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CHAP. IV. provincial convention, and with him, the gene. 1776. ral determined to consult, especially respecting
the idea entertained of the extent of his powers. That gentleman, who highly approved the proposition of Lee, was decidedly of opinion, that the powers of the commander in chief extended to the case; and general Lee was im. mediately detached, with instructions to raise a body of volunteers from Connecticut, and to call on the battalions of Jersey with those of New York, to join him. He was to examine the fortifications of the city, and up the river; to put them in the best possible state of defence, and to disarm and secure all those whose conduct and declarations rendered them justly suspected of designs unfriendly to the views of congress, especially those on Long Island. All the arms and ammunition found in their possession, were to be collected for the use of the army.
Congress had already taken up the subject of disarming and securing the disaffected in Queen's county, on Long Island, where the people had refused to elect members to the provincial convention. They had ordered two battalions to enter the country at its opposite extremities on the same day, and to secure the arms of every individual who had voted against choosing members to the convention. These vigorous orders, however, were soon countermanded, and a regiment raised in Connecticut
for the special purpose, under the command chap. IV. of colonel Waterbury, was ordered to be dis. 1776. charged. No direct reason has been assigned for this fluctuation in the proceedings of congress, but it appears that the convention of New York was very much opposed to the commencement of hostilities in that colony, and also claimed for itself the direction of measures to be executed within it. Some ap. prehensions seem to have been entertained, that. so strong a measure might throw into thearms of the enemy all those who were not yet prepared for open war; and that its being executed under the immediate direction of congress, might excite the jealousy of the local authori. ties. Whatever motives might lead to it, the commander in chief very much regretted this change of system, and in a letter to general Lee, after expressing that regret, says, “they, I doubt not, had their reasons for it; but to me it appears that the period is arrived, when nothing less than the most decisive and vigorous measures should be pursued. Our enemies from the other side of the Atlantic will be sufficiently numerous,....it highly concerns us to have as few internal ones as possible.”
In a subsequent letter, after sir Henry Clin. ton had sailed from Boston, he stated to general Lee his apprehension that, on the arrival of the troops in New York, governor Tryon would be ready to join them at the head of a
CHAP. IV. great number of the inhabitants, disaffected to 1776. the American cause : and therefore, he urged
the necessity of being decisive and expeditious in his operations. " The tories,” (a term desig. nating all those who favoured the enemy,) he said, “should be disarmed, and the principal characters among them secured.” He expressed a hope that governor Tryon would be of the number. But considering general Lee to be under the directions of congress, to which body that officer had applied for instruc. tions, he only expressed his wishes that he might be permitted to act in that decisive man. ner which comported with the opinions of them both.
Congress, however, had now submitted this whole subject to the colonial authorities, with a recommendation to them to disarm the disaffected, and to secure the most dangerous of them, either by confining them, or obliging them to give security for their good behaviour. To enable the local authorities to comply with this recommendation, they were empowered* to call to their aid any continental troops stationed in or near their respective colonies, who were ordered, while employed in this ser.. vice, to place themselves entirely under the direction and control of the colonial govern. ment.
• Sce Note, No. XVI. at the end of the volume.
General Lee experienced no difficulty in chap. IV. raising the volunteers required from Connecti. 1776. cut. The people of that province were remarkably zealous and enterprising, and governor Trumbull having sanctioned the measure, the numbers deemed necessary for the expedition immediately embodied, and Lee commenced his march for New York at the head of twelve hundred men.
The inhabitants of that place were much alarmed at his approach. Threats had been uttered by captain Parker of the Asia man of war, then lying in the harbour, that he would destroy the town in the event of its being entered by any considerable body of provincial forces; and it was believed that these threats would be executed.
A committee of safety had been appointed to exercise the powers of government during the recess of the provincial congress, and they addressed a letter to general Lee, manifesting their astonishment at the report, that he was about to enter their town without any previous intimation of his design to them, and their fears of the mischievous consequences which would result from such a measure. They could not believe it possible that such a step had been resolved on without being communicated to them, but, if in this they were mistaken, they expressed the most earnest solicitude that
VOL. II. . PP
CHAP.iv. he would halt his troops on the confines of 1776. Connecticut until they could have further ex.
planations with him.'
Lee held in utter contempt the threats which had been thrown out by the enemy of destroy. ing the town, and continued his march from that place with the utmost celerity. He ad. dressed a letters to congress, in which he displayed in such strong terms, the necessity of pursuing, with respect to New York, a different course from that which their resolution authorized, that, instead of leaving him entirely under the control of the local government, a committee of three from their own body was detached to consult with him and the council of safety respecting the defence of the place, and he was instructed to obey the directions of that committee.
As might well have been expected from the experience and talents of general Lee, his opinions guided both the committee sent for his government and the council of safety, and whatever he suggested they directed him to ex. ecute. It was determined to fortify some commanding part of the city, to be occupied by two thousand men; to erect inclosed batteries on both sides of the water near Hellgate, so as to protect the town against pirates through the sound and at the same time to secure a com.
* See Note, No. XVII. at the end of the volume.