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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/122

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mob disguised as Indians threw it into the harbor. England then determined to enforce the Government of the crown and Parliament over the colonies, and a fleet with 10,000 troops was sent to America, which led to the battle of Lexington, and the beginning of the Revolutionary War, April 19, 1775. The news that the British troops had been compelled to beat a hasty retreat summoned 20,000 men to the vicinity of Boston. A Congress of the colonies assembled at Philadelphia, and appointed George Washington Commander-in-Chief of an army of 20,000 men. The battle of Bunker Hill was fought at Charlestown, June 17, 1775, between 1,500 Americans, who had hastily intrenched themselves, and 2,000 British soldiers. When the Americans had exhausted their ammunition they were ordered to retreat; but as they had only lost 115 killed, 305 wounded, and 32 prisoners, while the loss on the British side was at least 1,054, the encounter had all the moral effect of a victory. After a winter of great privations the British were compelled to evacuate Boston, carrying away in their fleet to Halifax 1,500 loyal families. An army of 55,000 men, including 17,000 German mercenaries (Hessians), was sent under the command of Sir William Howe to put down this “wicked rebellion.”

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, offered a resolution in Congress, declaring that the united colonies are, and ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. This resolution was adopted by the votes of 9 out of 13 colonies, and brought about the celebrated “Declaration of Independence,” which on July 4, 1776, received the assent of the delegates of the colonies. They adopted the general title of the “United States of America,” with a population of about 2,500,000. From the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, to the surrender of Yorktown, Oct. 19, 1781, in 24 engagements, including the surrender of two armies, the British losses in the field were not less than 25,000 men, while those of the Americans were about 8,000.

After the peace, concluded Sept. 3, 1783, the independence of the United States was acknowledged by foreign powers, and in 1787 the present Constitution was ratified. George Washington and John Adams, standing at the head of the Federalist party, were elected President and Vice-President of the United States. The War of 1812 grew out of the fact that England declined to put a stop to the abuse of impressing American citizens into the British navy, the attention of Congress having been called to 6,000 instances in 1811. In 1814 the Federalists of New England held a convention at Hartford in opposition to the war and the administration of President Madison, and threatened a secession of the New England States, as having to defend themselves as it was. The war was terminated by the treaty of Ghent, Dec. 24, 1814, though the English suffered a disastrous defeat at New Orleans, Jan. 8, 1815, nearly a month after peace had been concluded between England and America.

At the period of the Revolution slavery existed in all the States except Massachusetts, but it had gradually been abolished in the Northern and Middle States, except Delaware, and excluded from the new States between the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers by the terms on which the territory had been surrendered by Virginia to the Union. The two sections had already entered on a struggle to maintain the balance of power against each other. After an exciting contest in 1820 Missouri was admitted with a resolution (the “Missouri Compromise”) that in future no slave State should exist N. of the parallel of lat. 36° 30′ N. In 1826 two of the founders of the republic, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died on July 4, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In 1732 an Indian war, called the Black Hawk War, broke out in Wisconsin; but the passing of a high protective tariff act by Congress caused a more serious trouble. The State of South Carolina declared the act unconstitutional.

A collision seemed imminent, when the affair was settled by a compromise bill, introduced by Henry Clay, providing for a gradual reduction of duties till 1843, when they should not exceed 20 per cent., ad valorem. In 1835 the Seminole War broke out in Florida, and a tribe of Indians, insignificant in numbers, under the crafty leadership of Osceola, kept up hostilities for years at a cost to the United States of several thousand men, and some $50,000,000.

In 1837 Martin Van Buren succeeded General Jackson in the presidency. His term was a stormy one, from the great financial crisis of 1837, which followed a period of currency expansion and wild speculation. All the banks suspended payment, and the great commercial cities threatened insurrection. In 1840 Gen. William H. Harrison was elected President, but died in 1841, a month after his