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In some of the conferences that passed at this time, the governor let fall some unguarded expressions, such as threatening them with setting up the royal standard, proclaiming liberty to the negroes, and destroying the town of Williamsburgh; which were afterwards made public, and exaggerated in such a manner, as greatly to increase the public ferment.
Assemblies of the people were frequently held. Some of them took up arms, with an intention to force the governor to restore the powder, and to take the publicmoney into their own possession: but, on their way to Williamsburgh, for this purpose, they were met by the receiver-general, who became security for the payment of the gunpowder; and the inhabitants promised to take care of the magazine and public revenue.
The governor was so much intimidated by this insurrection, that he sent his family on board a man of war. He issued a proclamation, in which he declared the behaviour of the person who provoked the tumult, treasonable; accused the people of disaffection, &c. The people recriminated; and some letters of his to Britain, being about the same time discovered, consequences ensued nearly similar to those which had been occasioned by the letters of governor Hutchison, of Boston.
The governor, in this state of confusion, thought it necessary to fortify his palace; and procured a party of marines to guard it. About this time lord North's conciliatory proposal arrived; and the governor used his utmost endeavours to cause the people to comply with it. The arguments were plausible; and, had not matters already gone to such a length, it is highly probable that some attention would have been paid to them. "The view (he said) in which the colonies ought to'behold tliis conciliatory proposal, was no more than an earnest admonition from Gl;eat Britain, to relieve their wants; that the utmost condescension had been used in the mode of application, no determinate sum having been fixed; as it was thought most worthy of British generosity, to take what they thought could be conveniently spared; and likewise, to leave the mode.of raising it to themselves," &c. Euttl e clamour and dissatisfaction had now become so universal. that fto offers, however favourable from government, would be attended to.
The governor had called an assembly, for the purpose of laying this conciliatory proposal before them: but if was little attended to. The assembly began their session by an inquiry into the state of the magazine. It had been broken into by some of the townsmen; for which reason, spring-guns had been placed there by the governor, which discharged themselves upon the offenders, at their en-; trance. These circumstances, with others of a similar nature, raised'such a violent uproar, that as soon as the preliminary business of the session was over, the governor retired on board a man of war; informing the assembly, that he durst no longer trust himself onshore. This produced a long course of disputation, which ended in a positive refusal of the governor to trust himself again at Williamsburgh, even to give his assent to the bills, which could not be passed without it, although the assembly of' fered to bind themselves for his personal safety. In his turn, he requested them to meet him on board the man of war, where he then was; but his proposal was rejected, and all further correspondence containing the least appearance of friendship was discontinued.
Lord Dunmore having thus abandoned his government, attempted to reduce by force those whom he could no longer govern. Some of the most zealous royalists, who had rendered themselves obnoxious at home, now repaired to him; he was also joined by numbers of negro slaves. With' these, and with the assistance of the British shipping, he was for some time enabled to carry on a prcdutcry war, sufficient to hurt and exasperate, but not to subdue. After some considerable attempts on land, j> rodaiming liberty to the slaves, and setting up the royal standard, he took up his residence in Norfolk, a maratime town, of some consequence, where the people were better affect'-ed to Britain than in most other places.
A considerable force, however, was collected against him and the natural impetuosity of his temper prompted him, to act against them with more courage than caution: he was entirely defeated, and obliged to retire to his ship* ping, which was now crowded with numbers of those who had, by joining him, incurred the resentment of the pttiv Vincials. In the mean time, a scheme was formed by colonel Conolly, a Pennsylvanian, attached to the cause of Britain; the first step of this plan, was to enter into a league with the Ohio Indians. This he communicated to lord Dunmore, and it received his approbation, upon which Conolly set out and actually succeeded in his design. On his return he was dispatched to general Gage, from whom he received a colonel's commission, and set out to accomplish the remainder of his scheme. The general plan was, that he should return to the Ohio, where, by the assistance of the British and Indians in these parts, he was to penetrate through the back settlements into Virginia, and join lord Dunmore, at Alexandria. But an accident very naturally to be expected, happened; he was discovered, taken prisoner and confined. After the retreat of lord Dunmore, from Norfolk, that place was taken possession of by the provincials, who greatly distressed those on board lord Dunmore's fleet, by refusing to supply them with necessaries. This proceeding drew from his lordship a remonstrance; in which he insisted that the fleet should be furnished with necessaries; but this request being denied, a resolution was taken to set fire to the town: after giving the inhabitants proper warning, a party landed, under the cover of the men of war, and set fire to that part which lay nearest the shore; but the flames were observed at the same time to break forth in every other part of the town, and the whole wassoon reduced to ashes.
This destruction, occasioned a loss of more than three hundred thousand pounds sterling; and was extremely impolitic, as a great part of the property belonged to those who had manifested a warm attachment to the cause of Britain. In the southern colonies of Carolina, the governors were expelled, and obliged to take refuge on board of men of war, as lord Dunmore had been; governor Martin of North Carolina, on a charge of attempting to raise the back settlers, chiefly Scots-highlanders against the colony. But having secured themselves from any attempt of these enemies, they proceeded to regulate their internal concerns, in the same manner as the rest of the colonies, and by the end of the year 1775, the whole of America was united against Great Britain, in the most determined opposition; and of all her vast possessions of that tract of land, since known by the name of the thirteen united provinces, she possessed only tiie single town of Boston, in which her forces were besieged by an enemy with whom, on account of their numbers, they were not able to cope, and by whom they must of course expect in a short lime to be expelled.
The situation of the inhabitants of Boston, was peculiarly unhappy. After having failed in their attempts to leave the town, general Gage had consented to allow them to retire with their effects, but afterwards refused to iulhi i.is promise. When he resigned his place to general Howe in October, 1775, the latter, apprehensive that they might give intelligence of the situation of the Britisa tioo^s, strictly prohibited any person from leaving the place uwfev pain of military execution. Thus matters continued irmil the month of March, 1776, when the town was evacuated. On the second of that month general Washington opened a battery on the west side of the town, from whence it was bombarded, with a heavy fire of cannon at the same time; and three days after it was attacked by another battery from the eastern shore; this continued for fourteen days without intermission. When general Howe, finding the place no longer tenable, determined, if possible, to drive the enemy from their works. Preparations were therefore made for a most vigorous attack, on a hill called Dorchester-neck, which the Americans had fortified in such a manner, as would in all probability, have rendered the enterprize next to desperate. No difficulties, however, were sufficient to daunt the spirit of the general; and every thing was in readiness, when a sudden storm prevented an exertion, which must have been productive of a dreadful waste of blood. Next day upon a more close examination of the works, it was thought advisable to desist from the attack altogether. The fortifications were very strong, and well provided with artillery; and upwards of one hundred hogsheads filled with stones, were provided to roll down upon the enemy as they came up; which, as the ascent was very steep, must have done great execution.
Nothing, therefore, now remained for the British, but to retreat; and to effect this, there appeared great difficulty and danger. But the Americans, knowing that it was in the power of the enemy to reduce the town to ashes, which could not have been repaired in many years, did not think proper to give the least molestation; and for the space of a fortnight the troops were employed in the evacuation of the place, from whence they carried along with them two thousand of the inhabitants, who durst not stay, on account of their attachment to the British cause.
From Boston they sailed to Halifax, but all their vigil.mce could not prevent a number of valuable ships from falling into the hands of the provincials. A considerable quantity of cannon and ammunition had also been left at Bunker's hill and Boston neck; and in the town an immense variety of goods, principally of woollen and linen, of which the provincials stood very much in need. The estates of those who fled to Halifax were confiscated; as also of those who had remained in the town and who had shewn a decided attachment to the British government.
As an attack was expected as soon as the British forces should arrive, every method was employed to render the fortifications impregnable. For fiiis purpose some foreign engineers were employed, who had arrived at Boston; and so eager were the people of all ranks to accomplish this business, that every able-bodied man in the place, without distinction of rank, set apart two days in the week, to coropleat it the sooner.
The Americans, exasperated by the proceedings of parliament, which placed them out of the royal protection, and engaged foreign mercenaries in the plan for subduing them, now formally renounced all connexion with Britain, and declared themselves independent. This celebrated declaration was published on the fourth of July, 1776, as follows:"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident.... that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, ttberty, and the pursuitof happiness. That, to secure thes.;