Графични страници
PDF файл

some time past, that a repetition is altogether unnecessary. It is sufficient to say, they were executed in a masterly manner, both with respect to the style and composition, and ought to have impressed the people of England with more favourable sentiments of the Americans, than they were at that time willing to entertain.

All this time the disposition of the people had corresponded with the warmest wishes of congress. The first of June had been kept as a fast, not only throughout Virginia, where it was first proposed, but through the whole continent. Contributions for the relief of the inhabitants of Boston were recommended and raised throughout the country. Even those who were most likely to derive the greatest advantages from the Port-bill, with a generosity unequalled, refused to enrich themselves at the expense of their suffering neighbours. The inhabitants of Marblehead, who were among the number, though situated in the neighbourhood of Boston and most likely to receive benefit from the stoppage of their trade, did not attempt to avail themselves of it; but so far from it, that they generously offered the use of their har-bour, wharves, and stores, rent free.

In the meantime, the British forces at Boston were continually augmenting in number, which greatly increased the general jeaLousy and disaffection; the country people were ready to rise at: a moment's warning; and the experiment was tried by giving a false alarm, that the communication was to be cut off between the town and country, in order to reduce the former by famine to a compliance with the acts of parliament. On this intelligence, the country people assembled in great numbers, and could not be satisfied, till they had sent messengers into the city, to inquire into the truth of the report. These messengers were enjoined to inform the people in Boston, that if they should be so pusillanimous as to make a surrender of their liberties, the province would not think itself bound by such examples; and that Britain, by breaking their original charter, had annulled the contract subsisting between them, and left them to act as they thought proper.

The people in every other respect manifested their inflexible determination to adhere to the plan they had so long followed. The new counsellors and judges were obliged to resign their offices, in order to preserve their lives and properties from the fury of the multitude. In some places they shut up the avenues to the court houses; and when required to make way for the judges, replied, that they knew of none but such as were appointed by the ancient usage and custom of the province.

They manifested, in every place, the most ardent desire of learning the art of war; and every one who could bear arms, was most assiduous in procuring them, and learning the military exercise. Matters at last proceeded to such a height, that general Gage thought proper to fortify the neck of land which joins the

[ocr errors]

town of Boston to the continent. This, though undoubtedly a prudent measure in his situation, was exclaimed against by the Americans, in the most vehement manner; but the general, instead of giving ear to their remonstrances, deprived them of all power of acting against himself, by seizing the provincial powder, ammunition, and other military stores, at Cambridge and Charlestown. This excited such indignation, that it was with the utmost difficulty the people could be restrained from marching to Boston, and attacking the troops. Even in the town itself, the company of cadets, that used to attend the governor, disbanded themselves, and returned the standard he had presented them with, on his accession to the government. This was occasioned by his having, deprived the celebrated John Hancock (afterwards President of Congress of his commission of colonel of the cadets. A similar instance happened of a provincial colonel having accepted a seat in the new council, upon which twenty-four officers resigned their commissions in one day.

In the meantime, a meeting was held of the principal inhabitants of the towns adjacent to Boston; the purport of which was, publicly to renounce all obedience to the late acts of parliament, and to enter into an engagement to indemnify such as should be prosecuted on that account: the members of the new council were declared violators of the rights of their country: all ranks and degrees were exhorted to learn the use of arms; and the re. ceivers of the public revenue were ordered not to deliver it into the treasury, but to retain it in their own hands until the constitution should be restored, or a provincial congress dispose of it otherwise.

A remonstrance against the fortifications of Boston Neck was next prepared, in which, however, they still declared their unwillingness, to proceed to hostilities; asserting, as usual, their de. termination not to submit to the acts of parliament they had already so much complained of. The governor, to restore tranqui. lity if possible, called a general assembly; but so many of the council had resigned their places, that he was induced to countermand its sitting by proclamation.

This measure, however, was deemed illegal; the assembly met at Salem, and after waiting a day for the governor, voted themselves into a provincial congress, of which John Hancock was chosen president. A committee was instantly appointed, who waited on the governor concerning the fortifications on Boston Neck; but nothing of consequence took place, both parties crimipating each other.

The winter was now coming on, and the governor, to avoid quartering the soldiers on the inhabitants, proposed to erect bar. racks for them; but the select-men of Boston compelled them to desist. Carpenters were sent for to New York, but they were re

[ocr errors]

fused: and it was with great difficulty that he could procure winter lodgings for his troops. Nor was it with less difficulty that he procured clothes; as the merchants of New York told him, 6 that they would never supply any article for the benefit of men sent as enemies to their country." This disposition prevailing universally throughout the continent, was highly gratifying to congress.

It was now generally expected that the ensuing spring would be the season of commencing hostilities, and the most indefatigable diligence was used by the colonies to be fully prepared against such a formidable enemy. Lists of all the fencible men were made put in each colony, and especially of those who had served in the former war; of whom they had the satisfaction to find twothirds were still alive, and able to bear arms. Magazines of arms were collected, and money was provided for the payment of troops..

In vain the governors of the different provinces endeavoured to put a stop to these proceedings by their proclamations; the Rubicon was passed, the fatal period was now arrived; and the more the servants of government attempted to repress the spirit of the Americans, the more violent were their exertions.

At this time the inhabitants of Boston were reduced to great distress. The British troops, (now commonly called the enemy,) were in absolute possession of it; the inhabitants were kept as prisoners, and might be made accountable for the conduct of the whole colonies; various were the means contrived to relieve the latter from their disagreeable situation. It was proposed to remove the inhabitants altogether; but this was impracticable without the governor's consent: others recommended burning the town, after valuing the houses, and indemnifying the proprietors ; but this was found equally impracticable; it was at last resolved to wait for some favourable opportunity, as the garrison was not very numerous, and not being supplied with necessaries by the inhabitants, might soon be obliged to leave the place.

The friends of the British government attempted to do something in opposition to the voice of the people; but after a few ineffectual meetings and resolutions, they were utterly silenced and obliged to yield to superior numbers. Matters had now proceeded so far, that the Americans, without further ceremony, seized on the military stores belonging to governinent. This menced at Newport, in Rhode- Island, where the inhabitants carried off forty pieces of cannon, appointed for the protection of the place; and on being asked the reason of this proceeding, replied, is that the people had seized them, lest they should be made use of against themselves;" after this the assembly met and resolved that ammunition and warlike stores should be purchased with the public money

[ocr errors]

New Hampshire followed the example of Rhode Island, and seized a small fort for the sake of the powder and military stores it contained. In Pennsylvania, however, a convention was held which expressed an earnest desire of reconciliation with the mo, ther country; though at the same time, in the strongest manner, declaring, that they were resolved to take up arms in defence of their just rights, and defend to the last, their opposition to the late acts of parliament; and the people were exhorted to apply themselves with the greatest diligence to the prosecution of such manufactures, as were necessary for their defence and subsistence; such as salt, saltpetre, gunpowder, steel, &c. This was the universal voice of the colenies, New York only excepted. The assembly of that province, as yet ignorant of the fate of their last remonstrance, refused to concur with the other colonies in their determination, to throw off the British yoke: their attachment was nevertheless very faint, and by the event, it appeared, that a perseverance of the measures which the ministry had adopted, was sufficient to unite them to the rest.

In the beginning of February the provincial congress met at Cambridge, and as no friends to Britain could now find admittance into that assembly, the only consideration was how to make proper preparations for war. Expertness in military discipline was earnestly recommended, and several military institutions established : awong which that of the minute-men was most remarkable. These were chosen from the most active and expert among the militia; and their business was to keep themselves in constant readiness, at the call of their officers; from which perpetual diligence they derived their appellation.

It was now thought that a very slight occasion would bring on hostilities, for both parties were so much exasperated by a long course of reproaches, and literary warfare, that they were filled with the utmost inveteracy against each other.

On the twenty sixth of February, 1775, general Gage, having been informed that a number of field pieces had been brought up to Salem, despatched a party to seize them. The road was obstructed by a river, over which was a draw-bridge. This the people had pulled up, and refused to let dowo: upon which the soldiers seized a boat to ferry them over, but the people cut out her bottom. Hostilities would immediately have commenced had it not been for the interposition of a glergyman, who represented to the military, on the one hand, the folly of opposing such numbers; and to the people on the other, that as the day was far spent the military could not execute their design, so that they might, without any fear, leave them in the quiet possession of the draw. bridge. This was complied with; and the soldiers, after having remained some tiine at the bridge, returned without executing their orders.

The next attempt was attended with more serious consequences. General Gage, understanding that a large quantity of ammunition and military stores had been collected at Concord, about twenty miles from Boston, and where the provincial congress was sitting, sent à detachment, under the command of colonel Smith and major Pitcairn, to destroy the stores; and, as was reported, to seize Hancock and Adams, two leading men of the congress.

They set out before day break, on the nineteenth of April, marching with the utmost silence, and securing every one they met with upon the road, that they might not be discovered; but, notwithstanding all their care, the continual ringing of the bells and firing of guns as they went along, soon gave them notice, that the country was alarmed : about five in the morning, they had reached Lexington, fifteen miles from Boston, where the militia of the place were exercising. A British officer called out to them to disperse; but as they still continued in a body, he advanced and discharged his pistol, and ordered his men to fire; who in- . stantly obeyed, and killed and wounded several of the militia; the detachment then proceeded to Concord, where, having destroyed the stores, they were encountered by the Americans; and a scuffle ensued, in which several fell on both sides.

The purpose of their expedition being accomplished, it was necessary for the king's troops to retreat, which they did through a continual fire kept upon them from Concord to Lexington. Here their ammunition was totally expended; and they would have been unavoidably cut off, had not a considerable reinforcement, commanded by lord Percy, met them. The Americans, however; continued the attack with at fury, and galled the British from behind stone fences, as they retreated: and had it not been for two field-pieces, which lord Perey brought with him, the whole detachment would still have been in the utmost danger.

The impetuosity of the Americans being thus checked, the British made good their retreat to Boston, with the loss of two hundred and fifiy killed and wounded; that of the Americans about sixty.

The spirits of the Americans were raised by this engagement, and the power of Britain became less formidable in their view; they now meditated nothing less than the total expulsion of the troops from Boston. An army of twenty thousand men was assembled; a line of encampment was formed from Roxbury to Mystic, through a space of about thirty miles; and here they were soon after joined by a large body of Connecticut troops, under the command of general Putnain, an old officer of great bravery and experience. By this formidable force was the town of Boston shut up. General Gage, however, had so strongly fortified it, that the enemy, powerful as they were, feared to make the attack.

But towards the end of May, a considerable reinforcement having arrived, with the generals, Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton, he

« ПредишнаНапред »