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In 1770, Parliament took the tax off
of all articles except tea, upon which it was made so light that the
luxury was cheaper in America with the tax than in England without it.
The Americans, however, were contending for a principle, and
contemptuously rejected the offer. When the tea ships reached
Charleston, the cargoes were stored in damp cellars, where they soon
molded and spoiled. At New York, Philadelphia, and other points they
would not allow the ships to land their cargoes, and they sailed back to
England. A similar reception having been given the vessels in Boston,
the British officers refused to leave the harbor. Late at night,
December 16, 1773, a party of citizens, painted and disguised as
Indians, boarded the ships and emptied 342 chests--all on board--into
the harbor.

[Illustration: THE OLD SOUTH CHURCH, BOSTON. An immense assemblage
gathered here on the evening of Dec. 16, 1773, and stirring addresses
were made by Josiah Quincy and Samuel Adams. The "Boston Tea Party"
followed.]

The "Boston Tea Party" thrilled the colonies and exhausted the patience
of England, who felt that the time for stern measures had come. Her
dallying course had only encouraged the rebels, and as in the story,
having tried in vain the throwing of grass, she now determined to see
what virtue there was in using stones.


ENGLAND'S UNBEARABLE MEASURES.

The measures which she passed and which were unbearable were: 1. The
Boston Port Bill, which forbade all vessels to leave or enter Boston
harbor. This was a death-blow to Boston commerce and was meant as a
punishment of those who were leaders in the revolt against the mother
country. 2. The Massachusetts Bill, which was another destructive blow
at the colony, since it changed its charter by taking away the right of
self-government and placing it in the hands of the agents of the king.
3. The Transportation Bill, which ordered that all soldiers charged with
the crime of murder should be taken to England for trial. 4. The Quebec
Act, which made the country east of the Mississippi and north of the
Ohio a part of Canada. These acts were to be enforced by the sending of
troops to America.


THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS.

The result of the passage of these harsh measures was to unite all the
colonies in a determination to resist them to the last. The necessity
for consultation among the leaders was so apparent that, in response to
a general call, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia,
September 5, 1774, all the colonies being represented except Georgia,
which favored the action.

This Congress adopted a declaration of rights, asserting that they alone
were empowered to tax themselves, and it named a number of acts of
Parliament that were a direct invasion of such rights. An address was
sent to the king and to the people of Great Britain, but none to
Parliament, which had deeply offended the Americans. The agreement known
as the Articles of Association pledged our ancestors not to buy goods or
sell them to Great Britain until the obnoxious acts were repealed by
Parliament. It declared further that, if force was used against
Massachusetts by England, all the other colonies would help her in
resisting it. Before adjournment, a new Congress was called to meet in
the following May.

The language of the First Continental Congress sounds bold, but the
people themselves were bolder. Companies of armed men began drilling
everywhere, and the Americans were eager for a conflict with the
detested "red coats." The excitement was more intense in Massachusetts
than anywhere else, and it was plain that the opening gun of the
impending Revolution would be fired upon her soil. The affairs of the
colony were directed by a provincial congress, which collected a
quantity of guns and ammunition, and ordered the enrollment of 20,000
"minute men," who were to hold themselves ready to answer any call at a
minute's notice.

General Gage was the British commander in Boston, and he was so alarmed
by the aggressive acts of the Americans that he began to throw up
fortifications on the neck of land connecting the town with the
mainland. His alert spies notified him that the Americans had collected
a quantity of military supplies which were stored at Concord, some
twenty miles from Boston. Gage ordered 800 troops to march secretly to
Concord and destroy them.

Guarded as were the movements of the British, the Americans were
equally watchful and discovered them. Paul Revere dashed out of the
town on a swift horse and spread the news throughout the country. In the
gray light of the early morning, April 19, 1775, as the soldiers marched
into Lexington, on the way to Concord beyond, they saw some fifty minute
men gathered on the village green. Major Pitcairn ordered them to
disperse, and they refusing to do so, a volley was fired. Eight
Americans were killed and a large number wounded, the others fleeing
before the overwhelming force. Thus was the shot fired that "was heard
round the world."

The British advanced to Concord, destroyed the stores there, and then
began their return to Boston. All the church bells were ringing and the
minute men were swarming around the troops from every direction. They
kept up a continuous fire upon the soldiers from behind barns, houses,
hedges, fences, bushes, and from the open fields. The soldiers broke
into a run, but every one would have been shot down had not Gage sent
reinforcements, which protected the exhausted fugitives until they
reached a point where they were under the guns of the men-of-war. In
this first real conflict of the war, the Americans lost 88 and the
British 273 in killed, wounded, and missing. General Gage was now
besieged in Boston by the ardent minute men, who in the flush of their
patriotism were eager for the regulars to come out and give them a
chance for a battle. Men mounted on swift horses rode at headlong speed
through the colonies, spreading the stirring news, and hundreds of
patriots hurried to Boston that they might take part in the war for
their rights. Elsewhere, the fullest preparations were made for the
struggle for independence which all felt had opened.

[Illustration: PATRICK HENRY, America's greatest orator; member of the
Second Continental Congress.]

As agreed upon, the Second Continental Congress assembled in
Philadelphia, May 10, 1775. It included some of the ablest men in
America, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry,
Richard Henry Lee, and Peyton Randolph, of Virginia; Benjamin Franklin
and Robert Morris, of Pennsylvania; John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John
Hancock, of Massachusetts; John Jay, of New York; and Roger Sherman and
Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut. The former Congress had talked; the
present acted. By general consent it was accepted as the governing body
of the colonies. The forces around Boston were declared to be a
Continental army, money was voted to support it, and Washington was
appointed its commander.

Meanwhile, British reinforcements under Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne
arrived in Boston, swelling Gage's army to 10,000 men. They occupied the
town, on the peninsula which covers the middle of the harbor, while
around them on the hills of the mainland was a larger force of
Americans, without uniforms, poorly clothed, badly armed and
undisciplined, but overflowing with patriotism.

A little to the north of Boston a second peninsula extended into the
harbor. It has several elevations, one of which, Bunker Hill, the
patriots determined to seize and fortify. Colonel Prescott with a
thousand men set out one dark night to perform the task, but, believing
Breed's Hill more desirable, since it was nearer Boston, he set his men
to work upon that.

(The name "Bunker" is more euphonious than "Breed's," and the latter is
now generally known by the former name. Upon it has been built the
Bunker Hill Monument.)

Although close to the British sentinels, the Americans toiled through
the night without discovery. When the sun rose June 17, 1775, the enemy
in Boston were astonished to see a line of intrenchments extending
across the hill above them, with the Americans still working like
beavers. They continued without interruption until noon, when the
British were seen coming across the harbor in boats. They were the
regulars, finely disciplined, and numbered nearly 3,000, who, landing
near Charlestown, formed in fine order and advanced with precision
against the 1,500 patriots, eagerly waiting for them behind their
intrenchments.

It was about the middle of the afternoon that the British columns
marched to the attack, covered by a heavy fire of cannon and howitzers,
Howe himself commanding the right wing. The steeples and roofs of Boston
swarmed with people, breathlessly watching the thrilling sight.
Charlestown had been fired and four hundred of its houses laid in ashes.

[Illustration: THE MONUMENT ON BUNKER HILL.]

The Americans behind their breastworks were impatient to open fire, but
Prescott restrained them until they could "see the whites of the eyes"
of their enemies. Then in a loud, clear voice he shouted "_Fire_!" There
was an outflame of musketry along the front of the intrenchments, and
scores of troops in the first rank fell. The others hesitated a moment,
and then turned and fled down the slope. There their officers formed
them into line, and once more they advanced up the slope. The delay gave
the Americans time to reload, and they received the troops with the same
withering fire as before, sending them scurrying to the bottom of the
hill, where with great difficulty the daring officers formed them into
line for a third advance. The British cannon had been brought to bear,
and the ships and batteries maintained a furious cannonade. The patriots
were compelled to withdraw from the breastwork outside the fort, and the
redoubt was attacked at the same moment from three sides. The spectators
were confident of seeing the invaders hurled back again, but saw to
their dismay a slackening of the fire of the Americans, while the
troops, rushing over the intrenchments, fought with clubbed muskets.

At the very moment victory was within the grasp of the patriots, their
recklessly fired ammunition gave out, and they began sullenly
retreating, fighting with clubbed weapons.



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