History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 4

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.
PREPARATIONS FOR A GENERAL CONGRESS.
JUNE–AUGUST 1774.

ON the first day of June 1774, Hutchinson embarked for England; and, as the clocks in the Boston belfries finished striking twelve, the blockade of the harbor began. The inhabitants of the town were chiefly traders, shipwrights, and sailors; and, since no anchor could be weighed, no sail unfurled, no vessel so much as launched from the stocks, their cheerful industry was at an end. No more are they to lay the keel of the fleet merchantman, or shape the rib symmetrically for its frame, or strengthen the graceful hull by knees of oak, or rig the well-proportioned masts, or bend the sails to the yards. The king of that country has changed the busy workshops into scenes of compulsory idleness; and the most skilful naval artisans in the world, with the keenest eye for forms of beauty and speed, are forced by act of parliament to fold their hands. Want scowled on the laborer as he sat with his wife and children at his board. The sailor roamed the streets listlessly without hope of employment. The law was executed with a rigor that went beyond the intentions of its authors. Not a scow could be manned to bring an ox or a sheep or a bundle of hay from the islands. Water carriage from pier to pier, though but of lumber or bricks or lime, was forbidden. The boats that plied between Boston and Charlestown could not ferry a parcel of goods across Charles river; the fishermen of Marblehead, when from their hard pursuit they bestowed quintals of dried fish on the poor of Boston, were obliged to transport their offering in wagons by a circuit of thirty miles. The warehouses of the thrifty merchants were at once made

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