History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution/Chapter VIII
While as above related, a busy and important scene was exhibited at the northward, the southern colonies were parrying the embarrassments created by the royal governors, some of whom had recently left America. The people were gradually laying aside the prejudices which mankind generally imbibe for old established governments and were preparing themselves for new modes, if necessity should impel, whenever the delegates with whom they had entrusted their rights should judge affairs fully ripened for a declaration of independence and a final separation from Britain. The American Congress was yet waiting the result of their late petition to the throne, with a degree of temper and moderation scarcely paralleled among men possessing the unlimited confidence of their country on the one side and on the other irritated by the neglect and contempt of their oppressors and the rude insults of ministerial menace.
Thus suspended on the wing of expectation or rather an unfounded and fruitless hope, everything remained quiet at headquarters through the winter of 1776. No attempt was made against Boston by the American army, nor did General Howe show any disposition to sally from the town and interrupt the tranquility of the camp. In short, the British army, engrossed by the pleasures of the town and the exhibition of farces composed by one of their general officers [General Burgoyne, whose genius for these literary products was afterwards displayed more to his honor.], became so inactive and appeared so inoffensive that the Americans (little less disposed to indulge in the pleasures of peace) enjoyed at Cambridge the conviviality of the season. The ladies of the principal American officers repaired to the camp. Harmony and hospitality, united with that simplicity which had hitherto been characteristic of the domestic taste, style, and manners of the most respectable Americans, reigned among them for several months, without the smallest interruption. Civility and mutual forbearance appeared between the officers of the royal and continental armies, and a frequent interchange of flags was indulged for the gratification of the different partisans.
But notwithstanding the reluctance to action observable in two powerful and contiguous armies, the wheels of revolution were rolling on in swift progression. The approach of spring lowered the fate of empire, the birth of nations, and the painful convulsions experienced by every state, struggling to retrieve and permanently secure the rights of nature, seized or curtailed by the strong hand of power.
Through the last ten years the British ministry had been repeatedly changed, and though none of them, except the Duck of Grafton and the Marquis of Rockingham [The Marquis of Rockingham was through his whole life uniformly opposed to the American war.], who had figured at the head of administration, had shown any disposition to do justice to America, yet the counsels of cabinet had been kept in continual fluctuation. From the retirement of Lord Bute in 1756, there had been an extraordinary variety and succession of characters in the colonial department. The Lords Grenville, Rockingham, North, Hillsborough, and Dartmouth had alternately taken the lead in this thorny path. Several others had labored in the road for a time and retired equally successless and chagrined, particularly the Duke of Grafton. [The Duke of Grafton was very explicit with his Majesty in his reasons for resignation.]
From the religious deportment of Lord Dartmouth, he had secured the partiality of a party; but it soon appeared from the inefficacy of his measures and the want of stability in his conduct that he was a very unfit person for a place that required deeper intrigue, more energy, and stronger abilities than he possessed. Tired of the burden himself, and his employers weary of his administration, he resigned his office in the summer of 1775.
On his resignation, Lord George Germaine, "the hero of the Minden," entered a field which did not brighten his laurels, though he engaged with a boldness and temerity of spirit that he had not on all occasions discovered. Zealous for the honor of his sovereign, the interest and superiority of his nation, the dignity and supremacy of Parliament, he undertook the conduct of the American war, the subjugation of the colonies, with a temper and resolution more sanguine than discreet. Early in his administration and through the whole course of this eventful year, proposals for an accommodation with the colonies were offered from various quarters; but conciliation with America had no place in the system of the new minister.
The first bill that appeared for this purpose was from the hand of Lord Chatham, whose energetic abilities and dignified policy, had recently rescued the empire from ruin. But not even the talents of a man who had been courted by his sovereign, admired by his enemies, and adored by the nation had any influence on a ministry deaf to everything but an American revenue and the supremacy of Parliament. After the failure of the efforts of this distinguished statesman, Burke, Franklin, Fothergill, Hartley, and others anxious to prevent the wanton waste of human blood brought forward their proposals to procure a reconciliation with the colonies, either on the terms of equity or partial concession. They supported with the most interesting pathos and with great strength of argument. But neither the persuasive eloquence of the orator Edmund Burke], the reasoning powers or conclusive arguments of the philosopher [Dr. Franklin], nor the mild simplicity and humane interference of the upright Quaker [Dr. Fothergill ... All well known in the literary world.], were listened to with the smallest attention by a predetermined administration, sanctioned by the approbation of royalty. Every suggestion that wore any appearance of lenity or reunion with the colonies was rejected on the principle of the supremacy of Parliament. Tenacious of their power and the right to alter or resume at pleasure all colonial charters and to regulate and tax as consistent with the convenience of the parent state, the late petition from Congress met the usual neglect that had been shown to every former application.
Before it was totally rejected, the Duke of Richmond suggested the propriety of questioning Governor Penn, who presented the petition, relative to the strength, the resources, the disposition, and the designs of America. Mr. Penn was a gentleman whose talents were equal to the business he was sent to negotiate. When called on the floor of the House of Commons for examination, he gave a clear and decided statement of the situation ad the views, the expectations, the wishes, and the final determination of his countrymen, if they failed in their present attempt to be heard by their Sovereign. [When the petition was presented by Mr. Penn and Arthur Lee, Esquire, they were told by the minister that no notice would be taken of it.] But it was immediately asserted that Congress was an illegal body, that no parley could be held with rebels, that while the Americans in hostile array were preparing armies for opposition to parliamentary authority, it was beneath the dignity of the supreme legislative to hold treaties with men who denied their supremacy; that coercion alone was the proper line of action for the nation; and that it was necessary this system should be pushed with redoubled vigor. Consequently, after much debate, it was agreed in the House that foreign auxiliaries should be hired at an immense expense to assist in the complete subjugation of the colonies. A treaty with the Langrave of Hesse and a price for payment for the loan of his slaves was voted, and several other similar steps adopted to facilitate the designs against America.
These measures appeared to many in the House replete with absurdity, particularly the calling in of foreign mercenaries to assist in a work that discovered little liberality, less humanity, and no wise policy. It was observed that no language or act could justify the authors or supporters of this project. It was replied "that foreign troops inspired with military maxims and ideas of implicit obedience would be less liable to be biased by the false lenity which national soldiers might indulge at the the expense of national interest." [British Annual Register] This was an unusual and bold assertion to be made in a British House of Commons and seemed tinctured with a spirit of despotism that had not always been characteristic of Englishmen; and indeed now, the minority in opposition to this and several other high-handed measures was too respectable to be frowned into insignificance, even by the disapprobation of kings. [See Note 16 at the end of this chapter.]
The noble names of Rockingham, Scarborough, Abingdon, Effingham, and Ponsonby; the Dukes of Manchester, Devonshire, Richmond, and Grafton, with many others of equal rank and consideration, appeared on the protests against the sanguine, summary, and dangerous proceedings of Parliament. Their opinions were supported even by some of the royal family: the efforts of the Duke of Cumberland were strenuous. He reprobated in the most explicit terms the whole American system. He lamented in pathetic language the employing of foreigners. He observed that he much regretted "that Brunswickers. who once to their honor had been employed in defense of the liberties of the subject, should now be sent to subjugate a distant part of the British Empire." [See the speech of his Royal Highness at large in the British Annual Register.]
But in spite of protests, arguments, reason, or humanity, the Parliament of Britain proceeded, as expressed in the dissent of the Lords, to "a refinement in tyranny." Towards the close of the year, they interdicted all trade with America, declared the colonies out of the royal protection, licensed the seizure of their property on the high seas, and by an act of Parliament gave the forfeiture of the captors, and directed an indiscriminate compulsion of all persons taken on board any American vessel to serve as common sailors in His Majesty's navy.
This mode of procedure was opposed and criminated with all the powers of language by some members of the first consequence in the House of Commons. They pronounced it the last degree of wretchedness and indignity to which human nature could be subjugated. They observed that "this was an instance of tyranny worse than death, thus to compel the unfortunate captives who might fall into their hands, after being plundered themselves, to assist their enemies in plundering their brethren." They asserted "that such modes of severity were without example, except among pirates, outlaws, and the common enemies of civil society." Yet, notwithstanding these sensible remonstrances, there were some of the most distinguished characters in England, so heated by party spirit, national pride, and the high claims of parliamentary dignity and superiority as shamelessly to avow the necessity of leaping over the boundaries of equity and winking out of sight the immutable laws of justice. It is painful to record, as an evidence of this assertion, a single instance that must cause a blush for the weakness or wickedness of man. Even the great Lord Mansfield, whose superior talents, profound erudition, law knowledge, and philosophical abilities should have elevated him above all local and party prejudices, declared publicly "that the original question of right ought "no longer to be considered; that the justice of the cause must give way to the present situation; that they were engaged in a war, and must use every effort to obtain the end proposed thereby." [Debates in Parliament and Lord Mansfield's speech in the House of Lords, December 1775.] If the politician can justify this sophistical reasoning, the dictates of justice must lead the upright to revolt at the idea: a declaration so devoid of the principles of rectitude, from a man of his lordship's celebrity, at once shocks the feelings of equity and wounds the sensations of humanity.
The passions of some were irritated by this extraordinary speech of Lord Mansfield, and the judgment of others convinced that America had nothing to expect either from the justice or clemency of Parliament, under the influence of men of such abilities and principles. Yet still the chimerical project of conquest and subjugation continued to be uniformly opposed by the dissenting Lords in one house and a melioration of the American system urged in the other, on the strongest grounds of reason, justice, policy, and humanity. But a ministerial majority was astonishingly kept up in both, and on a division on every question relative to the colonies, the minority bore no proportion to the names in the other scale.
A war with America did not at this period appear to be the general wish of the nation at large; but engaged in their own pleasures and pursuits, they seemed rather inattentive to the object in dispute, as a matter that very little concerned them. There was indeed some clamor among the great body of the merchants on the total destruction of the American trade, and some of the manufacturing towns were disposed to be riotous on the occasion. But the danger of a foreign war or a final dismemberment of the Empire was not generally apprehended by the people, though these consequences were predicted by some sagacious heads, and the hearts of the patriotic and compassionate were hurt by the anticipation of the impending evils.
Calling in the aid of foreigners, and introducing a large body of German mercenaries in British pay to settle a domestic quarrel with the colonies was mortifying to the pride and valor of every uncorrupted Englishman. But the torrent of secret influence was irresistible; the expensive system was precipitated: prerogative and conquest was the ministerial creed; power the princely object: and on the approbatory speech of the monarch, when all was at hazard, there appeared a coolness that bordered on apathy. Silence and submission were enjoined on the friends of America in the House of Commons; and the liberty of writing their names and witnessing their uneasiness by their own signature was all the consolation of the protesting lords, while these important questions were in agitation. [On the prohibitory, the Restraining Act, the interdiction of trade, and all other coercive bills, the usual rate of voices in favor to them was from 120 to 150 — the number of the minority seldom more than 30 or 40. When they amounted to 40, it was thought a considerable acquisition.]
The debates in Parliament relative to colonial measures, the King's speech, and the rejection of the late petition of the Continental Congress arrived in America before the month of March, 1776. These were accompanied with the intelligence of the Hessian Treaty, and that foreign auxiliaries from various other nations were to be employed in the compulsory system, and that the barbarous strangers were to assist in the entire subjugation of the colonies, if not otherwise reduced to unworthy submission.
On this information, the indignation of all ranks can scarcely be described. The King's speech was condemned and ordered to be burnt in the center of the camp at Cambridge. The wavering were resolved, the timid grew bold, the placid and philosophic lovers of peace left the retired haunts of literary felicity; and beneath the helmet and the buckler courted the post of danger: vigorous action was now the only line of conduct to be observed through every department. Previous to any other movement, it was judged important that the British forces should be immediately removed from their stronghold in the town of Boston, lest the work should be rendered more difficult on the arrival of fresh troops from Great Britain, now daily expected.
General Washington, sensible of this necessity, and that no more time was to be lost, opened a severe cannonade on the western side, not far distant from the town, on the evening of March 4. This was designed rather to divert attention within the walls than for any important consequences expected from this maneuver without. The Americans kept up a constant fire through the night, while several smaller works were erected for the annoyance of the besieged. but the principal effect was expected from the heights of Dorchester. By the greatest industry and dispatch, a strong battery, very unexpectedly to the enemy, appeared there on the morning of the fifth, from whence the Americans played their artillery with ease on the town. The assailants, under the direction of General Thomas, erected and extended their works in such a judicious manner as to command the peninsula leading to Boston, Castle William, and at the same time a considerable part of the harbor.
General Howe, mortified that such an advantageous post should have been so long neglected by himself, and astonished at the appearance of such strong and defensible works rising as it were in a night without noise or alarm in that quarter, did not long hesitate on the part necessary for him to act in this critical conjuncture. There remained no alternative between a bold and vigorous attempt to dislodge the Americans or an immediate evacuation of the town. To fly on the first appearance of danger was humiliating to the pride of the soldier, lessening his military honor and sinking the dignity of the commander in chief.
A choice of difficulties lay before him. He was short of provisions. The soldiers had become discontented with the service and fatigued with continual watching. An immediate retreat might appear to him less disgraceful than the consequences of resistance under many apparent disadvantages. On the other hand, chagrined at the idea of drawing off seven or eight thousand of the best troops the King his master had in service, without striking a blow, and relinquishing the only American town they then had in possession to the undisciplined peasantry of the country, was still a more humiliating thought. From these considerations, he made all possible preparation to dislodge the American troops the evening after they were discovered on the heights of Dorchester. But the intervention of the elements disconcerted his operations: a tremendous storm of wind and rain prevented the dangerous enterprise, and saved the expense of much blood.
General Howe finding his design impracticable, in consequence of this disappointment, ordered an embarkation to begin as soon as the tempest should subside. But embarrassed by a crowd of refugees and other delinquents, who, conscious they could not rely on their country for safety, had thrown themselves on his protection; encumbered with women, children, furniture, soldiers, officers, and camp equipage; the inconveniences and dangers of a voyage at the equinoctial season; the sterility of the country [General Howe went from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia.] and the coldness of the clime to which he must repair, with a discontented army and a group of miserable, disappointed Tories, rendered the situation of the British commander in chief truly pitiable. To add to the confusion of the scene, the strictest harmony did not exist between the officers of the army and navy. This increased the difficulty of accommodation on this unexpected emergency, when so many useless persons claimed protection and subsistence.
When the Americans saw the British troops about to depart, they did not offer to impede their design in the smallest degree. The cannonade was suspended, and they beheld with an eye of compassion the extraordinary emigration of some hundreds of disaffected Americans, whom they suffered to depart with the successless army, without a wish to retard their flight. These unhappy people took with them such of their effects as the hurry of the occasion and their military masters would permit. General Washington, with a few troops, entered Boston, with the ensigns of triumph displayed, and beheld the rear of the panic-struck army of Britain, precipitately flying from a town that had long been the object of ministerial vengeance.
The bloodless victory on the one side, and the disgraceful flight on the other, was viewed with pleasure and surprise, or with astonishment and grief, in proportion to the political hopes and fears that agitated the various parties, who all considered the transactions of the day replete with important consequences. Every mark of respect was externally shown to General Washington, even by those who were not well affected to the cause in which he was engaged. Many of this class, more culpable than some who went off with the British army, chose to stay and cast themselves at the mercy of their countrymen, rather than to hazard the danger of a voyage, the loss of property, and a separation from their families.
Some, much less criminal than these, and many really inoffensive persons, suddenly struck with imaginary fears, abandoned their habitations and their country, which by a little address they might quietly have possessed. Several very doubtful characters not only acted with decent civility and condescension, but confidently assumed merit to themselves as friends of the revolution: some of these were afterwards promoted to places and offices of high trust. Indeed the loyalists in general who stayed in Boston and chose to run all hazards rather than quit their native country, experienced much clemency from the opposite party; yet, perhaps not in the full latitude that policy might have dictated: but the impressions of danger and insult to which the victors had long been exposed operated more powerfully in the minds of many than the laws of forgiveness or the distant view of political consequences.
Thus a kind o inquisitorial court was erected in Boston, and some persons more warm than discreet and more zealous than judicious, were appointed to decide on the criminality of state delinquents, several of whom were adjudge to punishments rather ridiculous than severe. This step tended only to strengthen the alienation of those who had either from interest, treachery, timidity, or a passion for the splendor of monarchy, enlisted under the banners of royalty, without any fixed principles in religion or politics. Had the new government at this period passed an act of indemnity and oblivion and proclaimed pardon to all who had incurred the public resentment, excepting a few who had notoriously deserved proscription, it is probable many would have returned to the bosom of their country and become faithful subjects to the United States, when they could have done it without the imputation of being rebels to their sovereign. This consideration before the Declaration of Independence had a conscientious influence on the minds of some who disapproved of the ministerial encroachments, yet scrupled the right of resistance while the legal subjects of the British Crown; but the line of separation soon after drown, the doubts of many well-disposed persons were entirely dissipated.
After the evacuation of Boston, the succession of important events was too rapid for the mind to dwell long on single incidents. It remained for some time uncertain where the British army and navy would next direct their operations. Though they sailed immediately for Halifax, it was only to disembark their useless hands and secure a rendezvous until fresh reinforcement should arrive from England.
The situation of the southern colonies at this time commanded the attention of every well-wisher to the American cause. Some time before the British troops left Boston, General Clinton had been sent southward to the assistance of Governor Martin and Lord William Campbell. We have seen that before they left their governments, they had instigated a number of the back settlers in the Carolinas to create disturbances. These people, formerly aggrieved by their own government, had styled themselves Regulators, had embodied for opposition, had resisted authority, and had suffered severely. They were now persuaded that the same persons who had some years before oppressed them were at this time in rebellion against their sovereign. This opinion was strengthened by Governor Martin, who kept up a correspondence with their leaders and invited them to repair to the royal standard at Brunswick, where they should be supported by a large body of the King's troops.
Though, as observed, these people had been compelled to submission and had remained quiet a number of years, yet their old antipathies were not obliterated. Ignorant of the causes of the general uneasiness of the colonies and mistaken in character, they united under the very men who had formerly exercised every severity against them and their leaders. [Particularly a Colonel Fanning, a violent partisan of the Crown, who had been in the former insurrection the executioner of most of their principal leaders, without even the form of a trial.] These were joined by the Highlanders, who had migrated in shoals after the rebellion in Scotland, in 1745. They had suffered too much not to dread a second opposition to the authority of the King of England. These descriptions of men were for a time very troublesome on the southern borders, more particularly of North Carolina; but by the spirit and activity of some continental troops under the command of Brigadier General More, the whole party was defeated. Their commanding officer Macdonald and most of the other officers imprisoned, the unhappy remnant who escaped imprisonment or death retreated to the woods; and all hope or fear from this quarter was extinguished before the arrival of Sir Henry Clinton at Cape Fear.
As soon as it was discovered at Cambridge that General Clinton had left Boston, General Lee was ordered to set forward to observe his maneuvers and prepare to meet him with advantage in any part of the continent he might think proper to visit. No man was better qualified at this early stage of the war to penetrate the designs or to face in the field an experienced British veteran than General Lee. He had been an officer of character and rank in the late war between England and France. [HE had served with reputation in Portugal, under the command of Count de la Lippe.] Fearless of danger, fond of glory, he was calculated for the field, without any of the graces that recommend the soldier to the circles of the polite. He was plain in his person even to ugliness, and careless in his manners to a degree of rudeness. He possessed a bold genius and an unconquerable spirit: his voice was rough, his garb ordinary, his deportment morose. A considerable traveler, and well acquainted with most of the European nations, he was frequently agreeable in narration and judicious and entertaining in observation. Disgusted with the ministerial system, and more so with his Sovereign who authorized it, he cherished the American cause from motives of resentment, and a predilection in favor of freedom, more than from a just sense of the rights of mankind.
Without religion or country, principle or attachment, gold was his deity, and liberty the idol of his fancy. He hoarded the former without taste for its enjoyment, and worshipped the latter as the patroness of licentiousness, rather than the protectress of virtue. He affected to despise the opinion of the world, yet was fond of applause. Ambitious of fame, without the dignity to support it, he emulated the heroes of antiquity in the field, while in private life he sunk into the vulgarity of the clown. Congress did wisely to avail themselves of his military experience in the infancy of a confederated army, and still more wisely in placing him in a degree of subordination. He was on the first list of continental officers, and only the Generals Washington and Ward were named before him; but though nominally the third in rank, as a soldier he was second to no man. The abilities of General Ward were better adapted to the more quiet disquisitions of the cabinet than on the hostile and dangerous scenes of the field or the camp, both of which he soon left and retired to private life, wherein nothing remained to prevent this singular stranger from taking the command of the armies of the United States but the life of Washington.
General Lee with his detachment from Cambridge reached New York and put it in a state of defense before Sir Henry Clinton arrived there, though he had sailed from Boston several days previous to its being known at Cambridge. While at New York, Lee drew up a list of suspected persons and disarmed them. He carried his military authority so high that the Congress of that state thought proper to check his career. They informed him that the trial and punishment of their citizens belonged to themselves and not to any military character. He apologized by observing that "when the enemy were at the door, forms must be dispensed with; that his duty to them, to the continent, and to his conscience dictated the measure; that if he had done wrong, he would submit himself to the shame of being imputed rash; but that he should still have the consolation in his own breast that pure motives of serving the community, uncontaminated by individual resentment, had urged him to those steps."
The movements of General Lee were so rapid that, to the surprise of Sir Henry Clinton, he was in Virginia before him. But as the object of the British armament was still farther south, Lee, with uncommon celerity, traversed the continent, met General Clinton in North Carolina, and was again ready for the defense of Sullivan's Island, near Charleston in South Carolina, before the arrival of the British troops under the command of General Clinton.
Sir Peter Parker had appeared off Cape Fear in the month of May, 1776, with a considerable squadron of line-of-battle ships, and a number of transports containing several regiments of land forces, and a heavy train of artillery. A body of troops commanded by Lord Cornwallis and General Vaughan were soon after landed on Long Island: the design was to unite with General Clinton and reduce Charleston, the rich capital of South Carolina. This state had thrown off their allegiance, assumed a government of their own, and chosen John Rutledge, Esquire, their chief magistrate, under the style and title of President.
Notwithstanding the parade of immediate attack, near a month elapsed in total inaction before the assault on Sullivan's Island was begun by the British naval commander. In the mean time, the Americans were strongly posted there. The engagement took place on June 29, and was conducted with great spirit and bravery on both sides. The highest encomiums are justly due to the valor and intrepidity of the British officers and seamen; and notwithstanding the courage and ability of General Gadsden, the vigor, activity, and bravery of General Moultrie, and the experience and military knowledge of General Lee, it is probable the action would have terminated more to the honor of the British navy, had they been properly supported by the land forces.
It remains yet to be investigated why no attempt was made by the troops on Long Island to cause a diversion on the other side, which would doubtless have altered the whole face of the action. But whether from a series of unexpected resistance, their imaginations had become habituated to view everything through the medium of danger, or whether from a degree of caution that sometimes betrays the brave into the appearance of timidity, or from any jealousies subsisting between the commandeers is uncertain. However, this neglect occasioned loud complaints among the officers of the navy; nor was it easy for Lord Cornwallis and General Clinton, though high on the rolls of military fame, to wipe off the aspersions thrown on their conduct. Even their apologies for their own inactivity, instead of exculpating themselves, were rather a testimony of the skill, ability, ;and vigor of their antagonists, who, in so short a time, were prepared to bid defiance to the combined force of Britain, though commanded by sea and land, by officers of acknowledged merit in the line of their profession.
Many brave officers of the navy fought with valor and spirit that would have been truly glorious in a more honorable cause. One instance of this, among many others of the unfortunate who fell on the occasion, was the valiant and spirited Captain Morris of the Bristol. He lost an arm by a ball in the beginning of the engagement, and while retired to dress his wounds, two of his surgeons were killed by his side before they had finished the operation. On this, the captain, with his usual intrepidity, resumed his command. When he immediately received a shot through the body and had time only to observe before he expired that "he consigned his family to God and his country." After an obstinate engagement of ten or twelve hours, the sailors disheartened, and their officers wounded [Lord William Campbell, governor of South Carolina, who had taken refuge on board one of the king's ships, was mortally wounded in the attack on Fort Moultrie.], the shattered fleet with difficulty retired to the distance of three or four miles from the fort, and in a few days put themselves in a condition to withdraw to the general rendezvous before New York.
The triumph of the Americans in this success, who had always justly dreaded the naval power of Britain, was in equal proportion to the chagrin of their enemies, thus repulsed in a quarter where, from the locality of circumstances, they least expected it. The multitude of manumitted slaves, and the aristocratic spirit of many of the principal planters had flattered them with the idea that in the southern colonies they should meet but a feeble resistance. Lord Dummore, who had joined in the expedition, continued several weeks after the repulse, to cruise about the borders of Virginia and the Carolinas, with his little fleet of fugitives and slaves. But, as the mid-summer heats increased, a pestilential fever raged on board, which carried off many of the refugees, and swept away most of the miserable negroes he had decoyed from their masters. Forbidden admittance wherever he attempted to land, and suffering for provisions, he burnt several of his vessels. The remainder, except one in which he sheltered himself and family, and two other ships of war for his protection, he sent laden with the wretched victims of his folly and cruelty, to seek some kind of subsistence in the Floridas, Bermudas, and the West Indies.
Lord Howe had been long expected with his motley mercenaries from Hesse, Hanover, and Brunswick. His brother Sir William, after a disagreeable residence of two or three months at Halifax, did not think proper to wait longer there the arrival of his lordship. Miserably accommodated and painful agitated by the recollection of his disgraceful flight from Boston, anxious for intelligence from Europe, and distressed by the delay of recruits and supplies, without which little could be done to retrieve his suffering fame, he quitted that station, accompanied by Admiral Shuldham, and arrived at Sandy Hook June 29. On his passage to New York, he accidentally fell in with a few scattering transports from England, which he took under his protection, while many less fortunate were captured by the American cruisers.
General Howe was, soon after this arrival in New York, joined by the repulsed troops from the southward, and the broken squadron under the command of Sir Peter Parker; by a regiment from St. Augustine, another from Pensacola, also by a few troops from St. Vincents, some small additions from other posts, and a considerable party of loyalists from New Jersey, and from the environs of Philadelphia and New York, which by great industry had been collected and embodied by Governor Tryon. Notwithstanding this acquisition of strength, he found the continental army so strongly posted on Long Island and New York, that he did not immediately attempt anything of consequence.
Immediately after the evacuation of Boston, General Washington had sent on the army in detachments, and when he had made some necessary arrangements for the future defense of the eastern states, he hastened on himself to New York, where he had made all possible preparation for the reception of General Howe. It has just been observed that the British commander had collected all his strength and called in the forces from every quarter of America except Canada, where under the direction of Generals Carleton and Burgoyne, measures were ripening for a junction at Albany, with the expected conquerors of the more southern colonies. But in the present circumstance of affairs, General Howe thought proper to land his troops at Staten Island and wait more favorable appearances which he had reason to expect on the arrival of his brother, an event hourly and anxiously looked for.
His lordship was considered by many in America as a harbinger of peace, though advancing in all the pride and pomp of war, accompanied by the ready executioners of every hostile design. It was reported that the commander of a formidable equipment both for sea and land service came out in a double capacity; that though prepared for offensive operations, Lord Howe had yet a commission from his royal master to accommodate the disputes and to restore tranquility to the colonies, on generous and equitable terms. The augurs of each party predicted the consequences of this ministerial maneuver, and interpreted the designs of his lordship's commission, according to their own hopes, fears, or expectations.
In the infancy of her emancipation, America was not such an adept in the science of political intrigue, but that many yet flattered themselves that an accommodation might take place, and the halcyon days might be restored by the interposition of the two brothers, Lord and General Howe, joined in the commission of peace under the sanction of royal indulgence. But more judicious men saw through and despised the bubble of policy, which held a pardon in one hand and a poniard in the other, with the detestable offer of assassination or slavery. They considered the mode of pacification proposed as at once an insult to the feelings, and an affront to the understandings of a people too serious for trifling when all was at stake and too wise to be cajoled by superficial appearances. Yet, those best acquainted with the situation and character, the genius and connections of the inhabitants of the middle colonies, were not surprised to find many among them who seemed ready to embrace such humiliating conditions, as the safety, the interest, the honor and justice of America., were bound to reject.
It was well known that from the beginning of the grand contest, the lamp of liberty had not burnt so bright in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as in some other parts of America. Though there was a party in New York strongly attached to the cause of the colonies there had been early reason to suppose that some men of high consideration in that state were not entirely proof against the influence of ministerial gold. New Jersey was the retreat of the timid, the disaffected, and the lovers of inglorious ease, from each corner of America. They thought they might rest secure from the ravages of war, as the torch which was lighted at both ends might be extinguished before it penetrated to the center.
The Quakers and the proprietary interest long hung as a dead weight on the spirited measures of the genuine friends of freedom and of their country, both in Pennsylvania and Maryland. But the incidents of a few months connected every interest, and brought almost every dissentient voice into union, and hastened on an event that everyone considered as decisive of the fate of America. The necessity of a Declaration of Independence was acknowledged by all: even Maryland, the last state of the union that came into the measure and whose delegates seceded on the question of independence, was among the first who erected their own government and established their own modes of legislation, independent of proprietors or kings.
"The dread of slavery in free nations has at all times produced more virtues than the principles of their political institutions." [Travels of Anacharsis.] This dread hung heavily on the most sober and judicious, the most wise and virtuous part of the inhabitants of America. They were sensible that both public and private virtue sink with the loss of liberty, and that the nobler emulations which are drawn out and adorn the soul of man, when not fettered by servility, frequently hide themselves in the shade or shrink into littleness at the frown of a despot. They felt too much for themselves and feared too much for posterity, longer to balance between either complete or partial submission, or an unreserved and entire claim of absolute independence.
These ideas precipitated the important era when a connection was dissolved, the continuance of which both nature and affection seemed to require. Great Britain, the revered parent, and America, the dutiful child, had long been bound together by interest, by a sameness of habits, manners, religion, laws, and government. The recollection of their original consanguinity had always been cherished with an amiable sensibility, or a kind of mechanic enthusiasm, that promoted mutual felicity when they met on each other's shores or in distant lands saluted each other in the same language.
A dereliction of old habits of friendship and attachment was far from the wish of many, who had yet strongly opposed the ministerial system. But the period was now arrived when American felt her wrongs, without hope of redress and supported her own rights by assuming her rank as a distinct nation on the political theater. We shall see her relinquish at once all hopes of protection, or fears of control, from the sovereignty of Britain. The reverential awe with which she had formerly viewed her potent parent was laid aside, and every effort made to forget her fond attachment for a people that from her earliest infancy she had looked up to as fathers, brothers, and friends.
The severities of the British government towards the American colonies had not yet taught them to express themselves in any other modes of language but what indicated their firm attachment to the mother country; nor had they erased the habitual ideas, even of tenderness, conveyed as their usual modes of expression . When they formed a design to visit England, I had always been thus announced, "I am going home." Home, the seat of happiness, the retreat to all the felicities of the human mind, is too intimately associated with the best feelings of the heart to renounce without pain, whether applied to the natural or the political parent.
The many protests of a number of the House of Lords, which appeared from time to time against the high measures of a majority in Parliament, epitomize the American grievances in a point of view that exhibited the opinion at the time, of a very considerable part of the most judicious and unprejudiced persons through the nation, both in and out of Parliament. These protests may be found in a variety of British publications.
This general favorable disposition toward the Americans in the early part of the contest was evinced by numberless circumstances; a crimination of the measures of administration against the colonies, existed on both sides of the Tweed, and indeed throughout the kingdom. Many letters and other excellent writings on the subject of civil and religious liberty were transmitted from England to America, from the year 1755, until the period when hostilities commenced. Among the numberless instances that might be adduced, of the spirit and disposition of the writers of those times, we will here only give the following extract of a letter form the Earl of Buchan to Mr. Otis; this was accompanied by some very excellent essays on the subject of liberty, and by several portraits of his person, adorned at the foot with a cap of liberty in the center of an annexed motto, "Ubi libertas, ibi patria."
"London January 26, 1768
"I take the liberty of transmitting to you the enclosed representations of a man strongly attached to the principles of that invaluable liberty, without which no real happiness can subsist anywhere.
"My family has often bled in the support it; and descended as I am from the English Henrys and Edwards, I glory more in the banishment of my great-grandfather, Lord Cardross to Carolina and the stand made by Lord Halifax, my ancestor, than in all that title and descent can give me.
"You may dispose of the other prints to the lovers of my principles; and I beg you will be so good as to transmit four of them to Messrs... as eminent defenders of those doctrines in the church, which are so intimately connected with liberty in the state... Lord Chatham [Lord Chatham afterwards totally reprobated the conduct of administration towards the colonies.] has forsaken you, having loved this world; but his favorite, your humble servant, will not, I trust, ever follow his steps.
"I am, sir, with great regard, Your most obedient, humble servant,
"James Otis, Esquire, Boston."