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quested to present their petition to the king. Mr. Penn sailed for England without delay.
Congress appointed commissioners to superintend Indian affairs, to prepare proper talks for the tribes, and to watch over the interests of the colonies in relation to them. While congress was attentive to guard against Indian hostility, and to gain Indian friendship, they exerted themselves to put the provinces in a posture of defence, and recommended to all able-bodied men in the colonies, between sixteen and fifty years of age, immediately to form themselves into regular companies of militia, to acquire a knowledge of military exercise, and to select a fourth part of the militia in every colony as minute-men, ready to march, on a minute's notice, wherever their assistance might be required. They also recommended to each colony to appoint a committee of safety to watch over the public welfare, during the recess of their respective assemblies and conventions, and to make all the provision in their power for the protection of their harbors and coasts.
Amid the noise of arms and the contrivances of policy, the ceremonials of re
and, on that day, the members of congress, in a body, attended public worship, both forenoon and afternoon. The day was observed in Philadelphia as the most solemn fast that had ever been held in that city; and it was punctually kept throughout the united colonies.
The congress appointed the establishment of a post-office, to extend from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia, and elected Benjamin Franklin postmaster-general. They also resolved to form an hospital for an army of 20 000 men, and nominated Dr. Church director and physician of it.
On the 1st of August, congress adjourned to the 5th of September ; and the adjournment not only gave the members an opportunity of attending to their private affairs, but also of consulting their constituents; and it enabled those who secretly looked forward to independence to disseminate their opinions more freely by personal intercourse than they durst attempt by written correspondence.
The congress re-assembled at the appointed time, and resumed their labors. Their situation was difficult; and they were distracted and alarmed by many cares, apprehensions, and dangers. The great body of the people was on their side ; but they were not ignorant of the fickleness of the multitude, or of their irresolution and instability in the course of a severe and protracted struggle. Many of the colonists were not unfriendly to the claims of Britain, or so lukewarm in the cause of the provinces as to be unwilling to hazard much in its support. The supporters of royal authority made hostile movements in several of the colonies; but they were crushed by the superior power of their opponents.
In New York, the British interest was stronger than in any of the other provinces; and the intrigues of Mr. Tryon, governor of that colony, gave congress considerable uneasiness ; so that, with a view to his apprehension, they recommended to the several provincial assemblies, or committees of public safety, to arrest every person within their respective jurisdictions, whose being at large might endanger the safety of the colony, or the liberties of America. Of this recommendation Mr. Tryon seems to have been early apprized by Mr. Duane, one of the New York delegates, who was far from giving a cordial assent to the
measures of congress; and the governor sought security on board the Halifax packet, then lying in the river.
In the month of August, the New York convention resolved to remove the camon from the battery in the city, and appointed Captain Sears to execute the measure. Captain Vandeput, of the Asia man-of-war, was privately informed of the intention ; and, about midnight, when Captain Sears entered on his work, Captain Vandeput opened a heavy fire upon the place ; but the Americans accomplished their purpose, without losing a man. The firing, during the silence of the night, greatly alarmed the inhabitants of the adjacent towns.
The congress was fully aware of the importance of preserving the command of the Hudson, or North River; and, for that purpose, gave directions to erect batteries and place garrisons in the highlands; and they used all the means in their power to keep the royal party in New York in check, by stationing troops, on whom they could depend, in the vicinity of that city.
The convention of New Hampshire applied to congress for directions how to carry on the administration of the colony, in the circumstances in which they were placed. Congress recommended to them to call a full and free representation of the people, to establish such a form of government as they deemed most conducive to the good order, peace, and happiness of the province ; thus setting an example of popular and independent government for the imitation of the colonies.
Congress recommended that Charleston, in South Carolina, be defended against all the enemies of America ; that the army before Boston consist of 20,000 men; and that particular colonies raise battalions at the expense of the continent; that four armed vessels be fitted out for the purpose of intercepting transports laden with warlike stores and other supplies to the enemy, and for the protection and defence of the united colonies. Congress deliberated with shut doors, and agreed, “ That every member consider himself under the ties of virtue, honor, and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly, any matter or thing agitated or debated in congress before the same shall have been determined, without the leave of congress ; or any matter or thing determined in congress, which the majority of congress shall order to be kept secret; and that, if any member shall violate this agreement, he shall be expelled this congress, and be deemed an enemy to the liberties of America, and liable to be treated as such ; and that every member signify his assent to this agreement by signing the same.” In this way, the proceedings of congress remained entirely unknown, except in so far as that body chose to publish them.
Congress appointed a committee to correspond with their friends in Britain and Ireland ; and recommended that no colony should separately petition the king: they resolved to secure and bring away a quantity of powder in the island of Providence; to retaliate, on such British soldiers as fell into their hands, any sufferings that might be inflicted on American prisoners; and to provide thirteen armed ships, carrying from thirty-two to twenty-four guns each, of which Ezekiel Hopkins was appointed commander. Thus, before the end of the year 1775, although congress still made professions of loyalty to the king, yet everything throughout the colonies was in a state of the most active preparation for war.
At Boston the hostile armies remained quiet during the severity of winter ; but early in the morning of the 14th of February, 1776, General Howe sent à detachment over the ice to Dorchester Neck, and burnt a few houses. This expedition merely served to make the Americans more sensible of the importance of establishing themselves on Dorchester heights. General Washington was inclined to make an attack on Boston: to that, however, a council of war did not agree, but proposed to take possession of Dorchester heights, which are on the south of Boston, as Bunker's Hill is on the north, and so render the Brit
ish post in Boston untenable. The measure was resolved on, and preparatior , made for carrying it into execution. Accordingly, on the evening of the 4th of March, a strong detachment silently crossed Dorchester Neck, arrived at their places of destination, and labored incessantly in raising fortifications. In order to conceal this movement, the Americans had, for some days before, kept up a heavy fire on Boston, with little effect; and it had been as ineffectually returned by the British.
The noise of artillery prevented the pick-axes and other implements of the Americans from being heard, although the ground was hard frozen, and could not easily be penetrated. So incessantly did they labor, that during the night they raised two forts, with other defences, which in the morning presented to the British a very formidable appearance. On viewing these works, General Howe remarked, that the Americans had done more in one night than his whole army would have done in a month. He determined to dislodge them, and made the necessary preparations for attacking them next day. But in the night a violent storm arose, which drove some of his vessels ashore on Governor's Island; and in the morning it rained so heavily that the attack could not be made.
General Howe called a council of war, which was of opinion that the town af Boston ought to be evacuated as soon as possible, since the Americans had got time to strengthen their works, so as to render an attack on them very hazardous. For their own defence, the provincials had provided a number of barrels filled with stones and sand, ready to be rolled down on the assailants as they ascended the hill; a device which would have broken the line of the most Steady and intrepid troops, and thrown them into confusion. That the heights of Dorchester had been so long neglected may appear surprising ; but during winter the American army was both weak and ill provided, and General Howe had no troops to spare.
In Boston all was bustle and confusion; the troops and the friends of the British government preparing to quit the town. General Howe was desirous of removing all his stores of every kind; and his adherents wished to carry off all their effects. In the view of abandoning the town, the soldiery were guilty of the most shameful excesses, plundering the shops and houses, and destroying what they could not take away. About four o'clock in the morning of Sunday the 17th of March, the troops, about 7,000 in number, and some hundreds of loyal inhabitants, began to embark; and they were all on board and under sail before ten. The evacuation of the place was so sudden that an adequate number of transports had not been prepared, and much confusion and inconvenience were experienced on board. The fleet, however, remained several days in Nantucket roads, and burnt the block-house on Castle Island, and demolished the fortifications. A considerable quantity of stores was left behind in Boston.
As the last of the British party were marching out of Boston, General Washington entered it, amid the triumphant gratulations of the citizens, whose joy on their deliverance from the degrading oppression of a British army was enthusiastic. At first it was not known to what quarter General Howe would direct his course ; but, apprehensive of an immediate attack on New York, General Washington, on the day after the evacuation, despatched five regiments, under General Heath, toward that city, and soon followed with the main body of his army.
In a few days it was ascertained that General Howe, instead of sailing to the southward, had steered to Halifax. But he left some cruisers to watch the entrance into Boston, and to give notice of the evacuation to such British vessels as were destined for that port. Notwithstanding that precaution, however, seyeral ships and transports, ignorant of what had happened, sailed into the harbor, and became prizes to the Americans, who, by their naval captures, procured a