Page images
PDF
EPUB

rendered it unable to resist an attack from the sea, it was resolved, before the arrival of a British feet, to secure the military stores, send off the women and children, and to set fire to the city, if it was still found incapable of defence.

The exportation of provisions was every where prohibited, particularly to the British fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, or to such other colonies in America, as should adhere to the British interest. Congress resolved on the establishment of an army, and of a large paper currency, in order to support it.

In the inland northern colonies, colonels Easton and Ethan Allen, without receiving any orders from Congress, or coinmunicating their design to any body, with a party of two hundred and tifty men, surprized the foris of Crown-point and Ticondéroga, and those that formed a communication betwixt the colonies and Canada. On this occasion two hundred cannon fell into their hands, some brass field-pieces, mortars and military stores, together with two armed vessels, and materials for the construction of others.

After the battle of Bunker's-hill, the provincials, erected fortifications on the heights wbich commanded Charlestown, and strengthened the rest in such a manner, that there was no hope of their being driven from thence; at the same time, their boldness and activity astonished the British officers, who had been accustomed to entertain a mean and unjust opinion of their courage.

The troops shut up in Boston, were soon reduced to distress. They were obliged to attempt carrying off the cattle on the islands before Boston, which produced frequent skirmishes; but the provincials, better acquainted with the navigation of the shores, landed on the islands, and destroyed or carried off whatever was of any use, burned the light house at the entrance of the harbour, and look prisoners the workmen employed to repair it, as well as a party of marines sent to protect them. Thus the garrison was reduced to the necessity of sending out armed vessels, to make prizes indiscriminately of all that came in their way, and of landing in different places, to plunder for subsistence, as well as they could.

Own.

The Congress in the mean time continued to act with vigour. Articles of confederation, and perpetual union were drawn up, and solenınly agreed to; by which they bound themselves and their posterity for ever, as follows,

1. Each colony was to be independent within itself, and to retain an absolute sovereignty in all domestic affairs.

2. Delegates to be annually elected, to meet in Congress, at such time and place as should be enacted in the preceding Congress.

3. This assembly, should have the power of determining-war, or peace, making alliances ; and in short, all that power which sovereigns of states usually claim as their

4. The expenses were to be paid out of the common treasury, and raised by a pole-tax on males between 16 and 60, the proportion to be determined by the laws of the colony.

5. An executive council to be appointed to act in place of the congress during its recess.

6. No colony to make war with the Indians without consent of Congress.

7. The boundaries of all the Indian lands to be ascertainedand secured to them; and no purchases of lands were to be made by individuals, or even by a colony, without consent of Congress.

8. Agents appointed by Congress should reside among the Indians, to prevent frauds in trading with them, and 10 relieve, at the public expense, their wants and distresses.

9. This confederation to last until there should be a reconciliation with Britain ; or if that event should not take place, it was to be perpetual.

After the action of Bunker's-hill, however, when the power of Great Britain appeared less formidable to the Americans than before, Congress proceeded to justify their proceedings, in a declaration drawn up in terms more expressive, and well calculated to excite attention, “ Were it possible (said they) for men who exercise their reason, to believe that the divine author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness as the objects of a legal domina

end.

lion, never to be resisted, however severe and oppressive. The inhabitants of these colonies, might at least require from the parliament of Great Britain, some evidence that this dreadful authority over them had been granted to that body ; but a reverence for our great Creator, principles of hunianity, and the dictates of common sense must con· vince all those who reflect on the subject, that govern. ment was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered to the attainment of that

The legislature of Great Britain, stimulated by an inordinate passion for power, not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly repugnant to the constitution of that kingdom, and despairing of success in any mode of contest where regard should he had to law, truth, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies, by violence ; and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason, to arms. Yet, however blind that assembly may be, by their intemperate rage for unlimited domination, so to slight justice in the opinion of mankind, we esteem ourselves bound by obligations to the rest of the world, to make known the justice of our cause."

After taking notice of the manner in which their ancestors left Britain, the happiness attending the mutual and friendly intercourse betwixt that country and her colonies, and the remarkable success in the late war ; they proceed as follows : « The new ministry finding the trave foes of Britain, though frequently defeated, yet still contending, look

up to the unfortunate idea of granting them a hasty peace, and of then subduing her faithful friend.

These devoted colonies, were judged to be in such a state as to prevent victories without bloodshed; and all the easy emolument of statutable plunder. The uninterrupted tenor of their peaceable and respectful behaviour, for the beginning of their colonization ; their dutiful, zealous, and useful services, during the war, though so recently and amply acknowledged in the most honourable manner, by his Majesty, the late king, and by parliament; could not save them from the intended innovations. Parliament was influenced to adopt the pernicious project;

and assuming a new power over them, has, in the course of eleven years, given such decisive specimens of the spirit and consequences attending this power, as to leave no doubt of the effects of acquiescence under it.

They have undertaken to give, and grant our money without our consent; though we have ever exercised an exclusive right to dispose of our own property. Statutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty, and vice admiralty, beyond their ancient limits; for depriving us of the accustomed and inestimable rights of trial by jury, in cases affecting both life and property; for suspending the legislature of one of our colonies; for interdicting all commerce to the capital of another; and for altering fundamentally the form of government established by charter, and secured by acts of its own legislature, and solemnly confirmed by the crown; for exempting murderers from legal trial, and in effect from punishment; for erecting in a neighbouring province, acquired by the joint arms of Great Britain and America, a disposition dangerous to our very existence; and for quartering soldiers upon the colonişls in times of profound peace. It has also been resolved in parliament, that colonists, charged with committing certain offences, shall be transported to England to be tried. But why should we enumerate our injuries into detail ? By one statute it was declared that parliament can, of right, make laws to bind us in all cases whatever. What is to defend us against so enormous, so unlimited a power? · Not a single person who assumes it, is chosen by us, or is subject to our control, or influence; but on the contrary, they are all of them exempt from the operation of such laws; and an American revenue, if not diverted from the ostensible purposes for which it is raised, would actually lighten their own burdens in proportion as it increases

We saw the misery to which such despotism would reduce us. We for ten years incessantly and ineffectually besieged the throne as supplicants; we reasoned, we remonstrated with parliament, in the most mild and decent language ; but administration, sensible that we should regard these measures as freemen ought to do, sent over fleets and armies to enforce them.

ours.

.: We have pursued every temperate, every respectful measure ;. we have even proceeded to break off all commercial intercourse with our fellow subjects, as our last peaceable admonition, that our attachment to no nation on earth would supplant our liberty ; this we flattered ourselves was the ultimate step of the controversy ; but subsequent events have shown. how vain 'was this hope of -finding moderation in our enemies !: rin : The lords and .commons, in their address in the month of February, 1775, said, that a rebellion at that time aciually existed in the province of Massachusetts Bay ;, and that those concerned in it had been countenanced and encouraged by. unlawful combinations, and engagements entered into by his majesty's subjects in several of the colopies; and therefore they besought his majesty that he would take the most effectual measures to enforce due obedience to the laws and authority of the supreme legislature. Soon after, the commercial intercourse of those colonies with foreign countries, was cut off by an act of parJiament; by another, several of them were entirely prohibited from the fisheries in the seas near their coasts, on which they always depended for their subsistence ; and large reinforcements of ships and troops were immediateJy sent over to general Gage. Fruitless were all the entreaties, arguments, and eloquence, of an illustrious band of the most distinguished peers and commoners, who nobly and strenuously asserted the justice of our cause, to stay, or even to mitigate, the heedless fury with which these accumulated outrages were hurried on. Equally fruitless was the interference of the city of London, of Bristol, and of many other respectable towns in our favour."

After having reproached parliament, general Gage, and the British government, in general, they proceed thus, “ We are reduced to the alternative of chusing an unconditional submission to tyranny, or resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity, have a right to receive from us. Our cause is just ; our union is

« PreviousContinue »