The Land We Live In - The Story of Our Country
by Henry Mann
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[1] Charges were made by Andre himself, and echoed in Congress at a much later period by Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, who had the custody of Andre, to the effect that the captors of the ill-fated British officer were corrupt, and only held him because they could profit more than by letting him go. On this point the testimony of Alexander Hamilton, who passed much time with Andre previous to his execution, and had full opportunity to weigh his statements, ought to be sufficient. In a letter to Colonel Sears General Hamilton thus compared the captors of Andre with Arnold: "This man" (Arnold), "is in every sense despicable. * * * To his conduct that of the captors of Andre forms a striking contrast; he tempted their integrity with the offer of his watch, his horse, and any sum of money they should name. They rejected his offers with indignation; and the gold that could seduce a man high in the esteem and confidence of his country, who had the remembrance of his past exploits, the motives of present reputation and future glory to prop his integrity, had no charms for three simple peasants, leaning only on their virtue, and a sense of duty."

Meantime Washington, who had gone to Hartford to consult with the French general Rochambeau about making an attack on New York, returned sooner than expected. Hamilton and Lafayette, of Washington's staff, went forward to breakfast with Arnold, while Washington was inspecting a battery. At the breakfast table Andre's letter was handed to Arnold. The traitor perceived at once that discovery was inevitable, and excusing himself to his guests as calmly as if going out on an ordinary errand, he went to his wife's room, embraced her, and bade her farewell. Mounting a horse of one of his aides, Arnold rode swiftly to the river bank. There he entered his barge and was rowed to the Vulture.

Andre was tried by court-martial on the charge of being a spy, convicted and executed October 2, 1780. The captors of Andre were rewarded with a silver medal and $200 a year for life. Arnold received the reward for which he had offered to betray his country. Washington, who was far from being vindictive, made repeated attempts to get possession of Arnold in order to punish him for his treason.

* * *

While the war was languishing in the North it was being carried on with vigor in the South. Sir Henry Clinton, in the spring of 1780, captured the city of Charleston, with General Lincoln and all his army. Clinton then returned to New York, leaving Lord Cornwallis in command of the British. Another American army, mostly militiamen and new recruits, many of whom had never handled a bayonet, was formed in North Carolina, and placed unfortunately under the command of the incompetent Gates. The British met Gates at Sander's Creek, near Camden, and after a sharp conflict the Americans were completely routed. British and Tories were now more barbarous than ever in their treatment of patriots who fell into their hands, and repeated executions of Americans on pretended charges of violating compulsory oaths of allegiance, or no charges at all, excited thirst for retribution among the friends of liberty. General Nathaniel Greene, of Quaker birth, but one of the greatest soldiers of the Revolution, was sent to command a new army of the South; with Daniel Morgan, William Washington and Henry Lee—known as "Light-horse Harry" and father of the Confederate commander, Robert E. Lee—as his lieutenants. Morgan, at Cowpens, annihilated Tarleton's Legion, which had committed many cruelties in South Carolina. Greene fought the British at Guilford, Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs, and although he did not win a battle, he left the enemy, on each occasion, in much worse condition than before the encounter. Cornwallis, the British commander, although not defeated, was becoming weaker and weaker, and he retreated into Virginia, from an enemy whose every repulse was a British disaster.

* * *

The final act in the mighty drama was now approaching. From the Potomac to the confines of Florida the Southland was aroused against the British as it never could have been aroused except for the barbarities which Cornwallis perpetrated and sanctioned. The British commander was behind the intrenchments at Yorktown with an army of about eight thousand men and a horde of Tories who had been willing agents in carrying out against their own countrymen the atrocious decrees which for a time made a Poland of the Carolinas. Sir Henry Clinton, thoroughly deceived by the movements of Washington and Rochambeau, was anxious only to protect New York, and the victorious fleet of France was prepared to cut off the escape of Cornwallis by the sea. Washington and Rochambeau, with the allied armies, marched against Yorktown from their rendezvous at Williamsburg on September 28. They drove in the British outposts, and began siege operations so promptly and vigorously that the place was completely invested on the thirtieth by a semi-circular line of the allied forces, each wing resting on the York River. The Americans held the right; the French the left. A small body of British at Gloucester, opposite Yorktown, was beset by a force consisting of French dragoons and marines, and Virginia militia. Heavy ordnance was brought from the French ships, and on the afternoon of October 9, the artillery opened on the British. Red-hot balls were hurled upon the British vessels in the river, and the flames shooting up from a 44-gun ship showed that fire was doing its work. Under cover of night parallels were thrown up closer and closer to the British lines, and the besieged saw the chain which they could not break tightening around them. The Americans and French carried by storm two redoubts which commanded the trenches, and now Cornwallis had to take his choice between flight or surrender, if flight were possible. He determined to flee, but a terrible storm made the passing of the river too dangerous, and a few troops who had crossed over were brought back to Yorktown.

French and Americans poured shot and shell into the British intrenchments, and the bombardment grew heavier day by day. The superior forces and strong situation of the besiegers made it impossible to break through their lines. It would not even have been a forlorn hope. No course now remained but to surrender. Cornwallis sought to make the best terms possible. He has been severely and plausibly criticised for abandoning the Tory refugees to American justice and vengeance. Horace Walpole, writing in safe and comfortable quarters, far from siege or battlefield, said that Cornwallis "ought to have declared that he would die rather than sacrifice the poor Americans who had followed him from loyalty, against their countrymen." Had Cornwallis so declared he would doubtless have had a chance to die without any objection on the part of the patriots on whose friends and relatives he had inflicted devilish cruelties. Cornwallis was obliged to choose between perishing with all his army, or accepting the terms which his conquerors saw fit to grant. Apart from the formal articles of surrender he obtained the informal consent of the allies that certain Tories most obnoxious to their countrymen should be permitted to depart to New York in the vessel which carried dispatches from the British commander to Sir Henry Clinton.[2] General Lincoln, who had been compelled to surrender to the royal troops at Charleston in the previous year, received the sword of Cornwallis from General O'Hara, and twenty-eight British captains, each bearing a flag in a case, handed over their colors to twenty-eight American sergeants. The number of troops surrendered was about 7000, and to these were added 2000 sailors, 1500 Tories and 1800 negroes. The British lost during the siege in killed, wounded and missing about 550 men; the Americans lost about 300. The spoils included nearly 8000 muskets, 75 brass and 160 iron cannon and a large quantity of munitions of war and military stores, as well as "about one hundred vessels, above fifty of them square-rigged."[3] On the day after the surrender Washington ordered every American soldier under arrest or in confinement to be set at liberty, and as the next day would be Sunday he directed that divine service should be performed in the several brigades.

[2] Walpole is right, however, in pointing out that the unconditional surrender of the refugees by Cornwallis had an important influence in bringing the war to a close by depriving the British of American support and sympathy. "It was a virtual end of the war," he says. "Could one American, unless those shut up in New York and Charleston, even out of prudence and self-preservation, declare for England, by whose general they were so unfeelingly abandoned?"

[3] Livingston to Dana, October 22, 1781.

* * *

"Oh God, it is all over!" exclaimed Lord North, on hearing that Cornwallis had surrendered. And it was all over, although we have Franklin's authority that George III. continued to hope for a revival of his sovereignty over America "on the same terms as are now making with Ireland." These hopes were soon dissipated, and a treaty of peace was finally signed at Paris, September 23, 1783. The British troops sailed away from New York on November 25, and General Washington, after a tender parting with his officers, resigned his commission. A great number of Tory refugees departed from New York with the British, but it is doubtful whether their lot was happier than that of those who remained to accept the new order of things. It is only necessary to glance at the diary of Hutchinson, the royalist governor of Massachusetts, to perceive that, even under the most favorable circumstances, the situation of the exiled Tories was miserable indeed. Many of them settled in Canada, there to hand down to their descendants feelings of antipathy which, in America, have long been discarded. Many of them wisely returned to the United States, and were magnanimously forgiven and received as brethren and citizens. No voice was raised to plead more eloquently in their behalf than that of Patrick Henry. "I feel no objection," he exclaimed, "to the return of those deluded people. They have, to be sure, mistaken their own interests most wofully, and most wofully have they suffered the punishment due to their offences. * * * Afraid of them!—what, sir—shall we who have laid the proud British lion at our feet, now be afraid of his whelps?"




Condition of the United States at the Close of the Revolution—New England Injured and New York Benefited Commercially by the Struggle— Luxury of City Life—Americans an Agricultural People—The Farmer's Home—Difficulty in Traveling—Contrast Between North and South—Southern Aristocracy—Northern Great Families—White Servitude—The Western Frontier—Karly Settlers West of the Mountains—A Hardy Population— Disappearance of the Colonial French—The Ordinance of 1787—Flood of Emigration Beyond the Ohio.

Peace with Great Britain left the United States free and independent, but burdened with the expenses of the war, and agitated by the problems which independence presented. The soldiers of the Continental Army went back to their firesides and their fields, and trade began to show signs of revival. New England's commercial interests had received a serious blow from the Revolution, while New York city, occupied by the British throughout the war, the headquarters of the royal forces with their lavish expenditures, and its commerce protected and convoyed by the British fleet, was benefited instead of injured by the struggle. The merchants of New York, whether attached or not at heart to the royalist cause, put business before patriotism, while the flag of St. George floated over their city, and urged the British to severer measures against the "rebels" in order that New York's mercantile interests might be promoted and safeguarded.[1] Apart from natural advantages, next in importance to the Erie Canal as a cause of New York's leading commercial position is the fact that the British were in possession of the city during the Revolution.

[1] A number of years ago the Hon. William M. Evarts delivered a speech before the New York Chamber of Commerce in which he congratulated that body on its patriotism "during the Revolution." Having been allowed to examine the records of the Chamber for the revolutionary period, I wrote an article which appeared over my initials in the New York Sun pointing out that the Chamber, as shown by its own records, had been ultra-loyal, instead of patriotic.—H. M.

There was considerable luxury in city life then as now. "By Revolutionary times love of dress everywhere prevailed throughout the State of New York," says Mrs. Alice Morse Earle, "a love of dress which caused great extravagance and was noted by all travelers."[2] "If there is a town on the American continent," said the Chevalier de Crevecoeur, "where English luxury displayed its follies it is in New York." Philadelphia was not far behind New York in extravagance, notwithstanding Quaker traditions, while Boston, rich in solid wealth, was more conservative in displaying it, and retained in appearance at least something of Puritan simplicity.

[2] Costumes of Colonial Times.

The urban residents of those days were, however, insignificant in numbers as compared with the total population. The Americans were an agricultural people, and they were a self-dependent people. The articles of clothing needed in the farmer's home were manufactured in the home; the tailor went around from house to house making into suits the cloth which the family had woven; the school teacher "boarded around" as an equivalent for salary that might otherwise have been paid in worthless currency, and the simple requirements of rural existence were supplied in a large degree by trade and barter without the use of what passed as money. The farmer's cottage stood upon a level sward of green. The kitchen was the living-room, and there the family spent their time when not out at work or retired to rest. It was the largest apartment in the house, and its great fire-place, with a ruddy back-log and pine knots flaming and sparkling on the iron-dogs, offered a most cheerful welcome on a New England winter's night. The baking oven, heated with fine-split dry wood, cooked the frugal but savory meal, which was served up on a solid old-fashioned table, around which the household gathered, first giving thanks to the Giver of all. When not busied with other duties, the housewife pressed with measured round the treadles of the loom, as she twilled the web she was weaving; and as the shades of evening descended the sonorous hum of the spinning-wheel gave token to the young man on courtship intent that the daughter of the house was at home. From the kitchen a door opened into the best room, a cheerless sort of place only thrown open on special occasions, and not to compare in comfort with the kitchen, its high-backed settle and its genial fire, whose glowing ashes seemed to reflect the warmer glow of loving eyes. Other doors from the kitchen opened into sleeping-rooms, although in the larger houses the family usually slept upstairs. The well was used for cooling purposes as well as water supply, and the old oaken bucket suspended from the well-sweep by means of a slender pole, invited the passing stranger to quaff nature's wholesome beverage. Wheeled vehicles were not often seen in the rural districts, horses being commonly used for locomotion. The difficulty of traveling discouraged intercourse between different communities, and a journey from Boston to New York, taking a week by stage-coach, and three or four days by sailing vessel, was a more momentous undertaking than a voyage to Europe now. Few traveled for pleasure. Few took any active interest in public affairs beyond their own neighborhood, or at most their own State, and the bond of the confederation rested loosely on communities now no longer united by the apprehension of common danger.

* * *

Between the North and the South the contrast was already ominous of future strife. The Southern planter lived like an aristocrat surrounded by servants and slaves, dispensing hospitality according to his means after the fashion of the British nobility. Cotton had not yet poured the gold of England into the lap of the South, but tobacco held its own as a substantial basis of wealth. In the North, on the other hand, the tiller of the soil was usually its owner, assisted sometimes by indentured servants or slaves, but never himself above the toil which he exacted from others. The North, too, had its great families, descendants of patroons and others who had received large grants of land and enjoyed exceptional privileges, and were now growing in wealth with the increasing value of their property; but the aristocratic Northern families were gradually losing political power and influence, and sinking toward the level of the people; whereas in the South the aristocratic element was arrogating more and more the control of State affairs, and the representation of Southern States in the councils of the nation. In the North also equality was promoted by the potent influence of the Revolution in breaking up the system of servile white labor. Master and man were summoned for the defence of their country; they fought, they suffered and endured together the same privations for a common cause. Distinctions of class were obliterated by the blood that flowed freely for the freedom of all, and what remained of ancient aristocratic prejudice was yet more thoroughly undermined by the example of the great social upheaval in France. Nevertheless the system of white servitude was not entirely abolished until long after the close of the eighteenth century, immigrants to this country frequently selling themselves as "redemptioners" to pay the cost of their passage. The limits of this form of service seldom exceeded seven years. No taint was apparently attached to it, and many a worthy family had a "redemptioner" for its first American ancestor.

* * *

Looking to the western frontier just after the Revolution, and in particular the forks of the Ohio, we see a population very different in character from that of the older settlements. The peace-loving Quaker clung to the eastern counties, where life and property were secured from raid and reprisal, and formed his ideas of the Indian character and deserts from the red men, who, either Christianized or demoralized, preferred the grudging charity of civilization to the rude and frugal spoils of the chase, or the blood-stained rapine of war. This specimen of Indian was usually so harmless, in some instances perhaps so deserving, that the well-meaning Quaker learned to receive with discredit the stories of horror from the frontier, and discouraged with his voice and influence every step toward the subjection of the hostile Indian and his European allies. Emigrants were forbidden, under stern penalties, to encroach on the Indian domain, and petitions from invaded settlements for arms and assistance, were met with cold indifference or positive refusal. The men and women who, in face of such discouragement, cast their lot beyond the mountains, must have been a hardy set indeed, and made of stuff not likely to yield in a wrestle with wild nature and wilder humanity.

The early inhabitants of that frontier region were of sturdy Scotch and Irish stock. The troublous political times in their native countries doubtless had much to do with their emigration hither. The star of the Stuart line had set never to rise again, and its bright and hopeless flicker, in the days of '45, was extinguished in the blood of Scotland's noblest sons. But while order reigned, content was far from prevailing, and many a brave heart sought, on the distant shore of America, to forget the anguish of the past in the building of a prosperous future. With a final sigh for "Lochaber No More," the Highlander turned his gaze from the lochs and glens of his fathers, and crossed the ocean to that new land of promise where every man might be a laird, and a farm might be had for the asking, where no Culloden would remind him of the fate of his kindred, and his children could grow up far from the barbarous laws that crushed out the spirit of the ancient clans. Along the banks of the Monongahela those Scotch and Irish settlers built their rude cabins under the guns of Fort Pitt, guarded—strange irony of fate—from a savage enemy by the very flag which flaunted oppression in their native Britain and Ireland. That they learned to love their adopted land who can question? A Virginian cavalier, accustomed to the graces and politesse of a slave-owning aristocracy, saw fit to sneer at their humble abodes, and their lack of the finer accessories of civilization, forgetting that a cabin is more often than a palace the cradle of the purest patriotism, and that as true American hearts beat in those huts in the wilderness as in the courtly precincts of Richmond.

But the "poor mechanics and laborers" exercised a tremendous influence on the destinies of the young, and as yet disunited republic. They were freemen. Pittsburg, the outpost of civilization, had no slave within sight of its redoubts, and the spirit of freedom which hovered there, found rest and refreshment for its broader flight toward the great northwest. The decision of 1780, which saved Pittsburg to Pennsylvania, preserved it as a stronghold of freedom and of free labor, and now it far surpasses in industry, wealth and population the then slave-labor capital of the Old Dominion.

It is an interesting fact that the colonial French left no impress on the site where they made such a gallant stand for New France. They have vanished as completely as the Indian. In Detroit, in St. Louis, French ancestry can be traced in families of high position and honorable lineage. Such families are to those cities what the Knickerbockers are to New York. They give a gracious flavor to society; they are a link between the dim and heroic past and the dashing, eager, practical present; they add a dreamy fascination to the social landscape, like the lingering haze of morning illumined by the rays of the sun fast mounting to zenith. Where Duquesne stood, neither track nor mark remains of the volatile, daring and glory-loving race whose lily flag greeted the bearers of brave Beaujeu's remains from the fatal field of Braddock. No authentic trace has been discovered even of the fortifications which they erected, and Fort Duquesne is known only by its tragic place in American history.

The ordinance of 1787, creating the Northwestern Territory, and throwing it open for settlement, at once induced a large emigration to the lands beyond the Ohio. Descendants of the Puritans mingled in the pioneer throng with rangers from Virginia and backwoodsmen from Pennsylvania. The frontiersman in hunting-shirt and moccasins blazed a path for the New Englander in broadcloth coat, velvet collar, bell-crowned hat and heavy boots. These emigrants all possessed valuable qualities for the building up of new States, and they all displayed in the trials which immediately beset them the courage which had carried the nation successfully through the war for independence. They were entering upon a vast and fertile domain which the aboriginal possessors, notwithstanding treaties, did not propose to abandon, and which was the scene of sanguinary conflict before it was finally surrendered.


The Spirit of Disunion—Shays' Rebellion—A National Government Necessary —Adoption of the Constitution—Tariff and Internal Revenue—The Whiskey Insurrection—President Washington Calls Out the Military—Insurgents Surrender—"The Dreadful Night"—Hamilton's Inquisition.

The spirit of disunion was brewing; the people were tax-ridden, the States without credit and the prevailing discontent found expression in riot and rebellion. The insurrection of Daniel Shays and his followers in Massachusetts, the disturbances in western North Carolina and other outbreaks in various parts of the country were but symptoms of radical weakness in the body politic, and of the complete failure of the loose-jointed confederation to command the confidence of the people and maintain the credit of the nation. It became evident that union was as vitally important in peace as in war; that national burdens could only be sustained by a national government, and that the welfare of trade and commerce required one system of interstate laws enforced by the united power of all the States. The adoption of the Federal Constitution created a nation; it created a free government worth all that it had cost; it realized the dream of Franklin and the prediction of Adams; it made possible the American Republic of to-day, and the great work was fittingly crowned with the election of George Washington as first President.

* * *

The first business of the new government was to establish the public credit. Alexander Hamilton, Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, proposed with this object a tariff on imports, and a tax on whiskey. To the former the people submitted readily enough; the latter provoked an insurrection which for some time threatened to be formidable. The farmers of the western counties of Pennsylvania—Westmoreland, Fayette, Washington and Allegheny—having no market for grain, in the decade following the Revolution, on account of the absence of large settlements in their vicinity, and the lack of facilities to transport to more distant places, were from necessity compelled to reduce the bulk of their grain by converting it into whiskey. A horse could carry two kegs of eight gallons each, worth about fifty cents per gallon on the western, and one dollar on the eastern side of the mountains, and return with a little iron and salt, the former worth fifteen to twenty cents per pound, the latter five dollars per bushel, at Pittsburg. The still was therefore the necessary appendage of every farm, where the farmer was able to procure it; if he was not he carried his grain to the more wealthy to be distilled. To the large majority of these farmers excise laws were peculiarly odious. The State of Pennsylvania made some attempt, during and just after the Revolution, to enforce an excise law; but without effect. A man named Graham, who had kept a public house in Philadelphia, accepted the appointment of Collector for the western counties. He was assailed, his head shaven and he was threatened with death. Other collectors were equally unsuccessful.

The United States excise law was enacted in March, 1791. While the bill was before Congress, the subject was taken up by the Pennsylvania Legislature, then in session, and resolutions were passed in strong terms against the law, and requesting the senators and representatives, by a vote of thirty-six to eleven, to oppose its passage; the minority voting on the principle that it was improper to interfere with the action of the Federal Government, and not from approval of the measure. The law imposed a tax of from nine to twenty-five cents per gallon, according to strength, upon spirits distilled from grain. To secure the collection of the duties, suitable regulations were made. Inspection districts were established, one or more in each State, with an inspector for each. Distillers were to furnish at the nearest inspection office full descriptions of their buildings, which were always subject to examination by a person appointed for that purpose, who was to gauge and brand the casks; duties to be paid before removal. But to save trouble to small distillers, not in any town or village, they were allowed to pay an annual tax of sixty cents per gallon on the capacity of the still.

Such a measure could not fail to be intensely unpopular, especially among the small farmers to whom the whiskey derived from their grain was the principal source of income and support. To the large distillers the tax was not altogether odious, as they comprehended that the new law would add greatly to their trade by cutting off their lesser rivals, and securing the manufacture of spirits to the well-to-do and well-established few. On the same ground distillers to-day are very generally opposed to the removal of the internal revenue tax on spirits. But popular clamor carried all before it, and it would have been unsafe for any one to openly avow himself in favor of the excise. At a meeting held in Pittsburg, on the seventh of September, 1791, resolutions were adopted denouncing the tax as "operating on a domestic manufacture—a manufacture not equal through the States. It is insulting to the feelings of the people to have their vessels marked, houses painted and ransacked, to be subject to informers gaining by the occasional delinquency of others. It is a bad precedent, tending to introduce the excise laws of Great Britain and of countries where the liberty, property and even the morals of the people are sported with to gratify particular men in their ambitious and interested measures." The duties were likewise denounced as injurious to agricultural interests.

So far as refusal to obey the excise law, and defiance of the Federal officers empowered to enforce it, constituted rebellion, the western counties of Pennsylvania were in a condition of rebellion for over three years. President Washington was patient; the Congress was conciliatory; the State authorities were more than tolerant. General John Neville, a man of great wealth and well-deserved popularity, accepted the office of Inspector of the Revenue. Had he been discovered guilty of a monstrous crime, his popularity could not have more rapidly waned. Albert Gallatin, Brackenridge and other men, respected not only in Pennsylvania, but wherever known in the country at large, took counsel, and appeared to take sides with the multitude in their opposition to the national law. Their motives have been variously interpreted, according to prejudice or favor, but Marshall, in his "Life of Washington," gave the fair and reasonable view of their position when he said that "men of property and intelligence who had contributed to kindle the flame, under the common error of being able to regulate its heat, trembled at the extent of the conflagration. But it had passed the limits assigned to it, and was no longer subject to their control."

The crowning outrage was the burning of Inspector Neville's house, in July, 1794. The inspector made his escape to Pittsburg. He and the United States Marshal were compelled to flee from the town, and on the first of August following, seven thousand armed men assembled at Braddock's Field and marched from thence into Pittsburg. All these men were not hostile to the laws and authority of the United States; many were compelled by threats of violence to go with the majority; not a few were present to restrain the reckless from breaking into open insurrection.

President Washington deemed that the time for action had come. He called upon the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania for a force of militia sufficient to crush the insurrection, while at the same time he proclaimed amnesty to all who should certify by their signatures their readiness to sustain the government. The insurgents suddenly awakened to the knowledge that they had now the whole power of the United States against them, directed by that arm invulnerable alike to Indian, Frenchman and Briton. Multitudes came to their senses, and signed the pledge that saved them from punishment. Among these were many who had committed the gravest disorders. The United States forces, however, marched into the western counties, and the disturbed region was prostrate under military law.

Old residents of Pittsburg have not yet forgotten the traditions of "The Dreadful Night"—the thirteenth of November, 1794. Without a moment's warning hundreds of citizens were arrested in Allegheny and the adjoining counties, dragged from their beds, and hurried away, half naked, from their frantic wives and weeping children. The arrests, in numerous instances, were attended with every circumstance of barbarity short of death. Prisoners were goaded, with shoeless and bleeding feet, on the road to Pittsburg; numbers of them were tied back to back, and thrown into a wet cellar as a place of detention. One man, whose child was dying, came forward voluntarily when the arrests were being made, hoping that humanity would prompt his release on a statement of his condition. He, too, was tied, and thrown in with the rest. When he obtained his liberty his child was dead. Among the prisoners was George Robinson, chief burgess of Pittsburg, a peaceable law-abiding man, who had never taken any share in the agitation against the excise. Brigadier-General White appears to have been chiefly responsible for the brutal treatment of the captives. When one of them, a veteran of the Revolution, lagged behind, owing to physical infirmity, White ordered him fastened to a horse's tail, and dragged along. The cruel command was not obeyed. On the following day, of about three hundred prisoners, all but ten were discharged, there being no evidence against the others. Of eighteen alleged offenders who were sent to Philadelphia, and marched through the streets, with the label "Insurgent" on their hats, but two were found guilty of crime. One was convicted of arson, another of robbing the United States mail, when the mail was intercepted with a view of capturing letters from the Federal officers in the western counties to the authorities at the capital. In both instances President Washington granted first a reprieve, then a pardon.

Alexander Hamilton held an inquisitorial investigation to ascertain whether a blow had been meditated at the republic, and its form of government, under the guise of opposition to the revenue. He was evidently satisfied that there was no deeper plot than appeared on the surface, and that, apart from their whiskey-stills, the hearts of the West Pennsylvanians beat true to the Union.

Independence Vindicated.


Arrogance of France—Americans and Louis XVI—Genet Defies Washington— The People Support the President—War With the Indians—Defeat of St. Clair—Indians State Their Case—General Wayne Defeats the Savages—Jay's Treaty—Retirement of Washington—His Character—His Military Genius— Washington as a Statesman—His Views on Slavery—His Figure in History.

The American nation had yet to win something besides independence, something without which independence would be a burden and a mockery—the respect of other nations; and in dealings between nations fear and respect are closely akin. The English still occupied posts within territory claimed by the United States, the Indians denied the right of the Americans to lands beyond the Ohio, and republican France, having beheaded her king, regarded the United States as a vassal on account of the debt of gratitude which America owed to that king. War with England had given place to jealous and intolerant rivalry, and friendship with France had been succeeded by an arrogant assumption of patronage and almost of suzerainty menacing to our national independence. Such were the clouds that rose above the ocean horizon, while the western sky was darkened by the shadow of Indian hostility as yet far from contemptible, and directed by able chieftains, like Little Turtle, more than a match in the field and in diplomacy for most of their white antagonists. These were the circumstances which made it apparent to Americans that the Federal Constitution had come not a day too soon, which welded the nation together like an armor-plate of steel against foes on every hand, and taught the need of union as it never could have been taught amid surroundings of prosperity and peace.

The French Revolution acquitted the American people of all obligations to France. It was not to the French people, but to the French king that Americans owed the assistance without which the war for independence might have ended in calamity, and with the exception of the Marquis de Lafayette the Frenchmen who were conspicuous as servants of the king in aiding the American cause, were foes, not friends of the Revolution. The French nation, as such, had no more to do with casting the power of France into the scales on the side of America than the people of Russia had to do with their czar's championship of Bulgaria. Had it been in the power of Americans to have saved Louis XVI. from the scaffold, they would have shown cruel ingratitude not to have interfered in his behalf. It was a most arrogant and baseless assumption on the part of the French democracy to claim credit for what the Bourbon king had done in sending his army and navy to these shores and supplying funds to equip and maintain our troops. It is true that the men he sent here were Frenchmen, and that the money came from the pockets of the people of France, but his will directed the troops, and diverted to American use the funds of which France was sorely in need. To Louis XVI., to his great minister, Vergennes, to Rochambeau and Lafayette, American independence was due, so far as it was due to any human source outside of America. Rochambeau and Lafayette both narrowly escaped the fate of their king, and Vergennes died before the Revolution which would have made him either a victim or an emigre.[1] So much for the claims of the first French republic that America was ungrateful in not arraying its forces against embattled Europe in defence of the men who slew Louis XVI. for crimes which others committed.

[1] During the reign of terror Rochambeau was arrested at his estate near Vendome, conducted to Paris, thrown into the Conciergerie and condemned to death. When the car came to convey a number of victims to the guillotine, he was about to mount it, but the official in charge seeing it full thrust him back. "Stand back, old marshal," cried he, roughly, "your turn will come by and by." A sudden change in political affairs saved his life, and enabled him to return to his home near Vendome. Rochambeau survived the Revolution, and received the grand cross of the Legion of Honor and a marshal's pension from the great Napoleon.—From Irving's Life of Washington.

It is probable that none save Washington could have guided the nation through the perilous excitement aroused by the efforts of the French minister Genet to involve the United States in war with England and other powers. For a time many cool-headed and able men were carried away by the popular enthusiasm in favor of France, but Genet presumed too far, when he deliberately insulted and defied that national authority which the nation itself had created, and the American people rallied at length, irrespective of party, to the support of the President. France for the time, abandoned her menacing attitude, only to resume it a few years later, with results disastrous to herself.

* * *

However American in feeling, it is impossible not to have some sympathy with the Indians in their struggle to retain their hunting-grounds beyond the Ohio. Savages as they were, natural right was on their side, and many of the whites opposed to them were more savage and inhuman than the worst of the redskinned barbarians. The massacre of the Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten by a party of frontiersmen was a deed not surpassed in atrocity in the annals of any country, and far surpassing in deliberate cruelty anything charged against the Indian race. It was a pity that the actual perpetrators of that dark crime did not fall into the hands of warlike Indians, instead of the unfortunate William Crawford, the leader of a subsequent expedition, whose awful death by fire was the Indian penalty for the Moravian massacre. The masterly ability of Little Turtle proved for years a barrier against pioneer progress, and the defeat of St. Clair and his army in 1791, left the frontiers at the mercy of the red men. This defeat was one of the most terrible ever suffered at the hands of the Indians, and aroused on the part of Washington a display of temper which showed how deeply he felt the wound inflicted on his country.

General Anthony Wayne took the place of St. Clair as commander, and further hostilities were preceded by an attempt at negotiation. It must be confessed by any impartial reader that the Indians stated their case calmly, clearly and with impressive reasoning. They demanded that Americans be removed from the northern side of the Ohio, and they averred that treaties previously signed by them to the contrary effect had been signed under misapprehension. "Brothers," said the Indians, "you have talked to as about concessions. It appears strange that you should expect any from us, who have only been defending our just rights against your invasions. We want peace. Restore to us our country, and we shall be enemies no longer." "Your answer." said the American commissioners, "amounts to a declaration that you will agree to no other boundary than the Ohio. The negotiation is, therefore, at an end." This decision was arrived at in August, 1793. Meantime the United States escaped the danger which would have been brought upon them had Genet succeeded in his schemes, and involved America in war with England and Spain, both of which countries were prepared to assist the Indians, had the Americans taken the side of France. Active hostilities were not resumed in the Northwest, however, until the summer of 1794, when General Wayne, at the head of his troops, again attempted to secure a peaceful settlement of the Indian troubles, and failing in that attacked and defeated the Indians near the rapids of the Maumee, a few miles from the Miam. Fort, which the English had established within the American territory. Little Turtle, who led the Indians, had been in favor of peace, but was overborne by more impetuous warriors. Peace soon followed, and the settlement of the Northwest proceeded for a time without interruption. Those who regard the Indians as a lazy and thriftless race should read what General Wayne says about them: "The very extensive and highly cultivated fields and gardens show the work of many hands. The margins of these beautiful rivers appear like a continued village for a number of miles. Nor have I ever before beheld such immense fields of corn in any part of America, from Canada to Florida."

* * *

Jay's Treaty, so-called from John Jay, who acted on behalf of the United States in negotiating the measure, secured a temporary and unsatisfactory adjustment of the differences between the United States and Great Britain. The fact that Washington was willing to approve the treaty, although dissatisfied with it, is its sufficient vindication, and the agreement on the part of England to surrender the western posts was no small advantage for the United States, especially in the impression which it produced on the Indians of the decline of British and the growth of American power. The worst features of the treaty were that it restricted the commerce of the United States, so far as concerned molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa and cotton, the last-mentioned article being already a product of the United States, and that it failed to protect the seamen on American vessels against seizure and impressment by the British. It was, taken as a whole, a humiliating compact, and in its commercial provisions an abandonment of the principle which inspired the Boston Tea Party, and for which Americans had fought in the war of independence. The mutual freedom of intercourse and internal trading, including common navigation of the Mississippi, was advantageous only to Great Britain, which country, as subsequent events showed, had not given up hope of reconquering the trans-Ohio region, and carrying British dominion from the Lakes to Mobile.

The United States had to do something, however, to show that the American Republic was not either secretly or openly an ally of the French Republic against the remainder of Europe, and while the Jay Treaty was not what Washington and the American people desired, it was all that England would agree to. As a modus vivendi with our only dangerous neighbor it enabled the American people to devote to domestic development the energies which would otherwise have been expended in war, and to grasp the neutral carrying trade upon which war would have placed an embargo. England would doubtless have been gratified with any plausible excuse that would have enabled her to destroy American commerce, and to be without a rival on the Atlantic. Jay's Treaty prevented this, and England had to leave to her friends, the Barbary pirates, the work of preying on the American carrying trade in European waters.[2] These depredations were already so serious in 1794 that a bill was introduced in Congress, passed after some opposition, and cordially approved by President Washington, providing for a force of six frigates to protect American commerce from the corsairs. These frigates did splendid service later on, not only against the pirates, but also against the French and British.

[2] As early as 1784 Lord Sheffield said in Parliament: "It is not probable that the American States will have a very free trade in the Mediterranean. It will not be to the interest of any of the great maritime powers to protect them from the Barbary States. If they know their interests they will not encourage American carriers."

* * *

The scenes which attended the close of Washington's public career were some compensation to that ever-illustrious man for the wounds inflicted during his administration by reckless and venomous partisanship. No President of the United States was ever more fiercely and bitterly assailed than Washington. His enemies even went so far as to doom him in caricature to the fate of Louis XVI. He was accused of monarchical designs, and had to confront treachery in his Cabinet and scurrilous slanders in the public press. Yet throughout all he bore himself with patience, and never swerved from the course which he deemed best for the public weal. It should not be supposed that he was indifferent to the arrows of malice and of falsehood. On the contrary, he was extremely sensitive to them; but he never permitted himself, in public at least, to be carried away by his feelings, and no matter how strong his sentiments on any subject, his sense of justice was always supreme. In his agony upon the news of St. Clair's defeat, he denounced that general as worse than a murderer for having suffered his army to be taken by surprise; but when the burst of passion was over he added: "General St. Clair shall have justice. I will receive him without displeasure; I will hear him without prejudice." And Washington kept his word.

Far abler pens than mine have dealt with the character of the Father of our Republic, but a few plain and original expressions on a subject never wearisome to Americans may not be out of place. Washington's chief characteristics were fortitude, the sense of justice of which I have spoken, and the ability to grasp conditions and seize upon opportunities. He was a thoroughly practical man, a strategist by instinct, fearless but not rash, possessing an impetuous temper kept within careful control, and unleashed only when, as at the battle of Monmouth, there was prudence in its vehemence. He was an excellent judge of men. The officers who owed their advancement to Washington seldom disappointed and often exceeded expectations. He was above the petty jealousy, so conspicuous in our late civil war, that would permit another general to be defeated in order to shine by contrast. He was devoted to the cause more than to winning personal reputation, and the effect of his unselfishness was that the cause triumphed with his name fixed in history as that of its leader and champion.

It is difficult to compare the military achievements of Washington with those of Old World commanders. Marlborough, Wellington and Napoleon had troops thoroughly organized, under complete military control, and held to service by iron rules which made the general always sure that his military machine would be ready for use, barring the chances of war. Washington's forces were largely composed of militia, enlisted for short periods, many of them induced to serve by bounties, and anxious to go home and attend to their farms.[3] The soldiers, too, were shamefully neglected by Congress and by their States, and it seems wonderful that Washington should have kept them together as he did, or maintained an army at all. In this respect Washington showed genius as a military manager without parallel in history. It should not be forgotten, also, that to Washington is largely due credit for victories at which he was not present. His was the master mind which scanned the entire field, directed all operations and made the triumphs of others possible. His closing campaign, which ended in the surrender of Cornwallis, exhibited military talent of the highest order. In conception and execution it was equal to any of Napoleon's campaigns. It embraced an extent of territory, from New York to North Carolina inclusive, as extensive as the present German empire, and every movement was that of a master hand on the chess-board of war. Success without the French would have been impossible, without Greene's admirable generalship it might have been impossible, but Washington conceived and carried through to accomplishment the whole great scheme which resulted in a final and crashing blow to British hopes of subjugating America.[4]

[3] Mr. William L. Stone, the historical writer, recently published the diary of a relative who served a few months in the Revolution, and who received ten sheep for enlisting. The soldier in question appears to have been in the habit of going home whenever he felt like it to cultivate his crops.

Governor Clinton said of the militia: "They come in the morning and return in the evening, and I never know when I have them, or what my strength is."—Letter to the New York Council of Safety.

[4] M. Barbe Marbois, who was Secretary of the French Legation in the United States during the Revolution, says of Washington: "The sound judgment of Washington, his steadiness and ability, had long since elevated him above all his rivals and far beyond the reach of envy. His enemies still labored, however, to fasten upon him, as a general, the reproach of mediocrity. It is true that the military career of this great man is not marked by any of those achievements which seem prodigious, and of which the splendor dazzles and astonishes the universe, but sublime virtues unsullied with the least stain are a species of prodigy. His conduct throughout the whole course of the war invariably attracted and deserved the veneration and confidence of his fellow-citizens. The good of his country was the sole end of his exertions, never personal glory. In war and in peace, Washington is in my eyes the most perfect model that can be offered to those who would devote themselves to the service of their country and assert the cause of liberty."

As a statesman Washington merited distinction fully equal to that gained in his military career. To him the United States were always a nation, and only as a nation could they exist. His influence was as potent in forming the Union as his military genius had been in achieving independence, and the veneration with which he was regarded abroad secured for the new nation a degree of respect in foreign cabinets, which was almost vital to its existence, and which no other American could have commanded. At home, too, he rose superior to the discord of ambitious men and of rival factions, and those who, like Edmund Randolph, attempted to belittle him, only called attention thereby to their own comparative unworthiness and insignificance, and were glad in later years to seek oblivion for their abortive folly.

In his domestic life Washington was one of the best of husbands, as he was blessed with one of the best of wives. He held slaves, and I have never been of those who claim that he regarded slavery with serious disapproval. He was too conscientious a man to have retained a single slave in his possession or under his control if his conscience did not approve the relation. That Washington favored the gradual abolition of slavery his letters leave no doubt, and especially those to John P. Mercer and Lawrence Lewis, quoted by Washington Irving, but in the letterbook of the great Rhode Island merchant, Moses Brown, which I was allowed, some years ago, to examine, I read a letter from General Washington which, as I remember, indicated Washington's anti-slavery opinions to be more abstract than active, and conveyed distinctly the impression that he saw nothing wrong whatever in the holding of human chattels. Washington's views on slavery were those of a Southern planter of the most enlightened class, and the provisions which he made in his will for the emancipation of his slaves on the decease of his wife, and for the care of those who might be unable to support themselves, showed that no color-line narrowed his sense of justice and of humanity.

The fame of Washington has not lost in brilliancy since he passed from the world in which he acted such a providential part. Like the Phidian Zeus his proportions are all the more majestic for the distance which rounds over any venial defect. His example is as valuable to the American Republic of the present as his life-work was to the America of a century ago. As water never rises above its source, so a great nation should have a great founder, and the figure of Washington is sublime enough to be the oriflamme of a people's empire bounded only by the oceans which wash the land that he loved.


John Adams President—Jefferson and the French Revolution—The French Directory—Money Demanded from America—"Millions for Defence; Not One Penny for Tribute"—Naval Warfare with France—Capture of the Insurgent —Defeat of the Vengeance—Peace with France—Death of Washington—Alien and Sedition Laws—Jefferson President—The Louisiana Purchase—Burr's Alleged Treason—War with the Barbary States—England Behind the Pirates —Heroic Naval Exploits—Carrying War Into Africa—Peace with Honor.

The Jay treaty secured peace with England, but it was accepted as almost a declaration of war by France. The attitude of the French government did not become intolerable until after the retirement of Washington from the presidency. John Adams, who succeeded Washington, belonged to the Federalist party, which supported a strong central government with aristocratic tendencies, and was opposed to the Republican party, which sympathized with the French Revolution, and whose members were, therefore, known also as "Democrats." Alexander Hamilton was the chief spirit of the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson of the Republicans. The intense Jacobinism of Jefferson's views may be judged from some of his utterances, in which he even defended the terrible September massacres of the French Revolution. Speaking of the innocent who perished he said: "I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle. It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hands the fate of enemies. * * * My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated; were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than it is now."

The spread of these ideas shocked and alarmed conservative men, including Washington himself, Hamilton and Adams, and led to measures of restriction that were injudicious in their severity. The nation, however, united as one man, irrespective of party, to resent the intolerable insolence of the French, who assumed that they could crush America with the same ease that they subdued the petty states of Italy and Germany. The French Directory, which had succeeded to the Terrorists in the exercise of power virtually supreme, was composed of men whose depravity we have seen shockingly illustrated in the recently published memoirs of Barras. Its foreign policy was managed by the vulpine Talleyrand, who is accused by Barras of having extorted large sums of money from the lesser States of Europe as the price of being let alone—although it is extremely probable that Barras and others of the Directory shared in these ill-gotten funds. Talleyrand tried to extort similar tribute from America, demanding that a douceur of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars be put at his disposal for the use of the Directory, and a large loan made by America to France. "Millions for defence—not one penny for tribute!" was the cry that went up from the American people when this infamous proposition was made known.

Washington was summoned from his retirement to take command of the American army, a Secretary of the Navy was added to the President's Cabinet—Benjamin Stoddart, of Georgetown, D. C., being the first—and the new American navy was authorized to retaliate upon France for outrages committed upon American shipping. A vigorous naval warfare followed, in which the new American frigates proved more than a match for the French. The American Constellation, forty-eight guns, after a sharp engagement, captured the French frigate Insurgent, forty guns. It is really amusing to note the tone of injured innocence in which Captain Barreaut, of the Insurgent, who had himself captured the American cruiser Retaliation but a short time before, reports to his government his "surprise on finding himself fought by an American frigate after all the friendship and protection accorded to the United States!" "My indignation," he adds, "was at its height." It soon cooled off, however, under the pressure of broadsides from the Constellation, and Captain Barreaut was glad to surrender. The second frigate action of the war was between the Constellation and the Vengeance, the former fifty guns, the latter fifty-two. The Frenchman, badly beaten, succeeded in making his escape. The battle between the American frigate Boston and the French corvette Berceau was one of the most gallant of the struggle, the Berceau fighting until resistance was hopeless. American merchantmen also showed the French that they could defend themselves, and one of Moses Brown's ships, the Anne and Hope, sailed into Providence from a voyage to the West Indies, bearing in her rigging the marks of conflict with a French privateer, whom the merchantman had bravely repulsed. During the two years and a half of naval war with France eighty-four armed French vessels, nearly all of them privateers, were captured, and no vessel of our navy was taken by the enemy, except the Retaliation. This was not the kind of tribute the French government had expected, and a treaty of peace, which entirely sustained the position of the United States, was ratified in February, 1801.

* * *

The illustrious Washington, who fortunately had not been required to take the field against America's ancient allies, died December 14, 1799, at Mount Vernon, deeply mourned by all his countrymen, and honored even by the former enemies of American independence. I will only repeat, with Washington Irving, that "with us his memory remains a national property, where all sympathies throughout our widely extended and diversified empire meet in unison. Under all dissensions and amid all the storms of party, his precepts and example speak to us from the grave with a paternal appeal; and his name—by all revered—forms a universal tie of brotherhood—a watchword of our Union."

* * *

While the nation heartily sustained the government in the conflict with France the enactment of the Alien and Sedition Laws, which abridged American liberty and the freedom of speech and of the press, was generally resented by the people. The public indignation which these laws aroused resulted in the banishment of the Federalist party from power, and the election of the great Republican—or Democrat—Thomas Jefferson, as President in 1800, with Aaron Burr as Vice-President. Jefferson was the first President inaugurated in the city of Washington. The leading features of his administration were the Louisiana Purchase, the Burr conspiracy and the war with the Barbary States—the first alone sufficient to make Jefferson's presidency the most memorable between that of Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Jefferson's foresight in the Louisiana Purchase appears all the grander when we consider the ignorance which prevailed regarding the magnificent Pacific region up to the birth of a generation which is still in middle life. The Louisiana Purchase was the second great gift of France to America, and as the first came to us because the French hated and desired to weaken England, so the second came because Napoleon feared that Louisiana would fall into the hands of England. It should be remembered that the Louisiana Purchase included not only the now flourishing State at the mouth of the Mississippi, but also Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and probably the two Dakotas. It meant the control of the Mississippi and the rescue of that great artery of American commerce forever from foreign dominion. France had acquired this vast property from Spain in 1800. The Amiens Treaty of 1802, to which France and England were the principal parties, was short lived, and for some time before the new rupture Napoleon saw that it would be his best policy to concentrate his strength in Europe, and not endeavor to defend distant possessions in America. At the same time it was evident to President Jefferson that the continued occupation of the city of New Orleans by a foreign power was a menace to American interests in the rapidly growing West. The President therefore instructed Robert R. Livingston, the American Minister to Paris, to propose to Napoleon the cession to the United States of New Orleans and adjoining territory, sufficient to secure the free navigation of the Mississippi. James Monroe, American Minister to England, was associated with Livingston in the negotiations. The American representatives were surprised and elated upon learning from M. Barbe-Marbois, Napoleon's Minister of Finance, that the First Consul was ready to dispose of all Louisiana to the United States. Barbe-Marbois conducted the negotiations on behalf of France; both parties were anxious to arrive at a settlement before the English should have an opportunity to attack New Orleans, and on April 30, 1803, the treaty was signed by which the United States, for the sum of $15,000,000, came into possession of an immense territory extending from the North Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. The loan necessary was negotiated through the celebrated house of Hope, of Amsterdam, the money was paid to France, and the United States entered upon its vast estate.

The very next year President Jefferson sent out the expedition of Lewis and Clark to the headwaters of the Columbia River, and caused a complete survey to be made to its mouth. This river had been discovered in 1792, by Captain Robert Gray, a native of Tiverton, Rhode Island, and a famous navigator, who sailed in a ship fitted out by Boston merchants. Had Jefferson's energetic action been followed up with equal vigor by his successors we would never have had the Oregon boundary dispute, and Marcus Whitman would never have felt summoned to take that famous ride so worthily chronicled by Oliver W. Nixon.

* * *

With Aaron Burr's alleged treason I will deal very briefly. It will always be a disputed point whether that restless and unprincipled and yet gifted person plotted to alienate territory of the United States, or only to play the part of a Northman in territory belonging to Spain. Admitting Burr to be innocent of designs against the United States, he was nevertheless guilty of quasi-treason if he schemed to erect a separate government within Spanish possessions to which the American Republic was already heir apparent. The murder of Alexander Hamilton by Burr under the forms of a duel, which preceded his mysterious expedition in the southwest, and his subsequent attempt to claim British allegiance on the ground that he had been a British subject before the Revolution, were other extraordinary incidents in the career of a man in whom distinguished talents were utterly without the anchor of morality.

* * *

No war in which the United States has been engaged witnessed more heroic deeds than that with the Barbary States. It was a struggle in which the youngest of civilized nations met the semi-barbarous masters of Northern Africa, the heirs of Mahomet and conquerors of the Constantines. Attended by the loss of some precious lives, which were deeply mourned and are gratefully remembered, the chastisement of the corsairs proved excellent schooling for the more serious war with Great Britain. The struggle with the pirates was largely due to the hostile influence exerted by England with a view to the destruction of American commerce. In 1793 the British government actually procured a truce between Algiers and Portugal, in order that the Algerians might have free rein in preying upon American and other merchantmen, and it may be said that piracy in the Mediterranean was under British protection. The American people for a time paid the tribute which the pirates demanded, but at length revolted against the indignity. The war began with disaster. The American frigate Philadelphia, Captain William Bainbridge, ran on a reef in the harbor of Tripoli, and all on board were made prisoners. The Bashaw held his captives for ransom, and treated them sometimes with indulgence and at other times with severity, as he thought best for his interests. It should not be forgotten by the American people that Mr. Nissen, the Danish consul, devoted himself assiduously to the welfare of the prisoners, and was instrumental in many ways in assisting the American cause, while Captain Bainbridge also managed to give most valuable information to Captain Edward Preble, in command of the American squadron.

One suggestion made by Captain Bainbridge was that the Philadelphia, which the Tripolitans had succeeded in raising, should be destroyed at her anchorage in the harbor. The youthful Lieutenant Decatur headed this perilous enterprise. With the officers and men under his command, including Lieutenant James Lawrence and others afterward distinguished in American naval history, Decatur entered the harbor at night in a small vessel or "ketch" called the Mastico, disguised as a trader from Malta. The watchword was "Philadelphia," and strict orders were given not to discharge any firearms, except in great emergency. A challenge from the Tripolitans on the Philadelphia was met by a statement from the Maltese pilot that the Mastico had just arrived from Malta, had been damaged in a gale, and lost her anchors, and desired to make fast to the frigate's cables until another anchor could be procured. The Turks lowered a boat with a hawser, intending to secure the ketch to their stern, instead of to the cables, and the Americans accepted the hawser, intimating in broken Italian that they would do as desired. At the same time the Americans made fast to the Philadelphia's fore chains, and a strong pull by the men, who were mostly lying down in order to remain unseen by the Turks, swung the ketch alongside the frigate. One of the Turks looking over the side saw the men hauling on the line, and sent up the cry—"Americano!"

The Turks succeeded in severing the line, but too late. The Americans sprang for the Philadelphia's deck and charged upon the astonished enemy. In ten minutes from the appearance of the first American on deck the vessel was in our hands. Combustibles were then passed from the ketch, and the Philadelphia was set on fire. While the Americans safely made their escape the burning frigate lighted up the harbor, and her shotted guns boomed warning to the Bashaw of what he might yet expect from American courage and daring. Of the Tripolitans on board the Philadelphia many doubtless perished, and some swam ashore. Only one prisoner was taken, a wounded Tripolitan, who swam to the ketch, and whose life was spared, notwithstanding strict orders not to take prisoners.

The Bashaw treated his captives more rigorously than ever, after this splendid exploit, fearing apparently that they might rise and capture his own castle—a fear not without foundation, as a rising with that object was for some time contemplated. The ketch in which Decatur made his daring and successful expedition was christened the Intrepid, and fitted up as a floating mine with the purpose of sending her into the harbor, and exploding her in the midst of the Tripolitan shipping. It was an enterprise likely to be attended by the destruction of all engaged in it, but volunteers were not lacking. Master-Commandant Richard Somers, Decatur's bosom friend, was in charge and Midshipman Henry Wadsworth, uncle of the poet Longfellow, was second in command. Midshipman Joseph Israel also managed to get on the ketch unobserved, and was permitted to remain. The crew consisted of ten seamen from the Nautilus and the Constitution, all volunteers. The fate of these gallant men was never known, except that it is certain that they all perished upon the explosion of the Intrepid. Bodies found mangled beyond recognition were unquestionably the remains of these heroes, and were buried on the beach outside the town of Tripoli.

The attack was conducted with unceasing vigor, not only on sea, but on land, the Americans literally carrying the war into Africa by inciting Hamet, the deposed Bashaw of Tripoli, to attack the brother who had usurped his throne. William Eaton, the American consul at Tunis, led Hamet's army, and with the cooperation of the fleet, made a successful attack upon Derne, the capital of the richest province of Tripoli. The loss of this important fortress brought the reigning Bashaw to terms, and he signed a treaty giving up all claims to tribute, and releasing the American prisoners on payment of sixty thousand dollars. A most advantageous peace was likewise dictated to the Bey of Tunis, who had also been induced by English influences to assume a menacing attitude toward the Americans, and the schemes of Great Britain to prevent, through the agency of Barbary pirates, the growth of American commerce, were disappointed.


French Decrees and British Orders in Council—Damage to American Commerce—The Embargo—Causes of the War of 1812—The Chesapeake and the Leopard—President and Little Belt—War Declared—Mr. Astor's Messenger —The Two Navies Compared—American Frigate Victories—Constitution and Guerriere—United States and Macedonian—Constitution and Java—American Sloop Victories—The Shannon and Chesapeake—"Don't Give Up the Ship."

The Barbary pirates had been brought to terms, but American commerce was being severely handled between French decrees and British orders in council. England had declared a blockade of all the coasts of Europe under the control of France, and Napoleon from his camp at Berlin and his palace at Milau retaliated by making British products contraband of war and subjecting to confiscation all vessels destined for British ports. Between these two mighty millstones the American carrying trade was sorely ground, and conditions were made far worse by the very means which the American government, in its comparative impotency, adopted to compel redress. The embargo was intended to inflict such injury on both France and England as to drive them into a recognition of America's rights as a neutral. Its only serious effect was to inflict an almost fatal wound on American commerce, and the repeal of the first embargo came too late to undo the injury it had done. It was not as clearly apparent then as now that all restrictions on exportation chiefly injure the nation which imposes them. The embargo played into the hands of the British by effecting through our own agency what England had vainly sought to accomplish through others. England commanding every sea with her fleets suffered but slight inconvenience by the withdrawal of American shipping from her ports, while Americans suffered most severely.

The British blockade of continental Europe would not, however, have led to the conflict which broke out in 1812. Other aggressions, offensive to American independence, and in grievous violation of American national rights, obliged Congress reluctantly to declare war, after years of irritation and provocation on the part of England. The British stopped American vessels on the high seas, and impressed American seamen into the British naval service. American merchantmen were halted in mid-ocean and deprived of the best men in their crews, who were forced to serve in the British navy.[1]

[1] In the famous sea-fight between the American frigate United States and the British frigate Macedonian several American seamen on the British vessel, through their spokesman, John Card, who was described by one of his shipmates as being "as brave a seamen as ever trod a plank," frankly told Captain Garden their objections to fighting the American flag. The British commander savagely ordered them back to their quarters, threatening to shoot them if they again made the request. Half an hour later Jack Card was stretched out on the Macedonian's deck weltering in his blood, slain by a shot from his countrymen.—Maclay's History of the United States Navy, D. Appleton & Co.

Thousands of American seamen were thus impressed, while American vessels were seized by British cruisers, taken to port and unloaded and searched for contraband of war. The Leopard-Chesapeake affair was a crowning outrage on the part of the British, and had it not been promptly disavowed by the government at London, war would have been declared in 1807 instead of 1812. The Chesapeake, an American frigate of thirty-six guns, commanded by Captain James Barren, was hailed by the English fifty-gun frigate, Leopard, Captain Humphreys, in the open sea. The latter sent a lieutenant on board the Chesapeake, who handed to Captain Barren an order signed by the British Vice-Admiral Berkeley, directing all commanders in Berkeley's squadron to board the Chesapeake wherever found on the high seas, and search the vessel for deserters. Captain Barren's ship was utterly unprepared for battle, but he gave orders to clear tor action. So shameful was the lack of preparation on the Chesapeake that not a gun could be discharged until Lieutenant William Henry Allen seized a live coal from the galley fire with his fingers and sent a shot in response to repeated broadsides from the Leopard. The Chesapeake hauled down her flag after losing three killed and eighteen wounded. The British then boarded the vessel and carried off four of the crew, who were claimed as British deserters, although they all asserted to the last that they were American citizens. One of these men, Jenkin Ratford or John Wilson, was hanged at the yard-arm of the British man-of-war Halifax. The other three were sentenced each to receive five hundred lashes, but the sentences were not carried out, and two of them, the third having died, were returned on board the Chesapeake. Some indemnity was paid and the British government recalled Vice-Admiral Berkeley.

The British continued to impress Americans into their service, and to annoy American shipping, and the American temper was gradually becoming inflamed under repeated provocations. Nevertheless there was a powerful sentiment opposed to war in the State of New York and in New England, and the people generally hesitated to believe that war would be declared. In 1811 the American frigate President avenged in some degree the Leopard outrage by severely chastising the British twenty-two-gun ship Little Belt, which lost eleven killed and twenty-one wounded in the encounter. The Little Belt appears to have fired the first shot. War was at length declared by Congress, and proclaimed by President James Madison, June 18, 1812.

The news of war with Great Britain was carried, to New York by a special courier, and American merchants at once sent out a swift sailing vessel to warn American merchantmen in the ports of Northern Europe of the new danger that threatened them. By this warning many American vessels were saved from capture. Very different in result, although presumably not in intent, was the warning sent by John Jacob Astor, of New York, to his agent across the border. Mr. Astor, upon receiving the news from Washington, at once dispatched a messenger by swiftest express, to Queenstown, Canada, with the view of protecting as speedily as possible Mr. Astor's fur-trading interests. The messenger sped through the settlements of western New York, by farms and villages calmly reposing in the confidence of peace, and without saying a word of his momentous secret, he crossed the Niagara River with his master's message. The recipient of that message was a British subject, and felt bound by his allegiance to communicate it to the authorities. The following morning the people of Buffalo were surprised to see the Canadians descend upon their harbor and seize the shipping within reach.

* * *

Hostilities were opened promptly on land and sea. The American navy consisted only of seventeen vessels, 442 guns and 5025 men, while that of Great Britain included 1048 vessels, 27,800 guns and 151,572 men. It is no wonder that the American people hesitated to send forth their men-of-war against such tremendous odds, even although England's navy was largely engaged in the tremendous conflict with France, or rather in keeping Napoleon cribbed and cabined within his continental boundaries; and it is no wonder that British naval officers assumed to regard with contempt the fir-built frigates which bore the Stars and Stripes. The defeat and capture of the British frigate Guerriere, forty-nine guns, Captain Dacres, by the American frigate Constitution, fifty-five guns, Captain Isaac Hull, made British contempt give place to surprise. In this naval battle the Americans proved their superiority in rapidity and accuracy of fire, and it is perhaps needless to say that they showed themselves fully the equals of the British in bravery. It is pleasant to read in the official report of Captain Dacres the following tribute to his generous foe: "I feel it my duty to state that the conduct of Captain Hull and his officers to our men has been that of a brave enemy, the greatest care being taken to prevent our men losing the smallest trifle, and the greatest attention being paid to the wounded." The Guerriere lost her second lieutenant, Henry Ready, and fourteen seamen killed, and Captain Dacres, First Lieutenant Kent, Sailing Master Scott, two master's mates, one midshipman and fifty-seven sailors were wounded, six of the wounded afterward dying. The Constitution lost her first lieutenant of marines, William Sharp Bush, and six seamen killed, and her first lieutenant, Charles Morris, her sailing master, four seamen and one marine were wounded. Thus resulted the first naval combat between British and American built men-of-war.[2]

[2] The Constitution may still be seen in the Navy Yard at Portsmouth, N. H. The following famous poem, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, saved the grand old vessel from destruction in 1833:

"Ay, tear the tattered ensign down! Long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle-shout, And burst the cannon's roar— The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes' blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o'er the flood And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor's tread, Or know the conquered knee— The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep. And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storm The lightning and the gale!"

For rapid and accurate firing and destructive effect thereof upon the enemy the records of naval warfare probably offer nothing to surpass the conduct of the American frigate United States, fifty-four guns, Captain Decatur, in battle with the British frigate Macedonian, forty-nine guns, Captain Garden. "The firing from the American frigate at close quarters was terrific. Her cannon were handled with such rapidity that there seemed to be one continuous flash from her broadside, and several times Captain Garden and his officers believed her to be on fire. * * * Her firing was so rapid that 'in a few minutes she was enveloped in a cloud of smoke which from the Macedonian's quarter-deck appeared like a huge cloud rolling along the water, illuminated by lurid flashes of lightning, and emitting a continuous roar of thunder.' But the unceasing storm of round shot, grape and canister, and the occasional glimpse of the Stars and Stripes floating above the clouds of smoke, forcibly dispelled the illusion, and showed the Englishmen that they were dealing with an enemy who knew how to strike and who struck hard. * * * 'Grapeshot and canister were pouring through our port holes like leaden hail; the large shot came against the ship's side, shaking her to the very keel, and passing through her timbers and scattering terrific splinters, which did more appalling work than the shot itself. A constant stream of wounded men were being hurried to the cockpit from all quarters of the ship.' And still the American frigate kept up her merciless cannonading. As the breeze occasionally made a rent in the smoke her officers could be seen walking around her quarter-deck calmly directing the work of destruction, while her gun-crews were visible through the open ports deliberately loading and aiming their pieces."[3] The action had lasted about an hour and a half, when the Macedonian struck. The United States, lost five men killed and seven wounded; the Macedonian lost thirty-six killed and sixty-eight wounded.

[3] From statements of witnesses on the Macedonian, in Maclay's "History of the United States Navy."

The next naval victory was won by Captain William Bainbridge, this time in command of the Constitution, forty-four guns, over the British thirty-eight-gun frigate Java, Captain Henry Lambert. The battle began at 2.40 p. m., and at 4.05 p. m., the British frigate was "an unmanageable wreck." The Java at length surrendered, having lost sixty killed, besides one hundred and one wounded, while the loss of the Constitution was nine killed and twenty-five wounded. Both commanders were wounded, the British captain mortally, and there was a touching scene when Captain Bainbridge, supported by his officers to the bedside of the dying Lambert, gave back to the latter his sword.

* * *

The British press foamed almost deliriously over these disasters to their navy, which robbed of half its luxury the imminent downfall of Napoleon. The London "Times" could hardly find words to express its emotion over the fact that five hundred merchantmen and three frigates; had been captured in seven months by the Americans. An attempt was made to explain the repeated and astounding defeats on the ocean by the plea that the American frigates were almost ships of the line in disguise, and that their superior size and armament carried an unfair advantage. The same plea could not be offered in explanation of the victories won by American sloops, in the case of the American Hornet and British Peacock, of about equal strength, while the American Wasp was considerably inferior in guns and weight of metal to the British Frolic. Master-Commandant James Lawrence, of the Hornet, captured the Peacock in eleven minutes from the beginning of the action, the American guns being fired so rapidly that buckets of water were constantly dashed on them to keep them cool. A Halifax paper said that "a vessel moored for the purpose of experiment could not have been sunk sooner. It will not do for our vessels to fight theirs single-handed." The American eighteen-gun sloop-of-war Wasp, Master-Commandant Jacob Jones, had a longer fight with the British brig-of-war Frolic, twenty-two guns, Captain Thomas Whinyates. The action lasted forty-three minutes from the first broadside, and the Frolic was taken by boarding. The Wasp had five killed and five wounded, and the Frolic fifteen killed and forty-seven wounded. The fact is, it was not the number but the handling of the guns that won American victories.

The capture of the American forty-nine-gun frigate Chesapeake, Captain James Lawrence, by the British fifty-two-gun frigate Shannon, Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke, consoled the English in some degree for their losses, and the very exultation with which the news was received in Great Britain showed the high estimate which the mistress of the seas had formed of the American navy from previous experience during the war. It is but just to the gallant Lawrence to say that he had no fair opportunity to prepare for battle, that he had the poorest crew—largely Portuguese and other riff-raff—ever put on board an American man-of-war, and that with a crew such as Hull or Decatur or Bainbridge had commanded, or that he had himself commanded on the Hornet, he might have recorded a victory instead of losing his ship and his life. At the same time it must also be admitted that Captain Broke was a superb naval officer, and that his victory was chiefly due to the perfect discipline and devotion of his men, with whom he was thoroughly acquainted, whereas Lawrence had been but a few days in command of the Chesapeake. When mortally wounded and carried below, Lawrence cried: "Keep the guns going!" "Fight her till she strikes or sinks!" and his last words were—"Don't give up the ship!" The British boarded the Chesapeake, after a brief cannonading. The Americans on board made a desperate resistance, and it is a question whether there was any formal surrender. The Chesapeake lost forty-seven killed and ninety-nine wounded, and of the latter fourteen afterward died. The Shannon lost twenty-four killed and fifty-nine wounded. There could hardly have been greater joy in England over a Peninsular victory. Parliament acclaimed, the guns of the Tower thundered, and Captain Broke was made a baronet and a Knight Commander of the Bath. America keenly felt the defeat, but honored the heroic dead, and a gold medal was voted to the nearest male descendant of Captain Lawrence.


The War on Land—Tecumseh's Indian Confederacy—Harrison at Tippecanoe —General Hull and General Brock—A Fatal Armistice—Surrender of Detroit—English Masters of Michigan—General Harrison Takes Command in the Northwest—Harrison's Answer to Proctor—"He Will Never Have This Post Surrendered"—Crogan's Brave Defence—The British Retreat—War on the Niagara Frontier—Battle of Queenstown—Death of Brock—Colonel Winfield Scott and the English Doctrine of Perpetual Allegiance.

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