Revolutionary New England, 1691-1776

By James Truslow Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE INSOLUBLE PROBLEM

The Question of Taxation -- Stamp Act -- The Reaction of the Colonists -- Imperialism -- Mob Violence -- Increase in Radicalism -- Breakdown of Established Governments -- Stamp Act Congress -- Failure of Stamp Act

IN the year 1764 Boston had a population of about sixteen thousand persons, and it is a popular superstition that its town- meeting was a thoroughly democratic forum where, if ever in this troubled world, the voice of the people might make itself heard. The fact was, however, that the average number of voters in the decade from that year to the revolution was only about five hundred and fifty-five, or three and one-half per cent of the population.1 Not only so, but of these sturdy citizens who turned out thinking they were freely voting for their own rulers, nearly all were unconsciously puppets in the hands of political leaders. That extremely useful machine tool, the caucus, had been deftly used for many years, although the discovery that such was the case seems to have come somewhat as a shock to the young John Adams. "This day learned," he wrote in his diary in February 1763, "that the Caucus Club meets, at certain times, in the garret of Tom Dawes. . . . There they smoke tobacco till you cannot see from one end of the garret to the other. There they drink flip, I suppose, and there they choose . . . selectmen, assessors, collectors, wardens, firewards and representatives are regularly chosen before they are chosen in the town. Uncle Fairfield, Story, Ruddock, [Sam] Adams, Cooper, and a rudis indigestaque moles of others are members. They send committees to wait on the merchants' club, and to propose and join in the choice of men and measures. Captain Cunningham says they have solicited him to go to these caucuses; they have assured him of benefit in his busi-

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1
McKinley, Suffrage Franchise, p. 356.

-304-

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Revolutionary New England, 1691-1776
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface V
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Chapter I Introductory 3
  • Chapter II the Machinery of Empire 18
  • Chapter III the Dawn of the Century 30
  • Chapter IV the Policy of Unified Control 46
  • Chapter V Attempts at CoÖperation, Imperial and Colonial 60
  • Chapter VI the Rising Tide 84
  • Chapter VII Diverging Interests 111
  • Chapter VIII Expanding Energies 138
  • Chapter IX the Great Divide 169
  • Chapter X the Wrong Turning 200
  • Chapter XI the Fate of a Continent 221
  • Chapter XII War and Business 250
  • Chapter XIII the Price of Peace 278
  • Chapter XIV the Insoluble Problem 304
  • Chapter XV Darkening Skies 338
  • Chapter XVI the Issue Defined 369
  • Chapter XVII the Defeat of the Conservatives 406
  • Chapter XVIII Civil War 433
  • Index 453
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