There was a strong profession of reluctance on both the French and English side to come formally to blows; both sent large bodies of troops to the Ohio valley, "but only for defense." Braddock was ready to advance in April, if only he had "horses and carriages"; which by Franklin's exertions were supplied. The bits of dialogue and comment in which this grizzled nincompoop was an interlocutor, or of which he was the theme, are as amusing as a page from a comedy of Shakespeare. Braddock has been called brave; but the term is inappropriate; he could fly into a rage when his brutal or tyrannical instincts were questioned or thwarted, and become insensible, for a time, even to physical danger. Ignorance, folly and self-conceit not seldom make a man seem fearless who is a poltroon at heart. Braddock's death was a better one than he deserved; he raged about the field like a dazed bull; fly he could not; he was incapable of adopting any intelligent measures to save his troops; on the contrary he kept reiterating conventional orders in a manner that showed his wits were gone. The bullet that dropped him did him good service; but his honor was so little sensitive that he felt no gratitude at being thus saved the consequences of one of the most disgraceful and willfully incurred defeats that ever befell an English general. The English troops upon whom, according to Braddock, "it was impossible that the savages should make any impression," huddled together, and shot down their own officers in their blundering volleys. In the narrow wood path they could not see the enemy, who fired from behind trees at their leisure. Half of the men, and sixty-three out of the eighty-six officers, were killed or wounded. In that hell of explosions, smoke, yells and carnage, Washington was clear-headed and alert, and passed to and fro amid the rain of bullets as if his body were no more mortal than his soul. The contingent of Virginia troops—the "raw American militia," as Braddock had called them, "who have little courage or good will, from whom I expect almost no military service, though I have employed the best officers to drill them":—these men did almost the only fighting that was done on the English side, but they were too few to avert the disaster.
The expedition had set out from Turtle Creek on the Monongahela on the ninth of July—twelve hundred men. The objective point was Fort Duquesne, "which can hardly detain me above three or four days," remarked the dull curmudgeon. No scouts were thrown out: they walked straight into the ambuscade which some two hundred French and six hundred Indians had prepared for them. The slaughter lasted two hours; there was no maneuvering. Thirty men of the three Virginia companies were left alive; they stood their ground to the last, while the British regulars "ran as sheep before hounds," leaving everything to the enemy. Washington did whatever was possible to prevent the retreat from becoming a blind panic. When the rout reached the camp, Dunbar, the officer in charge there, destroyed everything, to the value of half a million dollars, and ran with the rest. Reviewing the affair, Franklin remarks with a demure arching of the eyebrow that it "gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not been well founded."
It was indeed an awakening for the colonists. For all their bold resistance to oppression, they had never ceased to believe that an English soldier was the supreme and final expression of trained and disciplined force; and now, before their almost incredulous eyes, the flower of the British army had been beaten, and the bloody remnant stampeded into a shameful flight by a few hundred painted savages and Frenchmen. They all had been watching Braddock's march; and they never forgot the lesson of his defeat. From that time, the British regular was to them only a "lobster-back," more likely, when it came to equal conflict with themselves, to run away than to stand his ground.
Instead of throwing themselves into the arms of France, however, the colonists loyally addressed themselves to helping King George out of his scrape; and though they would not let him tax them, they hesitated not to tax themselves.
Pennsylvania raised fifty thousand pounds, and Massachusetts sent near eight thousand men to aid in driving the French from the northern border. Acadia's time had come. Though the descendants of the Breton peasants, who dated their settlement from 1604, had since the Peace of Utrecht nominally belonged to England, yet their sentiments and mode of life had been unaltered; Port Royal had been little changed by calling it Annapolis, and the simple, old-fashioned Catholics loved their homes with all the tenacity of six unbroken generations. Their feet were familiar in the paths of a hundred and fifty quiet and industrious years; their houses nestled in their lowly places like natural features of the landscape; their fields and herds and the graves of their forefathers sweetened and consecrated the land. They were a chaste, industrious, homely, pious, but not an intellectual people; and to such the instinct of home is far stronger than in more highly cultivated races. They had prospered in their modest degree, and multiplied; so that now they numbered sixteen thousand men, women and children. During the past few years, however, they had been subjected to the unrestrained brutality of English administration in its worst form; they had no redress at law, their property could be taken from them without payment or recourse; if they did not keep their tyrant's fires burning, "the soldiers shall absolutely take their houses for fuel." Estate-titles, records, all that could identify and guarantee their ownership in the means and conditions of livelihood, were taken; even their boats and their antiquated firearms were sequestrated. And orders were actually given to the soldiers to punish any misbehavior summarily upon the first Acadian who came to hand, whether or not he were guilty of, or aware of, the offense, and with absolutely no concern for the formality of arrest or trial. In all the annals of Spanish brutality, there is nothing more disgraceful to humanity than the systematic and enjoined treatment of these innocent Bretons by the English, even before the consummating outrage which made the whole civilized world stare in indignant amazement.
It is a matter for keen regret that men born on our soil should have been even involuntarily associated with this episode. The design was kept a secret from all until the last moment; but one could wish that some American had then committed an act of insubordination, though at the cost of his life, by way of indicating the detestation which all civilized and humane minds must feel for such an act. The colonists knew the value of liberty; they had made sacrifices for it; they had felt the shadow of oppression; and they might see, in the treatment of the Acadians, what would have been their fate had they yielded to the despotic instincts of England. The best and the worst that can be said of them is that they obeyed orders, and looked on while the iniquity was being perpetrated.
The force of provincials and regulars landed without molestation, and captured the feeble forts with the loss of but twenty killed. The Acadians agreed to take the oath of fidelity, but stipulated not to be forced to bear arms against their own countrymen. General Charles Lawrence, the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, replied to their plea that they be allowed to have their boats and guns, that it was "highly arrogant, insidious and insulting"; and Halifax, another of the companions in infamy, added that they wanted their boats for "carrying provisions to the enemy"—there being no enemy nearer than Quebec. As for the guns, "All Roman Catholics are restrained from having arms, and are subject to penalties if arms are found in their houses."—"Not the want of arms, but our consciences, would engage us not to revolt," pleaded the unhappy men. —"What excuse can you make," bellows Halifax, "for treating this government with such indignity as to expound to them the nature of fidelity?" The Acadians agreed to take the oath unconditionally: "By British statute," they were thereupon informed, "having once refused, you cannot after take the oath, but are popish recusants." Chief-justice Belcher, a third of these British moguls, declared they obstructed the progress of the settlement, and that all of them should be deported from the province. Proclamation was then made, ordering them to assemble at their respective posts; and in the morning they obeyed, leaving their homes, to which, though they knew it not, they were never to return. "Your lands and tenements, cattle of all kinds, and livestock of all sorts, are forfeited to the crown," they were told, "and you yourselves are to be removed from this province." They were kept prisoners, without food, till the ships should be ready. Not only were they torn from their homes, but families were separated, sons from their mothers, husbands from their wives, daughters from their parents, and, as Longfellow has pictured to us, lovers from one another. Those who tried to escape were hunted by the soldiers like wild beasts, and "if they can find a pretext to kill them, they will," said a British officer. They were scattered, helpless, friendless and destitute, all up and down the Atlantic coast, and their villages were laid waste. Lord Loudoun, British commander-in-chief in America, on receiving a petition from some of them written in French, was so enraged not only at their petitioning, but that they should presume to do so in their own language, that he had five of their leading men arrested, consigned to England, and sent as common seamen on English men-of-war. No detail was wanting, from first to last, to make the crime of the Acadian deportation perfect; and only an Irishman, Edmund Burke, lifted his voice to say that the deed was inhuman, and done "upon pretenses that, in the eye of an honest man, are not worth a farthing." But Burke was not in Parliament until eleven years after the Acadians were scattered.
The incident, from an external point of view, does not belong to the history of the United States. Yet is it pertinent thereto, as showing of what enormities the English of that age were capable. Their entire conduct during this French war was dishonorable, and often atrocious. Forgetting the facts of history, we often smile at the grumblings of the Continental nations anent "Perfidious Albion" and "British gold." But the acts committed by the English government during these years fully justify every charge of corruption, treachery and political profligacy that has ever been brought against them. It was a strange age, in which a great and noble people were mysteriously hurried into sins, follies and disgraces seemingly foreign to their character. It was because the people had surrendered their government into alien and shameless hands. They deserved their punishment; for it is nothing less than a crime, having known liberty, either to deny it to others, or for the sake of earthly advantage to consent to any compromise of it in ourselves.
THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM AND THE STAMP ACT
The gathering of soldiers from France, England and the colonies, and the rousing of the Indians on one side and the other, made the great forest which stretched across northern New York and New England populous with troops and resonant with the sounds of war. Those solemn woodland aisles and quiet glades were desecrated by marchings and campings, and in the ravines and recesses lay the corpses of men in uniforms, the grim remains of peasants who had been born three thousand miles away. Passing through the depths of the wilderness, apparently remote from all human habitation, suddenly one would come upon a fortress, frowning with heavy guns, and surrounded by the log-built barracks of the soldiery, who, in the intervals of siege and combat, passed their days impatiently, thinking of the distant homes from which they came, and muttering their discontent at inaction and uncertainty. The region round the junction of Lake George and Lake Champlain, where stood the strongholds of Fort Edward and Fort William Henry, of Crown Point and Ticonderoga, was the scene of many desperate conflicts, between 1758 and 1780; and the wolves of the forest, and the bears of the Vermont mountains, were disturbed in their lairs by the tumults and the restless evolutions, and wandered eastward until they came among the startled hamlets and frontier farms of the settlements. The savagery of man, surpassing theirs, drove them to seek shelter amid the abodes of man himself; but there was no safety for them there, as many a bloody head and paws, trophies of rustic marksmanship, attested. The dominion of the wilderness was approaching its end in America. Everywhere you might hear the roll of the drum, and there was no family but had its soldier, and few that did not have their dead. There were a score of thousand British troops in the northern provinces, and every week brought rumors and alarms, and portents of victory or defeat. The haggard post-rider came galloping in with news from north and west, which the throng of anxious village folks gather to hear. There have been skirmishes, successes, retreats, surprises, massacres, retaliations; there is news from Niagara and Oswego on far away Lake Ontario, and echoes of the guns at Ticonderoga. There are proclamations for enlistment, and requisitions for ammunition; and the tailors in the towns are busy cutting out scarlet uniforms and decorating them with gold braid. Markets for the supply of troops are established in the woods, far from any settled habitations, where shrewd farmers bargain with the hungry soldiery for carcasses of pigs and beeves, and for disheveled hens from distant farmyards; the butcher's shop is kept under the spreading brandies of the trees, from whose low limbs dangle the tempting wares, and a stump serves as a chopping-block. Under the shrubbery, where the sun cannot penetrate, are stored home-made firkins full of yellow butter, and great cheeses, and heaps of substantial home-baked bread. Kegs of hard cider and spruce beer and perhaps more potent brews are abroach, and behind the haggling and jesting and bustle you may catch the sound of muskets or the whoop of the Indians from afar. Meanwhile, in the settlements, all manner of industries were stimulated, and a great number of women throughout the country, left to take care of their children and themselves by the absence of their men-folk, went into business of all kinds, and drove a thriving trade. Lotteries were also popular, the promoters retaining a good share of the profits after the nominal object of the transaction had been attained. It was well that the war operations were carried on far from the populous regions, so that only the fighters themselves were involved in the immediate consequences. The battle was for the homes of posterity, where as yet the woodman's ax had never been heard, except to provide defenses against death, instead of habitations for life. Those who could not go to the war sat round the broad country hearthstones at night, with the fire of logs leaping up the great cavern of the chimney, telling stories of past exploits, speculating as to the present, praying perhaps for the future, and pausing now and then to listen to strange noises abroad in the night-ridden sky—strains of ghostly music playing a march or a charge, or the thunder of phantom guns.
Governor Shirley, who while in France in 1749 had married a French wife and brought her home with him, and who for a while had the chief command of the king's forces in America, was in disfavor with the people, who suspected his wife of sending treasonable news to the enemy; and having also proved inefficient as a soldier, he was recalled to England in 1756, and vanished thenceforth as a factor in American affairs, in which his influence had always been selfish and illiberal, if not worse. Thomas Pownall succeeded him and held his position for three years, when he was transferred to South Carolina. He was a man of fashion, and of little weight. From the shuffle of men who appeared and disappeared during the early years of the war, a few stand out in permanent distinctness. Washington's reputation steadily increased; Amherst, Wolfe and Lyman achieved distinction on the English side, and Montcalm and Dieskau on the French. In 1757, General Loudoun, one of the agents of the despoiling of Acadia, made a professed attempt to capture Louisburg, which had been given back to the French at the last peace; but after wasting a summer in vain drilling of his forces, retired in dismay on learning that the French fleet outnumbered his own by one vessel. The place was bombarded and taken the next year by Amherst and Wolfe, but Halifax was the English headquarters in that region. Before this however, in the summer of 1755, immediately after the defeat of Braddock, an army of New Englanders assembled at Albany to capture Crown Point, where the French had called together every able-bodied man available. William Johnson was commander, and associated with him was Phinehas Lyman, a natural-born soldier. They marched to the southern shore of what the French called the Lake of the Holy Sacrament, but which Johnson thought would better be named Lake George. The army, with its Indian allies, numbered about thirty-four hundred; a camping ground was cleared, but no intrenchments were thrown up; no enemy seemed to be within reach. Dieskau, informed of the advance, turned from his design against Oswego in the west, and marched for Fort Edward, in the rear of Johnson's troops. By a mistake of the guide he found himself approaching the open camp. Johnson sent a Massachusetts man, Ephraim Williams, with a thousand troops, to save Fort Edward. They nearly fell into an ambush; as it was, their party was overpowered by the enemy; Williams was killed, but Whiting of Connecticut guarded the retreat. During the action, a redoubt of logs had been constructed in the camp, and was strengthened with baggage and wagons. The Americans, with their fowling-pieces, defended this place for five hours against two hundred regular French troops, six hundred Canadians, and as many Indians. Johnson received a scratch early in the engagement, and made it an excuse to retire; and Lyman assumed direction. Dieskau bravely led the French regulars, nearly all of whom were killed; he was four times wounded; the Canadians were intimidated. At length, about half past four in the afternoon, the French retreated, though the American losses equaled theirs; a body of them were pursued by Macginnes of New Hampshire and left their baggage behind them in their haste; but the body of Macginnes also remained on the field. The credit for this battle, won by Lyman, was given by the English government to Johnson, who received a baronetcy and a "tip" of five thousand pounds. It would have been the first step in a series of successes had not Johnson, instead of following up his victory, timidly remained in camp, building Fort William Henry; and when winter approached, he disbanded the New Englanders and retired. The French had taken advantage of their opportunity to intrench themselves in Ticonderoga, which was destined to become a name of awe for the colonists. At the same time that Braddock marched on Fort Duquesne, Shirley had set out with two thousand men to capture the fort at Niagara, garrisoned by but thirty ill-armed men; the intention being to form a junction there with the all-conquering Braddock. The latter's annihilation took all the heart out of the superserviceable Shirley; he got no further than Oswego, where he frittered the summer away, and then retreated under a cloud of pretexts. He and the other royal officials were all this while pleading for a general fund to be created by Parliament, or in any other manner, so that a fund there be; and asserting that the frontiers would otherwise be, and in fact were, defenseless. In the face of such tales the colonies were of their own motion providing all the necessary supplies for war, and Franklin had taken personal charge of the northwest border. But the English ministry saw in these measures only increasing peril from popular power, and pushed forward a scheme for a military dictatorship. In May, 1756, war was formally declared, and England arbitrarily forbade other nations to carry French merchandise in their ships. Abercrombie was chosen general for the prosecution of the campaign in America, and arrived at Albany, after much dilatoriness, in June. Bradstreet reported that he had put stores into Oswego for five thousand men; and that the place was already threatened by the enemy. Still the English delayed. Montcalm arrived at Quebec to lead the French army, and immediately planned the capture of Oswego. In August he took an outlying redoubt, and the garrison of Oswego surrendered just as he was about to open fire upon it. Sixteen hundred prisoners, over a hundred cannon, stores, boats and money were the prize; and Montcalm destroyed the fort and returned in triumph. Loudoun and Abercrombie, with an army of thousands of men, which could have taken Canada with ease, thought only of keeping out of Montcalm's way, pleading in excuse that they feared to trust the "provincials"—who had thus far done all the fighting that had been done, and won all the successes. In spite of the remonstrances of the civic authorities, the British troops and officers were billeted upon New York and Philadelphia. Two more frightened generals were never seen; and the provinces were left open to the enemy's attack. But the Americans took the war into their own hands. John Armstrong of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, crossed the Alleghanies in September and in a desperate fight destroyed an Indian tribe that had been massacring along the border, burned their town and blew up their powder. In January of 1757, Stark, a daring ranger, with seventy men, made a dash on Lake George, and engaged a party of two hundred and fifty French. About the same time, at Philadelphia and Boston it was voted to raise men for the service; a hundred thousand pounds was also voted, but the proprietors refused to pay their quota, and represented in England that the Pennsylvanians were obstructing the measures for defense. Franklin, sent to England to remonstrate, was told that the king was the legislator of the colonies. All action was paralyzed by the corruption and cowardice of the royal officials. The pusillanimity of Loudoun, with his ten thousand men and powerful fleet in Nova Scotia, has been already mentioned. In July Montcalm, with a mixed force of more than seven thousand, advanced upon Fort William Henry. Webb, who should have opposed him, retreated, leaving Monro with five hundred men to hold the fort. He refused Montcalm's summons to surrender; Webb, who might still have saved him, refused to do so; he fought until his ammunition was gone and half his guns burst, and then surrendered upon Montcalm's promise of the honors of war and an escort out of the country. But the Indians had got rum from the English stores and passed the night in drunken revelry; in the morning they set upon the unarmed English as they left the fort, and began to plunder and tomahawk them. Montcalm and his officers did their utmost to stop the treacherous outrage; but thirty men were murdered. Montcalm has been treated leniently by history; he was indeed a brilliant and heroic soldier, and he had the crowning honor of dying bravely at Quebec; but he cannot be held blameless in this affair. He had taught the Indians that he was as one of themselves, had omitted no means of securing their amity; had danced and sung with them and smiled approvingly on their butcherings and scalpings; and he had no right to imagine that they would believe him sincere in his promise to spare the prisoners. It was too late for him to cry "Kill me, but spare them!" after the massacre had commenced. It was his duty to have taken measures to render such a thing impossible beforehand. He had touched pitch, and was denied.
Disgrace and panic reigned among all the English commanders. Webb whimpered to be allowed to fall back on the Hudson with his six thousand men; Loudoun cowered in New York with his large army, and could think of no better way of defending the northwest frontier than by intrenching himself on Long Island. There was not an Englishman in the Ohio or the St. Lawrence Basins. Everywhere beyond the narrow strip of the colonies the French were paramount. In Europe, England's position was almost as contemptible. Such was the result of the attempt of the aristocracy to rule England. There was only one man who could save England, and he was an old man, poor, a commoner, and sick almost to death. But in 1757 William Pitt was called to the English helm, accepted the responsibility, and steered the country from her darkest to her most brilliant hour. The campaigns which drove the soldiers of Louis XV. out of America were the first chapter of the movement which ended in the expulsion of the British from the territory of the United States. Catholicism and Protestantism were arrayed against each other for the last time. Pitt was the man of the people; his ambition, though generous, was as great as his abilities; the colonies knew him as their friend. "I can save this country, and nobody else can," he said; and bent his final energies to making England the foremost nation in the world, and the most respected. The faith of Rome allied France with Austria; and Prussia, with Frederic the Great, standing as the sole bulwark of Protestantism on the Continent, was inevitably drawn toward England.
With one movement of his all-powerful hand, Pitt reversed the oppressive and suicidal policy of the colonial administration. Loudoun was recalled; his excuses were vain. Amherst and Wolfe were sent out. The colonies were told that no compulsion should be put upon them; they were expected to levy, clothe and pay their men, but the government would repay their outlay. Instantly they responded, and their contributions exceeded all anticipation. Massachusetts taxed herself thirteen and fourpence in the pound. Provincial officers not above colonel ranked with the British, and a new spirit animated all. On the other hand, Canada suffered from famine, and Montcalm foresaw eventual defeat. Amherst and Wolfe, with ten thousand men, captured Louisburg and destroyed the fortifications. At the same time, a great army was collected against Ticonderoga. Nine thousand provincials, with Stark, Israel Putnam, and six hundred New England rangers, camped side by side with over six thousand troops of the British regulars under Abercrombie and Lord Howe. The French under Montcalm had erected Fort Carillon on the outlet from Lake George to Champlain, approachable only from the northwest. It was here that he planned his defense. The English disembarked on the west side of the lake, protected by Point Howe. In marching round the bend they came upon a French party of three hundred and defeated them, Howe falling in the first attack. Montcalm was behind intrenchments with thirty-six hundred men; Abercrombie rashly gave orders to carry the works by storm without waiting for cannon, but was careful to remain far in the rear during the action. The attack was most gallantly and persistently delivered; nearly two thousand men, mostly regulars, were killed; and, at the end of the murderous day, Montcalm remained master of the field. Abercrombie still had four times as many men as Montcalm, and with his artillery could easily have carried the works and captured Ticonderoga; but he was by this time "distilled almost to a jelly by the act of fear" and fled headlong at once. Montcalm had not yet met his match.
Bradstreet, however, with seven hundred Massachusetts men and eleven hundred New Yorkers, crossed Lake Ontario and took Port Frontenac, the garrison fleeing at their approach. Amherst, on hearing of Abercrombie's cowardice, embarked for Boston with over four thousand men, marched thence to Albany and on to the camp; Abercrombie was sent to England, and Amherst took his place as chief. The capture of Fort Duquesne was the first thing planned. Over forty-five hundred men were raised in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia; Joseph Forbes commanded them as brigadier-general; Washington led the Virginians; John Armstrong and the boy, Anthony Wayne, were with the Pennsylvanians. Washington, who had clad part of his men in Indian deerskins, wanted to follow Braddock's line of march; but Forbes, who had not long to live, though his brain remained clear, preferred to build a road by which ready communication with Philadelphia could be kept up. Washington got news that the Fort had but eight hundred defenders, and a strong reconnaissance was sent forward, without his knowledge, under Major Grant, who, thinking he had the French at advantage, exposed himself and was defeated with a loss of three hundred. The remaining five hundred reached camp in good order, thanks to the discipline which had been given them by Washington. Forbes had decided to advance no further that season—it was then November; but Washington had information which caused him to gain permission to advance with twenty-five hundred provincials, and he occupied intrenchments near Duquesne. Nine days later the rest of the army arrived; and the garrison of the Fort set fire to it at night and fled. The place was entered by the troops, Armstrong raised the British flag, and at Forbes' suggestion it was rechristened Pittsburgh. And there, above the confluence of the two rivers, the city named after the Great Commoner stands to-day. A vast and fertile country was thenceforward opened to the east. After burying the bleaching bones of the men killed under Braddock, a garrison was left on the spot, and the rest of the army returned.
Washington, who had seen five years' arduous service, resigned his commission, and after receiving cordial honors from his fellow officers and the Virginia legislature, married the widow, Martha Custis, and settled down as a planter in Mount Vernon. He was a delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses and to the Continental Congresses of 1774 and 1775; but it was not until the latter year that he reappeared as a soldier, accepting the command of the Continental forces on the 15th of June, not against the French, but against the English.
In 1759 the genius and spirit of Pitt began to be fully felt. The English were triumphant in Europe, and a comprehensive plan for the conquest of Canada was intrusted for the first time to men capable of carrying it out. Thousands of men were enlisted and paid for by the colonies north of Maryland. Stanwix, Amherst, Prideaux and Wolfe were the chiefs in command. Fifty thousand English and provincial troops were opposed by not more than an eighth as many half-starved Frenchmen and Canadians. Montcalm had no illusions; he told the French Minister of War that, barring extraordinary accidents, Canada's hour had come; but he "was resolved to find his grave under the ruins of the colony." And young General Wolfe had said, on being given the department of the St. Lawrence, "I feel called upon to justify the notice taken of me by such exertions and exposure of myself as will probably lead to my fall." The premonitions of both these valiant soldiers were fulfilled. Wolfe was at this time thirty-two years of age, and had spent half his life in the army. The Marquis de Montcalm was forty-seven when he fell on the Plains of Abraham. Neither general had been defeated up to the moment they faced each other; neither could succumb to any less worthy adversary.
But the first objective point was not Quebec, but Fort Niagara, which, standing between Erie and Ontario, commanded the fur trade of the country to the west. Prideaux, with an adequate force of English, Americans and Indians, invested the place in July, D'Aubry, the French commander, bringing up twelve hundred men to relieve it. Just before the action, Prideaux was killed by the bursting of a mountain howitzer, but Sir William Johnson was at hand to take his place. On the 24th the battle took place; the French were flanked by the English Indians, and charged by the English; they broke and fled, and the Fort surrendered next day. Stanwix had meanwhile taken possession of all the French posts between Pittsburgh and Erie. The English had got their enemy on the run all along the line. Gage was the only English officer to disgrace himself in this campaign; he squirmed out of compliance with Amherst's order to occupy the passes of Ogdensburgh. Amherst, with artillery and eleven thousand men, advanced on the hitherto invincible Ticonderoga. The French knew they were beaten, and therefore, instead of fighting, abandoned the famous stronghold and Crown Point, and retreated down to Isle aux Nois, whither Amherst should have followed them. Instead of doing so, he took to building and repairing fortifications—the last infirmity of military minds of a certain order —and finally went into winter quarters with nothing further done. Amherst, at the end of the war, received the routine rewards of a well-meaning and not defeated commander-in-chief; but it was Wolfe who won immortality.
He collected his force of eight thousand men, including two battalions of "Royal Americans," at Louisburg; among his ship captains was Cook the explorer; Lieutenant-colonel Howe commanded a body of light infantry. Before the end of June the army stepped ashore on the island that fills the channel of the St. Lawrence below Quebec, called the Isle of Orleans. Montcalm's camp was between them and the tall acclivity on which stood the famous fortress, which had defied capture for a hundred and thirty years. The French outnumbered the English, but neither the physical condition nor the morale of their troops was good. That beetling cliff was the ally on which Montcalm most depended. All the landing-places up stream for nine miles had been fortified: the small river St. Charles covered with its sedgy marshes the approach on the north and east, while on the west another stream, the Montmorenci, rising nearly at the same place as the St. Charles, falls in cataracts into the St. Lawrence nine miles above the citadel. All these natural features had been improved by military art. High up, north and west of the city, spread the broad Plains of Abraham.
Wolfe's fleet commanded the river and the south shore. Point Levi, on this shore, opposite Quebec, was fortified by the English, and siege guns were mounted there, the channel being but a mile wide; the lower town could be reached by the red-hot balls, but not the lofty citadel. After personally examining the region during the greater part of July, Wolfe decided on a double attack; one party to ford the Montmorenci, which was practicable at a certain hour of the tide, and the other to cross over in boats from Point Levi. But the boats grounded on some rocks in the channel; and Wolfe was repulsed at the Montmorenci. Four hundred men were lost. An expedition was now sent up stream to open communication with Amherst; but though it was learned that Niagara, Crown Point and Ticonderoga had fallen, Amherst did not appear. Wolfe must do his work alone; the entire population of the country was against him, and the strongest natural fortification in the world. His eager anxiety threw him into a fever. "My constitution is entirely ruined, without the consolation of having done any considerable service to the state, and without any prospect of it," was what he wrote to the English government. Four days afterward he was dying victorious on the Plains of Abraham.
The early Canadian winter would soon be at hand. The impossible must be done, and at once. Wolfe, after several desperate proposals of his had been rejected by the council of war, made a feint in force up the river, in the hope of getting Montcalm where he could fight him. He scrutinized the precipitous north shore as with a magnifying glass. At last, on the 11th of September, the hope that had so long been burning within him was gratified. But what a hope! A headlong goat-track cleft its zigzag way up the awful steep, and emerged at last upon the dizzy and breathless height above. Two men could scarce climb abreast in it; and even this was defended by fortifications, and at the summit, against the sky, tents could be seen. Yet this was the only way to victory: only by this heartbreaking path could England drive France from the western continent, and give a mighty nation to the world. Wolfe saw, and was content; where one man could go, thousands might follow. And he perceived that the very difficulty of the enterprise was the best assurance of its success. The place was defended indeed, but not strongly. Montcalm knew what daring could accomplish, but even he had not dreamed of daring such as this. Wolfe, with a great soul kindled into flame by the resolve to achieve a feat almost beyond mortal limitations, dared it, and prevailed.
Till the hour of action, he kept his troops far up the stream. By the 13th, all preparations were made. Night came on, calm, like the heart of the hero who knows that the culminating moment of his destiny has arrived. At such a crisis, the mortal part of the man is transfigured by the towering spirit, and his eyes pierce through the veils of things. His life lies beneath him, and he contemplates its vicissitudes with the high tranquillity of an immortal freedom. What is death to him who has already triumphed over the fetters of the flesh, and tasted the drink of immortality? He is the trustee of the purpose of God; and the guerdon his deed deserves can be nothing less noble than to die.
It was at one in the morning that the adventure was begun. Silently the boats moved down the stream, the dark ships following in silence. Thousands of brave hearts beat with heroic resolve beneath the eternal stars. The shadowy cove was gained; Wolfe's foot has touched the shore; as the armed figures follow and gather at the foot of the ascent, no words are spoken, but what an eloquence in those faces! Upward they climb, afire with zeal; Howe has won a battery; upward! the picket on the height, too late aroused from sleep by the stern miracle, is overpowered. With panting lungs man after man tops the ascent and sees the darkling plain and forms in line with his comrades, while still the stream winds up endlessly from the depths below. The earth is giving birth to an army. Coiling upward, deploying, ranging out, rank after rank they are extended along the front of the forest, with Quebec before them. No drum has beat; no bugle has spoken; but Wolfe is there, his spirit is in five thousand breasts, and there needs no trumpet for the battle.
As the last of the army formed upon the rugged field, dawn broke upon the east, and soon the early sunshine sparkled on their weapons and glowed along the ranks of English red. Meanwhile Montcalm had been apprised; his first instinct of incredulity had been swept away by the inevitable truth, and he manned himself for the struggle. Often had he conquered against odds; but now his spirit must bow before a spirit stronger than his, as Antony's before Augustus. And what had he to oppose against the seasoned veterans of the English army, thrice armed in the consciousness of their unparalleled achievement?—Five weak and astounded battalions, and a horde of inchoate peasants. But Montcalm did not falter; by ten he had taken up his position, and by eleven, after some ineffectual cannonading, to allow time for the arrival of re-enforcements which came not, he led the charge. The attack was disordered by the uneven ground, the fences and the ravines; and it was broken by the granite front of the English (three-fourths of them Americans) and their long-reserved and withering fire. The undisciplined Canadians flinched from that certain death; and Wolfe, advancing on them with his grenadiers, saw them melt away before the cold steel could reach them. The two leaders faced each other, both equally undaunted and alert; it was like a duel between them; no opening was missed, no chance neglected. The smoke hung in the still air of morning; the long lines of men swayed and undulated beneath it obscurely, and the roar of musketry dinned terribly in the ear, here slackening for a moment, there breaking forth in volleying thunders; and men were dropping everywhere; there were shoutings from the captains, the fierce crash of cheers, yells of triumph or agony, and the faint groans of the wounded unto death. Wolfe was hit, but he did not heed it; Montcalm has received a musket ball, but he cannot yet die. The English battle does not yield; it advances, the light of victory is upon it. Backward stagger the French; Montcalm strives to check the fatal movement, but the flying death has torn its way through his body, and he can no more. Wolfe, even as the day was won, got his death wound in the breast, but "Support me—don't let my brave fellows see me drop," he gasped out. His thoughts were with his army; let the retreat of the enemy be cut off; and he died with a happy will, and with God's name on his lips. Montcalm lingered, suggesting means by which to retrieve the day; but the power of France died with him. Quebec was lost and won; and human history was turned into a new channel, and no longer flowing through the caverns of mediaeval error, rolled its current toward the sunlight of liberty and progress. "The more a man is versed in business, the more he finds the hand of Providence everywhere," was the reply of William Pitt, when Parliament congratulated him on the victory. He had wrought his plans with wisdom and zeal; but "except the Lord build the city, they labor in vain who build it." There have been great statesmen and brave soldiers, before Pitt and Wolfe, and since; but there could be only one fall of Quebec, with all which that implied.
The following spring and summer were overshadowed by an unrighteous war against the Cherokees, precipitated by the royalist governor of Virginia, Lyttleton. An attempt by the French under Levi to recapture Quebec failed, in spite of the folly of the English commander, Murray; Pitt had foreseen the effort, and destroyed it with an English fleet. Amherst, in his own tortoise-like way, advanced and took possession of Montreal; and by permission of the Indian, Pontiac, who regarded himself as lord of the country, the English flag was carried to the outposts. Canada had surrendered; in the terms imposed, property and the religious faith of the people were respected; but nothing was promised them in the way of civil liberty. In discussing the European peace that was now looked for, question was raised whether to restore Canada, or the West Indian island of Guadaloupe, to France. Some, who feared that the retention of Canada would too much incline the colonies to independence, favored its return. But Franklin said that Canada would be a source of strength to England. The expense of defending that vast frontier would be saved; the rapidly increasing population would absorb English manufactures without limit, and their necessary devotion to farming would diminish their competition as manufacturers. He pointed out that their differences in governments and mutual jealousies made their united action against England unthinkable, "unless you grossly abuse them."—"Very true: that, I see, will happen," returned the English lawyer Pratt, afterward Lord Cam den, the attorney-general. But Pitt would not listen to Canada's being given up; he was for England, not for any English clique. On the other hand, one of those cliques was preparing to carry out the long meditated taxation of the colonies; and the sudden death of George II., bringing his son to the throne, favored their purpose; for the Third George had character and energy, and not a little intelligence for a king; and he was soon seen to intend the re-establishment of the royal prerogative in all its integrity. As a preliminary step to this end, he accepted Pitt's resignation in October, 1761.
Much to the displeasure of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, already Judge of Probate, was by Governor Bernard appointed to the Chief Justiceship of the colony; the royalist direction of his sympathies was known. In February, 1761, he heard argument in court as to whether revenue officers had power to call in executive assistance to enforce the acts of trade. The crown lawyer argued that to refuse it was to deny the sovereignty of the English Parliament in the colonies. Then James Otis arose, and made a protest which tingled through the whole colony, and was the first direct blow aimed against English domination. Power such as was asked for, he said, had already cost one king of England his head and another his throne. Writs of assistance were open to intolerable abuse; were the instrument of arbitrary power and destructive of the fundamental principles of law. Reason and the constitution were against them. "No act of Parliament can establish such a writ: an act of Parliament against the constitution is void!" These words were the seed of revolution. Hutchinson was frightened, but succeeded in persuading his colleagues to postpone decision until he had written to England. The English instruction was to enforce the law, and the judges acted accordingly; but the people replied by electing Otis to the assembly; and Hutchinson was more distrusted than ever. At the same time, in Virginia, Richard Henry Lee denounced the slave trade; the legislature indorsed his plea, but England denied it. South Carolina was alienated by the same decree, and also by an unpopular war against the Cherokees. In New York, the appointment of a judge "during the king's pleasure" roused the assembly; but the result of their remonstrance was that all colonial governors were instructed from England to grant no judicial commissions but during the king's pleasure. This was to make the Bench the instrument of the Prerogative. A judge acted on questions of property, without a jury, on information furnished by crown officers, and derived emoluments from his own award of forfeitures; and the governor would favor large seizures because he got one-third of the spoils. All the assemblies could do, for the present, was to reduce salaries; but that did not make the offenders any less avaricious. Moreover, the king began the practice of paying them in spite of the assemblies, and reproved the latter for "not being animated by a sense of their duty to their king and country."
James Otis continued to be the voice of the colonies. "Kings were made for the good of the people, not the people for them. By the laws of God and nature, government must not raise taxes on the property of the people without the consent of the people. To tax without the assembly's consent was the same in principle as for the king and the House of Lords to usurp legislative authority in England." For the utterance of these sentiments he was honored by the hearty support of the people, and still more by the denunciations of men of the Hutchinson sort. The ministers were not silent on the popular side. "May Heaven blast the designs, though not the soul," said Mayhew, with Christian discrimination, "of whoever he be among us who shall have the hardiness to attack the people's rights!" King George's answer, as soon as he had concluded the peace with France and Spain, in 1763, was to take measures to terrorize the colonists by sending out an army of twenty battalions to be kept permanently in America, the expenses of which the colonists were to pay. But by enforcing the acts of trade, England had now made herself the enemy of the whole civilized world, and the American colonies would not be without allies in the struggle that was drawing near.
While these matters were in agitation among the white people, the Indians in the north were discovering grievances of their own. Pontiac, an Ottawa chief, and by his personal abilities the natural leader of many tribes, was the instigator and center of the revolt. The English masters of Canada had showed themselves less congenial to the red men than the French had done; they could not understand that savages had any rights which they were bound to respect; while Pontiac conceived that no white man could live in the wilderness without his permission. Upon this issue, trouble was inevitable; and Pontiac planned a general movement of all the Indians in the north against the colonists. The success of the scheme could of course be only momentary; that it attained the dignity of a "war" was due to the influence and energy of the Indian general. His design was of broad scope, embracing a simultaneous attack on all the English frontier forts; a wide coalition of tribes was effected; and though their tactics were not essentially different from those heretofore employed by savages, yet their possession of arms, their skill in their use, and their numbers, made their onslaughts formidable. On several occasions they effected their entry into the forts by stratagem: a tale of misery told by a squaw; a ball in a game struck toward the door of the stronghold; professedly amicable conferences suddenly becoming massacres; such were the naive yet successful ruses employed. Many lives were lost, and the border lands were laid waste and panicstricken; but it was impossible for the Indians to hold together, and their victories hastened their undoing. No general engagement, of course, was fought, but Pontiac's authority gradually abated, and he was finally compelled to go into retirement. His Conspiracy has its picturesque side, but it is not organically related to our history; it was merely a fresh expression of the familiar fact that there could be no sincere friendship between the white and the red. The former could live with the latter if they would live like them; but no attempt to reverse the case could succeed. The solemnity with which the practice of signing treaties of peace with the Indians has uniformly been kept up is one of the curious features of our colonial annals, and indeed of later times. Indians will keep the peace without treaties, if they are kindly used and given liberty to do as they please; but no engagement is binding on them after they deem themselves wronged. They are pleased by the formalities, the speeches, and the gifts that accompany such conferences; they like to exchange compliments, and to play with belts of wampum; and it is possible that when they make their promises, they think they will keep them. They can understand the advantages of trade, and will make some sacrifice of their pride or convenience to secure them. But the mind is never dominant in them; the tides of passion flood it, and their wild nature carries them away. It may be surmised that we should have had fewer Indian troubles, had we never entered into any treaty with them. But thousands of treaties have been made, and broken, sometimes by one side, sometimes by the other, but always by one of the two. And then, punishments must be administered; but if punishment is for improvement, it has been as ineffective as the treaties. The only rational thing to do with an Indian is to kill him; and yet it may fairly be doubted whether complete moral justification could be shown for the killing of any Indian since Columbus landed at San Salvador.—As for Pontiac, a keg of liquor was inducement sufficient to one of his own race to murder him, five years after the failure of his revolt.
Toward the end of September, Jenkinson, Secretary of the Treasury in England, presented the draft for an American stamp-tax—the true authorship of which was never disclosed. This tax was the result of the argument of exclusion applied to the problem, How to raise a permanent and sufficient revenue from the colonies. Foreign and internal commerce taxes would not serve, because such commerce was forbidden by the Navigation Acts. A poll-tax would be inequitable to the slaveholders. Land-taxes could not be collected. Exchequer-bills were against an act of Parliament. Nothing but a stamp-tax remained, and all persons concerned were in favor of it, the colonists only excepted. Their opinion was that taxation without representation was an iniquity. But they did not perhaps consider that England owed a debt of seven hundred million dollars which must be provided for somehow; and that the interests of the empire demanded, in the opinion of those who were at its head, that the colonies be ruled with a stronger hand than heretofore. George Grenville accepted the responsibility of the act.
The king gave his consent to the employment of the entire official force of the colonies to prevent infringements of the Navigation Acts, and the army and navy were to assist them. There were large emoluments for seizures, and the right of search was unrestricted, afloat or ashore. In order to diminish the danger of union between the colonies, a new distribution, or alteration of boundaries, was adopted, with a view to increasing their number. But the country between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi was to be closed to colonization, lest it should prove impossible to control settlers at such a distance. It proved, of course, still less possible to prevent emigration thither. But all seemed going well, and the Grenville ministry was so firmly established that nothing seemed able to shake it. The fact that a young Virginia lawyer, Patrick Henry by name, had said in the course of an argument against the claim of a clergyman for the value of some tobacco, that a king who annuls salutary laws is a tyrant, and forfeits all right to obedience; and that if ministers fail to fulfill the uses for which they were ordained, the community may justly strip them of their appointments—this circumstance probably did not come to the ears of the British ministry; but it had its effect in Virginia. Grenville, however, was induced by the appeals of some influential Americans in London to postpone his tax for a year, so that the assemblies might have an opportunity to consent to it. By way of tempting them to do this, he sought for special inducements; he revived the hemp and flax bounties; he permitted rice to be carried south of Carolina and Georgia on payment of half subsidy; and he removed the restrictions on the New England whale fishery. He then informed Parliament of his purpose of applying the stamp-tax to America, and asked if any member wished to question the right of Parliament to impose such a tax. In a full house, not a single person rose to object. The king gave it his "hearty" approval. It only remained for America humbly and gratefully to accept it.
First came comments. "If taxes are laid upon us in any shape, without our having a legal representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary slaves?" asked Samuel Adams of Boston. "These duties are only the beginning of evils," said Livingston of New York. "Acts of Parliament against natural equity are void," Otis affirmed; and in a lucid and cogent analysis of the principles and ends of government he pointed out that the best good of the people could be secured only by a supreme legislative and executive ultimately in the people; but a universal congress being impracticable, representation was substituted: "but to bring the powers of all into the hands of one or some few, and to make them hereditary, is the interested work of the weak and wicked. Nothing but life and liberty are actually hereditable.... British colonists do not hold their liberties or their lands by so slippery a tenure as the will of princes; the colonists are common children of the same Creator with their brethren in Great Britain.... A time may come when Parliament shall declare every American charter void; but the natural, inherent rights of the colonists as men and citizens can never be abolished. The colonists know the blood and treasure independence would cost. They will never think of it till driven to it as the last fatal resort against ministerial oppression: but human nature must and will be rescued from the general slavery that has so long triumphed over the species." The immediate practical result was, that the colonists pledged themselves to use nothing of English manufacture, even to going without lamb to save wool. And even Hutchinson remarked that if England had paid as much for the support of the wars as had been voluntarily paid by the colonists, there would have been no great increase in the national debt.
All this made no impression in England. The dregs of the Canadian population were a handful of disreputable Protestant ex-officers, traders and publicans—"the most immoral collection of men I ever knew," as Murray said—but judges and juries were selected from these gentry, and the Catholics were disfranchised. In New England, boundaries were rearranged, and colonists had to buy new titles. New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, protested before Parliament against the taxation scheme; Philadelphia at first petitioned to be delivered from the selfishness of its proprietors even at the cost of becoming a royal colony; but later, Franklin advised that they grant supplies to the crown only when required of them "in the usual constitutional manner." George Wythe, speaking for Virginia, remonstrated against measures "fitter for exiles driven from their country after ignominiously forfeiting its favor and protection, than for the posterity of loyal Britons." Yet there were many royalist Americans who were urgent that English rule should be strengthened; and the English Board of Trade declared that the protests of the colonies showed "a most indecent disrespect to the legislature of Great Britain." The king decreed that in all military matters in America the orders of the commander-in-chief there, and under him of the brigadiers, should be supreme; and only in the absence of these officers might the governors give the word. This became important on the occasion of the "Boston Massacre" a few years later. In Parliament, Grenville said that he would never lend a hand toward forging chains for America, "lest in so doing I forge them for myself"; but he shuffled out of the American demand not to be taxed without representation by declaring that Parliament was "the common council of the whole empire," and added that America was to all intents and purposes as much represented in Parliament as many Englishmen. This assertion brought to his feet Barre, the companion of Wolfe at Quebec. He denied that America was virtually represented, and said that the House was ignorant of American affairs. Charles Townshend, who posed as an infallible authority on America, replied that the last war had cost the colonies little though they had profited much by it; and now these "American children, planted by our care, nourished up to strength and opulence by our indulgence, and protected by our arms, grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy burden under which we lie."
Barre could not restrain his indignation. In the course of a fiery rejoinder he uttered truths that made him the most loved Englishman in America, when his words were published there. "Your oppressions planted them in America," he thundered. "They met with pleasure all hardships compared with those they suffered in their own country. They grew by your neglect of them: as soon as you began to care for them, deputies of members of this house were sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men whose behavior caused the blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil within them: men who were often glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of justice in their own. They 'protected by your arms'?—They have, amid their constant and laborious industry, nobly taken up arms for the defense of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts yielded all its little savings to your emolument. And believe me—remember—the same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first will accompany them still. They are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated." But Grenville had gone too far to retreat; the case went against America by two hundred and forty-five to forty-nine; and only Beckford and Conway were on record as denying the power of Parliament to enact the tax. All petitions from the colonies were refused. "We have power to tax them, and we will tax them," said one of the ministers. In the House of Lords the bill was agreed to without debate or dissent. The king, at the time of signing the bill, was suffering from one of his periodic attacks of insanity; but the ratification was accepted as valid nevertheless. Neither Franklin nor any of the other American agents imagined the act would be forcibly resisted in America. Even Otis had said, "We must submit." But they reckoned without their host. The stamp act was a two-edged sword; in aiming to cut down the liberties of America, it severed the bonds that tied her to the mother country.
The prospect before the colonies was truly intolerable. No product of their industry could be exported save to England; none but English ships might enter their ports; no wool might be moved from one part of the country to another; no Bible might be printed anywhere; all hats must come from England; no ore might be mined or worked; duties were imposed on almost every imported article of use or luxury. No marriage, promissory note, or other transaction requiring documentary record was valid except with the government stamp. In a word, convicts in a jail could hardly be shackled more severely than were these two millions of the most freedom-loving and intelligent people on the globe. "If this system were to prevail," remarked Thacher of Boston, "it would extinguish the flame of liberty all over the world."
But it was not to prevail. Patrick Henry had been elected to the legislature of Virginia. His first act was to maintain, in committee of the whole, that the colony had never given up its right to be governed by its own laws respecting taxation, and that it had been constantly recognized by England; and that any attempt to vest such power in other persons tended to destroy British as well as American freedom. In a passionate peroration he warned George III. to remember the fate of other tyrants who had trampled on popular liberties. Otis in Massachusetts suggested the novel idea of summoning a congress from all the colonies to deliberate on the situation. In New York a writer declared that while there was no disposition among the colonies to break with England as long as they were permitted their full rights, yet they would be "satisfied with no less."—"The Gospel promises liberty and permits resistance," said Mayhew. Finally, the dauntless and faithful Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, after considering Massachusett's suggestion of a union, pronounced, as head of the committee, in its favor.
In England, meanwhile, the cause of the colonies had been somewhat favored by the willfulness of the king, who, in order to bring his court favorites into power, dismissed the Grenville ministry. There were no persons of ability in the new cabinet, and vacant feebleness was accounted better for America than resolute will to oppress. The king himself, however, never wavered in his resolve that the colonies should be taxed. On the other hand, the colonies were at this time disposed to think that the king was friendly to their liberties. But whatever misapprehensions existed on either side were soon to be finally dispelled.
In August, 1765, the names of the stamp distributers (who were to be citizens of the colonies) were published in America; and the packages of stamped paper were dispatched from England. There was an old elm-tree in Boston, standing near the corner of Essex Street, opposite Boylston Market. On the morning of the 14th of August, two figures were descried by early pedestrians hanging from the lower branches of the tree. "They were dressed in square-skirted coats and small-clothes, and as their wigs hung down over their faces, they looked like real men. One was intended to represent the Earl of Bute, who was supposed to have advised the king to tax America; the other was meant for the effigy of Andrew Oliver, a gentleman belonging to one of the most respectable families in Massachusetts, whom the king had appointed to be the distributer of stamps." It was in vain that Hutchinson ordered the removal of the effigies; the people had the matter in their own hands. In the evening a great and orderly crowd marched behind a bier bearing the figures, gave three cheers for "Liberty, Property and no stamps," before the State House, where the governor and Hutchinson were in session, and thence went to the house which Oliver had intended for his stamp office, tore it down, and burned his image in the fire they kindled with it, in front of his own residence. "Death to the man who offers stamped paper to sell!" they shouted. "Beat an alarm!" quavered Hutchinson to the militia colonel.—"My drummers are in the mob," was the reply; and when Hutchinson attempted to disperse the crowd, they forced him to run the gantlet, in the Indian fashion which was too familiar to New Englanders, and caught him several raps as he ran. "If Oliver had been there he'd have been murdered," said Governor Bernard, with conviction; "if he doesn't resign—!" But Oliver, much as he loved the perquisites of the office, loved his life more, and he resigned before the mob could threaten him. Bernard, with chattering teeth, was ensconced in the safest room in the castle. There remained Hutchinson, in his handsome house in Garden Court Street, near the North Square. Late at night the mob came surging and roaring in that direction. As they turned into Garden Court Street, the sound of them was as if a wild beast had broken loose and was howling for its prey. From the window, the terrified chief-justice beheld "an immense concourse of people, rolling onward like a tempestuous flood that had swelled beyond its bounds and would sweep everything before it. He felt, at that moment, that the wrath of the people was a thousand-fold more terrible than the wrath of a king. That was a moment when an aristocrat and a loyalist might have learned how powerless are kings, nobles, and great men, when the low and humble range themselves against them. Had Hutchinson understood and remembered this lesson he need not in after years have been an exile from his native country, nor finally have laid his bones in a distant land."
The mob broke into the house, destroyed the valuable furniture, pictures and library, and completely gutted it. The act was denounced and repudiated by the better class of patriots, like Adams and Mayhew; but it served a good purpose. The voice of the infuriated mob is sometimes the only one that tyranny can hear. One after another all the colonies refused to accept the stamp act, and every stamp officer was obliged to resign. Meanwhile the leaders discussed the people's rights openly. The law was to go into effect on November 1st. "Will you violate the law of Parliament?" was asked. "The stamp act is against Magna Charta, and Lord Coke says an act of Parliament against Magna Charta is for that reason void," was the reply. "Rulers are attorneys, agents and trustees of the people," said Adams, "and if the trust is betrayed or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute abler and better agents. We have an indisputable right to demand our privileges against all the power and authority on earth." Never had there been such unanimity throughout the colonies; but in New York, General Gage, who had betrayed lack of courage under Amherst a few years before, but who was now commander-in-chief, declared he would put down disaffection with a strong hand. There were ships of war in the harbor, and the fort in the town mounted heavy guns. Major James of the artillery was intrusted with the preparations. "I'll cram the stamps down their throats with the end of my sword: if they attempt to rise I'll drive them out of town for a pack of rascals, with four and twenty men!" It was easy to pass a stamp act, and to bring stamped paper into the colonies; but it would take more than Major James, and Governor Golden, and General Gage himself to make the people swallow them. The day of the "Sons of Liberty" was dawning.
THE PASSING OF THE RUBICON
Issue was now joined between America and England. They faced each other —the great, historic figure, and the stripling of a century—and knew that the limit had been reached. The next move might be irrevocable.
"You must submit to the tax."—"I will not submit."
Englishmen, with some few eminent exceptions, believed that England was in the right. If the word of Parliament was not law, what was? If the law it made could be disregarded, what could stand? A colony was a child: children must be kept in subjection. Colonies were planted for the benefit and extension of commerce; if they were permitted to conduct their commerce without regard to the mother country, their reason for existence was gone. The protection of a colony was expensive: why should not the protected one bear a part at least of the expense? If the mother country allowed the colony to fix the amount it should pay, what guarantee could she have that it would pay anything? Could mighty England assume toward little America the attitude of a tradesman, humbly standing at the door with a bill, asking whether it would be convenient to pay something on account? If there were to be condescension, it should not come from America. She clamored for justice; England would be just: but she must first be obeyed. England might forgive the debt, but must insist upon acknowledgment that the debt was due, and upon the right to collect it at pleasure. As for the plea that taxation should postulate representation, it would not bear examination. It might be true that Parliament was a theoretically representative body; but, in fact, it was a gathering of the men in England best qualified to govern, who were rather selected than elected. Many of the commons held their seats by favor of the nobility; the suffrage, as practiced, was a recognition that the people might have a voice in the government of the country; but that voice was not to be a deciding one. It was exercised only by a part of the people, and even then, largely under advice or influence. Many important towns and districts had no representatives. Americans were as well off as these Englishmen; on what ground could they demand to be better off? They must trust to the will of England to secure their advantage in securing her own; to her wisdom, equity, and benevolence. Why should they complain of the Navigation Acts? What more did they want than a market?—and that, England afforded. Why should they feel aggrieved at the restriction on their manufactures? England could manufacture articles better than they could, and it was necessary to the well-being of her manufacturing classes that they should be free from American competition. Did they object to the measures England took to prevent smuggling and illicit dealing?—They had only themselves to blame: was it not notorious that evasions and open violations of the law had for years existed? Did they object to royal governors?—What better expedient was there to keep the two countries in touch with each other—to maintain that "representation" in England which they craved?—whereas, were they to choose governors from among themselves, they would soon drift away from sympathy with and understanding of England. And why all this uproar about the stamp tax? What easier, more equitable way could be devised to get the financial tribute required without pressing hard on any one? If Americans would object to that, they would object to anything; and they must either be abandoned entirely to their own devices—which of course was out of the question—or they must be compelled, if they would not do it voluntarily, to accede to it. Compulsion meant force; force meant a resident English army; and that army must be supported and accommodated by those for whose regulation it was established.
Such was the attitude of men like Lord Chief-justice Mansfield, who spoke on the subject in the House of Lords. He refused to recognize any essential distinction between external and internal taxes; though, as Pitt pointed out, the former was designed for the regulation of trade, and whatever profit arose from it was incidental; while the latter was imposed to raise revenue for the home government, and was, in effect, arbitrarily appropriating the property of subjects without their consent asked or obtained. Pitt disposed of the argument of virtual representation by denying it point-blank; Americans were not in the same position with those Englishmen who were not directly represented in Parliament; because the latter were inhabitants of the kingdom, and could be, and were indirectly represented in a hundred ways. But while opposing the right of Parliament to rob America, he asserted in the strongest terms its right to govern her. "The will of Parliament, properly signified, must forever keep the colonies dependent upon the sovereign kingdom of Great Britain. If any idea of renouncing allegiance has existed, it was but a momentary frenzy. In a good cause, the force of this country can crush America to atoms. But on this ground of the stamp act, I am one who will lift up my hands against it. I rejoice that America has resisted. In such a cause, your success would be hazardous. America, if she fell, would embrace the pillar of the state, and pull down the constitution along with her."
The Lords passed the bill against a minority of five. In the Commons, where Burke ardently spoke in favor of the tax, the majority was even greater. "It was decided that irresponsible taxation was not a tyranny but a vested right; that Parliament held legislative power, not as a representative body but in absolute trust: that it was not and had never been responsible to the people." This was the new Toryism, which was to create a new opposition. The debate aroused a discussion of popular rights in England itself, and the press began to advocate genuine representation. Meanwhile, it looked ill for the colonies. But a law which is only engrossed on parchment, and is not also founded in natural truth and justice, has no binding power, even though it be supported by the army and navy of England. Humanity was on the side of America, and made her small numbers and physical weakness as strong as all that is good and right in the world. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, there is nothing real but right. Had America fought only for herself, she would have failed.
The instances of mob violence in the colonies at this period were not to be classed with lawless outbreaks in countries which have a government of their own. The colonies were subjected to a government which they did not elect or approve; and the management of their affairs consequently reverted inevitably and rightly to the body of the people themselves. They had no officers and no organization, but they knew what they wanted; and having in view the slowness of inter-communication, and the differences in the ideas and customs of the several colonies, the unanimity of their action in the present juncture is surprising. When their congress met in New York on the 7th of October, 1765, their debate was less as to principles than as to the manner of their declaration and enforcement. The watchword, "Join or die," had been started in September, and was taken up all over the country. Union was strength, and on union all were resolved. The mob had put a stop to the execution of the law; it now rested with the congress to settle in what way and on what grounds the repeal of the law should be demanded. Against the people and the congress were arrayed the royal governors and other officials, and the troops. The former deluged the home government with exhortations to be firm; the latter waited the word to act, not without misgivings; for here were two million inhabitants, a third or fourth part of whom might bear arms.
Should the congress base its liberties on charter rights, or on natural justice and universal reason?—On the latter, said Gadsden of South Carolina; and the rest acceded. "I wish," Gadsden had said, "that the charters may not ensnare us at last by drawing different colonies to act differently in this great cause. There ought to be no New England man, no New Yorker, known on the continent, but all Americans." It was a great truth to be enunciated at that time. There were statesmen less wise in this country a hundred years later. The Duke of Choiseul, premier of France, and one of the acutest ministers that ever lived, foresaw the independence of America, and even so early began to take measures having in view the attitude of France in that contingency.—In the congress, Otis advocated repeal, not of the stamp act alone, but of all acts laying a duty on trade; and it was finally agreed to mention the latter as grievances. Trial by jury was stipulated for instead of admiralty jurisdiction; taxes should be imposed only by colonial legislatures, representation in Parliament being impracticable. One or two of the delegates feared to sign the document embodying these views and demands; whereupon Dyer of Connecticut observed that since disunion in these matters was fatal, the remaining delegates ought to sign them; and this was done, only Ruggles and Ogden, of Massachusetts and of New Jersey respectively, declining. By this act the colonies became "a bundle of sticks which could neither be bent nor broken." At the same time, Samuel Adams addressed a letter to Governor Bernard of Massachusetts. "To suppose a right in Parliament to tax subjects without their consent includes the idea of a despotic power," said he. "The stamp act cancels the very conditions upon which our ancestors, with toil and blood and at their sole expense, settled this country. It tends to destroy that mutual confidence and affection, as well as that equality, which ought to subsist among all his majesty's subjects: and what is worst of all evils, if his majesty's subjects are not to be governed according to the known and stated rules of the constitution, their minds may in time become disaffected."
On the 1st of November, the day when the act was to go into effect, Colden, governor of New York, "resolved to have the stamps distributed." The army and navy professed themselves ready to support him. But the population rose up in a body against it, with Isaac Sears as leader. "If you fire on us, we'll hang you," they told Colden. Torchlight processions, with the governor's effigy burned in a bonfire composed of his own carriages, right under the guns of the fort in which he had taken refuge, followed. Colden capitulated, and even gave up the stamps into the custody of the people. Similar scenes were enacted in the other colonies. The principle of "union and liberty" became daily more deeply rooted. If England refused to repeal the act, "we will repeal it ourselves," declared the colonists. John Adams said that the colonies were already discharged from allegiance, because they were "out of the king's protection" —protection and allegiance being reciprocal. The Sons of Liberty became a recognized organization. The press printed an admonition to George III., brief but pithy: GREAT SIR, RETREAT, OR YOU ARE RUINED. Otis maintained that the king, by mismanaging colonial affairs, had practically abdicated, so far as they were concerned. Israel Putnam, being of an active turn, rode through Connecticut to count noses, and reported that he could raise a force of ten thousand men. Meanwhile the routine business of the country went on with but slight modification, though according to the stamp act nothing that was done without a stamp was good in law. But it appeared, upon experiment, that if the law was in the people it could be dispensed with on paper. And wherever you went, you found a population smilingly clad in homespun.
Would England repeal the act? The House of Lords voted in favor of enforcing it, February, 1766. In the Commons, General Howard declared that if it were passed, rather than imbrue his hands in the blood of his countrymen, he would sheathe his sword in his own body. The House divided two to one against the repeal. The king said he was willing to modify, but not to repeal it. On the 13th Franklin was summoned to the bar. He showed why the colonies could not and would not pay the tax, and that, unless it were repealed, their affection for England, and the commerce depending thereon, would be lost. Would America pay a modified stamp duty?—he was asked; and bravely replied, "No: never: they will never submit to it." But could not a military force carry the act into effect?—"They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them," was the answer. He added that the colonists thought it hard that a body in which they were not represented should make a merit of giving what was not its own but theirs. He affirmed a difference between internal and external taxation, because the former could not be evaded, whereas articles of consumption, on which the duty formed part of the price, could be dispensed with at will. "But what if necessaries of life should be taxed?" asked Grenville, thinking he had Franklin on the hip. But the American sage crushingly replied, "I do not know a single article imported into the colonies but what they can either do without it, or make it for themselves."
In the final debates, Pitt, called on to say whether, should total repeal be granted, in compliance with American menaces of resistance, the consequence would not be the overthrow of British authority in America, gave his voice for repeal as a right. Grenville, on the other hand, thought that America should learn that "prayers are not to be brought to Caesar through riot and sedition." The vote for repeal, and against modified enforcement, was two hundred and seventy-five to one hundred and sixty-seven. The dissenting members of the Lords signed a protest, because, should they assent to the repeal merely because it had passed the lower house, "we in effect vote ourselves useless." This suggests the "Je ne vois pas la necessite" of the French epigrammatist. The Lords took themselves too seriously. Meanwhile, Bow bells were rung, Pitt was cheered, and flags flew; the news was sent to America in fast packets, and the rejoicing in the colonies was great. Prisoners for debt were set free, there were illuminations and bonfires, and honor was paid to Pitt, Camden, Barre, and to the king, who was eating his heart with vexation fit having been compelled to assent to what he called "the fatal repeal."
The British government, while repealing the law, had yet affirmed its sovereign authority over the colonies. The colonies, on the other hand, were inclined to confirm their present advantage and take a step still further in advance. They would not be taxed without representation; why should they submit to any legislation whatever without representation? What right had England to enforce the Navigation Acts? The more the general situation was contemplated and discussed, the plainer to all did it appear that union was indispensable. The governors of most of the colonies were directing a treacherous attack against the charters; but bold students of the drift of things were foreseeing a time when charters might be superseded by independence. Patriots everywhere were keenly on the watch for any symptoms of a design on Parliament's part to raise a revenue from America. The presence and quartering of English soldiers in the colonies was regarded as not only a burden, but an insinuation. It was moreover a constant occasion of disturbance; for there was no love lost between the people and the soldiers. But, that there was no disposition on the people's part to pick quarrels or to borrow trouble, was evident from their voluntarily passing resolutions for the reimbursement of persons, like Hutchinson, who had suffered loss from the riots. If England would treat them like reasonable creatures, they were more than willing to meet her half way. It is probable that but for the royal governors, England and America might have arrived at an amicable understanding; yet, in the ultimate interests of both countries, it was better that the evil counselors of the day should prevail.