The Colonial History to the War of the Revolution
ordered them to keep off or he would fire at them, and was answered that he might fire and be damned, the river was as free to them as the cutter. Bearing down, the pilot-boat came alongside, when a man leveled a blunderbuss at Capt. Muskett, and gave him the choice to surrender or have his brains blown out. Even before the captain could make the selection about thirty men, armed with cutlasses and clubs, boarded the schooner, knocked down the captain and two of his men, and threw them into the hold, then fastened down the hatches. The captors ran the schooner ashore, cut her rigging and sails to pieces, and, unlashing the prize, sailed away with it. On December 5th Governor Richard Penn issued a proclamation, offering a free pardon to any one who should give information by whom the act was done.1 But nothing was learned of the men who had thus boldly set the law at defiance.
The Navigation Act, which interdicted colonial trade with foreign nations, compelling the purchase of all goods from England directly, as before stated, aroused a storm of indignation, but the right of Parliament to regulate commerce was not questioned; hence the colonists could only retaliate by adopting the noted non-importation agreement. The Stamp Act and its subsequent repeal, in this locality as elsewhere, invoked popular resentment and the line of demarkation between the ultra Whigs and the Loyalists became every month more distinct. In 1770, the act of 1767, imposing a duty on glass, paper, painters' colors, and tea imported into the colonies, was repealed, save the threepence per pound tax on tea. The colonists, strictly adhering to their determination to use no goods on which the detested duty was collected, modified the non-importation agreement so that it applied to tea only. In 1773 but little had been imported into America, and the East India Company, which had then on hand nearly seventeen million pounds of tea, was permitted to export that commodity into any part of the world free of duty; hence, to the colonists, tea, even with the threepence tax, would be much cheaper than ever before, since the export duty of sixpence per pound was removed. The principle, however, of taxation without representation was still involved, and the colonists were violently excited, particularly when it was learned that the East India Company consented to ship cargoes to America only on the assurance of the British government, that they should at least suffer no loss. The indignation consequent on this new attempt of Lord North to enforce the obnoxious duty was resisted at every port where tea-ships were consigned, and while in New England the destruction of the tea in the harbor of Boston on the night of Dec. 16, 1773, was more dramatic in its circumstances than the action taken by Philadelphia and the Whig populace along the Delaware River, the feeling of resistance was not more intense than at the latter place. In Philadelphia a public meeting of citizens was held in State-House yard on Oct. 16, 1773, when it was declared "that whoever shall directly or indirectly countenance this attempt (to send out the tea), or in any way aid or abet in unloading, receiving, or vending the tea sent . . . while it remains subject to the payment of a duty here, is an enemy to the country," and strong measures were determined on to resist the landing of any tea in Philadelphia. On Nov. 29, 1773, Dunlap's Pennsylvania Packet announced, --
"The ship 'Polly,' Capt. Ayres, from London for this port, left Gravesend on the 27th of September with the detested TEA on board, and is hourly expected."
The excitement consequent on this brief news item was intense. On December 5th a committee was appointed to inquire the cause of the sudden and extraordinary rise in the price of tea, and the report made eight days after was not calculated to appease the popular indignation. The air was filled with rumors of the arrival of the "Polly," which proving premature, only added to the public anxiety and suspense. On Saturday (Christmas) the tea-ship "Polly" arrived at Chester, she having followed another ship up
|1 Penna. Archives, lst series, vol. iv. p. 445; Colonial Records, vol. x. pp. 8-14. To show the unpopularity with which the custom-house officials were regarded, even among that class of the colonists whose feelings leaned towards the doctrine that the king could do no wrong, the following case is a good example: On Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 8, 1775, Francis Welsh, in a boat with four men, boarded the schooner "Isabella" off Gloucester Point, and was told, that the vessel was in ballast from Portsmouth, New England, whereupon the officer ordered the hatches to be removed. Capt. John Ritchey drew a pistol, declaring the first man who should attempt to search the schooner "he would blow to h--l." The pilot wanting to be put ashore, Officer Welsh remarked that no man should leave the vessel, but Ritchey ordered a boat manned, and the pilot was landed. Ritchey subsequently told Welsh that the schooner belonged to Capt. David Campbell, who was the sole owner, and every dollar he had in the world was in her and the cargo, which consisted of dry goods and other dutiable or contraband articles from Dunkirk, France. Welsh was permitted to look around the cabin, and saw, among other things subject to impost duties, thirty pounds of tea. That night, about nine o'clock, Capt. Campbell, the pilot, and two gentleman came aboard, but the latter went away, and about an hour later three other gentlemen boarded the boat, who told the officer that he ought not to pursue Capt. Campbell, for it would ruin him. They offered Welsh twenty-five guineas, and promised him more if he would let the vessel go. About two o'clock at night Welsh formally seized the "Isabella" in the kings name, and ordered his men to take the helm. Upon this Campbell said the king never paid for her, and, drawing a pistol, put it to the pilot's head, swearing that if be did not run the vessel down the river without putting her ashore he would kill him. On the next ebb-tide the schooner was abreast of Chester. Welsh and Campbell went ashore to get something to eat, and while in the town the officer inquired for a justice of the peace. He went to Francis Richardson, but he was ill, and afterwards to Henry Hale Graham, whose sympathies leaned towards the crown, but he told Welsh that he had no authority to go on board any vessel. Welsh then called on Sheriff Vernon, the most pronounced loyalist in the county, and the latter stated he would go and summon some men to aid him, but he never came with the the posse comitatus, and Welsh again boarded the boat, which, on the ebb, weighed anchor and got to New Castle before the tide changed. Here the officer tried to get assistance, but all the local authorities there begged to be excused. Welsh clung to the "Isabella" until she got within five miles of the Capes, when Capt. Ritchey ordered him and his men into their boat, and they were compelled at midnight to row for shore, which they reached after three hours' constant work. The collector of customs complained to the Governor and Council against the magistrates who had refused to aid the officer, but he was informed that the jurisdiction of any county in the province did not extend to the river, and magistrates therefore could not legally give any assistance in these cases. See Colonial Records, vol. x. p. 230.|