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- The Eve of the Revolution, - 20/28 -


grown weary of altercations and Parliament could endure an entire session "without one offensive measure." The chief danger of all was that the people would think there was no danger. Millions could never be enslaved by a few "if all possessed the independent spirit of BRUTUS who to his immortal honor expelled the proud Tyrant of Rome." During the years of apathy and indifference Samuel Adams accordingly gave his days and nights, with undiminished enthusiasm and a more trenchant acerbity, to the task of making Brutuses of the men of Boston that the fate of Rome might not befall America.

They were assured in many an essay by this new Candidus that

"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards: and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood; and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy upon the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter we are in most danger at present. Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former, for the sake of the latter. Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, WHICH IS THE WISH OF OUR ENEMIES, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude and perseverance. Let us remember that "if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom!" It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that MILLIONS YET UNBORN MAY BE THE MISERABLE SHARERS IN THE EVENT."

These were days when many a former Brutus seemed ready to betray the cause. Deserted by James Otis, whom he had supplanted, and by John Hancock, whose great influence he had formerly exploited and whom he had "led about like an ape," as was currently reported, Samuel Adams suffered a measure of eclipse. The Assembly would no longer do his bidding in respect to the vital question of whether the General Court might be called by the Governor to meet outside of Boston; and it even imposed upon him, as one of a committee, the humiliating task of presenting an address to Mr. Hutchinson, acknowledging his right to remove the legislature to any place he liked--"to Housatonic, in the western extreme of the province," if he thought fit. There was even grave danger that the Governor would be satisfied with this concession and would recall the Court to sit in Boston. Boston was indeed the very place where Samuel Adams wished to have it sit; but to attain a right end in a wrong manner would be to suffer a double defeat, losing at once the point of principle and the grievance necessary for maintaining the contention. Friends of the Government were much elated at the waning influence of the Chief Incendiary; and Mr. Sparhawk condescended to express a certain sympathy for their common enemy, now that he was so much diminished, "harassed, dependent, in their power." It was indeed under great difficulties, during these years when Massachusetts was almost without annals, that Samuel Adams labored to make Brutuses of the men of Boston.

So far deserted by his friends, Samuel Adams might never have succeeded in overcoming these difficulties without the assistance presently rendered by his enemies. Of those who were of invaluable aid to him in this way, Thomas Hutchinson was one. The good Governor, having read his instructions, knew what his duties were. One of them manifestly was to stand in defense of Government; and, when Government was every day being argumentatively attacked, to provide, as a counter-irritant, arguments in defense of Government. Imagining that facts determined conclusions and conclusions directed conduct, Mr. Hutchinson hoped to diminish the influence of Samuel Adams by showing that the latter's facts were wrong, and that his inferences, however logically deduced, were therefore not to be taken seriously. "I have taken much pains," he says, "to procure writers to answer the pieces in the newspapers which do so much mischief among the people, and have two or three engaged with Draper, besides a new press, and a young printer who says he will not be frightened, and I hope for some good effect."

The Governor had read his instructions, but not the mind of Samuel Adams or the minds of the many men who, like the Chief Incendiary, Were prepared "to cultivate the sensations of freedom." Perhaps the only "good effect" of his "pieces" was to furnish excellent theses for Samuel Adams to dispute upon, which he did with unrivaled shrewdness each week in the "Boston Gazette" under the thin disguise of Candidus, Valerius Poplicola, or Vindex. To this last name, Vindex, Mr. Hutchinson thought there might appropriately have been added another, such as Malignus or Invidus. And indeed of all these disputative essays, in the Boston Gazette or in Mr. Draper's paper, one may say that the apparent aim was to win a dialectic victory and the obvious result to prove that ill will existed by exhibiting it.

Thomas Hutchinson's faith in the value of disputation was not easily disturbed; and after two years, when it appeared that his able lieutenants writing in Mr. Draper's newspaper were still as far as ever from bringing the controversy to a conclusion, he could no longer refrain from trying his own practiced hand at an argument--which he did in a carefully prepared address to the General Court, delivered January 6, 1773. "I have pleased myself for several years," he said, "with hopes that the cause [of the "present disturbed and disordered state" of government] would cease of itself, and the effect with it, but I am disappointed; and I may not any longer, consistent with my duty to the King, and my regard to the interests of the province, delay communicating my sentiments to you upon a matter of so great importance." The cause of their present difficulties Mr. Hutchinson thought as evident as the fact itself: a disturbed state of government having always followed, must have been caused by the denial of the authority of Parliament to make laws binding the province. Upon a right resolution of this question everything depended.

The Governor accordingly confined himself to presenting, all in good temper, a concise and remarkably well-articulated argument to prove that "no line can be drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies"; of which argument the conclusion must be, inasmuch as the total independence of the colonies was not conceivably any one's thought, that supreme authority rested with Parliament. This conclusion once admitted, it was reasonable to suppose that disturbances would cease; for "if the supremacy of Parliament shall no longer be denied, it will follow that the mere exercise of its authority can be no matter of grievance." In closing, his Excellency expressed the desire, in case the two Houses did not agree with his exposition of the Constitution, to know their objections. "They may be convincing to me, or I may be able to satisfy you of the insufficiency of them. In either case, I hope we shall put an end to those irregularities which ever will be the portion of a government where the supreme authority is controverted." In this roundabout way, Governor Hutchinson finally reached as a conclusion the prepossession with which he began; namely, that whereas a disturbed state of government is, ex hypothesi, a vital evil, assertions or denials which tend to cause the evil must be unfounded.

It happened that both Houses, the lower House especially, remained unconvinced by the Governor's exposition of the Constitution; and both Houses took advantage of his invitation to present their objections. The committee which the lower House appointed to formulate a reply found their task no slight one, not from any doubt that Mr. Hutchinson was in error, but from the difficulty of constructing an argument that might be regarded as polemically adequate. At the request of Major Hawley, John Adams was accordingly "invited, requested, and urged to meet the committee, which he did every evening till the report was finished." When the first draft of a reply, probably drawn by Dr. Joseph Warren, was presented to Mr. Adams for his criticism, he "modestly suggested to them the expediency of leaving out many popular and eloquent periods, and of discussing the question with the Governor upon principles more especially legal and constitutional," there being in this first draft, so Mr. Adams thought, "no answer, nor any attempt to answer the Governor's legal and constitutional arguments, such as they were." And so, being "very civilly requested" by the committee to make such changes in the draft as seemed to him desirable, Mr. Adams "drew a line over the most eloquent parts of the oration they had before them, and introduced those legal and historical authorities which appear on the record."

The reply, prepared in this way and finally adopted by the Assembly, was longer and more erudite than Mr. Hutchinson's address. To meet the Governor's major premise and thus undermine his entire argument, legal precedents and the facts of history were freely drawn upon to prove that the colonies were properly "outside of the Realm," and therefore, although parts of the Empire by virtue of being under the special jurisdiction of the Crown, not subject in all matters to parliamentary legislation. Law and history thus supported the contention, contrary to the Governor's assertion, that a line not only could be but always had been "drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies." Apart from any question of law or fact, the Assembly thought it of high practical importance that this line should be maintained in the future as in the past; for, "if there be no such line," none could deny the Governor's inference that "either the colonies are vassals of the Parliament, or they are totally independent"; upon which the Assembly would observe only that, "as it cannot be supposed to have been the intention of the parties in the compact that we should be reduced to a state of vassalage, the conclusion is that it was their sense that we were thus independent." With very few exceptions, everyone who was of the patriot way of thinking regarded the Assembly's reply as a complete refutation of the argument presented in Governor Hutchinson's address.

In the Governor's opinion, the disturbed state of government to which he had referred in his address was at this time brought to the highest pitch by the committees of correspondence recently established throughout the province--an event long desired and now brought to pass by Samuel Adams. That something might be done by a coordinated system of local committees was an "undigested thought" that dropped from Adams's mind while writing a letter to Arthur Lee in September, 1771. At that time, such was the general apathy of the people, it would clearly "be an arduous task for any man to attempt to awaken a sufficient Number in the colonies to so grand an undertaking." But Samuel Adams, who thought "nothing should be despaired of," took upon himself the performance of this arduous task. Such committees, if they were


The Eve of the Revolution, - 20/28

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