A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, on Thursday, 15 February, 1917, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Fred Norris Robinson, Ph.D., in the chair.

    The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.

    On behalf of Mr. Charles M. Andrews, a Corresponding Member, the following paper was communicated:



    The mercantile activities of such prominent colonial towns as Boston, Newport, New York, and Philadelphia are factors to be reckoned with in colonial history, for the mercantile houses and organizations were the American agencies concerned with the promotion of trade and commerce, and the trading interests of British merchants had a decided influence upon the governmental policies of the day and often directed the actions of council and parliament. Trade, in itself considered, may be deemed a sordid human activity, lacking the glamor of war and diplomacy, a selfish pursuit, drab and unadorned, but it is one of the highly developed organic functions of the social system, representative of a more advanced stage of social evolution than is agriculture, and in its operations offering many explanations of historical events, the causes of which have frequently been sought elsewhere. The doctrines and enterprises of the merchants of the eighteenth century, both in England and America, are conspicuous to a noteworthy degree, and often play a leading part in determining our external relations, but they do not become historically visible until the period immediately preceding the Revolution, when they take on great political importance. They are apt to be passed over, however, with only a brief mention in our histories. Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence find ample recognition, but where will one discover any attempt to glorify the origins of our Chambers of Commerce? Yet the latter deserve as careful a study as do the former, for many of them arose out of an organized effort to meet the difficulties which we were called upon to face in our controversy with the mother country.

    Boston from early times was the home of merchants, who as business men, adventurous spirits, and writers on trade became prominent in colonial history. Zachariah Gillam and his son Benjamin, John Nelson, Samuel Waldo, Charles Lidgett, Thomas Banister, Joshua Gee, Andrew Belcher, Sr., Charles Apthorp, and others were leaders in activities that carried them beyond the confines of the colony into the larger commercial world. But there is no special reason to think that during this early period they and their fellow merchants acted together in any organized fashion for the protection or promotion of trade. Protests there were and community of action in regard to custom-house affairs, and it is possible that even before 1751 they had begun to meet in a more or less regular way for the advancement of their common interests, but of continued and concerted cooperation there is no sign.

    About 1750, however, in the days when Sir Harry Frankland was collector of the port on the British establishment, friction arose owing to the latter’s fondness for seizing ships concerned in illegal trade, and we find a petition signed by fifty-three of the merchants of Boston, protesting against a proposed appointment to the court of vice-admiralty. The period was one of concern to the traders, some of whom had suffered from royal impressments and all had been outvoted in town meetings, where, as Shirley claimed, it was irksome for them to attend, and they had fallen into the convenient habit of petition in matters which directly concerned their interests. It was at this time that they began to gather in the front room toward the Long Wharf of the British Coffee House, the tavern kept by Cordis and Mrs. Cordis315 on the north side of King Street, to consider questions of trade. How often these meetings were held we cannot say. Probably then, as later, this Merchants’ Club met frequently, informally, and without call, the members dropping in when they liked, and varying in number from half a dozen to twenty-five or thirty according to the weather, other engagements, and the exigencies of trading conditions. No records were kept and no references are to be found to the meetings.316

    But in 1763, the need of more definite organization was felt. The end of the long war had come, peace had been anticipated for many months, the terms of the settlement had been in a measure already made known, and fears had been aroused of a renewal of the Molasses Act, which was due to expire the next year. Consequently on April 14, 1763, the members of the Club came together and resolved to organize themselves into a Society.317 They appointed a committee to draw up “some general rules and orders for their government” and a few days later this committee reported the following articles:

    That the Company form themselves into a Society, by the name of The Society for encouraging Trade and Commerce within the Province of Massachusetts Bay

    That this Society shall consist of Merchants and others concerned in Commerce and of any other Persons of Ability and Knowledge in Trade who may be desirous to encourage the same,

    That there shall be a General Meeting of the Society sometime in the month of April or May annually, to consider the state of Trade and to determine upon any matters relative thereto that shall be laid before them, and that the particular Day of such meeting shall be appointed by the Standing Committee for the time being,

    That at the General Meeting a Chairman shall be chosen by written vote (the greatest number of Votes to determine the choice) whose Business shall be to moderate at the meeting and put the questions, to be determined by vote. At such meeting a clerk also shall be chosen to minute down the Proceedings and record the votes of the Society.

    That business may be carried on with greater decency and order, any Member who may have anything to propose, shall address himself to the Chairman and care shall be taken to avoid, as much as possible, all Party disputes and every thing that may tend in any measure to dissolve the Union of the Society, or to interrupt the good harmony which ought to subsist among the members of it.

    That at the General Meeting annually, there shall be a Standing Committee chosen, consisting of [fifteen318] of whom [9319] shall be a quorum. The Members of which Committee shall be chosen singly by written vote, the majority of voters to determine the choice.

    That the Committee shall meet together Monthly (or oftener, if they see cause) to consult upon the affairs of Trade, to take notice of anything which may be judged prejudicial to it, and to receive any Proposals that may be made for its advantage; and shall make Report of the same to the General Meeting, to be acted upon there as shall be judged proper.

    That the Standing Committee (if they think there is sufficient reason therefor) may occasionally call a General Meeting of the Society at which Meeting the Business shall be regulated and carried on, in the same manner as at the stated annual meetings.

    That upon Request in writing subscribed by Twenty or more of the members (without assigning any special reason) the Committee shall call a General Meeting.

    That the Committee, either in the Public News Papers or some other way, as they shall judge most proper, shall cause notice to be given of the Time and Place of the General Meetings two days at least before the Same.

    That any Persons of other Towns in the Province who are friends to Trade and desirous to advance the interest thereof, and who may be in Town320 at any Time when the Standing Committee meets, may be invited to be present with them.

    That if any of the Standing Committee should become a Member or Members of the General Court, he or they shall thenceforth cease to be of the Committee.321

    That at every General Meeting each member present shall before he departs leave with the Clerk [a pistareen322] or whatever the Company shall deem sufficient in order to defray the Expences of the Meeting: and the Clerk shall account with the Society for what he receives.

    That the Tavern Expences of Committees shall be born by themselves, but all other charges which may be incur’d for the Service of the Society, shall be defreyed by the whole [an account of which shall be laid before the Society at their annual meeting323].

    That every person who shall subscribe his name to the foregoing articles shall be deemed a member of the Society.324

    These articles are signed by one hundred and forty-six merchants, a number of whom must have been members of the Merchants’ Club for many years, while others were doubtless sons of those who in 1750 had signed the petition to the Treasury. Two at least were from distant towns, one from Nantucket and one from Falmouth (Portland). In the years that followed, many others joined the Society, while some of those whose names are recorded doubtless fell away in the strenuous days of the non-importation controversy.

    Thus the organization of the merchants took on three forms. First, the Club, an informal body, which had been in existence since 1751, meeting regularly at the British Coffee House, the Bunch of Grapes, or less frequently at the [Admiral] Vernon’s Head,325 and there indulging in much talk and considerable liquor, wine and punch, for which each person paid his own charge,326 and there too having debates and controversies over trade, sometimes acrimonious.327 The members dropped in as they pleased, always in the evening, and there were rarely present less than five, or more than twelve. There was no formal procedure or taking of minutes, though sometimes an understanding was reached to request the Committee to meet and consider some important business. Among those recorded as attending most frequently, during the period from 1764 to 1770, are Joshua Winslow, Harrison Gray, Thomas Gray, John Boylston, Nicholas Boylston, Edward Payne, Captain Davis, John Erving, Jr., William Molineux, Melatiah Bourne, Samuel Hughes, Thomas Brattle, James Otis, James Perkins, Isaac Smith, Jeremiah Gridley, Ezekiel Goldthwait, James Warden, and Benjamin Hallowell. Some of those attending stayed only an hour, while others remained for the greater part of the evening. Secondly, the Standing Committee of fifteen members, of whom nine constituted a quorum, which met at one of the taverns, monthly or oftener, if necessary, considered the general conditions of trade and prepared business for the larger body. The hour was usually, but not always, in the morning. John Rowe was the first chairman and Joshua Winslow his successor, and Edward Payne was secretary. The membership included Thomas Cushing, John Hancock, Thomas Gray, John Erving, Jr., William Phillips, Deacon John Barrett, and others whose names have not been preserved. At these meetings states of the trade were drawn up, grievances presented, and remedies contrived, and decisions were reached to call a general meeting at a certain time and date. No minutes were kept, as far as the evidence goes to show, but the secretary took down the main conclusions, making rough drafts which he afterwards copied out in fair hand. The members of the Committee, as of the Club, bore their own tavern expenses, but charges arising from business undertaken in the interest of the Society as a whole were met from the common purse.328 Thirdly, the General Meeting, or as it was also called, the Whole Body, the Body, or the Trade, which met annually under the rules, probably in May,329 and had a dinner; but in the years from 1766 to 1771 it met much more frequently, though we cannot always tell whether a meeting was composed of the members of the Society, the subscribers to the agreements, or the merchants and traders at large, that is, the merchants and traders and others concerned in trade, as the phrase went. That the Society suffered diminution of numbers after the Stamp Act controversy is evident, but how far this affected its procedure and activities is not clear. For a subscribers’ meeting, notices were sent out on little printed slips, varying in size at different times, evidently according to the printer’s convenience, signed by the chairman of the Committee and addressed to the subscriber.330 For an open meeting, the call was sometimes published in the newspapers and sometimes announced on printed slips without signature or address. As far as recorded the numbers present at these meetings varied greatly. From thirty to one hundred were present at the subscribers’ meetings, and we are told that as many as a thousand attended an open meeting at Faneuil Hall. At the meetings special committees were appointed331 and resolutions adopted. John Rowe, from whose diary332 we obtain considerable information about these various meetings, was a zealous attendant until the excesses of the non-importation party, in 1769 and 1770, dampened his enthusiasm and curtailed his attendance, and for a time he ceased to go altogether. On the occasion of an important meeting, April 25, 1770, he had gone fishing.

    The society thus organized for the promoting of trade and commerce was the first board of trade for the city of Boston, and was the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce founded in 1785. Its origin was probably due to the reports, sent to the colony by the agent, Jasper Mauduit, of new proposals regarding trade under consideration in England, and probably also to warnings given to the merchants in Boston by their correspondents in England, who were always prompt to discover whatever was mooted in Board of Trade, Privy Council, or parliament likely to affect the American trade. Charles Townshend was appointed first lord of trade on February 23, 1763, but it is unlikely that letters announcing his policy could have been received in Boston before April 14 and so have influenced the founding of the Society on that date. As the immediate purpose of the Society was to prevent the renewal of the Molasses Act, its first task was to draft a “State of the Trade,” in which the burdens of that act, as far as they concerned New England, should be adequately presented. The business was placed in the hands of Thomas Gray and Edward Payne, as a sub-committee of the Standing Committee, who entered into correspondence with the merchants of Marblehead, Salem, and Plymouth, requesting them to furnish information about the fishery and to send committees to consult with the sub-committee in Boston.333 In consequence of the information thus received, the Society in December, 1763, drew up a memorial, containing a statement of reasons, and presented it to the General Court. Marblehead, Salem, and Plymouth each did the same.334 The General Court referred the four memorials to a committee of both houses, with instructions to prepare a letter to Mauduit, which was done. On February 10th, the merchants forwarded their statement, with a letter, to the regular agent, William Bollan, and at the same time transmitted copies to all the neighboring colonies and placed two hundred and fifty in the hands of the merchants of London for distribution. Bollan received the letter on April 10th, five days after the Sugar Act became a law. The “State of the Trade” he never received at all, so that the first effort of the Society to meet the new British policy ended in failure.335


    From 1764 to 1768, except for a brief period following the date for the enforcement of the Stamp Act, the members of the Merchants’ Society devoted themselves very largely to the one great task of convincing the authorities in England that the new acts of revenue and trade were not only a burden to the colonies but a menace to Great Britain herself. They endeavored to show, in all sincerity, that the acts of 1764, 1765, and 1766 were certain to obstruct trade and in the end to ruin it, and that whatever threatened the prosperity of America threatened that of Great Britain also, affecting the well-being of the British merchant and the revenue accruing to the British Exchequer.

    They began by saying that the colonies were able to pay for British manufactures in only three ways: either by what they produced among themselves, by what they caught out of the sea, or by the money or commodities obtained in “a circuity of commerce abroad,” and they argued that whatever diminished this purchasing power, by lessening the trade of the colonies or otherwise, was bound to be prejudicial to Great Britain.336 This lessening of the trade was seen in the restrictions imposed on the export of foreign sugar (from the foreign West India islands) and on the liberty to export, after being warehoused in a colonial port, directly to a foreign market, such as Holland, Hamburg, or Petersburg. Were such restrictions removed, they said, it would encourage colonial trade in foreign sugars, which might in time become considerable and increase the remittances to Great Britain, “whereas under the present regulations none will ever be brought here [Boston] in order to be reported to a foreign market in Europe.” They objected to the restraints placed upon the molasses trade, which “is a great spring to every branch of business among us, such as the fishing, the lumber trade, and shipbuilding, because molasses is distilled into rum, as well as our trade to Africa.”337 They likewise objected to the restraints placed upon the export of foreign logwood, which was obtained “by small cargoes of provisions produced among us, together with some British manufactures, which has employed many vessels, but now being obliged to carry it first to England, it will incur heavy expences by reason of its bulk, and so there will be an end to this business.” They asked for direct importation of oranges, lemons, and all kinds of fruit, as also oil consumed in the fisheries, partly to save the great expense, port charges, and delay involved in stopping at an English port, and partly to avoid the danger to perishable articles of a long voyage. The expense, they said, exceeded the amount of the duty, and delays destroyed a commodity which had “become almost a necessity for the health and comfort of the inhabitants of North America.” They hoped that parliament would permit the direct importation of the wines of Spain and Portugal also, because the supply of wine from Madeira and the Azores had become insufficient and the price very high, and they could always send their pipe-staves in exchange. They asked to be relieved of the prohibition to send flaxseed,338 lumber, and potash to Ireland.

    Above all, the merchants objected to the multiplicity of bonds required by these acts, in addition to those required by the acts of 1660 and 1672, particularly the bond that lumber should not be landed in any part of Europe north of Cape Finisterre, except Great Britain, and that which prevented rum from being taken to the Isle of Man.339

    They quoted instances of coasters giving upwards of twenty bonds in a year, all or most of which were in force at the same time; and they believed that parliament could hardly have foreseen the effect of the acts upon the coasting trade of the colonies, or it would have realized that the cost of the bonds and of the certificates needed to cancel them would amount to more than the first cost of all the lumber sent to Europe. They objected strongly to the unlimited powers given to officers of the customs by the act of 1764, wherein the defendant who lost the suit was entitled to no costs whatever, and to only two pence damages in case he won a suit against an officer for wrongful seizure, whereas if the officer won he recovered triple costs. They objected to the extension of the powers of the vice-admiralty courts, which were —

    Empowered to seize any or all the ships or goods of the American merchant at their leisure, and though they act ever so arbitrarily or unjustly the merchant has no remedy, the officer not being subject to any damage or even costs of suit; while the claimer, if he should be non suited or discontinue his action must pay treble costs, if the judge of the vice-admiralty-court shall say there was a probable cause of seizure, which no doubt will always be the case, as not only the officers of the customs but likewise the governor of the province, being interested in those seizures, will always encourage and promote the same, and many instances may be produced where both vessel and goods have been condemned as forfeited only for a mistake or neglect of the master when the revenue has not been affected or any fraud intended, which severities are not imposed on our Fellow subjects in Great Britain, where the Commissioners of the Customs settle all such mistakes where no fraud was designed.

    For this reason, the merchants declared, the whole trade of America lay at the mercy of the officers of the customs and the judge of the admiralty court.

    Besides the bonds, said the merchants, every master of a vessel, even coasters, had to take out a sufferance and a cocquet for every article he took on board, and in case he took any goods for which bond was required he had to have a certificate from the collector of his having given bond, and in case he neglected to take out such certificate, not only the goods but even the vessel and the rest of the cargo were forfeited. Before a cocquet could be taken out for any goods (even of British manufacture), an oath must be taken by whom and in what vessel the article intended to be exported was imported, a thing often impossible. They protested against the “great expence and needless trouble accruing to the Trade by means of a naval officer,” who had been appointed originally “for the inspection of trade and the prevention of irregularities and abuses therein,” when there were no officers of custom in America, and they begged that this official be dispensed with.340

    These were the essential features of the grievances of the merchants, which as we can well believe were debated nightly in the rooms at Mrs. Cordis’s or Colonel Joseph Ingersoll’s or Mr. Thomas Hubbard’s, and given more orderly form at the meetings of the Standing Committee. They constituted the chief objections thus far agreed upon for inclusion in the “Proposals to the Parliament for the Regulation of the American Trade,” which Thomas Cushing told Dennys De Berdt, the special agent for Massachusetts appointed in 1765, were being prepared by a committee of Boston merchants.341 But, as it happened, the proposals were not sent in that year. Two new subjects for consideration came up that constituted serious grievances in the eyes of the merchants of New England. In the act of 1766, the duty on molasses was reduced to a penny a gallon, but even this reduction was not satisfactory, as the merchants wished the duty removed entirely, and there can be no doubt that the concessions in this act and in that of 1765, upon which their friends and correspondents in England sent them congratulations, were in their eyes largely discounted by the many restrictions which embarrassed the trade and caused great disappointment.342

    The second grievance of the year 1766 concerned the cod and whale fishery, a capital article and of conspicuous national importance, though deemed by many in England an “improper employment for colonies and detrimental to the interests of the mother country.”343 For years the New England fishermen had been charged with breaking the act to encourage the trade to Newfoundland,344 with debauching the British sailors with rum, rinding the standing timber of Newfoundland, running an illicit trade with the French there, carrying off British seamen by offers of higher wages, and generally abusing the freedom of the fishery, until it could be said that there was “not one old England ship [in the Labrador fishery] or seaman employed therein nor a seaman raised thereby for the service of the fleet.”345 With the appointment of Palliser as commodore-governor in 1764, the Commissioners of Customs recommended an addition to his instructions calling for an enforcement of the law. Consequently Palliser in 1765 began his attempt to check the activities of the New England fishermen. For two years346 these attempts continued until the merchants could say that —

    By the cruisers under this gentleman’s command some [of the New England vessels] have been plundered of what fish they had caught, others have had their best hands pressed, the loss of whom was the occasion of and ended in the entire loss of their vessels; on some they have inflicted corporal punishment, but all that were in their way were drove off, by means of which their voyages were broken up and every one was threatened with confiscation of vessel and effects, if they presumed to fish there another year.347

    When De Berdt wrote to Cushing in September, 1766, he said that he had heard nothing from the merchants, so it is probable that no letters passed between them until January, 1767. Then the committee wrote, forwarding the petition that had been in preparation for several years. They characterized this petition as a “representation of the difficulties which Trade still labors under by means of some late Acts of Parliament.” De Berdt had already received a statement of grievances from the General Court of Massachusetts and had laid them before Secretary Halifax, some time in the early summer of 1765, but as Halifax was dismissed in July, he repeated them in a larger memorandum and sent them to Lord Dartmouth, who was appointed first lord of trade in the same month. But it was not until January 17, 1767, that the Society sent over its first petition. To this act it had been prompted by a letter from a committee of the merchants of New York, dated November 24, 1766, saying that “the universal and concurrent opinions of the principal merchants through the Continent, all uniting in material points, must carry conviction,” and that they hoped the Boston merchants would not be “behindhand with [them] in their common cause, but like Brethren and fellow-citizens [would] join with [them] in promoting it, uninfluenced by sinister views or private interest.”348

    Actuated by a desire to coöperate and feeling perhaps the need of stating some of their particular grievances, for the New Yorkers said nothing about the fishery, the Society sent its own petition to De Berdt, signed by sixty names, headed by that of Joshua Winslow, and embracing all the points that we have touched upon up to this time. De Berdt, having remarked in his letter of March 9th that “the New York petition had some warm expressions which gave offence to the House,”349 and was ordered to lie on the table, could say in that of March 14th that the Society’s grievances were very well stated and decently expressed.350 Some results were obtained, the restrictions upon the Irish trade had already been removed, and promises were given by Secretary Shelburne and by Commodore Palliser, about to start on his summer cruise to Newfoundland, to look into the grievances regarding the fishery.

    But the subjects for debate at the Merchants’ Club were not yet complete. In June, 1767, parliament passed three acts, commonly known as the Townshend Acts: one creating an American board of Customs Commissioners, with its seat in Boston, which was to exercise in America the powers formerly possessed by the Commissioners of Customs in England; a second, designated in this paper the Townshend Act, imposing duties on glass, lead, painters’ colors, tea, and paper; and a third making certain concessions to the East India Company, which controlled the tea trade. The board, provided for in the first act, was commissioned September 8, 1767, its members reached Boston on November 5th, and held their first session on the 18th, and it was not long before the merchants were ready with a crop of new grievances. They complained of the great increase of restrictions and embarrassments due to the frequent attendance demanded at the collector’s office, and the inevitable delays that accompanied it. They objected strongly to the requirement imposed by the board that each shipper make out an exact report of his cargo, without the privilege of post-entries from day to day, as was allowed in Great Britain, and they protested vehemently against the fees, particularly from coasters, due to their being obliged to clear in the same manner as vessels bound on foreign voyages, and to give bond for every trifling article they carried for private families, such as a few pounds of tea or sugar or a few gallons of rum or molasses purchased of retailers. Formerly, they said, coasters had not been required to take out cocquets for such articles, and the fees which used to be but a shilling for entering or clearing, were now ten shillings or a guinea, which was “more ready money than they sometimes received for their whole freight.”351

    They complained further of the great number of tide-waiters and inferior officials that were appointed, and of the requirement that masters admit and lodge them under deck, without any authority to do so. Some of these men, they said, were not trustworthy, and the masters and merchants did not think their interests safe under their care. These officers took upon themselves the liberty of searching vessels before they were discharged, and sometimes before the masters had reported at the custom house, an insolent action which was illegal and contrary to the practice in Great Britain. They construed as an “intolerable grievance” the appointment of officers of customs on board the men of war, cutters, and other armed vessels, and the “arbitrary and unlawful manner” in which they exercised this authority in the province, which they deemed “unprecedented in any other part of the British dominion.”. Some of the officers, by force of arms, had entered vessels on the high seas and in the harbors, demanding of the masters their papers, breaking open the hatches and searching the holds with lighted candles. Even ships from London, with hemp and powder on board, were not exempt, and the lives and properties of the king’s subjects had been greatly endangered. Some vessels, they said, coming into the harbor, even before the master could reach the custom house to make report, had been boarded by armed boats from the Romney, and one vessel from the West Indies had had her hatches opened and twenty hogsheads of molasses hoisted upon deck, that the hold might be searched. Another vessel with lumber was carried alongside the Romney, had her hatches opened, and the boards taken on board the king’s ship, before the master was permitted to go to the custom house to report. Several other vessels had been seized in the bay, at the Vineyard, and other ports, where they had been obliged by contrary winds to make a harbor, and sent into ports they were not bound for and there detained at great expense on pretence that some trifling articles, belonging to the mariners, and not specified in the cocquet, were to be found on board.

    They further complained that upwards of twenty sail of men of war, cutters, and other armed vessels, purchased by the Board of Customs Commissioners, had been employed “to cruize on the Trade of this province,” without discovering one vessel engaged in smuggling, “though their expectations were so raised in hopes of plunder that some of the commanders of the king’s ships purchas’d small vessels on their own acc’t, sent them into the little harbors and coves where the men of war could not cruize,” disguising some of them as coasters and employing every device possible to detect illicit and contraband trade. One master —

    of a little cutter purchased a fishing boat on his own acc’t for the same purpose, but being disappointed of the advantages they expected to reap from the condemnation of the prizes or illicit traders, they have been induced to take advantage of the mistakes and omissions of the masters of coasting vessels, several of whom have been seized by those guarda costas and two actually condemned for some trifle found on board without being claimed. Since the arrival of the Commissioners between 20 and 30 vessels have been seized and several masters fined £100 stg. for landing some goods before they had reported at the custom house, four of these were seized by the officers of custom in port and condemned for landing a few casks of wine and molasses more than they had reported; the others seized by the cruisers were dismissed after waiting some time at a great expense, except two coasters, which were condemned for having some trifles on board for which they could produce no cocquet and one open lighter for a small cask of brandy and three boxes of lemons found on board.

    Referring to the preambles of the acts, which state that the design was to raise a revenue, the merchants called attention to the fact that even if the amounts expected should be raised, they would not compensate “for the Damages that will arise to the Trade, Navigation, and Fishery of the Colonies and the Manufactures of Great Britain.” They continued:

    Furthermore to collect this revenue the government has been at a great expence, equal, at least, if not superior to all the revenue that could have been collected had the trade been as extensive as it was before these acts were made, which is not the case now nor never will be while these acts are in force. Besides the vast charge for troops, men of war, and cutters stationed here to prevent any clandestine trade and to support any officers of the customs in putting these acts (which have regularly been submitted to) in execution. Then courts of vice-admiralty are constituted, with a salary of £600 a year to each of the judges, a board of commissioners with a salary of £2500 per annum, also an additional number of Custom House officers appointed by that board, amounting in the whole to near 200, some of whom have salaries from £30 to £50 per annum.352

    In conclusion, the merchants said in recapitulating their grievances, —

    These indulgencies would have a happy tendency to unite Great Britain and her colonies on a lasting foundation; all clandestine trade would then cease, the great expence of men of war, cutters, and custom house officers to secure this revenue be saved; trade, navigation and fishery would greatly revive, and the demand for British manufactures be very much increased.

    There is nothing to show that the merchants sent over a second petition or brought the later grievances to the attention of parliament. By 1768, the movement had begun to take on a new form, a change due largely to the Townshend Act, which as the Boston merchants said in enumerating their grievances did not “affect the Trade in the same manner as the other duties and restrictions.” But it did affect the people at large, and for this reason. The revenue and trade acts of 1764, 1765, and 1766, though couched in more elaborate form and laying greater emphasis on the revenue features, were in large part expressive of the old right of parliament to regulate the trade and commerce of the colonies, a right first exercised in the navigation acts of 1660, 1663, 1672, and 1696, and thus were nothing more than extensions of British policy as it had existed for a century. It was natural that these acts should have been objects of resentment to the merchants of Boston, for they were expressly designed to bring within bounds the somewhat untamed trade of the northern colonies. To prevent the passage of these acts was the main purpose for which the Society had been founded. Had the colonists found no other causes for complaint than the grievances which we have presented, then the Revolution would not have occurred, for it is practically certain that on this point a compromise would have been reached that would have satisfied both sides to the controversy. In the year 1767, there was a widespread desire in America for a reconciliation with England and a hope that reconciliation would come.353 At the same time the statesmen in England were anxious to end the dispute and the British merchants, with but few exceptions, were working in behalf of peace. The latter knew that the trade restrictions were injuring American and Briton alike and felt sure that when once this fact was driven home to the official mind, such modifications would be effected as to calm colonial fears and restore harmony and peace. The Boston merchants themselves said that all they wanted was to return to the situation as it had been before 1764, and had this been all that the controversy involved colonial wishes might have been met.


    The Sugar Act of 1764 was, as is well known, something more than an act regulating trade and commerce; it was designed also to raise a revenue in America to meet the cost of colonial expansion. This part of the act was due not to the demands of the commercial policy, that is, mercantilism, but to the demands of the new imperialism. Great Britain had emerged from the Seven Years’ War an empire, with new territory and with new obligations, and the disposition of this territory and the fulfilment of these obligations became the paramount issues. How to raise a revenue in America was an important though subordinate part of the imperial policy, and was the object in part of the Sugar Act and entirely of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act. The duties imposed by the first and last of these acts were customs duties, levied on imports from the foreign West Indies in the case of the Sugar Act and from England in the case of the Townshend Act. The taxes imposed by the Stamp Act were of the nature of internal revenue taxes to be paid by every individual who engaged in certain legal transactions or certain forms of business or who bought a newspaper, a pair of dice, or a pack of cards. That the stamp tax promised to be exceedingly onerous, we have ample evidence to show.354 Had it been enforced it would have affected in one way or another nearly every individual in the colonies, except slaves, indented servants, and children under age. Such a tax was burdensome in itself, quite apart from the constitutional question involved, but it was made far more burdensome to the colonists by the requirement that it be paid in the sterling money of England. This meant not in kind, as was the four and a half per cent of Barbadoes and the Leeward Islands, nor in paper currency, as might be the local colony rates, but in hard money, gold or silver or copper. Now payments in hard money had always been a colonial difficulty, especially in small amounts, because of the scarcity of small coins, and many suggestions had been made in the preceding three quarters of a century looking to the increase of such coins, copper and silver, for colonial use. As early as 1715, Attorney General Northey had expressed the opinion that the plantation duty should be paid in silver,355 and many efforts had been made to have the quitrents paid in like manner, but without any great success. In all these cases the amounts were trifling as compared with the sum, that would have to be paid under the regulations of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act.

    The years from 1761 to 1769 were a time of severe financial depression in the colonies, trade was dull, money scarce, credit poor, and debt the common burden of farmers, country storekeepers, merchants in the cities, and people generally. There was hardly a section of the country from Portsmouth to the tide-water regions of Virginia and North Carolina that did not feel the pinch of this money stringency and where the complaint of bad times was not heard.356 Prices were low, debts very hard to collect, bonds given had to be sued for in county courts, many persons were sold up by the sheriff and others thrown into jail. We read of men locking themselves in their houses to escape arrest357 and making the best terms they could with their creditors. Though business had always been done on a credit basis, in a country where money was “hard to come at,” as the phrase went, there had never been a time when indebtedness among all classes of the population had run so long or reached such high figures. The country storekeepers, unable to collect from the farmers, could not pay the city merchant who furnished them sugar and rum from the West Indies and manufactured goods from England, while he in turn could not meet the current accounts rendered yearly by the British merchant, and had to shorten his orders or suffer the chagrin of having them refused, because the commission merchants or manufacturers in London, Liverpool, Bristol, or Hull were unwilling to extend further credit.358

    The current of indebtedness was always toward Great Britain. The farmers were in debt to the country merchants and local storekeepers, the latter to the city merchants and wholesale importers, and they in their turn to the commission merchants and manufacturers in England. While it is true that a great deal of business was by barter and exchanges in kind, yet book balances had to be settled in money, either paper or cash in America and cash or bills of exchange in England, that is, in sterling. Book debts359 were not available as assets and notes as a rule were not accepted. In the colonies credit ran generally from four to six months, while between England and the colonies the period was from nine to twelve months, after which interest was charged. In making payment in England, coin — generally dollars, sometimes gold—was shipped in bulk, or bills of exchange were sent, and these had to be bought with cash, for unless a merchant had a balance of his own in England he had to purchase a bill of other merchants who acted as brokers, and such bills were always difficult to obtain in small amounts and sometimes could not be obtained at all or only at high rates of exchange.

    The period we are considering furnishes ample evidence of the difficulties which the merchants in America had to meet their debts in England. One concrete illustration, in no way exceptional or peculiar, is of more value, however, than many generalizations. I take the following quotations from the Collins Papers, to which reference has already been made.

    On July 13, 1762, Neate and Pigon wrote: “We have lately been so extremely badly remitted from Phila that it puts it out of our power to give such extensive credits. . . . It greatly hurts us not to be paid in time . . . consider what must become of us to be detained out of One hundred thousand pounds perhaps for many months after the Invoice is due. Our Capital is not large enough and indeed times have been so bad that no fortune in England can support such credits.”

    On February 13, 1763, they complained of “the backwardness of our friends in your city in their payment,” and on February 18, 1765, pointed out that Collins owed them £1024, “now all considerably overdue” (March 14, 1765), some of it of three years’ and some of it of two years’ standing. “It is an unreasonable credit and such which requires the Bank of England to support,” and on January 1, 1766, they wrote for £699, “being in much distress for money.” Mildred and Roberts, to whom Collins owed £3037, wrote, a few months later, “Though the money may be safe in thy Hands, yet it will not pay our debts here and Interest is no Equivalent to the Disappointment in our Trade.”360

    Collins was a conscientious man of business and as early as 1763 reduced his orders, hoping to strike a balance.361 He was “fearful of not being able to remit in due time,” though he was encouraged to think that trade would “a little revive.” But he was disappointed. In 1765 he wrote, “The situation of trade with us is at present very dull,” and he could not remit owing to the “sudden stagnation of business amongst us.” He speaks of the many debts due him, some of which were “unsafe.” In 1768, David and John Barclay refused to open business with him, because they had too many connections with Philadelphia and had been disappointed in their remittances. “That determines us at present not to open any new accounts at least with such only whose Capitals will enable them to preserve that punctuality we used formerly to experience from our old Friends in your City and is absolutely necessary to render a connection acceptable; so confident we are that we will venture to assert under the late and indeed present state of your Trade, it is not in the power of any man with a slender Capital to give that satisfaction to his correspondents either he could wish or they expect.” Even in 1769, Collins could write, “The great difficulty we labour under either in selling goods for cash at any profit or in collecting it where it has been long overdue.” He had succeeded in reducing his debt to Hyde and Hamilton to £167 in 1767, but he did not clear himself of his indebtedness to Neate till 1771, when the account current rendered in December showed a balance in Collins’s favor of £514, and in consequence Neate sent him a hamper of porter and a North Wiltshire cheese.362

    While in individual cases and in certain sections such as Charles Town363 and parts of the West Indies, the balance of trade was against England, in the region from North Carolina northward it was in England’s favor during the eighteenth century with the single exception of the period from 1774 to 1777. Imports and exports approached most nearly an equilibrium during the non-importation period, the year 1769 especially, when the balance was only slightly in England’s favor. At all other times the imports largely exceeded the exports, though the volume of excess varied during our period from £200,000 in 1769 to £4,000,000 in 1771, with a mean of about £800,000.364 This meant that a debt existed to the English merchants which American merchants and planters were trying to pay off as rapidly as they could. But when trade was dull, times hard, markets bad, prices low and falling, stocks glutted, and money scarce, the merchants in England and Scotland suffered no less than did those in America. The merchants’ letters to their American correspondents, already quoted, show their apprehensions. Others are to the same effect. “Never was such times here before,” wrote Jeremiah Osborn of London to Aaron Lopez in 1767; Henry Cruger, writing in the same year from Bristol, spoke of the “close Dunning from necessitous Manufacturers and Tradesmen” to which he was subjected, and said that nothing but “a great share of Natural Fortitude of Mind” kept him “from sinking under [his] present Calamities.” The situation in Scotland was worse even than in England. “People of the best credit cannot borrow a shilling. The Glasgow and Edinburgh banks lending none and calling in all their credits, offering by public advertisements 5 pct for any sums at any time,” wote Robert Allason, in 1763, when he was in great distress for money. “Public credits are bad, stocks lower than ever known before. London exchange 3 pet against us, and a general stagnation of payments here, so that I never remember things in a worse situation.” If bills of exchange, he writes again, are not sent “they wont find a man in Britain that will lend them £500 cash on their joint credit. I never knew such times. Trade is still very bad, credit quite at a stand. In short this country was never in such a situation and if things dont mend soon there must be a general bankruptcy” (1764).

    Thus it is evident that during the first half of the decade trade conditions in England, Scotland, and America were unsatisfactory and growing worse. The grievances of the Boston merchants outlined with unusual fulness the opinions generally held by merchants and expressed more or less fully in their letters. But while specific grievances affected each section and seaport differently, the one great grievance that seemed to affect all alike was the scarcity of hard money. While local debts could be paid in kind or in paper currency, British balances had to be met in johannes, moiodores, pistoles, dollars, and pistareens, according to their value as sterling. The royal revenues had to be met in the same manner. It did not make any difference to the man who paid these duties that they might not in all cases be sent to England to be receipted for at the Exchequer. He had to pay them in any case, and if the amounts received were spent or might be spent in America, the whole eventually found its way across the water to meet trade balances. Whatever may be the actual facts in the case, the colonists believed that their hard money was being drawn off to England.365 Even as early as 1763, Van Cortlandt could write from New York, “Nothing is at present in so grate demand as cash, the London ships have carried off the gratest part of our silver and gold.”

    If this was the case before 1764, it was much more true after that date, when the collections, as entered in the Receiver General’s accounts,366 show large increases, when the West Indian trade, which brought in much hard money, was rigidly controlled, and when smuggling was reduced almost to a standstill.367 The Stamp Act congress sounded a note of warning when it declared that the scarcity of specie rendered the payment of “the duties imposed by several late acts of parliament absolutely impracticable.” The warning was hardly needed, for the danger was in every one’s mind. The town of Roxbury said in 1769, that instead of being reconciled to the revenue acts, “thro’ length of time which hath a tendency to wear off the gloom of difficulties, we daily find them more and more burdensome; and when we view the trade and commerce of the province under a very sensible decay and loaded with embarrassments, and the little circulating cash which we have left daily draining from us and the revenue officers like the horse leech cry, Give, Give, our groans and complaints are increased.”368 Salem reported that 7000 ounces of silver had been collected from the Townshend duties on goods “brought to town for exportation or consumption,” thus impoverishing provinces “to maintain swarms of useless officers in luxury and extravagance;”369 and one enterprising writer estimated in 1768 that the silver already drawn from the province “if beat into plates would entirely cover the road to the Borders of York government,” but that the sum, large as it was, “would not in any ways equal the amount lost to the province by the destruction of its trade.”370


    Such a situation as this called for drastic remedies. The popular solution of the difficult problem was frugality and thrift in daily life, the refusal to purchase certain articles that could be obtained only by importation from abroad, the manufacture of such necessities as might be made in America, and the finding of substitutes in cases where articles or commodities could not be duplicated. The movement against extravagance in dress and lavishness and display at funerals had begun early in the decade, but the first certain hint of a non-consumption policy, as a reply to the British revenue measures, was given early in November, 1764, in a letter to Jasper Mauduit in England, in which the writer or writers asserted that as their trade would be greatly cramped by the scarcity of money, necessity would oblige them to do without such luxuries as cambric, lawn, calico, and other foreign imports, and Spanish and Portuguese wines.371

    But no definite step appears to have been taken until after the passage of the Townshend Act was known in America, when on October 28, 1767, a large number of the people of Boston came together in town meeting and having presented in vigorous language a statement of existing evils — heavy indebtedness, burdensome taxation, a declining trade suffering under great embarrassments and heavy impositions, scarcity of money, and an unfavorable balance of trade — entered into a formal self-denying agreement not to purchase, after December 31st, some forty articles of luxury or superfluity — silks, diamonds, furs, and millinery — and sundry commodities — glue, starch, cheese, etc. — that were probably deemed capable of production in America. At the same time the meeting put itself on record against importation and in favor of manufacturing, particularly of glass and paper, and warmly advocated the cultivation of a spirit of frugality, hoping thereby to find “a more promising prospect of emerging from the present alarming situation.”372 On the 30th a committee which had been named at the meeting met and began to arrange for subscriptions to the agreement, the form of which had already been prepared. In the meantime the selectmen despatched a letter to other towns in Massachusetts and the near-by provinces, with a copy of the Boston agreement. Providence, following the lead of Boston in all details, adopted the resolves in town meeting on December 2d,373 and Newport did the same on November 26th. Roxbury374 passed a similar resolution on December 7th.

    The frugality cry was taken up by other towns, was carried northward to Maine and southward to Plymouth and the Cape, was heard in Connecticut, where Windham and Norwich were the first towns to respond, and, as the news spread by the gazettes travelled further south, found welcome in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and approval in the remoter bounds of Charles Town and Savannah.375 “Save your money and you can save your country” expressed in simple form this self-denying purpose, a purpose that found a place in the daily life of every individual and acted somewhat after the fashion of a body of sumptuary laws. To practise abstention and so to decrease the demand for European goods was within the range even of the humblest, and to lay off ribbons, laces, velvets, silks, and other forms of expensive dress became the first object of the new movement. To wear colonial-made clothing, native homespun, was the inevitable corollary, and everywhere gave added zest to household spinning and weaving. The ladies, young and old, became the sponsors of the new fashion, they donned clothing of their own manufacture, held spinning and weaving parties, and vied with each other, as town competed with town, to make a record of skeins spun and yards produced. From sunrise to sunset, out-of-doors in fair weather and indoors in stormy, spinning bees376 became the centres of social activity, and in Massachusetts premiums were offered for the best pieces of cloth, serge, sagathy, and shalloon woven in the colony.377 The men responded less enthusiastically to the new demand and took less kindly to this curtailment of their habits of dress and their social and sporting pleasures. Homespun was neither becoming nor fashionable, and the pleasures of the table, the tavern, and the race-course were not easily resigned, especially in the South.378 In some quarters the ladies endeavored to make the spinning parties as agreeable as possible to the men, by adding dancing and other festivities to the closing routine of the day, but elsewhere such frivolity was frowned upon and prayer and singing terminated the performance.379 The pleasure of these and other occasions must have been somewhat tempered by the substitution of Hyperion tea for the customary Hyson and Bohea, and by the use of burnt barley, or small field peas, burnt carefully with butter and ground, which were extolled as equal to the best West India coffee.380 The many manifestations of the new temper of the colonists met with high popular approval and were widely commented on in the press. At a wedding in Windham the ladies dressed chiefly in clothes of their own making and drank Labrador tea.381 A citizen of Newport declared that he would not vote for any of the candidates at a coming election who did not appear principally clothed in cloth made either in Rhode Island or in some part of America, and one of the clauses of the Newport agreement of October 30, 1769, was to the same effect.382 The tailors of the same town had a meeting and offered to work fourpence cheaper on the manufactures of America than on those of other countries and to exact twenty-five per cent more in making up velvet, silk, and broadcloth, costing over ten shillings a yard.383 In Massachusetts, members of the Council and the House of Representatives, and the clergy generally, promised to wear cloth and shoes384 of their own manufacture,385 and the senior classes at Harvard, Yale, and the College of Rhode Island, now Brown University, appeared in homespun on the occasion of their graduation.386 Harvard students, on October 24, 1768, resolved not to use tea, and the people of the towns around entered into the same resolution, while here and there, by formal vote, a town would declare a similar intention.387 The reaction against excessive extravagance at funerals,388 in dress, carriages, and rings and gloves to the mourners, had long been under way in the North, and now spread to the South, and the people of Charles Town began to clothe themselves in their own manufactures, reducing the “enormous expense of funerals,” therein following “the patriotic example lately set by Christ. Gadsden, Esq., when he buried the best of wives,” until it seemed according’ to a local opinion that black at funerals would be “only worn by the fashionable gentry of the Ethiopian race.”389 In order not to diminish the number of sheep and so to lessen the woollen manufacture, towns, fire companies, and individuals, here and there, took solemn counsel to eat no more lamb or mutton during the year.390

    Perhaps the only article upon which an import duty was imposed by the Townshend Act, that was deemed indispensable to the colonists, was paper, and during the years from 1767 to 1770, when the duty was removed, the manufacture of paper was a matter of great concern. The call for rags, white and clean, became something of a slogan. Save your rags “if you really love your country” was the way one newspaper put it,391 while another enumerated abstention from tea, the manufacture of paper, and the “wearing old cloths until they were threadbare”392 as the cardinal points of the frugality doctrine. Paper of excellent quality was made at Milton, Massachusetts, and was used extensively in the province at this period,393 but the shortness of the supply rendered strict economy necessary.394 As rags were always scarce, even under the prevailing disposition to save them, substitutes were suggested, such as tow, which was discarded in the manufacture of flax.

    But the promotion of manufactures had a wider purpose to serve than the furtherance of the cause of frugality. It was agreed from Massachusetts to Virginia that a marked increase of manufacturing would bring England to terms,395 and this belief found expression in the resolutions passed in the town meetings of Boston, Providence, New York, and Philadelphia.396 At Boston, subscription papers for those who wished to cooperate in establishing specific manufactures were placed in the town clerk’s office and received considerable attention. Philadelphia laid stress upon the making of paper, but Boston and New York seem to have interested themselves chiefly in the manufacture of duck and linen, hoping thereby to accomplish the double purpose of employing the poorer classes, in distress because of the money stringency, and of arousing England’s fears lest the northern colonies should become a centre of manufactures in competition with the mother country. The Boston undertaking was a matter of great interest to the Merchants’ Society, and its execution was entrusted to a committee of its members. This committee raised funds, erected buildings, set certain of the poor at work, and calculated very carefully the profit and loss of the enterprise. But how long the effort was continued or whether it was a success or not, I am unable to say.397


    The idea of non-importation of goods from England, as a measure not of economy but of retaliation and boycott, for the express purpose of enforcing a redress of grievances, must have been in the minds of the merchants of America for some time before the plan was finally adopted. It followed the rejection by the House of Commons of the various petitions sent over against the Stamp Act, and was due, as we are told, to the belief that after such rejections the colonists had “nothing to hope for but from themselves.”398 The idea took shape first in New York in October, 1765, apparently among the merchants, who on the 31st of that month gathered in the Long Room of George Burn’s tavern, the old house of James De Lancey, and there passed resolutions constituting the first non-importation agreement in America. The merchants engaged that none of them should order any goods from England till the Stamp Act was repealed, that the orders already sent out, and not executed, should be countermanded, with certain exceptions, and that they would accept no goods on commission or assist in the sale of any sent there. This agreement was signed by two hundred merchants, while the retailers, a few days afterwards, promised “not to buy any goods, wares or merchandize of any person or persons whatsoever, that shall be shipped from Great Britain after the first day of January next, unless the Stamp Act shall be repealed.”399 The Albany merchants, always influenced by the policy of their New York brethren, entered into a similar agreement in January, 1766.400

    The merchants of Philadelphia, “in imitation of the noble example of New York,” gathered together, in November, 1765, and to the number of three hundred and seventy signed a memorial and entered into a non-importation agreement. The memorial laid stress on the drain of specie, due to the balance of trade, which was heavily against Pennsylvania, even under the most favorable conditions. The terms of the agreement were these: (1) To instruct their correspondents in England not to ship goods until the Stamp Act was repealed; (2) to countermand all orders for goods, except in the case of such merchants as were owners of vessels already gone or clearing for Great Britain, who were at liberty to bring back in them coals, casks of earthenware, grindstones, pipes, iron pots, empty bottles, and such other bulky articles as owners were accustomed to load as ballast, but no dry goods of any kind, except such dyestuffs and utensils as were necessary for carrying on manufactures; (3) to continue non-importation until May 1, 1766.401

    Of the three leading seaports, Boston was the last to act. On November 25th the Boston Gazette hoped that Philadelphia’s example would be followed by the merchants of this and other American ports, and appealed to householders generally to refuse to buy English goods, “even though it should be to the ruin of a few private and selfish men.” Once a beginning were made, it said, the spirit would “ketch from town to town and province to province, than which nothing can more contribute to a speedy redress of our grievances.” The Boston merchants were quick to respond. On November 30th the call for a meeting was sent out to be held on December 3d, in the afternoon, at the British Coffee House, and there an agreement was adopted, which was renewed and recast in more formal fashion on the 9th, and signed by over two hundred merchants. The terms were substantially the same as those of Philadelphia, except in the list of exemptions, which included hemp, canvas, salt, coals, grindstones, pipes, empty bottles, wool-cards, brimstone, copperas, dyeing stuffs, utensils for carrying on manufactures, and such articles as might be absolutely necessary for carrying on the fishery. The resolves were to be binding on all subscribers, as soon as two hundred of those who were engaged in trade in Massachusetts had signed it, and was to last until May 5, 1766. By December 16th the required number had been obtained, and the news was brought to Boston that the merchants and traders of both Salem and Marblehead had “unanimously come into the same resolve.”402 The combined action of the three leading cities had the desired effect. Through the efforts of the British merchants, who spared no pains to accomplish the result, the Stamp Act was repealed. The first effort at non-importation was successful because the merchants on both sides of the water confined their statements of grievances to matters of trade and finance.

    But an opportunity for a second and more noteworthy experiment soon came. On June 29, 1767, the Townshend Act, which levied a duty on glass, lead, painters’ colors, tea, and paper, became a law, to go into effect the 20th of November following. The non-consumption campaign was in full vigor and the merchants, deeming the new imposts less injurious to trade than the other burdens and restrictions, at first confined their non-importing activities to articles of luxury, under the agreement of October 28, 1767.403 But the events of the winter of 1767–1768 and the manner in which the American Board of Customs Commissioners put the act into execution must have influenced the merchants to revive the expedient of 1765 and to adopt again the plan of stopping, under certain limitations, the importing of goods from Great Britain. On March 1, 1768, a meeting of the Body, made up of ninety-eight merchants, was held at the British Coffee House, and with William Phillips as moderator voted to try again the non-importation plan. The Body chose a committee, of which John Rowe was chairman and Edward Payne secretary. This committee met on the 3d and again in an all-day session on the 4th and framed the articles of the agreement. The report was unanimously approved at the meeting of the Body on the evening of the 4th, and, among others, the following articles were adopted:

    Voted, That we will not for one year send for any European Commodities Excepting Salt, Coals, Fish hooks and lines, Hemp and Duck, Barr-lead and Shott, Wool-cards and Card-wire.

    Voted, That in the purchase of such articles as we shall stand in need of we will give a constant preference to such Persons as shall subscribe to these Resolutions.

    Voted, That we will in our separate capacities inform our several Correspondents of the Reasons and point out to them the Necessity of withholding our usual order for their Manufactures, to the end that the said Impediments may be removed and Trade and Commerce may again flourish.

    Voted, That these Votes and Resolutions be obligatory or binding on us from and after the time that these or other similar or tending to the same salutary purpose be adopted by most of the principal trading Towns in this and the neighboring colonies.404

    In obtaining subscriptions to this agreement, certain questions arose which were dealt with at an adjourned meeting on the 9th, when it was voted that subscribers were “bound not to forward their orders for any goods till the first Tuesday in May” (1768), in order that the “determination of the merchants and traders in the neighbouring Towns and Colonies” might be known, and a committee was appointed, John Hancock, chairman, John Rowe, Edward Payne, William Phillips, Melatiah Bourne, Henderson Inches, and John Erving, Jr., “to correspond with the Merchants in the other Trading Towns and Provinces.” Letters were sent out on the 16th by this committee to points as far south as Charles Town, urging the merchants to cooperate in the non-importation movement, on the ground that a refusal to import goods would procure relief and be of more service than any remonstrance.405 In response to this letter, the Providence merchants met on the 17th and adopted the agreement. Two weeks later the merchants of New York began a series of meetings, at one of which, held at Bolton and Sigel’s tavern on April 8th, was established the New York Chamber of Commerce,406 composed of twenty-four merchants, organized for the purpose of “encouraging commerce, supporting industry, adjusting disputes relative to trade and navigation, and procuring such laws and regulations as [might] be found necessary for the benefit of trade in general.” A week later, acting on the report of a committee appointed to obtain the general sentiment of the merchants, importers, and retailers, a non-importation agreement was entered upon, constituting a voluntary engagement to each other that they would not “sell on their own accounts or on commission, nor buy or sell for any person. whomsoever any goods [save a very few enumerated articles] which shall be shipped from Great Britain after October 1, 1768, until the acts are repealed,” providing Boston and Philadelphia adopted similar measures by June 1st, following.407

    Letters were immediately sent to the merchants of Philadelphia and Boston, and on the 25th the former, with the letters of both Boston and New York before them, met at “The Lodge,” and after listening to an address on the grievances of the colony408 took into consideration the question of non-importation. No decision was reached at this meeting, and during July the merchants continued to meet and to consider a number of objections, chief among which was the fear lest non-importation according to the New York plan should “serve to create a monopoly by enabling the merchants with capital to lay in a large stock of the proscribed commodities before the agreement became effective.”409 Boston on the other hand acted at once. On May 2, 1768, the whole Body met in the Representatives Room in the Town House, and there accepted the resolutions of New York, binding themselves not to write for any goods after June 1st nor to import any after October 1st, until the Townshend duties were removed. On the same day Gloucester, probably acting on the Boston letter of March 16th, promised to stop importation for a year from the date of the meeting.410

    Hillsborough’s circular letter of April 21, 1768, to the governors of all the colonies in America, roused a great deal of resentment among the colonists. It was called out by the general letter issued on February 11th by the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and was addressed to the speaker of the assembly of each colony upon the continent of North America, and characterized that letter as “of a most dangerous and factious tendency calculated to inflame the minds of the king’s subjects in America.” Such an interpretation was rightly deemed unjust and absurd. Hillsborough’s further demand that the governors persuade their assemblies to ignore the letter and to treat it “with the contempt it deserved” created in the colonists a deeper sense of their common interest and so furthered the cause of non-importation. This ill-advised measure, taken in conjunction with the attempts made in the summer of 1768 to enforce the acts of trade, not only added to the grievances of the importers and merchants generally but strengthened their determination to persist in their work. On July 18th, the Standing Committee, consisting of John Rowe, John Hancock, Edward Payne, Henderson Inches, Melatiah Bourne, and Thomas Boylston, met at the British Coffee House, and on the 25th issued a call for a general meeting at Faneuil Hall, “to consult measures for the better regulation of the trade.” The general meeting was postponed until August 1st, but on the 28th the committee drew up the following resolutions:

    The Merchants and Traders in the Town of Boston, having taken into consideration the deplorable situation of the Trade and the many difficulties it at present labours under on account of the scarcity of money, which is daily decreasing for want of other remittances to discharge our debts in Great Britain and the large sums collected by the officers of the Customs for duties on goods imported — the heavy taxes levied to discharge the debts contracted by the governments in the late warr — the embarrassments and restrictions laid on the Trade by the several late acts of parliament, together with the bad success of our Cod Fishery this season and the discouraging prospect of the Whale Fishery by which our principal sources of Remittances are like to be greatly diminished, and we thereby rendered unable to pay the debts we owe the Merchants in Great Britain and to continue the importation of goods from thence,

    We, the subscribers, in order to relieve the Trade under those discouragements, to promote industry, frugality and oeconomy and to discourage luxury and every kind of extravegance, do promise and engage to and with each other as follows.

    That we will not send for or import from Great Britain this Fall, either on our own account or on commission, any other goods than what are already ordered for the Fall supply.

    That we will not send for or import any kind of goods or merchandize from Great Britain, either on our own account or on commission or any otherwise, from January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770, except salt, coals, fishhooks and lines, hemp, duck, bar-lead and shot, wool-cards and card-wire.

    That we will not purchase of any factors or others any kind of goods imported from Great Britain, from January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770.

    That we will not import on our own account or on commission or purchase from any who shall import from any other colony in America from January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770, any tea, glass, paper, or other goods commonly imported from Great Britain.

    That we will not from and after January 1, 1769, import into the province any tea, paper, glass, or painters’ colours until the acts imposing duties on these articles have been repealed.411

    These resolutions were presented to the Whole Body when it finally met at Faneuil Hall on August 1, 1768, and were there formally adopted, “with greater unanimity than was shown in the time of the Stamp Act.”412 There were present at the meeting, however, but sixty-two merchants, of whom sixty entered their names as subscribers,413 thus constituting a new body, the Subscribers, within the older group of those who had become members of the Society in 1763, and a very much smaller number than were those who signed the agreement in 1765. Already the old organization was breaking up. Though between August 1st and 8th the number of subscribers was increased, the increase does not appear to have been marked, and it is likely that the meeting of August 8th, at which one hundred were present, was a gathering of those only who had promised to support the movement.414 The lead of Boston was followed by adjoining towns. Salem, after many meetings held between August 23d and September 6th, finally adopted on the latter date the Boston resolutions without alteration.415 Other towns did the same, and where formal agreements were wanting resolutions of approval were passed in town meeting.416

    The New York merchants, acting under the influence of the Boston agreement and hoping to meet the objections of the Philadelphia merchants, now reconsidered the situation, and entered into a new arrangement of a much more detailed and definite character. On August 27, 1768, they subscribed the following resolves:

    That we will not send for from Great Britain, either upon our own account or on commission, this Fall, any other goods than what we have already ordered.

    That we will not import any kind of merchandize from Great Britain, either on our own account or on commission or any otherwise, nor purchase from any factor or others, any kind of goods imported from Great Britain directly or by way of any of the other colonies or by way of the West Indies that shall be shipped from Great Britain after November 1, until the fore-mentioned acts of parliament imposing duties on paper, glass, tea, or painters’ colours be repealed, except only coals, salt, sailcloth, wool-cards and card-wire, grindstones, chalk, lead, tin, sheetcopper, and German steel.

    We further agree not to import any kind of merchandize from Hamburgh and Holland directly from thence, nor by any other way whatever, more than what we have already ordered (except tiles and bricks).

    We also promise to countermand all orders given for Great Britain, on or since the 16th inst., by the first conveyance, ordering those goods not to be sent unless the fore-mentioned duties are taken off.

    And we further agree that if any person or persons, subscribers thereto, shall take any advantage by importing any kind of goods that are herein restricted, directly or indirectly, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this agreement such person or persons shall by us be deemed enemies to this country.

    Lastly, we agree that if any goods shall be consigned or sent over to us, contrary to our agreement in this subscription, such goods so imported shall be lodged in some public warehouse, there to be kept under confinement until the fore-mentioned acts are repealed.

    This agreement was signed “by nearly all the merchants in town,” and several days later, on September 5th, the retailers and tradesmen made a formal promise to support the merchants and to refrain from dealing with such of them as did not adhere to or subscribe the articles adopted on August 27th.417

    This revised and enlarged agreement of the New York merchants, though showing traces of Boston influence, is a distinct advance in the direction of greater fulness and rigidity. For the first time violators were construed as “enemies of the country,” for the first time the requirement was made that goods sent contrary to the agreement should be stored in warehouses until the acts were repealed, and for the first time since 1765 the retail merchants entered formally into the movement. The promise to countermand all orders sent since August 16th and to import no goods from Holland or Hamburg seem designed on the one hand to prevent an accumulation of goods and so to meet the Philadelphia charge of monopoly, on the other to put a stop to smuggling from the European Continent contrary to the Act of 1663.418 When the news of New York’s action reached Boston, it was greeted with manifest approval. At a town meeting held on September 13th, a vote was passed expressing “high satisfaction,”419 and at Providence an agreement was entered into in town meeting on October 24th, similar to that of New York.

    Philadelphia had thus far taken no part in the movement, and expressions of contempt because of the “tame disposition” of the Philadelphians began to appear. One New York writer, probably angry at the objections raised by the Philadelphia merchants, wrote:

    It is said that it is owing only to a few dry goods merchants that the agreement is not made. It is a most melancholy consideration that only a few inhabitants of one City, contemptible to the last degree for their mercenary principles and abject pusilanimity should be able to obstruct and even disconcert measures so universally applauded. That Merchants of Dry Goods, a business, which though at some times necessary, certainly drains the colonies of their specie, more than all other professions put together (even that of the lawyers not excepted) — that this least useful part of the community should be able to do this is humiliating and contemptible and all people and tradesmen should treat them as they deserve.420

    But Philadelphia was reaching the end of her vacillation. On September 28, 1768, Stephen Collins wrote:

    There is some combination at present in agitation respecting non-importing goods on account of the duties, etc, as there is a meeting advertised for that purpose to-morrow, but I rather think they will not succeed in so injudicious a step.421

    In November, 1768, and again in February, 1769, the Philadelphia merchants drafted and sent memorials to the merchants of England, recounting their grievances and urging intervention in their behalf. In the first memorial, which was based on an earlier draft of November 1, 1765, they confined themselves to trade restrictions, but in the second, which was printed and sent to individual correspondents in all the English cities, they declared the acts of parliament to be unconstitutional and destructive of their rights as British subjects, and they said that unless their trade was speedily relieved from “those unnatural and useless fetters” commerce between Great Britain and the colonies must of necessity greatly diminish and the general importation of goods suddenly cease.422

    In this memorial of February 6, 1769, the Philadelphia merchants raised for the first time, as far as the merchants were concerned, the constitutional claim, which, though frequently and strongly presented hitherto by individuals, town meetings, and general assemblies, had not as yet been taken up by the traders and importers in their complaints. In so doing the Philadelphians were changing their status as merchants into that of patriots and radicals. It was a significant change, for just as the resolutions of the New York and Massachusetts assemblies aroused resentment in England, because of the stress laid upon rights and privileges and the so-called illegal and unconstitutional encroachments of crown and parliament, claims which Englishmen could not understand and would not tolerate, so now the appearance of the same argument in the merchants’ memorial offended many of their English friends, and chilled the enthusiasm of many of those who had been chiefly responsible for the repeal of the Stamp Act and were in the main sympathetic to the American side of the case, as long as it concerned trade grievances only. The memorial423 reached England at about the same time as did the petition of the New York assembly424 of December 17th to the House of Lords and the resolutions of the same body adopted December 31st, the latter of which, we are told, so exasperated the House of Commons that the merchants’ plea had no chance of consideration. Many of the British merchants wrote to America that the time was not opportune for energetic action on their part, but that as parliament was probably favorable to a repeal of the Townshend Act, it would be better to wait. They urged upon their friends in America to abstain from violence, apply themselves steadily to the encouragement of frugality and manufactures, adhere to non-importation, and say less about the constitutional issue. The Philadelphia merchants were highly esteemed in England and their relations with their English correspondents are exceedingly instructive, but unfortunately for the hope of a peaceful settlement of the dispute, the advice from England was disregarded, and from this time forward both acts of violence and renewals of the constitutional claims served but to widen the breach.425

    At the meetings of February 6th and March 10th the Philadelphia merchants finally committed themselves to the cause of non-importation.426 Though I can give no copy of the final compact, its terms are probably much the same as those of Newcastle County, Delaware, which were adopted on August 28, 1769,427 and reproduce those of Philadelphia, as did the New Haven terms reproduce those of New York, and the Salem and Gloucester terms those of Boston. The compact, which is deserving of careful study, runs as follows:

    We the subscribers, freeholders, and freemen, of the County of New-Castle, upon Deleware, taking into consideration, that our trade is restricted, our rights invaded, arbitrary courts, wholy dependent upon ministers, erected over us, our present security destroyed, by some late acts of the British parliament; and that a plan is laid, and measures adopted in our mother country, which, if carried into execution, must soon deprive us of even the shadow of liberty, and of everything that is dear and valuable to English-men; And, being of the opinion, that it is not only lawful, but our indispensible duty, to use our utmost influence to avert the calamity, misery and slavery, impending over us, and all our bretheren in North-America; and apprehending that the agreements of the merchants, and traders of these colonies, not to import certain enumerated articles from any part of Great-Britain, until the said acts of parliament are repealed, are wise, just and salutary, and will have a great tendency to this end; DO hereby testify and declare our approbation of them to prefer the future welfare of their country to their present private emolument.

    In order to contribute our mite to this public and patriotic work, and willing to co-operate, as far as in us lies, with those advocates and friends to liberty and their country, do hereby mutually promise, declare and agree, upon our word, honour, and the faith of Christians;

    I. That from and after this date we will not import, or bring into any part of America, any goods, wares or merchandizes what soever, from Great-Britain, contrary to the spirit and intentions of the agreement of the merchants of the City of Philadelphia in the province of Pennsylvania

    II. That we never will have any dealings, commerce or intercourse whatsoever, with any man, residing in any part of the British Dominions, who shall for lucre, or any other purpose, import, or bring, into any part of America, any article or thing contrary to the said agreement.

    III. That any one of us, who shall wilfully break this compact, shall have his name published in the public news-papers as a betrayer of the civil and religious rights of Americans, and be for ever after deemed infamous and an enemy to this country.428

    Thus step by step the northern colonies were closing their ports to British goods. Albany came in during the summer of 1769.429 Salem, Marblehead, and Gloucester had already adopted the Boston terms, and New Haven, which had received an urgent letter from New York in April, now on July 10th entered the ranks.430 Though Nantucket refused to bind herself formally by any engagement, her merchants were in spirit and practice sympathetic to the cause. The Connecticut assembly on October 9, 1769, passed resolutions expressing warm approval of the agreements,431 and on the 18th the New Jersey assembly formally extended its thanks to New York and Philadelphia for “their disinterested and public spirited conduct.”432 Providence gave in her accession on October 10th,433 Newport on October 30th,434 Wethersfield on December 25th,435 Middletown436 on February 20, 1770, Watertown437 in March, and Falmouth (Portland) on June 26th of that year.438 Many inland towns, such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which received their goods from the seaboard importers, agreed not to deal with those who broke the compact.439 In the country districts where non-importation was a matter of less serious consequence than it was in the seaports, the plan was seized upon with avidity, and the town meetings passed resolutions, often extravagant and denunciatory, against the importation of English and Scottish goods.440 Portsmouth alone of all the seaports of the North remained open to British trade. Though many attempts were made to bring the merchants there into line, beginning with the town meeting of July 8, 1768, and the first call of a merchants’ meeting on September 12th, no decision was reached and Portsmouth remained permanently outside the movement.441

    The South, though acting more slowly, was already keenly alive to the significance of what was taking place. Conditions there were in some ways essentially different from those in the North, for the grievances of the tobacco and rice colonies were bound to vary from those of the bread and provision colonies. The South suffered much less than the Middle Colonies and New England from the trade restrictions and could present no such series of grievances as had been drawn up by the Boston merchants. But the South did suffer from the scarcity of money, and was as deeply impressed as were the colonists anywhere with the so-called illegal and oppressive features of British policy. The southerners were equally ready to encourage frugality, promote manufactures, oppose importation, denounce unconstitutionality, uphold liberty and self-government, and persecute those who differed from them as enemies of the country, as were those of the North, but they omitted many features of the agreements that the North had included, included at least one, regarding negroes, that the North had omitted, and in the case of the tobacco colonies defined non-importation in terms that were much less restrictive. The resolutions of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina were essentially the same in principle. Instead of promising to import no British goods, with a few exemptions, they allowed the “associators” to import all British goods except such as were carefully specified and such as were taxed by parliament, and they limited the operation of the agreement to the time when the repeal of the acts should take place. Thus the three “associations” were less rigid in their terms than were the agreements of the North, and left the merchants free to import many goods that the northerners bound themselves to exclude.

    The first non-importation agreement entered into south of Pennsylvania and Delaware was that of Virginia. Early in April, 1769, Dr. Ross of Bladensburg forwarded to Washington at Mount Vernon the resolves of the Philadelphia merchants, and he in turn sent them to his neighbor, George Mason at Gunston Hall, recommending them for consideration. The latter agreeing with Ross and Washington that something ought to be done, drafted a body of resolutions, suitable for the colony. These resolutions were adopted on May 18, 1769, by the members of the House of Burgesses, which had just been dissolved by the governor, Lord Botetourt, for protesting against parliamentary taxation, and by certain merchants and traders who happened to be in Williamsburg at the time, eighty-eight altogether, meeting in the house of Anthony Hay. After a long preamble and an opening frugality clause, the resolutions proceed as follows:

    Secondly, That they will not at any time hereafter, directly or indirectly, import or cause to be imported any manner of goods, merchandise, or manufactures, which are or shall hereafter be taxed by act of parliament for the purpose of raising a revenue in America (except paper not exceeding eight shillings sterling per ream and except such articles only as orders have been already sent for) nor purchase any such after the first day of September next, of any persons whatsoever. . . .

    Thirdly, That the subscribers will not hereafter, directly or indirectly, import or cause to be imported, from Great Britain or any part of Europe . . . any of the goods hereinafter enumerated, viz, spirits, wine, cider, perry, beer, ale, malt, barley, pease, beef, pork, fish, butter, cheese, tallow, candles, oil, fruit, sugar, pickles, confectionary, pewter, hoes, axes, watches, clocks, tables, chairs, looking glasses, carriages, joiners and cabinet work of all sorts, upholstery of all sorts, trinkets and jewellery, plate and gold, and silversmiths’ work of all sorts, ribband and millinery of all sorts, lace of all sorts, India, goods of all sorts (except spices), silks of all sorts (except sewing silk), cambric, lawn, muslin, gauze (except bolting cloths), calico or cotton stuffs of more than two shillings per yard, linen of more than two shillings per yard, woolens, worsted stuffs of all sorts of more than one shilling and sixpence per yard, broad cloths of all kinds at more than eight shillings per yard, narrow cloths of all kinds at more than three shillings per yard, hats, stockings (plaid and Irish hose excepted), shoes and boots, saddles, and all manufactures of leather and skins of all kinds, until the late acts of parliament imposing on tea, paper, glass, etc, for the purpose of raising a revenue in America are repealed. . . .

    Fourthly, That in all orders which any of the subscribers may hereafter send to Great Britain, they shall and will expressly direct their correspondents not to ship them any of the before enumerated goods until the before mentioned acts of parliament are repealed; and if any goods are shipped to them, contrary to the tenour of this agreement, they will refuse to take the same, or make themselves chargeable therewith.

    Fifthly, That they will not import any slaves, or purchase any imported, after the first day of November next, until the said acts are repealed.

    Sixthly, That they will not import wines of any kind whatever. . . .

    Seventhly, For the better preservation of the breed of sheep, that they will not kill or suffer to be killed, any lambs that shall be weaned before the first day of May, in any year. . . .

    Eighthly and lastly, That these resolves shall be binding on all and each of the subscribers. . .442

    Maryland came in about a month later. On the day after the meeting at Williamsburg, the merchants of Ann Arundel county issued a call for a convention to be held at Annapolis on May 23d. There the “associators” bound themselves not to send any orders to Great Britain until June 30th and not to import any goods whatever “contrary to the spirit and design of the association.” Similar associations were organized in the other counties. Finally on June 22, 1769, representatives from all the counties came together at Annapolis and entered into a general agreement similar to that of Virginia. It was more elaborate, emphasized more conspicuously the constitutional claim, had a much more detailed list of commodities not to be imported, with more exemptions, and a more rigorous local boycotting clause. It also left out the fifth clause of the Virginia resolutions and added another binding the “tradesmen and manufactures” not to raise prices, but to sell everything at the accustomed rates. The agreement was signed by forty-three persons.443

    South Carolina was reported to be ready to enter into a non-importation agreement as early as March, 1769, and the merchants and planters of Charles Town were looking seriously into the question of superfluities, the drain of money, and the amount spent for slaves, but it was not until June 27th that a body of the inhabitants, including twenty-five members of the general assembly, adopted a set of non-importation resolutions, and about ten days later that the merchants adopted another version. After considerable manœuvring, the two plans were consolidated and agreed upon at a general meeting on July 22d. This consolidated plan had been framed the week before by a joint committee and was designed to comprise all the essential parts of the two forms already adopted and circulated for subscribers. The new resolutions were signed by one hundred and forty-two planters, merchants, and mechanics, and a committee of about forty was selected to give force to the association.444 The preamble and resolutions are as follows:

    We, His Majesty’s dutiful and loving Subjects, the Inhabitants of South-Carolina, being sensibly affected with the great Prejudice done to Great Britain, and the abject and wretched condition to which the British Colonies are reduced by several Acts of Parliament lately passed; by some of which the Monies that the Colonists usually and cheerfully spent in the Purchase of all Sorts of Goods imported from Great Britain, are now, to their great Grievance, wrung from them, without their Consent, or even their being representated, and applied by the Ministry, in Prejudice of, and without Regard to, the real Interest of Great-Britain, or the Manufactures thereof, almost totally, to the Support of new-created Commissioners of Customs, Placemen, parasitical and novel ministerial Officers; and by others of which Acts, we are not only deprived of those invaluable Rights, Trial by our Peers and the Common Law, but are also made subject to the arbitrary and oppressive Proceedings of the Civil Law, justly abhorred and rejected by our Ancestors, the Free-Men of England; and finding, that the most dutiful and loyal Petitions from the Colonies Alone, for Redress of those Grievances, have been rejected with Contempt, so that no Relief can be expected from that Method of Proceedings; and, being fully convinced of the absolute Necessity, of stimulating our Fellow-Subjects and Sufferers in Great-Britain to aid us, in this our Distress, and of joining the Rest of the Colonies, in some other loyal and vigorous Methods, that may most probably procure such Relief, which we believe may be most effectually promoted by strict Oeconomy, and by encouraging the Manufactures of America in general, and of this Province in particular: We therefore, whose names are underwritten, do solemnly promise, and agree to and with each other, That, until the Colonies be restored to their former Freedom, by the Repeal of the said Acts, we will most strictly abide by the following


    I. That we will encourage and promote the Use of North-American Manufactures in general, and those of this Province in particular. And any of us, who are Venders thereof, do engage to sell and dispose of them, at the same Rates as heretofore.

    II. That we will upon no Pretence whatsoever, either upon our own Account or on Commission, import into this Province any of the Manufactures of Great-Britain, or any other European or East-India Goods, either from Great Britain, Holland, or any other Place, other than such as may have been Shipped in Consequence of former Orders; excepting only Negro Cloth, commonly called white and coloured Plains, not exceeding one Shilling and Six Pence Sterling per Yard, Canvas, Bolting Cloths, Drugs and Family Medicines, Plantation and Workmens Tools, Nails, Fire Arms, Bar Steel, Gun Powder, Shot, Lead, Flints, Wire Cards and Card wire, Mill and Grind Stones, Fish hooks, printed Books and Pamphlets, Salt, Coals, and Salt-Petre. And exclusive of these articles, we do solemnly promise and declare, that we will immediately countermand all Orders to our Correspondents in Great-Britain, for shipping any Such Goods, Wares and Merchandize: And we will sell and dispose of the Goods we have on Hand, or that may arrive in Consequence of former Orders at the same rates as heretofore.

    III. That we will use the utmost Oeconomy, in our Persons, Houses and Furniture; particularly, that we will give no mourning, or Gloves, or Scarves at Funerals,

    IV. That, from and after the 1st. Day of January, 1770, we will not import, buy, or sell, any Negroes that shall be brought into this Province from Africa; nor, after the 1st. Day of October next, any Negroes that shall be imported from the West-Indies, or any other Place excepting from Africa as aforesaid: And that, if any Goods or Negroes shall be sent to us, contrary to our Agreement in this Subscription such Goods shall be re-shipped or stored, and such Negroes re-shipped from this Province, and not by any Means offered for Sale therein.

    V. That we will not purchase from, or sell for, any Masters of Vessels, transient Persons, or Non-Subscribers, any Kind of European or East-India Goods whatever, excepting Coals and Salt, after the 1st Day of November next:

    VI. That as Wines are subject to a heavy Duty, we agree, not to import any on our Account or Commission, or purchase from any Master of Vessel, transient Person, or Non-Subscriber, after the 1st. Day of January next.

    VII. Lastly, That we will not purchase any Negroes imported, or any Goods or Merchandize whatever, from any Resident in this Province, that refuses or neglects to sign this Agreement, within one Month from the Date hereof; excepting it shall appear he has been unavoidably prevented from doing the same. And every Subscriber who shall not, strictly and literally adhere to this Agreement, according to the true Intent and Meaning hereof, ought to be treated with the utmost Contempt.

    Georgia and North Carolina entered the list last of all in the order named, and while the agreement of the latter followed in the main those of Virginia and Maryland, the agreement of the former was in principle similar to those of South Carolina and the northern cities. Such alignment was the natural outcome of the economic relations of the colonies to each other, for North Carolina, except in the Cape Fear section, had generally identified herself with the tobacco colonies to the northward, while South Carolina and Georgia had many interlocking interests. The news of the non-importation movement reached Savannah as early as October, 1767,445 but it was not until September 12, 1769, that a body of merchants, planters, and tradesmen, possibly aroused by protests from Charles Town, met at the house of Mr. Peat and chose a committee to draft resolutions. This committee reported on the 19th a form of agreement similar to the one later ratified, in which they promised not to import any English, European, or East Indian goods, except a certain number carefully enumerated, including goods for the Indian trade.446 On the 16th the merchants had met separately at the house of Alexander Creighton, and had drawn up a statement of grievances, followed by a resolve that any person importing articles subject to parliamentary taxation should be deemed an enemy to his country.447 Shortly afterwards, at a public meeting held in Savannah, with Jonathan Bryan in the chair, a final agreement was entered into, which was modelled after that of South Carolina, but was differently worded in the preamble and in general much more concisely expressed.448 The Georgia agreement, like that of South Carolina, represented the combined action of the merchants, planters, and people at large.

    In North Carolina the situation was very much like that of Virginia. The assembly was dissolved by Governor Tryon on November 6, 1769. Immediately sixty-four of the seventy-seven members met in the court-house at New Bern, organized themselves as a convention, and appointed a committee to draw up a set of resolutions. The committee’s report was presented on the 7th and formally adopted. The agreement followed that of Virginia, laying less stress on the constitutional claim than did that of Maryland, binding the subscribers not to import slaves, leaving the door open for the importation of Indian goods, as did all the southern colonies, and copying in all but a few particulars the very language of its exemplar.449 With the accession of North Carolina to the ranks of the non-importers, the chain of the colonies was complete. By November, 1769, every one of the original thirteen colonies except New Hampshire, and all of the more important cities except Portsmouth, had either joined the movement or expressed its sympathy with it. Quebec, Montreal, Nova Scotia, and the Floridas did not raise the issue at all.


    When the agreement had once been signed, the procedure followed was everywhere pretty much the same. The first object was to obtain subscribers, for which purpose blanks were distributed widely and considerable pressure of a legitimate character was brought to bear on those who hesitated or refused. While many signed the papers with enthusiasm, others yielded from a sense of duty or for fear of the consequences. Merchants, tradesmen, retailers, wharfingers, and the like, who held out against all persuasion, were deemed enemies to their country, and were avoided socially, excommunicated politically, and boycotted in business. In the same class with non-subscribers were “informers,” “violators” of the agreements, and “revolters” who had broken through, as in New York. If they refused to yield or became aggressive in their resistance, they were liable to coercion and maltreatment, their shops and wharves to damage, and themselves to indignity and suffering. Some were tarred and feathered, carted through the streets, or driven out of town, as in Boston, Salem, and New Haven; some were hung in effigy, as in Boston, New York, and Charles Town; some were stood under the gallows, and others were ducked in the nearest pond.450 Those who dealt with non-subscribers or “violators” were always under suspicion and sometimes had to clear themselves by advertisement, lest their business be ruined.451 The number of those treated in this manner is not large, many who were threatened made voluntary submission, others acquitted themselves before the committees of charges presented by over-zealous persons without sufficient knowledge, while in at least one case where the mob burned goods in storage, the indignant sufferer brought suit against the committee and was awarded damages.452

    In the South, where the associations were the work of the planters and radicals as well as of the merchants, there were large numbers who refused to conform. Probably a majority of the merchants of Norfolk was in opposition to the Virginia association, and in Wilmington and Charles Town, where the movement was dominated by the Sons of Liberty from the beginning, the merchants though acquiescing showed no great enthusiasm.453 There was less hounding of non-subscribers in the South than in the North, but the same efforts were made in both sections to break down opposition.

    In order to prevent the importation of British and other goods contrary to the agreements, subscribers in the North and associators in the South appointed committees of inspection, whose business it was to watch for violations, to examine manifests and cargoes, and to bring doubtful cases before the general body for consideration and settlement. In nearly every city and colony, goods were seized and stored under the direction of such committees, generally in private warehouses, the keys of which were given up, or else such goods were sent back to England or to the colony from whence they came. It was the early practice, particularly in the North, to store the goods, but later, in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, and to a considerable extent in Boston and Philadelphia, they were returned. In some cases ships were not allowed to come to dock, if they were suspected of having forbidden goods on board, and it was deemed important and necessary that the owners of wharves and their wharfingers should be favorable to the cause. In some cases vessels went on from port to port vainly seeking an entry. The Sharpe went to New York, then to Philadelphia, then to Norfolk, but was sent away from each place; the Tristram, sent away from Providence, went to Wethersfield, where the importer was compelled to store the goods.454 In several cases, the importers broke into the warehouses and carried off their own goods,455 and in one instance at least a mob defied the committee, broke open the warehouse, and burnt the goods.456 There was much running of forbidden commodities by night, and the charge was freely made that the warehouses had two doors, one in front and one behind, and where one case of the kind is recorded, there must have been many of which the committees had no knowledge.457

    We are now ready to return to the situation in Boston. On August 1, 1768, the agreement had been signed, committing the merchants to the policy of non-importation, which marked the first line of cleavage in the old Society, between subscribers and non-subscribers. The rift thus made widened when in November rumors got abroad that the merchants in Salem, Marblehead, and Cape Ann were breaking their agreements, and the Standing Committee on January 19, 1769, wrote to Peter Frye, chairman of the merchants’ committee in Salem, asking for information.458 Though the rumor was denied, the committee continued its inquiries, and on April 21st was able to report to the Body that only nine out of two hundred and eleven had imported. The Body then appointed a special inspection committee of seven to examine the manifests of the cargoes and to make further report. This the committee did at an adjourned meeting on the 27th, stating that but seven subscribers had imported, with eight non-subscribers and five, sea captains,459 and that the number, though larger than could be wished, was inconsiderable and the quantity and value of the goods were very small. It warned the public that “the purchasing of any kind of English goods brought from other colonies since January, 1769,” was contrary to the agreement. In consequence of this warning a number of the subscribers turned over for storage goods that had evidently been imported under a misunderstanding.460

    But the non-subscribers refused to yield, and a determined campaign was begun against them. In May, with the design of casting public odium upon them, a printed paper was handed about, containing the names of eleven merchants who refused to conform, and recommending that all citizens should avoid them. Alarmed at reports of the influence which Hillsborough’s letter of May 13th, promising the repeal of the acts in part, was having on the moderates in the town, the Standing Committee met at the Coffee House on June 24th and prepared a new agreement according to which the arrangement of August 1st was to remain in force unless all the revenue acts, those of 1764 and 1766 as well as the Townshend Act, should be repealed. Two days later, the Body met and, renewing the agreement of August 1st, voted unanimously that the removal of the duties on glass, paper, and painters’ colors was not enough, but that all the acts must be repealed. The Body appointed three committees, one to increase subscriptions, one to inspect cargoes, and one to prepare a state of trade grievances.461 This action of the merchants was merely a renewal of the old agreement, but it probably had the effect of creating further dissensions among themselves. Evidently these differences found expression, particularly on the part of non-subscribers, for on August 11th the Body met and voted that the scheme was likely to be efficacious only if adhered to. They denounced as “enemies to trade, their neighbors, and their country” all who continued to import, and declared that if such persons would not submit, their names would be published in the newspapers.

    In consequence of this threat, six of the fourteen non-subscribing firms yielded, but eight refused, and their names were printed in four Boston papers and the Essex Gazette. They were Richard Clark & Son, John Bernard, Nathaniel Rogers, Theophilus Lillie, James McMasters & Co., John Mein, Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., and Elisha Hutchinson.462 Of the eight thus publicly denounced, all but three came in later, leaving John Bernard, James McMasters & Co., and John Mein defiant and refusing even to attend the merchants’ meeting. Two more names were added at a meeting of the merchants in November, Henry Barnes of Marlborough,463 and Ame and Elizabeth Cuming of Boston, and in December four merchants of Marblehead, who refused to enter the agreement there and continued to import and offer for sale, were published in the Boston papers.464

    This publishing of names in the public press gave rise to perhaps the most interesting and instructive incident of the whole nonimportation movement, when one man, employing the press as his weapon and fortifying himself with facts and figures, defied the entire body of subscribers in Boston. John Mein, a Scotsman, had come to New England in October, 1764, and in 1765 opened a book store and circulating library in King Street, just above the British Coffee House on the north side.465 In 1767, he started the Boston Chronicle, one of the best planned and best written of the Boston newspapers, and a year later was chosen stationer to the American Board of Customs Commissioners.466 He had refused to join in the non-importation movement at the time of the Stamp Act, and again refused in 1768, though urgently requested to do so.467 In consequence of this refusal, he was persecuted by the merchants, who exerted all their influence to ruin him. “They applied to his customers to desert him, they sent to the selectmen of every town in the province to promote subscriptions not to deal with him, and they held him up in anonymous handbills and in anonymous advertisements in the newspapers as an enemy to America.” In retaliation he “adopted the plan of exposing them, to accomplish which he printed in his newspaper the manifests of all the cargoes of the vessels that had arrived in the port of Boston from Great Britain since the commencement of the non-importation agreement,” and these, to the number of 4000 sheets of the principal importations, he circulated over all America, from Florida to Nova Scotia. In addition he printed 500 copies of the whole in a quarto pamphlet, one half of which he succeeded in distributing.468 The result was that a mass of incriminating evidence against the Boston merchants was spread broadcast throughout the country, raising, as Mein himself said, “distrust and dissenssion not only in the very heart of the Boston Faction, but between that Faction and the other combining colonies.” Naturally Mein became obnoxious to the Bostonians, his subscribers fell off more than half, his bookselling business was ruined, the signs at his bookstore and printing office were besmeared with dirt, and he himself was treated as an informer and his effigy taken out with that of the Devil on November 5th or Pope Day.469 Attacked by the mob, Mein in defence wounded a grenadier, and as warrants were issued against him he escaped to England. With his later career we are not concerned. Though deeply involved in financial difficulties, he returned to Boston, engaged again in business, and was twice posted for persisting in his refusal to join the movement. He left New England permanently some time after 1771.470

    In the meantime information was received by the merchants that Philadelphia and New York were sending orders to England for goods to be shipped in case the acts should be repealed. As the Boston agreement was to expire at the end of the year, it was necessary to take action for the future, so on October 17th the merchants and traders met and considered what should be done. Feeling that the attitude of Philadelphia and New York did not sufficiently meet their own trade grievances, they voted that orders sent to Great Britain should be conditional, depending not on the repeal of the Townshend Act only but on the repeal of all the acts imposing duties for raising a revenue in America, and they hoped that the merchants elsewhere would come into a similar arrangement. When, however, it was found that the merchants of New York and Philadelphia had already ordered their goods to be shipped, in case the Townshend Act was repealed, and for this and other reasons refused to concur in the agreement of October 17th, proposing only to join in a plan for obtaining the repeal of the Acts of 1764 and 1766, the merchants of Boston, wishing to act in unison with the others, agreed to adopt the Philadelphia and New York plan.471

    On November 7th, the Body voted that merchants might write to their correspondents instructing them to ship in case the Townshend Act was repealed.472 As this vote was certain to antagonize those who had already laid plans for resuming importation after January 1, 1770, and would resent the extension of time which closed the door indefinitely, the meeting voted to publish the names of any shipping goods contrary to the agreement and to hold them up as persons “counteracting the salutary measures the merchants are pursuing to obtain a redress of grievances.” Notwithstanding this vote, which was repeated on December 6th, the number of importers increased and became bolder. Rumors were prevalent that goods were illegally brought in and not stored as the agreement demanded. Complaints came from various quarters, and Newport and Providence, influenced by Mein’s disclosures, charged Boston with violating the agreements.473 The subscribers declared that all these accusations were but part of a “Tory scheme” to interrupt and destroy that “union and harmony” which alone could deliver America, from her burdens.

    Continued infractions474 so alarmed the Trade that on January 16, 1770, a call was issued for a meeting of the Whole Body on the 17th, —

    to receive the report of the committee of inspection relative to the most unaccountable and extraordinary conduct of three or four persons, some of whom have sold, others removed, and others threaten to sell their goods that have been stored, in direct violation of their solemn engagements to the contrary; and to consider and determine on some legal and spirited measures to prevent the non-importation agreement being rendered abortive by the machinations of those few persons, who by behaving in this perfidious manner will most audaciously counteract the whole Continent in the measures now pursuing for the preservation of their liberties.475

    In consequence of this call, the merchants met at Faneuil Hall on January 17th, 18th, and 23d, and decided to break down all opposition by force, if necessary. On the 17th the Whole Body visited the house and store of William Jackson, on the 18th those of the Hutchinsons, Theophilus Lillie, John Taylor, Nathaniel Rogers, and Jackson again. On the 23d, the Hutchinsons having agreed to hand over their goods, they declared the remaining four, together with John Bernard, James and Patrick McMasters, Ame and Elizabeth Cuming, “obstinate and inveterate enemies to their country and subverters of the Rights and Liberties of this Continent,” and they voted to boycott them and outlaw them from the country.476 This action of the merchants, or, as we are justified in saying, of the radicals among them, seemed so akin to disorderly conduct and a disturbance of the peace that Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson sent the sheriff to bid them disperse, but without effect.477 The period was one of tremendous excitement in Boston,478 the Boston Massacre took place on March 5th, and the town was in an uproar and confusion. The Trade had to publish its determination to protect its own members and its printers from insult, and despite the colony act “establishing a watch for the safety and better securing the good order of the town of Boston,” the police conditions were so lax that the populace did about as it pleased, defying court orders, destroying the houses of unpopular citizens and magistrates, tarring and feathering with impunity, gathering in crowds, pelting, jeering, and maltreating without interference. The situation reflects no credit upon the authorities of the town, whose citizens were zealous to do their duty only when fires were to be extinguished and patriotic enterprises executed.479

    The non-importation movement was beginning to pass out of the hands of the merchants and into the control of those to whom trade was a secondary consideration. The Boston town meeting took up the question of how to strengthen the movement and appointed a committee for that purpose.480 Again it entered on its records the names of those who continued to import, that posterity might know “who those persons were that preferred their little private advantage to the common interest of all the colonies,” and again it offered, in burning and eloquent phrases, the thanks of the town to all who stood by the cause. John Rowe frankly expressed his dislike of the proceedings of the Body, thinking them “too severe,”481 and others were doubtless thinking the same. The partial repeal of the Townshend Act in April raised a new issue and the question arose as to whether the agreement should not be modified so as to admit all British goods except tea. The news of the repeal was known in Boston on April 24th and on the 30th a meeting of the Body was held, at which the merchants resolved to stand by the agreement and not to “send for any goods from Great Britain until the act imposing the duty on tea” should be repealed or until “the Trade in order to harmonize with the other colonies” should agree to alter such agreement. It still further enlarged the list of exemptions, adding certain articles that “we cannot at present manufacture in the province in so great quantities as we have occasion for at present.”482 On May 1st, the Salem town meeting, promising to support the agreement of the merchants, took up the question of the importers, who were making trouble there as well as in Boston. The next day, it forced John Appleton, Peter Frye, Abigail Epes, and Elizabeth Higginson to sign an agreement, in accordance with which their imported goods were to be stored under the direction of the committee of inspection.483 Marblehead, Taunton, and other towns joined in this attempt to bolster up a failing cause.


    On May 26th, Newport broke the agreement into which she had entered on October 30, 1769. There had been from the beginning a great deal of intense feeling in the town on the subject of nonimportation, and the disputes among the merchants had been long and heated.484 So prolonged was the controversy that in October, 1769, the Boston merchants had said if Rhode Island did not come in they would treat her as the merchants of New York and Philadelphia had done and instruct their English correspondents to ship her no goods on penalty of losing the Boston trade.485 Though both Providence and Newport agreed to non-importation in October of that year, the opinion prevailed generally that in the case of Newport the merchants were mainly Jews486 and Tories with little enthusiasm for the cause. Rumors had come as early as May 9, 1770, that many of them were breaking the agreement and refusing to allow their goods to be stored, and very likely these rumors were true, for less than three weeks afterwards the break came. On the 26th the merchants voted to resume importation, and immediately sent letters notifying the others of the fact. Boston on the first rumor, having little confidence in Newport’s sincerity, voted non-intercourse, and as the people of that town had not expressed a proper resentment at the action of the merchants, voted to break connection with them also.487

    Philadelphia and New York followed suit. On May 23d the tradesmen and mechanics of the former city declared for non-intercourse, expressing “abhorrence” because of Newport’s rumored defection.488 On May 30th, after the news had actually reached New York, a general meeting was held, not of the merchants, but of the Sons of Liberty, which denounced the Newporters as enemies of their country, voted to have nothing to do with them unless within a month they returned to their duty, and ordered all vessels from Rhode Island, lying in New York harbor, to depart within twenty-four hours. This action was, however, repudiated by the merchants, as the meeting had been called without the knowledge of the committee of inspection, which immediately resigned but was afterwards reëlected.489 Connecticut, on June 1st, adopted resolutions similar to those of Boston.490 Soon after, Hartford, New Haven, Marblehead, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Baltimore, Annapolis, Wilmington, and Charles Town all declared in favor of non-intercourse with Newport and spoke with the utmost bitterness of that “dirty little colony of Rhode Island.”491 Newcastle, Wilmington (Delaware), Chester, and other towns down the Delaware river took alarm and voted to have no dealings with the colony.492

    This widespread vote of non-intercourse with Rhode Island showed either that to most colonial minds Newport was Rhode Island or else that the impression had got abroad that Providence also had departed from her agreement. This impression was partly true, for after the news of the partial repeal of the Townshend Act was known in America, some of the merchants of the city in May held a meeting and agreed to import all British goods except tea. Because of this, or because of a confounding of the two cities, several towns refused the vessels of Providence port entry and Windham published a spirited protest against her. This act angered the people of Providence, who considered themselves sufferers for the conduct of another town, and on May 31st they declared the decision of the merchants “too precipitate,” renewed the old agreement, and passed a vote of censure against both Newport and Boston, resolving to purchase no goods from any one who imported into these towns contrary to the agreement. Newport replied, quoting the fable of the ass who kicked the lion, and citing instances where Providence herself had proved faithless. A writer in the Providence Gazette said:

    The merchants of Newport broke through the agreement and were highly censured by the northern part of the colony. The town of Providence, ’tis well known, passed a vote of censure against them, which they affected to ridicule in a very awkward manner. ’Tis with pleasure, I observe, that none of the colonies have passed any censure upon this town in particular. This was reserved for the little, dirty, insignificant town of Windham, the inhabitants of which, without the least show of reason, have dared publicly to stigmatize a people, than whom none have been more zealous in supporting the cause of American liberty.

    At an adjourned town meeting on June 6th, the merchants acquiesced in a majority vote for the old agreement and the old list of exemptions, and peace was once more restored.493

    This exchange of amenities in the North found their counterpart in the South also, where the merchants of Georgia were apparently paying very little attention to their compact, and were continuing to import without regard to the obligation imposed upon them by their resolutions of September, 1769. They too were influenced by the partial repeal of the Townshend Act and considered their duty done when they excluded from their list of imports the single article, tea, the duty on which had not been removed. Probably this article was smuggled there as elsewhere from Amsterdam or St. Eustatius, so that to all intents and purposes the ports of Georgia throughout the period had been open to British goods. We know that her imports increased from £56,000 to £58,000 during the year 1769. To the Sons of Liberty of Charles Town this breach of faith was a sign of depravity. At the Liberty Tree meeting of September 27th, in denouncing the people of Rhode Island, they denounced those of Georgia also as having “acted a most singularly infamous part from the beginning of the present glorious struggle for the preservation of American liberties to this very instant,” and because of their having basely taken “every possible advantage of the virtuous colonies” they voted to have nothing more to do with them.494

    While thus Charles Town was expressing its opinion of Georgia, Newport of Providence, and Providence of Newport and Windham, and nearly all the colonies were breaking off intercourse with Rhode Island, Portsmouth was having its fling at Boston, and Albany at New York. The Portsmouth merchants had never adopted a non-intercourse agreement, and at this juncture were making extensive importations, which were not only exposed for sale, but were bought freely by the inhabitants of the town. At its meeting on May 25th, the Trade of Boston had resolved to have no intercourse with either the merchants or the inhabitants of Portsmouth, and had sent a letter to the former, urging them to change their attitude. But nothing was done, perhaps for the reason, as one of the Portsmouth people wrote to Boston, that they had no leader to direct public opinion.495 leader was to come, but not one favorable to the Boston proposal. On June 19, Patrick McMasters was “carted out” of Boston and with his brothers fled to Portsmouth. The presence of the McMasters must have served to stiffen the town’s determination to resist, for shortly afterwards the following notification was posted:

    A number of people in the town of Boston have arrogantly published certain resolutions not to trade with this province. The total stopping of the coasting trade with Boston will directly advance the commercial and landed interest of the province. Every friend of the province will joyfully embrace the profer’d opportunity to assert his freedom and scorn all chains, even those forg’d in Boston.496

    The position of Albany is somewhat obscure. Having entered the agreement in the summer of 1769, the merchants had remained outwardly faithful, although there is every reason to believe that Indian and other goods were imported by way of Quebec and Montreal, in disregard of the promises made to New York. Finally on May 18th, hearing that other colonies were “altering” their agreements, Albany decided to “alter” hers also, throwing open the trade to all goods, except tea. New York wrote on May 26th, expostulating so vigorously with the Albany merchants that they rescinded their action and went back to their former position. Naturally they were indignant when news came later of New York’s decision to withdraw, and that too without consulting her sister colonies, and on August 7th the Albany merchants wrote a letter, expressing their opinion of New York in no uncertain terms.497

    While the tide of success was thus ebbing in the outlying sections of the colonial area and discord was raising its ugly head among some of the individual towns, serious weaknesses were manifesting themselves in the very heart of the system itself. In New York and Philadelphia, as well as in Boston, the control of the movement was passing into the hands of the radicals, who under the designation of Sons of Liberty were demanding the continuation of the agreements in all their vigor. This radical party was composed of those who were poor and suffering, heavily in debt and in fear of the sheriff, of the typical frontier unrestrained element, spoiling for a mix-up and easily subject to crowd influences, of honest believers in the constitutional rights and liberties of the colonies and the “unalterable laws of nature,” but with no interest in law or tradition or sympathy with the British colonial argument, and, lastly, of those who profited by smuggling and saw in the perpetuation of the movement a gain rather than a loss to themselves. In Boston and Philadelphia the conservative and radical forces acted more or less in combination, members of the merchant class being among the most active supporters of liberty and constitutional rights; in the smaller towns, where mercantile activities were ancillary to the dominant agricultural life, the radical or patriotic party was generally in control, while in the upper South — Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina — the planters and lesser farmers were radical in sympathy, upholding the movement in the interest of American liberty and gradually forcing the moderates either to conform or to withdraw. In Charles Town the merchants and Sons of Liberty worked together in a fair degree of harmony, while in Georgia the conservatives seem to have been in control, for Jonathan Bryan and the few individuals excepted in the Charles Town vote of denunciation were unable to swing the movement in favor of prohibition. The test was now to come in the leading seaports. Would the radicals be able to maintain the agreements unaltered or would the conservatives win the day? In New York, where the decision was first reached, the two parties were well matched, the conservative merchants wishing to open the trade, the mechanics, tradesmen, retailers, and political radicals, aided by some of the merchants who had great influence with the populace, rejecting all compromise.

    In both Philadelphia and New York, the repeal of the Townshend Act had been anticipated as early as November, 1769, and orders had been sent to England for the shipment of goods on condition that that event took place. During the winter the British merchants had gone ahead preparing goods for despatch to America, and the news of only a partial repeal came as a serious blow to them. They wrote letters to their correspondents in America saying that the failure of the total repeal was mortifying and exposed them to serious losses. They hoped that the merchants, particularly those of Philadelphia, would enlarge their list of exemptions, and so keep the channel of trade open, or else would fall on some other method of saving them from “a melancholy situation.” They informed their correspondents that goods were daily being shipped to Virginia, Maryland, Boston, Rhode Island, and Montreal, and would hence circulate through all the colonies, as the greater part were ordered by strangers unaccustomed to trade, and that unless the old merchants should order goods, the business would certainly find its way through a new channel.498

    For these and other reasons, dissatisfaction found expression in Philadelphia early in 1770, and in April and May meetings of subscribers and importers were held in order to consider whether some alteration might not be made in the agreement. Many felt that the stagnation in business was unbearable and that the burden of suffering, not only within the city and province but also among the colonists at large, was unevenly distributed.499 At a general meeting on May 14th, it was decided to send a letter to Boston, asking the merchants there how they felt about importation, and though in the meantime rumors spread that Rhode Island had defected and the New England merchants were secretly importing, the sentiment in Philadelphia was favorable to a strict adherence.500 Final action was postponed until June 5th, when it was expected that replies would have been received from the other colonies, upon which a general and harmonious agreement might be based.

    On June 2d, the New York committee of inspection sent by express riders to New Brunswick, Elizabeth, and Perth Amboy, and to Philadelphia, Boston, and towns in Connecticut, letters signed by eighteen principal merchants, asking the recipients to collect as soon as possible the sentiments of their communities, whether to abide by the present agreement or to import at once everything except articles taxed. The committee also requested them to appoint six deputies each to meet at Norwalk on June 18th, for the purpose of exchanging opinions and of adopting “one solid system for the benefit of the whole, that no one colony may be liable to the censure or reproaches of another, but all share the same fate.”501 The request carried with it the undoubted hint that this “General Conference of the Merchants on the Continent” should vote to alter the agreement, and because of this fact it met with a cold reception. Though Connecticut at its meeting in Hartford502 voted to send delegates, its committee of merchants reported against altering the agreement on the ground that a refusal to import tea, because affecting only the East India Company, which did not represent the English nation, would not influence in any way English manufacturers and would only serve to discourage friends, encourage the administration, and render futile any further associations in America. They were not impressed by the argument that as England had yielded in part so they were bound in honor to yield also, which was presented by their New York and Philadelphia brethren.

    Boston’s answer, drawn up at the meeting of the merchants on June 7, 1770, at which John Rowe and probably other merchants of conservative tendencies were not present, was a definite refusal of New York’s request. It declared that the least alteration in the agreement would show “a levity of disposition probably injurious to the common cause,” and that as Boston was only one of six maritime towns in the province, she could not act without their advice and consent. At the same meeting the merchants voted non-intercourse with Portsmouth and, at this time or soon after, disclosed the spirit that was in them by posting the names of ten firms which were importing contrary to the agreement, and threatening all who traded with them.503 Philadelphia also at its meeting on June 5th rejected New York’s request and voted to adhere to the former agreements, and all the leading towns of New Jersey followed Philadelphia’s example.

    Thus rebuffed, the New York merchants proceeded with their plans. On Monday, June 11th, a number of merchants and mechanics waited on the committee of inspection, desiring that the sense of the city should be taken by subscription, whether to alter the agreement or not. A meeting was called the same evening, at which a form of ballot was drawn up and persons were appointed to circulate it. The question asked was, “Do you approve of a general importation of goods from Great Britain, except tea and other articles which are or may be subject to a duty on importation, or do you approve of our non-importation agreement continuing in the manner it now is?” The result of the canvass was believed to show a majority of votes favorable to alteration, and at once an advertisement was inserted in the papers and letters were despatched to Philadelphia and Boston, requesting their concurrence and saying that in case they did not agree, the sense of the town would again be taken.504 This action of New York roused a storm of protest, not only from other colonies but also within the city itself. A meeting of the Sons of Liberty, led by Isaac Sears and Peter Vanderwort, registered a lively dissent, and both Boston and Philadelphia rejected the proposal abselutely. Returns from Connecticut and New York showed that the sentiment in those colonies was hotly in favor of the agreements.505 Consequently, on July 9th, the New York merchants, acting on the terms of their letter, took a second vote, ward by ward, and when the result showed a victory for importation, they despatched their orders by the packet the Earl of Halifax, which by special arrangement with the postmaster was held to await the result of the voting, and these orders were for goods of every kind, except tea.506

    New York’s defection was a mortal blow to the cause and stirred the non-importing colonies to indignation and anger. It was the first permanent break in the system, for Newport, whose withdrawal in May had resulted in her commercial isolation, later reconsidered her action and returned to the fold. In New York city, the Sons of Liberty held meetings denouncing the merchants and declaring that not a pound’s worth of goods, imported contrary to the agreement, should be allowed to land. They called the importers the “court party” and charged the chairman of the committee, Isaac Low, with being in the pay of England and truckling for office. They denied that the vote represented a majority of the citizens, in that only about a fourth took part, 1100 out of 4000, the remainder refraining from voting, thinking the proceedings irregular.507 But the radicals, because of their violent methods, were rapidly losing their influence, and when in October the elections were held for city magistrates, they were defeated by a large majority.508

    Outside of New York the verdict against the merchants’ action was almost unanimous. The Philadelphians had a meeting at the State House on July 14th and passed reproachful resolutions, calling New-York’s decision a “sordid and wanton defection from the common cause,” and voted to break off all commercial intercourse with her.509 The inhabitants of Elizabeth, Woodbridge, and New Brunswick rapidly followed Philadelphia’s example, hoping to cut loose from the commercial bondage to New York, as Portsmouth had hoped to do from Boston, and to set up an independent port at Perth Amboy.510 The students at Nassau Hall, on July 13, on the tolling of the college bell, went in a procession to a place fronting the college and burnt the letter from New York at the hands of a hangman hired for the purpose.511 On the arrival of the letter at Boston, the Body met, certain of the number marching to the hall in procession, with flags flying, upon one of which was inscribed “Liberty and no-importation,” and there they “voted unanimously that the said letter, in just indignation, abhorrence, and detestation be forthwith torn into pieces and thrown to the winds as unworthy the least notice, which sentence was immediately executed.” The breach in the body of the Boston merchants was now complete. Some of them attempted to prevent the procession, and John Rowe, blaming the bearer of the flag, declared that the meeting would prove “very prejudicial to the merchants and trade of the town of Boston.” The Society had fallen under the control of the extremists, who wanted no compromise with Great Britain. This became evident when, a week later, the Body met and appointed a committee composed of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, William Molineux, and others, to go to the northern towns, Salem, Marblehead, Haverhill, etc., whence rumors of importations had come, and see if these rumors were true. The committee was then to go southward to Providence and Newport. The merchants of Salem and Newport were so angry at the news that they threatened to tar and feather the committee, on the ground that Molineux was an agitator and a nuisance, raising disturbances wherever he went. Nothing happened, however, and the committee, or certain members of it, made the visits northward and reported all satisfactory; and though on their southward journey they accomplished little at Providence, they persuaded Newport to renew her agreement, at a meeting on August 20th, Thomas Cranston, chairman, on the promise that Boston would intercede with the southern colonies to resume commercial intercourse with her. This Boston did, at the meeting held September 7th to hear the report of the committee, and as the first result of the letter despatched for the purpose, Philadelphia renewed soon after the old relations with Newport.512

    Town after town followed in the wake of Philadelphia and Boston, denouncing the attitude of New York and severing commercial relations with her — Rye, Huntington, Hartford,513 Norwich, New Haven,514 Chesterfield, Mansfield, Hanover, Springfield, and Nottingham,515 Burlington, Monmouth, and Sussex counties in New Jersey, Annapolis, Talbot county (Maryland),516 and others. Already on June 22d members of the House of Burgesses in Virginia had met with a body of merchants at Williamsburg and renewed the association;517 on July 5th, the Sons of Liberty of North Carolina met at Wilmington, renewed their agreement, promised to sacrifice all intercourse with the West Indies, and to watch importations with care.518 On August 22d, “a most respectable General Meeting of the Inhabitants” of South Carolina was held at the Liberty Tree, and denouncing New York’s defection as “a scandalous revolt from the common cause of freedom and a bait to destroy every constitutional right,” voted to break off all commercial intercourse with her.519

    Among all the protests against the action of New York, none is more interesting and instructive than that of Connecticut, for it shows the attitude of a colony where mercantile interests played little part and where the predominant agricultural life was favorable to the cultivation of individualistic notions of human rights and liberties. The merchant-farmers of Hartford, Middletown, New Haven, Norwich, and Norwalk were ardent supporters of non-importation, a virtue that cost them little as they imported no goods directly from Great Britain. Connecticut had traded with Boston to 1750, when owing to certain currency acts of Massachusetts, deemed injurious and unjust, her merchants turned their trade to New York. But trade was always a subordinate issue in Connecticut, for whenever anything favorable to it was proposed in the general assembly, the farmers opposed such propositions as a scheme of the merchants, and incompatible with their interests. Many of the merchants themselves were farmers and landowners and to them non-importation was an advantage, as tending to raise the value of lands, increase the price of agricultural produce, and turn the balance of trade in their favor. Those who protested in Connecticut acted rather as landholders than merchants, and while keenly alive to their rights, they were also keenly alive to their profits. Importation, which was favorable to the merchants in the cities, was unfavorable to those who were farmers and landowners first and traders afterwards. Hence we have the most rhetorical and denunciatory resolutions from the country districts in Massachusetts, from the colonies of Connecticut and New Jersey, and from the planters of the South.

    When news of what New York had done came to Connecticut, letters were sent to the principal trading towns of the colony, calling for a meeting of the merchants at New Haven, on September 13, 1770. The meeting was duly held, with Gurdon Saltonstall in the chair, and Silas Deane acting as clerk, and a series of elaborate resolutions was drafted, upholding non-importation, accepting again the long list of exemptions adopted the February before, and characterizing the defection of New York as a “precipitate desertion of the common cause of American liberty,” and a violation of “reiterated solemn engagements with the other colonies, not only without their consent but in direct contradiction to their advice and entreaties.” Then they voted to break off all intercourse with her.520

    The New York merchants resented bitterly the attitude of the other colonies, but with no one were they so angry as with those of Boston, who had treated their letter with such scorn and indignity. They believed themselves to have been very strict in adhering to their agreement, and had greeted the information furnished by John Mein’s pamphlet and sheets with something akin to consternation. In November and December, 1769, they became very uneasy lest Boston should not stand by her agreement and said that what John Mein was printing and what the merchants abroad were saying seemed to show that the merchants there were not acting with as much spirit and honesty as they themselves were. When Boston refused to cooperate with them in June, 1770, the New York committee replied that the refusal made a bad impression, for had the congress at Norwalk been held it might have had happy results, but rejected “gave so much discontent that numbers said it was only a scheme in you to continue importing under pompous resolves against it.”521 Though local conditions had their influence, and though the partial repeal of the Townshend Act played its part, yet the feeling that other seaports were breaking through their agreements rankled in the heart of the New York merchant. That goods were coming in by way of Boston, Philadelphia, and Annapolis, while the port of New York was tightly closed, was unbearable, and though the figures given and statements made in Mein’s papers and the letters from England may not all have been true, the fact that the New York merchants believed them to be true is the main thing. They charged these cities with hypocrisy, and when the committee of inspection at Annapolis called the New Yorkers “rotten and treacherous,” the latter retaliated by accusing the Annapolitans of clandestine trading and raising the prices of goods, and with having waited a year before taking action and then restricted their non-importation to but a few articles, an effort “untimely and feeble.”

    The Philadelphia merchants also became uneasy, as rumor after rumor came that Boston and other colonies were importing. They were told by a London correspondent that between Christmas, 1769, and June, 1770, £150,000 worth of goods had been sent to Boston, which seemed to show, as a writer to the Pennsylvania Gazette put it, that “the conduct of the Boston people was not as consistent as could be wished.”522 They were warned by another writer that the situation was one deserving to be carefully weighed by judicious merchants, especially by themselves, who had thus far “been duped by all the other provinces.”523 Stephen Collins, one of the most active of them at this time in urging alteration of the trade, believed the charges against Boston when he said, “The opening of the trade except in duty goods seems to be gaining ground fast and I think this province in perticular has been Deep’d [duped] long enough already, [and ought not] to suffer their Intrest to be sacreficed any longer;” and a little later he added, “I having on my part taken no small pains to bring it about, being highly suspicious that we were become the Dupe of some other colonies in the cause; which was fully evinced to me on my arival at Boston, where I was amas’d to see the Quantity of goods amongst them.” To John Glover of New York he wrote, November 20th, “It seems as though I could not put up without seeing thee before thou goes to that Rebbel Town Boston, amongst them Deceitful, Canting Presbyterian Deacons.”524

    Under these circumstances, alteration in Philadelphia could not be long postponed. The manner in which it was effected can best be told in the “candid and true account” given in the letter of the committee of merchants, September 25th. After stating that the original agreement had been subscribed by only about 300, though “the rest of the inhabitants concurred in the measure so as to discountenance and discourage any attempts to violate it,” and that for some time “the greatest harmony subsisted,” the account proceeds:

    The plan of non-importation not producing an immediate and total repeal of the act, some whose living and others whose prospects of gain depended on importing goods began to be uneasy under these restrictions. With them the members [seven in number] who had broken off from the committee associated. Sundry meetings were held, and in May last [1770], measures being previously concerted, a vigorous push was made to break the agreement entered into. The voice of the public which was against them, and some concurring circumstances prevented them from carrying their design at the time, but the defection of New York, which followed soon after, giving them fresh spirits, they rallied again, and having secretly concerted a plan, they got a paper drawn up, signed by themselves and seven others, which they presented to the chairman of the committee on the eve of the 12th inst. [September], and because the committee would not comply with their proposal which was contrary to the non-importation agreement, the gentlemen themselves, without consulting the committee, ordered notices to be sent around to call a general meeting of the subscribers at D[avenport]’s tavern, in order that none but subscribers might be present. A number of subscribers refused to come, but the committee was present.525

    The meeting was held on September 24th, with Thomas Willing in the chair. Voting down three substitute motions, to consult the other colonies, to adopt the Maryland and Virginia forms of non-importation, or to adopt the same provided New York and Boston would agree, and refusing to submit the question to the inhabitants of the city, the subscribers carried through a resolution to alter the agreement and to open the trade in all but tea and other dutiable articles.526 This action of the subscribers called out indignant protests from the people of Philadelphia and the neighborhood, and a meeting was called at the State House on the 27th, with Joseph Fox as chairman, which deprecated the hasty action of the “importers of dry goods” and recommended the acceptance of an agreement like that of Maryland. Though the merchants immediately despatched orders to England, the feeling against them was so strong in the city, that even in November there was some doubt as to whether consignments could be safely received.527 But with goods coming in by way of New York and Maryland, the Philadelphians could not hold out, and before November was over the port was open for all but the dutiable articles.528

    Just as the news from New York aroused the subscribers of Philadelphia, so the news from New York and Philadelphia aroused the merchants of Boston. The meetings of the Club at Mrs. Cordis’s were very frequent in September and John Rowe was present at nearly all of them. He was also present at the General Meeting on September 15th, when the decision was reached to send a letter to Philadelphia proposing a “meeting of committees from the neighboring colonies,” the very thing that the Boston merchants had rejected so vehemently when New York suggested it in June. Manifestly the moderates, who had not approved of the proceedings of the Body in the summer of 1770, were once more in control, and the agitators were losing credit in Boston as they were doing in New York at the same time.529 But the decision of September 15th came too late, The Philadelphia merchants had already made up their minds to alter the agreement and hope of united action was no longer possible. Although Salem made a last effort to uphold non-importation,530 the end had come. When the circular letter arrived from Philadelphia, there could be no longer doubt as to what Boston would do. On October 11th the Body met at the Coffee House and unanimously voted to accept the inevitable, by altering the agreement and opening the ports to all goods from Great Britain, except tea. On the 18th all stored articles were returned to their owners.

    Providence, Marblehead, and Salem followed, and advertisements began to appear in the papers of prohibited goods exhibited for sale, “by leave of the committee of inspection.”531 Salem was selling articles “imported in the last ships from London” in December; glass, paper, and painters’ colors were freely offered, and by the opening of the new year trade was in full swing, somewhat to the embarrassment of the English merchants, one of whom wrote, “The Boston trade coming at the heel of the Philadelphia trade has been of some inconvenience to us.”532 That Boston’s action caused surprise and some consternation in New England, we can well believe. Said one writer: “From the borders of Connecticut all the way to Boston, you will find people in every town exclaiming against Boston, for imposing upon the country, by false representations and drawing them into measures which they say will ruin the province;” and John Temple could speak of that “unfortunate & (I could wish) ever to be forgotten year 1770 when with everything at stake, they threw up the important game when they had all the trumps in their own hands & like a Spaniel meanly cringed & kiss’d the rod that whip’d them.”533

    With the northern ports open from Portsmouth to the Delaware, the southern colonies could not long hold out. The merchants of Baltimore recommended alteration at a meeting in that town on October 5th, but at a general convention at Annapolis, three weeks later, the Baltimore suggestion was thrown out and a vote to adhere was adopted. No further action appears to have been taken, but after the news from Boston arrived, all attempts to uphold the agreement seem to have been given up. Of formal alteration in Virginia,534 North Carolina,535 and Georgia we have no sign, but at Charles Town, after intelligence had been received of the departure of most of the northern colonies from their resolutions, a general meeting of the inhabitants was held at the Liberty Tree on December 13th, with Henry Laurens in the chair. After much silence and hesitation a “breaking through” motion was carried. Tea was barred, luxuries discouraged, and local manufactures upheld, but otherwise business returned to its former freedom. On the 27th, all British goods held in confinement were released and given back to their owners. So ill-content were the South Carolinians with the conduct of the northern colonies, that it was with difficulty a vote was defeated declaring for commercial non-intercourse with them, and the printer of the Gazette probably expressed a general feeling when he wrote:

    They are restrained by only one Consideration, that the Defection not having been among the Landholders, Farmers, and Mechanicks, who are perhaps, in general, as well affected to the just Rights and Liberties of America, as ourselves, it would be unjust to retaliate upon them, for the Injuries received from some of the Merchants of those Colonies. It must, however, be acknowledged, that the Trade with those Colonies is far from being beneficial to this; that except for Bar Iron, Sheep, and Oil, we might supply ourselves with almost every other article imported thence at Home, by proper attention and encouragement; and that they drain from us our Specie and mostly for mere Trash.536

    With this somewhat ungenerous fling at the northern colonies, the second movement for the non-importation of British goods came to an end, and, as another southern writer said about the same time, “The so much boasted patriotism of non-importation throughout the colonies seems likely to terminate in nothing worse than to deprive the ladies of a dish of tea.”

    Thus the non-importation movement which had succeeded so well in 1765 and had been renewed with such enthusiasm in 1768–1769, came to a somewhat untimely end. It had not been a failure, for it was to no inconsiderable extent responsible for the removal of the duties on glass, paper, lead, and painters’ colors, but it failed to effect the repeal of the acts of 1764, 1765, and 1766 and the removal of the duty on tea, and it accomplished nothing whatever in the effort to obtain British recognition of the constitutional claims of the colonies. Primarily it came to an end because the merchants in New York and elsewhere were satisfied with the partial repeal of the duties, and were unwilling to undergo further losses for the sake of tea and a constitutional claim which had nothing to do with trade. And there were other reasons which may be briefly summarized.

    Before the movement was fairly under way, it began to show serious structural weaknesses. The merchants and importers were divided among themselves, not only on the original question but even more on the place of the movement in the struggle for liberty and self-government. The retailers and tradesmen, possessed of small capitals, found themselves unable to do business, and were threatened with the loss of their trade and consequent ruin. The people at large, to whom non-importation was a matter not of the pocket-book but only of self-denial, due to scarcity and high prices, were antagonistic to the merchant and charged them with preferring gain to patriotism and love of country. The radicals and agitators, irresponsible in thought and action, often added fuel to the flame of discord, and with little to lose engaged in acts of persecution against those who dared to oppose them.

    In the system itself there were many defects. The colonies were not united on a common plan. Some were importing without restraint. Others were admitting everything except a few articles. Others again were putting an entire stop to their trade. There could be no firm union where men differed so widely and complained so bitterly. The agreements of the tobacco colonies allowed entrance to articles that were barred in the North. All the southern colonies admitted Indian goods that were so essential to Albany’s prosperity, yet Albany, blocked by New York, could legally get none at all. There was a constant tendency to adjust the lists of exemptions, which even in the North were drafted according to local needs and preferences. The importers of dry goods, whose business was standing still, complained of the importers of wines and molasses, who had greater opportunities for profit. Maryland admitted slaves which were excluded elsewhere in the South. Where the agreements were the work of others than the merchants, the latter took umbrage at the voting away of their property by those who were not concerned with trade, and refused to submit, a fact seemingly true of Georgia and in a measure true of North and South Carolina also. Many merchants yielded to pressure from England, where shipowners and exporters became restless as their ships lay idle and bent their efforts, often unconsciously, in favor of resumption.

    As the movement progressed, the seaports and larger towns were divided into antagonistic and often hostile groups. Laurens speaks of the “squabbles” in Charles Town, about “resolutions, subscriptions, and non-subscribers,” etc. “Much too much has been said on both sides,” he wrote, “for the parties have left the subject upon which they began to contend and are harrowing each others private characters.” The inland towns, to which imports were in themselves but a trifling consideration, found ample opportunity to reprimand the mercantile centres for their lukewarmness to the cause of liberty. The larger towns accused each other of unfaithfulness and hypocrisy, and newspaper writers, in language far too full of calumny and innuendo, engaged in controversy, circulating suspicions without proofs, and making assertions that were sometimes designed to convey false impressions. James Bowdoin expressed surprise that the agreements had “continued so long, for besides the operation of interest there were the underworking and lies of emissaries to make [the colonies] jealous and diffident of each other.”

    Apart from the psychological aspects of the situation, consideration must be given to the impracticability of non-importation itself. Commerce, like water seeking a lower level, finds its way despite obstacles, and if one channel is closed makes another. Though the imports of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania fell off heavily in the year 1769, so much so that the British merchants complained of their losses and the total balance of trade approached an equilibrium, those of Canada and the Carolinas increased by a third and those of Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia by a small but perceptible fraction. Enlarged demands from Russia and other parts of the European continent lightened somewhat the burden of the British merchants, but there were many who, alarmed for the security of their property and fearing a colonial repudiation of debts, sought entrance for their goods into America. Though many cargoes were turned back, others broke through, either by old or by new channels. Quebec and Montreal became loopholes for Albany and New York; Portsmouth, Casco Bay, and Falmouth admitted goods for New England; Cape May was a landing place for Philadelphia; and importations for New York and Philadelphia came in through Maryland and Virginia. No coast line can be completely sealed against the admission of necessary though prohibited goods.

    The non-importation movement began as a merchant’s device wherewith to obtain a redress of trade grievances; it ended as an instrument in the hands of political agitators and radicals for the enforcement of their claims of constitutional liberty and freedom. Had it been directed by the merchants and conservatives alone, it would undoubtedly have accomplished its purpose, as it did at the time of the Stamp Act; but when wielded by the extremists, it broke under the strain, because those who obtained control of it lost sight of its original object and in admitting no compromise, attempted the impossible.

    On behalf of Mr. Julius H. Tuttle the following communication was made:

    Some matters of interest relating to Harvard College are found in the papers of Nathaniel Ames, the younger, of Dedham, who graduated in the class of 1761. Dr. Nathaniel Ames, the father, writing on March 31, 1758, in his son’s freshman year, was desirous to know whether the class has been placed. This did not happen, according to the younger Ames’s Diary, until May 2, following.537 The third letter, of November 1, 1758, in his second year, offers a suggestion of medical or surgical training, though the regular medical education at Harvard was not begun until more than twenty years later. After the son’s graduation, in July, 1761, he wrote in his Diary on August 17, “Began the practice of Phy. by bleeding a Taylor in the Foot.” The son’s ledger account of visits to patients began on July 23, 1764, twelve days after the death of his father; and the regular entry of many cases of about the same time suggest his previous care of them. It is not unlikely that he studied with his father during the preceding three years; though no record is found of his receiving a degree of M.D.


    Dedham March 31. 1758

    My Child

    I have Read the Perceptor if you want the Same only for the Sake of what it teacheth of the Art of Drawing I shall not think it worth Buying tho tiss done well. But if you will Read & Studdy the whole of it I shall think it well worth Purchasing: if your Class is placed send me a list of the Same in the order in which they stand: tell me also who is like to Succeed Mr Syms:538 as for all your Wants? Mine nor yours will not be supply’d in this World, but you may Name what Presses the hardest. You must send yr Dirty Linning, sheets & all.

    We shall send again next week & your Mother says she-ll send you a pr of stocking I suppose she means new ones. I am now Collecting Money to pay My Rents & Excise have sent you 20/— old tenr to keep your Purse from being as Empty as a Poets, be Docile, be Humble, be Good Natured to all about you and into a tender and Honest Heart may you Receive the Grace of God, is the Hearty [torn] Affectionate Father

    [Nathaniel Ames]



    Nathl Ames

    Studt at Harvard

    Colledge Cambridg


    Cambridge April 1st 1758

    Honoured Father

    I am constrained as an humble acknowledgment of my Gratitude often to trouble you with my Letters, as being the only requital for the many benefits & advantages I receive at your hands.

    As for the Praeceptor539 it is a Book which contains a part of almost every Science and it would be very useful to me especially in my present Studies which is Logick and it is very entertaining as well as instructive besides the art of Drawing, the Class is not placed yet, neither do I know who is like to Succeed Mr Symmes. as for my wants I hope you will endeavour to Supply some of them, but I think Money presses hardest for if I had that I could get a great many little necessarys for my Self & chamb. but I want more stockings, and a pair of Breeches, & some new shirts & necks, so as that I might wear two a week, for I make these prodigious dirty in a week What shall I say more, than return all possible thanks to you, who next to the Love & mercies of God are the Auth [torn] well being, who am

    With all due Respe[ct]

    Your most duly [torn]

    [Nathaniel Ames]

    P:S: I sent a Letter by Bradshaw yesterday

    T Quid non Mortalia Pectora [torn] logis, auri sacra fames





    Ames of



    Dedham Novembr ye 1, 1758

    My Son

    This my Second Letter pr favour of Mr Israel Hunting I hope you will Receive from his Own Hand togeather with what Necessary things your Mother has sent you and also that you will send back your things and Write to us by the same Hand, if you are like to Make us a visit before the Vacancy perhaps you will chuse it should be about Thanksgiving Time, if you should be a mind to see me at Boston next Week and appoint a Time once more I would Endeavour to Meet you if Health & weather permits at which Time I would bring those Instruments in Order to be fixed up for your Use the use of which Instruments are very Extensive the more you Understand of the same and the better Improvements you make in all your studies the more you will gratify & please your ever

    Affect Father

    N. Ames




    Nathl Ames a

    Studt at Harvard Colledge


    In his Diary Ames makes these entries, which partly explain the following letter:

    September, 1760

    9 President sick wherefore much Deviltry carried on in College.

    15 Father here about Mr Thayers affairs.

    30 Examination about Mr. Thayers affair.


    1 Schols Degraded this Morning 2 admshd 1 punish’d.

    10 Kneelands540 and Thayers Windows broke last night.

    28 Examination in ye Chapel 2 Senior Clss examined.

    June, 1761

    30 restored to my former Place.

    The Rev. Ebenezer Thayer, of the Class of 1753, was Tutor from 1760 to 1766.

    Boston Saturday

    Dear Sr

    The Unhappy Accident that befel several Gentlemen at College having been the subject of Conversation, in several Companies for these some days last past, & having heard that you were by no means the least sufferer, upon the Occasion, I take the freedom heartily to condole with you in your situation, (for one of your known generous spirit) I am sensible from what I have myself seen, not a little Uneasy. Yet if in your Circumstances, the sentiments of some People in Boston, that are concerned in the Government of the College, impartially and freely delivered, after having thoroughly known and considered the Cause of your Punishment; and the General Opinion of our honest unprejudiced Bostonians can afford you any Relief, believe me, instead of condemning your Conduct, they applaud your Resentment at a Tutor acting out of his Province, & hope that that Spirit which rouzed you to vindicate your Rights infringed upon will carry you thro’, till concious Guilt of injuring Innocence, the Blot already fixed upon the Character of T—r; & which your Degradation will fix indelibly, shall open the Eyes of his Ignorance, & teach him that the restoring you to your first Place, will be but a small attonement for his Conduct to Mr Ames

    I am Your Unceremonious Friend

    W. Hook541



    Mr Nathaniel Ames

    Student in


    To be left

    at Mr Caleb Prentice’s

    Further information about this affair is furnished by the Faculty Records. President Holyoke’s absence from the meeting of September 5, 1760, on account of illness is noted. On September 30 ten students, including Thomas Palmer, Isaac Rand, Jedidiah Huntington, Michael James Trollet, and Nathaniel Ames, were “punish’d one shilling & 6d each, for making tumultuous and indecent Noises, in the College;” and it was —

    Agreed also, at the same Meeting, That as Mr Thayer had made Complaints yt all the above named Students (Huntington excepted) had greatly insulted him when endevouring to still their tumultuous Noises, agreeable to one of the College Laws, That They therefore be all of ym sent for before us (excepting Trollet who was not in Town, & whose punishmt must therefore be deferr’d to some other Time) accordingly when conven’d, after a full Examination of them, we found ’em guilty according to the Complaint, but judging Them so, in different Degrees, Therefore came into the following Votes

    1: That Palmer & Rand be publickly admonish’d in the Chapel.

    That the Rest of Them, besides being admonish’d, be degraded in their several Classes in the following Manner viz.

    Ames fourteen places . . .

    This vote was executed on October 1st, “imediately after Morning Prayer.” Finally, under date of June 30, 1761, is this entry:

    Ames senr who stands degraded in his Class as in p. 119. was, upon a very humble Confession of his Crime, restor’d to his original place in his Class.542

    These two accounts tell something of the Ameses as Almanac makers, and their relation to John and Richard Draper of Boston.

    Dr Dr Nathaniel Ames, deceased,

    to Mr John Draper, deceased. Cr



    Jany 1.

    To 1 Hodder’s Arithmetic


    April 5

    To a Quire Foolscap Paper



    To a Quire Justices Writs & Summons



    To ½ Quire Executions



    To Cash pd Samll Gardner p Order



    To a Quire Post Paper





    To pd Colo Henchman’s account



    To pd Samll Gardner pr order


    Octr. 7

    To pd Capt Wm Taylor p order




    May 14

    To pd Dr Thos Aston p. order to Thos





    To Remaining Part of Dr Aston’s account



    To Cash pd on Dr Wheats order to Aston



    To News Letters from October 1750 to


    April 1752



    To Ditto from October 1752 to October 1754 8.

    December 23

    To 1 Quire Writs & Summons



    To your order pd. Dr Samuel Wheat on the account of Michael Bacon

    } 4.14.




    May 13

    To Pool’s Annotations of Colo Henchman

    } 3.6.8


    To Cash pd your order in favour of Capn Wm Taylor, dated Sept 13, 1755



    Dec. 10





    Octr 8

    To Cash pd. Wm Taylor p order



    To Cash p Receipt




    Octr. 24

    To a Province Note



    To Cash pd Wm Taylor p order



    To Cash pd Wm Story p order



    Ballance of D. Gookin’s Account


    To Cash pd. Thos Leverett for a Trunk Ink Jugg & Chest

    } 0.9.10½




    Nov. 5.

    To sundrys, pd Mr Hancock for



    Ballance of Colo Henchman’s Account


    To Cash pd for Copy Almanack for 1759



    To News Letter from October 1754 to


    October 1762







    1750 October

    By Copy of Almanack for 1751


    1751 [to 1756]

    By Do [each year] for 1752 [to 1757]



    By Dofor 1758



    By Dofor 1759





    Ballance Due to Estate of Mr John Draper.


    1764 August 23d

    Estate of Dr Nathll Ames Dr to Richd & Samll Draper To advertising all Persons having Demand on sd Estate & 0.4.0

    Boston, August 25, 1764

    Errors Excepted

    ꝑ Richard Draper Executor

    Ballance . . 6.14.4½

    which I paid

    with Copy of an Almanack

    Nat Ames son of & Adminr of sd Nathl decd

    Boston 1765 Dr. Nathaniel Ames,

    To Wm Mcalpine Dr

    Octr 3d

    To 1 Doz. Almanacks



    To 24 Do



    To 12 Do



    To 12 Do




    Janr 10th

    To 1 Ream Paper



    To 4 Doz. Almanacks


    May 14

    To 5 sheets Deeds & Boands


    “ 22

    To Cash paid Mr Perkins


    July 22

    To Do paid Mr Hobby


    Nov. 8

    To 2 sticks sealing Wax


    “ 13

    To Cash paid Doctor Peck



    To Binding 2 Magazines



    To Printing Recpts



    To Binding 1 plain Books.


    Decr 2d

    To 66 Doz. Almanacks 17/



    To [167] Do Do 17/


    On behalf of Mr. Clarence S. Brigham was communicated the following letter, from the Rev. Nehemiah Hobart of Newton to the Rev. Nicholas Noyes of Salem, both of whom graduated at Harvard College in 1667:

    Newtown Mar: 29. 1712

    Reverend Sir

    We that were placed the two last of our Classe at Colledge are the longest livers and onely survivers of seven, which moves in me a peculiar esteem for you, and a willingness to testifye the same on all occasions. I wrote to you some time last winter, and because I knowe you retain that poetical genius, for which you were so remarkable, when a student at Camebridge, I therefore imparted to you some lines, which I composed on the dreadful fire at Boston543, and submitted them to your censure: I am not certain whither ever you received them. My prayers are for you, that you may flourish in the house of god when old, and may have many seals of your ministry by the spirit giving efficacy to your labours for the salvation of your heaven, who may be your epistles of commendation, read by all men: And that yours: and congregation may have much comfort in him, who is your colleague544, with divine conduct in every step taken toward his settlement. Remember my Respects to Major Sewal & his consort, and all others enquiring after me. I understood my good friend mr Emerson545 your schoolmaster is departed this life. I crave your Prayers for me, [that] I may be kept blameless in the ways of god, my labours may be acceptable and profitable to this assembly, and that the heaviness I am in, by the late removal of my dear wife546, may turn to my salvation. This comes to you (as my last was intended, but prevented, and so sent by a less certain conveyhance) by a Neighbour, who lately took a wife from Salem. If you shall please by him to send me your meditations on prophetical Scripture, or any other fruits of your study, or only a short letter, you will oblige,


    Neh: Hobart



    The Reverend Mr Nicholas Noyes

    Teacher to the Church




    Mr Hobart to Mr Noyes

    Mr. Lindsay Swift spoke as follows:547

    Usually there is little in the publication by a large library of a list of a portion of its books to draw the attention of a historical body such as ours. But the Catalogue of the John Adams Library, just issued by the Boston Public Library, calls attention to a collection of literature that is almost in itself a part of the history of this country. In the first place, with the exception of the library of Colonel William Byrd of Virginia, which numbered some 3400 volumes, John Adams had assembled in his long life time, as far as I can ascertain, the largest private collection of books in the English speaking parts of North America down to 1800. In the second place, it is a speaking instance of the intellectual tastes of an educated American gentleman and man of action in the eighteenth century. And, in the third place, on its shelves will be found many works which serve in a measure to explain the mental and political development of one of our conscript fathers, and to show why he preferred to apply, with modifications, to new conditions the wisest lessons derived from earlier forms of government, rather than, like Jefferson, to jettison the whole political cargo, and sail only in ballast for a Utopia which he never could have reached had it not been for the influence of more prudent navigators like Adams, Hamilton, or John Marshall.

    Every good library has some nucleus around which gather works of a more general character. In the case of the John Adams Library the nucleus was formed by the assemblage of books necessary to the writing of his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States. The project must have been long in his mind, for whereas the work was not published in London until 1787 and 1788, there is abundant testimony on the fly-leaves of many volumes that he was picking them up industriously in Paris and at The Hague some years earlier. He went far in his searches for needed material, even drawing into his net some admirable histories of the Italian republics. He was a great gatherer of treaties, diplomatic negotiations, and state papers. John Adams did not believe that in the subtle game of diplomacy, the only essentials are an unbounded zeal for the welfare of mankind, and an infinite indiscretion in manifesting it; but surely and slowly learned his lessons in statecraft. By diligent application to these grim and forbidding old books, and by direct contact in the capitals of Europe with able, selfish, and often unscrupulous masters of their trade John Adams learned the arts and crafts of statesmanship and political negotiation. He laid good educational foundations, which never gave way, in Harvard College, where he made the beginnings of his collection; then he built a rather wonderful structure of the best law books, including the great works on admiralty and sea and commercial law. Many of these books once belonged to Jeremiah Gridley, who befriended the young Adams when he was beginning the practice of his profession. His eventful career abroad, in the diplomatic service of his country, was strengthened by his diligent pursuit of the foundation works in diplomacy and statecraft. Yes, his methods were very slow and old-fashioned, but what he knew and learned will stand like the everlasting hills. These solemn, impressive volumes attest the solidity of his attainments.

    When his active political life was over he still collected books, but they were of a less severe cast. Many, throughout his life, were presented to him with the formal inscriptions of the day. Joseph Warren gave him his Massacre Oration of 1774. James Otis gave him a book, and so did Cæsar Rodney, one of the Signers, and Thomas Mifflin, signer of the Address to the King, — all autographed copies. John Marshall inscribed all the five volumes of his Life of Washington to President Adams. There are many such gifts, for during his long life Adams came to know many notable men, who seemed to delight in giving him their books.

    Some of his comments on margins are highly diverting. It would be a not unprofitable task to print what he has to say of Mary Godwin’s work on the French Revolution, and of William Godwin’s Enquiry concerning Political Justice. On both of them he pours the vials of his Puritan wrath. Serious as was the cast of his mind, he nevertheless laid in a good store of general literature. For the drama he had some relish, but I recall no work of fiction, except Don Quixote, one edition in French, one in Spanish. Pope, as was natural, was the poet of his heart. But the works of Fielding, Smollett, Richardson or Goldsmith were not to the liking of John Adams.

    After more than ninety years of incredible neglect and injury from rot, mice, worms, autograph thieves and other enemies of books, the library of our second president is made available to students. The old gentleman, in his eighty-seventh year, presented the best thing he had to give to his own town of Quincy — his precious library — but it was an unappreciated benevolence. The late Charles Francis Adams, in 1883 and 1884, caused a card catalogue to be made when the collection was housed in the Thomas Crane Public Library, after it had lain in disuse for sixty years. Ten years later the Boston Public Library accepted the collection in trust, and now, twenty-three years after the removal to Boston, the Library is made serviceable through this catalogue. It is on the whole a melancholy story, and it may well give rise to the question whether valuable personal collections of literature and art are not more likely to receive the attention and respect they deserve in institutions like colleges or historical societies or perhaps better still in the safe keeping of established families who keep alive the traditions of the passing generations.

    No one is to blame, of course, but the public and great public institutions are insensitive to certain values. I am glad, however, that the libraries of the first two presidents of the country are securely held in this city. They will at least be respected for all time, however little they may be used.

    In the midst of all the present welter of books, many of them of merely passing value or interest, and many more of no value whatever, it ought to be a satisfaction to think of these dignified survivals of an epoch-making past, silently protesting, by the sheer permanence of their reputation, against the merely ephemeral in literature.

    Mr. Albert Matthews made the following remarks:

    Mr. Swift has spoken of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. It does not seem to be generally known that the same library owns a large number of books and pamphlets that formerly belonged to John Adams and to John Quincy Adams. Between the years 1815 and 1821, the former gave about thirty volumes, mostly pamphlets, of a miscellaneous character. The extraordinary value of the gifts, however, lies in the character of the volumes which once belonged to the younger Adams. In January, 1849, the committee on the Library made a report from which the following is an extract: “The Hon. Charles Francis Adams has recently presented the numerous and valuable pamphlets accumulated by his father, the late John Quincy Adams, to the number of between six and seven thousand, which go to enrich a department in which the Athenæum is perhaps unrivalled by any other Library in the country.”548 Some of these contain manuscript notes, an interesting example being the following on a fly-leaf at the end of one of three copies of The Group, published at Boston in 1775:

    Quincy August 17. 1814. The ‘Group,’ to my certain Knowledge, was written by Mrs Mercy Warren of Plymouth. So certifies

    John Adams.

    However it may be with the John Adams Library, Mr. Swift need have no fear in regard to the neglect of the Washington Collation and the John Quincy Adams pamphlets, for they are constantly being consulted by historical students.