James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 15

How We Became a Nation

By Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835–1921)

  • The destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor aroused much indignation in England, and the result was the passing of the Boston Port Bill on April 15, 1774. By this act the harbor of Boston was legally closed, the Custom House removed to Salem and all landing, lading, and shipping of merchandise in Boston Harbor forbidden. As the town owed its prosperity to its commerce, this meant distress and ruin to its inhabitants.

  • WHEN George the King would punish folk

    Who dared resist his angry will—

    Resist him with their hearts of oak

    That neither King nor Council broke—

    He told Lord North to mend his quill,

    And sent his Parliament a Bill.

    The Boston Port Bill was the thing

    He flourished in his royal hand;

    A subtle lash with scorpion sting,

    Across the seas he made it swing,

    And with its cruel thong he planned

    To quell the disobedient land.

    His minions heard it sing, and bare

    The port of Boston felt his wrath;

    They let no ship cast anchor there,

    They summoned Hunger and Despair,—

    And curses in an aftermath

    Followed their desolating path.

    No coal might enter there, nor wood,

    Nor Holland flax, nor silk from France;

    No drugs for dying pangs, no food

    For any mother’s little brood.

    “Now,” said the King, “we have our chance,

    We’ll lead the haughty knaves a dance.”

    No other flags lit up the bay,

    Like full-blown blossoms in the air,

    Than where the British war-ships lay;

    The wharves were idle; all the day

    The idle men, grown gaunt and spare,

    Saw trouble, pall-like, everywhere.

    Then in across the meadow land,

    From lonely farm and hunter’s tent,

    From fertile field and fallow strand,

    Pouring it out with lavish hand,

    The neighboring burghs their bounty sent,

    And laughed at King and Parliament.

    To bring them succor, Marblehead

    Joyous her deep-sea fishing sought.

    Her trees, with ringing stroke and tread,

    Old many-rivered Newbury sped,

    And Groton in her granaries wrought,

    And generous flocks old Windham brought.

    Rice from the Carolinas came,

    Iron from Pennsylvania’s forge,

    And, with a spirit all aflame,

    Tobacco-leaf and corn and game

    The Midlands sent; and in his gorge

    The Colonies defied King George!

    And Hartford hung, in black array,

    Her town-house, and at half-mast there

    The flags flowed, and the bells all day

    Tolled heavily; and far away

    In great Virginia’s solemn air

    The House of Burgesses held prayer.

    Down long glades of the forest floor

    The same thrill ran through every vein,

    And down the long Atlantic’s shore;

    Its heat the tyrant’s fetters tore

    And welded them through stress and strain

    Of long years to a mightier chain.

    That mighty chain with links of steel

    Bound all the Old Thirteen at last,

    Through one electric pulse to feel

    The common woe, the common weal.

    And that great day the Port Bill passed

    Made us a nation hard and fast.