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CHAPTER II.

Retrospect of the origin of the American revolutionary war.....Of George

Washington as member of Congress, in 1774 and 1775....As Commander in Chief of the armics, of the United Colonies in 1775 and 1776, and his operations near Boston, in these years.

Soon after the peace of Paris, 1763, a new system for governing the British colonies, was adopted. One abridgment of their accustomed liberties followed another in such rapid succession, that in the short space of twelve years they had nothing left they could call their own. The British parliament, in which they were unrepresented, and over which they had no control, not only claimed, but exercised the power of taxing them at pleasure, and of binding them in all cases whatsoever.

Claims so repugnant to the spirit of the British constitution, and which made such invidious disinctions between the subjects of the same king, residing on different sides of the Atlantic, excited 'a serious alarm among the colonists. Detached as they were from each other by local residence, and unconnected in their several legislatures, a sense of common danger pointed out to them the wisdom and propriety of forming a new representative body; composed of delegates from each col. mny, to take care of their common interests.

With very little previous concert, such a body was formed and met in Philadelphia, in September, 1774, and entered into the serious consideration of the grievances under which their constituents laboured. To this congress Virginia deput. ed seven of her most respectable citizens ; Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, Edmund Pendleton ; men who would have done honour to any age or country. The same were appointed in like manner to attend a second congress on the 10th. of May, in the following year. The historians of the American revo. lution will detail with pleasure and pride, the proceedings of this illustrious assembly ; the firmness and precision with which they stated their griev. ances, and petitioned their sovereign to redress them ; the eloquence with which they addressed the people of Great Britain, the inhabitants of Canada, and their own constituents; the judicious measures they adopted for ceinenting union at home, and procuring friends abroad. They will also inform the world of the unsuccessful termination of all plans proposed for preserving the union of the empire, and that Great Britain, proceeding from one oppression to another, threw the colonies out of her protection, made war upon them, and carried it on with a view to their subjugation. All these matters, together with the commence. ment of hostilities at Lexington, and the formation of an American army by the colony of Massachusetts, for defending themselves against a royal army in Boston, must be here passed over. Our business is only with George Washington. The fame he had acquired as commander of the Virginia forces, together with his well known military talents, procured for him the distinguishing appellation of the Soldier of America. Those who, before the commencement of hostilities, looked forward to war as the probable consequence of the disputes between Great Britain and her colonies, anticipated his appointment to the supreme com. mand of the forces of his native country, military experience may not be equal to the ex. tensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my niost cordial thanks, for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.

As long as he continued a member of Congress, he was chairman of every committee appointed by that body to make arrangements for defence. These duties in the Senate were soon superseded by more active employnient in the field. As soon as the Congress of the United Colonies had determined on making a common cause with Massachusetts, against which a British army had com. menced hostilities, they appointed, by an unani. mous vote, George Washington, commander in chief of all the forces raised or to be raised for the defence of the colonies. His election was accom panied with no competition, and followed by no en. vy. The same general impulse on the public mind, which led the colonies to agree in many other particulars, pointed to him as the most proper person for presiding over their armies.

To the president of Congress announcing this appointment, General Washington replied in the following words ;

“ MR. PRESIDENT, “Though I am truly sensible of the high honour done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and

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“ But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honoured with.

“ As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employinent, at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses ; those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.”'

A special commission was made out for him, and at the same time an unanimous resolution was adopted by Congress, “ that they would maintain and assist him, and adhere to him with their lives and fortunes, for the maintenance and preservation of American Liberty.”

He immediately entered on the duties of his high station. After passing a few days in New York, and making some arrangements with Gen. Schuyler, who commanded there, he proceeded to Cambridge, which was the headquarters of the American army. On his way thither, he received from private persons and public bodies, the most flattering attention, and the strongest expressions of determination to support him. He received an address from the Provincial Congress of NewYork, in which, after expressing their approbation of his elevation to command, they say, " We have the fullest assurances, that whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of each American soul, an accommodation with our mother country, you will cheerfuily resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and reassume the character of our worthiest citizen.” The General, after declaring his gratitude for the respect shown him, added, “Be assured that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and iny. self, will be extended to the re-establishment of peace and harmony between the mother country and these colonies. As to the fatal, but necessary operations of war, when we assumed the soldier we did not lay aside the citizen, and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the re-establishment of American liberty, on the most firm and solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our private stations, in the bosoin of a free, peaceful, and happy country.”

A committee from the Massachusetts Congress received him at Springfield, about one hundred miles from Boston, and conducted him to the ar. my. He was soon after addressed by the Con. gress of that colony in the most affectionate manner. In his answer, he said, “Gentlemen, your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest acknowledgnients, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of domestic life for

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