History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 3

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXI.
GREAT BRITAIN CENTRES IN ITSELF POWER OVER ITS COLONIES.
HILLSBOROUGH’S RETIREMENT.

JUNE 1771–AUGUST 1772.

“THE glorious spirit of liberty is vanquished, and left without hope but in a miracle,” was the language of desponding patriots in Boston. “I confess,” said Samuel Adams, “we have, as Wolfe expressed it, a choice of difficulties. Too many flatter themselves that their pusillanimity is true prudence; but, in perilous times like these, I cannot conceive of prudence without fortitude.” John Adams retired from “the service of the people,” and, devoting himself to his profession, for a time ceased even to employ his pen in their defence. Otis, disordered in mind and jealous of his declining influence, did but impede the public cause. In Hancock, vanity so mingled with patriotism that the government hoped to win him over.

The assembly, which for the third year was convened at Cambridge, adopted a protest in which Samuel Adams drew the distinction between a prerogative and its abuse; and inquired what would follow in England if a British king should call a parliament in Cornwall and keep it there seven years. Nor did he omit to expose the rapid consolidation of power in the hands of the executive, by the double process of making all civil officers dependent for support solely on the king, and giving to arbitrary instructions an authority paramount to the charter and the laws.

The protest had hardly been adopted when, in July 1771, the application of its doctrines became necessary. The commissioners of the customs had, through Hutchinson, applied for an exemption of their salaries from the colonial income tax; and

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