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independence, were appointed, in conformity Chap.vil with the resolution, to receive the communi- 1776. cations of lord Howe.
They waited on his lordship, and on their return reported, "that he had received them on the 11th of September on Staten island opposite to Amboy, with great politeness.
He opened the conversation by acquainting them, that though he could not treat with them as a committee of congress, yet, as his powers enabled him to confer and consult with any private gentlemen of influence in the colonies, on the means of restoring peace between the two countries, he was glad of this opportunity of conferring with them on that subject, if they thought themselves at liberty to enter into a conference with him in that character. The committee observed to his lordship, that, as their business was to hear, he might consider them in what light he pleased, and communicate to them any propositions he might be authorized to make for the purpose mentioned; but, that they could consider themselves in no other character than that in which they were placed by order of congress. His lordship then entered into a discourse of considerable length, which contained no explicit proposition of peace, except one, namely; that the colonies should return to their allegiance and obedience to the government of Great Britain. The rest consisted principally of assurances,
Chap. Vii. that there was an exceeding good disposition in 1776. the king and his ministers to make that government easy to them, with intimations, that, in case of submission, they would cause the offensive acts of parliament to be revised, and the instructions to governors to be reconsidered; that so, if any just causes of complaint were found in the acts, or any errors in government were perceived to have crept into the instructions, they might be amended or withdrawn.
The committee gave it as their opinion to his lordship, that a return to the domination of Great Britain was not now to be expected. They mentioned the repeated humble petitions of the colonies to -the king and parliament, which had been treated with contempt and answered only by additional injuries; the unexampled patience which had been shown under their tyrannical government; and that it was not until the late act of parliament which denounced war against them, and put them out of the king's protection, that they declared their independence; that this declaration had been called for by the people of the colonies in general; and that every colony had approved of it when made, and all now considered themselves as independent states, and were settling, or had settled their governments accordingly; so that it was not in the power of congress to agree for them that they should return to their former dependant state; that there was no Chap. Vh. doubt of their inclination to peace, and their 1776. willingness to enter into a treaty with Britain, that might be advantageous to both countries: that though his lordship had at present no power to treat with them as independent states, he might, if there was the same good disposition in Britain, much sooner obtain fresh powers from thence, for that purpose, than powers could be obtained by congress, from the several colonies, to consent to a submission.
His lordship then saying, that he was sorry to find, that no accommodation was like to take place, put an end to the conference.
These fruitless negotiations produced no suspension of hostilities.
The day after the troops had been withdrawn from Long island, Governor's island was also evacuated. This place derived its principal importance from being auxiliary to the defence of the position at Brooklyn, and to the .communication between that camp and New York. It was also, of very considerable consequence in the event of a direct attack on the town, as it, in a great measure, commands the harbour. But the position was too hazardous to attempt its preservation after the evacuation of Long island; and it was the less to be desired, as the general began to entertain very serious fears of being unable longer to defend New
Chap.Yii. York itself. His whole force, consisting chiefly 1776. of militia, did not exceed twenty-five thousand men, one fourth of whom were sick and unfit for duty. This army, which was, on ordinary calculation, unequal to the defence of a single point, if attacked by the disciplined columns which followed the British standard, was rendered still less capable of maintaining the place, from the great extent of ground it was necessary to guard, and the numerous posts into which it was unavoidably distributed. With infinite chagrin, the general communicated his fears on this subject to congress...fears founded on a belief, that the troops would not do thenduty; and requested their instructions respecting the fate of the city, in the event of his being compelled to evacuate it. In their resolution on this subject, they very wisely determined that no mischief should be done to the town, as they had no doubt of recovering it, though they might for a time lose the possession of it.
The British army, now in perfect possession of Long island, was posted at Bedford, Bushwic, Newtown, Flushing, and Hellgate; and thus, fronted and threatened York island fronv its extreme southern point to the part opposite the northern boundary of Long island, a small distance below the heights of Haerlem: comprehending a space of about nine miles.
The two armies were divided only by the East river, which is about thirteen hundred yards across, and on both sides of which bat- Chap.vh. teries were erected, which kept up an incessant 1776. cannonade on each other.
Immediately after the victory at Brooklyn, dispositions were made to attack New York. A part of the fleet sailed round Long island, and appeared in the Sound, a large bay which seP', «, separates that island from Connecticut, and which is connected with the East river by a narrow channel called Hellgate. Two frigates passed between Governor's island and Red hook, up the East river, without receiving any injury from the batteries, and were sheltered behind a small island from the American artillery; while the admiral, with the main body of the fleet, lay at anchor close in with Governor's island, ready to pass up either the North, or East river, or both, and act against any part of York island.
These movements, especially the appearance of part of the fleet with some transports in the Sound, and the encampment towards the north of Long island, indicated a disposition, not to make an attack directly on New York, as had been expected, but to land somewhere about King's bridge, take a position which cut off' the communication of the American army with the country, and thereby force them to a battle, which, if unfortunate in its issue, as there was much reason to believe it must be, would infallibly destroy them.
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