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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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926. BOSTON PORT BILL, Ruin by.—
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926. BOSTON PORT BILL, Ruin by.—

By an act (7. G. 3) to discontinue in such
manner, and for such time as they are therein
mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading
or shipping of goods, wares and merchandize,
at the town and within the harbor of
Boston, * * * a large and populous town,
whose trade was their sole subsistence, was
deprived of that trade, and involved in utter
ruin. Let us for a while, suppose the question
of right suspended, in order to examine this
act on principles of justice: An act of Parliament
had been passed imposing duties on
teas, to be paid in America, against which
act the Americans had protested as inauthoritative.
The East India Company, who till
that time had never sent a pound of tea to
America on their own account, step forth on
that occasion the asserters of Parliamentary
right, and send hither many ship loads of
that obnoxious commodity. The masters of
their several vessels, however, on their arrival
in America, wisely attended to admonition,
and returned with their cargoes. In
the province of Massachusetts alone, the remonstrances
of the people were disregarded,
and a compliance, after being many days
waited for, was flatly refused. Whether in
this the master of the vessel was governed
by his obstinacy, or his instructions, let those
who know say. There are extraordinary situations
which require extraordinary interposition.
An exasperated people, who feel
that they possess power, are not easily restrained
within limits strictly regular. A
number of them assembled in the town of
Boston, threw the tea into the ocean, and
dispersed without doing any other act of
violence. If in this they did wrong, they
were known and were amenable to the laws
of the land, against which it could not be objected
that they had ever, in any instance, been
obstructed or diverted from their regular
course in favor of popular offenders. They
should, therefore, not have been distrusted on
this occasion. But that ill-fated colony had
formerly been bold in their enmities against
the house of Stuart, and were now devoted
to ruin by that unseen hand which governs
the momentous affairs of this great empire.
On the partial representations of a few worthless
ministerial dependents, whose constant
office it has been to keep that government
embroiled, and who, by their treacheries, hope
to obtain the dignity of British Knighthood, [57] without calling for the party accused, with


Page 105
out asking a proof, without attempting a distinction
between the quilty and the innocent,
the whole of that ancient and wealthy town,
is in a moment reduced from opulence to
beggary. Men who had spent their lives in
extending the British commerce, who had invested
in that place the wealth their honest
endeavors had merited, found themselves and
their families thrown at once on the world
for subsistence by its charities. Not the hundredth
part of the inhabitants of that town
had been concerned in the act complained of;
many of them were in Great Britain and in
other parts beyond the sea; yet all were involved
in one indiscriminate ruin by a new
executive power, unheard of till then, that of
a British Parliament. A property of the
value of many millions of money was sacrificed
to revenge, not repay, the loss of a few
thousands. This is administering justice with
a heavy hand indeed! And when is this tempest
to be arrested in its course? Two
wharves are to be opened again when his
Majesty shall think proper. The residue,
which lined the extensive shores of the Bay
of Boston, are forever interdicted the exercise
of commerce. This little exception seems
to have been thrown in for no other purpose
than that of setting a precedent for investing
his Majesty with legislative powers. If the
pulse of his people shall beat calmly under this
experiment, another and another shall be
tried, till the measure of despotism be filled
up. It would be an insult on common sense
to pretend that this exception was made in
order to restore its commerce to that great
town. The trade which cannot be received at
two wharves alone must of necessity be transferred
to some other place; to which it will
soon be followed by that of the two wharves.
Considered in this light, it would be insolent
and cruel mockery at the annihilation of the
town of Boston.—
Rights of British America. Washington ed. i, 131. Ford ed., i, 436.
See Deportation, Tea.


Alluding to the Knighting of Sir Francis Bernard.—Note by Jefferson.