The Colonial History to the War of the Revolution
the river, for no pilot would dare, in the heated condition of the people's mind, to bring that vessel to the city. The Whigs of Chester, as soon as they were convinced that the ship was lying off that town, dispatched a messenger post-haste to Philadelphia to announce the long-expected but unwelcome news. When be arrived, during the evening of that day, Gilbert Barclay, one of the consignees of the ship, who was a passenger in the vessel, had also gone to Philadelphia by post, and early the next morning he was waited on by a committee, who urged his renunciation of the commission so warmly that he deemed it the wisest plan to accede to their demands. This being accomplished, the committee appointed three of their number to go to Chester, and two others to Gloucester Point, to have an interview with Capt. Ayres, and acquaint him with the public feeling repecting his voyage and the cargo with which the vessel was ladened. The three gentlemen who had set out for Chester, when some distance below the city, were informed that the "Polly" at noon had weighed anchor, and was on her way to her port of destination. They, therefore, returned to the city. About two o'clock she appeared in sight at Gloucester Point, where, as the news had spread in all directions, a large crowd had gathered. When the vessel came sufficiently near she was hailed, and Capt. Ayres requested to come on shore. This he did, and, the people dividing so as to form a lane, he was conducted to the members of the committee, who represented to him the general feeling and the danger to him personally if he refused to comply with the popular demand. They also requested him to go with them to Philadelphia, where he could learn fully the temper and resolution of the masses. The next morning eight thousand people gathered in the State-House yard, when it was resolved that the tea should not be landed; that the vessel should not be reported or entered at the custom-house; that the tea must be taken back to England immediately; that a pilot must take charge of the "Polly," and on the next highwater take her to Reedy Island; that Capt Ayres could stay a day in town to procure supplies for his return voyage; that he then should go to the vessel and put to sea immediately. On Tuesday, after being in the town forty-six hours, Capt. Ayres left the city where he had been so inhospitably received, and like a prudent man sailed for London, where he reported the unsatisfactory result of his voyage. On Feb. 5, 1774, Earl Dartmouth wrote to Governor Penn, that "the Insult that has been offered to this Kingdom by the Inhabitants of Philadelphia, in the Case of the 'Polly,' Capt. Ayres, is of a very serious nature, and leads to very important consequences." In conclusion, the earl demanded that "a Circumstance, which at present Appears so extraordinary should be fully explained."1 If it was, no record seems to have been preserved of that fact.
|1 Penna. Archives, 1st series, vol. iv. p. 480.|
In 1774, when the news of the determined resistance made by the colonists to the landing of the tea was received in Europe, England was greatly excited at the intelligence, and Parliament hastily enacted several bills relating to colonial matters extremely offensive in their provisions. Because of the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor, the vengeance of the ministry was particularly directed against that town, hence the law which was known as the Boston Port Bill was passed, interdicting all vessels from landing and discharging, or of landing and shipping wares and merchandise at that port. As soon as these sets were promulgated in the colonies, a storm of denunciation and defiance swept across the land. Staid, dignified Philadelphia even yielded to the tempest, and on Saturday, June 18, 1774, at a large meeting of the leading citizens of that city, was passed a series of resolutions, among which was a call for the holding of a Continental Congress and instructing the committee thus appointed to take steps necessary to have the province of Pennsylvania represented in the proposed assemblage. Rev. Dr. William Smith, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, who addressed that gathering, in his calm, dispassionate remarks, with prophetic vision saw that the business they were then about meant "perhaps nothing less than whether the breach with the country from which we descended shall be irreparably widened." On June 28th, the committee sent a circular letter to every county in the province, particularly urging the appointment of a committee in the several counties to assemble in Philadelphia on Friday, the 15th of July, to meet the committee from the whole province. This letter was addressed to Francis Richardson, Elisha Price, and Henry Hayes, of Chester County, who by a peculiar coincidence issued the following call for a meeting of the people of the county on the day which two years afterwards was to become one of the most memorable in the world's history:
To the Freeholders and others, inhabitants of the County of Chester, qualified by Law to vote for Representatives in General Assembly.