^ As late as Oct. 5 Colden believed that "in the City a large Majority 
of the People" were against a non-importation agreement. Letter 
Books, vol. ii, pp. 366-368. 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 318. 

* Only four of the candidates repHed, as Duane was still absent fr^m, 
the city. Ibid., vol. i, pp. 319-320; also A^. Y. Gazetteer, Aug. 4, 1774. 



340 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the " Fifty-One " was that the delegates entertained a 
present opinion that a non-importation faithfully observed 
would prove the most effective measure. This slight con- 
cession was apparently sufficient to save the self-respect of 
the radicals, and they acquiesced in the moderate ticket. 
Accordingly, at the Thursday's poll. Low, Jay, Livingston, 
Alsop and Duane were unanimously chosen for the city and 
county of New York. 

The " Fifty-One " lost no time in informing the rural 
counties of the action of New York and requested them 
either to appoint delegates of their own or to give express 
authorization to the New York delegates to act for them.^ 
This appeal brought somewhat better results than the earlier 
request for the formation of committees of correspondence, 
although it is clear that, as before, affairs were carried 
through " by a very few Persons, who took upon them- 
selves to act for the Freeholders." ^ Nevertheless, the pro- 
posal went to the counties with the seal of approval of the 
wholly moderate committee at New York and thus elicited 
interest from the large landholders as well as the more 
volatile elements in the population. Only three counties 
elected delegates of their own — the New-England-infected 
county of Suffolk and the nearby counties of Kings and 
Orange. Golden was informed by a person present at the 
Orange County meeting that not twenty men were present 
for the election, though the county contained more than 
one thousand freeholders.^ In Kings, it would appear that 
two congenial souls gathered; one was chosen chairman. 
the other clerk ; and the latter certified to Congress that the 
former, Simon Boerum, was unanimously elected to repre- 

^ July 29, 1774. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 322. For the action of the 
counties, vide Becker, op. cit, pp. 139-141, and references. 
' Golden, Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 366-36S. 
^Ibid. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES o^I 

sent the county/ Four counties — Albany, Dutchess, Ulster 
and Westchester — adopted the alternative plan proposed by 
the " Fifty-One," and in a more or less regular fashion 
authorized the city delegates to act for them. Thus, includ- 
ing New York County, eight counties in all, *' representing 
a great majority of this Colony, whether this is determined 
by Counties, inhabitants, wealth or the number of members 
they send to the General Assembly," took action favorable 
to the congress, of a more or less representative character.^ 
Six counties remained unresponsive to the appeal of the 
" Fifty-One." 

The progress of events at Philadelphia, when news of the 
Boston Port Act arrived there, resembled that which had 
occurred at New York. The moderate element, which had 
/ always had a strong hold on the city and province, was 
/ composed chiefly of the great importers of British goods \ 
I and the generality of the Quaker sect to which most of 
r them belonged. This party, heartily condemning the de- 
struction of the tea at Boston and likewise disapproving of 
the punitive measures of Parliament, believed that the only 
proper method of opposition was a memorial or remon- 
strance drawn up by the Assembly; a few of them were 
willing to favor an interprovincial congress if its activities 
were limited to the single function of presenting a petition 
of grievances. The radicals, on the other hand, led by the 
resourceful Charles Thomson, were determined to make 
immediate common cause with Boston, and, through pop- 
ular meetings, to force Philadelphia as far in that direction 
as they could. John Dickinson, by his earlier leadership of 

^ Joseph Galloway repeated this tale on the authority of " almost all 
the Delegates of New York." The Examination of Joseph Galloway, 
. . . before the House of Commons . . . (London, 1780), pp. 11, 66. 

2 "To the Publick," Jan. 18, 1775; 4 ^m. Arch., vol. i, pp. 11&8-1189. 



342 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763.1776 

the trade-reform movement and his more recent abstention 
from pubhc affairs, possessed the confidence of both sides. 
Being the most influential man then in the province, his 
presence at a meeting of protest was deemed highly desir- 
able by the radicals, his support of their measures infinitely 
more so. 

\Vhen Paul Revere arrived on May 19 with the Boston 
circular letter, Thomson and two fellow-spirits, Joseph Reed 
and Thomas MiiBin, proceeded at once to get in touch with 
Dickinson/ A public meeting having been called for the 
next evening (May 20), the three men took dinner with 
Dickinson at his country home earlier in the same day, a 
politico-gastronomic device which has always been found 
to be of great utility by politicians. As they sat over their 
cups and conversed afterward, the men urged Dickinson to 
attend the meeting and take an active part in behalf of op- 
pressed Boston, reminding him that the present hostility to 
parliamentary encroachment had been largely created by his 
own earlier efforts. Dickinson offered sundry excuses, 
having himself disapproved of the Boston Tea Party and 
appearing to feel uncertain as to what lengths they wished 
to carry opposition. At last he seemed to consent to attend, 
provided that he would be allowed to carry through mod- 
erate measures. Thomson, suspecting that Dickinson was 
reluctant to play only ^' a second pa.rt," proposed that Reed, 
more conservatively inclined than the others, should open 
the meeting, Mififlin and he would follow with fervid 

* This account is based chiefly on Thomson's letter to Drayton, writ- 
ten many years later, which purported to reveal "the secret springs 
and reality of actions " at this time. Stille, Life of Dickinson, pp. 340- 
344. However, the lapse of years before the letter was written has 
made it necessary to utiHze other narratives to correct errors of view 
and fact, particularly : Reed, W. B., Life and Correspondence of Joseph 
Reed (Philadelphia, 1847), vol. i, pp. 65-67; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
340-341; Pa. Mag., vol. xxxiii, pp. 336-339; Stille, op. cit., pp. 107-108. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 343 

Speeches advocating co-operation with Boston, and Dick- 
inson should close with a plea for temperate measures. 
Whether indeed vanity was the cause of Dickinson's hesi- 
tation, or a suspicion of the good faith of the intriguers, is 
not clear. At any rate, this plan being agreed upon, Dick- 
inson accompanied Thomson that evening, the other men 
having gone ahead in order to avoid the appearance of col- 
lusion. 

A relatively small number, not more than two or three 
hundred inhabitants, were in attendance at the meeting; 
and the prearranged program was carried through as 
planned. After reading the Boston circular letter, Reed 
addressed the body with ''moderation but in pathetic terms,'^ 
proposing that the governor be asked to call the Assembly 
to petition for a redress of grievances; Mifflin spoke next 
with " warmth & fire;" Thomson followed with an ardent 
plea " for an immediate declaration in favour of Boston & 
making common cause with her." ^ " Great clamour was 
raised against the violence of the measures proposed." 
Dickinson now rose and lent his efforts in support of Reed's 
motion, speaking with " great coolness, calmness, modera- 
tion and good sense." Dickinson's motives are not clear; 
but Governor Penn was probably right when he averred 
that : " the movers of this extraordinary measure had not 
the most distant expectation of succeeding in it [because of 
the certainty of the governor's refusal], but that their real 
scheme was to gain time by it to see what part the other 
Colonies will take in so critical a conjuncture." ^ 

A number of persons were present who had never before 
attended public meetings, among them the importer, Thomas 
Wharton, and Dr. Smith, provost of the College of Phila- 

* Thomson fainted in the midst of his speech, " for he had scarce 
slept an hour two nights past." 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. ^y-z^'^- 



344 '^^^^ COLOXIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

delpkia; and these men helped to carry the day for the 
Reed-Dickinson motion. If Thomson was surprised at the 
outcome of his scheme, he at least tried to recover such 
ground as he could by moving that a committee be ap- 
pointed to answer the Boston letter ; and when that carried, 
a slate of radicals was handed to the chair for submission 
to the meeting. A list representing the other party was 
submitted at the same time; and great confusion ensued as 
to which list should be voted on first. At length it was 
proposed that the two lists be combined to compose the com- 
mittee; and this was accordingly done, with the under- 
standing that the committee should be altered at a later 
meeting of inhabitants. 

The committee of nineteen, thus selected, v/as dominated 
by the moderates, and fairly represented the sentiment of 
the city.^ The letter sent to Boston on May 21 frankly re- 
flected this cautious spirit. With circumspect phrase, the 
committee conceded that Boston was suffering in the com- 
mon cause but hesitated to venture further expressions in- 
asmuch as " the sense of this large city " had not yet been 
ascertained, and even when this were done, the " populous 
province " had yet to express itself. They took occasion 
to express their distaste for the Boston Tea Party by de- 
claring that if compensating the East India Company 
'' would put an end to this unhappy controversy, and leave 
us on the footing of constitutional liberty for the future, it 
is presumed that neither you nor we could continue a mo- 
ment in doubt what part to act." Finally, they had " reason 
to think " that it would be most agreeable to the people of 
Pennsylvania to summon a general congress to send a peti- 
tion of rights to the king, and that the Boston plan of non- 
intercourse should be reserved as '' the last resource." " 

1 Vide letter of George C^'mer; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 406-407. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 341-342; also Pa. Gaz., June 8, 1774. The letter was 



CONTEST IX COMMERCIAL PROVINCES oa - 

The radical leaders backed the petition for calling the 
Assembly in apparent good faith, in order " to convince the 
pacific [Thomson confessed afterward] that it was not the 
intention of the warm spirits to involve the province in the 
dispute without the consent of the representatives of the 
people." As they expected, the governor refused the peti- 
tion, though it was signed by almost nine hundred people/ 
They now urged a large meeting of the Philadelphia public 
to choose a new committee and to take further action. As 
the Nineteen showed no disposition to proceed to that step, 
notices were posted for a meeting of the mechanics of the 
city and suburbs on the evening of June 9 in order to 
organize themselves and to appoint a committee of their 
own. This maneuver had the desired efifect. When the 
twelve hundred workingmen assembled on Thursday night, 
the chairman was able to inform them that the Nineteen 
had sent word that a mass meeting of the city and county 
would be called in the near future to choose " one Grand 
Joint Committee." Whereupon, the gathering decided to 
take no action '' at present." ^ 

The moderates determined to control the action of the 
mass meeting; and in order to do this it was necessary to 

written by Dr. Smith. The Boston Committee of Correspondence re- 
sponded in much the same spirit they did to the New York epistle, 
which had been written about the same time. Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, 
vol. ii, pp. 417-420. Sam Adams wrote privately to Thomson : " The 
Trade will forever be divided when a Sacrifice of their Interest is 
called for. ... Is it not necessary to push for a Suspension of Trade 
with Great Britain as far as it will go, and let the yeomanry ... re- 
solve to desert those altogether who will not come into the Measure?" 
Writings (Cushing), vol. iii, p. 124. Note the approving attitude of 
the N. Y. Committee with reference to the Philadelphia letter. 4 Am. 
Arch., vol. i, p. 2^. 

^ Stille, op. cit., pp. 344-345; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 391-392. 

^ Pa. Gaz., June 15, 1774; also 4 Am.. Arch., vol. i, pp. 405-406. 



346 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

gain the support of the body of the Quakers who '' had an 
aversion to town meetings & always opposed them." There- 
fore the Nineteen called into an informal caucus six repre- 
sentatives of each religious society in the city; and this 
body agreed upon the presidents of the meeting, the speak- 
ers " who were obliged to write down what they intended 
to say & submit their several speeches to the revision of the 
presidents," the nature of the resolutions to be adopted, 
and, finally, the personnel of the new committee.^ Upon 
their ticket they thoughtfully placed seventeen members of 
the existing committee,^ including Dickinson as chairman, 
and chose twenty-seven others from their respective relig- 
ious organizations. From another point of view, the list 
contained a clear majority of moderate merchants and pro- 
fessional men, but the radical leaders still held membership 
and at least six mechanics were included. The spirit con- 
trolling the proposed membership was well expressed by 
Thomas Wharton when he explained that the reason he 
permitted his name to be used was " a sincere desire in 
myself to keep the transactions of our city within the limits 
of moderation and not indecent or offensive to our parent 
state." ' 

In view of these preparations, the meeting of the city 
and county on June i8 was hardly more than a formality, 
although probably only a handful of the great throng real- 

^ Thomson's account in Stille, op. cit., p. 344; Thomas Wharton's 
account, Pa. Mag., vol. xxxiii, pp. 436-437; Dr. Smith's Notes and 
Papers (Hist. Soc. Pa. Mss.), pp. 9-1 1. 

^ Joseph Fox and John Cox were left out. 

^ Pa. Mag., vol. xxxiii, pp. 436, 439. Likewise, Dr. Smith declared, 
on a later occasion, that he would remain on the committee as long as 
he could be " of any Use in advising Measures consistent with the 
Principles I profess and that Allegiance and subordination which we 
owe to the Crown and Empire of Great Britain." Notes and Papers, 
pp. 17-18. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 347 

ized it. Two resolutions were adopted, declaring that Bos- 
ton was suffering in the common cause and that a congress 
of deputies from the colonies was the proper way of ob- 
taining redress of grievances. No mention was made of 
the Boston proposal for non-intercourse. The ticket of 
forty-four names, prepared by the caucus, was elected with 
little difficulty, although it would appear that James Pem- 
berton, a pillar of the Society of Friends, withdrew his 
name at once, thus leaving forty-three.^ This committee 
was instructed to correspond with the rural counties and 
with the sister provinces, and to devise a means of choosing 
delegates to the Continental Congress. The next few weeks 
saw the establishment of committees of correspondence in 
most of the counties and the adoption of resolutions for an 
interprovincial congress as proposed by the Forty-Three at 
Philadelphia.' 

The Forty-Three were as moderate in temper as the 
Fifty-One of New York and strove for the same objects. 
But under the gracious leadership of the chairman, John 
Dickinson, a sharp clash was avoided between the radical 
minority of the committee and the dominant element; and 
indeed the two factions found it to their interest to unite 
forces, upon most occasions, against a common enemy. 
This common foe, of which there was no exact counterpart 
in New York, was the strongly consolidated conservative 
group entrenched in the lower house of the Assembly under 
the leadership of Joseph Galloway, the speaker. Galloway 

^ His name is included in 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 426-428, but not in 
the newspaper accounts: Pa. Gaz., June 22, 1774; Pa. Journ., June 22; 
Pa. Packet, June 27. For Pemberton's sentiments, vide statement of 
Quakers, May 30, 1774; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 365-3^, and his letter 
in Sharpless, Quakers in Revolution, pp. 107-109. 

^ From June 18 to July 13 committees were appointed in the counties 
of Chester, Northampton, Berks, York, Bucks, Lancaster, Bedford, 
Cumberland and Chester. Vide files of Pa. Gas., and Pa. Journ. 



348 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

had long been an opponent of Dickinson in provincial poli- 
tics over the issue of proprietary vs. royal government for 
Pennsylvania; he had upon one occasion declined a chal- 
lenge from Dickinson, but the two men fought many a 
wordy duel in broadside and newspaper/ Like many an- 
other gentleman of wealth and prestige who chose the 
British side when the war broke out, Galloway believed in 
the justice of many of the American demands. He was a 
constructive critic of the colonial policy of the home gov- 
ernment and believed that alleviation could, and should 
properly, come only through the traditional and legal chan- 
nel of legislative memorials to Parliament. Efforts at pop- 
ular control through extra-legal action were to him a species 
of anarchy, and he held himself aloof from all popular 
movements whatever their purpose.^ Confronted with a 
popular movement of continental proportions and alarmed 
by the vigorous and unusual measures of Parliament against 

^ Baldwin, E. H., " Joseph Galloway, the Loyalist Politician," Pa. 
Mag., vol. xxvi, particularly pp. 161-191. 

' Says Galloway's biographer : " With a conservatism natural to 
wealth, and with inherited aristocratic tendencies, Mr. Galloway ob- 
served with no small concern the growth of republican ideas. That 
there could be any true liberty, or any safety even, under a democracy, 
or what he considered was nearly, if not quite, the same thing, mob 
rule, he beheved impossible. It was with no small degree of appre- 
hension, therefore, that he viewed the growing differences between 
Great Britain and her Colonies. With a property-holder's natural 
aversion to taxation, and with a realization of the injustice which 
might result from measures of taxation by ParHament, he aided in all 
ways that he considered proper to remove the causes of complaint. 
The very suggestion that the remedy for the troubles lay in independ- 
ence was repugnant to him. The remedy lay rather in a closer union 
with the mother country. The poHtical experiences of Mr. Galloway in 
Pennsylvania made him naturally suspicious of the intentions of the 
noisy elements am.ong the people, and he soon came to the conclusion 
that ultimate independence was their aim; at least their conduct could 
lead to nothing else. Hence he determined to exert his best efforts 
to prevent such a deplorable occurrence." Ibid., p. 440. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 349 

Boston, Galloway was now willing to favor an interprovin- 
cial congress if it should be composed of delegates chosen 
by the members composing the popular branches of the sev- 
eral provincial legislatures. Such a congress, he believed, 
might formulate a plan of " political union between the two 
countries, with the assent of both, which would effectually 
secure to Americans their future rights and privileges." ^ 

The policy of the Forty-Three was to conciliate and unite 
all factions in the province in support of the approaching 
congress. Therefore, although the mere existence of an 
extra-legal committee represented a principle hateful to the 
Galloway party, the Forty-Three adopted a plan of action 
which enlisted the co-operation of Galloway almost in spite 
of himself. The Forty-Three had been instructed by the 
public meeting to devise a means of ascertaining the sense 
of the province and of electing delegates to the Continental 
Congress. At a meeting on June 2y, they decided that they 
would ask Speaker Gallow^ay to call the members of the 
House together for an unofficial session to consider the 
alarming situation, and that they would summon, for the 
same time, a convention of county committees '' to consult 
and advise on the most expedient mode of appointing dele- 
gates for the general congress and to give their weight to 
such as may be adopted."" This latter body, the radical 
leaders had already learned '' under colour of an excursion 
of pleasure," ^ would be definitely radical in its composition, 
for in it the w^estern counties would have a much larger 
voice than under the unfair system of representation main- 

^ Vide letter signed by Galloway and three others as members of the 
committee of correspondence of the Assembly. Pa. Gas., July 13, I774; 
also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 485-486. Cf. the scathing comment of a 
New York newspaper writer. Ibid., vol. i, p. 486 n. 

^ Pa. Gaz., June 29, July 6, 1774; Lincoln, Revolutionary Movement 
in Pa., pp. 173-175. 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 434. Vide also ibid., p. "726. 



350 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



tained by the House of Representatives/ Thus, their ob- 
ject was to leave the actual appointment of the delegates to 
the members of the House, as the Galloway party wished, 
but, through the popular convention, to dictate the terms 
upon which the delegates should be chosen. 

The governor made unnecessary the informal assembling 
of the House by summoning a legislative session for Mon- 
day, July 1 8, on the pretext of some Indian disturbances. 
When, therefore, the Forty-Three sent their circular letter 
to the counties, they noted this fact, and asked the provin- 
cial convention to assemble on July 15 "in order to assist 
in framing instructions, and preparing such matters, as 
may be proper to recommend " to the members of the 
House." ^ For the next several weeks, newspaper articles 
served to keep alive the public interest and to indicate the 
trend of public opinion. ''A Philadelphian" argued against 
non-importation as a mode of opposition because the bur- 
den would fall wholly on the drygoods importers whereas 
the interests of all were involved.^ " Brutus " believed 
that the plan, proposed by the Boston circular letter, was 
dictated more by " heated zeal than by approved reason and 
moderation," and maintained that the proper course would 
be for Congress to petition the British government for re- 
dress.* But, according to '' Sidney," those who espoused 
the method of petition were "' men who prefer one cargo 
of British goods to the salvation of America," and he de- 
manded an immediate non-importation.^ "Anglus Ameri- 
canus " would also include a non-exportation, particularly 

^ For the " rotten borough " system in Pennsylvania, vide Adams, J., 
Works, vol. X, pp. 74-75 ; Lincoln, op. cit., pp. 40-52. 

2 Pa. Gas., July 6, 1774. 2 /^j^_^ Aug. 17, 1774. 

4 Ihid., July 20, 1774. ^ Pa. Journ., Aug. 31, 1774. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 351 

to the West Indies.^ Rural opinion was well expressed by 
Edward Shippen when he advocated a total non-importa- 
tion and non-exportation, insisting that the Boston Port 
Act contained the names of all the provinces, " only they 
are written in lime juice and want the heat of fire to make 
them legible." ^ On July 1 1 the mechanics and small 
tradesmen of Philadelphia held a meeting to urge another 
mass meeting of the city and county, at which the Penn- 
sylvania delegates should be given unrestricted power to 
agree to a trade suspension by the congress. But the 
Forty-Three saw in this gathering a design to undermine 
their authority, and nothing came of the matter.^ 

The provincial convention assembled at Carpenters' Hall 
on Friday, July 15, with one or more deputies from every 
county in the province/ Thomas Willing was chosen chair- 
man, Charles Thomson, clerk. The dominant voice of the 
rural members was at once insured by an agreement that 
the voting should be by counties. The work of the first day 
consisted in the adoption of a platform, or set of resolu- 
tions, which voiced the opinion of the convention in a sig- 
nificant way. " Unanimously " the convention resolved 
that it was their " earnest desire that the Congress should 
first try the gentler mode "of petitioning for redress be- 
fore resorting to '' a suspension of the commerce of this 
large trading province." " By a great majority " it was 
voted that, notwithstanding, if Congress should deem a 

^ Pa. Journ., June 29, 1774. 

2 Balch, T., Letters and Papers Relating Chieiiy to the Provincial 
History of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1855), pp. 238-239. 

3"Russel" in Pa. Gas., July 20, 1774. "An Artisan" in ihid., Aug. 
31, and "A Mechanic" in Pa. Packet, Sept. 5, argued boldly for a new 
committee. 

* For the proceedings of the convention, vide Pa. Gas., July 27, 17741 
also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 555-593- 



352 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

non-importation and non-exportation against Great Britain 
expedient, the people of the province would join the other 
leading provinces in that measure. " By a majority " it 
was resolved that, if any further proceedings of Parliament 
should cause Congress to take more drastic steps than a 
suspension of trade with Great Britain, the inhabitants 
would do all in their power to support the action of Con- 
gress. The convention agreed unanimously upon resolves 
for the maintenance of the customary prices during a non- 
importation, and for a boycott of any province, town or 
individual failing to adopt the plan agreed upon by Con- 
gress. 

Most of the next four days was consumed in consider- 
ing and amending a draft of instructions for the delegates, 
which had been prepared in advance by a sub-committee of 
the Forty-Three, of which Dickinson was the leading spirit. 
Finally, on Wednesday, the twentieth, a set of resolutions 
was agreed upon, which displayed many internal evidences 
of a conflict of interest among the members. The lengthy 
document was addressed to the House of Representatives, 
and commenced with a Dickinsonian essay on the rights of 
the colonies and a request that the House should appoint 
delegates to the impending congress.^ The draft of instruc- 
tions was transmitted '' in pursuance of the trust imposed " 
on them by the inhabitants of the several counties qualified 
to vote — a delicate intimation of the common source of 
authority of the two bodies. The instructions themselves 
bear comparison with the resolutions adopted on the first 
day of the convention. After naming a comprehensive list 
of grievances extending back into the years, it was de- 

^ According to Thomson's account, the convention resolved " at the 
same time, in case the Assembly refused, to take upon themselves to 
appoint deputies." Stille, op. cit., p. 346. This does not appear in the 
extract of the proceedings accessible; but in any case it undoubtedly 
represented the temper of the convention. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 353 

clared that the minimum demands of Congress should in- 
clude the repeal of British measures '' relating to [the 
quartering of] the troops; internal legislation; imposition 
of taxes or duties hereafter; the thirty-fifth of Henry the 
Eighth, chapter the second; the extension of Admiralty 
Courts ; the port of Boston and Province of Massachusetts 
Bay." In return for these concessions, the Americans 
should agree to settle a certain annual revenue on the king 
and " to satisfy all damages done to the East India Com- 
pany." 

With regard to the best method of obtaining redress, the 
delegates were advised to advocate a petition to the British 
government; but if Congress should decide upon an imme- 
diate severance of all trade, " we have determined, in the 
present situation of publick affairs, to consent to a stop- 
page of our commerce' with Great Britain only." Should a 
partial redress be granted, the boycott should be modified 
in proportion to the degree of relief afforded ; on the other 
hand, should Parliament pass further oppressive acts, the 
inhabitants of the province would support such action as 
Congress might adopt more drastic than a suspension of 
trade. Finally, the convention informed the House of 
Representatives that, " though we have, for the satisfaction 
of the good people of this Province, who have chosen us 
for this express purpose, offered to you such instructions as 
have appeared expedient to us, yet it is not our meaning 
that, by these or by any you may think proper to give them, 
the Deputies appointed by you should be restrained from 
agreeing to any measures that shall be approved by the 
Congress." It was this last clause which, no doubt, recon- 
ciled the radicals in the convention to a pseudo-endorsement 
of half-way expedients, which the experience of former 
years had, in their judgment, decisively discredited. As 
for the personnel of the delegates, the convention contented 



354 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



itself with proposing the names of three of its members, 
Dickinson, Willing and James Wilson, with the suggestion 
that the House should select these three together with four 
of its own members/ 

On the next day, Thursday the twenty first, the conven- 
tion went in a body to the chamber of the House of Repre- 
sentatives and presented their resolutions and instructions/ 
Without according any further formal recognition to the 
doings of the convention, the House resolved to take under 
consideration on the following day the letters received in 
behalf of a general congress from the committees of cor- 
respondence of the assemblies of Massachusetts, Rhode 
Island and Virginia. On the eve of the morrow's session, a 
broadside emanating from the Galloway party was handed 
to the members of the House. The paper drew its inspira- 
tion from the quotation of Hume's with which it opened : 
" All numerous iVssemblies, however composed, are mere 
mobs, and swayed in their debates by the least motive . . . 
An absurdity strikes a member, he conveys it to his neigh- 
bours and the whole is infected. . . . The only way of 
making people wise, is to keep them from uniting into large 
Assemblies." By what legal authority, it w^as asked, has 
the convention assembled ? " We know not where such 
precedents may terminate; setting up a power to controul 
you, is setting up anarchy above order — it is the begin- 



^ This transaction does not appear in the familiar extract of the pro- 
ceedings, but it is sufficiently well authenticated ; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 
607 n. ; "Censor" in Pa. Eve. Post, Mch. 5, 1776; Thomson's narrative^ 
Stille, op. cif., p. 346. 

' 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 557, 606. 

* The writer, who signed himself " A Freeman/' also denounced the 
rule of voting in the convention, by which the vote of a frontier 
county was equal to that of "this opulent and populous city and 
county." Ibid., vol. i, pp. 607-608 n. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 355 

On the next day, the House resolved, in words very 
similar to the vote of the convention, that a congress was 
" an absolute necessity." They did not follow the cue 
given them by the convention as to the personnel of the 
delegates, and selected seven members out of their own 
body, including Galloway himself. A day later, instruc- 
tions were voted to " the Committee of Assembly appointed 
to attend the General Congress." These instructions, com- 
posed by Galloway, were drawn with a frank disregard of 
the elaborate directions submitted by the convention. In 
brief form, they stated that the trust reposed in the dele- 
gates was of such a nature and the modes of performance 
might be so diversified in the course of the deliberations of 
Congress that detailed instructions were impossible; that 
the delegates should strive their utmost to adopt measures 
for redress and the establishment of union and harmony 
with Great Britain while avoiding " every thing indecent 
or disrespectful to the mother state." ^ 

Had the personnel of the delegates been different, the 
radicals would have been well pleased with this blanket 
delegation of authority. But under the circumstances, Gal- 
loway expected to control the action of the delegates; and 
his own judgment called for the sending of commissioners to 
England to adjust differences and for the scrupulous absten- 
tion from measures of non-intercourse.^ Governor Penn 
could well assure the Earl of Dartmouth that " the steps 
taken by the Assembly are rather a check than an encour- 
agement to the proceedings of the Committee [conven- 
tion]." ^ The radicals improved their situation somewhat 
by securing the addition of Dickinson to the delegates by 

1 4 Am. Arch,, vol. i, pp. 606-6095 also Pa. Gas., July 27, 1774. 

2 Letter to William Franklin ; i N. J. Arch., vol. x, pp. 475-477- 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 661. ;. 



356 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763.1776 



the roundabout process of electing him to the House on 
October 15, and he took his seat in Congress after it had 
been in session six weeks. From a broader point of view, 
the victory lay with the radicals; for, although the House 
had professed to act of their own independent will through- 
out, there had been, in a real sense of the term, a '' setting 
up [of] a power to controul " them, a " setting up [of] 
anarchy above order." Galloway himself had decided, as a 
lesser of evils, to take part in a great continental assem- 
blage elected in most irregular and informal ways.^ 

The trend of sentiment in New Jersey was dominated, it 
would appear, by the course of the two great trading towns 
that controlled her commercial destinies." On May 21 and 
23 the Philadelphia and New York committees had in- 
formed the Boston Committee of Correspondence of their 
unwillingness for positive action until the meeting of a 
general congress ; and news of their position became known 
at once in New Jersey. On the last day of the month, the 
committee of correspondence of the New Jersey Assembly 
transmitted to the Boston committee their endorsement of 
a congress, as proposed by the neighboring provinces, to 
draw up " a Non-Importation and perhaps a Non-Exporta- 

^ The resolution of the House appointing Galloway and his coleagues 
described the congress as composed of committees or delegates ap- 
pointed by provincial " Houses of Representatives, or by Convention, 
or by the Provincial or Colony Committees." Galloway jus it^ed his 
conduct upon the ground that the assemblies had not been permitted to 
meet in some provinces. Pa. Mag., vol. xxvi, p. 339. 

' This was hinted at in the first set of resolutions issued by a public 
body in New Jersey — a meeting of the inhabitants of Lower Freehold 
township in Monmouth County. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 390; alo N. Y. 
Journ., June 7, 1774. The radicalism which characterized the rural 
population in most provinces was in New Jersey subdued by the pres- 
ence of large numbers of Quakers, particularly in the western portion. 



CONTEST IN COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 337 

tion Agreement." ^ This was the signal for a series of 
county meetings throughout the province, which adopted 
resolutions expressing the same view." They also ap- 
pointed committees of correspondence, who were instructed 
to meet with the other committees in a provincial convention 
for the purpose of choosing delegates to the general con- 
gress. This convention of committees gathered at New 
Brunswick on July 21, and seventy-two delegates took part 
in the three days' deliberations. Their resolutions denied 
the right of Parliament to impose revenue taxes and de- 
nounced the coercive acts recently passed. A continental 
congress was endorsed as the best means of uniting oppo- 
sition ; and a general non-importation and non-consumption 
agreement was recommended as the best course for the 
congress to adopt. Delegates were appointed to the con- 
gress ; but an effort to procure an instruction that the East 
India Company should not be reimbursed met with failure.^ 

The action of the Delaware counties was, on the whole, 
less restrained than that taken at Philadelphia. Published 
appeals for arousing public resentment raked over the 
embers of past disputes with Parliament in a bitterly par- 
tisan way.* The first mass meeting, held in Newcastle 

^ Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. viii, pp. 709-710. 

^ From June 8 to July 20, it is recorded that eleven of the thirteen 
counties acted ; in chronological order : Essex, Bergen, Morris, Somer- 
set, Hunterdon, Salem, Middlesex, Sussex, Gloucester, Monmouth and 
Burlington. 4 Ant. Arch., vol. i, 403-404, 450, 524-525, 553-554, 594, 610- 
613; Pa. Journ., July 20, 1774. These meetings endorsed a suspens'on 
of trade contingent upon the approval of the congress, most of them 
preferring non-importation and non-consumption alone. Salem County 
showed some individuality in introducing the act of Parliament aga'nst 
slitting and plating mills as a grievance and denouncing it as " an 
absolute infringement of the natural rights of the subject." 

^ Pa. Gaz., July 27, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 624-625. Vide 
also Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, p. 356. 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 419-420, 658-661. 



358 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

County on June 29, recommended a continental congress 
as the proper agency for securing redress, and appointed a 
committee to correspond with the other counties and prov- 
inces with reference to the matter. One resolve requested 
the speaker of the House of Assembly to convene the mem- 
bers of that body not later than August i, in order to ap- 
point delegates to the congress, no request being made of 
the governor because of his refusal in the case of the Phila- 
delphia petition/ A few weeks later county meetings in 
Kent and Sussex took similar action.^ The convention as- 
sembled at Newcastle on August i. Its resolutions ar- 
raigned the British Parliament for restricting manufactures 
in the colonies, for taking away the property of the colonists 
without their consent, for introducing the arbitrary powers 
of the excise into the customs in America, for making all 
revenue causes tryable without a jury and under a single 
dependent judge, and for passing the coercive acts. Dele- 
gates v/ere chosen to the approaching congress.^ 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 664; also Pa. Gaz. July 6, 1774. 
^ Ibid., Aug. 3, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 664-666. 
^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 666-667. 



CHAPTER IX 

Contest of Merchants and Radicals for Dominance 
IN THE Plantation Provinces (May- 
October,, 1774) 

-It is apparent that a revolution of sentiment had oc- 
curred among the merchants of the northern seaports. 
Those who had promoted movements of protest against 
earlier acts of Parliament now sought to stop or restrain 
the present popular uprising. By this reversal of front, 
they occupied the same position of obstruction in 1774 
that the merchants and factors of the plantation pro- 
vinces had maintained on all occasions since the begin- 
ning of the commotions ten years before. For this 
reason, the course of the plantation provinces in response 
to the circular letter of the Boston town meeting of 
May 13, 1774, does not show the marked contrast to the 
events in the commercial provinces that had characterized 
the earlier occasions. 

r The nature of the contest in 1774 struck closer home 
to the Southern planters than the earlier quarrels over 
trade reforms, for the issue was more clearly one of per- 

Lsonal liberty and constitutional right, and in the school 
of dialectic the plantation provinces acknowledged no 
superiors. The long-standing indebtedness of the 
planters to the British merchants was a source of irrita- 
tion that undoubtedly induced radical action, in the 
tobacco provinces and in North Carolina in particular. 
The demand for a suspension of debt collections played 

359 



360 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

a part in the popular movement in these provinces, and, 
at a later time, in South Carolina as well. On the pre- 
sent occasion, the merchants of Charleston and Savannah 
were able to command support from the rural districts 
of their provinces, due to peculiar local conditions ; but 
in Virginia and North Carolina, vv^here the merchants 
were forced to stand alone, the planters adopted the 
most radical measures of commercial opposition that 
were to be found anywhere in British America. Mary- 
land was only less extreme in the measures adopted. 

The movement to take action in response to the Bos- 
ton circular letter received its initial impulse in Mary- 

-^ land at a meeting of the inhabitants of Annapolis on 
May 25, 1774. The resolutions were an advance be- 
yond anything that had been adopted elsewhere up to 
this time. The meeting declared that all provinces 
should unite in effectual measures to obtain the repeal of 
the Boston Port Act and that the inhabitants of Annapolis 
would join in an oath-bound association in conjunction 
with the other Maryland counties and the other principal 
, provinces for an immediate non-importation with Great 
Britain and a suspended non-exportation. The inhabit- 
ants would immediately boycott any province that re- 
fused to enter similar resolutions with a majority of the 
provinces. The meeting further resolved that no lawyer 

.^' should bring suit for the recovery of any debt due from 

a Marylander to any inhabitant of Great Britain until 

the Port Act should be repealed. A committee of cor- 

Irespondence was appointed, with instructions to join 

'^with similar committees to be appointed elsewhere in 

the province to form one grand committee.' The dec- 

^Md. Gaz., May 26, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 352-353. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 361 

laration about the payment of debts at once aroused pro- 
test in the city ; and two days later a second meeting 
was held to re-consider the question, and the resolution 
was carried again, forty-seven to thirty-one.' Daniel 
Dulany, Jr., was one of those opposed to the resolution 
but later he admitted: '' I would have agreed to it if it 
had extended to merchants in this country as well as 
foreign merchants."^ 
/" All the subsequent meetings in Maryland were county 
i assemblages, thus reducing the opportunities for mer- 
cantile influence. Within three weeks eight of the six- 
S^een counties were recorded as following the example 
of the town of Annapolis. ^ Six of these meetings fav- 
ored a non-exportation and non-importation, simultane- 
ous or successive ; Caroline preferred a modified non-im- 
portation only; and Kent was silent on the subject. A 
suspension of debt collections, foreign and domestic, was 
advocated by four counties, in case of complete non- 
intercourse.'^ Six counties declared that all provinces 
failing to adopt the general plan should be boycotted. 
All the meetings organized committees of correspon- 
dence and appointed delegates to the forthcoming pro- 
vince convention. 

The convention of committees assembled at Annapolis 
on Wednesday, June 22, for a four days' sitting, with 
ninety-two members representing every county in the 

^ Md. Gaz., June 2, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 353- 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 354-355. A formal protest against the resolution, 
signed by one hundred sixty-three names, mostly of stay-at-home 
citizens, appeared a few days later. Ibid,, pp. 353-354- 

''In chronological order: Queen Anne's. Baltimore, Kent, Anne 
Arundel, Harford, lov/er part of Frederick, Charles, Caroline, Fred- 
erick. Ibid., vol. i. pp. 366-367, 379. 384-386, 402-403, 409, 425-426, 
433-434: also Md. Gaz., June 9, 16, 30, 1774. 

*Anne Arundel, Caroline, Frederick, Harford. 



362 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

province. It was agreed that every county should cast 
, one vote. The resolutions denounced the punitive acts 
^ /of Parliament and declared the willingness of the pro- 
/ vince to join in a retaliatory association, in company 
\ with the principal provinces of the continent, to stop 
all, or almost all, commercial intercourse with the 
mother country, at a date to be fixed by the general 
congress. This latter resolve occasioned long debates 
on Friday, lasting from ten in the morning until nine at 
night. The division, it would appear, was on the ques- 
Y~tion whether the non-intercourse should be absolute, as 
I proposed by the preliminary county meetings, or quali- 
ty fied. The moderates forced a compromise by which it 
was agreed that the non-exportation of tobacco should 
/not take place without a similar restraint in force in 
I Virginia and North Carolina, and that articles should be 
I excepted from the non-importation in case a majority of 
the provinces should so decide. Further resolutions 
\ declared that merchants must not raise prices, on pain 
of boycott ; and that the province would sever all rela- 
tions with any province or town which declined the plan 
recommended by the congress.' Apparently there was 
little thought of adopting an association which should go 
into effect independently of Congress; the resolutions 
were in the nature of instructions to the delegates to 
Congress, who were forthwith chosen. 

The Virginia House of Burgesses was in session when 
news was received at Williamsburg of the passage of the 
Boston Port Act. Richard Henry Lee, one of the mem- 
bers, urged that an im.mediate declaration be made in 
behalf of Boston, but was dissuaded by some '' worthy 

^ Md. Gaz., June 30, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 439-440. 
Vide a letter from Annapolis in Pa. Journ., June 29. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 363 

members " who desired first to dispose of necessary 
provincial business/ '' Whatever resolves or measures 
are intended for the preservation of our rights and lib- 
erties," wrote George Mason, who was a spectator of 
these events, " will be reserved for the conclusion of the 
session. Matters of that sort here are conducted and 
prepared with a great deal of privacy, and by very few 
members ; of whom Patrick Henry is the principal." 
Finally, on Tuesday, May 24, the House resolved that 
the first of June, the day on which the harbor of Boston 
was to be closed, should be set aside as a **day of fast- 
ing, humiliation and prayer." Governor Dunmore, sus- 
pecting rightly that the fast was intended to prepare the 
minds of the people to receive other and more inflam- 
matory resolutions, dissolved the House two days later. 
Not to be foiled, eighty-nine burgesses met in their 
private capacities in the Long Room of the Raleigh 
Tavern on Friday morning, with Peyton Randolph as . 
chairman, and adopted an association in which they 
declared war on the East India Company by recommend- 
ing the disuse of dutied tea and of all East India com- 
modities, save saltpetre and spices. It was further recom- 
mended to the legislative committee of correspondence 
to invite the various provinces to meet in annual congress 
for the sake of deliberating on measures of common con- 
cern. In point of time, this was the first pronounce- 
ment by a meeting representing a whole province in 
favor of an interprovincial congress ; but, as we have 
seen, the proposal had already been made by many town 
gatherings in various other provinces. 

^ This account is based chiefly on: 4 Atn. Arch., vol. i, pp. 350-352, 
387-388, 445-446; Washington, Writings (Ford), vol. ii, pp. 412-415, 
n. 2; letter of a burgess in Rind's la. Gaz., Sept. 22, 1774; Rowland, 
George Mason, vol. i, pp. 1 68-1 71. 



364 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

These measures, which Richard Henry Lee denomin- 
ated as "much too feeble," were entered into indepen- 
dently of any knowledge of what had been done else- 
where. When the Boston circular letter arrived, with 
other letters from the north, on Sunday, May 29, most 
of the ex-burgesses had departed for their homes; but 
Peyton Randolph succeeded in collecting tvv^enty five of 
them for a meeting on Monday morning. Most of those 
present believed it absolutely necessary to enlarge the 
association to include a general non-importation, but 
they were badly divided as to the expediency of stopping 
exportation. Furthermore, they felt that, in any case, 
their number was too small to permit them to alter the 
association. Therefore they addressed a circular letter 
to the absent gentlemen, explaining the situation, ask- 
ing them to collect the sense of their constituents, and 
to assemble in Williamsburg on August i to take final 
action. 

This referendum to the people, occupying a space of 
Uwo months, showed conclusively that the temper of the 
I rural constituencies was far more radical than the action 
;of their representatives at the Williamsburg meeting in- 
'dicated. The chief source of opposition to the popular 
measures was disclosed by James Madison, when he 
wrote that '' the Europeans, especially the Scotch, and 
some interested merchants among the natives, discounte- 
nance such proceedings as far as they dare; alledging 
the injustice aud perfidy of refusing to pay our debts to 
our generous creditors at home. This consideration 
induces some honest, moderate folks to prefer a partial 
prohibition, extending only to the importation, of 
goods." ^ It was reported in London newspapers that 

^Madison, Writings (Hunt), vol. i, p. 26. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 365 

when a meeting of merchants at Norfolk, the chief trad- 
ing centre, had the Boston circular letter under consid- 
eration, a wag present observed that "the request put 
him in mind of the old fable of the fox that had lost his 
tail and who would have persuaded his brethren to cut 
off theirs." He believed that '' as amputation is a dan- 
gerous operation ... it will be better to take time to 
consider of it." The meeting accordingly adjourned 
without action.' 

The first county meeting was held at Dumfries in 
Prince William County on June 6. One resolution de- 
clared boldly: "that as our late Representatives have 
not fallen upon means sufficiently efficacious to secure 
to us the enjoyment of our civil rights and liberties, it 
is the undoubted privilege of each respective county (as 
the fountain of power from whence their delegation 
arises) to take such proper and salutary measures as will 
essentially conduce to a repeal " of the coercive acts.^ 
This resolve marked the tempo with which all the count- 
ies acted. In the period up to the time of the provincial 
convention on August i, thirty-one, perhaps more, 
counties gave expression to their sentiments as to a 
proper mode of opposition to the mother country.^ 

' Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Sept. 12, 1774. Vide also Pa. Gaz., Aug. 
24. This no doubt expressed the views of the merchants; but the in- 
habitants of the borough in general were ready to adopt measures of 
protest. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 370-372. 

-Rind's Va. Gaz., June 9, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 388. 
Vide also the Stafford resolutions, ibid., p. 617. 

•^In chronological order: Prince William, Frederick, Dunmore, 
Westmoreland, Spotsylvania, Richmond, Prince George's, James 
City, Norfolk, Culpepper, Essex, Fauquier, Nansemond, New Kent, 
Chesterfield, Caroline, Gloucester, Henrico, Middlesex, Dinwiddie, 
Surry, York, Fairfax, Hanover, Stafford, Isle of Wight, Elizabeth 
City, Albemarle, Accomack, Princess Anne, Buckingham. Ibid., 
vol. i, pp. 388-644 passim. The resolutions of Isle of Wight County 
appeared in Rind's Va. Gaz., July 28, 1774. 



366 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



/f'^^W meetings agreed that Parliament lacked power ta 
/ impose taxes collectable in America, and denounced the 
(Boston Port Act. Twenty counties announced them- 
selves in favor of the extreme measure of commercial 
non-intercourse with Great Britain, in conjunction with 
the other provinces, although eight of these preferred to 
have non -exportation go into effect at a stated interval 
I after non-importation. The three counties recommended 
merely the adoption of an unqualified non-importation ; ^ 
and five others proposed a non-importation with certain 
articles excepted, as in former associations.* The re- 
maining three counties indicated their willingness to 
accept any conclusions reached at the provincial conven- 
tion.3 A declaration in favor of the suspension of judicial 
processes for the collection of debts during non-exporta- 
tion was made by eight counties, on the ground that the 
people, under such circumstances, had not the means of 
paying.-* Gloucester County resolved that, if Maryland 
and North Carolina withheld the exportation of tobacco 
to Great Britain, Virginia should adopt the same measure. 
Ten counties scrupulously said that they would follow 
the advice of the former burgesses and boycott goods 
handled by the East India Company, with certain ex- 
ceptions. Six counties denounced the importation of 
slaves as an economic fallacy, saying, in the words of 
\1 Nansemond, "the African trade is injurious to this 
yColony, obstructs the population of it by freemen, pre- 
sents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from 

' Buckingham. Caroline, Nansemond. 

^Chesterfield, Culpepper, Middlesex, Prince George's, York. 
•^Accomack, Dinwiddie, Isle of Wight. 

* Essex, Fairfax, Fauquier, Gloucester, Prince William, Stafford, 
Richmond, Westmoreland. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 367 

Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual 
increase of the balance of trade against this Colony."' 
The resolutions of three counties contained a declaration 
against the advancing of prices by merchants. Several 
counties recommended the abandonment of extravagance 
and display. Albemarle favored the repeal, not only of 
the Boston Port Act, but also of all laws levying duties 
in America, restricting American trade and restraining 
colonial manufacturing. It was proposed by Fairfax 
that, after an interprovincial association had been drawn 
up, its enforcement should be left to committees in every 
county on the conti nent, with ins tructions to publish all 
violators as traitorsJ^ Norfolk County thought it neces- 
sary to suggest, with a view perhaps of discrediting the 
moral of the fable about the fox, that the Virginia com- 
mittees be composed '' of respectable men, fixed and 
settled inhabitants of their respective counties." Nine 
counties announced the boycott as the proper penalty 
for individuals who failed to adopt the agreed plan of 
opposition ; and seven counties urged a boycott of de- 
linquent provinces. 

The meeting of the provincial convention was pre- 
ceded by several spirited appeals, the most important 
being the series, published by the planter, Thomson 
Mason,_under the pseudonym, ''British American," in 
six issues of Rind's Virginia Gazette, beginning June 16.^ 
These articles were particularly aimed to stimulate to rad- 
ical action those " countrymen w^hose own industry, or 
the frugality of their ancestors, have blessed . . . [them] 

^ Caroline, Culpepper, Nansemond, Prince George's, Princess Anne, 
Surry. Slavery was condemned by Fairfax and Hanover as a moral 
evil. 

^Reprinted in 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 418-419, 495-498, 519-522, 
541-544, 620-624, 648-654. Vide also ibid., p. 647. 



368 'THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

with immense wealth;'' and to this end, great stress 
was laid on the dano^er of submitting '*to a double taxa- 
tion and to two supreme Legislatures," in one of which 
the legislative power was waelded by men who, **from 
their situation, will reap the advantages but cannot share 
in the inconveniences " of their oppressive laws. With 
much ingenuity, the writer argued that Parliament lacked 
power to legislate for the colonies, and then turned to 
consider the possible methods of opposition. Rejecting 
non-intercourse as a temporizing measure and imprac- 
ticable, he urged that the delegates to the Continental 
Congress be instructed to refuse flatly to obey all laws, 
including the acts of navigation and trade, made by Par- 
liament since the first settlements, and in defense of this 
position, to resort to armed resistance and secession, if 
necessary. After the convention had gotten under way, 
another article appeared in favor of the policy of non- 
intercouse, contending that *'we need not on the present 
occasion shed our blood to secure our rights . . . " ' 
This latter article and the series of county resolutions 
preliminary to the convention struck the true keynote of 
the convention's deliberations. 

The Virginia convention began its work promptly on 
August I and completed its deliberations on the sixth.^ 
Of the debates that occurred we know nothing; but 
delegates were chosen to the Continental Congress, and 
the association adopted marked the crest of the^fadfcal 
wave set in motion by the late acts of Parliament. In 
view of the striking similarity between the Virginia As- 
sociation and the later Continental Association, there 
can be no doubt that the former paper was the model 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, op. 685-686. 

-Ibid., vol. i, pp. 686-690; also Md. Gaz., Aug. 18, 1774. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 369 

for the latter. The action of the delegates faithfully re- 
flected the sentiments of their constituents. The dele- 
gates boldly set the dates at which the various parts of 
the association were to go into effect, subject to such 
changes as might be assented to by the Virginia dele- 
gates in the Continental Congress ; and the association 
was to be religiously adhered to '' before God and the 
world" until the redress of all grievances which might 
be named by Congress.' The immediate non-importa-* 
tion and disuse of ^a " of any kind whatever " was agreed/ "^ 
upon,' with the understanding that if Boston were com- 
pelled to reimburse the East India Company, the boycott 
should be extended to all articles handled by the com- 
pany till the money was returned. On November i, 
1774, an absolute boycott of all goods (except medi- ^^ 

cines) imported thereafter, directly or indirectly, from /^ 

Great Britain was to become eft'ective ; ^ and the agree- / 
ment was to extend likewise to negroes imported from 
Africa, the West Indies or elsewhere* If colonial griev- 
ances were not redressed by August 10, 1775, an abso- 
lute non-exportation was to be declared, of all articles 
intended to be sent, directly or indirectly, to Great 
Britain. 5 This postponement was granted in order to 
enable as quick and full payment of debts to Britain as 
possible and in order to get the profits on the present 
tobacco crop. As non-exportation would be a blow to 
tobacco culture, planter's'we're advised thereafter to de- 

' Or until the association should be amended or abrogated by a later 
provincial convention. 

^Cf. Continental Association, Arts, i and iii. Appendix, present 
volume. 

'Cf. ibid.. Art, i. 

''CI. ibid., Art. ii. 

^Cf. ibid.. Art. iv. 



i^^ 



370 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

vote their fields to the growing of raw materials for 
manufacturing; and a pledge was given to improve the 
breed of sheep and to increase their number.' Mer- 
chants were warned to maintain the prices usual during 
the past year on pain of boycott.^ In order to super- 
vise the execution of the association and to correspond 
(/with the general committee of correspondence at Wil- 
liamsburg, it was recommended that a committee be 
chosen in each county.^ T Merchants and Iraders were 
required, on threat of boycott, to obtain certificates from 
the committee that they had signed the association. If 
any merchant or other person received forbidden im- 
portations, the goods should be forthwith re-shipped or 
stored under supervision of the committee ;'^ otherwise 
"the truth of the case" should be published in the ga- 
zettes and all dealings severed with the offender. A 
similar treatment should await the violator of non- 
exportation. ^ 

North Carolina followed in the train of the Virginia 
movement', ' and "thus won the distinction of being the 
second most radical province in the measures adopted. 
Under stimulus of the succession of county meetings in 
Virginia, a meeting of six counties in the district of 
Wilmington was held on July 21 under the chairmanship 
of William Hooper, a transplanted Bostonian who had 
studied law under James Otis at the zenith of his rad- 
icaHsm. A committee was appointed to send a circular 

^ Cf. Continental Association, Art. vii. 
2 Cf. ibid. , Art. ix. 
^Cf. ibid.. Art. xi. 
^Cf. ibid., Art. X. 
'C/. ibid., Art. xi. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 371 

to all the counties, proposing a general meeting in the 
latter part of August to adopt measures in concert with 
the other provinces; and it was voted that a general 
congress was the best way to effect a uniform plan for 
all America/ Before the date of the provincial meeting, 
most of the counties and two of the towns had responded 
by adopting resolutions and choosing delegates.^ The 
resolutions still extant varied in tone. Only Anson 
County went so far as to counsel the stoppage of all 
trade with Great Britain (save in a few necessary articles), 
Granville declaring that it was a " measure not to be en- 
tered into with precipitation." Rowan County and Hali- 
fax expressed a preference for a modified non-importation; 
Chowan favored economy and the promotion of manu- 
factures ; while Johnston simply indicated a willingness 
to abide by the findings of the Continental Congress. 
The necessity of suspending debt collections on some 
equitable principle, in case of non-intercourse, was noted 
by Anson ; but Granville County and Halifax showed a 
distinct repugnance to the policy which had attained 
considerable local popularity in Virginia and Maryland, 
and declared themselves explicitly in favor of keeping all 
courts open. Anson and Rowan announced themselves 
in favor of a boycott of such provinces as declined to 
enter the general measures, the latter county also in- 
veighing against the slave trade as an obstacle to a free 
immigration and the development of manufacturing. 

^ S. C. Gaz., Sept. 12, 1774; also N. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1016- 
1017. 

2 Only six sets of resolutions have been examined; in chronological 
order: Rowan, Johnston, Granville, Anson and Chowan counties, and 
the town of Halifax. Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1024-1026, 1029-1038. 



372 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763^1776 



When Governor Martin got wind of these proceedings, 
he issued a proclamation on August 13, forbidding such 
" illegal Meetings " and particularly the provincial meet- 
ing, which was soon to occur/ The pronunciamento had 
the same effect as the executive interdicts, in other prov- 
inces, of the right of the people to organize and act. The 
provincial convention of August 25 assembled at Newbern 
with a representation from thirty-two of the thirty-eight 
counties and two of the six towns, while the governor and 
his council sat futilely by. Governor Martin noted the 
readiness with which the " intemperate resolutions '* of the 
Virginia convention were "re-echoed;"^ but it is possible 
that a complete collection of county resolutions would show 
that the Newbern meeting merely reflected the views of the 
county gatherings.^ The convention chose delegates to the 
Continental Congress and adopted a modified form of the 
Virginia Association.* In one respect the association ex- 
ceeded the Virginia plan, for a threat of boycott was held 
up over any province, or any town or individual within the 

'5. C. Gaz., Sept. 12, 1774; also A'. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1029- 
1030. 

"^4 Am. Arch.y vol. i, pp. 761-762. 

' However, it is impossible to know what weight to give, at this time, 
to the old Regulator antipathy to the personnel of the tidewater radi- 
cals. Vide Bassett, J. S., "The Regulators of North Carolina," Am. 
Hist. Assn. Rep. 1894), pp. 209-210. 

*No " East India tea" was to be used after September 10, 1774. Be- 
ginning v/ith January i, 1775, there should be a total stoppage of all 
East Indian and all British importations, by way of Great Britain or the 
West Indies, except medicines; after November i, 1774, no slaves should 
be imported from any part of the world. Unless American grievances 
were redressed before October i, 1775, a non-exportation to Great 
Britain was to become effective. Merchants were warned to continue 
their customary prices. Committees were to be chosen to supervise 
the execution of the association and to correspond v/ith the provincial 
committee of correspondence. Pa. Gaz., Sept. 16, 1774; also N. C. 
Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1041-1049. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 373 

province, which failed to adopt the plan formulated by the 
Continental Congress. 

The first news of the Boston Port Act reached Charleston 
on May ^JT^Tfna Tefter "f forn the Philadelphia committee 
transmitting the Boston circular letter/ Peter Timothy's 
newspaper took the lead in declaring that America had 
never faced a more critical time, that South Carolina, like 
Boston, had obstructed the tea act, and that the time had 
come to sacrifice private interest, to abolish all parties and 
distinctions and combine in a general non-importation and, 
if necessary, non-exportation.^_. But in spite of the best 
efforts of Timothy and Chris Gadsden,^ private interest 
continued to assert itself and economic groups and distinc- 
tions became more clearly defined than on any earlier occa- 
sion. 

The opposition to a total suspension of trade centered 
very largely in the merchants and factors, on the one hand, 
and the rice planters, on the other. The Norfolk story of 
the Boston fox that had lost his tail gained currency with 

^ 5. C. Gaz., June 6, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 370. 

-S. C. Gaz., June 13, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 382-384. 

* As has already been pointed out, Gadsden himself, though possessing 
important mercantile interests as well as planting connections, acted 
politically with an entire disregard of self-interest. This is shown 
strikingly in a letter he wrote to vSamuel Adams on June 5, 1774: "I 
have been above Seven Years at hard Labour and the Utmost Risk of 
my Constitution about One of the most extensive Quays in America 
... at which thirty of the Largest Ships that can come over our Barr 
can be Loading at the Same time . . . and have exceeding good and 
Convenient Stores already Erected thereon Sufficient to Contain 16000 
Teirces of Rice; in Short in this Aflfair, all my Fortune is embarked 
. . no motives whatever will make me neglect or Slacken in the 
Common Cause, as I hope I would sooner see every inch of my Quay 
(my whole Fortune) totally destroyed Rather than be even Silent . . . 
let the ministry change our Ports of Entrey to what distance from 
Charleston and as Often as the Devil shall put it in their heads." Bos. 
Com. Cor. Papers, vol. ii, pp. 509-511. 



374 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the trading body/ The merchants faced losses in case 
either importation or exportation should be stopped; they 
preferred the former measure to the latter, if necessity 
pressed, but were determined to delay a decision on either 
as long as possible. x\s for the rice planters, they were 
\ opposed to a stoppage of exports, at least until November i 
I when the rice from the present crop had been shipped off 
^and the time for a new planting had arrived.^_,The mer- 
cantile and planting interests found it easy to develop a 
public opinion in favor of a postponement of all positive 
measures until a general congress, because the people in 
general were inclined to look askance at a northern invita- 
tion to enter a non-intercourse regulation when they re- 
membered " the Overhasty breaking through and forsaking 
the first Resolution [four years earlier] without previously 
Consulting or so much as Acquainting our Committee," 
and when they observed that no commercial province had 
entered the measure which the South Carolinians were 
asked to adopt by Boston.^ 

On June 13 the General Committee at Charleston sum- 
moned a " General Meeting of the inhabitants of this 
Colony " for Wednesday, July 6, at Charleston, and dis- 
patched circular letters to leading men throughout the prov- 
ince urging them to send representatives.* Timothy's 

^ " Non Quis sed Quid " in 5. C. Gaz., July 4, 1774. 

^ Letter of Gadsden to Hancock and others, Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, 
vol. ii, pp, 517-518. The planters had another motive for temporizing 
in that Parliament had under advisement a renewal of the act authoriz- 
ing the shipment of rice from South Carolina to the West Indies and 
the southern parts of Europe. The renewal was granted for seven years 
on June 2 (14 George III, c. 67), but the fact was probably not known 
in South Carolina until some weeks later. 

^Letters of Gadsden and Timothy to S. Adams. Bos. Com. Cor. 
Papers, vol. ii, pp. 509-511, 529-532. 

^4 Afn. Arch., vol. i, p. 408; also 5. C. Gaz., June 13, 1774. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 375 

Gazette contained articles arguing for decisive measures at 
the coming meeting. ''A Carolinian" insisted on specific 
instructions to the delegates to the Continental Congress 
for a very general suspension of trade with Great Britain, 
the West Indies and Africa, and exhorted that *' one com- 
mon Soul animate the Merchant, the Planter and the Trades- 
man." ^ " Non Ouis sed Quid " gave his pen to the advo- 
cacy of a modified non-importation, and told the planters 
and merchants that this expedient would give them a chance 
to extricate themselves from debt." Meantime, the newly- 
formed Chamber of Commerce had become the center of 
discussion as to what should be the proper course for the 
body of merchants to take. 'On July 6, before the meeting 
assembled in the Exchange, the Chamber of Commerce de- 
cided not to accede to any measure of non-importation or 
non-exportation, and, in order to contribute to the defeat 
of the same proposition in the Continental Congress, they 
drew up a slate of candidates who held the same view and 
pledged their support to them.^ ; 

The Charleston meeting, comprising one hundred and 
four members, was the largest public assemblage that had 
ever been held in that town. From^.the standpoint of the 
representative principle, it was defective in many respects, 
for some counties elected ten delegates, others less, two 
counties and one parish sent no representation, and the Gen- 
eral Committee of forty-five represented Charleston. But 
the leaders of all factions were well pleased with the mis- 

'5. C. Gaz., June 20, 27, 1774. 

^Ibid., July 4, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 508-512. 

^This account of the general meeting is based chiefly on: Drayton, 
Memoirs, vol. i, pp. 112-132; official record in 6". C. Gaz., July 11, 
1774, z\so4 Am. Arch. vol. i, pp, 525-527; three epistolary accounts, 
ibid., pp. 525, 531-534; Edward Rutledge's account, Izard, R., Corres- 
pondence, vol. i, pp. 2-5. 



Zl^ 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



cellaneous gathering, for it afforded an excellent opportun- 
ity for political manipulation. Indeed, one of the very first 
resolutions adopted provided that votes should be given by 
each person present and not by parishes, and that '' whoever 
came there might give his vote." After the adoption of 
resolutions for asserting American rights, the debates of 
the first two days turned upon a consideration of a prac- 
tical application of the declaration of the meeting : " to 
leave no justifiable means untried to procure a repeal " of 
the oppressive acts of Parliament. The one party favored 
the sending of delegates to Congress with unconditional in- 
structions, and the adoption in the meantime of the Boston 
proposal of a non-importation and non-exportation. The 
other party favored restricted instructions and the post- 
ponement of all measures until the Congress. 

In favor of the Boston circular letter, the radical speakers 

resorted to se nsati9flg.l delinea tions of the fate awaiting 

>oiith Carolma from British tyranny, and repeated the 

telling arguments which had become hackneyed in similar 

controversies in other provinces. By the opposing party, it 

I was maintained that non-intercourse would ruin thousands 

[in the province; that if South Carolina entered into it, there 

I was no assurance that other provinces would follow, and 

indeed much evidence to the contrary. It was further 

argued that the formulation of a uniform plan was the 

proper function of a general congress, and that even that 

body ought not adopt the measure until after petitions and 

remonstrances had failed of effect. When the vote was 

taken on the second day, it was found that the proposal for 

an immediate non-intercourse was rejected. 

The fight was warmly renewed, in altered form, over the 
question of what instructions the delegates to the Congress 
should be given, the radicals contending that the powers of 
the delegates should be unrestricted. By a close vote it was 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 



377 



decided that the delegates should be granted '' full power 
and authority *' to agree to " legal measures " for obtaining 
a redress of grievances, and the moderates found solace in 
the clause declaring that the South Carolina delegates must 
concur in any measure of the Congress before it became 
binding on the province. Victor}^ now lay clearly with the 
party that could control the personnel of the delegation. 

It was provided that a vote for this purpose should be 
taken that very day from two o'clock to six, and that every 
free white in the whole province should be entitled to vote — 
an arrangement that was a thin covering for a strategem 
concocted in the Chamber of Commerce. The merchants 
had in mind to elect Henry Middleton, John Rutledge, 
Charles Pinckney, Miles Brewton and Rawlins Lowndes, 
men who stood for moderate measures and opposed non- 
intercourse except as an ultimate resort.^ The radicals con- 
centrated their strength on Gadsden, Thomas Lynch and 
Edward Rutledge, and concurred, it would appear, in the 
nominations of Middleton and John Rutledge. Just what 
the object of the radicals was it is difficult to comprehend 
now, as Edward Rutledge, one of their nominees, had 
clearly identified himself with the moderate element in the 
debates of the meeting. However, he was Gadsden's son- 
in-law. The merchants went to the poll in a body, and also 

.--^ent for their clerks to come and vote. But they had over- 
reached themselves ; the radicals took alarm at such mobil- 
izing of voters, "ran to all parts of the town to collect 
people and bring them to the poll." In consequence, the 

1^ slate of the Chamber of Commerce suffered defeat, save the 

^ For the opinions held by John and Edward Rutledge, vide Izard,. 
Correspondence, vol. i, pp. 2-5; by Miles Brewton, 4 Am. Arch., vol. 
i, p. 534. The South Carolina delegates shifted their position some- 
what when they reached the Continental Congress, but their new posi- 
tion, as we shall see, served the purposes of their friends at home as 
well as their original one. 



3^8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

two candidates upon whom both factions had joined; and 
Gadsden, Lynch and Edward Rutledge were chosen in ad- 
dition, by a majority of almost four hundred. Notwith- 
standing, Edward R-utledge's presence on the delegation 
assured the moderates a safe majority. 

On the third and last day, the meeting resolved to ap- 
point a general committee for the province in place of the 
existing committee of forty-five. The new committee was 
authorized to correspond with the other provinces and to 
''do all matters and things necessary " to carry the resolu- 
tions into execution, a phraseology which virtually vested 
the committee with unlimited power during its existence. 
The committee was then carefully constituted to exercise 
this power in an approved manner. The memxbership was 
fixed at ninety-nine ; fifteen merchants and fifteen nia:iignics 
represented Charleston, and sixty-nine planters, chosen 
forthwith by the meeting and not by the rural districts, were 
designated to represent the rest of the province.^ 

The moderates had cause for rejoicing; but the radicals 
were not dismayed. They could claim excellent salvage 
from the wreckage : the " Sam Adams of South Carolina " 
was one of the delegates to the Continental Congress; the 
delegates had powers to agree to the measures supported by 
the great and magnetic personages of the sister provinces; 
and, finally, the merchants by their active participation in 
the meeting were pledged to support such action as Con- 
gress might take. Indeed, some of the people were so 
" uneasy " over the obstructive tactics of the merchants 
that several of the latter felt it was expedient to declare 
that the merchants in general would countermand their 
orders until the results of the Congress were known. 

^ Charles Pinckney and Miles Brewton were given places on the com- 
mittee, and Peter Timothy was chosen as one of the mechanic mem- 
bers. Pinckney was chosen chairman, and Timothy secretary. For 
list of the Charleston members, vide 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 526-527. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 



379 



Greater semblance of legality was given to the election of 
delegates when the Commons House of Assembly met on 
August 2. All but five of the members had participated in 
the Charleston meeting; and by assembling privately at the 
unusual hour of eight in the morning, while the governor 
still reclined in the arms of Morpheus, they succeeded in 
ratifying the election and voting money for the delegates' 
expenses/ In the succeeding weeks, the General Committee 
found little else to do than to guard against tea importa- 
tions. Two incidents occurring in late July and early 
f^August showed that the committee believed in only the most 
I moderate methods of resistance. Two vessels arrived with 
private consignments of tea for Charleston merchants. In 
each instance, the committee assured themselves that the 
tea would not be received in Charleston, and then quietly 
waited for its seizure by the customs officials at the termina- 
tion of the twenty-day period.^ 

If the radicals of South Carolina had a difficult time in 
maneuvering their province into line, the small group of 
radicals in Georgia may be said to have had a practically 
insurmountable task. The sparse population of that infant 
province had every reason to be pleased with the home gov- 
ernment and none to be displeased.! Not yet self-supporting 
as a colony, Georgia received an annual subsidy from Par- 
liament, besides money and presents intended for the In- 
dians.^ This condition served to give Georgia " as many 

^ 4 Am. Arch,, vol. i, pp. 532. 671-672; Drayton, 3Iemoirs, vol. i, pp. 
137-141. Governor Bull wrote to Dartmouth the next day: "Your 
Lordship will see by this instance with what perseverance, secrecy and 
unanimity, they form and conduct their designs; how obedient the body 
is to the heads, and how faithful in their secrets." 4 Am. Arch., vol. 
i, p. 672. 

"^Th.^ Magna Charta and the Briton. S. C. Gaz., June 27, July 4 
25, Sept. 19, 1774- 

^ Letter from a Georgian, 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. ']ZZ' 



380 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763.1776 

place-men and publick officers with their connections, as the 
largest and most populous Government on the Continent, 
and those with independent salaries from Government/^^ 
Furthermore, the inhabitants were in constant peril of an 
attack from the Creeks, who threatened to wipe out the 
back-country settlements. " We have an enemy at our backs, 
who but very lately put us into the utmost consternation,'' 
wrote a Georgian. *' We fled at their approach; we left 
our property at their mercy; and we have implored the 
assistance of Great-Britain to humble these haughty Creeks. 
. . . Our entering into resolutions against the Government, 
in the present case, can answer no end but to injure our in- 
fant province, by provoking the Mother Country to desert 
us." ^ It is not surprising that the frontier parishes were 
unsympathetic to the propaganda against Parliament. 

In view of these facts, the radicals were unsuccessful in 
arousing indignation by references to past injustices, especi- 
ally as they had failed signally in the earlier years in ob- 
taining effective action from Georgia. There was only a 
handful of radicals in the province — a few active ones in 
Christ Church Parish, wherein lay the coast town of Savan- 
nah, and a compact group, of New England nativity, in St. 
John's Parish, immediately to the south. ^ Late in July, at 
the instance of the South Carolina radicals,^ appeals began 

'Letter from Savannah correspondent in Pa. Gas., Dec. 28, 1774; 
also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1033-1034. 

■'"* Mercurius " in Ga. Gaz., Aug. 10, 1774. 

•'St. John's Parish was appropriately named " Liberty County" at a 
later time. Medway, the chief settlement, was founded by people from 
Dorchester, Mass., after they had failed in a similar enterprise in South 
Carolina. These folks "still retain a strong tincture of Republican or 
Oliverian principles," wrote Governor Wright to Dartmouth. White, 
Ga. Hist. Colls., p. 523. 

* Letter of Wright to Dartmouth, 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 633-634. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 



381 



to appear in the Georgia Gazette exhorting the inhabitants 

to make common cause with Boston/ In " The Case 

stated," it was declared that the single question was: had 

Parliament a right to levy what sums of money on the 

^Americans they pleased and in what manner they pleased; 

I for " they that have a right or power to put a duty on my 

\^ tea have an equal right to put a duty on my bread, and why 

not on my breath, why not on my daylight and smoak, why 

not on everything?" The answer of the moderates rang 

i clear and true : the real issue was not one of taxation but 

/ '* whether Americans have a right to destroy private prop- 

/ erty with impunity." " That the India Company did send 

tea to Boston on their own account is undeniable," declared 

the writer. " That they had a right so to do and to under- ' 

sell the Merchants there (or rather the Smugglers) is 

equally undeniable," and the destructive act of the Boston- 

ians "' must, in the judgment of sober reason, be highly 

criminal and worthy of exemplary punishment." ^ 

On July 20 the Gazette contained an unsigned call for a 
provincial meeting of delegates at Savannah. A meeting 
was accordingly held at the Watch-House on Wednesday, 
July 2y.^ It is impossible to ascertain how many persons 
were present, but a radical account claimed that " upwards 
of an hundred from one Parish [St. John's] came resolved 
on an agreement not to import or use British manufactures 
till America shall be restored to her constitutional rights." 
It is clear that the great body of the province was unrepre- 
sented. After several had declined the doubtful honor, 

* " The Case stated " and '* A Georgian" in issue of July 27, 1774. 

"'Mercurius" in ibid., Aug. 10, 1774. 

^This narrative is based chiefly on the radical accounts in 4 Am. 
Arch., vol. i, pp. 638-639; the moderate version in a protest of Savan- 
nah inhabitants, Ga. Gaz., Sept. 7, 1774; and the radical rejoinder in 
ibid., Sept. 21. 



382 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



John Glenn was chosen chairman. A motion was made to 
appoint a committee to draft resolutions " nearly similar 
to those of the Northern Provinces," but it was lost by " a 
large majority of the respectable inhabitants." Letters 
were then read from the General Committee of South Caro- 
lina and other northern committees; and while the reading 
was going on, many moderates, believing that the main issue 
had been settled, withdrew from the meeting. The radicals 
quietly swelled their own numbers by gathering in '' several 
transients and other inconsiderate people;" and a motion 
for a committee was put a second time and announced as 
carried, in face of the protest of several gentlemen that, if 
the names of the persons on both sides were put down, it 
would appear that a majority of the freeholders present 
opposed the motion. A committee of thirty-one was forth- 
with chosen; but it was deemed wiser, in view of the irreg- 
ular composition of the convention and the high indigna- 
tion of the moderate party, to postpone the adoption of 
resolutions until a convention of regularly-appointed dele- 
gates should meet at Savannah on August lo. It was voted, 
however, that the resolutions agreed upon at the forthcom- 
ing meeting by a majority of those present " should be 
deemed the sense of the inhabitants of this Province." 

When Governor Wright learned that the committee was 
summoning the several parishes and districts to a provincial 
convention, he adopted the usual course of royal executives, 
and on August 5 interposed a proclamation denouncing the 
action as ''unconstitutional, illegal and punishable by law." ^ 
More indicative of public opinion was a protest against the 
coming meeting, signed by forty-six inhabitants of St. Paul, 
one of the most populous parishes of the province. The 
paper declared that since the Georgians were not involved 

^ S. C. Gaz., Sept. 12, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch,., vol. i, pp. 699-700. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 383 

in the same guilt as the Bostonians, they could have no 
business in making themselves partakers of the ill-conse- 
quences of that guilt; and particular stress was laid on the 
fact that " the persons who are most active on this occasion 
are chiefly those whose property lies in or near Savannah; 
and therefore are not so immediately exposed to the bad 
effects of an Indian war; whereas the back settlements of 
this province, and our parish in particular, would most cer- 
tainly be laid waste and depopulated, unless we receive such 
powerful aid and assistance as none but Great-Britain can 
give." ^ 

The tenth of August arrived, and, according to the 
authorized account published in the Gazette, a " General 
Meeting of the Inhabitants of the Province " assembled at 
Savannah and " neniine contradicente " adopted resolutions 
condemning the coercive acts as illegal and pledging the 
concurrence of Georgia '' in every constitutional measure " 
for redress adopted by the sister provinces.' The deputies 
present were added to the existing committee of thirty-one 
to act as a General Committee for the province. This 
meager and colorless account intentionally failed to disclose 
the tense excitement and unscrupulous methods that pre- 
vailed at the meeting, or even the fact, admitted later by a 
radical, that a motion to send delegates to the Continental 
Congress failed of adoption.^ But the facts, suppressed in 
the official version were voluntarily supplied by indignation 
meetings in various parts of the province. A protest, signed 
by James Habersham, councillor and merchant, and one 
hundred and one other inhabitants of Savannah and Christ 

^ Now McDuffie County. Ga. Gaz., Oct. 12, 1774; incorrectly 
printed m Ga. Rev. Recs., vol. i, pp. 24-26. 

^ Ga. Gaz., Aug. 17, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 700-701. 

'Letter from St. John's Parish; Pa. Jotirn., Oct. 5, 1774; also 4 Am. 
Arch., vol. i, pp 766-767. 



384 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Church Parish, recounted the devious practices of the rad- 
icals at the meeting of July 27, and charged that the im- 
portant parish of St. Paul was not represented at the meet- 
ing of August 10 and that several other parishes had been 
induced to send deputies through a misrepresentation of the 
purpose of the gathering. It was further alleged that, in 
absence of notification to the contrary, all but the select 
few in the secret supposed that the second meeting would be 
held at the same place as the earlier one, but in fact it " was 
held in a tavern, with the door shut for a considerable time, 
and it is said twenty-six persons answered for the whole 
province and undertook to bind them by Resolution; and 
when several gentlemen attempted to go in, the tavern- 
keeper, who stood at the door with a list in his hand, re- 
fused them admittance, because their names were not men- 
tioned in that list." ^ 

These charges w^ere elaborated and confirmed by pro- 
tests emanating from three other parishes. The burden of 
three different protests from St. Paul Parish, signed in all 
by two hundred and eighty-seven names, was that the meet- 
ing had been secret, small, unrepresentative, and even, ac- 
cording to the belief of the Augusta signers, illegal." From 
one portion of St. George Parish came the plaint that, 
though many of the subscribers had voted to send deputies 
to the Savannah meeting, " it was because we were told that 
unless we did send some persons there, we would have the 
Stamp Act put in force," while the western district of the 
same parish announced that they had known nothing of the 

' Ga. Gaz., Sept. 7, 1774; reprinted in incomplete form in Ga. Rev. 
Recs., vol. i, pp. 18-21. 

'Protests from 126 inhabitants of the Kyoka and Broad River Settle- 
ments, 123 inhabitants of the township of Wrightsborough and places 
adjacent, and from 38 inhabitants of the town and district of Augusta; 
Ga. Gaz., Oct. 12, 1774; also Ga. Rev. Recs., vol. i, pp. 22-24, 27-30, 
where the Augusta resolves are given inaccurately. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 385 

appointment of deputies/ In similar strain, a protest from 
St. Mathew Parish declared that the signers there had been 
told that the meeting would petition the king for mercy for 
Boston " as a child begs a father when he expects correc- 
tion," and that unless they signed, the Stamp Act would be 
imposed on them.^ 

The radicals made no effective answer to these apocryphal 
accounts.® A publication of the committee in the Gazette 
of September 21 called attention to the fact that only about 
one-fifth of the effective men in the parish had signed the 
Savannah protest; it justified the presence of ''transient 
and inconsiderable persons " at public meetings, and denied 
that the doors of the tavern had been closed, although ac- 
knowledging that several persons had been denied admit- 
tance without the knowledge of the committee. These facts 
were, in any case, non-essential, it was declared, for the - 
great issue was whether Parliament had the right to tax 
America and whether or not Boston was suffering in the 
common cause. 

The undaunted radicals of St. John's Parish made one 

'Protests from 123 inhabitants of St. George Parish and from 53 in- 
habitants of Queensborough and the western district of the parish; Ga, 
Gaz., Sept. 28, 1774; also S. C. & Am. Gen. Gaz., Oct. 7. 

*The protest bore 35 signatures to the body of it and 12 others to an 
addendum; Ga. Gaz., Sept. 2, 1774; also Ga. Rev. Recs., vol. i, pp. 
32-34. 

^Apparently it was left for the patriotic historians writing in after 
years to discover that the papers of protest had been "placed in the 
hands of the governors' influential friends and sent in different direc- 
tions over the country to obtain subscribers, allowing a sum of money 
to each of those persons proportioned to the number of subscribers they 
obtained," and that in some instances the number of signers exceeded 
the population of the parishes or were, in part, recruited from those 
who had long since passed away. McCall, H., History of Ga. (i8r6) 
vol. ii, pp. 24 25. For Governor Wright's letters to Dartmouth, stat, 
ing that the papers of protest had been written by the people themselves, 
vide Parliamentary History, vol. xviii, pp. 141-142. 



y^ 



386 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

more effort to secure the election of delegates to the Conti- 
nental Congress, and passed resolutions that they would 
join with a majority of the parishes for that purpose. A 
meeting was held in St. John's Parish on August 30, at 
which appeared deputies from the parishes of St. George 
and St. David; and this meager gathering went so far as 
to nominate a delegate (Dr. Lyman Hall in all probability) 
to go to the Congress, if the other parishes assented.^ But 
that assent was never forthcoming. Georgia was the only 
one of the thirteen provinces that failed to be represented at 
the First Continental Congress, j 

y In the period intervening between the appointment of 
delegates to the Continental Congress in the various prov- 
inces and the day of the adjournment of that body, sundry 

■ incidents indicated that the activity and influence of the 
radicals was increasing with the passage of the weeks. In 
the commercial provinces, the most striking development 
was the combination of workingmen of two of the chief 

\ cities to withhold their labor from the British authorities at 
Boston. Early in September, 1774, Governor Gage sought 
to hire Boston workingmen for fortifying Boston Neck, 
but was met with refusals wherever he turned. The Com.- 
■mittee of Mechanics of Boston, learning that the governor 
/would now apply at New York, warned their New York 
/ brethren of this fact,' Independently of the Boston trans- 

./, actions, the radicals at New York had already begun to 

I bring pressure to bear on labor contractors to prevent the 
exportation of carpenters to Boston, and upon the mer- 
chants to prevent the use of their vessels for the transpor- 
tation of troops and military stores.^, The Boston warning 

^ Pa. Jourfi., Oct. 5, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. jGt-y^y. 
^N. Y. Journ., Sept. 29, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 803-804. 
^Ibid., vol. i, p. 782; also .V. Y. Journ., Sept. 15, 1774- 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 387 

had the desired effect ; and on September 24 the New York 
Committee of Mechanics gave a unanimous vote of thanks 
to " those worthy Mechanicks of this city who have de- 
cHned to aid or assist in the erecting of fortifications on 
Boston Neck . . ." ' 

Aided by the pressure of the widespread unemployment, 
Gage was successful, a little later, in getting Boston carpen- 
ters and masons to work on barracks for the soldiers for a 
few days.^ The apparent change of front caused a joint 
committee of the selectmen and members of the committee 
of correspondence on September 24 to vote their opinion 
that the probable result of such disloyal conduct would be 
the withholding of contributions from Boston by other 
provinces.^ Two days later the workingmen deserted their 
jobs.* In order to seal the labor market of the surrounding 
country to the British commander, a meeting, composed of 
the committees of thirteen towns, resolved that, should any 
inhabitants of Massachusetts or the neighboring provinces 
supply the troops at Boston " with labour, lumber, joists, 
spars, pickets, straw, bricks, or any materials whatsoever 
which may furnish them with requisites to annoy or in any 
way distress " the citizens, they should be deemed " most 
inveterate enemies " and ought to be prevented and de- 
feated. The leading towns represented at the meeting ap- 
pointed " Committees of Observation and Prevention '' to 
enforce the resolves, and the resolves were communicated 
to every town in the province.^ The rural towns took heed ; 

^ A^. V. Journ., Sept. 29, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 803-804. 

'^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 804. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 802; also Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Sept. 26, 1774. 

*Ibid., Oct. 3, 1774; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 814-815, 820. 

^The committees in attendance were from Boston, Braintree, Cam- 
bridge, Charlestown, Dedham, Dorchester, Maiden, Milton, Mystic, 
Roxbury, Stow, Watertown and Woburn. Ibid., vol. i, pp. 807-808; 
also N. Y. Journ., Oct. 20, 1774. 



388 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

and the labor boycott was made effective/ The troops did 
not get into barracks until November, after Gage had sent 
to Nova Scotia for fifty carpenters and bricklayers and had 
succeeded in obtaining a few additional ones from New 
Hampshire through Governor Wentworth's aid.^ 

Gage was more successful in dealing with merchants. 
Although the merchants at Philadelphia refused contracts 
for blankets and other supplies for the troops at Boston, 
those at New York lent a willing ear. When a mass meet- 
ing, called without authority of the " Fifty-One," appointed 
a committee to intimidate the merchants in question, the 
transactions were repudiated and denounced by the " Fifty- 
One," and the merchants completed their orders.^ In the 
early months of 1775 the same problem arose in slightly 
different form. Certain persons had been induced to supply 
the troops at Boston with wagons, entrenching tools and 
other equipage for field operations. At the request of the 
committees of Boston and numerous other towns, the pro- 
vincial congress, then in session, " strongly recommended '* 
that all such persons should be deemed " inveterate enemies 
to America " and opposed by all reasonable means.* 

Equally significant during these months was the trend 
toward violent opposition to the tea duty, noticeable in cer- 

^ E. g., the committee of the little town of Rochester, N. H., found 
Nicholas Austin guilty of acting as a labor contractor for the Boston 
military. On his knees the cu'prit was made to pray forgiveness and 
to pledge for the future that he would never act " contrary to the Con- 
stitution of the country." N. H. Gaz., Nov. 11, 1774; also 4 Am. 
Arch,, vol. i, p. 974. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 981, 991-992; Mass. Gaz. & News-Letter, Nov. 
10, 1774; A^. Y. Gaz., Nov. 21. 

^Ibid., Oct. 3, 1774, also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 326-327, 809; 
Golden, Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 366-368. 

^Mass. ^pyy Feb. 9, 1775; also 4 Am, Arch., vol. i, pp. 1329-1330. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 



389 



tain portions of the plantation provinces. Although the 
people had quietly paid the duty since the partial repeal in 
1770, the passage of the coercive acts and the attendant ex- 
citement in America had wrought a change of opinion; 
and with the passage of months the lawless element in the 
community was more and more getting the upper hand. 
This is best shown in the episode of the brig Peggy Stew- 
art.^ This vessel arrived at Annapolis, Maryland, on Fri- 
day, October 14, 1774, laden with more than a ton of dutied 
tea, consigned to the local firm of T. C. Williams & Com- 
pany. The Peggy Stewart was chiefly owned by Anthcny 
Stewart, of Annapolis, but his father-in-law, James Dick, 
had a financial interest in the venture. These two gentle- 
men had achieved unpopularity on a former occasion 
when, as importers in the Good Intent, they had sought to 
introduce British goods contrary to the will of the people 
of Annapolis.^ The orders for the tea had been sent by 
Williams & Company in May, 1774, at a time when other 
Maryland merchants were doing the same thing without 
arousing disfavor.^ Immediately upon the arrival of the 
brig, Stewart hastened to pay the duty on the tea. When 
news of the affair came to the Anne Arundel County Com- 
mittee a few hours later, they convened a public meeting 
in the evening to consider what measures should be taken. 
The consignees and others concerned in the importation 
were called before the meeting; and it was unanimously 

^Mr. Richard D. Fisher, of Baltimore, collected the chief source ac- 
counts of this episode and published them, with editorial comment, in 
the Baltimore News during the years 1905-1907. A scrapbook of these 
clippings, entitled The Arson of the Peggy Stewart, is in the Library of 
Congress. Some of the less accessible of these papers have been re- 
published in the Md. Hist. Mag., vol. v, pp. 235-245. 

^ Vtde suf>ra, pp. 200-201. 

^ Vide statement of Joseph and James Williams m Md. Gaz., Oct. 
27, 1774; also supra, p. 245. 



/ 



390 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 176S.1776 

resolved that the tea should not be landed in America. The 
meeting adjourned to Wednesday, the nineteenth, and for 
the interim a special committee was appointed to attend 
the unloading of the other merchandise on board the brig 
and to prevent the landing of the tea. Thus far the inci- 
dent did not differ from many similar occurrences. Appar- 
ently a concession from the importers to the effect that the 
tea should be re-shipped at once or, at most, that the tea 
should be cast into the sea would close the incident. Stew- 
art sought to explain his action in paying the duty, in a 
broadside on Monday, in which he told of the leaky condi- 
tion of the vessel, the need of the fifty-three souls on board 
to land after a three months' voyage, and the impossibility 
of entering the vessel without the tea. He expressed his 
sorrow for his unintentional transgression. 

From the viewpoint of the orderly elements in the com- 
munity, the postponement of final action until the public 
meeting of Wednesday proved to be a tactical blunder. 
During the interval handbills were dispersed through the 
nearby counties containing notice of the meeting, and pop- 
ular feeling was aroused to a high pitch. To the meeting 
on Wednesday came parties of extremists from various 
parts of the province determined upon violence : one group 
from Prince George's County, headed by Walter Bowie (or 
Buior), a planter; one from Baltimore County, led by 
Charles Ridgely, Jr., member of the Assembly; one from 
the town of Baltimore, led by Mordecai Gist and John 
Deavor; one from the head of Severn River, led by Rezen 
Hammond; and two from Elk Ridge in Anne Arundel 
County, headed respectively by Dr. Ephraim Howard and 
Dr. Warfield.^ When the great assemblage were ready 

^Affidavit of R. Caldeleugh, manager of Stewart's rope factory; Md. 
Hist. Mag., vol. v, pp. 241-244. Of. Galloway's account; Pa. Mag., 
vol. XXV, pp. 248-253. 



CONTEST IN PLANTATION PROVINCES 391 

for business, Stewart and the Williamses appeared before 
them with an offer to destroy the tea and to make such 
other amends as might be desired. The Anne Arundel 
Committee advised the meeting that this offer should be 
deemed sufficient ; but the boisterous minority in attendance 
would not have it that way. " Matters now began to run 
very high and the people to get warm," declared a partici- 
pant later ; " some of the Gentlemen from Elk Ridge and 
Baltimore Town insisted on burning the Vessel " as well 
as the tea/ Charles Carroll, the barrister, and Matthias 
Hammond proposed, as a compromise, that the tea should 
be unloaded and burnt under the gallows ; but the extrem- 
ists were beyond halfway measures. " Old Mr. Dick," one 
of the owners of the brig and the father of Stewart's wife, 
now gave his consent to the destruction of the vessel, for 
fear that the rage of the mob would be directed against the 
Stewart home where Mrs. Stewart lay in a critical condi- 
tion. " Mr. Quyn then stood forth," averred the observer 
already quoted, " and said it was not the sense of the 
majority of the people that the Vessell should be destroyed, 
and made a motion which was seconded that there should 
be a vote on the Question. We had a Vote on it and a 
Majority of Yz of the people; still the few that was for 
destroying the Brigg was Clamorous and insinuated that if 
it was not done they would prejudice Mr. Stewart more 
than if the vessel was burnt; the Committee then with the 
Consent of Mr. Dick declared that the Vessell and Tea 

' Galloway's account. " Americanus " declared in the 'LonAon Public 
Ledger,] Sin, 4, 1775, that the bitter feeling against the principals in the 
affair was caused by Stewart's earlier activity in opposing the resolution 
for the suspension of debt collections, and by the jealousy of other merch- 
ants because Williams & Co. had a splendid assortment of merchandise 
onboard. These charges do not bear close examination. The Anne 
Arundel County Committee stigmatized them as "false, scandalous 
and malicious." Md. Gaz. (Annapolis), Apr. 13, 1775. 



392 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



should be burnt." ^ Stewart and the consignees made a 
written acknowledgment of their " most daring insult." 

While preparations were being made for burning the ves- 
sel, many of the substantial inhabitants began to believe that 
undue v/eight had been given to the threats of the violent 
minority, and determined to prevent the injustice; but as 
they were going to the waterfront, they were met by '' poor 
Mr. Dick," who entreated them '' for God sake not to 
meddle in the matter " or Mr. Stewart's house would be 
burnt, which would be a greater loss. The other program 
was therefore duly carried out; and the Peggy Stewart, 
with sails and colors flying, was consumed in the presence 
of a great crowd of spectators. '' This most infamous 
and rascally affair . . . ," commented the observer quoted 
before, " makes all men of property reflect with horror on 
their present situation to have their lives and propertys at 
the disposal & mercy of a Mob . . ." 

Such an incident could scarcely have occurred six months, 
or even three months, earlier in a plantation province. The 
truth was that the leaders of an orderly opposition to Brit- 
ish measures were losing their mastery of the situation. 
The destruction of the Peggy Stewart involved a monetary 
loss of £1896 to owners and consignees. The public meet- 
ing had, in effect, refused to accept as adequate an act of 
destruction similar to that which had served to make the 
Boston Tea Party heinous in the eyes of the British home 
government. That the act was forced by an ungovernable 
minority subtracts in no degree from the seriousness or 
significance of the incident. In a word, Annapolis had out- 
Bostoned Boston. 

* That this decision was forced by an aggressive minority is also ap- 
parent from other contemporary accounts, e. g.: Eddis, Letters from 
America, no. xviii; Ringgold's account in Pa. Mag., vol. xxv, pp. 
253-254; letter from Annapolis in London Chronicle, Dec. z^') '^774- 
The ingeniously-worded official account does not deny it. 4 Am. 
Arch., vol. i, pp. 885-886. 



CHAPTER X 

The Adoption of the Continental Association 
(September-October, 1774) 

The First Continental Congress was the product of 
many minds. ,_2^More than any other occurrence of the 
eventful decade, the movement for an interprovincial con- 
gress was of spontaneous origin. When the time was ripe, 
the thought seemed to leap from the minds of men with 
the thrill of an irresistible conclusion^j It would be mis- 
leading to give Providence, Rhode Island, the credit of 
originating the idea, simply because the town meeting there 
proposed a continental congress four days before the Phila- 
delphia Committee, six days before the New York Com- 
mittee, and ten days before the dissolved burgesses of Vir- 
ginia. All these proposals were antedated by suggestions 
in private letters and by a newspaper propaganda to the 
same end ; ^^ and all advocates drew their inspiration from 
a common source — the logic of the times.^ 

In its inception the project of a general congress was 
favored — and feared — by all shades of opinion, govern- 
mental and non-governmental, conservative, moderate and 
radical, mercantile and non-mercantile. Governor Franklin 
and " many of the Friends of Government " in New Jersey 
approved of such a congress if it should be authorized by 
the Crown and be composed of governors and selected mem- 
bers of the provincial legislatures.^ Joseph Galloway 

^ For a summary of newspaper writings in support of a general con- 
gress, vide Frothingham, Rise of Republic, pp. 314, 329, 331-333 n. 
^ I N. J. Arch., vol. x, pp. 464-465. 

393 



394 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

wanted a congress consisting preferably of delegates 
*' chosen either by the Representatives in Assembly or by 
them in Convention." ^ Both men desired to forestall a 
resort to lawless action and to have the relations of the 
mother country and the colonies defined in enlightened 
terms. Many conservatives of ^lassachusetts believed that 
a general congress would be " eminently serviceable " in 
prevailing upon the Bostonians to m.ake restitution to the 
East India Company and in formulating a plan of perma- 
nent conciliation : " Tories as well as whigs bade the dele- 
gates God speed." " The Rhode Island legislators and the 
Virginians meeting at RaleighTavem appeared to have in 
>^mind a permanent union of the provinces in annual con- 
^., gresses, chosen by the several legislatures, for the sake of 
the comrnon concerns. The merchants of New York and 
Philadelphia wanted a congress, constituted upon almost 
any principle, in order to postpone or prevent the adoption 
of a plan of non-intercourse, and in order to effect a uni- 
form and lenient plan in case non-intercourse could not be 
prevented. Dickinson advocated a congress, elected by 
assemblies wherever possible, for the purpose of formulat- 
ing a uniform boycott against England and avoiding the 
,' dreadful necessity of war.^ Sam Adams rendered lip- 
ser\4ce to the cause of a congress, but strained every energ}^ 
to committing the continent to a radical program before the 
body could assemble.* Silas Deane criticized the premature 
activity of Adams and favored a congress as a preventive 
of " narrow, partial and indigested " plans of action.^ 

On the other hand. Governor Franklin in June feared 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 485-486. 

' " Massachusettensis " in Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Mch. 27, IJJS- 

^ Pa. Journ., June 15, 1774; also Writings (Ford), vol. i, pp. 499-500. 

* Writings (Gushing), vol. iii, pp. 114-116, 125-127. 

^ Conn, Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ii, pp. 129-130. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 395 

" the Consequences which may result from such a Con- 
gress as is now intended in America, chosen by the Assem- 
bhes, or by Committees from all the several Counties, in 
each of the Provinces;" ^ while, conversely, the radical, 
Josiah Ouincy, warned Dickinson two months later that: 
" Corruption (which delay gives time to operate) is the de- 
stroying angel we have most to fear. ... I fear much that 
timid or lukewarm counsels will be considered by our Con- 
gress as prudent and politic." ^ And Governor Gage, of 
Massachusetts, writing at almost the same moment as Gov- 
ernor Franklin, inclined to the opinion of Quincy when he 
said : " I believe a Congress, of some sort, may be ob- 
tained; but when or how it will be composed is yet at a 
distance, and after all, Boston may get little more than 
fair words." ^ 

The original idea of the New England radicals seems to 
have been for '' a congress of the Merchants, by d^outies 
from among them in every seaport town, . . . with pv. wer 
to establish a plan for the whole . . ." ^ Paul Revere, 
after a fortnight's trip through the commercial provinces, 
reported a sentiment in favor of a congress, so consti- 
tuted, in order to place a restriction on the trade to the 
West Indigs.^ When the widespread demand seemed to 
call for an assemblage of a more general character, the 
Boston Committee of Correspondence suggested that : 
"There must be both a political and commercial congress." * 

^ I N. J. Arch., vol. x, pp. 464-465. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 725. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 451. 

* Letter of Boston Committee of Correspondence to Providence Com- 
mittee of Correspondence, May 21, 1774; Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. x. 
pp. 796-798. 

^ Mass. Spy, June 2, 1774. 

^ Bos. Com. Cor. Mss., vol. x, pp. 796-798. 



396 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

This quickly proved to be unfeasible ; and the Massachu- 
setts Spy declared on June i6, 1774: ''A Politico-Mer- 
cantile Congress seems now to be the voice of all the 
Colonies from Nova-Scctia to Georgia; and New York the 
place of meeting proposed by private letters : However, 
our generous brethren of that metropolis are pleased to 
complement Boston with the appointment both of time 
and place; which invitation will undoubtedly be accepted 
with grateful alacrity." On the y^vy _m^ dd.yy the Massa- 
chusetts House of Representatives actecLwith the promised 
" alacrity." While the secretary of the province read the 
governor's proclamation of dissolution to a curious audi- 
ence on the wrong side of the locked door, the house chose 
delegates to the Congress and announced the place of meet- 
ing to be Philadelphia on September i.^ Already on June 
15 the Rhode Island Assembly had appointed delegates; 
and in the subsequent weeks every province of the thirteen 
designated representatives, in one fashion or other, except 
Georgia." 

What was to be the program of the Congress when it 
met ? The answer to the question depended upon a proper 
evaluation of a number of factors, principally the follow- 
ing : the instructions given to the members-elect of the Con- 
gress; the crystallization of public opinion in the period 
prior to the assembling of that body; the character and 
temper of the members and of the interests functioning 
through them; the steeplechase of ultimatum and conces- 
sion which was certain to occur after the Congress had 
assembled. 

Although the instructions of the delegates obviously had 
a bearing on the action of Congress, it would be mislead- 
ing to ascribe to these papers any commanding importance : 

^ Mass. Spy, June 23, 1774; also 4 ^w- Arch., vol. i, pp. 421-423. 
^ Vide supra, chapters viii and ix, passim. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 397 

for the instructions represented not so much what the 
dominant elements in a community really wanted, as what 
they dared to say that they wanted. These instructions 
had originated in divers ways, although in almost every in- 
stance they had been issued by the body which had chosen , 
the delegates/ cThe keynote of all instructions was the 
injunction that the delegates should adopt proper measures 
to extricate the colonies from their difficulties with the' 
mother nation, and that they should establish American 
rights and liberties upon a just and permanent basis and 
so restore harmony and union. Some difference of opinion 
was apparent concerning the nature and extent of the colo- 
nial grievances which should be redressed. About half the 
provinces deemed these too patent, or the occasion prema- 
ture, for a particular definition of them in the instructions. 
The other provinces were unanimous in naming parlia- 
mentary taxation of the colonies as a grievance, and almost 
without exception they included the punitive acts of 1774, 
particularly the Boston Port Act.^ The Pennsylvania con- 
vention had gone so far as to suggest the maximum con- 

^ In Massachusetts^ Rhode Island and Connecticut, the lower house of 
the legislatures gave the instructions. In New Hampshire, New Jersey, 
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, provincial conven- 
tions were responsible for the instructions. Both kinds of bodies 
participated in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. In the province of 
New York, the delegates were uninstructed in the technical sense of the 
term, but a majority of them had been forced to announce their plat- 
form in response to popular pressure. All the instructions may be 
found in 4 Am. Arch., vol. i. Consult index under name of the prov- 
ince desired. 

^Virginia, Delaware and the Pennsylvania convention added the re- 
vived statute of Henry VIII and the extension of the powers of the 
admiralty courts. South Carolina included the " unnecessary restraints 
and burthens on trade " and the statutes and royal instructions which 
made invidious distinctions between subjects in Great Britain and in 
America; Delaware, the curtailing of manufacturing; and the Pennsyl- 
vania convention, the quartering of troops. 



398 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

cessions which Congress should make in return for the 
favors desired, i. e., the settlement of an annual revenue 
on the king and the reimbursement of the East India 
Company. 

The widest divergence of opinion appeared on the im- 
portant point of the nature of the opposition which should 
be directed against Great Britain. Most of the commercial 
provinces instructed their delegates to adopt '' proper " or 
" prudent " or " lawful " measures without specifying 
further details.^ New Jersey and Delaware, provinces 
largely agricultural in their economy, were the only ones 
of the group to recommend a plan of non-importation and 
non-exportation to Congress. In contrast to the commer- 
cial provinces, three of the four planting provinces that 
took action instructed their delegates for a non-importation 
and non-exportation with Great Britain.^ 

If the absence of such instruction's in the northern 
provinces suggested the dominance of the business motive 
in that section, the form of the boycott plan proposed in 
various parts of the South revealed the presence of power- 
ful agricultural interests there. The instructions to the 
Maryland delegates carefully specified that that province 
would not withhold the exportation of tobacco unless Vir- 
ginia and North Carolina did so at the same time. By the 
Virginia instructions, the delegates were told uncondition- 
ally that non-exportation must not become operative be- 

^ There were unimportant exceptions. The New York delegates had 
been maneuvered into avowing a present inclination toward a non- 
importation regulation. The Pennsylvania Assembly had refused to 
give detailed instructions; but the provincial convention had recom- 
mended the sending of petitions as a first resort, and had intimated 
that Pennsylvania would, under no circumstances, go further than a 
non-importation and non-exportation with Great Britain, unless Parlia- 
ment should adopt further measures of aggression. 

2 Md., Va., N. C. South Carolina was silent on this point. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 39^ 

fore August 10, 1775, because that date would " avoid the 
heavy injury that would arise to this country from an 
earlier adoption of the non-exportation plan after the 
people have already applied so much of their labour to the 
perfecting of the present [tobacco] crop . . ." ^ Probably 
,"- from a similar motive, the North Carolina delegates were 
I instructed to delay the operation of non-exportation until 
I October i, 1775, if possible. Virginia wished the non- 
V importation to become effective on November i, 1774; 
North Carolina preferred January i, 1775. The instruc- 
tions of the South Carolina delegates observed a discreet 
silence as to the adoption of a boycott plan; but the rice 
planters had safeguarded their interests by inserting a pro- 
vision pledging the province only to such measures of the 
Congress as commanded the support of the South Carolina 
delegates as well as the majority of Congress. 

A closer scrutiny of the several sets of instructions 
would only serve to enforce the conclusion that, although 
the plantation provinces stood rather clearly for a two- 
edged plan of commercial opposition, the instructions of no 
province contemplated a comprehensive and skilfully artic- 
ulated plan such as the Continental Association turned out 
to be. Every province, touching on the matter, specifically 
limited the proposed suspension of trade to Great Britain, 
except Maryland and New Jersey. Onty Mar}dand author- 
ized her delegates to agree "to "any restrictions upon ex- 
ports to the West Indies which may be deemed necessary 
by a majority of the Colonies at the general Congress." 

* This instruction provoked a writer in the commercial provinces to 
query Mrhether this restraint did not tend to render Congress totally 
ineffective, inasmuch as every province had an equal right to safeguard 
its material interests; thus Pennsylvania, the importation of cloth. 
New York, the importation of hats and tea, New England, the im- 
portation of flannels, calicoes, etc. Pa. Journ., Sept. 28, 1774; also 
4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 755-756. 



400 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



The scope, the symmetry, the enforcement provisions of 
the Continental Association clearly did not proceed from 
the instructions of the delegates. 

The development of public opinion in the interval be- 
tween the giving of instructions and the assembling of 
Congress marked a long stride in advance of the views em- 
bodied in the instructions. The direction of the gathering 
opinion was influenced, to some, degree, by correspondents 
in London, both of native and colonial birth, many of 
Whose letters appeared in the colonial press and all of whom 
argued that the hard times then prevailing in England 
m.ade some form of trade suspension the logical mode of 
opposition.^ To a larger degree, the public mind was in- 
fluenced by the trenchant articles with which the propa- 
gandists filled the newspapers. As one newspaper writer 
phrased it : " The Delegates must certainly desire to know 
the mind of the country in general. No rational man will 
think himself so well acquainted with cur affairs as that he 
cannot have a more full and. better view of them." The 
questions which would confront Congress, the same writer 
declared, were chiefly the following : In what manner and 
in what spirit shall we make our application to Great Brit- 
ain? ** Shall we stop importation only, or shall we cease 
exportation also? Shall this extend only to Great Britain 
and Ireland, or shall it comprehend the West India Islands? 
At what time shall this cessation begin? Shall we stop 
trade till we obtain w^hat we think reasonable and which 
shall secure us for time to come ; or shall it be only till we 
obtain relief in those particulars which now oppress us? 
Shall we first apply for relief and wait for an answer be- 

^E. g., vide letters in Pa. Gaz., May i8, June i, Aug. lo, 1774; 
N. H. Gaz., May 26, 1775; Mass. Spy, May 12, 1774. Vide also Dr. 
Franklin's letters to Gushing, Thomson, Timothy and others in his 
Writings (Smyth), vol. vi, pp. 238-244, 249-251, 303-31 1 ; vol. x, pp. 
274-275. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 401 

fore we stop trade, or shall we stop trade while we are 
making application?" In what manner ought we to offer 
to bear our proper share of the public expenses? Shall we 
offer to pay for the tea that was destroyed ? ^ 

Press discussion occupied itself very largely with the 
problems of commercial warfare here presented. "A Dis- 
tressed Bostonian " noted a general disposition to oppose 
the oppressive measures of the home government; but, he 
added acutely : " We are variously affected, and as each 
feels himself more or less distres'd he is proportionately 
warm or cool in the opposition." ^ A few typical extracts 
Avill indicate the trend of newspaper discussion. "A Letter 
from a Virginian to the Members of the Congress " en- 
treated the delegates to avoid all forms of the boycott, re- 
minding them that the resources of the mother country 
were infinite, and asking : " Shall we punish ourselves, like 
froward Children, who refuse to eat when they are hungry, 
that they may vex their indulgent Mothers ? . . . We may 
teize the Mother Country, we cannot ruin her." ^ "A Citi- 
zen of Philadelphia " took a slightly more advanced view. 

^N. Y. Journ., Aug. 4, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 634-637. 

' Bos. Eve. Post, Sept. 5, 1774. A writer in the Pa. Journ., Sept. 28, 
1774, expanded the same thought in these words: "The farmer, who 
insists that the dry goods merchant shall cease to import, though the 
measure should even deprive him of bread ; and yet, through fear 
of some frivolous loss to himself, very wisely protests against non- 
exportation, certainly merits the utmost contempt. Nor does the 
farmer, in this case, stand alone. The miller lays claim to public 
spirit; talks loudly for liberty; and also insists upon a non-importation; 
and in order to enforce the scheme upon the merchant, will readily 
agree to a general non-consumption ; but no sooner is non-exportation 
sounded in his ear, than his mighty public spirit, like Milton's devils 
at their Pandemonium consultation is instantly dwarfed. * My interest, 
sir ! I cannot part with that ! Alas ! if a general non-exportation takes 
place, what shall I do with my mill ? ' " 

^N. Y. Gas., Aug. 22, 1774. 



402 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



I He proclaimed himself in favor of a general non-importa- 
Ition with England; but he roundly condemned a non- 
I exportation as a weapon which would inflict "a more 
{deadly wound" on America than on England, and he op- 
' posed a suspension of trade with the West Indies as a pun- 
ishment to a people who were innocent of wrong-doing/ 
" Juba '' addressed himself to '' The honourable Dele- 
gates," who were soon to convene in Congress, and advo- 
cated a non-importation and non-exportation agreement 
which included Great Britain, Ireland and the West Indies 
in its operation. " I know many objections to a plan of 
this kind will be started by self-interested men," he de- 
clared, " but is this a time for us to think of accumulating 
fortunes, or even adding to our estates ?" " 

A comprehensive plan of trade suspension, such as was 
advocated by "Juba," was urged on the colonists by many 
American sympathizers in Great Britain," and received the 
widest newspaper support in the colonies, although it had 
received no sanction in any of the instructions to members- 
elect of Congress. The realization dawned upon the rad- 
ical writers that the coercive operation of the measures 
adopted should be speed}^ and far-reaching, notwithstanding 
the severe blow to colonial trading interests and the per- 
sonal guiltlessness of the populations affected. By with- 
drawing American exports from Great Britain, it was esti- 
mated that the public revenue would be reduced nearly one 
million pounds sterling per annum, about half of which 
sum arose from the single article of tobacco.* Indeed, "the 

^Pa. Packet, June 20, 27, I774; also A^ Y. Gas., June 27, July 4. 

^ N. Y. Gazetteer, Sept. 2, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 754-755- 

^ E. g., vide anonymous letters printed in Pa. Journ., Sept. 14, 21^ 
1774; Pa. Gas., Sept. 21 ; Mass. Spy, June 2; Md. Gas., May 26. 

*"To the People of America" (Boston, Sept., i774), in 4 Am. Arch., 
vol. i, pp. 756-759. Vide also Mass. Spy, Mch. 23, 1775. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 



403 



shipping, manufactures and revenue [of England] depend 
so much on the Tobacco and CaroHna Colonies that they 
alone, by stopping their exports, would force redress." ^ 
The want of American naval stores, particularly pitch, tar 
and turpentine, would also be felt in England immediately.' 
By stopping the exportation of colonial flaxseed to Ireland, 
the linen manufacturers of England would be deprived of 
their raw material and more than three hundred thousand 
employees thrown out of work.^ 

The design of stopping all trade with the West Indies 
was even a bolder conception, because of the basic impor- 
tance of that branch of commerce to American business 
prosperity. The plan derived its inspiration from the fact 
that more than seventy members of Parliament owned 
plantations in the West Indies and they thus exposed an 
Achilles-heel to the darts of the Americans. " Suspending 
our trade with the West Indies," declared one writer, '' will 
ruin every plantation there. They can neither feed their 
negroes without our corn nor save their crops without our 
lumber. A stoppage of North American supplies will bring 
on a famine and scarcity too ruinous to be risked without 
the most stupid madness." "* " If the West India Planters, 
who have great influence in Parliament," said another, 
" are content to see their estates ruined, and their slaves 
perish, if they will quietly resign these their possessions, 
let it he, and let the crime be added to the enormous account 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 237-238. 

2 Unsigned letter (probably of Dr. Franklin) in Mass. Gaz. & Post- 
Boy, Oct. 24, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 701-702. 

3 Ibid., vol. i, pp. 756-759- 

■^''To the People of America," ihid., vol. i, pp. 756-759- V^de also 
letter to Bos. Com. Cor., ibid., p. 347; "Queries," ibid., p. 755; "Camillus" 
in .V. H. Ga:j., Aug. 5, 1774; " Plain Dealer" in A^ Y. Journ., July 21; 
''A Country Man" in ibid., Dec. 15. 



404 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



of the British Parliament." ^ " There will be opposers 
to this scheme even among our friends (self-interest is 
strong)," he added. '' I know it requires a great sacrifice 
to stop trade to the West Indies. . . . But / see no justice 
that the merchant trading to Great Britain should he the 
only sufferer, the V/est-India merchant ought to suffer also, 
and especially when his sufferings will absolutely w^ork the 
most forceably." A third writer recalled a long-rankUng 
grievance of the Americans against the West India plant- 
ing element. No less than seventy-four members of Par- 
liament " are West India planters and proprietors," he de- 
clared. "And I am also credibly informed that they were 
the means of fomenting these dif^culties by first getting [in 
1764] a duty laid on all sugars, molasses, coffee, &c., not 
imported from the English West-India Islands; it will 
therefore be necessar)^ to shew them of how much impor- 
tance we are, by distressing them for w-ant of our trade." ^ 
An animated discussion occurred over the question 
whether remittances should be withheld from the British 
merchants as well as trade connections. If we liquidate 
our annual indebtedness of £3,000,000 sterling as usual, 
queried "A Plain Dealer," will the British merchants not 
be enabled thereby to employ the manufacturers for one 
whole year after importation has ceased, a period during 
which our measures will be felt only by ourselves ? " While 
conceding the theoretical injustice involved in a refusal to 
pay debts, a Philadelphia wTiter contended that the case 
under consideration was an exception to the rule; for, if 
two neighbors shared a lifelong friendship and one of them 
took it into his head to kidnap and enslave the child of the 

^ "A Distressed Bostonian," Bos. Eve. Post, Sept. 5, 1774, 
^ Mass. Spy, Aug. 25, 1774, quoting from Conn. Gas. 
^ N. Y. Journ., July 21, 1774. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 405 

other at a time when the other owed him money, would it 
be unjust for the debtor to withhold payment until the 
child was returned? He concluded that, though Britain 
had a demand of debt against the colonists, the Americans 
had a demand of a different nature, but superior in value, 
against her ; and that when Britain granted " liberty, peace 
and a free trade," the colonists should repay their debts." ^ 
The opponents of non-remittance held that it was a dis- 
honorable expedient and not necessary under the circum- 
stances. Indeed, a " Citizen of Philadelphia " believed 
that, if the colonists should suspend the payment of their 
debts, the British merchants would retaliate and influence 
Parliament to stop all trade connections between American 
ports and Europe in order to prevent trade with foreign 
nations from being carried on on capital properly theirs.^ 

As John Adams and his brother delegates of Massachu- 
setts traveled the irksome distance from Boston to the 
meeting-place of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia 
in the latter weeks of August, they received first-hand evi- 
dence of the accelerated progress of popular sentiment 
toward extreme measures of boycott, and learned better 
than through correspondence the character of the opposi- 
tion elements in other provinces. Upon his arrival at Hart- 
ford, Adams had a talk with Silas Deane and his step-sons 
who had come over from Wethersfield to greet the Massa- 
chusetts delegates ; and though these men were " largely in 
trade," they announced that they were '' willing to re- 
nounce all their trade," Deane declaring that the resolu- 
tions of Congress would be regarded in Connecticut as, 
*' the laws of the Medes and Persians." ^ Stopping at 

* Pa. Journ., Sept. 28, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 811-814. 
'"A Few Political Reflections," Pa. Packet, June 27, 1774; also 
N. Y. Gas., July 4. 
'Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, p. 341. 



4o6 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Middletown, the members of the local committee of corres- 
pondence and many other persons assured the delegates 
that " they would abide by whatever should be determined 
on, even to a total stoppage of trade to Europe and the 
West Indies." ^ Reaching New Haven, a chief trading 
town of Connecticut, the chorus of approval was marred 
by a false note or two. In one discussion some serious 
doubts were cast upon the coercive effect of a total non- 
exportation to the West Indies, even if well executed; 
while from another source Adams was informed that a 
boycott agreement would serve no good purpose because 
Congress would lack power to enforce it. He learned from 
the tavern keeper that the fine parade which had greeted 
the delegates seven miles from the city on their arrival had 
been contrived at the last moment by the moderates " in 
order to divert the populace from erecting a liberty pole, 
&c." ' 

Arriving in due time in New York city, the delegates 
lingered nearly a week, sightseeing and " breakfasting, 
dining, drinking coffee, &c.," amidst '' all the opulence and 
splendor " of that city. Much of this time was spent in 
the company of McDougall, John Morin Scott, Isaac Sears 
and other radicals, from whom Adams gained much inti- 
mate knowledge of the local political situation. McDou- 
gall warned the Massachusetts delegates to moderate their 
language in order not to frighten the timorous elements 
there that had combined, from various motives, in support 
of the Congress.^ While the visiting delegates were yet in 

^ Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, p. 342. 

^ Ibid., vol. ii, p. 344. 

^ These groups, McDougall reported, were chiefly the following : those 
men who had been induced to join the movement by assurances that 
commercial coercion would secure relief without any danger of civil 
commotions; those who were fearful "lest the levelHng spirit of the 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 407 

/ . 
the city, the U* Fifty-One " held a session to discuss the 

business of the approaching Congress for the benefit of the 
New York delegates. Three of the latter attended; and a 
very clear intimation was given that the best course would 
be for Congress to recommend to the Bostonians to reim- 
burse the East India Company and that America should 
then return to a non-importation of dutied goods; but 
should they be reduced to the " last sad alternative of en- 
tering into a non-importation agreement," then it should 
not be a partial one as before, but should include every 
European commodity from all parts of the world. ^ 
Whether or not this measured advice reached the ears of 
John Adams he does not record in his diary ; and he prob- 
ably lost his best opportunity of hearing of it a few nights 
later when the " Fifty-One " dined the Massachusetts 
delegates with " a profusion of rich dishes, &c., &c.," and 
Adams spent the evening talking shop with James Duane, 
the lawyer of the " sly, surveying eye." 

When the Massachusetts delegation rode into Philadel- 
phia on Monday, August 29, "dirty, dusty, and fatigued," 
they found a score or more of the delegates already gath- 
ered in the city. The few days intervening before the open- 
ing of Congress were spent by the waiting delegates in 
meeting and appraising each other and in comparing notes 
as to recent political developments in various parts of 
A.merica.^ Of the fifty-six delegates who' eventually ap- 

New England Colonies should propagate itself into New York;" those 
who entertained "Episcopalian prejudices" against New England; 
" merchants largely concerned in navigation, and therefore afraid of 
non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreements;" 
and those who looked to the governm.ent for favors. Adams, J., Works 
(Adams), vol. ii, pp. 345-355- 

^ A^. Y. Gazetteer, Sept. 2, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 324 n. 

2 Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, pp. ZSy-Z^A', N. Y. Hist. Soc. 
Colls., vol. xix, pp. 12-19. 



4o8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

peared from the twelve provinces, most of the men met 
for the first time/ A large proportion of them had taken 
active part in the popular house of the provincial legisla- 
tures; ^ six of them had served in the Stamp Act Congress; 
practically all of them were members of committees of cor- 
respondence. All of them were of American nativity; and 
they must have felt a responsibility almost personal for the 
critical situation in which America found herself. As lead- 
ers of local movements for larger colonial rights and ex- 
emptions in the preceding years, their names were, for the 
most part, well known to each other. Their present inten- 
tions, however, were a matter for conjecture and appre- 
hension. 

Friends and foes of the Congress alike appreciated the 
difficulties of the situation. "An assembly like this," wrote 
the Connecticut delegates, ** though it consists of less than 
sixty members, yet, coming from remote Colonies, each of 
which has some modes of transacting public business pecu- 
liar to itself, — some particular Provincial rights and inter- 
ests to guard and secure, must take some time tO' become 

^John Dickinson, who had earlier been excluded from election 
through the efforts of Galloway, took his seat on October 17. Prior 
to this time, however, Dickinson was in close touch with the delegates 
in small dinner-groups and in other informal ways; e, g., vide Adams, 
J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, pp. 360, 2>(>?„ 379, 381, 382, 386, 397- James 
Bowdoin, of Massachusetts, had refused his election at the hands of 
the Assembly, because his relatives thought his great fortune ought 
not to be hazarded. Hazelton, Decl. of hide., p. 9; Hibernian Chronicle 
(London), October 27, 1774. William Samuel Johnson, of Connecticut, 
had declined his appointment on the ground of an important law case 
which required his attendance at Albany, an excuse which produced 
no end of skeptical comment. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 895; Conn. Cour., 
Aug. 2, 1774; Journals Cont. Cong. (L. C. Edition), vol. i, p. 18 n. 
Wolcott and Law, of the same province, had also declined, pleading 
poor health. 

' Forty of them had served in provincial legislatures, ten or more 
of them in the speakership. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 409 

so acquainted with each one's situations and connections, as 
to be able to give an united assent to the ways and means 
proposed for effecting what all are ardently desirous of 
. . . Every one must be heard even on those points or sub- 
jects which in themselves are not of the last importance; 
and indeed, it often happens, that what is of little or no 
consequence to one Colony is of the last to another." ^ In 
this Congress, affirmed John x\dams, '' is a diversity of re- 
ligions, educations, manners, interests, such as it would 
seem impossible to unite in one plan of conduct." ^ 

The delegates from the plantation provinces were, as we 
have seen, for the most part instructed to push for a limited 
non-importation and non-exportation agreement; and the 
rising tide of radical feeling in the North, as indicated in 
the newspapers, gave promise that many delegates from 
that section would also join in the movement. Indeed, con- 
sidering that /only eleven delegates in the whole Congress 
were merchants and these, for the most part, men more 
addicted to politics than to trade, some plan of non-impor- 
tation and non-exportation was the inevitable outcome of 
the Congress. ■J'he agricultural interests clearly possessed,' 
the controlling influence ; but it is impossible to give precise 
figures, for one-half of the membership were content to 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 854-855. 

'Adams. J., Works (Adams), vol. ix, pp. 346-348. Vide also Ward's 
view, in Staples, R. I. in Cont. Cong., pp. 16-17. A comment of an 
unfriendly observer (probably William Kelly, the New York merchant) 
is not without significance in this connection. After predicting that 
the Congress would end in confusion, he wrote: "My Reasons for 
thinking so are, that Men, 1500 Miles asunder, have very different 
interests ; that there will be near a Hundred Deputies assembled, most 
of which being Merchants, Shopkeepers, and Attornies, the latter of 
them will certainly rule, for no Men are so true to their own Inter- 
est as Lawyers, for they will not stick at any Thing in prosecuting 
their Interest." He proposed that the ministry should bribe some of 
the leading lawyers! London Gasetieer, Sept. 28, 1774; also S. C. 
Gac, Dec. 5. 



410 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 17b3.1776 

classify themselves as lawyers although frequently their in- 
comes were derive^d in large part^ if~not~chTeHy, from agri- 
cultural holdings/ The ultimate conscious object of the 
boycotters in Congress was not merely the repeal of the 
punitive acts of 1774 but the goal that had formerly been 
so dear to the merchant class — a return to the conditions 
of the years before lyG^)^^ Within the ranks of this group 
there was a clear understanding of the economic interests 
endangered by a suspension of trade and a willingness, on 
the part of many of them, to shift the anticipated losses on 
their brethren in the other provinces. 
I The chief danger to the adoption of a plan of continental 
Inon-intercourse came from a determined and plausible 
group of moderates, led by Joseph Galloway, who insisted 
that the only permanent relief was to be found in an en- 
lightened definition of imperial relations and colonial liber- 
ties in the form of a plan of union. This group saw in 
commercial coercion only a source of irritation to Great 
Britain, and wagered their faith on mxcmorializing and 
petitioning. Galloway averred, somewhat unjustly, that 
the men who favored his plan of union " were men of loyal 
principles, and possessed of the greatest fortunes in Amer- 
ica; the other were congregational and presbyterian repub- 
licans, or men of bankrupt fortunes, overwhelmed in debt 
to the British merchants." ^ 

- The first three weeks of the meeting of the Continental 
Congress might furnish an object-lesson for the skilled par- 
liamentarian of any age.^ '* We [Massachusetts delegates] 

^ E. g., Sullivan of N. H., Dickinson of Pa., Henry of Va. and the 
Rutledges of S. C. 

^ Historical and Political Reflections on the Rise and Progress of the 
American Rebellion (London, 1780), pp. 66-67. 

^The sources of information for the proceedings of the First Conti- 
nental Congress are meager, however. They are contained in : Journals 
of the Continental Congress (L. C. Edition), vol. i; John Adams's notes, 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 411 

have had numberless prejudices to remove here," wrote 
John Adams on September 27. " We have been obliged to 
act with great delicacy and caution. We have been obliged 
to keep ourselves out of sight, and to feel pulses and sound 
the depths; to insinuate our sentiments, designs, and de- 
sires, by means of other persons; sometimes of one Prov- 
ince, and sometimes of another." ^ Sam Adams found 
himself in his element. " He eats little, drinks little, sleeps 
little, thinks much and is most decisive and indefatigable in 
the pursuit of his objects," declared the organizing spirit of 
the opposite party.^ 

The first test of strength between the groups came on the 
very first day of meeting, Monday, September 5, when 
Congress refused the invitation, tendered by Galloway, to 
meet in the State House and, in face of negative votes from 
Pennsylvania and New York, resolved to hold their sessions 
in Carpenters' Hall, a decision naturally *^ highly agreeable 
to the mechanics and citizens in general." ^ Congress then 
proceeded to the unanimous election of Charles Thomson 
as secretary, much to the surprise of Galloway who deemed 
him " one of the most violent Sons of Liberty (so called) 
in America," and contrary to the expressed desires of Jay 
and Duane.* Both measures, according to Galloway, had 

Works (Adams), vol. ii, pp. 365-402; Samuel Ward's diary, in Mag. 
Am. Hist., vol. i, 438-442, 503-506, 549-561 ; certain pamphlets of Joseph 
Galloway; the correspondence of the members; and a few contempor- 
ary pamphlets and newspaper articles. On the whole, the pledge of 
secrecy was excellently observed. 

^ Works (Adams), vol. ii, p. 382 n. Vide also ibid., vol. ii, p. 391 n. ; 
vol. ix, pp. 342-346. 

^ Galloway, Reflections, pp. 66-67. 

^Conn. Hist. Sac. Colls., vol. ii, p. 172; Adams, J., Works (Adams), 
vol. ii, p. 365. 

* I N. J. Arch., vol. x, pp. 477-478; Adams, Works (Adams), vol. ii, 
p. 365. Adams dubbed Thomson " the Sam Adams of Philadelphia." 
Ibid., p. 358. 



412 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



been " privately settled by an Interest made out of Doors. '^ 
Peyton Randolph, of Virginia, late Speaker of the House 
of Burgesses, was chosen president without opposition. 

For the next few weeks the proceedings assumed an ap- 
pearance of " flattering tranquillity," as Galloway put it. 
The radicals were biding their time; ^ and meanwhile the 
members established a rule of secrecy (except upon occa- 
sion when Congress should direct other^vise), and agreed 
that the delegates of each province should cast one vote 
collectively. Both regulations later served the purposes of 
the radicals by giving to the proceedings a false appearance 
of unanimity. The unit rule made it possible to publish 
resolutions as having passed unanimously, even when large 
minorities in various delegations, amounting sometimes to 
one-third of the total membership of Congress, were in 
the negative.^ 

The first committee appointed by the Continental Congress 
was one to state the rights and grievances of the colonies 
and propose the best means of obtaining redress; and on 
the same day another committee was named " to examine 
and report the several Statutes which affect the Trade and 
Manufactures of the Colonies." The second committee 
submitted its report ten days later, when it was thought 
proper that the report should be referred to the former 
committee for further consideration and action.^ But be- 
fore the committee on rights and redress had submitted its 
report. Congress had already taken the definite steps which 
established the policy of trade coercion. 

The radicals threw off their mask on September 17, when 
they carried through a vote endorsing a set of resolutions 

Galloway, Reiiection^, pp. 66-67; Cooper, What Think Ye of Co*t- 
gress Nowf (New York, 1775), p. 13. 

^Galloway, Examination (London, 1780), p. 61. 
' Journals Cont. Cong. (L. C. Edition), vol. i, pp. 25-29, 40-41. 6y72,^ 
All later references to the Journals are to this edition. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 



413 



adopted by a convention of Suffolk County in Massachu- 
setts. This step was, according to Galloway, a " complete 
declaration of war " on the part of the " repubhcans." ^ 
The " Suffolk Resolves '' rejected the recent legislation 
against Massachusetts as unconstitutional and void, and 
called for a civil government to be organized by the people 
and for the establishment of a militia for defensive pur- 
poses. Furthermore, the fourteenth resolve declared that, 
as a measure for obtaining redress, the people of Suffolk 
County (and the same action was recommended to the 
other counties) would '' withhold all commercial inter- 
course with Great Britain, Ireland and the West Indies " 
and enter into a non-consumption of British and East India 
wares, subject to such alterations as Congress might make." 
By endorsing these resolutions, Congress, among other 
things, committed itself to the principle of an extensive plan 
of commercial opposition. 

As a matter of practical strategy, however, it was deemed 
safer to induce the members to agree to several separate 
propositions regarding trade suspension before uniting the 
parts into a single comprehensive whole. First was brought 
up the proposal of a non-importation with Great Britain 
and Ireland, the mildest kind of commercial warfare and 
therefore the most widely acceptable of any. On Thursday, 
September 22, Congress paved the way for its own action 
by ordering the publication throughout the continent of an 
official request that the merchants should send no more 
orders to Great Britain and should suspend the execution 
of orders already given, until the further sense of Con 
gress should be signified.^ 

* Galloway, Rejections, pp. 66-67. 

^Journals, vol. i, pp. 31-39- 

^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 41. Among other newspapers, this resolution appeared 
in the Pa. Packet, Sept. 26, 1774; Md. Gas., Sept. 29; Rind's (Pinkney) 
Va. Gas., Sept. 29; S. C. Gas., Oct. 10; Mass. Spy, Oct. 13. 






414 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



Parts of three days were given over by Congress to a 
consideration of the exact form of the non-importation.^ 
The original motion for a non-importation with the British 
Isles was made by Richard Henry Lee. Chase of Mary- 
land, an impetuous radical during these years of his life, 
spoke in opposition to non-importation as an insufficient 
measure, and proposed instead the cessation of exportation 
and the withholding of remittances. But Chase's plan ap- 
parently had a single supporter, Lynch of South Carolina. 
The chief question at issue was as to the time at which 
Lee's motion would become operative. Cushing, a mer- 
chant from the blockaded port of Boston, favored an im- 
mediate non-importation and non-consumption. Most 
speakers thought otherwise. Mifflin of Pennsylvania be- 
lieved that the first of November would be sufficiently late 
to allow for the arrival of orders already sent to Great 
Britain in April and May, and he held that orders given 
after that date had been dishonestly given to defeat the 
anticipated non-importation. Gadsden of South Carolina 
likewise argued for the first of November. It would ap- 
pear that there were a number who strenuously favored a 
much longer postponement; and Patrick Henry therefore 
moved, by way of compromise, that December be inserted 
instead of November, remarking : '' We don't mean to hurt 
even our rascals, if we have any." ■ The non-importation 
resolution, as adopted by Congress on September 2y, thus 
fixed December i as the date after which no goods should 
be imported, directly or indirectly, from Great Britain and 
Ireland; and as a warning to stubborn importers, it was 
i resolved that goods imported contrary to this resolution 
,j should not be purchased or used. 
y ^ On the next day, Gallo^yay formally presented to Con- 

'Sept. 24. 26, 27; Journals, vol. i, pp. 42-43. Xotes on the discussion 
are in Adams, J., Works, vol. ii, pp. 382-386. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 415 

gress the plan of union, which constituted the platform of 
the moderates; and he solemnly warned the body against 
non-exportation, as an illegal measure which would bring 
British warships and troops down upon American ports. 
Galloway's extremely reasonable proposal received warm 
support — from Jay and Duane of New York, from Ed- 
ward Rutledge of South Carolina, and in general from the 
members of fortune and property/ In spite of all the 
efforts of the radicals, the plan was entered in the minutes 
by a vote of six provinces to five; but, notwithstanding 
this temporary success, the moderates were never thereafter 
able to secure consideration for the plan. The zeal of the 
radicals in later expunging from the record all traces of 
this proceeding throws an interesting sidelight on their 
methods. 

The time of Congress was now devoted, for a consider- 
able part of three days, to debates over the adoption of a 
non-exportation resolution." No good account remains of 
the protracted discussion at this stage; but the nature of 
the remarks and the attitude of leading members may be 
reconstructed from John Adams's notes on an earlier occa- 
sion and from some scattered comments to be found else- 
where.^ Cushing adopted as his slogan: ''a non-importa- 
tion, non-exportation, and non-consumption, and imme- 
diately," and was joined in this by Dyer of Connecticut. 
Lynch and the Rutledges of South Carolina favored Cush- 

^ Journals, vol. i, pp. 43-51; Adams, J., Works, vol. ii, pp. 387-391 J 
I N. J. Arch., vol. x, pp. 503-507; Galloway, Rejections, pp. 72, 81 ; his 
Exammation, pp. 48, 52 n. ; his A Reply to an Address to the Author of 
a Pamphlet, entitled "A Candid Examination ..." (London, 1780), 
p. 109. 

^ Sept. 28, 29, 30; Journals, vol. i, pp. 51-52. 

^ Works, vol. ii, pp. 382-386, 391 n., 394, 476-478; Drayton, Memoirs, 
vol. i, p. 168. 



4i6 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



ing's proposal if the suspension of trade were made abso- 
lute with the whole world, not merely with British terri- 
tory. John Adams asked Congress to accept the logical 
implication of endorsing the '' Suffolk Resolves," and to 
resolve that, should further hostilities be pursued against 
Massachusetts, or any persons seized under the revived 
statute of Henry VIII, the several provinces " ought imme- 
diately to cease all exportation of goods, wares and mer- 
chandise to Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies." 

Chase, who had sniffed at a non-importation, argued for 
an immediate non-exportation and a withholding of debts, 
which, he believed, would represent a total loss to British 
merchants and manufacturers of £7,000,000 for the year. 
He also urged an immediate non-exportation of lumber to 
the West Indies, for the lumber-vessels exchanged their 
cargoes for sugar and carried the latter to England, to the 
great gain of the merchants there and of the British reve- 
nue. In this latter position he was supported by Mifflin of 
Pennsylvania and Sullivan of New Hampshire; but Isaac 
Low of New York warned against a total prohibition of all 
exports to the West Indies, as a measure which would 
" annihilate the fishery " by wiping out the West Indian 
market. Dyer proposed the withholding of flaxseed from 
Ireland. 

These and other suggestions were made by various dele- 
gates; but it quickly became clear that, although opinion 
was rapidly converging upon a plan of non-exportation, the 
Virginia tobacco planters, and the South Carolina delegates 
representing powerful rice and indigo interests, were de- 
termined to protect the industries of their respective prov- 
inces, in case such a plan were adopted. For a time, atten- 
tion was centered upon the question of suspending tobacco 
exportation. The Maryland delegates had instructions not 
to enter into any arrangement for the non-exportation of 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 417 

tobacco without the concurrence of Virginia and North 
Carolina; and the Virginia delegates were explicitly in- 
structed not to consent to a non-exportation before August 
10, 1775, in order to allow time for the marketing of the 
growing crop. This situation caused the exasperated Chase 
to declare : " A non-exportation at a future day cannot 
avail us. What is the situation of Boston and the Massa- 
chusetts? A non-exportation at the Virginia day will not 
operate before the fall of 1776." It was urged by Gadsden 
and others that the other provinces should, in this measure, 
act independently of Virginia; but for taking this step the 
Marylanders pleaded their lack of power and claimed that, 
even were a different course possible, it would be undesir- 
able, for Maryland and North Carolina tobacco would be 
carried to Virginia ports and the latter would run away 
with their trade. Fortunately for the Virginians, other 
provinces were also willing to postpone the operation of the 
non-exportation; and the date agreed upon in the resolu- 
tion eventually adopted was September 10, 1775, one month 
later than the Virginia instructions required. 

The South Carolina delegates, from the narrow nature 
of their demands, were net equally successful in enlisting 
the support of other provinces in their cause. What they 
desired (Gadsden excepted) was nothing less than that rice 
and indigo, the staples of the province, should be exempted 
from the operation of the non-exportation to Great Britain.^ 
They held that, out of due regard to the interests of their 
constituents, it was necessary either that the non-exporta- 
tion should be made operative against the whole world, or 
that, in case exportation were suspended with Great Britain 
alone, rice and indigo should be made exceptions to the 
regulation, being products which could (except under cer- 

^ Drayton, Memoirs, vol. i, pp. 169-170; Izard, Correspondence, vol i, 
pp. 21-25 ; statement of S. C. delegates, N. Y. Journ., Dec. 8, 1774. 



4i8 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

tain limited circumstances) be exported to Great Britain 
only, whereas the markets of the world were open to the 
wheat, flour, fish and oil of the commercial provinces.^ 

The South Carolina delegates were able to show that but 
a small part of the export trade of the commercial provinces 
was with Great Britain, while on the contrary nearly all of 
the indigo and two thirds of the rice of South Carolina 
went to the ports of Great Britain. Edward Rutledge felt 
justified in remarking that : '' People who are affected but 
in speculation [i. e. in theory] and submit to all the hard- 
ships attending it will not shut up their ports, while their 
neighbors, who are objects of ministerial vengeance, enjoy, 
in a great degree, the benefits of commerce." Furthermore, 
they maintained that the commercial provinces would be 
enabled to pay off their British debts by the returns of their 
foreign trade and thus greatly ameliorate the rigor of the 
trade suspension. In explaining the position of the South 
Carolina delegation before the South Carolina convention a 
few months later, John Rutledge declared that: " Upon the 
whole, . . . the affair seemed rather like a commercial 
scheme among the flour Colonies to find a better vent for 
their Flour through the British Channel, by preventing, if 
possible, any Rice from being sent to those markets; and 
that, for his part, he could never consent to our becoming 
the dupes to the people of the North or in the least to yield 
to their unreasonable expectations." 

Much bitter feeling was generated in the Congress. Ed- 
ward Rutledge declared: "A gentleman from the other end 
of the room talked of generosity. True equality is the 

^ It will be recalled that only enumerated commodities of the colonies 
were required to be exported to Great Britain and that many American 
products were not on the enumerated list. Rice and indigo were enu- 
merated, but under temporary acts a way was opened by which rice 
could be exported to Southern Europe and to regions in America 
south of Georgia. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 419 

only oublic generosity.** But it quickly became apparent 
that the vast majority were opposed to adopting the drastic 
expedient of blotting out American export relations with 
the entire world; and that they were equally disinclined to 
cater to the self-interest of the rice and indigo planters of 
South Carolina. Richard Henry Lee pleaded earnestly 
that : " All considerations of interest, and of equality of 
sacrifice, should be laid aside." In face of the vehement 
protests of the South Carolinians, the resolution for non- 
exportation was carried on September 30. ^According to its 
terms, all exportation to the British Isles and the West In- 
dies should cease on September 20, 1775, unless American 
grievances were redressed before that time. The South 
Carolina delegates had thus lost their first battle. But they 
did not accept defeat, and they laid plans to make a final 
stand before Congress adjourned. 

The principal features of the plan of commercial resist- 
ance had now been adopted by Congress. The work of 
drawing up a complete plan " for carrying into effect the 
non-importation, non-consumption and non-exportation " 
was now confided to a special committee, consisting of 
Cushing of Massachusetts, Low of New York, Miffiin of 
Pennsylvania, Lee of Virginia, and Johnson of Maryland.^ 
It is worth noting that the committee on rights and redress, 
composed of two members from each province, was ignored 
in this connection, although it still had its report under con- 
sideration; and that, of the committee of five, all but Low 
had the reputation of favoring radical measures. Low had 
been included probably because, as a conservative merchant 
of great wealth, his name would lend prestige to the work 
of the committee. 

Meantime, Congress did not give the special committee 

*Sept. 30 ; Journals, vol. i, p. 53. 



420 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 176S.1776 



an absolutely free hand, for portions of three days were 
occupied in formulating an additional resolution for their 
guidance/ This discussion was very largely confined to the 
advisability of extending the non-importation regulation to 
apply to commodities upon w^hich an import duty had been 
imposed by the revenue acts of 1764 and 1766. The South- 
em members wished to phrase the resolution so as to avoid 
the confusion arising from the importation of smuggled 
articles of the same kind as the dutied articles. '* How is 
the purchaser to know whether the molasses, sugar, or 
coffee has paid the duty or not?" asked Pendleton of Vir- 
ginia. '' It can't be known." " Many gentlemen in this 
room know how to bring in goods, sugars and others, with- 
out paying duties," declared Lynch significantly. Chase 
urged the same practical objection as Pendleton, and ob- 
jected further because of the principle involved. " Our 
enemies will think," he said, *' that we mean to strike at the 
right of Parliament to lay duties for the regulation of 
trade." This caused Lynch to reply: " In my idea. Parlia- 
ment has no power to regulate trade. But these duties are 
all for revenue, not for regulation of trade." Low felt 
himself called upon to defend the merchant class, of which 
he was so respectable a member. " Gentlemen have been 
transported, by their zeal, into reflections upon an order of 
men, who deserve it least of any men in the community."' 
He argued against the exclusion of West India rum, sugar 
and molasses from the provinces as a measure ruinous to 
American business; and he proposed that, as the importa- 
tion of East India Company tea had been suspended by the 
resolution of September 27, smuggled Dutch tea should 
likewise be placed under the ban.* 

1 Oct. I, S. 6; Journals, vol. i, pp. 53, 55n., 57, Notes on the discussion 
are in Adams, J., Works, vol. ii, pp. 393-394- 
'Low gained his point later in Art i of the completed Association. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 421 

The outcome of the discussion was a resolution of Octo- 
ber 6, which declared against the importation of the most 
important dutied articles after December i next, i. e. mo- 
lasses, coffee and pimento from the British plantations, or 
from Dominica, formerly a French possession ; wines from 
Madeira and the Western Islands; and foreign indigo. 
The special committee of five were instructed to include this 
new regulation in their report. Pendleton might well ex- 
claim : " Shan't we by this hang out to all the world our 
intentions to smuggle?" As finally phrased in the com- 
pleted Association, the importation of syrups and paneles 
(t. e., brown unpurified sugar) was also forbidden from the 
British plantations and Dominica. 

On Wednesday, October 12, the committee of five re- 
ported the results of their deliberations in the form of an 
"Association," which was ordered to lie on the table for 
the perusal of the delegates. Time was spent on the subject 
on the following Saturday, and again on Monday; finally, 
on Tuesday, October 18, the form of association was 
adopted after sundr}^ amendments, and was ordered to be 
transcribed that it might be signed by the members.^ The 
vote of passage was not recorded as unanimous, and this 
makes it extremely probable that the South Carolina dele- 
gation delivered their ultimatum at this juncture.^ Lynch, 
Middleton and the Rutledges, speaking for their province, 
demanded the exclusion of rice and indigo from the non- 
exportation regulation as the price of their signatures. 
Their proposition met with an angry dissent. Forty-eight 

' Oct. 12, 15, 17, 18; Journals, vol. i, pp. 62, 74, 75. No record of 
the debates remains. 

^ For this episode, vide Drayton, Memoirs, vol. i, pp. 169-170; A''. F. 
Journ., D€c. 8, 1774; Izard, Correspondence, vol. i, pp. 21-25; Cooper, 
What Think Ye of Congress Now?, p. 40; Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. 
xxiv, no. 2034. 



422 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

hours were allowed to pass, during which all parties had an 
opportunity to digest the situation. Without the accession 
of the South Carolina delegates to the Association, the 
province of South Carolina would not be bound thereby, 
for such were the terms of the instructions which had been 
granted the delegates.^ On the other hand, the South Caro- 
lina delegates were too earnest in their opposition to parlia- 
mentary encroachment to be willing to be detached from 
co-operation with the sister provinces, if their demands 
could be partially met. On Thursday, October 20, the final 
trial of strength came. The Association was read to the 
assembled Congress, and the delegates advanced to the 
table to attach their signatures. Thereupon the four dele- 
gates of South Carolina departed from the hall, leaving 
only the stout-hearted Gadsden, who offered to sign his 
name alone and to trust to the generosity of his constituents 
for vindication. But wiser counsels prevailed. For the 
sake of preserving the union of the provinces, the departed 
delegates were recalled ; they agreed to abandon their point 
regarding indigo, and, in return. Congress conceded the 
advantage they demanded for the article of rice. 

According to Galloway, the majority were forced to re- 
sort to some further strategy before they succeeded in ob- 
taining his signature and those of the other delegates who 
had voted against many parts of the Association. At the 
end of the document were placed the words : '' The f ore- 

^Before the Congress met, Dr. Franklin had addressed these words 
to a friend in Pennsylvania : " Your province will surely be wise enough 
not to enter into violent measures without the strictest concert with 
the other Colonies, particularly Maryland. Viriginia, and the Carolinas, 
because on them depend the whole effect of the American non-exporta- 
tion. The Northern Colonies have all the European markets almost 
for their chief exports, but those Colonies have hardly any but the 
EngUsh markets for their chief exports of tobacco and naval stores 
..." Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Oct. 24. 1/74. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 



423 



going Association being determined upon by the Congress, 
was ordered to be subscribed by the several Members 
thereof ; and thereupon, we have hereunto set our respective 
names accordingly." ^ The recalcitrant delegates were told 
that they were in the position of a Speaker of Assembly, 
who signed, by order, a bill that was contrary to his per- 
sonal judgment, a proceeding which could not be considered 
as his private act but that of the majority who made the 
order. This story bears the earmarks of truth, though it is 
clear that Galloway also felt impelled to sign '* on the 
ground of preventing the Congress from proceeding to more 
violent measures." ^ Galloway remarked afterward that he 
would rather have cut off his hand than sign.^ Congress 
directed that one hundred and twenty copies of the Associa- 
tion should be struck off; but the document was not made 
public until the close of the session. 

The Association was the most remarkable document put • 
forth by the Congress. Of its authorship nothing is known 
dennitely, perhaps for the reason that the instrument was 
the outgrowth of the experience of all the delegates through 
a decade of trade-suspension agreements and thus did not 
embody the views of any one man or any single committee. 
In part, the Association was the standardization and nation? 
alization of the systems of commercial opposition which had I 
hitherto been employed upon a local scale ; the earlier ex- 
periments in non-importation, non-consumption, and various 
forms of the secondary boycott bore fruit in a number of 

1 Galloway, A Reply to an Address, etc., pp. 114-115. The italics are 
Galloway's. Vide also Golden, Letter-Book, vol. ii, p. 374. 

'Galloway, Examination, p. 56. Vide also Pa. Mag., vol. xxvi, pp. 
320-321. 

' Conn. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ii, p. 201. Several delegates were absent 
on Oct. 20 and affixed their signatures later. Journals, vol. i, p. 81 n. 
The Association was published in the Pa. Packet, Oct. 31, 1774, and 
Mass. Spy, Nov. 10. 



424 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



carefully drawn provisions of the Association. The influ- 
ence of the southern delegates was plainly discernible in 
many portions of the paper. The very name, "Associa- 
tion," was of southern origin, and had been used in that 
section in earlier years in preference to the northern term, 
"Agreement." Most of the basic features of the Associa- 
tion were, in substance, identical with the Virginia Asso- 
ciation of August, 1774/ Furthermore, one important pur- 
pose of the Association made it natural that the plantation 
delegates should lead in its formulation. The Association, 
though framed with the primary object of bringing indus- 
trial pressure to bear upon England, was a worthless fabric 
unless the colonial merchants could he compelled to observe 
its provisions. This was a problem with which the planters 
in the South had had to deal in the earlier periods of non- 
importation, whereas the northern delegates, with the ex- 
ception of Massachusetts, knew nothing of the difficulty, 
because their non-importation agreements had been made 
and enforced by the merchants themselves. 

The Association was a document of more than two thou- 
sand w^ords divided into a preamble and fourteen articles.* 
The introductory paragraphs avowed allegiance to the king, 
and declared that commercial coercion was adopted as " the 
most speedy, effectual, and peaceable " method of obtaining 
redress from the " ruinous system of colony administra- 
tion," inaugurated by Great Britain about the year 1763 
and modified and elaborated in the subsequent years. 
Therefore, continued the paper, " we do, for ourselves, and 

1 Vide supra, pp. 368-370. By this avenue of reasoning, it might ap- 
pear that Richard Henry Lee, a member of the committee of five, should 
have major credit for the content of the Association. On the other 
hand, it is known that he held much narrower views at the opening 
of Congress. Adams, J., Works, vol. ii, p. 362. 

' Text in Journals, vol. i, pp. 75-81 : also in appendix, present volume. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 



425 



the inhabitants of the several colonies, whom we represent, 
firmly agree and associate, under the sacred ties of virtue, 
honour and love of our country ..." The demand for a 

/ return to the conditions prevailing before 1763 was, in a 
later portion, made specific and unmistakable by an enu- 
meration of the acts that must be repealed. These were 
named as of three groups : ( i ) the duties on tea, wine, 
molasses, syrups, paneles, cofifee, sugar, pimento, indigo, 
foreign paper, glass, and painters' colors, and the act ex- 
tending the powers of the admiralty courts beyond their 
ancient limits; (2) that part of the act for better securing 
the royal dockyards, ships, etc. (12 George III, c. 24) by 
which any person in America, charged with an offense 
therein described, might be transported to England for 
trial; and (3) the three acts of 1774 against Boston and 
Massachusetts and the Quebec Act.^ 

Of the fourteen articles which made up the directive 
portion of the Association, ten were devoted to establishing 
rules of conduct with reference to non-importation and the 
cognate subject, non-consumption, and with reference to 
M:he adjustment of the American standard of living to the 
tion. Three articles were applicable to both non-importa- 
tion and non-exportation and contained the most important . 
executory provisions. \ 

\ Non-importation was to become effective on December i, 
1774. Beginning with that date, no goods whatever were 
to be imported from the British Isles, directly or indirectly;, 
new conditions created by a suspension of trade. One 
article dealt solely with the establishment of non-exporta- 
no East India tea was to be imported from any part of the 
world (thus aft'ecting the smuggled as well as the legal ar- 
ticle) : the importation of molasses, syrups, paneles. coffee 

>Art 3dv. 



({ 



426 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

or pimento from the British plantations and Dominica was 
forbidden, of wines from Madeira and the Western Islands, 
of indigo from foreign parts/ It was further declared 
specifically that no slaves were tr> be imported after that 
date." 

Next, as " an effectual security for the observation of the 
non-importation/' a non-consumption regulation was de- 
vised. No goods should be purchased or used v^-hich there 
was cause to suspect had been imported after December i, 

1774, except under special conditions described in Article x ; 
likewise in the case of slaves.^ Venders of imported goods 
were warned not to take advantage of the scarcity of goods 
but were required to sell at their customary rates during the 
preceding year.* An immediate non-consumption of dutied 
tea was announced, with the provision that after March i, 

1775, the use of smuggled tea should also be abandoned." 
Article x provided for the disposal of merchandise im- 
ported contrary to the Association. If any such imports 
arrived during the first two months of the non-importation 
(i. e., before Februar}^ i, 1775),, the owner should have the 
option of re-shipping the goods immediately, or of storing 
the goods at his ov/n risk with the local committee during 
the duration of the non-importation, or of authorizing the 
committee to sell the goods. In the last case, the owner was 
to receive from the proceeds of the sale the first cost and 
charges ; the profit, if any, was to be applied toward em- 
ploying the victims of the Boston Port Act. Should any 
goods arrive after February i, 1775, they "ought forth- 
with to be sent back again, without breaking any of the 
packages thereof." 

Sumptuar}^ regulations were made in preparation for the 

^ Art. i. ' Art. ii. 

' Arts, iii and ii. 

* Art . 5 Art. iii. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 



427 



radical change which the absence of imported goods was 
certain to produce in the Hfe of the average American. 
'' Utmost endeavours " were to be made to improve the 
breed of sheep and to increase their number/ ''Agricul- 
ture, arts and the manufactures of this country, especially 
that of wool," were to be promoted.^ All American manu- 
factures were required to be sold at reasonable prices, so 
that no undue advantage might be taken of a future scar- 
city of goods/ Rigid economy was to be practised: we 
" will discountenance and discourage every species of ex- 
travagance and dissipation, especially all horseracing, and 
all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shews, 
plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments." 
Economy in mourning w^as revived from the days of 1765- 
1766, detailed directions being given/ 

The non-exportation regulation was announced to be- 
come operative on September 10, 1775, if Parliament had 
not made amends by that time. Beginning with that date, 
no goods whatsoever should be exported, directly or in- 
directly, "to fF«e"British Isles or the West Indies, except rice 
to Europe.^ Another part provided that no sheep should 
be exported to the West Indies or elsewhere ; and this regu- 
lation was to become effective immediately.® 

In some respects, the most important portions of the 
Association related to the means of enforcement. Lacking 
legal sanction, the Continental Congress were compelled to 
create their own administrative and judicial machinery and 
to impose their own penalties. This machinery was to con- 
sist of a committee in every county, city and town, chosen 
by those qualified to vote for representatives in the legisla- 
ture. These committees were " attentively to observe the 

* Art. vii. ' Art. viii. 
'Art. xiii. *Art. viii. 

* Art. iv. * Art. vii. 



^S THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

conduct of all persons touching this association," and, in 
case of a violation, to publish " the truth of the case " in the 
newspapers, to the end that all such " enemies of American 
liberty " might be universally contemned and boycotted.^ 

At this point the Association exposed its real character as 
a quasi-law, inasmuch as its binding force was not limited to 
those who accepted its provisions but was made applicable 
to ** all persons." It was one thing for two or more men 
to agree with each other not to buy goods from British 
merchants; quite another to agree that, if a man not a 
party to the compact, bought goods, they would restrain 
him and ruin his business. For fear that this regulation 
would not reach non-residents, it was provided that any 
British or Irish merchant guilty of transgressing the non- 
importation should likewise be published and bo3Xotted ; ^ 
that captains of American vessels should be forbidden to 
receive on board prohibited imports on pain of immediate 
dismissal ; ^ and that no vessels should be hired or com- 
modities sold to those engaged in the slave trade after De- 
cember I, 1774.'^ The principle of the boycott was invoked 
against whole provinces in the provision that " no trade, 
commerce, dealings or intercourse whatsoever " should be 
sustained with any province in North America which did 
not accede to or hereafter violated the Association.^ The 
committees of correspondence of the various provinces were 
instructed to inspect the custom-house entries frequently 
and to inform each other of " every material circumstance 
that may occur relative to this association." ^ Finally, great 
elasticity was given to the enforcement provisions by the 
blanket recommendation that the provincial conventions 
and the committees in the various provinces should " estab- 

1 Art. xi. ' Art. v. 

' Art. vi. "* Art. ii. 

*Art. xiv. . *Art. xii. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 429 

lish such farther regulations as they may think proper, for 
carrying into execution this association." ^ 

A few days after Congress had completed the Associa- 
tion, a resolution was passed for calling another continental 
congress to meet on May 10, 1775, if American grievances 
should not then be redressed.^ Thus, a second congress 
was to be held four months before the time at which the 
non-exportation regulation was scheduled to go into effect, 
— which obviously meant that an opportunity would be 
afforded for further modifications of that measure, if any 
should prove desirable. The balance of the time of Con- 
gress was spent in drawing up a declaration of rights and 
grievances, and in formulating addresses to the people of 
Great Britain, to the inhabitants of the British colonies, to 
the inhabitants of Quebec, and to the king.^- These papers 
varied widely in form and phraseology and intent, but all 
joined in endorsing the sentiment : " Place us in the same 
situation that we were at the close of the last war, and our 
former harmony will be restored.' * The declaration of 
rights and grievances undertook to define the colonial theory 
of the power of Parliament. This matter had caused con- 
siderable difficulty in Congress. Five provinces maintained 
that Parliament had the right to regulate trade; five prov- 
inces denied this view; and Massachusetts and Rhode 
Island were divided within themselves.^ A statement was 
finally agreed upon to the effect that the colonial legisla- 

^ Art. xiv. 

' Oct. 22 ; Journals, vol. i, p. 102. 

'John Adams wrote to Jefferson in 1813: "I never bestowed much 
attention on any of those addresses, which were all but repetitions of 
the same things, the same facts and arguments ... I was in a great 
error, no doubt, . . . for those things were necessary to give popularity 
to our cause, both at home and abroad." Works, vol. x, p. 80. 

^Journals, vol. i, p. 89. 

* Adams, J., Works, vol. ii, p. 397. 



y 



430 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



tures had exclusive powers of law-making in all cases of 
taxation and internal polity, subject only to the royal nega- 
tive; and that from the necessity of the case the colonists 
did " cheerfully consent " to the bona fide regulation of their 
external commerce by Parliament when it was done for the 
good of the whole empire and contained no " idea of taxa- 
tion, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the sub- 
jects in America, without their consent." ^ The list of acts, 
whose repeal was held by the declaration of rights and 
grievances to be " essentially necessary," was somewhat 
more comprehensive than the group of laws named as the 
object of the Association, and included the Currency Act 
of 1764, the act establishing the board of customs commis- 
sioners and reorganizing the customs service, and the quar- 
tering act of 1774.^ 

The Boston Tea Party — the episode that had precipitated 
the present crisis — received scant notice. In the address to 
the colonists, it was noted that the British administration 
had entered into a " monopolizing combination " with the 
East India Company to send a dutied commodity to Amer- 
ica, and that the tea sent to Boston was destroyed because 
Governor Hutchinson would not suffer it to be returned.^ 
A longer discussion of the affair appeared in the address to 
the people of Great Britain; some slight effort was made to 
justify the destruction, but most emphasis was placed on 
the thought that : " even supposing a trespass was thereby 
committed and the proprietors of the Tea entitled to dam- 
ages, the Courts of Law were open " for the prosecution of 
suits, instead of which thirty thousand souls had been re- 
duced to poverty and distress upon unauthenticated ex parte 

' Journals, vol. i, pp. 68-69. 
^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 71-73. 
^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 98. 



THE CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATION 431 

evidence, for the act of thirty or forty/ No' mention what- 
ever was made of the matter in the other documents. 

Congress adjourned on Wednesday, October 26, and the 
great majority of the delegates departed for their homes 
with the feeHng that effective measures for a reconciliation 
had been taken. But there were some dissenting minds. '^ 
Furthermore, the supreme test was yet to come : what would 
the country think of the work of Congress? how would 
the people receive the Association? would the Association 
prove workable? 

1 Journals, vol. i, pp. 85-87. 

^ Adams, J., Works, vol. x, pp. 278-279; letter of Dickinson, 4 Am^ 
Arch., vol. i, p. 947. 



CHAPTER XI 

Ratification of the Continental Association 
(November, 1774-JuNE, 1775) 

Ck Enough has been said to make clear that the action of the 
-I First Continental Congress involved a defeat for the moder- 
\ ates and the mercantile interests. The radicals had achieved 
I several important ends. They had reproduced on a national 
^scale a type of organization and a species of tactics that in 
many parts of British x\merica had enabled a determined 
minority to seize control of affairs. It is not too fantastic 
to say that they had snatched from the merchant class the 
weapons which the latter had fashioned to advance their own 
; selfish interests in former years, and had now reversed the 
\ weapons on them in an attempt to secure ends desired solely 
\ by the radicals. Finally, they had defined — nationalized — the 
issue at stake in such a manner as to afford prestige to rad- 
ical groups, wherever they were to be found, and to weaken 
the hold of the moderate elements, on the ground that the 
latter were at variance with the Continental Congress. 

An ultra-radical interpretation of the radical victory was 
made at the time in these words : " The American Congress 
derives all its power, wisdom and justice, not from scrolls 
of parchment signed by Kings, but from the People. A 
more august, and a more equitable Legislative body never 
existed in any quarter of the globe . . . The Congress, 
like other Legislative bodies, have annexed penalties to their 
laws. They do not consist of the gallows, the rack, and the 
stake . . . but infamy, a species of infamy . . . more 
432 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 433 

dreadful to a freeman than the gallows, the rack, or the 
stake. It is this, he shall be declared in the publick papers 
to be an enemy to his country. . . . The least deviation 
from the Resolves of the Congress will be treason : — such 
treason as few villains have ever had an opportunity of 
committing. It will be treason against the present inhabi- 
tants of the Colonies : Against the millions of unborn gen- 
erations who are to exist hereafter in America: Against 
the only liberty and happiness which remain to mankind : 
Against the last hopes of the wretched in every corner of 
the world. — In a word, it will be treason against God." ^ 

Such sentiments stiffened the radical party in all parts of 
the continent, and it hardly occasions wonder that a rever- 
end divine of Charleston, S. C, should have been dismissed 
from his congregation "for his audacity in standing up in his 
pulpit, and impudently saying that mechanics and country 
clowns had no right to dispute about politics, or what kings, 
lords and commons had done !" Nor was it necessary for 
the Newport Mercury to add that : "All such divines should 
be taught to know that mechanics and country clowns (in- 
famously so called) are the real and absolute masters of 
king, lords, commons and priests . . ." ^ 

The moderates began to realize that they had committed 
an error in lending countenance to the movement for an 
extra-legal congress. In the eyes of many of them, any 
direct connection with this congress and its committees be- 
came equivalent to rebellion; typical of this group, Joseph 
Galloway now withdrew from the extra-legal activities alto- 
gether. Others, like Isaac Low, lingered in the movement, 

^"Political Observations, without Order; Addressed to the People 
of America," Pa. Packet, Nov. 14, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
976-977. This article created wide interest. Two replies appeared in 
the N. Y. Gazetteer, Dec. i, 1774. 

^Newport Merc, Sept. 26, 1774; also Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Oct. 13. 



434 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1768-1776 



persuaded that they could salvage in their local politics what 
had seemed shipwrecked in the Continental Congress, or 
because, like John Andrews of Boston, they were swayed 
by the impalpable influences of environment, temperament, 
habit, education or social connections/ As the months 

^ John Andrews was a well-to-do merchant pf.Bostpii, who sat com- 
placently at home drinking tea while the mob made their descent upon 
the East India Company's shipments at the wharf. He wrote a witty 
letter about it a few days later, and did not discover his indignation 
over the destruction until it became apparent to him that, between the 
Scylla of the Boston Port Act and the Charybdis of the radicals' 
Solemn League and Covenant, his business would surely be wrecked. 
At this time he had stock on his shelves amounting to about i2000 
sterHng and almost as much more out in debts. He could say with 
feeling that he opposed " Tyranny exerciz'd either in England or 
America." He was disposed to favor the opening of the port of 
Boston through reimbursing the East India Company for their losses. 
Later, he entertained hopes that the Continental Congress would af- 
ford rehef that would be " lasting and permanent." About this time 
it would appear that he began to be affected by the excited state of 
pubHc opinion and was himself much irritated by the rudeness and 
immorality of the soldiers. He wrote on August 20, 1774: "When 
I seriously reflect on the unhappy situation we are in, I cant but be 
uneasy least ye trade of the town should never be reinstated again : but 
on the other hand, when I consider that our future welfare depends 
altogether upon a steady and firm, adherence to the common cause, I 
console myself with the thoughts that if, after using every effort in 
our power, we are finally obhg'd to submit, we shall leave this testi- 
mony behind us, that, not being able to stem the stream, we were of 
necessity borne down by the torrent." However, his mood became less 
exalted in October, and he wrote, with reference to mob violence: 
"every day's experience tells me that not only good policy, but our 
own quiet, absolutely depends upon a bare acquiescence at least. 
Therefore I esteem them very blameable who have persisted in 
opposition to them, as vox populi, vox Dei — and their resentrnent is 
so great in return, that it's a chance whether (if their struggles should 
produce better times) they will ever admit of such passing their future 
days uninterrupted among 'em." Andrews became more closely identi- 
fied with the radical side as time passed and was a patriot at the time 
of the Declaration of Independence. / M. H. S. Procs., vol. viii, pp. 
326-33^, 339, 343-344, 377- 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 433 

passed, there was presented to every merchant, with in- 
creasing sharpness, the alternative of adhering to Congress, . 
even if it meant rebeUion and independence, to which his 
class had always been opposed, or of adhering to Great 
Britain, even if that meant submission to those parliamen- 
tary measures to which his class were also opposed. The 
increasing tendency of the moderates was to follow the 
counsel offered by one who himself had once been zealous 
in meetings and organizations of the people : ''As we have 
already done what we ought not to have done, and left un- 
done what we ought to have done, let us ... in time re- 
turn to our Constitution, and by our Representatives, like 
honest men, state our grievances, and ask relief of the 
mother state ; let us do this with that plainness and decency 
of language that will . . . remove every suspicion that we 
have the least intention or desire to be independent." ^ 
^- The publication of the Continental Association was 
i greeted with a storm of protest from the moderate press in 
t_the leading commercial provinces. These tracts were rem- 
iniscent of the controversial literature produced under 
somewhat similar circumstances by Drayton at Charleston 
and by the writers in Mein's Boston Chronicle in the years 
1769-1770.^ The chief plaint was directed against those 

^"Z" in N. Y. Gazetteer, Dec. i, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
987-989. (For identity of " Z," vide ibid., pp. 1096-1097.) Vide also 
Seabury, Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Con- 
gress . . . (New York, 1774), p. 29: "Renounce all dependence on 
Congress and committees. . . . Turn your eyes to your constitutional 
representatives ..." 

'^ The principal writings were : the articles by " Massachusettensis " 
(Daniel Leonard) in Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, at intervals from Dec. 12, 
1774, to April 3, 1775, afterwards published as a pamphlet; a series, 
addressed " To the Honourable Peyton Randolph, Esq., late President 
of the American Continental Congress," by " Grotius " in the same 
newspaper; the anonymous pamphlets, What Think Ye of Congress 
Now?, Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress 



436 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

provisions which seemed to establish the Continental Con- 
gress as a sort of de facto government. *'Massachusettensis" 
claimed that the Association contained all the constituent 
parts of a law, including an enacting clause, the establish- 
ment of rules of conduct, and the affixing of pains and 
penalties. Although the terms '' request " and " recom- 
mend " were sometimes used, the usual style was that used 
by an authoritative assemblage — that such and such a 
thing " be '' done. " By their assuming the powers of 
legislation, the Congress have not only superseded our pro- 
vincial legislatures, but have excluded ever}' idea of mon- 
arch}^ ; and not content with the havock already made in our 
constitution, in the plenitude of their power have appointed 
another Congress to be held in May." ^ The Association, 
according to another writer, " is calculated for the meridian 
of a Spanish Inquisition; it is subversive of, inconsistent 
with, the wholesome laws of our happy Constitution ; it ab- 
rogates or suspends many of them essential to the peace 
and order of Government; it takes the Government out of 
the hands of the Govemour, Council, and General Assem- 
bly; and the execution of the laws out of the hands of the 
Civil Magistrates and Juries." ^ 

A third writer agreed that the committees appointed to 
enforce the Association were " a court established upon the 
same principles with the papish Inquisition. No proofs, no 
evidence are called for. . . . No jury is to be impannelled. 

. . . hy a Farmer, and The Congress Canvassed . . . by A. W. Farmer, 
probably written by Samuel Seabury; a pamphlet, Alarm to the Legis- 
lature of New York . . ., by Isaac Wilkins ; articles in the N. Y. 
Gazetteer by " Z," "A Freeholder of Essex," and others. 

^ Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Mch. 27, 1775. Vide also Congress Can- 
vassed, p. 14. 

W. Y. Gazetteer, Feb. 16, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1211- 
1213. Vide also Congress Canvassed, p. 20; Alarm to Legislature, 
pp. 7. 9. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 



437 



No check is appointed upon this court; no appeal from its 
determination." ^ The means prescribed for carrying out 
the Association, affirmed '' Grotius " in an open letter to 
the recent president of Congress, " would shock the soul of 
a savage; your tenth, eleventh and fourteenth articles con- 
tain such a system of lawless tyranny as a Turk would 
startle at; it is a barbarous inroad upon the first rights of 
men in a social state ; it is a violent attack upon the lawfully 
acquired property of honest, industrious individuals." " 

One unworldly Connecticut parson furnished another 
ground for objection : " The Saviour of the world, whose 
servant I am, hath commanded me to feed the hungry, to 
give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked . . . Here it 
will be to no purpose to say that such and such persons are 
mine enemies; because our Lord hath expressly . . . 
commanded me to extend my good offices to mine enemies 
as such. And I beg the Committee to remember that Min- 
isters of the gospel are, in a particular manner, commanded 
to keep hospitality." ^ " Had an Act of Parliament formed 
such an inquisition . . . ," declared another writer, " how 
should we have heard of the liberty of the subject, his right 
to trial by his peers, &c., &c. Yet these men, at the same 
time they arraign the highest authority on earth, insolently 
trample on the liberties of their fellow-subjects ; and, with- 
out the shadow of a trial, take from them their property, 
grant it to others, and not content with all this, hold them 
up to contempt, and expose them to the vilest injuries." * 

^ Congress Canvassed, p. 14. 

• Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Feb. 6, 1775. 

' " I am no politician, am not connected with politicians as such ; 
and never will be either," he added. Rev. John Sayre, Fairfield, Conn., 
in N. Y. Journ., Sept. 28, 1775. For a scriptural answer, vide ibid., 
Oct. 26. 

*"Z" in N. Y. Gazetteer, Dec. i, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 
pp. 987-989. 



438 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The opinion of the average moderate was well expressed 
by the sentiment : *' If I must be enslaved, let it be by a 
KING at least, and not by a parcel of upstart lawless Com- 
mittee-men. If I must be devoured, let me be devoured by 
the jaws of a lion, and not gnawed to death by rats and 
vermin." ^ 

A great deal was said about the impracticability of the 
Association as a means of redress. The pamphlet, Free 
Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress, 
went extensively into the matter. It was predicted that 
there would be twenty times as much confusion and distress 
in America as in Great Britain; that prices would soar; 
that the American merchants would lose their trade per- 
manently, for Great Britain would look elsewhere for raw 
materials; that Parliament would block up all American 
ports; that legal processes would be suspended; that the 
farmers would be the chief sufferers ; and all this calamity 
in a fruitless effort to obtain results which should be sought 
only through the usual legal channels. 

The moderate members of Congress were frankly accused 
of having been outwitted and outmaneuvered by the radicals. 
" You had all the honors, — you had all the leading cards in 
every sute in your own hands," one writer told the moder- 
ates, " and yet, astonishing as it may appear to by-standers, 
you suffered sharpers to get the odd trick." ^ A New York 
writer stated that he had reason to believe that the New 
York delegates had opposed the headlong measures of Con- 
gress and still disapproved of them; and he called upon 

^ Free Thoughts, p. 23. Vide also "A Freeholder of Essex " in A^. Y. 
Gazetteer, Jan. 5, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1094-1096. 

' " Grotius " in Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Feb. 6, 1775- "Adams, with 
his crew, and the haughty Sultans of the South juggled the whole con- 
clave of the Delegates," was the way a Maryland merchant phrased it 
in a published letter. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1194- 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 439 

them to assert themselves despite the obligations of per- 
petual secrecy/ 

The special concession granted to South Carolina in the 
Association caused much comment, even in radical circles. 
The writer just mentioned called upon the New York dele- 
gates to state why the South Carolina delegates had suc- 
ceeded better than they in securing special indulgences for 
their constituents." A Virginia scribbler protested that the 
tobacco interests had been sacrificed to the rice planters and 
wheat exporters.^ One distracted fellow burst into verse, 
eighty-two stanzas in length, in the following manner : 

LIX 
Suppose all truth the Congress say, 

No doubt they make the worst; 
Can we, my Friends, for many a day, 

Be so completely curst, 

LX 

As have no cloaths, no grog, no tea, 

To cheer our drooping spirits; 
And snug in clover smugglers see. 

Who have not half our merits. 

LXI 
Isn't it now a pretty story, 

One smells it in a trice. 
If I send wheat, I am a Tory, 

But Charles-town may send RICE.* 

Even the Albany Committee of Correspondence, upon a 
plea of the necessity for harmony, took occasion to inquire 
of the New York delegates upon what principle a discrimi- 
nation had been allowed in favor of South Carolina.^ 

^ What Think Ye of Congress Now?, pp. 23-24. Vide also Alarm 
to Legislature, p. 9 n. 
2 What Think Ye of Congress Now?, p. 40. 
^A^. Y. Gazetteer, Apr. 13, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. il, p. 163. 
* Poor Man's Advire to his Poor Neighbours (New York, 1774). 
^ N. Y. Journ., Feb. 16, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1097-1098. 



440 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

Notwithstanding the polemics of the opposition, the work 
of establishing the administrative machinery for the Asso- 
ciation had gotten irresistibly under way. The fact of the 
matter was that the moderate elements lacked an organiza- 
tion through which to express their opposition at this crit- 
ical juncture.^ Indeed, the logic of their own position in- 
clined them to avoid all extra-legal organization even for 
purposes of self-defense.^ Furthermore, the coup of the 
radicals in nationalizing the committee system shook to the 
center such control as the moderates had already established 
in various localities. The energies of the friends of the As- 
sociation were first directed to the appointment of commit- 
tees of observation and inspection in the local subdivisions of 
the several provinces, and to obtaining formal sanction for 
the Association from the provincial assembly or other pro- 
vincial meeting. It was not specified in the Association that 
endorsement by a provincial body was necessary — though 
perhaps it was hinted at in Article xiv — but in any case it 
was good politics. The remainder of this chapter will be 
devoted to the progress that was made along these lines. 

- Massachusetts, being the storm centre of the contest with 
Great Britain, was one of the earliest provinces to move. 
The leading ports (Boston harbor being closed) led the 
way: Marblehead and Newburyport appointed committees 

^ Cf. Gage's view; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 981. 

^ " Pray examine the Province law throughout, and all other law 
authorities that ever were held in repute by the English nation," de- 
clared " Spectator " to the signers of a loyalist association, " and you 
will not find one instance wherein they justify a number of men in 
combining together in any league whatsoever to support the law, but 
quite the reverse; for the law is supported in another manner; it is 
maintained by Magistrates and Officers . . . and not by a number of 
men combining together." N. H. Gas., Mch. 31, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., 
vol. ii, p. 252. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 441 

early in November, and Salem about a month later. Gov- 
ernor Gage had deemed it unsafe to permit the Assembly 
to meet; and the radical leadership of the province had 
therefore devolved upon the provincial congress, which was, 
to a large extent, the rejected Assembly under a different 
name. When the provincial congress met on November 23, 
1774, in their first session after the adjournment of the 
Continental Congress, they lost no time in taking under 
consideration the proceedings of the Continental Congress ; 
and on December 5 they voted their endorsement, recom- 
mending that committees of inspection be chosen in every 
town and district not already having such committees.^ 

The town of Boston now acted. After unanimously 
voting to continue the committee of correspondence — that 
grain of mustard that had now become a great tree — the 
town meeting on December 7 appointed a committee of 
sixty-three, headed by Gushing, Hancock and Sam Adams, 
to enforce the Association. , It is significant of the trend of 
events that a goodly majority of the Sixty-Three were 
small shopkeepers, mechanics and other men of non-mer- 
cantile employment ; and that among the members appeared 
such names as Thomas Chase and John Avery, the distil- 
lers, Paul Revere, the silversmith, and Henry Bass, the^ 
radical merchant, — men who had been " Sons of Liberty " -^ 
in the earlier times and had hitherto been nameless for the 
purposes, of the public press and committee rosters." The 

' Mass. Spy, Dec. 8, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 993-998. 

* An unfriendly characterization of the Sixty-Three supplies inter- 
esting facts concerning certain obscure members of this committee. 
John Pulling was " Bully of the Mohawk tribe ; " John Winthrop, Jr., 
was "AHas Joyce Jr., Chairman of the Committee for tarring and 
feathering ; " Captain Ruddock, " supposed to be one Abiel Ruddock, 
formerly head of the Mob on the fifth of November ; " Joseph Eayres, 
" carpenter, eminent for erecting Liberty poles." ^ M. H. S. Procs.,. 
vol. xii, pp. 139-142. 



442 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



meeting recommended that the towns of the province should 
follow the example of Weymouth and facilitate enforce- 
ment by publishing copies of the Association in sufficient 
number to supply every head of family.^ 

Most of the towns followed the advice of the provincial 
congress, and did not go to the trouble of appointing special 
committees of observation and inspection; for they had 
already established committees for the enforcement of the 
Solemn League and Covenant, now superseded by the Asso- 
ciation. Marshfield presented the only instance of a deter- 
mination to defeat the Association by town action. The 
citizens, of that town had won for themselves the privilege 
of drinking tea and killing sheep by obtaining the presence 
of a detachment of British troops; and on February 20, 
1775, a town meeting, duly licensed by Governor Gage 
under the Massachusetts Government Act, rejected the re- 
solves of the Continental and Provincial Congresses and all 
other illegal assemblages. A minority protest, signed later 
by sixty-four names, made the most of a bad situation by 
charging trickery and misrepresentation.^ In summing up, 
it would appear that Massachusetts was well equipped with 
machinery to prevent any systematic infringements of the 
Association. 

New Hampshire had always been laggard in entering 
into extra-legal organization. While the Continental Con- 
gress was yet in session, organized opposition to the out- 
come of the Congress was begun in Hillsborough County.* 

^Mass. Spy, Dec. 8, 1774; also Bos. Town Recs. (i7TO-i777), PP- 205-207. 

^Bos. Eve. Post, Mch. 6, 13, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
1177-1178, 1249-1251. 

^ Twenty-three inhabitants of Frances-Town and fifty-four inhabi- 
tants of New Boston signed agreements pledging their opposition to the 
unlawful proceedings of men who pretended to maintain the very 
liberties that they were trampling under foot. On Nov. 7, the town 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 443 

However, in October, the fifty-two voters in attendance at 
a town meeting at Portsmouth rescinded the action of fifty- 
six voters at a previous meeting against furnishing dona- 
tions to stricken Boston, and proceeded to appoint a "Com- 
mittee of Ways and Means " of forty-five members. One- 
half of the number refused to act, according to Governor 
Wentworth; but when news of the proceedings of the Con- 
tinental Congress reached Portsmouth, the remainder of 
the committee at once assumed the duties of supervising the 
execution of the Association. Governor Wentworth re- 
ported on December 2 that the measures of the Continental 
Congress were " received implicitly " by the province.^ On 
the same day as his letter, the provincial committee, which 
had been appointed by the first New Hampshire convention, 
called upon the inhabitants of the province for a general 
submission to the Association. In the subsequent weeks, 
the various towns began to establish committees of inspec- 
tion.2 

Since the Assembly had not met for ten months past and 
was not likely to sit again soon, a convention of the province 
was held at Exeter on January 25, 1775, which unanimously 
endorsed the Association. In an address to the province, 
the inhabitants were exhorted to adhere to it strictly and to 
support their committees of inspection.^ Just how many 

of Hollis in the same county adopted similar resolutions. A^ H. Gas., 
Nov. 18, 1774, Feb. 10, 1775. While the Continental Congress was 
still sitting, a mob at Portsmouth prevented the landing of a shipment 
of tea but permitted the payment of the duty on it. Ibid., Sept. 16, 
23, 1774; 4 An:. Arch., vol. i, pp. 786-787. 

1 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 981-982, 1013. 

^The organization of the following committees was noted in the 
newspapers: in December, Exeter, New Market; in January, Parish of 
Hawke, Temple, Kingstown, Epsom, Greenland. At Brentwood, the 
committee of correspondence took over the duties of the committee of 
inspection in February. 

^4 Ant. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1180-1182. 



444 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 176S.1776 

New Hampshire towns finally organized committees of in- 
spection, it is impossible to say. It is important to note, on 
the one hand, that much had been done to develop a public 
opinion favorable to the Association ; and on the other, that 
the chief avenues of trade with the world were well guarded 
by the presence of the " Forty- Five " at Portsmouth, and 
by a network of committees along the overland routes 
through Massachusetts. 

In Rhode Island, the first official action appears to have 
been taken on December 5, 1774, when the General Assem- 
bly voted its thanks to the Continental Congress and recom- 
mended the selection of committees of inspection to the 
towns of the provinces.^ Within two weeks Newport and 
Providence, the leading ports, had acted on the recommen- 
dation.^ It would appear that similar action was taken by 
the smaller towns. 

The course of Connecticut was not unlike that of Rhode 
Island, in many respects. Early in November, 1774, the 
Connecticut General Assembly unanimously approved the 
proceedings of Congress and sent orders into the several 
towns for a strict compliance therewith.^ The action of 
the legislature gained immediate attention; and by the end 
of the year the establishment of twenty-eight committees 
had been noted in the newspapers.* Other towns acted 
later. 

^R. I. Col. Recs., vol. vii, p. 263. 

^Ibid.. vol. vii, pp. 284-285. 

^Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Nov. 14, 1774; Hollister, G. H., History of 
Connecticut (Hartford, 1857), vol. ii, p. 159. 

* In November, the ten parishes of New Haven County ; Woodbury, 
Pomfret, Waterbury, Derby, Milford, Wallingford; in December, 
Windham. Saybrook. Danbury, Lebanon, Guilford, Simsbury, New 
London, Stratford, Hartford, Norwich, Sharon, Fairfield. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 445 

LOne sectionjDf Connecticut, represented by a group of the 
smaller towns of Fairfield County in the western part of 
the province, sought to prevent the acceptance of the Asso- 
ciation. ; The animus appears to have been sectarian, being 
; one phase of the long-standing antagonism of the strong 
\Episcopalian element in these towns to Congregationalist 
/undertakings.^ The two largest towns of the county, Strat- 
V ford and Fairfield, chose committees of inspection in De- 
cember, and the town of Redding took similar action a little 
later. But on January 30, 1775, a town meeting at Ridge- 
field rejected the Association with only three dissenting 
votes out of a total present of nearly two hundred, and de- 
nounced the Congress as unconstitutional." A large meet- 
ing of the town of Newtown rejected the Association with 
but one dissenting vote a week later. ^ These defiant reso- 
lutions emboldened one hundred and forty-one inhabitants 
of Redding and the vicinity to denounce and forswear all 
committees in a written statement ; ^ and caused the town 
of Danbury to revoke the appointment of a committee of 
inspection, made at an earlier meeting, and to refuse to 
send delegates to a projected county convention.^ But Dan- 
bury underwent another change of heart, for when the 
convention of Fairfield County assembled on February 14, 

^A^. y. Gazetteer, Feb. 16, 1775. Vide also Gilbert, G. A., "The 
Connecticut (Loyalists," Am. Hist. Rev., vol. iv, pp. 273-281. One- 
third of the people of Fairfield County were EpiscopaHans. Beards- 
ley, History of the Episcopal Church in Conn. (Boston, 1865), vol. i, 
p. 289. 

'AT. Y. Gazetteer, Feb. 2, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1202-1203. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 1215; also N. Y. Gazetteer, Feb. 23, 1775. 

^ Ibid., Feb. 23, 1775 ; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1258-1260. One 
hundred and twenty men signed similar resolves at New Milford, a town 
in Litchfield County across the Housatonic from Fairfield County. 
Ibid., vol. i, p. 1270; also A^. Y. Gazetteer, Mch. 16. 

^ Ibid., Feb. 23, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1038-1039, 1215-1216. 



446 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



Ridgefield and Newtown were the only towns not repre- 
sented. 

f Now began a series of efforts on the part of the radicals 
j to discredit and defeat these opponents of the Association. 
I The county convention denounced a selectman of Newtown 
( who had sold some copies of the Association for a pint of 
flip, and called upon those citizens of Ridgefield and New- 
town, who were attached to their country, to stand forth 
and affix their signatures to the measures of Congress, so 
that all commerce and connection might be withdrawn from 
the other inhabitants of the towns/ In view of the ap- 
proaching session of the Assembly at New Haven, the town 
meeting at the capital resolved unanimously that no person 
should entertain the deputies who were expected from the 
delinquent towns.^ The Connecticut Assembly, when it 
met in March, appointed a committee to investigate condi- 
tions in the two towns and to determine how far any per- 
sons holding provincial commissions were concerned in 
promoting resolutions in direct opposition of the repeated 
resolves of the legislature.^ The dissentients at Redding 
were held up for public neglect by the committee of obser- 
vation of that town."* 

These tactics of the radicals brought only partial results.^ 
On ]\Iarch 20, fifty-five inhabitants of Ridgefield accepted 
the invitation of the county convention and pledged them- 
selves to the Continental Association. By April 12, seventy 
inhabitants of Newtown had signed a statement disowning 
the action of the town meeting. Finally, in December, 
1775, Ridgefield appointed a committee of inspection and 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1236-1238; also N. Y. Journ., Feb. 23, 1775. 
' Conn. Cour., Mch. 6, 1775; Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Mch. 13. 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 107. 

* Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1259-1260; also -V. Y. fov.ru., Apr. 20, 1775. 
' 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1238-1239; vol. ii, p. 1135. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 



447 



fell heartily into line. The town of Newtown remained 
obdurate with respect to the Association, although the 
selectmen and principal inhabitants were prevailed upon to 
give bond not to take up arms against the colonies. An 
active loyalist sympathizer was able to write as late as 
October, 1781, that "Newtown and the Church-of -England 
part of Redding were, he believed, the only parts of New 
England that had refused to comply with the doings of 
Congress." ^ But so far as Connecticut as a whole was 
concerned, the province was exceedingly well organized to 
supervise the enforcement of the Association. Ridgefield 
and Newtown were, after all, small inland towns and of no 
importance commercially. 

In New York the movement for establishing committees 
of observation and inspection displayed many of the ear- 
marks of the earlier contests between moderate and radical. 
But there were some significant differences. Thus, the 
measures adopted by the Continental Congress contained, 
by implication, a sanction of the radical party in New York 
city, hitherto discredited and outgeneraled by the moder- 
ates.^ It remained to be proved whether the radicals could 
realize on this asset. The leading radical organization, the j 
Committee of Mechanics, took an early occasion to transmit i 
their thanks to the New York delegates for the " wise, 
prudent and spirited measures " of the Congress — meas- 
ures which they well knew had been adopted against the 
best judgment of these very delegates.^ 

^ Am. Hist. Rev., vol. iv, p. 279 and n. 

2 " Behold the wretched state to which we are reduced," wrote Wil- 
kins in Alarm to the Legislature, "A foreign power is brought in to 
govern this province. Laws made at Philadelphia, by factious men 
from New-England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia 
and the Carolinas, are imposed upon us by the most imperious menaces." 

3 N. y. Gazetteer, Nov. 24, 1774; also 4 Am- Arch., vol. i, p. 987. 



448 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



The moderates found themselves in something of a 
dilemma: either they must oppose the united voice of the 
continent as embodied in the Congress and thus list them- 
selves with the office-holding gentry, or they must perpet- 
uate their ascendancy in the extra-legal movement and thus 
keep a controlling hand in the enforcement of the Associa- 
tion. The academic minds of the party chose the logical 
course; and important members of the community, like the 
Reverend Samuel Seabury, the Reverend Miles Cooper, the 
Reverend Charles Inglis and the Reverend Thomas Chand- 
ler, denounced the Congress and all its doings, and became 
'* loyalists," or " Tories." [But the men of practical affairs, 
of large business connections and of political experience, 
did not dare to follow their lead, for they had too much at 
stake. / " The Merchants," wrote Colden on November 2, 
1774, " are at present endeavouring to sift out each others 
Sentiments upon the Association proposed by the Congress. 
A certain sign, I take it. that they wish to avoid it." ^ 
Eventually they accepted the necessities of their situation 
and determined to make a fight for the control of affairs, 
reserving for a future contingency their exit from the 
movement." Thus, Isaac Low continued to exert his influ- 
ence as head of the " Fifty-One," and served as chairman 
of the later committees of Sixty and One Hundred: but, 
aware that his influence was waning, he refused to partici- 
pate in the provincial convention in the latter part of April, 
and likewise eliminated himself as a candidate for the 
Second Continental Congress. 

The old committee of '' Fifty-One," the bulwark of the 
mercantile interests, made the first move with reference to 
the Association. Expressing no intention of dissolving 

* Colden, Letter Books, vol. ii, pp. 369-370. 
^ Vide ibid., vol. ii, p. 372. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 449 

their present organization, they issued a call for ward meet- 
ings of the freemen and freeholders for the purpose of 
electing a committee of inspection for each ward/ It is 
clear that the " Fifty-One " intended to supervise the ward 
committees and to keep a close rein on affairs generally. 
This plan met with the resolute disapproval of the Com- 
mittee of Mechanics, and, fearing to brook their opposition 
in the changed face of public affairs, the '' Fifty-One " re- 
quested a conference with them on the subject. The out- 
come of the conference was a virtual defeat for the mer- 
chants and the adoption of a plan that was in entire har- 
mony with the spirit of the Association. The "Fifty-One" 
were to be dissolved; instead of ward committees, there 
should be one general committee of inspection ; the " Fifty- 
One " and the Committee of Mechanics should exchange 
one hundred names, out of which the new committee should 
be nominated." Furthermore, the election was to be held 
at the city hall, where, because of the crowd, it would be 
difficult to restrict the vote to freemen and freeholders. 
On November 22 this plan was duly carried out, and a com- 
mittee of sixty was chosen, although, according to Colden's 
account, only thirty or forty citizens were present.^ 

The outcome of the election was a victory for the rad- 
icals. The Committee of Sixty was essentially radical in 
character although all varieties of opinion were represented 
and the merchant, Isaac Lx>w, continued as chairman.* 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 328-329, 967. 

' Ibid., vol. i, p. 330. The Committee of Mechanics continued in 
existence. 

' Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 2>72- 

*■ Professor Becker's analysis of the Sixty is as follows : 29 members 
of the original Fifty-One found places on the Sixty, and of these 21 
gave active or passive support to the War for Independence. Of the 
rejected members of the Fifty-One, 17 of the 22 became loyalists or 
neutrals with loyalist sympathies. The 31 members of the Sixty who 



450 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



With such zealots in the saddle as Sears and McDougall. 
no merchant of insight could longer hope that the enforce- 
ment of the Association would be merely nominal. **Anti- 
Tyrannicus " might well lament after four months of the 
rule of the Sixty : " While the late Committee of Fifty-One 
acted as a Committee of Correspondence for this City, the 
generality of its inhabitants, particularly the most sensible 
and judicious part of them, were happy in reposing the 
trust with so respectable a body, composed as it was of the 
principal citizens; but when the present Committee was 
formed out of the ruins, as I may say, of the old Commit- 
tee, was there a cool considerate man among us, who did 
not forbode evil?" ^ 

Early in November the " Fifty-One " had sent a circular 
letter to the rural counties recommending the appointment 
of committees of inspection pursuant to the Association.^ 
Enthusiastic response could hardly be expected in view of 
the lassitude exhibited at the time of the election of dele- 
gates to Congress ; and there was even a possibility that the 
moderate elements would become active and defeat the 
plans of aggressive radical minorities. Actually the results 
were much the same as on the earlier occasion. Only three 
of the thirteen rural counties gave the Association a favor- 
able reception at this early time — Suffolk, comprising cen- 
tral and eastern Long Island; and on the mainland, the 
adjoining counties of Ulster and Albany. The most radical 
action was taken by Suffolk County. On November 15, the 
county committee of correspondence voted a full approval 

were not members of the Fifty-One included about ten who became 
active radicals and not more than five or six loyalists. A^. Y. Parties, 
1760-1776, pp. 167-168. 

^N. Y. Gazetteer, Mch. 23, 1775- 

''4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 329. Professor Becker has assembled all the 
facts in the discussion that follows in op. cit., pp. 169-173, 187. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 



451 



of the Association and recommended it to the several towns 
to see that its provisions were executed. Within two months 
most of the towns and districts of the county had taken 
favorable action/ Next to Suffolk, the Association gained 
widest support in Ulster County, where a joint meeting of 
the freeholders of five towns recommended the appointment 
of committees on January 6, 1775. In the subsequent 
months such action was taken by five or more towns. ^ In 
Albany County, the county committee of correspondence 
endorsed the Association, with some misgivings, on Decem- 
ber 10, 1774, and effected a reorganization of the commit- 
tee, by which the three city wards and the rural precincts 
were given representation. The action of endorsement met 
with no public expostulation, except from a meeting in 
King's district under the leadership of five of the king's 
justices. 

The contest over the acceptance of the Association was 
sharp in Queens and Tryon Counties and the outcome was 
a partial and barren victory for the radicals. Committees 
of inspection were appointed in the former county at 
Jamaica and Newtown, but the action was quickly repu- 
diated by numbers of inhabitants. At Flushing in the same 
county, it would appear that about one-seventh of the free- 
holders, having come together at a funeral, appointed the 
committee. At Oyster Bay, a meeting called for that par- 
ticular purpose adjourned without action. In Tryon County 
the radicals succeeded in appointing committees in only 
four districts.^ In the eight remaining counties the Asso- 
ciation was either disowned, ignored, or combated by 

* Among them were Huntington, Smithtown, Islip and Southhaven. 
Because of opposition, Brookhaven did not appoint a committee of 
inspection until June 8, 1775. 

' Shawangunk, Hanover, Wallkill, New Windsor and Kingston. 

" Palatine, Canajoharie, German Flatts and Mohawk. 



452 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763.1776 



means of loyalist associations which asserted the " un- 
doubted right to liberty in eating, drinking, buying, sell- 
ing" etc.'^ 

The rather general disapprobation which the Association 
met outside of the city and county of New York made 
some form of provincial endorsement extremely important; 
and a determined effort was put forth to secure the sanction 
of the Assembly. This Assembly, which came together on 
January lo, 1775, had been in existence since 1769; and 
although it had passed a vote in the earlier year approving 
the non-importation regulations which the merchants them- 
selves had established, the body was not likely to prove re- 
sponsive to the altered condition of public affairs in 1775." 
Nevertheless the game was sufficiently uncertain to warrant 
a trial by the radicals.^ On January 26 an initial attempt 
was made to get the Assembly to pass judgment on the 
Continental Congress, but through a resort to the previous 
question the matter was stopped by a vote of eleven to ten. 
The loyalist speakers pointed out that Congress was seek- 
ing to wield powers properly belonging to a legislature, 
and charged openly that the New York delegates in Con- 
gress had opposed the proceedings.* In the subsequent 

^ Quoted from the Dutchess County Association ; A^. Y. Gazetteer, 
Feb. 9, 1775. A committee, appointed at White Plains in Westchester 
County, was repudiated by 45 freeholders. 

' Mass. Spy, Feb. 16, 1775 ; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. npi- 

' Colden himself entertained doubts as to the course that the Assembly 
would take. Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 378. 

*4 A?ii. Ar£h., vol. i, pp. 1189-1191, 12S6-1287; Cotin. Hist. Soc. Colls., 
vol. ii, pp. 193-194; Brush's speech in A''. Y. Gazetteer, Mch. 2, 1775. 
" Worthy old Silver Locks," when he learned of the vote of the As- 
sembly, " cried out-nLord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in 
peace." A moderate's letter in Mass. Gaz. & Post-Boy, Feb. 6, 1775. 
It is to be noted that Colden was in charge of the New York govern- 
ment at the three most trying times during the revolutionary move- 
ment : the Stamp Act, the tea episode, and the period of the First 
Continental Congress. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 453 

four weeks, as tardy members made their appearance, three 
more attempts were made to commit the Assembly in the 
matter, but all to no purpose.^ These defeats convinced the 
radicals that they could hope for nothing from the Assem- 
bly, and they proceeded to do all in their power to undo the 
damage which the course of the Assembly had wrought the 
cause. 

One spirited article, circulated in the newspapers, anal- 
yzed the personnel of the New York government, and pur- 
ported to show that most of the members of the Council 
and Assembly either themselves had access to the public 
crib through lucrative contracts or well-paid positions, or 
•else were related to those who did.^ A report, originating 
in London, was given publicity, to the efifect that several 
members of the majority in the Assembly had received 
bribes of £1000 for their votes, and that large land grants, 
pensions and high offices were to be rewards for the leaders 
of the majority.^ It is possible that the radicals would 
now have followed the example of Massachusetts, New 
Hampshire and other provinces and sought an endorsement 
of the Association at the hands of a provincial convention.* 
But much valuable time had been lost in the futile efforts 
with the Assembly; and, furthermore, means had been 
found of rendering the Association effectual without such 

^ On Feb. 17, a motion to thank the New York delegates for their 
services was lost, 15 to 9. On Feb. 21, a motion to thank the mer- 
chants and inhabitants of the province for their adherence to the 
Association was defeated, 15 to 10. On Feb. 23, a motion to appoint 
delegates to the next Continental Congress was rejected, 17 to 9. 
4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 128^-1297. 

' Pa. Journ., Feb. 22, 1775 ; also Conn. Cour., Apr. 10. 

^ The identity of the members was but thinly disguised in most in- 
stances. Pa. Journ., May 17, 1775. 

* A letter from the South Carolina General Committee, dated Mch. i, 
1775, urged this course on New York. A^ Y. Journ., Apr. 6, 1775; also 
4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 1-3. 



y 



454 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

sanction/ When, therefore, the radicals reached the de- 
cision of caHing a provincial convention, it was only with a 
view to the election of delegates to the impending Second 
Continental Congress. 

Fortunately for the administration of the Association, 
the negative attitude of the Assembly and the absence of 
committees of inspection in most of the rural parts were 
matters of no essential importance. New York city was 
the entrepot of commerce for the entire province, as well as 
for portions of Connecticut and New Jersey; and as long 
as this portal was well guarded, no serious violations of the 
Association could occur. The Committee of Sixty, sta- 
tioned there, was clearly of radical complexion; and its 
successor, the Committee of One Hundred, elected upon the 
receipt of the news of Lexington and Concord, was even 
more largely so. On its roll were many members of the 
old Sixty ; and among the new members were such unmiti- 
gated radicals as John Morin Scott, John Lamb, and Daniel 
Dunscomb, long chairman of the Committee of Mechanics.^ 

* Colden wrote to Dartmouth on May 3, 1775 that, from the time the 
Assembly deviated from the general association of the colonies, " a 
Design was evidently form'd in the other Colonies to drive the People 
Here from acquiescing in the Measures of the Assembly, & to force 
them into the General Plan of Association & Resistance. This Design 
was heartily seconded by many among ourselves. Every species of 
public and private Resentment was threatened to terrify the Inhabi- 
tants of this Province if they continued Disunited from the others. 
The certainty of looseing all the Debts due from the other Colonies, 
which are very considerable, and every other Argument of private 
Interest that could Influence the Merchants, or any one, was indus- 
triously circulated." Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 401. 

' After making a careful analysis of the new committee and its most 
active members, Professor Becker concludes: "it is clear that the com- 
mittee of One Hundred . . . was largely dominated by those who had 
1 directed the Sixty, assisted by newly elected radicals; whatever it rep- 
Iresented ostensibly, it was in fact the organ of that conservative- 
radical combination which was destined to inaugurate the revolution 
and achieve independence." Op. cit., pp. 197-199. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 455 

Unless some nearby harbors in New Jersey should furnish 
opportunity for evasion, the province was pretty effectually 
sealed. The people of Jersey, however, as we shall see, 
were definitely committed to the Continental Association. 

The movement for ratifying the Association in New 
Jersey got under way early in December, 1774, when the 
three precincts of Essex County observed the directions of 
Article xi and appointed committees of observation.^ The 
movement spread rapidly, and the example of Essex County 
in establishing committees of inspection in the local sub- 
divisions was widely copied. By February i, 1775, com- 
mittees of observation and inspection had been appointed in 
eight of the thirteen counties ; ^ and at least two other coun- 
ties acted shortly after. ^ Every populous county, with the 
possible exception of Salem, was now organized for the 
enforcement of the Association. No public opposition of 
any importance appeared against the establishment of com- 
mittees.* With such a broad basis of popular support, it 
was not surprising that the z\ssembly of the province voted 
approval of the proceedings of Congress on January 24, 
1775.' 

^ Elizabeth, Newark and Acquackanonck. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 1009- 
loio, 1012-1013, 1028; iV. Y. Gaz., Dec. 26, 1774. 

' Other than Essex, these counties were in chronological order : Mon- 
mouth, Gloucester, Somerset, Cumberland, Middlesex. Hunterdon, and 
Morris. The italicization indicates the counties in which township 
committees of inspection were organized. 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 35; 
Pa. Gas., Dec. 21, 1774; N. Y. Gaz., Dec. 26; Pa. Packet, Jan. 19, 1775; 
4. Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1083-1084, 1163-1164, 1106. 

* Burlington and Bergen; ibid., vol. i. pp. 1235-1236; vol. ii, p. 579. 

* For two instances, however, vide ibid., vol. i, p. 1165; vol. ii, pp. 
130-131- 

^ An appearance of unanimity was given to this vote through the 
skilful manipulation of " the Junto at Elizabeth Town," i. e., William 
Livingston, John DeHart and Elias Boudinot. i N. J. Arch., vol. x, 



456 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

The fact that Philadelphia had been the scene of the 
transactions of the Continental Congress gave decided im- 
petus to the movement for ratification of the Association 
throughout Pennsylvania. In the city the chief source of 
opposition was the group of wealthy Quaker merchants, 
who controlled the policy of the sect to which they be- 
longed. Galloway, outwitted in his first attempt to play 
politics on a continental scale, was seeking balm for his 
wounded sensibilities in the company of congenial spirits 
in the city and in New York; and he did not appear in 
public denunciation of Congress until after the radicals had 
firmly established their organization in Pennsylvania. 

The existing Committee of Forty-Three at Philadelphia, 
representing city and county, had never been entirely satis- 
factory to the ultra-radicals; it had been accepted by them 
simply as the best committee that could be obtained under 
the circumstances then prevailing. Even before the Conti- 
nental Congress had begun its sessions, appeals had ap- 
peared in the press, emanating avowedly from the laboring 
class, demanding the appointment of a new committee.^ 
As the Continental Association pointed to the selection of 
a new committee, the radicals at once made known their 
opinion that separate committees should be chosen for the 
city and for the county. Their purpose evidently was to 
preclude the possibility of the city moderates dominating 
the action of the county, as they had done to a certain de- 

Pp. 537, 575-577- The Quaker members of the Assembly made an 
exception to " such parts [of the proceedings of Congress] as seem 
to wear an appearance, or may have a tendency to force (if any such 
there be) as inconsistent with their reHgious principles." 4 Am. Arch., 
vol. i, p. 1 124. It would appear, however, that this saving clause was 
removed on Jan. 25. Vide ibid., vol. i, p. 1287; J N. J. Arch., vol. 
X, p. 546. 

■^ "An Artisan" in Pa. Gaz.. Aug. 31, 1774; "A Mechanic" in Pa. 
Packet, Sept. 5. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 



457 



gree in the election of the Forty-Three; but they tactfully 
based their objections on the ground of convenience and 
greater effectiveness of action.^ They also demanded, in 
curious contrast to their New York brethren, that the elec- 
tion be held by ballot, for the reason, it would appear, that 
the voters could thus be best protected from the '' undue 
influence " and '' electioneering attempts " of the citizens 
of wealth and position.^ 

The Forty-Three had already sent out a call for a public 
meeting on Saturday, November 12, 1774, to elect a joint 
committee for city and county/ On Monday of that week, 
a mass meeting, summoned without authority of the Forty- 
Three, came together at the state house, and resolved by 
unanimous vote that the election should be held in the sev- 
eral wards by ballot of those who could vote for represen- 
tatives in the Assembly, and that the city and its suburbs 
should elect a committee of sixty separate from the county.* 
The plan adopted by this meeting, unauthorized though it 
was, prevailed. Separate tickets of names for membership 
in the city committee were made out by the two parties, 
and these were printed and distributed for electioneering 
purposes. On election day the list of sixty names submitted 
by the radicals won by a great majority.^ At the particular 
request of the freeholders of two suburban districts, addi- 

* Pa. Gas., Nov. 2, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 956-957. 
' " Cassandra," a radical, in Pa. Gas., Mch. 20, 1776. 

* Ibid., Nov. 2, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 95^. 

* Ibid., vol. i, pp. 965-967; also Pa. Gas., Nov. 9, 1774. 

* It is evident that only a small minority of all the citizens partici- 
pated in the voting. 517 votes in all were cast in the city and the 
Northern Liberties; and of these, 499 were for the radical ticket, with 
very few exceptions to any one name. " Tiberius " in Pa. Ledger, 
Mch. 16, 1776, Not one-sixth of the people voted, according to a 
Philadelphia writer in the N. Y. Gasetteer, Feb. 23, 1775. 



458 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



tional members were included in the committee, making the 
total number sixty-six/ 

The radical character of the Sixty-Six is indicated by 
the fact that, in the election of the two committees that in 
turn succeeded to the functions of this committee, few alter- 
ations were made in the personnel. The Sixty-Six in- 
cluded only seventeen members of the old Forty-Three; 
and these were, for the most part, men of the more radical 
stamp, like Dickinson, Thomas Mifflin. Joseph Reed and 
Charles Thomson. Thomas Wharton and the Reverend 
Dr. Smith were dropped permanently from committee rolls. 
Of the new men on the Sixty-Six, William Bradford, editor 
of the radical Pennsylvania Journal, was the best known. 
The others were, for the greater part, small tradesmen, 
mechanics, and nobodies who had been active in popular 
demonstrations in earlier years. It is not necessary to 
accept literally the scornful comment of a contemporary 
that " there are many of this Committee who could not 
get credit for 20s. ;" and it would be difficult, if not impos- 
sible, to verify his further statement that one of the Sixty- 
Six, '' an avowed Republican, had lately met with some dis- 
appointments . . . ; another had acquired his fortune partly 
by an illicit trade last war, and partly by taking advantage 
of a Resolve of the people here, not to deal with the Rhode- 
Islanders, after they had broke through the Non-Importa- 
tion Agreement, by supplying them with Goods, when no 
other Merchant would do it ; another was an illiterate Mer- 
chant ; another too insignificant to notice, &c." ' 

The counties of the province quickly emulated the ex- 

^ The names of the original sixty and of the four members from 
Southwark are in Pa. Gas., Nov. 16, lyy^', the names of the two from 
Kensington are in ihid., Nov. 23. Lincoln states that the committee 
was composed of sixty-seven. Rezr'y Movement in Pa., p, 185. 

' -V. Y. Gazetteer, Feb. 23. 1775 : also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1232. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 459 

ample of Philadelphia in preparing for the enforcement of 
the Association. In Philadelphia County, committees were 
■first selected for each township; and at a meeting of these 
committees on November 26 a general committee of forty 
was named/ By the middle of February seven other 
counties had chosen committees of inspection ; ^ and the 
committee of correspondence of another county had as- 
sumed the function of executing the Association."^ There 
is nO' record of action in the case of the two sparsely settled 
frontier counties of Northumberland and Westmoreland. 

Ratification of the Continental Association was easily 
carried in the Pennsylvania Assembly. That body had 
held its first session while the Continental Congress was 
still in session; and its first act had been to elect a successor 
to Joseph Galloway, who had been speaker for so many 
years. The second session began on December 5, and on 
the tenth the proceedings of Congress were approved by a 
unanimous vote.* Three days later, Galloway made his 
first appearance in this Assembly. During the remainder 
of the session and in the February session he proceeded 
quietly and indefatigably to work up sentiment among the 
members in opposition to the measures of Congress, and 
he gained an increasingly large following. But he was 
laboring against heavy odds ; and the excitement, produced 
by the acceleration of public events, contributed in defeat- 

^ This committee contained three members of the old Committee of 
Forty-Three. Pa. Gaz., Nov. 16, 30, 1774. 

' In chronological order : Berks, Bucks. York, Chester. Northampton. 
Cumberland and Lancaster. Vide 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, passim, and 
contemporary newspapers. Galloway wrote from his country seat in 
Bucks County: "A Committee has been appointed for this County by 
a few warm People of neither Property or significance among us." 
Pa. Mag., vol. xxi, p. 478. 

'Bedford; 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1226-1227, 1229-1230. 

* Ibid., vol. i. pp. 869, 1023 ; Lincoln, np. cit., p. 185. 



\^ 



460 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ing his efforts/ Meanwhile the Sixty-Six at Philadelphia, 
feeling that the time had come for frankly discarding the 
leadership of the Assembly, had called into being a second 
provincial convention. When that body assembled on Jan- 
uary 2:^, lyys^ it immediately adopted a unanimous resolu- 
tion endorsing the Continental Association and pledging 
obedience to its provisions.^ 

In general, the situation in Pennsylvania was extremel}^ 
favorable for a close observance of the Association. With 
the only port of entry well guarded, the chief source of 
danger lay in the course which the Quaker merchants might 
choose to pursue. 

There was nothing distinctive about the movement to 
ratify the Association in the Delaware Counties. On No- 
vember 28, 1774, a committee of inspection was chosen in 
Newcastle County. Kent County followed this example on 
December 7. Apparently no committee was chosen at this 
early stage in Sussex County, where the preponderance of 
Episcopalians made it more difficult for the radicals to 
carry their objects.^ At the first session of the House of 
Assembly following the dissolution of the Continental Con- 
gress, several unanimous resolves were passed on March 
I5» 1775* expressing high approval of the proceedings of 
Congress.^ 

Of the plantation group, the earliest action was taken by 

^ For Galloway's account of the sharp politics of this unavailing 
struggle, vide his letters to Governor Franklin, i N. J. Arch., vol. x, 
PP- 572-575, 579-586; his A Reply to the Observations of Lieutenant 
General Sir William Howe, etc., pp. 127-128; and his letters to Ver- 
planck, Pa. Mag., vol. xxi, pp. 477-484. 

' Pa. Gas., Dec. 28, 1774, Feb. i, I775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1169. 

'Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. x, pp. 81-82. 

^A^. Y. Gas., Mch. 27, 1775; also 4 Aw. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 126-127. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 



461 



Maryland. The counties in which Annapolis and Baltimore 
were located took the lead; and by the end of November 
committees had been chosen in six of the sixteen counties/ 
On the twenty-first of the month a provincial convention 
had assembled at Annapolis, but because of the shortness 
of the notice several counties were not represented. Before 
adjourning, the convention voted unanimous approval of 
the proceedings of Congress and recommended to the people 
of Maryland an inviolable obedience to the Association. 
The convention renewed its vote at a full meeting on De- 
cember 8-12.^ Under stimulus of these provincial meet- 
ings, a committee of observation was chosen in St. Mary's 
County, and several of the old committees were enlarged so 
as to afford a broader representation.^ In the counties that 
failed to appoint committees, it would appear that the ex- 
isting committees of correspondence took over the new 
functions. The province proved to be adequately organ- 
ized to execute the Association. 

In the neighboring province of Virginia, committees of 
observation were chosen with almost clocklike precision. 
Five counties acted in November; eleven counties and the 
town of Williamsburg in December; five counties in Jan- 
uary; and at least four others in the subsequent months.* 

^ In chronological order : Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, 
Frederick, Prince George's. Consult 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, index. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 991, 1031 ; also Md. Gas., Dec. i, 15, 1774. 

' The size of committees was increased in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, 
Frederick, Charles and Prince George's. Consult 4 Am. Arch., vol. 
i, index. 

* In November, Henrico, Elizabeth City, Warwick, Chesterfield and 
James City; in December, Richmond, Essex, Isle of Wight, Princess 
Anne, Caroline, Prince William, King and Queen, Northampton, Charles 
City, Orange, WilHamsburg, Accomack; in January, Charlotte, Prince 
George's, Fincastle, Pittsylvania and Westmoreland; in February, Lan- 
caster; in April, Bedford; in May, Mecklenburgh and Augusta. Vide 
ibid., vols, i, ii, passim, and Pinkney's Va. Gaz., passim. 



462 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

In the provincial convention, which began to meet on 
March 20, every one of the sixty-two counties was repre- 
sented; which makes it probable that a great many more 
counties than those noted here appointed committees of ob- 
servation. On March 22 the members of the provincial 
convention voted their unanimous approval of the meas- 
ures of the Continental Congress.^ The new House of 
Burgesses, the first since the dramatic dissolution of May, 
1774, was not called into session until the first of June, 
1775: and on the fifth of the month they also resolved, 
without a dissenting voice, their entire approval of the pro- 
ceedings of Congress.^ 

Thus, excellent machinery of enforcement was estab- 
lished in all parts of the province. A source of weakness 
was the small but powerful body of merchants and factors, 
who could not be expected to relinquish without a struggle 
their prospects of recovering the great sums which the 
planters owed them ; but even these professed an allegiance 
to the Association. 

The movement in North Carolina for the appointment of 
committees proceeded sluggishly, except at the principal 
port, Wilmington, where a city committee of observation 
was chosen on November 23, 1774, and a county committee 
some weeks later. '^ Pitt County appointed a committee on 
December 9, and other tidewater counties probably fol- 
lowed this example. ** A pronounced and effective opposi- 
tion to the Association was made in the populous back- 
country counties, where the Regulators had risen up several 
years before in opposition to the oppressive practices of the 
very tidewater leaders who now sought their support 

^ Va. Gac, Mch. 30, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii. p. 167. 
' Jhid., vol. ii, p. 1193. 

' ^V. C. Col. Recs.. vol. ix, pp. 1088-1089, 1107-1108. 1154. 
* Ibid., vol. ix, p. 1095 : vol. x, pp. ^7-38- 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 463 

against England/ Addresses were sent to Governor Mar- 
tin, signed by many inhabitants of Anson, Rowan, Surry 
and Guilford Counties, condemning the " lawless combina- 
tions and unwarrantable practices " introduced into North 
Carolina from other provinces.^ 

When a provincial convention assembled at Newbern on 
Monday, April 3, 1775, nine county and two town constitu- 
encies, most of them in the back country, failed to send 
representatives ; and Governor Martin averred that : "in 
many others the Committees consisting of 10 or 12 Men 
took upon themselves to name them and [in] the rest they 
were not chosen according to the best of my information 
by 1-20 part of the people." " The convention met one day 
before the time fixed for the sitting of the Assembly. This 
was of considerable convenience, physically and politically, 
since every member of the Assembly who appeared was, 
with a single exception, also a member of the convention.* 
Sturdy John Harvey acted as '" Mr. Moderator " of the 
one body and " Mr. Speaker " of the other ; and indeed the 
two bodies met in the same room, changing character with 
chameleonlike suddenness when occasion demanded. Gov- 
ernor Martin issued a proclamation for dispersing the con- 
vention ; and on Tuesday he sent a message to the Assembly 
denouncing the convention and all committees of observa- 
tion.^ While the House on the following day set about 
preparing an answer to the governor, the convention took 
occasion to ratify the Continental Association in a formal 
vote, and all the members of the convention, with a few ex- 

1 Bassett, "Regulators of North Carolina," Am. Hist. Assn. Rep. 
{1894), pp. 209-210. 
^N. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix. pp. 1157, 1160-1164. 
^ Ibid., vol. ix, p. 1228. 

* There were more delegates, however, than Assemblymen. 
'' fbid., vol. ix. pp. 1187, 1190-1196. 



464 I'H^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ceptions, signed their names to it/ The situation became 
intolerable to Governor Martin when, on Friday, the sev- 
enth, the House presented an address in defense of the con- 
vention and the committees and voted approval of the 
Association." On the following day he dissolved the As- 
sembly. Although not as thoroughly organized as many 
other provinces, North Carolina was in position to carry- 
through the Association, since the burden of enforcement 
rested with the tidewater communities where committees 
were in existence. 

In South Carolina the General Committee at Charleston 
took the initiative in bringing about a ratification of the 
Association. The situation presented some peculiar diffi- 
culties because of the partiality shown to the rice planters 
in the non-exportation regulation of the Association. 
Ultra-radicals like Gadsden did not like the appearance of 
a sales-price attached to South Carolina patriotism, and 
they resolved to ratify the Association with the proviso 
that the rice exemption be stricken out. On the other hand, 
the indigo interests saw no reason why the welfare of the 
rice planters should be safeguarded by the x\ssociation and 
their own, equally meritorious, ignored. 

The General Committee sought to disarm both elements 
of opposition by the course it adopted. On November 9, 
1774, a call was sent out for a provincial congress to meet 
at Charleston on Wednesday, January 1 1 , for the purpose 
of acting on the Continental Association and choosing a 
new committee.^ The committee then proceeded to have 
copies of the Association (of which they signified their high 

^ N. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1180-1182, 1184-1185. 

' Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1 198-1205. The North Carolina provincial congress, 
which assembled on Aug. 20, 1775, voted a formal acceptance of the 
Association on the twenty-third. Ibid., vol. x, p. 171. 

' S. C. Gaz., Nov. 21, 1774. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 465 

approval) distributed to the members in the various parts 
of the province; and with this document they also sent 
copies of a justification which the South Carolina delegates 
in the Continental Congress had drawn up to explain their 
course there/ This latter paper was a shrewd piece of 
writing. It endeavored to show, on the one hand, that the 
apparent discrimination in the Association in favor of 
South Carolina served, in fact, only to place the province 
on a basis of equality with the other provinces, and that 
therefore any charge of commercialized patriotism was 
ill-founded.- The larger part of the document was spent 
in an effort to convince the indigo growers that the rice 
planters had no desire to take unfair advantage of them. 
Three reasons were offered why rice had been permitted to 
be exported by Congress instead of indigo: rice was a 
perishable commodity; it did not serve the people of Great 
Britain as provision, nor, as in the case of indigo, as an aid 
in manufacturing; furthermore, lands which produced rice 
could be devoted to no other use whereas most of the indigo 
lands might be advantageously planted with wheat, barley 
and hemp. In conclusion, the delegates proposed that the 
superior advantage of the rice planters should be counter- 
balanced by a compensatory arrangement with the indigo 
growers ; that is, '' that a reasonable proportion of all rice 
made after the present crop be appropriated to the purchase 
of indigo made by such planters as are so situated as to be 
unable to turn their lands to the production of articles 

* A copy of this justification may be found in N. Y. Journ., Dec. 
8, 1774. 

' Thus it was declared : " That while the other colonies had the ex- 
portation of wheat, flour, oil, fish and other commodities open, Caro- 
lina would (without the exception of rice) have had no sort of article 
to export at all ; " and further, " That Carolina, having no manufac- 
tures, was under a more immediate necessity of some means to pur- 
chase the necessaries of life, particularly negro clothing." 



466 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

which may be exported; and that the indigo so purchased 
become the property of those for whose rice it was ex- 
changed." 

The appeal of the delegates was well calculated to accom- 
plish their purpose; and it proved particularly effective in 
healing the breach that had appeared betv\'een the rice 
planters and the indigo growers. A strong note of dissent 
was still to be heard, however, in certain quarters. A letter 
written at Charleston on the last day of the year claimed 
that: "Most of the inhabitants of this province are dis- 
pleased that their Delegates asked an exception of rice from 
the Non-Exportation agreement." ^ In the South Carolina 
Gazette of January 2, 1775, ''A Country Rice Planter" 
asked if the South Carolina delegates were " ever instructed 
by the People to hold out in that Article and to refuse their 
Vote if not compHed with?"; and suggested that: ** Even 
supposing we were not upon a Level as to the Privilege of 
Exportation with some other Colonies, is it the grand 
struggle now, Whether we shall be upon a Level? or is it* 
Whether we shall be free, and who shall do most and suffer 
most to establish this Freedom?" The rice planters were 
advised to repudiate their exemption outright rather than 
agree to " the Scheme of Barter proposed, which it will not 
only be as difficult to obtain the Assent of the Colony to as 
the above — but be infinitely more difficult to accomplish to 
Satisfaction." As late as the opening day of the provincial 
congress, an onlooker at Charleston predicted that positive 
instructions would be given the delegates to the Second 
Continental Congress to put a stop to the exportation of 
rice when the non-exportation regulation should take effect.^ 
But these writers, as the result showed, undervalued the 
persuasive appeal of self-interest to the planting element. 

^N. Y. Journ., Jan. 26, 1775. 
* }fass. Spy, Feb. 16, 1775. 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 467 

The provincial congress, which began its sessions on 
Wednesday, January 11, had a membership almost four 
times as large as that of the House of Assembly, and all 
parishes and districts of the province were represented 
according to a predetermined ratio. Colonel Charles Pinck- 
ney, chairman of the General Committee, was chosen as 
chairman of the congress, and the omnipresent Peter Tim- 
othy served as secretary/ On the first day, the delegates to 
the Continental Congress being in attendance, the Asso- 
ciation was taken under consideration. The last four 
words of Article iv — '' except rice to Europe " — gave rise 
to a long and violent debate. Gadsden spoke for the mo- 
tion, recounted the critical situation precipitated by his four 
colleagues in the Continental Congress, and declared that 
the reluctant concession granted by the other provinces had 
created a jealousy of the rice provinces which ought to be 
removed at the earliest possible time. John Rutledge now 
undertook to defend the action of the majority of the South 
Carolina delegation. He contended that the northern prov- 
inces " were less intent to annoy the mother country in the 
article of trade than to preserve their own trade;" which 
made it seem only " justice to his constituents to preserve 
to them their trade as entire as possible." In vigorous lan- 
guage he emphasized the point that, since rice and indigo 
were enumerated products, non-exportation in those articles 
meant entire ruin for those staples of South Carolina, 
whereas the northern provinces, having export connections 
chiefiy with foreign countries, were little affected by a non- 
exportation to British countries. For one, he could not 
consent to the Carolinians becoming "dupes to the people 

^ Journal of the congress in 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1109-1118; Dray- 
ton's detailed account of the debates in Drayton, Memoirs, vol. i, 
pp. 168-176; brief accounts in S. C. Gas., Jan. 23, 1775; N. Y. Gaz., 
Feb. 6; and N. Y. Journ., Feb. 9. 



468 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of the North." He even charged " a commercial scheme 
among the Flour Colonies '' to seize for themselves the 
markets which had hitherto been supplied by South Caro- 
lina rice via Great Britain. Turning to the indigo group, 
he expatiated on the justice and practicability of a scheme 
of compensation as a method of equalizing burdens. 

The subject was thus complicated by the question of 
compensation, and the debate became more general. Among 
the principal speakers in opposition to the compensation 
plan were Gadsden, Rawhns Lowndes, and the Rev. Wil- 
liam Tennent. If the rice exemption must needs be re- 
tained, yet, they asked, why should the benefits of compen- 
sation be monopolized by the indigo growers alone?; ''it 
should afford in justice also relief to the Hemp Grower, 
the Lumber Cutter, the Com Planter, the Makers of Pork 
and Butter, &c." It was said that " this odious distinction 
has cruelly convulsed the Colony.'' On the other side the 
chief speakers w^ere William Henry Drayton, the Rutledges, 
and the Lynches, father and son. In this manner the whole 
day was consumed, and at sunset a committee was ap- 
pointed to formulate a plan of compensation. The report 
was made late next morning to an assemblage that had been 
waiting impatiently for two hours. All parties united in 
voting through the first part of the report, which authorized 
the committees of the several parishes and districts to sit 
as judges and juries in all matters affecting the collection 
of debts. But the details of the plan for compensation 
proved unsatisfactory and were rejected. 

The debate reverted to the original question of expung- 
ing the words, " except rice to Europe," and continued 
tmtil dark. '' Great heats prevailed and the members were 
on the point of falling into downright uproar and con- 
fusion." When the question was at length put by candle- 
light, a demand was made that the vote be taken by roll-call 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 469 

instead of zdva voce; and ^' by this mode [says Drayton] 
some were overawed, either by their diffidence, circum- 
stances, or connexions; and to the surprise of the nays, 
they themselves carried the point by a majority of twelve 
voices — eighty-seven to seventy-five." A formal endorse- 
ment of the Continental Association was then voted. A 
day or so later the members succeeded in agreeing upon a 
plan of compensation and exchange, in which the benefits 
of the arrangement were extended far beyond the original 
intention of relief for the indigo growers exclusively. 
After the tenth of September the rice planters were to de- 
liver to designated committees one-third of their crop and 
receive, at a stated rate of exchange, not more than one- 
third of certain other commodities produced in the prov- 
ince, such as indigo, hemp, lumber, corn and pork. 

Before adjourning, the provincial congress took the pre- 
caution of appointing committees in each parish and dis- 
trict to carry into effect the Continental Association; and 
in every case members of congress composed a majority of 
the committee.^ In this way, according to Drayton, no 
time was lost " in giving a complete appearance to the body 
politic and the greatest energy to their operations." Future 
vacancies in the committees were to be filled by the inhabi- 
tants of the parishes and districts. South Carolina was thus 
equipped with a well-solidified extra-legal organization, 
invigorated by an interested public opinion. 

The province of Georgia had been unrepresented in the 
Continental Congress, although the zealous radicals of St. 
John's Parish, assisted by some congenial spirits at Savan- 
nah in Christ Church Parish, had employed their utmost 
endeavors to bring the province into line. From some 
points of view, prospects for radical action were brighter 

^ For the names of the members of these committees, T'ide 4 Am. 
Arch., vol. i, pp. 1113-1114. 



470 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



in the months following the Continental Congress, inas- 
much as the threatened Indian war had failed to materialize 
and as rice, one of the staples of the province, had been 
given a favored position in the Continental Association. 
In other respects, the situation was more complicated be- 
cause of a division among the radicals themselves as to the 
question of tactics. Some of them insisted that the prov- 
ince should be induced to accept the Continental Associa- 
tion in the form in which it was issued by Congress ; others 
believed that a bid should be made for mercantile support 
by further postponing the time at which the non-importation 
and non-exportation regulations were to become effective. 
The extremists of St. John's Parish were uncompromising 
advocates of the former course and they hastened to adopt 
the Association in foto on December i.^ The radicals at 
Savannah and the radical members of the Assembly were 
inclined to the more conciHatory course. 

" Since the Carolina Deputies have returned from the 
Continental Congress . . . , every means possible have been 
used to raise a flame again in this Province," wrote Gov- 
ernor Wright on December 13, 1774.' The first step in the 
direction of provincial action was taken by the Savannah 
radicals on December 3, when a call was issued for a pro- 
vincial congress to assemble on January 18, 1775.^ At the 
time appointed, delegates appeared from only five of the 
twelve parishes and districts to which the radicals had par- 
ticularly written, and some of these were under injunc- 
tions as to the form of the Association which should be 
adopted.* It would appear, also, that, with the exception 

^ A convention of the District of Darien did the same on Jan. 12. 
1775. 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1135-1136. 
' Ibid., vol. i. p. 1040. 

* Ga. Gac, Dec. 7, 1774; also Pa. Gaz., Dec. 2^. 

* This account of the Georgia congress and the meeting of the 



RATIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION 471 

of St. John's Parish, small radical minorities had carried 
through the election of delegates.^ Furthermore, the dele- 
gation from St. John's Parish, headed by Dr. Lyman Hall, 
although present in Savannah, refused to take part in the 
congress because of the known intention of that body to 
deviate from the Continental Association, which the men 
of St. John's had adopted verbatim. 

Under these circumstances the members of the congress 
found themselves in a dilemma. Representing a small and 
amorphous minority of the people and estranged for the 
time being from the ultra-radicals of St. John's, they did 
not dare to represent their action as the voice of the prov- 
ince ; on the other hand, they did not wish the endorsement 
of the Continental Congress to fail by default. They de- 
cided therefore to take advantage of an opportunity 
afforded by the presence of the Assembly in town. That 
body had already given indications of its friendliness when 
it had laid on the table without comment two petitions 
signed by a number of " principal people," condemning the 
measures of the northern provinces, and when it had 
adopted the declaration of rights and grievances of the 
Continental Congress. The plan was that the provincial 
congress should formulate a course of action with reference 
to the Association and then present its conclusions to the 
House of x^ssembly, which would adopt them in a few 
minutes before the governor could interfere by means of 
dissolution. 

Upon this understanding, the members of the congress 

Assembly is based on various contemporary narratives, friendly and 
unfriendly, in 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1156-1163; vol. ii, pp. 279-281; 
and Pa. Journ., Mch. 8, 1775. 

^ Thus, it was alleged that 2^ men had acted in St, Andrew's Par- 
ish, which contained at least 800 men of military age ; and that eighty 
men had done the work in St. Paul's, a parish of equal size. 



472 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

now proceeded. Ignoring the insistent messages trans- 
mitted from time to time by the St. John's delegation that 
the Association be ratified verbatim, they adopted it with 
modifications, the most important of which postponed the 
beginning of non-importation from December i, 1774, to 
March 15, 1775, and exempted goods necessary^ for the 
Indian trade from its operation, and provided that non- 
exportation should start on December i, 1775, instead of 
September 10, 1775. These changes were made on the plea 
of allowing the Georgia merchants approximately the same 
time for arranging their business for the suspension of 
trade that the merchants of other provinces had enjoyed. 
The congress also chose three inhabitants of Savannah as 
delegates to the Second Continental Congress. These mat- 
ters were now ready to be presented to the House of 
Assembly for ratification " when the Governour, either 
treacherously informed, or shrewdly suspecting the step, 
put an end to the session." The members of the provincial 
congress made the most of a bad situation by issuing their 
Association on January 23, with their signatures attached, 
and pledging their constituents to its execution. 

Thus the effort to unite the province in radical measures 
with the other provinces proved a failure. The delegates 
chosen to the Second Continental Congress refused to serve 
in that capacity on the ground that they were not in position 
to pledge the people of Georgia to the execution of any 
measure whatsoever. The radicals in general awaited the 
action which the Second Congress would take in the cir- 
cumstances. The committee of St. John's Parish, unbend- 
ing in their self-sufficiency, began to cast about for some 
way of escaping the boycott, which threatened them, as 
well as the rest of the province, under Article xiv of the 
Continental Association. 



CHAPTER XII 

Five Months of the Association in the Commercial. 
Provinces (December, 1774-ApRiL, 1775) 

In studying the actual workings of the Association two ] 
important considerations should be borne in mind. Warned 
by the trend of public discussion in the months preceding 
the adoption of the Association, and allowed several weeks 
of open importation by the provisions of the Association, 
the merchants had an opportunity to provide against future - 
scarcity by importing much greater quantities of merchan- 
dise than customary. Richard Oswald quoted a British 
exporter as saying that in July, 1774, an extraordinarily 
brisk export trade set up, which swept the warehouses for \ 
American goods clean and advanced the price of many j 
articles from ten to fifteen per cent.^ Other evidences of 
the inflated conditions of exportation to America are abun- 
dant. Wrote a London merchant to his New York corres- 
pondent on July 29, 1774: "The people of Philadelphia 
have encreased their orders triply this fall ; from whence I 
am persuaded they mean to have a Non-Importation Agree- 
ment." " ■' I hear the merchants are sending for double 
the quantity of goods they usually import," wrote Governor 
Gage in August, " and in order to get credit for them, are 
sending home all the money they can collect, insomuch that 
l)ills have risen at New- York above five per cent." ^ '' So 

^ Stevens, Facsimiles, vol. xxiv, no. 2037, P- I4- 

"^ N. Y. Gazetteer, Sept. 22, 1774. Vide also Pa. Journ., Aug. 24. 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 742-743. 

473 



Y 



474 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

great has been the exportation to America, particularly to 
New-England, for these six weeks past," wrote a London 
correspondent in the same month, "that it is the opinion 
of some Merchants conversant with American Trade that, if 
the Colonies do agree in a non-importation scheme, it will 
hardly be felt by our Manufacturers for six months or a 
year.'' ^ . The Boston Committee of Correspondence enter- 
tained the same general view of the situation. " We learn 
by private papers from England," they wrote on September 
7, " that prodigious quantities of goods are now shipping 
for the Colony of Rhode Island, New York and Philadel- 
phia." ^ 

I" _As a result of the augmented importation into America 
;prior to the time that the Association went into effect, the 
conditions of life under the non-importation regulation 
were greatly ameliorated for the colonists. It w^as generally 
estimated that the stock of goods on hand on December i, 
1774, would suffice without replenishment for two years.' ^ 

^ .V. Y. Gaz., Sept. 26, 1774. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i. p. 784. Dr. Samuel Cooper wrote to John Adams 
in similar strain in October. Ibid., p. 878. Vide also N. Y. Journ., 
Sept. 29, 1774; N. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, p. 1093. A convention of 
several Connecticut counties and a meeting of the town of Pomfret 
protested against the flood of goods which was pouring into Connecticut 
from New York. Conn. Cour., Sept. 19, 1774; Bos. Com. Cor. Papers, 
vol. ii, pp. 217-218, 307-310. A comparison of the imports from England 
during the years 1773 and 1774 confirms these statements, although it is 
only fair to note that the former year was an off year, due to the 
excessive importations of 1771 and 1772 following the breakdown of 
the earUer non-importation agreement. English importations into 
New York increased from £289,214 in 1773 to £437,927 in 1774; into 
Pennsylvania from £426,448 to £625,652; into Maryland and Virginia 
from £328,904 to £528.738. There was a sHghter increase in the case 
of New England and th€ Carolinas — from £527,055 to £562,476 in case 
of the former, and from £344,859 to £378,116 in case of the latter. 
Georgia showed a decrease. Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, vol. 
iii, pp. 549-550, 564. 

'£. g., zide 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1740. "A Friend of Liberty" 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



475 



This was something of an overestimate, however. This 
supply of merchandise rendered the enforcement of the 
non-importation during the first twelvemonth easier than 
it would otherwise have been, for the merchants who had 
laid in goods were not easily tempted to defy the regula- 
tions of Congress and the committees. On the other hand, 
the utility of the ^Association as an instrument of coercion 
was not materially lessened by the advance importations. 
The great consignments of British wares had to reach 
America before December i, 1774, or, at the most, not 
later than February i, 1775; and thereafter British mer-j 
cantile houses and manufactories became idle so far as! 
American business was concerned. They were threatened ; 
with dull times and industrial depression at a time when | 
their capital was more largely than usual tied up in Amer- j 
ican ventures. "^ / '^ 



L«>c 



{_The second consideration to be kept in mind in examin- ,- \ 
ing the Association in operation is that, after the non- ^ 
importation regulation had been in force for four and a 
half months, events occurred which changed the whole face 
of public affairs and rapidly converted the Association from 
a mode of peaceful pressure into a war measure. . The 
action of the " embattled farmers " at Lexington and Con- 
cord and the military operations that followed showed the 
radicals that the Association as a method of redress had 
suddenly become antiquated and that it must be altered, if 
not altogether abandoned, to meet the greatly changed 

onditions. This realization was at once acted upon by 
local committees and by Congress; and by the middle of 



averred that this was the understanding upon which the colonists had 
associated. Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Feb. 2, 1775. Alexander Hamilton be- 
lieved that the merchants' stocks would be exhausted in eighteen 
months, but that with the clothes which the people already possessed 
imported articles would be in use for three years. "The Farmer Re- 
futed," Hamilton, Works (Lodge), vol. i, p. 151. 



476 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

1775 the Continental Association was rapidly losing its 
original character. The military purposes to which the 
machinery of the Association was turned became increas- 
ingly important, so that by September 10, 1775, when the 
non-exportation was to begin, the character of that measure 
had also to be changed. Thus, the bold experiment, in- 
augurated by the First Congress — to establish the several 
self-denying regulations of the Association through the 
mobilizing of public opinion — was brought to a premature 
close by the call to arms. , 

Certain generalizations may be made with reference to 
the workings of the Association before taking up the prac- 
tice of the provinces separately. In Massachusetts, where 
the war fever was high, and, to a lesser extent, in the 
neighboring provinces, the committees and conventions felt 
called upon to concern themselves with military preparations 
even before the outbreak of war. Every province without 
exception availed itself of the suggestion made in the Asso- 
ciation that such further regulations should be established 
by the provincial conventions and committees as might be 
deemed proper to enforce the Association. Non-importa- 
tion and sumptuary regulations occupied the entire attention 
in the period before the opening of hostilities, save for the 
non-exportation of sheep, inasmuch as the general non- 
exportation was not to become effective until September 10, 
1775. For the present, the period of enforcement prior to 
the outbreak of war will be considered. 

.AJmost the first collective action taken in Massachusetts 
to strengthen the Continental Association locally was an 
agreement, signed by forty-one blacksmiths of Worcester 
County on November 8, 1 774, that they would refuse their 
work to all persons who did not strictly conform to the 
Association. They agreed further that they would not 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



477 



perform any kind of work, after December i, for persons 
of Tory leanings, particularly Timothy Ruggles of Hard- 
wick, John Murray of Rutland, James Putnam of Worces- 
ter, their employees and dependents/ By this latter re- 
solve hung a tale, for Timothy Ruggles and his friends, 
with the active co-operation of Governor Gage, were seek- 
ing to promote a loyalist association for the purpose of de- 
feating the Continental Association. By the terms of this 
association the subscribers pledged themselves to defend, 
with lives and fortune, their " life, liberty and property " 
and their " undoubted right to liberty in eating, drinking, 
buying, selling, communing, and acting . . . consistent 
with the laws of God and the King." " When the person 
or property of any of us shall be invaded or threatened by 
Committees, mobs, or unlawful assemblies," said one por- 
tion of the paper, '' the others of us will, upon notice re- 
ceived, forthwith repair, properly armed, to the person on 
whom . . . such invasion or threatening shall be, and will, 
to the utmost of our power, defend such person and his 
property, and, if need be, will oppose and repel force with 
force."^ 

This brave pledge of opposition failed to win signers, for 
the reason that every signer of the paper at once exposed 
himself to the swift wrath of the radicals. The provincial 
congress on December 9 recommended to the committees of 
correspondence to give " the earliest notice to the publick 
of all such combinations, and of the persons signing the 
same, . . . that their names may be published to the world, 
their persons treated with that neglect, and their memories 
transmitted to posterity with that ignominy which such un- 

^ Bos. Gas., Nov. 28, 1774. 

^ Mass. Gas. & Post-Boy, Dec. 26, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 
pp. 1057-1058. 



478 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



natural conduct must deserve." ^ It was under influence of 
this resolution that, a few weeks later, a mob of people at 
Wrentham coerced five loyalists to plead, with heads un- 
covered, the forgiveness of Heaven, and to pledge unde- 
viating adherence to the Continental Association." Marsh- 
field was the only town where as many as one hundred and 
fifty men signed the loyalist association, and the associators 
discreetly sent a hurry-call to Gage for troops for their 
protection.^ Gage complained that the " considerable 
people " of Boston were " more shy of making open dec- 
larations," notwithstanding that they were in a fortified 
town, than the people in the country.* [^ The failure of the 
loyalist association was due to the superior organization of 
^the radicals rather than to lack of support for it. 

The provincial congress, meeting in late November and 
early December, 1774, passed a number of resolutions to 
supplement and strengthen several portions of the Conti- 
nental Association. They also recommended that the min- 
isters of the gospel throughout the province instruct their 
congregations to cleave to the Association ; and in a f ei*vent 
address directly to the inhabitants of the province they 
urged the organization of minute-men as a protection 
against Gage's troops who would certainly be employed to 
defeat the Association.^ 
J There was unmistakable evidence that the non-importa- 
I tion regulation was strictly enforced. In accordance with 
Article x, importers of merchandise which arrived between 
December i, 1774, and February i, 1775, were given the 

^ Bos. Gaz., Dec. 19, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1004. Vide 
also the resolution of April 12, 1775 ; ibid., pp. 1360-1361. 
^ N. y. Gas., Jan. 2Z, i775- 
^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1177-1178, 1249-1251. 
* Ibid., vol. i, p. 1634; vide also ibid., pp. 1046-1047. 
^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1000. 1005- 1006. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL FROUNCES 4-9 

choice of immediately re-shipping the goods, storing the 
goods with the local committee, or having them auctioned 
off under direction of the committee. In the last case, the 
owner was reimbursed to the extent of his actual invest- 
ment and the profits were devoted to the uses of the Boston 
needy. The provincial congress provided that such sales 
must be advertised in the Boston and Salem papers at least 
ten days in advance, and that the goods should be sold to 
the highest bidder.^ The newspapers related many in- 
stances of each course of procedure; and even the loyalist 
writings did not seek to represent otherwise. The chief 
centers of activity were Marblehead, Salem and Plymouth. 
Many, perhaps most, importers preferred to offer their 
goods at committee auction than to tie up their capital for 
an indefinite period by storing the goods — a choice which, 
by the way, afforded them an opportunity to buy back their 
own goods. 

As an example of such sales, the committee of inspection 
at Marblehead offered at auction on December 26 such part 
of the cargo of the London ship Champion as had then 
been delivered to the committee, consisting of Russia duck, 
osnaburgs, ticklinburgs, baizes, hemp, linens, hats, books, 
women's hose, nails, needles, calicoes, velvets and medi- 
cines to the value of £2410 sterling; and also the entire 
cargo of the Falmouth brigantine Polly, consisting of 
lemons, wines, raisins and figs. The rest of the goods im- 
ported in the Champion were disposed of in January.^ The 
complete cargoes of the schooners Lynn, Britannia and 
Adventure, all from Falmouth, were sold a few weeks 
later. ^ As the result of their enterprise, the Marblehead 

^ Mass. Spy, Dec. 16, 1774. 

"^ Salem Gas., Dec. 22,, 1774; Essex Gaz., Jan. 3, 1775: Bos. Gaz., 
Jan. 23. 
' Mass. Spy, Feb. 9, 1775. 



_^8o THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

committee of inspection derived profits amounting to £120, 
which they turned over to Boston/ Meantime, the Salem 
Committee were disposing of importations from Bristol, 
London, Falmouth, Jamaica and Dominica. Their method 
of sale was indicated by their advertisement that : '' Each 
invoice will be put up at the sterling cost and charges, one 
per cent advance, and half per cent each bidder." - Their 
contribution to Boston, as a result of the sales, amounted 
to £109 9s. 5d.^ In the same period the Plymouth com- 
mittee of inspection made profits for Boston amounting to 
£31 5s. 6/2.^ 

After February' i few vessels arrived in Massachusetts 
ports as compared with former and better days. When they 
did come, the cargoes were almost invariably re-shipped 
without breaking bulk."* One instance of defiance occurred 
at Falmouth in ]\Iarch, when a small sloop arrived from 
Bristol with rigging, sails and stores for a vessel which 
Thomas Coulson was in the process of building. The com- 
mittee of inspection resolved that the materials should be 
returned by the same vessel; but Coulson would conform 
to their demands only in part. He brought on his head the 
condemnation of the Cumberland County convention, which 
shortly after assembled at Falmouth; and as Coulson con- 
tinued obdurate, the committee of inspection published him 
as a violator of the Association.^ 

Few efforts were made to violate the regulation for the 
non-exportation of sheep. In December, Captain Hamilton 

^ Bos. Gaz., Mch. 13, 1775. 
"^Mass. Spy, Jan. 5, 1775. 

* Essex Gas., Apr. 11, 1775. 

* Bos. Gaz., Islch. 27, 1775. 

^ E. g., a cargo of molasses arriving at Marblehead from Dominica 
on March 2; Essex Journ., Mch. 15, 1775. 
*4 Am. Arch., vol. ii. pp. 311-313: Bos. Eve. Post, Apr. 3, 1775- 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 481 

at Salem planned to send thirty sheep to Jamaica ; but when 
the committee of inspection explained that he would be 
violating the Association, he readily desisted/ The com- 
mittee later stopped another consignment. The regulations 
concerning non-consumption were harder to administer, 
because of the practical difficulty of distinguishing between 
goods which might properly be bought and those which 
could not. The committee at Newburyport met this diffi- 
culty by requiring shopkeepers to produce a certificate from 
some committee of inspection, testifying that the wares 
offered for sale had been imported before December i or, 
if later, that they had been disposed of according to Ar- 
tide x.^ The provincial congress simplified the situation- 
for the future by passing a sweeping resolution forbidding 
the sale, after October 10, 1775, of goods which fell under 
the ban of the non-importation regulation, even if the goods 
were unsold stock remaining from the period prior to De- 
cember i.^ 

The most frequent infractions of the non-consumption 
regulation occurred with reference to the article of tea. An 
example of the vigilance of the committees of inspection 
was afforded by the prompt apprehension of Thomas Lilly, 
of Marblehead, for the purchase of a pound and a quarter 
of tea from Simon Tufts, a Boston dealer, after March i, 
1775. When Lilly had burnt the tea in the presence of a 
large crowd, and had signed a confession, which read in 
part : " I do now in this publick manner ask their pardon, 
and do solemnly promise I will not in future be guilty of a 
like offence," the Marblehead committee announced that he 
might " be justly entitled to the esteem and employ of all 

^ Essex Gaz., Dec. 13, 1774. 
^ Essex Journ., Dec. 2S, 1774. 

' 4 Am. Ar£h., vol. i, pp. 998-999. This resolution was repealed on 
Sept. 30, 1775, however, before it became effective. Ibid., vol. iii, p. 1445. 



^82 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

persons as heretofore." The Boston committee examined 
into Tufts' action and secured from him a statement, made 
under oath before a justice of the peace, that the tea had 
been sold to Lilly by the clerk without the knowledge or 
consent of himself and that in the future his conduct should 
not be open to misconstruction/ Some difficulty arose from 
the practice of peddlers and petty chapmen going through 
the country towns and selling teas and other East India 
goods which, there was reason to suspect, had been im- 
ported after December i. On February 15, 1775, the pro- 
vincial congress urged the committees of inspection to pre- 
vent such sales, and recommended to the inhabitants not to 
trade with peddlers for any article whatever.^ 

Some effort was made by the provincial congress to stim- 
ulate local industry, although it hardly wxnt beyond an ex- 
hortation to the people to form societies for the purpose of 
promoting manufacturing and agriculture. A number of 
articles were named, whose production should be encour- 
aged — such as nails, steel, tin-plates, buttons, paper, glass 
and hosiery, gunlocks, saltpetre and gunpowder. A few 
mxnths later, the provincial congress asked every family in 
the province to save rags in order that a paper mill erected 
at Milton might have a sufficient supply. The people were 
also asked to refrain from killing sheep except in cases of 
dire necessity.^ Local manufacturers made some progress 
if one may judge from the advertising columns of the 
Massachusetts Spy in January, 1775. Fish-hooks, made at 
Cornish, were offered for sale by Lee & Jones. Enoch 
Brown advertised sagathies, duroys, camblets, calamancoes 
and shalloons of Massachusetts-make, and decanters, cruets 

^ Essex Gas., Mch. 28, 1775, and Bos. Gaa., Apr. 3: also 4 Am. Arch.^ 
vol. ii, p. 234. 

^Ihid., vol. i, pp. 1339-1340. 

* Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1001-1002. 1334; vol. ii, p. 1514; vol. iii, p. 329. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 483 

and other glassware imported from Philadelphia. Boston- 
made buttons could be purchased from John Clarke. 

Tendencies toward a greater frugality were to be found 
in other respects as well. The Marblehead committee of 
inspection voted unanimously that '' the meeting of the in- 
habitants of this town in parties at houses of entertainment, 
for the purposes of dancing, feasting, &c., is expressly 
against the Association," and that future offenders should 
be held up to public notice.^ The regulation with reference 
to simplicity in mourning seems to have been well ob- 
served," although the committee of inspection at Newbury- 
port felt it necessary to declare that : *' If any should . . . 
go into a contrary practice, they may well expect that their 
friends and neighbours will manifest their disapprobation 
... by declining to attend the funeral." ^ 

In New Hampshire the enforcement of the Association 
depended in large degree on the faithfulness and energy of 
the Committee of " Forty-Five " at Portsmouth, the only 
port of entry. This committee proved equal to its respon- 
sibilities. Before news of the adoption of the Association 
reached Portsmouth, Captain Pearne, a merchant, had com- 
missioned a brig to proceed to Madeira for a cargo of 
wine; but before the vessel sailed the provisions of the 
Association were learned and the merchant agreed to send 
her to the West Indies instead.^ The committee also 
stopped Captain Chivers who was on the point of exporting 
fifty sheep to the West Indies; and he was forced to dis- 
pose of them (otherwise at some loss to himself.^ On De- 
cember 2 Governor Wentworth wrote that most people 

^ Essex Gas., Jan. 17, 1775 ; also Salem Gaz., Jan. 20. 

' Mass. Spy, Nov. 24, 1774. 

' Essex Journ., Dec. 28, 1774. 

* N. H. Gas., Nov. 18, 1774. 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1013; N. H. Gas., Nov. 18, 1774. 



484 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

accepted the regulations of Congress " as matters of obe- 
dience, not of considerate examination, whereon they may 
exercise their own judgment." ^ When sixty pounds of 
dutied tea was found in possession of a shopkeeper on Jan- 
uar}^ 18, the culprit exhibited the better part of valor by 
burning it in the presence of a large crowd. ^ On February 
10 the committee recommended that all who furnished 
accommodations for cards and biUiards should discontinue 
their unjustifiable proceedings at once.^ So energetic was 
the committee that the conservatives endeavored to set on 
foot an association in opposition to the Continental Asso- 
ciation ; but the movement came to nought."^ 

In the towns outside of Portsmouth, the greatest diffi- 
culty was experienced in dealing with country peddlers and 
chapmen. These men were accused of contravening the 
non-importation and non-consumption regulations and also 
of " tempting women, girls and boys with their unneces- 
sary fineries." The town of Exeter voted to permit no 
itinerant traders to sell wares there. ^ A town meeting at 
Epsom established the same regulation " upon no less 
penalty than receiving a new suit agreeable to the modern 
mode and a forfeiture of their goods." ® The committees at 
Kingstown, New Market and Brentwood announced that 
the provincial law prohibiting peddling would now be 
rigidly enforced.^ When a provincial convention met on 
January 25, they endorsed this last method as the most 
effective way of coping with the difficulty.^ The conven- 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1013. 

'A/". H. Gaz., Jan. 27, 1775. 

^ Ibid., Feb. 10, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1223. 

* Ibid., vol. ii, p. 251 ; also A'. H. Gas., Mch. 31, 1775. 
^Ibid., Jan. 6, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1105-1106. 

* Ibid., vol. i, p. 1 105; also A'. H. Gaz., Jan. 20, 1775. 
' Ibid., Jan. 13, 1775. 

^Ibid., Feb. 3, 1775; also 4 Am- Arch., vol. i, p. 1182. 



7A^ THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 485. 

tion also issued an address to the inhabitants in behalf of 
the Association and, among other things, recommended the 
immediate and total disuse of tea whether dutied or smug- 
gled. The people were also urged to promote home manu- 
factures and shun all forms of extravagance. It was not 
until the provincial congress met in May that the subject 
of local production received further attention. Then linen 
and woolen manufactures were mentioned as being partic- 
ularly worthy of encouragement, and farmers were enjoined 
to kill no lambs before the first of August following.^ 

The non-importation regulation appears to have been 
well enforced in Rhode Island. Several vessels intending 
for the African coast were actually laid up at Newport be- 
cause they could not be gotten ready to depart by Decem- 
ber i.^ The Newport committee remitted to Boston the 
sum of £5 15s. 3d. sterling as the profits of sales of im- 
portations prior to February i, 1775.^ Late in January, 
the committee at Providence auctioned off a quantity of 
merchandise, valued at £1200 sterling, imported from 
Liverpool by way of New York, and derived a profit of 
£16 6s. id. for the relief of Boston.^ Particular attention 
was given in Rhode Island to the regulations for the non- 
exportation of sheep. In November, 1774, the Providence 
committee exhorted obedience to these regulations; a few 
days later they sent to Boston, as a gift, one hundred and 
thirty-six sheep that had originally been intended for ex- 
portation to the West Indies but which the town had bought 
instead."^ Until late in February, Newport would not even 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 651. 

^ Pa. Journ., Feb. 8, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. 1, pp. 1098-T099. 

^ 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, p. 265. 

* Bos. Eve. Post, Feb. 20, 1775 ; Essex Gaz., Mch. 7. 

* 4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, p. 154. 



486 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

permit the shipment of sheep to associated provinces ; then, 
the Salem committee succeeded in pointing out the error 
of this interpretation of the Association.^ 

Providence facihtated the enforcement of the non-con- 
sumption regulation by requiring all dealers to show a 
certificate that the goods offered for sale conformed in 
every way to the specifications of the Association." On 
March 2, 1775, the day after the total disuse of tea became 
effective, the event was celebrated at Providence by a bon- 
fire of three hundred pounds of tea that had been collected 
from the inhabitants." The situation in Rhode Island may 
be summarized in the language of the Newport committee 
to their Philadelphia brethren : '' so far as we can learn, 
the Association hath been strictly adhered to by the mer- 
chants in this colony . . ." * Apparently little was done 
to encourage manufacturing or to foster the simple life. 
However, the graduating class at Rhode Island College in- 
duced the college authorities to abandon the public com- 
mencement exercises as out of harmony with Article viii.'^' 

The chief problem in Connecticut was not that of non- 
importation (for her imports came largely by way of Mas- 
sachusetts and New York), but that of non-consumption. 
The Norwich committee required all dealers to comply with 
the regulation, which was rapidly becoming popular, of 
vouching for the character of new stock by displaying cer- 
tificates from whence the merchandise came.*' An early 
tendency was obser\^able for prices to rise, due to the fact 

^Pickering Papers (M. H. S. Mss.), vol. xxxiii, p. 122; vol. xxxix, 
p. 100. 

' R. /. Col Recs., vol. vii, pp. 285-287. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 15. 

^ Pa. Journ., Feb. 8, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1099. 

' Ihid., vol. ii, pp. 935-936. 

• Conn. Gas., Dec. 30, 1774. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



487 



that the importers had sold to the Connecticut retailers at 
an advance and the former could not easily be reached be- 
cause of their residence in other provinces. On January 25, 
1775, a joint meeting of committees of inspection of Hart- 
ford County resolved that, even if the importers violated 
the Association, the retailers should not be excused, and 
that no better rule could be fixed regarding prices than Ar- 
ticle ix of the Association.^ A few days later the com- 
mittee of inspection at Farmington in the same county ob- 
tained from James Percival, a local dealer, a written con- 
fession of his guilt in violating this regulation and a 
promise to deposit his surplus profit with the committee for 
use of the Boston unfortunate.^ The same action with re- 
spect to prices was taken by the counties of New Haven, 
Fairfield and Litchfield. All these counties also directed 
attention to the importance of improving sheep, raising flax 
and encouraging manufactures.^ 

As Connecticut possessed no commercial metropolis, 
special effort was made in that province to standardize the 
practice of trying persons accused of transgressing the 
Association in the several small river and coast towns. The 
movement was set on foot, it would appear, at the meeting 
of the committees of inspection of Hartford County on 
January 25. In executing the Association, it was there 
agreed that proceedings against an accused should be con- 
ducted in an "open, candid and deliberate manner;" that 
formal summons should be served upon him, containing the 
nature of the charge, with an invitation to defend himself 
before the committee at some time not sooner than six days 
later ; that witnesses and other evidence should be " openly, 
fairly and fully heard:" and that no conviction should be 

^ Conn. Cour., Jan. 30, 1775. 

2 Ibid., Feb. 13, 1775. 

' Ibid., Feb. 27, 1775 ; Conn. Journ., Mch. 8. 



488 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

made " but upon the fullest, clearest and most convincing 
proof." ^ The same mode of procedure was adopted by the 
counties of New Haven, Fairfield and Litchfield." 

Trials of offenders by the committees of inspection bore 
every evidence of being fair and impartial hearings, al- 
though mistakes were occasionally made. In March three 
men failed to appear before the Fairfield committee who 
had been summoned to answer charges; and upon an ex 
parte examination the committee held unanimously that the 
accused were guilty of a breach of the Association and 
should forfeit all commercial connections with the com- 
munity. Five weeks later, two of the men came before the 
committee, proved their innocence and were restored to 
public favor.^ At Guilford Captain Griffin appeared be- 
fore the committee and demanded that his character be 
cleared of the aspersions cast upon it by a letter from 
Martinique, which had been printed in the Journul and 
which accused him of having violated Article vii by taking 
fourteen sheep to Martinique. After investigation the 
committee decided that Griffin was not guilty and recom- 
mended him to the favorable consideration of the public* 
In general, the view expressed by Thomas Mumford of 
Groton to Silas Deane in October, 1775, may be accepted 
as correct : " This Colony universally adheres to all the 
Resolves of Congress." ^ Even in Fairfield County, where, 
it will be recalled, the greatest disaffection existed, the 
principal towns Avere actively engaged in executing the 
Association. 

^ Conn. Cour., Jan. 30, 1775. 
^ Ibid., Feb. 27, 1775; Conn. Journ., Mch. 8. 
' Conn. Gaz., Apr. 4, May 12, 1775. 

^N. Y. Gas., Apr. 3, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 222. 
' Conn. Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. ii, p. 310. Vide also 4 Am. Arch., vol. 
ii, pp. 252-253. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



489 



In New York province the responsibility of enforcing 
the non-importation regulation rested with the Committee 
of Sixty at the port of entry. However, the first occasion 
for enforcement of the Association was the attempt of an 
inconsiderate citizen to ship some sheep to the West Indies. 
The shipment was prevented through the energy of a group 
of inhabitants who acted without consulting the Committee 
of '' Fifty-One," then still in office.^ A few days later the 
distillers of the city signified their hearty approval of the 
pending non-importation by resolving to distill no molasses 
imported from the British West Indies or Dominica nor to 
sell any rum for the purpose of carrying on the slave 
traffic.^ In the two months prior to February i, 1775, the i 
Committee of Sixty showed a record of astonishing activ- 
ity. Their official report testifies that they conducted auc- 
tions for the sale of goods imported in twenty-one vessels, 
as well as for the sale of a trunk of calicoes imported from 
London by way of Philadelphia." These cargoes were 
made up of a variety of articles representing many quarters 
of the globe and evidencing the colorful romance of colo- 
nial commerce. A great deal of space was taken up in the 
newspapers by announcements of sales. The greatest profit 
arose from the sale of merchandise brought in the large 
London ship Lady Gage, from which £182 i8s. was cleared 
for Boston. In a number of cases the selling price covered 
merely the first cost and charges. The total profits from all 
sales amounted to £347 4s. id. 

After February i the Sixty displayed equal diligence in 
returning cargoes without breaking bulk. For the purpose 
of facilitating this work a sub-committee w^as appointed to 
supervise the arrival of all vessels.* The most difficult case 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. <;^^; also N. Y. Journ., Nov. 10, 1774. 
'^ Ibid., Nov. 10, 1774. 

^ Ibid., Apr. 27, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 342-343. 
*iV, F. Journ., Feb. 2, 1775. 



^go THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

of enforcement proved to be that of a vessel that arrived on 
the second day of the new dispensation. This was the ship 
James, commanded by Captain Watson and bringing a 
cargo of coal and dr}^goods from Glasgow. The captain 
was promptly warned by the sub-committee not to enter at 
the custom house and not to dela}' in departing with his 
cargo unbroken. But the loyalists were determined to 
make this a trial of strength; and although the consignees 
refused to appeal to the authorities for aid. they obtained 
the not unwilling ear of Captain Watson and employed men 
to go aboard and bring the colors ashore with a view to 
raising a posse to assist in landing the goods. A great mob 
assembled on the shore; and the captain, much alarmed, 
dropped down about four miles below the city, where he 
remained several days attended by a boat containing repre- 
sentatives of the committee. On Thursday evening, the 
ninth, the ship reappeared in the harbor escorted by an 
officer and some men belonging to the royal vessel King- 
fisher, which had just come on the scene. The people again 
assembled in great numbers, seized the captain who was 
lodging in town, and paraded him about the streets until 
he was glad to flee to the man-of-war. After two days of 
sober reflection he prepared to depart with his ship, but was 
now ordered to desist by an overzealous lieutenant from the 
Kingfisher. Again the people collected ; and the captain of 
the Kingfisher, hearing of the unauthorized act of the lieu- 
tenant, permitted the departure of the James. That vessel 
was watched far beyond Sandy Hook, as she sw^ept out to 
sea, by the committee's boat.^ 

The vigilance of the Sixty was again tested later in the 
month upon the arrival of the Beulah from London. After 
lying at anchor for almost three weeks in an effort to elude 

'^N. Y. Journ., Feb. 9, 16, 1775; Pa. Jouni., Feb. 8; Golden, Letter 
Books, vol. ii, p. 380. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



491 



the watchfulness of the committee's boat, the vessel fell 
down to Sandy Hook to await a favorable wind for the 
return voyage. After two days' delay, she put to sea. 
Word quickly reached the Sixty that, under shelter of dark- 
ness, a boat from Elizabethtown, New Jersey, had taken off 
some goods while the ship lingered at the Hook. Investi- 
gation was at once undertaken by the Elizabethtown com- 
mittee, and the truth of the case was being ferreted out 
when Robert and John Murray, merchants of New York, 
appeared before the Sixty and confessed that they were the 
principals in the affair. The return of the Beulah with an 
unbroken cargo meant great financial loss to them, but it is 
evident that they feared the blast of the boycott even more 
greatly. They made a sworn statement of the goods that 
had been landed and promised to re-ship them in seven 
days' time. Finally, to propitiate public feeling, they sub- 
scribed £200 for the repair of the hospital, recently dam- 
aged by fire. The Sixty published these facts without com- 
ment; and the Elizabethtown committee proscribed John 
Murray, and his son-in-law of that town — the actual par- 
ticipants in the affair — as violators of the Association.^ 

The Sixty exhibited less concern about the advancing of 
prices. While the First Continental Congress was yet in 
session, the old " Fifty-One " had taken cognizance of the 
discontent arising from '^ the exorbitant price to which sun- 
dry articles of goods, particularly some of the necessaries 
of life," had advanced in anticipation of non-importation; 
and they had induced a meeting of importers at the Ex- 
change to agree to maintain prices at the usual level, dis- 
courage engrossing, and to boycott retailers who acted con- 

* A''. Y. Journ., Feb. 23, Mch. 9, 23, Apr. 6, 1775. The son-in-law 
was restored to public favor, after public contrition, by act of the 
New Jersey provincial congress, Oct. 24, 1775. 4 Am. Arch., vol. iii, 
p. 1232. For the later history of the Murrays, vide infra, p. 565 and n. i. 



/ 



492 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

trariwise/ Nevertheless, by January, claims were made in 
the leading loyalist organ that prices had actually risen. 
Thus, coarse osnaburgs were said to have advanced a full 
third in the hands of the wholesaler; the price of coarse 
linens and Russia sheetings had increased also." These 
allegations may not have fairly represented the situation, or 
else the committee may have thought it unwise to supervise 
the merchants too closely on this point. In any case the 
Sixty paid no attention to the charges. 

An obvious effort was made to simplify the standard of 
living. When Mrs. Margaret Duane died early in January, 
her remains were interred in accordance with the directions 
of Article viii.^ The London ship Lady Gage brought two 
puppet shows to New York ; and in the midst of their first 
performances, a committee of citizens stopped the proceed- 
ings and, while the audiences dispersed in much confusion, 
secured the promise of the managers not to show again.* 

The project of establishing local manufacturers on some 
systematic plan attracted little interest at first. When, how- 
ever, some enterprising Philadelphians established a manu- 
facturing company a few months later, the Sixty decided 
to make use of the same plan, under the name '' The New 
York Society for employing the Industrious Poor and Pro- 
moting Manufactory." The object was to manufacture 
woolens, linens, cottons and nails; but subscriptions for 
stock failed to materialize, and it was not until January, 
1776, that a partial trial of the scheme was made possible 
by a subsidy granted by the committee of safety at New 
York city.^ This was too late to be of any practical use 
because of the British occupancy of the city soon after. 

^N. Y. Gas., Oct. 10, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 328. 
* N. y. Gasetteer, Jan. 19, 26, Apr. 6, 1775. 

*iV. Y. Gaz., Jan. 16, 1775. ^N. Y. Journ., Dec. 15, 1774- 

*4 Am. Arch., vol. iii, pp. 1263-1264, 1424-1426; Constitutional Gas.^ 
Jan. 27, 1776. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 493 

Apart from the three rural counties of Albany, Ulster 
and Suffolk, the outlying districts were not at this time 
sufficiently organized to enforce the non-consumption reg- 
ulations. It should be noted, however, that the energy and 
intelligence of the Sixty at the metropolis reduced the im- 
portance of such enforcement, inasmuch as foreign wares 
seldom, if ever, penetrated that far. Probably the worst 
infractions occurred in the matter of tea drinking after 
March i, when no tea either dutied or smuggled was to be 
consumed. On April 7, Jacobus Low of Kingston in Ulster 
County was proscribed by the Kingston committee as the 
only dealer in town who would not refuse to sell tea. A 
long and somewhat abusive controversy ensued; but at the 
end of two months Low appeared before the committee and 
made all the concessions they required.^ 

Since the mercantile houses of New York city were the 
feeders for the country stores of Connecticut and New Jer- 
sey, the inviolability of the non-importation in the metrop- 
olis was trebly important. That it was well kept the fore- 
going incidents testify. A group of conservatives in 
Dutchess and Westchester Counties sought to promote a 
loyalist association for personal liberty, modeled on Briga- 
dier Ruggles's association in Massachusetts ; but it made no 
headway.^ Lieutenant Governor Colden, who had orig- 
inally been skeptical of the success of the Continental Asso- 
ciation, uttered a dependable judgment when he wrote on 
March i : " the non importation association of the Con- 
gress is ever rigidly maintained in this Place." ^ 

The spirit of the New Jersey associators has already been 
suggested by the conduct of the Elizabeth town committee 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 298, 448, 548, 917. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 1164; iV. Y. Gas., Mch. 20, 1775. 

' Letter Books, vol. ii, p. 389- Vide also ibid., pp. 369-370, 373- 



494 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

in the Murray affair. On December 6, 1774, Governor 
Franklin informed the home government that : "Altho' the 
Proceedings of the Congress are not altogether satisfactory 
to many of the Inhabitants of the Colonies, yet there seems 
at present little Reason to doubt but that the Terms of 
Association will be generally carried into Execution, even 
by those who dislike Parts of it. But few have the Courage 
to declare their Disapprobation publickly, as they all know, 
if they do not conform, they are in Danger of becoming 
Objects of popular Resentment, from which it is not in 
the Pcwxr of Government here to protect them." ^ The 
public meetings of Gloucester County and of Woodbridge 
Township in Middlesex County expressly instructed their 
committees of observation that they should '' as carefully 
attend to and pursue the rules and directions for their gov- 
ernment ... set forth in the said association, as they 
would if the same had been enacted into a law by the legis- 
lature of this province." ^ 

The committees had to devote ver^" little time to the pre- 
vention of importation because of the absence of any good 
ports. However, a consignment of merchandise, which 
had come by way of New York in the Lady Gage, was sold 
at auction at New Brunswick; and another importation 
from Bristol in the Fair Lady via the same port was sold 
at Elizabethtown.^ An effort was made to land secretly a 
quantity of dutied tea at Greenwich in Cumberland County. 
The consignment was seized by some inhabitants ; and while 
the committee of observation was gravely deliberating as to 
its disposition, Indians a la Boston made a bonfire of it.* 

^ I N. J. Arch., vol. x, p. 503. 

' Po. Gas., Dec. 21, 1774; 4 Avi. An-h.. vol. i, pp. 1102-1103. 
' N. Y. Journ., Jan. 19, 26, 1775. 

* Pa. Packet, Jan. 19. 1775; Andrews, F. D.. Tea-Burners of Cumber- 
land County (Vineland, N. J., 1908). 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



495 



In February the committees of observation of Elizabeth- 
town and Woodbridge suspended commercial intercourse 
with the obdurate inhabitants of nearby Staten Island, who 
had neglected to join the Association.^ 

Of the various committees that passed resolutions in be- 
half of economy and home production, the Hanover com- 
mittee in Morris County established the most comprehen- 
sive regulations. They promised to take note of all horse- 
racing, cock-fighting and gambling and to prosecute the 
offenders in accordance with the law. To Article vii of the 
Association they added the requirements that no sheep 
should be taken from the county without the committee's 
permission and that no sheep should be killed until it was 
four years old. They recommended the wide cultivation of 
flax and hemp, and inveighed against any dealers who 
should advance prices." 

An illustration of the effectiveness of the boycott was 
accorded by the action of Silas Newcomb, a member of the 
Cumberland C(;unty committee, in announcing voluntarily 
on March 6 that he had been drinking tea in his family 
since March i and that he proposed to continue the prac- 
tice. All dealings were thereupon broken off with him; 
and on May 1 1 he appeared before the committee and made 
an abject apology for his offense: that body accepted his 
'' recantation.'' '' 

In Pennsylvania the chief obstacle to a perfect execution 
of the Association was the hostility of the Quaker merchant 
aristocracy at Philadelphia, the only porf of entry. These 
men were toO shrewd to expose themselves to the rigors of 

'A', }'. Journ., Feb. i6. Mch. 9, 1775; also i Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
1234-1235, 1249. 
' Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1240-1241 ; also N. Y. lourn., Feb. 23, 1775. 
^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 34-35- 



\y 



^^6 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the boycott through personal infractions of the Association ; 
but, being weahhy and influential members of the Society 
U'^'of Friends, they were able to conduct a campaign against 
the Association by controlling the official utterances of that 
organization. 

As early as May 30, 1774, the day before the Boston 
Port Act became effective, the several meetings of the soci- 
ety in Philadelphia joined in declaring that, if any Quakers 
had countenanced the plan of suspending all business on 
June I, " they have manifested great inattention to our re- 
ligious principles and profession, and acted contrary to the 
rules of Christian discipline established for the preservation 
of order and good government among us." ^ In the follow- 
ing months the constant effort of the Quaker leaders, in 
striking contrast with earlier years, was to keep the members 
of the society clear of radical activities. " This has occa- 
sioned no small care and labor," wrote James Pemberton 
on November 6, **' but has been so far of service that I hope 
it may be said we are generally clear; tho' there have been 
instances of some few who claim a right of membership 
with us that have not kept within such limits and bounds 
as we could wish." ^ Joseph Reed, fixed in his singleness 
of purpose, seriously impugned their sincerity. They " act 
their usual part," he wrote on the same day as Pemberton's 
letter. " They have directed their members not to serve on 
the Committee, and mean to continue the same undecisive, 
neutral conduct until they see how the scale is like to pre- 
p>onderate. . . . But American Liberty in the mean time 
must take her chance with them." ^ 

Finally, on December 15, a meeting for sufferings at 
Philadelphia appointed a committee to wait on the Quaker 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 2>6s-2>^. 

' Sharpless, Quakers in Revolution, p. 108. 

^4 Am, Arch., vol. i, pp. 963-964. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 



497 



members of the provincial assembly and reprimand them 
for having given their votes to a resolution ratifying the 
doings of the Continental Congress five days earlier/ This 
was preliminary to the action taken by the meeting for 
sufferings for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, held at Phila- 
delphia on January 5, 1775. At this meeting disapproval 
was expressed of the measures which were being prosecuted 
against Great Britain, and all members of the society were 
earnestly requested to avoid joining in such measures as 
inconsistent with their religious principles.^ A gathering 
of Quaker representatives from the two provinces later in 
the month was even more explicit in their '' testimony " 
against '' every usurpation of power and authority in op- 
position to the Laws and Government, and against all Com- 
binations, Insurrections, Conspiracies and Illegal Assem- 
blages." ' 

Many members differed with the official utterances of the 
society, some perhaps because they had increased their 
stocks in anticipation of the non-importation, many others 
because they could not see why they should abstain from 
extra-legal activities at this juncture inasmuch as Quakers 
had been leaders in commercial combinations against Great 
Britain during Stamp Act times. A contemporary noted 
that the Quakers were divided; that many of them disap- 
proved of the Testimony, just alluded to, and indeed that 
the Testimony had been adopted by a gathering of only 
twenty-six people.* '' B. L.," writing in the Pennsylvania 
Journal of February i. 1775, reasoned blandly that the 
Testimony could not have been directed against extra-legal 

^ Sharpless, op. cit., p. 107. 

^ N. Y. Gac, Jan. 30, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1093-1094. 

* Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1176-1177; also Pa. Journ., Feb. 8, 1775. 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1270. 



498 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



measures, since that supposition would condemn the very 
meeting which had issued the paper, and since James Pem- 
berton, the secretary of the meeting, was well known as an 
active participant in the selection of the committee last 
summer. The upshot was that the Society of Friends was 
not able to fasten an official stigma on the radical measures 
nor to control the actions of all of its members, although it 
continued to seek to do so. 

The Committee of Sixty-Six at Philadelphia made care- 
ful arrangements for the enforcement of the non-importa- 
tion regulation. The membership of the committee was 
divided into six districts, and one person from each district 
was required to attend every morning at the London Coffee 
House to inspect the arrival of vessels.^ All importers after 
December i were warned to consult with this sub-committee 
as to whether new merchandise should be stored, auctioned 
off, or re-shipped. Detailed regulations were laid down for 
public sales, such as, for instance, that in ordinary cases no 
lots worth more than £15 sterling nor less than £3 sterling 
should be offered for sale.^ 

Unfortunately no record has been found in the news- 
papers or elsewhere of the performance of the committee in 
the first two months of the non-importation; but that the 
committee was faithful to its trust there can be no doubt. 
'' There seems to be too general a disposition every where 
to adhere strictly to the Resolutions of the Congress," wrote 
Deputy Governor Penn on December 31.^ The Sixty-Six 
declared on February 16, 1775, that they had "not met 
with the least impediment or obstruction in carrying into 
execution any one Resolution of the Continental Congress," 

^ Pa. Gaz., Dec. 7, 1774; also A". Y. Journ., Dec. 15. 
'Pa. Gas., Dec. 14, 1774; also Essex Journ., Dec. 28. 
^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1081. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 499 

although, like in every community, there were persons who, 
placing private interest against public good, had a malig- 
nant pleasure in stirring up dissension.^ " The Non Im- 
portation is Strictly adheard to . . . ," wrote Eliza Far- 
mar on February 17; "all ships that came in after the 
first of Deer, the goods were deliverd to the Commities to 
be sold by Auction agreeable to the order of the Congress." ^ 

After February i the newspapers from time to time 
published instances of the return of cargoes without break- 
ing bulk. So, with some pipes of Madeira wine that arrived 
early in February; and so, also, with a large consignment 
of Irish beef which arrived in April. ^ " All Ships with 
goods after the ist of this month are not Sufferd to un- 
load," reported Eliza Farmar in the letter noted above; 
" several have been obliged to go to the West Indies." 

It would appear likely that the Sixty-Six showed some 
laxity in the regulation of prices; and this may have been 
done to appease the merchants in order to accomplish the 
larger purposes of the non-importation. While the First 
Continental Congress was still sitting, it was charged that 
pins had advanced to 15s. a pack, pepper to 3s. 6d. a pound, 
etc., in anticipation of a suspension of trade.* On Novem- 
ber 30, the Sixty-Six took official notice of advances made 
by "a few persons " and recommended to the public that 
the boycott, prescribed by Article ix in such cases, should 
be promptly carried out." The provincial convention in 
January added the weight of its influence to this timely 

^ N. Y. Gas., Mch. 31, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1243. An 
abusive reply to the committee's assertion did not deny that the non- 
importation had been faithfully observed. Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 238-242. 

' Pa. Mag., vol. xl, pp. 202-203. 

' Pa. Packet, Feb. 13, 1775 ; Pa. Eve. Post, Apr. 20. 

■* Letter in N. Y. Gazetteer, Oct. 6, 1774. 

^ Pa. Gaz., Nov. 30, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. loio. 



200 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

advice.^ However, in March, 1775, it was freely charged 
that the drygoods merchants were, without the least oppo- 
sition, asking prices for goods representing an increase of 
twenty-five to one hundred per cent over former prices ; ^ 
and as late as September of the same year Chase declared 
publicly in the Second Congress that prices had been ad- 
vanced fifty per cent in Philadelphia." 

The spirit of the enforcement outside of the city was in- 
dicated by the resolution of the provincial convention that, 
if opposition should be offered to any committee of obser- 
vation, the committees of the other counties should render 
all the assistance in their power to keep the Association 
inviolate.^ 

The distinctive feature of the working of the Association 
in Pennsylvania was the importance that was given to the 
development of home production and to the introduction 
of simpler modes of living. Community sentiment was well 
fertilized for such an undertaking by the religious teachings 
of the Friends as well as by the homely maxims of " Poor 
Richard " through a long period of years. The funeral 
regulations, recommended by Congress, were well observed, 
even such a prominent man as Thomas Lawrence, ex-mayor 
of Philadelphia, being buried in accordance with these 
directions.^ The Sixty-Six on November 30 recommended 
that no ewe-mutton be purchased or eaten in the country 
until May i, 1775, 3.nd none after that day until October i, 
and that thereafter none at all should be used. Notices in 
English and German were published throughout the prov- 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1172; also Pa. Journ., Feb. i, 1775. 
' "An Englishman," 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 239. 
'Adams, J., Works (Adams), vol. ii, p. 447. 
^ Pa. Journ.. Feb. i, 1775: also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1170. 
^Pa. Journ., Jan. 25, 1775. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 501 

ince to warn the country people against selling sheep to 
butchers contrary to the regulation/ Sixty-six butchers of 
Philadelphia agreed to be bound by the recommendation of 
the committee, and the butchers of Reading signed a similar 
agreement.^ In January the provincial convention resolved 
unanimously that after the first of March no sheep under 
four years of age should be killed or sold, except in cases 
of extreme necessity.'^ 

The provincial convention made many recommendations 
respecting the commodities and wares which the province 
seemed best fitted to produce. Raw wool should be utilized 
in the making of coatings, flannels, blankets, hosiery and 
coarse cloths; and dyes should be obtained from the culti- 
vation of madder, woad and other dye stuffs. Of the 
farther-reaching proposals were the recommendations that 
fulling-mills should be erected, and mills should be estab- 
lished for the manufacture of woolcombs and cards, of steel, 
nails and wire, of paper, of gunpowder, of copper kettles 
and tinplates. As the demand for Pennsylvania-made glass 
exceeded the supply, it was recommended that more glass 
factories be established. To carry these proposals more 
speedily into effect, local societies should be established, 
and premiums awarded in the various counties.* The Bed- 
ford County Committee, among others, acted on these rec- 
ommendations a few weeks later, and offered five pounds 
to the person who erected the first fulling-mill in the county^ 

* Because several city butchers had a stock of sheep on hand, the 
regulation was not to become operative until January i in Philadelphia. 
Pa. Gas., Nov. 30, Dec. 21, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. loio. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1050-1051, 1 144; also Pa. Gaz., Dec. 21, 17yd,, and 
Pa. Journ., Jan. 25, 1775. 

^ Ibid., Feb. i, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1171. 

^ Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1171-1172; also Pa. Journ., Feb. i, 1775. 



-02 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

and four smaller money prizes to the persons making the 
best pieces of linen cloth within a given period.^ 

The most ambitious venture of this character was the 
United Company of Philadelphia for Promoting American 
^Manufactures, estabHshed in March, 1775. The company 
was financed through the sale of stock at ten pounds a 
share; and the efforts of the company were devoted to the 
manufacture of woolen, cotton and linen textiles. Daniel 
Roberdeau was chosen first president. At the start, some 
mistakes were made, owing to the inexperience of the man- 
agers; but soon nearly four hundred spinners were em- 
ployed, and at the end of six months the board of managers 
announced that the enterprise was not only practicable but 
promised to be profitable for the stockholders. More stock 
was then sold to enlarge the scope of the company's opera- 
tions.^ 

In the light of this array of facts, the announcement, 
made on February 27, 1775, by the Sixty-Six testifying to 
'' the uniform spirit and conduct of the people in the faith- 
ful execution '' of the Association, and a private statement, 
made on the same day, that the " City Committee have sub- 
dued all opposition to their Measures," bear the stamp of 
truth." As President Roberdeau of the United Company of 
Philadelphia put it, " The Resolves of the Congress have 
been executed with a fidelity hardly known to laws in any 
Country . . ." "^ 

Possessing no important commercial connections, it 

^ Pa. Jour)!., Mch. 8, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol, i, pp. 1226-1227. 

* Ibid., vol. i, pp. 1256-1257; vol. ii, pp. 140-144; vol. iii, pp. 73^ 820- 
821 ; also Pa. Gas., Feb. 22, Aug. 9, i775, and Pa. Journ., Mch. 22, 
Sept. 27. 

* 4 Am. Arch., vol. i. pp. 1269, 1270. 

*Jbid., vol. ii, p. 141; also Pa. Ledger. Apr. 15, 1775. 



IN THE COMMERCIAL PROVINCES 503 

would appear that the Association went quietly into force 
in the Lower Counties on the Delaware. If any decided 
opposition developed in Sussex County, where no committee 
was yet appointed, no record of it remains. In Newcastle 
and Kent, the chief attention was given to carrying out the 
popular Pennsylvania regulation regarding the conservation 
of sheep and to the elimination of extravagance and dissi- 
pation.^ Letters written to Philadelphia in February de- 
clared that " the greatest unanimity subsists in putting into 
force the Resolves of the Continental Congress." ^ 

^ E. g., vide 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1022; Niles, Prins. & Acts, p. 239. 
^ Pa. Journ., Feb. 15, 1775. 



CHAPTER XIII 

Five Months of the Association in the Plantation 
Provinces. General Conclusions 

f ■ The problem of enforcing the Continental Association 
I in the plantation provinces differed in one respect markedly 
• from that in the commercial provinces. The old antagon- 
ism between merchant and planter — between creditor and 
debtor — that had raised its forbidding head at various 
times during the previous years, had now become more 
acute. The conditions, imposed by a non-intercourse, in- 
creased the difficulties of the planters to repay their obliga- 
tions; and the economic dominance of the merchants and 
factors made it necessary that their power be broken before 
the Association could be successfully administered. The 
plantation provinces thus, without exception, resorted to 
fextreme measures against the merchant-creditors. 

The execution of the non-importation and non-consump- 
tion regulations in Maryland was somewhat complicated by 
the fact that there were more than twenty rivers in the 
province navigable by large ships. However, commerce 
centered naturally at Baltimore and Annapolis; and the 
zeal and watchfulness of the radicals probably reduced 
evasions of the Association to a minimum in all parts of 
the province. 

It was well understood that the merchant and factor class 
were likely to be the most pertinacious offenders against the 
Association, and therefore the Maryland convention, meet- 
ing in December, 1774, resolved that lawyers should prose-^ 
504 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 



505 



cute no suits for violators of the Association, and that, if 
the violator were a factor, lawyers should not conduct debt 
prosecutions for the store of which he was manager/ In- 
fluenced in the interval by the example of Virginia, where 
the mercantile interests were even more deeply intrenched, 
the Maryland convention went to greater lengths in August, 
1775. They resolved that no civil actions (with a few 
specified exceptions) should be commenced or renewed in 
any court of law, save by permission of the committee of 
observation of the county in which the debtors and defend- 
ants resided. These committees were instructed to permit 
the trial of cases where debtors refused to renew their obli- 
gations, or to give reasonable security, or to refer their dis- 
putes to one or more disinterested parties, or when the 
debtors were justly suspected of an intention to leave the 
province or to defraud their creditors.^ 

In the first two months of the non-importation, public 
sales of merchandise imported in contravention of the 
Association were reported at Annapolis, Chestertown, Pis- 
cataway and Calvert County. For example, James Dick 
and Anthony Stewart, who were in bad odor for past in- 
discretions, were concerned in an importation of Madeira 
wines at Annapolis ; and the consignment was sold, at their 
request, at a profit of £1 iis. id. for the Boston poor/ In 
the months following February i, 1775, many instances of 
effective execution were noted in the newspapers. Thus, to 
cite one case that required more than usual skill in its man- 
agement, the captain of the brig Sally from Bristol ap- 
peared before the Baltimore committee and attested under 
oath that his cargo consisted of twenty-four indentured 

^ Md. Gaz., Dec. 15, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1032. 
^ Ibid., vol. iii, pp. 117-118. 

' Md. Gas., Dec. 15, 1774. For other instances, vide ibid., Feb. 23, 
Mch. 2, June 29, 1775. 



-o6 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

servants and one hundred tons of British salt. Clearly the 
bringing in of sei'vants did not violate the Association, and 
Dr. John Stevenson, the consignee, maintained to the com- 
mittee that the salt ought to be considered merely as ballast 
and thus not contrary to the Association. But the commit- 
tee voted unanimously that the salt should not be landed. 

A week later the captain and the consignee were called be- 
fore the committee again and charged with having unladen 
a portion of the salt in defiance of the decision of the com- 
mittee. Stevenson replied that he had understood the reso- 
lution to apply to Baltimore County only and that he had 
shipped a quantity on board four bay-craft to various parts 
of Maryland and Virginia. Inasmuch as there was a color- 
able pretext for this interpretation, the committee decided 
not to boycott him upon his pledge to give the proceeds of 
the sales to the relief of Boston and not to land the remain- 
der of the salt anywhere between Nova Scotia and Georgia. 
Word was sent out to various parts of the province to stop 
the sale of the salt and to punish all persons guiltily in- 
volved. In Prince George's County Thomas Bailey was 
discovered to be implicated and, after a hearing, declared 
to have wilfully violated the Association.^ 

The more usual procedure in cases of forbidden impor- 
tation was for the captain to take his vessel away at the 
command of the local committee without disturbing the 
cargo." A little out of the ordinary was the arrival of a 
tomb-stone in Charles County, which had been brought 
there from a vessel that had stopped in the Potomac. The 
committee ordered that the stone should be broken to 
pieces.^ With regard to non-consumption regulations, some 

^ Md. Gaz., Mch. 30. June 15, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 
34, 308. 
'£. g., vide ibid., vol. ii, pp. 123, 175-176, 659-660, 1122-1123. 
*N. y. Gaz.. July 24. 1775. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 



507 



difficulty was experienced in preventing the use of tea. In 
the instance of one obdurate tea dealer, the committee for 
the Upper Part of Frederick County sentenced the offen- 
der, one John Parks, to set fire to his tea with head uncov- 
ered and then to suffer the rigors of the boycott. Not con- 
tent with these measures, the populace derived some satis- 
faction from breaking in his door and windows.^ Usually, 
however, offenders acquiesced without trouble. 

The supervision of prices received careful attention. In 
December, 1774, the Maryland convention noted the wide 
range of prices in different parts of the province during the 
preceding twelve months, and resolved that all merchants 
must observe a uniform rule which the convention an- 
nounced : that wholesale prices should not be more than 
ii2j/^ per cent, retail prices cash not more than 130 per 
cent, and retail prices on credit not more than 150 per 
cent, advance on the prime cost." Alexander Ogg, a mer- 
chant of Huntington, was found guilty of infringing this 
rule by the Calvert County Committee and published as an 
enemy to his country. He offered to give store credit for 
every farthing he had charged beyond the limit fixed, but 
his plea fell on deaf ears.^ 

The rigorous observance of the boycott was attested by 
the petitions of John Baillie, Patrick Graham and Alexan- 
der Ogg to the provincial convention.^ The first two had 
been proscribed for knowingly importing goods forbidden 
by the Association, at a public meeting called by the Charles 
County committee. Baillie declared that he had suffered 
" the extremity of a heavy, though just, sentence " which 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1009; also Md. Journ., Nov. 16, 1774, and 
Md. Gas., Dec. 22. 
"^ Ibid., Dec. 15, 1774; also 4 A^n. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1031-1032. 
^ Ibid., vol. ii, p. 281 ; also Md. Gas., Apr. 13, 1775. 
*4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 727; vol. iii, pp. loi, 102, 106, 119-121. 



5o8 



THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 



had been " executed with such rigour that it has been with 
the most extreme and hazardous difficuhy he could obtain 
the necessary food to support a Hfe rendered miserable by 
his conduct and the abovementioned sentence;" and he 
promised exemplary conduct if his offense were forgiven. 
Graham testified that he had " already suffered greatly, not 
only in his own person, property and reputation, but should 
he continue much longer in the present situation, his offence 
must reduce an innocent wife and four children to beggary 
and ruin." Ogg, who had advanced prices unduly, declared 
that he had not been able to carry on his business or to 
collect the debts due to him. The convention squarely re- 
jected Baillie's petition; but Graham and Ogg, because of 
mitigating circumstances, were allowed to resume their 
earlier occupations, the former under some restrictions. 

A resolution of the Marj'-land convention in December, 
1774, sought to prevent the killing of any lamb under four 
years of age. Because the terms of this resolution w^ere 
much more severe than the recommendation in the Conti- 
nental Association, considerable confusion arose from the 
representations of violators that they were entirely in har- 
mony with the Continental Association and therefore ought 
not to be proscribed. To relieve the situation the resolu- 
tion was withdrawn by the Maryland convention in August, 
1775.^ The provincial convention of November, 1774, 
recommended that balls be discontinued in this time of 
public calamity.^ The Jockey Club at Annapolis called off 
the races which had been arranged to conclude the club sub- 
scription.^ In April, 1775, the Baltimore committee unani- 
mously recommended to the people of the county not to en- 

'^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1031 ; vol, ii, pp. 308-309, 903-904; vol. iii, pp. 
104, 117. 

* Ibid., vol. i, p. 991 ; also Md. Gas.. Dec. i, 1774. 

* Ibid., Nov. 3, 1774. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 509 

courage or attend the approaching fair because of its ten- 
dency to encourage horse-racing, gaming, drunkenness and 
other dissipation/ 

In view of the abundant evidence, it is scarcely necessary 
to quote Governor Eden's words of December 30, 1774, to 
the effect that he firmly believed that the Marylanders 
would '' persevere in their nonimportation and nonexporta- 
tion experiments, in spite of every inconvenience that they 
must consequently be exposed to, and the total ruin of their 
trade." ' 

L,In Virginia the chief dissent to the Association came! 
from the merchant and factor element, largely Scotch by! 
nativity. The fact that a majority of the faculty of Wil-( 
liam and Mary College were non-associators elicited un- 
favorable comment from the radical press ; ^ but their op- 
position was no more important than that of the small 
Quaker element in the population, which Madison noted,* 
or of the royal office holding class, since none of these 
groups was in position to enforce their views even if they 
wanted to. 

The opposition of the Scotch was clandestine but none 
the less pertinacious. The body of the trade at Williams- 
burg, numbering more than four hundred, professed sup- 
port of the Association in a written pledge early in Novem- 
ber, 1774, and received the thanks of Peyton Randolph and 
other delegates of the province for disregarding the influ- 
ence of their commercial interest in the great struggle for 
liberty.^ And the Norfolk committee affirmed on Decem- 

1 Md. Gaz., May 4, 1775 ; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, p. 2>2)7- 
^ Ibid., vol. i, p. 1076; also Pa. Eve. Post, June 6, 1775. 

* Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Dec. 22, 1774; Jan. 5, 26, 1775. 

* Writings (Hunt), vol. i, pp. 28-29. 

* Pa. Gaz., Nov. 30, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol, i, pp. 972-973. 



3IO THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

ber 6 that the whole trading body of the province had 
cheerfully subscribed to the Association/ Whether or not 
the motive of the merchants at this early time was to gain 
the good will of the radical planters who owned them large 
sums of money, the facts are clear that they had to regulate 
their conduct ultimately by the instructions of the English 
houses they represented or, in any case, be tempted almost 
beyond endurance by the prospect of obtaining monopoly 
prices during the suspension of importation. 

Suspicion of the good faith of the Scotch merchants had 
too deep a hold on many radicals to permit acceptance of 
their protestations at face value. " It is generally believed, 
by this time, that the Scotch have all signed the associa- 
tion," declared one newspaper writer. " If they have, I 
would ask if it is not through compulsion?" He urged 
that, while there was still time, the province should be 
purged of such filth by withdrawing all trade from them." 
Another writer deplored " that antipathy to the Scotch, 
which appears to be so general amongst us," and showed 
that despite their personal predilections they must as a 
matter of duty defer to their British employers with re- 
spect to the Association.^ When the period for enforcing 
the non-importation arrived, the Scotch as a class proved to 
be the most numerous offenders. The climax came when 
Purdie's Virginia Gazette of December 22 and 29, 1775, 
published a number of intercepted letters, which showed 
that the leading Scotch merchants were as unprincipled as 
the most skeptical radicals had believed them to be. A 
letter was printed, written by Andrew Sprowle, chairman 
of the Williamsburg trade, who had headed the merchants 

^4 M. H. S. Colls., vol. iv, pp. 160-161. 

' Charles M'Carty, of Richmond County, in Pinkney's T'a. Gas., Jan. 
19, 1775- 
' "A Citizen of the World '' in ibid.. Jan. 26. 1775. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 



511 



when they signed the Association in November, 1774. In 
this letter Sprowle ordered some invoices of goods from 
Greenock, Scotland, and declared further : " 1 would have 
no fear in bringing in a vessel with Osnabrugs, Irish linen, 
and other sortable goods, [as they] would be protected by 
a man of war." Robert Shedden of Portsmouth had writ- 
ten to his Glasgow correspondent : " Depend upon it you 
will never have such another opportunity to make money 
by dry goods in this country. Osnabrugs, canvass, &c and 
every necessar)- article; a large and full assortment of 
goods, nails, &c; bring as many as you can get credit for. 
... If you bring 20,000 1. in goods, they will sell to ad- 
vantage." Wrote the Norfork merchant, John Brown, to 
London : " You are hereby ordered to ship, by the first op- 
portunity, £1000 sterling value in linen goods, &c." 

Meantime, the merchants and factors had been taking 
advantage of their position in another way — they had been 
hastening to press their debtors for the payment of long- 
outstanding obligations before the latter became entirely 
bankrupt from the suspension of trade. This prudent busi- 
ness transaction worked a grievous hardship on many plan- 
ters, and estates were sold for debt in divers places.^ A de- 
mand arose for a boycott against merchants who used ex- 
cessive caution in extending credit; and Peyton Randolph 
felt impelled to declare in a public statement that the Asso- 
ciation furnished no remedy, that it did not empower com- 
mittees to dictate to merchants to whom they should sell 
on credit or for what time they should give credit.^ 

Unless the radicals could devise effective counter- 
measures, the merchants seemed about to cut the ground 
from under them. The radicals had foreseen this situation, 
to some extent, and their course of action was designed to 

^ "A Scotchman " in Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Mch. 23, 1775. 
' Ihid., Feb. 2, 9, 1775. 



^12 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

cripple, if not to destroy, the economic power of the mer- 
chants. The provincial convention of August, 1 774, closed 
up the county courts of justice on the ground that the last 
session of the Assembly had not renewed the Fee Act; and 
" the men of fortune and pre-eminence joined equally with 
the lowest and meanest '' in bringing this to pass, averred 
Governor Dunmore/ They also recommended that lawyers 
and witnesses stay away from the approaching General 
Court of Judicature, except in criminal cases ; and they suc- 
ceeded in carrying their point. On March 25, 1775, a later 
provincial convention gave their sanction to the suspension 
of judicial proceedings. They declared that, on account of 
the unsettled state of public affairs, the lawyers, suitors 
and witnesses ought not to take part in civil cases at the 
next General Court: that county courts ought not to hear 
any suits on their dockets, except attachments, nor give 
judgment, save in the case of sheriffs or other collectors 
for money or tobacco received by them, or in cases where 
judgment should be voluntarily confessed or in amicable 
proceedings for the settlement of estates." Though ex- 
horted by Governor Dunmore, the House of Burgesses in 
June refused " to interpose legislative authority in order 
to compel the Magistrates to open the courts of civil juris- 
diction, and thereby expose the people to cruel exactions." 
They justified their refusal as an answer to the act of Par- 
liament, recently passed, restraining their trade, and de- 
clared it was best for the courts to remain closed until wis- 
dom had returned to the British administration.^ 

These measures afforded an effective shield against the 
merchant-creditors and saved the situation for the radicals. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 775, 1062. 

^ Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 16S-169; also Pinkney's I 'a. Gaz., Mch. 30, 1775. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol, ii. pp. 1188, 1190-1191. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 513 

Indeed, on August 25, a petition was presented to the Vir- 
ginia convention by sundry factors and mercantile agents, 
complaining of the ill-grounded prejudices Avhich had been 
aroused against them as natives of Great Britain and pledg- 
ing their aid in the civil contest with the parent country in 
every respect except that of taking up arms against the 
people among whom they had been born. The convention 
resolved unanimously that the petition was reasonable and 
instructed the local committees " to treat all natives of 
Great Britain resident here, as do not show themselves 
enemies to the common cause of America, with lenity and 
friendship. . . ." ^ 

In carrying out the Association in Virginia, the plan was 
adopted of requiring all the inhabitants to attach their sig- 
natures to the docum.ent. Other provinces had been willing 
and anxious to let sleeping dogs lie; the Virginia radicals 
were so confident of the power of public opinion behind 
them that they carried this challenge to every inhabitant, so 
far as it proved practicable." Thus, the Northampton com- 
mittee divided the county into seven districts with sub- 
committees appointed to present the Association to all the 
inhabitants.^ The committee for Princess Anne County 
delivered a list of non-associators to every merchant in the 
county and posted other copies at various public places and 
at Norfolk, with the recommendation that all commercial 
intercourse with the delinquents be stopped. When Ben- 
jamin Gray, one of the proscribed, was reported to have 
called the committee " a pack of damn'd rascals," his addi- 
tional offense was also given publicity.* In Nansemond 

1^ Am. Arch. vol. iii, pp. 391-392; also Pinkney's Fa. Gaz., Aug. 
31, 1775. 
^Madison, Writings (Hunt), vol. i, pp. 28-29. 
^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, p. 1045. 
* Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 7(>-77 ; also Pinkney's Va. Gas., Mch. 23, 1775. 



CI4 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

County, the Reverend John Agnew was held up to public 
censure for roundly condemning the Association in his ser- 
mons and private conversations; and a man who rented a 
" flatt " from the parson was obliged to give it up/ Ex- 
amples like this abounded. The Virginia plan forced every 
inhabitant into a position of either active friendship or open 
hostility; and since it was entirely possible for a man to 
disapprove of the Association without ever violating its 
provisions, the number of those subject to neglect and boy- 
cott was vastly greater than in other provinces. The Vir- 
ginia radicals thus took an advanced stand — a stage which 
the other provinces did not reach until the bloodshed of 
April, 1775, had occurred. 

In early November, 1774, a mob at Yorktown went on 
board the Virginia and dumped into the river two half- 
chests of tea, with the entire approval of the county com- 
mittee. The London shippers and the consignees at Wil- 
liamsburg were both held up for neglect by the York com- 
mittee and the adjoining Gloucester County committee.^ 
This little " tea party " exceeded the provisions of the 
Association, but marked the enthusiasm which character- 
ized the execution of the non-importation regulation. Pub- 
lic sales of cargoes that arrived between December i, 1774^ 
and February i, 1775, were reported at Norfolk and Wil- 
liamsburg and in fourteen counties.^ Many of these sales 
showed small profits or none at all ; but occasionally a ship- 
ment brought a substantial advance, like Andrew Wod- 
row's in King George County, which yielded a profit of 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 226-228; N. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, p. 1164. 

'^ Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Nov. 24, 1774; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
964-965. 

^ Charles City. Dinwiddle, Elizabeth City, Essex, Fairfax. Gooch- 
land. Henrico, Tsle of Wight. King George, Nansemond, New Kent, 
Princess Anne. Spotsylvania and Surry. Vide files of the three Vir- 
ginia Gazettes, edited by Pinkney. by Purdie. and by Dixon & Hunter. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 515 

£19 14s. for the Boston needy. ^ For this reason, it is im- 
probable that the Scotch merchants feh tempted to with- 
hold importations from committee auction. 

One interesting case of defiance occurred. Late in Jan- 
uary an importation of medicines worth £200 sterling ar- 
rived for Dr. Alexander Gordon, a well-known physician 
of Norfolk; and he requested that he might be allowed to 
receive the goods agreeable to the terms of the provincial 
association of August, 1774. The committee informed 
him that their rule of conduct now was the Continental 
Association, and advised him to submit the medicines for 
sale in accordance with Article x, as had been done by 
other physicians. He expressed a preference for storing 
the goods under charge of the committee; but while ar- 
rangements were being m.ade for this purpose, he quietly 
landed the medicines and took possession of them himself. 
It proved impossible for the committee to get the merchan- 
dise away from him, and with very evident reluctance thej 
held him up for public censure." 

The regulation against the importation of slaves had 
caused very little difficulty in the northern provinces; but 
the Norfolk committee found it necessary to proscribe John 
Brown, a Scotch merchant who had been in Virginia since 
1762, for being concerned in the importation of twenty 
slaves in the brig Fanny from Jamaica. He stoutly pro- 
tested his innocence, but his letter-books proved the con- 
trary.' 

* Dixon & Hunter's Va, Gaz., Jan. 28, 1775. 

* Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Feb. 16, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. j, pp. 
1217-1278. 

^ Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 33-34; also Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Mch. 2^, 1775. 
Vide also memorial of the Browns in A. O. no. 55: N. Y. Loyalist 
Claims Transcripts, vol. xxvii, pp. 459, 467-471. The Chesterfield 
County committee also took occasion to voice their indignation and to 
declare the suspension of all dealings with him. Purdie's Va. Gas.;^ 
May 5, 1775. 



^iS THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

After February i the number of incoming vessels fell 
off, and when goods were brought contrary to the Associa- 
tion they were almost invariably re-shipped. In one case, 
that of the brigantine Miiir from Antigua, the captain had 
sold some merchandise before he learned of the Associa- 
tion; and the Essex County committee absolved him from 
public censure Vv'hen he signed the Association and re- 
shipped the goods, including the portion sold/ On the 
other hand, the Norfolk committee declared Captain Samp- 
son, of the snow Elizabeth from Bristol, an enemy to his 
country for practising deception in landing a cargo of salt 
and then seeking protection of a man-of-war." The non- 
consumption regulations required little attention from the 
committees, except the prohibition of tea drinking, which 
was effectively administered.^ 

The upvrard trend of prices gave more trouble. Accord- 
ing to the Continental Association prices were not to ad- 
vance beyond the customary charge for articles during the 
twelve months preceding. A disgusted radical of North- 
umberland County averred that, when it came to the inves- 
tigation of prices, one Scotch merchant would swear to 
another's lies — the}^ were "determined to be clannish, even 
at the expence of their souls !" * This practice was prob- 
ably not restricted entirely to the Scotch traders. At any 
rate, it quickly caused the committees to adopt the practice 
of examining the daybooks and invoices of any merchant 
under suspicion. Should he refuse access to his accounts, 
he was deemed to be guilty by the very fact. For example, 
in December, 1774, the committee of Caroline County in- 

^ Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Mch. 16, 177^- 

-Ibid., Apr, 6, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 174-175. 
^ E. g., Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Dec. i, 1774, June i, 1775; Dixon & 
Hunter's Gaz., Feb. 4 ; Purdie's Gaz., July 7. 
^ Charles M'Carty in Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Jan. 19, 1775. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 517 

spected the books of four merchants, declaring them inno- 
cent, and pronounced six others subject to^ boycott because 
they had withheld their books. Within less than a month 
the six permitted their accounts to be examined; and the 
committee declared that they also had adhered to the Asso- 
ciation/ In Gloucester County, Captain Charles Marshall, 
who had been acting consistently with his avowal that 
" every man has a right to sell his goods for as much as he 
could get," was disciplined by the committee; whereupon 
he signed the Association, and issued a confession in which 
he said : "These are offenses I am (as have been some other 
North Britains) taught to know, at this time, deserve 
severe punishment." ~ Great activity in the regulation of 
prices was also recorded in other counties, especially Prince 
William, Charlotte, Spotsylvania, Hanover, Richmond and 
Fairfax.^ 

The promotion of local manufacturing met with ready / 
response, partly no doubt because it contributed to the ' 
weakening of the economic position of the factors and mer- 
chants. Interest centered in the production of cotton and 

woolen textiles, arid of gunpowder. The Northampton 

Colinty committee in January, 1775, offered a bonus of £40 
sterling to the first person who in the next eighteen months 
should make one thousand pairs of wool-cards in the prov- 
ince and agreed to buy them at the rate of 2s. a pair. A 
premium of £40 was also oft'ered to the first person who 
should manufacture five thousand pounds of gunpowder in 
the province in the next eighteen months. The committee 
appealed to other counties to add to these premiums, so that 

- Pinkney's Va. Gas., Jan, 12, 1775; and Dixon & Hunter's Va. Gaz., 
Feb. 4. 

* Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Jan. 19, 1775. 

^4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1034, 1138-1139; Pinkney's Va. Gaz., Jan. 
19, Feb. 2, May 18, 1775; Purdie's Gaz., Feb. 17, Apr. 21. 



qrS THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the total sum would foster a widespread interest in manu- 
facturing/ Other counties quickly acted on the sugges- 
tion; ^ and on March 27 the provincial convention outlined 
a comprehensive program of industrial development by 
adopting bodily the main resolutions passed by the Penn- 
sjdvania convention in January. After j\Iay i no sheep 
were to be killed under four years of age, except in cases of 
necessity. Woolen, cotton and linen manufactures should 
be established; steel, woolcombs, paper, gunpowder, etc., 
should be manufactured. These various undertakings 
should be promoted by the formation of local societies for 
that purpose and by the offering of premiums.^ In Sep- 
tember, James Stewart returned to Virginia after eighteen 
months' stay in England where he had been studying the 
culture and preparation of dyes and machines for manu- 
facturing cotton. He brought with him a large quantity 
of seeds and roots of the standard dyes, for planting in 
various parts of the province, and planned to instruct per- 
sons in the construction of cotton machines.* What suc- 
cess he met with we do not know. 

In no province was the practice of gambling more deeply 
rooted than in Virginia ; and determined efforts were made 
t.-^ discourage this wasteful manner of living. Thus, infor- 
mation was received by the Northumberland County com- 
mittee that William Lewis had violated the Association by 
gaming with Anthony McKenley of Maryland. W^itnesses 
were called, sworn and examined ; and the evidence showed 

^ Dixon & Hunter's Va. Gaz., Feb. 4. 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, 
pp. 104S-1046. 

' £. g., Isle of Wight, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester and Bedford; 
ibid., vol. i, p. 1247; vol. ii, pp. 13-14, 387-388; Pinkney's Va. Gaz., F€b. 
13, 1775- 

^ Jhid., Mch, 30, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 170-171. 

* Ibid., vol. iii, p. 716; also Purdie's Ta. Gaz., Sept. 15, 1775. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 519 

that Lewis had won " a Silver Watch, two pair of Leather 
Breeches, and two men's fine Hats." Both men were ad- 
judged guilty and were publicly advertised as violators of 
the Association/ The Southampton County committee 
recommended four men, who had been gaming, to the 
mercy of the public, upon their offer to refund all they had 
won and to observe the Association strictly in the future.* 
In another instance, the Hanover County committee " hon- 
ourably acquitted " Samuel Overton of the charge of en- 
couraging horse-racing.^ 

The degree of efficiency attained by the committees in 
executing the Association aroused Governor Dunmore to 
righteous indignation in his well-known letter of December 
24, 1774, to Lord Dartmouth. His conclusions in that 
epistle were that the Association was being enforced '' with 
the greatest rigour " and that " the Laws of Congress " 
received from the Virginians " marks of reverence which 
they never bestowed on their legal Government, or the Laws 
proceeding from it." By way of pathetic afterthought he 
added : '' I have discovered no instance where the inter- 
position of Government, in the feeble state to which it is 
reduced, could serve any other purpose than to suffer the 
disgrace of a disappointment, and thereby afford matter of 
great exultation to its enemies and increase their influence 
over the minds of the people." * 

In North Carolina the development of events was influ- 
enced by the example of nearby Virginia. The old Regu- 

^ Pinkney's Va. Ga::., Mch. 2, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 
1178-1179. 

' Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 299-300. 

' Pinkney's Va. Gas., Jan. 19, 1775. 

* Ibid., Apr. 28, 1775; also 4 Am. Arch., vol. i, pp. 1061-1063. For 
radical answers to Dimmore's assertions, vide ibid., vol. ii, pp. 502-504, 
525, 1204, 1210-121S, 1222-1225. 



-20 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

lator class held aloof from the Continental Association, 
although it made some progress among them ; ^ being seg- 
regated in the interior counties, they were not in position 
to impair the operation of the Association in its more im- 
portant aspects. There was, how^ever, a small, compact 
group of Scotch merchants at Wilmington, the chief trading 
town;^ and, as in Virginia, they obeyed the Association 
only so far as it served their interests so to do. In the 
first two months of the non-importation they co-operated 
with the Wilmington committee in permitting their impor- 
tations to be sold under the terms of the Association. The 
records show that at least thirteen merchants received goods 
between December i, 1774, and February i, 1775, which 
were offered for public sale by the Wilmington committee, 
and that at the smaller town of Edenton two merchants ob- 
served the same regulation.^ For example, at a meeting of 
the WTlmington committee on December 30, Hogg & Camp- 
bell submitted an invoice of salt imported in the North Star 
from Lymington, and four other firm.s submitted invoices 
of anchors, cables, canvass, csnaburgs and other merchan- 
dise imxpcrted in the Thetis from Glasgow. The goods 
were sold at public vendue the next day.^ In general, it 
may be said that the sales yielded little or no profit; from 
all the sales conducted by the Wilmington committee, the 
profits for Boston amounted to only £25 2s. 5d.^ 

In six or seven instances the committee at Wilmington 
secured the re-shipment of slaves that had been imported 

^ Note the means used to convert three pertinacious inhabitants of 
Anson County to the Association. X. C. Col. Recs., vol. x, pp. 125-129, 
161, 182. 

^ Ihid., vol. X, p. 48. 
^ Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1095-1154 passim. 
* Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1103-1104. 
'^Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1153-1154. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 521 

contrary to the Association/ After February i, when the 
new period of non-importation began, fewer vessels arrived 
at Wilmington, and the cargoes were re-shipped without 
trouble. Two interesting exceptions were made — once for 
paper intended for use of the press, and another time for 
household goods intended for personal use.^ 

Through their possession of large stocks, the Wilming- 
ton merchants were in position to demand high prices and 
thus discredit the Association, unless the radicals resorted 
to drastic measures. Therefore every effort was made to 
supervise prices carefully. On December 17, 1774, the 
Pitt County committee fixed a maximum price for salt 
with the penalty of boycott for violation.^ About the same 
time the Wilmington committee conducted an investigation 
into the prices of rum and gunpowder, and in January they 
called a meeting of merchants and traders in order to agree 
on prices and prevent advantage being taken of the suspen- 
sion of importation. On January 2y the committee decided 
upon maximum prices for salt and drygoods; and about 
two weeks later they compelled Jonathan Dunbilrie to re- 
turn to a purchaser the excess profit he had received for a 
bushel of salt.* The Rowan County committee also dis- 
played great activity in this direction.^ 

As a still further check upon the merchants, the Wil- 
mington committee in March, 1775, adopted the Virginia 
device of requiring all friends of the Association to attach 
their signatures to the document. On the following day all 
the housekeepers in town were given the opportunity, and 

* N. C. Col Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1098-1099, 1112-1113, 1168, 1171, 1222, 
1266 ; vol. X, p. 24. 

^ Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1185-1186; vol. x, pp. 50, 279. 
^ Ibid., vol. ix, p. HOC. 

* Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1099-1100, 1 1 13, 1 126. 
^ Ibid., vol. x, pp. 9-10. 



C22 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

only eleven persons refused. Seven of these were Scotch 
merchants; five of them had formerly submitted their im- 
portations for committee auction. The committee resolved 
that unless the eleven revised their decision within six days 
they would have no dealings or intercourse whatsoever with 
them. Eight prom^ptly gave their signatures ; and when the 
six day period expired, only three — two tailors and one 
merchant, by name AIcKenzie, McNight and McDonnel — 
remained obdurate.^ 

The way was easy for the radicals to hamper the collec- 
tion of debts, for, owing to a quarrel between the governor 
and the Assembly, the law for the establishment of courts, 
which had expired in February, 1773, had never been re- 
newed. At the brief session of the Assembly in April, 
1775, Governor Martin urged the importance of a law for 
the permanent establishment of courts. But the radical 
leaders would have nothing to do with it, openly avowing, 
according to Governor Martin, that courts " would be in- 
jurious at this time unless their operation could be sus- 
pended, since they would furnish the merchants with op- 
portunity to harrass their Debtors while the people at large, 
having bound themselves by the Resolves of Congress, 
could not convert their commodities into money to pay 
their Debts." Furthermore, the governor declared that it 
was well known that among the radical leaders there were 
" some whose desperate circumstances make them dread 
the long arms of Courts of unlimited jurisdiction which 
would extend to their own cases . . ." ^ Not content with 
merely negative action, the North Carolina congress in Sep- 
tember, 1775, went the full length, as had the neighboring 
provinces, and resolved that no actions should be begun or 

i.V. C. Col. Rccs., vol. ix, pp. 1149-1150, 1152-1153, 1166. 
^ Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1225-1226. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 



523 



continued in the courts except by consent of the committee 
of the county in which the debtor resided/ 

Perhaps the most interesting case of boycott, because of 
the prominence and wealth of the gentleman concerned, 
was that of Thomas Macknight, of Currituck, a county in 
the extreme northeastern part of the province. As a mem- 
ber of the provincial convention of April, 1775, Macknight 
spoke against a motion, which expressed high approval of 
the Association, on the ground that a great many colonists, 
like himself, owed money in Great Britain which the non- 
exportation regulation would render them unable to pay. 
Notwithstanding his opposition, the convention proceeded 
to adopt the motion, and then voted that every member 
should sign the Association. Macknight protested; he said 
that he would " conform " to the Association but that he 
could not endorse it by the attaching of his signature. The 
sense of the convention was taken on his statement of ad- 
herence, and the body divided fourteen counties against 
fourteen. Macknight continued to withhold his signature, 
l3ut offered to change the word " conform " to " accede." 

This was voted as acceptable by a majority, but an un- 
compromising minority declared they would withdraw from 
the convention if any subscription different from theirs 
was accepted from him. To restore harmony, Macknight 
himself now voluntarily withdrew; and the convention 
thereupon passed a resolution holding him up '' as a proper 
object of contempt to this Continent " to be subjected to a 
rigorous boycott. The other members from Currituck also 
withdrew as well as two members of the Pasquotank dele- 
gation. It would appear that Macknight did not at once 
suffer any serious consequences from this resolution inas- 
much as the more substantial leaders among the radicals 

^ 4 Am. Arch., vol. iii, p. 208. Some changes in detail were made in 
this resolution by the provincial council in October. Ibid., p. 1093. 



;24 ^^^ COLONIAL MERCHAXTS: 1763-1776 

realized that he had not asserted his right to act contrary 
to the community but merely to think as he pleased. How- 
ever, with the development of events in the next twelve- 
month, Macknight's offense began to appear more heinous, 
and he was forced to abandon his estate and flee to the 
British for protection/ 

Interest in the promotion of domestic manufacturing de- 
veloped later in North Carolina than in most other prov- 
inces, but assumed a more practicable form. A beginnings 
was made in March, 1775. by the Chowan County com- 
mittee, who offered premiums to the first persons in the 
province who should make a stated quantity of wool cards 
and cotton cards, with the added inducement that the arti- 
cles should be purchased by the committee at a higher price 
than the same articles made in England commanded. Other 
awards were announced for the making of steel, bleached 
linen and fulled woolen cloth." The provincial convention 
in April, 1775, recommended that the other counties follow 
out the same plan.^ Most counties proving apathetic, the 
provincial congress in September set an example for the 
continent by offering twenty premiums, amounting in all to 
£2965, for the encouragement of local manufacturing. 
Among the manufactures named for subsidies were nails, 
pins, needles, steel and pig iron, cotton and wool cards, 
linens and woolens, salt, powder and saltpetre.^ 

As in other provinces, the foibles of the people were sub- 
jected to the pitiless sur^^eillance of the committees. This 
was strikingly true in the case of AMlmington, where the 

^ N. C. Col. Rers., vol. ix, p. 1227; vol. x, pp. 31-37; P^^b. Rec. Off., 
C. 0. 5, no. 147, pp. 447-457 (L. C. Transcripts) ; 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, 
pp. 269-272. 

^ .Y. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1 133-1 134; 4 Am. Arch., vol. ii, pp. 30-31^ 

' Ibid., vol. ii, p. 270. 

* Ibid., vol. iii, pp. 209-212; also N. C. Col. Recs., vol. x, pp. 216-219. 



IN THE PLANTATION PROVINCES 525 

subscription races in November and January were stopped,. 
billiard tables were abolished, and dances, private as well as 
public, were prevented/ 

In conclusion, it is a safe generalization that the essential 
features of the Association were well executed. The in- 
habitants of Anson, Rowan, Surry and Guilford, the old 
Regulator counties, remained quiet and no doubt violated 
the non-consumption regulations whenever opportunity 
afforded — which was seldom. Governor Martin paid his 
respects to the efficiency of the radical organization when, 
in his proclamation of March i, 1775, he referred to the 
"Tyrannical and arbitrary Com^mittees which have already 
in many instances proceeded to the Extravagance of forc- 
ing his Majesty's subjects contrary to their consciences to 
submit to their unreasonable, seditious and chimerical Re- 
solves . . ." ^ 

The temper of the radicals at Charleston, South Caro- 
lina, was made manifest by the measures they pursued while 
the First Continental Congress was still in session.^ The 
General Committee prevented a merchant from filling an 
order for the exportation of arms and ammunition. They 
warned the merchants against the mercenary practice of 
engrossing and recommended that the merchants should 
receive only their customary profits. They actively pro- 
moted an association for the non-consumption of India teas, 
dutied or otherwise, to be effective on November i ; and 
at their instigation the schoolboys of the city collected 
from private houses the tea that remained on that day and 
burned it publicly on Gunpowder Plot Day, November 5. 
Twenty- four chests of tea were discovered in the cargo of 

^ A'. C. Col. Recs., vol. ix, pp. 1090- 1 150 passim. 

'^ Ibid., vol. ix, pp. 1145-1146. 

^ S. C. Ga::.., Oct. 17, 31, Nov. 21, 1774. 



526 THE COLONIAL MERCHANTS: 1763-1776 

the ship Britannia which arrived from London in the first 
few days of November, and the merchants to whom they 
were consigned were induced by the committee to go on 
board and throw^ the tea into the river. On the same day 
six chests of smuggled tea were re-shipped to the port 
whence they had come, with a caution to the shipper not to 
venture any more. 

The non-importation regulations of the Association 
were enforced with as great impartiality and enthusiasm. 
Although the details of the transactions have not come 
down to us, Timothy's Gazette makes it evident that im- 
portations arriving between December i, 1774, and Feb- 
ruary I, 1775, Avere sold at committee auction almost as 
quickly as the vessels arrived.^ After February i, the 
committee displayed great diligence in effecting the return 
of cargoes without landing any part of them. Three ves- 
sels arrived in February : one was turned away ; and in the 
case of the other two, the consignees preferred to cast into 
the sea their merchandise, consisting of 3844 bushels of 
salt, 35 caldrons of coal, 45,500 tiles and two tons of pota- 
toes, rather than return it.^ In March, fo