their disloyalty, were at least due in pity to the severity of their punishment. The hurry, confusion, and excitement connected with the embarkation had scarcely subsided, when the Provincials were appalled by the work of their own hands The novelty and peculiarity of their situation could not but force itself upon the attention of even the unreflecting soldiery; stationed in the midst of a beautiful and fertile country, they suddenly found themselves without a foe to subdue, and without a population to protect. The volumes of smoke which the half expiring embers emitted, while they marked the site of the peasant’s humble cottage, bore testimony to the extent of the work of destruction. For several successive evenings the cattle assembled round the smouldering ruins, as if in anxious expectation of the return of their masters, while all night long the faithful watchdogs of the Neutrals howled over the scene of desolation, and mourned alike the hand that had fed, and the house that had sheltered them.
A NEW-YEAR’S DAY.
ON THE evening of New-Year’s Day Grandfather was walking to and fro across the carpet, listening to the rain which beat hard against the curtained windows. The riotous blast shook the casement as if a strong man were striving to force his entrance into the comfortable room. With every puff of the wind the fire leaped upward from the hearth, laughing and rejoicing at the shrieks of the wintry storm.
Meanwhile Grandfather’s chair stood in its customary place by the fireside. The bright blaze gleamed upon the fantastic figures of its oaken back, and shone through the open work, so that a complete pattern was thrown upon the opposite side of the room. Sometimes, for a moment or two, the shadow remained immovable, as if it were painted on the wall. Then all at once it began to quiver, and leap, and dance with a frisky motion. Anon, seeming to remember that these antics were unworthy of such a dignified and venerable chair, it suddenly stood still. But soon it began to dance anew.
“Only see how Grandfather’s chair is dancing!” cried little Alice.
And she ran to the wall and tried to catch hold of the flickering shadow; for, to children of five years old, a shadow seems almost as real as a substance.
“I wish,” said Clara, “Grandfather would sit down in the chair and finish its history.”
If the children had been looking at Grandfather, they would have noticed that he paused in his walk across the room when Clara made this remark. The kind old gentleman was ready and willing to resume his stories of departed times. But he had resolved to wait till his auditors should request him to proceed, in order that they might find the instructive history of the chair a pleasure, and not a task.
“Grandfather,” said Charley, “I am tired to death of this dismal rain and of hearing the wind roar in the chimney. I have had no good time all day. It would be better to hear stories about the chair than to sit doing nothing and thinking of nothing.”
To say the truth, our friend Charley was very much out of humor with the storm, because it had kept him all day within doors, and hindered him from making a trial of a splendid sled, which Grandfather had given him for a New-Year’s gift. As all sleds, nowadays, must have a name, the one in question had been honored with the title of Grandfather’s chair, which was painted in golden letters on each of the sides. Charley greatly admired the construction of the new vehicle, and felt certain that it would outstrip any other sled that ever dashed adown the long slopes of the Common.
As for Laurence, he happened to be thinking, just at this moment, about the history of the chair. Kind old Grandfather had made him a present of a volume of engraved portraits, representing the features of eminent and famous people o f all countries. Among them Laurence found several who had formerly occupied our chair or been connected with its adventures. While Grandfather walked to and fro across the room, the imaginative boy was gazing at the historic chair. He endeavored to summon up the por- traits which he had seen in his volume, and to place them, like living figures, in the empty seat.
“The old chair has begun another year of its existence, to-day,” said Laurence. “We must make haste, or it will have a new history to be told before we finish the old one.”
“Yes, my children,” replied Grandfather, with a smile and a sigh, “another year has been added to those of the two centuries and upward which have passed since the Lady Arbella brought this chair over from England. It is three times as old as your Grandfather; but a year makes no impression on its oaken frame, while it bends the old man nearer and nearer to the earth; so let me go on with my stories while I may.”
Accordingly Grandfather came to the fireside and seated himself in the venerable chair. The lion’s head looked down with a grimly good-natured aspect as the children clustered around the old gentleman’s knees. It almost seemed as if a real lion were peeping over the back of the chair, and smiling at the group of auditors with a sort of lion-like complaisance. Little Alice, whose fancy often inspired her with singular ideas, exclaimed that the lion’s head was nodding at her, and that it looked as if it were going to open its wide jaws and tell a story.
But as the lion’s head appeared to be in no haste to speak, and as there was no record or tradition of its having spoken during the whole existence of the chair, Grandfather did not consider it worth while to wait.
THE STAMP ACT.
“CHARLEY, my boy,” said Grandfather, “do you remember who was the last occupant of the chair?”
“It was Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson,” answered Charley. “Sir Francis Bernard, the new governor, had given him the chair, instead of putting it away in the garret of the Province House. And when we took leave of Hutchinson he was sitting by his fireside, and thinking of the past adventures of the chair and of what was to come.”
“Very well,” said Grandfather; “and you recollect that this was in 1763, or thereabouts, at the close of the old French War. Now, that you may fully comprehend the remaining adventures of the chair, I must make some brief remarks on the situation and character of the New England colonies at this period.”
So Grandfather spoke of the earnest loyalty of our fathers during the old French War, and after the conquest of Canada had brought that war to a triumphant close.
The people loved and reverenced the King of England even more than if the ocean had not rolled its waves between him and them; for, at the distance of three thousand miles, they could not discover his bad qualities and imperfections. Their love was increased by the dangers which they had encountered in order to heighten his glory and extend his dominion. Throughout the war the American colonists had fought side by side with the soldiers of Old England; and nearly thirty thousand young men had laid down their lives for the honor of King George. And the survivors loved him the better because they had done and suffered so much for his sake.
But there were some circumstances that caused America to feel more independent of England than at an earlier period. Canada and Acadia had now become British provinces; and our fathers were no longer afraid of the bands of French and Indians who used to assault them in old times. For a century and a half this had been the great terror of New England. Now the old French soldier was driven from the North forever. And even had it been otherwise, the English colonies were growing so populous and powerful that they might have felt fully able to protect themselves without any help from England.
There were thoughtful and sagacious men, who began to doubt whether a great country like America would always be content to remain under the government of an island three thousand miles away. This was the more doubtful, because the English Parliament had long ago made laws which were intended to be very beneficial to England at the expense of America. By these laws the colonists were forbidden to manufacture articles for their own use, or to carry on trade with any nation but the English.
“Now,” continued Grandfather, “if King George III. and his counsellors had considered these things wisely, they would have taken another course than they did. But when they saw how rich and populous the colonies had grown, their first thought was how they might make more profit out of them than heretofore. England was enormously in debt at the close of the old French War; and it was pretended that this debt had been contracted for the defence of the American colonies, and that, therefore, a part of it ought to be paid by them.”
“Why, this was nonsense!” exclaimed Charley. “Did not our fathers spend their lives, and their money too, to get Canada for King George?”
“True, they did,” said Grandfather; “and they told the English rulers so. But the king and his ministers would not listen to good advice. In 1765 the British Parliament passed a Stamp Act.”
“What was that?” inquired Charley.
“The Stamp Act,” replied Grandfather, “was a law by which all deeds, bonds, and other papers of the same kind were ordered to be marked with the king’s stamp; and without this mark they were declared illegal and void. Now, in order to get a blank sheet of paper with the king’s stamp upon it, people were obliged to pay threepence more than the actual value of the paper. And this extra sum of threepence was a tax, and was to be paid into the king’s treasury.”
“I am sure threepence was not worth quarrelling about!” remarked Clara.
“It was not for threepence, nor for any amount of money, that America quarrelled with England,” replied Grandfather; “it was for a great principle. The colonists were determined not to be taxed except by their own representatives. They said that neither the king and Parliament, nor any other power on earth, had a right to take their money out of their pockets unless they freely gave it. And, rather than pay threepence when it was unjustly demanded, they resolved to sacrifice all the wealth of the country, and their lives along with it. They therefore made a most stubborn resistance to the Stamp Act.”
“That was noble!” exclaimed Laurence. “I understand how it was. If they had quietly paid the tax of threepence, they would have ceased to be freemen, and would have become tributaries of England. And so they contended about a great question of right and wrong, and put everything at stake for it.”
“You are right, Laurence,” said Grandfather, “and it was really amazing and terrible to see what a change came over the aspect of the people the moment the English Parliament had passed this oppressive act. The former history of our chair, my children, has given you some idea of what a harsh, unyielding, stern set of men the old Puritans were. For a good many years back, however, it had seemed as if these characteristics were disappearing. But no sooner did England offer wrong to the colonies than the descendants of the early settlers proved that they had the same kind of temper as their forefathers. The moment before, New England appeared like a humble and loyal subject of the crown; the next instant, she showed the grim, dark features of an old king-resisting Puritan.”
Grandfather spoke briefly of the public measures that were taken in opposition to the Stamp Act. As this law affected all the American colonies alike, it naturally led them to think of consulting together is order to procure its repeal. For this purpose the Legislature of Massachusetts proposed that delegates from every colony should meet in Congress. Accordingly nine colonies, both Northern and Southern, sent delegates to the city of New York.
“And did they consult about going to war with England?” asked Charley.
“No, Charley,” answered Grandfather; “a great deal of talking was yet to be done before England and America could come to blows. The Congress stated the rights and grievances of the colonists. They sent a humble petition to the king, and a memorial to the Parliament, beseeching that the Stamp Act might be repealed. This was all that the delegates had it in their power to do.”
“They might as well have stayed at home, then,” said Charley.
“By no means,” replied Grandfather. “It was a most important and memorable event, this first coming together of the American people by their representatives from the North and South. If England had been wise, she would have trembled at the first word that was spoken in such an assembly.”
These remonstrances and petitions, as Grandfather observed, were the work of grave, thoughtful, and prudent men. Meantime the young and hot- headed people went to work in their own way. It is probable that the petitions of Congress would have had little or no effect on the British statesmen if the violent deeds of the American people had not shown how much excited the people were. LIBERTY TREE was soon heard of in England.
“What was Liberty Tree?” inquired Clara.
“It was an old elm-tree,” answered Grandfather, “which stood near the corner of Essex Street, opposite the Boylston Market. Under the spreading branches of this great tree the people used to assemble whenever they wished to express their feelings and opinions. Thus, after a while, it seemed as if the liberty of the country was connected with Liberty Tree.”
“It was glorious fruit for a tree to bear,” remarked Laurence.
“It bore strange fruit, sometimes,” said Grandfather. “One morning in August, 1765, two figures were found hanging on the sturdy branches of Liberty Tree. They were dressed in square-skirted coats and small- clothes; and, as their wigs hung down over their faces, they looked like real men. One was intended to represent the Earl of Bute, who was supposed to have advised the king to tax America. The other was meant for the effigy of Andrew Oliver, a gentleman belonging to one of the most respectable families in Massachusetts.”
“What harm had he done?” inquired Charley.
“The king had appointed him to be distributor of the stamps,” answered Grandfather. “Mr. Oliver would have made a great deal of money by this business. But the people frightened him so much by hanging him in effigy, and afterwards by breaking into his house, that he promised to have nothing to do with the stamps. And all the king’s friends throughout America were compelled to make the same promise.”
THE HUTCHINSON MOB.
“LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON,” continued Grandfather, “now began to be unquiet in our old chair. He had formerly been much respected and beloved by the people, and had often proved himself a friend to their interests. But the time was come when he could not be a friend to the people without ceasing to be a friend to the king. It was pretty generally understood that Hutchinson would act according to the king’s wishes, right or wrong, like most of the other gentlemen who held offices under the crown. Besides, as he was brother-in-law of Andrew Oliver, the people now felt a particular dislike to him.”
“I should think,” said Laurence, “as Mr. Hutchinson had written the history of our Puritan forefathers, he would have known what the temper of the people was, and so have taken care not to wrong them.”
“He trusted in the might of the King of England,” replied Grandfather, “and thought himself safe under the shelter of the throne. If no dispute had arisen between the king and the people, Hutchinson would have had the character of a wise, good, and patriotic magistrate. But, from the time that he took part against the rights of his country, the people’s love and respect were turned to scorn and hatred, and he never had another hour of peace.”
In order to show what a fierce and dangerous spirit was now aroused among the inhabitants, Grandfather related a passage from history which we shall call The Hutchinson Mob.
On the evening of the 26th of August, 1765, a bonfire was kindled in King Street. It flamed high upward, and threw a ruddy light over the front of the Town House, on which was displayed a carved representation of the royal arms. The gilded vane of the cupola glittered in the blaze. The kindling of this bonfire was the well-known signal for the populace of Boston to assemble in the street.
Before the tar-barrels, of which the bonfire was made, were half burned out, a great crowd had come together. They were chiefly laborers and seafaring men, together with many young apprentices, and all those idle people about town who are ready for any kind of mischief. Doubtless some school-boys were among them.
While these rough figures stood round the blazing bonfire, you might hear them speaking bitter words against the high officers of the province. Governor Bernard, Hutchinson, Oliver, Storey, Hallowell, and other men whom King George delighted to honor, were reviled as traitors to the country. Now and then, perhaps, an officer of the crown passed along the street, wearing the gold-laced hat, white wig, and embroidered waistcoat which were the fashion of the day. But when the people beheld him they set up a wild and angry howl; and their faces had an evil aspect, which was made more terrible by the flickering blaze of the bonfire.
“I should like to throw the traitor right into that blaze!” perhaps one fierce rioter would say.
“Yes; and all his brethren too!” another might reply;” and the governor and old Tommy Hutchinson into the hottest of it!”
“And the Earl of Bute along with them!” muttered a third; “and burn the whole pack of them under King George’s nose! No matter if it singed him!”
Some such expressions as these, either shouted aloud or muttered under the breath, were doubtless heard in King Street. The mob, meanwhile, were growing fiercer and fiercer, and seemed ready even to set the town on fire for the sake of burning the king’s friends out of house and home. And yet, angry as they were, they sometimes broke into a loud roar of laughter, as if mischief and destruction were their sport.
But we must now leave the rioters for a time, and take a peep into the lieutenant-governor’s splendid mansion. It was a large brick house, decorated with Ionic pilasters, and stood in Garden Court Street, near the North Square.
While the angry mob in King Street were shouting his name, Lieutenant- Governor Hutchinson sat quietly in Grandfather’s chair, unsuspicious of the evil that was about to fall upon his head. His beloved family were in the room with him. He had thrown off his embroidered coat and powdered wig, and had on a loose-flowing gown and purple-velvet cap. He had likewise laid aside the cares of state and all the thoughts that had wearied and perplexed him throughout the day.
Perhaps, in the enjoyment of his home, he had forgotten all about the Stamp Act, and scarcely remembered that there was a king, across the ocean, who had resolved to make tributaries of the New-Englanders. Possibly, too, he had forgotten his own ambition, and would not have exchanged his situation, at that moment, to be governor, or even a lord.
The wax candles were now lighted, and showed a handsome room, well provided with rich furniture. On the walls hung the pictures of Hutchinson’s ancestors, who had been eminent men in their day, and were honorably remembered in the history of the country. Every object served to mark the residence of a rich, aristocratic gentleman, who held himself high above the common people, and could have nothing to fear from them. In a corner of the room, thrown carelessly upon a chair, were the scarlet robes of the chief justice. This high office, as well as those of lieutenant-governor, councillor, and judge of probate, was filled by Hutchinson.
Who or what could disturb the domestic quiet of such a great and powerful personage as now sat in Grandfather’s chair?
The lieutenant-governor’s favorite daughter sat by his side. She leaned on the arm of our great chair, and looked up affectionately into her father’s face, rejoicing to perceive that a quiet smile was on his lips. But suddenly a shade came across her countenance. She seemed to listen attentively, as if to catch a distant sound.
“What is the matter, my child?” inquired Hutchinson.
“Father, do not you hear a tumult in the streets?” said she.
The lieutenant-governor listened. But his ears were duller than those of his daughter; he could hear nothing more terrible than the sound of a summer breeze, sighing among the tops of the elm-trees.
“No, foolish child!” he replied, playfully patting her cheek. “There is no tumult. Our Boston mobs are satisfied with what mischief they have already done. The king’s friends need not tremble.”
So Hutchinson resumed his pleasant and peaceful meditations, and again forgot that there were any troubles in the world. But his family were alarmed, and could not help straining their ears to catch the slightest sound. More and more distinctly they heard shouts, and then the trampling of many feet. While they were listening, one of the neighbors rushed breathless into the room.
“A mob! a terrible mob’!” cried he. “They have broken into Mr. Storey’s house, and into Mr. Hallo-well’s, and have made themselves drunk with the liquors in his cellar; and now they are coming hither, as wild as so many tigers. Flee, lieutenant-governor, for your life! for your life!”
“Father, dear father, make haste!” shrieked his children.
But Hutchinson would not hearken to them. He was an old lawyer; and he could not realize that the people would do anything so utterly lawless as to assault him in his peaceful home. He was one of King George’s chief officers · and it would be an insult and outrage upon the king himself if the lieutenant-governor should suffer any wrong.
“Have no fears on my account,” said he. “I am perfectly safe. The king’s name shall be my protection.”
Yet he bade his family retire into one of the neighboring houses. His daughter would have remained; but he forced her away.
The huzzas and riotous uproar of the mob were now heard, close at hand. The sound was terrible, and struck Hutchinson with the same sort of dread as if an enraged wild beast had broken loose and were roaring for its prey. He crept softly to the window. There he beheld an immense concourse of people, filling all the street and rolling onward to his house. It was like a tempestuous flood, that had swelled beyond its bounds and would sweep everything before it. Hutchinson trembled; he felt, at that moment, that the wrath of the people was a thousand-fold more terrible than the wrath of a king.
That was a moment when a loyalist and an aristocrat like Hutchinson might have learned how powerless are kings, nobles, and great men, when the low and humble range themselves against them. King George could do nothing for his servant now. Had King George been there he could have done nothing for himself. If Hutchinson had understood this lesson, and remembered it, he need not, in after years, have been an exile from his native country, nor finally have laid his bones in a distant land.
There was now a rush against the doors of the house. The people sent up a hoarse cry. At this instant the lieutenant-governor’s daughter, whom he had supposed to be in a place of safety, ran into the room and threw her arms around him. She had returned by a private entrance.
“Father, are you mad?” cried she. “Will the king’s name protect you now? Come with me, or they will have your life.”
“True,” muttered Hutchinson to himself; “what care these roarers for the name of king? I must flee, or they will trample me down on the floor of my own dwelling.”
Hurrying away, he and his daughter made their escape by the private passage at the moment when the rioters broke into the house. The foremost of them rushed up the staircase, and entered the room which Hutchinson had just quitted. There they beheld our good old chair facing them with quiet dignity, while the lion’s head seemed to move its jaws in the unsteady light of their torches. Perhaps the stately aspect of our venerable friend, which had stood firm through a century and a half of trouble, arrested them for an instant. But they were thrust forward by those behind, and the chair lay overthrown.
Then began the work of destruction. The carved and polished mahogany tables were shattered with heavy clubs and hewn to splinters with axes. The marble hearths and mantel-pieces were broken. The volumes of Hutchinson’s library, so precious to a studious man, were torn out of their covers, and the leaves sent flying out of the windows. Manuscripts, containing secrets of our country’s history, which are now lost forever, were scattered to the winds.
The old ancestral portraits, whose fixed countenances looked down on the wild scene, were rent from the walls. The mob triumphed in their downfall and destruction, as if these pictures of Hutchinson’s forefathers had committed the same offences as their descendant. A tall looking-glass, which had hitherto presented a reflection of the enraged and drunken multitude, was now smashed into a thousand fragments. We gladly dismiss the scene from the mirror of our fancy.
Before morning dawned the walls of the house were all that remained. The interior was a dismal scene of ruin. A shower pattered in at the broken windows; and when Hutchinson and his family returned, they stood shivering in the same room where the last evening had seen them so peaceful and happy.
“Grandfather,” said Laurence, indignantly, “if the people acted in this manner, they were not worthy of even so much liberty as the King of England was willing to allow them.”
“It was a most unjustifiable act, like many other popular movements at that time,” replied Grandfather. “But we must not decide against the justice of the people’s cause merely because an excited mob was guilty of outrageous violence. Besides, all these things were done in the first fury of resentment. Afterwards the people grew more calm, and were more influenced by the counsel of those wise and good men who conducted them safely and gloriously through the Revolution.”
Little Alice, with tears in her blue eyes, said that she hoped the neighbors had not let Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson and his family be homeless in the street, but had taken them into their houses and been kind to them. Cousin Clara, recollecting the perilous situation of our beloved chair, inquired what had become of it.
“Nothing was heard of our chair for some time afterwards,” answered Grandfather.’ “One day in September, the same Andrew Oliver, of whom I before told you, was summoned to appear at high noon under Liberty Tree. This was the strangest summons that had ever been heard of; for it was issued in the name of the whole people, who thus took upon themselves the authority of a sovereign power. Mr. Oliver dared not disobey. Accordingly, at the appointed hour he went, much against his will, to Liberty Tree.”
Here Charley interposed a remark that poor Mr. Oliver found but little liberty under Liberty Tree. Grandfather assented.
“It was a stormy day,” continued he. “The equinoctial gale blew violently, and scattered the yellow leaves of Liberty Tree all along the street. Mr. Oliver’s wig was dripping with water-drops; and he probably looked haggard, disconsolate, and humbled to the earth. Beneath the tree, in Grandfather’s chair,–our own venerable chair,–sat Mr. Richard Dana, a justice of the peace. He administered an oath to Mr. Oliver that he would never have anything to do with distributing the stamps. A vast concourse of people heard the oath, and shouted when it was taken.”
“There is something grand in this,” said Laurence. “I like it, because the people seem to have acted with thoughtfulness and dignity; and this proud gentleman, one of his Majesty’s high officers, was made to feel that King George could not protect him in doing wrong.”
“But it was a sad day for poor Mr. Oliver,” observed Grandfather. “From his youth upward it had probably been the great principle of his life to be faithful and obedient to the king. And now, in his old age, it must have puzzled and distracted him to find the sovereign people setting up a claim to his faith and obedience.”
Grandfather closed the evening’s conversation by saying that the discontent of America was so great, that, in 1766, the British Parliament was compelled to repeal the Stamp Act. The people made great rejoicings, but took care to keep Liberty Tree well pruned and free from caterpillars and canker-worms. They foresaw that there might yet be occasion for them to assemble under its far-projecting shadow.
THE BRITISH TROOPS IN BOSTON.
THE NEXT evening, Clara, who remembered that our chair had been left standing in the rain under Liberty Tree, earnestly besought Grandfather to tell when and where it had next found shelter. Perhaps she was afraid that the venerable chair, by being exposed to the inclemency of a September gale, might get the rheumatism in its aged joints.
“The chair,” said Grandfather, “after the ceremony of Mr. Oliver’s oath, appears to have been quite forgotten by the multitude. Indeed, being much bruised and rather rickety, owing to the violent treatment it had suffered from the Hutchinson mob, most people would have thought that its days of usefulness were over. Nevertheless, it was conveyed away under cover of the night and committed to the care of a skilful joiner. He doctored our old friend so successfully, that, in the course of a few days, it made its appearance in the public room of the British Coffee Houses in King Street.”
“But why did not Mr. Hutchinson get possession of it again.?” inquired Charley.
“I know not,” answered Grandfather, “unless he considered it a dishonor and disgrace to the chair to have stood under Liberty Tree. At all events, he suffered it to remain at the British Coffee House, which was the principal hotel in Boston. It could not possibly have found a situation where it would be more in the midst of business and bustle, or would witness more important events, or be occupied by a greater variety of persons.”
Grandfather went on to tell the proceedings of the despotic king and ministry of England after the repeal of the Stamp Act. They could not bear to think that their right to tax America should be disputed by the people. In the year 1767, therefore, they caused Parliament to pass an act for laying a duty on tea and some other articles that were in general use. Nobody could now buy a pound of tea without paying a tax to King George. This scheme was pretty craftily contrived; for the women of America were very fond of tea, and did not like to give up the use of it.
But the people were as much opposed to this new act of Parliament as they had been to the Stamp Act. England, however, was determined that they should submit. In order to compel their obedience, two regiments, consisting of more than seven hundred British soldiers, were sent to Boston. They arrived in September, 1768, and were landed on Long Wharf. Thence they marched to the Common with loaded muskets, fixed bayonets, and great pomp and parade. So now, at last, the free town of Boston was guarded and overawed by redcoats as it had been in the days of old Sir Edmund Andros.
In the month of November more regiments arrived. There were now four thousand troops in Boston. The Common was whitened with their tents. Some of the soldiers were lodged in Faneuil Hall, which the inhabitants looked upon as a consecrated place, because it had been the scene of a great many meetings in favor of liberty. One regiment was placed in the Town House, which we now call the Old State House. The lower floor of this edifice had hitherto been used by the merchants as an exchange. In the upper stories were the chambers of the judges, the representatives, and the governor’s council. The venerable councillors could not assemble to consult about the welfare of the province without being challenged by sentinels and passing among the bayonets of the British soldiers.
Sentinels likewise were posted at the lodgings of the officers in many parts of the town. When the inhabitants approached they were greeted by the sharp question, “Who goes there?” while the rattle of the soldier’s musket was heard as he presented it against their breasts. There was no quiet even on the sabbath day. The quiet descendants of the Puritans were shocked by the uproar of military music; the drum, fife, and bugle drowning the holy organ peal and the voices of the singers. It would appear as if the British took every method to insult the feelings of the people.
“Grandfather,” cried Charley, impatiently, “the people did not go to fighting half soon enough! These British redcoats ought to have been driven back to their vessels the very moment they landed on Long Wharf.”
“Many a hot-headed young man said the same as you do, Charley,” answered Grandfather. “But the elder and wiser people saw that the time was not yet come. Meanwhile, let us take another peep at our old chair.”
“Ah, it drooped its head, I know,” said Charley, “when it saw how the province was disgraced. Its old Puritan friends never would have borne such doings.”
“The chair,” proceeded Grandfather, “was now continually occupied by some of the high tories, as the king’s friends were called, who frequented the British Coffee House. Officers of the Custom House, too, which stood on the opposite side of King Street, often sat in the chair wagging their tongues against John Hancock.”
“Why against him?” asked Charley.
“Because he was a great merchant and contended against paying duties to the king,” said Grandfather.
“Well, frequently, no doubt, the officers of the British regiments, when not on duty, used to fling themselves into the arms of our venerable chair. Fancy one of them, a red-nosed captain in his scarlet uniform, playing with the hilt of his sword, and making a circle of his brother officers merry with ridiculous jokes at the expense of the poor Yankees. And perhaps he would call for a bottle of wine, or a steaming bowl of punch, and drink confusion to all rebels.”
“Our grave old chair must have been scandalized at such scenes,” observed Laurence; “the chair that had been the Lady Arbella’s, and which the holy apostle Eliot had consecrated.”
“It certainly was little less than sacrilege,” replied Grandfather; “but the time was coming when even the churches, where hallowed pastors had long preached the word of God, were to be torn down or desecrated by the British troops. Some years passed, however, before such things were done.”
Grandfather now told his auditors that, in 1769, Sir Francis Bernard went to England after having been governor of Massachusetts ten years. He was a gentleman of many good qualities, an excellent scholar, and a friend to learning. But he was naturally of an arbitrary disposition; and he had been bred at the University of Oxford, where young men were taught that the divine right of kings was the only thing to be regarded in matters of government. Such ideas were ill adapted to please the people of Massachusetts. They rejoiced to get rid of Sir Francis Bernard, but liked his successor, Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson, no better than himself.
About this period the people were much incensed at an act committed by a person who held an office in the Custom House. Some lads, or young men, were snowballing his windows. He fired a musket at them, and killed a poor German boy, only eleven years old. This event made a great noise in town and country, and much increased the resentment that was already felt against the servants of the crown.
“Now, children,” said Grandfather, “I wish to make you comprehend the position of the British troops in King Street. This is the same which we now call State Street. On the south side of the Town House, or Old State House, was what military men call a court of guard, defended by two brass cannons, which pointed directly at one of the doors of the above edifice. A large party of soldiers were always stationed in the court of guard. The Custom House stood at a little distance down King Street, nearly where the Suffolk Bank now stands, and a sentinel was continually pacing before its front.”
“I shall remember this to-morrow,” said Charley; “and I will go to State Street, so as to see exactly where the British troops were stationed.”
“And before long,” observed Grandfather, “I shall have to relate an event which made King Street sadly famous on both sides of the Atlantic. The history of our chair will soon bring us to this melancholy business.”
Here Grandfather described the state of things which arose from the ill will that existed between the inhabitants and the redcoats. The old and sober part of the townspeople were very angry at the government for sending soldiers to overawe them. But those gray-headed men were cautious, and kept their thoughts and feelings in their own breasts, without putting themselves in the way of the British bayonets.
The younger people, however, could hardly be kept within such prudent limits. They reddened with wrath at the very sight of a soldier, and would have been willing to come to blows with them at any moment. For it was their opinion that every tap of a British drum, within the peninsula of Boston was an insult to the brave old town.
“It was sometimes the case,” continued Grandfather, “that affrays happened between such wild young men as these and small parties of the soldiers. No weapons had hitherto been used except fists or cudgels. But when men have loaded muskets in their hands, it is easy to foretell that they will soon be turned against the bosoms of those who provoke their anger.”
“Grandfather,” said little Alice, looking fearfully into his face, “your voice sounds as though you were going to tell us something awful!”
THE BOSTON MASSACRE.
LITTLE ALICE, by her last remark, proved herself a good judge of what was expressed by the tones of Grandfather’s voice. He had given the above description of the enmity between the townspeople and the soldiers in order to Prepare the minds of his auditors for a very terrible event. It was one that did more to heighten the quarrel between England and America than anything that had yet occurred.
Without further preface, Grandfather began the story of the Boston Massacre.
It was now the 8d of March, 1770. The sunset music of the British regiments was heard as usual throughout the town. The shrill fife and rattling drum awoke the echoes in King Street, while the last ray of sunshine was lingering on the cupola of the Town House. And now all the sentinels were posted. One of them marched up and down before the Custom House, treading a short path through the snow, and longing for the time when he would be dismissed to the warm fireside of the guard room. Meanwhile Captain Preston was, perhaps, sitting in our great chair before the hearth of the British Coffee House. In the course of the evening there were two or three slight commotions, which seemed to indicate that trouble was at hand. Small parties of young men stood at the corners of the streets or walked along the narrow pavements. Squads of soldiers who were dismissed from duty passed by them, shoulder to shoulder, with the regular step which they had learned at the drill. Whenever these encounters took place, it appeared to be the object of the young men to treat the soldiers with as much incivility as possible.
“Turn out, you lobsterbacks!” one would say. “Crowd them off the sidewalks!” another would cry. “A redcoat has no right in Boston streets!”
“O, you rebel rascals!” perhaps the soldiers would reply, glaring fiercely at the young men. “Some day or other we’ll make our way through Boston streets at the point of the bayonet!”
Once or twice such disputes as these brought on a scuffle; which passed off, however, without attracting much notice. About eight o’clock, for some unknown cause, an alarm-bell rang loudly and hurriedly.
At the sound many people ran out of their houses, supposing it to be an alarm of fire. But there were no flames to be seen, nor was there any smell of smoke in the clear, frosty air; so that most of the townsmen went back to their own firesides and sat talking with their wives and children about the calamities of the times. Others who were younger and less prudent remained in the streets; for there seems to have been a presentiment that some strange event was on the eve of taking place.
Later in the evening, not far from nine o’clock, several young men passed by the Town House and walked down King Street. The sentinel was still on his post in front of the Custom House, pacing to and fro; while, as he turned, a gleam of light from some neighboring window glittered on the barrel of his musket. At no great distance were the barracks and the guard-house, where his comrades were probably telling stories of battle and bloodshed.
Down towards the Custom House, as I told you, came a party of wild young men. When they drew near the sentinel he halted on his post, and took his musket from his shoulder, ready to present the bayonet at their breasts.
“Who goes there?” he cried, in the gruff, peremptory tones of a soldier’s challenge. The young men, being Boston boys, felt as if they had a right to walk their own streets without being accountable to a British redcoat, even though he challenged them in King George’s name. They made some rude answer to the sentinel. There was a dispute, or perhaps a scuffle. Other soldiers heard the noise, and ran hastily from the barracks to assist their comrades. At the same time many of the townspeople rushed into King Street by various avenues, and gathered in a crowd round about the Custom House. It seemed wonderful how such a multitude had started up all of a sudden.
The wrongs and insults which the people had been suffering for many months now kindled them into a rage. They threw snowballs and lumps of ice at the soldiers. As the tumult grew louder it reached the ears of Captain Preston, the officer of the day. He immediately ordered eight soldiers of the main guard to take their muskets and follow him. They marched across the street, forcing their way roughly through the crowd, and pricking the townspeople with their bayonets.
A gentleman (it was Henry Knox, afterwards general of the American artillery) caught Captain Preston’s arm.
“For Heaven’s sake, sir,” exclaimed he, “take heed what you do, or there will be bloodshed.”
“Stand aside!” answered Captain Preston, haughtily. “Do not interfere, sir. Leave me to manage the affair.”
Arriving at the sentinel’s post, Captain Preston drew up his men in a semicircle, with their faces to the crowd and their rear to the Custom House. When the people saw the officer and beheld the threatening attitude with which the soldiers fronted them, their rage became almost uncontrollable.
“Fire, you lobsterbacks!” bellowed some.
“You dare not fire, you cowardly redcoats!” cried others.
“Rush upon them!” shouted many voices. “Drive the rascals to their barracks! Down with them! Down with them! Let them fire if they dare!”
Amid the uproar, the soldiers stood glaring at the people with the fierceness of men whose trade was to shed blood.
Oh, what a crisis had now arrived! Up to this very moment, the angry feelings between England and America might have been pacified. England had but to stretch out the hand of reconciliation, and acknowledge that she had hitherto mistaken her rights, but would do so no more. Then the ancient bonds of brotherhood would again have been knit together as firmly as in old times. The habit of loyalty, which had grown as strong as instinct, was not utterly overcome. The perils shared, the victories won, in the old French War, when the soldiers of the colonies fought side by side with their comrades from beyond the sea, were unforgotten yet. England was still that beloved country which the colonists called their home. King George, though he had frowned upon America, was still reverenced as a father.
But should the king’s soldiers shed one drop of American blood, then it was a quarrel to the death. Never, never would America rest satisfied until she had torn down the royal authority and trampled it in the dust.
“Fire, if you dare, villains!” hoarsely shouted the people, while the muzzles of the muskets were turned upon them. “You dare not fire!”
They appeared ready to rush upon the levelled bayonets. Captain Preston waved his sword, and uttered a command which could not be distinctly heard amid the uproar of shouts that issued from a hundred throats. But his soldiers deemed that he had spoken the fatal mandate, “Fire!” The flash of their muskets lighted up the streets, and the report rang loudly between the edifices. It was said, too, that the figure of a man, with a cloth hanging down over his face, was seen to step into the balcony of the Custom House and discharge a musket at the crowd.
A gush of smoke had overspread the scene. It rose heavily, as if it were loath to reveal the dreadful spectacle beneath it. Eleven of the sons of New England lay stretched upon the street. Some, sorely wounded, were struggling to rise again. Others stirred not nor groaned; for they were past all pain. Blood was streaming upon the snow; and that purple stain in the midst of King Street, though it melted away in the next day’s sun, was never forgotten nor forgiven by the people.
Grandfather was interrupted by the violent sobs of little Alice. In his earnestness he had neglected to soften clown the narrative so that it might not terrify the heart of this unworldly infant. Since Grandfather began the history of our chair, little Alice had listened to many tales of war. But probably the idea had never really impressed itself upon her mind that men have shed the blood of their fellow-creatures. And now that this idea was forcibly presented to her, it affected the sweet child with bewilderment and horror.
“I ought to have remembered our dear little Alice,” said Grandfather reproachfully to himself. “Oh, what a pity! Her heavenly nature has now received its first impression of earthly sin and violence. Well, Clara, take her to bed and comfort her. Heaven grant that she may dream away the recollection of the Boston massacre!”
“Grandfather,” said Charley, when Clara and little Alice had retired, “did not the people rush upon the soldiers and take revenge?”
“The town drums beat to arms,” replied Grandfather, “the alarm-bells rang, and an immense multitude rushed into King Street. Many of them had weapons in their hands. The British prepared to defend themselves. A whole regiment was drawn up in the street, expecting an attack; for the townsmen appeared ready to throw themselves upon the bayonets.”
“And how did it end?”
“Governor Hutchinson hurried to the spot,” said Grandfather, “and besought the people to have patience, promising that strict justice should be done. A day or two afterward the British troops were withdrawn from town and stationed at Castle William. Captain Preston and the eight soldiers were tried for murder. But none of them were found guilty. The judges told the jury that the insults and violence which had been offered to the soldiers justified them in firing at the mob.”
“The Revolution,” observed Laurence, who had said but little during the evening, “was not such a calm, majestic movement as I supposed. I do not love to hear of mobs and broils in the street. These things were unworthy of the people when they had such a great object to accomplish.”
“Nevertheless, the world has seen no grander movement than that of our Revolution from first to last,” said Grandfather. “The people, to a man, were full of a great and noble sentiment. True, there may be much fault to find with their mode of expressing this sentiment; but they knew no better; the necessity was upon them to act out their feelings in the best manner they could. We must forgive what was wrong in their actions, and look into their hearts and minds for the honorable motives that impelled them.”
“And I suppose,” said Laurence, “there were men who knew how to act worthily of what they felt.”
“There were many such,” replied Grandfather; “and we will speak of some of them hereafter.”
Grandfather here made a pause. That night Charley had a dream about the Boston massacre, and thought that he himself was in the crowd and struck down Captain Preston with a great club. Laurence dreamed that he was sitting in our great chair, at the window of the British Coffee House, and beheld the whole scene which Grandfather had described. It seemed to him, in his dream, that, if the townspeople and the soldiers would but have heard him speak a single word, all the slaughter might have been averted. But there was such an uproar that it drowned his voice.
The next morning the two boys went together to State Street and stood on the very spot where the first blood of the Revolution had been shed. The Old State House was still there, presenting almost the same aspect that it had worn on that memorable evening, one-and-seventy years ago. It is the sole remaining witness of the Boston massacre.
A COLLECTION OF PORTRAITS.
THE NEXT evening the astral lamp was lighted earlier than usual, because Laurence was very much engaged in looking over the collection of portraits which had been his New-Year’s gift from Grandfather.
Among them he found the features of more than one famous personage who had been connected with the adventures of our old chair. Grandfather bade him draw the table nearer to the fireside; and they looked over the portraits together, while Clara and Charley likewise lent their attention. As for little Alice, she sat in Grandfather’s lap, and seemed to see the very men alive whose faces were there represented.
Turning over the volume, Laurence came to the portrait of a stern, grim- looking man, in plain attire, of much more modern fashion than that of the old Puritans. But the face might well have befitted one of those iron-hearted men. Beneath the portrait was the name of Samuel Adams.
“He was a man of great note in all the doings that brought about the Revolution,” said Grandfather. “His character was such, that it seemed as if one of the ancient Puritans had been sent back to earth to animate the people’s hearts with the same abhorrence of tyranny that had distinguished the earliest settlers. He was as religious as they, as stern and inflexible, and as deeply imbued with democratic principles. He, better than any one else, may be taken as a representative of the people of New England, and of the spirit with which they engaged in the Revolutionary struggle. He was a poor man, and earned his bread by a humble occupation; but with his tongue and pen he made the King of England tremble on his throne. Remember him, my children, as one of the strong men of our country.”
“Here is one whose looks show a very different character,” observed Laurence, turning to the portrait of John Hancock. “I should think, by his splendid dress and courtly aspect, that he was one of the king’s friends.”
“There never was a greater contrast than between Samuel Adams and John Hancock,” said Grandfather. “Yet they were of the same side in politics, and had an equal agency in the Revolution. Hancock was born to the inheritance of the largest fortune in New England. His tastes and habits were aristocratic. He loved gorgeous attire, a splendid mansion, magnificent furniture, stately festivals, and all that was glittering and pompous in external things. His manners were so polished that there stood not a nobleman at the footstool of King George’s throne who was a more skilful courtier than John Hancock might have been. Nevertheless, he in his embroidered clothes, and Samuel Adams in his threadbare coat, wrought together in the cause of liberty. Adams acted from pure and rigid principle. Hancock, though he loved his country, yet thought quite as much of his own popularity as he did of the people’s rights. It is remarkable that these two men, so very different as I describe them, were the only two exempted from pardon by the king’s proclamation.”
On the next leaf of the book was the portrait of General Joseph Warren. Charley recognized the name, and said that here was a greater man than either Hancock or Adams.
“Warren was an eloquent and able patriot,” replied Grandfather. “He deserves a lasting memory for his zealous efforts in behalf of liberty. No man’s voice was more powerful in Faneuil Hall than Joseph Warren’s. If his death had not happened so early in the contest, he would probably have gained a high name as a soldier.”
The next portrait was a venerable man, who held his thumb under his chin, and, through his spectacles, appeared to be attentively reading a manuscript.
“Here we see the most illustrious Boston boy that ever lived,” said Grandfather. “This is Benjamin Franklin. But I will not try to compress into a few sentences the character of the sage, who, as a Frenchman expressed it, snatched the lightning from the sky and the sceptre from a tyrant. Mr. Sparks must help you to the knowledge of Franklin.”
The book likewise contained portraits of James Otis and Josiah Quincy. Both of them, Grandfather observed, were men of wonderful talents and true patriotism. Their voices were like the stirring tones of a trumpet arousing the country to defend its freedom. Heaven seemed to have provided a greater number of eloquent men than had appeared at any other period, in order that the people might be fully instructed as to their wrongs and the method of resistance.
“It is marvellous,” said Grandfather, “to see how many powerful writers, orators, and soldiers started up just at the time when they were wanted. There was a man for every kind of work. It is equally wonderful that men of such different characters were all made to unite in the one object of establishing the freedom and independence of America. There was an over- ruling Providence above them.”
“Here, was another great man,” remarked Laurence, pointing to the portrait of John Adams.
“Yes; an earnest, warm-tempered, honest and most able man,” said Grandfather. “At the period of which we are now speaking he was a lawyer in Boston. He was destined in after years to be ruler over the whole American people, whom he contributed so much to form into a nation.”
Grandfather here remarked that many a New-Englander, who had passed his boyhood and youth in obscurity, afterward attained to a fortune which he never could have foreseen even in his most ambitious dreams. John Adams, the second President of the United States and the equal of crowned kings, was once a schoolmaster and country lawyer. Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, served his apprenticeship with a merchant. Samuel Adams, afterwards governor of Massachusetts, was a small tradesman and a tax-gatherer. General Warren was a physician, General Lincoln a farmer, and General Knox a bookbinder. General Nathaniel Greene, the best soldier, except Washington, in the Revolutionary army, was a Quaker and a blacksmith. All these became illustrious men, and can never be forgotten in American history.
“And any boy who is born in America may look forward to the same things,” said our ambitious friend Charley.
After these observations, Grandfather drew the book of portraits towards him and showed the children several British peers and members of Parliament who had exerted themselves either for or against the rights of America. There were the Earl of Bute, Mr. Grenville, and Lord North. These were looked upon as deadly enemies to our country.
Among the friends of America was Mr. Pitt, afterward Earl of Chatham, who spent so much of his wondrous eloquence in endeavoring to warn England of the consequences of her injustice. He fell down on the floor of the House of Lords after uttering almost his dying words in defence of our privileges as freemen. There was Edmund Burke, one of the wisest men and greatest orators that ever the world produced. There was Colonel Barry, who had been among our fathers, and knew that they had courage enough to die for their rights. There was Charles James Fox, who never rested until he had silenced our enemies in the House of Commons.
“It is very remarkable to observe how many of the ablest orators in the British Parliament were favorable to America,” said Grandfather. “We ought to remember these great Englishmen with gratitude; for their speeches encouraged our fathers almost as much as those of our own orators in Faneuil Hall and under Liberty Tree. Opinions which might have been received with doubt, if expressed only by a native American, were set down as true, beyond dispute, when they came from the lips of Chatham, Burke, Barre, or Fox”
“But, Grandfather,” asked Lawrence, “were there no able and eloquent men in this country who took the part of King George?”
“There were many men of talent who said what they could in defence of the king’s tyrannical proceedings,” replied Grandfather. “But they had the worst side of the argument, and therefore seldom said anything worth remembering. Moreover, their hearts were faint and feeble; for they felt that the people scorned and detested them. They had no friends, no defence, except in the bayonets of the British troops. A blight fell upon all their faculties, because they were contending against the rights of their own native land.”
“What were the names of some of them?” inquired Charley.
“Governor Hutchinson, Chief Justice Oliver, Judge Auchmuty, the Rev. Mather Byles, and several other clergymen, were among the most noted loyalists,” answered Grandfather.
“I wish the people had tarred and feathered every man of them!” cried Charley.
“That wish is very wrong, Charley,” said Grandfather. “You must not think that there is no integrity and honor except among those who stood up for the freedom of America. For aught I know, there was quite as much of these qualities on one side as on the other. Do you see nothing admirable in a faithful adherence to an unpopular cause? Can you not respect that principle of loyalty which made the royalists give up country, friends, fortune, everything, rather than be false to their king? It was a mistaken principle; but many of them cherished it honorably, and were martyrs to it.”
“Oh, I was wrong!” said Charley, ingenuously.
“And I would risk my life rather than one of those good old royalists should be tarred and feathered.”
“The time is now come when we may judge fairly of them,” continued Grandfather. “Be the good and true men among them honored; for they were as much our countrymen as the patriots were. And, thank Heaven, our country need not be ashamed of her sons,–of most of them at least,– whatever side they took in the Revolutionary contest.”
Among the portraits was one of King George III Little Alice clapped her hands, and seemed pleased with the bluff good-nature of his physiognomy. But Laurence thought it strange that a man with such a face, indicating hardly a common share of intellect, should have had influence enough on human affairs to convulse the world with war. Grandfather observed that this poor king had always appeared to him one of the most unfortunate persons that ever lived. He was so honest and conscientious, that, if he had been only a private man, his life would probably have been blameless and happy. But his was that worst of fortunes,–to be placed in a station far beyond his abilities.
“And so,” said Grandfather, “his life, while he retained what intellect Heaven had gifted him with, was one long mortification. At last he grew crazed with care and trouble. For nearly twenty years the men arch of England was confined as a madman. In his old age, too, God took away his eyesight; so that his royal palace was nothing to him but a dark, lonesome prison-house.”
THE TEA PARTY AND LEXINGTON,
“OUR old chair? resumed Grandfather,” did not now stand in tile midst of a gay circle of British officers. The troops, as I told you, had been removed to Castle William immediately after the Boston massacre. Still, however, there were many tories, custom-house officers, and Englishmen who used to assemble in the British Coffee House and talk over the affairs of the period. Matters grew worse and worse; and in 1773 the people did a deed which incensed the king and ministry more than any of their former doings.”
Grandfather here described the affair, which is known by the name of the Boston Tea Party. The Americans, for some time past, had left off importing tea, on account of the oppressive tax. The East India Company, in London, had a large stock of tea on hand, which they had expected to sell to the Americans, but could find no market for it. But after a while, the government persuaded this company of merchants to send the tea to America.
“How odd it is,” observed Clara, “that the liberties of America should have had anything to do with a cup of tea!”
Grandfather smiled, and proceeded with his narrative. When the people of Boston heard that several cargoes of tea were coming across the Atlantic, they held a great many meetings at Faneuil Hall, in the Old South Church, and under Liberty Tree. In the midst of their debates, three ships arrived in the harbor with the tea on board. The people spent more than a fortnight in consulting what should be done. At last, on the 16th of December, 1773, they demanded of Governor Hutchinson that he should immediately send the ships back to England.
The governor replied that the ships must not leave the harbor until the custom-house duties upon the tea should be paid. Now, the payment of these duties was the very thing against which the people had set their faces; because it was a tax unjustly imposed upon America by the English government. Therefore, in the dusk of the evening, as soon as Governor Hutchinson’s reply was received, an immense crowd hastened to Griffin’s Wharf, where the tea-ships lay. The place is now called Liverpool Wharf.
“When the crowd reached the wharf,” said Grandfather, “they saw that a set of wild-looking figures were already on board of the ships. You would have imagined that the Indian warriors of old times had come back again; for they wore the Indian dress, and had their faces covered with red and black paint, like the Indians when they go to war. These grim figures hoisted the tea-chests on the decks of the vessels; broke them open, and threw all the contents into the harbor.”
“Grandfather,” said little Alice, “I suppose Indians don’t love tea; else they would never waste it so.”
“They were not real Indians, my child,” answered Grandfather. “They were white men in disguise; because a heavy punishment would have been inflicted on them if the king’s officers had found who they were.
But it was never known. From that day to this, though the matter has been talked of by all the world, nobody can tell the names of those Indian figures. Some people say that there were very famous men among them, who afterwards became governors and generals. Whether this be true I cannot tell.”
When tidings of this bold deed were carried to England, King George was greatly enraged. Parliament immediately passed an act, by which all vessels were forbidden to take in or discharge their cargoes at the port of Boston. In this way they expected to ruin all the merchants, and starve the poor people, by depriving them of employment. At the same time another act was passed, taking away many rights and privileges which had been granted in the charter of Massachusetts.
Governor Hutchinson, soon afterward, was summoned to England, in order that he might give his advice about the management of American affairs. General Gage, an officer of the old French War, and since commander-in- chief of the British forces in America, was appointed governor in his stead. One of his first acts was to make Salem, instead of Boston, the metropolis of Massachusetts, by summoning the General Court to meet there.
According to Grandfather’s description, this was the most gloomy time that Massachusetts had ever seen. The people groaned under as heavy a tyranny as in the days of Sir Edmund Andros. Boston looked as if it were afflicted with some dreadful pestilence,–so sad were the inhabitants, and so desolate the streets. There was no cheerful hum of business. The merchants shut up their warehouses, and the laboring men stood idle about the wharves. But all America felt interested in the good town of Boston; and contributions were raised, in many places, for the relief of the poor inhabitants.
“Our dear old chair!” exclaimed Clara. “How dismal it must have been now!”
“Oh,” replied Grandfather, “a gay throng of officers had now come back to the British Coffee House; so that the old chair had no lack of mirthful company. Soon after General Gage became governor a great many troops had arrived, and were encamped upon the Common. Boston was now a garrisoned and fortified town; for the general had built a battery across the Neck, on the road to Roxbury, and placed guards for its defence. Everything looked as if a civil war were close at hand.”
“Did the people make ready to fight?” asked Charley.
“A Continental Congress assembled at Philadelphia,” said Grandfather, “and proposed such measures as they thought most conducive to the public good. A Provincial Congress was likewise chosen in Massachusetts. They exhorted the people to arm and discipline themselves. A great number of minutemen were enrolled. The Americans called them minute-men, because they engaged to be ready to fight at a minute’s warning. The English officers laughed, and said that the name was a very proper one, because the minute-men would run away the minute they saw the enemy. Whether they would fight or run was soon to be proved.”
Grandfather told the children that the first open resistance offered to the British troops, in the province of Massachusetts, was at Salem. Colonel Timothy Pickering, with thirty or forty militia-men, prevented the English colonel, Leslie, with four times as many regular soldiers, from taking possession of some military stores. No blood was shed on this occasion; but soon afterward it began to flow.
General Gage sent eight hundred soldiers to Concord, about eighteen miles from Boston, to destroy some ammunition and provisions which the colonists had collected there. They set out on their march on the evening of the 18th of April, 1775. The next morning the general sent Lord’ Percy with nine hundred men to strengthen the troops that had gone before. All that day the inhabitants of Boston heard various rumors. Some said that the British were making great slaughter among our countrymen. Others affirmed that every man had turned out with his musket, and that not a single soldier would ever get back to Boston.
“It was after sunset,” continued Grandfather, “when the troops, who had marched forth so proudly, were seen entering Charlestown. They were covered with dust, and so hot and weary that their tongues hung out of their mouths. Many of them were faint with wounds. They had not all returned. Nearly three hundred were strewn, dead or dying, along the road from Concord. The yeomanry had risen upon the invaders and driven them back.”
“Was this the battle of Lexington?” asked Charley.
“Yes,” replied Grandfather; “it was so called, because the British, without provocation, had fired upon a party of minute-men, near Lexington meeting-house, and killed eight of them. That fatal volley, which was fired by order of Major Pitcairn, began the war of the Revolution”
About this time, if Grandfather had been correctly informed, our chair disappeared from the British Coffee House. The manner of its departure cannot be satisfactorily ascertained. Perhaps the keeper of the Coffee House turned it out of doors on account of its old-fashioned aspect. Perhaps he sold it as a curiosity. Perhaps it was taken, without leave, by some person who regarded it as public property because it had once figured under Liberty Tree. Or perhaps the old chair, being of a peaceable disposition, has made use of its four oaken legs and run away from the seat of war.
“It would have made a terrible clattering over the pavement,” said Charley, laughing.
“Meanwhile,” continued Grandfather, “during the mysterious non- appearance of our chair, an army of twenty thousand men had started up and come to the siege of Boston. General Gage and his troops were cooped up within the narrow precincts of the peninsula. On the 17th of June, 1775, the famous battle of Bunker Hill was fought. Here General Warren fell. The British got the victory, indeed, but with the loss of more than a thousand officers and men.”
“Oh Grandfather,” cried Charley, “you must tell us about that famous battle.”
“No, Charley,” said Grandfather, “I am not like other historians. Battles shall not hold a prominent place in the history of our quiet and comfortable old chair. But to-morrow evening, Laurence, Clara, and yourself, and dear little Alice too, shall visit the Diorama of Bunker Hill. There you shall see the whole business, the burning of Charlestown and all, with your own eyes, and hear the cannon and musketry with your own ears.”
THE SIEGE OF BOSTON.
THE next evening but one, when the children had given Grandfather a full account of the Diorama of Bunker Hill, they entreated him not to keep them any longer in suspense about the fate of his chair. The reader will recollect that, at the last accounts, it had trotted away upon its poor old legs nobody knew whither. But, before gratifying their curiosity, Grandfather found it necessary to say something about public events.
The Continental Congress, which was assembled at Philadelphia, was composed of delegates from all the colonies. They had now appointed George Washington, of Virginia, to be commander-in-chief of all the American armies. He was, at that time, a member of Congress; but immediately left Philadelphia, and began his journey to Massachusetts. On the 3d of July, 1775, he arrived at Cambridge, and took command of the troops which were besieging General Gage.
“O Grandfather,” exclaimed Laurence, “it makes my heart throb to think what is coming now. We are to see General Washington himself.”
The children crowded around Grandfather and looked earnestly into his face. Even little Alice opened her sweet blue eyes, with her lips apart, and almost held her breath to listen; so instinctive is the reverence of childhood for the father of his country.
Grandfather paused a moment; for he felt as if it might be irreverent to introduce the hallowed shade of Washington into a history where an ancient elbow-chair occupied the most prominent place. However, he determined to proceed with his narrative, and speak of the hero when it was needful, but with an unambitious simplicity.
So Grandfather told his auditors, that, on General Washington’s arrival at Cambridge, his first care was to reconnoitre the British troops with his spy-glass, and to examine the condition of his own army. He found that the American troops amounted to about fourteen thousand men. They were extended all round the peninsula of Boston, a space of twelve miles, from the high grounds of Roxbury on the right to Mystic River on the left. Some were living in tents of sailcloth, some in shanties rudely constructed of boards, some in huts of stone or turf with curious windows and doors of basket-work.
In order to be near the centre and oversee the whole of this wide- stretched army, the commander-in-chief made his headquarters at Cambridge, about half a mile from the colleges. A mansion-house, which perhaps had been the country seat of some Tory gentle man, was provided for his residence.
“When General Washington first entered this mansion,” said Grandfather, “he was ushered up the staircase and shown into a handsome apartment. He sat down in a large chair, which was the most conspicuous object in the room. The noble figure of Washington would have done honor to a throne. As he sat there, with his hand resting on the hilt of his sheathed sword, which was placed between his knees, his whole aspect well befitted the chosen man on whom his country leaned for the defence of her dearest rights. America seemed safe under his protection. His face was grander than any sculptor had ever wrought in marble; none could behold him without awe and reverence. Never before had the lion’s head at the summit of the chair looked down upon such a face and form as Washington’s.”
“Why, Grandfather!” cried Clara, clasping her hands in amazement, “was it really so? Did General Washington sit in our great chair?”
“I knew how it would be,” said Laurence; “I foresaw it the moment Grandfather began to speak.”
Grandfather smiled. But, turning from the personal and domestic life of the illustrious leader, he spoke of the methods which Washington adopted to win back the metropolis of New England from the British.
The army, when he took command of it, was without any discipline or order. The privates considered themselves as good as their officers; and seldom thought it necessary to obey their commands, unless they understood the why and wherefore. Moreover. they were enlisted for so short a period, that, as soon as they began to be respectable soldiers, it was time to discharge them. Then came new recruits, who had to be taught their duty before they could be of any service. Such was the army with which Washington had to contend against more than twenty veteran British regiments.
Some of the men had no muskets, and almost all were without bayonets. Heavy cannon, for battering the British fortifications, were much wanted. There was but a small quantity of powder and ball, few tools to build intrenchments with, and a great deficiency of provisions and clothes for the soldiers. Yet, in spite of these perplexing difficulties, the eyes of the whole people were fixed on General Washington, expecting him to undertake some great enterprise against the hostile army.
The first thing that he found necessary was to bring his own men into better order and discipline. It is wonderful how soon he transformed this rough mob of country people into the semblance of a regular army. One of Washington’s most invaluable characteristics was the faculty of bringing order out of confusion. All business with which he had any concern seemed to regulate itself as if by magic. The influence of his mind was like light gleaming through an unshaped world. It was this faculty, more than any other, that made him so fit to ride upon the storm of the Revolution when everything was unfixed and drifting about in a troubled sea.
“Washington had not been long at the head of the army,” proceeded Grandfather, “before his soldiers thought as highly of him as if he had led them to a hundred victories. They knew that he was the very man whom the country needed, and the only one who could bring them safely through the great contest against the might of England. They put entire confidence in his courage, wisdom, and integrity.”
“And were they not eager to follow him against the British?” asked Charley.
“Doubtless they would have gone whithersoever his sword pointed the way,” answered Grandfather; “and Washington was anxious to make a decisive assault upon the enemy. But as the enterprise was very hazardous, he called a council of all the generals in the army. Accordingly they came from their different posts, and were ushered into the reception-room. The commander-in-chief arose from our great chair to greet them.”
“What were their names?” asked Charley.
“There was General Artemas Ward,” replied Grandfather, “a lawyer by profession. He had commanded the troops before Washington’s arrival Another was General Charles Lee, who had been a colonel in the English army, and was thought to possess vast military science. He came to the council, followed by two or three dogs which were always at his heels. There was General Putnam, too, who was known all over New England by the name of Old Put.”
“Was it he who killed the wolf?” inquired Charley.
“The same,” said Grandfather; “and he had done good service in the old French War. His occupation was that of a farmer; but he left his plough in the furrow at the news of Lexington battle. Then there was General Gates, who afterward gained great renown at Saratoga, and lost it again at Camden. General Greene, of Rhode Island, was likewise at the council. Washington soon discovered him to be one of the best officers in the army.”
When the generals were all assembled, Washington consulted them about a plan for storming the English batteries. But it was their unanimous opinion that so perilous an enterprise ought not to be attempted. The army, therefore, continued to besiege Boston, preventing the enemy from obtaining supplies of provisions, but without taking any immediate measures to get possession of the town. In ‘this manner the sum met, autumn, and winter passed away.
“Many a night, doubtless,” said Grandfather, “after Washington had been all day on horseback, galloping from one post of the army to another, he used to sit in our great chair, rapt in earnest thought. Had you seen him, you might have supposed that his whole mind was fixed on the blue china tiles which adorned the old-fashioned fireplace. But, in reality, he was meditating how to capture the British army, or drive it out of Boston. Once, when there was a hard frost, he formed a scheme to cross the Charles River on the ice. But the other generals could not be persuaded that there was any prospect of success.”
“What were the British doing all this time?” inquired Charley.
“They lay idle in the town,” replied Grandfather. “General Gage had been recalled to England, and was succeeded by Sir William Howe. The British army and the inhabitants of Boston were now in great distress. Being shut up in the town so long, they had consumed almost all their provisions and burned up all their fuel. The soldiers tore down the Old North Church, and used its rotten boards and timbers for firewood. To heighten their distress, the small-pox broke out. They probably lost far more men by cold, hunger, and sickness than had been slain at Lexington and Bunker Hill.”
“What a dismal time for the poor women and children! exclaimed Clara.
“At length,” continued Grandfather, “in March, 1776, General Washington, who had now a good supply of powder, began a terrible cannonade and bombardment from Dorchester Heights. One of the cannon-balls which he fired into the town struck the tower of the Brattle Street Church, where it may still be seen. Sir William Howe made preparations to cross over in boats and drive the Americans from their batteries, but was prevented by a violent gale and storm. General Washington next erected a battery on Nook’s Hill, so near the enemy that it was impossible for them to remain in Boston any longer.”
“Hurrah! Hurrah!” cried Charley, clapping his hands triumphantly. “I wish I had been there to see how sheepish the Englishmen looked.”
And as Grandfather thought that Boston had never witnessed a more interesting period than this, when the royal power was in its death agony, he determined to take a peep into the town and imagine the feelings of those who were quitting it forever.
THE TORY’S FAREWELL.
ALAS for the poor tories!” said Grandfather. “Until the very last morning after Washington’s troops had shown themselves on Nook’s Hill, these unfortunate persons could not believe that the audacious rebels, as they called the Americans, would ever prevail against King George’s army. But when they saw the British soldiers preparing to embark on board of the ships of war, then they knew that they had lost their country. Could the patriots have known how bitter were their regrets, they would have forgiven them all their evil deeds, and sent a blessing after them as they sailed away from their native shore.”
In order to make the children sensible of the pitiable condition of these men, Grandfather singled out Peter Oliver, chief justice of Massachusetts under the crown, and imagined him walking through the streets of Boston on the morning before he left it forever.
This effort of Grandfather’s fancy may be called the Tory’s Farewell.
Old Chief Justice Oliver threw on his red cloak, and placed his three- cornered hat on the top of his white wig. In this garb he intended to go forth and take a parting look at objects that had been familiar to him from his youth. Accordingly, he began his walk in the north part of the town, and soon came to Faneuil Hall. This edifice, the cradle of liberty, had been used by the British officers as a playhouse.
“Would that I could see its walls crumble to dust!” thought the chief justice; and, in the bitterness of his heart, he shook his fist at the famous hall. “There began the mischief which now threatens to rend asun- der the British empire. The seditious harangues of demagogues in Faneuil Hall have made rebels of a loyal people and deprived me of my country.”
He then passed through a narrow avenue and found himself in King Street, almost on the very spot which, six years before, had been reddened by the blood of the Boston massacre. The chief justice stepped cautiously, and shuddered, as if he were afraid that, even now, the gore of his slaughtered countrymen might stain his feet.
Before him rose the Town House, on the front of which were still displayed the royal arms. Within that edifice he had dispensed justice to the people in the days when his name was never mentioned without honor. There, too, was the balcony whence the trumpet had been sounded and the proclamation read to an assembled multitude, whenever a new king of England ascended the throne.
“I remember–I remember,” said Chief Justice Oliver to himself, “when his present most sacred Majesty was proclaimed. Then how the people shouted! Each man would have poured out his life-blood to keep a hair of King George’s head from harm. But now there is scarcely a tongue in all New England that does not imprecate curses on his name. It is ruin and disgrace to love him. Can it be possible that a few fleeting years have wrought such a change?”
It did not occur to the chief justice that nothing but the most grievous tyranny could so soon have changed the people’s hearts. Hurrying from the spot, he entered Cornhill, as the lower part of Washington Street was then called. Opposite to the Town House was the waste foundation of the Old North Church. The sacrilegious hands of the British soldiers had torn it down, and kindled their barrack fires with the fragments.
Farther on he passed beneath the tower of the Old South. The threshold of this sacred edifice was worn by the iron tramp of horses’ feet; for the interior had been used as a riding-school and rendezvous for a regiment of dragoons. As the chief justice lingered an instant at the door a trumpet sounded within, and the regiment came clattering forth and galloped down the street. They were proceeding to the place of embarkation.
“Let them go!” thought the chief justice, with somewhat of an old Puritan feeling in his breast. “No good can come of men who desecrate the house of God.”
He went on a few steps farther, and paused before the Province House. No range of brick stores had then sprung up to hide the mansion of the royal governors from public view. It had a spacious courtyard, bordered with trees, and enclosed with a wrought-iron fence. On the cupola that surmounted the edifice was the gilded figure of an Indian chief, ready to let fly an arrow from his bow. Over the wide front door was a balcony, in which the chief justice had often stood when the governor and high officers of the province showed themselves to the people.
While Chief Justice Oliver gazed sadly at the Province House, before which a sentinel was pacing, the double leaves of the door were thrown open, and Sir William Howe made his appearance. Behind him came a throng of officers, whose steel scabbards clattered against the stones as they hastened down the court-yard. Sir William Howe was a dark-complexioned man, stern and haughty in his deportment. He stepped as proudly in that hour of defeat as if he were going to receive the submission of the rebel general.
The chief justice bowed and accosted him.
“This is a grievous hour for both of us, Sir William,” said he.
“Forward! gentlemen,” said Sir William Howe to the officers who attended him; “we have no time to hear lamentations now.”
And, coldly bowing, he departed. Thus the chief justice had a foretaste of the mortifications which the exiled New-Englanders afterwards suffered from the haughty Britons. They were despised even by that country which they had served more faithfully than their own.
A still heavier trial awaited Chief Justice Oliver, as he passed onward from the Province House. He was recognized by the people in the street. They had long known him as the descendant of an ancient and honorable family. They had seen him sitting in his scarlet robes upon the judgment-seat. All his life long, either for the sake of his ancestors or on account of his own dignified station and unspotted character, he had been held in high respect. The old gentry of the province were looked upon almost as noblemen while Massachusetts was under royal government.
But now all hereditary reverence for birth and rank was gone. The inhabitants shouted in derision when they saw the venerable form of the old chief justice. They laid the wrongs of the country and their own sufferings during the siege–their hunger, cold, and sickness–partly to his charge and to that of his brother Andrew and his kinsman Hutchinson. It was by their advice that the king had acted in all the colonial troubles. But the day of recompense was come.
“See the old tory!” cried the people, with bitter laughter. “He is taking his last look at us. Let him show his white wig among us an hour hence, and we’ll give him a coat of tar and feathers!”
The chief justice, however, knew that he need fear no violence so long as the British troops were in possession of the town. But, alas! it was a bitter thought that he should leave no loving memory behind him. His forefathers, long after their spirits left the earth, had been honored in the affectionate remembrance of the people. But he, who would henceforth be dead to his native land, would have no epitaph save scornful and vindictive words. The old man wept.
“They curse me, they invoke all kinds of evil on my head!” thought he, in the midst of his tears. “But, if they could read my heart, they would know that I love New England well. Heaven bless her, and bring her again under the rule of our gracious king! A blessing, too, on these poor, misguided people!”
The chief justice flung out his hands with a gesture, as if he were bestowing a parting benediction on his countrymen. He had now reached the southern portion of the town, and was far within the range of cannon-shot from the American batteries. Close beside him was the bread stump of a tree, which appeared to have been recently cut down. Being weary and heavy at heart, he was about to sit down upon the stump.
Suddenly it flashed upon his recollection that this was the stump of Liberty Tree! The British soldiers had cut it down, vainly boasting that they could as easily overthrow the liberties of America. Under its shadowy branches, ten years before, the brother of Chief Justice Oliver had been compelled to acknowledge the supremacy of the people by taking the oath which they prescribed. This tree was connected with all the events that had severed America from England.
“Accursed tree!” cried the chief justice, gnashing his teeth; for anger overcame his sorrow. “Would that thou hadst been left standing till Hancock, Adams, and every other traitor, were hanged upon thy branches! Then fitly mightest thou have been hewn down and cast into the flames.”
He turned back, hurried to Long Wharf without looking behind him, embarked with the British troops for Halifax, and never saw his country more. Throughout the remainder of his days Chief Justice Oliver was agitated with those same conflicting emotions that had tortured him while taking his farewell walk through the streets of Boston. Deep love and fierce resentment burned in one flame within his breast, Anathemas struggled with benedictions. He felt as if one breath of his native air would renew his life, yet would have died rather than breathe the same air with rebels. And such likewise were the feelings of the other exiles, a thousand in number, who departed with the British army. Were they not the most unfortunate of men?
“The misfortunes of those exiled tories,” observed Laurence, “must have made them think of the poor exiles of Acadia.”
“They had a sad time of it, I suppose,” said Charley. “But I choose to rejoice with the patriots, rather than be sorrowful with the tories. Grandfather, what did General Washington do now?”
“As the rear of the British army embarked from the wharf,” replied Grandfather, “General Washington’s troops marched over the Neck, through the fortification gates, and entered Boston in triumph. And now, for the first time since the Pilgrims landed, Massachusetts was free from the dominion of England. May she never again be subjected to foreign rule,– never again feel the rod of oppression!”
“Dear Grandfather,” asked little Alice, “did General Washington bring our chair back to Boston?”
“I know not how long the chair remained at Cambridge,” said Grandfather. “Had it stayed there till this time, it could not have found a better or more appropriate shelter, The mansion which General Washington occupied is still standing, and his apartments have since been tenanted by several eminent men. Governor Everett, while a professor in the University, resided there. So at an after period did Mr. Sparks, whose invaluable labors have connected his name with the immortality of Washington. And at this very time a venerable friend and contemporary of your Grandfather, after long pilgrimages beyond the sea, has set up his staff of rest at Washington’s headquarters.”
“You mean Professor Longfellow, Grandfather,” said Laurence. “Oh, how I should love to see the author of those beautiful Voices of the Night!”
“We will visit him next summer,” answered Grandfather, “and take Clara and little Alice with us,–and Charley, too, if he will be quiet.”
THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE.
WHEN Grandfather resumed his narrative the next evening, he told the children that he had some difficulty in tracing the movements of the chair during a short period after General Washington’s departure from Cambridge.
Within a few months, however, it made its appearance at a shop in Boston, before the door of which was seen a striped pole. In the interior was displayed a stuffed alligator, a rattlesnake’s skin, a bundle of Indian arrows, an old-fashioned matchlock gun, a walking-stick of Governor Winthrop’s, a wig of old Cotton Mather’s, and a colored print of the Boston massacre. In short, it was a barber’s shop, kept by a Mr. Pierce, who prided himself on having shaved General Washington, Old Put, and many other famous persons,
“This was not a very dignified situation for our venerable chair,” continued Grandfather; “but, you know, there is no better place for news than a barber’s shop. All the events of the Revolutionary War were heard of there sooner than anywhere else. People used to sit in the chair, reading the newspaper, or talking, and waiting to be shaved, while Mr. Pierce, with his scissors and razor, was at work upon the heads or chins of his other customers.”
“I am sorry the chair could not betake itself to some more suitable place of refuge,” said Laurence.
“It was old now, and must have longed for quiet. Besides, after it had held Washington in its arms, it ought not to have been compelled to receive all the world. It should have been put into the pulpit of the Old South Church, or some other consecrated place.”
“Perhaps so,” answered Grandfather. “But the chair, in the course of its varied existence, had grown so accustomed to general intercourse with society, that I doubt whether it would have contented itself in the pulpit of the Old South. There it would have stood solitary, or with no livelier companion than the silent organ, in the opposite gallery, six days out of seven. I incline to think that it had seldom been situated more to its mind than on the sanded floor of the snug little barber’s shop.”
Then Grandfather amused his children and himself with fancying all the different sorts of people who had occupied our chair while they awaited the leisure Of the barber.
There was the old clergyman, such as Dr. Chauncey, wearing a white wig, which the barber took from his head and placed upon a wig-block. Half an hour, perhaps, was spent in combing and powdering this reverend appendage to a clerical skull. There, too, were officers of the Continental army, who required their hair to be pomatumed and plastered, so as to give them a bold and martial aspect. There, once in a while, was seen the thin, care-worn, melancholy visage of an old tory, with a Wig that, in times long past, had perhaps figured at a Province House ball. And there, not unfrequently, sat the rough captain of a privateer, just returned from a successful cruise, in which he had captured half a dozen richly laden vessels belonging to King George’s subjects. And sometimes a rosy little school-boy climbed into our chair, and sat staring, with wide-open eyes, at the alligator, the rattlesnake, and the other curiosities of the barber’s shop. His mother had sent him, with sixpence in his hand, to get his glossy curls cropped off. The incidents of the Revolution plentifully supplied the barber’s customers with topics of conversation. They talked sorrowfully of the death of General Montgomery and the failure of our troops to take Quebec; for the New- Englanders were now as anxious to get Canada from the English as they had formerly been to conquer it from the French.
“But very soon,” said Grandfather, “came news from Philadelphia, the most important that America had ever heard of. On the 4th of July, 1776, Congress had signed the Declaration of Independence. The thirteen colonies were now free and independent States. Dark as our prospects were, the inhabitants welcomed these glorious tidings, and resolved to perish rather than again bear the yoke of England.”
“And I would perish, too!” cried Charley.
“It was a great day,–a glorious deed!” said Laurence, coloring high with enthusiasm. “And, Grandfather, I love to think that the sages in Congress showed themselves as bold and true as the soldiers in the field; for it must have required more courage to sign the Declaration of Independence than to fight the enemy in battle.”
Grandfather acquiesced in Laurence’s view of the matter. He then touched briefly and hastily upon the prominent events of the Revolution. The thunderstorm of war had now rolled southward, and did not again burst upon Massachusetts, where its first fury had been felt. But she contributed her full share. So the success of the contest. Wherever a battle was fought,–whether at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, or Germantown,–some of her brave sons were found slain upon the field.
In October, 1777, General Burgoyne surrendered his army, at Saratoga, to the American general, Gates. The captured troops were sent to Massachusetts. Not long afterwards Dr. Franklin and other American commissioners made a treaty at Paris, by which France bound herself to assist our countrymen. The gallant Lafayette was already fighting for our freedom by the side of Washington. In 1778 a French fleet, commanded by Count d’Estaing, spent a considerable time in Boston harbor. It marks the vicissitudes of human affairs, that the French, our ancient enemies, should come hither as comrades and brethren, and that kindred England should be our foe.
“While the war was raging in the Middle and Southern States,” proceeded Grandfather, “Massachusetts had leisure to settle a new constitution of government instead of the royal charter. This was done in 1780. In the same year John Hancock, who had been president of Congress, was chosen governor of the State. He was the first whom the people had elected since the days of old Simon Bradstreet.”
“But, Grandfather, who had been governor since the British were driven away?” inquired Laurence. “General Gage and Sir William Howe were the last whom you have told us of.”
“There had been no governor for the last four years,” replied Grandfather. “Massachusetts had been ruled by the Legislature, to whom the people paid obedience of their own accord. It is one of the most remarkable circumstances in our history, that, when the charter government was overthrown by the war, no anarchy nor the slightest confusion ensued, This was a great honor to the people. But now Hancock was proclaimed governor by sound of trumpet; and there was again a settled government.”
Grandfather again adverted to the progress of the war. In 1781 General Greene drove the British from the Southern States. In October of the same year General Washington compelled Lord Cornwallis to surrender his army, at Yorktown, in Virginia. This was the last great event of the Revolutionary contest. King George and his ministers perceived that all the might of England could not compel America to renew her allegiance to the crown. After a great deal of discussion, a treaty of peace was signed in September, 1783.
“Now, at last,” said Grandfather, “after weary years of war, the regiments of Massachusetts returned in peace to their families. Now the stately and dignified leaders, such as General Lincoln and General Knox, with their powdered hair and their uniforms of blue and buff, were seen moving about the streets.”
“And little boys ran after them, I suppose,” remarked Charley; “and the grown people bowed respectfully.”
“They deserved respect; for they were good men as well as brave,” answered Grandfather. “Now, too, the inferior officers and privates came home to seek some peaceful occupation. Their friends remembered them as slender and smooth-checked young men; but they returned with the erect and rigid mien of disciplined soldiers. Some hobbled on crutches and wooden legs; others had received wounds, which were still rankling in their breasts. Many, alas! had fallen in battle, and perhaps were left unburied on the bloody field.”
“The country must have been sick of war,” observed Laurence.
“One would have thought so,” said Grandfather. “Yet only two or three years elapsed before the folly of some misguided men caused another mustering of soldiers. This affair was called Shays’s war, because a Captain Shays was the chief leader of the insurgents.”
“Oh Grandfather, don’t let there be another war!” cried little Alice, piteously.
Grandfather comforted his dear little girl by assuring her that there was no great mischief done. Shays’s war happened in the latter part of 1786 and the beginning of the following year. Its principal cause was the badness of times. The State of Massachusetts, in its public capacity, was very much in debt. So likewise were many of the people. An insurrection took place, the object of which seems to have been to interrupt the course of law and get rid of debts and taxes.
James Bowdoin, a good and able man, was now governor of Massachusetts. He sent General Lincoln, at the head of four thousand men, to put down the insurrection. This general, who had fought through several hard campaigns in the Revolution, managed matters like an old soldier, and totally defeated the rebels at the expense of very little blood.
“There is but one more public event to be recorded in the history of our chair,” proceeded Grandfather. “In the year 1794 Samuel Adams was elected governor of Massachusetts. I have told you what a distinguished patriot he was, and how much he resembled the stern old Puritans. Could the ancient freemen of Massachusetts who lived in the days of the first charter have arisen from their graves, they would probably have voted for Samuel Adams to be governor.”
“Well, Grandfather, I hope he sat in our chair,” said Clara.
“He did,” replied Grandfather. “He had long been in the habit of visiting the barber’s shop, where our venerable chair, philosophically forgetful of its former dignities, had now spent nearly eighteen not uncomfortable years. Such a remarkable piece of furniture, so evidently a relic of long-departed times, could not escape the notice of Samuel Adams. He made minute researches into its history, and ascertained what a succession of excellent and famous people had occupied it.”
“How did he find it out?” asked Charley; “for I suppose the chair could not tell its own history.”
“There used to be a vast collection of ancient letters and other documents in the tower of the Old South Church,” answered Grandfather. “Perhaps the history of our chair was contained among these. At all events, Samuel Adams appears to have been well acquainted with it. When he became governor, he felt that he could have no more honorable seat than that which had been the ancient chair of state. He therefore purchased it for a trifle, and filled it worthily for three years as governor of Massachusetts.” “And what next?” asked Charley.
“That is all,” said Grandfather, heaving a sigh; for he could not help being a little sad at the thought that his stories must close here. “Samuel Adams died in 1803, at the age of above threescore and ten. He was a great patriot, but a poor man. At his death he left scarcely property enough to pay the expenses of his funeral. This precious chair, among his other effects, was sold at auction; and your Grandfather, who was then in the strength of his years, became the purchaser.”
Laurence, with a mind full of thoughts that struggled for expression, but could find none, looked steadfastly at the chair.
He had now learned all its history, yet was not satisfied.
“Oh, how I wish that the chair could speak!” cried he. “After its long intercourse with mankind,–after looking upon the world for ages,–what lessons of golden wisdom it might utter! It might teach a private person how to lead a good and happy life, or a statesman how to make his country prosperous.”
GRANDFATHER was struck by Laurence’s idea that the historic chair should utter a voice, and thus pour forth the collected wisdom of two centuries. The old gentleman had once possessed no inconsiderable share of fancy; and even now its fading sunshine occasionally glimmered among his more sombre reflections.
As the history of his chair had exhausted all his facts, Grandfather determined to have recourse to fable. So, after warning the children that they must not mistake this story for a true one, he related what we shall call Grandfather’s Dream.
Laurence and Clara, where were you last night? Where were you, Charley, and dear little Alice? You had all gone to rest, and left old Grandfather to meditate alone in his great chair. The lamp had grown so dim that its light hardly illuminated the alabaster shade. The wood-fire had crumbled into heavy embers, among which the little flames danced, and quivered, and sported about like fairies.
And here sat Grandfather all by himself. He knew that it was bedtime; yet he could not help longing to hear your merry voices, or to hold a comfortable chat with some old friend; because then his pillow would be visited by pleasant dreams. But, as neither children nor friends were at hand, Grandfather leaned back in the great chair and closed his eyes, for the sake of meditating more profoundly.
And, when Grandfather’s meditations had grown very profound indeed, he fancied that he heard a sound over his head, as if somebody were preparing to speak.
“Hem!” it said, in a dry, husky tone. “H-e-m! Hem!”
As Grandfather did not know that any person was in the room, he started up in great surprise, and peeped hither and thither, behind the chair, and into the recess by the fireside, and at the dark nook yonder near the bookcase. Nobody could be seen.
“Poh!” said Grandfather to himself, “I must have been dreaming.”
But, just as he was going to resume his seat, Grandfather happened to look at the great chair. The rays of firelight were flickering upon it in such a manner that it really seemed as if its oaken frame were all alive. What! did it not move its elbow? There, too! It certainly lifted one of its ponderous fore legs, as if it had a notion of drawing itself a little nearer to the fire. Meanwhile the lion’s head nodded at Grandfather with as polite and sociable a look as a lion’s visage, carved in oak, could possibly be expected to assume. Well, this is strange!