Gage had summoned the Assembly of Massachusetts to meet at Salem on the 5th of October to legislate under the new act of Parliament. The attitude of the Continental Congress made the patriots bolder than ever, and their town- meetings were so seditious in aspect, that the governor countermanded his order for the session of the Assembly. But most of the members, denying his right to countermand, met there on the appointed day, ninety in number, waited two days for the governor, who did not appear, and then organized themselves into a Provincial Congress, with John Hancock as President, and Benjamin Lincoln, Secretary.
They adjourned to Concord, where, on the 11th, two hundred and sixty members took their seats. Then they adjourned to Cambridge, whence they sent a message to the governor, telling him that for want of a legal Assembly they had organized a Convention. They complained of the recent acts of Parliament which suspended the functions of their charter, expressed their loyalty to the king, and protested against the fortifying of the Neck.
Gage replied, as he had done before, that it was only for defence; and he pointed to the sounds of the fife and drum, the military drills, the manufacture of arms, and warlike preparations all over the province, for his justification. He concluded by denouncing the Convention as an illegal body, and warning them to desist from further action.
Gage's denunciations increased the zeal of the patriots. The Convention appointed a Committee of Safety, to whom they delegated large powers, among others to call out the militia of the province. Another committee was appointed to procure ammunition and military stores, and for that purpose they appropriated sixty thousand dollars. Henry Gardner was appointed Receiver-General, into whose hands the constables and tax collectors directed to pay all public moneys that might be gathered by them. Provision was also made for arming the people of the province; and Jeremiah Preble, Artemas Ward, and Seth Pomeroy, all veterans of wars with the French and Indians, were chosen general officers of the militia.
Only Ward and Pomeroy consented to serve, and they entered immediately upon the duty of organizing the militia. Mills were erected for manufacturing gunpowder; establishments were set up for the making of arms, and encouragement was given to the production of saltpeter. Ammunition and military stores were collected at Woburn, Concord, near Salem, and at other places; and late in November, as we have observed, the Provincial Congress authorized the enrollment of twelve thousand Minute-men. That Provincial Congress assumed legislative and executive powers, and received the allegiance of the people generally. Gage found himself at the close of 1774 unsupported excepting by his troops, a few government officials in Boston, and passive loyalists who were under the protection of his regiments. All outside of Boston wore the aspect of rebellion. Made afraid of his own weapons - fearing the people might turn the muzzles of the cannon which he had planted upon Fort Hill upon himself and his troops, he ordered a party of sailors to be sent in the night from a man- of-war in the harbor to spike all the guns in battery there. That was a confession of weakness that made the patriots strong.
The elections for member's of Parliament in the autumn of 1774, satisfied the ministry that they were strong in the affections of the people. The king was jubilant because of the result, and the government was not in a frame of mind to receive with complacency the state-papers put forth by the Continental Congress, especially the petition to the king.
In September Gage had written to Dartmouth a truthful statement of the condition of affairs in the colonies, and especially in Massachusetts. It was a letter that gave that minister great concern. Gage declared that the act of Parliament for regulating the government of Massachusetts could not be carried into effect until the New England colonies were subdued by military conquest; that Massachusetts had warm friends and abettors in all the other colonies; that the people of the Carolinas were as crazy as those in Boston that all over New England the rural population were actually preparing for war by military exercises and by the gathering of arms and ammunition, and that the civil officers of the crown could find no protection in Boston.
The governor suggested that it might be well to discard the colonies - cut them loose from the empire, and leave them to suffer anarchy, and so bring about repentance; having grown rich by their connection with Great Britain, they would speedily become poor in their helplessness. Thoroughly wearied, Gage also suggested, in a private Dartmouth, that it might be well to suspend the operations of the obnoxious acts for a season. When these statements and propositions were laid before the king, he said, with emphasis and bitter scorn, "The New England governments are now in a state of rebellion. Blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country, or to be independent."
This was King George's ultimatum, to which he obstinately adhered; and Lord North, to whom the words of the monarch were addressed, acted accordingly in the Parliament which assembled at about that time. Joseph Warren, in a letter addressed to Josiah Quincy, Jr. (who had gone to England to seek restoration of health by a sea voyage and to watch the drift of public opinion there concerning American affairs), gave the ultimatum of the Americans in these words: It is the united voice of America to preserve their freedom,
or lose their lives in defence of it. Their resolutions are not the effects of inconsiderate rashness, but the sound result of sober inquiry and deliberation. The true spirit of liberty was never so universally diffused through all ranks and orders of people in any country on the face of the earth, as it now is through all North America. If the late acts of Parliament are not to be repealed, the wisest step for both countries is to separate, and not to spend their blood and treasure in destroying each other. It is barely possible that Great Britain may depopulate North America; she never can conquer the inhabitants."