Front Page Titles (by Subject) C H A P T E R X I V: Foreign Negociations • Dissensions among the American Commissioners • Deane recalled • Mr. Adams appointed • Mr. Lee and Mr. Adams recalled • Spain declares War against England • Mr. Jay sent to the Court of Madrid • Sir George Collie - History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 1
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C H A P T E R X I V: Foreign Negociations • Dissensions among the American Commissioners • Deane recalled • Mr. Adams appointed • Mr. Lee and Mr. Adams recalled • Spain declares War against England • Mr. Jay sent to the Court of Madrid • Sir George Collie - Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 1 
History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations, in Two Volumes, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1994). Vol. 1.
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C H A P T E R X I V
Foreign Negociations • Dissensions among the American Commissioners • Deane recalled • Mr. Adams appointed • Mr. Lee and Mr. Adams recalled • Spain declares War against England • Mr. Jay sent to the Court of Madrid • Sir George Collier’s Expedition to Virginia—His sudden Recal—Ravages on the North River • Depredations in the State of Connecticut, in aid of Governor Tryon and his Partizans • General Washington seizes Stoney Point—Recovered by the British • Penobscot Expedition • Destruction of the American Navy
chap. xiv It has already been observed, that in an early stage of the American contest, some gentlemen were deputed to negociate,1779 and to endeavour to secure the assistance of several European nations. This had had such an effect, that at the period we are now upon, the United States were in strict alliance with France, and were considered in a partial and respectful light by some of the first powers in Europe. Yet difficulties both at home and abroad, which had scarcely been viewed in theory, were now realized and felt with poignancy, by the true friends of their country.
The objects that employed the abilities of congress at this period, were of such magnitude,  as required the experience of ancient statesmen, the coolness of long practised politicians, and the energies of virtue.
The articles of confederation offered to the consideration of each legislative in the several states, in one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, had been rejected by some, and suspended by others. It is true they were now recently ratified by all of them, but were scarcely yet established on a permanent basis.*
They had to arrange, harmonize, and support the new permanent army, collected from every part of the union, and now interwoven with foreign volunteers from different European nations: and in the rear of every other difficulty at home, they had to guard with all possible discretion, against the innumerable moral and political evils, ever the inevitable consequence of a depreciating currency.
Abroad they had a task of equal difficulty, to heal the animosities that existed, and to conciliate the differences that had arisen among the American ministers at the court of France, or to prevent the fatal consequences of their virulence towards each other. This was expressed  in strong language in their letters to congress, nor was it a secret in the courts of England or France, and in some instances, perhaps it was fomented by both.
In the infancy of congress, in the magnitude of the new scenes that were opening before them, and in the critical emergencies that sprung up on untrodden ground, they, through hurry or inexperience, had not in all instances, selected men of the most impeccable characters, to negociate with foreign powers. Perhaps in some of their appointments, they did not always look so much at the integrity of the heart, as at the capacity of the man for the arts of intrigue, the ready address, and supple accomplishments necessary for the courtier, both to insure his own reception with princes, and to complete the wishes of his employers, in his negociations with practised statesmen.
Silas Deane, esquire, a delegate to congress from the state of Connecticut, was the first person who had been vested with a foreign commission. He embarked as a commercial agent in behalf of the United States, in one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six; and was afterwards named in the honorable commission for a treaty of alliance with the court of France, in conjunction with doctor Franklin and Arthur Lee, esquire.
 Mr. Deane had nothing to recommend him to such a distinguished and important appointment, except a degree of mercantile experience, combined with a certain secrecy or cunning, that wore the appearance of knowing things much beyond his ability, and the art of imposing a temporary belief of a penetration far beyond his capacity. His weakness and ostentation, his duplicity, extravagance, and total want of principle, were soon discovered by his constituents: but they placed the most unlimited confidence in the great abilities, profound knowledge, and unshaken patriotism, of the venerable and philosophic Franklin. His warm attachment to his native country, had been evinced in numberless instances, during his long residence in England as agent to the British court, both for the Massachusetts and the state of Pennsylvania.
Before he left England in one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, he had taken unwearied pains to reconcile, on the principles of equity and sound policy, the breach between Great Britain and America. In the beginning of hostilities he repaired to Philadelphia, was chosen a member of congress, and by his decided republican principles, soon became a favorite in the councils of America, a stable prop of her independence, and the most able and influential negociator they could send abroad.
 The character and principles of Mr. Arthur Lee, gave equal reason to expect his most energetic endeavours, to support the interest and weal of America. He had resided in England for several years, as agent for the state of Virginia. Invariably attached to his native country, and indefatigable in his efforts to ward off the impending evils that threatened it, he had communicated much useful intelligence and advantageous advice, to the patriotic leaders in various parts of America; and by his spirited writings and diligent exertions, he procured them many friends in England. He was a man of a clear understanding, great probity, plain manners, and strong passions. Though he loved America sincerely, he had at this period great respect and affection for the parent state; and his predilection in favor of Britain appeared strongly, when balanced with the idea of an American connexion with the house of Bourbon.
The celebrity of doctor Franklin has been so just and so extensive, that it is painful even for the impartial historian, who contemplates the superiority of his genius, to record the foibles of the man; but intoxicated by the warm caresses and unbounded applauses of all ranks, among a people where the art of pleasing is systematized, he appeared, notwithstanding his age and experience, in a short time after his residence  in France, little less a Gallican than an American. This might be from policy. It was said however, that he attached himself to the interest of the count de Vergennes, who, though he countenanced the American revolution, and co-operated in measures that completed it, yet it was afterwards discovered, that he secretly wished to embarrass their councils, and dreaded the rising glory of the United States. Whatever suggestions there might have been, it was never supposed that doctor Franklin was led off from his attachment to the interest of America: yet this distinguished sage became susceptible of a court influence, that startled his jealous and more frigid colleague, Mr. Lee.
Thus the trio of American agents at the court of France, were designated by peculiar traits of character: yet the respectability of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee was never lessened, either at home or abroad, notwithstanding some variation of opinion. But Mr. Deane, immersed in the pleasures of a voluptuous city, a dupe to the intrigues of deeper politicians, not awed by the aged philosopher the tool of the French minister, and the supple instrument of military characters, ambitious of rising in the fair field of glory in America, he wasted the property, and bartered away the honors of his country, by promising offices of rank to fifty gentlemen at a time. He sent many of these on to  America, with the most flattering expectations of promotion, and even with ideas of superseding the previous appointments of congress.
Many of the French officers who arrived on the American continent at this early period, with these fallacious hopes, were men of real merit, military experience, and distinguished rank; but it was impossible for congress to provide for them all according to their views, without deranging the whole army, and disgusting many of their best officers. Thus disappointed, some of them returned to France, under a cloud of chagrin that was not easily dissipated.
The indiscretion of Mr. Deane did not terminate with his engagements to individual strangers; for while he embarrassed congress and the army with his contracts, and his country by squandering the public monies, he had the audacity to propose in a letter to a person of influence, that a foreign prince should be invited to the command of the armies of the United States.*
From the outlines of these heterogeneous characters, it is not strange that the most incurable  animosities took place among the commissioners, and arose to such a height as to endanger the interests of an infant republic.
Indeed the fate of America in some measure depended on the vigor, integrity, prudence, and unanimity of her ministers abroad; but dissension ran to such a pitch among them, that it exposed them not only to the censure of their country, but to the derision of Britain. Consequently, an immediate recal of some of the American commissioners became necessary, and an order passed in congress, December, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, that Silas Deane, esquire, should immediately return to America. No reasons were offered for his recal; and Mr. John Adams of the state of Massachusetts, was chosen to succeed as commissioner in behalf of the United States, at the court of France.
Mr. Deane arrived in America a short time after the treaty with France had been received, and ratified by congress. He assumed an air of importance and self-confidence; and as guilt frequently sends a hue and cry after justice, in order to hoodwink the multitude, and calls loudly for vengeance on such as are about to detect its villany, he offered a most inflammatory address to the public, complaining of ill usage, and vilifying Mr. Lee in the grossest terms. He criminated every part of his public  conduct, charged him with betraying his trust, corresponding with gentlemen in England, impeding as much as possible the alliance with France, and disclosing the secrets of congress to British noblemen. At the same time, he cast the most virulent and insidious reflections on his brother, William Lee, agent for congress at the courts of Vienna and Berlin.
He claimed much merit relative to the treaty of alliance with France, and complained heavily that congress delayed giving him an opportunity of vindicating his own character, by an immediate public investigation. By these bold suggestions and allegations, so injurious to congress and to their ministers, the public mind was for a time greatly agitated. But the attack on individual character, was defeated by the exertions of some very able writers,* who laid open the iniquitous designs and practices of the delinquent and his abettors; while congress parried the abuse, they defended their own measures, and quieted the clamors of a party against themselves, by calling Mr. Deane to a hearing on the floor of their house.
With the guise of innocence and the effrontery of guilt, he evaded the scrutiny, by pleading  that his papers and vouchers were all left in Europe, where, he alleged, the necessity of his own private affairs required his immediate presence. In short, though it was obvious that he had abused his commission, rioted long at the public expense, and grossly slandered some of its most faithful servants, yet by the influence of certain characters within, and a tenderness for some without, who might be exposed by too strict an investigation, congress were induced to suffer him again to leave the continent and return to Europe, though not as a public character, yet without punishment or judicial censure. He afterwards wandered from court to court, and from city to city, for several years: at last, reduced to the extreme of poverty and wretchedness, he died miserably in England.
Parties ran very high in congress, relative to the dissensions among their ministers. Mr. Lee had many friends in that assembly; Dr. Franklin had more; and it was necessary for some mercantile speculators in that body, to endeavour to throw a veil over the character of Mr. Deane, that under its shade, the beams of clearer light might not too deeply penetrate their own.
Mr. Robert Morris, a member of congress from the state of Pennsylvania, had undoubtedly  been concerned in some very profitable contracts, in company with several French and American gentlemen, besides Mr. Deane; and under the sanction of public negociations, the most lucrative trade was carried on, and the fortunes of individuals accumulated beyond calculation.
Monsieur Gerard, the French minister residing in Philadelphia, was warmly attached to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane, and not less disgusted with Mr. Lee. It may be observed, that there are few public ministers so tenacious of the dignity of their own character and conduct, as not occasionally to descend to rank among partizans, and exert the influence of public character to gratify private interest or resentment. Thus Mr. Gerard, an idolizer of Dr. Franklin, supported Mr. Deane, offered pensions to take off the defenders of Mr. Lee, and instead of retaining the superiority of an ambassador from one of the first monarchs in Europe, appeared the champion of a club of merchants and speculators. He resided but a short time in America: the chevalier de La Luzerne superseded him as ambassador to the United States, in the summer of one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine. The reasons of his recal do not appear; but it was undoubtedly a prudent measure in the court of France, not to suffer a minister to continue, after he had discovered himself attached to a party.
 Within a few months after Congress had made a new arrangement of ministers, and Mr. Adams had been sent on in the room of Mr. Deane, both Mr. Adams and Mr. Lee were directed to repair immediately to America; and Dr. Franklin was appointed sole minister at the court of France. Americans, it is true, were early initiated in the spirit of intrigue, but they were not yet so thoroughly acquainted with the manoeuvres of courts, as to investigate the necessity of the sudden recal of those gentlemen.
Mr. Lee had been very severely censured by many for his want of address, and his unaccommodating spirit at the French court. Nor had he been more successful in his negociations with Spain. He had resided some months at Madrid, as commercial agent, with powers if practicable to negociate a treaty, or to obtain a loan of money for the use of the United States. But he was unacceptable to the court; and though he had the abilities of a statesman, he was without the address of a courtier; and his negociations in Spain redounded little to the advantage of America. Yet such was his integrity, that he found it not difficult on his arrival in his own country, to reinstate himself fully in the good opinion of the public, and to wipe from his character the aspersions of malice or prejudice.
 Mr. Adams returned rather disgusted at the early revocation of his commission, and the unexpected order thus speedily to leave the court of France. He did not himself repair to congress, but retired privately to his seat in Braintree, where he employed himself for a time, in preparing a concise statement of the situation and political connexions of the different powers of Europe, which he laid before congress, with his opinion of their interests and their views relative to America, and recommended the pursuance of every step, that might tend to strengthen the alliance with France. Nothing can more strongly exhibit the pride Mr. Adams felt in the Gallican alliance, and his zeal for supporting it, than the expressions contained in his own letters on this subject, on his first residence at the court of France.
But in Mr. Adams’s communications to congress, he advised them strenuously and invariably “to guard against their principles in government, and the manners that were so opposite to the constitutions of America, and the character of a young people, who might hereafter be called to form establishments for a great nation.”* Mr. Adams continued in  this retired and mortified situation for some months; but we shall see in its place, he was afterwards called upon to transact affairs of a very high and important nature.
It was obvious to every one, that from the family interest and connexion between the courts of France and Spain, the latter would undoubtedly co-operate with the views and designs of the former; but no treaty, alliance, or any public countenance had yet been given to the Americans, by the court of Madrid. Spain had oscillated between peace and war for several years. She had offered herself as mediatrix among the contending powers: but insulted on the seas, and her interference rejected by Britain, she appeared in June, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine, to act a more decided part. The marquis de Almodovar, the Spanish ambassador in London, delivered a rescript to lord Weymouth about this time, couched in language that amounted to a declaration of war.
On these movements in Europe, congress thought proper again to send an envoy to the court of Spain. John Jay, esquire, a gentleman from the state of New York, was appointed to this mission, September the twenty-seventh, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine. His capacity was equal to the business: he was well received, and his public character acknowledged:  yet his negociations were of little consequence to America, while he resided in Spain. Perhaps apprehensive that the spirit of freedom and revolt might extend to her own colonies, Spain chose to withhold her assistance.
No treaty with the United States was effected by Mr. Jay’s mission, no concessions with regard to the free navigation of the Mississippi, or any security for trade to the Bay of Honduras, were obtained. On these important points he was directed to negociate, as well as to solicit a loan of money, sufficient to assist the United States in the pursuit of their measures. But no loan of money of any consequence, was to be drawn from the frigid and wary Spaniards. Notwithstanding the necessities of America were fully exposed by her minister, the highest favor he could obtain was, the trivial loan of four or five thousand pounds.
Spain had no predilection in favor of the independence of the British colonies. She had always governed her own plantations beyond the Atlantic, with a very arbitrary and despotic hand. Their contiguity and intercourse with the North Americans led her to fear, that the spirit of freedom might be contagious, and their own subjects there so far infected, as to render it necessary to keep themselves in reserve against future contingencies. This they had done for some time after a war was announced  between Great Britain and France; but it was impossible for them to continue longer neutral. France was now involved in war, and decidedly supporting the Americans, and England, in expectation of a union of interests, and a modification of the same line of conduct, in the courts of the several branches of the house of Bourbon, had in various instances discovered a hostile disposition, and stood in a menacing posture, as if both her sword and her flag were ready to meet the conjoined forces of both France and Spain.
His catholic majesty thought it impossible for him longer to delay an explicit declaration of his intentions. He published a long manifesto, giving the reasons for a declaration of war. He ordered his ambassador to retire from the court of London, without taking leave, and in a schedule published by order, great moderation was professed. In a paper delivered to lord Weymouth by the marquis de Almodovar, it was observed, that
the causes of complaint given by the court of London not having ceased, and that court shewing no dispositions to give reparation for them, the king has resolved, and orders his ambassador to declare, that the honor of his crown, the protection which he owes to his subjects, and his own personal dignity, do not permit him to suffer their insults to continue, and to neglect any longer the reparation  of those already received; and that in this view, notwithstanding the pacific dispositions of his majesty, and even the particular inclination he had always had and expressed, for cultivating the friendship of his Britannic majesty, he finds himself under the disagreeable necessity of making use of all the means which the Almighty has entrusted him with, to obtain that justice which he has solicited by so many ways, without being able to acquire it.
In confiding on the justice of his cause, his majesty hopes, that the consequences of this resolution will not be imputed to him before God or man; and that other nations will form a suitable idea of this resolution, by comparing it to the conduct which they themselves have experienced, on the part of the British ministry.
While things stood thus in the courts of Great Britain, France, and Spain, the indecisive movements for a time in the southern states of America, engaged the public attention, and awakened anxious apprehensions for the result; at the same time that a scene of rapine and plunder was spread through the central parts, Virginia, New York, and Connecticut.
The predatory excursions of this year were begun early in the summer. An expedition to  the Chesapeake, under the command of sir George Collier of the navy and general Matthews of the army, served no other purpose than to alarm, distress, and impoverish the towns of Portsmouth, Suffolk, and other places in the state of Virginia, that fell under their spirit of conflagration. They stayed but a short time there: after enriching themselves with the spoils of the inhabitants, and leaving many of those who had once basked in the lap of affluence, the houseless children of poverty, they left the state, by order of the British commander in chief.
The pleasant line of towns bordering on Long Island Sound, in the state of Connecticut, were the next who felt the severe consequences of this mode of war, from British troops supported and covered by the squadron under sir George Collier, who was recalled from the Chesapeake to aid similar measures farther north.
About the beginning of July, governor Tryon with a number of disaffected Americans, and general Garth with a ravaging party of British troops and German yaughers, landed at New Haven, took possession of the town with little resistance, plundered and insulted the inhabitants, on whom every cruelty was perpetrated, except  burning their houses: this was delayed from their thirst for plunder, and the barbarous abuse of the hapless females who fell sacrifices to their wanton and riotous appetites. Hurried afterwards by their avarice for new scenes of plunder and misery, they left New Haven and repaired to Fairfield, where they landed on the seventh of the month.
This place suffered a still more cruel and severe fate. Their landing at Fairfield was but feebly opposed: the militia indeed made a faint resistance, but soon retreated, and left their property and in many instances their families, to the mercy of the enemy. This was not altogether from the want of courage, but from a consciousness of their own comparative weakness, and a strange delusive opinion, that the generosity and compassion of the British would be exercised towards them, when they found only a few women, children, and aged men left, who seemed to have thrown themselves on their compassion.
The historian would willingly draw a veil over the wanton outrages committed on the wretched inhabitants left in the town, most of them of the feebler sex. Some of them, the first characters in the place, from a wish to save their property, and an indiscreet confidence in the honor of governor Tryon, with whom they had been personally acquainted, and who had  formerly received many civilities at their houses, risked their own persons and their honor, amidst the fury of a conquering enemy, on a kind of sham protection from a man who had forgotten the obligations of politeness, and the gratitude due to those who had treated him with every mark of genteel hospitality.
The principal ladies of Fairfield, who from their little knowledge of the world, of the usages of armies, or the general conduct of men, when circumstances combine to render them savage, could not escape the brutality of the soldiery, by shewing their protections from governor Tryon. Their houses were rifled, their persons abused, and after the general pillage and burning of every thing valuable in the town, some of these miserable victims of sorrow were found half distracted in the swamps and in the fields, whither they had fled in the agonies of despair.
Tryon endeavoured afterwards to exculpate his own character, and made some futile excuses for his conduct. He would have justified himself on the principles of policy, when he felt the indignation expressed against him for his want of humanity; but policy, reason, and virtue, equally revolt at modes of war, that eradicate from the mind not only the moral feelings, but the sense of decency, civility, and politeness.
 The avidity of this party was by no means satiated by the distresses of New Haven, and the total destruction of Fairfield: the neighbouring towns of Norwalk and Greenfield suffered a similar fate: the waste of property in shipping and merchandize, was there more complete. The whole coast equally defenseless and exposed to their ravages, expected to fall in the same way; but, whether from compunction or policy is uncertain, whichever it might be, sir Henry Clinton thought proper to check the career of depredation, so grateful to the feelings of Tryon and his partisans, by a sudden recal within ten days of their landing at New Haven.
Meantime general Washington had kept himself in a defensive and respectable situation, in the central parts of America, but without a movement for any very capital stroke, after the derangement of a well concerted plan for an attack on the city of New York. He had expected the aid of the French squadron from the West Indies, to facilitate this judicious measure: the militia of several states had been collected to assist in the design: the army was in high spirits; sanguine expectations were formed; and every thing promised success to the enterprise. But the count de Estaing, perhaps ambitious to subjugate one of the states to the arms of his master, and not dreaming of effectual resistance to a force, both by land and  sea, that might reasonably be thought sufficient for the most capital enterprise, instead of uniting first with general Washington, and covering his attempt on New York by a respectable necessary naval force, he thought proper to hazard the reduction of Georgia on his way, and then repair northward.
But his attack on Savannah, his unexpected repulse and retreat, not only retarded, but totally prevented the decisive stroke contemplated by Washington, nor less apprehended by Clinton, who was thereby induced to order the evacuation of Newport, and draw off all his troops from that quarter. Newport and its environs had been infested with the inconvenience and misery of an army and navy on their borders, from the seizure of that place by earl Percy, in one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, to their relief in the present year.
The circumstances above related, put it out of the power of general Washington to prosecute the feasible system he had meditated. The militia were dismissed, and many of the continental troops returned as usual, at the expiration of their term of enlistment. General Clinton had made several attempts to draw the American commander from his strong and defensible post in the Jersies, as well as to induce him to divide his army, to oppose the desultory invasions and depredations on the defenceless  sea-coast. But general Washington very well knew the advantages he might lose by weakening the main body of his army, and was too wise and judicious to be ensnared by the manoeuvres of the British commander.
The first object of sir George Collier’s speedy recal from the ravage of the borders of Virginia, was to co-operate with general Vaughan, in the important movements on the North River. The principal design of this project was, to obtain some important posts on the Hudson. General Vaughan, who had before been distinguished for his feats there, still commanded on the Hudson, but higher up the river. On the arrival of the squadron commanded by sir George Collier, they united, and immediately made themselves masters of Stoney Point on the one side, and Verplank’s Neck on the other.
After these places had been dismantled the preceding autumn by sir Henry Clinton, the Americans had in part repaired the works. In each post they behaved with spirit and resolution; but as their numbers were inconsiderable, and their works unfinished, they soon surrendered prisoners of war, on the single condition of humane treatment.
Not many days after this event, general Washington ordered a detachment of his most  active troops, under the command of general Wayne, to attempt the recovery of Stoney Point. This bold and vigorous enterprise was conducted in a manner peculiarly honorary both to the officers and soldiers, but not altogether so consistent with humanity. They were directed not to load their pieces, but to depend on the bayonet: one who appeared discontented at the order, was shot on the occasion. Though this summary mode of punishment is severe, it was designed to prevent the effusion of blood: doubtless, had the British been early alarmed by the fire of the American arms, the carnage would have been greater.
The works had been repaired and strengthened with great alacrity, and two British regiments, some loyal Americans, and several companies of artillery, left in garrison by general Vaughan. On the evening of the fifth of July, after a difficult and hazardous march, Wayne reached, surprised, and recovered the post, in spite of the valiant opposition within. Colonel Fleury, an amiable, ambitious, and spirited young Frenchman, had the honor and peculiar pleasure of striking the British standard with his own hand. This youthful officer had received the thanks of congress, and the honorary rewards of the soldier, for his distinguished bravery in several previous rencounters.
 General Wayne was himself slightly wounded in this enterprise; but the united applauses of the commander in chief, of congress, and of his country, which he received, would have been ample compensation for more painful wounds, or much severer fatigue. The acquisition of this post was more honorary than important: an attempt to have held it would have been fruitless: it had been previously determined in a council of war, that on the success of Wayne, the works should be demolished, and the stores brought off.
Sir Henry Clinton immediately set his whole army in motion for the relief of Verplanks, which was momently expected to surrender to the American arms, and for the recovery of Stoney Point. He succeeded to his wishes; and after only three days possession, this contested spot a third time changed its masters; and the command of the whole river for a time, continued in the hands of the British.
Several other manoeuvres took place about this time near New York, and the more central parts of the country, that kept up the spirit of enterprise, and the honor of the arms of the states: but a more consequential affair occupied the public attention, in the eastern extreme of the American territory. A colonel Maclean had been sent with a party of British troops from Halifax, to land at the mouth of  the Penobscot, within the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts. He erected a fort, and established a strong post in a convenient situation for harassing the trade, and distressing the young settlements bordering on the province of Nova Scotia. When this intelligence was received at Boston, the hardy and enterprising spirit of the men of Massachusetts did not hesitate to make immediate preparation to dislodge an enemy, whose temerity had led them to encroach on their state.
It had been only four years since the commencement of hostilities with Britain. America was then not only without a navy, but without a single ship of war. The idea of constructing and equipping a maritime force, was ridiculed by some, and thought chimerical and impracticable by others: but the human mind is generally capable of accomplishing whatever it has resolution to undertake.
By the industry and vigilance of public bodies and private adventurers, they had in this short period acquired a navy, that a century before would have made a respectable figure among the most warlike nations: and within ten days after Maclean’s attempt was known at Boston, the Warren, a handsome new frigate of force, commanded by commodore Saltonstall, and seventeen  other continental, state, and private ships, were equipped, manned, victualled, and ready for sea. They were accompanied by an equal number of transports, with a considerable body of land forces, who embarked in high spirits, and with the sanguine expectation of a short and successful expedition.
This business was principally conducted by the state legislature; nor would the gentlemen of the continental navy board consent to hazard the public ships, unless the commanding officers were positively enjoined to execute their design immediately. They were apprehensive that any delay might give opportunity to send a superior force from New York. From the dilatory conduct of the Americans, after they reached Penobscot, these apprehensions were realized; and before any efficient movements had taken place, sir George Collier with a heavy squadron under his command, appeared for the relief of Maclean.
General Lovell who commanded by land, was a man of little military experience, and never made for enterprise sufficient to dislodge the British from a post of consequence, or in any way complete an undertaking, that required decision, promptitude, and judgment. Commodore Saltonstall proved himself a character of as little enterprise, and in this instance, of  less spirit, than the commander of the troops designed to act on shore.
Thus by the shameful delay of both, and to the mortification of many brave officers who accompanied them, the expedition terminated in the disgrace of both army and navy, and the total destruction of the fleet. On the first appearance of sir George Collier, the American shipping moved up the river, with a shew of resistance, but in reality to escape by land, from an enemy they seemed not to have expected, nor had the courage to face. Two of their best ships fell into the hands of the British: the remainder, lighted by their own hands, suffered a complete conflagration. The panic-struck troops, after leaving their own ships, chagrined at the conduct of Saltonstall, and disgusted with the inactivity, indecision, and indiscretion of Lovell, made their escape through the woods, in small, indiscriminate parties of soldiers and sailors. On their way they agreed on nothing, but in railing at their officers, and suffering the natural ebullitions of disappointment to spend itself in mutual reproaches. With fatigue, hunger, and difficulty, they reached the settlements on the Kennebec, and brought the intelligence of their own defeat.
It was not in the power of the infant states to repair their maritime loss during the war; and to complete the ruin of their little navy,  some of their best ships were lost in the defence of Charleston, the year following, as will be seen hereafter. What added to the mortification of this last stroke was, that these ships were prepared and ready to sail, in order to prosecute a very flattering expedition projected by the gentlemen of the navy board, in the eastern department, when they received an express order from congress, to send them to South Carolina.
Scarcely any single event during the great contest, caused more triumph to Britain, than this total demolition of the beginning of an American navy. So successful and enterprising had they been, that a gentleman of the first information has observed, that “the privateers from Boston in one year, would defray more than one half the expense of that year’s war.”* By their rapid progress, they had given the promise of a formidable appearance on the ocean, that in time they might become a rival, even to the proud mistress of the seas: but this blow gave a fatal stroke for the present to all farther attempts of the kind.
After the loss of Charleston, the ship Alliance and the Deane frigate, were the only remnants left of the American navy. These were  soon after sold at public auction, the navy boards dissolved, and all maritime enterprise extinguished, except by private adventurers. They were also much less fortunate after the loss of the public ships, than they had been at the beginning of the war: it was calculated that two out of three were generally captured by the British, after the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty. Time may again revive the ambition for a naval power there, as America is abundantly replete with every thing necessary for the equipment of fleets of magnitude and respectability.
After all it may justly be considered, that the constructing a national fleet, is but an addition to human misery; for besides the vast expense of such equipments, the idle and licentious habits of a vast body of sailors, a naval armament is only a new engine to carry death and conflagration, to distant, unoffending, innocent nations. The havoc of human life on the ocean, the great balance of evil resulting from naval engagements, if duly weighed in the scale of equity or humanity, might lead the nations, with one general consent, to their total annihilation. Yet undoubtedly, the pride of empire and the ambition of kings, will still induce them to oppress their subjects, for the purpose of enhancing their own power, by this horrid instrument of human carnage; and that they will continue to waft death and destruction  to every corner of the globe, that their maritime thunders can reach.
It is true the etiquette of modern courts usually introduces some plausible apologies, as a sort of prelude to the opening of those real scenes of war and destruction, which they are preparing to exhibit, by that monstrous engine of misery, a naval armament.
They usually trumpet forth the godlike attributes of justice, equity, mercy, and above all, that universal benevolence and tenderness to mankind, with which their respective courts or sovereigns are supposed to be infinitely endued; and deplore in the most pathetic strains, those very evils which they are bringing on, and those miseries which they are exerting their utmost powers to inflict.
But it is to be feared it will be long before we shall see a combination of powers, whatever may be their professions, whose ultimate object is the establishment of universal equity, liberty, and peace among mankind. War, the scourge of the human race, either from religious or political pretences, will probably continue to torment the inhabitants of the earth, until some new dispensation shall renovate the passions, correct the vices, and elevate the mind of mortals beyond the pursuits of time.
 The world has so long witnessed the sudden and dreadful devastation made by naval armaments, that it is unnecessary to expatiate thereon: it is enough to observe, that the splendid display of maritime power has appeared on the largest theatres of human action. The proudest cities have unexpectedly been invaded, and the inhabitants involved in misery, by the fire of those floating engines, in too many instances to particularize, from the first building up a British navy, to the early attempt of America to strengthen themselves by following the example of the parent state, in building and equipping ships of war, in the beginning of their opposition to British power. The truth of this observation may be evinced by a single instance of surprise and capture, by a little squadron under the command of commodore Hopkins, only the second year after hostilities commenced between Great Britain and the colonies. The American commander of a ship of only thirty-six guns, and seven or eight smaller vessels, surprised New Providence, captured the governor, lieutenant governor, and other officers of the crown, seized near an hundred pieces of cannon, and carried off all the warlike stores on the island. But not habituated to the usual cruelties exercised on such occasions, though they continued there two or three weeks, they offered no insult to the inhabitants, and took possession of no private  property without paying for it. This was an instance of lenity that seldom falls under observation, where men have been longer inured to scenes and services that harden the heart, and too frequently banish humanity from the breast of man.
The small naval armament constructed by the United States, did not continue long enough in existence, either to attempt great enterprise, or to become hardened by the cruel achievements consequent on the invasion of cities, towns, and villages, and desolating them by the sudden torrents of fire poured in upon their inhabitants. Some future day may, however, render it necessary for Americans to build and arm in defence of their extensive sea-board, and the preservation of their commerce; when they may be equally emulous of maritime glory, and become the scourge of their fellowmen, on the same grade of barbarity that has been exhibited by some other nations.
[*]See Appendix, Note No. V.
[*]Deane in this letter named prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, as a suitable commander for the armies of the free Americans.
[*]Mr. Drayton and others. Also Mr. Paine, author of a pamphlet entitled Common Sense. See some observations on his character, Appendix, Note No. VI.
[*]This was under the despotism of kings. It was monarchic principles and manners that Mr. Adams then admonished his countrymen to avoid. See his letter to congress, August the fourth, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine. [Adams, Works, VII: 99–110.
[*]See letters of the honorable John Adams to Mr. Calkoen. “Twenty-six Letters upon Interesting Subjects Reflecting the Revolution of America, Written in Holland in the Year MDCCLXXX ,” in Adams, Works, VII: 265–312.]