Page images
PDF

wounded. —. Unhappily upon this subject it was found much easier to blame than to forbear. An American of the present day observes: "Writers of all parties have united in con"demning a practice, so unjustifiable in itself and so hostile "to the principles of civilization, while at the same time belligerents of all parties have continued to follow it, even "down to the late war between England and the United "States."*

While the campaign had thus recommenced in Canada, the troops of General Howe, eager as they were for action, still remained cooped up in their dismal Nova Scotia quarters. Thus writes one of the officers: "The Dragoons are under "orders for Halifax — a cursed, cold wintry place even yet; "nothing to eat, less to drink. Bad times, my dear friend!" ** In such a situation the delays in the arrival of the armament from Europe, great as they really were, seemed greater still. General Howe, at length losing patience, resolved, with the forces already under his command, to sail towards New York. Setting out on the 10th of June, he arrived off Sandy Hook in the latter part of the same month. He proceeded to land his men on Staten Island, where Washington had placed only a small military force, with a view to the supplies, and where the English accordingly encountered no resistance. So far from it, that they were received with great demonstrations of joy by the inhabitants, who took the Oaths of Allegiance, and enrolled themselves in bodies of Militia under the authority of Mr. Tryon, lately Governor of the province. No less favourable representations as to the state of popular feeling reached the camp from Long Island, and the neighbouring parts of New Jersey. By the 12th of July, the General found himself joined by his brother the Admiral; and some time later therearrivedthegreaterpartofthetransports

* Note of Mr. Sparks to Washington's Writings, vol. iii. p. 495. It appears from the Secret Journals of Congress, as Mr. Sparks proceeds to state, that on May 25. 1776, they resolved, "That it is highly expedient "to engage the Indians in the service of the United Colonies." They also authorized Washington to employ the Indians of Penobscot and St. John's who had proffered their services.

** Letter in American Archives, vol. v. p. 426.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

due from England. Lord Howe had first touched at Halifax, and from thence heen directed to Sandy Hook. There were on board his fleet, besides British troops, many of the expected mercenaries from Hesse and Brunswick, but their last division had not yet left England; and, indeed, it is to be observed of them, that dear-bought as they had been, they never at any time reached the full numbers required by the treaties.* It was reckoned that the whole united force, comprising the troops returned from Charleston, and the lingering detachments due from England, would amount to 30,000, although, as it proved, it fell short of 25,000 men.

Besides the troops, Lord Howe had brought with him a document, which it was hoped might render them unnecessary —. the Royal Warrant appointing himself and General Howe Commissioners under the late Act of Parliament for the Pacification of America. No doubt that the selection of such men was most wisely made. The memory of their elder brother, who had fallen gloriously in the wars against the French in Canada, was endeared to the colonists who had fought by his side. Both Lord Howe and the General, but Lord Howe especially, had ever since cultivated a most friendly intercourse with the Americans, and now entertained a most earnest wish to conclude the strife against them. But judicious as was the choice of the Commissioners, the restricted terms of the Commission were certainly in the highest degree impolitic. Lord Howe had laboured, but vainly, to obtain its enlargement; it amounted, in fact, to little more than the power, first, of receiving submissions, and then, but not till then, of granting pardons and inquiring into grievances.** Yet still, since these terms had not been divulged and were much magnified by common rumour, the name of the Commission was not ill adapted for popular effect. Had

* The men serving in America, and "subsidised" in addition to the national troops, are computed by Chief Justice Marshall at "about thirteen "thousand." (Life of Washington, vol. ii. p. 382.)

** MS. Instructions, May 6. 1776, State Paper Office. It is therein required as a preliminary condition, before any province shall he declared in the King's peace, that its Convention, or Committee, or Association, "which have usurped powers," shall be dissolved.

Lord Howe arrived with it a few months, or even only a few weeks before, as he might and should have done, we are assured by American writers that an impression might have been produced by it, in some at least of the Thirteen Colonies, to an extent which they "cannot calculate" or rather, perhaps, which they do not like to own.* But these few months had been decisive in another direction. During these months both the feeling and the position of the insurgents had most materially changed.

At the beginning of the troubles, as I have already shown, and for a long time afterwards, the vast majority of the Americans had no wish nor thought of separation from the mother country. Their object was substantially, and with only some new safe - guards for their rights, to revert to the same state in which they had been before the administration of George Grenville. But the further the conflict proceeded, the less and less easy of attainment did that object seem. How hard, after what had passed, to restore harmonious action between the two Powers now at strife; for the people to trust the Governors appointed by the King; for the King to trust the Assemblies elected by the people! Even where the actual wrong might have departed, it would still leave its fatal legacy, rancour and suspicion, behind. Under the influence of these feelings, a great number of persons in all these Colonies were gradually turning their minds to the idea of a final separation from the parent State. Still in all these Colonies, excepting only in New England, there were many lingering regrets, many deep-rooted doubts and misgivings. John Adams writes as follows: — "My dear friend Gates, all "our misfortunes arise from a single source — the reluctance "of the Southern Colonies to Republican government."** Here are the words at the same period of another popular leader: "Notwithstanding the Act of Parliament for seizing "our property, there is a strange reluctance in the minds of

* See, for example, the Life of President Reed, vol. i. p. 196. This was.ln March, 1776. (American Archives, vol. v. p. 472.) 1776. PAMPHLETS BY THOMAS PAINE. 9?

"many to cut the knot which ties us to Great Britain." * Besides such total difference of views, there were also, as in most popular changes, some wild misapprehensions current. One gentleman, a correspondent of Washington, states that he heard this question asked and answered as follows: — "What do you mean by Independence?—Wemeana form of "government to make us independent of the rich, and every "man able to do as he pleases!"**

To inform and to animate the people on this subject, several writers of pamphlets now appeared. The chief among them was Thomas Paine, afterwards so notorious for his conduct in Revolutionary France, and for his authorship of the "Age of Reason." Paine, I regret to own it, was a native of England; at his outset a Quaker, and a stay-maker of Thetford, in Norfolk. Ere long he became estranged both from his profession and his principles. He had espoused the views of a scoffer in religion, and of a leveller in politics. He had tried various trades and walks of life — as sailor, exciseman, schoolmaster, and poet — but at last he settled down to that of democratic agitator, rightly conceiving that to bawl and to scribble must be at all times easier than to work. Having attracted the notice of Franklin, and obtained from him a letter of recommendation to his friends, Paine crossed the Atlantic in 1774, and went to live at Philadelphia. Here the newspapers, orperiodical essays, first gave scope to his declamatory powers. His pamphlet, in the spring of 1776, which was entitled "Common Sense," and which expressed in clear bold language the most cogent arguments that could be devised in behalf of Independence, produced a strong effect in all the Colonies, and drew forth warm praise from all the popular leaders.

But it was not solely upon pamphlets that these popular leaders relied. On some occasions use was also made, not only of harangues to the soldiers, but likewise of sermons to

* Letter of Reed to Washington, March, 8. 1776.

** See the American Archives, vol. vi. p. 390. Of another silly speech in his hearing, the same writer says: "I shamed the fool so much that he "slunk away, but he got his election by it." Mahon, History. VI. 7

the people. In both, so far as we can gather, historical parallels were among the favourite figures of speech. Thus, for instance, at Philadelphia we find a preacher comparing the people of Israel with the people of America, and King Pharaoh with King George.* Thus, in Massachusetts, a few months before, a British officer going out from Boston in the disguise of a countryman, saw a company of Militia exercised, and listened to the speech of their commander, —. "very eloquent, quoting Cassar and Pompey, Brigadiers "Putnam and Ward."**

The gradual progress of the idea of Independence in the minds of the people may be clearly traced through the first six months of 1776. Several of the Colonies sent instructions to their delegates in Congress, desiring or directing them to vote for a separation. Among the Virginians the appetite for such a measure was so keen, that they in fact resolved it for their own Colony some time before any general system of that kind had received the sanction of Congress. A Committee prepared, and on the 27th of May reported to the Convention at Williamsburg a "Declaration of Rights," which at a later period served tie Revolutionists of France for the model of their more celebrated "Rights of Man." In that Declaration it is affirmed that the Rights which are claimed cannot exist with hereditary monarchy. For the fourth Article states, that "the idea of a man being born a "magistrate, a legislator, or a judge, is unnatural and ab"surd." In other places there were symptoms less decided, perhaps, but scarcely less significant of the popular tendency. Thus, in the Maryland Convention, we find this Resolution adopted on the 25th of May, "That every Prayer "and Petition for the King's Majesty be henceforth omitted "in all Churches or Chapels of the province." The Congress itself, or at least its leading members, had become by this time ripe for such a change. So far back as the November preceding, they had appointed a Secret Committee for cor

* American Archives, vol. vi. p. 488. ** American Archives, vol. I. p. 1266.

« PreviousContinue »