Peter Oliver, Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion (1781)
I am now come to the Year 1767, a Year fraught with Occurrences, as extraordinary as 1765, but of a different Texture. Notwithstanding the Warnings that the Colonies had repeatedly givne, of their determined Resolution to throw off the Supremacy of the british Parliament, yet the then Ministry chose to make another Trial of Skill; never adverting to the ill Success of former Attempts. They might have known, that the Contest had reached so great an Heighth, that the Colonists would never descend one Step untill they had first ascended the last Round of the Ladder. ... But the Ministry confiding in their own good Intentions, & placing too much Confidence in the Gratitude of the Colonists to the parent State (which by the Way they did not possess a Spark of, neither is it to be but seldom Expected to find it inhabit any where but in the private Breast, & too seldom there; to the Disgrace of human Nature), they procured a new Act to be passed, laying Duties upon Tea, Glass, Paper, & Painters Colours. This Act was not more unreasonable than many other Acts which had been submitted to for many years past, & which, even at this Time, they made no Objection to. But the Colonists had succeeded in their first Experiment of Opposition, & their new Allies in Parliament increased their Importance.
As to the Glass in particular, the Duty was so trifling, that it would not have enhanced the Price of it to the Purchaser; for there were so many Sellers who aimed at a Market for their Commodities, & the Merchants had so great a Profit upon their Goods, that they could render the Duty of little or no Importance in their Sales; & this was actually the Case. For the Glass, during the Continuance of the Act, was sold at the same Price which it commanded before the Commencement of the Act. The true Reason of Opposition was this. The Inhabitants of the Colonies were a Race of Smugglers. They carried on an extensive Trade with the Dutch, not only in Holland, but very greatly with the Dutch Settlements in the West Indies & at Surrinam. Tea was the objective Part of the Act; & an enormous Quantity of it was consumed on the american Continent; so great, that I have heard a Gentleman of the Custom House in Boston, say, that could the Duty be fairly collected, it would amount to £160,000 p. Year, i.e. at 12d p pound. In some of the Colonies, it was notorious that the smuggled Teas were carted through the Streets at Noon Day: whether owing to the Inattention or Connivance of the Custom House Officers, is not difficult to determine.
The Smugglers then, who were the prevailing Part of the Traders in the Capitals of the several Provinces, found it necessary for their Interest, to unite in defeating the Operation of the Act; & Boston appeared in the Front of the Battle. Accordingly they beat to Arms, & manşuvred in a new invented Mode. They entred into nonimportation Agreements. A Subscription Paper was handed about, enumerating a great Variety of Articles not to be imported from England, which they supposed would muster the Manufacturers in England into a national Mob to support their Interests. Among the various prohibited Articles, were Silks, Velvets, Clocks, Watches, Coaches & Chariots; & it was highly diverting, to see the names & marks, to the Subscription, of Porters & Washing Women. But every mean & dirty Art was used to compass all their bad Designs. One of those who handed about a Subscription Paper being asked, whether it could be imagined that such Tricks would effectuate their Purposes? He replyed "Yes! It would do to scare them in England:" & perhaps there never was a Nation so easy to be affrighted; witness the preceding Repeal of the Stamp Act.
Nonimportation of British Goods In order to effectuate their Purposes to have this Act repealed also, they formed many Plans of Operation. Associations were convened to prevent the Importation of Goods from Great Britain, & to oblige all those who had already sent for them, to reship them after their arrival. This was such an Attack upon the mercantile Interest, that it was necessary to use private evasive Arts to deceive the Vulgar. Accordingly, when the Goods arrived, they were to be in Warehouses, which were to be guarded by a publick Key, at the same Time the Owners of the Stores & Goods had a Key of their Own. This amused the Rabble, whom the Merchants had set to mobbing; & such were the blessed Effects of some of those Merchants Villainy, that Bales & Trucks were disgorged of their Contents & refilled with Shavings, Brickbats, Legs of Bacon & other Things, & shipped for England; where some of them were opened on the King's Wharves or Quays, & the Fraud discovered. Many of those Merchants also continued to import the prohibited Goods, in Disguise; of which a bold Printer of Boston detected them in his publick Papers; for which they, out of Revenge, in 1768, attempted to murder him; but narrowly escaping with his Life he fled to England, as the civil Power of the Country was not sufficient to protect any one who was obnoxious to the Leaders of the Faction.
Another base Art was used. Under Pretence of Ôconomy, the Faction undertook to regulate Funerals, that there might be less Demand for English Manufactures. It was true indeed that the Custom of wearing expensive Mourning at Funerals, had, for many Years past, been noticed for Extravagance, & had ruined some Families of moderate Fortune; but there had been no Exertions to prevent it; 'till now, the Demagogues & their Mirmidons had taken the Government into their Hands. But what at another Time would have been deemed şconomical, was at this Time Spite & Malevolence. One Extreme was exchanged for another. A Funeral now seemed more like a Procession to a May Fair; and Processions were lengthened, especially by the Ladies, who figured a way, in order to exhibit their Share of Spite, & their Silk Gowns. In short, it was unhumanizing the Mind, by destroying the Solemnity of a funeral Obsequy, & substituting the Gaiety of Parade in its Stead. The vulgar Maxim, that there is no Inconvenience without a Convenience, now took place; for whereas, formerly, a Widow, who had been well rid of a bad Companion, could conceal her Joy under a long black Vail, she was now obliged to use what Female Arts she was mistress of, in order to transform her Joy into the Apperance of a more decent Passion, to impose upon the Croud of numerous Spectators.
The Faction deluded their Followers with another Scheme to keep up the Ball of Contention, & to sooth their Hopes of Conquest. They plunged into Manufactures; &, like all other Projectors, suffered their Enthusiasm to stop their Ears against the voice of Reason, which warned them of the ill Effects of their Projects. One of their Manufacturers was to have been in Wool. They were advis'd against it; & informed, that all the Sheep in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, which most abounded in Sheep of any other Province, would not supply the Inhabitants of it with Wool to cloath their Feet; & that the Wool was of such a Staple as not to make a Cloth above 46 p Yard Price; & that this woud always be the Case; for tho' the Soil was equal to the raising a greater Number of Sheep, yet the Severity of the wintry Climate would prevent the Farmers Profit by propagating them under so great a Disadvantage. But if they were determined to increase their Flocks, that they must practise the Method of one of their own Country Men, who said, that upon getting up early in a Morning he found half a dozen of his Sheep lying dead in his Yard, destroyed by the Wolves who had sucked their Blood & made off. He, finding them warm, used the expedient of tying an old & useless Horse, wch. he owned, to a Tree, & skinned him. He then skinned his dead Sheep, & applied their Skins to his Horse, which united well with ye. horse Flesh; & that he ever after sheared annually 40 £ Wool from his Horse. As Mankind are continually improving in the Arts and Sciences, the Factious might have as rationally tried this Experiment as they had tried that which they were now upon; they would have found old Horses enough for their Purpose, as well as another Race of Animals who most justly demerited a flaying for their Brutalities, & would have succeeded as well.