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memorial to the inhabitants of the British colonies by Kichard Henry Lee, of Virginia.8
The Congress remained in session fifty-one days. Every subject, according to Adams, was discussed "with a moderation, an acuteness, and a minuteness equal to that of Queen Elizabeth's privy council."" The papers issued by it have deservedly been pronounced masterpieces of practical talent and political wisdom. Chatham, when speaking on the subject in the House of Lords, could not restrain his enthusiasm. "When your lordships," said he, "look at the papers transmitted to us from America; when yon consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their cause, and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must declare and avow that, in the master states of the world, I know not the people, or senate, who, in such a complication of difficult circumstances, can stand in preference to the delegates of America assembled in General Congress at Philadelphia."
Prom the secrecy that enveloped its discussions, we are ignorant of the part taken by Washington in the debates: the similarity of the resolutions, however, in spirit and substance to those of the Fairfax County meeting, in which he presided, and the coincidence of the measures adopted with those therein recommended, show that he had a powerful agency in the whole proceedings of this eventful assembly. Patrick Henry, being asked, on his return home, whom he considered the greatest man, in Congress, replied: "H you speak of eloquence, Mr. Eutledge, of South Carolina, is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor."
How thoroughly and zealously he participated in the feelings which actuated Congress in this memorable session, may be gathered from his correspondence with a friend enlisted in the royal cause. This was Captain Eobert Mackenzie, who had formerly served under him in his Virginia regiment during the French war, but now held a commission in the regular army, and was stationed among the British troops at Boston.
5 See Correspondence and Diary of J. Adams, vols. ii. and ix.
6 Letter to William Tudor, 29th Sept., 1774.
Mackenzie, in a letter, had spoken with loyal abhorrence of the state of affairs in the "unhappy province" of Massachusetts, and the fixed aim of its inhabitants at "total independence." "The rebellious and numerous meetings of men in arms," said he, "their scandalous and ungenerous attacks upon the best characters in the province, obliging them to save themselves by flight, and their repeated, but feeble threats, to dispossess the troops, have furnished sufficient reasons to General Gage to put the town in a formidable state of defence, about which we are now fully employed, and which will be shortly accomplished to their great mortification."
"Permit me," writes Washington in reply, "with the freedom of a friend (for you know I always esteemed you), to express my sorrow that fortune should place you in a service that must fix curses, to the latest posterity, upon the contrivers, and, if success (which, by-the-by, is impossible) accompanies it, execrations upon all those who have been instrumental in the execution. * * * * When you condemn the conduct of the Massachusetts people, you reason from effects, not causes, otherwise you would not wonder at a people who are every day receiving fresh proofs of a systematic assertion of an arbitrary power, deeply planned to overturn the laws and constitution of their country, and to violate the most essential and valuable rights of mankind, being irritated, and with difficulty restrained, from acts of the greatest violence and intemperance.
"For my own part, I view things in a very different point of light from the one in which you seem to consider them; and though you are led to believe, by venal men, that the people of Massachusetts are rebellious, setting up for independency, and what not, give me leave, my good friend, to tell you that you are abused, grossly abused. * * * * I think I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest of that government, or any other upon this continent, separately or collectively, t* set up for independence; but this you may at the same time rely on, that none of them will ever submit to the loss of their valuable rights and privileges, which are essential to the happiness of every free state, and without which, life, liberty, and property, are rendered totally insecure.
"These, sir, being certain consequences, which must naturally result from the late acts of Parliament relative to America in general, and the government of Massachusetts in particular, is it to be wondered at that men who wish to avert the impending blow, should attempt to oppose its progress, or prepare for their defence, if it cannot be averted? Surely I may be allowed to answer in the negative; and give me leave to add, as my opinion, that more blood will be spilled on this occasion, if the ministry are determined to push matters to extremity, than history has ever yet furnished instances of in the annals of North America; and such a vital wound will be given to the peace of this great country, as time itself cannot cure, or eradicate the remembrance of."
In concluding, he repeats his views with respect to independence: "I am well satisfied that no such thing is desired by any thinking man in all North America; on the contrary, that it is the ardent wish of the warmest advocates for liberty, that peace and tranquillity, upon constitutional grounds, may be restored, and the horrors of civil discord prevented."7
This letter we have considered especially worthy of citation, from its being so full and explicit a declaration of Washington's sentiments and opinions at this critical juncture. His views on the question of independence are particularly noteworthy, from his being at this time in daily and confidential communication with the leaders of the popular movement, and among them with the delegates from Boston. It is evident that the filial feeling still throbbed toward the mother country, and a complete separation from her had not yet entered into the alternatives of her colonial children.
On the breaking up of Congress, Washington hastened back to Mount Vernon, where his presence was more than usually important to the happiness of Mrs. Washington, from the loneliness caused by the recent death of her daughter, and the absence of her son. The cheerfulness of
7 Sparks. Washington's Writings, vol. ii., p. 899.
the neighbourhood had been diminished of late by the departure of George William Fairfax for England, to take possession of estates which had devolved to him in that kingdom. His estate of Belvoir, so closely allied with that of Mount Vernon by family ties and reciprocal hospitality, was left in charge of a steward, or overseer. Through some accident the house took fire, and was burnt to the ground. It was never rebuilt. The course of political events which swept Washington from his quiet home into the current of public and military life, prevented William Fairfax, who was a royalist, though a liberal one, from returning to his once happy abode, and the hospitable intercommunion of Mount Vernon and Belvoir was at an end for ever.
Gage's Military Measures—Removal of Gunpowder from the Arsenal— Public Agitation—Alarms in the Country—Civil Government obstructed—Belligerent Symptoms—Israel Putnam and General Charles Lee, their Characters and Stories—General Election—Self-Constituted Congress—Hancock President—Adjourns to Concord—Remonstrance to Gage—His Perplexities—Generals Artemas Ward and Seth Pomeroy—Committee of Safety—Committee of Supplies—Restlessness throughout the Land—Independent Companies in Virginia—Military tone at Mount Vernon—Washington's Military Guests—Major Horatio Gates—Anecdotes concerning him—General Charles Lee—His Peculiarities and Dogs—Washington at the Richmond Convention—War Speech of Patrick Henry—Washington's Military Intentions.
The rumour of the cannonading of Boston, which had thrown such a gloom over the religious ceremonial at the opening of Congress, had been caused by measures of Governor Gage. The public mind, in Boston and its vicinity, had been rendered excessively jealous and sensitive by the landing and encamping of artillery upon the Common, and Welsh Fusiliers on Fort Hill, and by the planting of four large field-pieces on Boston Neck, the only entrance to the town by land. The country people were arming and disciplining themselves in every direction, and collecting and depositing arms and ammunition in places where they would be at hand in case of emergency. Gage, on the other hand, issued orders that the munitions
of war in all the public magazines should be brought to Boston. One of these magazines was the arsenal in the north-west part of Charleston, between Medford and Cambridge. Two companies of the king's troops passed silently in boats up Mystic Kiver in the night; took possession of a large quantity of gunpowder deposited there, and conveyed it to Castle Williams. Intelligence of this sacking of the arsenal flew with lightning speed through the neighbourhood. In the morning several thousands of patriots were assembled at Cambridge, weapon in hand, and were with difficulty prevented from marching upon Boston to compel a restitution of the powder. In the confusion and agitation, a rumour stole out into the country that Boston was to be attacked; followed by another that the ships were cannonading the town, and the soldiers shooting down the inhabitants. The whole country was forthwith in arms. Numerous bodies of the Connecticut people had made some marches before the report was contradicted.1
To guard against any irruption from the country, Gage encamped the 59th regiment on Boston Neck, and employed the soldiers in intrenching and fortifying it.
In the mean time the belligerent feelings of the inhabitants were encouraged, by learning how the rumour of their being cannonaded had been received in the General Congress, and by assurances from all parts that the cause of Boston would be made the common cause of America. "It is surprising, " writes General Gage, " that so many of the other provinces interest themselves so much in this. They have some warm friends in New York, and I learn that the people of Charleston, South Carolina, are as mad as they are here. " *
The commissions were arrived for those civil officers appointed by the crown under the new modifications of the charter: many, however, were afraid to accept of them. Those who did soon resigned, finding it impossible to withstand the odium of the people. The civil government throughout the province became obstructed in all its oper'
1 Holmes's Annals, ii., 191.—Letter of Gage to Lord Dartmouth. a Gage to Dartmouth, Sept. 20.