Not a gun was fired by the fort; the silence which was maintained was mistaken for fear, and increased the arrogance and blind security of the British commander. At length, when he was thrown off his guard, there was a sudden sally of the garrison, and an attack on the flanks by Indians hid in ambush. A scene now occurred similar to that at the defeat of Braddock. The British officers marshalled their men according to European tactics, and the Highlanders for some time stood their ground bravely; but the destructive fire and horrid yells of the Indians soon produced panic and confusion. Major Lewis, at the first noise of the attack, left Captain Bullitt, with fifty Virginians, to guard the baggage, and hastened with the main part of his men to the scene of action. The contest was kept up for some time, but the confusion was irretrievable. The Indians sallied from their concealment, and attacked with the tomahawk and scalping-knife. Lewis fought hand to hand with an Indian brave, whom, he laid dead at his feet, but was surrounded by others, and only saved his life by surrendering himself to a French officer. Major Grant surrendered himself in like manner. The whole detachment was put to the rout with dreadful carnage.
Captain Bullitt rallied several of the fugitives, and prepared to make a forlorn stand, as the only chance where the enemy was overwhelming and merciless. Despatching the most valuable baggage with the strongest horses, he made a barricade with the baggage waggons, behind which he posted his men, giving them orders how they were to act. All this was the thought and the work almost of a moment, for the savages, having finished the havoc and plunder of the field of battle, were hastening in pursuit of the fugitives. Bullitt suffered them to come near, when, on a concerted signal, a destructive fire was opened from behind the baggage waggons. They were checked for a time; but were again pressing forward in greater numbers, when Bullitt and his men held out the signal of capitulation, and advanced as if to surrender. When within eight yards of the enemy, they suddenly levelled their arms, poured a most effective volley, and then charged with the bayonet. The Indians fled in dismay, and Bullitt took advantage of this check to retreat with all speed, collecting the wounded and the scattered fugitives as he advanced. The routed detachment came back in fragments to Colonel Bouquet's camp at Loyal Hannan, with the loss of twenty-one officers and two hundred and seventy-three privates killed and taken. The Highlanders and the Virginians were those that fought the best and suffered the most in this bloody battle. Washington's regiment lost six officers and sixty-two privates.
If Washington could have taken any pride in seeing his presages of misfortune verified, he might have been gratified by the result of this rash "irruption into the enemy's country," which was exactly what he had predicted. In his letters to Governor Fauquier, however, he bears lightly on the error of Col Bouquet. "From all accounts I can collect," says he, "it appears very clear that this was a very ill-concerted, or a very ill-executed plan, perhaps both; but it seems to be generally acknowledged that Major Grant exceeded his orders, and that no disposition was made for engaging."
Washington, who was at Raystown when the disastrous news arrived, was publicly complimented by General Forbes, on the gallant conduct of his Virginian troops, and Bullitt's behavior was "a matter of great admiration." The latter was soon after rewarded with a major's commission.
As a further mark of the high opinion now entertained of provincial troops for frontier service, Washington was given the command of a division, partly composed of his own men, to keep in the advance of the main body, clear the roads, throw out scouting parties, and repel Indian attacks.
It was the 5th of November before the whole army assembled at Loyal Hannan. Winter was now at hand, and upwards of fifty miles of wilderness were yet to be traversed, by a road not yet formed, before they could reach Fort Duquesne. Again, Washington's predictions seemed likely to be verified, and the expedition to be defeated by delay; for in a council of war it was determined to be impracticable to advance further with the army that season. Three prisoners, however, who were brought in, gave such an account of the weak state of the garrison at Fort Duquesne, its want of provisions, and the defection of the Indians, that it was determined to push forward. The march was accordingly resumed, but without tents or baggage, and with only a light train of artillery.
Washington still kept the advance. After leaving Loyal Hannan, the road presented traces of the late defeat of Grant; being strewed with human bones, the sad relics of fugitives cut down by the Indians, or of wounded soldiers who had died on the retreat; they lay mouldering in various stages of decay, mingled with the bones of horses and of oxen. As they approached Fort Duquesne these mementoes of former disasters became more frequent; and the bones of those massacred in the defeat of Braddock, still lay scattered about the battle field, whitening in the sun.
At length the army arrived in sight of Fort Duquesne, advancing with great precaution, and expecting a vigorous defence; but that formidable fortress, the terror and scourge of the frontier, and the object of such warlike enterprise, fell without a blow. The recent successes of the English forces in Canada, particularly the capture and destruction of Fort Frontenac, had left the garrison without hope of reinforcements and supplies. The whole force, at the time, did not exceed five hundred men, and the provisions were nearly exhausted. The commander, therefore, waited only until the English army was within one day's march, when he embarked his troops at night in batteaux, blew up his magazines, set fire to the fort, and retreated down the Ohio, by the light of the flames. On the 25th of November, Washington, with the advanced guard, marched in, and planted the British flag on the yet smoking ruins.
One of the first offices of the army was to collect and bury, in one common tomb, the bones of their fellow-soldiers who had fallen in the battles of Braddock and Grant. In this pious duty it is said every one joined, from the general down to the private soldier; and some veterans assisted, with heavy hearts and frequent ejaculations of poignant feeling, who had been present in the scenes of defeat and carnage.
The ruins of the fortress were now put in a defensible state, and garrisoned by two hundred men from Washington's regiment; the name was changed to that of Fort Pitt, in honor of the illustrious British minister, whose measures had given vigor and effect to this year's campaign; it has since been modified into Pittsburg, and designates one of the most busy and populous cities of the interior.
The reduction of Fort Duquesne terminated, as Washington had foreseen, the troubles and dangers of the southern frontier. The French domination of the Ohio was at an end; the Indians, as usual, paid homage to the conquering power, and a treaty of peace was concluded with all the tribes between the Ohio and the lakes.
With this campaign ended, for the present, the military career of Washington. His great object was attained, the restoration of quiet and security to his native province; and, having abandoned all hope of attaining rank in the regular army, and his health being much impaired, he gave up his commission at the close of the year, and retired from the service, followed by the applause of his fellow-soldiers, and the gratitude and admiration of all his countrymen.
His marriage with Mrs. Custis took place shortly after his return. It was celebrated on the 6th of January, 1759, at the White House, the residence of the bride, in the good old hospitable style of Virginia, amid a joyous assemblage of relatives and friends.
PLAN OF OPERATIONS FOR 1759—INVESTMENT OF FORT NIAGARA—DEATH OF PRIDEAUX—SUCCESS OF SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON—AMHERST AT TICONDEROGA—WOLFE AT QUEBEC—HIS TRIUMPH AND DEATH—FATE OF MONTCALM—CAPITULATION OF QUEBEC— ATTEMPT OF DE LEVI TO RETAKE IT—ARRIVAL OF A BRITISH FLEET—LAST STAND OF THE FRENCH AT MONTREAL—SURRENDER OF CANADA.
Before following Washington into the retirement of domestic life, we think it proper to notice the events which closed the great struggle between England and France for empire in America. In that struggle he had first become practised in arms, and schooled in the ways of the world; and its results will be found connected with the history of his later years.
General Abercrombie had been superseded as commander-in-chief of the forces in America by Major-general Amherst, who had gained great favor by the reduction of Louisburg. According to the plan of operations for 1759, General Wolfe, who had risen to fame by his gallant conduct in the same affair, was to ascend the St. Lawrence in a fleet of ships of war, with eight thousand men, as soon as the river should be free of ice, and lay siege to Quebec, the capital of Canada. General Amherst, in the mean time, was to advance, as Abercrombie had done, by Lake George, against Ticonderoga and Crown Point; reduce those forts, cross Lake Champlain, push on to the St. Lawrence, and co-operate with Wolfe.
A third expedition, under Brigadier-general Prideaux, aided by Sir William Johnson and his Indian warriors, was to attack Fort Niagara, which controlled the whole country of the Six Nations, and commanded the navigation of the great lakes, and the intercourse between Canada and Louisiana. Having reduced this fort, he was to traverse Lake Ontario, descend the St. Lawrence, capture Montreal, and join his forces with those of Amherst.
The last mentioned expedition was the first executed. General Prideaux embarked at Oswego on the first of July, with a large body of troops, regulars and provincials,—the latter partly from New York. He was accompanied by Sir William Johnson, and his Indian braves of the Mohawk. Landing at an inlet of Lake Ontario, within a few miles of Fort Niagara, he advanced, without being opposed, and proceeded to invest it. The garrison, six hundred strong, made a resolute defence. The siege was carried on by regular approaches, but pressed with vigor. On the 20th of July, Prideaux, in visiting his trenches, was killed by the bursting of a cohorn. Informed by express of this misfortune, General Amherst detached from the main army Brigadier-general Gage, the officer who had led Braddock's advance, to take the command.
In the mean time, the siege had been conducted by Sir William Johnson with courage and sagacity. He was destitute of military science, but had a natural aptness for warfare, especially for the rough kind carried on in the wilderness. Being informed by his scouts that twelve hundred regular troops, drawn from Detroit, Venango, and Presque Isle, and led by D'Aubry, with a number of Indian auxiliaries, were hastening to the rescue, he detached a force of grenadiers and light infantry, with some of his Mohawk warriors, to intercept them. They came in sight of each other on the road, between Niagara Falls and the fort, within the thundering sound of the one, and the distant view of the other. Johnson's "braves" advanced to have a parley with the hostile redskins. The latter received them with a war-whoop, and Frenchman and savage made an impetuous onset. Johnson's regulars and provincials stood their ground firmly, while his red warriors fell on the flanks of the enemy. After a sharp conflict, the French were broken, routed, and pursued through the woods, with great carnage. Among the prisoners taken were seventeen officers. The next day Sir William Johnson sent a trumpet, summoning the garrison to surrender, to spare the effusion of blood, and prevent outrages by the Indians. They had no alternative; were permitted to march out with the honors of war, and were protected by Sir William from his Indian allies. Thus was secured the key to the communication between Lakes Ontario and Erie, and to the vast interior region connected with them. The blow alarmed the French for the safety of Montreal, and De Levi, the second in command of their Canadian forces, hastened up from before Quebec, and took post at the fort of Oswegatchie (now Ogdensburg), to defend the passes of the St. Lawrence.
We now proceed to notice the expedition against Ticonderoga and Crown Point. In the month of July, General Amherst embarked with nearly twelve thousand men, at the upper part of Lake George, and proceeded down it, as Abercrombie had done in the preceding year, in a vast fleet of whale-boats, batteaux, and rafts, and all the glitter and parade of war. On the 22d, the army debarked at the lower part of the lake, and advanced toward Ticonderoga. After a slight skirmish with the advanced guard, they secured the old post at the saw-mill.
Montcalm was no longer in the fort; he was absent for the protection of Quebec. The garrison did not exceed four hundred men. Bourlamarque, a brave officer, who commanded, at first seemed disposed to make defence; but, against such overwhelming force, it would have been madness. Dismantling the fortifications, therefore, he abandoned them, as he did likewise those at Crown Point, and retreated down the lake, to assemble forces, and make a stand at the Isle Aux Noix, for the protection of Montreal and the province.
Instead of following him up, and hastening to co-operate with Wolfe, General Amherst proceeded to repair the works at Ticonderoga, and erect a new fort at Crown Point, though neither were in present danger of being attacked, nor would be of use if Canada were conquered. Amherst, however, was one of those cautious men, who, in seeking to be sure, are apt to be fatally slow. His delay enabled the enemy to rally their forces at Isle Aux Noix, and call in Canadian reinforcements, while it deprived Wolfe of that co-operation which, it will be shown, was most essential to the general success of the campaign.
Wolfe, with his eight thousand men, ascended the St. Lawrence in the fleet, in the month of June. With him came Brigadiers, Monckton, Townshend and Murray, youthful and brave like himself, and like himself, already schooled in arms. Monckton, it will be recollected, had signalized himself, when a colonel, in the expedition in 1755, in which the French were driven from Nova Scotia. The grenadiers of the army were commanded by Colonel Guy Carleton, and part of the light infantry by Lieutenant-Colonel William Howe, both destined to celebrity in after years, in the annals of the American Revolution. Colonel Howe was brother of the gallant Lord Howe, whose fall in the preceding year was so generally lamented. Among the officers of the fleet, was Jervis, the future admiral, and ultimately Earl St. Vincent; and the master of one of the ships, was James Cook, afterwards renowned as a discoverer.
About the end of June, the troops debarked on the large, populous, and well-cultivated Isle of Orleans, a little below Quebec, and encamped in its fertile fields. Quebec, the citadel of Canada, was strong by nature. It was built round the point of a rocky promontory, and flanked by precipices. The crystal current of the St. Lawrence swept by it on the right, and the river St. Charles flowed along on the left, before mingling with that mighty stream. The place was tolerably fortified, but art had not yet rendered it, as at the present day, impregnable.
Montcalm commanded the post. His troops were more numerous than the assailants but the greater part were Canadians, many of them inhabitants of Quebec; and he had a host of savages. His forces were drawn out along the northern shore below the city, from the river St. Charles to the Falls of Montmorency, and their position was secured by deep intrenchments.
The night after the debarkation of Wolfe's troops a furious storm caused great damage to the transports, and sank some of the small craft. While it was still raging, a number of fire-ships, sent to destroy the fleet, came driving down. They were boarded intrepidly by the British seamen, and towed out of the way of doing harm. After much resistance, Wolfe established batteries at the west point of the Isle of Orleans, and at Point Levi, on the right (or south) bank of the St. Lawrence, within cannon range of the city. Colonel Guy Carleton, commanded at the former battery; Brigadier Monckton at the latter. From Point Levi bombshells and red-hot shot were discharged; many houses were set on fire in the upper town, the lower town was reduced to rubbish; the main fort, however, remained unharmed.
Anxious for a decisive action, Wolfe, on the 9th of July, crossed over in boats from the Isle of Orleans, to the north bank of the St. Lawrence, and encamped below the Montmorency. It was an ill-judged position, for there was still that tumultuous stream, with its rocky banks, between him and the camp of Montcalm; but the ground he had chosen was higher than that occupied by the latter, and the Montmorency had a ford below the falls, passable at low tide. Another ford was discovered, three miles within land, but the banks were steep, and shagged with forest. At both fords the vigilant Montcalm had thrown up breastworks, and posted troops.
On the 18th of July, Wolfe made a reconnoitring expedition up the river, with two armed sloops, and two transports with troops. He passed Quebec unharmed, and carefully noted the shores above it. Rugged cliffs rose almost from the water's edge. Above them, he was told, was an extent of level ground, called the Plains of Abraham, by which the upper town might be approached on its weakest side; but how was that plain to be attained, when the cliffs, for the most part, were inaccessible, and every practicable place fortified?
He returned to Montmorency disappointed, and resolved to attack Montcalm in his camp, however difficult to be approached, and however strongly posted. Townshend and Murray, with their brigades, were to cross the Montmorency at low tide, below the falls, and storm the redoubt thrown up in front of the ford. Monckton, at the same time, was to cross, with part of his brigade, in boats from Point Levi. The ship Centurion, stationed in the channel, was to check the fire of a battery which commanded the ford; a train of artillery, planted on an eminence, was to enfilade the enemy's intrenchments; and two armed, flat-bottomed boats, were to be run on shore, near the redoubt, and favor the crossing of the troops.
As usual, in complicated orders, part were misunderstood, or neglected, and confusion was the consequence. Many of the boats from Point Levi ran aground on a shallow in the river, where they were exposed to a severe fire of shot and shells. Wolfe, who was on the shore, directing every thing, endeavored to stop his impatient troops until the boats could be got afloat, and the men landed. Thirteen companies of grenadiers, and two hundred provincials were the first to land. Without waiting for Brigadier Monckton and his regiments; without waiting for the co-operation of the troops under Townshend; without waiting even to be drawn up in form, the grenadiers rushed impetuously towards the enemy's intrenchments. A sheeted fire mowed them down, and drove them to take shelter behind the redoubt, near the ford, which the enemy had abandoned. Here they remained, unable to form under the galling fire to which they were exposed, whenever they ventured from their covert. Monckton's brigade at length was landed, drawn up in order, and advanced to their relief, driving back the enemy. Thus protected, the grenadiers retreated as precipitately as they had advanced, leaving many of their comrades wounded on the field, who were massacred and scalped in their sight, by the savages. The delay thus caused was fatal to the enterprise. The day was advanced; the weather became stormy; the tide began to make; at a later hour, retreat, in case of a second repulse, would be impossible, Wolfe, therefore, gave up the attack, and withdrew across the river, having lost upwards of four hundred men, through this headlong impetuosity of the grenadiers. The two vessels which had been run aground, were set on fire, lest they should fall into the hands of the enemy. [Footnote: Wolfe's Letter to Pitt, Sept. 2d, 1759.]
Brigadier Murray was now detached with twelve hundred men, in transports, to ascend above the town, and co-operate with Rear-admiral Holmes, in destroying the enemy's shipping, and making descents upon the north shore. The shipping were safe from attack; some stores and ammunition were destroyed; some prisoners taken, and Murray returned with the news of the capture of Fort Niagara, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point, and that Amherst was preparing to attack the Isle Aux Noix.
Wolfe, of a delicate constitution and sensitive nature, had been deeply mortified by the severe check sustained at the Falls of Montmorency, fancying himself disgraced; and these successes of his fellow-commanders in other parts increased his self-upbraiding. The difficulties multiplying around him, and the delay of General Amherst in hastening to his aid, preyed incessantly on his spirits; he was dejected even to despondency, and declared he would never return without success, to be exposed, like other unfortunate commanders, to the sneers and reproaches of the populace. The agitation of his mind, and his acute sensibility, brought on a fever, which for some time incapacitated him from taking the field.
In the midst of his illness he called a council of war, in which the whole plan of operations was altered. It was determined to convey troops above the town, and endeavor to make a diversion in that direction, or draw Montcalm into the open field. Before carrying this plan into effect, Wolfe again reconnoitred the town in company with Admiral Saunders, but nothing better suggested itself.
The brief Canadian summer was over; they were in the month of September. The camp at Montmorency was broken up. The troops were transported to Point Levi, leaving a sufficient number to man the batteries on the Isle of Orleans. On the fifth and sixth of September the embarkation took place above Point Levi, in transports which had been sent up for the purpose. Montcalm detached De Bougainville with fifteen hundred men to keep along the north shore above the town, watch the movements of the squadron, and prevent a landing. To deceive him, Admiral Holmes moved with the ships of war three leagues beyond the place where the landing was to be attempted. He was to drop down, however, in the night, and protect the landing. Cook, the future discoverer, also, was employed with others to sound the river and place buoys opposite the camp of Montcalm, as if an attack were meditated in that quarter.
Wolfe was still suffering under the effects of his late fever. "My constitution," writes he to a friend, "is entirely ruined, without the consolation of having done any considerable service to the state, and without any prospect of it." Still he was unremitting in his exertions, seeking to wipe out the fancied disgrace incurred at the Falls of Montmorency. It was in this mood he is said to have composed and sung at his evening mess that little campaigning song still linked with his name:
Why, soldiers, why Should we be melancholy, boys? Why, soldiers, why? Whose business 'tis to die!
Even when embarked in his midnight enterprise, the presentiment of death seems to have cast its shadow over him. A midshipman who was present, [Footnote: Afterwards Professor John Robison, of Edinburgh.] used to relate, that as Wolfe sat among his officers, and the boats floated down silently with the current, he recited, in low and touching tones, Gray's Elegy in a country churchyard, then just published. One stanza may especially have accorded with his melancholy mood.
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike the inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
"Now, gentlemen," said he, when he had finished, "I would rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec."
The descent was made in flat-bottomed boats, past midnight, on the 13th of September. They dropped down silently with the swift current. "Qui va la?" (who goes there?) cried a sentinel from the shore. "La France," replied a captain in the first boat, who understood the French language. "A quel regiment?" was the demand. "De la Reine" (the queen's), replied the captain, knowing that regiment was in De Bougainville's detachment. Fortunately, a convoy of provisions was expected down from De Bougainville's, which the sentinel supposed this to be. "Passe," cried he, and the boats glided on without further challenge. The landing took place in a cove near Cape Diamond, which still bears Wolfe's name. He had marked it in reconnoitering, and saw that a cragged path straggled up from it to the Heights of Abraham, which might be climbed, though with difficulty, and that it appeared to be slightly guarded at top. Wolfe was among the first that landed and ascended up the steep and narrow path, where not more than two could go abreast, and which had been broken up by cross ditches. Colonel Howe, at the same time, with the light infantry and Highlanders, scrambled up the woody precipices, helping themselves by the roots and branches, and putting to flight a sergeant's guard posted at the summit. Wolfe drew up the men in order as they mounted; and by the break of day found himself in possession of the fateful Plains of Abraham.
Montcalm was thunderstruck when word was brought to him in his camp that the English were on the heights threatening the weakest part of the town. Abandoning his intrenchments, he hastened across the river St. Charles and ascended the heights, which slope up gradually from its banks. His force was equal in number to that of the English, but a great part was made up of colony troops and savages. When he saw the formidable host of regulars he had to contend with, he sent off swift messengers to summon De Bougainville with his detachment to his aid; and De Vaudreuil to reinforce him, with fifteen hundred men from the camp. In the mean time he prepared to flank the left of the English line and force them to the opposite precipices. Wolfe saw his aim, and sent Brigadier Townshend to counteract him with a regiment which was formed en potence, and supported by two battalions, presenting on the left a double front.
The French, in their haste, thinking they were to repel a mere scouting party, had brought but three light field-pieces with them; the English had but a single gun, which the sailors had dragged up the heights. With these they cannonaded each other for a time, Montcalm still waiting for the aid he had summoned. At length, about nine o'clock, losing all patience, he led on his disciplined troops to a close conflict with small arms, the Indians to support them by a galling fire from thickets and corn-fields. The French advanced gallantly, but irregularly; firing rapidly, but with little effect. The English reserved their fire until their assailants were within forty yards, and then delivered it in deadly volleys. They suffered, however, from the lurking savages, who singled out the officers. Wolfe, who was in front of the line, a conspicuous mark, was wounded by a ball in the wrist. He bound his handkerchief round the wound and led on the grenadiers, with fixed bayonets, to charge the foe, who began to waver. Another ball struck him in the breast. He felt the wound to be mortal, and feared his fall might dishearten the troops. Leaning on a lieutenant for support; "Let not my brave fellows see me drop," said he faintly. He was borne off to the rear; water was brought to quench his thirst, and he was asked if he would have a surgeon. "It is needless," he replied; "it is all over with me." He desired those about him to lay him down. The lieutenant seated himself on the ground, and supported him in his arms. "They run! they run! see how they run!" cried one of the attendants. "Who run?" demanded Wolfe, earnestly, like one aroused from sleep. "The enemy, sir; they give way every where." The spirit of the expiring hero flashed up. "Go, one of you, my lads, to Colonel Burton; tell him to march Webb's regiment with all speed down to Charles' River, to cut off the retreat by the bridge." Then turning on his side; "Now, God be praised, I will die in peace!" said he, and expired, [Footnote: Hist. Jour. of Capt. John Knox, vol. i., p. 79.]—soothed in his last moments by the idea that victory would obliterate the imagined disgrace at Montmorency.
Brigadier Murray had indeed broken the centre of the enemy, and the Highlanders were making deadly havoc with their claymores, driving the French into the town or down to their works on the river St. Charles. Monckton, the first brigadier, was disabled by a wound in the lungs, and the command devolved on Townshend, who hastened to re-form the troops of the centre, disordered in pursuing the enemy. By this time De Bougainville appeared at a distance in the rear, advancing with two thousand fresh troops, but he arrived too late to retrieve the day. The gallant Montcalm had received his death-wound near St. John's Gate, while endeavoring to rally his flying troops, and had been borne into the town.
Townshend advanced with a force to receive De Bougainville; but the latter avoided a combat, and retired into woods and swamps, where it was not thought prudent to follow him. The English had obtained a complete victory; slain about five hundred of the enemy; taken above a thousand prisoners, and among them several officers; and had a strong position on the Plains of Abraham, which they hastened to fortify with redoubts and artillery, drawn up the heights.
The brave Montcalm wrote a letter to General Townshend, recommending the prisoners to British humanity. When told by his surgeon that he could not survive above a few hours; "So much the better," replied he; "I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec." To De Ramsey, the French king's lieutenant, who commanded the garrison, he consigned the defence of the city. "To your keeping," said he, "I commend the honor of France. I'll neither give orders, nor interfere any further. I have business to attend to of greater moment than your ruined garrison, and this wretched country. My time is short,—I shall pass this night with God, and prepare myself for death. I wish you all comfort; and to be happily extricated from your present perplexities." He then called for his chaplain, who, with the bishop of the colony, remained with him through the night. He expired early in the morning, dying like a brave soldier and a devout Catholic. Never did two worthier foes mingle their life blood on the battle-field than Wolfe and Montcalm. [Footnote: Knox; Hist. Jour., vol. i., p. 77.]
Preparations were now made by the army and the fleet to make an attack on both upper and lower town; but the spirit of the garrison was broken, and the inhabitants were clamorous for the safety of their wives and children. On the 17th of September, Quebec capitulated, and was taken possession of by the British, who hastened to put it in a complete posture of defence. A garrison of six thousand effective men was placed in it, under the command of Brigadier-general Murray, and victualled from the fleet. General Townshend embarked with Admiral Saunders, and returned to England; and the wounded General Monckton was conveyed to New York, of which he afterwards became governor.
Had Amherst followed up his success at Ticonderoga the preceding summer, the year's campaign would have ended, as had been projected, in the subjugation of Canada. His cautious delay gave De Levi, the successor of Montcalm, time to rally, concentrate the scattered French forces, and struggle for the salvation of the province.
In the following spring, as soon as the river St. Lawrence opened, he approached Quebec, and landed at Point an Tremble, about twelve miles off. The garrison had suffered dreadfully during the winter from excessive cold; want of vegetables and of fresh provisions. Many had died of scurvy, and many more were ill. Murray, sanguine and injudicious, on hearing that De Levi was advancing with ten thousand men, and five hundred Indians, sallied out with his diminished forces of not more than three thousand. English soldiers, he boasted, were habituated to victory; he had a fine train of artillery, and stood a better chance in the field than cooped up in a wretched fortification. If defeated, he would defend the place to the last extremity, and then retreat to the Isle of Orleans, and wait for reinforcements. More brave than discreet, he attacked the vanguard of the enemy; the battle which took place was fierce and sanguinary. Murray's troops had caught his own headlong valor, and fought until near a third of their number were slain. They were at length driven back into the town, leaving their boasted train of artillery on the field.
De Levi opened trenches before the town the very evening of the battle. Three French ships, which had descended the river, furnished him with cannon, mortars, and ammunition. By the 11th of May, he had one bomb battery, and three batteries of cannon. Murray, equally alert within the walls, strengthened his defences, and kept up a vigorous fire. His garrison was now reduced to two hundred and twenty effective men, and he himself, with all his vaunting spirit, was driven almost to despair, when a British fleet arrived in the river. The whole scene was now reversed. One of the French frigates was driven on the rocks above Cape Diamond; another ran on shore, and was burnt; the rest of their vessels were either taken, or destroyed. The besieging army retreated in the night, leaving provisions, implements, and artillery behind them; and so rapid was their flight, that Murray, who sallied forth on the following day, could not overtake them.
A last stand for the preservation of the colony was now made by the French at Montreal, where De Vaudreuil fixed his headquarters, fortified himself, and called in all possible aid, Canadian and Indian.
The cautious, but tardy Amherst was now in the field to carry out the plan in which he had fallen short in the previous year. He sent orders to General Murray to advance by water against Montreal, with all the force that could be spared from Quebec; he detached a body of troops under Colonel Haviland from Crown Point, to cross Lake Champlain, take possession of the Isle Aux Noix, and push on to the St. Lawrence, while he took the roundabout way with his main army by the Mohawk and Oneida rivers to Lake Ontario; thence to descend the St. Lawrence to Montreal.
Murray, according to orders, embarked his troops in a great number of small vessels, and ascended the river in characteristic style, publishing manifestoes in the Canadian villages, disarming the inhabitants, and exacting the oath of neutrality. He looked forward to new laurels at Montreal, but the slow and sure Amherst had anticipated him. That worthy general, after delaying on Lake Ontario to send out cruisers, and stopping to repair petty forts on the upper part of the St. Lawrence, which had been deserted by their garrisons, or surrendered without firing a gun, arrived on the 6th of September at the island of Montreal, routed some light skirmishing parties, and presented himself before the town. Vaudreuil found himself threatened by an army of nearly ten thousand men, and a host of Indians; for Amherst had called in the aid of Sir William Johnson, and his Mohawk braves. To withstand a siege in an almost open town against such superior force, was out of the question; especially as Murray from Quebec, and Haviland from Crown Point, were at hand with additional troops. A capitulation accordingly took place on the 8th of September, including the surrender not merely of Montreal, but of all Canada.
Thus ended the contest between France and England for dominion in America, in which, as has been said, the first gun was fired in Washington's encounter with De Jumonville. A French statesman and diplomatist consoled himself by the persuasion that it would be a fatal triumph to England. It would remove the only check by which her colonies were kept in awe. "They will no longer need her protection," said he; "she will call on them to contribute toward supporting the burdens they have helped to bring on her, and they will answer by striking off all dependence." [Footnote: Count de Vergennes, French ambassador at Constantinople.]
WASHINGTON'S INSTALLATION IN THE HOUSE OF BURGESSES—HIS RURAL LIFE—MOUNT VERNON AND ITS VICINITY—ARISTOCRATICAL DAYS OF VIRGINIA—WASHINGTON'S MANAGEMENT OF HIS ESTATE—DOMESTIC HABITS—FOX-HUNTING—LORD FAIRFAX— FISHING AND DUCK-SHOOTING—THE POACHER—LYNCH LAW—AQUATIC STATE—LIFE AT ANNAPOLIS—WASHINGTON IN THE DISMAL SWAMP.
For three months after his marriage, Washington resided with his bride at the "White House." During his sojourn there, he repaired to Williamsburg, to take his seat in the House of Burgesses. By a vote of the House, it had been determined to greet his instalment by a signal testimonial of respect. Accordingly, as soon as he took his seat, Mr. Robinson, the Speaker, in eloquent language, dictated by the warmth of private friendship, returned thanks, on behalf of the colony, for the distinguished military services he had rendered to his country.
Washington rose to reply; blushed-stammered-trembled, and could not utter a word. "Sit down, Mr. Washington," said the Speaker, with a smile; "your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language I possess."
Such was Washington's first launch into civil life, in which he was to be distinguished by the same judgment, devotion, courage, and magnanimity exhibited in his military career. He attended the House frequently during the remainder of the session, after which he conducted his bride to his favorite abode of Mount Vernon.
Mr. Custis, the first husband of Mrs. Washington, had left large landed property, and forty-five thousand pounds sterling in money. One third fell to his widow in her own right; two thirds were inherited equally by her two children,—a boy of six, and a girl of four years of age. By a decree of the General Court, Washington was intrusted with the care of the property inherited by the children; a sacred and delicate trust, which he discharged in the most faithful and judicious manner; becoming more like a parent, than a mere guardian to them.
From a letter to his correspondent in England, it would appear that he had long entertained a desire to visit that country. Had he done so, his acknowledged merit and military services would have insured him a distinguished reception; and it has been intimated, that the signal favor of government might have changed the current of his career. We believe him, however, to have been too pure a patriot, and too clearly possessed of the true interests of his country, to be diverted from the course which he ultimately adopted. His marriage, at any rate, had put an end to all travelling inclinations. In his letter from Mount Vernon, he writes: "I am now, I believe, fixed in this seat, with an agreeable partner for life, and I hope to find more happiness in retirement than I ever experienced in the wide and bustling world."
This was no Utopian dream transiently indulged, amid the charms of novelty. It was a deliberate purpose with him, the result of innate and enduring inclinations. Throughout the whole course of his career, agricultural life appears to have been his beau ideal of existence, which haunted his thoughts even amid the stern duties of the field, and to which he recurred with unflagging interest whenever enabled to indulge his natural bias.
Mount Vernon was his harbor of repose, where he repeatedly furled his sail, and fancied himself anchored for life. No impulse of ambition tempted him thence; nothing but the call of his country, and his devotion to the public good. The place was endeared to him by the remembrance of his brother Lawrence, and of the happy days he had passed here with that brother in the days of boyhood; but it was a delightful place in itself, and well calculated to inspire the rural feeling.
The mansion was beautifully situated on a swelling height, crowned with wood, and commanding a magnificent view up and down the Potomac. The grounds immediately about it were laid out somewhat in the English taste. The estate was apportioned into separate farms, devoted to different kinds of culture, each having its allotted laborers. Much, however, was still covered with wild woods, seamed with deep dells and runs of water, and indented with inlets; haunts of deer, and lurking-places of foxes. The whole woody region along the Potomac from Mount Vernon to Belvoir, and far beyond, with its range of forests and hills, and picturesque promontories, afforded sport of various kinds, and was a noble hunting-ground. Washington had hunted through it with old Lord Fairfax in his stripling days; we do not wonder that his feelings throughout life incessantly reverted to it.
"No estate in United America," observes he, in one of his letters, "is more pleasantly situated. In a high and healthy country; in a latitude between the extremes of heat and cold; on one of the finest rivers in the world; a river well stocked with various kinds of fish at all seasons of the year, and in the spring with shad, herrings, bass, carp, sturgeon, &c., in great abundance. The borders of the estate are washed by more than ten miles of tide water; several valuable fisheries appertain to it: the whole shore, in fact, is one entire fishery."
These were, as yet, the aristocratical days of Virginia. The estates were large, and continued in the same families by entails. Many of the wealthy planters were connected with old families in England. The young men, especially the elder sons, were often sent to finish their education there, and on their return brought out the tastes and habits of the mother country. The governors of Virginia were from the higher ranks of society, and maintained a corresponding state. The "established," or Episcopal church, predominated throughout the "ancient dominion," as it was termed; each county was divided into parishes, as in England,—each with its parochial church, its parsonage, and glebe. Washington was vestryman of two parishes, Fairfax and Truro; the parochial church of the former was at Alexandria, ten miles from Mount Vernon; of the latter, at Pohick, about seven miles. The church at Pohick was rebuilt on a plan of his own, and in a great measure at his expense. At one or other of these churches he attended every Sunday, when the weather and the roads permitted. His demeanor was reverential and devout. Mrs. Washington knelt during the prayers; he always stood, as was the custom at that time. Both were communicants.
Among his occasional visitors and associates were Captain Hugh Mercer and Dr. Craik; the former, after his narrow escapes from the tomahawk and scalping-knife, was quietly settled at Fredericksburg; the latter, after the campaigns on the frontier were over, had taken up his residence at Alexandria, and was now Washington's family physician. Both were drawn to him by campaigning ties and recollections, and were ever welcome at Mount Vernon.
A style of living prevailed among the opulent Virginian families in those days that has long since faded away. The houses were spacious, commodious, liberal in all their appointments, and fitted to cope with the free-handed, open-hearted hospitality of the owners. Nothing was more common than to see handsome services of plate, elegant equipages, and superb carriage horses—all imported from England.
The Virginians have always been noted for their love of horses; a manly passion which, in those days of opulence, they indulged without regard to expense. The rich planters vied with each other in their studs, importing the best English stocks. Mention is made of one of the Randolphs of Tuckahoe, who built a stable for his favorite dapple-gray horse, Shakespeare, with a recess for the bed of the negro groom, who always slept beside him at night.
Washington, by his marriage, had added above one hundred thousand dollars to his already considerable fortune, and was enabled to live in ample and dignified style. His intimacy with the Fairfaxes, and his intercourse with British officers of rank, had perhaps had their influence on his mode of living. He had his chariot and four, with black postilions in livery, for the use of Mrs. Washington and her lady visitors. As for himself, he always appeared on horseback. His stable was well filled and admirably regulated. His stud was thoroughbred and in excellent order. His household books contain registers of the names, ages, and marks of his various horses; such as Ajax, Blueskin, Valiant, Magnolia (an Arab), &c. Also his dogs, chiefly fox-hounds, Vulcan, Singer, Ringwood, Sweetlips, Forrester, Music, Rockwood, Truelove, &c. [Footnote: In one of his letter-books we find orders on his London agent for riding equipments. For example:
1 Man's riding-saddle, hogskin seat, large plated stirrups and every thing complete. Double reined bridle and Pelham bit, plated.
A very neat and fashionable Newmarket saddle-cloth.
A large and best portmanteau, saddle, bridle, and pillion.
Cloak-bag surcingle; checked saddle-cloth, holsters, &c.
A riding-frock of a handsome drab-colored broadcloth, with plain double gilt buttons.
A riding waistcoat of superfine scarlet cloth and gold lace, with buttons like those of the coat.
A blue surtout coat.
A neat switch whip, silver cap.
Black velvet cap for servant.]
A large Virginia estate, in those days, was a little empire. The mansion-house was the seat of government, with its numerous dependencies, such as kitchens, smoke-house, workshops and stables. In this mansion the planter ruled supreme; his steward or overseer was his prime minister and executive officer; he had his legion of house negroes for domestic service, and his host of field negroes for the culture of tobacco, Indian corn, and other crops, and for other out of door labor. Their quarter formed a kind of hamlet apart, composed of various huts, with little gardens and poultry yards, all well stocked, and swarms of little negroes gambolling in the sunshine. Then there were large wooden edifices for curing tobacco, the staple and most profitable production, and mills for grinding wheat and Indian corn, of which large fields were cultivated for the supply of the family and the maintenance of the negroes.
Among the slaves were artificers of all kinds, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, smiths, wheelwrights, and so forth; so that a plantation produced every thing within itself for ordinary use: as to articles of fashion and elegance, luxuries, and expensive clothing, they were imported from London; for the planters on the main rivers, especially the Potomac, carried on an immediate trade with England. Their tobacco was put up by their own negroes, bore their own marks, was shipped on board of vessels which came up the rivers for the purpose, and consigned to some agent in Liverpool or Bristol, with whom the planter kept an account.
The Virginia planters were prone to leave the care of their estates too much to their overseers, and to think personal labor a degradation. Washington carried into his rural affairs the same method, activity, and circumspection that had distinguished him in military life. He kept his own accounts, posted up his books and balanced them with mercantile exactness. We have examined them as well as his diaries recording his daily occupations, and his letter-books, containing entries of shipments of tobacco, and correspondence with his London agents. They are monuments of his business habits. [Footnote: The following letter of Washington to his London correspondents will give an idea of the early intercourse of the Virginia planters with the mother country.
"Our goods by the Liberty, Capt. Walker, came to hand in good order and soon after his arrival, as they generally do when shipped in a vessel to this river [the Potomac], and scarce ever when they go to any others; for it don't often happen that a vessel bound to one river has goods of any consequence to another; and the masters, in these cases, keep the packages till an accidental conveyance offers, and for want of better opportunities frequently commit them to boatmen who care very little for the goods so they get their freight, and often land them wherever it suits their convenience, not where they have engaged to do so. ... A ship from London to Virginia may be in Rappahannock or any of the other rivers three months before I know any thing of their arrival, and may make twenty voyages without my seeing or even hearing of the captain."]
The products of his estate also became so noted for the faithfulness, as to quality and quantity, with which they were put up, that it is said any barrel of flour that bore the brand of George Washington, Mount Vernon, was exempted from the customary inspection in the West India ports. [Footnote: Speech of the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop on laying the corner-stone of Washington's Monument.]
He was an early riser, often before daybreak in the winter when the nights were long. On such occasions he lit his own fire and wrote or read by candle-light. He breakfasted at seven in summer, at eight in winter. Two small cups of tea and three or four cakes of Indian meal (called hoe cakes), formed his frugal repast. Immediately after breakfast he mounted his horse and visited those parts of the estate where any work was going on, seeing to every thing with his own eyes, and often aiding with his own hand.
Dinner was served at two o'clock. He ate heartily, but was no epicure, nor critical about his food. His beverage was small beer or cider, and two glasses of old Madeira. He took tea, of which he was very fond, early in the evening, and retired for the night about nine o'clock.
If confined to the house by bad weather, he took that occasion to arrange his papers, post up his accounts, or write letters; passing part of the time in reading, and occasionally reading aloud to the family.
He treated his negroes with kindness; attended to their comforts; was particularly careful of them in sickness; but never tolerated idleness, and exacted a faithful performance of all their allotted tasks. He had a quick eye at calculating each man's capabilities. An entry in his diary gives a curious instance of this. Four of his negroes, employed as carpenters, were hewing and shaping timber. It appeared to him, in noticing the amount of work accomplished between two succeeding mornings, that they loitered at their labor. Sitting down quietly he timed their operations; how long it took them to get their cross-cut saw and other implements ready; how long to clear away the branches from the trunk of a fallen tree; how long to hew and saw it; what time was expended in considering and consulting, and after all, how much work was effected during the time he looked on. From this he made his computation how much they could execute in the course of a day, working entirely at their ease.
At another time we find him working for a part of two days with Peter, his smith, to make a plough on a new invention of his own. This, after two or three failures, he accomplished. Then, with less than his usual judgment, he put his two chariot horses to the plough, and ran a great risk of spoiling them, in giving his new invention a trial over ground thickly swarded.
Anon, during a thunderstorm, a frightened negro alarms the house with word that the mill is giving way, upon which there is a general turn out of all the forces, with Washington at their head, wheeling and shovelling gravel, during a pelting rain, to check the rushing water.
Washington delighted in the chase. In the hunting season, when he rode out early in the morning to visit distant parts of the estate, where work was going on, he often took some of the dogs with him for the chance of starting a fox, which he occasionally did, though he was not always successful in killing him. He was a bold rider and an admirable horseman, though he never claimed the merit of being an accomplished fox-hunter. In the height of the season, however, he would be out with the foxhounds two or three times a week, accompanied by his guests at Mount Vernon and the gentlemen of the neighborhood, especially the Fairfaxes of Belvoir, of which estate his friend George William Fairfax was now the proprietor. On such occasions there would be a hunting dinner at one or other of those establishments, at which convivial repasts Washington is said to have enjoyed himself with unwonted hilarity.
Now and then his old friend and instructor in the noble art of venery, Lord Fairfax, would be on a visit to his relatives at Belvoir, and then the hunting was kept up with unusual spirit. [Footnote: Hunting memoranda from Washington's journal, Mount Vernon.
Nov. 22.—Hunting with Lord Fairfax and his brother, and Colonel Fairfax.
Nov. 25.—Mr. Bryan Fairfax, Mr. Grayson, and Phil. Alexander came here by sunrise. Hunted and catched a fox with these, Lord Fairfax, his brother, and Col. Fairfax,—all of whom, with Mr. Fairfax and Mr. Wilson of England, dined here. 26th and 29th.—Hunted again with the same company.
Dec. 5.—Fox-hunting with Lord Fairfax and his brother, and Colonel Fairfax. Started a fox and lost it. Dined at Belvoir, and returned in the evening.]
His lordship, however, since the alarms of Indian war had ceased, lived almost entirely at Greenway Court, where Washington was occasionally a guest, when called by public business to Winchester. Lord Fairfax had made himself a favorite throughout the neighborhood. As lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of Frederick County, he presided at county courts held at Winchester, where, during the sessions, he kept open table. He acted also as surveyor and overseer of the public roads and highways, and was unremitted in his exertions and plans for the improvement of the country. Hunting, however, was his passion. When the sport was poor near home, he would take his hounds to a distant part of the country, establish himself at an inn, and keep open house and open table to every person of good character and respectable appearance who chose to join him in following the hounds.
It was probably in quest of sport of the kind that he now and then, in the hunting season, revisited his old haunts and former companions on the banks of the Potomac, and then the beautiful woodland region about Belvoir and Mount Vernon was sure to ring at early morn with the inspiring music of the hound.
The waters of the Potomac also afforded occasional amusement in fishing and shooting. The fishing was sometimes on a grand scale, when the herrings came up the river in shoals, and the negroes of Mount Vernon were marshalled forth to draw the seine, which was generally done with great success. Canvas-back ducks abounded at the proper season, and the shooting of them was one of Washington's favorite recreations. The river border of his domain, however, was somewhat subject to invasion. An oysterman once anchored his craft at the landing-place, and disturbed the quiet of the neighborhood by the insolent and disorderly conduct of himself and crew. It took a campaign of three days to expel these invaders from the premises.
A more summary course was pursued with another interloper. This was a vagabond who infested the creeks and inlets which bordered the estate, lurking in a canoe among the reeds and bushes, and making great havoc among the canvas-back ducks. He had been warned off repeatedly, but without effect. As Washington was one day riding about the estate he heard the report of a gun from the margin of the river. Spurring in that direction he dashed through the bushes and came upon the culprit just as he was pushing his canoe from shore. The latter raised his gun with a menacing look; but Washington rode into the stream, seized the painter of the canoe, drew it to shore, sprang from his horse, wrested the gun from the hands of the astonished delinquent, and inflicted on him a lesson in "Lynch law" that effectually cured him of all inclination to trespass again on these forbidden shores.
The Potomac, in the palmy days of Virginia, was occasionally the scene of a little aquatic state and ostentation among the rich planters who resided on its banks. They had beautiful barges, which, like their land equipages, were imported from England; and mention is made of a Mr. Digges who always received Washington in his barge, rowed by six negroes, arrayed in a kind of uniform of check shirts and black velvet caps. At one time, according to notes in Washington's diary, the whole neighborhood is thrown into a paroxysm of festivity, by the anchoring of a British frigate (the Boston) in the river, just in front of the hospitable mansion of the Fairfaxes. A succession of dinners and breakfasts takes place at Mount Vernon and Belvoir, with occasional tea parties on board of the frigate. The commander, Sir Thomas Adams, his officers, and his midshipmen, are cherished guests, and have the freedom of both establishments.
Occasionally he and Mrs. Washington would pay a visit to Annapolis, at that time the seat of government of Maryland, and partake of the gayeties which prevailed during the session of the legislature. The society of these seats of provincial governments was always polite and fashionable, and more exclusive than in these republican days, being, in a manner, the outposts of the English aristocracy, where all places of dignity or profit were secured for younger sons, and poor, but proud relatives. During the session of the Legislature, dinners and balls abounded, and there were occasional attempts at theatricals. The latter was an amusement for which Washington always had a relish, though he never had an opportunity of gratifying it effectually. Neither was he disinclined to mingle in the dance, and we remember to have heard venerable ladies, who had been belles in his day, pride themselves on having had him for a partner, though, they added, he was apt to be a ceremonious and grave one. [Footnote: We have had an amusing picture of Annapolis, as it was at this period, furnished to us, some years since by an octogenarian who had resided there in his boyhood. "In those parts of the country," said he, "where the roads were too rough for carriages, the ladies used to ride on ponies, followed by black servants on horseback; in this way his mother, then advanced in life, used to travel, in a scarlet cloth riding habit, which she had procured from England. Nay, in this way, on emergencies," he added, "the young ladies from the country used to come to the balls at Annapolis, riding with their hoops arranged 'fore and aft' like lateen sails; and after dancing all night, would ride home again in the morning."]
In this round of rural occupation, rural amusements, and social intercourse, Washington passed several tranquil years, the halcyon season of his life. His already established reputation drew many visitors to Mount Vernon; some of his early companions in arms were his occasional guests, and his friendships and connections linked him with some of the most prominent and worthy people of the country, who were sure to be received with cordial, but simple and unpretending hospitality. His marriage was unblessed with children; but those of Mrs. Washington experienced from him parental care and affection, and the formation of their minds and manners was one of the dearest objects of his attention. His domestic concerns and social enjoyments, however, were not permitted to interfere with his public duties. He was active by nature, and eminently a man of business by habit. As judge of the county court, and member of the House of Burgesses, he had numerous calls upon his time and thoughts, and was often drawn from home; for whatever trust he undertook, he was sure to fulfil with scrupulous exactness.
About this time we find him engaged, with other men of enterprise, in a project to drain the great Dismal Swamp, and render it capable of cultivation. This vast morass was about thirty miles long, and ten miles wide, and its interior but little known. With his usual zeal and hardihood he explored it on horseback and on foot. In many parts it was covered with dark and gloomy woods of cedar, cypress, and hemlock, or deciduous trees, the branches of which were hung with long drooping moss. Other parts were almost inaccessible, from the density of brakes and thickets, entangled with vines, briers, and creeping plants, and intersected by creeks and standing pools. Occasionally the soil, composed of dead vegetable fibre, was over his horse's fetlocks, and sometimes he had to dismount and make his way on foot over a quaking bog that shook beneath his tread.
In the centre of the morass he came to a great piece of water, six miles long, and three broad, called Drummond's Pond, but more poetically celebrated as the Lake of the Dismal Swamp. It was more elevated than any other part of the swamp, and capable of feeding canals, by which the whole might be traversed. Having made the circuit of it, and noted all its characteristics, he encamped for the night upon the firm land which bordered it, and finished his explorations on the following day.
In the ensuing session of the Virginia Legislature, the association in behalf of which he had acted, was chartered under the name of the Dismal Swamp Company; and to his observations and forecast may be traced the subsequent improvement and prosperity of that once desolate region.
TREATY OF PEACE—PONTIAC'S WAR—COURSE OF PUBLIC EVENTS—BOARD OF TRADE AGAINST PAPER CURRENCY—RESTRICTIVE POLICY OF ENGLAND—NAVIGATION LAWS— DISCONTENTS IN NEW ENGLAND—OF THE OTHER COLONIES—PROJECTS TO RAISE REVENUE BY TAXATION—BLOW AT THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY—NAVAL COMMANDERS EMPLOYED AS CUSTOM-HOUSE OFFICERS—RETALIATION OF THE COLONISTS—TAXATION RESISTED IN BOSTON—PASSING OF THE STAMP ACT—BURST OF OPPOSITION IN VIRGINIA—SPEECH OF PATRICK HENRY.
Tidings of peace gladdened the colonies in the spring of 1763. The definitive treaty between England and France had been signed at Fontainbleau. Now, it was trusted, there would be an end to those horrid ravages that had desolated the interior of the country. "The desert and the silent place would rejoice, and the wilderness would blossom like the rose."
The month of May proved the fallacy of such hopes. In that month the famous insurrection of the Indian tribes broke out, which, from the name of the chief who was its prime mover and master spirit, is commonly called Pontiac's war. The Delawares and Shawnees, and other of those emigrant tribes of the Ohio, among whom Washington had mingled, were foremost in this conspiracy. Some of the chiefs who had been his allies, had now taken up the hatchet against the English. The plot was deep laid, and conducted with. Indian craft and secrecy. At a concerted time an attack was made upon all the posts from Detroit to Fort Pitt (late Fort Duquesne). Several of the small stockaded forts, the places of refuge of woodland neighborhoods, were surprised and sacked with remorseless butchery. The frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, were laid waste; traders in the wilderness were plundered and slain; hamlets and farmhouses were wrapped in flames, and their inhabitants massacred. Shingis, with his Delaware warriors, blockaded Fort Pitt, which, for some time, was in imminent danger. Detroit, also, came near falling into the hands of the savages. It needed all the influence of Sir William Johnson, that potentate in savage life, to keep the Six Nations from joining this formidable conspiracy; had they done so, the triumph of the tomahawk and scalping knife would have been complete; as it was, a considerable time elapsed before the frontier was restored to tolerable tranquillity.
Fortunately, Washington's retirement from the army prevented his being entangled in this savage war, which raged throughout the regions he had repeatedly visited, or rather his active spirit had been diverted into a more peaceful channel, for he was at this time occupied in the enterprise just noticed, for draining the great Dismal Swamp.
Public events were now taking a tendency which, without any political aspiration or forethought of his own, was destined gradually to bear him away from his quiet home and individual pursuits, and launch him upon a grander and wider sphere of action than any in which he had hitherto been engaged.
The prediction of the Count de Vergennes was in the process of fulfilment. The recent war of Great Britain for dominion in America, though crowned with success, had engendered a progeny of discontents in her colonies. Washington was among the first to perceive its bitter fruits. British merchants had complained loudly of losses sustained by the depreciation of the colonial paper, issued during the late war, in times of emergency, and had addressed a memorial on the subject to the Board of Trade. Scarce was peace concluded, when an order from the board declared that no paper, issued by colonial Assemblies, should thenceforward be a legal tender in the payment of debts. Washington deprecated this "stir of the merchants" as peculiarly ill-timed; and expressed an apprehension that the orders in question "would get the whole country in flames."
We do not profess, in this personal memoir, to enter into a wide scope of general history, but shall content ourselves with a glance at the circumstances and events which gradually kindled the conflagration thus apprehended by the anxious mind of Washington.
Whatever might be the natural affection of the colonies for the mother country,—and there are abundant evidences to prove that it was deep-rooted and strong,—it had never been properly reciprocated. They yearned to be considered as children; they were treated by her as changelings. Burke testifies that her policy toward them from the beginning had been purely commercial, and her commercial policy wholly restrictive. "It was the system of a monopoly."
Her navigation laws had shut their ports against foreign vessels; obliged them to export their productions only to countries belonging to the British crown; to import European goods solely from England, and in English ships; and had subjected the trade between the colonies to duties. All manufactures, too, in the colonies that might interfere with those of the mother country had been either totally prohibited, or subjected to intolerable restraints.
The acts of Parliament, imposing these prohibitions and restrictions, had at various times produced sore discontent and opposition on the part of the colonies, especially among those of New England. The interests of these last were chiefly commercial, and among them the republican spirit predominated. They had sprung into existence during that part of the reign of James I. when disputes ran high about kingly prerogative and popular privilege.
The Pilgrims, as they styled themselves, who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620, had been incensed while in England by what they stigmatized as the oppressions of the monarchy, and the established church. They had sought the wilds of America for the indulgence of freedom of opinion, and had brought with them the spirit of independence and self-government. Those who followed them in the reign of Charles I. were imbued with the same spirit, and gave a lasting character to the people of New England.
Other colonies, having been formed under other circumstances, might be inclined toward a monarchical government, and disposed to acquiesce in its exactions; but the republican spirit was ever alive in New England, watching over "natural and chartered rights," and prompt to defend them against any infringement. Its example and instigation had gradually an effect on the other colonies; a general impatience was evinced from time to time of parliamentary interference in colonial affairs, and a disposition in the various provincial Legislatures to think and act for themselves in matters of civil and religious, as well as commercial polity.
There was nothing, however, to which the jealous sensibilities of the colonies were more alive than to any attempt of the mother country to draw a revenue from them by taxation. From the earliest period of their existence, they had maintained the principle that they could only be taxed by a Legislature in which they were represented. Sir Robert Walpole, when at the head of the British government, was aware of their jealous sensibility on this point, and cautious of provoking it. When American taxation was suggested, "it must be a bolder man than himself," he replied, "and one less friendly to commerce, who should venture on such an expedient. For his part, he would encourage the trade of the colonies to the utmost; one half of the profits would be sure to come into the royal exchequer through the increased demand for British manufactures. This" said he, sagaciously, "is taxing them more agreeably to their own constitution and laws."
Subsequent ministers adopted a widely different policy. During the progress of the French war, various projects were discussed in England with regard to the colonies, which were to be carried into effect on the return of peace. The open avowal of some of these plans, and vague rumors of others, more than ever irritated the jealous feelings of the colonists, and put the dragon spirit of New England on the alert.
In 1760, there was an attempt in Boston to collect duties on foreign sugar and molasses imported into the colonies. Writs of assistance were applied for by the custom-house officers, authorizing them to break open ships, stores, and private dwellings, in quest of articles that had paid no duty; and to call the assistance of others in the discharge of their odious task. The merchants opposed the execution of the writ on constitutional grounds. The question was argued in court, where James Otis spoke so eloquently in vindication of American rights, that all his hearers went away ready to take arms against writs of assistance. "Then and there," says John Adams, who was present, "was the first scene of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there American Independence was born."
Another ministerial measure was to instruct the provincial governors to commission judges. Not as theretofore "during good behavior," but "during the king's pleasure." New York was the first to resent this blow at the independence of the judiciary. The lawyers appealed to the public through the press against an act which subjected the halls of justice to the prerogative. Their appeals were felt beyond the bounds of the province, and awakened a general spirit of resistance.
Thus matters stood at the conclusion of the war. One of the first measures of ministers, on the return of peace, was to enjoin on all naval officers stationed on the coasts of the American colonies the performance, under oath, of the duties of custom-house officers, for the suppression of smuggling. This fell ruinously upon a clandestine trade which had long been connived at between the English and Spanish colonies, profitable to both, but especially to the former, and beneficial to the mother country, opening a market to her manufactures.
"Men-of-war," says Burke, "were for the first time armed with the regular commissions of custom-house officers, invested the coasts, and gave the collection of revenue the air of hostile contribution. ... They fell so indiscriminately on all sorts of contraband, or supposed contraband, that some of the most valuable branches of trade were driven violently from our ports, which caused an universal consternation throughout the colonies." [Footnote: Burke on the state of the nation.]
As a measure of retaliation, the colonists resolved not to purchase British fabrics, but to clothe themselves as much as possible in home manufactures. The demand for British goods in Boston alone was diminished upwards of 10,000 sterling in the course of a year.
In 1764, George Grenville, now at the head of government, ventured upon the policy from which Walpole had so wisely abstained. Early in March the eventful question was debated, "whether they had a right to tax America." It was decided in the affirmative. Next followed a resolution, declaring it proper to charge certain stamp duties in the colonies and plantations, but no immediate step was taken to carry it into effect. Mr. Grenville, however, gave notice to the American agents in London, that he should introduce such a measure on the ensuing session of Parliament. In the mean time Parliament perpetuated certain duties on sugar and molasses—heretofore subjects of complaint and opposition—now reduced and modified so as to discourage smuggling, and thereby to render them more productive. Duties, also, were imposed on other articles of foreign produce or manufacture imported into the colonies. To reconcile the latter to these impositions, it was stated that the revenue thus raised was to be appropriated to their protection and security; in other words, to the support of a standing army, intended to be quartered upon them.
We have here briefly stated but a part of what Burke terms an "infinite variety of paper chains," extending through no less than twenty-nine acts of Parliament, from 1660 to 1764, by which the colonies had been held in thraldom.
The New Englanders were the first to take the field against the project of taxation. They denounced it as a violation of their rights as freemen; of their chartered rights, by which they were to tax themselves for their support and defence; of their rights as British subjects, who ought not to be taxed but by themselves or their representatives. They sent petitions and remonstrances on the subject to the king, the lords and the commons, in which they were seconded by New York and Virginia. Franklin appeared in London at the head of agents from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and South Carolina, to deprecate, in person, measures so fraught with mischief. The most eloquent arguments were used by British orators and statesmen to dissuade Grenville from enforcing them. He was warned of the sturdy independence of the colonists, and the spirit of resistance he might provoke. All was in vain. Grenville, "great in daring and little in views," says Horace Walpole, "was charmed to have an untrodden field before him of calculation and experiment." In March, 1765, the act was passed, according to which all instruments in writing were to be executed on stamped paper, to be purchased from the agents of the British government. What was more: all offences against the act could be tried in any royal, marine or admiralty court throughout the colonies, however distant from the place where the offence had been committed; thus interfering with that most inestimable right, a trial by jury.
It was an ominous sign that the first burst of opposition to this act should take place in Virginia. That colony had hitherto been slow to accord with the republican spirit of New England. Founded at an earlier period of the reign of James I., before kingly prerogative and ecclesiastical supremacy had been made matters of doubt and fierce dispute, it had grown up in loyal attachment to king, church, and constitution; was aristocratical in its tastes and habits, and had been remarked above all the other colonies for its sympathies with the mother country. Moreover, it had not so many pecuniary interests involved in these questions as had the people of New England, being an agricultural rather than a commercial province; but the Virginians are of a quick and generous spirit, readily aroused on all points of honorable pride, and they resented the stamp act as an outrage on their rights.
Washington occupied his seat in the House of Burgesses, when, on the 29th of May, the stamp act became a subject of discussion. We have seen no previous opinions of his on the subject. His correspondence hitherto had not turned on political or speculative themes; being engrossed by either military or agricultural matters, and evincing little anticipation of the vortex of public duties into which he was about to be drawn. All his previous conduct and writings show a loyal devotion to the crown, with a patriotic attachment to his country. It is probable that on the present occasion that latent patriotism received its first electric shock.
Among the Burgesses sat Patrick Henry, a young lawyer who had recently distinguished himself by pleading against the exercise of the royal prerogative in church matters, and who was now for the first time a member of the House. Rising in his place, he introduced his celebrated resolutions, declaring that the General Assembly of Virginia had the exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants, and that whoever maintained the contrary should be deemed an enemy to the colony.
The speaker, Mr. Robinson, objected to the resolutions, as inflammatory. Henry vindicated them, as justified by the nature of the case; went into an able and constitutional discussion of colonial rights, and an eloquent exposition of the manner in which they had been assailed; wound up by one of those daring flights of declamation for which he was remarkable, and startled the House by a warning flash from history: "Caesar had his Brutus; Charles his Cromwell, and George the Third—('Treason! treason!' resounded from the neighborhood of the Chair)—may profit by their examples," added Henry. "Sir, if this be treason (bowing to the speaker), make the most of it!"
The resolutions were modified, to accommodate them to the scruples of the speaker and some of the members, but their spirit was retained. The Lieutenant-governor (Fauquier), startled by this patriotic outbreak, dissolved the Assembly, and issued writs for a new election; but the clarion had sounded. "The resolves of the Assembly of Virginia," says a correspondent of the ministry, "gave the signal for a general outcry over the continent. The movers and supporters of them were applauded as the protectors and assertors of American liberty." [Footnote: Letter to Secretary Conway, New York, Sept. 23.—Parliamentary Register.]
WASHINGTON'S IDEAS CONCERNING THE STAMP ACT—OPPOSITION TO IT IN THE COLONIES—PORTENTOUS CEREMONIES AT BOSTON AND NEW YORK—NON-IMPORTATION AGREEMENT AMONG THE MERCHANTS—WASHINGTON AND GEORGE MASON—DISMISSAL OF GRENVILLE FROM THE BRITISH CABINET—FRANKLIN BEFORE THE HOUSE OF COMMONS— REPEAL OF THE STAMP ACT—JOY OF WASHINGTON—FRESH CAUSES OF COLONIAL DISSENSIONS—CIRCULAR OF THE GENERAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS—EMBARKATION OF TROOPS FOR BOSTON—MEASURES OF THE BOSTONIANS.
Washington returned to Mount Vernon full of anxious thoughts inspired by the political events of the day, and the legislative scene which he witnessed. His recent letters had spoken of the state of peaceful tranquillity in which he was living; those now written from his rural home show that he fully participated in the popular feeling, and that while he had a presentiment of an arduous struggle, his patriotic mind was revolving means of coping with it. Such is the tenor of a letter written to his wife's uncle, Francis Dandridge, then in London. "The stamp act," said he, "engrosses the conversation of the speculative part of the colonists, who look upon this unconstitutional method of taxation as a direful attack upon their liberties, and loudly exclaim against the violation. What may be the result of this, and of some other (I think I may add ill-judged) measures, I will not undertake to determine; but this I may venture to affirm, that the advantage accruing to the mother country will fall greatly short of the expectation of the ministry; for certain it is, that our whole substance already in a manner flows to Great Britain, and that whatsoever contributes to lessen our importations must be hurtful to her manufactures. The eyes of our people already begin to be opened; and they will perceive, that many luxuries, for which we lavish our substance in Great Britain, can well be dispensed with. This, consequently, will introduce frugality, and be a necessary incitement to industry. ... As to the stamp act, regarded in a single view, one of the first bad consequences attending it, is, that our courts of judicature must inevitably be shut up; for it is impossible, or next to impossible, under our present circumstances, that the act of Parliament can be complied with, were we ever so willing to enforce its execution. And not to say (which alone would be sufficient) that we have not money enough to pay for the stamps, there are many other cogent reasons which prove that it would be ineffectual."
A letter of the same date to his agents in London, of ample length and minute in all its details, shows that, while deeply interested in the course of public affairs, his practical mind was enabled thoroughly and ably to manage the financial concerns of his estate and of the estate of Mrs. Washington's son, John Parke Custis, towards whom, he acted the part of a faithful and affectionate guardian. In those days, Virginia planters were still in direct and frequent correspondence with their London factors; and Washington's letters respecting his shipments of tobacco, and the returns required in various articles for household and personal use, are perfect models for a man of business. And this may be remarked throughout his whole career, that no pressure of events nor multiplicity of cares prevented a clear, steadfast, undercurrent of attention to domestic affairs, and the interest and well-being of all dependent upon him.
In the mean time, from his quiet abode at Mount Vernon, he seemed to hear the patriotic voice of Patrick Henry, which had startled the House of Burgesses, echoing throughout the land, and rousing one legislative body after another to follow the example of that of Virginia. At the instigation of the General Court or Assembly of Massachusetts, a Congress was held in New York in October, composed of delegates from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina. In this they denounced the acts of Parliament imposing taxes on them without their consent, and extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty, as violations of their rights and liberties as natural born subjects of Great Britain, and prepared an address to the king, and a petition to both Houses of Parliament, praying for redress. Similar petitions were forwarded to England by the colonies not represented in the Congress.
The very preparations for enforcing the stamp act called forth popular tumults in various places. In Boston the stamp distributor was hanged in effigy; his windows were broken; a house intended for a stamp office was pulled down, and the effigy burnt in a bonfire made of the fragments. The lieutenant-governor, chief justice, and sheriff, attempting to allay the tumult, were pelted. The stamp officer thought himself happy to be hanged merely in effigy, and next day publicly renounced the perilous office.
Various were the proceedings in other places, all manifesting public scorn and defiance of the act. In Virginia, Mr. George Mercer had been appointed distributor of stamps, but on his arrival at Williamsburg publicly declined officiating. It was a fresh triumph to the popular cause. The bells were rung for joy; the town was illuminated, and Mercer was hailed with acclamations of the people. [Footnote: Holmes's Annals, vol. ii., p. 138.]
The 1st of November, the day when the act was to go into operation, was ushered in with portentous solemnities. There was great tolling of bells and burning of effigies in the New England colonies. At Boston the ships displayed their colors but half-mast high. Many shops were shut; funeral knells resounded from the steeples, and there was a grand auto-da-fe, in which the promoters of the act were paraded, and suffered martyrdom in effigy.
At New York the printed act was carried about the streets on a pole, surmounted by a death's head, with a scroll bearing the inscription, "The folly of England and ruin of America." Colden, the lieutenant-governor, who acquired considerable odium by recommending to government the taxation of the colonies, the institution of hereditary Assemblies, and other Tory measures, seeing that a popular storm was rising, retired into the fort, taking with him the stamp papers, and garrisoned it with marines from a ship of war. The mob broke into his stable; drew out his chariot; put his effigy into it; paraded it through the streets to the common (now the Park), where they hung it on a gallows. In the evening it was taken down, put again into the chariot, with the devil for a companion, and escorted back by torchlight to the Bowling Green; where the whole pageant, chariot and all, was burnt under the very guns of the fort.
These are specimens of the marks of popular reprobation with which the stamp act was universally nullified. No one would venture to carry it into execution. In fact no stamped paper was to be seen; all had been either destroyed or concealed. All transactions which required stamps to give them validity were suspended, or were executed by private compact. The courts of justice were closed, until at length some conducted their business without stamps. Union was becoming the watch-word. The merchants of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and such other colonies as had ventured publicly to oppose the stamp act, agreed to import no more British manufactures after the 1st of January unless it should be repealed. So passed away the year 1765.
As yet Washington took no prominent part in the public agitation. Indeed he was never disposed to put himself forward on popular occasions, his innate modesty forbade it; it was others who knew his worth that called him forth; but when once he engaged in any public measure, he devoted himself to it with conscientiousness and persevering zeal. At present he remained a quiet but vigilant observer of events from his eagle nest at Mount Vernon. He had some few intimates in his neighborhood who accorded with him in sentiment. One of the ablest and most efficient of these was Mr. George Mason, with whom he had occasional conversations on the state of affairs. His friends the Fairfaxes, though liberal in feelings and opinions, were too strong in their devotion to the crown not to regard with an uneasy eye the tendency of the popular bias. From one motive or other, the earnest attention of all the inmates and visitors at Mount Vernon, was turned to England, watching the movements of the ministry.
The dismissal of Mr. Grenville from the cabinet gave a temporary change to public affairs. Perhaps nothing had a greater effect in favor of the colonies than an examination of Dr. Franklin before the House of Commons, on the subject of the stamp act.
"What," he was asked, "was the temper of America towards Great Britain, before the year 1763?"
"The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the crown, and paid, in all their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen, ink, and paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only a respect, but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs, and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Great Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an Old-England man was, of itself, a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us."
"And what is their temper now?"
"Oh! very much altered."
"If the act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences?"
"A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection."
"Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if it was moderated?"
"No, never, unless compelled by force of arms." [Footnote: Parliamentary Register, 1766.]
The act was repealed on the 18th of March, 1766, to the great joy of the sincere friends of both countries, and to no one more than to Washington. In one of his letters he observes: "Had the Parliament of Great Britain resolved upon enforcing it, the consequences, I conceive, would have been more direful than is generally apprehended, both to the mother country and her colonies. All, therefore, who were instrumental in procuring the repeal, are entitled to the thanks of every British subject, and have mine cordially." [Footnote: Sparks. Writings of Washington, ii., 345, note.]
Still, there was a fatal clause in the repeal, which declared that the king, with the consent of Parliament, had power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to "bind the colonies, and people of America, in all cases whatsoever."
As the people of America were contending for principles, not mere pecuniary interests, this reserved power of the crown and Parliament left the dispute still open, and chilled the feeling of gratitude which the repeal might otherwise have inspired. Further aliment for public discontent was furnished by other acts of Parliament. One imposed duties on glass, pasteboard, white and red lead, painters' colors, and tea; the duties to be collected on the arrival of the articles in the colonies; another empowered naval officers to enforce the acts of trade and navigation. Another wounded to the quick the pride and sensibilities of New York. The mutiny act had recently been extended to America, with an additional clause, requiring the provincial Assemblies to provide the troops sent out with quarters, and to furnish them with fire, beds, candles, and other necessaries, at the expense of the colonies. The Governor and Assembly of New York refused to comply with, this requisition as to stationary forces, insisting that it applied only to troops on a march. An act of Parliament now suspended the powers of the governor and Assembly until they should comply. Chatham attributed this opposition of the colonists to the mutiny act to "their jealousy of being somehow or other taxed internally by the Parliament; the act," said he, "asserting the right of Parliament, has certainly spread a most unfortunate jealousy and diffidence of government here throughout America, and makes them jealous of the least distinction between this country and that, lest the same principle may be extended to taxing them." [Footnote: Chatham's Correspondence, vol. iii., p. 189-192.]
Boston continued to be the focus of what the ministerialists termed sedition. The General Court of Massachusetts, not content with petitioning the king for relief against the recent measures of Parliament, especially those imposing taxes as a means of revenue, drew up a circular, calling on the other colonial Legislatures to join with them in suitable efforts to obtain redress. In the ensuing session, Governor Sir Francis Bernard called upon them to rescind the resolution on which the circular was founded,—they refused to comply, and the General Court was consequently dissolved. The governors of colonies required of their Legislatures an assurance that they would not reply to the Massachusetts circular,—these Legislatures likewise refused compliance and were dissolved. All this added to the growing excitement.