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members having met in a private house recommend ed their fellow citizens to refrain from the luxuries, and even necessaries of life, if any of these were not the productions of their native land. Their advice operated as a law, non-importation societies spread over the colony, which religiously observed and rigorously enforced the necessary restrictions. How far the exertions of Mr. Lee may have contributed to this most effectual means of raising the voice of the merchants of Britain against the measures of the ministry, has not been ascertained. It is certain, however, that as an individual, he had long practised that which this meeting proposed, and being convinced of its efficacy, he wished to see it generally adopted. To show that in the variety of her productions, his country was independent of the world, and “ to testify his respect and gratitude for those, who had shown particular kindness to Americans," he sent presents of wine, the produce of his own hills, to distinguished men in England. The letters which accompanied these, and the orders to his London merchant not to furnish to him any article on which a duty had been laid, are dated previous to the formation of any non-importation society.
Mr. Lee was not deceived by the calm intervals of hope, which some of our countrymen permitted themselves to enjoy, during the years 1770 and 1771. He persevered in the course which he had marked out for himself, and by widely extending his correspond
ence, spread that information which the vigilance of his brother furnished.
Trial by jury, although in the hands of the deputies of kings it may be often an engine of oppression, is too unwieldy to be used for this purpose if other means can be applied. The English ministry knowing this, and the sentiments of the people of America, did not believe, that among them, this glorious bulwark of liberty could be turned against herself, hence they sought to substitute for it the forms of the civil law, by extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty. The act for this purpose passed the British parliament in 1772, and immediately on the meeting of the house of burgesses, Mr. Lee, in opposition to this unconstitutional measure, proposed to address an humble petition to his majesty; which, after reciting the grievances of his faithful subjects, should pray, “that he would be most graciously pleased to recommend the repeal of the acts passed for the purpose
of raising a revenue in America, and for subjecting American property to the determination of admiralty courts, where the constitutional trial by jury is not permitted.”
While many, during the following year, 1773, listened with melancholy attention, to the rumours spread. abroad, in consequence of the burning at Providence of the Gaspie schooner, and the threatening aspect which the court of enquiry assumed, Mr. Lee only sought accurate information on the subject. For this purpose be commenced a correspondence with the
intrepid patriot Samuel Adams, which they afterwards continued, having been appointed by the legislatures of their respective states, members of committees on this subject. This correspondence exhibits so much dignified resentment, and firm determination, united with dispassionate observation and calm reasoning, as would obtain for it, even from the enemies of America, respect and consideration.
Lord North, the king's minister, suffered no passion to divert, no pursuit of pleasure to withdraw him from his deliberate design of destroying the liberties of this country. Plausible, deep and treacherous, he caused the duty acts, to be so far repealed, as would have imposed on the patriots of America a perplexing alternative, civil war for a trifling amount of taxes, or submission to a precedent of destructive tendency, had not the opposition of the inhabitants of Boston to the modified duty bill, taken the ministry by surprise, and caused them in their wrathful impatience to propose, and the parliament to enact, a new and unheard of punishment, very disproportionate to the offencé.
The first intelligence of this violent measure of the parliament was received by Mr. Lee, from his brother Dr. Arthur Lee, then in London, while the house of burgesses was in session; the resolution of the house to spend the day on which this act was to take effect, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, caused the governor again to dissolve it. In a letter written immediately after this event, Mr. Lee states that the un
expected dissolution of the house, prevented him from offering certain resolutions which he had prepared for the following day. The tenor of the whole may be inferred from the two last, which are in these words, “ Resolved, that the blocking up or attempting to block
the harbour of Boston, until the people there sball submit to the payment of taxes imposed on them without the consent of their representatives, is a most violent and dangerous attempt to destroy the constitutional liberty of all British America.-Resolved, that
be appointed deputies from this house to' meet at
- such deputies from the other colonies as they shall appoint, there to consider and determine on ways the most effectual to stop the
exports from North America, and for the adoption of such other methods, as will be most decisive, for securing the rights of America against the systematic plan formed for their destruction."
Mr. Lee, having been prevented from offering these resolutions, proposed that the members of the house should assemble, and as representatives of the people, recommend the meeting of a general congress. They met, but the majority possessing less ardour, or as they thought, less rashness than Mr. Lee, pursued a more dilatory course. An address to the people was drawn up by Mr. Lee, and approved by the meeting, embracing the substance of the first of the above resolutions, but the second was softened into a recommendation to the committee of correspondence, to obtain the sentiments of the other colonies, on the
expediency of a meeting of deputies, “ to deliberate on those general measures which the united interests of America may from time to time require.” The meeting then adjourned till the first day of August.
An incursion of the Indians on the frontiers of Virginia, furnished a cause or afforded a pretext to the governor, for summoning a new house of burgesses. Policy might prostrate what power could not suppress, the voice of a people resolved on freedom. He therefore issued writs for a new house, returnable on the eleventh of August, thus offering to the representatives an opportunity of meeting in the usual manner, as a reward for ten days delay, and as a bribe to renounce the authority of the people. If such were his motive, bitter disappointment was the fruit of his crafty scheme; for he saw the most distinguished men in the colony meet, at the call of the people, on the first of August, 1774, to compose the first assembly of Virginia.
After having advocated in this assembly bis favourite measure, with all the fervour of his nature and the power of his eloquence, Mr. Lee had the gratification to be deputed by it, with Washington and Henry, as delegates to a continental congress. This august body met at Philadelphia on the fifth of September, 1774. It is said that silence, awful and protracted, preceded “the breaking of the last seal” in this assembly, and that astonishment and applause filled the house when this was done by Patrick Henry. The thrill of exultation and glow of excitement