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owners. It is also plain that, in the case supposed, they would have equally shared in our pride and glory at the wondrous growth of the Anglo-Saxon race—that race undivided and entire—extending its branches as now to the furthest regions of the earth, yet all retaining their connexion with the parent stem—all its members bound by the same laws—all animated by the same loyalty—all tending to the same public-spirited aim. How great a nation should we and they have been together—how great in the arts both of peace and of war —scarcely unequal now to all other nations of the world combined!
Some strong reasons there certainly are to show that, with respect to a newly settled nation a Colonial connexion may add greatly to its happiness. That connexion supplies the checks and barriers that are wanting. Such checks and barriers are always to be found in old and well-governed countries, whatever their form of government may be. In the Dutch Commonwealth, for instance, they were quite as strong as in the English Monarchy. And some such restraints appear essential to happiness either in public or in private life. In the latter, experience shows us that those persons who desire to be wholly disentangled and to live without obligation to others—who discard all ties of family, of profession, of business, and of duty—find themselves at last the most unhappy of mankind. "You have learnt as we all "have," writes a celebrated lady of this class — Madame Du Deffand, "that even the most drudging task is plea"santer than the freedom of the Far-niente." * Not far dissimilar is the case of nations. In long-established governments, the influence of laws, or not less powerful of customs and of habits,—as in Colonies, the orders from home, — tend alike to limit ambition and avert disappointment. In countries, on the contrary, where the tide of revolution has swept all landmarks away—where any man may become any thing—where a thousand men in consequence are striving for an object which only one can attain —the result is, in theory, perfect freedom, but in practice, vanity and vexation of spirit. Something
* To Horace Walpole, April 12. 1778. (Letters, voLiii.p. 353.)
independent of ourselves—something fixed and firm — something which we know that our will cannot subvert, and beyond which, therefore, our hopes do not aspire — seems requisite in all human society to its present peace and well being, and still more to its future security and permanence.
Until 1776, views like these, so far as the United States are concerned in them, might have been warnings for the future. Since 1782, at the latest, they are merely day-dreams of the past. In place of them, let us now indulge the hope and expectation that the American people may concur with ours in desiring that no further resentment may be nourished, no further strife be stirred, between the kindred nations; so that both, mindful of their common origin, and conscious of their growing greatness, may both alike discard, as unworthy of them, all mean and petty jealousies, and be ever henceforth what Nature has designed them — friends.
As sent forth by the Congress, the Declaration of Independence having reached the camp of Washington, was, by his orders, read aloud at the head of every regiment. There, as in most other places, it excited much less notice than might have been supposed. An American author of our own day, most careful in his statements, and most zealous in the cause of independence, observes that, "No "one can read the private correspondence of the times "without being struck with the slight impression made "on either the army or the mass of the people by the
Declaration."* The Adjutant-General, in his familiar and almost daily letters to his wife, does not even allude to it. But though there was little of enthusiasm, there were some excesses. At New York, a party of the soldiers, with tumultuary violence, tore down and beheaded a statue of the King which stood upon the Broadway, having been erected only six years before. Washington, greatly to his honour, did not shrink from the duty of rebuking them next day, in his General Orders, for their misdirected zeal.
It was at this inauspicious juncture—only a few hours after Independence had been proclaimed in the ranks of his opponents — that the bearer of the pacific commission, Lord Howe, arrived off Sandy Hook. He had cause to regret most bitterly both the delay in his passage and the limitation in his powers. He did not neglect, however, whatever means of peace were still within his reach. He sent on shore a declaration announcing to the people the object of his mission. He despatched a friendly letter,
* Life and Correspondence of President Reed, vol. i. p. 195. Washington, however, in his public letter to Congress, (as included in Mr. Jarcd Sparks's collection) says, that the troops had testified "their warmest approbation." Writings, vol. iii. p. 457.
written at sea, to Dr. Franklin, at Philadelphia. But when Franklin's answer came, it showed him wholly adverse to a reconciliation, expressing, in strong terms, his resentment of the "atrocious injuries " which, as he said, America had suffered from "your uninformed and "proud nation." Lord Howe's next step was to send a flag of truce, with another letter, to Washington. But here a preliminary point of form arose. Lord Howe, as holding the King's commission, could not readily acknowledge any rank or title not derived from His Majesty. He had, therefore, directed his letter to "George Wash"ington, Esq." On the other hand, Washington, feeling that, in his circumstances, to yield a punctilio would be to sacrifice a principle, declined to receive or open any letter not addressed to him as General. Thus, at the very outset, this negotiation was cut short.
In the lofty tone which he here adopted, Washington was not swayed by any overweening notion of his strength. His troops had dwindled to 17,000 men, of whom above 3000 were sick, and as many detached on posts; so that around him at New York there were only 10,000 fit for duty. In one of his letters to the Congress we find him state the heavy disadvantages under which he should labour in case of an immediate attack from the English army. But in that case, he adds, "so far as I can judge, "from the professions and apparent dispositions of my
"troops, I shall have their support And though
"the appeal may not terminate so happily as I could wish, "yet the enemy will not succeed in their views without "considerable loss. Any advantage they may gain I "trust will cost them dear." * In that passage surely we see displayed a hero's mind; calmly foreseeing defeat as certain, yet as calmly resolved to abide it in the path of duty, and to contest it as long as possible.
This letter bears date the 8th of August. Not many days afterwards the American army was reinforced by two regiments from Pennsylvania, and by large bodies of New England and New York Militia, which increased it to 27,000 men. Of these, however, nearly one fourth
* This passage is cited in Marshall's Life (vol. ii. p. 393.), though omitted in Sparks's collection.
were sick. To guard one of the main approaches to New York, a part of this army was stationed in the furthest western angle of Long Island, with directions to throw up entrenchments in front of the little town of Brooklyn. The command of this important post was entrusted by Washington to General Greene, an officer of bravery and enterprise, but whose talents were as yet known only to his friends.* Washington himself found it necessary to continue his head quarters at New York, since there seemed great probability that the English, whether or not conjointly with an attack on Brooklyn, might avail themselves of their naval force, and make a direct attempt upon that important city.
It was not until towards the middle of August that General Howe was joined by the main part of the expected troops from England. On their arrival, he determined, as the first step to the reduction of New York, to attack the Americans at Brooklyn. He sent over to Long Island a division—some 8000 strong: the English under General Clinton and Lord Cornwallis; the Hessians under General Heister and Count Donop. On the American side, the troops being reinforced from New York, were estimated by General Howe at 10,000 men, but in all probability were not more than equal in numbers to the British. Their chief, General Greene, had been smitten with a raging fever, and it had become necessary for Washington to despatch General Israel Putnam in his place. On the 24th, the 25th, and the 26th of August, there was some slight skirmishing between both armies, the American having advanced to a low range of hills about two miles and a half in front of the Brooklyn lines. On the 27th the English, marching to the attack before day-break, fought the action sometimes called the battle of Brooklyn, and sometimes the battle of Long Island. The Americans from the southern states fought well; the others made but slight resistance; but, indeed, raw levies such as these, even with some advantage of ground, were no match for disciplined troops. By noon the rout of the enemy was complete: they were driven back in confusion
Greene, Untitles talenan'Maientencore connusque de ses amis. These ure the words of La Fayette; Mem. et Corresp. vol. i. p. 21. ed. 1837.