[Footnote 354: When the words of Lord Chatham were reported to the King, his Majesty was "stung to the heart," and was greatly enraged, denouncing Lord Chatham as an "abandoned politician," "the trumpet of sedition," and classified him with Temple and Grenville as "void of gratitude." The King repelled and hated every statesman who advised him to conciliate the colonists by recognising them as having the rights of British subjects. He was the prompter of the most violent measures against them, and seemed to think that their only rights and duties were to obey whatever he might command and the Parliament declare.]
[Footnote 355: Dr. Franklin had been Postmaster-General for America. When he assumed the office the expenditure exceeded the receipts by L3,000 a year; under his administration the receipts gradually increased so as to become a source of revenue. The day after his advocacy of the American petitions before the Privy Council, he was dismissed from office. Referring to the manner in which American petitions and their agents were treated by the British Government, Dr. Franklin expressed himself as follows, in a letter to the Hon. Thomas Cushing, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts:
"When I see that all petitions and complaints of grievances are so odious to Government that even the mere pipe which conveys them becomes obnoxious, I am at a loss to know how peace and union is to be maintained or restored between the different parts of the empire. Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions. If these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions? and who will deliver them? It has been thought a dangerous thing in any State to stop up the vent of griefs. Wise governments have therefore generally received petitions with some indulgence even when but slightly founded. Those who think themselves injured by their rulers are sometimes, by a mild and prudent answer, convinced of their error. But where complaining is a crime, hope becomes despair." (Collections of Massachusetts Historical Society.)
(Yet the Government of Massachusetts, under the first Charter, pronounced petitions a crime, and punished as criminals those who petitioned against the governmental acts which denied them the right of worship or elective franchise because they were non-Congregationalists.)]
[Footnote 356: Parliamentary Register for 1775, p. 134.]
1775 CONTINUED—PARLIAMENT PROCEEDS TO PASS AN ACT TO PUNISH ALL THE NEW ENGLAND COLONIES FOR SYMPATHISING WITH MASSACHUSETTS, BY RESTRICTING THEIR TRADE TO ENGLAND AND DEPRIVING THEM OF THE NEWFOUNDLAND FISHERIES.
The British Ministry and both Houses of Parliament do not seem to have been satisfied with having charged Massachusetts and its abettors with rebellion, and determined to punish the recusant province and its metropolis accordingly, but they proceeded, during the same session, even to punish the other New England provinces for alleged sympathy with the town of Boston and the province of Massachusetts. The very day after the two Houses of Parliament had presented their joint address to the King, declaring the existence of "rebellion" in the province of Massachusetts, abetted by many persons in the other provinces, Lord North introduced a Bill into the Commons to restrain the trade and commerce of the provinces of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, to Great Britain and Ireland and the British Islands in the West Indies, and to prohibit those provinces from carrying on any fishery on the banks of Newfoundland. Lord North assigned as the reason for this Bill that the three other New England colonies "had aided and abetted their offending neighbours, and were so near them that the intentions of Parliament would be frustrated unless they were in like manner comprehended in the proposed restraints." The Bill encountered much opposition in both Houses, but was passed by large majorities.
Shortly after passing this Bill to restrain the trade of the New England colonies and to prohibit them the fisheries of Newfoundland, as well as from trading with foreign countries, intelligence reached England that the middle and southern colonies were countenancing and encouraging the opposition of their New England brethren, and a second Bill was brought into Parliament and passed for imposing similar restraints on the colonies of East and West Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and the counties on the Delaware. It is singular to note in this Bill the omission of New York, Delaware, and North Carolina. It was probably thought that the omission of these colonies would cause dissension among the colonies; but the three exempted provinces declined the distinction, and submitted to the restraints imposed upon the other colonies.
Much was expected by Lord North and his colleagues from the General Assembly of New York, which had not endorsed the proceedings of the first Continental Congress, held in Philadelphia the previous September and October; but at the very time that the British Parliament was passing the Act which exempted New York from the disabilities and punishments inflicted on its neighbouring colonies, north and south, the Legislative Assembly of New York was preparing a petition and remonstrance to the British Parliament on the grievances of all the colonies, not omitting the province of Massachusetts. This petition and remonstrance of the General Assembly of New York was substantially a United Empire document, and expressed the sentiments of all classes in the colonies, except the Royal governors and some office-holders, as late as May, 1775. The following extracts from this elaborate and ably-written address will indicate its general character. The whole document is given in the Parliamentary Register, Vol. I., pp. 473-478, and is entitled "The Representation and Remonstrance of the General Assembly of the Colony of New York, to the Honourable the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled." It commences as follows:
"Impressed with the warmest sentiments of loyalty and affection to our most gracious Sovereign, and zealously attached to his person, family, and government, we, his Majesty's faithful subjects, the representatives of the ancient and loyal colony of New York, behold with the deepest concern the unhappy disputes subsisting between the mother country and her colonies. Convinced that the grandeur and strength of the British empire, the protection and opulence of his Majesty's American dominions, and the happiness and welfare of both, depend essentially on a restoration of harmony and affection between them, we feel the most ardent desire to promote a cordial reconciliation with the parent state, which can be rendered permanent and solid only by ascertaining the line of parliamentary authority and American freedom on just, equitable, and constitutional grounds. To effect these salutary purposes, and to represent the grievances under which we labour, by the innovations which have been made in the constitutional mode of government since the close of the last war, we shall proceed with that firmness which becomes the descendants of Englishmen and a people accustomed to the blessings of liberty, and at the same time with the deference and respect which is due to your august Assembly to show—
"That from the year 1683 till the above-mentioned period the colony has enjoyed a Legislature consisting of three distinct branches—a Governor, Council, and General Assembly; under which political frame the representatives of the people have uniformly exercised the right of their civil government and the administration of justice in the colony.
"It is therefore with inexpressible grief that we have of late years seen measures adopted by the British Parliament subversive of that Constitution under which the people of this colony have always enjoyed the same rights and privileges so highly and deservedly prized by their fellow-subjects in Great Britain—a Constitution in its infancy modelled after that of the parent state, in its growth more nearly assimilated to it, and tacitly implied and undeniably recognised in the requisitions made by the Crown, with the consent and approbation of Parliament.
"An exemption from internal taxation, and the exclusive right of providing for the support of our own civil government and the administration of justice in this colony, we esteem our undoubted and inalienable rights as Englishmen; but while we claim these essential rights, it is with equal pleasure and truth we can declare, that we ever have been and ever will be ready to bear our full proportion of aids to the Crown for the public service, and to make provision for the necessary purposes, in as ample and adequate a manner as the circumstances of the colony will admit. Actuated by these sentiments, while we address ourselves to a British House of Commons, which has ever been so sensible of the rights of the people, and so tenacious of preserving them from violation, can it be a matter of surprise that we should feel the most distressing apprehensions from the Act of the British Parliament declaring their right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever?—a principle which has been actually exercised by the statutes made for the sole and express purpose of raising a revenue in America, especially for the support of Government, and other usual and ordinary services of the colonies.
"The trial by a jury of the vicinage, in causes civil and criminal arising within the colony, we consider as essential to the security of our lives and liberties, and one of the main pillars of the Constitution, and therefore view with horror the construction of the statute of the 35th of Henry the Eighth, as held up by the joint address of both Houses of Parliament in 1769, advising his Majesty to send for persons guilty of treasons and misprisions of treasons in the colony of Massachusetts Bay, in order to be tried in England; and we are equally alarmed at the late Act empowering his Majesty to send persons guilty of offences in one colony to be tried in another, or within the realm of England....
"We must also complain of the Act of the 7th of George the Third, chapter 59th, requiring the Legislature of this colony to make provision for the expense of supplying troops quartered amongst us, with the necessaries prescribed by that law; and holding up by another Act a suspension of our legislative powers till we should have complied, as it would have included all the effects of a tax, and implied a distrust of our readiness to contribute to the public service.
"Nor in claiming these essential rights do we entertain the most distant desire of independence of the parent kingdom. We acknowledge the Parliament of Great Britain necessarily entitled to a supreme direction and government over the whole empire, for a wise, powerful, and lasting preservation of the great bond of union and safety among all the branches; their authority to regulate the trade of the colonies, so as to make it subservient to the interest of the mother country, and to prevent its being injurious to the other parts of his Majesty's dominions....
"Interested as we must consider ourselves in whatever may affect our sister colonies, we cannot help feeling for the distresses of our brethren in the Massachusetts Bay, from the operation of the several Acts of Parliament passed relative to that province, and of earnestly remonstrating in their behalf. At the same time, we also must express our disapprobation of the violent measures that have been pursued in some of the colonies, which can only tend to increase our misfortunes and to prevent our obtaining redress.
"We claim but a restoration of those rights which we enjoyed by general consent before the close of the last war; we desire no more than a continuation of that ancient government to which we are entitled by the principles of the British Constitution, and by which alone can be secured to us the rights of Englishmen. Attached by every tie of interest and regard to the British nation, and accustomed to behold with reverence and respect its excellent form of government, we harbour not an idea of diminishing the power and grandeur of the mother country, or lessening the lustre and dignity of Parliament. Our object is the happiness which we are convinced can only arise from the union of both countries. To render this union permanent and solid, we esteem it the undoubted right of the colonies to participate in that Constitution whose direct aim is the liberty of the subject; fully trusting that your honourable House will listen with attention to our complaints, and redress our grievances by adopting such measures as shall be found most conducive to the general welfare of the whole empire, and most likely to restore union and harmony amongst all its different branches.
"By order of the General Assembly,
"JOHN CRUGER, Speaker.
"Assembly Chamber, City of New York, the 25th day of March, 1775."
This representation and remonstrance having been presented to the House of Commons, Mr. Burke moved, the 15th of May, that it be brought up. He said "he had in his hand a paper of importance from the General Assembly of the Province of New York—a province which yielded to no part of his Majesty's dominions in its zeal for the prosperity and unity of the empire, and which had ever contributed as much as any, in its proportion, to the defence and wealth of the whole." "They never had before them so fair an opportunity of putting an end to the unhappy disputes with the colonies as at present, and he conjured them in the most earnest manner not to let it escape, as possibly the like might never return. He thought this application from America so very desirable to the House, that he could have made no sort of doubt of their entering heartily into his ideas, if Lord North, some days before, in opening the budget, had not gone out of his way to make a panegyric on the last Parliament, and in particular to commend as acts of lenity and mercy those very laws which the Remonstrance considers as intolerable grievances."
"Lord North spoke greatly in favour of New York, and said he would gladly do everything in his power to show his regard to the good behaviour of that colony; but the honour of Parliament required that no paper should be presented to that House which tended to call in question the unlimited rights of Parliament."
"Mr. Fox said the right of Parliament to tax America was not simply denied in the Remonstrance, but was coupled with the exercise of it. The exercise was the thing complained of, not the right itself. When the Declaratory Act was passed, asserting the right in the fullest extent, there were no tumults in America, no opposition to Government in any part of that country; but when the right came to be exercised in the manner we have seen, the whole country was alarmed, and there was an unanimous determination to oppose it. The right simply is not regarded; it is the exercise of it that is the object of opposition. It is this exercise that has irritated and made almost desperate several of the colonies. But the noble lord (Lord North) chooses to be consistent, and is determined to make them all alike. The only province that was moderate, and in which England had some friends, he now treats with contempt. What will be the consequence when the people of this moderate province are informed of this treatment? That representation which the cool and candid of this moderate province had framed with deliberation and caution is rejected—is not suffered to be presented—is not even to be read by the clerk. When they hear this they will be inflamed, and hereafter be as distinguished by their violence as they have hitherto been by their moderation. It is the only method they can take to regain the esteem and confidence of their brethren in the other colonies who have been offended at their moderation. Those who refused to send deputies to the Congress (at Philadelphia), and trusted to Parliament, will appear ridiculous in the eyes of all America. It will be proved that those who distrusted and defied Parliament had made a right judgment, and those who relied upon its moderation and clemency had been mistaken and duped; and the consequence of this must be, that every friend the Ministers have in America must either abandon them, or lose all credit and means of serving them in future."
"Governor Johnstone observed that when Mr. Wilkes had formerly presented a petition full of matter which the House did not think to enter into, they did not prevent the petition being brought up, but separated the matter which they thought improper from that which they thought ought to be heard. The House might make use of the same selection here. Ministers have long declared they wished for a dutiful application from one of the colonies, and now it is come they treat it with scorn and indignity. Mr. Cornwall had said it came only from twenty-six individuals. These twenty-six are the whole Assembly. When the question to adopt the measures recommended by the Congress was negatived by a majority of one only in this Assembly of twenty-six individuals, the Ministers were in high spirits, and these individuals were then represented as all America."
Lord North's amendment to reject the petition was adopted by a majority of 186 to 67.
"After having been foiled in the House of Commons," says the royal historian, "it now remained to be decided whether that colony's representations would meet with a more gracious reception in the House of Lords. But here the difficulty was still greater than in the other House. The dignity of the peerage was said to be insulted by the appellation under which it had been presumed to usher those representations into that Assembly. They were styled a Memorial; such a title was only allowable in transactions between princes and states independent of each other, but was insufferable on the part of subjects. The answer was that the lowest officer in the service had a right to present a memorial, even to his Majesty, should he think himself aggrieved; with much more reason might a respectable body present one to the House of Lords. But, exclusive of the general reason that entitled so important a colony to lay such a paper before them, the particular reason of its fidelity, in spite of so many examples of defection, was alone a motive which ought to supersede all forms, and engage their most serious attention to what it had to propose.
"After sundry arguments of the same nature, the question was determined against hearing the Memorial by forty-five peers to twenty-five.
"When the rejection of these applications was announced to the public, a great part of the nation expressed the highest discontent. They now looked forward with dejection and sorrow at the prospect of mutual destruction that lay before them, and utterly gave up all other expectations."
It might be supposed that such a rejection of the petition of the most loyal colony in America would end the presentation of petitions on the part of the colonies to the King and Parliament, and decide them at once either to submit to the extinction of their constitutional rights as British subjects, or defend them by force. But though they had, both separately and unitedly, declared from the beginning that they would defend their rights at all hazards, they persisted in exhausting every possible means to persuade the King and Parliament to desist from such a system of oppression, and to restore to them those rights which they enjoyed for more than a century—down to the close of the French war in 1763.
[Footnote 357: Parliamentary Register, Vol. I., pp. 467-473.]
[Footnote 358: Dr. Andrews' History of the War with America, Spain, and Holland, Vol. I., pp. 275, 276.
"The Ministerial objections were that it was incompatible with the dignity of the House to suffer any paper to be presented that questioned its supreme authority. Particular notice was taken at the same time that the title of Petition did not accompany this paper; it was called a Representation and Remonstrance, which was not the usual nor the proper manner of application to Parliament. This singularity alone was sufficient to put a negative on its presentation.
"To this it was replied, that the times were so dangerous and critical that words and forms were no longer deserving of attention. The question was whether they thought the colony of New York was worthy of a hearing? No colony had behaved with so much temperateness and discretion. Notwithstanding the tempestuousness of the times, and the general wreck of British authority, it had yet preserved a steady obedience to Government. While every other colony was bidding defiance to Britain, this alone submissively applied to her for redress of grievances. Was it consistent with policy, after losing the good-will of all the other colonies, to drive this, through a needless and punctilious severity, into their confederacy against this country? Could we expect, after such a treatment, that this colony could withstand the arguments that would be drawn from our superciliousness to induce it to relinquish a conduct which was so ill requited?"—Ib., p. 274.]
1775 CONTINUED—THE SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS IN AMERICA.
Six months after the General Assembly of New York adopted its Memorial, and four months after its rejection by both Houses of Parliament, the second Continental Congress met, in the month of September, at Philadelphia.
This Assembly consisted of fifty-five members, chosen by twelve colonies. The little colony of Georgia did not elect delegates, but promised to concur with the sister colonies in the effort to maintain their rights to the British Constitution. Many of the members of this Assembly were men of fortune and learning, and represented not only the general sentiments of the colonies, but their wealth and respectability. "The object, as stated in the credentials of the delegates, and especially in those of the two most powerful colonies of Massachusetts and Virginia, was to obtain the redress of grievances, and to restore harmony between Great Britain and America, which, it was said, was desired by all good men. It was the conviction that this might be done through a Bill of Rights, in which the limits of the powers of the colonies and the mother country might be defined."
Some three weeks after the assembling of Congress, before the end of September, a petition to the King was reported, considered, and adopted. This petition was addressed to the King, in behalf of the colonists, beseeching the interposition of the Royal authority and influence to procure them relief from their afflicting fears and jealousies, excited by the measures pursued by his Ministers, and submitting to his Majesty's consideration whether it may not be expedient for him to be pleased to direct some mode by which the united applications of his faithful colonists to the Throne may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that in the meantime measures be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of his Majesty's subjects, and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of his Majesty's colonies be repealed. "Attached to your Majesty's person, family, and government," concludes this address of the Congress, "with all the devotion that principle and affection can inspire, connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite societies, and deploring every event that tends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty that we not only most ardently desire that the former harmony between her and these colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissensions, to succeeding generations in both countries." This petition was read in Parliament the 7th of December, 1775, at the request of Mr. Hartley, with several other petitions for pacification; but they were all rejected by the House of Commons. The answer of the King to the respectful and loyal constitutional petition of Congress was to proclaim the petitioners "rebels," and all that supported them "abettors of treason."
The first day of November brought to the Continental Congress this proclamation, together with the intelligence that the British army and navy were to be largely increased, and that German mercenary soldiers from Hanover and Hesse had been hired, as it was found impossible to obtain soldiers in England to fight against their fellow-subjects in America. On the same day the intelligence was received from General Washington, in Massachusetts, of the burning of Falmouth (now Portland). The simultaneous intelligence of the treatment of the second petition of Congress, the Royal proclamation, the increase of the army and navy, the employment of seventeen thousand Hanoverians and Hessian mercenaries to subdue America, and the burning of Falmouth, produced a great sensation in Congress and throughout the colonies. Some of the New England members of the Congress, especially John and Samuel Adams, had long given up the idea of reconciliation with England, and had desired independence. This feeling was, however, cherished by very few members of the Congress; but the startling intelligence caused many members to abandon all hope of reconciliation with the mother country, and to regard independence as the only means of preserving their liberties. Yet a large majority of the Congress still refused to entertain the proposition of independence, and awaited instructions from their constituents as to what they should do in these novel and painful circumstances. In the meantime the Congress adopted energetic measures for the defence of the colonies, and the effectiveness of their union and government. In answer to applications from South Carolina and New Hampshire for advice on account of the practical suspension of their local Government, Congress "recommended" each province "to call a full and free representation of the people, and that the representatives, if they think it necessary, establish such a form of government as in their judgment will best promote the happiness of the people, and most effectually secure peace and good-will in the province during the continuance of the present dispute between Great Britain and the colonies". The province of Massachusetts had refused to acknowledge any other local Government than that which had been established by the Royal Charter of William and Mary, and which had never been cancelled by any legal proceedings; and they continued to elect their representatives, and the representatives met and appointed the Council, and acted under it, as far as possible, irrespective of General Gage and the officers of his appointment.
The colonies were a unit as to their determination to defend by force and at all hazards their constitutional rights and liberties as British subjects; but they were yet far from being a unit as to renunciation of all connection with England and the declaration of independence. The Legislature of Pennsylvania was in session when the news of the rejection of the second petition of Congress and the King's proclamation arrived, and when fresh instructions were asked from constituents of the members of Congress; and even under these circumstances, Mr. Dickenson, "The Immortal Farmer," whose masterly letters had done so much to enlighten the public mind of both England and America on the rights of the colonies and the unconstitutional acts of the British Administration and Parliament, repelled the idea of separation from England. The Legislature of Pennsylvania continued to require all its members to subscribe the old legal qualification which included the promise of allegiance to George the Third; "so that Franklin," says Bancroft, "though elected for Philadelphia, through the Irish and Presbyterians, would never take his seat. Dickenson had been returned for the county by an almost unanimous vote." The Legislature, on the 4th of November, elected nine delegates to the Continental Congress. Of these, one was too ill to serve; of the rest, "Franklin stood alone as the unhesitating champion of independence; the majority remained to the last its opponents. On the 9th, Dickenson reported and carried the following instructions to the Pennsylvania delegates: 'We direct that you exert your utmost endeavours to agree upon and recommend such measures as you shall judge to afford the best prospect of obtaining redress of American grievances, and restoring that union and harmony between Great Britain and the colonies so essential to the welfare and happiness of both countries. Though the oppressive measures of the British Parliament and Administration have compelled us to resist their violence by force of arms, yet we strictly enjoin you, that you, in behalf of this colony, dissent from and utterly reject any propositions, should such be made, that may cause or lead to a separation from our mother country, or a change of the form of this government.' The influence of the measure was wide. Delaware was naturally swayed by the example of its more powerful neighbour; the party of the proprietary of Maryland took courage; in a few weeks the Assembly of New Jersey, in like manner, held back the delegates of that province by an equally stringent declaration." After stating that the Legislature of Pennsylvania, before its adjournment, adopted rules for the volunteer battalions, and appropriated eighty thousand pounds in provincial paper money to defray the expenses of military preparation, Mr. Bancroft adds, that "extreme discontent led the more determined to expose through the press the trimming of the Assembly; and Franklin encouraged Thomas Paine, an emigrant from England of the previous year, who was master of a singularly lucid and attractive style, to write an appeal to the people of America in favour of independence." "Yet the men of that day had been born and educated as subjects of a king; to them the House of Hanover was a symbol of religious toleration, the British Constitution another word for the security of liberty and property under a representative government. They were not yet enemies of monarchy; they had as yet turned away from considering whether well-organized civil institutions could not be framed for wide territories without a king; and in the very moment of resistance they longed to escape the necessity of a revolution. Zubly, a delegate from Georgia, a Swiss by birth, declared in his place 'a republic to be little better than a government of devils;' shuddered at the idea of separation from Britain as fraught with greater evils than had yet been suffered."
The exact time when the minds of the leading men in the Colonies, and the colonists, began to undergo a transition from the defence of their constitutional liberties as British subjects to their security by declaring independence of Great Britain, seems to have been the receipt of the intelligence of the scornful rejection of the second petition of Congress, and of the King's proclamation, putting the advocates of colonial rights out of the protection of the law, by declaring them rebels, and requiring all public officers, civil and military, to apprehend them with a view to their punishment as such. Some individuals of eminence in the colonies had previously despaired of reconciliation with England, and had regarded Independency as the only hope of preserving their liberties, but these were the exceptions: the leaders and colonists generally still hoped for reconciliation with England by having their liberties restored, as they were recognized and enjoyed at the close of the French war in 1763. They had regarded the King as their Father and Friend, and laid all the blame upon his Ministers and Parliament, against whose acts they appealed to the King for the protection of their rights and liberties. But it gradually transpired, from year to year, that the King himself was the real prompter of these oppressive acts and measures, and though long discredited, yet when the King ostentatiously announced himself as the champion of the Parliament and its acts, his determination to enforce by the whole power of the realm, the absolute submission of the colonies; and when all this intelligence, so often repeated and doubted, was confirmed by the issue of the Royal proclamation, which it was known and admitted that the King himself had urged and hastened, the most sanguine advocates and friends of reconciliation were astounded and began to despair; and the idea of independence was now boldly advocated by the press.
In 1773, Dr. Franklin said to the Earl of Chatham, "I never heard from any person the least expression of a wish for separation." In October, 1774, Washington wrote, "I am well satisfied that no such thing as independence is desired by any thinking man in America; on the contrary, that it is the ardent wish of the warmest advocates for liberty that peace and tranquillity, on constitutional grounds, may be restored, and the horrors of civil discord prevented." Jefferson stated, "Before the 19th of April, 1775 (the day of General Gage's attack on Concord, and the Lexington affair), I never heard a whisper of a disposition to separate from Great Britain." And thirty-seven days before that wanton aggression of General Gage, John Adams, in Boston, published:
"That there are any who pant after independence is the greatest slander on the Province." Sparks, in a note entitled "American Independence," in the second volume of the Writings of Washington, remarks: "It is not easy to determine at what precise date the idea of independence was first entertained by the principal persons in America." Samuel Adams, after the events of the 19th of April, 1775, was prepared to advocate it. Members of the Provincial Congress of New Hampshire were of the same opinion. President Dwight, of Yale College (Travels in New England and New York, Vol. I., p. 159), says: "In the month of July, 1775, I urged in conversation with several gentlemen of great respectability, firm Whigs, and my intimate friends, the importance and even necessity of a declaration of independence on the part of the colonies, but found them disposed to give me and my arguments a hostile and contemptuous, instead of a cordial reception. These gentlemen may be considered as the representatives of the great body of thinking men of this country." In the note of Sparks are embodied the recollections of Madison, Jay, and others, and the contemporary statements of Franklin and Penn. They are in harmony with the statements and quotations in the text, and sustain the judgment of Dr. Ramsay (History of South Carolina, Vol. I., p. 164), who says: "Till the rejection of the second petition of Congress, the reconciliation with the mother country was the unanimous wish of the Americans generally."
When Washington heard of the affair of Concord and Lexington, April 19, 1775, he wrote, in his own quiet residence at Mount Vernon, "Unhappy is it to reflect that a brother's sword should be sheathed in a brother's breast, and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are to be either drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But, can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?" Mr. Bancroft says: "The reply to Bunker Hill from England reached Washington before the end of September (1775); and the manifest determination of the Ministers to push the war by sea and land, with the utmost vigour, removed from his mind every doubt of the necessity of independence. Such also was the conclusion of Greene; and the army was impatient when any of the chaplains prayed for the King."
It was thus that King George the Third, by his own acts, lost the confidence and affection of his loyal subjects in America, and hastened a catastrophe of which he had been repeatedly and faithfully warned, and which none deprecated more generally and earnestly than the leaders and inhabitants of the American colonies; but who determined, and openly declared their determination in every petition to the King and Parliament for ten years, that, if necessary, at all hazards, they would maintain and defend their constitutional rights as Englishmen.
Now, at the close of the year 1775, and before entering upon the eventful year of 1776, when the American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, let us recapitulate the events which thus brought the mother country and her colonial offspring face to face in armed hostility.
1. No loyalty and affection could be more cordial than that of the American colonies to England at the conquest of Canada from the French, and the peace of Paris between Great Britain and France in 1763. Even the ancient and traditional disaffection of Massachusetts to England had dissolved into feelings of gratitude and respect and avowed loyalty. Indeed, loyalty and attachment to England, and pride in the British Constitution, was the universal feeling of the American colonies at the close of the war which secured North America to England, and for the triumphant termination of which the American colonies had raised and equipped no less than twenty-five thousand men, without whose services the war could not have been accomplished.
2. The first five years of the war with France in America had been disastrous to Great Britain and the colonies, under a corrupt English Administration and incompetent generals; but after the accession of the Earl of Chatham to the Premiership the tide of war in America turned in favour of Great Britain by the appointment of able generals—Amherst and Wolfe—and Admiral Boscawen and others, and by adopting constitutional methods to develop the resources of the colonies for the war; and in two years the French power was crushed and ceased to exist in America. When the Crown, through its Prime Minister, made requisition to the Colonial Legislatures for money and men, as was the usage in England, the Colonial Legislatures responded by granting large sums of money, and sending into the field more than twenty thousand soldiers, who, by their skill, courage, and knowledge of the country, and its modes of travel and warfare, constituted the pioneers, skirmishers, and often the strongest arm of the British army, and largely contributed in every instance to its most splendid victories. Their loyalty, bravery, and patriotism extracted grateful acknowledgments in both Houses of Parliament, and even from the Throne; while the colonies as cordially acknowledged the essential and successful assistance of the mother country. At no period of colonial history was there so deep-felt, enthusiastic loyalty to the British Constitution and British connection as at the close of the war between France and England in 1763. But in the meantime George the Third, after his accession to the throne in 1760, determined not only to reign over but to rule his kingdom, both at home and abroad. He ignored party government or control in Parliament; he resolved to be his own Prime Minister—in other words, to be despotic; he dismissed the able and patriotic statesmen who had wiped off the disgrace inflicted on British arms and prestige during the five years of the French and Indian war in the American colonies, and had given America to England, and called men one after another to succeed them, who, though in some instances they were men of ability, and in one or two instances were men of amiable and Christian character, were upon the whole the most unscrupulous and corrupt statesmen that ever stood at the head of public affairs in England, and the two Parliaments elected under their auspices were the most venal ever known in British history. The King regarded as a personal enemy any member of Parliament who opposed his policy, and hated any Minister of State (and dismissed him as soon as possible) who offered advice to, instead of receiving it from, his Royal master and implicitly obeying it; and the Ministers whom he selected were too subservient to the despotism and caprices of the Royal will, at the frequent sacrifice of their own convictions and the best interests of the empire.
For more than a hundred years the colonies had provided for and controlled their own civil, judicial, and military administration of government; and when the King required special appropriations of money and raising of men during the Seven Years' War, requisitions were made by his Ministers in his name, through the Governors, to the several Provincial Legislatures, which responded with a liberality and patriotism that excited surprise in England at the extent of their resources in both money and men. But this very development of colonial power excited jealousy and apprehensions in England, instead of sympathy and respect; and within a twelvemonth after the treaty of Paris, in 1763, the King and his Ministers determined to discourage and crush all military spirit and organization in the colonies, to denude the Colonial Legislatures of all the attributes of British constitutional free government, by the British Government not only appointing the Governors of the colonies, but by appointing the members of one branch of the Legislature, by appointing Judges as well as other public officers to hold office during the pleasure of the Crown, and fixing and paying their salaries out of moneys paid by colonists, but levied not by the Colonial Legislatures, but by Acts of the British Parliament, contrary to the usage of more than a century; and under the pretext of defending the colonies, but really for the purpose of ruling them; proposing an army of 20 regiments of 500 men each, to be raised and officered in England, from the penniless and often worse than penniless of the scions and relatives of Ministers and members of Parliament, and billeted upon the colonies at the estimated expense of L100,000 sterling a year, to be paid by the colonies out of the proceeds of the Stamp and other Acts of Parliament passed for the purpose of raising a revenue in the colonies for the support of its civil and military government.
No government is more odious and oppressive than that which has the mockery of the form of free government without its powers or attributes. An individual despot may be reached, terrified, or persuaded, but a despotic oligarchy has no restraint of individual responsibility, and is as intangible in its individuality as it is grasping and heartless in its acts and policy. For governors, all executive officers, judges, and legislative councillors appointed from England, together with military officers, 20 regiments all raised in England, the military commanders taking precedence of the local civil authorities, all irresponsible to the colonists, yet paid by them out of taxes imposed upon them without their consent, is the worst and most mercenary despotism that can be conceived. The colonists could indeed continue to elect representatives to one branch of their Legislatures; but the Houses of Assembly thus elected were powerless to protect the liberties or properties of their constituents, subject to abuse and dissolution in case of their remonstrating against unconstitutional acts of tyranny or advocating rights.
Such was the system passionately insisted upon by King George the Third to establish his absolute authority over his colonial subjects in America, and such were the methods devised by his venal Ministers and Parliament to provide places and emoluments for their sons, relatives, and dependents, at the expense of the colonists, to say nothing of the consequences to the virtue of colonial families from mercenary public officers and an immoral soldiery.
The American colonies merited other treatment than that which they received at the hands of the King and Parliament from 1763 to 1776; and they would have been unworthy of the name of Englishmen, and of the respect of mankind, had they yielded an iota of the constitutional rights of British subjects, for which they so lawfully and manfully contended. What the old colonies contended for during that eventful period was substantially the same as that which has been demanded and obtained during the present century by the colonies of the Canadian Dominion, under the names of "local self-government" or "responsible government," and which is now so fully enjoyed by them. Had Queen Victoria reigned in England instead of George the Third, there would have been no Declaration of Independence, no civil war in America, but the thirteen American provinces would have remained as affectionately united to the mother country, and as free as are the provinces of the Canadian Dominion at this day.
George the Third seems to me to have been, before and during the American Revolution, the worst Sovereign for the colonies that ever occupied the throne of England; but after and since that revolution he was the best of Sovereigns for the remaining British colonies of North America. He learned lessons during that revolution which essentially changed his character as the ruler of colonies, though I am not aware that he ever formally confessed the change through which he had passed. It is therefore quite reconcilable that he should be regarded by the old American colonies, now the United States, as a tyrant, while his name is revered and loved by the colonists of the Canadian Dominion as the Father of his people.
[Footnote 359: "Each of the three divisions by which the colonies were usually designated—the New England, the Middle, and the Southern Colonies—had on the floor of Congress men of a positive character. New England presented in John Sullivan, vigour; in Roger Sherman, sterling sense and integrity; in Thomas Cushing, commercial knowledge; in John Adams (afterwards President of the United States), large capacity for public affairs; in Samuel Adams (no relation to John Adams), a great character with influence and power to organize. The Middle Colonies presented in Philip Livingston, the merchant prince of enterprise and liberality; in John Jay, rare public virtue, juridical learning, and classic taste; in William Livingston, progressive ideas tempered by conservatism; in John Dickenson, "The Immortal Farmer," erudition and literary ability; in Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean, working power; in James Duane, timid Whigism, halting, but keeping true to the cause; in Joseph Galloway, downright Toryism, seeking control, and at length going to the enemy. The Southern Colonies presented in Thomas Johnson, the grasp of a statesman; in Samuel Chase, activity and boldness; in the Rutledges, wealth and accomplishment; in Christopher Gadsden, the genuine American; and in the Virginia delegation—an illustrious group—in Richard Bland, wisdom; in Edmund Pendleton, practical talent; in Peyton Randolph, experience in legislation; in Richard Henry Lee, statesmanship in union with high culture; in Patrick Henry, genius and eloquence; in Washington, justice and patriotism. 'If,' said Patrick Henry, 'you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Washington unquestionably is the greatest man of them all.' Those others who might be named were chosen on account of their fitness for the duties which the cause required. Many had independent fortunes. They constituted a noble representation of the ability, culture, political intelligence, and wisdom of twelve of the colonies." (Frothingham's Rise of the Republic of the Twelve States, pp. 360, 361.)]
[Footnote 360: Ib., pp. 363, 364.
After preliminary proceedings, Congress decided to appoint a Committee to state the rights of the colonies, the instances in which those rights had been violated, and the most proper means to obtain their restoration; and another Committee to examine and report upon the statutes affecting the trade and manufactures of the colonies. On the same day, Samuel Adams, in answer to the objection to opening the session with prayer, grounded on the diversity of religious sentiment among the members, said he could hear prayer from any man of piety and virtue, who was a friend of the country, and moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopalian, might be desired to read prayers for the Congress the following morning. The motion prevailed. "The Congress sat with closed doors. Nothing transpired of their proceedings except their organization and the rule of voting (each province having an equal vote). The members bound themselves to keep their doings secret until a majority should direct their publication."—Ib., pp. 364, 365.]
[Footnote 361: The battles of Lexington and Bunker's Hill had occurred some months before the adoption of this petition.]
[Footnote 362: Holmes' Annals, Vol. II., p. 232.
Richard Penn, late Governor of Pennsylvania, was chosen by Congress to go to Great Britain, with directions to deliver their petition to the King himself, and to endeavour, by his personal influence, to procure its favourable reception; but Mr. Penn, though from the city whose Congress had twice assembled, a man distinguished in the colony for moderation and loyalty, and the appointed agent of the Congress, was not asked a question, even when he presented the American petition to the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, and the King refused to see him.—Ib., pp. 231, 232.
"Two days after the delivery of a copy of the petition of Congress, the King sent out a proclamation for suppressing rebellion and sedition. It set forth that many of his subjects in the colonies had proceeded to open and avowed rebellion by arraying themselves to withstand the execution of the law, and traitorously levying war against him. 'There is reason,' so ran its words, 'to apprehend that such rebellion hath been much promoted and encouraged by the traitorous correspondence, counsels, and comfort of divers wicked and desperate persons within our realm.' Not only all the officers, civil and military, but all the subjects of the realm were therefore called upon to disclose all traitorous conspiracies, and to transmit to one of the Secretaries of State 'full information of all persons who should be found carrying on correspondence with, or in any manner or degree aiding or abetting the persons now in open arms and rebellion against the Government within any of the colonies in North America, in order to bring to condign punishment the authors, perpetrators, and abettors of such traitorous designs.'
"The proclamation, aimed at Chatham, Camden, Barre, and their friends, and the boldest of the Rockingham party, even more than against the Americans, was read, but not with the customary ceremonies, at the Royal Exchange, where it was received with a general hiss."
"The irrevocable publication having been made, Penn and Arthur Lee were 'permitted' on the 1st of September to present the original of the American petition to Lord Dartmouth, who promised to deliver it to the King; but on their pressing for an answer, 'they were informed that as it was not received on the throne, no answer would be given.' Lee expressed sorrow at the refusal, which would occasion so much bloodshed; and the deluded Secretary answered: 'If I thought it would be the cause of shedding one drop of blood, I should never have concurred in it." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol. VIII., Chap, xlix., pp. 132, 133.)
Yet "on the 23rd of August Lord Dartmouth wrote to General Howe, who (Aug. 2, 1775) superseded General Gage as the Commander of the British army, that there was 'no room left for any other consideration but that of proceeding against the twelve associated colonies in all respects with the utmost rigour, as the open and avowed enemies of the State.'" (Frothingham's Rise of the American Republic, p. 446.)]
[Footnote 363: "In the meantime (beginning of October) Richard Penn hastened to England with the second petition. The King was now continually occupied with American affairs. He directed that General Gage should be ordered 'instantly to come' over, on account of the battle of Bunker Hill; thought Admiral Graves ought to be recalled from Boston 'for doing nothing,' and completed the arrangements for the employment of Hanoverians in America. Impatient at the delay of the Cabinet in acting upon the proclamation agreed upon, he put this in train by ordering one to be framed and submitted, August 18th, to Lord North, and fixed the day for its promulgation. He was confirmed in his extreme views by General Haldimand, fresh from America, who reported that 'nothing but force could bring the colonies to reason,' and that it would be dangerous to give ear to any proposition they might submit. The King was convinced that it would be better 'totally to abandon the colonies' than 'to admit a single shadow' of their doctrines . Five days after penning these words, he issued (August 23rd) a proclamation for suppressing rebellion and sedition." (The purpose of this fatal proclamation is given in the sub-note.)
This proclamation, unlike Lord North's plan, ignored the colonies as political unities. It is levelled against individuals in rebellion, and all within the realm who should aid them. (Frothingham's Rise of the American Republic, pp. 444-446. Donne's Correspondence of Geo. III.)]
[Footnote 364: A private letter by Captain Collins, lately arrived from London, says that "on the 19th of August General Haldimand was closeted with his Majesty two hours, giving him a state of the American colonies; and that in the course of the conversation his Majesty expressed his resolution in these memorable words: 'I am unalterably determined, at every hazard, and at the risk of every consequence, to compel the colonies to absolute submission.'"]
[Footnote 365: "In the autumn of this year (1775), General Gage repaired to England, and the command of the British army devolved on Sir William Howe. The offer of this command had been first made to General Oglethorpe, his senior officer, who agreed to accept the appointment on the condition that the Ministry would authorize him to assure the colonies that justice should be done to them. This veteran and patriotic General declared at the same time that he knew the people of America well; that they never would be subdued by arms, but that their obedience would be ever secured by doing them justice." (Holmes' Annals, Vol. II., p. 235.)
"The Earl of Effingham, who in his youth had been prompted by military genius to enter the army, and had lately served as a volunteer in the war between Russia and Turkey, finding that his regiment was intended for America, renounced the profession which he loved, as the only means of escaping the obligation of fighting against the cause of freedom. This resignation gave offence to the Court, and was a severe rebuke to the officers who did not share his scruple; but at London the Common Hall, in June, thanked him publicly as 'a true Englishman;' and the guild of merchants in Dublin addressed him in the strongest terms of approbation." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol. VII., Chap, xxxiii. pp. 343, 344.)]
[Footnote 366: "In compliance with a resolve of the Provincial Congress to prevent Tories from conveying out their effects, the inhabitants of Falmouth, in the north-eastern part of Massachusetts, had obstructed the loading of a mast ship. The destruction of the town was determined on as a vindictive punishment. Captain Mowat, detached for that purpose with armed vessels by Admiral Graves, arrived off the place on the evening of the 17th of October. He gave notice to the inhabitants that he would give them two hours 'to remove the human species,' at the end of which time a red pendant would be hoisted at the maintop-gallant mast-head; and that on the least resistance, he should be freed from all humanity dictated by his orders or his inclination. Upon being inquired of by three gentlemen who went on board his ship for that purpose respecting the reason of this extraordinary summons, he replied that he had orders to set on fire all the seaport towns from Boston to Halifax, and that he supposed New York was already in ashes. He could dispense with his orders, he said, on no terms but the compliance of the inhabitants to deliver up their arms and ammunition, and their sending on board a supply of provisions, four carriage guns, and the same number of the principal persons in the town as hostages; that they should engage not to unite with their country in any opposition to Britain; and he assured them that on a refusal of these conditions he would lay their town in ashes within three hours. Unprepared for the attack, the inhabitants by entreaty obtained the suspension of an answer until morning, and employed this interval in removing their families and effects. Considering opposition as unavailing, they made no resistance. The next day, Captain Mowat commenced a furious cannonade and bombardment; and a great number of people standing on the heights were spectators of the conflagration, which reduced many of them to penury and despair; 139 dwelling-houses and 278 stores were burnt. Other seaports were threatened with conflagration, but escaped; Newport, on Rhode Island, was compelled to stipulate for a weekly supply, to avert it." (Holmes' Annals, Vol. II., pp. 219, 220.)
Mr. Bancroft's account of this transaction is as follows: "In the previous May, Mowat, a naval officer, had been held prisoner for a few hours at Falmouth, now Portland; and we have seen Linzee, in a sloop of war, driven with loss from Gloucester. It was one of the last acts of Gage to plan with the Admiral how to wreak vengeance on the inhabitants of both those ports. The design against Gloucester was never carried out; but Mowat, in a ship of sixteen guns, attended by three other vessels, went up the harbour of Portland, and after a short parley, at half-past nine on the morning of the 16th of October, he began to fire upon the town. In five minutes several houses were in a blaze; parties of marines had landed, to spread the conflagration by hand. All sea-going vessels were burned except two, which were carried away. The cannonade was kept up till after dark. St. Paul's Church, the public buildings, and about one hundred and thirty dwelling-houses, three-fourths of the whole, were burned down; those that remained standing were shattered by balls and shells. By the English account the destruction was still greater. At the opening of a severe winter, the inhabitants were turned adrift in poverty and misery. The wrath of Washington was justly kindled as he heard of these 'savage cruelties,' this new 'exertion of despotic barbarity.'" (History of the United States, Vol. VIII., Chap. xlvii., p. 113.)]
[Footnote 367: Bancroft's History United States, Vol. VIII., Chap. xlix., pp. 138, 139.]
[Footnote 368: In this appeal of Paine's, monarchy was for the first time attacked in America, except by the rulers of the Massachusetts colony, under the first Charter. Some of Paine's words were, that "In the early ages of the world, mankind were equals in the order of creation; the heathen introduced the government of kings, which the will of the Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproved. To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a lessening of ourselves, so the second might put posterity under the government of a rogue or a fool. Nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule. England since the Conquest hath known some few good monarchs, but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones." "In short, monarchy and succession have laid not England only, but the world, in blood and ashes." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol. VIII., Chap. xlix., pp. 236, 237.)]
[Footnote 369: But though Mr. Dickenson had done more than any other man in America to vindicate colonial rights and expose the unconstitutional character of the acts of the British Ministry and Parliament, he was opposed to a declaration of independence, like a majority of the colonists; yet he advocated resistance by force against submission to the Boston Port Bill, and the suspension of the Massachusetts Charter, and both without a trial, as in similar cases even under the despotic reigns of Charles the First and Second. Mr. Bancroft blames Mr. Dickenson severely for the instructions of the Pennsylvania Legislature to its nine delegates in the Continental Congress in October, 1775; but, writing under the date of the previous May, Mr. Bancroft says: "Now that the Charter of Massachusetts had been impaired, Dickenson did not ask merely relief from parliamentary taxation; he required security against the encroachments of Parliament on charters and laws. The distinctness with which he spoke satisfied Samuel Adams himself, who has left on record that the Farmer was a thorough Bostonian." (History of the United States, Vol. VII., Chap. xxxvi., p. 377.)]
[Footnote 370: As late as May, 1775, after the bloody affair of Concord and Lexington, Mr. Bancroft remarks:
"The delegates of New England, especially those from Massachusetts, could bring no remedy to the prevailing indecision (in the Continental Congress), for they suffered from insinuations that they represented a people who were republican in their principles of government and fanatics in religion, and they wisely avoided the appearance of importunity or excess in their demands.
"As the delegates from South Carolina declined the responsibility of a decision which would have implied an abandonment of every hope of peace, there could be no efficient opposition to the policy of again seeking the restoration of American liberty through the mediation of the King. This plan had the great advantage over the suggestion of an immediate separation from Britain, that it could be boldly promulgated, and was in harmony with the general wish; for the people of the continent, taken collectively, had not as yet ceased to cling to their old relations with their parent land; and so far from scheming independence, now that independence was become inevitable, they postponed the irrevocable decree and still longed that the necessity for it might pass by." (History of the United States, Vol. VII., Chap. xxxvi, pp. 376, 377.)]
[Footnote 371: Lord Dartmouth (the Secretary of State for the Colonies) said: "The attempts of General Gage at Concord are fatal. By that unfortunate event the happy moment of advantage is lost."
"The condemnation of Gage was universal. Many people in England were from that moment convinced that the Americans could not be reduced, and that England must concede their independence. The British force, if drawn together, could occupy but a few insulated points, while all the rest would be free; if distributed, would be continually harassed and destroyed in detail.
"These views were frequently brought before Lord North. That statesman was endowed with strong affections, and was happy in his family, in his fortune and abilities; in his public conduct, he and he alone among Ministers was sensible to the reproaches of remorse; and he cherished the sweet feelings of human kindness. Appalled at the prospect, he wished to resign. But the King would neither give him release, nor relent towards the Americans. How to subdue the rebels was the subject of consideration." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol. VII., Chap, xxxiii, pp. 345, 346.)]
[Footnote 372: Frothingham's Rise of the American Republic, p. 453, in a note.]
[Footnote 373: History of the United States, Vol. VIII., Chap, xlvii, p. 108.
In November, 1775, Jefferson wrote to a refugee: "It is an immense misfortune to the whole empire to have a king of such a disposition at such a time. We are told, and everything proves it true, that he is the bitterest enemy we have; his Minister is able, and that satisfies me that ignorance or wickedness somewhere controls him. Our petitions told him, that from our King there was but one appeal. After colonies have drawn the sword, there is but one step more they can take. That step is now pressed upon us by the measures adopted, as if they were afraid we would not take it. There is not in the British Empire a man who more cordially loves union with Great Britain than I do; but by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this I speak the sentiments of America."—Ib., p. 143.]
1775 AND BEGINNING OF 1776—PREPARATION IN ENGLAND TO REDUCE THE COLONISTS TO ABSOLUTE SUBMISSION—SELF-ASSERTED AUTHORITY OF PARLIAMENT.
The eventful year of 1775—the year preceding that of the American Declaration of Independence—opened with increased and formidable preparations on the part of England to reduce the American colonies to absolute submission. The ground of this assumption of absolute power over the colonies had no sanction in the British Constitution, much less in the history of the colonies; it was a simple declaration or declaratory Bill by the Parliament itself, in 1764, of its right to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever, and no more a part of the British Constitution than any declaration of Parliament in the previous century of its authority over the monarchy and the constitution and existence of the House of Lords. Assuming and declaring an authority over the American colonies which Parliament had never before, and which it has never since exercised, and which no statesman or political writer of repute at this day regards as constitutional, Parliament proceeded to tax the colonies without their consent, to suspend the legislative powers of the New York Legislature, to close the port of Boston, to annul and change all that was free in the Charter Government of Massachusetts, to forbid the New England colonies the fisheries of Newfoundland, and afterwards to prohibit to all the colonies commerce with each other and with foreign countries; to denounce, as in the Royal Speech to Parliament of the previous October, as "rebellion," remonstrances against and opposition to these arbitrary and cruel enactments; to appeal to Holland and Russia (but in vain) for the aid of foreign soldiers, and to hire of German blood-trading princes seventeen thousand mercenary soldiers to butcher British subjects in the colonies, even to liberate slaves for the murder of their masters, and to employ savage Indians to slaughter men, women, and children.
All this was done by the King and his servants against the colonies before the close of the year 1775, while they still disclaimed any design or desire for independence, and asked for nothing more than they enjoyed in 1763, after they had given the noblest proof of liberality and courage, to establish and maintain British supremacy in America during the seven years' war between England and France, and enjoyed much less of that local self-government, immunity, and privilege which every inhabitant of the Canadian Dominion enjoys at this day.
During that French war, and for a hundred years before, the colonists had provided fortresses, artillery, arms, and ammunition for their own defence; they were practised marksmen, far superior to the regular soldiery of the British army, with the character and usages of which they had become familiar. They offered to provide for their own defence as well as for the support of their civil government, both of which the British Government requires of the provinces of the Canadian Dominion, but both of which were denied to the old provinces of America, after the close of the seven years' war with France. The King and his Ministers not only opposed the colonies providing for their own defence, but ordered the seizure of their magazines, cannon, and arms. General Gage commenced this kind of provocation and attack upon the colonists and their property; seized the arms of the inhabitants of Boston; spiked their cannon at night on Fort Hill; seized by night, also, 13 tons of colonial powder stored at Charleston; sent by night an expedition of eight hundred troops, twenty miles to Concord, to seize military provisions, but they were driven back to Lexington with the loss of 65 killed and 180 wounded, and on the part of the colonists 50 killed and 34 wounded. This was the commencement of a bloody revolution, and was soon followed by the battle of Bunker's Hill, in which, "on the part of the British," says Holmes, "about 3,000 men were engaged in this action; and their killed and wounded amounted to 1,054. The number of Americans in this engagement was 1,500; and their killed, wounded, and missing amounted to 453."
In each of these conflicts the attack was made and the first shot was fired on the part of the British troops. Of this, abundant evidence was forthwith collected and sent to England. It was carefully inculcated that in no instance should the colonists attack or fire the first shot upon the British troops; that in all cases they should act upon the defensive, as their cause was the defence of their rights and property; but when attacked, they retaliated with a courage, skill, and deadly effect that astonished their assailants, and completely refuted the statements diligently made in England and circulated in the army, that the colonists had no military qualities and would never face British troops.
About the same time that General Gage thus commenced war upon the people of Massachusetts, who so nobly responded in defence of their constitutional rights, Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, committed similar outrages upon the traditionally loyal Virginians, who, as Mr. Bancroft says, "were accustomed to associate all ideas of security in their political rights with the dynasty of Hanover, and had never, even in thought, desired to renounce their allegiance. They loved to consider themselves an integral part of the British empire. The distant life of landed proprietors, in solitary mansion-houses, favoured independence of thought; but it also generated an aristocracy, which differed widely from the simplicity and equality of New England. Educated in the Anglican Church, no religious zeal had imbued them with a fixed hatred of kingly power; no deep-seated antipathy to a distinction of ranks, no theoretic zeal for the introduction of a republic, no speculative fanaticism drove them to a restless love of change. They had, on the contrary, the greatest aversion to a revolution, and abhorred the dangerous experiment of changing their form of government without some absolute necessity."
But the Virginians, like all true loyalists, were "loyal to the people's part of the Constitution as well as to that which pertains to the Sovereign." To intimidate them, Dunmore issued proclamations, and threatened freeing the slaves against their masters. On the night of the 20th of April he sent a body of marines, in the night, to carry off a quantity of gunpowder belonging to the colony, and stored in its magazine at Williamsburg. As soon as this arbitrary seizure of the colony's property became known, drums sounded alarm throughout the city of Williamsburg, the volunteer company rallied under arms, and the inhabitants assembled for consultation, and at their request the Mayor and Corporation waited upon the Governor and asked him his motives for carrying off their powder privately "by an armed force, particularly at a time when they were apprehensive of an insurrection among their slaves;" and they demanded that the powder should be forthwith restored.
Lord Dunmore first answered evasively; but learning that the citizens had assembled under arms, he raged and threatened. He said: "The whole country can easily be made a solitude; and by the living God, if any insult is offered to me, or to those who have obeyed my orders, I will declare freedom to the slaves, and lay the town in ashes."
Lord Dunmore at the same time wrote to the English Secretary of State: "With a small body of troops and arms, I could raise such a force among Indians, Negroes, and other persons, as would soon reduce the refractory people of this colony to obedience."
Yet, after all his boasting and threats, the value of the powder thus unlawfully seized was restored to the colony. Lord Dunmore, agitated with fears, as most tyrants are, left the Government House from fear of the people excited by his own conduct towards them, and went on board of the man-of-war ship Tower, at York (about 12 miles from Williamsburg, the capital of the Province), thus leaving the colony in the absolute possession of its own inhabitants, giving as a reason for his flight, his apprehension of "falling a sacrifice to the daringness and atrociousness, the blind and unmeasurable fury of great numbers of the people;" and the assurance of the very people whom he feared as to his personal safety and that of his family, and the repeated entreaties of the Legislative Assembly that he would return to land, with assurance of perfect safety from injury or insult, could not prevail upon Lord Dunmore to return to the Government House, or prevent him from attempting to govern the ancient Dominion of Virginia from ships of war. He seized a private printing press, with two of its printers, at the town of Norfolk, and was thus enabled to issue his proclamations and other papers against the inhabitants whom he had so grossly insulted and injured.
"In October" (1775), says Bancroft, "Dunmore repeatedly landed detachments to seize arms wherever he could find them. Thus far Virginia had not resisted the British by force. The war began in that colony with the defence of Hampton, a small village at the end of the isthmus between York and James rivers. An armed sloop had been driven on its shore in a very violent gale; its people took out of her six swivels and other stores, made some of her men prisoners, and then set her on fire. Dunmore blockaded the port; they called to their assistance a company of "Shirtmen," as the British called the Virginia regulars, from the hunting shirt which was their uniform, and another company of minute men, besides a body of militia."
"On the 26th Dunmore sent some of the tenders close into Hampton Roads to destroy the town. The guard marched out to repel them, and the moment they came within gunshot, George Nicholas, who commanded the Virginians, fired his musket at one of the tenders; it was the first gun fired in Virginia against the British. His example was followed by his party. Retarded by boats which had been sunk across the Channel, the British on that day vainly attempted to land. The following night the Culpepper riflemen were despatched to the aid of Hampton; and William Woodford, Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Virginia, was sent by the Committee of Safety from Williamsburg to take the direction. The next day the British, having cut their way through the sunken boats, renewed the attack; but the riflemen poured upon them a heavy fire, killing a few and wounding more. One of the tenders was taken, with its armament and seven seamen; the rest were with difficulty towed out of the creek. The Virginians lost not a man. This was the first battle of the revolution in the ancient Dominion, and its honours belonged to the Virginians."
In consequence of this failure of Lord Dunmore to burn the town of Hampton, he proclaimed martial law and freedom to the slaves. The English Annual Register states that, "In consequence of the repulse (at Hampton) a proclamation was issued (Nov. 7th) by the Governor, dated on board the ship William, off Norfolk, declaring, that as the civil law was at present insufficient to prevent and punish treason and traitors, martial law should take place, and be executed throughout the colony; and requiring all persons capable of bearing arms to repair to his Majesty's standard, or to be considered as traitors." He also declared all indentured servants, negroes, and others, appertaining to rebels, who were able and willing to bear arms, and who joined his Majesty's forces, to be free.
"The measure for emancipating the negroes," continues the Annual Register, "excited less surprise, and probably had less effect, from its being so long threatened and apprehended, than if it had been more immediate and unexpected. It was, however, received with the greatest horror in all the colonies, and has been severely condemned elsewhere, as tending to loosen the bands of society, to destroy domestic security, and encourage the most barbarous of mankind to the commission of the most horrible crimes and the most inhuman cruelties; that it was confounding the innocent with the guilty, and exposing those who were the best of friends to the Government, to the same loss of property, danger, and destruction with the most incorrigible rebels."
It will be observed in Lord Dunmore's proclamation, as also in the English Register, and I may add in General Stedman's History of the American War, and in other histories of those times, the terms "rebels," "treason," and "traitors" are applied to those who, at that time, as in all previous years, disclaimed all desire of separation from England, and only claimed those constitutional rights of Englishmen to which they were as lawfully entitled as the King was to his Crown, and very much more so than Lord Dunmore was entitled to the authority which he was then exercising; for he had been invested with authority to rule according to the Constitution of the colony, but he had set aside the Legislature of the colony, which had as much right to its opinions and the expression of them as he had to his; he had abandoned the legal seat of government, and taken up his residence on board a man-of-war, and employed his time and strength in issuing proclamations against people to whom he had been sent to govern as the representative of a constitutional sovereign, and made raids upon their coasts, and burned their towns. In truth, Lord Dunmore and his abettors were the real "rebels" and "traitors," who were committing "treason" against the constitutional rights and liberties of their fellow-subjects, while the objects of their hostility were the real loyalists to the Constitution, which gave to the humblest subject his rights as well as to the Sovereign his prerogatives.
Lord Dunmore, from his ship of war, had no right to rule the rich and most extensive colony in America. He had abandoned his appointed seat of government, and he became the ravager of the coasts and the destroyer of the seaport towns of the ancient dominion. This state of things could not long continue. Lord Dunmore could not subsist his fleet without provisions; and the people would not sell their provisions to those who were seeking to rob them of their liberties and to plunder their property. The English Annual Register observes:
"In the meantime, the people in the fleet were distressed for provisions and necessaries of every sort, and were cut off from every kind of succour from the shore. This occasioned constant bickering between the armed ships and boats, and the forces that were stationed on the coast, particularly at Norfolk. At length, upon the arrival of the Liverpool man-of-war from England, a flag was sent on shore to put the question "whether they would supply his Majesty's ships with provisions?" which being answered in the negative, and the ships in the harbour being continually annoyed by the fire of the rebels from that part of the town which lay next the water, it was determined to dislodge them by destroying it. Previous notice being accordingly given to the inhabitants that they might remove from danger, the first day of the New Year (1776) was signalized by the attack, when a violent cannonade from the Liverpool frigate, two sloops of war, and the Governor's armed ship the Dunmore, seconded by parties of sailors and marines, who landed and set fire to the nearest houses, soon produced the desired effect, and the whole town was reduced to ashes."
Mr. Bancroft eloquently observes: "In this manner the Royal Governor burned and laid waste the best town in the oldest and most loyal colony of England, to which Elizabeth had given a name, and Raleigh devoted his fortune, and Shakspeare and Bacon and Herbert foretokened greatness; a colony where the people themselves had established the Church of England, and where many were still proud of their ancestors, and in the day of the British Commonwealth had been faithful to the line of kings."
When Washington learned the fate of the rich emporium of his own "country," for so he called Virginia, his breast heaved with waves of anger and grief. "I hope," said he, "this and the threatened devastation of other places will unite the whole country in one indissoluble band against a Government which seems lost to every sense of virtue and those feelings which distinguish a civilized people from the most barbarous savages."
Thus the loyal churchmen of Virginia received the same treatment from Lord Dunmore as did the republican Congregationalists of Massachusetts from General Gage. The loyal Presbyterians of the two Carolinas experienced similar treatment from Governors Campbell and Martin, as stated by the English Annual Register, in the preceding note. The three Southern Governors each fled from their seats of government and betook themselves to ships of war; while Gage was shut up in Boston until his recall to England.
The Southern colonies, with those of New England, shared the same fate of misrepresentation, abuse, and invasion of their rights as British subjects; the flames of discontent were spread through all the colonies by a set of incompetent and reckless Governors, the favourites and tools of perhaps the worst Administration and the most corrupt that ever ruled Great Britain. All the colonies might adopt the language of the last address of the Assembly of Virginia: "We have exhausted every mode of application which our inventions could suggest, as proper and promising. We have decently remonstrated with Parliament; they have added new injuries to the old. We have wearied the King with our supplications; he has not deigned to answer them. We have appealed to the native honour and justice of the British nation; their efforts in our favour have been hitherto ineffectual." At the meeting of Parliament, October 26th, 1775, the King was advised to utter in the Royal speech the usual denunciation against the colonies, but the minority in Parliament (led by Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, General Conway, and Lord John Cavendish) discussed and denied the statements in the Royal speech, and exhibited the results of the Ministerial warfare against the colonies at the close of the year 1775, the year before the Declaration of Independence. "In this contest," says the Annual Register of 1776, "the speech was taken to pieces, and every part of it most severely scrutinized. The Ministers were charged with having brought their Sovereign into the most disgraceful and unhappy situation of any monarch now living. Their conduct had already wrested the sceptre of America out of his hands. One-half of the empire was lost, and the other thrown into a state of anarchy and confusion. After having spread corruption like a deluge through the land, until all public virtue was lost, and the people were inebriated with vice and profligacy, they were then taught in the paroxysms of their infatuation and madness to cry out for havoc and war. History could not show an instance of such an empire ruined in such a manner. They had lost a greater extent of dominion in the first campaign of a ruinous civil war, which was intentionally produced by their own acts, than the most celebrated conquerors had ever acquired in so short a space of time.
"The speech was said to be composed of a mixture of assumed and false facts, with some general undefined and undisputed axioms, which nobody would attempt to controvert. Of the former, that of charging the colonies with aiming at independence was severely reprehended, as being totally unfounded, being directly contrary to the whole tenor of their conduct, to their most express declarations both by word and writing, and to what every person of any intelligence knew of their general temper and disposition. But what they never intended, we may drive them to. They will, undoubtedly, prefer independence to slavery. They will never continue their connection with this country unless they can be connected with its privileges. The continuance of hostility, with the determined refusal of security for these privileges, will infallibly bring on separation.
"The charge of their making professions of duty and proposals of reconciliation only for the insidious purpose of amusing and deceiving, was equally reprobated. It was insisted that, on the contrary, these had from the beginning told them honestly, openly and bravely, without disguise or reserve, and declared to all the world, that they never would submit to be arbitrarily taxed by any body of men whatsoever in which they were not represented. They did not whisper behind the door, nor mince the matter; they told fairly what they would do, and have done, if they were unhappily urged to the last extremity. And that though the Ministers affected not to believe them, it was evident from the armament which they sent out that they did; for however incompetent that armament has been to the end, nobody could admit a doubt that it was intended to oppose men in arms, and to compel by force, the incompetence for its purposes proceeding merely from that blind ignorance and total misconception of American affairs which had operated upon the Ministers in every part of their conduct.
"The shameful accusation," they said, "was only to cover that wretched conduct, and, if possible, to hide or excuse the disgrace and failure that had attended all their measures. Was any other part of their policy more commendable or more successful? Did the cruel and sanguinary laws of the preceding session answer any of the purposes for which they were proposed? Had they in any degree fulfilled the triumphant predictions, had they kept in countenance the overbearing vaunts of the Minister? They have now sunk into the same nothingness with the terrors of that armed force which was to have looked all America into submission. The Americans have faced the one, and they despise the injustice and iniquity of the other....
"The question of rebellion was also agitated; and it was asserted that the taking up of arms in the defence of just rights did not, according to the spirit of the British Constitution, come within that comprehension. It was also asserted with great confidence, that notwithstanding the mischiefs which the Americans had suffered, and the great losses they had sustained, they would still readily lay down their arms, and return with the greatest good-will and emulation to their duty, if candid and unequivocal measures were taken for reinstating them in their former rights; but that this must be done speedily, before the evils had taken too wide an extent, and the animosity and irritation arising from them had gone beyond a certain pitch.
"The boasted lenity of Parliament was much lauded. It was asked whether the Boston Port Bill, by which, without trial or condemnation, a number of people were stripped of their commercial property, and even deprived of the benefit of their real estates, was an instance of it? Was it to be found in the Fishery Bill, by which large countries were cut off from the use of the elements, and deprived of the provision which nature had allotted for their sustenance? Or was taking away the Charter and all the rights of the people without trial or forfeiture the measure of lenity from which such applause was now sought? Was the indemnity held out to military power lenity? Was it lenity to free soldiers from a trial in the country where the murders with which they should stand charged, when acting in support of civil and revenue officers, were committed, and forcing their accusers to come to England at the pleasure of a governor?" ...
"The debate in the House of Lords was rendered particularly remarkable by the unexpected defection of a noble duke (Duke of Grafton) who had been for some years at the head of the Administration, had resigned of his own accord at a critical period, but who had gone with the Government ever since, and was at this time in high office. The line which he immediately took was still more alarming to the Administration than the act of defection. Besides a decisive condemnation of all their acts for some time past with respect to America, as well as of the measures now held out by the speech, he declared that he had been deceived and misled upon that subject; that by the withholding of information, and the misrepresentation of facts, he had been induced to lend his countenance to measures which he never approved; among those was that in particular of coercing America by force of arms, an idea the most distant from his mind and opinions, but which he was blindly led to give a support to from his total ignorance of the true state and disposition of the colonies, and the firm persuasion held out that matters would never come to an extremity of that nature; that an appearance of coercion was all that was required to establish a reconciliation, and that the stronger the Government appeared, and the better it was supported, the sooner all disputes would be adjusted."
"He declared that nothing less than a total repeal of all the American laws which had been passed since 1763 could now restore peace and happiness, or prevent the most destructive and fatal consequences—consequences which could not even be thought of without feeling the utmost degree of grief and horror; that nothing could have brought him out in the present ill state of his health but the fullest conviction of his being right—a knowledge of the critical situation of his country, and a sense of what he owed to his duty and to his conscience; that these operated so strongly upon him, that no state of indisposition, if he were even obliged to come in a litter, should prevent his attending to express his utmost disapprobation of the measures which were now being pursued, as well as of those which he understood from the lords in office it was intended still to pursue. He concluded by declaring that if his nearest relations or dearest friends were to be affected by this question or that the loss of fortune, or of every other thing which he most esteemed, was to be the certain consequence of his present conduct, yet the strong conviction and compulsion operating at once upon his mind and conscience would not permit him to hesitate upon the part which he should take.
"The address was productive of a protest signed by nineteen lords, in which they combat the civil war as unjust and impolitic in its principles, dangerous in its contingent and fatal in its final consequences. They censured the calling in of foreign forces to decide domestic quarrels as disgraceful and dangerous. They sum up and conclude the protest by declaring: 'We cannot, therefore, consent to an address which may deceive his Majesty and the public into a belief of the confidence of this House in the present Ministers, who have deceived Parliament, disgraced the nation, lost the colonies, and involved us in a civil war against our clearest interests, and upon the most unjustifiable grounds wantonly spilling the blood of thousands of our fellow-subjects.'"
[Footnote 374: Annals, etc., Vol. II., p. 211. The annalist adds in a note, that "Of the British 226 were killed and 828 wounded; 19 commissioned officers being among the former, and 70 among the latter. Of the Americans, 139 were killed and 314 wounded and missing. The only provincial officers of distinction lost were General Joseph Warren, Col. Gardner, Lieut.-Col. Parker, and Messrs. Moore and McClany."]
[Footnote 375: The royal historian, Andrews, gives the following or English account of the battle of Bunker's Hill, together with the circumstances which preceded and followed it:
"On the 12th of June (1775), a proclamation was issued by the British Government at Boston, offering a pardon, in the King's name, to all who laid down their arms and returned to their homes and occupations. Two persons only were excepted—Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. John Hancock—whose guilt was represented as too great and notorious to escape punishment. All who did not accept of this offer, or who assisted, abetted, or corresponded with them, were to be deemed guilty of treason and rebellion, and treated accordingly. By this proclamation it was declared that as the Courts of Judicature were shut, martial law should take place, till a due course of justice could be re-established.
"But this act of Government was as little regarded as the preceding. To convince the world how firmly they were determined to persevere in their measures, and how small an impression was made by the menaces of Britain, Mr. Hancock, immediately after his proscription, was chosen President of the Congress. The proclamation had no other effect than to prepare people's minds for the worst that might follow.
"The reinforcements arrived from Britain; the eagerness of the British military to avail themselves of their present strength, and the position of the Provincials, concurred to make both parties diligent in their preparation for action. It was equally the desire of both: the first were earnest to exhibit an unquestionable testimony of their superiority, and to terminate the quarrel by one decisive blow; the others were no less willing to come to a second engagement (the first being that of Concord and Lexington), from a confidence they would be able to convince their enemies that they would find the subjugation of America a much more difficult task than they hod promised themselves.