Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.

83

dants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.

“4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free governments, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council; and as the English colonists, from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal policy, subject only to the negative of their sovereign,” &c. &c.

When this Declaration reached England, Lord Chatham spoke upon it in the House. He besought that the troops might be removed from Boston, and that temperate measures might be adopted towards America.

“When your lordships look at the papers transmitted to us from America ; when you consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom ; you cannot but respect their

cause,

and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must declare and avow that in all my reading of history—and it has been my favourite study-I have read Thucydides, and have admired the master states of the world—no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia. All attempts to impose servitude on such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continent, must be vain, must be fatal. We shall be forced ultimately to retract; let us retract while we can, not when we must. I say, we must necessarily undo these violent oppressive acts; they must be repealed, you will repeal them. I pledge myself for it.

To conclude, my lords, if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the king, I will not say that they can alienate the affections of his subjects from his crown, but I will affirm that they will

make the crown not worth his wearing. I will not say that the king is betrayed, but I will pronounce that the kingdom is undone."

But Chatham was not heeded. Boston was still filled with troops, and resented it so much that considerable military preparations were made by its inhabitants.

General Gage, who was in command of the British force, determined to crush these preparations with one blow, and planned to destroy the military stores of the “rebels” at Concord, about eighteen miles from Boston. His preparations were made very secretly, but the secret was discovered, and most of the stores were removed. As General Gage's troops commenced their midnight march from Boston to Concord, with orders to allow no one to pass them, but to take all prisoners whom they met in the way, one horseman, too quick for them, dashed past, spurring hard for Lexington, a village near Concord. When Major Pitcairne with six companies arrived there, a small band of armed militia was drawn up on the village green, and the first shots were fired in the American War of Independence. The Americans were defeated, but it was not an inglorious defeat ; they had taken their stand, the small band of patriots who had fought had many of them given their lives in the cause of freedom. Meanwhile, General Gage's men, after rejoicing over their triumph, marched on to Concord, and destroyed all the stores they could. The Americans had gathered in military force here, to the number of 450. From a height they watched the approach of the British troops, and saw the work of destruction going on. A number of them then determined to prevent the English from crossing the bridge over the river ; this they did, and Colonel Smith, who was in command, saw that his men had by this time accom

[blocks in formation]

plished as much as they were likely to do, and ordered them to return to Boston. The Americans pursued them, killing and wounding many; but they had no organised plan of attack, and the main part of the British troops reached their head-quarters in safety.

Such was the news that reached Washington at Mount Vernon as he was preparing to set out for the second Congress. In writing of it to his friend, George Fairfax, in England, he says : Unhappy it is to reflect that a brother's sword has been sheathed in a brother's breast; and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are to be either drenched with blood or to be inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"

The call to arms which sounded through the States from Lexington was answered promptly. Massachusetts alone resolved to raise 13,600 men. Volunteers came up from New Hampshire, militia from Rhode Island, and a band of men from Connecticut under the sturdy old leader, Israel Putnam. The outlawed commander, Ethan Allen, came with his “Green Mountain Boys," offering to fight for the good cause, and proposing to attack Ticonderoga and Crown Point, British fortresses on Lake Champlain. For the same purpose, there came forward a man whose name is also a well-known one—it was “first so famous, and afterwards so infamous”—Benedict Arnold. He was a man who did not like submitting to the leadership of others, and he wished to assume the command at once himself; but the “Green Mountain Boys” declared that they would have no leader except Ethan Allen.

Allen led them to Shoreham, which was opposite Ticonderoga, and in the dead of the night, they began crossing

his men,

over to the fort by a few at a time, in the only boats they could procure. When morning dawned only a small number of the men, not quite one hundred, had gone over. Allen and Arnold were there, and Allen drew

up and declared his intention of making a dash at the fort without waiting for the other men to join them. “It is a desperate attempt," said he, “and I ask no man to go against his will. I will take the lead, and be the first to advance. You that are willing to follow, poise your firelocks.” Every firelock was poised. “They mounted the hill briskly, but in silence, guided by a boy from the neighbourhood. The day dawned as Allen arrived at a sally-port. A sentry pulled a trigger on him, but his piece missed fire. He retreated through a covered way.

Allen and his men followed. Another sentry thrust at Easton with his bayonet, but was struck down by Allen, and begged for quarter. It was granted on condition of his leading the way instantly to the quarters of the commandant, Captain Delaplace, who was still in bed. Being arrived there, Allen thundered at the door, and demanded a surrender of the fort. By this time his followers had formed into two lines on the parade ground, and given three hearty cheers. The commandant appeared at his door half-dressed. He gazed at Allen in bewildered astonishment. “By whose authority do you act ?" exclaimed he. “In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress," replied Allen, with a flourish of his sword.”

The unhappy captain, with his forty-eight men (who composed the whole of his garrison), were obliged to surrender the fort, and were sent prisoners to Harvard.

There is something which sounds rather like a midnight robbery in this whole affair. The news of war having com

WASHINGTON APPOINTED COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.

87

sess, as it

menced between America and England had probably hardly reached Ticonderoga, and there was no fair fighting about it. But it was an important fort for the Americans to pos

won for them the command of Lakes George and Champlain, and threw open the great highways Canada."

The second Congress had plenty of work to do—the organisation of troops for the defence of the country; the plans for confederation ; the new coinage, bearing the inscription “The United Colonies ;" all had to be decided, with many other weighty matters. But one subject which engrossed much thought, and involved much discussion, was the appointment of a commander-in-chief of the forces. It was at length offered unanimously to Washington. When his name was first mentioned for it in Congress, no one was so surprised as Washington himself, and it is said that when he heard the praise with which Mr. Adams was speaking of him, he darted from the room ; but, in spite of his modesty, the command was pressed upon him, and announced to him in Congress the following morning. His commission was made out in these words :

We, reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism and fidelity, do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be General and Commander-in-Chief of the army of the United Colonies, and of all the forces raised or to be raised by them, and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their services, and join the said army for the defence of American liberty. And you are hereby vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service, &c. &c.

“ BY ORDER OF CONGRESS."

When he was made aware of the decision of Congress, Washington rose in his place, and accepted the trust in a few words, which for their simple nobility could hardly be sur

« ZurückWeiter »