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Facts relative to the Riot at Annapolis


Facts relative to the Riot at ANNAPOLIS, in MARYLAND.

Nothing but a civil war at home can be so pernicious and detrimental to this Nation, as a contest with the Colonies driven to too great a length, as they are connected with the Mother Country by every social tie subsisting between subjects of the same Empire divided by so great a distance; the commerce of the one, and the defence of the other, depending in a great pleasure on a mutual harmony and good understanding with each other; in a word, they maybe said to be linked together by the strongest interests, those of protection and profit.

This being the case, it is not surprising that every piece of intelligence on a subject so important and consequential to the community at large, should be received by every individual with the utmost avidity; for it is next to impossible for any British subject to be so neutral or disinterested in a matter so momentous as the present unhappy situation of our affairs on the Continent of America, as not to wish to be acquainted with the proceedings there, however limited and confined they may be in their nature, and private in their consequences. I hope, on this account, the following narration, taken from the best and most authentick authorities, will be agreeable to the publick, as from it may be deduced the real source and primary causes of the riot at Annapolis in Maryland, in which the Brigantine, called the Peggy, laden with Teas, was burnt; but I imagine some will scarcely believe, that "an Officer in his Majesty' s Revenue" was the principal abetter and promoter of the riot, through this was actually the case.

At the first publick meeting at Annapolis on American affairs, after the passing the Boston Port Bill, a resolution was proposed and zealously supported by many members at the meeting — "That the gentlemen of the Law should


decline bringing any action for debts due to persons in Great Britain." The passing so dishonest a resolution, however necessary and convenient if might appear to some people in trade, was too pregnant with injustice to meet with general approbation; for the honest and thinking traders plainly foresaw that this measure, calculated only to serve the private purposes and views of a few individuals, would, in the end, greatly prejudice and injure the general credit of the Province, and prove extremely prejudicial to its commerce; therefore a strong opposition was formed, and a spirited protest was entered against the resolution, in both of which Mr˙ Stewart, one of the owners of the Brigantine, distinguished himself, and bore a very active share therein.

But notwithstanding that the opposition of the protesters against this dishonest and illegal resolution seemed to give general satisfaction, and met with almost universal approbation, as appeared by that measure never having again been proposed to be adopted at any of the future meetings; nevertheless Mr˙ Stewart' s conduct therein procured him many enemies amongst those whose interest was injured; and it afforded matter for calumny and complaint to many of the neighbouring Merchants, who did not fail to embrace the first opportunity which happened by the arrival of the Brigantine with Teas on board, of gratifying their spleen and malice, and satiating their diabolical resentment and revenge, by endeavouring the ruin, perhaps the death of the man who had honestly dared actively to oppose these dishonest designs.

By the Brigantine, Messrs˙ Williams, the gentlemen to whom the Tea was consigned, had also fortunately received, a plentiful supply of other goods from London; this gave umbrage to some of their neighbours who had been disappointed of the goods they intended to lay in before the Association or Non-Importation Agreement, which was then generally expected, and which has actually taken place, should operate; amongst these there was one house, a branch of a mercantile one in London, and of which Mr˙ Davison, Deputy Collector and Deputy Comptroller is a partner, to which the Messers˙ Williams, were likely to become formidable rivals in trade, who had the misfortune to have a vessel, on board of which the goods were shipped, stranded in the English Channel. Chagrined at their own, disappointment, and determined that Messrs˙ Williams should not reap the benefit of this seasonable supply by the Peggy Stewart, resolved also to wreak their vengeance on Mr˙ Stewart. They used every means to inflame the populace, not only to prevent the landing of the Tea, but also to procure its destruction.

In this dilemma, Messrs˙Williams adopted the only prudent method they had left to extricate themselves from the impending danger. Aware of the machinations of their enemies, they wisely refused to enter the Teas, or pay the duties, imagining that thereby the people would be satisfied, and that the Tea' s being seized for non-payment of the duties, the Officers of the Customs would in that case be obliged to land them, even at the risk of tarring and feathering.

But Mr˙ Stewart, as an owner of the vessel anxious for despatch, in order that she might proceed to another port, too precipitately, as appeared by the issue, settled the matter otherwise. He agreed to deposit a bill of exchange at the Custom-House, as security for the duty of the Teas, which was the very point his enemies wished; for by this pleasure he laid himself open to the most virulent attacks malice could invent to excite the populace against him, which would end in his destruction.

To forward their malicious, and infernal designs, the officer of the revenue before mentioned, although the house of which he was a partner had, unmolested, three months before, landed Teas, used every means in his power, personally, and by the interest of his partner who is undertaker of the publick buildings, and by the means and assistance of every friend and dependant they had in the neighbourhood, endeavoured to stir up the populace, against Mr˙ Stewart, in which they proved but too successful; for having depicted his proceedings as a crime of the most atrocious nature, giving out "that it was done intentionally to entail slavery and heavy taxes on the Americans, and to strike at the root of, and tear up every privilege British subjects possessed on the Continet of Americans, and to the people were so inflamed, that they threatened death to


Mr˙ Stewart, and desolation to his store and dwelling house.

The mob of Maryland, like the common people of all Countries, are ever ready to receive the first impressions; and being too lazy or too ignorant to inquire or examine into causes or complaints, they are ever violent in their proceedings; and when a notion is once impressed on them, it is scarcely to be effaced by reason. Can it then be surprising that the Committee who met to inquire into the merits of the affair (inflamed as they were by the incendiaries who set them on) could not put a stop to their rage, though a great majority of the Committee were of opinion that the destruction of the Tea, and a publick acknowledgment of the fault from the parties, was a sufficient atonement for the trespass? Is it surprising that this should not appease, when the death or destruction of Mr˙ Stewart only could have satiated their vengeance?

To avert so great a calamity, some of Mr˙ Stewart' s friends proposed "that the Vessel with the Tea on board, should immediately be burnt," which was executed almost as soon as proposed, and the happy expedient had the desired effect. The mischief they had perpetrated, and the blaze of the vessel pleased and appeased the populace and in some, measure, though it may be presumed not to the extent of their wishes, gratified the malicious and interested, and saved Mr˙ Stewart, if not from death and destruction, at least from ruin, tar, and feathers.

This disturbance happened in the absence of the Governour, who was then oh his passage from England; but had he been on the spot it could not have been prevented, for the civil power in Annapolis, though the capital of Maryland and residence of the Governour, is unable to cope with, or curb the fury of an exasperated people. There are no military in the Province.