Those Who Love

Glimpses of Britain and USA history

Samuel' Adams came to report the results of the meetings of the selectmen and the Committee of Correspondence.

Governor Hutchinson had announced he would not issue clearance papers for any of the three ships to leave the harbor until after the tea had been unloaded and delivered to its consignees.

Abigail[1] did not attempt to suppress a wry laugh.

“We’ve spent years perfecting the art of smuggling tea in. Now we have to find a way to smuggle it out.”

All normal business was suspended. Abigail dressed in her green wool and green shoes. Although the day was full of foreboding there was a fes­tive quality in the air, with the ringing of the bells, the sound of excited voices as the people passed before their windows. As they reached the street they saw a poster pasted to the wall of the Town House. Abigail read aloud:

“Friends, Brethren, Countrymen! That worst of plagues, the detested TEA, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in this harbor. The hour of destruction, or manly opposi­tion to the machinations of Tyranny, stares you in the face. Every friend to his country, to himself and posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall at nine о ’clock this day (at which time the bells will ring), to make a united and successful resistance to this last, worst, and most destructive measure of administration.'’'’

By ten o’clock Faneuil Hall was jammed. She did not know how many the hall held, but she felt there must be two or three thousand people crammed into it.

Abigail listened intently as Samuel’s motion that the tea be sent back was unanimously adopted. But the crowd had grown so dense that the meeting was adjourned until three that afternoon at Old South.

That night a volunteer watch of twenty-five armed men stood guard over the ship to make sure no tea was smuggled in. The next morning Abi­gail returned to Old South for the most impassioned meeting yet, set on fire by the arrival of the Suffolk County sheriff with a proclamation from the governor:

“All inhabitants at this meeting are violating the good and wholesome laws of the province. We warn, exhort and require them, being unlawfully assembled, forthwith to disperse.”

Hisses filled the big church like steam. Owner Francis Rotch and Cap­tain James Hall of the Dartmouth agreed that the tea would be returned without touching land. The applause was so thunderous that the factors for the Eleanor and the Beaver had little choice but to rise and pledge their word. Samuel Adams was appointed head of a committee to write to the Massachusetts seaport towns, as well as to Philadelphia and New York, to report this success.

One of the problems of success is its inherently transitory nature. The Eleanor and the Beaver arrived with their cargoes. Their owners kept their word not to land the tea or pay duty, but Governor Hutchinson refused them permission to sail and, to prove that he was not standing bluff, ordered the Castle William cannon loaded and manned. Admiral Montagu placed two gunboats athwart the harbor, close in to the three tea brigs.

The shipowners had been put straight on. If they did not unload within the specified twenty days they would lose their cargoes. If they tried to run before the wind the British gunboats would blow them out of the water.

“Something will be resolved soon,” said John.

The town kept itself in order through armed patrols in the streets; but the fever was mounting. There were meetings every day. Companies of armed redcoats from Castle William were making forays into the neigh­boring towns.

On the last day before the Dartmouth’s tea would be confiscated, about £5,000 worth, two thousand people gathered in the Old South. Abigail was sitting in a rear pew. Seven thousand people engulfed the church, sur­rounding it on all sides. Owner Rotch of the Dartmouth was ordered to ride out to Governor Hutchinson’s home in Milton and demand written permission to sail that night. He was to return immediately and report.

“Nothing!” cried the owner. “The governor will not grant me a pass. The tea will be landed and confiscated at dawn unless we pay the duty tonight!”

Samuel Adams rose, his arms extended in the candle shadows for silence. He said in a tightly controlled voice that yet filled the big church:

“This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”

An Indian war whoop sounded from the floor of the church. It was answered from the galleries, then from the outside stoop. Abigail was liter­ally picked up and swept into the bitter cold of the street. There before her unbelieving eyes she saw some fifty men, their faces stained with paint, covered by Indian blankets, hair coiled and collected Indian style, brandishing hatchets.

More whooping Indians poured into the street in front of the church. She was unable to accept the insane idea that a painted, armed Indian tribe had invaded Boston.

Then she gazed intently at one of the chiefs who was forming his braves into files, two abreast, holding up his arms for silence. There was some­thing about the broad mouth in the flat face, the sturdy figure and muscu­lar gestures that reminded her of ...

“Not really,” she whispered to Betsy, “Paul Revere?”

“Come along. Only we must be quiet.”

There was now a swelling body of Indians, two hundred at least.

She stood on the cobblestones at the head of Griffin’s Wharf while the Indians were ferried in small boats to the Dartmouth. One could hear only the muffled sound of oars in the dark night. Through the blackness she could see the Indians climb up rope ladders on either side of the ship. They disappeared from view; then there came the sound of heavy burdens thud­ding onto the wooden decks, the concentrated sound of hatchets breaking up the chests, the light splash of the tea as it hit the water.

It took perhaps an hour to scuttle Captain Hall’s cargo. After the tea the chests too were thrown into the harbor. No one came or went among the crowd huddled in itself in the icy air. Then, as on a signal, the Indians transferred to the Eleanor and began the process anew.

Questions pounded through her head.

Could it be that His Majesty’s army and navy were unwilling or unable to counterattack? It was no less credible than the fact that thousands of pounds of tea awash in the harbor and nearly three hundred and fifty bat­tered chests bobbed about on the waves while the Indians were ferried ashore, made silent but triumphant flourishes of their hatchets and disappeared.

Betsy commandeered her across to Purchase Street and the Adams house. Samuel came in. He seated himself by Abigail’s side, put an arm about her shoulder.

“Sister Abigail, I’m happy you were there.”

“What about the tea, Samuel?”

“The East India Company has millions of pounds to spare. The cus­toms duties will not be paid because the tea was not landed. The ships can now be loaded with paying cargo and put to sea. The battle is over. We have won.”

From: Those Who Love by I. Stone

[1] Abigail (Smith) Adams (1744-1818)-жена Джона Адамса, второго президента США