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Builders of Our Country: Book II by  Gertrude van Duyn Southworth

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SAMUEL ADAMS

THE STAMP ACT

[9] VIRGINIA was the first colony to declare her opposition to the Stamp Act after it became a law. Patrick Henry's resolutions against it were printed and scattered broadcast throughout the country. Their sentiments were read with satisfaction from north to south. But nowhere did they find a stronger echo than in the hearts of the Massachusetts colonists.

Here, even before the Stamp Act had been passed, these stanch New Englanders had begun to voice their opinions of old England's doings. No sooner had the mere rumor that such a law might be passed reached America than Samuel Adams made known his views on the matter.

This Samuel Adams was a Harvard graduate, a thinker, a lover of his country. For several years he had served in one office after another, until now, at the age of forty-two, he had come to be as well versed in colonial needs and conditions as any man in Massachusetts.

There was not the slightest question in his mind regarding this proposed Stamp Act. Not only through the common rights of all Englishmen, but also by their charter, the Massachusetts colonists could claim a voice as to the taxes they were to pay. England could not tax her colonies without the consent of their representatives. [10] The American colonies had no representatives in Parliament. Therefore there was but one conclusion: England had no right to pass this law.

So Samuel Adams believed, and so he stoutly declared. And others were so convinced that he was right that a protest based on his views was sent to England, stating how Massachusetts felt.

However, as we have seen, the King and his Parliament passed the Stamp Act and notified the American colonies that it would go into effect on November 1, 1765.

When that day dawned in America, the sun shone on a state of affairs which King George had not foreseen. Flags waved at half mast, shops were closed, and business was at a standstill. The colonists bad agreed that, come what might, they would not buy the stamps. Already boxes of them had been seized, and burned or thrown into the sea. And already the men chosen to sell the hated stamps bad been pointedly warned not to attempt to carry out their orders.

How was it all to turn out? Surely the time had come for stern measures; and, thanks to Samuel Adams, stern measures were adopted throughout the colonies.

Now it was that his non-importation plan was put into practice. This meant that the American colonists refused to buy goods from England as long as the Stamp Act remained a law. "We will eat nothing; drink nothing, wear nothing coming from England, until this detested law is repealed," they declared.

Such a course was hard on the English merchants. Their large orders from America were canceled, and their goods left on their hands. So they, too, pleaded against the Stamp Act.

Even stubborn George III could see at last that a mistake had been made, and that he and his Parliament [12] must give in to the colonists. But he would do it in his own way. The Stamp Act was repealed; but, with the repeal, word was sent to America that England declared her right to bind her colonies in all cases whatsoever.

The repeal was received with joy, while the declaration passed unnoticed. Once more flags floated free from the top of mast, tower, and steeple. Bonfires blazed, bells rang, and men shouted from sheer happiness.


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HANDBILL ANNOUNCING THE REPEAL OF THE STAMP ACT.

But their joy was short-lived. The very next year they came to understand the meaning of England's declaration of her right to bind her colonies. Again the mother country tried to tax them. This time a duty was placed on glass, paper, paints, and tea.

Again the colonists refused to be taxed without their consent. And once more English merchant vessels were obliged to sail home with the same cargoes they had brought. The colonists would buy nothing from England. Bitter indeed was their opposition. Boston especially won the royal displeasure. Her citizens were so hostile to England's demands that the Massachusetts governor finally called for British troops to back him in the doing of his duty.

THE BOSTON MASSACRE

ONE day in September, 1765, the troops arrived. There were two regiments. They landed with great pomp and marched to Boston Common. The Governor insisted upon their being quartered in the center of the town, for his better protection. Naturally the colonists resented such treatment, but what could they do? There the soldiers were, and there they stayed.

To begin with, all went well. But gradually the soldiers grew tired of their quiet life in Boston, and gradu- [13] ally the Boston people came to hate the very sight of these men sent to force them to obedience.

At last the smoldering fire flamed up. It seems that one wintry night in March, 1770, a boy in the street yelled insults at a sentry on duty, until the redcoat, angry beyond control, struck the boy. Slight as was this offense, it was enough. A crowd gathered; the boy pointed out the sentry, and a rush was made at him.

"Help! Corporal of the Guard, help!" shouted the sentry.

Immediately the guardhouse gate swung open, and an officer and eight soldiers joined the sentry. Forming themselves in line, the soldiers raised their loaded muskets ready to fire, if necessary.

"Fire if you dare, lobsters, bloody backs! Fire if you dare, cowards!" yelled the crowd.

[14] And fire they did. No one knows whether the officer in charge really gave the signal, or whether his soldiers merely thought he did. The result was the same. A volley rent the air, and three men lay dead on the ice.

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THE BOSTON MASSACRE.

The town was wild. No longer should these redcoats be allowed in Boston!

Next day a great meeting was held. The people flocked from far and near. As usual Samuel Adams was there to guide the colonists and urge them to defend their rights. In stirring terms he spoke to them of the happenings of the night before—the Boston Massacre. When he had finished, he was appointed one of a committee to visit Acting-Governor Hutchinson and demand that the British troops be removed.


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ADAMS BEFORE THE GOVERNOR.

"I have no authority to remove the troops," replied Hutchinson. This was no answer to carry back to an aroused people. The committee was not satisfied. So it was suggested that one of the regiments might be sent away.

It had been agreed that the committee should report, the result of their errand at three in the afternoon. By that time the meeting had grown so large that the building was packed and the crowd overflowed into the street. As the committee made its way through the people, Samuel Adams whispered to right and left, "Both regiments or none. Both regiments or none."

The hint was taken. On hearing the Governor's reply that one regiment should go, a shout of "Both or none!" resounded through the hall.

Back to the Governor went the committee. "If you have the power to remove one regiment, you have the power to remove both....The voice of ten thousand freemen demands that both regiments be forthwith re- [15] moved. Their voice must be respected, their demands obeyed. Fail not then, at, your peril."

Thus spoke Samuel Adams. And, when in the gathering darkness, the committee for the last time returned to the meeting, they carried with them the Governor's word of honor that both regiments should leave Boston at once. And leave Boston they did.

THE BOSTON TEA PARTY

[16] SOON the colonists gained another short step in their struggle against oppression. King George agreed to take off the duty on glass, paper, and paints. The one little tax on tea, he positively would not remove; he would assert his right to levy duties. But a tax was a tax; and, were it small or large, the colonists would not pay it. Now the Boston Massacre concerned Massachusetts alone. But the tax on tea concerned the whole thirteen colonies. If they were to work together against this common evil, it followed that they must be kept in touch with one another.

To make this possible, Samuel Adams originated the idea of Committees of Correspondence. The plan was a good one. Soon each colony had appointed a committee whose business it was to send out to the twelve other colonies letters telling of the doings at home, so that every colony slight know the exact condition of the whole country.


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In 1773 word came that several ships laden with tea were headed for America. "We will not buy it," agreed the colonists everywhere. And they kept their word.

Late in November the first of the ships sent to Boston entered the harbor. The patriots insisted that the tea should not be landed, and placed a guard to watch the ship. The Governor insisted that it should be landed, and would not permit the ship's captain to sail out of the harbor. Thus the matter stood for nineteen days.

[17] Now there was a law that if a ship lying in the harbor was not unloaded by its owner within twenty days, the Custom House officers had the right to unload the cargo. This must not happen. So on the ship's nineteenth day in port the citizens were called together to determine what was to be done. By this time two other tea ships had arrived. Once more Samuel Adams was on hand with a clearly thought-out course of action.

The owner of the first ship was called, and he agreed to clear the harbor if only the Governor would give him the necessary permit. "Then go and ask him for it," directed the crowd.

It was December weather, cold and bleak; nevertheless the poor distressed merchant was obliged to make his way to Milton Hill where stood the Governor's country house.

The short winter day was over when he returned, but the patriots were still waiting, crowded in the gloomy meeting house, which was lighted by only a candle here and there.

"What news?" was anxiously asked, as the ship owner entered.

"The Governor refuses to give a pass," came the answer.

"This meeting can do nothing more to save the country," said Samuel Adams, rising.

These words were a signal given by the recognized leader. As if by magic, an Indian war whoop rent the air; and a band of men dressed as Indian warriors, in paint and feathers, appeared at the door for a moment. Then away they went.

With a mighty cheer the crowd followed at their heels. Down the street they dashed, headed for the tea ships. Once on board it was quick work to rip open three hundred [18] and forty-two chests of tea and pour their contents into the sea. Their task finished, the Indians disappeared. But as they went, on many of their faces the watching crowd recognized the familiar smile of old friends.


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THE "BOSTON TEA PARTY".

From the days of the first rumor of the Stamp Act to this December night,—nine anxious years,—Samuel Adams had led the people of Massachusetts. Always upholding colonial rights; always ready with helpful suggestions; always alive to the best interests, not only of his colony, but of the whole country, he richly deserved his title of "The Father of the Revolution."

LEXINGTON AND CONCORD

[19] WHEN King George heard of the Boston Tea Party his anger knew no bounds. This rebellious colony should be punished, and that right soundly.

The Boston port was closed to all trade until the destroyed tea should be paid for. And General Gage, with several regiments, was sent to govern the people of Massachusetts.

"We are outraged," declared the colonists. "Such things are not to be endured."

So they organized a new government quite independent of General Gage, with John Hancock and Samuel Adams at its head.

Nor was this all. Massachusetts decided to have an army of her own to defend her rights. "Minute men," the soldiers were called, because they agreed to be ready to fight at a minute's notice. Arms and ammunition were collected, and stored in Concord.

Before long, news of this hiding place reached General Gage. He determined to send a secret expedition to take the stores. Nothing seemed easier. Moreover, he knew that John Hancock and Samuel Adams were visiting in a town called Lexington. Why not kill [20] two birds with one stone and direct his soldiers to march to Concord by way of Lexington? Thus they could seize not only the soldiers' arms, but also their rebel leaders.

The plan seemed perfect. So at dead of night on April 18, 1775, General Gage ordered nearly eight hundred redcoats to slip quietly out of Boston and march through the darkness to Lexington. The start was made.


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THE FIRST BATTLEGROUNDS OF THE REVOLUTION.

However, there was one thing General Gage did not count upon. He did not know that Paul Revere had already suspected this move, and had stationed a comrade in the steeple of the old North Church to signal the advance of the British. He did not know that Paul Revere himself was even now waiting, bridle in hand, for that signal to tell him to carry a warning to Lexington.

Suddenly two lights flashed out from the old North steeple. In an instant Paul Revere was in the saddle and away. His was a wild night ride. As his horse's hoofs clattered sharply in the stillness, men threw open their windows and were greeted with the cry, "To arms! To arms! The regulars are coming!"

On went the daring rider, until, reaching the house in Lexington, where Hancock and Adams were staying, he warned them of their danger and led them to safety.

Just before daybreak of the 19th the redcoats appeared in Lexington and marched to the village green. Here they found themselves face to face with a band of minute men.

"Disperse, ye rebels!" shouted the British commander.

"Stand your ground!" urged the patriot leader. No one moved.

Then in answer to their commander's order the regulars opened fire. Seven Americans fell. It would have been folly for the handful of minute men to have engaged in battle with so many regulars; so, firing an answering volley, they retreated.


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THE BATTLE ON THE VILLAGE GREEN OF LEXINGTON.

[21] Then on to Concord marched the King's troops. Here too they came too late. The patriots had already carried off most of their military stores. Two cannon had been left behind. These the British spiked.

By this time four hundred minute men had gathered and were marching against the regulars. At Concord Bridge the two forces met. And here it was that the Americans "fired the shot heard round the world."

Several redcoats fell, and soon the British soldiers gave up the bridge and began to march toward Boston.

But what a march! True to their name the minute men from all about had hurried to their duty. And from behind each wall and tree crouching figures now fired upon the retreating regulars.

All the way the minute men were at their heels "They fairly seemed to drop from the clouds."

[22] To go on was desperate. To stop was certain death. So, weak with hunger and thirst, the King's boasted troops pushed on through the six miles between Concord and Lexington, under an almost constant fire. Nearly three hundred English soldiers fell dead or dying on the road. At Lexington reinforcements joined them; and after a short rest, they went on to Boston.

BUNKER HILL

IT was certain now that war had begun, and the Americans went into it heart and soul. Collecting a goodly army, they formed a semicircle surrounding Boston on its land side and laid siege to the town.

There was a hill overlooking Boston known as Bunker Hill, and in June the Americans decided to fortify it. One night a detachment made its way up the side of the hill, and, working with a will, had dug trenches and thrown up breastworks by daybreak.

With the daylight, the finished fortifications dawned on General Gage's astonished sight. This would never do! From Bunker Hill the Americans could fire into his [23] vary camp. His only course was to drive them away at once.

That same day he sent a force of three thousand soldiers against Bunker Hill. Up the hill they marched. Fifteen hundred Americans waited in the trenches. Their supply of powder was pitifully small, but their courage was of the finest. "Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes," ordered the colonial officer in charge.

On came the British troops, firing as they came. All at once a volley thundered from the breastworks. The front rank fell. There was a second's pause, and then the regulars retreated.

Rallying their men, the British officers urged them to a second attack. The result was the same. Waiting until they came within thirty yards, the Americans again fired a deadly charge; and again the English troops fell back.

But now the Americans' powder was spent. So when a third time the enemy advanced, there was no volley to check them. Still fighting, however—although clubs, the butt ends of their muskets, and stones were their only weapons-the Americans were at last driven from their fortifications.


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THE LAST DEFENSE BEHIND THE BREASTWORKS OF BUNKER HILL.

The battle of Bunker Hill resulted in victory for the English and defeat for the Americans. The effect, however, was just what might have been expected had the reverse been true. England judged General Gage at fault in his methods and recalled him in disgrace. To the colonists one point stood out clear and bright above all others. Their colonial army had twice forced British regulars to retreat. What had been done could be done again. And so with renewed courage and stronger faith in their final victory, the whole country now bent every nerve toward defending their rights—the rights of the thirteen American colonies.


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