« ПредишнаНапред »
was soon enabled to attempt something of consequence: and this the boast of the provincials seemed to render necessary, Some skirmishing, in the meantime, happened in the islands lying off Boston harbour; in which the Americans had the advantage, and burnt an armed schooner. Nothing decisive, however, took place, till the seventeenth of June. In the neighbourhood of Charlestown, a place on the northern shore, opposite the peninsula on which Boston stands, is a high ground, called Bunker's-hill, which overlooks and commands the whole town of Boston. On the sixteenth, the provincials took possession of this place; and worked with such indefatigable industry, that, to the astonishment of their enemies, they had, before day-ligiit, almost completed a redoubt, with a strong entrenchment, reaching half a wile eastward, as far as the river Mystic.
After this, they were obliged to sustain a heavy and incessant fire from the ships and floating batteries, with which Charlestown neck was surrounded, as well as the cannon that could reach the place from Boston. In spite of all opposition, they continued their work, and finished it before mid-day. A considerable body of foot was then landed at the foot of Bunker's-hill, under the command of generals Howe and Pigot; the former being appointed to attack the lines, and the laiter ihe redoubt. The Americans having the advantage of the ground, as well as of entrenchments, poured down upon the British such inccessant vollies, as threatened the whole body with destruction; and general Howe was for some tiine left almost alone; all his officers being either killed or wounded.
The provinciais, in the meantime, had taken possession of Charlesiown, so that general Pigot was obliged to contend with them in that place, as well as those in the redoubt. The consequence was, that he was overmatched; his troops were thrown into disorder, and he would, in all probability, have been defeated, had not general Clinton advanced to his relief: upon which the attack was renewed with fresh fury, so that the provincials were driven beyond the neck that leads to Charlestown.
In the heat of the engagement, the British troops, in order to deprive the enemy of a cover, set fire to Charlestown, which was totally consumed;
and, eventually, the Americans were obliged to retreat over Charlestown neck, which was incessantly raked by the fire of the Glasgow man of war, and several foating batteries. The loss on the side of the British was computed at one thousand; among whom were nineteen officers killed and seventy wounded. The loss of the Americans did not exceed five hundred.
This was a dear-bought victory to the British. The Americans boasted that the advantage lay on their side, as they had so weak. ened the enemy, that they durst not afterwards move out of their entrenchments. This being the first time the provincials were in actual service, it must be owned they behaved with great spirit;
and by no means merited the appellation of cowards, with which they were so often branded in Britain. In other places the same determined spirit appeared.
Lord North's conciliatory scheme was utterly rejected by the assemblies of Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and afterwards in every other province. The affray at Lexington determined the colony of New-York, which had hitherto continued to waver; and as the situation of New York rendered it unable to resist an attack from the sea, it was resolved, before the arrival of a British fleet, to secure the military stores, send off the women and children, and to set fire to the city, if it was still found incapable of defence.
The exportation of provisions was every where prohibited, particularly to the British fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, or to such other colonies in America, as should adhere to the British interest. Congress resolved on the establishment of an army, and of a large paper currency, in order to support it.
In the inland northern colonies, colonels Easton and Ethan Allen, without receiving any orders from Congress, or communi: cating their design to any body, with a party of two hundred and fifty men, surprised the forts of Crown-point and Tigonderoga, and those that formed a communication betwixt the colonies and Canada. On this occasion, two hundred cannon fell into their hands, some brass field-pieces, mortars and military stores, together with two armed vessels, and materials for the construction of others.
After the battle of Bunker’s-hill, the provincials erected fortifications on the heights which commanded Charlestown, and strengthened the rest in such a manner, that there was no hope of their being driven from thence; at the same time, their boldness and activity astonished the British officers, who had been accus. tomed to entertain a mean and unjust opinion of their courage.
The troops shut up in Boston, were soon reduced to distress, They were obliged to attempt carrying off the cattle on the islands before Boston, which produced frequent skirmishes, but the provincials, better acquainted with the navigation of the shores, landed on the islands, and destroyed or carried off whatever was of any use, burned the light-house at the entrance of the harbour, and took prisoners the workmen employed to repair it, as well as a party of marines sent to protect them. Thus the garrison was reduced to the necessity of sending out armed ves. sels, to make prizes indiscriminately of all that came in their way, and of landing in different places, to plunder for subsistence, as well as they could.
The Congress, in the meantime, continued to act with vigour, Articles of confederation and perpetual union were drawn up, and solemnly agreed to, by which they bound themselves and their posterity forever, as follows:
1. Each colony was to be independent within itself, and to retain an absolute sovereignty in all domestic affairs.
2. Delegates to be annually elected, to meet in Congress, at such time and place as should be enacted in the preceeding Congress.
3. This assembly should have the power of determining war, or peace, making alliances; and, in short, all that power which sovereigns of states usually claim as their own.
4. The expenses were to be paid out of the common treasury, and raised by a poll-tax on males between 16 and 60, the pro-. portions to be determined by the laws of the colony.
5. An executive council to be appointed to act in place of the congress during its recess.
6. No colony to make war with the Indians, without consent of Congress.
7. The boundaries of all the Indian lands to be ascertained and secured to them; and no purchases of lands were to be made by individuals, or even by a colony, without consent of Congress.
8. Agents appointed by congress should reside among the In. dians, to prevent frauds in trading with them, and to relieve, at the public expense, their wants and distresses.
9. This confederation to last until there should be a reconciliation with Britain ; or if that event should not take place, it was to be perpetual. After the action of Bunker’s-hill, however, when the power
of Great Britain appeared less formidable to the Americans than before, Congress proceeded to justtfy their proceedings, in a declaration drawn up in terms more expressive, and well calculated to excite attention. “Were it possible (said they) for men who exercise their reason, to believe that the Divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness as the objects of a legal domination, never to be resisted, however severe and oppressive. The inhabitants of these colonies might at least require from the parliament of Great Britain, some evidence that this dreadful authority over them had been granted to that body; but a reverence for our great Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect on the subject, that government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be ad. ministered to the attainment of that epd.
The legislature of Great Britain, stimulated by an inordinate passion for power, not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly repugnant to the constitution of that kingdom, and despairing of success in any mode of contest where regard should be had to law, truth, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving
these colonies, by violence; and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason, to arms." Yet, however blind that assembly may be, by their intemperate rage for unlimited domination, so to slight justice in the opinion of mankind, we esteem ourselves bound by obligations to the rest of the world, to make known the justice of our
cause." After taking notice of the manner in which their ancestors left Britain, the happiness attending the mutual and friendly intercourse betwist that country and her colonies, and the remarkable success in the late war; they proceed as follows: 6 The new ministry finding the brave foes of Britain, though frequently defeated, yet still contending, look up to the unfortunate idea of granting them a hasty peace, and of then subduing her faithful friend.
These devoted colonies were judged to be in such a state as to prevent victories without bloodshed; and all the easy emolument of statutable plunder. The uninterrupted tenor of their peaceable and respectful behaviour, from the beginning of their colonization; their dutiful, zealous, and useful services, during the war, though so recently and amply acknowledged in the most honourable manner, by his Majesty, the late king, and by parliament; could not save them from the intended innovations. Parliament was influenced to adopt the pernicious project; and assuming a Dew power over them, has, in the course of eleven years, given such decisive specimens of the spirit and consequences attending this power, as to leave no doubt of the effects of acquiescence under it.
They have undertaken to give and grant our money without our consent; though we have ever exercised an exclusive right to dispose of our own property. Statutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty, and vice admiralty, beyond their ancient limits; for depriving us of the accustomed and inestimable right of trial by jury, in cases affecting both life and property; for suspending the legislature of one of our colonies; for interdicting all commerce to the capital of another; and for altering fundamentally the form of government established by charter, and secured by acts of its own legislature, and solemnly confirmed by the crown; for exempting murderers from legal trial, and in effect from punishment; for erecting in a neighbouring province, acquired by the joint arms of Great Britain and America, a disposition dangerous to our very existence; and for quartering soldiers upon the colonists in time of profound peace. It has also been resolved in parliament, that colonists, charged with committing certain offences, shall be transported to England to be tried. But why should we enumerate our injuries into detail ? By one statute it was declared that parliament can, of right, make laws to bind us in all cases whatever, What is ta
defend us against so enormous, so ulimited a power? Not a single person who assumes it, is chosen by us, or is subject to our control, or influence; but on the contrary, they are all of them exempt from the operation of such laws; and an American revenue, if not diverted from the ostensible purposes for which it is raised, would actually lighten their own burdens in proportion as it increases ours.
We saw the misery to which such despotism would reduce us. We, for ten years, incessantly and ineffectually besieged the throne as supplicants; we reasoned, we remonstrated with parliament, in the most mild and decent language; but administration, sensible that we should regard there measures as freemen ought to do, sent over fleets and armies to enforce them.
We have pursued every temperate, every respectful measure; we have even proceeded to break off all commercial intercourse with our fellow subjects, as our last peaceable admonition, that our attachment to no nation on earth would supplant our liberty; this we flattered ourselves was the ultimate step of the controversy; but subsequent events have shown how vain was this hope of finding moderation in our enemies !
The lords and commons in their address in the month of Fe, bruary, 1775, said, that a rebellion at that time actually existed in the province of Massachusetts Bay; and that those concerned in it had been countenanced and encouraged by unlawful combina. tions, and engagements entered into by his majesty's subjeets in several other colonies; and therefore they besought his majesty that he would take the most effectual measures to enforce due obedience to the laws and authority of the supreme legislature. Soon after, the commercial intercourse of those colonies with foreign countries was cut off by an act of parliament; by another, several of them were entirely prohibited from the fisheries in the seas near their coasts, on which they always depended for their subsistenee; and large reinforcements of ships and troops were immediately sent over to general Gage. Fruitless were all the en. treaties, arguments, and eloquence, of an illustrious band of the most distinguished peers and commoners, who nobly and strenuously asserted the justice of our cause, to stay, or even to mitigate, the heedless fury with which these accumulated outrages were hurried on. Equally fruitless was the interference of the city of Lon. don, of Bristol, and of many other respectable towns in our favour.
After having reproached parliament, general Gage, and the British government in general, they proceed thus, " We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to tyranny, or resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our