Imágenes de páginas

Dic. 1974

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

May, unless previous redress should have been obtained; and recommending to all the colonies to choose deputies as soon as possible to be prepared for every event.

A majority of the members of this Congress believed that these measures, especially the non-importation, and nonexportation agreements, would procure them a peaceable redress. Patrick Henry was, however, of a different opinion, and boldly avowed that force must finally be resorted to to defend the rights of America; and prophesied that, with the aid of France and Spain, America would finally triumph.

The legislatures, or their substitutes the provincial conventions, which had in the mean time sprung into authority, very generally, throughout the colonies, approved of these proceedings. New York, which had fallen under the influence of the Tories, was alone excepted. The people everywhere sanctioned and obeyed their recommendations with as much order as though clothed with all the sanctions of regular government.

The general court of Massachusetts had been convoked by Governor Gage, for the 4th of october, and was dissolved by proclamation on the 5th. They met, however, organized themselves into a Provincial Convention, and elected John Hancock president. After adjournment, in defiance of the governor, they met again at Cambridge on the 17th, and appointed committees of Safety," and of " Supplies;" the first of which, was to call out the militia of the province for its defence. They voted to raise 12,000 militia—enlist one-fourth of the militia, to be ready at a moment's warning, thence called minute' men; and appointed three general officers—Jedediah Preble, Artemas Ward,' and Colonel Pomeroy. They gave information to the other New England colonies, asking their aid, to make up an army of 20,000 men. They were emboldened to these measures by the alacrity with which the people had risen spontaneously, on a rumor, circulated in September, that "the governor had ordered an attack upon Boston, and that the feet was actually bombarding the town. Within two days, 30,000 volunteers were in arms, on their way to Boston, before it was ascertained that the rumor was unfounded.

Similar preparations were made in other colonies, with a like spirit, but less in extent.

briterie') item

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


[ocr errors]

In the mean time, a new parliament had met in Great Britain. The king's speech was threatening towards America, avowing his determination to sustain " the suprenie authority of the legislature, over all the dominions of the

The American papers were laid before Parliament, in January. Mr. Quincy, of Massachusetts, then in

London, after several interviews with the minisJan'y 1775. coercive measures would be adopted, and wrote home"I look to my countrymen with the feelings of one who verily believes that they must yet seal their faith and constancy to their liberties with blood.” Events soon confirmed his judgment.

Lord Chatham magnanimously took the lead in opposition to the ministers, and moved an address to the king, for the removal of the troops from Boston. In one of the fine passages with which his speech abounded, he told the ministry: “Resistance to your acts was necessary, and therefore just ; and your

vain declarations of the omnipotence of Parliament, and your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will be equally impotent to convince or enslave America."

You may, no doubt," said he, " destroy their cities; you may cut them off from the superfluities, perhaps the conveniences of life; but, my lords, they will still despise your power, for they have yet remaining their woods and their liberty.”

The motion was lost by a considerable majority, as was a subsequent bill which he introduced, with the view of settling the general question.

The petition of Congress was, after debate, refused a hearing, as proceeding from an illegal assembly, and on the

9th of February the Houses joined in an address February.

to his majesty, declaring that rebellion actually existed in the colony of Massachusetts, requesting him to use every means to enforce obedience; and pledging him their support, with their lives and property. The address was followed by a ministerial act, which soon passed, restraining the trade of the four New England colonies, as the most obstinate and refractory,' with Great Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies, and totally prohibiting their fisheries. These provisions were afterwards extended to all the colonies represented in the Congress, except New York and North Carolina. An addition to the king's

[ocr errors]

Feb. 20.

forces, by sea and land, was demanded ; in the midst of which, Lord North unexpectedly brought forth a series of propositions for conciliation, induced, probably, by the petitions of the British merchants, upon whom the suspension of trade in America had fallen heavily. The scheme was substantially a stipulation, that if the colonies would consent to tax themselves to the amount required, disposable by Parliament, and engage to support, besides, their own civil administrations, Parliament would forbear, during the time of such agreement, to exercise the taxing power, except for the regulation of commerce.

Plans of conciliation were offered by Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hartley, both of which failed, and Lord North's proposition was finally adopted by a large vote, against the wishes of some of his friends, who were obstinate enough to think it too indulgent. Parliament soon after adjourned, and several ships of the line, and ten thousand troops, were dispatched to aid in repressing-the rebellion apprehended.

In America, the approaching conflict became daily more evident. Boston, as the head-quarters of the army, was particularly exposed to collisions with them; and in anticipation, every exertion was made to procure arms and ammunition. Cannon, cannon balls, powder, muskets, and military stores, were constantly introduced into the city by every artifice, and in every disguise. In New Hampshire, a number of armed people seized on the powder in the royal castle of William and Mary. Colonel Leslie, who had been dispatched by Governor Gage, to seize some cannon at Salem, was obstructed by the citizens, until the cannon were removed beyond his reach, and he returned without succeed. ing in his object; and, in New York, a riotous combat took place between the populace and the troops, in which the latter were beaten. In Virginia, the convention adopted spirited resolutions, for arming and disciplining the militia, and procuring the necessary supplies.

In March, the Massachusetts Congress met at Concord, where the committees of Safety and Supplies' had collected a large quantity of stores and ammunition. A part of their stores had been seized at Boston Neck; and in April, the Governor, having received intelligence of the proceedings of Parliament, made an effort to seize the whole stock- an attempt which produced the battle of Concord, the first bloodshed of the revolutionary war, where the


king's troops were openly opposed by the colonists. It is the first of a new stage of events, in which resistance by arms, against unconstitutional oppression, took the place of remonstrances, petitions, and protests ; bụt still without renunciation of allegiance to the British crown.

A party of men, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Smith, and Major Pitcairn, were dispatched, by General

Gage, on this expedition. The reported object April 19th.

was the seizure of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose active labors in the patriotic cause had made them peculiarly odious to the British party; but the real object was understood. At Lexington, on the road, they found a party of about seventy militia, commanded by Captain Parker, on parade, with a number of spectators of the village, on the green. Notwithstanding the precautions of the British officers to prevent the spread of the intelligence, the march of the troops had been made known by expresses, signal guns, and the ringing of church bells.

They reached Lexington about five o'clock in the morning, when Major Pitcairn, seeing the militia gathered, rode up, with drawn sword, calling out—Disperse, ye rebels ; throw down your arms and disperse.” They hesitated, upon which he discharged his pistol, and ordered his corps, the advanced guard of the detachment, to fire. They gave a general discharge, by which eight Americans were killed, and several wounded. The rest dispersed; but the soldiery kept up their fire, when some of the militia returned it.

Thence the party proceeded to Concord; and the militia, who had assembled there, being too few to oppose them, retired. A great part of the stores had been removed, and the detachment executed their orders by destroying what remained, including a number of barrels of flour. The militia had, in the mean time reassembled; andon a movement made by them with apparent design to cross the bridge, into the town, then in possession of the British, they were fired on, and two Ame: ricans killed. The fire was promptly returned, and the troops repulsed, with loss of several killed, wounded, and prisoners. The whole country was up in arms instantly, and the Britisha forces, on commencing their retreat, found themselves attacked, on every side, by straggling shooters, and parties of volunteers. Every wall, fence, house, and tree, contributed to shelter some exasperated New Englander; and a perpetual, fire, was kepti ovp, in, thiş manner, id until the

detachment reached Lexington. A reinforcement, headed by Lord Percy, amounting to nine hundred men, with two pieces of artillery, there met them, and the united forces moved rapidly towards Boston, harassed by the provincial fire, and committing devastation along their route; burning houses, shooting unarmed countrymen, and destroying stock. After a march of forty miles they encamped at Bunker Hill, for the night, under the protection of the men-of-war, and the next day passed over to Boston. In these actions, the loss of the British was two hundred and ninety-three; and of the provincials, only ninety-three.

The results were of the greatest moment. The blow had been struck, by which open war was commenced, under circumstances that roused the universal indignation of the Americans, while the issue invigorated their spirits. They had rallied in great numbers at the signal of strife, and driven in the regulars with loss, after baffling the object of their expedition. Wherever the tidings of the battle were carried, enthusiasm rose, addresses, pledges, congratulations, and triumph, overpowered all apprehensions of the consequences, and the whole continent was animated with one spirit of determination.

The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts took instant measures, both to arm the province for defence, and to justify the conduct of the militia, to the authorities of Great Britain. They dispatched to England an account of the battle of Lexington, with depositions to prove the aggressions committed by the troops. With it they sent án address to the people of Great Britain, which, after assuring them of continued loyalty to the king, avowed a determination "not tamely to submit to the persecution and tyranny of his evil ministry.” They added, emphatically—"Appeal. ing to heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free." Dr. Franklin was the agent sent to Great Britain. The House proceeded to put the colony in a state of defence. They resolved to raise an army of thirteen thousand men, and requested the neighboring colonies to make the amount up to thirty thousand. They directed the treasurer to borrow £100,000 for the use of the province, and declared the citizens absolved from their obli. gations of obedience to Governor Gage.

Volunteers offered themselves in such numbers, that they could not be received for want of means to subsist them;

« AnteriorContinuar »