On the 2nd of July, 1775, after a journey of eleven days, General Washington arrived in Boston from Philadelphia and on the following day, under the shade of the great elm-tree which stands hard by Cambridge Common, he took command of the Continental army, which as yet was composed entirely of New Englanders. Of the 16,000 men engaged in the siege of Boston - Massachusetts furnished 11,500, Connecticut, 2,300, New Hampshire, 1,200 and Rhode Island, 1,000. These contingents were arrayed under their local commanders, and under the local flags of their respective commonwealths, though Artemas Ward of Massachusetts had by courtesy exercised the chief command until the arrival of Washington.
During the month of July, Congress gave a more continental complexion to the army by sending a reinforcement of 3,000 men from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, including the famous Daniel Morgan, with his sturdy band of sharpshooters, each man of whom, it was said, while marching at double-quick, could cleave with his rifle-ball a squirrel at a distance of three hundred yards. The summer of 1775 thus brought together in Cambridge many officers whose names
were soon to become household words throughout the length and breadth of the land, and a moment may be fitly spent in introducing them before we proceed with the narrative of events.
Daniel Morgan, who had just arrived from Virginia with his riflemen, was a native of New Jersey, of Welsh descent. Moving to Virginia at an early age, he had won a great reputation for bravery and readiness of resource in the wild campaigns of the Seven Years' War. He was a man of gigantic stature and strength, and incredible powers of endurance. In his youth, it is said, he had received five hundred lashes by order of a tyrannical British officer, and had come away alive and defiant. On another occasion, in a fierce woodland fight with the Indians, in which nearly all his comrades were slain, Morgan was shot through the neck by a musket-ball. Almost fainting from the wound, which he believed to be fatal, Morgan was resolved, nevertheless, not to leave his scalp in the hands of a dirty Indian; and falling forward, with his arms tightly clasped about the neck of his stalwart horse, though mists were gathering before his eyes, he spurred away through the forest paths, until his foremost Indian pursuer, unable to come up with him, hurled his tomahawk after him with a yell of baffled rage, and gave up the chase.
With this unconquerable tenacity, Morgan was a man of gentle and unselfish nature; a genuine diamond, though a rough one; uneducated, but clear and strong in intelligence and faithful in every fibre. At Cambridge began his long comradeship with a very different character, Benedict Arnold,
a young man of romantic and generous impulses, and for personal bravery unsurpassed, but vain and self-seeking, and lacking in moral robustness; in some respects a more polished man than Morgan, but of a nature at once coarser and weaker. We shall see these two men associated in some of the most brilliant achievements of the war; and we shall see them persecuted and insulted by political enemies, until the weaker nature sinks and is ruined while the stronger endures to the end.
Along with Morgan and Arnold thee might have been seen on Cambridge Common a man who was destined to play no less conspicuous a part in the great campaign which was to end in the first decisive overthrow of the British. For native shrewdness, rough simplicity, and dauntless courage, John Stark was much like Morgan. What the name was in the great woods of the Virginia frontier, that was the other among the rugged hills of northern New England, a symbol of patriotism and a guarantee of victory. Great as was Stark's personal following in New Hampshire, he had not however, the chief command of the troops of that colony. The commander of the New Hampshire contingent was John Sullivan, a wealthy lawyer of Durham, who had sat in the first Continental Congress. Sullivan was a gentleman of wide culture and fair ability as a statesman. As a general, he was brave, intelligent and faithful, but in no wise brilliant. Closely associated with Sullivan for the next three years we shall find
Nathaniel Greene, now in command of the Rhode Island contingent. For intellectual calibre the other officers here mentioned are dwarfed at once in comparison with Greene, who comes out at the end of the war with a military reputation scarcely, if at all, inferior to that of Washington. Nor was Greene less notable for the sweetness and purity of his character than for the scope of his intelligence. From lowly beginnings he had come to be, though still a young man, the most admired and respected citizen of Rhode Island. He had begun life as a blacksmith, but inspired by an intense thirst for knowledge, he had soon become a learned blacksmith, well versed in history, philosophy and general literature. He had that rare genius which readily assimilates all kinds of knowledge through an inborn correctness of method. Whatever he touched, it was with a master hand, and his weight of sense soon won general recognition. Such a man was not unnaturally an eager book-buyer, and in this way he had some time ago been brought into pleasant relations with the genial and intelligent Henry Knox, who from his bookshop in Boston had come to join the army as a colonel of artillery, and soon became one of Washington's most trusty followers.
Of this group of officers, none have as yet reached very high rank in the Continental Army. Sullivan and Greene stand at the end of the list of brigadier-generals; the rest are colonels. The senior major-general, Artemas Ward, and the senior brigadiers, Pomeroy
Heath, Thomas, Wooster and Spencer, will presently pass into the background, to make way for these younger or more vigorous men. Major-General Israel Putnam, the picturesque wolf-slayer, a brave and sterling patriot but of slender military capacity, will remain in the foreground for another year, and will then become relegated mainly to garrison duty.
With the exception of Morgan, all the officers here noticed are New England men, as is natural, since the seat of war is in Massachusetts, and an army really continental in complexion is still to be formed. The Southern colonies have as yet contributed only Morgan and the commander-in-chief. New York is represented, in the Continental army by two of the noblest of American heroes - Major-General Philip Schuyler and Brigadier- General Richard Montgomery. But these able men are now watching over Ticonderoga and the Indian frontier of New York. But among the group which in 1775 met for consultation on Cambridge Common, or in the noble Tory mansion now hallowed alike by memories of Washington and of Longfellow, there were yet two other generals, closely associated with each other for a time in ephemeral reputation won by false pretences, and afterwards in lasting ignominy. It is with pleasure that one recalls the fact that these men are not Americans, though both possessed estates in Virginia; it is with regret that one is forced to own them as Englishmen. Of Horatio Gates and his career of imbelicity and intrique, we shall by and by see more than enough.
At this time he was present in Cambridge as adjutant general in the army. But his friend, Charles Lee, was for the moment a far more conspicuous personage; and this eccentric creature whose career was for a long time one of the difficult problems in American history, needs something more than a passing word of introduction.
Although Major-General Charles Lee happened to have acquired an estate in Virginia, he had nothing in common with the illustrious family of Virginian Lees beyond the accidental identity of name. He was born in England and had risen in the British army to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He had served in America in the Seven Years' War, and afterward, as a soldier of fortune, he had wandered about Europe, obtaining at one time a place on the staff of the king of Poland. A restless adventurer he had come over again to America as soon as he saw a war was brewing here. There is nothing to show that he cared a rush for the Americans, or for the cause in which they were fighting, but he sought the opportunity of making a name for himself. He was received with enthusiasm by the Americans. His loud, pompous manner and enormous self-confidence at first imposed upon everybody. He was tall, lank, and hollow-cheeked, with a discontented expression of face. In dress he was extremely slovenly. He was fond of dogs and always had three or four at his heels, but toward men and women his demeanour was morose and insulting. He had a sharp, cynical wit, and was always making severe remarks in a harsh, rough voice. But
disagreeable as he was, the trustful American imagination endowed him with the qualities of a great soldier. His reputation was part of the unconscious tribute which the provincial mind of our countrymen was long wont to pay to the men and things of Europe; and for some time his worst actions found a lenient interpretation as the mere eccentricities of a wayward genius. He had hoped to be made commander-in-chief of the army, and had already begun to nourish a bitter grudge against Washington, by whom he regarded himself as supplanted. In the following year we shall see him endeavouring to thwart the plans of Washington at the most critical moment of the war, but for the present he showed no signs of insincerity, except perhaps in an undue readiness to parley with the British commanders.
As soon as it became clear that a war was beginning, the hope of winning glory by effecting an accommodation with the enemy offered a dangerous temptation to men of weak virtue in eminent positions. In October, 1775, the American camp was thrown into great consternation by the discovery that Dr. Benjamin Church, one of the most conspicuous of the Boston leaders had engaged in a secret correspondence with the enemy. Dr. Church was thrown in jail, but as evidence of treasonable intent was not absolutely complete, he was set free in the following spring and allowed to visit the West Indies for his health. The ship in which he sailed was never heard from again. This kind of temptation, to which Church succumbed at the first outbreak of the war, beset Lee with fatal
effect after the Declaration of Independence, and wrought the ruin of Arnold after the conclusion of the French alliance.
To such a man as Charles Lee, destitute of faith in the loftier virtues or in the strength of political ideas, it might easily have seemed that more was to be hoped from negotiation than from an attempt to resist Great Britain with such an army as that of which he now came to command the left wing. It was fortunate that the British generals were ignorant of the real state of things. Among the moral effects of the battle of Bunker Hill there was one which proved for the moment to be of inestimable value. It impressed upon General Howe, who now succeeded to the chief command, the feeling that the Americans were more formidable than had been supposed, and that much care and forethought would be required for a successful attack upon them. In a man of his easy-going disposition, such a feeling was enough to prevent decisive action. It served to keep the British force idle in Boston for months, and was thus of great service to the American cause. For in spite of the zeal and valour it had shown, this army of New England minute-men was by no means in a fit condition for carrying on such an arduous enterprise as the siege of Boston.
When Washington took command of the army on Cambridge Common, he found that the first and most trying task before him was out of this excellent but very raw material to create an army upon which he could depend. The battle of Bunker Hill had just been lost, under circumstances which
were calculated to cheer the Americans and make them hopeful of the future; but it would not do to risk another battle, with an untrained staff and a scant supply of powder. All the work of organizing an army was still to be done and the circumstances were not such as to make it an easy work. It was not merely that the men, who were much better trained in the discipline of the town-meeting than in that of the camp, needed to be taught the all-important lesson of military subordination; it was at first a serious question how they were to be kept all together at all. That the enthusiasm kindled on the day of Lexington should have sufficed to bring together 16,000 men, and to keep them for three months at their posts, was already remarkable; but no army however patriotic and self-sacrificing can be supported on enthusiasm alone. The army of which Washington took command was a motly crowd, clad in every variety of rustic attire, armed with trusty muskets and rifles as their recent exploit had shown, but destitute of almost everything else that belongs to a soldier's outfit.
From the Common down to the river, their rude tents were dotted about here and there, some made of sail-cloth stretched over poles, some piled up of stones and turf, some oddly wrought of twisted green boughs; while the more fortunate ones found comparatively luxurious quarters in Massachusetts Hall, or in the little Episcopal church, or in the houses of patriotic citizens. These volunteers had enlisted for various periods, under various contracts with various towns or provincial governments.
Their terms of service had naturally been conceived to be short, and it was not only not altogether clear how they were going to be paid, but it was not easy to see how they were going to be fed. That this army should have been already subsisted for three months, without any commissariat, was in itself an extraordinary fact. Day by day the heavy carts had rumbled into Cambridge, bringing from the highlands of Berkshire and Worcester and from the Merrimac and Connecticut valleys, whatever could in any wise be spared of food, or clothing, or medicines, for the patriot army; and the pleasant fields of Cambridge were a busy scene of kindness and sympathy.
Such means as these, however, could not long be efficient. If war was to be successfully conducted, there must be a commissariat, there must be ammunition, and there must be money. And here, Washington found himself confronted with the difficulty which never ceased to vex his noble soul and disturb his best laid schemes until the day when he swooped down upon Cornwallis at Yorktown. He had to keep making the army, with which he was too often expected to fight battles ere it was half made; and in this arduous work he could get but little systematic help from any quarter. At present the difficulty was that there was nowhere any organized government competent to support an army. On Washington's arrival, the force surrounding Boston owed allegiance, as we have seen, to four distinct commonwealths, of which two, indeed, Connecticut and Rhode Island, - preserving
their ancient charters, with governors elected by themselves, were still in their normal condition. In New Hampshire, on the other hand, the royal governor, Wentworth, whose personal popularity was deservedly great, still kept his place, while Stark and his men had gone to Cambridge in spite of him. In Massachusetts the revolutionary Provincial Congress still survived, but with uncertain powers; even the Continental Congress which adopted the Cambridge army in the name of the United Colonies was simply an advisory body, without the power to raise taxes or to beat up recruits. From this administrative chaos, through which all the colonies, save Connecticut and Rhode Island, were forced to pass in these trying times, Massachusetts was the first to emerge in July, 1775, by reverting to the provisions of its old charter, and forming a government in which the king's authority was virtually disallowed. A representative assembly was chosen by the people in their town-meetings, according to time-honoured precedent; and this new legislature itself elected an annual council of twenty-eight members, to sit as an upper house. James Bowdoin, as president of the council, became chief executive officer of the commonwealth, and John Adams was made chief-justice. Forty thousand pounds were raised by a direct tax on polls and on real-estate, and bills of credit were issued for 1,000 more. The commonwealth adopted a new seal, and a proclamation, issued somewhat later by Chief-Justice Adams, enjoining it upon all people to give loyal
obedience to the new government, closed with the significant invocation, "God save the people," instead of the customary "God save the king."
In taking this decisive step, Massachusetts was simply the first to act upon the general recommendation of the Continental Congress, that the several colonies should forthwith proceed to frame governments for themselves, based upon the suffrages of the people. From such a recommendation as this to a formal declaration of independence, the distance to be traversed was not great. Samuel Adams urged that in declaring the colonies independent Congress would be simply recognizing a fact which in reality already existed, and that by thus looking facts squarely in the face the inevitable war might be conducted with far greater efficiency. But he was earnestly and ably opposed by Dickinson of Pennsylvania whose arguments for the present prevailed in the Congress. It was felt that the Congress as a mere advisory body, had no right to take a step of such supreme importance without first receiving explicit instructions from every one of the colonies. Besides this, the thought of separation was still a painful thought to most of the delegates, and it was deemed well worth while to try the effect of one more candid statement of grievances, to be set forth in a petition to his majesty. For like reasons, the Congress did not venture to take measures to increase its own authority; and when Franklin, still thinking of union as he had been thinking for more than twenty years, now brought forward a new
scheme, somewhat similar to the Articles of Confederation afterwards adopted, it was set aside as premature. The king was known to be fiercely opposed to any dealings with the colonies as a united body, and so considerate of his feelings were these honest and peaceloving delegates that, after much discussion, they signed their carefully worded petition severally and not jointly. They signed it as individuals speaking for the people of the American colonies, not as members of an organic body representing the American people.
To emphasize still further their conciliatory mood, the delivery of the petition was entrusted to Richard Penn, a descendant of the great Quaker and joint-proprietary in the government of Pennsylvania, an excellent man and an ardent loyalist. At the same time that this was done, an issue of paper money was made, to be severally guaranteed by the thirteen colonies and half a million dollars were sent to Cambridge to be used for the army.
Military operations, however, came for the time to a stand-still. While Washington's energies were fully occupied in organizing and drilling his troops, in providing them with powder and ball, in raising lines of fortification, in making good the troublesome vacancies due to short terms of enlistment, and above all in presenting unfailingly a bold front to the enemy; while the encampments about Boston were the daily scene of tedious work, without any immediate prospect of brilliant achievement, the Congress and the people were patiently waiting to hear the result of the last petition that was ever to be sent from these colonies to the king of Great Britian.
Penn made all possible haste, and arrived in London on the 14th of August; but when he got there the king would neither see him, nor receive the petition in any way, directly or indirectly. The Congress was an illegal assembly which had no business to send letters to him; if any one of the colonies wanted to make terms for itself separately, he might be willing to listen to it. But this idea of a united America was something unknown either to law or to reason, something that could not be too summarily frowned down. So while Penn waited about London, the king issued a proclamation; setting forth that many of his subjects in the colonies were in open and armed rebellion, and calling upon all loyal subjects of the realm to assist in bringing to condign punishment the authors and abettors of this foul treason. Having launched this thunderbolt, George sent at once to Russia to see if he could hir 20,000 men to aid in giving it effect, for the "loyal subjects of the realm" were slow in coming forward.
A war against the Americans was not yet popular in England. Lord Chatham withdrew his eldest son, Lord Pitt, from the army, lest he should be called upon to serve against the men who were defending the common liberties of Englishmen. There was, moreover, in England as well as in America, a distrust of regular armies. Recruiting was difficult and conscription was something that the people would not endure unless England should actually be threatened with invasion. The king had already been obliged to raise a force of his Hanoverian subjects to garrison
Minorca and Gibraltar, thus setting free the British defenders of these strongholds for service in America. He had no further resource except in hiring troops from abroad. But his attempt in Russia was not successful, for the Empress Catherine with all her faults, was not disposed to sell the blood of her subjects. She improved the occasion - as sovereigns and others will sometimes do, by asking George, sarcastically, if he thought it quite compatible with his dignity to employ foreign troops against his own subjects; as for Russian soldiers, she had none to spare for such a purpose. Foiled in this quarter, the king applied to the Duke of Brunswick, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, the princes of Waldeck and Anhalt-Zerbst, the Margrave of Anspach-Bayreuth, and the Count of Hesse-Hanau, and succeeded in making a bargain for 20,000 of the finest infantry in Europe, with four good generals - Riedesel of Brunswick, and Knyphausen, Von Heister and Donop of Hesse. The hiring of these troops was bitterly condemned by Lord John Cavendish in the House of Commons and by Lords Camden and Shelburne and the Duke of Richmond in the House of Lords; and Chatham's indignant invectives at a somewhat later date are familiar to everyone.
It is proper, however, that in such an affair as this we should take care to affix our blame in the right place. The king might well argue that in carrying on a war for what the majority of Parliament regarded as a righteous object, it was no worse for him to hire men than to buy cannon
and ships. The German troops, on their part, might justly complain of Lord Camden for stigmatizing them as "mercenaries," inasmuch as they did not come to America for pay, but because there was no help for it. It was indeed with a heavy heart tht these honest men took up their arms to go beyond sea and fight for a cause in which they felt no sort of interest, and great was the mourning over their departure. The persons who really deserved to bear the odium of this transaction were the mercenary princes who thus shamelessly sold their subjects into slavery. It was a striking instance of the demoralization which had been wrought among the petty courts of Germany in the last days of the old empire and among the German people it excited profound indignation. The popular feeling was well expressed by Schiller in his "Cabale und Liebe." Frederick the Great, in a letter to Voltaire, declared himself beyond measure disgusted, and by way of publicly expressing his contempt for the transaction he gave orders to his custom house officers that upon all such of these soldiers as should pass through Prussian territory a toll should be levied, as upon "cattle exported for foreign shambles."
When the American question was brought up in the autumn session of Parliament, it was treated in the manner with which the Americans had by this time become familiar. A few far-sighted men still urged the reasonableness of the American claims, but there was now a great majority against them. In spite of grave warning voices, both houses decided
to support the king; and in this they were upheld by the university of Oxford, which a century ago had burned the works of John Milton as "blasphemous," and which now, with equal felicity, in a formal address to the king, described the Americans as "a people who had forfeited their lives and their fortunes to the justice of the state."
At the same time, the department of American affairs was taken from the amiable Lord Dartmouth, and given to the truculent Lord George Germaine. Those things were done in November 1775, and in the preceding month they had been heralded by an act of wanton barbarity on the part of a British naval officer, albeit an unwarranted act, which the British government as promptly as possible disowned. On the 16th of October, Captain Mowatt had sailed with four small vessels into the harbour of Portland (then called Falmouth), and with shells and grenades set fire to the little town. St. Paul's Church, all the public buildings and three fourths of all the dwellings were burned to the ground, and a thousand unoffending men, woman and children were thus turned out-of-doors just as the sharp Maine winter was coming on to starve and freeze them.
The news of the burning of Portland reached Philadelphia on the same day (October 31) with the news that George III. was about to send foreign mercenaries to fight against his American subjects; and now the wrath of Congress was thoroughly kindled, and the party which advised furthe temporizing was thrown into helpless minority.
"Well, brother rebel," said a Southern member to Samuel Ward of Rhode Island, "we have now got a sufficient answer to our petition: I want nothing more, but am ready to declare ourselves independent." Congress now advised New Hampshire, Virginia and South Carolina to frame for themselves new republican governments as Massachusetts had already done; it urged South Carolina to seize the British vessels in her waters; it appointed a committee to correspond with foreign powers; and above all, it adopted unreservedly the scheme, already partially carried out, for the expulsion of the British from Canada.
At once upon the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington, the conquest of Canada had been contemplated by the Northern patriots, who well remembered how, in days gone by, the valley of the St. Lawrence had furnished a base for attacks upon the province of New York, which was then the strategic centre of the American world. It was deemed an act of military prudence to secure this region at the outset. But so long as the least hope of conciliation remained, Congress was unwilling to adopt any measures save such as were purely defensive in character. As we have seen, it was only with reluctance that it had sanctioned the garrisoning of Ticonderoga by the Connecticut troops. But in the course of the summer it was learned that the governor of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, was about to take steps to recover Ticonderoga; and it was credibly reported that intrigues were going on with the
Iroquois tribes, to induce them to harry the New England frontier and the pleasant farms on the Hudson; so that, under these circumstance, the invasion of Canada was now authorized by Congress as a measure of self-defence. An expedition down Lake Champlain, against Montreal was at once set on foot. As Schuyler, the commander of the northern department, was disabled by ill health, the enterprise was confided to Richard Montgomery and it could not have been put in better hands. Late in August, Montgomery started from Ticonderoga and on the 12th of September with a force of two thousand men, he laid siege to the fortress of St. John's which commanded the approach to Montreal. Carleton, whose utmost exertions could bring together only nine hundred men, made heroic but fruitless efforts to stop his progress. After a siege of fifty days, St. John's surrendered on the 3d of November and on the 12th, Montgomery entered Montreal in triumph. The people of Canada had thus far seemed favourably disposed toward the American invaders, and Montgomery issued a proclamation urging them to lose no time in choosing delegates to attend the Continental Congress.
Meanwhile in September, Washington had detached from the army at Cambridge one thousand New England infantry, with two companies of Pennsylvania riflemen and Morgan's famous Virginia sharpshooters, and ordered them to advance upon Quebec through the forests of Maine and by way of the rivers Kennebec and Chaudiere. The expedition was commanded by Colonel Benedict
Arnold, who seems to have been one of the first, if not the first, to suggest it. The enterprise was one to call for all his persistent daring and fertile resource. It was an amphibious journey, as they now rowed their boats with difficulty against the strong, swift current of the Kennebec, and now, carrying boats and oars on their shoulders, forced their way through the tangled undergrowth of the primeval forests. Often they had to wade across perilous bogs, and presently their shoes were cut to pieces by sharp stones and their clothes torn to shreds by thorns and briers. Their food gave out, and though some small game was shot, their hunger became such that they devoured their dogs. When they reached the head of the Chaudiere, after this terrible march of thirty-three days, two hundred of their number had succombed to starvation, cold and fatigue, while two hundred more had given out and returned to Massachusetts, carrying with them such of the sick and disabled as they could save. The descent of the Chaudiere in their boats afforded some chance of rest, and presently they began to find cattle for food. At last, on the 13th of November, the next day after Montgomery's capture of Montreal, they crossed the broad St. Lawrence and climbed the Heights of Abraham at the very place where Wolfe had climbed to victory sixteen years ago. There was splendid bravado in Arnold's advancing to the very gates with his little, worn-out army, now reduced to seven hundred men and summoning the garrison either to come out and fight, or to surrender
the town. But the garrison very properly would neither surrender nor fight. The town had been warned in time, and Arnold had no alternative but to wait for Montgomery to join him.
Six days afterward, Carleton, disguised as a farmer, and ferried down stream in a little boat, found his way into Quebec; and on the 3d of December, Montgomery made his appearance with a small force, which raised the number of the Americans to twelve hundred men. As Carleton persistently refused to come out of his defences, it was resolved to carry the works by storm, - a chivalrous, nay, one might almost say, a foolhardy decision, had it not been so nearly justified by the event. On the last day of 1775, England came within ace of losing Quebec. At two o'clock in the morning, in a blinding snowstorm, Montgomery and Arnold began each a furious attack, at opposite sides of the town; and aided by the surprise, each came near carrying his point. Montgomery had almost forced his way in when he fell dead, pierced by three bullets; and this so chilled the enthusiasm of his men that they flagged until reinforcements drove them back. Arnold, on his side, was severely wounded and carried from the field; but the indomitable Morgan took his place, and his Virginia company stormed the battery opposed to them and fought their way far into the town. Had the attack on the other side been kept up with equal vigor, as it might have been but for Montgomery's death, Quebec would have fallen. As it was, Morgan's triumphant advance only served to
isolate him, and presently he and his gallant company were surrounded and captured.
With the failure of this desperate attack passed away the golden opportunity for taking the citadel of Canada. Arnold remained throughout the winter in the neighborhood of Quebec and in the spring the enterprise was taken up by Wooster and Sullivan with fresh forces. But by this time many Hessians had come over and Carleton, reinforced until his army numbered 13,000 was enabled to recapture Montreal and push back the Americans, until in June, after a hazardous retreat, well conducted by Sullivan, the remnant of their invading army found shelter at Crown Point. Such was the disastrous ending of a campaign which at the outset had promised a brilliant success, and which is deservedly famous for the heroism and skill with which it was conducted. The generalship of Montgomery received the warm approval of no less a critic than Frederick the Great; and the chivalrous bravery of Arnold, both in his march through the wilderness and in the military operations which followed, was such that if a kind fate could then and there have cut the thread of his life, he would have left behind him a sweet and shining memory. As for the attempt to bring Canada into the American Union, it was one which had no hope of success save through a strong display of military force. The sixteen years which had elapsed since the victory of Wolfe had not transformed the Canadian of the old regime into a free-born Englishman.
The question at present for him was only that of a choice of allegiance;
and while at first the invaders were favourably received, it soon became apparent that between the Catholic and the Puritan there could be but little real sympathy. The Quebec Act, which legalized Catholic worship in Canada, had done much toward securing England's hold upon this part of her American possessions. And although, in the colourless political condition of this northern province, the capture of Quebec might well have brought it into the American union, where it would gradually have taken on a fresh life, as surely as it has done under British guidance, yet nothing short of such a military occupation could have had any effect in determining its lanquid preferences.
While Canada was thus freed from the presence of the Continental troops, the British army, on the other hand, was driven from Boston and New England was cleared of the enemy. During the autumn and winter, Washington had drawn his lines as closely as possible about the town while engaged in the work of organizing and equipping his army. The hardest task was to collect a sufficient quantity of powder and ball and to bring together siege-guns. As the season wore on, the country grew impatient, and Washington sometimes had to listen to criticisms like those that were directed against McClellan in Virginia, at the beginning of 1862,or against Grant before Vicksburg in the spring of 1863. President Hancock, who owned a great deal of property in Boston, urged him to set fire to the town and destroy it, if by doing so he could drive the British to their ships. But Washington had
planned much more wisely. By the 1st of March a great quantity of cannon had been brought in by Henry Knox, some of them dragged on sledges all the way from Ticonderoga, and so at last Washington felt himself prepared to seize upon Dorchester Heights. This position commanded the town and harbour even more effectually than Bunker Hill, and why in all these months General Howe had not occupied it one would find it hard to say. He was bitterly attacked for his remissness by the British newspapers, as was quite natural.
Washington chose for his decisive movement the night of the 4th of March. Eight hundred men led the way, escorting the wagons laden with spades and crowbars, hatchets, hammers and nails. And after them followed twelve hundred men, with three hundred ox-carts, carrying timbers and bales of hay; while the rear was brought up by the heavy siege guns. From Somerville, East Cambridge, and Roxbury, a furious cannonade was begun soon after sunset and kept up through the night, completely absorbing the attention of the British, who kept up a lively fire in return. The roar of the cannon drowned every other sound for miles around, while all night long the two thousand Americans, having done thri short march in perfect secrecy were busily digging and building on Dorchester Heights, and dragging their siege-guns into position. Early next morning, Howe saw with astonishment what had been done and began to realize his perilous situation. The commander of the fleet sent word that unless the Americans
could be forthwith dislodged, he could not venture to keep his ships in the harbour. Most of the day was consumed in deciding what should be done, until at last Lord Percy was told to take three thousand men and storm the works. But the slaughter of Bunker Hill had taught its lesson so well that neither Percy nor his men had any stomach for such an enterprise. A violent storm, coming up toward nightfall, persuaded them to delay the attack till the next day, and by that time it had become apparent to all the the American works continually growing, had become impregnable. Percy's orders were accordingly countermanded, and it was decided to abandon the town immediately. It was the sixth anniversary of the day on which Samuel Adams had overawed Hutchinson, and forced him to withdraw his two British regiments from Boston. The work then begun was now consummated by Washington, and from that time forth the deliverance of Massachusetts was complete.
Howe caused it at once to be known among the citizens that he was about to evacuate Boston but he threatened to lay the town in ashes if his troops should be fired on. The selectmen conveyed due information of all this to Washington, who accordingly, secure in the achievement of his purpose, allowed the enemy to depart in peace. By the 17th the eight thousand troops were all on board their ships and, taking with them all the Tory citizens, some nine hundred in number, they sailed away for Halifax. Their space did not permit them to carry away their heavy arms, and
their retreat, slow as it was, bore marks of hurry and confusion. In taking possession of the town, Washington captured more than two hundred serviceable cannon, ten times more powder and ball than his army had ever seen before, and an immense quantity of muskets, guncarriages and military stores of every sort. Thus was New England set free by a single brilliant stroke, with very slight injury to private property, and with a total loss of not more than twenty lives.
The time ws now fairly ripe for the colonies to declare themselves independent of Great Britain. The idea of a separation from the mother-country, which in the autumn had found but few supporters, grew in favour day by day through the winter and spring. The incongruousness of the present situation was well typified by the flag which Washington flung to the breeze on New Year's day at Cambridge, which was made up of thirteen stripes, to represent the United Colonies, but which retained the cross of St. George, in the corner. Thus far, said Benjamin Harrison, they had contrived to "hobble along under a fatal attachment to Great Britain," but the time had come when one must consider the welfare of one's own country first of all. As Samuel Adams said, their petitions had not been heard, and yet had been answered by armies and fleets, and by myrmidons hired from abroad. Nothing had made a greater impression upon the American people than this hiring of German troops. It went farther than any other single cause to ripen their minds for the declaration of independence.
Many now began to agree with the Massachusetts statesman; and while public opinion was in this malleable condition, there appeared a pamphlet which wrought a prodigious effect upon the people, mainly because it gave terse and vigorous expression to views which everyone had already more than half formed for himself.
Thomas Paine had come over to America in December, 1774, and through the favour of Franklin had secured employment as editor of the "Pennsylvania Magazine." He was by nature a dissenter and a revolutionist to the marrow of his bones. Full of the generous though often blind enthusiasm of the eighteenth century for the "rights of man," he was no respecter of the established order, whether in church or state. To him the church and its doctrines meant slavish superstitution, and the state meant tyranny. Of crude and undisciplined mind, and quite devoid of scholarship, yet endowed with native acuteness and sagacity, and with no mean power of expressing himself, Paine succeeded in making everybody read what he wrote, and achieved a popular reputation out of all proportion to his real merit. Among devout American families his name is still a name of horror and opprobrium, and uneducated freethinkers still build lecture-halls in honour of his memory, and celebrate the anniversary of his birthday with speeches full of dismal platitudes.
The "Age of Reason," which was the cause of all this singular blessing and banning, contains amid much crude argument, some sound and sensible criticism, such as is often far exceeded in boldness in the
books and sermons of the Unitarian and Episcopalian divines of the present day; but its tone is coarse and dull, and with the improvement of popular education it is fast sinking into complete and deserved oblivion. There are times, however, when such caustic pamphleteers as Thomas Paine have their uses. There are times when they can bring about results which are not so easily achieved by men of finer mould and more sublte intelligence. It was at just such a time in January, 1776, that Paine published his pamphlet, "Common Sense," on the suggestion of Benjamin Rush, and with the approval of Franklin and of Samuel Adams. The pamphlet is full of scurrilous abuse of the English people, and resorts to such stupid arguments as the denial of the English origins of the Americans. Not one third of the people even of Pennsylvania, are of English descent argued Paine, as if Pennsylvania had been preeminent among the colonies for its English blood, and not, as in reality, perhaps the least English of all the thirteen save New York. But along with all this stuff there was a sensible and striking statement of the practical state of the case between England and the colonies. The reasons were shrewdly and vividly set forth for looking upon reconciliation as hopeless, and for seizing the present moment to declare to the world what the logic of events was already fast making an accomplished fact. Only thus, it was urged, could the States of America pursue a coherent and well-defined policy, and preserve their dignity in the eyes of the world.
It was difficult for the printers, with the clumsy presses of that day, to bring out copies of "Common Sense" fast enough to meet the demand for it. More than a hundred thousand copies were speedily sold, and it carried conviction wherever it went. At the same time, Parliament did its best to reinforce the argument by passing an act to close all American ports and authorize the confiscation of all American ships and cargoes, as well as of such neutral vessels as might dare to trade with this procribed people. And, as if this were not quite enough, a clause was added by which British commanders on the high seas were directed to impress the crews of such American ships as they might meet, and to compel them, under penalty of death to enter the service against their fellow-countrymen. In reply to this edict, Congress, in March, ordered the ports of America to be thrown open to all nations; it issued letters of marque and it advised all the colonies to disarm such Tories as should refuse to contribute to the common defence. These measures, as Franklin said, were virtually a declaration of war against Great Britain. But before taking the last irrevocable step, the prudent Congress waited for instructions from every one of the colonies.
The first colony to take decisive action in behalf of independence was North Carolina, a commonwealth in which the king had supposed the outlook to be especially favourable for the loyalist party. Recovered in some measure from the turbulence of its earlier days, North Carolina was fast becoming a prosperous community of small planters,
and its population had increased so rapidly that it now ranked fourth among the colonies, immediately after Pennsylvania. Since the overthrow of the Pretender at Culloden there had been a great immigration of sturdy scots from the western Highlands, in which the clans of Macdonald and Macleod were especially respresented. the celebrated Flora Macdonald herself, the romantic woman who saved Charles Edward in 1746, had lately come over here and settled at Kingsborough with Allan Macdonald, her husband. These Scottish immigrants also helped to colonize the upland regions of South Carolina and Georgia, and they have powerfully affected the race composition of the Southern people, forming an ancestry of which their descendants may well be proud. Though these Highland clansmen had taken part in the Stuart insurrection, they had become loyal enough to the government of George III., and it was now hoped that with their aid the colonies might be firmly secured, and its neighbours on either side overawed. To this end, in January, Sir Henry Clinton, taking with him 2,000 troops, left Boston and sailed for the Cape Fear river, while a force of seven regiments and ten ships-of-war, under Sir Peter Parker, was ordered from Ireland to cooperate with him. At the same time, Martin, the royal governor, who for safety had retired on board a British ship, carried on negotiations with the Highlanders until a force of 1,600 men was raised, and under command of Donald Macdonald, marched down toward the coast to welcome the
arrival of Clinton. But North Carolina had its minute-men as well as Massachusetts, and no sooner was this movement perceived, than Colonel Richard Caswell with 1,000 militia, took up a strong position at the bridge over Moore's Creek, which Macdonald was about to pass on his way to the coast. After a sharp fight of a half hour's duration, the Scots were seized with panic, and were utterly routed. Nine hundred prisoners, 2,000 stand of arms, and #15,000 in gold were the trophies of Caswell's victory. The Scottish commander and his kinsman, the husband of Flora Macdonald, were taken and lodged in jail, and thus ended the sway of George III. over North Carolina.
The effect of the victory was as contagious as that of Lexington had been in New England. Within ten days 10,000 militia were ready to withstand the enemy, so that Clinton, on his arrival, decided not to land, and stayed cruising about Albemarle Sound, waiting for the fleet under Parker, which did not appear on the scene until May. A provincial congress was forthwith assembled, and instructions were sent to the North Carolina delegates in the Continental Congress, empowering them "to concur with the delegates in the other colonies in declaring independency and forming foreign alliances, reserving to the colony the sole and exclusive right of forming a constitution and laws for it."
At the same time that these things were taking place, the colony of South Carolina was framing for itself a new government, and on the 23d of
March, without directly alluding to independence, it empowered its delegates to concur in any measure which might be deemed essential to the welfare of America. In Georgia the provincial congress, in choosing a new set of delegates to Philadelphia, authorized them to "join in any measure which they might think calculated for the common good."
In Virginia the party in favour of independence had been in the minority, until, in November 1775, the royal governor, Lord Dunmore, had issued a proclomation, offering freedom to all such negroes and indented white servants as might enlist for the purpose of "reducing the colony to a proper sense of duty." This measure Lord Dunsmore hoped would "oblige the rebels to disperse, in order to take care of their families and property." But the object was not attained. With light work and generous fare, the condition of the Virginia negro was a happy one. The time had not yet come when he was liable to be torn from wife and children, to die of hardship in the cotton-fields and rice swamps of the far South. He was proud of his connection with his master's estate and family, and had nothing to gain by rebellion. As for the indented white servants, the governor's proposal to them was of about as much consequence as a proclamation of Napolean's would have been if, in 1805, he had offered to set free the prisoners in Newgate on
condition of their helping him to invade England. But, impotent as this measure of Lord Dunmore's was, it served to enrage the people of Virginia, setting their minds irretrievably against the king and his cause. During the month of November, hearing that a party of "rebels" were on their way from North Carolina to take possession of Norfolk, Lord Dunmore built a rude fort at the Great Bridge over Elizabeth River, which commanded the southern approach to the town. At that time, Norfolk, with about 9,000 inhabitants, was the principle town in Virginia and the commercial centre of the colony. The loyalist party, represented chiefly by Scottish merchants, was so strong there and so violent that many of the native Virginia families finding it uncomfortable to stay in their homes, had gone away into the country. The patriots, roused to anger by Dunmore's proclamation, now resolved to capture Norfolk, and a party of sharpshooters, with whom the illustrious John Marshall served as lieutenant, occupied the bank of Elizabeth river, opposite Dunmore's fort. On the 9th of December, after a sharp fight of fifteen minutes, in which Dunmore's regulars lost sixty-one men, while not a single Virginian was slain, the fort was hastily abandoned and the road to Norfolk was laid open for the patriots. A few days later the Virginians took possession of their town, while Dunmore sought refuge in the Liverpool, ship-of-the- line, which had just sailed into the harbour. On New Year's Day the governor vindictively set fire to the town, which he had been
unable to hold against its rightful owners. The conflagration, kindled by shells from the harbour, raged for three days and nights, until the whole town was laid in ashes and the people were driven to seek such sorry shelter as might save them from the frosts of mid- winter.
This event went far toward determining the attitude of Virginia. In November the colony had not felt ready to comply with the recommendation of Congress, and frame for herself a new government. The people were not yet ready to sever the links which bound them to Great Britain. But the bombardment of their principal town was an argument of which every one could appreciate the force and the meaning. During the winter and spring the revolutionary feeling waxed in strength daily. On the 6th of May, 1776, a convention was chosen to consider the question of independence. Mason, Henry, Pendleton and the illustrious Madison took part in the discussion, and on the 14th it was unanimously voted to instruct the Virginia delegates in Congress "to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent States," and to "give the assent of the colony to measures to form foreign alliances and a confederation, provided the power of forming government for the internal regulations of each colony be left to the colonial legislatures."
At the same time, it was voted that the people of Virginia should establish a new government for their commonwealth. In the evening, when these decisions had been made known to the people of
Williamsburgh, their exultation knew no bounds. While the air was musical with the ringing of church-bells, guns were fired, and the British flag was hauled down at the State House and the thirteen stripes hoisted in its place.
This decisive movement of the largest of the colonies was hailed throughout the country with eager delight; and from other colonies which had not yet committed themselves responses came quickly. Rhode Island, which had never parted with its original charter, did not need to form a new government, but it had already, on the 4th of May, ommited the king's name from its public documents and sheriff's writs, and had agreed to concur with any measures which Congress might see fit to adopt regarding the relations between England and America. In the course of the month of May town-meetings were held throughout Massachusetts and it was everywhere unanimously voted to uphold Congress in the declaration of independence which it was now expected to make.
On the 15th of May, Congress adopted a resolution recommending to all the colonies to form for themselves independent governments, and in a preamble, written by John Adams, it was declared that the American people could no longer conscientiously take oath to support any government deriving its authority from the Crown; all such governments must now be suppressed, since the king had withdrawn his protection from the inhabitants of the United Colonies. Like the famous preamble to Townshend's
bill of 1767, this Adams preamble contained within itself the gist of the whole matter. To adopt it was virtually to cross the Rubicon and it gave rise to a hot debate. James Duane of New York admitted that if the facts stated in the preamble shold turn out to be true, there would not be a single voice against independence; but he could not yet believe that the American petitions were not destined to receive a favourable answer. "Why," therefore, "all this haste? Why this urging? Why this driving?" James Wilson of Pennsylvania, one of the ablest of all the delegates in that revolutionary body, urged that Congress had not yet received sufficient authority from the people to justify it in taking so bold a step. The resolution was adopted, however, preamble and all; and now the affair came quickly to maturity. "The Gordian knot is cut at last!" exclaimed John Adams. In town- meeting the people of Boston thus instructed their delegates: "The whole United Colonies are upon the verge of a glorious revolution. We have seen the petitions to the king rejected with disdain. For the prayer of peace he has tendered the sword; for liberty, chains; for safety, death. Loyalty to him is now treason to our country. We think it absolutely impracticable for these colonies to be ever again subject to or dependent upon Great Britain without endangering the very existence of the state. Placing, however, unbounded confidence in the supreme council of the Congress, we are determined to wait, most patiently wait, till their wisdom shall
dictate the necessity of making a declaration of independence. In case the Congress should think it necessary for the safety of the United Colonies to declare them independent of Great Britain, the inhabitants, with their lives and the remnant of their fortunes, will most cheerfully support them in the measure."
This dignified and temperate expression of public opinion was published in a Philadelphia evening paper, on the 8th of June. On the preceding day, in accordance with the instructions which had come from Virginia, the following motion had been submitted to Congress by Richard Henry Lee: -
"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.
"That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign alliances.
"That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective colonies for their consideration and approbation."
In these trying times the two greatest colonies, Virginia and Massachusetts had been wont to go hand in hand; and the motion of Richard Henry Lee was now promptly seconded by John Adams. It was resisted by Dickinson and Wilson of Pennsylvania and by Robert Livingston of New York, on the ground that public opinion in the middle colonies was not yet ripe for supporting such a
measure; at the same time these cautious members freely acknowledged that the lingering hope of an amicable settlement with Great Britain had come to be quite chimerical. The prospect of securing European alliances was freely discussed. The supporters of the motion urged that a declaration of independence would be nothing more than the acknowledgment of a fact which existed already; and until this fact shold be formally acknowledged, it was not to be supposed that diplomatic courtesy would allow such powers as France or Spain to treat with the Americans. On the other hand, the opponents of the motion argued that France and Spain were not likely to look with favour upon the rise of a great Protestant power in the western hemisphere, and that nothing would be easier than for these nations to make a bargain with England whereby Canada might be restored to France and Florida to Spain, in return for military aid in putting down the rebellious colonies. The result of the whole discussion was decidedly in favour of a declaration of independence; but to avoid all appearance of undue haste, it was decided, on the motion of Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, to postpone the question for three weeks and invite the judgment of those colonies which had not yet declared themselves.
Under the circumstances, the several colonies acted with a promptness that outstripped the expectations of Congress. Connecticut had no need of a new government, for, like Rhode Island, she had always kept the
charter obtained from Lord Clarendon in 1662, she had always chosen her own governor and had always been virtually independent of Great Britain. Nothing now was necessary but to omit the king's name from legal documents and commercial papers, and to instruct her delegates in Congress to support Lee's motion; and these things were done by the Connecticut legislature on the 14th of June. The very next day, New Hampshire, which had formed a new government as long ago as January, joined Connecticut in declaring for independence.
In New Jersey there was a sharp dispute. The royal governor, William Franklin, had a strong party in the colony; and the assembly had lately instructed its delegates to vote against independence, and had resolved to send a separate petition to the king. Against so rash and dangerous a step, Dickinson, Jay and Wythe were sent by Congress to remonstrate; and as the result of their intercession, the assembly, which yielded, was summarily prorogued by the governor. A provincial congress was at once chosen in its stead. On the 16th of June, the governor was arrested and sent to Connecticut for safe-keeping; on the 21st it was voted to frame a new government; and on the 22d, a new set of delegates were elected to Congress, with instructions to support the declaration of independence.
In Pennsylvania there was hot discussion, for the whole strength of the proprietary government was thrown into the scale against independence. Among the Quakers, too, there
was a strong disposition to avoid an armed conflict, on any terms. A little while before, they had held a convention, in which it was resolved that "the setting up and putting down kings and governments is God's peculiar prerogative, for causes best known to himself, and that it is not our business to have any hand or contrivance therein; nor to be busybodies above our station, much less to plot and contrive the ruin or overturn of any of them, but to pray for the king and safety of our nation and good of all men; that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life in all goodness and honesty, under the government which God is pleased to set over us. May we, therefore, firmly unite in the abhorrence of all such writings and measures as evidence a desire and design to break off a happy connection we have hitherto enjoyed with the kingdom of Great Britain, and our just and necessary subordination to the king and those who are lawfully placed in authority under him."
This view of the case soon met with a pithy rejoinder from Samuel Adams, who, with a quaint use of historical examples, proved that, as the rise of kings and empires is part of God's special prerogative, the time had now come, in the course of divine providence, for the setting up of an independent empire in the western hemisphere. Six months ago, the provincial assembly had instructed its delegates to oppose independence; but on the 20th of May a great meeting was held at the State House, at which more than seven thousand people were present, and it was unamimously resolved that this act of the assembly "had the dangerous
tendency to withdraw this province from that happy union with the other colonies which we consider both our glory and our protection." The effect of this resolution was so great that on the 18th of June a convention was held to decide on the question of independence; and after six days of discussion, it was voted that a separation from Great Britain was desirable, provided only that, under the new federal government, each state should be left to regulate its own internal affairs. On the 14th of June a similar action had been taken by Delaware.
In Maryland there was little reason why the people should wish for a change of government, save through their honourable sympathy with the general interests of the United Colonies. Not only was the proprietary government deeply rooted in the affections of the people, but Robert Eden, the governor holding office at this particular time, was greatly loved and respected. Maryland had not been insulted by the presence of troops. She had not seen her citizens shot down in cold blood like Massachusetts, or her chief city laid in ashes like Virginia; nor had she been threatened with invasion and forced to fight in her own defence like North Carolina. Her direct grievances were few and light, and even so late as the 21st of May, she had protested against any action which might lead to the separation of the colonies from England. But when in June, her great leaders, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, determined to "take the sense of the people," a series of county meetings were
held, and it was unanimously voted that "the true interests and substantial happiness of the United Colonies in general, and this in particular, are inseparably interwoven and linked together." As soon as the colony had taken its stand upon this broad and generous principle, the governor embarked on a British man-of-war before Annapolis, bearing with him the kindly regrets and adieus of the people, and on the 28th of June the delegates in Congress were duly authorized to concur in a declaration of independence.
Peaceful Maryland was thus the twelfth colony which formally committed itself to the cause of independence, as turbulent North Carolina, under the stimulus of civil war and threatened invasion had been the first. Accordingly on the 1st of July, the day when the motion of Richard Henry Lee was to be taken up in Congress, unanimous instructions in favour of independence had been received from every one of the colonies, except New York. In approaching this momentous question New York was beset by peculiar difficulties. Not only was the Tory party unusually strong there, for reasons already stated, but the risks involved in a revolutionary policy were greater than anywhere else. From its commanding military position, it was clear that the British would direct their main efforts toward the conquest of this central colony; and while on the one hand the broad, deep waters about Manhattan Island afforded an easy entrance for their resistless fleet, on the other hand the failure of the Canadian expedition had laid the whole country open to invasion from the north,
and the bloodthirsty warriors of the Long House were not likely to let slip so excellent an opportunity for gathering scalps from the exposed settlements on the frontier. Not only was it probable, for these reasons, that New York would suffer more than any other colony from the worst horrors of war, but as a commercial state with only a single seaport, the very sources of her life would be threatened should the British once gain a foothold upon Manhattan Island. The fleet of Lord Howe was daily expected in the harbour and it was known that the army which had been ousted from Boston, now largely reinforced, was on its way from Halifax to undertake the capture of the city of New York. To guard against this expected danger, Washington had some weeks since moved his army thither from Boston; but his whole effective force did not exceed eight thousand men and with these he was obliged to garrison points so far apart as King's Bridge, Paulus Hook, Governor's Island and Brooklyn Heights. The position was far less secure than it had been about Boston, for British ships could here come up the Hudson and East rivers, and interpose between these isolated detachments.
As for Staten Island, Washington had not troops enough to occupy it at all, so that when General Howe arrived, on the 28th of June, he was allowed to land there without opposition. It was a bitter thing for Washington to be obliged to permit this, but there was no help for it. Not only in numbers, but in equipment, Washington's force was utterly inadequate to the important task assigned it, and Congress had done
nothing to increase its efficiency beyond ordering a levy of twenty-five thousand militia from New England and the middle colonies to serve for six months only.
Under these circumstances, the military outlook, in case the war were to go on, was certainly not encouraging, and the people of New York might well be excused for some tardiness in committing themselves irrevocably on the question of indepedence, especially as it was generally understood that Lord Howe was coming armed with plenary authority to negotiate with the American people. To all the other dangers of the situation there was added that of treachery in the camp. Governor Tryon, like so many of the royal governors that year, had taken refuge on shipboard, whence he schemed and plotted with his friends on shore. A plan was devised for blowing up the magazines and seizing Washington, who was either to be murdered or carried on board ship to be tried for treason, according as the occasion might suggest. The conspiracy was discovered in good time; the mayor of New York, convicted of correspondence with Tryon, was thrown into jail, and one of Washington's own guard, who had been bribed to aid the nefarious scheme was summarily hanged in a field near the Bowery. Such a discovery as this served to throw discredit upon the Tory party. The patriots took a bolder stand than ever, but when the 1st of July came it found the discussion still going on and the New York delegates in Congress were still without instructions.
On the 1st of July Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to "take into consideration the resolution respecting independency." As Richard Henry Lee was absent, John Adams, who had seconded the motion, was called upon to defend it, which he did in a powerful speech. He was ably opposed by John Dickinson, who urged that the country ought not to be rashly committed to a position, to recede from which would be infamous, while to persist in it might entail certain ruin. A declaration of independence would not strengthen the resources of the country by a single regiment or a single cask of powder, while it would shut the door upon all hope of accomodation with Great Britain. And as to the prospect of an alliance with France and Spain, wold it not be well to obtain some definite assurances from these powers before proceeding to extremities? Besides all this, argued Dickinson, the terms of confederation among the colonies were still unsettled, and any declaration of independence, tohave due weight with the world, ought to be preceded by the establishment of a federal government. The boundaries of the several colonies ought first to be fixed, and their respective rights mutually guaranteed; and the public lands ought also to be solemnly appropriated for the common benefit. Then, the orator concluded, "when things shall have been thus deliberately rendered firm at home and favourable abroad, then let America, attollens humeris famam et fata depotum, bearing up her glory and the destiny of her descendants, advance with majestic steps, and assume her station among the sovereigns of the world."
That there was great weight in some of these considerations was shown only too plainly by subsequent events. But the argument as a whole was open to the fatal objection that if the American people were to wait for all these great questions to be settled before taking a decisive step, they would never be able to take a decisive step at all. The wise statesman regards half a loaf as better than no bread. Independent action on the part of all the colonies except New York had now become an accomplished fact. All were really in rebelion, and their cause could not fail to gain in dignity and strength by announcing itself to the world in its true character. Such was now the general feeling of the committee. When the question was put to vote, the New York delegates were excused, as they had no sufficient instructions. Of the three delegates from Delaware, one was absent, one voted yea, and one nay, so that the vote of the colony was lost. Pennsylvania declared in the negative by four votes against three. South Carolina also declared in the negative but with the intimation from Edward Rutledge that it might not unlikely reverse its vote, in deference to the majority. The other nine colonies all voted in the affirmative, and the resolution was reported as agreed to by two thirds vote. On the next day, when the vote was formally taken in regular session of Congress, the Delaware members were all present, and the affirmative vote of that colony was secured; Dickinson and Morris stayed away, thus reversing the vote of Pennsylvania; and the South Carolina members changed for the sake of unanimity.
Thus was the Declaration of Independence at last resolved upon, by the unanimous vote of twelve colonies, on the 2d of July, 1776; and this work having been done, Congress at once went into committee of the whole to consider the form of declaration which should be adopted. That no time might be lost in disposing of this important matter, a committee had already been selected three weeks before, at the time of Lee's motion, to draw up a paper which might be worthy of this great and solemn occasion. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston were the members of the committee and Jefferson, as representing the colony which had introduced the resolution of independence, was chosen to be the author of the Declaration. Jefferson, then but thirty-three years of age, was one of the youngest delegates in Congress, but of all the men of that time, there was, perhaps, none of wider culture or keener political instincts. Inheriting a comfortable fortune, he had chosen the law as his profession, but he had always been passionately fond of study for its own sake, and to a very wide reading in history and in ancient and modern litarature he added no mean proficiency in mathematics and in physical science. He was skilled in horsemanship and other manly exercises and in the management of rural affairs; while at the same time he was very sensitively and delicately organized, playing the violin like a master, and giving other evidences of rare musical talent. His temper was exceedingly placid, and his disposition was sweet and
sympathetic. He was deeply interested in all the generous theories of the eighteenth century concerning the rights of man and the perfectibility of human nature; and like most of the contemporary philosophers whom he admired, he was a sturdy foe to intolerance and priestcraft. He was in his way a much more profound thinker than Hamilton, though he had not such a constructive genius as the latter; as a political leader he was superior to any other man of his age; and his warm sympathies, his almost feminine tact, his mastery of the dominant political ideas of the time and, above all, his unbounded faith in common sense of the people and in their essential rectitude of purpose served to give him one of the greatest and most commanding positions ever held by any personage in American history.
On the evening of the 4th of July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously adopted by twelve colonies, the delegation from New York still remaining unable to act. But the acquiescence of that colony was so generally counted upon that thee was no drawback to the exultation of the people. All over the country the Declaration was received with barnfires, with the ringing of bells and the firing of guns and with torchlight processions. Now that the great question was settled there was a general feeling of relief. "The people," said Samuel Adams, "seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven." On the 9th of July it was formally adopted by New York, and the
soldiers there celebrated the occasion by throwing down the leaden statue of George III. on the Bowling Green and casting it into bullets.
Thus, after eleven years of irritation, and after such temperate discussion as befitted a free people, the Americans had at last entered upon the only course that could preserve their self-respect, and guarantee them in the great part which they had to play in the drama of civilization. For the dignity, patience, and moderation with which they had borne themselves throughout these trying times, history had as yet scarcely afforded a parallel. So extreme had been their forebearance, so great their unwillingness to appeal to brute force while there yet remained the slightest hope of a peaceful solution, that some British historians have gone quite astray in interpreting their conduct. Because statesmen like Dickinson and communities like Maryland were slow in believing that the right moment for a declaration of independence had come, the preposterous theory has been suggested that the American Revolution was the work of an unscrupulous and desperate minority which, through intrigue mingled with violence, succeeded in forcing the reluctant majority to sanction its measures. Such a misconception has its roots in an utter failure to comprehend the peculiar character of American political life, like the kindred misconception which ascribes the rebellion of the colonies to sordid unwillingness to bear their due share of the expenses of the British Empire. It is like the misunderstanding which saw an angry
mob in every town-meeting of the people of Boston, and characterized as a "riot" every deliberate expression of public opinion. No one who is familiar with the essential features of American political life can for a moment suppose that the Declaration of Independence was brought about by any less weighty force than the settled conviction of the people that the priceless treasure of self-government could be preserved by no other means. It was but slowly that this unwelcome conviction grew upon the people; and owing to local differences of circumstances it grew more slowly in some places than in others. Prescient leaders too, like the Adamses and Franklin and Lee, made up their minds sooner than other people. Even those conservatives who resisted to the last, even such men as John Dickinson and Robert Morris, were fully agreed with their opponents as to the principle at issue between Great Britain and America, and nothing would have satisfied them short of the total abandonment by Great Britain of her pretensions to impose taxes and revoke charters. Upon this fundamental point there was very little difference of opinion in America. As to the related question of independence, the decision, when once reached was everywhere alike the reasonable result of free and open discussion; and the best possible illustration of this is the fact that not even in the darkest days of the war already begun did any state deliberately propose to reconsider its action in the matter. The hand once put to the plough, there was no turning back. As Judge Drayton of South Carolina said
from the bench, "A decree is now gone forth not to be recalled, and thus has suddenly risen in the world a new empire, styled the United States of America."
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