Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of statutable plunder. The uninterrupted tenor of their peaceable and respectful behaviour, from the beginning of their coloniza. tion ; their dutiful, zealous, and useful services, during the war, though so recently and amply acknowledged in the most honourable manner, by his Majesty, the late king, and by parliament ; could not save them from the intended innovations. Parliament was influenced to adopt the pernicious project; and assuming a new power over them, has, in the course of eleven years, given such decisive specimens of the spirit and consequences attending this power, as to leave no doubt of the effects of acquiescence under it.

They have undertaken to give, and grant our money without our consent; though we have ever exercised an exclusive right to dispose of our own property. Statutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty, and vice admiralty, beyond their ancient limits; for depriving us of the accustomed and inestimable rights of trial by jury, in cases affecting both life and property ; for suspending the legislature of one of our colonies ; for interdicting all commerce to the capital of another; and for altering fundamentally the form of government established by charter, and secured by acts of its own legislature, and solemnly confirmed by the crown; for exempting murderers from legal trial, and in effect from punishment; for erecting in a neighbouring province, acquired by the joint arms of Great Bri. tain and America, a disposition dangerous to our very existence; and for quartering soldiers upon the colonists in time of profound peace. It has also been resolved in parliament, that colonists, charged with committing certain offences, shall be transported to England to be tried. But why should we enumerate our injuries into detail ? By one statute it was declared, that parliament can, of right, make laws to bind us in all cases whatever. What is to defend us against so enormous, so unlimited a power ? Not a single person who assumes it, is chosen by us, or is subject to our controul, or influence; but on the contrary, they are all of them exempt from the operation of such laws; and an American revenue, if not diverted from the ostensible purposes for which it is raised, would actually lighten their own burdens in proportion as it increases ours.

We saw the misery to which such despotism would reduce us. We for ten years incessantly and ineffectually besieged the throne as supplicants ; we reasoned, we remonstrated with parliament, in the most mild and decent language ; but administration, sensiole that we should regard these measures as freemen ought to do, ent over fleets and armies to enforce them.

We have pursued every temperate, every respectful measure ; we have even proceeded to break off all. commercial intercourse with our fellow subjects, as our last peaceable admonition, that our attachment to no nation on earth would supplant our liberty ; this re fattered ourselves was the ultimate step of the controversy ; but subsequent events have shown how vain was this hope of finde ing mocieration in our enemies !

The lords and commons in their address in the month of Fe. bruary, 1775, said, that a rebellion at that time actually existed in the province of Massachusetts Bay; and that those concerned in it had been countenanced and encouraged by unlawful combinations, and engagements entered into by his majesty's subjects in several of the colonies; and therefore they besought his majesty that he would take the most effectual measures to enforce doe. obedience to the laws and authority of the supreme legislature. Soon after, the commercial intercourse of those colonies with foreign countries was cut off by an act of parliament; by another, several of them were entirely prohibited from the fisheries in the seas near their coasts, on which they always depended for their subsistence ; and large reinforcements of ships and troops were immediately sent over to general Gage. Fruitless were all the entreaties, arguments, and eloquence, of an illustrious band of the most distinguished peers and commoners, who nobly and strenu. ously asserted the justice of our cause, to stay, or even to miti. gate, the heedless fury with which these accumulated outrages were hurried on. Equally fruitless was the interference of the city of London, of Bristol, and of many other respectable towns in our favour.

After having reproached parliament, general Gage, and the British government, in general, they proceed thus, “We are reduced to the alternative of chusing an unconditional submission to tyranny, or resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tam'ely to surrender' that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us, Our cause is just ; our union is perfect ; our internal resources are great; and if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. We fight not for glory or conquest ; we exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies. They boast of their privileges and civili. zation, and yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death. In our native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright, for the protection of our property, acquired by the homest industry of our forefathers, and our own, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms; we shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of our aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed....and not be. fore.

These are some of the most striking passages in the declaration of congress on taking up arms against Great Britain. Without enquiring whether the principles on which it is founded are right or wrong, the determined spirit which it shows, ought to have convinced the ministry that the conquest of America was an event not reasonably to be expected. In every other respect an equal spirit

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

was shown; and the rulers of the British nation had the mortifi. cation to see those whom they styled rebels and traitors, succeed in negociations in which they themselves were utterly foiled. In the passing the Quebec bill the ministry had flattered themselves that the Canadians would be so much attached to them on account of restoring the French laws, that they would readily join in any attempt against the colonists, who had reprobated that bill in such strong terms; but in this, as in every thing else, they found them. selves much mistaken.

The Canadians having been subject to the British government for a period of fifteen years, and being thus made sensible of the superior advantages of the laws of that country, received the bill with evident marks of disapprobation ; so far that they reprobato ed it as tyrannical and oppressive.

A scheme had been formed for general Carleton, governor of the province, to raise an army of Canadians wherewith to act against the Americans; and so sanguine were the hopes of administration, in this respect, that they had sent twenty thousand stands of arms and a great quantity of military stores to Quebec, for that purpose. But the people though they did not join the Americans, yet were found immoveable in their purpose to remain neuter. Application was made to the bishop; but he declined to use his influence, as contrary to the rules of the popish.clergy ; so that the utmost efforts of government in this province were found abortive.

The British administration next tried to engage the Indians in their cause. But though agents were dispersed among them with large presents to the chiefs, they universally replied, that they did not understand the nature of the quarrel, 'nor could they distinguish whether those who dwelt in America, or those on the other side of the ocean, were in fault ; but they were surprised to see Englishmen ask their assistance against one another, and advised them to be reconciled, and not to think of shedding the blood of their brethren.

To the representations of congress they paid more attention. These informed them that the English on the other side of the ocean, had taken up arms to enslave, not only their countrymen in America, but the Indians also ; and if they overcame the colonists, themselves would soon be reduced to slavery also. The savages, upon maturely weighing the subject, concluded to remain neuter; and thus the colonists were freed from a most dangerous enemy.

On this occasion congress held a solemn conference with the different tribes of Indians. A speech was proposed, which exhibits a specimen of the manner in which Europeans always address the savage inhabitants of America,

Brothers, Sachems, and Warriors !

“We, the delegates from the twelve united provinces, now “ sitting in general congress at Philadelphia, send our talk to you

our brothers.

6 Brothers and Friends now attend !

« When our fathers crossed the great water, and came over “ to this land, the king of England gave them a talk, promising " them that they and their children should be his children ; and “ if they would leave their native country, and make settlements, " and live here, and buy and sell, and trade with their brethren

beyond the great water, they should still keep hold of the same

covenant chain, and enjoy peace; and it was covenanted, that o the fields, houses, goods, and possessions, which our fathers, “ should acquire, should remain to them as their own, and be “their children's for ever, and at their sole disposal.

Brothers and Friends open an ear!

“ We will now tell you of the quarrel betwixt the counsellors " of king George and the inhabitants of the colonies of America.

Many of his counsellors have persuaded him to break the s6 covenant chain, and not to send us any more good talks. - They “ have prevailed upon him to enter into a covenant against us, and “have torn asunder, and cast behind their backs, the good old " covenant which their ancestors and ours entered into, and took

strong hold of. They now tell us they will put their hands into

our pocket without asking, as though it were their own ; and at " their will and pleasure, they will take from us our charter, or, ** written civil constitution, which we love as our lives ; also our “ plantations, our houses, and our goods, whenever they please, “ without asking our leave. They tell us also, that our vessels

may go to that or this island in the sea, but to this or that partie "cular island, we shall not trade any more ; and in case of our “non-compliance with these new orders, they shut up our har« bours.

“ Brothers, we live on the same ground with you; the same " island is our common birth-place. We desire to sit down under “ the same tree of peace with you : let us water its roots, and

cherish the growth, till the large leaves and flourishing branches 6 shall extend to the setting sun, and reach the skies. If any

thing disagreeable should ever fall out between us, the twelve “ United Colonies, and you, the Six Nations, to wound our peace, “ let us immediately seek measures for healing the breach. From « the present situation of our affairs, we judge it expedient to kin. “ dle up a small fire at Albany, where we may hear each other's * voice, and disclose our minds fully to one another."

The other remarkable transactions of this Congress, were the ultimate refusal of the conciliatory proposal made by lord North, of which such sanguine expectations had been formed by the Enga lish ministry ; and the appointment of a generalissimo to command their armies which were now very numerous. The person chosen for this purpose was, George Washington, a man universally beloved; he was raised to the high station of Commander in Chief, by the unanimous voice of Congress, in 1775: and his subsequent conduct shewed him every way worthy of it. Horatio Gates, and Charles Lee, two English officers of considerable re. putation, were also chosen ; the former adjutant-general, the lat, ter major-general. Artemas Ward, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam, were likewise nominated major-generals. Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgomery, David Wooster, William Heath, John Thomas, John Sullivan, and Nathaniel Green, were chosen brigadier-generals at the same time.

About this period Georgia sent deputies to congress expressing their desire to join the confederacy. The reasons they gave for their renouncing their allegiance to Britain was, that the conduct of parliament towards the other colonies had been oppressive; and though the obnoxious acts had not been extended to them, they could view this only as an omission because of the seeming little consequence of their colony; and therefore looked upon it rather as a slight than a favour. At the same time, they framed a pea tition to the king, similar to that sent by the other colonies, and which met a similar reception.

The success which had hitherto attended the Americans now emboldened them to act offensively against Great Britain. The conquest of Canada appeared to be practicable, and which would be attended with many advantages; and as Crown Point and Ti. conderoga were already in their hands, : the invasion that way might be easily effected, and supposed that Quebec might be reduced during the winter, before the fleets and armies, which they were well assured would sail thither from Britain, should arrive.

Congress therefore ordered three thousand men under the command of generals Montgomery and Schuyler, to proceed to Lake Champlain, from whence they were to be conveyed in flat-bot. tomed boats to the mouth of the river Sorel, a branch of the river St. Lawrence, and on which is situated a fort of the same name with the river. On the other hand they were opposed by general Carleton, governor of Canada, a man of great activity and experience in war; who with a small number of troops, had been able to keep in awe the disaffected people in Canada, notwithstanding all the representations of the colonists. He had now augmented his army with a number of Indians, and promised, even in his present situation, to make a formidable resistance.

When General Montgomery arrived at Crown Point, he received information that several armed vessels were stationed at St. Johns, a strong fort on the Sorel, with a view to prevent his crossing the lake on which he took possession of an island which

« ZurückWeiter »