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" In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birth-right; for the protection of our property, acquired by the honest industry of our forefathers and our own; against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms : we shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.”
This bold and explicit manifesto was dated at Philadelphia, the 6th of July, 1775, and subscribed by John Hancock, President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, Secretary.
A general spirit of unanimity pervaded the Colonies at this momentous period. Men of all ranks and ages were animated with martial ardour, and even religious prejudices were overcome by patriotic enthusiasm.Several young men of the Quaker persuasion, joined the military associations; and the number of men in arms throughout the colonies was very considerable.
Nor was this zeal for the common cause confined to the men ; even the fair sex evinced their patriotism. At a meeting of the women of Bristol county, in Pennsylvania, a large sum of money was subscribed to raise and equip a regiment. When the men were embodied, a lady was deputed by the rest to
present the regiment with a magnificent suit of colours, which had been wrought for them and embellished with mottos and devices. She made a very animated speech on the occasion, and concluded with an injunction to the officers and soldiers, “never to desert the colours of the ladies, if they wished that the ladies should enlist under their banners.”
Notwithstanding these warlike preparations, the Americans unanimously protested that they took up arms only to obtain a redress of grievances; and a separation from the parent state was an object foreign to their wishes. The rancour, however, that accompanies a civil war, was productive of mutual reproaches, and the slightest proof of enmity was keenly felt as proceeding from those who were once friends.
An instance of this nature happened at Boston, while invested with the provincial army, and produced the memorable correspondence between the respective command
The last letter, written by General Washington to General Gage, exhibited a lively portrait of his character and principles, as well as those of his countrymen. It contained the following striking passages:
- Whether British or American mercy, fortitude and patience are most pre-eminent;
whether our victorious citizens, whom the hand of tyranny has forced into arms to defend their property and freedom, or the mercenary instrument of lawless domination, avarice and revenge, best deserve the appellation of rebels, and the punishment of that cord, which
your affected clemency has forborn to inflict; whether the authority under which I act, is usurped, or founded upon the genuine principles of liberty ; such considerations are altogether foreign to the subject of our correspondence. I purposely avoid all political disquisition; nor shall I avail myself of those advantages which the sacred cause of
my country, of liberty, and of human nature, give me over you ; much less shall I stoop to retort any invective.
“ You affect, sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own. I cannot conceive one more honourable than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power. Far from thinking it a plea for cruelty, a mind of true magnanimity, and enlarged ideas, would comprehend and respect it.”
This celebrated letter was by the Americans represented as the most perfect model of the style becoming the Commander in
Chief, and the occasion to which it was adapted; nay, it was commended in different parts of Europe, and even in England, as the most proper answer he could make.
In September, Gen. Gage sailed for England ; and the command of the British army devolved on Gen. Howe.
Meanwhile the ariny under Washington continued the blockade of Boston, so closely as to prevent all intercourse between that town and the country. The provincial forces was formed in three grand divisions, of which General Ward commanded the right wing, General Lee the left, and the centre was commanded by Washington. The army was arranged by Gen. Gates, by whose exertions military discipline was gradually and successfully introduced'; the officers and privates were taught the necessity of a due subordination, and became expert in the different manoeuvres that constitute the
regularity of an army.
One insuperable obstacle to the provincial army's arriving at perfect discipline, was the shortness of the time for which the men had been.enlisted. It had been limited to six months, and no part of the troops were engaged longer than till the first day of January, 1776. To prevent the Englsh general
from taking advantage of this circumstance, Washington was obliged occasionally to call in the militia, when the disbanded men left the camp, in order that the works should be properly defended.
When Congress sent their second petition to the king, they also sent an address to the people of Great Britain, and another to the inhabitants of Ireland. At the same time they wrote to the Canadians, exhorting them to assert their rights, and enter into a treaty. As the British ministry had endeavoured to engage the Indians in an alliance against the colonies, and had sent agents among them for that purpose, Congress resolved to counteract this measure. In order to conciliate the friendship of the Indians, and obviate the dangers that would ensue from their enmity, commissioners were deputed by Congress to secure their adherence to the colonies.
When the British agents arrived among the Indians, with large presents to their Chiefs, they met with a very cool reception. The Sachems told them, they were surprised to see Englishmen ask their assistance against one another, and advised them to be reconciled. They paid more respect to the commissioners from Congress; they agreed to remain neuter; and thus the colonists were