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US History E-Text > The Revolution: Opening Causes and Events > Notes
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The Hutchinson Letters. -- Among the interesting occurrences of this period, the text, was the Hutchinson letter episode. Hutchinson was the royal governor of Massachusetts, and, though a native of the colony, his sympathies were with the king. In a series of private letters written by him and other royal officials (1773-1774) to an under secretary, Whately, of London, the colonial leaders and charters were attacked. Copies of these letters fell into the possession of Franklin, then in London, and he saw in them a conspiracy against his country, and sent them to the Massachusetts assembly. The tempest raised by their publication resulted in a petition for Hutchinson's recall. Franklin was arraigned before the Privy Council for treachery in disclosing private letters, and was denounced by Solicitor Wedderburn with the most abusive and coarse invective. Franklin listened with apparent indifference and never regretted his action, though English writers to this day denounce it as dishonorable.

Burke on the Tea Tax. -- The principle for which the colonies contended was not misunderstood in England. In reply to the statement that the tax on tea was trifling, Edmund Burke (April 19,1768) replied: "Could anything be a subject of more just claim to America, than to see you go out of the plain high road of finance . . . merely for the sake of insulting your colonies? No man ever doubted that the commodity of tea could bear an imposition of threepence. But no commodity will bear threepence, or will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irritated, and two millions of people are resolved not to pay. The feelings of the colonists are the same as those of Mr. Hampden when called on for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden's fortune? No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it was demanded, would have made him a slave."

Samuel Adams and the Election of the First Congress. -- The Massachusetts assembly was very anxious to choose delegates to the Congreas to meet in September at Philadelphia; but it was known that at the first hint at such business the governor would dissolve the assembly. On June 17, 1774 (made famous a year later at Bunker Hill), the favorable moment came; The door was locked and delegates were nominated. Some of the members were frightened and sought to go out, but Adams pocketed the key. At length one of the loyalist members pretended to be very ill and was allowed to go. He ran to the governor and told the news. Governor Gage instantly sent his secretary with a writ dissolving the assembly, but the secretary found the door locked. He then read the writ in a loud voice from the steps outside. Meantime the assembly had elected four delegates -- the two Adamses, Robert Treat Paine, and Thomas Cushing -- by a vote of 117 to 12. -- See Fiske, Vol. I, pp. 104-105.

The Mecklenburg Declaration. -- The county committee of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 31, 1775, resolved that as the king and Parliament had annulled and vacated all civil and military commissions granted by the Crown," etc., the provincial congresses, directed by the Continental Congress are invested with all legislative and executive power, independent of the Crown, until Parliament should resign its arbitrary pretensions. This was a bold and admirable resolution, and it formed the basis many years later of the so-called Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, very similar to the great Declaration of 1776. This spurious Mecklenburg Declaration was never published till 1819.

Paul Revere. -- One of the most heroic minor figures of the early years of the Revolutionary War was Paul Revere, and his name has received a permanent historic setting in the poem of Longfellow. He was of Huguenot descent; he served in the French War as lieutenant of artillery. By profession he was a goldsmith and copperplate engraver, and he engraved the plates for the "Continental money." In 1775 he was sent to Philadelphia to learn to make powder, and on his return he set up a powder mill. He also became a manufacturer of church bells and cannon. Revere was forty years old at the time of his famous midnight ride. He was captured by the British while on that ride, between Lexington and Concord, but he was soon set free. He lived nearly forty years after the Revolution, dying in 1818, at the age of eighty-three.


Source: "History of the United States of America," by Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Chapter XI p. 241-242. Transcribed by Kathy Leigh.




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