« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Wentworth, and at that time held the offices of collector, naval officer, and sheriff of the province, was deprived of the first two, and in the last, another person was appointed to share the emoluments. Atkinson, being somewhat of a wag, turned the latter into ridicule. On one occasion the military being called out to escort the governor, all the officers of government were required to join the cavalcade. Atkinson appeared, on a jaded horse, with only half his wand as a badge of office. The governor reprimanded him for being late; when Atkinson apologized by saying that he had only half a horse to ride.
From the most trilling causes not unfrequently spring important events; and this dispute between the governor and lieutenant-governor, embittered as it was by the executive proscription of individuals at that time popular in the province, led to a combination in New Hampshire, which not long afterward caused the severance of that province from Massachusetts.
Lieutenant-governor Wentworth did not long survive his quarrel with Belcher, and died on the 12th of December following. He was succeeded in office, on the 24th of June, 1731, by Col. David Dunbar, an Irish officer, who had been in command of the fort at Pemaquid, and had there assumed to act as governor over the few scattered inhabitants of Maine. This coming to the knowledge of Belcher, on his arrival in Boston, he had issued his proclamation requiring them to submit only to the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. He also sent home a representation of the affair to the king in council, and Dunbar's authority was revoked. From the hostility which had thus been engendered in the bosom of Dunbar, his appointment as lieutenant-governor of New Hampshire, was by no means welcome to Governor Belcher. Dunbar immediately on his arrival joined the party in opposition to the governor, and was afterwards active in all the intrigues to procure his removal.
Among the popular delusions of that period, was the issuing of bills of credit by the legislatures of the colonies, and making such a currency, however depreciated, a legal tender in the payment of debts. To such an extent had this system of paper issues been carried, that it attracted the notice of parliament; and in the royal instructions to Shute, Burnet, and Belcher, they were severally enjoined to restrain the further extension of this species of currency. Governor Belcher, in his speech to the Massachusetts legislature, December 16th, 1730, emphatically calls their attention to the state of their bills of credit, and characterizes them as being “a common delusion to mankind." The law compelling creditors to receive paper at par value, however depreciated, came before the governor for re-approval. He at first promptly vetoed the measure; but in the course of the year following, being wearied with the importunities of the people, he consented to have it further prolonged. *This was disapproved by the king; and the assembly afterwards petitioning that the royal instructions imposing restrictions
on paper money might be rescinded, they were answered with a sharp rebuke from the royal council.*
Governor Belcher, who was determined as far as possible to carry out the royal instructions, now exerted himself to the utmost to restrain the flood of paper money. The issues of treasury notes were curtailed, and attempts were made to call in as large an amount of the former issues as possible. There was a universal complaint and outcry. The governor was assailed by a strong and unyielding opposition. The assembly becoming obnoxious, the governor dissolved them; but the people, in such case, generally re-elected the same members, or others equally bold in opposition.
There being no bar in the royal instructions against private issues, a number of merchants and others in Boston associated together, and issued what was called the merchants' notes, a species of currency which, being redeemable in silver at a specified rate per ounce, in consequence of the depreciation of the public bills, were preferred in the market, and hoarded up. This operation led to multitudes of similar speculations in the different provinces. The scheme of a great land bank was proposed to the general court, which was speedily followed by another proposition for a mammoth specie-paying bank.
The people were in a feverish state, and a large majority were in favour of one or the other of these schemes, in which the prominent men of the province were, or proposed to become interested. Governor Belcher exerted himself to blast the land bank scheme, and issued a proclamation warning the people against receiving its bills. Military and civil officers were forbidden to receive or pass any of those bills, and were promptly displaced from office for disobeying the order. The governor also negatived the speaker of the assembly for being a director in this bank, and afterwards negatived thirteen of the newly elected counsellors for the same cause, or for being favourers of the scheme. But all to little purpose. The bank went on. Large sums of its worthless paper were pushed off in exchange for any description of property, and the fraud was only arrested by an act of parliament suppressing the company.t
The bold and vigorous measures adopted by Governor Belcher, rendered him obnoxious to a majority of the people of Massachusetts,
* The temper of parliament on this occasion may be seen in the following no tice in the London Magazine of that year: “May 10.-A memorial of the council and representatives of the Massachusetts-Bay was presented to the house and read, laying before them the difficulties and distresses they laboured under, arising from a royal instruction given to the then present governor of the said province in relation to the issuing and disposing of the public money of the said province,” &c. “ Alter some little debate, it was resolved that the complaint contained in the memorial and petition is frivolous and groundless, an high insult upon His Majesty's government, and tending to shake off the dependency of the said colony upon this kingdom," &c. Whereupon the petition was rejected.
+ In the very valuable work of the Rev. Joseph B. Felt, on the “History of the Massachusetts Currency,” a minute account of this interesting controversy is given.
and a formidable combination to effect his removal, was soon after formed.
Another question proved a source of embarrassment, and connected as it became, with the resentments which the governor had kindled in New Hampshire, finally contributed to his recall. This was the dispute between Massachusetts and New Hampshire about the boundary. The governor, although he had repeatedly, as he was required to do by his instructions, called the attention of both provinces to a settlement of the dispute—was, in reality, averse to any adjustment. He was in favour of uniting both provinces permanently under one government. He was placed in a delicate position, as governor over both, and it behooved him to carry a steady hand during the controversy: His opponents in New Hampshire, among whom were Dunbar and Benning Wentworth, son of the late lieutenant-governor, and Atkinson, were indefatigable in their intrigues. Within a few weeks after Dunbar's appointment, he had procured a complaint to be drawn up against Belcher, complaining of his government as arbitrary and oppressive, and praying the king for his removal. This was forwarded to London, and paved the way for the appointment of Theodore Atkinson, Benning Wentworth, and Joshua Pierce, as counsellors. Governor Belcher remonstrated against these appointments, and the two former were not admitted to the council board for nearly two years. They were, however, chosen to the assembly, and there exerted themselves in opposition to the governor.
A committee of both provinces met at Newbury, 21st September, 1731, on the subject of the boundary, but separated without coming to any understanding. This determined the New Hampshire legislature to despatch an agent to London, and John Rindge, a wealthy merchant of Portsmouth, soon after sailed. While the matter was pending in England, a most bitter controversy was kept up between the two parties in New Hampshire. Governor Belcher, in his frequent letters to England, constantly represented Dunbar, as in truth he was, a fomenter of sedition, a reckless and perfidious citizen; while Dunbar and his associates in opposition were no less severe in their animadversions upon the character and conduct of the governor. The assemblies in both provinces were almost invariably opposed to him; an hence he frequently dissolved them, but with no favourable results, for the same persons were generally re-elected, and came back encouraged in their opposition by the strong support of the people.
At this period, the public debts in New Hampshire were suffered to remain unpaid. The fort, prison, and other public buildings, were out of repair; for which the assembly was frequently complained of by the governor. The reason of their delay to provide the means, was their desire to make new emissions of paper money, which the governor there, as in Massachusetts, resisted.' The scarcity of money being great, a number of merchants in Portsmouth, following the Boston ex
ample, combined for the purpose of issuing private notes as a currency. As soon as their notes appeared, Gov. Belcher issued a proclamation against them, and in a speech to the assembly, condemned the proceeding in very strong terms. The assembly, which favoured the scheme, attempting to vindicate the character of the bills, he dissolved them with a reprimand, charging them with being guilty of injustice and hypocrisy.
It is not to be supposed that decisive measures of this description, in opposition to the will of the people, were adapted to lessen the prejudices, already strong, against the governor. On the contrary, every new grievance, real or imaginary, only hurried forward the spirit which was working his overthrow. Although no provincial governor was ever more loyal to the crown he served than Belcher, he was subjected to severe mortifications, through the sinister influence of his enemies, who had succeeded in prejudicing the royal ear. Among the appointments to office which he had made, was that of his son-in-law, to the naval office in Massachusetts. There could be no objection to the appointment, as he was a faithful and efficient officer. But the king ordered Governor Belcher to appoint another to his place, although the act of parliament expressly vested the appointment in the governor. When advised to evade the command, he replied, “that although the king could not make a naval officer, he could make a governor;" and so gave up his son-in-law. One or two other incidental triumphs of his enemies, in New Hampshire, were no less mortifying.*
In August, 1735, Governor Belcher with his council from Massachusetts, held a conference with the chiefs of the six nations at Albany, an interesting account of which is preserved in Colden's Memoirs of the Indian nations.
After a long and weary controversy before the lords of trade, a commission for the settlement of the boundary question was decided upon. The commissioners were to be selected from the counsellors of New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Nova Scotia, and they were to hold their preliminary meeting at Hampton, New Hampshire, on the 1st of August, 1737. On the day appointed, they assembled. The assembly of Massachusetts met at Boston, on the 4th, and were prorogued to meet at Salisbury on the 10th. The New Hampshire assembly, which had met at Portsmouth, on the same day, was also adjourned to the 10th, to meet at Hampton Falls. Thus the two as
* On the first of January, 1734, Gov. Belcher sent for Benning Wentworth to appear at the council board, and on his appearance there, he addressed him thus: “Mr. Wentworth, I have His Majesty's royal mandamus for admitting you into his Majesty's council, and am now ready to do it, and have ordered the secretary to ad. minister the proper oaths to you accordingly.” Mr. Wentworth replied, “I should have been glad to have known it sooner, sir, for I am engaged to serve in the Assembly for this term, and therefore cannot accept now, but when the session is over, I may be ready.” He then withdrew. He was not qualified until the 12th of Oct. 1734.—Council and Assembly Records of New Hampshire.
semblies were drawn within five miles of each other, and the governor, in his speech, declared that he would “act as the common father of both.” The assemblies met at the places appointed. From Boston, a cavalcade was formed, and the governor rode in state, escorted by a troop of horse. At the Newbury ferry he was met by another, which joined by three others, at the supposed division line, escorted him to his head quarters, in Hampton Falls, where he held a council and addressed the assembly.* Even here, the antagonist spirit of the assem bly provoked the governor; and on the very day that the commissioners adjourned for the purpose of giving the two assemblies time to consider their decrees, and frame their appeals, if necessary, Governor Belcher adjourned the New Hampshire assembly to the 12th of October. This was a hasty and imprudent step, and his enemies did not fail to use it to his disadvantage. The Massachusetts assembly remained in session five days longer, during which they obtained copies of all the papers they wanted, framed their appeal, and then adjourned.
from this period, the adversaries of the governor became more active than ever. They contrived so to connect the boundary question with their own personal objections against him, that they produced an impression upon the king. The agent of New Hampshire, Tomlinson, who was continually pressing the affair before the ministry, was a sagacious politician, and so adroitly used the weapons furnished by the opponents of Belcher in Massachusetts, as to defeat the claims of that province, and at the same time procure the recall of the governor. Other, and even criminal means were resorted to, until his enemies, by the use of falsehood and misrepresentation, and finally, by acts of forgery and perjury, accomplished their objects.f He was superseded in office by
• The regal pomp of this procession was made the subject of severe comment by the adversaries of Governor Belcher, and occasioned several pasquinades, among which the following, in an assumed Hibernian style, is the best natured:
“Dear Paddy, you ne'er did behold such a sight,
For they say 'tis to fix a right place for the line.'' | The effect of the calumnies circulated in England against Governor Belcher is seen in the following extract of a letter from Dr. Watts to Rev. Mr. Colman, written in May, 1734:—“The unhappy differences between him (Governor Belcher) and the people, have given occasion for hard things to be said of him here, almost in all companies where his name is mentioned.” Douglass thus sums up the chief points of the intrigue against Belcher. His enemies charged him, 1. With being friendly to the land bank scheme; 2. With having countenanced the waste of the king's timber; and 3. With contriving the ruin of the dissenting church in New England. The first charge was so far from being true, that most of the opposition to his admi
VOL. II.-MARCH, 1849. 10