Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1775

arrival of the troops in New York, Governor Tryon would be CHAP. IV. ready to join them at the head of a great number of the inhabitants, disaffected to the American cause; and therefore he urged the necessity of being decisive and expeditious in his operations. "The tories" (a term designating all those who favoured the enemy), he said, "should be disarmed, and the principal characters among them secured." He expressed a hope that Governor Tryon would be of the number. But considering General Lee to be under the directions of Congress, to which body that officer had applied for instructions, he only expressed his wishes, that he might be permitted to act in that decisive manner which comported with the opinions of them both.

Congress, however, had now submitted this whole subject to the colonial authorities, with a recommendation to them to disarm the disaffected, and to secure the most dangerous of them, either by confining them, or obliging them to give security for their good behaviour. To enable the local authorities to comply with this recommendation, they were empowered* to call

to

* Whereas it has been represented to this Congress, that divers well meaning and honest, but uninformed people in these colonies, have, by the art and address of ministerial agents, been deceived and drawn into erroneous opinions respecting the American cause, and the probable issue of the present contest:

Resolved, That it be recommended to the different committees, and other friends. to American liberty in the said colonies, to treat all such persons with kindness and attention; to consider them as the inhabitants of a country determined to be free, and to view their errors as proceeding rather from want of information, than want of virtue or public spirit; to explain to them the origin, nature, and extent of the present controversy; to acquaint them with the fate of the numerous pePP

VOL. II.

titions

CHAP. IV. to their aid any continental troops stationed in or near their respective colonies, who were ordered, while employed in this

1775

service,

titions presented to his Majesty, as well by assemblies as by Congresses, for reconciliation and redress of grievances, and that the last from this Congress, humbly requesting the single favour of being heard, like all others, has proved unsuccessful; to unfold to them the various arts of administration to ensnare and enslave us, and the manner in which we have been cruelly driven to defend by arms those very rights, liberties, and estates, which we and our forefathers had so long enjoyed unmolested in the reigns of his present majesty's predecessors. And it is nereby recommended to all conventions and assemblies, in these colonies, liberally to distribute among the people the proceedings of this and the former Congress, the late speeches of the great patriots in both houses of parliament relative to American grievances, and such other pamphlets and papers as tend to elucidate the merits of the American cause, the Congress being fully persuaded, that the more our right to the enjoyments of our ancient liberties and privileges is examined, the more just and necessary our present opposition to ministerial tyranny will appear.

And with respect to all such unworthy Americans, as regardless of their duty to their Creator, their country, and their posterity, have taken part with our oppressors, and, influenced by the hope of possessing ignominious rewards, strive to recommend themselves to the bounty of administration; by misrepresenting and traducing the conduct and principles of the friends of American liberty, and opposing every measure formed for its preservation and security,

Resolved, That it be recommended to the different assemblies, conventions, and committees, or councils of safety of the United Colonies, by the most speedy and effectual measures, to frustrate the mischievous machinations, and to restrain the wicked practices of these men. And it is the opinion of this Congress, that they ought to be disarmed, and the more dangerous among them, either kept in safe custody, or bound with sufficient sureties to their good behaviour.

And in order that the said assemblies, conventions, committees, or councils of safety, may be enabled with greater ease and facility to carry this resolution into execution,

Resolved, That they be authorized to call to their aid whatever continental troops, stationed in or near their respective colonies, may be conveniently spared from their

more

1775

service, to place themselves entirely under the direction and con- CHAP. IV. trol of the colonial government. General Lee experienced no difficulty in raising the volunteers required from Connecticut. The people of that province were remarkably zealous and enterprizing; and Governor Trumbull having sanctioned the measure the numbers deemed necessary for the expedition immediately embodied, and Lee commenced his march for New York at the head of twelve hundred men.

The inhabitants of that place were much alarmed at his approach. Threats had been uttered by Captain Parker,, of the Asia man of war, then lying in the harbour, that he would destroy the town in the event of its being entered by any considerable body of provincial forces; and it was believed that these threats would be executed.

A committee of safety had been appointed to exercise the powers of government during the recess of the provincial Congress; and they addressed a letter to General Lee, manifesting their astonishment at the report, that he was about to enter their town without any previous intimation of his design to them, and their fears of the mischievous consequences which

more immediate duty; and the commanding officers of such troops are hereby directed to afford the said assemblies, conventions, committees, or councils of safety, all such assistance in executing this resolution as they may require, and which, consistent with the good of the service, may be supplied.

Resolved, That all detachments of continental troops, which may be ordered on the business in the foregoing resolution mentioned, be, while so employed, under the direction and controul of the assemblies, conventions, committees, or councils of safety aforesaid.

Pp 2

would

CHAP. IV.

1775

would result from such a measure. They could not believe it possible that such a step had been resolved on without being communicated to them; but, if in this they were mistaken, they expressed the most earnest solicitude that he would halt his troops on the confines of Connecticut, till they could have further explanations with him.

Lee held in utter contempt the threats which had been thrown out by the enemy of destroying the town, and continued his march to that place with the utmost celerity. He addressed a letter to Congress, in which he displayed in such

strong

*This letter is so truly characteristic of the writer, and treats in a manner so peculiar to himself, the measures of Congress on this subject that, although it may not be immediately connected with the Life of General Washington, the reader will not be displeased with its insertion.

SIR,

Stamford, January 22, 1775.

AS General Washington has informed the Congress of his motives for detaching me, it is needless to trouble you upon the subject. I am, therefore, only to inform you that I have collected a body of about twelve hundred men from the colony of Connecticut, whose zeal and ardour, demonstrated on this occasion, cannot be sufficiently praised. With this body I am marching directly to New York, to execute the different purposes for which I am detached. I am sensible, Sir, that nothing can carry the air of greater presumption, than a servant intruding his opinion unasked upon his master, but at the same time there are certain seasons, when the real danger of the master may not only excuse, but render laudable the servant's officiousness. I therefore flatter myself that the Congress will receive, with indulgence and lenity, the opinion I shall offer. The scheme of simply disarming the tories seems to me totally ineffectual, it will only embitter their minds, and add virus to their venom. They can, and will, always be supplied with fresh arms by the enemy. That of seizing the most dangerous will, I apprehend, from the

vagueness

strong terms, the necessity of pursuing, with respect to New CHAP. IV. York, a different course from that which their resolution autho

rized,

1775.

vagueness of the instruction, be attended with some bad consequences, and can answer no good one. It opens so wide a door for partiality and prejudice to the different Congresses and Committees on the Continent, that much discord and animosity will probably ensue; it being next to impossible to distinguish who are, and who are not the most dangerous. The plan of explaining to those deluded people, the justice and merits of the American cause, is certainly generous and humane, but I am afraid will be fruitless. They are so rivetted in their opinions, that I am persuaded should an angel descend from heaven with his golden trumpet, and ring in their ears that their conduct was criminal, he would be disregarded. I had lately myself an instance of their infatuation which, if it is not impertinent, I will relate. At Newport, I took the liberty, without any authority but the conviction of necessity, to administer a very strong oath to some of the leading tories, for which liberty I humbly ask pardon of the Congress. One article of this oath was to take arms in defence of their country, if called upon by the voice of the Congress. To this Colonel Wanton and others flatly refused their assent—to take arms against their sovereign, they said, was too monstrous an impiety. I asked them if they had lived at the time of the revolution, whether they would have been revolutionists. Their answers were at first evasive, circuitous, and unintelligible, but, by fixing them down precisely to the question, I at length drew from them a positive confession that no violence, no provocation on the part of the Court, could prevail upon them to act with the Continent. Such, I am afraid, is the creed and principles of the whole party, great and small: sense, reason, argument, and eloquence, have been expended in vain; and in vain you may still argue and reason to the end of time. Even the common feelings and resentments of humanity have not aroused them. But rather with a malignant pleasure they have beheld the destruction of their fellow-citizens and relations. But I am running into declamation, perhaps impertinent and presuming, when I ought to confine myself to the scheme I submit to your consideration. It is, Sir, in the first place, to disarm all the manifestly disaffected, as well of the lower as the higher class, not on the principle of putting them in a state of impotence, (for this I observed before will not be the case,) but to supply our troops with arms of which they stand in too great need. Secondly, to appraise their estates, and

oblige

« ZurückWeiter »