History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 6

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX.
THE KING VIOLATES THE CHARTER OF MASSACHUSETTS.

MARCH–OCTOBER 1770.

THE removal of the troops from Boston smoothed the way for conciliation. The town was resolved on bringing to trial the officer who had given the command to fire without the sanction of the civil authority and the men who had obeyed the order, that the supremacy of the civil authority might be vindicated; at the same time, it wished to the prisoners every opportunity of defence.

The instructions which the town of Boston, adopting the language of the younger Quincy, in May 1770, addressed to the representatives of its choice, made a plain reference to the Bedford protest, which appeared in the journals of the house of lords as evidence of “a desperate plan of imperial despotism,” which was to be resisted, if necessary, “even unto the uttermost;” and therefore martial virtues and the lasting union of the colonies were recommended.

Of this document, Hutchinson made an effective use; and its reception contributed to that new set of measures, which hastened American independence by seeking to crush its spirit. England assumed a design for a general revolt, when there only existed a desire to guard against “innovations.”

Hutchinson called the first legislature, elected since he became governor, to meet at Cambridge. “Not the least shadow of necessity,” said the house in its remonstrance, “exists for it. Prerogative is a discretionary power vested in the king only for the good of the subject.” Hutchinson had overacted his part, and found himself embarrassed by his own arbitrary act, for which he dared not assign the true reason, and could

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