« ZurückWeiter »
the captain excepted, refused to fight any longer; but every offcer and private of the seventy-first regiment, who were in the ship, stood to their quarters with ready obedience to the lieutenant-colonel. Ou their refusing to strike, the action was renewed, when after a sharp combat of an hour and a half, they had expended every shot belonging to their artillery. They were thcn obliged to yield, there being po power of escaping, nor the most distant hope of relief. Their killed were eight privates. and major Menzies, beside seventeen wounded. The major was buried with the honors of war at Boston. The prisoners experienced the utmost civility and good treatment. A week before the capture of these transports, the Ann, in the same service, was taken and carried into Marblehead, though commodore Banks was then at Nantasket. The number of highlanders taken is two hundred and sixty-seven privates, forty-eight others, beside the honorable Archibald Campbell, lieutenant-colonel to the second battalion of the seventy-first regiment.
(July 3.) On motion in the Massachusetts assembly, it was voted unaniinously, “ that if congress shall think proper to de. clare the colonies independent, this house will approve of the measure:7
There is no doubt of its being approved by all the colonies ; but there has been manæuvreing in order to produce the necessary disposition among the New Yorkers; of which you will form the best idca froin the following letter, written the beginning of May, from New-York, in answer to one of the precede ing month from Philadelphia—“Soon after I received your letter, I sent for colonel Sears, Mr. John Smith and some others, whom I knew to be staunch, to spend an evening with me, that I might converse with them upon the subject (supposed to be that of taking up government.). It would not do to show your letter, or even hint that I had received it; but an opportunity for introducing the subject soon offered. A captain of my guard came and reported, that the committee of safety had sent some persons to the main-guard, who had no coniplaint lodged against them. I immediately sent to the committee, and they sent a sub-committee to wait upon me. I asked them what charge they had to lay against the prisoners. They informed me one was a collector who had not accounted for the money he had collected, and had abused their congress. The others were in for different crimes. I told them that I could by no means consent to have free citizens subjected to trials by court-martial. They must try them by proper courts, if such there were ; and if not, the offenders must run at large, till necessity obliged them to constitute the proper courts. This opened the door for me, and I took
advantage of it. The sub-committee thanked me for my care over the liberties of their fellow citizens, and owned the necese sity of taking up government. Sears, Smith, &c. were strongly of that opinion, and all went home perfectly satisfied, and without suspecting the conversation was any thing more than accidental. The next day Greene and I were ordered to the jail to see some prisoners of war. There I found some persons in for robbery, and one for murder. As I found I had good success in the beginning I determined to keep on, and frequently took occasion to mention the great difficulty which must attend their present state :-that it would be tyrannical to execute those persons without a trial :-to try and execute them, by process in the name of a king, with whom we were at war, would be absurd; and if neither of these methods were taken, they must whether guilty or not suffer perpetual imprisonment. The argument took effect; and even tories themselves acknowledged it was best to take up government, till reconciliation should take place --This doctrine pleased me well; for I knew if government was once assumed upon whatever motives, they would find that the Rubicon was passed, and that they could never return to their ancient form. I then, by the advice of any privy council, drew up a piece purporting a petition to the coinmittee of safety, to request leave from the continental congress to take up government:-This piece I enclose you, and though badly wrote, it steers so directly between whiggisin and toryism, that no peison can tell whether it was drawn by a whig or tory. My privy council informed me; that it had the desired effect; the whigs were fond of it because it took effect, their point was carried, and no retreat could ever take place ; the tories were fond of it, because it held up the d-d reconciliation they were seeking after. Being well informed of my success, I thought it time to sound our colonel (thought to be M’Dougall.). I sent for him. We conversed freely upon the inatter of taking up government. He owned the necessity of it, and said it would be carried into execution at all events, at the meeting of their convention. He informed me, that almost every person began to see the necessity, and that the instructions, then drawing up for their delegates, mentioned nothing about cffecting a reconciliation, but to protect and defend America. When I found him in the true way to happiness, I dismissed him, and attacked others; to tories I painted the evils attending their present state ; to whigs I held up the advantage of seizing the precious moment, I soon found my party increase with surprising rapidity.”
Within seven days after this letter was sent to Philadelphia, congress resolved, [May 10.] “ That it be recommended to the
respective assemblies and conventions, of the united colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs hath been hitherto established, to adopt such government as shall in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particuiar, and America in general.” The following preamble was prepared and agreed to, five davs after, “Whereas his Britannic majesty, in conjunction with the lords and commons of Greats Britain has, by a late act of parliament, excluded the inhabitants of these united colonies from the protection of his crown; and whereas no answer whatever to the humble petitions of the colonies for redress of grievancies and reconciliation with Greate Britain has been or is likely to be given, but the whole force of that kingdom, aided by foreign mercenaries, is to be exerted for the destruction of the good people of these colonies; and whereas it appears absolutely irreconcilable to reason and good conscience, for the people of these colonies now to take the oaths. and affirmations necessary for the support of any government under the crown of Great-Britain, and it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority, under the said crown should be totally suppressed, and all the powers of government exerted under the authority of the people of the colonies, for the presere vation of internal peace, virtue and good order, as well as for the defence of their lives, liberties and properties against the hostile invasions and cruel depredations of their enemies, therefore resolved.” &c. as above.
May 18 ] The secret committee was ordered to endeavour to discover the design of the French in assembling so large a fleet and so great a number of troops in the West-Indies, and whe. ther they mean to act for or against America, By this it appears that the congress have no assurance or certainty of support from France.
Corporal Cruz, the rifleman who was carried to England and discharged by the mayor, is arrived with dispatches from Arthur Lee, esq. containing intelligence of the whole naval and land force intended for the attack of the united colonies, and of the places for which they were destined. He got a passage to Hali. fax, from whence he made his escape to. Boston; and then went on to head quarters at New-York. Soon after, congress resolved, [May 23.] That a committee of five be appointed to confer with generals Washington, Gates and Mifflin, upon the most speedy and effectual means for supporting the American cause in Canada. It was the opinion of the generals, that it would be impossible to keep the Indians in a state of neutrality; that they would undoubtedly take an active part, either for or
against the Americans; and that it would be best immediately to engage them on their side, and to use their utmost endeavors to prevent their minds being poisoned by ministerial emissaries. When the committee brought in their report, it was resolved, among other things (May 25.) “That it is highly expedient to engage the Indians in the service of the united colonies."
Upon the first intelligence received at Philadelphia of the troops to be einployed against the Americans, a citizen of eminence wrote to his correspondent, “We now know who the commissioners are, and their numbers, viz. Messrs.the Hessians, Brunswickers, Waldeckers, English, Scotch and Irish. This gives the coup de grace to the British and American connection. It has already wrought wonders in this city; conversions have been more rapid than ever under Mr. Whitefield. The Pennsylvania farmer (Dickinson) told me yesterday in the field, that his sentiments were changed; he had been desirous of keeping the door open as long as possible, and was now convinced that nothing was to be expected from our enemies but slavery.”
The detaching of the ten strongest regiments to Canada, made the most strenuous exertions necessary for getting New-York into a proper state of defence. Congress therefore authorised general Washington to direct the building of as many fire rafts, row gallies, armed boats and fivating batteries, as might be judge ed requisite for the immediate defence of that port and of Huda son's river. They afterward resolved (June 3 ] that 13,800 militia be employed to reinforce the army; and that a flying camp bo immediately established in the middle colonies, to consist of 10,000 men. They did not overlook Canada; but on the same day agreed that the general should be empowered to employ in that province a number of Indians, not exceeding two thousand: and two days after [June 5.] ordered that the standing comniittee for Indian affairs, do devise ways and means for carrying the same into effect. Within four and twenty hours after, they complimented the earl of Effingham, for the singularly noble part he had acted, by naming one of their frigates now building, the Effingham. The names of the rest are, the Congress, Randolph, Hancock, Washington, Trumbull, Raleigh, Montgomery, Warren, Boston, Virginia, Providence and De. laware.
(June 7.] Certain resolutions respecting independency, were moved and seconded, and the consideration of them referred tiil the next day. Richard Henry Lee, esq. one of the Virginia delegates, had given notice to congress, that on that day be should move for a declaration of independence; he accordingly made the motion. Various occurrences bad contributed to ripen
the colonies for the measure : several of which have been occasionally mentioned; others remain to be noticed. The NorthCarolinians were at one time violent against a separation from Grcat-Britain ; a delegate in their convention mentioning independence, the cry was--treason--treason; and he was called to order: but they have been wearied out by the proceedings of the British ministry, and the methods pursued and countenanced by governor Martín ; so that all regard and fondness for the king and nation of Great-Britain has subsided, and independence has become the word most in use among them They ask, “ Is it possible that any colony, after what has passed, can wish for reconciliation? The constant publications, which have appeared and been read with attention, Irave greatly promoted the spirit of independency : but no one so much as the pamphlet under the signature of Common Sense, written by Mr, Thomas Paine, an Englishman. The stile, manner, and language of the author is singular and captivating.. He undertakes to prove the necessity, the advantages, and practicability of independence. That no lurk ing affection for the sovereign may impede it, kings are placed in a light, that tends not only to destroy all attachment to theiri, but to make them distasteful; their very office is attempted to be rendered odious ; from whence the transition to the royal person is easy. Nothing could have been better tirred that this performance. In unison with the sentiments and feelings of the people, it has produced most astonishing effects and been received with vast applause ; read by almost every American; and recommended as a work replete with truth , and against which none but the partial and prejudiced can form any objections. It has satisfied multitudes, that it is their true interests immediateJy to cut the Gordian knot by which the American colonies have been bound to Great-Britain, and to open their commerce, as an independent people, to all the nations of the world. It has been greatly instrumental in producing a similarity of sentiment through the continent, upon the subject under the consideration of congress. On the 10th, the business was postponed to the 1st of July; but that no time might be lost, the next day Messrs. Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin, Sherman and R. R. Livingston, were appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of independence. Directly upon which, congress resolved, “That a committee be appointed to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between these colonies; and that a committee be appointed to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers.”
Let us pass for a while to other matters.
(June 17.] Congress resolved to send major general Gates in-.. to Canada, to take the command of the forces in that province;