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APPENDIX NO. I: Some special transactions of Dr. Franklin in London, in behalf of America. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 1.
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APPENDIX NO. I
Some special transactions of Dr. Franklin in London, in behalf of America.
1775While the breach between Great-Britain and the colonies, was daily increasing, the enlightened and liberal, who loved peace, and the extension of human happiness, saw with regret the approaching horrors of a civil war, and wished to avert them. With these views Dr. Fothergill, Mr. David Barclay and Dr. Franklin, held sundry conferences in London on American affairs. The two former were English gentlemen of most amiable characters, and highly esteemed by the British ministry. The last was by birth an American, but a citizen of the world, who loved and was beloved by all good men. He was also agent for several of the colonies. At one of their conferences held at the house of Dr. Fothergill on the 4th December, 1774, before the proceedings of Congress had reached England—a paper drawn up by the last, at the request of the two first, was submitted to their joint consideration, which with a few additions proposed and agreed to by common consent was as follows.
Hints for conversation upon the subjects of terms, that might probably produce a durable union between Britain and the colonies.
1st. The tea destroyed to be paid for.
2d. The tea duty act to be repealed, and all the duties that have been received upon it to be repaid into the treasuries of the several provinces from which they have been collected.
3d. The acts of navigation to be all re-enacted in the colonies.
4th. A naval officer to be appointed by the crown to see that these acts are observed.
5th. All the acts restraining manufactories in the colonies to be reconsidered.
6th. All duties arising on the acts for regulating trade with the colonies to be for the public use of the respective colonies and paid into their treasuries.
1775 The collectors and custom house officers to be appointed by each governor and not sent from England.
7th. In consideration of the Americans maintaining their own peace establishment, and the monopoly Britain is to have of their commerce, no requisition is to be made from them in time of peace.
8th. No troops to enter and quarter in any colony, but with the consent of its legislature.
9th. In time of war on requisition by the king with consent of parliament, every colony shall raise money by the following rules in proportion, viz. If Britain on account of the war, raises three shillings in the pound to its land tax, then the colonies to add to their last general provincial peace tax, a sum equal to one fourth part thereof, and if Britain on the same account pays four shillings in the pound, then the colonies to add to their last peace tax, a sum equal to the half thereof, which additional tax is to be granted to his majesty, and to be employed in raising and paying men for land or sea service, and furnishing provisions, transports, or for such other purposes as the king shall require and direct, and though no colony may contribute less, each may add as much by voluntary grant as it shall think proper.
10th. Castle William to be restored to the province of Massachusetts Bay, and no fortress to be built by the crown in any province, but with the consent of its legislature.
11th. The late Massachusetts and Quebec acts to be repealed, and a free government granted to Canada.
12th. All judges to be appointed during good behavior, with equally permanent salaries to be paid out of the province revenues by appointment of the assemblies, or if the judges are to be appointed during the pleasure of the crown, let the salaries be during the pleasure of the assemblies as heretofore.
13th. Governors to be supported by the assemblies of each province.
14th. If Britain will give up her monopoly of the American commerce, then the aid above mentioned to be given in time of peace, as well as in time of war.
1775 15th. The extension of the act of Henry the 8th, concerning treasons to the colonies to be formally disowned by parliament.
16th. The American admiralty courts to be reduced to the same powers they have in England, and the acts establishing them to be re-enacted in America.
17th. All power of internal legislation in the colonies to be disclaimed by parliament.
On reading this paper a second time, Dr. Franklin gave his reasons at length for each article. Some of his reasons were as follows.
On the first article he observed, that when the tea was destroyed at Boston, Great-Britain had a right to reparation, and would certainly have had it on demand, as was the case when injuries were done by mobs in the time of the stamp act, or she might have a right to return an equal injury if she rather chose to do that; but Great-Britain could not have a right both to reparation and to return an equal injury, much less had she a right to return the injury ten or twenty fold, as she had done by blocking up the port of Boston. All which extra injury ought to be repaired by Great-Britain. That therefore if paying for the tea was agreed to, as an article fit to be proposed, it was merely from a desire of peace, and in compliance with the opinions of Dr. Fothergill and David Barclay, expressed at their first meeting; that this was indispensible, that the dignity of Great-Britain required it, and that if this was agreed to, every thing else would be easy.
On the second, it was observed that the tea duty act should be repealed as having never answered any good purpose, as having been the cause of the present mischief, and never likely to be executed. That the act being considered as unconstitutional by the Americans, and what parliament had no right to enact they must consider all the money extorted by it as so much wrongfully taken, and of which therefore restitution ought to be made, and the rather as it would furnish a fund out of which the tea destroyed would be best defrayed.
1775On the third and fourth articles it was observed, that the Americans were frequently charged with views of abolishing  the navigation act, but that in truth those parts of it, which were of most importance to Britain, as tending to increase its naval strength, were as acceptable to the colonists as they could be to the inhabitants of the Parent State, since they wished to employ their own ships in preference to those of foreigners, and they had no desire to see foreign ships enter their ports. That it would prevent disputes if they were re-enacted in the colonies, as that would demonstrate their consent to them, and then if all the duties arising on them were to be collected by officers appointed and paid in the respective governments, and the produce paid into their treasuries, the acts would be better and more faithfully executed, and at much less expence, and a great source of misunderstanding between the two countries removed—that the extension of the admiralty jurisdiction so much complained of would then no longer be necessary.
In support of the 7th article it was observed, that if every distinct part of the king’s dominions supported its own government in time of peace, it was all that could justly be required of it. That all the other confederated colonies had done so from their beginning, that their taxes for that purpose were very considerable, that new countries had many expences which old ones were free from, the work being done to their land by their ancestors, such as making roads and bridges, erecting churches, courthouses, forts, quays and other public buildings, founding schools and places of education, hospitals and almshouses—that the voluntary subscriptions and legal taxes for such purposes taken together amounted to more than was paid by equal estates in Great-Britain; that it would be best not to take money from the Americans as a contribution to its public expence in time of peace, first for that just so much less would be got from them in commerce, and secondly, that coming into the hands of British ministers accustomed to prodigality of public money, it would be squandered and dissipated without answering any general good purposes.1775 That on the whole it would be best for both countries, that no aids should be asked from the colonies in time of peace,  that it would then be their interest to grant bountifully, and exert themselves, in time of war, the sooner to put an end to it.
In support of the 8th article, it was said, that if the king could bring into any one part of his dominions troops raised in any other part of them, without the consent of the legislature of the part to which they were brought, he might bring armies raised in America to England without the consent of parliament.
The 9th article was drawn in compliance with an idea of Dr. Fothergill, that the British government would probably not be satisfied with the promise of voluntary grants in time of war from the American assemblies, of which the quantity must be uncertain, that therefore it would be best to proportion them in some way to the shilling in the pound raised in England.
In support of the 10th article, was urged the injustice of seizing that fortress which had been built at an immense charge by the province, for the defence of their port against national enemies, and turning it into a citadel for awing the town, restraining their trade, blocking up their port, and depriving them of their privileges. That a great deal had been said of their injustice in destroying the tea, but here was a much greater injustice uncompensated, that castle having cost the province £300,000.
In support of the 11th article, it was said, that as the Americans had assisted in the conquest of Canada, at a great expence of blood and treasure, they had some right to be considered in the settlement of it; that the establishing an arbitrary government on the bank of their settlements would be dangerous to them all. That as to amending the Massachusetts government, though it might be shewn that every one of these pretended amendments were real mischiefs, yet, that as charters were compacts between two parties, the king and the people, no alteration could be made in them even for the better, but by the consent of both parties; that the parliamentary claim and exercise of power to alter American charters, had rendered all their constitutions uncertain and set them  quite afloat.1775 That by this claim of altering laws and charters at will they deprived the colonists of all rights and privileges whatever, but what they should hold at their pleasure. That this was a situation they could not be in and must risque life and every thing rather than submit to it.
The 12th article was explained by stating the former situation of the judges in most of the colonies, viz. that they were appointed by the crown and paid by the assemblies, that the appointment being during the pleasure of the crown, the salary had been during the pleasure of the assembly; that when it was urged against the assemblies that their making judges dependent on them for their salaries, was aiming at an undue influence over the courts of justice, the assemblies usually replied, that making them dependent on the crown for continuance in their places was also retaining an undue influence over those courts, and that one undue influence was a proper balance for another; but that whenever the crown would consent to the appointment of judges only during good behaviour, the assemblies would at the same time grant their salaries to be permanent during their continuance in office; that instead of agreeing to this equitable offer the crown now claimed to make the judges in the colonies dependant on its favour for place, as well as salary, and both to be continued at its pleasure. This the colonies must oppose as inequitable, as putting both the weights into one of the scales of justice.
In favour of the 123th it was urged that the governors sent to the colonies were often men of no estate or principle, who came merely to make fortunes, and had no natural regard for the country they were to govern. That to make them quite independent of the people, was to make them careless of their conduct, and giving a loose to their rapacious and oppressive dispositions. That the dependence of the governors on the people for their salaries could never operate to the prejudice of the king’s service, or to the disadvantage of Britain, since each governor was bound by a particular set of instructions which he had given surety to observe, and all the laws he assented  to were subject to be repealed by the crown.1775 That the payment of the salaries by the people was more satisfactory to them, and was productive of a good understanding between governors and governed, and that therefore the innovations lately made at Boston and New-York, should be laid aside.
The 14th article was expunged on the representation of Dr. Fothergill and David Barclay, that the monopoly of the American commerce would never be given up, and that the proposing of it would only give offence, without answering any good purpose.
The 15th article was readily agreed to.
The 16th was thought to be of little consequence, if the duties were given to the colony treasuries.
The 17th it was thought could hardly be obtained, but it was supported by Dr. Franklin, alleging that without it, any compact made with the Americans, might be evaded by acts of the British parliament, restraining the intermediate proceedings, which were necessary for carrying it into effect.
This paper of hints was communicated to lord Dartmouth by Dr. Fothergill, who also stated the arguments which in conversation had been offered in support of them. When objections were made to them, as being humiliating to Great-Britain Dr. Fothergill replied “that she had been unjust, and ought to bear the consequences, and alter her conduct—that the pill might be bitter, but it would be salutary and must be swallowed; that sooner or later these or similar measures must be followed, or the empire would be divided and ruined.”
These hints were handed about amongst ministers, and conferences were held on them. The result was on the 4th of February 1775 communicated to Dr. Franklin, in the presence of Dr. Fothergill and David Barclay, which as far as concerned the leading articles, was as follows:
1. The first article was approved.
2. The second agreed to so far as related to the tea act, but repayment of the duties that had been collected, was refused.
3. The third not approved, as it implied a deficiency of power in the parliament that made the acts. 
4. The fourth approved.
5. The fifth agreed to, but with a reserve that no change prejudicial to Britain was to be expected.
6. The sixth agreed to, so far as related to the appropriation of the duties, but the appointment of the officers and of their salaries to remain as at present.
7. The seventh relating to aids in time of war, agreed to.
8. The eighth relating to troops, was inadmissible.
9. The ninth could be agreed to with this difference, that no proportion should be observed with regard to preceding taxes, but each colony should give at pleasure.
10. The tenth agreed to as to the restitution of Castle William, but the restriction on the crown in building fortresses refused.
11. The eleventh refused absolutely, except as to the Boston port bill which would be repealed, and the Quebec act might be so far amended, as to reduce that province to its ancient limits. The other massachusetts acts being real amendments of their constitution, must for that reason be continued, as well as to be a standing example of the power of parliament.
12. The twelfth agreed to, that the judges should be appointed during good behaviour, on the assemblies providing permanent salaries, such as the Crown should approve of.
13. The thirteenth agreed to, provided the assemblies make provision, as in the preceding article.
15. The fifteenth agreed to.
16. The sixteenth agreed to, supposing the duties paid to the colony treasuries.
17. The seventeenth inadmissible.
At this interview the conversation was shortened by Dr. Franklin’s observing, that while the parliament claimed and exercised a power of internal legislation for the colonies, and of altering American constitutions, at pleasure, there could be no agreement, as that would render the Americans unsafe in every privilege they enjoyed,  and would leave them nothing, in which they could be secure.1775 It being hinted how necessary an agreement was for America, since it was so easy for Britain to burn all her seaport towns, Dr. Franklin replied,
that the chief part of his little property consisted of houses in such towns, that they might make bonfires of them whenever they pleased. That the fear of losing them would never alter his resolution of resisting to the last extremity, that claim of parliament, and that it behoved Great-Britain to take care what mischief she did to America, for that sooner or later she would certainly be obliged to make good all damages with interest.
On the 16th of February, 1775, the three before mentioned gentlemen met, when a paper was produced by David Barclay entitled, “A plan which it is believed would produce a permanent union between Great-Britain and her colonies.[”] This, in the first article, proposed a repeal of the tea act, on payment being made for the tea destroyed. Dr. Franklin agreed to the first part, but contended that all the other Massachusetts acts should also be repealed, but this was deemed inadmissible. Dr. Franklin declared that the people of Massachusetts would suffer all the hazards and mischiefs of war, rather than admit the alteration of their charters and laws, by parliament. He was for securing the unity of the empire, by recognising the sanctity of charters, and by leaving the provinces to govern themselves, in their internal concerns, but the British ministry could not brook the idea of relinquishing their claim to internal legislation for the colonies, and especially to alter and amend their charters. The first was for communicating the vital principles of liberty to the provinces, but the latter though disposed to redress a few of their existing grievances, would by no means consent to a repeal of the late act of parliament, for altering the chartered government of Massachusetts, and least of all to renounce all claim to future amendments of charters, or of internal legislation for the colonies.
1775Dr. Franklin laboured hard to prevent the breach from becoming irreparable, and candidly stated the outlines  of a compact which he supposed would procure a durable union of the two countries, but his well meant endeavors proved abortive, and in the mean time he was abused as the fomenter of those disturbances which he was anxiously endeavouring to prevent. That the ministry might have some opening to proceed upon, and some salvo for their personal honor, he was disposed to engage, that pecuniary compensation should be made for the tea destroyed, but he would not give up essential liberty, for the purpose of procuring temporary safety. Finding the ministry bent on war, unless the colonists would consent to hold their rights, liberties and charters at the discretion of a British parliament, and well knowing that his countrymen would hazard every thing, rather than consent to terms so degrading as well as inconsistent with the spirit of the British constitution, he quitted Great-Britain in March 1775, and returned to Philadelphia. Dr. Fothergill, his worthy coadjutor in the great business of peace, wrote to him on the evening before he left London. “That whatever specious pretences were offered, they were all hollow, and that to get a larger field on which to fatten a herd of worthless parasites, was all that was intended.” With this conviction founded on personal observations, as well as the testimony of his esteemed friend, who in the course of his daily visits among the great, in the practice of his profession, had an opportunity of knowing their undisguised sentiments, Dr. Franklin joined his countrymen, and exerted his great abilities in conducting them through a war he had in vain laboured to prevent.
Consequences in America, resulting from the preceding transactions of Parliament; and of the commencement of Hostilities.
The year 1774 terminated in america, with an expectation that a few months would bring them a redress of their grievances; but the probability of that event  daily diminished.1775 The colonists had indulged themselves in an expectation that the people of Great-Britain, from a consideration of the dangers and difficulties of a war with their colonies, would in their election have preferred those who were friends to peace and a reconciliation; but when they were convinced of the fallacy of these hopes, they turned their attention to the means of self defence. It had been the resolution of many never to submit to the operation of the late acts of parliament. Their number daily increased, and in the same proportion that Great-Britain determined to enforce, did they determine to oppose. Intelligence of the rejection of lord Chatham’s bill, of the address of both houses of parliament to the king of the 9th of February, and of the fishery bill, all arrived among the colonists, about the same time, and diminished what remained of their first hopes of a speedy accommodation. The fishery bill excited a variety of emotions. The obvious tendency of it was to starve thousands. The severity of it did not strike an Englishman, for he viewed it as a merited correction for great provincial offences; but it appeared in the blackest colours to an American, who felt no consciousness of guilt, and who fancied that heaven approved his zeal in defence of liberty. It alienated the affections of the colonists, and produced in the breasts of thousands, a hatred of Great-Britain.
The penal acts of parliament in 1774, were all levelled against Massachusetts, but the fishery bill extended to New-Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode-Island. The reasons assigned for this by lord North were, that they had aided and abetted their offending neighbours, and were so near to them that the intentions of parliament would be frustrated, unless they were in like manner comprehended in the proposed restraints. The extension of this penal statute to three additional provinces, operated powerfully in favour of union, and convinced the most moderate, of the increasing necessity for all the provinces to make a common cause of their opposition. Whatever might be the designs of parliament, their acts had a natural tendency to enlarge the demands of the Americans,  and to cement their confederacy, by firm principles of union.1775 At first they only claimed exemption from internal taxation, but by the combination of the East-India company and the British ministry, an external tax was made to answer all the purposes of a direct internal tax. They therefore in consistence with their own principles, were constrained to deny the right of taxing in any form for a supply. Nothing could more contribute to make the colonists deny the parliamentary claim of internal legislation, than the manner in which it was exercised, in depriving them of their charters, and passing an act relative to trials, which promised indemnity to murderers. This convinced them that an opposition to so injurious a claim was essentially necessary to their security. But they still admitted the power of parliament to bind their trade. This was conceded by Congress but a few months before an act passed that they should have no foreign trade, nor be allowed to fish on their own coasts. The British ministry by their successive acts, impelled the colonists to believe, that while the Mother Country retained any authority over them, that authority would, in some shape or other, be exerted so as to answer all the purposes of a power to tax. While Great-Britain stretched that portion of controlling supremacy which the colonists were disposed to allow her, to such an extent as covered oppression equally grievous with that which they would not allow, the way was fast opening for a total renunciation of her sovereignty. The coercive measures adopted by the Parent State, produced a disposition in the colonies to extend their claims, and the extension of their claims produced an increasing disposition in Great-Britain to coerce them still more. The jealousy of liberty on one side, and the desire of supremacy on the other, were reciprocally cause and effect; and urged both parties, the one to rise in their demands, and the other to enforce submission. In the contest between Great-Britain and her colonies, there had been a fatal progression from small to greater grounds of dissention. The trifling tax of 3d per pound on tea, roused the jealous inhabitants of Boston to throw 340 chests of it into the ocean. 1775 This provoked the British parliament to shut up their port, and to new model their charter. Statutes so unconstitutional and alarming, excited a combination in twelve of the colonies, to stop all trade with Great-Britain, Ireland, and the West-Indies. Their combination gave birth to the restraining acts of parliament, by which nine of the colonies were interdicted all other trade but that from which they had voluntarily excluded themselves; and four of these nine were farther devoted to famine, by being forbidden to fish on their coasts. Each new resolution on the one side, and new act on the other, reciprocally gave birth to something from the opposite party, that was more irritating or oppressive, than what had preceded.
The beginning of strife between the Parent State and her colonies, was like the letting out of waters. From inconsiderable causes love was changed into suspicion that gradually ripened into ill will, and soon ended in hostility. Prudence, policy, and reciprocal interest, urged the expediency of concession; but pride, false honour, and misconceived dignity, drew in an opposite direction. Undecided claims and doubtful rights, which under the influence of wisdom and humility might have been easily compromised, imperceptibly widened into an irreconcileable breach. Hatred at length took the place of kind affections, and the calamities of war were substituted, in lieu of the benefits of commerce.
From the year 1768, in which a military force had been stationed in Boston, there was a constant succession of insulting words, looks, and gestures. The inhabitants were exasperated against the soldiers, and they against the inhabitants. The former looked on the latter as the instruments of tyranny, and the latter on the former as seditious rioters, or fraudulent smugglers. In this irritable state, every incident however trifling, made a sensible impression. The citizens apprehended constant danger from an armed force, in whose power they were; the soldiers on the other hand, considered themselves as in the midst of enemies, and exposed to attacks from within and from without.1775 In proportion  as the breach between Great-Britain and her colonies widened, the distrust and animosity between the people and the army increased. From the latter end of 1774, hostile appearances daily threatened that the flames of war would be kindled from the collision of such inflammable materials. Whatsoever was done by either party by way of precaution, for the purposes of self defence, was construed by the other as preparatory to an intended attack. Each disclaimed all intentions of commencing hostilities, but reciprocally manifested suspicion of the others sincerity. As far as was practicable without an open rupture, the plans of the one were respectively thwarted by the other. From every appearance it became daily more evident that arms must ultimately decide the contest. To suffer an army that was soon expected to be an enemy, quietly to fortify themselves, when the inhabitants were both able and willing to cut them off, appeared to some warm spirits the height of folly; but the prudence and moderation of others, and especially the advice and recommendation of Congress, restrained their impetuosity. It was a fortunate circumstance for the colonies that the royal army was posted in New-England. The people of that northern country have their passions more under the command of reason and interest, than in the southern latitudes, where a warmer sun excites a greater degree of irascibility. One rash offensive action against the royal forces at this early period, though successful, might have done great mischief to the cause of America. It would have lost them European friends, and weakened the disposition of the other colonies to assist them. The patient and the politic New-England men, fully sensible of their situation, submitted to many insults, and bridled their resentment. In civil wars or revolutions it is a matter of much consequence who strikes the first blow. The compassion of the world is in favour of the attacked, and the displeasure of good men on those who are the first to imbrue their hands in human blood. For the space of nine months after the arrival of general Gage, the behaviour of the people of Boston is particularly worthy of imitation, by those who wish to  overturn established governments.1775 They conducted their opposition with exquisite address. They avoided every kind of outrage and violence, preserved peace and good order among themselves, successfully engaged the other colonies to make a common cause with them, and counteracted general Gage so effectually as to prevent his doing any thing for his royal master, while by patience and moderation they skreened themselves from censure. Though resolved to bear as long as prudence and policy dictated, they were all the time preparing for the last extremity. They were furnishing themselves with arms and ammunition, and training their militia.
Provisions were also collected and stored in different places, particularly at Concord, about 20 miles from Boston. General Gage, though zealous for his royal master’s interest, discovered a prevailing desire after a peaceable accommodation. He wished to prevent hostilities by depriving the inhabitants of the means necessary for carrying them on. With this view he determined to destroy the stores which he knew were collected for the support of a provincial army. Wishing to accomplish this without bloodshed, he took every precaution to effect it by surprise, and without alarming the country.April 18 At eleven o’clock at night 800 grenadiers and light infantry, the flower of the royal army, embarked at the Common, landed at Phipps’s farm, and marched for Concord, under the command of lieutenant colonel Smith. Neither the secrecy with which this expedition was planned—the privacy with which the troops marched out, nor an order that no one inhabitant should leave Boston, were sufficient to prevent intelligence from being sent to the country militia, of what was going on. About two in the morning 130 of the Lexington militia had assembled to oppose them, but the air being chilly and intelligence respecting the regulars uncertain, they were dismissed, with orders to appear again at beat of drum.19th They collected a second time to the number of 70, between 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning, and the British regulars soon after made their appearance. Major Pitcairn, who led the advanced corps, rode up to them and called out, “Disperse you  rebels, throw down your arms and disperse.”1775 They still continued in a body, on which he advanced nearer—discharged his pistol—and ordered his soldiers to fire. This was done with a huzza. A dispersion of the militia was the consequence, but the firing of the regulars was nevertheless continued. Individuals finding they were fired upon, though dispersing, returned the fire. Three or four of the militia were killed on the green. A few more were shot after they had begun to disperse. The royal detachment proceeded on to Concord, and executed their commission. They disabled two 24 pounders—threw 500 lb. of ball into rivers and wells, and broke in pieces about 60 barrels of flour. Mr. John Butterick of Concord, major of a minute regiment, not knowing what had passed at Lexington, ordered his men not to give the first fire, that they might not be the aggressors. Upon his approaching near the regulars, they fired, and killed captain Isaac Davis, and one private of the provincial minute men. The fire was returned, and a skirmish ensued. The king’s troops having done their business, began their retreat towards Boston. This was conducted with expedition, for the adjacent inhabitants had assembled in arms, and began to attack them in every direction. In their return to Lexington they were exceedingly annoyed, both by those who pressed on their rear, and others who pouring in from all sides, fired from behind stone walls, and such like coverts, which supplied the place of lines and redoubts. At Lexington the regulars were joined by a detachment of 900 men, under lord Piercy, which had been sent out by general Gage to support lieutenant colonel Smith. This reinforcement having two pieces of cannon awed the provincials, and kept them at a greater distance, but they continued a constant, though irregular and scattering fire, which did great execution. The close firing from behind the walls by good marksmen, put the regular troops in no small confusion, but they nevertheless kept up a brisk retreating fire on the militia and minute men.1775 A little after sunset the regulars reached Bunkers-hill, worn down with excessive fatigue, having marched that day between thirty and forty miles. On  the next day they crossed Charlestown ferry, and returned to Boston.
There never were more than 400 provincials engaged at one time, and often not so many. As some tired and gave out, others came up and took their places. There was scarcely any discipline observed among them. Officers and privates fired when they were ready, and saw a royal uniform without waiting for the word of command. Their knowledge of the country enabled them to gain opportunities by crossing fields and fences, and to act as flanking parties against the king’s troops who kept to the main road.
The regulars had 65 killed, 180 wounded, and 28 made prisoners. Of the provincials 50 were killed, and 38 wounded and missing.
As arms were to decide the controversy, it was fortunate for the Americans that the first blood was drawn in New-England. The inhabitants of that country are so connected with each other by descent, manners, religion, politics, and a general equality, that the killing of a single individual interested the whole, and made them consider it as a common cause. The blood of those who were killed at Lexington and Concord proved the firm cement of an extensive union.
April 22To prevent the people within Boston from co-operating with their countrymen without in case of an assault which was now daily expected, General Gage agreed with a committee of the town, that upon the inhabitants lodging their arms in Faneuil-hall or any other convenient place, under the care of the selectmen, all such inhabitants as were inclined, might depart from the town, with their families and effects. In five days after the ratification of this agreement, the inhabitants had lodged 1778 fire arms, 634 pistols, 273 bayonets and 38 blunderbusses. The agreement was well observed in the beginning, but after a short time obstructions were thrown in the way of its final completion, on the plea that persons who went from Boston to bring in the goods of those who chose to continue within the town, were not properly treated. Congress remonstrated on the infraction of  the agreement, but without effect. The general, on a farther consideration of the consequences of moving the whigs out of Boston, evaded it in a manner not consistent with good faith. He was in some measure compelled to adopt this dishonourable measure, from the clamor of the tories, who alleged that none but enemies to the British government were disposed to remove, and that when they were all safe with their families and effects, the town would be set on fire. To prevent the provincials from obtaining supplies which they much wanted, a quibble was made on the meaning of the word effects, which was construed by the general as not including merchandize. By this construction, unwarranted by every rule of genuine interpretation, many who quitted the town were deprived of their usual resources for a support. Passports were not universally refused, but were given out very slowly, and the business was so conducted that families were divided—wives were separated from their husbands, children from their parents, and the aged and infirm from their relations and friends. The general discovered a disinclination to part with the women and children, thinking that, on their account, the provincials would be restrained from making an assault on the town. The select-men gave repeated assurances that the inhabitants had delivered up their arms, but as a cover for violating the agreement, general Gage issued a proclamation, in which he asserted that he had full proof to the contrary. A few might have secreted some favourite arms, but nearly all the training arms were delivered up. On this flimsy pretence the general sacrificed his honour, to policy and the clamors of the tories. Contrary to good faith he detained many, though fairly entitled by agreement to go out, and when he admitted the departure of others he would not allow them to remove their families and effects.
The provincial congress of Massachusetts, which was in session at the time of the Lexington battle, dispatched an account of it to Great-Britain, accompanied with many depositions, to prove that the British troops were the aggressors.1775 They also made an address to the inhabitants  of Great-Britain, in which, after complaining of their sufferings, they say, “these have not yet detached us from our royal sovereign; we profess to be his loyal and dutiful subjects, and though hardly dealt with, as we have been, are still ready with our lives and fortunes, to defend his person, crown, and dignity. Nevertheless, to the persecution and tyranny of his evil ministry, we will not tamely submit. Appealing to heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free.” From the commencement of hostilities, the dispute between Great-Britain and the colonies took a new direction.
Intelligence that the British troops had marched out of Boston into the country on some hostile purpose, being forwarded by expresses from one committee to another, great bodies of the militia, not only from Massachusetts but the adjacent colonies, grasped their arms and marched to oppose them. The colonies were in such a state of irritability, that the least shock in any part was, by a powerful and sympathetic affection, instantaneously felt throughout the whole. The Americans who fell were revered by their countrymen, as martyrs who had died in the cause of liberty. Resentment against the British burned more strongly than ever. Martial rage took possession of the breasts of thousands. Combinations were formed and associations subscribed, binding the inhabitants to one another by the sacred ties of honour, religion, and love of country, to do whatever their public bodies directed for the preservation of their liberties. Hitherto the Americans had no regular army. From principles of policy they cautiously avoided that measure, least they might subject themselves to the charge of being aggressors. All their military regulations were carried on by their militia, and under the old established laws of the land. For the defence of the colonies, the inhabitants had been, from their early years, enrolled in companies, and taught the use of arms. The laws for this purpose had never been better observed than for some months previous to the Lexington battle.1775 These military arrangements, which had been previously adopted for defending the colonies from hostile French and Indians,  were on this occasion turned against the troops of the Parent State. Forts, magazines, and arsenals, by the constitution of the country, were in the keeping of his majesty. Immediately after the Lexington battle, these were for the most part taken possession of throughout the colonies, by parties of the provincial militia. Ticonderoga, in which was a small royal garrison, was surprised and taken by adventurers from different states. Public money which had been collected in consequence of previous grants, was also seized for common services. Before the commencement of hostilities these measures would have been condemned by the moderate even among the Americans, but that event justified a bolder line of opposition than had been adopted. Sundry citizens having been put to death by British troops, self preservation dictated measures which, if adopted under other circumstances, would have disunited the colonists. One of the most important of this kind was the raising an army. Men of warm tempers, whose courage exceeded their prudence, had for months urged the necessity of raising troops; but they were restrained by the more moderate, who wished that the colonies might avoid extremities, or at least that they might not lead in bringing them on. The provincial congress of Massachusetts being in session at the time the battle of Lexington was fought, voted that “an army of 30,000 men be immediately raised, that 13,600 be of their own province, and that a letter and delegate be sent to the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island.” In consequence of this vote, the business of recruiting was begun, and in a short time a provincial army was paraded in the vicinity of Boston, which though far below what had been voted by the provincial congress, was much superior in numbers to the royal army. The command of this force was given to general Ward.
1775Had the British troops confined themselves to Boston, as before the 18th of April, the assembling an American army, though only for the purpose of observation and defence, would have appeared in the nature of a challenge, and would have made many less willing to support  the people of Massachusetts, but after the British had commenced hostilities the same measure was adopted without subjecting the authors of it to censure, and without giving offence or hazarding the union. The Lexington battle not only furnished the Americans with a justifying apology for raising an army, but inspired them with ideas of their own prowess. Amidst the most animated declarations of sacrificing fortune, and risquing life itself for the security of American rights, a secret sigh would frequently escape from the breasts of her most determined friends, for fear that they could not stand before the bravery and discipline of British troops. Hoary sages would shake their heads and say, “Your cause is good and I wish you success, but I fear that your undisciplined valour must be overcome, in the unequal contest. After a few thousands of you have fallen, the provinces must ultimately bow to that power which has so repeatedly humbled France and Spain.” So confident were the British of their superiority in arms, that they seemed desirous that the contest might be brought to a military decision. Some of the distinguished speakers in parliament had publicly asserted that the natives of America had nothing of the soldier in them, and that they were in no respect qualified to face a British army. European philosophers had published theories, setting forth that not only vegetables and beasts, but that even men degenerated in the western hemisphere. Departing from the spirit of true philosophy, they overlooked the state of society in a new world, and charged a comparative inferiority, on every production that was American. The colonists themselves had imbibed opinions from their forefathers, that no people on earth were equal to those with whom they were about to contend. Impressed with high ideas of British superiority, and dissident of themselves, their best informed citizens, though willing to run all risques, feared the consequence of an appeal to arms. The success that attended their first military enterprize, in some degree banished these suggestions. Perhaps in no subsequent battle did the Americans appear to greater advantage than in their first essay at Lexington.1775 It is almost without parallel  in military history, for the yeomanry of the country to come forward in a single disjointed manner, without order, and for the most part without officers, and by an irregular fire to put to flight troops equal in discipline to any in the world. In opposition to the bold assertions, of some, and the desponding fears of others, experience proved that Americans might effectually resist British troops. The dissident grew bold in their country’s cause, and indulged in chearful hopes that heaven would finally crown their labours with success.
Soon after the Lexington battle, and in consequence of that event, not only the arms, ammunition, forts and fortifications in the colonies were secured for the use of the provincials, but regular forces were raised, and money struck for their support. These military arrangements were not confined to the New-England states, but were general throughout the colonies. The determination of the king and parliament to enforce submission to their acts, and the news of the Lexington battle, came to the distant provinces nearly about the same time. It was supposed by many that the latter was in consequence of the former, and that general Gage had recent orders to proceed immediately to subdue the refractory colonists.
From a variety of circumstances the Americans had good reason to conclude that hostilities would soon be carried on vigorously in Massachusetts, and also to apprehend that, sooner or later, each province would be the theatre of war. “The more speedily therefore said they, we are prepared for that event, the better chance we have for defending ourselves.” Previous to this period, or rather to the 19th of April 1775, the dispute had been carried on by the pen, or at most by associations and legislative acts; but from this time forward it was conducted by the sword. The crisis was arrived when the colonies had no alternative, but either to submit to the mercy, or to resist the power of Great-Britain. An unconquerable love of liberty could not brook the idea of submission, while reason more temperate in her decisions, suggested to the people their insufficiency to make effectual opposition.1775 They were fully apprized of the power  of Britain—they knew that her fleets covered the ocean, and that her flag had waved in triumph through the four quarters of the globe; but the animated language of the time was, “It is better to die freemen, than to live slaves.” Though the justice of their cause, and the inspiration of liberty gave, in the opinion of disinterested judges a superiority to the writings of Americans, yet in the latter mode of conducting their opposition, the candid among themselves acknowledged an inferiority. Their form of government was deficient in that decision, dispatch, and coercion, which are necessary to military operations.
Europeans, from their being generally unacquainted with fire arms are less easily taught the use of them than Americans, who are from their youth familiar with these instruments of war; yet on other accounts they are more susceptible of military habits. The proportion of necessitous men in the new world is small to that in the old.
To procure subsistence is a powerful motive with an European to enlist, and the prospect of losing it makes him afraid to neglect his duty; but these incitements to the punctual discharge of military services, are wanting in America. In old countries the distinction of ranks and the submission of inferiors to superiors, generally takes place, but in the new world an extreme sense of liberty and equality indisposes to that implicit obedience which is the soul of an army. The same causes which nurtured a spirit of independence in the colonies, were hostile to their military arrangements. It was not only from the different state of society in the two countries, but from a variety of local causes, that the Americans were not able to contend in arms, on equal terms, with their Parent State. From the first settlement of the British colonies, agriculture and commerce, but especially the former, had been the favourite pursuits of their inhabitants. War was a business abhorrent from their usual habits of life. They had never engaged in it from their own motion, nor in any other mode than as appendages to British troops, and under British establishments. By these means the military spirit of the colonies had no opportunity of expanding itself.1775 At the commencement of hostilities, the British  troops possessed a knowledge of the science and discipline of war, which could be acquired only by a long series of application, and substantial establishments. Their equipments, their artillery, and every other part of their apparatus for war approached perfection. To these important circumstances was added a high national spirit of pride, which had been greatly augmented by their successes in their last contest with France and Spain. On the other hand the Americans were undisciplined, without experienced officers, and without the shadow of military establishments. In the wars which had been previously carried on, in or near the colonies, the provincials had been, by their respective legislatures, frequently added to the British troops, but the pride of the latter would not consider the former, who were without uniformity of dress, or the pertness of military airs, to be their equals. The provincial troops were therefore for the most part, assigned to services which, though laborious, were not honourable.
The ignorance of British generals commanding in the woods of America, sometimes involved them in difficulties from which they had been more than once relieved by the superior local knowledge of the colonial troops. These services were soon forgotten, and the moment the troops who performed them could be spared, they were disbanded. Such like obstacles had hitherto depressed military talents in America, but they were now overcome by the ardor of the people.
In the year 1775, a martial spirit pervaded all ranks of men in the colonies. They believed their liberties to be in danger, and were generally disposed to risque their lives for their establishment. Their ignorance of the military art, prevented their weighing the chances of war with that exactness of calculation which, if indulged, might have damped their hopes. They conceived that there was little more to do than fight manfully for their country. They consoled themselves with the idea, that though their first attempt might be unsuccessful; their numbers would admit of a repetition of the experiment, till the invaders were finally exterminated.1775 Not considering  that in modern war the longest purse decides oftener than the longest sword, they feared not the wealth of Britain. They both expected and wished that the whole dispute would be speedily settled in a few decisive engagements. Elevated with the love of liberty, and buoyed above the fear of consequences, by an ardent military enthusiasm, unabated by calculations about the extent, duration, or probable issue of the war, the people of America seconded the voice of their rulers, in an appeal to heaven for the vindication of their rights. At the time the colonies adopted these spirited resolutions, they possessed not a single ship of war, nor so much as an armed vessel of any kind. It had often been suggested that their seaport towns lay at the mercy of the navy of Great-Britain; this was both known and believed, but disregarded. The love of property was absorbed in the love of liberty. The animated votaries of the equal rights of human nature, consoled themselves with the idea that though their whole sea coast should be laid in ashes, they could retire to the western wilderness, and enjoy the luxury of being free; on this occasion it was observed in Congress by Christopher Gadsden, one of the South-Carolina delegates, “Our houses being constructed of brick, stone, and wood, though destroyed may be rebuilt, but liberty once gone is lost forever.”
The sober discretion of the present age will more readily censure than admire, but can more easily admire than imitate the fervid zeal of the patriots of 1775, who in idea sacrificed property in the cause of liberty, with the ease that they now sacrifice almost every other consideration for the acquisition of property.
The revenues of Britain were immense, and her people were habituated to the payment of large sums in every form which contributions to government have assumed; but the American colonies possess neither money nor funds, nor were their people accustomed to taxes equal to the exigences of war. The contest having begun about taxation, to have raised money by taxes for carrying it on, would have been impolitic.1775 The temper of the times precluded the necessity of attempting the dangerous  expedient, for such was the enthusiasm of the day, that the colonists gave up both their personal services and their property to the public, on the vague promises that they should at a future time be reimbursed. Without enquiring into the solidity of funds, or the precise period of payment, the resources of the country were commanded on general assurances, that all expences of the war should ultimately be equalised. The Parent State abounded with experienced statesmen and officers, but the dependent form of government exercised in the colonies, precluded their citizens from gaining that practical knowledge which is acquired from being at the head of public departments. There were very few in the colonies who understood the business of providing for an army, and still fewer who had experience and knowledge to direct its operations. The disposition of the finances of the country, and the most effectual mode of drawing forth its resources, were subjects with which scarce any of the inhabitants were acquainted. Arms and ammunition were almost wholly deficient; and though the country abounded with the materials of which they are manufactured, yet there was neither time nor artists enough to supply an army with the means of defence. The country was destitute both of fortifications and engineers. Amidst so many discouragements there were some flattering circumstances. The war could not be carried on by Great-Britain, but to a great disadvantage, and at an immense expence. It was easy for ministers at St. James’s to plan campaigns, but hard was the fate of the officer from whom the execution of them in the woods of America was expected. The country was so extensive, and abounded so much with defiles; that by evacuating and retreating, the Americans though they could not conquer, yet might save themselves from being conquered. The authors of the acts of parliament for restraining the trade of the colonies, were most excellent recruiting officers for the Congress. They imposed a necessity on thousands to become soldiers. All other business being suspended, the whole resources of the country were applied in supporting an army.1775 Though  the colonists were without discipline, they possessed native valour. Though they had neither gold nor silver, they possessed a mine in the enthusiasm of their people. Paper for upwards of two years produced to them more solid advantages than Spain derived from her superabounding precious metals. Though they had no ships to protect their trade or their towns, they had simplicity enough to live without the former, and enthusiasm enough to risque the latter, rather than submit to the power of Britain. They believed their cause to be just, and that heaven approved their exertions in defence of their rights. Zeal originating from such motives, supplied the place of discipline, and inspired a confidence and military ardor which overleaped all difficulties.
Resistance being resolved upon by Americans—the pulpit—the press—the bench and the bar, severally laboured to unite and encourage them. The clergy of New-England were a numerous, learned and respectable body, who had a great ascendancy over the minds of their hearers. They connected religion and patriotism, and in their sermons and prayers, represented the cause of America as the cause of heaven. The synod of New-York and Philadelphia, also sent forth a pastoral letter, which was publicly read in their churches. This earnestly recommended such sentiments and conduct as were suitable to their situation. Writers and printers followed in the rear of the preachers, and next to them had the greatest hand in animating their countrymen. Gentlemen of the bench and of the bar denied the charge of rebellion, and justified the resistance of the colonists. A destinction founded on law, between the king and his ministry, was introduced. The former, it was contended, could do no wrong. The crime of treason was charged on the latter, for using the royal name to varnish their own unconstitutional measures. The phrase of a ministerial war became common, and was used as a medium for reconciling resistance with allegiance.
Coeval with the resolutions for organizing an army, was one appointing the 20th day of July, 1775, a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer to Almighty God,  [“]to bless their rightful sovereign king George, and to inspire him with wisdom to discern and pursue the true interest of his subjects; and that the British nation might be influenced to regard the things that belonged to her peace, before they were hid from her eyes—that the colonies might be ever under the care and protection of a kind providence, and be prospered in all their interests—that America might soon behold a gracious interposition of heaven, for the redress of her many grievances; the restoration of her invaded rights, a reconciliation with the Parent State, on terms constitutional and honourable to both.” The forces which had been collected in Massachusetts, were stationed in convenient places for guarding the country from farther excursions of the regulars from Boston. Breast works were also erected in different places for the same purpose. While both parties were attempting to carry off stock from the several islands with which the bay of Boston is agreeably diversified, sundry skirmishes took place. These were of real service to the Americans. They habituated them to danger, and perhaps much of the courage of old soldiers, is derived from an experimental conviction, that the chance of escaping unhurt from engagements is much greater than young recruits suppose.
About the latter end of May a great part of the reinforcements ordered from Great-Britain, arrived at Boston.May 25 Three British generals, Howe, Burgoyne and Clinton, whose behaviour in the preceding war had gained them great reputation, also arrived about the same time. General Gage, thus reinforced, prepared for acting with more decision, but before he proceeded to extremities he conceived it due to ancient forms to issue a proclamation, holding forth to the inhabitants the alternative of peace or war.June 12 He therefore offered pardon in the king’s name to all who should forthwith lay down their arms, and return to their respective occupations and peaceable duties, excepting only from the benefit of that pardon “Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, whose offences were said to be of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment.”1775 He also  proclaimed that not only the persons above named and excepted, but also their adherents, associates, and correspondents, should be deemed guilty of treason and rebellion, and treated accordingly. By this proclamation it was also declared “that as the courts of judicature were shut, martial law should take place, till a due course of justice should be re-established.” It was supposed that this proclamation was a prelude to hostilities, and preparations were accordingly made by the Americans. A considerable height, by the name of Bunkers-hill, just at the entrance of the peninsula of Charlestown, was so situated as to make the possession of it a matter of great consequence, to either of the contending parties.June 16 Orders were therefore issued by the provincial commanders that a detachment of a thousand men should intrench upon this height. By some mistake Breed’s-hill, high and large like the other, but situated nearer Boston, was marked out for the intrenchments, instead of Bunkers-hill. The provincials proceeded to Breed’s-hill and worked with so much diligence, that between midnight and the dawn of the morning, they had thrown up a small redoubt about 8 rods square. They kept such a profound silence that they were not heard by the British, on board their vessels, though very near. These having derived their first information of what was going on from the sight of the work near completion, began an incessant firing upon them. The provincials bore this with firmness, and though they were only young soldiers continued to labour till they had thrown up a small breastwork, extending from the east side of the redoubt to the bottom of the hill. As this eminence overlooked Boston general Gage thought it necessary to drive the provincials from it.June 17 About noon therefore he detached major general Howe and brig. general Pigot, with the flower of his army, consisting of four battalions, ten companies of the grenadiers and ten of light infantry, with a proportion of field artillery, to effect this business. These troops landed at Moreton’s point, and formed after landing, but remained in that position till they were reinforced by a second detachment of light infantry and grenadier companies, a battalion of land forces and a battalion of marines,  making in the whole nearly 3000 men.1775 While the troops who first landed were waiting for this reinforcement, the provincials for their farther security, pulled up some adjoining post and rail fences, and set them down in two parallel lines at a small distance from each other, and filled the space between with hay, which having been lately mowed, remained on the adjacent ground.
The king’s troops formed in two lines, and advanced slowly, to give their artillery time to demolish the American works. While the British were advancing to the attack, they received orders to burn Charlestown. This was not done because they were fired upon from the houses in that town, but from the military policy of depriving enemies of a cover in their approaches. In a short time this ancient town, consisting of about 500 buildings, chiefly of wood, was in one great blaze. The lofty steeple of the meeting house formed a pyramid of fire above the rest, and struck the astonished eyes of numerous beholders with a magnificent but awful spectacle. In Boston the heights of every kind were covered with the citizens, and such of the king’s troops as were not on duty. The hills around the adjacent country which afforded a safe and distinct view, were occupied by the inhabitants of the country.
Thousands, both within and without Boston, were anxious spectators of the bloody scene. The honour of British troops beat high in the breasts of many, while others with a keener sensibility, felt for the liberties of a great and growing country. The British moved on but slowly, which gave the provincials a better opportunity for taking aim. The latter in general reserved themselves till their adversaries were within ten or twelve rods, but then began a furious discharge of small arms. The stream of the American fire was so incessant, and did so great execution that the king’s troops retreated in disorder and precipitation. Their officers rallied them and pushed them forward with their swords, but they returned to the attack with great reluctance. The Americans again reserved their fire till their adversaries were near, and then put them a second time to flight.1775 General Howe and the officers redoubled their exertions, and were again  successful, though the soldiers discovered a great aversion to going on. By this time the powder of the Americans began so far to fail that they were not able to keep up the same brisk fire as before. The British also brought some cannon to bear which raked the inside of the breast work from end to end. The fire from the ships, batteries, and field artillery was redoubled—the soldiers in the rear were goaded on by their officers. The redoubt was attacked on three sides at once. Under these circumstances a retreat from it was ordered, but the provincials delayed, and made resistance with their discharged muskets as if they had been clubs, so long that the king’s troops who easily mounted the works had half filled the redoubt before it was given up to them.
While these operations were going on at the breast work and redoubt, the British light infantry were attempting to force the left point of the former, that they might take the American line in flank. Though they exhibited the most undaunted courage, they met with an opposition which called for its greatest exertions. The provincials here, in like manner, reserved their fire till their adversaries were near, and then poured it upon the light infantry, with such an incessant stream, and in so true a direction as mowed down their ranks. The engagement was kept up on both sides with great resolution. The persevering exertions of the king’s troops could not compel the Americans to retreat, till they observed that their main body had left the hill. This, when begun, exposed them to new danger, for it could not be effected but by marching over Charlestown neck, every part of which was raked by the shot of the Glasgow man of war, and of two floating batteries. The incessant fire kept up across this neck prevented any considerable reinforcement from joining their countrymen who were engaged; but the few who fell on their retreat, over the same ground proved, that the apprehensions of those provincial officers who declined passing over to succour their companions, were without any solid foundation.
The number of Americans engaged, amounted only to 1500.1775 It was apprehended that the conquerors would  push the advantage they had gained, and march immediately to American head quarters at Cambridge, but they advanced no farther than Bunker’s-hill. There they threw up works for their own security. The provincials did the same on Prospect-hill in front of them. Both were guarding against an attack, and both were in a bad condition to receive one. The loss of the peninsula depressed the spirits of the Americans, and their great loss of men produced the same effect on the British. There have been few battles in modern wars, in which all circumstances considered, there was a greater destruction of men than in this short engagement. The loss of the British, as acknowledged by general Gage, amounted to 1054. Nineteen commissioned officers were killed, and 70 more were wounded. The battle of Quebec in 1759, which gave Great-Britain the province of Canada, was not so destructive to British officers as this affair of a slight intrenchment, the work only of a few hours. That the officers suffered so much, must be imputed to their being aimed at. None of the provincials in this engagement were riflemen, but they were all good marksmen. The whole of their previous military knowledge had been derived, from hunting, and the ordinary amusements of sportsmen. The dexterity which by long habit they had acquired in hitting beasts, birds, and marks, was fatally applied to the destruction of British officers. From their fall much confusion was expected. They were therefore particularly singled out. Most of those who were near the person of general Howe were either killed or wounded, but the general, though he greatly exposed himself, was unhurt. The light infantry and grenadiers lost three-fourths of their men. Of one company not more than five, and of another, not more than fourteen escaped. The unexpected resistance of the Americans was such as wiped away the reproaches of cowardice, which had been cast on them by their enemies in Britain.1775 The spirited conduct of the British officers merited and obtained great applause, but the provincials were justly entitled to a large portion of the same, for having made the utmost exertions of their adversaries necessary to dislodge them  from lines, which were the work only of a single night.
The Americans lost five pieces of cannon. Their killed amounted to 139. Their wounded and missing to 314. Thirty of the former fell into the hands of the conquerors. They particularly regretted the death of general Warren. To the purest patriotism and most undaunted bravery, he added the virtues of domestic life, the eloquence of an accomplished orator, and the wisdom of an able statesman. Nothing but a regard to the liberty of his country induced him to oppose the measures of government. He aimed not at a separation from, but a coalition with the Mother Country. He took an active part in defence of his country, not that he might be applauded and rewarded for a patriotic spirit, but because he was, in the best sense of the word, a real patriot. Having no interested or personal views to answer the friends of liberty, confided in his integrity. The soundness of his judgment, and his abilities as a public speaker, enabled him to make a distinguished figure in public councils, but his intrepidity and active zeal, induced his countrymen to place him in the military line. Within four days after he was appointed a major general, he fell a noble sacrifice to a cause which he had espoused from the purest principles. Like Hambden he lived and like Hambden he died, universally beloved and universally regretted. His many virtues were celebrated in an elegant eulogium written by Dr. Rush, in language equal to the illustrious subject. The burning of Charlestown, though a place of great trade did not discourage the provincials. It excited resentment and execration, but not any disposition to submit. Such was the high toned state of the public mind, and so great the indifference for property when put in competition with liberty, that military conflagrations, though they distressed and impoverished, had no tendency to subdue the colonists. They might answer in the old world, but were not calculated for the new, where the war was undertaken, not for a change of masters, but for securing essential rights. The action at Breed’s-hill, or Bunker’s-hill, as it has been commonly called, produced many and very important  consequences.1775 It taught the British so much respect for Americans intrenched behind works, that their subsequent operations were retarded with a caution that wasted away a whole campaign, to very little purpose. It added to the confidence the Americans began to have in their own abilities, but inferences, very injurious to the future interests of America, were drawn from the good conduct of the new troops on that memorable day. It inspired some of the leading members of Congress, with such high ideas of what might be done by militia, or men engaged for a short term of enlistment, that it was long before they assented to the establishment of a permanent army. Not distinguishing the continued exertions of an army through a series of years, from the gallant efforts of the yeomanry of the country, led directly to action, they were slow in admitting the necessity of permanent troops. They conceived the country might be defended by the occasional exertions of her sons, without the expence and danger of an army engaged for the war. In the progress of hostilities, as will appear in the sequel, the militia lost much of their first ardor, while leading men in the councils of America, trusting to its continuance, neglected the proper time of recruiting for a series of years. From the want of perseverance in the militia, and the want of a disciplined standing army, the cause for which arms were at first taken up, was more than once brought to the brink of destruction.
The second Congress meets and organises a regular Continental Army—makes sundry public addresses, and petitions the King, &c. Transactions in Massachusetts.
1775It has already been mentioned, that Congress previous to its dissolution, on the 26th of October, 1774, recommended to the colonies, to chuse members for another to meet on the tenth of May 1775, unless the redress of their grievances was previously obtained. A circular letter had been addressed by lord Dartmouth, to the  several colonial governors, requesting their interference to prevent the meeting of this second Congress: but ministerial requisitions had lost their influence, delegates were elected not only for the twelve colonies that were before represented, but also for the parish of St. John’s in Georgia, and in July following, for the whole province. The time of the meeting of this second Congress was fixed at so distant a day, that an opportunity might be afforded for obtaining information of the plans adopted by the British parliament in the winter of 1774, 1775. Had these been favourable, the delegates would either not have met, or dispersed after a short session, but as the resolution was then fixed to compel the submission of the colonies, and hostilities had already commenced, the meeting of Congress on the tenth of May, which was at first eventual, became fixed.
May 10On their meeting, they chose Peyton Randolph for their President, and Charles Thomson for their secretary. On the next day Mr. Hancock laid before them a variety of depositions, proving that the king’s troops were the aggressors in the late battle at Lexington, together with sundry papers relative to the great events which had lately taken place in Massachusetts: Whereupon Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the state of America. They proceeded in the same line of moderation and firmness, which marked the acts of their predecessors in the past year.
May 15The city and county of New-York having applied to Congress for advice, how they should conduct themselves with regard to the troops expected to land there, they were advised “to act on the defensive so long as might be consistent with their safety—to permit the troops to remain in the barracks, so long as they behaved peaceably, but not to suffer fortifications to be erected, or any steps to be taken for cutting off the communication between the town and country.”May 17 Congress also resolved, “That exportation to all parts of British America, which had not adopted their association, should immediately cease;” and that, “no provision of any kind, or other necessaries be furnished to the British fisheries on the American  coasts.”1775June 2And
that no bill of exchange, draught, or order, of any officer in the British army or navy, their agents or contractors, be received or negociated, or any money supplied them, by any person in America—that no provisions or necessaries of any kind, be furnished or supplied, to or for the use of the British army or navy, in the colony of Massachusetts Bay—that no vessel employed in transporting British troops to America, or from one part of North-America to another, or warlike stores or provisions for said troops, be freighted or furnished with provisions or any necessaries.
These resolutions may be considered as the counterpart of the British acts for restraining the commerce, and prohibiting the fisheries of the colonies. They were calculated to bring distress on the British islands in the West-Indies, whose chief dependence for subsistance, was on the importation of provision from the American continent. They also occasioned new difficulties in the support of the British army and fisheries. The colonists were so much indebted to Great-Britain, that government bills for the most part found among them a ready market. A war in the colonies was therefore made subservient to commerce, by increasing the sources of remittance. This enabled the Mother Country, in a great degree, to supply her troops without shipping money out of the kingdom. From the operation of these resolutions, advantages of this nature were not only cut off, but the supply of the British army rendered both precarious and expensive. In consequence of the interdiction of the American fisheries, great profits were expected by British adventurers in that line. Such frequently found it most convenient to obtain supplies in America for carrying on their fisheries; but as Great-Britain had deprived the colonists of all benefits from that quarter, they now in their turn, interdicted all supplies from being furnished to British fishermen. To obviate this unexpected embarrassment, several of the vessels employed in this business, were obliged to return home, to bring out provisions for their associates. These restrictive resolutions, were not so much the effect of resentment as of policy.1775 The colonists conceived, that  by distressing the British commerce, they would encrease the number of those who would interest themselves in their behalf.
The new Congress had convened but a few days when their venerable president Peyton Randolph, was under a necessity of returning home. On his departure John Hancock was unanimously chosen his successor. The objects of deliberation presented to this new Congress were, if possible, more important than those which in the preceding year, had engaged the attention of their predecessors. The colonists had now experienced the inefficacy of those measures, from which relief had been formerly obtained. They found a new parliament disposed to run all risques in inforcing their submission. They also understood that administration was united against them, and its members firmly established in their places. Hostilities were commenced. Reinforcements had arrived, and more were daily expected. Added to this, they had information that their adversaries had taken measures to secure the friendship and co-operation of the Indians; and also of the Canadians.
The coercion of the colonies being resolved upon, and their conquest supposed to be inevitable, the British ministry judged that it would be for the interest of both countries to proceed in that vigorous course, which bid fairest for the speediest attainment of their object. They hoped by pressing the colonists on all quarters, to intimidate opposition, and ultimately to lessen the effusion of human blood.
In this awful crisis Congress had but a choice of difficulties. The New-England states had already organized an army and blockaded general Gage. To desert them would have been contrary to plighted faith and to sound policy. To support them would make the war general, and involve all the provinces in one general promiscuous state of hostility. The resolution of the people in favour of the latter was fixed, and only wanted public sanction for its operation.May 26 Congress therefore resolved, “that for the express purpose of defending and securing the colonies, and preserving them in safety, against  all attempts to carry the late acts of a parliament into execution, by force of arms,1775 they be immediately put in a state of defence; but as they wished for a restoration of the harmony formerly subsisting between the Mother Country and the colonies, to the promotion of this most desirable reconciliation, an humble and dutiful petition be presented to his majesty.” To resist and to petition were coeval resolutions. As freemen they could not tamely submit, but as loyal subjects, wishing for peace as far as was compatible with their rights, they once more, in the character of petitioners, humbly stated their grievances to the common father of the empire. To dissuade the Canadians from co-operating with the British, they again addressed them, representing the pernicious tendency of the Quebec act, and apologizing for their taking Ticonderoga and Crown-Point, as measures which were dictated by the great law of self preservation. About the same time Congress took measures for warding off the danger that threatened their frontier inhabitants from Indians. Commissioners to treat with them were appointed, and a supply of goods for their use was ordered. A talk was also prepared by Congress, and transmitted to them, in which the controversy between Great-Britain and her colonies was explained, in a familiar Indian style. They were told that they had no concern in the family quarrel, and were urged by the ties of ancient friendship and a common birth place, to remain at home, keep their hatchet buried deep, and to join neither side.
The novel situation of Massachusetts made it necessary for the ruling powers of that province to ask the advice of Congress on a very interesting subject, “The taking up and exercising the powers of civil government.” For many months they had been kept together in tolerable peace and order by the force of ancient habits, under the simple style of recommendation and advice from popular bodies, invested with no legislative authority. But as war now raged in their borders, and a numerous army was actually raised, some more efficient form of government became necessary.1775 At this early day it neither  comported with the wishes nor the designs of the colonists to erect forms of government independent of Great-Britain, Congress therefore recommended only such regulations as were immediately necessary, and these were conformed as near as possible to the spirit and substance of the charter, and were only to last till a governor of his majesty’s appointment would consent to govern the colony according to its charter.
On the same principles of necessity, another assumption of new powers became unavoidable. The great intercourse that daily took place throughout the colonies, pointed out the propriety of establishing a general post-office. This was accordingly done, and Dr. Franklin, who had by royal authority been dismissed from a similar employment about three years before, was appointed by his country, the head of the new department.
While Congress was making arrangements for their proposed continental army, it was thought expedient once more to address the inhabitants of Great-Britain, and to publish to the world a declaration setting forth their reasons for taking up arms—to address the speaker and gentlemen of the assembly of Jamaica, and the inhabitants of Ireland, and also to prefer a second humble petition to the king. In their address to the inhabitants of Great-Britain, they again vindicated themselves from the charge of aiming at independency, professed their willingness to submit to the several acts of trade and navigation which were passed before the year 1763, recapitulated their reasons for rejecting lord North’s conciliatory motion—stated the hardships they suffered from the operations of the royal army in Boston, and insinuated the danger the inhabitants of Britain would be in of losing their freedom, in case their American brethren were subdued.
In their declaration, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms, they enumerated the injuries they had received, and the methods taken by the British ministry to compel their submission, and then said,1775 “We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or  resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery.” They asserted “that foreign assistance was undoubtedly attainable.” This was not founded on any private information, but was an opinion derived from their knowledge of the principles of policy, by which states usually regulate their conduct towards each other.
In their address to the speaker and gentlemen of the assembly of Jamaica, they dilated on the arbitrary systems of the British ministry, and informed them that in order to obtain a redress of their grievances, they had appealed to the justice, humanity, and interest of Great-Britain. They stated, that to make their schemes of non-importation and non-exportation produce the desired effects, they were obliged to extend them to the islands. “From that necessity, and from that alone, said they, our conduct has proceeded.” They concluded with saying, “the peculiar situation of your island forbids your assistance, but we have your good wishes—from the good wishes of the friends of liberty and mankind we shall always derive consolation.”
In their address to the people of Ireland they recapitulated their grievances, stated their humble petitions, and the neglect with which they had been treated. “In defence of our persons and properties under actual violations, said they, we have taken up arms. When that violence shall be removed, and hostilities cease on the part of the aggressors, they shall cease on our part also.”
These several addresses were executed in a masterly manner, and were well calculated to make friends to the colonies. But their petition to the king, which was drawn up at the same time, produced more solid advantages in favour of the American cause, than any other of their productions. This was in a great measure carried through Congress by Mr. Dickinson.1775 Several members, judging from the violence with which parliament proceeded against the colonies, were of opinion that farther petitions were nugatory; but this worthy citizen, a friend to both countries, and devoted to a reconciliation on  constitutional principles, urged the expediency and policy of trying once more the effect of an humble, decent, and firm petition, to the common head of the empire. The high opinion that was conceived of his patriotism and abilities, induced the members to assent to the measure, though they generally conceived it to be labour lost. The petition agreed upon was the work of Mr. Dickinson’s pen. In this, among other things, it was stated,
July 8that notwithstanding their sufferings, they had retained too high a regard for the kingdom from which they derived their origin, to request such a reconciliation as might in any manner be inconsistent with her dignity and welfare. Attached to his majesty’s person, family, and government, with all the devotion that principle and affection can inspire, connected with Great-Britain by the strongest ties that can unite society, and deploring every event that tended in any degree to weaken them, they not only most fervently desired the former harmony between her and the colonies to be restored, but that a concord might be established between them, upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissentions, to succeeding generations, in both countries. They therefore beseeched that his majesty would be pleased to direct some mode by which the united applications of his faithful colonists to the throne, in pursuance of their common councils, might be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation.
By this last clause Congress meant that the Mother Country should propose a plan for establishing by compact, something like Magna Charta for the colonies. They did not aim at a total exemption from the controul of parliament, nor were they unwilling to contribute in their own way, to the expences of government; but they feared the horrors of war less than submission to unlimited parliamentary supremacy. They wished for an amicable compact, in which doubtful, undefined points, should be ascertained so as to secure that proportion of authority and liberty which would be for the general good of the whole empire. They fancied themselves in the condition of the barons at Runnymede; but with this difference, that in  addition to opposing the king, they had also to oppose the parliament.1775 This difference was more nominal than real, for in the latter case the king and parliament stood precisely in the same relation to the people of America, which subsisted in the former between the king and people of England. In both, popular leaders were contending with the sovereign for the privileges of subjects. This well meant petition was presented on September 1st, 1775, by Mr. Penn and Mr. Lee, and on the 4th lord Dartmouth informed them, “that to it no answer would be given.” This slight contributed not a little to the union and perseverance of the colonists. When pressed by the calamities of war, a doubt would sometimes arise in the minds of scrupulous persons, that they had been too hasty in their opposition to their protecting Parent State. To such it was usual to present the second petition of Congress to the king, observing thereon, that all the blood and all the guilt of the war, must be charged on British, and not on American counsels.Oct. 26 Though the colonists were accused in a speech from the throne, as meaning only, “to amuse by vague expressions of attachment to the Parent State, and the strongest protestations of loyalty to their king, while they were preparing for a general revolt, and that their rebellious war was manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire.” Yet at that time, and for months after, a redress of grievances was their ultimate aim. Conscious of this intention, and assenting in the sincerity of their souls to the submissive language of their petition, they illy brooked the contempt with which their joint supplication was treated, and still worse, that they should be charged from the throne with studied duplicity. Nothing contributes more to the success of revolutions than moderation. Intemperate zealots overshoot themselves, and soon spend their force, while the calm and dispassionate persevere to the end. The bulk of the people in civil commotions are influenced to a choice of sides, by the general complexion of the measures adopted by the respective parties. When these appear to be dictated by justice and prudence, and to be  uninfluenced by passion, ambition or avarice, they are disposed to favour them. Such was the effect of this second petition, through a long and trying war, in which men of serious reflection were often called upon to examine the rectitude of their conduct.
Though the refusal of an answer to this renewed application of Congress to the king, was censured by numbers in Great-Britain, as well as in the colonies, yet the partisans of ministry varnished the measure as proper and expedient. They contended that the petition, as it contained no offers of submission, was unavailing, as a ground work of negociation. Nothing was farther from the thoughts of Congress than such concessions as were expected in Great-Britain. They conceived themselves to be more sinned against than sinning. They claimed a redress of grievances as a matter of right, but were persuaded that concessions for this purpose were acts of justice and not of humiliation, and therefore could not be disgraceful to those by whom they were made. To prevent future altercations they wished for an amicable compact to ascertain the extent of parliamentary supremacy. The Mother Country wished for absolute submission to her authority, the colonists for a repeal of every act that imposed taxes, or that interfered in their internal legislation. The ministry of England being determined not to repeal these acts, and the Congress equally determined not to submit to them, the claims of the two countries were so wide of each other as to afford no reasonable ground to expect a compromise. It was therefore concluded, that any notice taken of the petition would only afford an opportunity for the colonies to prepare themselves for the last extremity.
A military opposition to the armies of Great-Britain being resolved upon by the colonies, it became an object of consequence to fix on a proper person to conduct that opposition.1775 Many of the colonists had titles of high rank in the militia, and several had seen something of real service, in the late war between France and England; but there was no individual of such superior military experience as to entitle him to a decided pre-eminence, or even  to qualify him, on that ground, to contend on equal terms with the British masters of the art of war. In elevating one man, by the free voice of an invaded country, to the command of thousands of his equal fellow citizens, no consideration was regarded but the interest of the community. To bind the uninvaded provinces more closely to the common cause, policy directed the views of Congress to the south.
Among the southern colonies Virginia, for numbers, wealth, and influence, stood pre-eminent. To attach so respectable a colony to the aid of Massachusetts, by selecting a commander in chief from that quarter, was not less warranted by the great military genius of one of her distinguished citizens, than dictated by sound policy.June 15 George Washington was, by an unanimous vote appointed, commander in chief of all the forces raised, or to be raised, for the defence of the colonies. It was a fortunate circumstance attending his election, that it was accompanied with no competition, and followed by no envy. That same general impulse on the public mind, which led the colonists to agree in many other particulars, pointed to as the most proper person for presiding over the military arrangements of America. Not only Congress but the inhabitants in the east and the west, in the north and, the south, as well before as at the time of embodying a continental army were in a great degree unanimous in his favour. An attempt to draw the character of this truly great man would look like flattery. Posterity will doubtless do it justice. His actions, especially now, while fresh in remembrance, are his amplest panegyric. Suffice it, in his life time, only to particularise those qualities, which being more common, may be mentioned without offending the delicate sensibility of the most modest of men.
General Washington was born on the 11th of February 1732. His education was such as favoured the production of a solid mind and a vigorous body. Mountain air, abundant exercise in the open country—the wholesome toils of the chace, and the delightful scenes of rural life, expanded his limbs to an unusual but graceful  and well proportioned size.1775 His youth was spent in the acquisition of useful knowledge, and in pursuits, tending to the improvement of his fortune, or the benefit of his country. Fitted more for active, than for speculative life, he devoted the greater proportion of his time to the latter, but this was amply compensated by his being frequently in such situations, as called forth the powers of his mind, and strengthened them by repeated exercise. Early in life, in obedience to his country’s call, he entered the military line, and began his career of fame in opposing that power in concert with whose troops, he acquired his last and most distinguished honours. He was with general Braddock in 1755, when that unfortunate officer from an excess of bravery, chose rather to sacrifice his army than retreat from an unseen foe. The remains of that unfortunate corpse were brought off the field of battle chiefly by the address and good conduct of colonel Washington. After the peace of Paris 1763, he retired to his estate, and with great industry and success pursued the arts of peaceful life. When the proceedings of the British parliament alarmed the colonists with apprehensions that a blow was levelled at their liberties, he again came forward into public view, and was appointed a delegate to the Congress, which met in September 1774. Possessed of a large proportion of common sense directed by a sound judgment, he was better fitted for the exalted station to which he was called, than many others who to a greater brilliancy of parts frequently add the eccentricity of original genius. Engaged in the busy scenes of life, he knew human nature, and the most proper method of accomplishing proposed objects. His passions were subdued and kept in subjection to reason. His soul superior to party spirit, to prejudice and illiberal views, moved according to the impulses it received from an honest heart, a good understanding, common sense, and a sound judgment. He was habituated to view things on every side, to consider them in all relations, and to trace the possible and probable consequences of proposed measures. Much addicted to close thinking, his mind was constantly employed.1775 By frequent exercise,  his understanding and judgment expanded so as to be able to discern truth, and to know what was proper to be done in the most difficult conjunctures.
Soon after general Washington was appointed commander in chief of the American army. Four major generals, one adjutant general, with the rank of a brigadier, and eight brigadiers general were appointed in subordination to him which were as follows.
The 8 Brigadiers were
General Washington replied to the president of Congress, announcing his appointment in the following words.
Though I am truly sensible of the high honour done me in this appointment, yet, I feel great distress from a consciousness, that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust: however as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.
But, lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honoured with.
1775 As to pay sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment, at the expence of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expences. Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.
A special commission was drawn up and presented to him, and at the same time an unanimous resolution was adopted by Congress, “That they would maintain and assist him, and adhere to him with their lives and fortunes in the cause of American liberty.” Instructions were also given him for his government, by which after reciting various particulars he was directed, “to destroy or make prisoners of all persons who now are, or who hereafter shall appear in arms against the good people of the colonies:” but the whole was summed up in authorizing him “to order and dispose of the army under his command as might be most advantageous for obtaining the end for which it had been raised, making it his special care in discharge of the great trust committed to him, that the liberties of America received no detriment.”June 14–22 About the same time twelve companies of riflemen were ordered to be raised in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The men to the amount of 1430 were procured and forwarded with great expedition. They had to march from 4 to 700 miles, and yet the whole business was compleated and they joined the American army at Cambridge, in less than two months from the day on which the first resolution for raising them was agreed to.
June 22Coeval with the resolution for raising an army, was another for emitting a sum not exceeding two millions of Spanish milled dollars in bills of credit for the defence of America, and the colonies were pledged for the redemption of them. This sum was increased from time to time by farther emissions. The colonies having neither money nor revenues at their command, were forced to adopt this expedient, the only one which was in their power for supporting an army.1775 No one delegate  opposed the measure. So great had been the credit of the former emissions of paper in the greater part of the colonies, that very few at that time foresaw or apprehended the consequences of unfunded paper emissions, but had all the consequences which resulted from this measure in the course of the war been forseen, it must notwithstanding have been adopted, for it was a less evil, that there should be a general wreck of property, than that the essential rights and liberties of a growing country should be lost. A happy ignorance of future events combined with the ardor of the times, prevented many reflections on this subject, and gave credit and circulation to these bills of credit.
General Washington soon after his appointment to the command of the American army set out for the camp at Cambridge. On his way thither, he received an address from the provincial congress of New-York, in which they expressed their joy at his appointment. They also said, “we have the fullest assurances that whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of each American soul, an accommodation with our Mother Country, you will chearfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and re-assume the character of our worthiest citizen.[”] The general after declaring his gratitude for the regard shewn him, added,
Be assured that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and myself, will be extended to the re-establishment of peace and harmony between the Mother Country and these colonies. As to the fatal but necessary operations of war, when we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen, and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the re-establishment of American liberty, on the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our private stations, in the bosom of a free, peaceful, and happy country.
The general on his way to camp was treated with the highest honours in every place through which he passed. Large detachments of volunteers composed of private gentlemen turned out to escort him.1775 A committee from the Massachusetts Congress received him about 100 miles  from Boston, and conducted him to the army. He was soon after addressed by the Congress of that colony in the most affectionate manner, in his answer he said,
Gentlemen, your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest ackowledgements, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of domestic life for the duties of my present honourable but arduous station, I only emulate the virtue and public spirit of the whole province of Massachusetts, which, with a firmness and patriotism without example, has sacrificed all the comforts of social and political life, in support of the rights of mankind and the welfare of our common country. My highest ambition is to be the happy instrument of vindicating these rights, and to see this devoted province again restored to peace, liberty and safety.
July 3When general Washington arrived at Cambridge, he was received with the joyful acclamations of the American army. At the head of his troops he published a declaration, previously drawn up by Congress, in the nature of a manifesto, setting forth the reasons for taking up arms. In this, after enumerating various grievances of the colonies, and vindicating them from a premeditated design of establishing independent states, it was added,
In our own native land, in defence of the freedom which is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it—for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the industry of our forefathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms, we shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.
When general Washington joined the American army, he found the British intrenched on Bunker’s-hill, having also three floating batteries in Mystic river, and a twenty gun ship below the ferry, between Boston and Charlestown. They had also a battery on Copse’s hill, and were strongly fortified on the neck.1775 The Americans were intrenched at Winter-hill, Prospect-hill, and Roxbury, communicating with one another by small posts,  over a distance of ten miles. There were also parties stationed in several towns along the sea coast. They had neither engineers to plan suitable works, nor sufficient tools for their erection.
In the American camp was collected a large body of men, but without those conveniencies which ancient establishments have introduced for the comfort of regular armies. Instead of tents, sails now rendered useless by the obstructions of commerce, were applied for their covering; but even of them, there was not a sufficiency. The American soldiers having joined the camp in all that variety of clothing which they used in their daily labour, were without uniformity of dress. To abolish provincial distinctions, the hunting shirt was introduced. They were also without those heads of departments in the line of commissaries or quarter masters, which are necessary for the regular and economical supply of armies. The troops from Connecticut had proper officers appointed to procure them supplies, but they who came from the other colonies were not so well furnished. Individuals brought to camp their own provisions on their own horses. In some parts committees of supplies were appointed, who purchased necessaries at public expence, sent them on to camp, and distributed them to such as were in want, without any regularity or system; the country afforded provisions, and nothing more was wanting to supply the army than proper systems for their collection and distribution. Other articles, though equally necessary, were almost wholly deficient, and could not be procured but with difficulty. On the 4th of August the whole stock of powder in the American camp, and in the public magazines of the four New-England provinces, would make but little more than nine rounds a man. The continental army remained in this destitute condition for a fortnight or more. This was generally known among themselves, and was also communicated to the British, by a deserter, but they suspecting a plot would not believe it. A supply of a few tons was sent on to them from the committee of Elizabeth-town, but this was done privately, lest the adjacent inhabitants, who were equally destitute  should stop it for their own use.1775 The public rulers in Massachusetts issued a recommendation to the inhabitants, not to fire a gun at beast, bird or mark, in order that they might husband their little stock for the more necessary purpose of shooting men. A supply of several thousand pounds weight of powder, was soon after obtained from Africa in exchange for New-England rum. This was managed with so much address, that every ounce for sale in the British forts on the African coasts, was purchased up and brought off for the use of the Americans.
Embarrassments from various quarters occurred in the formation of a continental army. The appointment of general officers made by Congress, was not satisfactory. Enterprising leaders had come forward with their followers on the commencement of hostilities, without scrupulous attention to rank. When these were all blended together, it was impossible to assign to every officer the station which his services merited, or his vanity demanded. Materials for a good army were collected. The husbandmen who flew to arms were active, zealous, and of unquestionable courage, but to introduce discipline and subordination, among free men who were habituated to think for themselves, was an arduous labour.
The want of system and of union, under proper heads, pervaded every department. From the circumstance that the persons employed in providing necessaries for the army were unconnected with each other, much waste and unnecessary delays were occasioned. The troops of the different colonies came into service under variant establishments—some were enlisted with the express condition of choosing their officers. The rations promised by the local legislatures varied both as to quantity, quality and price. To form one uniform mass of these discordant materials, and to subject the licentiousness of independent freemen to the controul of military discipline, was a delicate and difficult business.
The continental army put under the command of general Washington, amounted to about 14,500 men.1775 These had been so judiciously stationed round Boston, as  to confine the British to the town, and to exclude them from the forage and provisions which the adjacent country and islands in Boston-bay afforded. This force was thrown into three grand divisions. General Ward commanded the right wing at Roxbury. General Lee the left at Prospect-hill, and the centre was commanded by general Washington. In arranging the army, the military skill of adjutant-general Gates was of great service. Method and punctuality were introduced. The officers and privates were taught to know their respective places, and to have the mechanism and movements as well as the name of an army.
When some effectual pains had been taken to discipline the army, it was found that the term for which enlistments had taken place, was on the point of expiring. The troops from Connecticut and Rhode-Island were only engaged till the 1st day of December 1775, and no part of the army longer than the first day of January 1776. Such mistaken apprehensions respecting the future conduct of Great-Britain prevailed, that many thought the assumption of a determined spirit of resistance would lead to a redress of all their grievances.
Oct. 10Towards the close of the year, general Gage sailed for England, and the command devolved on general Howe.
Nov.The Massachusetts assembly and continental Congress both resolved, to fit out armed vessels to cruise on the American coast, for the purpose of interrupting warlike stores and supplies designed for the use of the British army. The object was at first limited, but as the prospect of accommodation vanished, it was extended to all British property afloat on the high seas. The Americans were diffident of their ability to do any thing on water in opposition to the greatest naval power in the world, but from a combination of circumstances, their first attempts were successful.
Nov. 29The Lee privateer, captain Manly, took the brig Nancy, an ordnance ship from Woolwich, containing a large brass mortar, several pieces of brass cannon, a large quantity of arms and ammunition, with all manner of tools, 1775 utensils and machines, necessary for camps and artillery. Had Congress sent an order for supplies, they could not have made out a list of articles more suitable to their situation, than what was thus providentially thrown into their hands.
Dec. 8In about 9 days after three ships, with various stores for the British army, and a brig from Antigua with rum, were taken by capt. Manly. Before five days more had elapsed, several other store ships were captured. By these means the distresses of the British troops, in Boston, were increased, and supplies for the continental army were procured. Naval captures, being unexpected, were matter of triumph to the Americans, and of surprize to the British. The latter scarcely believed that the former would oppose them by land with a regular army, but never suspected that a people, so unfurnished as they were with many things necessary for arming vessels, would presume to attempt any thing on water. A spirit of enterprize, invigorated by patriotic zeal, prompted the hardy New Englandmen to undertake the hazardous business, and their success encouraged them to proceed.Dec. 13 Before the close of the year, Congress determined to build 5 vessels of 32 guns, 5 of 28, and 3 of 24. While the Americans were fitting out armed vessels, and before they had made any captures, an event took place which would have disposed a less determined people to desist from provoking the vengeance of the British navy. This was the burning of Falmouth in the northern parts of Massachusetts.Oct. 18 Captain Mowat, in the Canceaux of sixteen guns, destroyed 139 houses and 278 stores, and other buildings in that town.
This spread an alarm on the coast, but produced no disposition to submit, many moved from the sea ports with their families and effects, but no solicitations were preferred for the obtaining of British protection.
In a few days after the burning of Falmouth, the old south meeting house in Boston, was taken into possession by the British, and destined for a riding school, and the service of the light dragoons. These proceedings produced, in the minds of the colonists, a more determined spirit of resistance, and a more general aversion to Great-Britain.
Ticonderoga taken, and Canada invaded.
1775It early occurred to many, that if the sword decided the controversy between Great-Britain and her colonies, the possession of Ticonderoga would be essential to the security of the latter. Situated on a promontory, formed at the junction of the waters of lake George and lake Champlain, it is the key of all communication between New-York and Canada. Messrs. Deane, Wooster, Parsons, Stevens, and others of Connecticut, planned a scheme for obtaining possession of this valuable post. Having procured a loan of 1800 dollars of public money, and provided a sufficient quantity of powder and ball, they set off for Bennington, to obtain the co-operation of colonel Allen of that place. Two hundred and seventy men, mostly of that brave and hardy people, who are called green mountain boys, were speedily collected at Castleton, which was fixed on as the place of rendezvous. At this place colonel Arnold, who, though attended only with a servant, was prosecuting the same object, unexpectedly joined them. He had been early chosen a captain of a volunteer company, by the inhabitants of New-Haven, among whom he resided. As soon as he recieved news of the Lexington battle, he marched off with his company for the vicinity of Boston, and arrived there, though 150 miles distant, in a few days. Immediately after his arrival he waited on the Massachusetts committee of safety, and informed them, that there were at Ticonderoga many pieces of cannon and a great quantity of valuable stores, and that the fort was in a ruinous condition, and garrisoned only by about 40 men. They appointed him a colonel, and commissioned him to raise 400 men, and to take Ticonderoga. The leaders of the party which had previously rendezvoused at Castleton, admitted colonel Arnold to join them, and it was agreed that colonel Allen should be the commander in chief of the expedition, and that colonel Arnold should be his assistant. They proceeded without delay, and arrived in the night at lake Champlain, opposite to Ticonderoga.  Allen and Arnold crossed over with 83 men, and landed near the garrison. They contended who should go in first, but it was at last agreed that they should both go in together.May 9 They advanced abreast, and entered the fort at the dawning of day.May 10 A sentry snapped his piece at one of them, and then retreated through the covered way to the parade. The Americans followed and immediately drew up. The commander surprised in his bed, was called upon to surrender the fort. He asked, by what authority? Colonel Allen replied, “I demand it in the name of the great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress.” No resistance was made, and the fort with its valuable stores, and forty-eight prisoners, fell into the hands of the Americans. The boats had been sent back for the remainder of the men, but the business was done before they got over. Colonel Seth Warner was sent off with a party to take possession of Crown-point, where a serjeant and 12 men performed garrison duty. This was speedily effected. The next object, calling for the attention of the Americans, was to obtain the command of lake Champlain, but to accomplish this, it was necessary for them to get possession of a sloop of war, lying at St. John’s, at the northern extremity of the lake. With the view of capturing this sloop it was agreed to man and arm a schooner lying at South Bay, and that Arnold should command her, and that Allen should command some batteaux on the same expedition. A favourable wind carried the schooner a-head of the batteaux, and colonel Arnold got immediate possession of the sloop by surprise. The wind again favouring him, he returned with his prize to Ticonderoga, and rejoined colonel Allen. The latter soon went home, and the former with a number of men agreed to remain there in garrison. In this rapid manner the possession of Ticonderoga, and the command of lake Champlain was obtained, without any loss, by a few determined men. Intelligence of these events was in a few days communicated to Congress, which met for the first time, at 10 o’clock of the same day, in the morning of which, Ticonderoga was taken.1775 They rejoiced in the spirit of enterprise, displayed by their  countrymen, but feared the charge of being aggressors, or of doing any thing to widen the breach between Great-Britain and the colonies; for an accommodation was at that time, nearly their unanimous wish. They therefore recommended to the committees of the cities and counties of New-York and Albany, to cause the cannon and stores to be removed from Ticonderoga to the south end of lake George, and to take an exact inventory of them, “in order that they might be safely returned when the restoration of the former harmony between Great-Britain and the colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, should render it prudent and consistent with the overruling law of self-preservation. ”
June 13Colonel Arnold having begun his military career with a series of successes, was urged by his native impetuosity to project more extensive operations. He wrote a letter to Congress, strongly urging an expedition into Canada, and offering with 2000 men to reduce the whole province. In his ardent zeal to oppose Great-Britain, he had advised the adoption of offensive war, even before Congress had organised an army or appointed a single military officer. His importunity was at last successful, as shall hereafter be related, but not till two months had elapsed, subsequent to his first proposition of conducting an expedition against Canada. Such was the increasing fervor of the public mind in 1775, that what, in the early part of the year, was deemed violent and dangerous, was in its progress pronounced both moderate and expedient.
Sir Guy Carleton, the king’s governor in Canada no sooner heard that the Americans had surprised Ticonderoga and Crown-point, and obtained the command of lake Champlain, than he planned a scheme for their recovery. Having only a few regular troops under his command, he endeavored to induce the Canadians and Indians to co-operate with him, but they both declined. He established martial law that he might compel the inhabitants to take arms. They declared themselves ready to defend the province, but refused to march out of it, or to commence hostilities on their neighbors.1775 Colonel Johnston had, on the same occasion, repeated conferences with the  Indians, and endeavored to influence them to take up the hatchet, but they steadily refused. In order to gain their co-operation he invited them to feast on a Bostonian, and to drink his blood. This, in the Indian style, meant no more than to partake of a roasted ox and a pipe of wine, at a public entertainment, which was given on design to influence them to co-operate with the British troops. The colonial patriots, affected to understand it in its literal sense. It furnished, in their mode of explication, a convenient handle for operating on the passions of the people.
These exertions in Canada, which were principally made with a view to recover Ticonderoga, Crown-point, and the command of lake Champlain, induced Congress to believe that a formidable invasion of their northwestern frontier was intended, from that quarter. The evident tendency of the Quebec act favoured this opinion. Believing it to be the fixed purpose of the British ministry to attack the united colonies on that side, they conceived that they would be inexcusable if they neglected the proper means for warding off so terrible a blow. They were also sensible that the only practicable plan to effect this purpose, was to make a vigorous attack upon Canada, while it was unable to resist the unexpected impression. Their success at Ticonderoga and Crown-point, had already paved the way for this bold enterprize, and had broken down the fences which guarded the entrance into that province. On the other hand, they were sensible that by taking this step, they changed at once the whole nature of the war. From defensive it became offensive, and subjected them to the imputation of being the aggressors. They were well aware that several who had espoused their cause in Britain, would probably be offended at this measure, and charge them with heightening the mischiefs occasioned by the dispute. They knew that the principles of resistance, as far as they had hitherto acted upon them, were abetted by a considerable party even in Great-Britain; and that to forfeit their good opinion, might be of great disservice. Considerations of this kind made them weigh well the important step before  they ventured upon it.1775 They on the other hand reflected that the eloquence of the minority in parliament, and the petitions and remonstrances of the merchants in Great-Britain, had produced no solid advantages in their favour; and that they had no chance of relief, but from the smiles of heaven on their own endeavors. The danger was pressing. War was not only inevitable, but already begun. To wait till they were attacked by a formidable force at their backs, in the very instant when their utmost exertions would be requisite, perhaps insufficient, to protect their cities and sea coast against an invasion from Britain, would be the summit of folly. The laws of war and of nations justified the forestalling of an enemy. The colonists argued that to prevent known hostile intentions, was a matter of self defence; they were also sensible they had already gone such lengths as could only be vindicated by arms; and that if a certain degree of success did not attend their resistance, they would be at the mercy of an irritated government, and their moderation in the single instance of Canada, would be an unavailing plea for indulgence. They were also encouraged to proceed, by certain information that the French inhabitants of Canada, except the noblesse and the clergy, were as much discontented with their present system of government as even the British settlers. It seemed therefore probable, that they would consider the provincials, rather as friends than as enemies. The invasion of that province was therefore determined upon, if found practicable, and not disagreeable to the Canadians.
Congress had committed the management of their military arrangements, in this northern department, to general Schuyler and general Montgomery. While the former remained at Albany, to attend an Indian treaty, the latter was sent forward to Ticonderoga, with a body of troops from New-York and New-England. Soon after reaching Ticonderoga, he made a movement down Lake Champlain. General Schuyler overtook him at Cape le Motte; from thence they moved on to Isle aux Noix.1775 About this time general Schuyler addressed the inhabitants informing them, “that the only views of  Congress were to restore to them those rights which every subject of the British empire, of whatever religious sentiments he may be, is entitled to; and that in the execution of these truths he had received the most positive orders to cherish every Canadian, and every friend to the cause of liberty, and sacredly to guard their property.”Sep. 10 The Americans, about 1000 in number, effected a landing at St. John’s, which being the first British post in Canada, lies only 115 miles to the northward of Ticonderoga. The British piquets were driven into the fort. The environs were then reconnoitered, and the fortifications were found to be much stronger than had been suspected. This induced the calling of a council of war, which recommended a retreat to Isle aux Noix, twelve miles south of St. John’s, to throw a boom across the channel, and to erect works for its defence. Soon after this event, an extreme bad state of health induced general Schuyler to retire to Ticonderoga, and the command devolved on general Montgomery.
This enterprising officer in a few days returned to the vicinity of St. John’s, and opened a battery against it. Ammunition was so scarce, that the siege could not be carried on with any prospect of speedy success. The general detached a small body of troops, to attempt the reduction of fort Chamblee, only six miles distant. Success attended this enterprize. By its surrender six tons of gun powder were obtained, which enabled the general to prosecute the siege of St. John’s with vigor. The garrison, though straitened for provisions, persevered in defending themselves with unabating fortitude. While general Montgomery was prosecuting this siege, the governor of the province collected, at Montreal, about 800 men chiefly militia and Indians. He endeavored to cross the river St. Lawrence, with this force, and to land at Lonqueil, intending to proceed thence to attack the besiegers, but colonel Warner with 300 green mountain boys, and a four pounder, prevented the execution of the design. The governor’s party was suffered to come near the shore, but was then fired upon with such effect as to make them retire after sustaining great loss.
 An account of this affair being communicated to the garrison in St. John’s, major Preston, the commanding officer surrendered, on receiving honorable terms of capitulation. By these it was agreed, that the garrison should march out with the honors of war, that the officers and privates should ground their arms on the plain—the oficers keep their side arms and their fire arms, be reserved for them, and that the people of the garrison should retain their effects. About 500 regulars and 100 Canadians became prisoners to the provincials. They also acquired 39 pieces of cannon, seven mortars, and two howitzers, and about 800 stand of arms. Among the cannon were many brass field pieces, an article of which the Americans were nearly destitute.
While the siege of St. John’s was pending, colonel Allen, who was returning with about 80 men from a tour on which he had been sent by his general, was captured by the British near Montreal, loaded with irons, and in that condition sent to England. Major Brown proposed that colonel Allen should return to Lonqueil, procure canoes, and cross the river St. Lawrence, a little to the north of Montreal, while he with a force of about 200 men crossed a little to the south of it. The former crossed in the night, but the latter by some means failed on his part. Colonel Allen found himself the next morning unsupported, and exposed to immediate danger, but nevertheless concluded on maintaining his ground. General Carleton, knowing his weakness, marched out against him with a superior force. The colonel defended himself with his wonted bravery, but being deserted by several of his party, and having lost fifteen of his men, he was compelled to surrender with the remainder amounting to 38.
After the reduction of St. John’s, general Montgomery proceeded towards Montreal. The few British forces there, unable to stand their ground, repaired for safety on board the shipping in hopes of escaping down the river, but they were prevented by colonel Easton, who was stationed at the point of Sorel river, with a number of continental troops, some cannon, and an armed gondola. 1775 General Prescot, who was on board with several officers, and about 120 privates, having no chance of escape, submitted to be prisoners on terms of capitulation. Eleven sail of vessels, with all their contents, consisting of ammunition, provision, and entrenching tools, became the property of the provincials. Governor Carleton, was about this time conveyed in a boat with muffled paddles, by a secret way to the Three Rivers, and from thence to Quebec in a few days.
When Montreal was evacuated by the troops, the inhabitants applied to general Montgomery for capitulation. He informed them, that as they were defenseless, they could not expect such a concession, but he engaged upon his honour to maintain the individuals and religious communities of the city, in the peaceable enjoyment of their property, and the free exercise of their religion. In all his transactions, he spoke, wrote, and acted, with dignity and propriety, and in particular treated the inhabitants with liberality and politeness.
Montreal which at this time surrendered to the provincials carried on an extensive trade, and contained many of those articles, which from the operation of the resolutions of Congress, could not be imported into any of the united colonies. From these stores the American soldiers, who had hitherto suffered from the want of suitable clothing, obtained a plentiful supply.
General Montgomery, after leaving some troops in Montreal, and sending detachments into different parts of the province to encourage the Canadians, and to forward provisions, advanced towards the capital. His little army arrived with expedition before Quebec. Success had hitherto crowned every attempt of general Montgomery, but notwithstanding, his situation was very embarrassing. Much to be pitied is the officer, who having been bred to arms, in the strict discipline of regular armies, is afterwards called to command men who carry with them the spirit of freedom into the field.1775 The greater part of the Americans, officers as well as soldiers, having never seen any service, were ignorant of their duty, and but feebly impressed with the military ideas of union, subordination  and discipline. The army was continental in name and pay, but in no other respect. Not only the troops of different colonies conceived themselves independent of each other, but in some instances the different regiments of the same colony, were backward to submit to the orders of officers in a higher grade of another line. They were also soon tired of a military life. Novelty and the first impulse of passion had led them to camp; but the approaching cold season, together with the fatigues and dangers incident to war, induced a general wish to relinquish the service. Though by the terms of their enlistment, they were to be discharged in a few weeks, they could not brook an absence from their homes for that short space of time. The ideas of liberty and independence, which roused the colonists to oppose the claims of Great-Britain, operated against that implicit obedience which is necessary to a well regulated army.
Even in European states, where long habits have established submission to superiors as a primary duty of the common people, the difficulty of governing recruits, when first led to the field from civil occupations, is great; but to exercise discipline over freemen, accustomed to act only from the impulse of their own minds, required not only a knowledge of human nature, but an accommodating spirit, and a degree of patience which is rarely found among officers of regular armies. The troops under the immediate command of general Montgomery, were from their usual habits, averse to the ideas of subordination, and had suddenly passed from domestic ease, to the numberless wants and distresses which are incident to marches through strange and desert countries. Every difficulty was increased by the short term for which they were enlisted. To secure the affections of the Canadians, it was necessary for the American general to restrain the appetites, and control the licentiousness of his soldiery, while the appearance of military harshness was dangerous, lest their good will might be forfeited. In this choice of difficulties, the genius of Montgomery surmounted many obstacles.1775 During his short but glorious [235 ] career, he conducted with so much prudence, as to make it doubtful whether we ought to admire most the goodness of the man, or the address of the general.
About the same time that Canada was invaded, in the usual route from New-York, a considerable detachment from the American army at Cambridge, was conducted into that royal province by a new and unexpected passage.Sep. 13 Colonel Arnold, who successfully conducted this bold undertaking, thereby acquired the name of the American Hannibal. He was detached with a thousand men, from Cambridge to penetrate into Canada, by ascending the river Kennebeck, and descending by the Chaundiere to the river St. Lawrence. Great were the difficulties these troops had to encounter in marching by an unexplored route, 300 miles through an uninhabited country. In ascending the Kennebeck, they were constantly obliged to work upwards against an impetuous current. They were often compelled by cataracts or other impediments, to land and to haul their batteaux up rapid streams, and over falls of rivers. Nor was their march by land more eligible than this passage by water. They had deep swamps, thick woods, difficult mountains, and craggy precipices alternatively to encounter. At some places they had to cut their way for miles together through forests so embarrassed, that their progress was only four or five miles a day. The constant fatigue caused many men to fall sick. One third of the number which set out, were from want of necessaries obliged to return; the others proceeded with unabated fortitude and constancy. Provisions grew at length so scarce, that some of the men ate their dogs, cartouch boxes, breeches and shoes. When they were an hundred miles from any habitation or prospect of a supply their whole store was divided, which yielded four pints of flour for each man. After they had baked and eaten their last morsel, they had thirty miles to travel before they could expect any farther supply. The men bore up under these complicated distresses with the greatest fortitude. They gloried in the hope of completing a march which would rival the fame of similar expeditions undertaken by the heroes of antiquity. 1775 Having spent thirty one days in traversing a hideous wilderness, without ever seeing anything human, they at length reached the inhabited parts of Canada. They were there well received, and supplied with every thing necessary for their comfort. The Canadians were struck with amazement when they saw this armed force emerging from the wilderness. It had never entered their conceptions that it was possible for human beings to traverse such immense wilds. The most pointed instructions had been given to this corps, to conciliate the affections of the Canadians. It was particularly enjoined upon them, if the son of lord Chatham, then an officer in one of the British regiments in that province, should fall into their hands, to treat him with all possible attention, in return for the great exertions of his father in behalf of American liberty. A manifesto subscribed by general Washington, which had been sent from Cambridge with this detachment, was circulated among the inhabitants of Canada. In this they were invited to arrange themselves under the standard of general liberty; and they were informed that the American army was sent into the province, not to plunder but to protect them.
Nov. 8While general Montgomery lay at Montreal, colonel Arnold arrived at Point Levy, opposite to Quebec. Such was the consternation of the garrison and inhabitants at his unexpected appearance, that had not the river intervened, an immediate attack in the first surprize and confusion, might have been successful. The bold enterprise of one American army marching through the wilderness, at a time when success was crowning every undertaking of another invading in a different direction, struck terror into the breasts of those Canadians who were unfriendly to the designs of Congress. The embarrassments of the garrison were increased by the absence of sir Guy Carleton. That gallant officer, on hearing of Montgomery’s invasion, prepared to oppose him in the extremes of the province. While he was collecting a force to attack invaders in one direction, a different corps, emerging out of the depths of an unexplored wilderness, suddenly appeared from another.1775 In a few days after colonel Arnold  had arrived at Point Levy, he crossed the river St. Lawrence, but his chance of succeeding by a coup de main was in that short space greatly diminished. The critical moment was past. The panic occasioned by his first appearance had abated, and solid preparations for the defence of the town were adopted. The inhabitants, both English and Canadians as soon as danger pressed, united for their common defence. Alarmed for their property, they were, at their own request, embodied for its security. The sailors were taken from the shipping in the harbour, and put to the batteries on shore. As colonel Arnold had no artillery, after parading some days on the heights near Quebec, he drew off his troops, intending nothing more until the arrival of Montgomery, than to cut off supplies from entering the garrison.
So favourable were the prospects of the united colonies at this period, that general Montgomery set on foot a regiment of Canadians, to be in the pay of Congress. James Livingston, a native of New York, who had long resided in Canada, was appointed to the command thereof, and several recruits were engaged for the term of twelve months. The inhabitants on both sides of the river St. Laurence, were very friendly. Expresses in the employ of the Americans, went without molestation, backwards and forwards, between Montreal and Quebec. Many individuals performed signal services in favour of the invading army. Among a considerable number Mr. Price stands conspicuous, who advanced 5000£. in specie, for their use.
Various causes had contributed to attach the inhabitants of Canada, especially those of the inferior classes, to the interest of Congress, and to alienate their affections from the government of Great-Britain. The contest was for liberty, and there is something in that sound, captivating to the mind of man in a state of original simplicity. It was for the colonies, and Canada was also a colony. The objects of the war were therefore supposed to be for their common advantage. The form of government lately imposed on them by act of parliament, was far from being so free as the constitutions of the other  colonies, and was in many respects particularly oppressive.1775 The common people had no representative share in enacting the laws by which they were to be governed, and were subjected to the arbitrary will of persons, over whom they had no constitutional control. Distinctions so degrading were not unobserved by the native Canadians, but were more obvious to those who had known the privileges enjoyed in the neighbouring provinces. Several individuals educated in New-England and New-York, with the high ideas of liberty inspired by their free constitutions, had in the interval between the peace of Paris 1763, and the commencement of the American war, migrated into Canada. Such, sensibly felt the difference between the governments they had left, and the arbitrary constitution imposed on them, and both from principle and affection, earnestly persuaded the Canadians to make a common cause with the United Colonies.
Though motives of this kind induced the peasantry of the country to espouse the interest of Congress, yet sundry individuals, and some whole orders of men, threw the weight of their influence into the opposite scale. The legal privileges which the Roman Catholic clergy enjoyed, made them averse to a change, lest they should be endangered by a more intimate connection with their protestant neighbours. They used their influence in the next world, as an engine to operate on the movements of the present. They refused absolution to such of their flocks as abetted the Americans. This interdiction of the joys of heaven, by those who were supposed to hold the keys of it, operated powerfully on the opinions and practices of the superstitious multitude. The seigneurs had also immunities unknown in the other colonies. Such is the fondness for power in every human breast, that revolutions are rarely favoured by any order of men who have reason to apprehend that their future situation will, in case of a change, be less pre-eminent than before. The sagacious general Montgomery, no less a man of the world than an officer, discovered great address in accommodating himself to these clashing interests.1775 Though he knew the part the popish clergy had acted in opposition  to him, yet he conducted towards them as if totally ignorant of the matter; and treated them and their religion with great respect and attention. As far as he was authorised to promise, he engaged that their ecclesiastical property should be secured, and the free exercise of their religion continued. To all he held forth the flattering idea of calling a convention of representatives, freely chosen, to institute by its own will, such a form of government as they approved. While the great mind of this illustrious man, was meditating schemes of liberty and happiness, a military force was collecting and training to oppose him, which in a short time put a period to his valuable life.
At the time the Americans were before Montreal, general Carleton, as has been related, escaped through their hands, and got safe to Quebec. His presence was itself a garrison. The confidence reposed in his talents, inspired the men under his command to make the most determined resistance. Soon after his arrival he issued a proclamation, setting forth, “That all persons liable to do militia duty, and residing in Quebec, who refused to arm in conjunction with the royal army, should in four days quit Quebec with their families, and withdraw themselves from the limits of the district by the first of December, on pain of being treated afterwards as spies or rebels.” All who were unwilling to co-operate with the British army, being thus disposed of, the remaining inhabitants, though unused to arms, became in a little time so far acquainted with them as to be very useful in defending the town. They supported fatigues and submitted to command with a patience and chearfulness, that could not be exceeded by men familiarized to the hardships and subordination of a military life.
Dec. 1General Montgomery having effected at Point aux Trembles, a junction with colonel Arnold, commenced the siege of Quebec. Upon his arrival before the town, he wrote a letter to the British governor, recommending an immediate surrender, to prevent the dreadful consequences of a storm.1775 Though the flag which conveyed this letter was fired upon, and all communication refused,  general Montgomery found other means to convey a letter of the same tenor into the garrison, but the inflexible firmness of the governor could not be moved either by threats or dangers. The Americans soon after commenced a bombardment with five small mortars, but with very little effect. In a few days general Montgomery opened a six gun battery, at the distance of seven hundred yards from the walls, but his metal was too light to make any impression.
The news of general Montgomery’s success in Canada had filled the colonies with expectations, that the conquest of Quebec would soon add fresh lustre to his already brilliant fame. He knew well the consequences of popular disappointment, and was besides of opinion that unless something decisive was immediately done, the benefit of his previous acquisitions would in a great degree be lost to the American cause. On both accounts, he was strongly impelled to make every exertion for satisfying the expectations and promoting the interest of a people, who had honoured him with so great a share of their confidence. The government of Great-Britain, in the extensive province of Canada, was at that time reduced to the single town of Quebec. The astonished world saw peaceable colonists suddenly transformed into soldiers, and these marching through unexplored wildernesses, and extending themselves by conquests, in the first moment after they had assumed the profession of arms. Towards the end of the year, the tide of fortune began to turn. Dissentions broke out between colonel Arnold and some of his officers, threatening the annihilation of discipline. The continental currency had no circulation in Canada, and all the hard money furnished for the expedition, was nearly expended. Difficulties of every kind were daily increasing. The extremities of fatigue were constantly to be encountered. The American general had not a sufficient number of men to make the proper reliefs in the daily labours they underwent; and that inconsiderable number, worn down with toil, was constantly exposed to the severities of a Canada winter.1775 The period for which a great part of his men had enlisted, being on the point of expiration,  he apprehended that they who were entitled to it, would insist on their discharge. On the other hand, he saw no prospect of staggering the resolution of the garrison. They were well supplied with every thing necessary for their defence, and were daily acquiring additional firmness. The extremity of winter was fast approaching. From these combined circumstances, general Montgomery was impressed with a conviction, that the siege should either be raised, or brought to a summary termination. To storm the place was the only feasible method of effecting the latter purpose. But this was an undertaking, in which success was but barely possible. Great minds are seldom exact calculators of danger. Nor do they minutely attend to the difficulties which obstruct the attainment of their objects. Fortune, in contempt of the pride of man, has ever had an influence in the success or failure of military enterprises. Some of the greatest achievements, of that kind, have owed their success to a noble contempt of common forms.
The upper part of Quebec was surrounded with very strong works, and the access from the lower town was excessively difficult, from its almost perpendicular steepness. General Montgomery, from a native intrepidity, and an ardent thirst for glory, overlooked all these dangers, and resolved at once either to carry the place or perish in the attempt. Trusting much to his good fortune—confiding in the bravery of his troops, and their readiness to follow whithersoever he should lead; and depending somewhat on the extensiveness of the works, he determined to attempt the town by escalade.
The garrison of Quebec at this time consisted of about 1520 men, of which 800 were militia, and 450 were seamen, belonging to the king’s frigates, or merchant ships in the harbour. The rest were marines, regulars, or colonel Maclean’s new raised emigrants. The American army consisted of about 800 men. Some had been left at Montreal, and near a third of Arnold’s detachment, as has been related, had returned to Cambridge.
General Montgomery having divided this little force into four detachments, ordered two feints to be made  against the upper town, one by colonel Livingston, at the head of the Canadians against St. John’s gate; and the other by major Brown, against cape Diamond, reserving to himself and colonel Arnold the two principal attacks, against the lower town.Dec. 31 At five o’clock in the morning general Montgomery advanced against the lower town. He passed the first barrier, and was just opening to attack the second, when he was killed, together with his aid de camp, captain John M’Pherson, captain Cheesman, and some others. This so dispirited the men that colonel Campbell, on whom the command devolved, thought proper to draw them off. In the mean time colonel Arnold, at the head of about 350 men, passed through St. Roques, and approached near a two gun battery, without being discovered. This he attacked, and though it was well defended, carried it, but with considerable loss. In this attack colonel Arnold received a wound, which made it necessary to carry him off the field of battle. His party nevertheless continued the assault, and pushing on, made themselves masters of a second barrier. These brave men sustained the force of the whole garrison for three hours, but finding themselves hemmed in, and without hopes either of success, relief or retreat, they yielded to numbers, and the advantageous situation of their adversaries. The loss of the Americans in killed and wounded, was about 100, and 300 were taken prisoners. Among the slain were captain Kendricks, lieutenant Humphries, and lieutenant Cooper. The behaviour of the provincial troops was such as might have silenced those who had reproached them for being deficient in courage. The most experienced veterans could not have exceeded the firmness they displayed in their last attack. The issue of this assault relieved the garrison of Quebec from all apprehensions for its safety. The provincials were so much weakened, as to be scarcely equal to their own defence. However, colonel Arnold had the boldness to encamp within three miles of the town, and had the address, even with his reduced numbers, to impede the conveyance of refreshments and provisions into the garrison. His situation was extremely difficult.1775 He was  at an immense distance from those parts where effectual assistance could be expected. On his first entrance into the province, he had experienced much kind treatment from the inhabitants. The Canadians, besides being fickle in their resolutions, are apt to be biassed by success. Their disposition to aid the Americans, became therefore daily more precarious. It was even difficult to keep the provincial troops from returning to their respective homes. Their sufferings were great. While their adversaries were comfortably housed in Quebec, they were exposed in the open air to the extreme rigour of the season. The severity of a Canada winter was far beyond any thing with which they were acquainted. The snow lay above four feet deep on a level.
This deliverance of Quebec may be considered as a proof how much may be done by one man for the preservation of a country. It also proves that soldiers may in a short time be formed out of the mass of citizens.
The conflict being over, the ill will which had subsisted, during the siege, between the royal and provincial troops gave way to sentiments of humanity. The Americans, who surrendered, were treated with kindness. Ample provisions were made for their wounded, and no unnecessary severity shewn to any. Few men have ever fallen in battle, so much regretted by both sides, as general Montgomery. His many amiable qualities had procured him an uncommon share of private affection, and his great abilities an equal proportion of public esteem. Being a sincere lover of liberty, he had engaged in the American cause from principle, and quitted the enjoyment of an easy fortune, and the highest domestic felicity, to take an active share in the fatigues and dangers of a war, instituted for the defence of the community of which he was an adopted member. His well known character was almost equally esteemed by the friends and foes of the side which he had espoused. In America he was celebrated as a martyr to the liberties of mankind; in Great-Britain as a misguided, good man, sacrificing to what he supposed to be the rights of his country. His name was mentioned in parliament with singular respect.1775 Some of the most  powerful speakers in that illustrious assembly, displayed their eloquence in sounding his praise and lamenting his fate. Those in particular who had been his fellow soldiers in the late war, expatiated on his many virtues. The minister himself acknowledged his worth, while he reprobated the cause for which he fell. He concluded an involuntary panegyric, by saying, “Curse on his virtues, they have undone his country.”
Though the invasion of Canada was finally unsuccessful, yet the advantages which the Americans gained in the months of September and October, gave fresh spirits to their army and people. The boldness of the enterprise, might have taught Great-Britain the folly of persisting in the design of subjugating America. But instead of preserving the union, and restoring the peace of the empire by repealing a few of her laws, she from mistaken dignity, resolved on a more vigorous prosecution of the war.
Transactions in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and the general state of Public Affairs in the Colonies.
It has already been mentioned, that the colonists from the rising of Congress in October 1774, and particularly after the Lexington battle, were attentive to the training their militia, and making the necessary preparations for their defence.
The effects of their arrangements, for this purpose, varied with circumstances.
Where there were no royal troops, and where ordinary prudence was observed, the public peace was undisturbed. In other cases, the intemperate zeal of governors, and the imprudent warmth of the people, anticipated the calamities of war before its proper time. Virginia, though there was not a single British soldier within its limits, was, by the indiscretion of its governor, lord Dunmore, involved, for several months, in difficulties, but little short of those to which the inhabitants of Massachusetts were  subjected.1775 His lordship was but illy fitted to be at the helm in this tempestuous season. His passions predominated over his understanding, and precipitated him into measures injurious both to the people whom he governed, and to the interest of his royal master. The Virginians from the earliest stages of the controversy, had been in the foremost line of opposition to the claims of Great-Britain, but at the same time treated lord Dunmore with the attention that was due to his station. In common with the other provinces they had taken effectual measures to prepare their militia for the purposes of defence.
Apr. 20While they were pursuing this object, his lordship engaged a party belonging to a royal vessel in James’ river, to convey some public powder from a magazine in Williamsburg on board their ship. The value or quantity of the powder was inconsiderable, but the circumstances attending its removal begat suspicions that lord Dunmore meant to deprive the inhabitants of the means of defence. They were therefore alarmed, and assembled with arms to demand its restitution. By the interposition of the mayor and corporation of Williamsburg, extremities were prevented. Reports were soon after spread that a second attempt to rob the magazine was intended. The inhabitants again took arms, and instituted nightly patroles, with a determined resolution to protect it. The governor was irritated at these commotions, and in the warmth of his temper threatened to set up the royal standard–franchise the negroes, and arm them against their masters. This irritated, but did not intimidate. Several public meetings were held in the different counties, in all of which the removal of the powder from the magazine, and the governor’s threats, were severely condemned. Some of the gentlemen of Hanover and the neighbouring counties assembled in arms, under the conduct of Mr. Patrick Henry, and marched towards Williamsburg, with an avowed design to obtain restitution of the powder, and to take measures for securing the public treasury. This ended in a negotiation, by which it was agreed that payment for the powder, by  the receiver general of the colony, should be accepted in lieu of restitution; and that upon the engagement of the inhabitants of Williamsburg to guard both the treasury and the magazine, the armed parties should return to their habitations.
The alarm of this affair induced lord Dunmore to send his lady and family on board the Fowey man of war in James’ river. About the same time his lordship, with the assistance of a detachment of marines, fortified his palace and surrounded it with artillery. He soon after issued a proclamation, in which Mr. Henry and his associates were charged with rebellious practices, and the present commotions were attributed to a desire in the people of changing the established form of government. Several meetings were held in the neighbouring counties, in which the conduct of Mr. Henry and of his associates was applauded, and resolutions were adopted, that at every risque he and they should be indemnified. About this time copies of some letters from governor Dunmore to the minister of the American department were made public. These in the opinion of the Virginians contained unfair and unjust representations of facts, and also of their temper and disposition. Many severe things were said on both sides, and fame as usual, magnified or misrepresented whatever was said or done. One distrust begat another. Every thing tended to produce a spirit of discontent, and the fever of the public mind daily increased.
In this state of disorder the governor convened the general assembly. The leading motive for this unexpected measure, was to procure their approbation and acceptance of the terms of the conciliatory motion agreed to in parliament, on the 20th of the preceding February. His lordship introduced this to their consideration, in a long and plausible speech. In a few days they presented their address in answer, in which, among other grounds of rejection they stated that, “the proposed plan only changed the form of oppression, without lessening its burthen;” but they referred the papers for a final determination, to Congress. For themselves they declared,
1775 We have exhausted every mode of application which our invention could suggest, as proper and promising. We have decently remonstrated with parliament. They have added new injuries to the old. We have wearied our king with supplications; he has not deigned to answer us. We have appealed to the native honour and justice of the British nation. Their efforts in our favour have been hitherto ineffectual.
The assembly, among their first acts, appointed a committee to enquire into the causes of the late disturbances, and particularly to examine the state of the magazine. They found most of the remaining powder buried; the muskets deprived of their locks, and spring guns planted in the magazine. These discoveries irritated the people, and occasioned intemperate expressions of resentment.May 8 Lord Dunmore quitted the palace privately, and retired on board the Fowey man of war, which then lay near York-town. He left a message for the house of burgesses, acquainting them
that he thought it prudent to retire to a place of safety, having reason to believe that he was in constant danger of falling a sacrifice to popular fury; he nevertheless, hoped they would proceed in the great business before them; and he engaged to render the communication between him and the house as easy and as safe as possible. He assured them that he would attend as heretofore, to the duties of his office, and that he was well disposed to restore that harmony which had been unhappily interrupted.
This message produced a joint address from the council and house of burgesses, in which they represented his lordship’s fears to be groundless, and declared their willingness to concur in any measure he would propose for the security of himself and family; and concluded by entreating his return to the palace. Lord Dunmore in a reply, justified his apprehensions of danger from the threats which had been repeatedly thrown out. He charged the house of burgesses with countenancing the violent proceedings of the people, and with a design to usurp the executive power, and subvert the constitution. This produced a reply fraught with recrimination and defensive  arguments. Every incident afforded fresh room for altercation.1775 There was a continued intercourse by addresses, messages and answers, between the house of burgesses and the Fowey, but little of the public business was completed. His lordship was still acknowledged as the lawful governor of the province, but did not think proper to set his foot on shore, in the country over which his functions were to be exercised.
At length, when the necessary bills were ready for ratification, the council and burgesses jointly intreated the governor’s presence, to give his assent to them and finish the session. After several messages and answers, lord Dunmore peremptorily refused to meet the assembly at the capital, their usual place of deliberation; but said he would be ready to receive them on the next Monday, at his present residence on board the Fowey, for the purpose of giving his assent to such bills as he should approve of. Upon receiving this answer, the house of burgesses passed resolutions in which they declared, that the message requiring them to attend the governor on board a ship of war, was a high breach of their rights and privileges—that they had reason to fear a dangerous attack was meditated against the colony, and it was therefore their opinion, that they should prepare for the preservation of their rights and liberties. After strongly professing loyalty to the king, and amity to the Mother Country, they broke up their session.July 18 The royal government in Virginia, from that day ceased. Soon after, a convention of delegates was appointed, to supply the place of the assembly. As these had an unlimited confidence reposed in them, they became at once possessed of undefined discretionary powers, both legislative and executive. They exercised this authority for the security of their constituents. They raised and embodied an armed force, and took other measures for putting the colony in a state of defence. They published a justification of their conduct, and set forth the necessity of the measures they had adopted.1775 They concluded with professions of loyalty, and declared that though they were determined at every hazard, to maintain their rights and privileges,  it was also their fixed resolution to disband such forces as were raised for the defence of the colony, whenever their dangers were removed. The headstrong passions of lord Dunmore precipitated him into farther follies. With the aid of the loyalists, run away negroes, and some frigates that were on the station, he established a marine force. By degrees, he equipped and armed a number of vessels of different kinds and sizes, in one of which he constantly resided, except when he went on shore in a hostile manner. This force was calculated only for depredation, and never became equal to any essential service. Obnoxious persons were seized and taken on board. Negroes were carried off—plantations ravaged—and houses burnt. These proceedings occasioned the sending of some detachments of the new raised provincial forces to protect the coasts. This produced a predatory war, from which neither honour nor benefit could be acquired, and in which every necessary from on shore was purchased at the risque of blood.Oct. 25 The forces under his lordship attempted to burn Hampton; but the crews of the royal vessels employed in that business, though they had begun to cannonade it, were so annoyed by riflemen from on shore, that they were obliged to quit their station.Nov. 7 In a few days after this repulse, a proclamation was issued by the governor, dated on board the ship William, off Norfolk, declaring, that as the civil law was at present insufficient to punish treason and traitors, martial law should take place and be executed throughout the colony; and requiring all persons capable of bearing arms, to repair to his majesty’s standard, or to be considered as traitors. He also declared all indented servants, negroes and others, appertaining to rebels, who were able and willing to bear arms, and who joined his majesty’s forces, to be free.
Among the circumstances which induced the rulers of Great-Britain to count on an easy conquest of America, the great number of slaves had a considerable weight. On the sea coast of five of the most southern provinces, the number of slaves exceeded that of freemen.1775 It was supposed that the proffer of freedom would detach them  from their master’s interest, and bind them by strong ties to support the royal standard. Perhaps, under favourable circumstances, these expectations would in some degree have been realised; but lord Dunmore’s indiscretion deprived his royal master of this resource. Six months had elapsed since his lordship first threatened its adoption. The negroes had in a great measure ceased to believe, and the inhabitants to fear. It excited less surprize, and produced less effect, than if it had been more immediate and unexpected. The country was now in a tolerable state of defence, and the force for protecting the negroes, in case they had closed with his lordship’s offer, was far short of what would have been necessary for their security. The injury done the royal cause by the bare proposal of the scheme, far outweighed any advantage that resulted from it. The colonists were struck with horror, and filled with detestation of a government which was exercised in loosening the bands of society, and destroying domestic security. The union and vigor which was given to their opposition, was great, while the additional force, acquired by his lordship, was inconsiderable. It nevertheless produced some effect in Norfolk and the adjoining country, where his lordship was joined by several hundreds, both whites and blacks. The governor having once more got footing on the main, amused himself with hopes of acquiring the glory of reducing one part of the province by means of the other. The provincials had now an object against which they might direct their arms. An expedition was therefore concerted against the force which had taken post at Norfolk. To protect his adherents lord Dunmore constructed a fort at the great bridge, on the Norfolk side, and furnished it with artillery. The provincials also fortified themselves near to the same place, with a narrow causeway in their front. In this state both parties continued quiet for some days.Dec. 9 The royalists commenced an attack. Captain Fordyce, at the head of about 60 British grenadiers, passed the causeway, and boldly marched up to the provincial entrenchments with fixed bayonets.1775 They were exposed without cover to the fire of the provincials  in front, and enfiladed by another part of their works. The brave captain and several of his men fell. The lieutenant, with others, were taken, and all who survived were wounded. The slaves in this engagement were more prejudicial to their British employers than to the provincials. Captain Fordyce was interred by the victors, with military honors. The English prisoners were treated with kindness, but the Americans who had joined the king’s standard, experienced the resentment of their countrymen.
The royal forces, on the ensuing night, evacuated their post at the great bridge, and lord Dunmore shortly after abandoned Norfolk, and retired with his people on board his ships. Many of the tories, a name which was given to those who adhered to the royal interest, sought the same asylum, for themselves and moveable effects. The provincials took possession of Norfolk, and the fleet, with its new incumberances, moved to a greater distance. The people on board, cut off from all peaceable intercourse with the shore, were distressed for provisions and necessaries of every kind. This occasioned sundry unimportant contests between the provincial forces and the armed ships and boats. At length, on the arrival of the Liverpool man of war from England, a flag was sent on shore to put the question, whether they would supply his majesty’s ships with provisions. An answer was returned in the negative. It was then determined to destroy the town.Jan. 1, 1776 This was carried into effect, and Norfolk was reduced to ashes. The whole loss was estimated at 300,000£. sterling. The provincials, to deprive the ships of every resource of supply, destroyed the houses and plantations that were near the water, and obliged the people to move their cattle, provisions, and effects, farther into the country. Lord Dunmore, with his fleet, continued for several months on the coast and in the rivers of Virginia. His unhappy followers suffered a complication of distresses. The scarcity of water and provisions, the closeness and filth of the small vessels, produced diseases which were fatal to many, especially to the negroes. Though his whole force was trifling when compared with  the resources of Virginia, yet the want of suitable armed vessels made its expulsion impracticable. The experience of that day evinced the inadequacy of land forces for the defence of a maritime country; and the extensive mischief which may be done, by even an inconsiderable marine, when unopposed in its own way. The want of a navy was both seen and felt. Some arrangements to procure one, were therefore made. Either the expectation of an attack from this quarter, or the sufferings of the crews on board, induced his lordship in the summer 1776 to burn the least valuable of his vessels, and to send the remainder, amounting to 30 or 40 sail, to Florida, Bermuda, and the West-Indies. The hopes which lord Dunmore had entertained of subduing Virginia by the cooperation of the negroes, terminated with this movement. The unhappy Africans who had engaged in it, are said to have almost universally perished.
While these transactions were carrying on, another scheme, in which lord Dunmore was a party, in like manner miscarried. It was in contemplation to raise a considerable force at the back of the colonies, particularly in Virginia and the Carolinas. One Connelly, a native of Pennsylvania, was the framer of the design. He had gained the approbation of lord Dunmore, and had been sent by him to general Gage at Boston, and from him he received a commission to act as colonel commandant. It was intended that the British garrisons at Detroit, and some other remote posts, with their artillery and ammunition, should be subservient to this design. Connelly also hoped for the aid of the Canadians and Indians. He was authorised to grant commissions, and to have the supreme direction of the new forces. As soon as they were in readiness he was to penetrate through Virginia, and to meet lord Dunmore near Alexandria, on the river Potowmac. Connelly was taken up on suspicion, by one of the committees in Maryland, while on his way to the scene of action. The papers found in his possession betrayed the whole. Among these was a general sketch of the plan, and a letter from lord Dunmore to one of the Indian chiefs.1776 He was imprisoned,  and the papers published. So many fortunate escapes induced a belief among serious Americans, that their cause was favoured by heaven. The various projects which were devised and put in operation against them, pointed out the increasing necessity of union, while the havock made on their coasts—the proffer of freedom to their slaves, and the encouragement proposed to Indians for making war on their frontier inhabitants, quickened their resentment against Great-Britain.
North-Carolina was more fortunate than Virginia. The governors of both were perhaps equally zealous for the royal interest, and the people of both equally attached to the cause of America, but the former escaped with a smaller portion of public calamity. Several regulations were at this time adopted by most of the provinces. Councils of safety, committees, and conventions, were common substitutes for regular government. Similar plans for raising, arming and supporting troops, and for training the militia, were from north to south generally adopted. In like manner royal governors throughout the provinces, were exerting themselves in attaching the people to the schemes of Great-Britain. Governor Martin, of North-Carolina, was particularly zealous in this business. He fortified and armed his palace at Newbern, that it might answer the double purpose of a garrison and magazine. While he was thus employed, such commotions were excited among the people, that he thought it expedient to retire on board a sloop of war in Cape Fear river. The people on examining, found powder and various military stores which had been buried in his garden and yard. Governor Martin, though he had abandoned his usual place of residence, continued his exertions for reducing North-Carolina to obedience. He particularly addressed himself to the regulators and Highland emigrants. The former had acquired this name from their attempting to regulate the administration of justice in the remote settlements, in a summary manner subversive of the public peace.1776 They had suffered the consequences of opposing royal government, and from obvious principles of human nature, were disposed to  support the authority whose power to punish they had recently experienced. The Highland emigrants had been but a short time in America, and were yet more under the influence of European ideas than those which their new situation was calculated to inspire. Governor Martin sent commissions among these people for raising and commanding regiments; and he granted one to Mr. M’Donald to act as their general. He also sent them a proclamation commanding all persons, on their allegiance, to repair to the royal standard. This was erected by general M’Donald, about the middle of February. Upon the first intelligence of their assembling brigadier general Moore, with some provincial troops and militia, and some pieces of cannon, marched to oppose them. He took possession of Rock fish bridge and threw up some works. He had not been there many days when M’Donald approached, and sent a letter to Moore, enclosing the governor’s proclamation, and advising him and his party to join the king’s standard; and adding, that in case of refusal they must be treated as enemies. To this Moore replied, that he and his officers considered themselves as engaged in a cause the most glorious and honourable in the world, the defence of mankind; and in his turn offered, that if M’Donald’s party laid down their arms they should be received as friends, but, otherwise they must expect consequences similar to those which they threatened. Soon after this, general M’Donald with his adherents pushed on to join governor Martin, but colonels Lillington and Caswell, with about 1000 militia men, took possession of Moore’s creek bridge, which lay in their way, and raised a small breast work to secure themselves.
1776 Feb. 27On the next morning the Highland emigrants attacked the militia posted at the bridge, but M’Cleod, the second in command, and some more of their officers being killed at the first onset, they fled with precipitation. General M’Donald was taken prisoner, and the whole of his party broken and dispersed. This overthrow produced consequences very injurious to the British interest. A royal fleet and army was expected on the coast. A  junction formed between them and the Highland emigrants in the interior country, might have made a sensible impression on the province. From an eagerness to do something, the insurgents prematurely took arms, and being crushed before the arrival of proper support, their spirits were so entirely broken, that no future effort could be expected from them.
While the war raged only in Massachusetts, each province conducted as under the expectation of being next attacked. Georgia, though a majority of its inhabitants were at first against the measures, yet about the middle of this year, joined the other colonies. Having not concurred in the petitions from Congress to the king, they petitioned by themselves, and stated their rights and grievances, in firm and decided language. They also adopted the continental association, and sent on their deputies to Congress.
In South-Carolina there was an eagerness to be prepared for defence, which was not surpassed in any of the provinces. Regiments were raised—forts were built—the militia trained, and every necessary preparation made for that purpose. Lord William Campbell, the royal governor, endeavoured to form a party for the support of government, and was in some degree successful. Distrusting his personal safety on shore, about the middle of September, he took up his residence on board an armed vessel, then in the harbour.
The royal government still existed in name and form; but the real power which the people obeyed, was exercised by a provincial congress, a council of safety, and subordinate committees. To conciliate the friendship of the Indians, the popular leaders sent a small supply of powder into their country. They who were opposed to Congress embodied, and robbed the waggons which were employed in its transportation. To inflame the minds of their adherents, they propagated a report that the powder was intended to be given to the Indians, for the purpose of massacring the friends of royal government. The inhabitants took arms, some to support royal government, but others to support the American measures.1776 The royalists  acted feebly and were easily overpowered. They were disheartened by the superior numbers that opposed them. They every where gave way and were obliged either to fly or feign submission. Solicitations had been made about this time for royal forces to awe the southern provinces, but without effect till the proper season was over. One scheme for this purpose was frustrated by a singular device. Private intelligence had been received of an express being sent from Sir James Wright, governor of Georgia, to general Gage. By him the necessity of ordering a part of the royal army to the southward was fully stated. The express was waylaid, and compelled by two gentle men to deliver his letters. One to general Gage was kept back, and another one forwarded in its room. The seal and hand writing were so exactly imitated that the deception was not suspected. The forged letter was received and acted upon. It stated such a degree of peace and tranquility as induced an opinion that there was no necessity of sending royal troops to the southward. While these states were thus left to themselves, they had time and opportunity to prepare for extremities, and in the mean time the friends of royal government were severally crushed. A series of disasters followed the royal cause in the year 1775. General Gage’s army was cooped up in Boston, and rendered useless. In the southern states, where a small force would have made an impression, the royal governors were unsupported. Much was done to irritate the colonists and to cement their union, but very little, either in the way of conquest or concession, to subdue their spirits or conciliate their affections.
In this year the people of America generally took their side. Every art was made use of by the popular leaders to attach the inhabitants to their royal cause; nor were the votaries of the royal interest inactive. But little impression was made by the latter, except among the uninformed. The great mass of the wealth, learning, and influence, in all the southern colonies, and in most of the northern, was in favour of the American cause. Some aged persons were exceptions to the contrary.1776 Attached to ancient habits, and enjoying the fruits of their industry,  they were slow in approving new measures subversive of the former, and endangering the latter. A few who had basked in the sunshine of court favour, were restrained by honour, principle and interest, from forsaking the fountain of their enjoyments. Some feared the power of Britain, and others doubted the perseverance of America; but a great majority resolved to hazard every thing in preference to a tame submission. In the beginning of the year, the colonists were farmers, merchants and mechanics; but in its close they had assumed the profession of soldiers. So sudden a transformation of so numerous, and so dispersed a people, is without a parallel.
This year was also remarkable for the general termination of royal government. This was effected without any violence to its executive officers. The new system was not so much forcibly imposed or designedly adopted, as introduced through necessity, and the imperceptible agency of a common danger, operating uniformly on the mind of the public. The royal governors, for the most part, voluntarily abdicated their governments, and retired on board ships of war. They assigned for reason, that they apprehended personal danger, but this, in every instance, was unfounded. Perhaps these representatives of royalty thought, that as they were constitutionally necessary to the administration of justice, the horrors of anarchy would deter the people from prosecuting their opposition. If they acted from this principle, they were mistaken. Their withdrawing from the exercise of their official duties, both furnished an apology, and induced a necessity, for organising a system of government independent of royal authority. By encouraging opposition to the popular measures, they involved their friends in great distress. The unsuccessful insurrections which they fomented, being improperly timed, and unsupported, were easily overthrown, and actually strengthened the popular government, which they meant to destroy.
Transactions in Massachusetts, and Evacuation of Boston.
1776As the year 1775 drew near to a close, the friends of Congress were embarrassed with a new difficulty. Their army was temporary, and only engaged to serve out the year. The object for which they had taken up arms was not yet obtained. Every reason which had previously induced the provinces to embody a military force still existed, and with increasing weight. It was therefore resolved to form a new army. The same flattering hopes were indulged, that an army for the ensuing year would answer every purpose. A committee of Congress, consisting of Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Mr. Harrison, repaired to head quarters at Cambridge, and there in conjunction with general Washington made arrangements for organizing an army for the year 1776. It was presumed that the spirit which had hitherto operated on the yeomanry of the country, would induce most of the same individuals to engage for another twelve-month, but on experiment it was found that much of their military ardor had already evaporated. The first impulse of passion, and the novelty of the scene, had brought many to the field, who had great objections against continuing in the military line. They found, that to be soldiers required sacrifices of which, when they assumed that character, they had no idea. So unacquainted were the bulk of the people with the mode of carrying on modern war, that many of them flew to arms with the delusive expectation of settling the whole dispute by a few decisive and immediate engagements. Experience soon taught them to risque life in open fighting, was but a part of the soldier’s duty. Several of the inferior officers retired—the men frequently refused to enlist, unless they were allowed to chuse their officers. Others would not engage unless they were indulged with furloughs. Fifty would apply together for leave of absence; indulgence threatened less ruinous consequences than a refusal would probably have produced. On the whole enlistments went on slowly.1776 Though the recruits  for the new army had not arrived, yet the Connecticut troops, whose time expired on the first of December, could not be persuaded to continue in service. On their way home several of them were stopped by the country people and compelled to return. When every thing seemed to be exposed, by the departure of so great a part of the late army, the militia was called on for a temporary aid. A new difficulty obstructed, as well the recruiting of the army, as the coming in of the militia. Sundry persons infected with the small pox, were sent out of Boston and landed at Point Shirley. Such was the dread of that disease, that the British army scarcely excited equal terror. So many difficulties retarded the recruiting service, that on the last day of the year 1775, the whole American army amounted to no more than 9650 men. Of the remarkable events with which this important year was replete, it was not the least, that within musket shot of twenty British regiments, one army was disbanded and another enlisted.
All this time the British troops at Boston were suffering the inconvenience of a blockade. From the 19th of April they were cut off from those refreshments which their situation required. Their supplies from Britain did not reach the coast for a long time after they were expected. Several were taken by the American cruisers, and others were lost at sea. This was in particular the fate of many of their coal ships. The want of fuel was peculiarly felt in a climate where the winter is both severe and tedious. They relieved themselves in part from their sufferings on this account, by the timber of houses which they pulled down and burnt. Vessels were dispatched to the West-Indies to procure provisions; but the islands were so straitened, that they could afford but little assistance. Armed ships and transports were ordered to Georgia with an intent to procure rice, but the people of that province, with the aid of a party from South-Carolina, so effectually opposed them, that of eleven vessels, only two got off safe with their cargoes.1776 It was not till the stock of the garrison was nearly exhausted that the transports from England entered the port of  Boston, and relieved the distresses of the garrison.
While the troops within the lines were apprehensive of suffering from want of provisions, the troops without were equally uneasy for want of employment. Used to labour and motion on their farms, they but illy relished the inactivity and confinement of a camp life. Fiery spirits declaimed in favour of an assault. They preferred a bold spirit of enterprize, to that passive fortitude which bears up under present evils, while it waits for favorable junctures. To be in readiness for an attempt of this kind, a council of war recommended to call in 7280 militia men, from New-Hampshire or Connecticut.January 17–18 This number added to the regular army before Boston, would have made an operating force of about 17,000 men.
The provincials laboured under great inconveniences from the want of arms and ammunition. Very early in the contest, the king of Great-Britain, by proclamation, forbad the exportation of warlike forces to the colonies. Great exertions had been made to manufacture salt petre and gun powder, but the supply was slow and inadequate. A secret committee of Congress had been appointed, with ample powers to lay in a stock of this necessary article. Some swift sailing vessels had been dispatched to the coast of Africa to purchase what could be procured in that distant region. A party from Charleston forcibly took about 17000 lbs. of powder from a vessel near the bar of St. Augustine. Some time after, commodore Hopkins stripped Providence, one of the Bahama islands of a quantity of artillery and stores; but the whole, procured from all these quarters, was far short of a sufficiency. In order to supply the new army before Boston with the necessary means of defence, an application was made to Massachusetts for arms, but on examination it was found that their public stores afforded only 200. Orders were issued to purchase firelocks from private persons, but few had any to sell, and fewer would part with them. In the month of February, there were 2000 of the American infantry, who were destitute of arms.1776 Powder was equally scarce, and yet daily applications were made for dividends of the small quantity  which was on hand, for the defence of various parts threatened with invasion. The eastern colonies presented an unusual sight. A powerful enemy safely intrenched in their first city, while a fleet was ready to transport them to any part of the coast. A numerous body of husbandmen was resolutely bent on opposition, but without the necessary arms and ammunition for self defence. The eyes of all were fixed on general Washington, and from him it was unreasonably expected that he would by a bold exertion, free the town of Boston from the British troops. The dangerous situation of public affairs led him to conceal the real scarcity of arms and ammunition, and with that magnanimity which is characteristical of great minds, to suffer his character to be assailed, rather than vindicate himself by exposing his many wants. There were not wanting persons, who judging from the superior numbers of men in the American army, boldly asserted, that if the commander in chief was not desirous of prolonging his importance at the head of an army, he might by a vigorous exertion gain possession of Boston. Such suggestions were reported and believed by several, while they were uncontradicted by the general, who chose to risque his fame, rather than expose his army and his country.
Agreeably to the request of the council of war, about 7000 of the militia had rendezvoused in February. General Washington stated to his officers that the troops in camp, together with the reinforcements which had been called for, and were daily coming in, would amount nearly to 17,000 men—that he had not powder sufficient for a bombardment, and asked their advice whether, as reinforcements might be daily expected to the enemy, it would not be prudent before that event took place, to make an assault on the British lines. The proposition was negatived; but it was recommended to take possession of Dorchester heights. To conceal this design, and to divert the attention of the garrison, a bombardment of the town from other directions commenced, and was carried on for three days with as much briskness as a deficient stock of powder would admit.1776 In this first essay, [262 ] three of the mortars were broken, either from a defect in their construction, or more probably from ignorance of the proper mode of using them.
The night of the 4th of March was fixed upon for taking possession of Dorchester heights. A covering party of about 800 men led the way. These were followed by the carts with the intrenching tools, and 1200 of a working party, commanded by general Thomas. In the rear there were more than 200 carts, loaded with fascines, and hay in bundles. While the cannon were playing in other parts, the greatest silence was kept by this working party. The active zeal of the industrious provincials completed lines of defence by the morning, which astonished the garrison. The difference between Dorchester heights on the evening of the 4th, and the morning of the 5th, seemed to realise the tales of romance. The admiral informed general Howe, that if the Americans kept possession of these heights, he would not be able to keep one of his majesty’s ships in the harbour. It was therefore determined in a council of war, to attempt to dislodge them. An engagement was hourly expected. It was intended by general Washington, in that case, to force his way into Boston with 4000 men, who were to have embarked at the mouth of Cambridge river. The militia had come forward with great alertness, each bringing three days provision, in expectation of an immediate assault. The men were in high spirits, and impatiently waiting for the appeal.
They were reminded that it was the 5th of March, and were called upon to avenge the death of their countrymen killed on that day. The many eminences in and near Boston, which overlooked the ground on which it was expected that the contending parties would engage, were crouded with numerous spectators. But general Howe did not intend to attack till the next day. In order to be ready for it, the transports went down in the evening towards the castle. In the night a most violent storm, and towards morning a heavy flood of rain, came on.1776 A carnage was thus providentially prevented, that would probably have equalled, if not exceeded, the fatal  17th of June, at Bunker’s-hill. In this situation it was agreed by the British, in a council of war, to evacuate the town as soon as possible.
In a few days after, a flag came out of Boston, with a paper signed by four select men, informing,“that they had applied to general Robertson, who, on application to general Howe, was authorised to assure them, that he had no intention of burning the town, unless the troops under his command were molested, during their embarkation, or at their departure, by the armed force without.” When this paper was presented to general Washington, he replied, “that as it was an unauthenticated paper, and without an address, and not obligatory on general Howe, he could take no notice of it;” but at the same time intimated his good wishes for the security of the town.
A proclamation was issued by general Howe, ordering all woollen and linen goods to be delivered to Crean Brush, Esq. Shops were opened and stripped of their goods. A licentious plundering took place. Much was carried off, and more was wantonly destroyed. These irregularities were forbidden in orders, and the guilty threatened with death, but nevertheless every mischief which disappointed malice could suggest, was committed.
March 17The British amounting to more than 7000 men, evacuated Boston, leaving their barracks standing, and also a number of pieces of cannon spiked, four large iron sea mortars, and stores, to the value of £ 30,000. They demolished the castle, and knocked off the trunnions of the cannon. Various incidents caused a delay of nine days after the evacuation, before they left Nantasket road.
This embarkation was attended with many circumstances of distress and embarrassment. On the departure of the royal army from Boston, a great number of the inhabitants attached to their sovereign, and afraid of public resentment, chose to abandon their country. From the great multitude about to depart, there was no possibility of procuring purchasers for their furniture, neither was there a sufficiency of vessels for its convenient transportation. Mutual jealousy subsisted between the  army and navy; each charging the other as the cause of some part of their common distress. The army was full of discontent. Reinforcements though long promised, had not arrived. Both officers and soldiers thought themselves neglected. Five months had elapsed since they had received any advice of their destination. Wants and inconveniencies increased their ill humour. Their intended voyage to Halifax subjected them to great dangers. The coast at all times hazardous, was eminently so at that tempestuous equinoctial season. They had reason to fear they would be blown off to the West-Indies, and without a sufficient stock of provisions. They were also going to a barren country. To add to their difficulties, this dangerous voyage when completed, was directly so much out of their way. Their business lay to the southward, and they were going northward. Under all these difficulties, and with all these gloomy prospects, the fleet steered for Halifax. Contrary to appearances, the voyage thither was both short and prosperous. They remained there for some time, waiting for reinforcements and instructions from England. When the royal fleet and army departed from Boston, several ships were left behind for the protection of vessels coming from England, but the American privateers were so alert that they nevertheless made many prizes. Some of the vessels which they captured, were laden with arms and warlike stores. Some transports, with troops on board, were also taken. These had run into the harbour, not knowing that the place was evacuated. The boats employed in the embarkation of the British troops, had scarcely completed their business when general Washington, with his army, marched into Boston. He was received with marks of approbation more flattering than the pomps of a triumph. The inhabitants released from the severities of a garrison life, and from the various indignities to which they were subjected, hailed him as their deliverer. Reciprocal congratulations between those who had been confined within the British lines, and those [who] were excluded from entering them, were exchanged with an ardor which cannot be discribed.1776 General Washington  was honoured by Congress with a vote of thanks. They also ordered a medal to be struck, with suitable devices to perpetuate the remembrance of the great event. The Massachusetts council and house of representatives complimented him in a joint address, in which they expressed their good wishes in the following words, “May you still go on approved by heaven—revered by all good men, and dreaded by those tyrants, who claim their fellow men as their property.” His answer was modest and proper.
The evacuation of Boston had been previously determined upon by the British ministry, from principles of political expedience. Being resolved to carry on the war for purposes affecting all the colonies, they conceived a central position to be preferable to Boston. Reasoning of this kind had induced the adoption of the measure, but the American works on Roxbury expedited its execution. The abandonment of their friends, and the withdrawing their forces from Boston, was the first act of a tragedy in which evacuations and retreats were the scenes which most frequently occurred, and the epilogue of which was a total evacuation of the United States.
Transactions in Canada.
The tide of good fortune which in the autumn of 1775 flowed in upon general Montgomery, induced Congress to reinforce the army under his command. Chamblee, St. Johns, and Montreal having surrendered to the Americans, a fair prospect opened of expelling the British from Canada, and of annexing that province to the united colonies. While they were in imagination anticipating these events, the army in which they confided was defeated, and the general whom they adored was killed.Jan. 8, 1776 The intelligence transmitted from general Montgomery, previous to his assault on Quebec, encouraged Congress to resolve that nine battalions should be kept up and maintained in Canada. The repulse of their army,  though discouraging, did not extinguish the ardor of the Americans. It was no sooner known, at headquarters in Cambridge, than general Washington convened a council of war by which it was resolved, “That as no troops could be spared from Cambridge, the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New-Hampshire, should be requested to raise three regiments and forward them to Canada.[”]Jan. 19 Congress also resolved to forward the reinforcements previously voted, and to raise four battalions in New-York, for the defence of that colony, and to garrison Crown-Point, and the several posts to the southward of that fortress. That the army might be supplied with blankets for this winter expedition, a committee was appointed to procure from householders, such as could be spared from their families. To obtain a supply of hard money for the use of the army in Canada, proper persons were employed to exchange paper money for specie. Such was the enthusiasm of the times that many thousand Mexican dollars were freely exchanged at par, by individuals for the paper bills of Congress. It was also resolved, to raise a corps of artillery for this service, and to take into the pay of the colonies one thousand Canadians, in addition to colonel Livingston’s regiment. Moses Hazen, a native of Massachusetts, who had resided many years in Canada, was appointed to the command of this new corps.
Jan. 24Congress addressed a letter to the Canadians in which they observed, “Such is the lot of human nature, that the best of causes are subject to vicissitudes; but generous souls, enlightened and warmed with the fire of liberty, become more resolute as difficulties increase.[”] They stated to them, “that eight battalions were raising to proceed to their province, and that if more force was necessary it should be sent.” They requested them to seize with eagerness the favourable opportunity then offered to co-operate in the present glorious enterprise, and they advised them to establish associations in their different parishes—to elect deputies for forming a provincial assembly, and for representing them in Congress.
The cause of the Americans had received such powerful aid from many patriotic publications in their gazettes,  and from the fervent exhortations of popular preachers, connecting the cause of liberty with the animating principles of religion,1776 that it was determined to employ these two powerful instruments of revolutions—printing and preaching, to operate on the minds of the Canadians. A complete apparatus for printing, together with a printer and a clergyman, were therefore sent into Canada.
Congress also appointed Dr. Franklin, Mr. Chase and Mr. Carrol, the two first of whom were members of their body, and the last a respectable gentleman of the Roman catholic persuasion to proceed to Canada with the view of gaining over the people of that colony to the cause of America, and authorised them to promise on behalf of the united colonies, that Canada should be received into their association on equal terms, and also that the inhabitants thereof should enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and the peaceable possession of all their ecclesiastical property.
The desire of effecting something decisive in Canada before the approaching spring, would permit relief to ascend the river St. Lawrence, added to the enthusiasm of the day, encountered difficulties which, in less animated times, would be reckoned unsurmountable. Arthur St. Clair who was appointed colonel of one of the Pennsylvania regiments received his recruiting orders on the 10th of January, and notwithstanding the shortness of the period, his regiment was not only raised, but six companies of it had, in this extreme cold season, completed their march from Pennsylvania to Canada, a distance of several hundred miles, and on the eleventh of April following, joined the American army before Quebec.
Though Congress and the states made great exertions to support the war in Canada, yet from the fall of Montgomery their interest in that colony daily declined. The reduction of Quebec was an object to which their resources were inadequate. Their unsuccessful assault on Quebec made an impression both on the Canadians and Indians unfavorable to their views.1776 A woman infected with the small-pox had either been sent out, or voluntarily came out of Quebec, and by mixing with the American soldiers  propagated that scourge of the new world to the great diminution of the effective force of their army. The soldiers inoculated themselves, though their officers issued positive orders to the contrary. By the first of May so many new troops had arrived that the American army, in name, amounted to 3000, but from the prevalence of the small-pox there were only 900 fit for duty. The increasing number of invalids retarded their military operations, and discouraged their friends, while the opposite party was buoyed up with the expectation that the advancing season would soon bring them relief. To these causes of the declining interest of Congress, it must be added that the affections of the Canadians were alienated. They had many and well founded complaints against the American soldiers. Unrestrained by the terror of civil law and refusing obedience to a military code, the hope of impunity and the love of plunder, led many of the invading army to practices not less disgraceful to themselves, than injurious to the cause in which they had taken arms. Not only the common soldiers but the officers of the American army deviated, in their intercourse with the Canadians, from the maxims of sound policy. Several of them having been lately taken from obscure life were giddy with their exaltation. Far from home they were unawed by those checks which commonly restrain the ferocity of man.
The reduction of Chamblee, St. Johns’, and Montreal, together with the exposed situation of Quebec, being known in England, measures were without delay adopted by the British ministry to introduce into Canada, as soon as possible, a force sufficient for the double purpose of recovering what they had lost, and of prosecuting offensive operations from that quarter against the revolted colonies.May 5 The van of this force made good its passage, very early in the spring, through the ice up the river St. Lawrence. The expectation of their coming had for some time damped the hopes of the besiegers, and had induced them to think of a retreat. The day before the first of the British reinforcements arrived, that measure was resolved upon by a council of war, and arrangements were made for carrying it into execution.
1776 Governor Carleton was too great a proficient in the art of war, to delay seizing the advantages which the consternation of the besiegers, and the arrival of a reinforcement, afforded. A small detachment of soldiers and marines from the ships which had just ascended the river St. Lawrence, being landed and joined to the garrison in Quebec, he marched out at their head to attack the Americans. On his approach, he found every thing in confusion. The late besiegers abandoning their artillery and military stores, had in great precipitation retreated. In this manner at the expiration of five months, the mixed siege and blockade of Quebec was raised. The fortitude and perseverance of the garrison reflected honour on both officers and privates.
The reputation acquired by general Carleton in his military char acter, for bravely and judiciously defending the province committed to his care, was exceeded by the superior applause, merited from his exercise of the virtues of humanity and generosity. Among the numerous sick in the American hospitals, several incapable of being moved were left behind.May 10 The victorious general proved himself worthy of success by his treatment of these unfortunate men, he not only fed and cloathed them, but permitted them when recovered to return home, apprehending that fear might make some conceal themselves in the woods, rather than by applying for relief, make themselves known, he removed their doubts by a proclamation, in which he engaged, “that as soon as their health was restored, they should have free liberty of returning to the respective provinces.” This humane line of conduct was more injurious to the view of the leaders in the American councils, than the severity practised by other British commanders. The truly politic, as well as humane general Carleton, dismissed these prisoners after liberally supplying their wants with a recommendation, “to go home, mind their farms, and keep themselves and their neighbours from all participation in the unhappy war.”
1776The small force which arrived at Quebec early in May, was followed by several British regiments; together with  the Brunswic troops in such a rapid succession, that in a few weeks the whole was estimated at 13,000 men.
The Americans retreated forty five miles before they stopped. After a short halt, they proceeded to the Sorel, at which place they threw up some slight works for their safety. They were there joined by some battalions coming to reinforce them. About this time general Thomas, the commander in chief in Canada was seized with the small pox and died, having forbidden his men to inoculate, he conformed to his rule, and refused to avail himself of that precaution. On his death, the command devolved at first on general Arnold, and afterwards on general Sullivan. It soon became evident, that the Americans must abandon the whole province of Canada.
From a desire to do something which might counterbalance in the minds of the Canadians, the unfavorable impression which this farther retreat would communicate, General Thomson projected an attack on the British post at the Three Rivers. This lies about half way between Quebec and Montreal, and is so called from the vicinity of one of the branches of a large river, whose waters are discharged through three mouths into the St. Lawrence. With this view a detachment of six hundred men was put under the command of colonel St. Clair. At their head he advanced to the village of Nicolette. When every thing was ready for the enterprise, intelligence was received that six transports escorted by two frigates from Quebec, had arrived and brought a large addition to the late force at the Three Rivers. This caused some new movements, and a delay till more troops could be brought forward. General Thomson then came on with a reinforcement and took the command of the whole. It was determined to make the proposed attack in four different places at the same time. One division commanded by colonel Wayne was to gain the eastern extremity of the town. One commanded by colonel Maxwell was to enter from the northward about the center, and the other two divisions commanded by colonels Sinclair and Irvine were to enter from the westward.1776 The whole  having embarked at midnight, landed at the Point du Lac, about three hours before day. At some distance from this point, there are two ways of approaching Three Rivers, one by a road that leads along the banks of the St. Lawrence, the other by a road almost parallel, but at a considerable distance. It had been determined to advance on the last. Intelligence was brought to general Thomson, soon after his landing that a party of 3 or 400 men were posted at three miles distance. The troops were instantly put in motion to dislodge them. The intelligence proved to be false but it had carried the detachment, some distance beyond the point, where the roads separated. To have returned, would have consumed time that could not be spared as the day was fast approaching. It was therefore resolved to proceed in a diagonal direction towards the road they had left. After being much retarded by very difficult grounds, they arrived at a morass which seemed impassable. Here the day broke, when they were six miles from the object. General Thomson suspecting the fidelity of his guides, put them under arrest—reversed the order of his march, and again reached the road by the river. He had advanced but a small distance before he was fired upon by two armed vessels. All expectation of succeeding by surprise, was now at an end. It was therefore instantly determined to make an open attack. The sun was rising. The drums were ordered to beat, and the troops moved on with the greatest alacrity. Having advanced three miles farther, the ships of war began to fire on them. The American officer who led the advance, struck into a road on the left, which also led to the town, and was covered from the fire of the ships. This last road was circuitous and led through a vast tract of woodland at that season almost impassable. He nevertheless entered the wood, and the rest of the detachment followed. After incredible labour, and wading a rivulet breast deep, they gained the open country north of the village. A party of the British were soon discovered about a mile to the left of the Americans, and between them and the town. Colonel Wayne, ardent for action immediately attacked them. The onset was gallant  and vigorous, but the contest was unequal.1776 The Americans were soon repulsed and forced to retreat. In the beginning of the action general Thomson left the main body of his corps to join that which was engaged. The woods were so thick, that it was difficult for any person in motion, after losing sight of an object to recover it. The general therefore never found his way back. The situation of colonel St. Clair, the next in command became embarrassing. In his opinion a retreat was necessary, but not knowing the precise situation of his superior officer, and every moment expecting his return, he declined giving orders for that purpose. At last when the British were discovered on the river road, advancing in a direction to gain the rear of the Americans, colonel St. Clair in the absence of gen. Thomson, ordered a retreat. This was made by treading back their steps through the same dismal swamp by which they had advanced. The British marched directly for the point du Lac with the expectation of securing the American batteaux. On their approach major Wood, in whose care they had been left, retired with them to the Sorel. At the point du Lac, the British halted and took a very advantageous position. As soon as it was discovered that the Americans had retired, a party of the British pursued them. When the former arrived near the place of their embarkation, they found a large party of their enemies posted in their front, at the same time that another was only three quarters of a mile in their rear. Here was a new and trying dilemma, and but little time left for consideration. There was an immediate necessity, either to lay down their arms or attempt by a sudden March to turn the party in front and get into the country beyond it. The last was thought practicable. Colonel St. Clair having some knowledge of the country from his having served in it in the preceding war, gave them a route by the Acadian village where the river de Loups is fordable. They had not advanced far when colonel St. Clair found himself unable to proceed from a wound, occasioned by a root which had penetrated through his shoe.1776 His men offered to carry him, but this generous proposal was declined.  He and two or three officers, who having been worn down with fatigue, remained behind with him, found an asylum under cover of a large tree which had been blown up by the roots. They had not been long in this situation when they heard a firing from the British in almost all directions. They nevertheless lay still, and in the night stole off from the midst of surrounding foes. They were now pressed with the importunate cravings of hunger, for they were entering on the third day without food. After wandering for some time, they accidentally found some peasants, who entertained them with great hospitality. In a few days they joined the army at Sorel, and had the satisfaction to find that the greatest part of the detachment had arrived safe before them. In their way through the country, although they might in almost every step of it have been made prisoners, and had reason to fear that the inhabitants from the prospect of reward, would have been tempted to take them, yet they met with neither injury nor insult. General Thomson was not so fortunate. After having lost the troops and falling in with colonel Irwine, and some other officers, they wandered the whole night in thick swamps, without being able to find their way out. Failing in their attempts to gain the river, they had taken refuge in a house, and were there made prisoners.
The British forces having arrived, and a considerable body of them having rendezvoused at the Three Rivers, a serious pursuit of the American army commenced. Had Sir Guy Carleton taken no pains to cut off their retreat, and at once attacked their post, or rather their fortified camp at Sorel, it would probably have fallen into his hands; but either the bold, though unsuccessful attack, at the Three rivers had taught him to respect them, or he wished to reduce them without bloodshed. In the pursuit he made three divisions of his army, and arranged them so as to embrace the whole American encampment, and to command it in every part. The retreat was delayed so long that the Americans evacuated Sorel, only about two hours before one division of the British made its appearance.
1776 While the Americans were retreating, they were daily assailed by the remonstrances of the inhabitants of Canada, who had either joined or befriended them. Great numbers of Canadians had taken a decided part in their favour, rendered them essential services, and thereby incurred the heavy penalties annexed to the crime of supporting rebellion. These, though Congress had assured them but a few months before “that they would never abandon them to the fury of their common enemies” were from the necessity of the case left exposed to the resentment of their provincial rulers. Several of them with tears in their eyes, expostulated with the retreating army, and bewailing their hard fate prayed for support. The only relief the Americans could offer was an assurance of continued protection, if they retreated with them, but this was a hard alternative to men who had wives, children and immovable effects. They generally concluded, that it was the least of two evils to cast themselves on the mercy of that government, against which they had offended.
The distresses of the retreating army were great. The British were close on their rear and threatening them with destruction. The unfurnished state of the colonies in point of ordnance, imposed a necessity of preserving their cannon. The men were obliged to drag their loaded batteaus up the rapids by mere strength, and when they were to the middle in water. The retreating army was also incumbered with great numbers labouring under the small-pox, and other diseases. Two regiments, at one time, had not a single man in health. Another had only six, and a fourth only forty, and two more were in nearly the same condition.
To retreat in face of an enemy is at all times hazardous; but on this occasion it was attended with an unusual proportion of embarrassments. General Sullivan, who conducted the retreat, nevertheless acted with so much judgment and propriety, that the baggage and public stores were saved, and the numerous sick brought off. The American army reached Crown-Point on the first of July, and at that place made their first stand.
1776 A short time before the Americans evacuated the province of Canada, General Arnold convened the merchants of Montreal, and proposed to them to furnish a quantity of specified articles, for the use of the army in the service of Congress. While they were deliberating on the subject, he placed centinels at their shop doors, and made such arrangements, that what was at first only a request, operated as a command. A great quantity of goods were taken on pretence that they were wanted for the use of the American army, but in their number were many articles only serviceable to women, and to persons in civil life. His nephew soon after opened a store in Albany, and publicly disposed of goods which had been procured at Montreal.
The possession of Canada so eminently favoured the plans of defence adopted by Congress, that the province was evacuated with great reluctance. The Americans were not only mortified at the disappointment of their favourite scheme, of annexing it as a fourteenth link in the chain of their confederacy, but apprehended the most serious consequences from the ascending of the British power in that quarter. Anxious to preserve a footing there, they had persevered for a long time in stemming the tide of unfavorable events.
Jun. 17General Gates was about this time appointed to command in Canada, but on coming to the knowledge of the late events in that province, he concluded to stop short within the limits of New-York. The scene was henceforth reversed. Instead of meditating the recommencement of offensive operations, that army which had lately excited so much terror in Canada, was called upon to be prepared for repelling an invasion threatened from that province.
The attention of the Americans being exclusively fixed on plans of defence, their general officers commanding in the northern department, were convened to deliberate on the place and means most suitable for that purpose. To form a judgment on this subject, a recollection of the events of the late war, between France and England, was of advantage. The same ground was to be fought over,  and the same posts to be again contended for. On the confines of Lake George and Lake Champlain two inland seas, which stretch almost from the sources of Hudson’s river to the St. Lawrence, are situated the famous posts of Ticonderoga and Crown-Point. These are of primary necessity to any power which contends for the possession of the adjacent country, for they afford the most convenient stand either for its annoyance or defence. In the opinion of some American officers, Crown-Point to which the army on the evacuation of Canada had retreated, was the most proper place for erecting works of defence, but it was otherwise determined, by the council convened, on this occasion. It was also by their advice resolved, to move lower down, and to make the principal work on the strong ground east of Ticonderoga, and especially by every means to endeavour to maintain a naval superiority in Lake Champlain. In conformity to these resolutions general Gates with about 12,000 men, which collected in the course of the summer, was fixed in command of Ticonderoga, and a fleet was constructed at Skenesborough.August 22 This was carried on with so much rapidity, that in a short time there were afloat, in Lake Champlain, one sloop, three schooners, and six gondolas, carrying in the whole 58 guns, 86 swivels, and 440 men. Six other vessels were also nearly ready for launching at the same time. The fleet was put under the command of general Arnold, and he was instructed by general Gates, to proceed beyond Crown-Point, down Lake Champlain, to the Split Rock; but most peremptorily restrained from advancing any farther, as security against an apprehended invasion was the ultimate end of the armament.
The expulsion of the American invaders from Canada, was but a part of the British designs in that quarter. They urged the pursuit no farther than St. John’s, but indulged the hope of being soon in a condition for passing the lakes, and penetrating through the country to Albany, so as to form a communication with New-York. The objects they had in view were great, and the obstacles in the way of their accomplishment equally so. 1776 Before they could advance with any prospect of success, a fleet superior to that of the Americans on the lakes, was to be constructed. The materials of some large vessels were, for this purpose, brought from England, but their transportation, and the labour necessary to put them together required both time and patience. The spirit of the British commanders rose in proportion to the difficulties which were to be encountered. Nevertheless it was so late as the month of October, before their fleet was prepared to face the American naval force, on Lake Champlain. The former consisted of the ship Inflexible, mounting 18 twelve pounders, which was so expeditiously constructed, that she sailed from St. John’s 28 days after laying her keel. One schooner mounting 14 and another 12 six pounders. A flat bottomed radeau carrying six 24 and six 12 pounders, besides howitzers, and a gondola with seven nine pounders. There were also twenty smaller vessels with brass field pieces, from 9 to 24 pounders, or with howitzers. Some long boats were furnished in the same manner. An equal number of large boats acted as tenders. Besides these vessels of war, there was a vast number destined for the transportation of the army, its stores, artillery, baggage and provisions. The whole was put under the command of captain Pringle. The naval force of the Americans, from the deficiency of means, was far short of what was brought against them. Their principal armed vessel was a schooner, which mounted only 12 six and four pounders, and their whole fleet in addition to this, consisted of only fifteen vessels of inferior force.
No one step could be taken towards accomplishing the designs of the British, on the northern frontiers of New-York, till they had the command of Lake Champlain.Oct. 11 With this view their fleet proceeded up the lake, and engaged the Americans. The wind was so unfavorable to the British, that their ship Inflexible, and some other vessel of force, could not be brought to action. This lessened the inequality between the contending fleets so much, that the principal damage sustained by the Americans, was the loss of a schooner and gondola.1776 At the  approach of night the action was discontinued. The vanquished took the advantage, which the darkness afforded to make their escape. This was effected by general Arnold, with great judgment and ability. By the next morning the whole fleet under his command was out of sight. The British pursued with all the sail they could croud. The wind having become more favorable, they overtook the Americans, and brought them to action near Crown-Point.Oct. 13 A smart engagement ensued and was well supported on both sides for about two hours. Some of the American vessels which were most ahead escaped to Ticonderoga. Two gallies and five gondolas remained and resisted an unequal force, with a spirit approaching to desperation. One of the gallies struck and was taken. General Arnold, though he knew that to escape was impossible, and to resist unavailing, yet instead of surrendering, determined that his people should not become prisoners, nor his vessels a re-inforcement to the British. This spirited resolution was executed with a judgment, equal to the boldness, with which it had been adopted. He ran the Congress galley, on board of which he was, together with the five gondolas on shore, in such a position, as enabled him to land his men and blow up the vessels. In the execution of this perilous enterprise, he paid a romantic attention to a point of honour. He did not quit his own galley till she was in flames, lest the British should board her, and strike his flag. The result of this action, though unfavorable to the Americans, raised the reputation of general Arnold, higher than ever. In addition to the fame of a brave soldier, he acquired that of an able sea officer.
The American naval force being nearly destroyed, the British had undisputed possession of Lake Champlain. On this event a few continental troops which had been at Crown-Point, retired to their main body at Ticonderoga. General Carleton took possession of the ground from which they had retreated, and was there soon joined by his army. He sent out several reconnoitering parties, and at one time pushed forward a strong detachment on both sides of the lake, which approached near  to Ticonderoga.1776 Some British vessels appeared at the same time, within cannon shot of the American works, at that place. It is probable he had it in contemplation, if circumstances favoured to reduce the post, and that the apparent strength of the works, restrained him from making the attempt, and induced his return to Canada.
Such was the termination of the northern campaign in 1776. Though after the surrender of Montreal evacuations, defeats, and retreats, had almost uninterruptedly been the portion of the Americans, yet with respect to the great object of defence on the one side, and of conquest on the other, a whole campaign was gained to them, and lost to their adversaries.
The British had cleared Canada of its invaders, and destroyed the American fleet on the lakes, yet from impediments thrown in their way, they failed in their ulterior designs. The delays contrived by general Gates, retarded the British for so great a part of the summer, that by the time they had reached Ticonderoga, their retreat on account of the approaching winter, became immediately necessary. On the part of the Americans, some men, and a few armed vessels were lost, but time was gained, their army saved, and the frontier of the adjacent states secured from a projected invasion. On the part of the British, the object of a campaign, in which 13,000 men were employed, and near a million of money expended, was rendered in a great measure abortive.
The Proceedings of Parliament, against the Colonies, 1775–6. Operations in South-Carolina, New-York, and New-Jersey.
The operations carried on against the united colonies, in the year 1775, were adapted to cases of criminal combination among subjects not in arms. The military arrangements for that year, were therefore made on the idea of a trifling addition to a peace establishment. 1776 It was either not known, that a majority of the Americans had determined to resist the power of Great-Britain, rather than submit to the late coercive laws, or it was not believed that they had spirit sufficient to act in conformity to that determination. The propensity in human nature, to believe that to be true, which is wished to be so, had deceived the royal servants in America, and the British ministry in England, so far as to induce their general belief, that a determined spirit on the part of government, and a few thousand troops to support that determination, would easily compose the troubles in America. Their military operations in the year 1775, were therefore calculated on the small scale of strengthening the civil power, and not on the large one of resisting an organised army. Though it had been declared by parliament in February, 1775, that a rebellion existed in Massachusetts, yet it was not believed that the colonists would dare to abet their opposition by an armed force. The resistance made by the militia at Lexington, the consequent military arrangements adopted, first by Massachusetts, and afterwards by Congress, together with the defence of Bunker’s-hill, all conspired to prove that the Americans were far from being contemptible adversaries. The nation finding itself, by a fatal progression of the unhappy dispute, involved in a civil war, was roused to recollection. Though several corporate bodies, and sundry distinguished individuals in Great-Britain, were opposed to coercive measures, yet there was a majority for proceeding. The pride of the nation was interested in humbling the colonists, who had dared to resist the power which had lately triumphed over the combined force of France and Spain. The prospect of freeing their own estates from a part of the heavy taxes charged thereon, induced numbers of the landed gentlemen in Great-Britain to support the same measures. They conceived the coercion of the colonies to be the most direct mode of securing their contribution towards sinking the national debt.1775 Influenced by these opinions, such not only justified the adoption of rigorous measures, but chearfully consented to present additional taxes with the same spirit  which induces litigants in private life to advance money for forwarding a lawsuit, from the termination of which great profits are expected. Lord North, the prime minister of England, finding himself supported by so many powerful interests, was encouraged to proceed. He had already subdued a powerful party in the city of London, and triumphed over the East-India company. The submission of the colonies was only wanting to complete the glory of his administration. Previous success emboldened him to attempt the arduous business. He flattered himself that the accomplishment of it would, not only restore peace to the empire, but give a brilliancy to his name, far exceeding that of any of his predecessors.
Such was the temper of a great part of the nation, and such the ambitious views of its prime minister, when the parliament was convened, on the 24th of October 1775. In the speech from the throne great complaints were made of the leaders in the colonies, who were said by their misrepresentatives to have infused into the minds of the deluded multitude opinions, repugnant to their constitutional subordination, and afterwards to have proceeded to the commencement of hostilities, and the usurpation of the whole powers of government. His majesty also charged his subjects in America with “meaning only to amuse by vague expressions of attachment to the Parent State, while they were preparing for a general revolt.” And he farther asserted “that the rebellious war now levied by them was become more general, and manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire, and that it was become the art of wisdom, and in its effects, of clemency to put a speedy end to these disorders, by the most decisive exertions.”
Information was also given, that “the most friendly offers of foreign assistance had been received, and that his majesty’s electoral troops were sent to the garrison of Gibraltar and Port Mahon, in order that a large number of the established forces of the kingdom might be applied to the maintenance of its authority.”1775 The severity of these assertions was mitigated by a declaration, “that when the unhappy and deluded multitude against  whom this force should be directed, would become sensible of their error, his majesty would be ready to receive the misled with tenderness and mercy,” “and that to prevent inconveniences, he should give authority to certain persons on the spot, to grant general or particular pardons and indemnities to such as should be disposed to return to their allegiance.” The sentiments expressed in this speech and the heavy charges therein laid against the colonists, were re-echoed in addresses to the king from both houses of parliament, but not without a spirited protest in the house of lords. In this, nineteen dissenting members asserted the American war to be “unjust and impolitic in its principles, and fatal in its consequences.” They also declared, that they could not consent to an address, “which might deceive his majesty and the public into a belief of the confidence of their house in the present ministers, who had disgraced parliament, deceived the nation—lost the colonies, and involved them in a civil war against their clearest interests, and upon the most unjustifiable grounds wantonly spilling the blood of thousands of their fellow subjects.”
The sanction of parliament being obtained for a vigorous prosecution of the American war, estimates for the public service, were agreed to on the idea of operating against the colonies as an hostile armed foreign power. To this end it was voted to employ 28,000 sea-men, and 55,900 land forces, and the sanction of authority was not long after given to measures for engaging foreign mercenaries. No ministry had in any preceding war exerted themselves more to prosecute military operations against alien enemies, than the present to make the ensuing campaign decisive of the dispute between the Mother Country and the colonies.Nov. 20, 1775 One legislative act was still wanting to give full efficacy to the intended prosecution of hostilities. This was brought into parliament in a bill interdicting all trade and intercourse with the thirteen united colonies. By it all property of Americans, whether of ships or goods, on the high seas, or in harbour, was declared “to be forfeited to the captors, being the officers and crews of his majesty’s ships of war.” It farther enacted  “that the masters, crews and other persons found on board captured American vessels, should be entered on board his majesty’s vessels of war, and there considered to be in his majesty’s service to all intents and purposes, as if they had entered of their own accord.” This bill also authorised the crown to appoint commissioners, who over and above granting pardons to individuals were empowered to “enquire into general and particular grievances, and to determine whether any colony or part of a colony was returned to that state of obedience, which might entitle it to be received within the king’s peace and protection.” In that case upon a declaration from the commissioners “the restrictions of the proposed law were to cease.”
It was said in favour of this bill,
that as the Americans were already in a state of war, it became necessary that hostilities should be carried on against them, as was usual against alien enemies. That the more vigorously and extensively military operations were prosecuted, the sooner would peace and order be restored. That as the commissioners went out with the sword in one hand, and terms of conciliation in the other, it was in the power of the colonists to prevent the infliction of any real or apparent severities, in the proposed statute.
In opposition to it, it was said, “that treating the Americans as a foreign nation, was chalking out the way for their independence.” One member observed, that as the indiscriminate rapine of property authorised by the bill, would oblige the colonists to coalesce as one man, its title ought to be “A bill for carrying more effectually into execution the resolves of Congress.” The clause for vesting the property of the seizures in the captors, was reprobated as tending to extinguish in the breasts of seamen the principles of patriotism—of national pride and glory, and to substitute in their room habits of cruelty, of piracy and robbery. But of all parts of this bill none was so severely condemned as that clause by which persons taken on board the American vessels, were indiscriminately compelled to serve as common sailors in British ships of war. This was said to be “a refinement of  tyranny worse than death.”1776 It was also said, “That no man could be despoiled of his goods as a foreign enemy, and at the same time obliged to serve as a citizen, and that compelling captives to bear arms against their families, kindred, friends and country—and after being plundered themselves to become accomplices in plundering their brethren, was unexampled, except among pirates, the outlaws and enemies of human society.” To all these high charges the ministry replied, “that the measure was an act of grace and favour, for” said they, “the crews of American vessels, instead of being put to death, the legal punishment of their demerits, as traitors and rebels, are by this law to be rated on the king’s books, and treated as if they were on the same footing with a great body of his most useful and faithful subjects.” It was also said, “that their pay and emoluments in the service of their lawful sovereign would be a compensation for all scruples that might arise from the supposed violation of their principles.”
In the progress of the debates on this bill, lord Mansfield declared, “that the questions of original right and wrong were no longer to be considered—that they were engaged in a war, and must use their utmost efforts to obtain the ends proposed by it, that they must either fight or be pursued, and that the justice of the cause must give way to their present situation.” Perhaps no speech in or out of parliament operated more extensively on the irritated minds of the colonists than this one.
The great abilities and profound legal knowledge of lord Mansfield were both known and admired in America. That this illustrious oracle of law should declare from the seat of legislation, that the justice of the cause was no longer to be regarded, excited the astonishment, and cemented the union of the colonists. “Great-Britain, said they, has commenced war against us for maintaining our constitutional liberties, and her lawgivers now declare they must proceed without any retrospect to the merits of the original ground of dispute. Our peace and happiness must be sacrificed to British honour and consistency, in their continuing to prosecute  an unjust invasion of our rights.”Dec. 21, 1775 A number of lords, as usual, entered a spirited protest against the bill, but it was carried by a great majority in both houses of parliament, and soon after received the royal assent.
This law arrived in the colonies in March 1776. The effects resulting from it were such as had been predicted by its opposers. It not only united the colonies in resisting Great-Britain, but produced a favorable opinion of independence in the minds of thousands, who previously reprobated that measure. It was considered from New-Hampshire to Georgia, as a legal discharge from allegiance to their native sovereign. What was wanting to produce a decided majority of the party for breaking off all connexion with Great-Britain, was speedily obtained from the irritation excited by the hiring of foreign troops to fight against the colonists. This measure was nearly coincident with the ratification of the prohibitory law just mentioned, and intelligence of both arrived in the colonies about the same time.
The treaties which had been lately concluded with the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel, the duke of Brunswic, and the hereditary prince of Hesse Cassel for hiring their troops to the king of Great-Britain, to be employed in the American service being laid before the house of commons, a motion was made thereon for referring them to the committee of supply.Feb. 29, 1776 This occasioned a very interesting debate on the propriety of employing foreign troops against the Americans. The measure was supported on the necessity of prosecuting the war, and the impracticability of raising a sufficient number of domestic levies. It was also urged “that foreign troops inspired with the military maxims, and ideas of implicit submission, would be less apt to be biassed by that false lenity, which native soldiers might indulge, at the expence of national interest.” It was said,
Are we to sit still and suffer an unprovoked rebellion to terminate in the formation of an independent hostile empire? Are we to suffer our colonies, the object of the great national expence, and of two bloody wars to be lost forever to us, and given away to strangers from a scruple of 1775 employing foreign troops to preserve our just rights, over colonies for which we have paid so dear a purchase? As the Americans by refusing the obedience and taxes of subjects, deny themselves to be a part of the British empire, and make themselves foreigners, they cannot complain that foreigners are employed against them.
On the other side the measure was severely condemned. The necessity of the war was denied, and the nation was represented as disgraced by applying to the petty princes of Germany, for succours against her own rebellious subjects. The tendency of the example to induce the Americans to form alliances with foreign powers, was strongly urged. It was said,
hitherto the colonists have ventured to commit themselves singly in this arduous contest, without having recourse to foreign aid, but it is not to be doubted, that in future they will think themselves fully justified both by our example, and the laws of self preservation, to engage foreigners to assist them in opposing those mercenaries, whom we are about to transport for their destruction. Nor is it doubtful that in case of their application, European powers of a rank far superior to that of those petty princes, to whom we have so abjectly sued for aid, will consider themselves to be equally entitled to interfere in the quarrel between us and our colonies.
The supposition of the Americans receiving aid from France or Spain, was on this and several other occasions ridiculed, on the idea that these powers would not dare to set to their own colonies the dangerous example of encouraging those of Great-Britain, in opposing their sovereign. It was also supposed, that they would be influenced by considerations of future danger to their American possessions, from the establishment of an independent empire in their vicinity.
In this session of parliament between the 26th of October, 1775, and the 23d, of May 1776, the ultimate plan for reducing the colonies was completely fixed. The Americans were declared out of the royal protection, and 16,000 foreign mercenaries, employed by national authority, to effect their subjugation.1776 These measures  induced Congress in the following summer to declare themselves independent, and to seek for foreign aid: Events which shall be hereafter more fully explained.
Parliamentary sanction for carrying on the war against the colonists, as against alien enemies being obtained, it became necessary to fix on a commander of the royal forces to be employed on this occasion. This as a matter of right was, in the first instance, offered to general Oglethorpe, as being the first on the list of general officers. To the surprise of the minister that respectable veteran, readily accepted the command, on condition of his being properly supported. A numerous well appointed army and a powerful fleet were promised him, to which he replied, “I will undertake the business without a man or a ship of war, provided you will authorise me to assure the colonists on my arrival among them, that you will do them justice.” He added farther, “I know the people of America well, and am satisfied, that his majesty has not in any part of his dominions, more obedient, or more loyal subjects. You may secure their obedience by doing them justice, but you will never subdue them by force of arms.” These opinions so favourable to the Americans, proved general Oglethorpe to be an improper person for the purpose intended by the British ministry. He was therefore passed over, and the command given to Sir William Howe.
It was resolved to open the campaign, with such a powerful force as “would look down all opposition, and effectuate submission without bloodshed,” and to direct its operations to the accomplishment of three objects. The first was the relief of Quebec, and the recovery of Canada, which also included a subsequent invasion of the northwestern frontiers of the adjacent provinces. The second was a strong impression on some of the southern colonies. The third and principal, was to take possession of New-York, with a force sufficiently powerful to keep possession of Hudson’s-River, and form a line of communication with the royal army in Canada, or to over-run the adjacent country.
The partial success of the first part of this plan, has been in the preceding chapter explained. The execution  of the second part was committed to general Clinton, and Sir Peter Parker. The former with a small force having called at New-York, and also visited in Virginia lord Dunmore, the late royal governor of that colony, and finding that nothing could be done at either place, proceeded to Cape-Fear-River. At that place he issued a proclamation from on board the Pallas transport, offering free pardon to all such as should lay down their arms, excepting Cornelius Hasnett, and Robert Howe, but the recent defeat of the regulators and Highlanders, restrained even their friends from paying any attention to this act of grace.
At Cape-Fear a junction was formed between Sir Henry Clinton, and Sir Peter Parker, the latter of whom had sailed with his squadron directly from Europe. They concluded to attempt the reduction of Charleston as being, of all places within the line of their instructions, the object at which they could strike with the greatest prospect of advantage. They had 2,800 land forces, which they hoped, with the co-operation of their shipping, would be fully sufficient.
For some months past every exertion had been made to put the colony of South-Carolina, and especially its capital Charleston, in a respectable posture of defence. In subserviency to this view, works had been erected on Sullivan’s island, which is situated so near the channel leading up to the town, as to be a convenient post for annoying vessels approaching it.
Sir Peter Parker attacked the fort on that island, with two fifty gun ships, the Bristol and Experiment, four frigates, the Active, Acteon, Solebay and Syron, each of 28 guns. The Sphynx of 20 guns, the Friendship armed vessel of 22 guns, Ranger sloop, and Thunder bomb, each of 8 guns. On the fort were mounted 26 cannon, 26, 18 and 9 pounders. The attack commenced between ten and eleven in the forenoon, and was continued for upwards of ten hours. The garrison consisting of 375 regulars and a few militia, under the command of colonel Moultrie, made a most gallant defence. They fired deliberately, for the most part took  aim and seldom missed their object.1776 The ships were torn almost to pieces, and the killed and wounded on board exceeded 200 men. The loss of the garrison was only ten men killed, and 22 wounded. The fort being built of palmetto, was little damaged. The shot which struck it were ineffectually buried in its soft wood. General Clinton had some time before the engagement, landed with a number of troops on Long-Island, and it was expected that he would have co-operated with Sir Peter Parker, by crossing over the narrow passage, which divides the two islands, and attacking the fort in its unfinished rear; but the extreme danger to which he must unavoidably have exposed his men, induced him to decline the perilous attempt. Colonel Thomson with 7 or 800 men was stationed at the east end of Sullivan’s island, to oppose their crossing. No serious attempt was made to land either from the fleet, or the detachment commanded by Sir Henry Clinton. The firing ceased in the evening, and soon after the ships slipped their cables. Before morning they had retired about two miles from the island. Within a few days more the troops re-embarked and the whole sailed from New-York. The thanks of Congress were given to general Lee, who had been sent on by Congress to take the command in Carolina, and also to colonels Moultrie and Thomson, for their good conduct on this memorable day. In compliment to the commanding officer the fort from that time was called Fort Moultrie.
During the engagement the inhabitants stood with arms in their hands at their respective posts, prepared to receive the enemy wherever they might land. Impressed with high ideas of British power and bravery, they were apprehensive that the fort would be either silenced or passed, and that they should be called to immediate action. They were cantoned in the various landing places near Charleston, and their resolution was fixed to meet the invaders at the water’s edge, and dispute every inch of ground, trusting the event to heaven.
By the repulse of this armament the southern states obtained a respite from the calamities of war for two years and a half.1776 The defeat the British met with at Charleston,  seemed in some measure to counterbalance the unfavourable impression made, by their subsequent successes, to the northward. Throughout the whole summer, and till the close of the year, Congress had little else than the victory on Sullivan’s island, to console them under the various evacuations, retreats, and defeats, to which, as shall hereafter be related, their armies were obliged to submit in every other part of the union. The event of the expedition contributed greatly to establish the cause which it was intended to overset. In opposition to the bold assertions of some, and the desponding fears of others, experience proved that America might effectually resist a British fleet and army. Those, who from interested motives had abetted the royal government, ashamed of their opposition to the struggles of an infant people for their dearest rights, retired into obscurity.
The effects of this victory, in animating the Americans, were much greater than could be warranted, by the circumstances of the action. As it was the first attack made by the British navy, its unsuccessful issue inspired a confidence which a more exact knowledge of military calculations would have corrected. The circumstance of its happening in the early part of the war, and in one of the weaker provinces, were happily instrumental in dispelling the gloom which overshadowed the minds of many of the colonists, on hearing of the powerful fleets and numerous armies which were coming against them.
The command of the force which was designed to operate against New-York in this campaign, was given to admiral lord Howe, and his brother Sir William, officers who, as well from their personal characters, as the known bravery of their family, stood high in the confidence of the British nation. To this service was allotted a very powerful army, consisting of about 30,000 men. This force was far superior to any thing that America had heretofore seen. The troops were amply provided with artillery, military stores, and warlike materials of every kind, and were supported by a numerous fleet. The admiral and general, in addition to their military powers, were appointed commissioners for restoring peace to the colonies.
1776 General Howe having in vain waited two months at Halifax for his brother, and the expected re-inforcements from England, impatient of farther delays, sailed from that harbour, with the force which he had previously commanded in Boston,Jun. 10 and directing his course towards New-York, arrived in the latter end of June, off Sandy-Hook. Admiral lord Howe, with part of the re-inforcement from England, arrived at Halifax, soon after his brother’s departure.Jun. 12 Without dropping anchor he followed, and soon after joined him near Staten-Island. The British general, on his approach, found every part of New-York island, and the most exposed parts of Long-Island fortified and well defended by artillery. About fifty British transports anchored near Staten-Island, which had not been so much the object of attention. The inhabitants thereof, either from fear, policy, or affection, expressed great joy on the arrival of the royal forces. General Howe was there met by Tryon, late governor of the province, and by several of the loyalists, who had taken refuge with him in an armed vessel. He was also joined by about sixty persons from New-Jersey, and 200 of the inhabitants of Staten-Island were embodied, as a royal militia. From these appearances, great hopes were indulged that as soon as the army was in a condition to penetrate into the country, and protect the loyalists, such numbers would flock to their standard as would facilitate the attainment of the objects of the campaign.
On the fourth day after the British transports appeared off Sandy-Hook. Congress, though fully informed of the numbers and appointment of the force about to be employed against the colonies, ratified their famous declaration of independence. This was publicly read to the American army, and received by them with unfeigned acclamations of joy. Though it was well known, that Great-Britain had employed a force of 55,000 men, to war upon the new-formed states, and that the continental army was not near equal to half that number, and only engaged for a few months, and that Congress was without any assurance of foreign aid, yet both the American  officers and privates gave every evidence1776 of their hearty approbation of the decree which severed the colonies from Great-Britain, and submitted to the decision of the sword, whether they should be free states, or conquered provinces. Now, said they, “we know the ground on which we stand. Now we are a nation. No more shall the opprobrious term of rebel, with any appearance of justice, be applied to us. Should the fortune of war throw us into the hands of our enemies, we may expect the treatment of prisoners, and not the punishment of rebels. The prize for which we contend is of such magnitude that we may freely risque our lives to obtain it.”
It had early occurred to general Washington, that the possession of New-York, would be with the British a favourite object. Its central situation and contiguity to the ocean, enabled them to carry with facility the war to any part of the sea coast. The possession of it was rendered still more valuable by the ease with which it could be maintained. Surrounded on all sides by water, it was defensible by a small number of British ships, against adversaries whose whole navy consisted only of a few frigates. Hudson’s river, being navigable for ships of the largest size to a great distance, afforded an opportunity of severing the eastern from the more southern states, and of preventing almost any communication between them.
From these well known advantages, it was presumed by the Americans, that the British would make great exertions to effect the reduction of New-York. General Lee, while the British were yet in possession of the capital of Massachusetts had been detached from Cambridge, to put Long-Island and New-York into a posture of defence. As the departure of the British from Boston became more certain, the probability of their instantly going to New-York, increased the necessity of collecting a force for its safety.March 13 It had been therefore agreed in a council of war, that five regiments, together with a rifle battalion should march without delay to New-York, and that the states of New-York and New-Jersey should be requested to furnish the former two thousand, and the  latter one thousand men for its immediate defence.1776 General Washington soon followed, and early in April fixed his head quarters in that city. A new distribution of the American army took place. Part was left in Massachusetts. Between two and three thousand were ordered to Canada: But the greater part rendezvoused at New-York.
Experience had taught the Americans the difficulty of attacking an army, after it had effected a lodgment. They therefore made strenuous exertions to prevent the British from enjoying the advantages in New-York, which had resulted from their having been permitted to land and fortify themselves in Boston. The sudden commencement of hostilities in Massachusetts, together with the previous undisturbed landing of the royal army, allowed no time for deliberating on a system of war. A change of circumstances indicated the propriety of fixing on a plan for conducting the defence of the new formed states. On this occasion general Washington, after much thought, determined on a war of posts. This mode of conducting military operations gave confidence to the Americans, and besides, it both retarded and alarmed their adversaries. The soldiers in the American army were new levies, and had not yet learned to stand uncovered, before the instruments of death. Habituating them to the sound of fire arms, while they were sheltered from danger, was one step towards inspiring them with a portion of mechanical courage. The British remembered Bunker’s-hill, and had no small reverence for even slight fortifications, when defended by freemen. From views of this kind, works were erected in and about New-York, on Long Island, and the heights of Haerlem. These, besides batteries, were field redoubts, formed of earth with a parapet and ditch. The former were sometimes fraised, and the latter palisadoed, but they were in no instance formed to sustain a siege. Slight as they were, the campaign was nearly wasted away before they were so far reduced, as to permit the royal army to penetrate into the country.
1776 The war having taken a more important turn than in the preceding year had been foreseen, Congress at the opening of the campaign, found themselves distitute of a force sufficient for their defence. They therefore in June determined on a plan to reinforce their continental army by bringing into the field, a new species of troops, that would be more permanent than the common militia, and yet more easily raised than regulars. With this view they instituted a flying camp, to consist of an intermediate corps, between regular soldiers and militia.June 3 Ten thousand men were called for from the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, to be in constant service to the first day of the ensuing December. Congress at the same time called for 13,800 of the common militia from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, and New-Jersey. The men for forming the flying camp were generally procured, but there were great deficiencies of the militia, and many of those who obeyed their country’s call, so far as to turn out, manifested a reluctance to submit to the necessary discipline of camps.
The difficulty of providing the troops with arms while before Boston, was exceeded by the superior difficulty of supplying them, in their new position. By the returns of the garrison at fort Montgomery, in the Highlands in April, it appeared that there were 208 privates, and only forty one guns fit for use. In the garrison at fort Constitution, there were 136 men, and only 68 guns fit for use. Flints were also much wanted. Lead would have been equally deficient, had not a supply for the musquetry been obtained by stripping dwelling houses.
The uncertainty of the place, where the British would commence their operations, added much to the imbarrassment of general Washington. Not only each colony, but each seaport town, supposed itself to be the object of the British, and was ardent in its supplications, to the commander in chief for his puculiar attention. The people of Massachusetts were strongly impressed with an idea, that the evacuation of Boston was only a feint, and that the British army would soon return.1776 They were for that reason very desirous, that the continental troops should not be withdrawn  from their state. The inhabitants of Rhode-Island urged in a long petition, that their maritime situation exposed them to uncommon danger, while their great exertions in fitting out armed vessels, had deprived them of many of their citizens. They therefore prayed for a body of continental soldiers, to be stationed for their constant and peculiar defence. So various were the applications for troops, so numerous the calls for arms, that a decided conduct became necessary to prevent the feeble American force, and the deficient stock of public arms from being divided and subdivided, so as to be unequal to the proper defence of any one place.
In this crisis of particular danger, the people of New-York acted with spirit. Though they knew they were to receive the first impression of the British army, yet their convention resolved, “that all persons residing within the state of New-York, and claiming protection from its laws, owed it allegiance, and that any person owing it allegiance and levying war against the state, or being an adherent to the king of Great-Britain, should be deemed guilty of treason and suffer death.” They also resolved [“]that one fourth of the militia of West-Chester, Dutchess and Orange counties, should be forthwith drawn out for the defence of the liberties, property, wives and children, of the good people of the state, to be continued in service till the last day of December,” and, “that as the inhabitants of King’s county, had determined not to oppose the enemy, a committee should be appointed to enquire into the authenticity of these reports, and to disarm and secure the disaffected. To remove or destroy the stock of grain, and if necessary to lay the whole country waste.”
The two royal commissioners, admiral and general Howe, thought proper, before they commenced their military operations, to try what might be done in their civil capacity, towards effecting a re-union between Great-Britain and the colonies. It was one of the first acts of lord Howe, to send on shore a circular letter to several of the royal governors in America, informing them of the late act of parliament,1776 “for restoring peace to the colonies,  and granting pardon to such as should deserve mercy,” and desiring them to publish a declaration which accompanied the same. In this he informed the colonists of the power with which his brother and he were intrusted “of granting general or particular pardons to all those who though they had deviated from their allegiance, were willing to return to their duty,” and of declaring “any colony, province, county or town, port, district or place to be at the peace of his majesty.” Congress, impressed with a belief, that the proposals of the commissioners, instead of disuniting the people, would have a contrary effect, ordered them to be speedily published in the several American news-papers. Had a redress of grievances been at this late hour offered, though the honour of the states was involved in supporting their late declaration of independence, yet the love of peace, and the bias of great numbers to their Parent State, would in all probability have made a powerful party for rescinding the act of separation, and for re-uniting with Great-Britain. But when it appeared that the power of the royal commissioners was little more than to grant pardons, Congress appealed to the good sense of the people, for the necessity of adhering to the act of independence. The resolution for publishing the circular letter, and the declaration of the royal commissioners, assigned as a reason thereof,
that the good people of the United States may be informed of what nature are the commissioners, and what the terms, with expectation of which the insidious court of Great-Britain had endeavoured to amuse and disarm them, and that the few who still remain suspended by a hope, founded either in the justice or moderation of their late king, may now at length be convinced that the valour alone of their country is to save its liberties.
About the same time flags were sent ashore by lord Howe, with a letter directed to George Washington, Esq. which he refused to receive as not being addressed to him with the title due to his rank.1776 In his letter to Congress on this subject, he wrote as follows, “I would not on any occasion sacrifice essentials to punctilio, but in this instance I deemed it a duty to my country and appointment, to insist  on that respect, which in any other than a public view, I would willingly have waved. “Congress applauded his conduct in a public resolution, and at the same time directed [“]that no letter or message should be received on any occasion whatever, from the enemy, by the commander in chief, or others the commanders of the American army, but such as were directed to them in the characters they severally sustained.”
Some time after, adjutant general Patterson was sent to New-York, by general Howe, with a letter addressed to George Washington, &c. &c. &c. On an interview the adjutant general, after expressing his high esteem for the person and character of the American general, and declaring, that it was not intended to derogate from the respect due to his rank, expressed his hopes, that the et ceteras would remove the impediments to their correspondence. General Washington replied, “That a letter directed to any person in a public character, should have some description of it, otherwise it would appear a mere private letter. That it was true the et ceteras implied every thing, but they also implied any thing, and that he should therefore decline the receiving any letter directed to him as a private person, when it related to his public station.[”] A long conference ensued, in which the adjutant general observed, that “the commissioners were armed with great powers, and would be very happy in effecting an accommodation.” He received for answer, “that from what appeared, their powers were only to grant pardon, that they who had committed no fault, wanted no pardon.” Soon after this interview, a letter from Howe, respecting prisoners, which was properly addressed to Washington was received.
While the British, by their manifestoes and declarations, were endeavouring to separate those who preferred a reconciliation with Great-Britain from those who were the friends of independence, Congress, by a similiar policy, was attempting to detach the foreigners, who had come with the royal troops from the service of his Britannic majesty. Before hostilities had commenced, the following resolution was adopted and circulated among those  on whom it was intended to operate.
August 14Resolved, that these states will receive all such foreigners who shall leave the armies of his Britannic majesty in America, and shall chuse to become members of any of these states, and they shall be protected in the free exercise of their respective religions, and be invested with the rights, privileges and immunities of natives, as established by the laws of these states, and moreover, that this congress will provide for every such person, fifty acres of unappropriated lands in some of these states, to be held by him and his heirs, as absolute property.
The numbers which were prepared to oppose the British, when they should disembark, made them for some time cautious of proceeding to their projected land operations, but the superiority of their navy enabled them to go by water, whithersoever they pleased.
July 12A British forty gun ship, with some smaller vessels, sailed up North-River, without receiving any damage of consequence, though fired upon from the batteries of New-York, Paules-Hook, Red-Bank, and Governor’s Island. An attempt was made, not long after, with two fire ships, to destroy the British vessels in the North-River, but without effecting any thing more than the burning of a tender. They were also attacked with row gallies, but to little purpose. After some time the Phoenix and Rose men of war, came down the river, and joined the fleet. Every effort of the Americans from their batteries on land, as well as their exertions on the water, proved ineffectual. The British ships passed with less loss than was generally expected, but nevertheless the damage they received was such as deterred them from frequently repeating the experiment. In two or three instances they ascended the North-River, and in one or two the East-River, but those which sailed up the former, speedily returned, and by their return, a free communication was opened through the upper part of the state.
The American army in and near New-York amounted to 17,225 men. These were mostly new troops, and were divided in many small and unconnected posts, some of which were fifteen miles removed from others.1776 The  British force before New-York was increasing by frequent successive arrivals from Halifax, South-Carolina, Florida, the West-Indies and Europe. But so many unforeseen delays had taken place, that the month of August was far advanced, before they were in a condition to open the campaign.
When all things were ready, the British commanders resolved to make their first attempt on Long-Island. This was preferred to New-York, as it abounded with those supplies which their forces required.
The British landed without opposition, between two small towns, Utrecht and Gravesend. The American works protected a small peninsula having Wallabout-Bay to the left, and stretching over to Red-Hook on the right, and the East-River being in their rear. General Sullivan, with a strong force, was encamped within these works at Brooklyne. From the east-side of the narrows runs a ridge of hills covered with thick wood, about five or six miles in length, which terminates near Jamaica. There were three passes through these hills, one near the narrows, a second on the Flatbush road, and a third on the Bedford road, and they are all defensible. These were the only roads which could be passed from the southside of the hills to the American lines, except a road which led round the easterly end of the hills to Jamaica. The Americans had 800 men on each of these roads, and colonel Miles was placed with his battalion of riflemen, to guard the road from the south of the hills to Jamaica, and to watch the motions of the British.
August 26General de Heister, with his Hessians, took post at Flatbush, in the evening. In the following night the greater part of the British army, commanded by general Clinton, marched to gain the road leading round the easterly end of the hills to Jamaica, and to turn the left of the Americans. He arrived about two hours before day, within half a mile of this road. One of his parties fell in with a patrol of American officers, and took them all prisoners, which prevented the early transmission of intelligence.1776 Upon the first appearance of day general Clinton advanced, and took possession of the heights over  which the road passed. General Grant, with the left wing, advanced along the coast by the west road, near the narrows; but this was intended chiefly as a feint.
The guard which was stationed at this road, fled without making any resistance. A few of them were afterwards rallied, and lord Stirling advanced with 1500 men, and took possession of a hill, about two miles from the American camp, and in front of general Grant.
Aug. 27An attack was made very early in the morning by the Hessians from Flatbush, under general de Heister, and by general Grant on the coast, and was well supported for a considerable time by both sides. The Americans who opposed general de Heister were first informed of the approach of general Clinton, who had come round on their left. They immediately began to retreat to their camp, but were intercepted by the right wing under general Clinton, who got into the rear of their left, and attacked them with his light infantry and dragoons, while returning to their lines. They were driven back till they were met by the Hessians. They were thus alternately chased and intercepted, between general de Heister and general Clinton. Some of their regiments nevertheless found their way to the camp. The Americans under lord Stirling, consisting of colonel Miles’ two battalions, colonel Atlee’s, colonel Smallwood’s, and colonel Hatche’s, regiments, who were engaged with general Grant, fought with great resolution for about six hours. They were uninformed of the movements made by general Clinton, till some of the troops under his command, had traversed the whole extent of country in their rear. Their retreat was thus intercepted, but several notwithstanding, broke through and got into the woods. Many threw themselves into the marsh, some were drowned, and others perished in the mud, but a considerable number escaped by this way to their lines.
The king’s troops displayed great valour throughout the whole day. The variety of the ground occasioned a succession of small engagements, pursuits and slaughter, which lasted for many hours.1776 British discipline in every instance, triumphed over the native valour of raw troops,  who had never been in action, and whose officers were unacquainted with the stratagems of war.
The loss of the British and Hessians was about 450. The killed, wounded and prisoners of the Americans, including those who were drowned or perished in the woods or mud, considerably exceeded a thousand. Among the prisoners of the latter were two of their general officers, Sullivan and lord Stirling. Three Colonels, 4 lieutenant colonels, 3 majors, 18 captains, 43 lieutenants, and 11 ensigns. Smallwood’s regiment, the officers of which were young men of the best families in the state of Maryland, sustained a loss of 259 men. The British after their victory were so impetuous, that it was with difficulty, they could be restrained from attacking the American lines.
In the time of, and subsequent to the engagement, General Washington drew over to Long-Island, the greatest part of his army. After he had collected his principal force there, it was his wish and hope, that Sir William Howe, would attempt to storm the works on the island. These though insufficient to stand a regular siege, were strong enough to resist a coup de main. The rememberance of Bunker’s-hill, and a desire to spare his men, restrained the British general from making an assault. On the contrary he made demonstrations of proceeding by siege, and broke ground within three hundred yards to the left at Putnam’s redoubt.Aug. 30 Though general Washington wished for an assault, yet being certain that his works would be untenable, when the British batteries should be fully opened, he called a council of war, to consult on the measures proper to be taken. It was then determined that the objects in view were in no degree proportioned to the dangers to which, by a continuation on the island, they would be exposed. Conformably to this opinion, dispositions were made for an immediate retreat. This commenced soon after it was dark from two points, the upper and lower ferries, on East river. General M‘Dougal, regulated the embarkation at one, and colonel Knox at the other.1776 The intention of evacuating the island, had been so prudently concealed  from the Americans, that they knew not whither they were going, but supposed to attack the enemy. The field artillery, tents, baggage, and about 9000 men were conveyed to the city of New-York over East River, more than a mile wide, in less than 13 hours, and without the knowledge of the British, though not six hundred yards distant. Providence, in a remarkable manner favoured the retreating army. For some time after the Americans began to cross the state of the tide, and a strong north-east wind made it impossible for them to make use of their sail boats, and their whole number of row boats was insufficient for completing the business, in the course of the night. But about eleven o’clock, the wind died away, and soon after sprung up at south-east, and blew fresh, which rendered the sail boats of use, and at the same time made the passage from the island to the city, direct, easy and expeditious. Towards morning an extreme thick fog came up, which hovered over Long-Island, and by concealing the Americans, enabled them to complete their retreat without interruption, though the day had begun to dawn some time before it was finished. By a mistake in the transmission of orders, the American lines were evacuated for about three quarters of an hour, before the last embarkation took place, but the British though so near, that their working parties could be distinctly heard, being enveloped in the fog knew nothing of the matter. The lines were repossessed and held till six o’clock in the morning, when every thing except some heavy cannon was removed. General Mifflin, who commanded the rear guard left the lines, and under the cover of the fog got off safe. In about half an hour the fog cleared away, and the British entered the works which had been just relinquished. Had the wind not shifted, the half of the American army could not have crossed, and even as it was, if the fog had not concealed their rear, it must have been discovered, and could hardly have escaped. General Sullivan, who was taken prisoner on Long-Island, was immediately sent on parole, with the following verbal message from lord Howe to Congress,
1776that though he could not at present treat  with them in that character, yet he was very desirous of having a conference with some of the members, whom he would consider as private gentlemen; that he with his brother the general, had full powers to compromise the dispute between Great-Britain and America, upon terms advantageous to both—that he wished a compact might be settled, at a time when no decisive blow was struck, and neither party could say it was compelled to enter into such agreement. That were they disposed to treat, many things which they had not yet asked, might and ought to be granted, and that if upon conference they found any probable ground of accommodation, the authority of Congress would be afterwards acknowledged to render the treaty complete.
Three days after this message was received, general Sullivan was requested to inform lord Howe,
that Congress being the representatives of the free and independent states of America, they cannot with propriety send any of their members to confer with his lordship in their private characters, but that ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body, to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons authorised by Congress, for that purpose, on behalf of America, and what that authority is; and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same.
They elected Dr. Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge their committee, for this purpose. In a few days they met lord Howe on Staten-Island, and were received with great politeness. On their return they made a report of their conference, which they summed up by saying,
It did not appear to your committee that his lordship’s commission contained any other authority than that expressed in the act of parliament—namely, that of granting pardons, with such exceptions as the commissioners shall think proper to make, and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be in the king’s peace, on submission: For as to the power of enquiring into the state of America, which his lordship mentioned to us, and of conferring and consulting with any persons the commissioners might think proper,1776 and representing the result  of such conversation to the ministry, who, provided the colonies would subject themselves, might after all, or might not, at their pleasure, make any alterations in the former instructions to governors, or propose in parliament, any amendment of the acts complained of, we apprehended any expectation from the effect of such a power, would have been too uncertain and precarious, to be relied on by America, had she still continued in her state of dependence.
Lord Howe, had ended the conference on his part, by expressing his regard for America, and the extreme pain he would suffer in being obliged to distress those whom he so much regarded. Dr. Franklin, thanked him for his regards, and assured him, [“]that the Americans would shew their gratitude, by endeavouring to lessen as much as possible, all pain he might feel on their account, by exerting their utmost abilities, in taking good care of themselves.”
The committee in every respect maintained the dignity of Congress. Their conduct and sentiments were such as became their character. The friends to independence rejoiced that nothing resulted from this interview, that might disunite the people. Congress, trusting to the good sense of their countrymen, ordered the whole to be printed for their information. All the states would have then rejoiced at less beneficial terms than they obtained about seven years later. But Great-Britain counted on the certainty of their absolute conquest, or unconditional submission. Her offers therefore comported so little with the feelings of America, that they neither caused demur nor disunion, among the new formed states.
The unsuccessful termination of the action on the 27th, led to consequences more seriously alarming to the Americans, than the loss of their men. Their army was universally dispirited. The militia ran off by companies. Their example infected the regular regiments. The loose footing on which the militia came to camp, made it hazardous to exercise over them that discipline, without which, an army is a mob. To restrain one part of an army, while another claimed and exercised the right of doing as they pleased, was no less impracticable than absurd.
1776 A council of war, recommended to act on the defensive, and not to risque the army for the sake of New-York.Sept. 7 To retreat, subjected the commander in chief to reflections painful to bear, and yet impolitic to refute. To stand his ground, and by suffering himself to be surrounded, to hazard the fate of America on one decisive engagement, was contrary to every rational plan of defending the wide extended states committed to his care. A middle line between abandoning and defending was therefore for a short time adopted. The public stores were moved to Dobbs’ ferry, about 26 miles from New-York. 12,000 men were ordered to the northern extremity of New-York island, and 4500 to remain for the defence of the city, while the remainder occupied the intermediate space, with orders, either to support the city or Kingsbridge, as exigencies might require. Before the British landed, it was impossible to tell what place would be first attacked. This made it necessary to erect works for the defence of a variety of places, as well as of New-York. Though every thing was abandoned when the crisis came that either the city must be relinquished, or the army risqued for its defence, yet from the delays, occasioned by the redoubts and other works, which had been erected on the idea of making the defence of the states a war of posts, a whole campaign was lost to the British, and saved to the Americans. The year began with hopes, that Great-Britain would recede from her demands, and therefore every plan of defence was on a temporary system. The declaration of independence, which the violence of Great-Britain forced the colonies to adopt in July, though neither foreseen nor intended at the commencement of the year, pointed out the necessity of organising an army, on new terms, correspondent to the enlarged objects for which they had resolved to contend.Sep. 16 Congress accordingly determined to raise 88 battalions, to serve during the war. Under these circumstances to wear away the campaign, with as little misfortune as possible, and thereby to gain time for raising a permanent army against the next year, was to the Americans a matter of the last importance.1776 Though the commander in chief abandoned those works,  which had engrossed much time and attention yet the advantage resulting from the delays they occasioned, far overbalanced the expence incurred by their erection.
The same shortsighted politicians, who had before censured general Washington, for his cautious conduct, in not storming the British lines at Boston, renewed their clamors against him, for adopting this evacuating and retreating system. Supported by a consciousness of his own integrity, and by a full conviction that these measures were best calculated for securing the independence of America, he for the good of his country, voluntarily subjected his fame to be overshadowed by a temporary cloud.
Sep. 15General Howe having prepared every thing for a descent on New-York island, began to land his men under cover of ships of war, between Kepps’-bay and Turtle bay. A breast work had been erected in the vicinity, and a party stationed in it to oppose the British, in case of their attempting to land. But on the first appearance of danger, they ran off in confusion. The commander in chief came up, and in vain attempted to rally them. Though the British in sight, did not exceed sixty, he could not either by example, intreaty, or authority, prevail on a superior force to stand their ground, and face that inconsiderable number. Such dastardly conduct raised a tempest in the usually tranquil mind of general Washington. Having embarked in the American cause from the purest principles, he viewed with infinite concern this shameful behaviour, as threatening ruin to his country. He recollected the many declarations of Congress, of the army, and of the inhabitants, preferring liberty to life, and death to dishonour, and contrasted them with their present scandalous flight. His soul was harrowed up with apprehensions that his country would be conquered—her army disgraced, and her liberties destroyed. He anticipated, in imagination, that the Americans would appear to posterity in the light of high sounding boasters, who blustered when danger was at a distance, but shrunk at the shadow of opposition. Extensive confiscations and numerous attainders presented, themselves in full view to his agitated mind.1776 He saw, in imagination, new formed states, with  the means of defence in their hands, and the glorious prospects of liberty before them, levelled to the dust, and such constitutions imposed on them as were likely to crush the vigour of the human mind, while the unsuccessful issue of the present struggle would for ages to come, deter posterity from the bold design of asserting their rights. Impressed with these ideas he hazarded his person for some considerable time in rear of his own men, and in front of the enemy with his horse’s head towards the latter, as if in expectation, that by an honourable death he might escape the infamy he dreaded from the dastardly conduct of troops on whom he could place no dependance. His aids and the confidential friends around his person, by indirect violence, compelled him to retire. In consequence of their address and importunity, a life was saved for public service, which otherwise from a sense of honour, and a gust of passion, seemed to be devoted to almost certain destruction.
On the day after this shameful flight of part of the American army, a skirmish took place between two battalions of light infantry and highlanders commanded by brigadier Leslie, and some detachments from the American army, under the command of lieutenant colonel Knowlton of Connecticut, and major Leitch of Virginia. The colonel was killed and the major badly wounded. Their men behaved with great bravery, and fairly beat their adversaries from the field. Most of these were the same men, who had disgraced themselves the day before, by running away[;] struck with a sense of shame for their late misbehaviour, they had offered themselves as volunteers, and requested the commander in chief to give them an opportunity to retrieve their honour. Their good conduct, at this second engagement, proved an antidote to the poison of their example on the preceding day. It demonstrated that the Americans only wanted resolution and good officers to be on a footing with the British, and inspired them with hopes that a little more experience would enable them to assume, not only the name and garb, but the spirit and firmness of soldiers.
The Americans having evacuated the city of New-York,  a brigade of the British army marched into it.1776 They had been but a few days in possession, when a dreadful fire, most probably occasioned by the disorderly conduct of some British sailors, who had been permitted to regale themselves on shore, broke out, and consumed about a thousand houses. Dry weather, and a brisk wind, spread the flames to such an extent, that had it not been for great exertions of the troops and sailors, the whole city must have shared the same fate. After the Americans had evacuated New-York, they retired to the north end of the island, on which that city is erected. In about four weeks general Howe began to execute a plan for cutting off general Washington’s communication with the eastern states, and enclosing him so as to compel a general engagement on the island. With this view, the greater part of the royal army passed through Hellgate, entered the sound, and landed on Frog’s neck, in West-Chester county.Oct. 12 Two days after they made this movement, general Lee arrived from his late successful command to the southward.Oct. 14 He found that there was a prevailing disposition among the officers in the American army for remaining on New-York island.Oct. 16 A council of war was called, in which general Lee gave such convincing reasons for quitting it, that they resolved immediately to withdraw the bulk of the army. He also pressed the expediency of evacuating Fort Washington, but in this he was opposed by general Greene, who argued that the possession of that post would divert a large body of the enemy, from joining their main force, and in conjunction with Fort Lee, would be of great use in covering the transportation of provisions and stores up the North-River, for the service of the American troops. He added farther, that the garrison could be brought off at any time, by boats from the Jersey side of the river. His opinion prevailed. Though the system of evacuating and retreating was in general adopted, an exception was made in favour of Fort Washington, and near 3000 men were assigned for its defence.
Oct. 181776The royal army, after a halt of six days, at Frog’s neck, advanced near to New-Rochelle. On their march they  sustained a considerable loss by a party of Americans, whom general Lee posted behind a wall.Oct. 21 After three days, general Howe moved the right and centre of his army two miles to the northward of New Rochelle, on the road to the White Plains, and there he received a large reinforcement.
General Washington, while retreating from New-York island, was careful to make a front towards the British, from East-Chester, almost to White Plains, in order to secure the march of those who were behind, and to defend the removal of the sick, the cannon and stores of his army. In this manner his troops made a line of small detached and intrenched camps, on the several heights and strong grounds, from Valentine’s hill, on the right, to the vicinity of the White Plains, on the left.
Oct. 25The royal army moved in two columns, and took a position with the Brunx in front, upon which the Americans assembled their main force at White Plains, behind entrenchments. A general action was hourly expected, and a considerable one took place, in which several hundreds fell.Oct. 28 The Americans were commanded by general M‘Dougal, and the British by general Leslie. While they were engaged, the American baggage was moved off, in full view of the British army. Soon after this, general Washington changed his front, his left wing stood fast, and his right fell back to some hills. In this position, which was an admirable one in a military point of view, he both desired and expected an action; but general Howe declined it, and drew off his forces towards Dobbs’ ferry. The Americans afterwards retired to North-Castle.
General Washington, with part of his army, crossed the North-River, and took post in the neighborhood of Fort-Lee. A force of about 7500 men was left at North-Castle, under general Lee.
Nov. 12The Americans having retired, Sir William Howe determined to improve the opportunity of their absence, for the reduction of Fort Washington. This, the only post the Americans then held on New-York island, was under the command of colonel Magaw. The royal army made four attacks upon it. The first on the north  side, was led on by general Kniphausen. The second on the east by general Mathews, supported by lord Cornwallis.Nov. 16 The third was under the direction of lieutenant colonel Stirling, and the fourth was commanded by lord Piercy. The troops under Kniphausen, when advancing to the fort, had to pass through a thick wood, which was occupied by colonel Rawling’s regiment of riflemen, and suffered very much from their well directed fire. During this attack, a body of the British light infantry advanced against a party of the Americans, who were annoying them from behind rocks and trees, and obliged them to disperse. Lord Piercy, carried an advance work on his side, and lieutenant colonel Stirling, forced his way up a steep height, and took 170 prisoners. Their outworks being carried, the Americans left their lines, and crouded into the fort. Colonel Rahl, who led the right column of Kniphausen’s attack, pushed forward, and lodged his column within a hundred yards of the fort, and was there soon joined by the left column—the garrison surrendered on terms of capitulation, by which the men were to be considered as prisoners of war, and the officers to keep their baggage and side arms. The number of prisoners amounted to 2700. The loss of the British, inclusive of killed and wounded, was about 1200. Shortly after Fort Washington had surrendered.Nov. 18 Lord Cornwallis, with a considerable force passed over to attack Fort Lee, on the opposite Jersey shore.
The garrison was saved by an immediate evacuation, but at the expense of their artillery and stores. General Washington, about this time retreated to New-Ark. Having abundant reason from the posture of affairs, to count on the necessity of a farther retreat he asked colonel Reed—“Should we retreat to the back parts of Pennsylvania, will the Pennsylvanians support us?” The colonel replied, if the lower counties are subdued and give up, the back counties will do the same. The general replied, [“]we must retire to Augusta county, in Virginia. Numbers will be obliged to repair to us for safety, and we must try what we can do in carrying on a predatory war, and if overpowered, we must cross the Allegany mountains.”
1776 While a tide of success, was flowing in upon general Howe, he and his brother, as royal commissioners, issued a proclamation, in which they commanded, “All persons assembled in arms against his majesty’s government to disband, and all general or provincial congresses to desist from their treasonable actings, and to relinquish their usurped power.” They also declared “that every person who within sixty days should appear before the governor, lieutenant governor, or commander in chief of any of his majesty’s colonies, or before the general, or commanding officer of his majesty’s forces, and claim the benefit of the proclamation; and testify his obedience to the laws, by subscribing a certain declaration, should obtain a full and free pardon of all treasons by him committed, and of all forfeitures, and penalties for the same.” Many who had been in office, and taken an active part in support of the new government, accepted of these offers, and made their peace by submission. Some who had been the greatest blusterers in favour of independence, veered round to the strongest side. Men of fortune generally gave way. The few who stood firm, were mostly to be found in the middle ranks of the people.
The term of time for which the American soldiers had engaged to serve, ended in November or December, with no other exception, than that of two companies of artillery, belonging to the state of New-York, which were engaged for the war. The army had been organized at the close of the preceding year, on the fallacious idea, that an accommodation would take place, within a twelve month. Even the flying camp, though instituted after the prospect of that event had vanished, was enlisted only till the first of December, from a presumption that the campaign would terminate by that time.
When it was expected that the conquerors would retire to winter quarters, they commenced a new plan of operations more alarming, than all their previous conquests. The reduction of Fort Washington, the evacuation of Fort Lee, and the diminution of the American army, by the departure of those whose time of service had expired, encouraged the British,1776 notwithstanding the  severity of the winter, and the badness of the roads, to pursue the remaining inconsiderable continental force, with the prospect of annihilating it. By this turn of affairs, the interior country was surprised into confusion, and found an enemy within its bowels, without a sufficient army to oppose it. To retreat, was the only expedient left. This having commenced, lord Cornwallis followed, and was close in the rear of general Washington, as he retreated successively to New-Ark, to Brunswick, to Princeton, to Trenton, and to the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. The pursuit was urged with so much rapidity, that the rear of the one army, pulling down bridges was often within sight, and shot off the van of the other, building them up.
This retreat into, and through New-Jersey, was attended with almost every circumstance that could occasion embarrassment, and depression of spirits. It commenced in a few days, after the Americans had lost 2700 men in Fort Washington. In fourteen days after that event, the whole flying camp claimed their discharge. This was followed by the almost daily departure of others, whose engagements terminated nearly about the same time. A farther disappointment happened to general Washington at this time. Gates had been ordered by Congress to send two regiments from Ticonderoga, to reinforce his army. Two Jersey regiments were put under the command of general St. Clair, and forwarded in obedience to this order, but the period for which they were enlisted was expired, and the moment they entered their own state, they went off to a man. A few officers without a single private, were all that general St. Clair brought off these two regiments, to the aid of the retreating American army. The few who remained with general Washington were in a most forlorn condition. They consisted mostly of the troops which had garrisoned Fort Lee, and had been compelled to abandon that post so suddenly, that they commenced their retreat without tents or blankets, and without any utensils to dress their provisions. In this situation they performed a march of about ninety miles, and had the address to prolong it to  the space of nineteen days.1776 As the retreating Americans marched through the country, scarcely one of the inhabitants joined them, while numbers were daily flocking to the royal army, to make their peace and obtain protection. They saw on the one side a numerous well appointed and full clad army, dazzling their eyes with the elegance of uniformity; on the other a few poor fellows, who from their shabby cloathing were called ragamuffins, fleeing for their safety. Not only the common people changed sides in this gloomy state of public affairs, but some of the leading men in New-Jersey and Pennsylvania adopted the same expedient. Among these Mr. Galloway, and the family of the Allens of Philadelphia, were most distinguished. The former, and one of the latter, had been members of Congress. In this hour of adversity they came within the British lines, and surrendered themselves to the conquerors, alledging in justification of their conduct, that though they had joined with their countrymen, in seeking for a redress of grievances in a constitutional way, they had never approved of the measures lately adopted, and were in particular, at all times, averse to independence.
On the day general Washington retreated over the Delaware, the British took possession of Rhode-Island without any loss, and at the same time blocked up commodore Hopkins’ squadron, and a number of privateers at Providence.
In this period, when the American army was relinquishing its general—the people giving up the cause, some of their leaders going over to the enemy, and the British commanders succeeding in every enterprise, general Lee was taken prisoner at Baskenridge, by lieutenant colonel Harcourt. This caused a depression of spirits among the Americans, far exceeding any real injury done to their essential interests. He had been repeatedly ordered to come forward with his division and join general Washington, but these orders were not obeyed.1776 This circumstance, and the dangerous crisis of public affairs, together with his being alone at some distance, from the troops which he commanded, begat suspicions that he chose to  fall into the hands of the British. Though these apprehensions were without foundation, they produced the same extensive mischief, as if they had been realities. The Americans had reposed extravagant confidence in his military talents, and experience of regular European war. Merely to have lost such an idol of the states at any time, would have been distressful, but losing him under circumstances, which favoured an opinion that, despairing of the American cause, he chose to be taken a prisoner, was to many an extinguishment of every hope.
By the advance of the British into New-Jersey, the neighbourhood of Philadelphia became the seat of war. This prevented that undisturbed attention to public business which the deliberations of Congress required.Dec. 12 20 They therefore adjourned themselves to meet in eight days at Baltimore, resolving at the same time, “that general Washington should be possessed of full powers to order and direct all things relative to the department, and the operations of war.”
The activity of the British in the close of the campaign, seemed in some measure to compensate for their tardiness, in the beginning of it.
Hitherto they had succeeded in every scheme. They marched up and down the Jersey side of the river Delaware, and through the country, without any molestation. All opposition to the re-establishment of royal government, seemed to be on the point of expiring. The Americans had thus far acted without system, or rather feebly executed what had been tardily adopted. Though the war was changed from its first ground, a redress of grievances to a struggle for sovereignty, yet some considerable time elapsed, before arrangements, conformable to this new system were adopted, and a much longer before they were carried into execution.
With the year 1776, a retreating, half naked army, was to be dismissed, and the prospect of a new one was both distant and uncertain. The recently assumed independence of the States, was apparently on the verge of dissolution. It was supposed by many, that the record of their existence would have been no more than that
1776a fickle people, impatient of the restraints of regular government,  had in a fit of passion abolished that of Great-Britain, and established in its room free constitutions of their own, but these new establishments, from want of wisdom in their rulers, or of spirit in their people, were no sooner formed than annihilated. The leading men, in their respective governments, and the principal members of Congress, (for by this name the insurgents distinguished their supreme council) were hanged, and their estates confiscated. Washington, the gallant leader of their military establishments—worthy of a better fate—deserted by his army—abandoned by his country—rushing on the thickest battalions of the foe, provoked a friendly British bayonet to deliver him from an ignominious death.
To human wisdom it appeared probable, that such a paragraph would have closed some small section in the history of England, treating of the American troubles, but there is in human affairs an ultimate point of elevation or depression, beyond which they neither grow better nor worse, but turn back in a contrary course.
In proportion as difficulties increased, Congress redoubled their exertions to oppose them.Dec. 10 They addressed the states in animated language, calculated to remove their despondency—renew their hopes—and confirm their resolutions.
They at the same time dispatched gentlemen of character and influence, to excite the militia to take the field. General Mifflin was, on this occasion, particularly useful. He exerted his great abilities in rousing his fellow citizens, by animated and affectionate addresses, to turn out in defence of their endangered liberties.
11Congress also recommended to each of the United States “to appoint a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, to implore of Almighty God the forgiveness of their many sins, and to beg the countenance and assistance of his providence, in the prosecution of the present just and necessary war.”
In the dangerous situation to which every thing dear to the friends of independence was reduced, Congress transferred extraordinary powers to general Washington, by a resolution, expressed in the following words:
1776 The unjust, but determined purposes of the British court to enslave these free states, obvious through every delusive insinuation to the contrary,Dec. 27 having placed things in such a situation that the very existence of civil liberty now depends on the right execution of military powers, and the vigorous decisive conduct of these being impossible to distant, numerous, and deliberative bodies. This Congress, having maturely considered the present crisis; and having perfect reliance on the wisdom, vigour, and uprightness of general Washington, do hereby,
Resolve, That general Washington shall be, and he is hereby vested with full, ample, and complete powers, to raise and collect together, in the most speedy and effectual manner, from any or all of these United States, sixteen battalions of infantry, in addition to those already voted by Congress; to appoint officers for the said battalions of infantry; to raise, officer, and equip 3000 light-horse; three regiments of artillery, and a corps of engineers, and to establish their pay; to apply to any of the states for such aid of the militia as he shall judge necessary; to form such magazines of provisions, and in such places as he shall think proper; to displace and appoint all officers under the rank of brigadier general, and to fill up all vacancies in every other department in the American armies; to take, wherever he may be, whatever he may want, for the use of the army, if the inhabitants will not sell it, allowing a reasonable price for the same; to arrest and confine persons who refuse to take the continental currency, or are otherwise disaffected to the American cause; and return to the states, of which they are citizens, their names, and the nature of their offences, together with the witnesses to prove them: That the foregoing powers be vested in general Washington for and during the term of six months, from the date hereof, unless sooner determined by Congress.
In this hour of extremity, the attention of the Congress was employed, in devising plans to save the states from sinking under the heavy calamities which were bearing them down.1776 It is remarkable, that, neither in the present condition, though trying and severe, nor in any other  since the declaration of independence, was Congress influenced either by force, distress, artifice, or persuasion, to entertain the most distant idea of purchasing peace, by returning to the condition of British subjects. So low were they reduced in the latter end of 1776, that some members, distrustful of their ability to resist the power of Great-Britain, proposed to authorise their commissioners at the court of France (whose appointment shall be hereafter explained) to transfer to that country the same monopoly of their trade, which Great-Britain had hitherto enjoyed. On examination it was found, that concessions of this kind would destroy the force of many arguments heretofore used in favour of independence, and probably disunite their citizens. It was next proposed to offer a monopoly of certain enumerated articles of produce. To this the variant interests of the different states were so directly opposed, as to occasion a speedy and decided negative. Some proposed offering to France, a league offensive and defensive, in case she would heartily support American independence; but this was also rejected. The more enlightened members of Congress argued, “Though the friendship of small states might be purchased, that of France could not.” They alledged, that if she would risque a war with Great-Britain, by openly espousing their cause, it would not be so much from the prospect of direct advantages, as from a natural desire to lessen the overgrown power of a dangerous rival. It was therefore supposed, that the only inducement, likely to influence France to an interference, was an assurance that the United States were determined to persevere in refusing a return to their former allegiance. Instead of listening to the terms of the royal commissioners, or to any founded on the idea of their resuming their character of British subjects, it was therefore again resolved, to abide by their declared independence, and proffered freedom of trade to every foreign nation, trusting the event to Providence, and risquing all consequences. Copies of these resolutions were sent to the principal courts of Europe, and proper persons were appointed to solicit their friendship to the new formed states.1776 These despatches fell into the hands of the British,  and were by them published. This was the very thing wished for by Congress. They well knew, that an apprehension of their making up all differences with Great-Britain was the principal objection to the interference of foreign courts, in what was represented to be no more than a domestic quarrel. A resolution adopted in the deepest distress, and the worst of times that Congress would listen to no terms of reunion with their Parent State, convinced those, who wished for the dismemberment of the British empire, that it was sound policy to interfere, so far as would prevent the conquest of the United States.
These judicious determinations in the cabinet, were accompanied with vigorous exertions in the field. In this crisis of danger 1500 of the Pennsylvania militia, embodied to re-inforce the continental army. The merchant, the farmer, the tradesman and the labourer, cheerfully relinquished the conveniences of home, to perform the duties of private soldiers, in the severity of a winter campaign. Though most of them were accustomed to the habits of a city life, they slept in tents, barns, and sometimes in the open air, during the cold months of December and January. There were, nevertheless, only two instances of sickness, and only one of death in that large body of men in the course if six weeks. The delay so judiciously contrived on the retreat through Jersey, afforded time for these volunteer reinforcements to join general Washington. The number of troops under his command at that time, fluctuated between two and three thousand men. To turn round and face a victorious and numerous foe, with this inconsiderable force was risquing much; but the urgency of the case required that something should be attempted. The recruiting business for the proposed new continental army was at a stand, while the British were driving the Americans before them. The present regular soldiers could, as a matter of right, in less than a week claim their discharge, and scarce a single recruit offered to supply their place. Under these circumstances, the bold resolution was formed of recrossing into the state of Jersey, and attacking that part of the enemy, which was posted at Trenton.
1776 When the Americans retreated over the Delaware, the boats in the vicinity were removed out of the way of their pursuers—this arrested their progress: But the British commanders in the security of conquest cantoned their army in Burlington, Bordenton, Trenton, and other towns of New-Jersey, in daily expectation of being enabled to cross into Pennsylvania, by means of ice, which is generally formed about that time.
Of all events, none seemed to them more improbable, than that their late retreating half naked enemies, should in this extreme cold season, face about and commence offensive operations. They indulged themselves in a degree of careless inattention to the possibility of a surprise, which in the vicinity of an enemy, however contemptible, can never be justified. It has been said that colonel Rahl, the commanding officer in Trenton, being under some apprehension for that frontier post, applied to general Grant for a reinforcement, and that the general returned for answer. “Tell the colonel, he is very safe, I will undertake to keep the peace in New-Jersey with a corporal’s guard.”
In the evening of Christmas day, general Washington, made arrangements for recrossing the Delaware in three divisions; at M. Konkey’s ferry, at Trenton ferry, and at or near Bordenton. The troops which were to have crossed at the two last places, were commanded by generals Ewing, and Cadwallader, they made every exertion to get over, but the quantity of ice was so great, that they could not effect their purpose. The main body which was commanded by general Washington crossed at M. Konkey’s ferry, but the ice in the river retarded their passage so long, that it was three o’clock in the morning, before the artillery could be got over. On their landing in Jersey, they were formed into two divisions, commanded by general Sullivan, and Greene, who had under their command brigadiers, lord Stirling, Mercer and St. Clair: one of these divisions was ordered to proceed on the lower, or river road, the other on the upper or Pennington road. Col. Stark, with some light troops, was also directed to advance near to the river, and to possess himself  of that part of the town, which is beyond the bridge. The divisions having nearly the same distance to march, were ordered immediately on forcing the out guards, to push directly into Trenton, that they might charge the enemy before they had time to form. Though they marched different roads, yet they arrived at the enemy’s advanced post, within three minutes of each other. The out guards of the Hessian troops at Trenton soon fell back, but kept up a constant retreating fire. Their main body being hard pressed by the Americans, who had already got possession of half their artillery, attempted to file off by a road leading towards Princeton, but were checked by a body of troops thrown in their way. Finding they were surrounded, they laid down their arms. The number which submitted, was 23 officers, and 885 men. Between 30 and 40 of the Hessians were killed and wounded. Colonel Rahl, was among the former, and seven of his officers among the latter. Captain Washington of the Virginia troops, and five or six of the Americans were wounded. Two were killed, and two or three were frozen to death. The detachment in Trenton consisted of the regiments of Rahl, Losberg, and Kniphausen, amounting in the whole to about 1500 men, and a troop of British light horse. All these were killed or captured, except about 600, who escaped by the road leading to Bordenton.
The British had a strong battalion of light infantry at Princeton, and a force yet remaining near the Delaware, superior to the American army. General Washington, therefore in the evening of the same day, thought it most prudent to recross into Pennsylvania, with his prisoners.
The effects of this successful enterprize were speedily felt in recruiting the American army. About 1400 regular soldiers whose time of service was on the point of expiring, agreed to serve six weeks longer, on a promised gratuity of ten paper dollars to each. Men of influence were sent to different parts of the country to rouse the militia.1776 The rapine, and impolitic conduct of the British, operated more forcibly on the inhabitants, to expel them [323 (the original paging errs, skipping over 321–22)] from the state, than either patriotism or persuasion to prevent their overrunning it.
Dec. 28The Hessian prisoners taken on the 26th being secured, general Washington re-crossed the Delaware, and took possession of Trenton. The detachments which had been distributed over New-Jersey, previous to the capture of the Hessians, immediately, after that event, assembled at Princeton, and were joined by the army from Brunswick under lord Cornwallis.1777 From this position they came forward towards Trenton in great force, hoping by a vigorous onset to repair the injury their cause had sustained by the late defeat.Jan. 2d Truly delicate was the situation of the feeble American army. To retreat was to hazard the city of Philadelphia, and to destroy every ray of hope which had begun to dawn from their late success. To risque an action with a superior force in front, and a river in rear, was dangerous in the extreme. To get round the advanced party of the British, and by pushing forwards to attack in their rear, was deemed preferable to either.Jan. 2d The British on their advance from Princeton, about 4 P.M. attacked a body of Americans which were posted with four field pieces, a little to the northward of Trenton, and compelled them to retreat. The pursuing British, being checked at the bridge over Sanpink creek, which runs through that town, by some field pieces, which were posted on the opposite banks of that rivulet, fell back so far as to be out of reach of the cannon, and kindled their fires. The Americans were drawn up on the other side of the creek, and in that position remained till night, cannonading the enemy and receiving their fire. In this critical hour, two armies on which the success or failure of the American revolution, materially depended, were crouded into the small village of Trenton, and only separated by a creek in many places fordable. The British believing they had all the advantages they could wish for, and that they could use them when they pleased, discontinued all further operations, and kept themselves in readiness to make the attack next morning. Sir William Erskine is reported to have advised an immediate attack, or at least to place a strong  guard at a bridge over Sanpink creek, which lay in the route the Americans took to Princeton, giving for reason that, otherwise, Washington if a good general, would make a move to the left of the royal army, and attack the post at Princeton in their rear. The next morning presented a scene as brilliant on the one side, as it was unexpected on the other. Soon after it became dark, gen. Washington ordered all his baggage to be silently removed, and having left guards for the purpose of deception, marched with his whole force, by a circuitous route to Princeton. This manoeuvre was determined upon in a council of war, from a conviction that it would avoid the appearance of a retreat, and at the same time the hazard of an action in a bad position, and that it was the most likely way to preserve the city of Philadelphia, from falling into the hands of the British. General Washington also presumed, that from an eagerness to efface the impressions, made by the late capture of Hessians at Trenton, the British commanders had pushed forward their principal force, and that of course the remainder in the rear at Princeton was not more than equal to his own. The event verified this conjecture. The more effectually to disguise the departure of the Americans from Trenton, fires were lighted up in front of their camp. These not only gave an appearance of going to rest, but as flame cannot be seen through, concealed from the British, what was transacting behind them. In this relative position they were a pillar of fire to the one army, and a pillar of a cloud to the other. Providence favoured this movement of the Americans. The weather had been for some time so warm and moist, that the ground was soft and the roads so deep as to be scarcely passable: but the wind suddenly changed to the northwest, and the ground in a short time was frozen so hard, that when the Americans took up their line of march, they were no more retarded, than if they had been upon a solid pavement.
Jan. 31776General Washington reached Princeton, early in the morning, and would have completely surprised the British, had not a party, which was on their way to Trenton,  descried his troops, when they were about two miles distant, and sent back couriers to alarm their unsuspecting fellow soldiers in their rear. These consisted of the 17th, the 40th, & 55th regiments of British infantry and some of the royal artillery with two field pieces, and three troops of light dragoons. The center of the Americans, consisting of the Philadelphia militia, while on their line of march, was briskly charged by a party of the British, and gave way in disorder. The moment was critical. General Washington pushed forward, and placed himself between his own men, and the British, with his horse’s head fronting the latter. The Americans encouraged by his example, and exhortations, made a stand, and returned the British fire. The general, though between both parties, was providentially uninjured by either. A party of the British fled into the college and were there attacked with field pieces which were fired into it. The seat of the muses became for some time the scene of action. The party which had taken refuge in the college, after receiving a few discharges from the American field pieces came out and surrendered themselves prisoners of war. In the course of the engagement, sixty of the British were killed, and a greater number wounded, and about 300 of them were taken prisoners. The rest made their escape, some by pushing on towards Trenton, others by returning towards Brunswick. The Americans lost only a few, but colonels Haslet and Potter, and capt. Neal of the artillery, were among the slain. General Mercer received three bayonet wounds of which he died in a short time. He was a Scotchman by birth, but from principle and affection had engaged to support the liberties of his adopted country, with a zeal equal to that of any of its native sons. In private life he was amiable, and his character as an officer stood high in the public esteem.
While they were fighting in Princeton, the British in Trenton were under arms, and on the point of making an assault on the evacuated camp of the Americans. With so much address had the movement to Princeton been conducted, that though from the critical situation of the two armies, every ear may be supposed to have been  open, and every watchfulness to have been employed,1776 yet General Washington moved completely off the ground, with his whole force, stores, baggage and artillery unknown to, and unsuspected by his adversaries. The British in Trenton, were so entirely deceived, that when they heard the report of the artillery at Princeton, though it was in the depth of winter, they supposed it to be thunder.
That part of the royal army, which having escaped from Princeton, retreated towards New-Brunswick, was pursued for three or four miles. Another party which had advanced as far as Maidenhead, on their way to Trenton, hearing the frequent discharge of fire arms in their rear, wheeled round and marched to the aid of their companions. The Americans by destroying bridges, retarded these, though close in their rear, so long as to gain time for themselves, to move off, in good order, to Pluckemin.
So great was the consternation of the British at these unexpected movements, that they instantly evacuated both Trenton and Princeton, and retreated with their whole force to New-Brunswick. The American militia, collected and forming themselves into parties, waylaid their enemies, and cut them off whensoever an opportunity presented. In a few days they over-ran the Jerseys. General Maxwell surprised Elisabeth-town, and took near 100 prisoners. Newark was abandoned, and the late conquerors were forced to leave Woodbridge. The royal troops were confined to Amboy and Brunswick, which held a water communication with New-York. Thus, in the short space of a month, that part of Jersey, which lies between New-Brunswick and Delaware, was both overrun by the British, and recovered by the Americans. The retreat of the continental army, the timid policy of the Jersey farmers, who chose rather to secure their property by submission, than defend it by resistance, made the British believe their work was done, and that little else remained, but to reap a harvest of plunder as the reward of their labours.1776 Unrestrained by the terrors of civil law, uncontrolled by the severity of discipline, and elated with their success, the soldiers of the royal army, and particularly  the Hessians, gave full scope to the selfish and ferocious passions of human nature. A conquered country, and submitting inhabitants presented easy plunder, equal to their unbounded rapacity. Infants, children, old men and women were stripped of their blankets and cloathing. Furniture was burnt or otherwise destroyed. Domestic animals were carried off, and the people robbed of their necessary household provisions. The rapes and brutalities committed on women, and even on very young girls, would shock the ears of modesty, if particularly recited. These violences were perpetrated on inhabitants who had remained in their houses, and received printed protections, signed by order of the commander in chief. It was in vain, that they produced these protections as a safeguard. The Hessians could not read them, and the British soldiers thought they were entitled to a share of the booty, equally with their foreign associates.
Such, in all ages, has been the complexion of the bulk of armies, that immediate and severe punishments are indispensably necessary, to keep them from flagrant enormities. That discipline, without which an army is a band of armed plunderers, was as far, as respected the inhabitants, either neglected, or but feebly administered in the royal army. The soldiers finding, they might take with impunity what they pleased, were more strongly urged by avarice, than checked by policy or fear. Had every citizen been secured in his rights, protected in his property, and paid for his supplies, the consequences might have been fatal to the hopes of those who were attached to independence. What the warm recommendations of Congress, and the ardent supplications of general Washington could not effect, took place of its own accord, in consequence of the plundering and devastations of the royal army.
The whole country became instantly hostile to the invaders. Sufferers of all parties rose as one man, to revenge their personal injuries. Those, who from age, or infirmities, were incapable of bearing arms, kept a strict watch on the movements of the royal army, and from time to time, communicated information to their countrymen  in arms.1777 Those who lately declined all military opposition, though called upon by the sacred tie of honour pledged to each other on the declaration of independence, chearfully embodied, when they found submission to be unavailing for the security of their estates. This was not done originally in consequence of the victories of Trenton and Princeton. In the very moment of these actions, or before the news of them had circulated, sundry individuals unknowing of general Washington’s movements, were concerting private insurrections, to revenge themselves on the plunderers. The dispute originated about property, or in other words, about the right of taxation. From the same source at this time, it received a new and forcible impulse. The farmer, who could not trace the consequences of British taxation, nor of American independence, felt the injuries he sustained from the depredation of licentious troops. The militia of New-Jersey, who had hitherto behaved most shamefully, from this time forward redeemed their character, and throughout a tedious war, performed services with a spirit and discipline in many respects, equal to that of regular soldiers.
The victories of Trenton and Princeton, seemed to be like a resurrection from the dead, to the desponding friends of independence. A melancholy gloom, had in the first 25 days of December overspread the United States; but from the memorable era of the 26th of same month, their prospects began to brighten. The recruiting service, which for some time had been at a stand, was successfully renewed, and hopes were soon indulged, that the commander in chief would be enabled to take the field in the spring, with a permanent regular force. General Washington retired to Morristown, that he might afford shelter to his suffering army. The American militia had sundry successful skirmishes with detachments of their adversaries. Within four days after the affair at Princeton, between forty and fifty Waldeckers were killed, wounded, or taken at Springfield, by an equal number of the same New-Jersey militia, which but a month before, suffered the British to overrun their country  without opposition.1777 This enterprise was conducted by colonel Spencer, whose gallantry, on the occasion, was rewarded with the command of a regiment.
During the winter movements, which have been just related, the soldiers of both armies underwent great hardships, but the Americans suffered by far the greater. Many of them were without shoes, though marching over frozen ground, which so gashed their naked feet, that each step was marked with blood. There was scarcely a tent in their whole army. The city of Philadelphia had been twice laid under contribution, to provide them with blankets. Officers had been appointed, to examine every house, and, after leaving a scanty covering for the family to bring off the rest, for the use of the troops in the field; but notwithstanding these exertions, the quantity procured was far short of decency, much less of comfort.
The officers and soldiers of the American army were about this time inoculated in their cantonment at Morristown. As very few of them had ever had the small pox, the inoculation was nearly universal. The disorder had previously spread among them in the natural way, and proved mortal to many: but after inoculation was introduced though whole regiments were inoculated, in a day, there was little or no mortality from the small pox, and the disorder was so slight, that from the beginning to the end of it, there was not a single day in which they could not, and if called upon, would not have turned out and fought the British. To induce the inhabitants to accommodate officers and soldiers in their houses, while under the small pox, they and their families were inoculated gratis by the military surgeons. Thus in a short time, the whole army and the inhabitants in and near Morristown were subjected to the small pox, and with very little inconvenience to either.
Three months, which followed the actions of Trenton and Princeton, passed away without any important military enterprise on either side. Major general Putnam was directed to take post at Princeton, and cover the country in the vicinity. He had only a few hundred troops, though he was no more than eighteen miles distant from  the strong garrison of the British at Brunswick.1777 At one period he had fewer men for duty than he had miles of frontier to guard. The situation of general Washington at Morristown was not more eligible. His force was trifling, when compared with that of the British, but the enemy, and his own countrymen, believed the contrary. Their deception was cherished, and artfully continued by the specious parade of a considerable army. The American officers took their station in positions of difficult access, and kept up a constant communication with each other. This secured them from insult and surprise. While they covered the country, they harassed the foraging parties of the British, and often attacked them with success. Of a variety of these, the two following are selected as most worthy of notice.Jan. 20 General Dickenson, with four hundred Jersey militia, and fifty of the Pennsylvania riflemen, crossed Millstone-river, near Somerset courthouse, and attacked a large foraging party of the British, with so much spirit that they abandoned their convoy, and fled. Nine of them were taken prisoners. Forty waggons, and upwards of one hundred horses, with a considerable booty, fell into the hands of the general. While the British were loading their waggons, a single man began to fire on them from the woods. He was soon joined by more of his neighbors, who could not patiently see their propertys carried away. After the foragers had been annoyed for some time by these unseen marksmen, they fancied on the appearance of general Dickenson, that they were attacked by a superior force, and began a precipitate flight.
Feb. 18In about a month after the affair of Somerset courthouse, colonel. Nelson, of Brunswick, with a detachment of 150 militiamen, surprised and captured at Lawrence’s Neck, a major, and fifty-nine privates, of the refugees, who were in British pay.
Throughout the campaign of 1776, an uncommon degree of sickness raged in the American army. Husbandmen, transferred at once from the conveniences of domestic life, to the hardships of a field encampment, could not accommodate themselves to the sudden change.1777 The southern troops, sickened from the  want of salt provisions. Linen shirts were too generally worn, in contact with the skin. The salutary influence of flannel, in preventing the diseases of camps, was either unknown or disregarded. The discipline of the army was too feeble to enforce those regulations which experience has proved to be indispensably necessary, for preserving the health of large bodies of men collected together. Cleanliness was also too much neglected. On the 8th of August the whole American army before New-York, consisted of 17,225 men, but of that number only 10,514 were fit for duty. These numerous sick suffered much, from the want of necessaries. Hurry and confusion added much to their distresses. There was besides a real want of the requisites for their relief.
A proper hospital establishment was beyond the abilities of Congress, especially as the previous arrangements were not entered upon till the campaign had begun. Many, perhaps some thousands in the American army, were swept off in a few months by sickness. The country every where presented the melancholy sight of soldiers suffering poverty and disease, without the aid of medicine or attendance. Those who survived gave such accounts of the sufferings of the sick, as greatly discouraged the recruiting service. A rage for plundering, under the pretence of taking tory property, infected many of the common soldiery, and even some of the officers. The army had been formed on such principles, in some of the states, that commissions were, in several instances, bestowed on persons who had no pretensions to the character of gentlemen. Several of the officers were chosen by their own men, and they often preferred those from whom they expected the greatest indulgences. In other cases, the choice of the men was in favour of those who had consented to throw their pay into a joint stock with the privates, from which officers and men drew equal shares.
The army, consisting mostly of new recruits and unexperienced officers, and being only engaged for a twelve month, was very deficient in that mechanism and discipline which time and experience bestow on veteran troops. General Washington was unremitting in his  representations to Congress, favouring such alterations as promised permanency, order and discipline, in the army, but his judicious opinions on these subjects were slowly adopted. The sentiments of liberty, which then generally prevailed, made some distinguished members of Congress so distrustful of the future power and probable designs of a permanent domestic army, that they had well nigh sacrificed their country to their jealousies.
The unbounded freedom of the savage who roams the woods must be restrained when he becomes a citizen of orderly government, and from the necessity of the case must be much more so, when he submits to be a soldier. The individuals composing the army of America, could not at once pass over from the full enjoyment of civil liberty to the discipline of a camp, nor could the leading men in Congress for some time be persuaded, to adopt energetic establishments. “God forbid, would such say, that the citizen should be so far lost in the soldiers of our army, that they should give over longing for the enjoyments of domestic happiness. Let frequent furloughs be granted, rather than the endearments of wives and children should cease to allure the individuals of our army from camps to farms. ” The amiableness of this principle, veiled the error of the sentiment. The minds of the civil leaders in the councils of America were daily occupied in contemplating the rights of human nature, and investigating arguments on the principles of general liberty, to justify their own opposition to Great-Britain. Warmed with these ideas, they trusted too much to the virtue of their countrymen, and were backward to enforce that subordination and order in their army, which, though it intrenches on civil liberty, produces effects in the military line unequaled by the effusions of patriotism, or the exertions of undisciplined valor.
The experience of two campaigns evinced the folly of trusting the defence of the country to militia, or to levies raised only for a few months, and had induced a resolution for recruiting an army for the war. The good effects of this measure will appear in the sequel.
The campaign of 1776 did not end, till it had been  protracted into the first month of the year 1777.1777 The British had counted on the complete and speedy reduction of their late colonies, but they found the work more difficult of execution, than was supposed. They wholly failed in their designs on the southern states. In Canada they recovered what, in the preceding year, they had lost—drove the Americans out of their borders, and destroyed their fleet on the lakes, but they failed in making their intended impression on the northwestern frontier of the states. They obtained possession of Rhode-Island, but the acquisition was of little service—perhaps was of detriment. For near three years several thousand men stationed thereon for its security, were lost to every purpose of active cooperation with the royal forces in the field, and the possession of it secured no equivalent advantages. The British completely succeeded against the city of New-York, and the adjacent country, but when they pursued their victories into New-Jersey, and subdivided their army, the recoiling Americans soon recovered the greatest part of what they had lost.
Sir William Howe, after having nearly reached Philadelphia, was confined to limits so narrow, that the fee simple of all he commanded would not reimburse the expence incurred by its conquest.
The war, on the part of the Americans, was but barely begun. Hitherto they had engaged with temporary forces, for a redress of grievances, but towards the close of this year they made arrangements for raising a permanent army to contend with Great-Britain, for the sovereignty of the country. To have thus far stood their ground, with their new levies, was a matter of great importance, because of them, delay was victory, and not to be conquered was to conquer.
Of Independence, State Constitutions, and the Confederation.
1777In former ages it was common for a part of a community to migrate, and erect themselves into an independent society. Since the earth has been more fully peopled, and especially since the principles of Union have been better understood, a different policy has prevailed. A fondness for planting colonies has, for three preceding centuries, given full scope to a disposition for emigration, and at the same time the emigrants have been retained in a connexion with their Parent State. By these means Europeans have made the riches both of the east and west, subservient to their avarice and ambition. Though they occupy the smallest portion of the four quarters of the globe, they have contrived to subject the other three to their influence or command.
The circumstances under which New-England was planted, would a few centuries ago have entitled them from their first settlement, to the privileges of independence. They were virtually exiled from their native country, by being denied the rights of men—they set out on their own expence, and after purchasing the consent of the native proprietors, improved an uncultivated country, to which, in the eye of reason and philosophy, the king of England had no title.
If it is lawful for individuals to relinquish their native soil, and pursue their own happiness in other regions and under other political associations, the settlers of New-England were always so far independent, as to owe no obedience to their Parent State, but such as resulted from their voluntary assent. The slavish doctrine of the divine right of kings, and the corruptions of christianity, by undervaluing heathen titles, favoured an opposite system. What for several centuries after the christian era would have been called the institution of a new government, was by modern refinement denominated only an extension of the old, in the form of a dependent colony.1777 Though the prevailing ecclesiastical and political creeds  tended to degrade the condition of the settlers in New-England, yet there was always a party there which believed in their natural right to independence. They recurred to first principles, and argued, that as they received from government nothing more than a charter, founded on ideal claims of sovereignty, they owed it no other obedience than what was derived from express, or implied compact. It was not till the present century had more than half elapsed, that it occurred to any number of the colonists, that they had an interest in being detached from Great-Britain. Their attention was first turned to this subject, by the British claim of taxation. This opened a melancholy prospect, boundless in extent, and endless in duration. The Boston port act, and the other acts, passed in 1774, and 1775, which have been already the subject of comment, progressively weakened the attachment of the colonists to the birth place of their forefathers. The commencement of hostilities on the 19th of April, 1775, exhibited the Parent State in an odious point of view, and abated the original dread of separating from it. But nevertheless at that time, and for a twelve month after, a majority of the colonists wished for no more than to be re-established as subjects in their antient rights. Had independence been their object even at the commencement of hostilities, they would have rescinded these associations, which have been already mentioned and imported more largely than ever. Common sense revolts at the idea, that colonists unfurnished with military stores, and wanting manufactures of every kind, should at the time of their intending a serious struggle for independence, by a voluntary agreement, deprive themselves of the obvious means of procuring such foreign supplies as their circumstances might make necessary. Instead of pursuing a line of conduct, which might have been dictated by a wish for independence, they continued their exports for nearly a year after they ceased to import. This not only lessened the debts they owed to Great-Britain, but furnished additional means for carrying on the war against themselves.1777 To aim at independence, and at the same time to transfer their resources to their enemies, could not have been  the policy of an enlightened people. It was not till some time in 1776, that the colonists began to take other ground, and contend that it was for their interest to be forever separated from Great-Britain. In favour of this opinion it was said, that in case of their continuing subjects, the Mother country, though she redressed their present grievances, might at pleasure repeat similar oppressions. That she ought not to be trusted, having twice resumed the exercise of taxation, after it had been apparently relinquished. The favourers of separation also urged, that Great-Britain was jealous of their increasing numbers, and rising greatness—that she would not exercise government for their benefit, but for her own. That the only permanent security for American happiness, was to deny her the power of interfering with their government or commerce. To effect this purpose they were of opinion, that it was necessary to cut the knot, which connected the two countries, by a public renunciation of all political connections between them.
The Americans about this time began to be influenced by new views. The military arrangements of the preceding year—their unexpected union, and prevailing enthusiasm, expanded the minds of their leaders, and elevated the sentiments of the great body of their people. Decisive measures which would have been lately reprobated, now met with approbation.
The favourers of subordination under the former constitution urged the advantages of a supreme head, to control the disputes of interfering colonies, and also the benefits which flowed from union. That independence was untried ground, and should not be entered upon, but in the last extremity.
They flattered themselves that Great-Britain was so fully convinced of the determined spirit of America, that if the present controversy was compromised, she would not at any future period, resume an injurious exercise of her supremacy. They were therefore for proceeding no farther than to defend themselves in the character of subjects, trusting that ere long the present hostile measures would be relinquished,1777 and the harmony  of the two countries reestablished. The favourers of this system were embarrassed, and all their arguments weakened, by the perseverance of Great-Britain in her schemes of coercion. A probable hope of a speedy repeal of a few acts of parliament, would have greatly increased the number of those who were advocates for reconciliation. But the certainty of intelligence to the contrary gave additional force to the arguments of the opposite party. Though new weight was daily thrown into the scale, in which the advantages of independence were weighed, yet it did not preponderate till about that time in 1776, when intelligence reached the colonists of the act of parliament passed in December 1775, for throwing them out of British protection, and of hiring foreign troops to assist in effecting their conquest. Respecting the first it was said, “that protection and allegiance were reciprocal, and that the refusal of the first was a legal ground of justification for withholding the last.” They considered themselves to be thereby discharged from their allegiance, and that to declare themselves independent, was no more than to announce to the world the real political state, in which Great-Britain had placed them. This act proved that the colonists might constitutionally declare themselves independent, but the hiring of foreign troops to make war upon them, demonstrated the necessity of their doing it immediately. They reasoned that if Great-Britain called in the aid of strangers to crush them, they must seek similar relief for their own preservation. But they well knew this could not be expected, while they were in arms against their acknowledged sovereign. They had therefore only a choice of difficulties, and must either seek foreign aid as independent states, or continue in the awkward and hazardous situation of subjects, carrying on war from their own resources both against their king, and such mercenaries as he chose to employ for their subjugation. Necessity not choice forced them on the decision. Submission without obtaining a redress of their grievances was advocated by none who possessed the public confidence.1777 Some of the popular leaders may have  secretly wished for independence from the beginning of the controversy, but their number was small and their sentiments were not generally known.
While the public mind was balancing on this eventful subject, several writers placed the advantages of independence in various points of view. Among these Thomas Paine in a pamphlet, under the signature of Common Sense, held the most distinguished rank. The stile, manner, and language of this performance were calculated to interest the passions, and to rouse all the active powers of human nature. With the view of operating on the sentiments of a religious people, scripture was pressed into his service, and the powers, and even the name of a king was rendered odious in the eyes of the numerous colonists who had read and studied the history of the Jews, as recorded in the Old Testament. The folly of that people in revolting from a government, instituted by Heaven itself, and the oppressions to which they were subjected in consequence of their lusting after kings to rule over them, afforded an excellent handle for prepossessing the colonists in favour of republican institutions, and prejudicing them against kingly government. Hereditary succession was turned into ridicule. The absurdity of subjecting a great continent to a small island on the other side of the globe, was represented in such striking language, as to interest the honor and pride of the colonists in renouncing the government of Great-Britain. The necessity, the advantages, and practicability of independence, were forcibly demonstrated. Nothing could be better timed than this performance. It was addressed to freemen, who had just received convincing proof, that Great-Britain had thrown them out of her protection, had engaged foreign mercenaries to make war upon them, and seriously designed to compel their unconditional submission to her unlimited power. It found the colonists most thoroughly alarmed for their liberties, and disposed to do and suffer any thing that promised their establishment. In union with the feelings and sentiments of the people, it produced surprising effects.1777 Many thousands were convinced, and were led to approve  and long for a separation from the Mother Country. Though that measure, a few months before, was not only foreign from their wishes, but the object of their abhorrence, the current suddenly became so strong in its favour, that it bore down all opposition. The multitude was hurried down the stream, but some worthy men could not easily reconcile themselves to the idea of an eternal separation from a country, to which they had been long bound by the most endearing ties. They saw the sword drawn, but could not tell when it would be sheathed. They feared that the dispersed individuals of the several colonies would not be brought to coalesce under an efficient government, and that after much anarchy some future Caesar would grasp their liberties, and confirm himself in a throne of despotism. They doubted the perseverance of their countrymen in effecting their independence, and were also apprehensive that in case of success, their future condition would be less happy than their past. Some respectable individuals whose principles were pure, but whose souls were not of that firm texture which revolutions require, shrunk back from the bold measures proposed by their more adventurous countrymen. To submit without an appeal to Heaven, though secretly wished for by some, was not the avowed sentiment of any. But to persevere in petitioning and resisting was the system of some misguided honest men. The favourers of this opinion were generally wanting in that decision which grasps at great objects, and influenced by that timid policy, which does its work by halves. Most of them dreaded the power of Britain. A few, on the score of interest or an expectancy of favours from royal government, refused to concur with the general voice. Some of the natives of the Parent State who, having lately settled in the colonies, had not yet exchanged European for American ideas, together with a few others, conscientiously opposed the measures of Congress: but the great bulk of the people, and especially of the spirited and independent part of the community, came with surprising unanimity into the project of independence.
1776 The eagerness for independence resulted more from feeling than reasoning. The advantages of an unfettered trade, the prospect of honours and emoluments in administering a new government, were of themselves insufficient motives for adopting this bold measure. But what was wanting from considerations of this kind, was made up by the perseverance of Great-Britain, in her schemes of coercion and conquest. The determined resolution of the Mother Country to subdue the colonists, together with the plans she adopted for accomplishing that purpose, and their equally determined resolution to appeal to Heaven rather than submit, made a declaration of independence as necessary in 1776, as was the non-importation agreement of 1774, or the assumption of arms in 1775. The last naturally resulted from the first. The revolution was not forced on the people by ambitious leaders grasping at supreme power, but every measure of it was forced on Congress, by the necessity of the case, and the voice of the people. The change of the public mind of America respecting connexion with Great-Britain, is without a parallel. In the short space of two years, nearly three millions of people passed over from the love and duty of loyal subjects, to the hatred and resentment of enemies.
June 7The motion for declaring the colonies free and independent, was first made in Congress, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. He was warranted in making this motion by the particular instructions of his immediate constituents, and also by the general voice of the people of all the states. When the time for taking the subject under consideration arrived, much knowledge, ingenuity and eloquence were displayed on both sides of the question. The debates were continued for some time, and with great animation. In these John Adams, and John Dickinson, took leading and opposite parts. The former began one of his speeches, by an invocation of the god of eloquence, to assist him in defending the claims, and in enforcing the duty of his countrymen. He strongly urged the immediate dissolution of all political connexion of the colonies with Great-Britain, from the voice of the  people,1776 from the necessity of the measure in order to obtain foreign assistance, from a regard to consistency, and from the prospects of glory and happiness, which opened beyond the war, to a free and independent people. Mr. Dickinson replied to this speech. He began by observing that the member from Massachusetts (Mr. Adams) had introduced his defence of the declaration of independence by invoking an heathen god, but that he should begin his objections to it, by solemnly invoking the Governor of the Universe, so to influence the minds of the members of Congress, that if the proposed measure was for the benefit of America, nothing which he should say against it, might make the least impression. He then urged that the present time was improper for the declaration of independence, that the war might be conducted with equal vigor without it, that it would divide the Americans, and unite the people of Great-Britain against them. He then proposed that some assurance should be obtained of assistance from a foreign power, before they renounced their connexion with Great-Britain, and that the declaration of independence should be the condition to be offered for this assistance. He likewise stated the disputes that existed between several of the colonies, and proposed that some measures for the settlement of them should be determined upon, before they lost sight of that tribunal, which had hitherto been the umpire of all their differences.
After a full discussion, the measure of declaring the colonies free and independent was approved, by nearly an unanimous vote. The anniversary of the day on which this great event took place, has ever since been consecrated by the Americans to religious gratitude, and social pleasures. It is considered by them as the birth day of their freedom.
The act of the united colonies for separating themselves from the government of Great-Britain, and declaring their independence, was expressed in the following words:
1776When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands  which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great-Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
1776He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their  operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused, for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the mean-time exposed to all the danger of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
1776 For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighbouring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
1776In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned  for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts made by their legislature, to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace, friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great-Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.
John Hancock, President
New-Hampshire, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton. Massachusetts-Bay, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert-Treat Paine, Elbridge  Gerry. Rhode-Island, &c. Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery. Connecticut, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott. New-York, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris. New-Jersey, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark. Pennsylvania, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross. Delaware, Caesar Rodney, George Read. Maryland, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. Virginia, George Wythe, Richard Henry-Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, jun. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton. North-Carolina, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn. South-Carolina, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, jun. Thomas Lynch, jun. Arthur Middleton. Georgia, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton.
From the promulgation of this declaration, every thing assumed a new form. The Americans no longer appeared in the character of subjects in arms against their sovereign, but as an independent people, repelling the attacks of an invading foe. The propositions and supplications for reconciliation were done away. The dispute was brought to a single point, whether the late British colonies should be conquered provinces, or free and independent states.
The declaration of independence was read publicly in all the states, and was welcomed with many demonstrations of joy. The people were encouraged by it to bear up under the calamities of war, and viewed the evils they suffered, only as the thorn that ever accompanies the rose. The army received it with particular satisfaction. As far as it had validity, so far it secured them from suffering as rebels, and held out to their view an object, the attainment of which would be an adequate recompense1776 for the  toils and dangers of war. They were animated by the consideration that they were no longer to risque their lives for the trifling purpose of procuring a repeal of a few oppressive acts of parliament, but for a new organization of government, that would forever put it out of the power of Great-Britain to oppress them. The flattering prospects of an extensive commerce, freed from British restrictions, and the honours and emoluments of office in independent states now began to glitter before the eyes of the colonists, and reconciled them to the difficulties of their situation. What was supposed in Great-Britain to be their primary object, had only a secondary influence. While they were charged with aiming at independence from the impulse of avarice and ambition, they were ardently wishing for a reconciliation. But, after they had been compelled to adopt that measure, these powerful principles of human actions opposed its retraction, and stimulated to its support. That separation which the colonists at first dreaded as an evil, they soon gloried in as a national blessing. While the rulers of Great-Britain urged their people to a vigorous prosecution of the American war, on the idea that the colonists were aiming at independence, they imposed on them a necessity of adopting that very measure, and actually effected its accomplishment. By repeatedly charging the Americans with aiming at the erection of a new government, and by proceeding on that idea to subdue them, predictions which were originally false, eventually became true. When the declaration of independence reached Great-Britain the partisans of ministry triumphed in their sagacity. “The measure, said they, we have long foreseen, is now come to pass.” They inverted the natural order of things. Without reflecting that their own policy had forced a revolution contrary to the original design of the colonists, the declaration of independence was held out to the people of Great-Britain as a justification of those previous violences, which were its efficient cause.
The act of Congress for dissevering the colonies from their Parent State, was the subject of many animadversions.
1776 The colonists were said to have been precipitate in adopting a measure, from which there was no honourable ground of retreating. They replied that for eleven years they had been incessantly petitioning the throne for a redress of their grievances. Since the year 1765, a continental Congress had at three sundry times stated their claims, and prayed for their constitutional rights. That each assembly of the thirteen colonies had also, in its separate capacity, concurred in the same measure. That from the perseverance of Great-Britain in her schemes for their coercion, they had no alternative, but a mean submission, or a vigorous resistance; and that as she was about to invade their coasts with a large body of mercenaries, they were compelled to declare themselves independent, that they might be put into an immediate capacity for soliciting foreign aid.
The virulence of those who had been in opposition to the claims of the colonists, was increased by their bold act in breaking off all subordination to the Parent State.“Great-Britain, said they, has founded colonies at great expence—has incurred a load of debt by wars on their account—has protected their commerce, and raised them to all the consequence they possess, and now in the insolence of adult years, rather than pay their proportion of the common expences of government, they ungratefully renounce all connexion with the nurse of their youth, and the protectress of their riper years.’’ The Americans acknowledged that much was due to Great-Britain, for the protection which her navy procured to the coasts, and the commerce of the colonies, but contended that much was paid by the latter, in consequence of the restrictions imposed on their commerce by the former. “The charge of ingratitude would have been just,” said they, “had allegiance been renounced while protection was given, but when the navy, which formerly secured the commerce and seaport towns of America, began to distress the former, and to burn the latter, the previous obligations to obey or be grateful, were no longer in force.”
1776That the colonists paid nothing, and would not pay to the support of government, was confidently asserted, and  no credit was given for the sums indirectly levied upon them, in consequence of their being confined to the consumption of British manufactures. By such illfounded observations were the people of Great-Britain inflamed against their fellow subjects in America. The latter were represented as an ungrateful people, refusing to bear any part of the expences of a protecting government, or to pay their proportion of a heavy debt, said to be incurred on their account. Many of the inhabitants of Great-Britain deceived in matters of fact, considered their American brethren as deserving the severity of military coercion. So strongly were the two countries rivetted together, that if the whole truth had been known to the people of both, their separation would have been scarcely possible. Any feasible plan by which subjection to Great-Britain could have been reconciled with American safety, would at any time, previous to 1776, have met the approbation of the colonists. But while the lust of power and of gain, blinded the rulers of Great-Britain, mistated facts and uncandid representations brought over their people to second the infatuation. A few honest men properly authorised, might have devised measures of compromise, which under the influence of truth, humility and moderation, would have prevented a dismemberment of the empire; but these virtues ceased to influence, and falsehood, haughtiness and blind zeal usurped their places. Had Great-Britain, even after the declaration of independence, adopted the magnanimous resolution of declaring her colonies free and independent states, interest would have prompted them to form such a connexion as would have secured to the Mother Country the advantages of their commerce, without the expence or trouble of their governments. But misguided politics continued the fatal system of coercion and conquest. Several on both sides of the Atlantic, have called the declaration of independence, “a bold, and accidentally, a lucky speculation,” but subsequent events proved, that it was a wise measure. It is acknowledged, that it detatched some timid friends from supporting the Americans in their opposition to Great-Britain,1776 but it increased the  vigour and union of those, who possessed more fortitude and perseverance. Without it, the colonists would have had no object adequate to the dangers to which they exposed themselves, in continuing to contend with Great-Britain. If the interference of France was necessary to give success to the resistance of the Americans, the declaration of independence was also necessary, for the French expressly founded the propriety of their treaty with Congress on the circumstance, “that they found the United States in possession of independence.”
All political connexion between Great-Britain and her colonies being dissolved, the institution of new forms of government became unavoidable. The necessity of this was so urgent that Congress,May 15 before the declaration of independence, had recommended to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United States, to adopt such governments as should, in their opinion, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents. During more than twelve months the colonists had been held together by the force of antient habits, and by laws under the simple stile of recommendations. The impropriety of proceeding in courts of justice by the authority of a sovereign, against whom the colonies were in arms, was self-evident. The impossibility of governing, for any length of time, three millions of people, by the ties of honour, without the authority of law, was equally apparent. The rejection of British sovereignty therefore drew after it the necessity of fixing on some other principle of government. The genius of the Americans, their republican habits and sentiments, naturally led them to substitute the majesty of the people, in lieu of discarded royalty. The kingly office was dropped, but in most of the subordinate departments of government, antient forms and names were retained. Such a portion of power had at all times been exercised by the people and their representatives, that the change of sovereignty was hardly perceptible, and the revolution took place without violence or convulsion. Popular elections elevated private citizens to the same offices, which formerly had been conferred by royal appointment.1776 The people felt an uninterrupted continuation of the blessings  of law and government under old names, though derived from a new sovereignty, and were scarcely sensible of any change in their political constitution. The checks and balances which restrained the popular assemblies under the royal government, were partly dropped, and partly retained, by substituting something of the same kind. The temper of the people would not permit that any one man, however exalted by office, or distinguished by abilities, should have a negative on the declared sense of a majority of their representatives, but the experience of all ages had taught them the danger of lodging all power in one body of men. A second branch of legislature, consisting of a few select persons, under the name of senate, or council, was therefore constituted in eleven of the thirteen states, and their concurrence made necessary to give the validity of law to the acts of a more numerous branch of popular representatives. New-York and Massachusetts went one step farther. The former constituted a council of revision, consisting of the governor and the heads of judicial departments, on whose objecting to any proposed law, a reconsideration became necessary, and unless it was confirmed by two thirds of both houses, it could have no operation. A similar power was given to the governor of Massachusetts. Georgia and Pennsylvania were the only states whose legislature consisted of only one branch. Though many in these states, and a majority in all the others, saw and acknowledged the propriety of a compounded legislature, yet the mode of creating two branches out of a homogeneous mass of people, was a matter of difficulty. No distinction of ranks existed in the colonies, and none were entitled to any rights, but such as were common to all. Some possessed more wealth than others, but riches and ability were not always associated. Ten of the eleven states, whose legislatures consisted of two branches, ordained that the members of both should be elected by the people. This rather made two co-ordinate houses of representatives than a check on a single one, by the moderation of a select few. Maryland adopted a singular plan for constituting an independent senate.1776 By her constitution the members of that body  were elected for five years, while the members of the house of delegates held their seats only for one. The number of senators was only fifteen, and they were all elected indiscriminately from the inhabitants of any part of the state, excepting that nine of them were to be resident on the west, and six on the east side of the Chesapeak Bay. They were elected not immediately by the people, but by electors, two from each county, appointed by the inhabitants for that sole purpose. By these regulations the senate of Maryland consisted of men of influence, integrity and abilities, and such as were a real and beneficial check on the hasty proceedings of a more numerous branch of popular representatives. The laws of that state were well digested, and its interest steadily pursued with a peculiar unity of system; while elsewhere it too often happened in the fluctuation of public assemblies; and where the legislative department was not sufficiently checked, that passion and party predominated over principle and public good.
Pennsylvania instead of a legislative council or senate, adopted the expedient of publishing bills after the second reading, for the information of the inhabitants. This had its advantages and disadvantages. It prevented the precipitate adoption of new regulations, and gave an opportunity of ascertaining the sense of the people on those laws by which they were to be bound; but it carried the spirit of discussion into every comer, and disturbed the peace and harmony of neighbourhoods. By making the business of government the duty of every man, it drew off the attention of many from the steady pursuit of their respective businesses.
The state of Pennsylvania also adopted another institution peculiar to itself, under the denomination of a council of censors. These were to be chosen once every seven years, and were authorised to enquire whether the constitution had been preserved—whether the legislative and executive branch of government, had performed their duty, or assumed to themselves, or exercised other or greater powers, than those to which they were constitutionally entitled.1776 To enquire whether the public taxes had  been justly laid and collected, and in what manner the public monies had been disposed of, and whether the laws had been duly executed. However excellent this institution may appear in theory, it is doubtful whether in practice it will answer any valuable end. It most certainly opens a door for discord, and furnishes abundant matter for periodical altercation. Either from the disposition of its inhabitants, its form of government, or some other cause, the people of Pennsylvania have constantly been in a state of fermentation. The end of one public controversy, has been the beginning of another. From the collision of parties, the minds of the citizens were sharpened, and their active powers improved, but internal harmony has been unknown. They who were out of place, so narrowly watched those who were in, that nothing injurious to the public could be easily effected, but from the fluctuation of power, and the total want of permanent system, nothing great or lasting could with safety be undertaken, or prosecuted to effect. Under all these disadvantages, the state flourished, and from the industry and ingenuity of its inhabitants acquired an unrivalled ascendancy in arts and manufactures. This must in a great measure be ascribed to the influence of habits, of order and industry, that had long prevailed.
The Americans agreed in appointing a supreme executive head to each state, with the title either of governor or president. They also agreed in deriving the whole powers of government, either mediately or immediately from the people. In the eastern states, and in New York, their governors were elected by the inhabitants, in their respective towns or counties, and in the other states by the legislatures: but in no case was the smallest title of power exercised from hereditary right. New-York was the only state which invested its governor with executive authority without a council. Such was the extreme jealousy of power which pervaded the American states, that they did not think proper to trust the man of their choice with the power of executing their own determinations, without obliging him in many cases to take the advice of such counsellors as they thought proper to nominate.  The disadvantages of this institution far outweighed its advantages. Had the governors succeeded by hereditary right, a council would have been often necessary to supply the real want of abilities, but when an individual had been selected by the people as the fittest person for discharging the duties of this high department, to fetter him with a council was either to lessen his capacity of doing good, or to furnish him with a skreen for doing evil. It destroyed the secrecy, vigor and dispatch, which the executive power ought to possess, and by making governmental acts the acts of a body, diminished individual responsibility. In some states it greatly enhanced the expences of government, and in all retarded its operations, without any equivalent advantages.
New-York in another particular, displayed political sagacity superior to her neighbors. This was in her council of appointment, consisting of one senator from each of her four great election districts, authorised to designate proper persons for filling vacancies in the executive departments of government. Large bodies are far from being the most proper depositaries of the power of appointing to offices. The assiduous attention of candidates is too apt to biass the voice of individuals in popular assemblies. Besides in such appointments, the responsibility for the conduct of the officer, is in a great measure annihilated. The concurrence of a select few on the nomination of one, seems a more eligible mode for securing a proper choice, than appointments made either by one, or by a numerous body. In the former case there would be danger of favoritism, in the latter that modest unassuming merit would be overlooked, in favour of the forward and obsequious.
A rotation of public officers made a part of most of the American constitutions. Frequent elections were required by all, but several still farther, and deprived the electors of the power of continuing the same office in the same hands, after a specified length of time. Young politicians suddenly called from the ordinary walks of life, to make laws and institute forms of government, turned their attention to the histories of ancient republics  and the writings of speculative men on the subject of government.1776 This led them into many errors and occasioned them to adopt sundry opinions, unsuitable to the state of society in America, and contrary to the genius of real republicanism.
The principle of rotation was carried so far, that in some of the states, public officers in several departments scarcely knew their official duty, till they were obliged to retire and give place to others, as ignorant as they had been on their first appointment. If offices had been instituted for the benefit of the holders, the policy of diffusing these benefits would have been proper, but instituted as they were for the convenience of the public, the end was marred by such frequent changes. By confining the objects of choice, it diminished the privileges of electors, and frequently deprived them of the liberty of choosing the man who, from previous experience, was of all men the most suitable. The favourers of this system of rotation contended for it, as likely to prevent a perpetuity of office and power in the same individual or family, and as a security against hereditary honours. To this it was replied, that free, fair and frequent elections were the most natural and proper securities, for the liberties of the people. It produced a more general diffusion of political knowledge, but made more smatterers than adepts in the science of government.
As a farther security for the continuance of republican principles in the American constitutions, they agreed in prohibiting all hereditary honours and distinction of ranks.
It was one of the peculiarities of these new forms of government, that all religious establishments were abolished. Some retained a constitutional distinction between Christians and others, with respect to eligibility to office, but the idea of supporting one denomination at the expence of others, or of raising any one sect of protestants to a legal pre-eminence, was universally reprobated. The alliance between church and state was completely broken, and each was left to support itself, independent of the other.
1776The far famed social compact between the people and their rulers, did not apply to the United States. The  sovereignty was in the people. In their sovereign capacity by their representatives, they agreed on forms of government for their own security, and deputed certain individuals as their agents to serve them in public stations agreeably to constitutions, which they prescribed for their conduct.
The world has not hitherto exhibited so fair an opportunity for promoting social happiness. It is hoped for the honor of human nature, that the result will prove the fallacy of those theories, which suppose that mankind are incapable of self government. The ancients, not knowing the doctrine of representation, were apt in their public meetings to run into confusion, but in America this mode of taking the sense of the people, is so well understood, and so completely reduced to system, that its most populous states are often peaceably convened in an assembly of deputies, not too large for orderly deliberation, and yet representing the whole in equal proportions. These popular branches of legislature are miniature pictures of the community, and from the mode of their election are likely to be influenced by the same interests and feelings with the people whom they represent. As a farther security for their fidelity, they are bound by every law they make for their constituents. The assemblage of these circumstances gives as great a security that laws will be made, and government administered for the good of the people, as can be expected from the imperfection of human institutions.
In this short view of the formation and establishment of the American constitutions, we behold our species in a new situation. In no age before, and in no other country, did man ever possess an election of the kind of government, under which he would choose to live. The constituent parts of the antient free governments were thrown together by accident. The freedom of modern European governments was, for the most part, obtained by the concessions, or liberality of monarchs, or military leaders. In America alone, reason and liberty concurred in the formation of constitutions.1776 It is true, from the infancy of political knowledge in the United States, there were  many defects in their forms of government. But in one thing they were all perfect. They left the people in the power of altering and amending them, whenever they pleased. In this happy peculiarity they placed the science of politics on a footing with the other sciences, by opening it to improvements from experience, and the discoveries of future ages. By means of this power of amending American constitutions, the friends of mankind have fondly hoped that oppression will one day be no more, and that political evil will at least be prevented or restrained with as much certainty, by a proper combination or separation of power, as natural evil is lessened or prevented by the application of the knowledge or ingenuity of man to domestic purposes. No part of the history of antient or modem Europe, can furnish a single fact that militates against this opinion, since in none of its governments have the principles of equal representation and checks been applied, for the preservation of freedom. On these two pivots are suspended the liberties of most of the states. Where they are wanting, there can be no security for liberty, where they exist they render any farther security unnecessary.
The rejection of British sovereignty not only involved a necessity of erecting independent constitutions, but of cementing the whole United States by some common bond of union. The act of independence did not hold out to the world thirteen sovereign states, but a common sovereignty of the whole in their united capacity. It therefore became necessary to run the line of distinction, between the local legislatures, and the assembly of the states in Congress. A committee was appointed for digesting articles of confederation between the states or united colonies, as they were then called, at the time the propriety of declaring independence was under debate, and some weeks previously to the adoption of that measure, but the plan was not for sixteen months after so far digested, as to be ready for communication to the states. Nor was it finally ratified by the accession of all the states, till nearly three years more had elapsed.1776 In discussing its articles, many difficult questions occurred. One was to ascertain the ratio of  contributions from each state. Two principles presented themselves, numbers of people, and the value of lands. The last was preferred as being the truest barometer of the wealth of nations, but from an apprehended impracticability of carrying it into effect, it was soon relinquished, and recurrence had to the former. That the states should be represented in proportion to their importance, was contended for by those who had extensive territory, but they who were confined to small dimensions, replied, that the states confederated as individuals, in a state of nature, and should therefore have equal votes. From fear of weakening their exertions against the common enemy, the large states for the present yielded the point, and consented that each state should have an equal suffrage.
It was not easy to define the power of the state legislatures, so as to prevent a clashing between their jurisdiction, and that of the general government. On mature deliberation it was thought proper, that the former should be abridged of the power of forming any other confederation or alliance—of laying on any imposts or duties that might interfere with treaties made by Congress—or keeping up any vessels of war, or granting letters of marque or reprisal. The powers of Congress were also defined. Of these the principle were as follows: To have the sole and exclusive right of determining on peace and war—of sending and receiving ambassadors—of entering into treaties and alliances,—of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace.—To be the last resort on appeal, in all disputes between two or more states—to have the sole and exclusive right of regulating the alloy and value of coin, of fixing the standard of weights and measures—regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians—establishing and regulating post offices—to borrow money or emit bills on the credit of the United States—to build and equip a navy—to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each state for its quota of men, in proportion to the number of its white inhabitants.
1776No coercive power was given to the general government, nor was it invested with any legislative power over  individuals, but only over states in their corporate capacity. As at the time the articles of confederation were proposed for ratification, the Americans had little or no regular commercial intercourse with foreign nations, a power to regulate trade or to raise a revenue from it, though both were essential to the welfare of the union, made no part of the federal system. To remedy this and all other defects, a door was left open for introducing farther provisions, suited to future circumstances.
The articles of confederation were proposed at a time when the citizens of America were young in the science of politics, and when a commanding sense of duty, enforced by the pressure of a common danger, precluded the necessity of a power of compulsion. The enthusiasm of the day gave such credit and currency to paper emissions, as made the raising of supplies an easy matter. The system of federal government was therefore more calculated for what men then were, under these circumstances, than for the languid years of peace, when selfishness usurped the place of public spirit, and when credit no longer assisted, in providing for the exigencies of government.
The experience of a few years after the termination of the war, proved, as will appear in its proper place, that a radical change of the whole system was necessary, to the good government of the United States.
the end of the first volume