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In the mean time the most effectual measures were adopted by general Washington for surrounding the British army under lord Cornwallis. A large body of French troops were under the command of lieutenant-general the count de Rochambeau, with a large train of artillery. The American forces were in number one thousand three hundred : eight hundred of whom were continental troops; the whole under the command of general Washington.
On the twenty-ninth of September, 1781, York Town, in Virginia, was compleatly invested, and the British army quite blocked up. The day following, Sir Henry Clinton wrote a letter to lord Cornwallis, containing assurances that he would do every thing that was in his power to relieve him, and some further information respecting the manner in which he intended to accomplish that relief. A duplicate of this letter was sent to lord Cornwallis by major Cochran : that gentleman went in a vessel to the Capes, and made his way through the whole French fleet, in an open boat. He got to York Town on the tenth of October, and the next day had his head taken off by a cannon ball, as he was walking by the side of lord Cornwallis. The fate of this gallant officer drew tears from the eyes of his lordship.
After the return of admiral Greaves to New York, & council of war was held, in which it was resolved, that a large body of troops should be embarked, and that exertions of both feet and army should be made, in order to form a junction with lord Cornwallis.
Sir Henry Clinton, himself, with seven thousand troops, went on board the fleet, on the eighteenth. They came abreast of Cape Charles, at the entrance of the Chesapeake, on the twenty-fourth, where they received intelligence that lord Cornwallis had been obliged to capitulate five days before. It was on the nineteenth that his lordship surrendered himself and his whole army, by capitu. lation, prisoners to the combined armies of America and France. He made' a defence worthy of his former fame for military achievements, but was compelled to submit by imperious necessity, and superior numbers. The British prisoners amounted to upwards of six thousand, but many of them, at the time of surrender, were incapable of duty.
The prisoners, cannon, and military stores, fell to the Americans, except the seamen, who, with the shipping, found they were, by the articles of capitulation, to be de. livered up to the French.
After this event the subjugation of the colonies was virtually given up. Some inconsiderable skirmishes took place between the Refugees and the Americans, afterwards; but were not of that importance as to merit a place in history.
On the fifth of May, 1782, Sir Guy Carleton arrived at New York, being appointed to the command of the British troops in North America : soon after his arrival he wrote a letter to general Washington, informing him that admiral Digby, with himself, were appointed commissioners to treat for peace with the people of America. Another letter was sent, dated the second of August, and signed by Sir Guy Carleton and admiral Digby, in which they informed general Washington, that negociations for a general peace had commenced at Paris. Notwithstanding these favourable appearances, the Americans were jealous, that it was the design of the British court to disunite them, or induce them to treat of a peace separately from their ally the king of France.
Congress, therefore, passed a resolution : that any man, or body of men, who should presume to make any separate treaty, partial convention, or agreement, with the king of Great Britain, or with any commissioner, or com, missioners, under the crown of Great Britain, ought to be treated as open and avowed enemies of the United States of America, and that those States could not with propriety hold any conference or treaty with any commissioners on the part of Great Britain, unless they should, as a preliminary thereto, either withdraw their fleets and armies, or in express terms acknowledge the Independence of the said States. On the thirtieth of November 1782, the provisional articles of peace and reconciliation between Great Britain and the American States were signed at Paris ; by which Great Britain acknowledged the Independence and sovereignty of the United States of America. These articles were ratified by a definitive treaty September the third 1783. John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin, Esqrs, were the gentlemen appointed by
Congress to negociate this peace, on the part of America: and two gentlemen Oswald and Hartley on the part of the British. It ought to be remarked here, and known to every American citizen, that France repeatedly declared that her only view in assisting the Americans, was to diminish the power of Great Britain, and thereby promote her own interest; that she officiously interfered in the proposed treaty between Spain and America by ber endeavours to circumscribe the latter within very narrow limits, proposing to deprive the Americans of the right of navigation on the Mississippi, &c.
Thus ended a long and unnatural contest, in which Great Britain expended many millions of pounds sterling, lost thousands of her bravest subjects, and won nothing. America obtained her Independence, at the expense of many thousands of lives, and much treasure ; and has suffered exceedingly in the religious and moral character of her citizens.
The great influx of foreigners which poured into America from all quarters, disseminated their pernicious principles amongst the people. Infidelity spread like the plague, through the different states, and threatens the subversion of those sober manners, and that love of order, which the christian religion inculcates. • The eighteenth of October 1783, Congress issued a proclamation, in which the armies of the United States were applauded “ for having displayed through the progress of an arduous, and difficult war, every military and patriotic virtue, and for which the thanks of their country were given them.” They also declared that such part of their armies as stood engaged to serve during the war, should from and after the third day of November, be discharged from the said service. The day preceding their dismission general Washington issued his farewell orders. The evacuation of New York took place about three weeks after the American army was discharged. For a twelvemonth preceding, there had been an unrestrained communication between that city, though a British garrison, and the adjacent country; the bitterness of war had passed away, and civilities were freely exchanged between those who lately were engaged in deadly contests, and sought for all opportunities to destroy each other.
As soon as the royal army was withdrawn, general Washington and governor Clinton, with their suites, made a public entry into New York: a general joy was mani. fested by the citizens on their return to their habitations, and in the evening there was a display of tire-works: they exceeded every thing of the kind which had been seen in America. General Washington soon after took leave of his officers, they having been previously assembled for that purpose. Calling for a glass of wine he thus addressed them, “ with a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honourable."
He afterwards took an affectionate leave of each of them: when this affecting scene was over, Washington left the room, and passed through the corps of light infantry, to the place of embarkation ; as he entered the barge, to cross the North river, he turned to his companions in glory, and waved his hat, and took a silent adieu. The officers who had followed him in mute procession, answered this last signal with tears, and hung upon the barge which conveyed him from their sight, till they could no longer distinguish their beloved commander in chief. The general proceeded to Annapolis, the seat of congress, to resign his commission. On his way thither, he delivered to the comptroller in Philadelphia, an account of the ex. penditure of all the public money he had ever received. This was in his own hand-writing; and every entry made in a very exact manner. The whole sum which passed through his hands during the war amounted only to fourteen thousand four hundred and seventy-nine pounds eighteen shillings and nine pence, sterling; no sum charged or retained for personal services.
The day on which he resigned his commission, a great number of distinguished personages attended the interest. ing scene, on the twenty-third of December, 1783 : he addressed the president, Thomas Mifflin, as follows: “ Mr. President,
The great events on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I have now the honour of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and of
presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands, the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.
Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by a confi. dence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.
The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of providence, and the assistance I have receive ed from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous. contest. • While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge, in this place, the peculiar services, and distinguished merits of the persons who have been attached to my person during the war: it was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate : permit me, Sir, to recommend in particular those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favourable notice and patronage of Congress.
I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interest of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendance of them, to his holy keeping
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action ; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my comniission, and take my lcave of all the employments of public life.”
To which the president made a suitable reply. The mingled emotions that agitated the minds of the spectators during this interesting and solemn scene, were beyond description.