« ZurückWeiter »
stances of our' emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by thc ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connexions and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation; and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankindən enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved ; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And, for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.*
* This Declaration was composed by Thomas Jefferson ; one of a committee appointed for the purpose. It was signed in the State-bouse, at Philadelphia, in a chamber of the right wing, on the ground floor ; the first which you enter from the centre ball of that building.
A painting, commemorative of the great event, in which are drawn the persons of its illustruous authors, (whose names are bere recorded,) in their position at the time of its being presented by the committee for the approval of congress, has been drawn by an American artist, colonel Trumbull ; and placed, in 1819, in the capitol at Washington.
John Hancock, President ; Charles Thomson, Secretary.
New Hampshire; Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, and Matthew Thornton. Massachusetts ; Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, and Elbridge Gerry. Rhode Island, &c. Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery. Connecticut ; Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntingdon, William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott. New York ; William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, and Lewis Morris. New Jersey ; Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, and Abraham Clark. Penna sylvania ; Robert Morris, Benjamiy Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Mor
ton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, and George Ross. Delavoare ; Cæsar Rodney, and George Reed. Maryland ; Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, and Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. Virginia ; George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Thomas Jefferson ; Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, junior, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Carter Braxton. North Carolina ; William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and John Penn.' South Carolina ; Edward Rutledge, Thomas Hayward, junior, Thomas Lynch, junior, and Arthur Middleton. Georgia ; Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton.
Of these, the only survivors, at the time of publishing this second edition, in 1821, are Charles Thomson, John Adams, Charles Carroll, and Thomas Jefferson.
is, CHAPTER V.
Continuation of the war. Success of the Americans. Peace
IT had early occurred to general Washington, that the possession of New York would be with the British a favourite object. Its central situation, and contiguity to the ocean, might enable them to carry the war to any part of the sea. coast. Its acquisition was rendered still more valuable, by the ease with which it could be maintained. Surrounded on all sides by water, it was defensible by a small number of British ships, against adversaries whose whole navy consisted only of a few frigates. Hudson's river, being navigable for vessels of the largest size, to a great distance, afforded, an opportunity of severing the eastern from the other states, and of almost preventing between them any communication.
In proportion to the desire which general Washington judged that the British felt for the possession of New York, did this sagacious officer direct his attention to its defence. He had, in April, fixed his head quarters in that city, and given it all the strength which wisdom could invent or industry accomplish. He made a new distribution of the army : leaying a part in Massachusetts, ordering a small division to Canada, but drawing the greatest portion into New York. Thus, although he now laboured to secure this important place, he was not forget ful of the other districts of his country. His comprehensive mind embraced, in onė view, the condition of the whole ; and his experience taught him the most effectual method of preserving them. He determined on a “war of posts ;" the best suited to the condition of his infant troops, and the least adapted to the interest of his enemy: as, while it increased the confidence of the one, it retarded the operations of the other, by continual alarm.
The enemy resolved to make their first attempt on Long Island; a position more advantageous than that on which the city stood, as it abounded with fresh provisions.' On the 22d of August, they landed without opposition between two villages, Utrecht and Gravesend. The American works protected a small peninsula ; having Wallabout Bay on the left, Red Hook, to which they extended, on the right, and East River, in the rear. General Sullivan, to whom was intrusted the defence of the island, was encamped with a strong force within these works, at Brooklyn. The passes leading through the hills were all guarded, and a battalion of riflemen observed the motions of the British.
General Heister, with his Hessian auxiliaries in English pay, took post at Flatbush; and, early in the following morning, the 27th, general Clinton gained possession of a height commanding one of the defiles. The guard Aed, without making any resistance. About the same time, an attack was made by the Hessians, and by another body under general Grant; which was well supported for a considerable time, on both sides. The Americans who opposed general Heister were the first informed of the approach of Clinton, who had come round upon their left. They immediately began a retreat to their camp ; but were intercepted by the latter; who, having got into their rear, attacked them with his light infantry and dragoons. The Americans were driven back, until met by the Hessians; and were thus chased, alternately, by two parties of the enemy. Some of the regiments, however, found their way to the camp. The Americans, under lord Stirling, consisting of colonel Miles' two battalions, colo. nels Atlee's, Smallwood's, and Hatch's regiments, who were opposed to general Grant, fought with great resolution for about six hours. But, from their total want of cavalry, be. ing ignorant of the movements made by general Clinton, until some of his troops had traversed the whole extent of coun. try in their rear, their retreat was intercepted. Several, notwithstanding, broke through, and got into the woods; and a considerable number escaped to the lines. Many, however, were drowned, and others perished in the mud
The king's troops displayed great valour throughout the whole day. The variety of ground occasioned a succession of small engagements, pursuits, and slaughters, which lasted many hours. British discipline, however, in every instance triumphed over the mere bravery of raw forces: who had never been in any action, and whose officers were unacquainted with the stratagems of war.
The loss of the enemy in killed, wounded, and prisoners, or, as it is concisely termed by the French, the number placed hors de combat, out of battle, was four-hundred-and-fifty. That of the Americans was above a thousand. Amongst the prisoners taken of the latter, were two generals, Sullivad and Stirling, and eighty-two other officers, including every rank.
During the engagement, and subsequently, general Washington had drawn over the greatest part of his army to the scene of action. After he had collected his principal force there, it was his wish and hope that sir William Howe would atiempt to storm the works on the island ; which, though not strong enough to stand a regular approach, were sufficient to resist a coup de main. But the remembrance of Breed'shill, restrained the British general from an assault. On the contrary, he made demonstrations of a siege, and opened trenches within three hundred yards, to the left, at Putnam's redoubt. Though general Washington had wished for an immediate assault, yet, being certain that his works would be untenable when the British batteries were fully opened, he called a council of war, to determine on the most proper measures. It being resolved that the objects in view were in no degree proportioned to the dangers, to which, by a continuation on the island, they would be exposed, dispositions were made for retreating. This commenced soon after it was dark; from two points, the upper and lower ferries on East river. General M.Dougal regulated the embarkation at one; colonel Knox, at the other. Never was any movement more skilfully ordered, conducted with more consummate address, or more highly favoured by the aid of Providence. The field artillery, tents, baggage, and about nine-thousand men, were conveyed to New York, over a river upwards of a mile wide, in less than thirteen hours; and without the knowledge of the British, though not distant six-hundred yards. The wind seemed, in one place, to change according to their wants; and, in another, a fog veiled them from the hostile view. Half an hour after general Mifflin, with the rear guard, had left the lines, they were entered by the British.
Not rightly appreciating the spirit of the American leaders, which was not subdued, but made more resolute, by defeat, lord Howe considered the late reverse as favourable to promote submission; and, accordingly, sent general Sullivan, already mentioned amongst the prisoners, with a message to the congress. In a few days, Dr. Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge, were deputed to have an interview with the British general, on Staten Island. They were politely received; but there arose no approximation towards a peace. When concluding, lord Howe expressed to Dr. Franklin, with whom, a mutual friendship had for some time before existed, the extreme pain he would suffer in being obliged to distress those that he so much regarded. “I feel thankful to your lordship," replied Franklin, “ for your regard. The Americans will show their gratitude, by endeavouring to lessen the pain you may feel on their account, in exerting their utmost abilities to take good care of themselves.”
It was happy for the cause of freedom, that a principle, yet higher than that which often animates the common sol. dier to maintain his post, actuated the superior officers in