Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

bated for several days, and finally passed Con. Juli 4. gress, in the affirmative, by the unanimous

suffrage of its members. The duties of the field precluded General Washing. son from a primary agency in this important, national nicasure; but it met his full approbation. On the re. ception of the instrument, he wrote as follows to the President of Congress.

“I perceive that Congress have been employed in de. liberating on measures of the most important nature. Ti is certain that it is not with us to determine in many instances, what consequences will flow from our coun. suls; but yet it behooves us to adopt such, as, under the smiles of a gracious and all kind Providence, will be most likely to promote our happiness. I trust the lata decisive part they have taken, is calculated for that end, and will secure us that freedom, and those privileges, which have been, and are, refused us, contrary to the voice of nature, and the British Constitution. Agreea. ble to the request of Congress, I caused The Declarution to be proclaimed before all the army, under my immediate command; and have the pleasure to inforın them, that the measure seemed to have their most hearty consent; the expressions and behaviour of both officers and inen, testifying their warmest approbation of it."

General Howe had sailed from Halifax in June, and early in July landed his army, without serious opposition, in Staten Island ; and on the twelfth of that monih, he was joined by Lord Howe, with the rein. forcements for the army. Lord How: had been ap. pointed to command the naval force of the American slation ; and le and the General were invested with the powers of Commissioners to treat with individuals, and with corporale bodies in the Colonies, ipon terms of reconciliation with Britain. Although independence was alreuly declared. yet they were anxious te commence negotiation; and though unwilling to re cognise the uHicial capaci:; of Congress, or of General

war.

Washingtox, yet they desired to open with them a correspondence. His Lordship sent a letter by a flag, directed to “George Washington, Esq.” This the General refused to receive, as“ it did not acknowledge the publick character, with which he was invested by Congress, and in no other character could he have any intercourse with his Lordship.” Congress, by a formal resolution, approved the dignified conduct of their General, and directed, " That no letter or message be received on any occasion whatever from the enemy, by the Commander in Chief, or others, the Command. ers of the American arny. but such as shall be directed to them in the character they respectively sustain.”

An intercourse between the British commander, and General Washington, was greatly desired for political reasons, as well as for purposes growing out of the

Not yet disposed to adopt his military address, they sent Colonel Patterson, Adjutant General of the British army, to the American head quarters, with a letler directed to “ George Washington, &c. &c. &c.' When the Colonel was introduced to the General, he addressed him by the title of Excellency, and said, li that General Howe greatly regretted the difficulty that had arisen respecting the address of the letter; that the manner of direction had been common with Ambassadors and Plenipotentiaries, in cases of nispute about rank and precedency; that General WashIngton had himself, the last year, directed a letter in the foliowing manner, " The Hon. William Howe ;" that Lord and General Howe held his person and character in the highest respect, and did not mean to derogate from his rank; and, that the et ceteras ir. plied every thing which ought to follow.” He then laid the letter which had been before sent, on the table.

The General, declining its receptiuni, observed,“that 9 letter, directed to a publick character, should have an address descriptive of that character, or it might be considered as a private letter. It was true that the

et. ceteras implied every thing, they also implied any thing. Thz letter alluded to, was in answer to one received from General Howe, under the like address, which being received by the officer on duty, he did not think proper to return; and therefore answered in the same mode of address; and thai he should absolutely decline any letter relating to his publick station, directed to hiin as a private person."

Colonel Patierson then said, that General Howo would not urge his delicacy farther, and repeated his assertion, that no failure of respect was intended. Some general conversation then passed, respecting the treatment of prisoners, when the Colonel proceeded to bserve, that the goodness of the King had induced him to appoint Lord and General Howe his commissioners, to accommodate the dispute that had unhappiiy arisen ; that their powers were very extensive, and they would be highly gratified in effecting the accommodation; and he wished his visit might be consider. ed as the introduction to negotiation.

General WASHINGTON replied, that Congress had not invested him with powers to negotiate ; but he would observe, that from what had transpired, it appeared that Lord and General Howe were only empowered to grant pardons : that they who had conmitted no faults, wanted no pardon; and that the Americans were only defending what they thought their indubitable rights. Colonel Patterson rejoined, that this would open a wide field of argument, and after expressir.g his fears, that an adherence to forms might obstruct business of the greatest moment, took his leave. The highest courtesy was observed in this conference: the address of Colonel Patterson was manly and polished; the American General fully supported the dignity of his character and station , and the scene was highly interesting to spectators

The Commander in Chief expected no salutary con. sequencos to result from the agency of the British

66

commissioners. He apprehended, that their attesapts et negotiation were calculated only to divide and weaken the continent; and he feared, that their measures woulů operate to relax the exertions of tho United States to meet the conflicts of the field. In a private letter to a confidential friend, as early as May, he la. inented the effects of this nature, which had actually been produced. Many members of Congress,” te wrotc,“ in short the representatives of whole provinces, are still feeding themselves on the dainty food of reconciliation; and although they will not allow that the expectation of it has any influence on their judgments, so far as respects preparations for defence, it is but Loo obvious that it has an operation upon every part of their conduct, and is a clog upon all their proceedings. It is not in the nature of things to be otherwise ; for no man who entertains a hope of seeing this dispute speedily and equitably adjusted by commissioners, will go to the same expense, and incur the same hazards, to prepare for the worst event, that he will who believes that he must conquer or submit unconditionally, and tako the consequences, such as confiscation and hanging."

General Howe commanded a force of twen. Aug. 8. ty-four thousand men, well disciplined, and

abundantly supplied with every thing necessary to take the field ; he daily expected to be reinforced by a second detachment of German troops; and ho was supported by a fleet judiciously fitted to its destined service. To oppose this formidable enemy General WASHINGTON had under lris direction seven. teen thousand two hundred and twenty-five men; of these three thousand six hundred and sixty-eight wero in the hospital. His effective force was disposed in New-York, on Long and Governour's Islands, and at Paulus Hook ; and he informed Congress, that. in case of an attack, he could promise himself only the additior. of one smal battalion. Some of the posts occupied by the army were fifteen miles distant from others, and VOL. I.

7

navigable waters intervened. " These things,” observed the General, “ are melancholy, but they are nevertheless true. I hope for better. Under every disadvantage, my utmost exertions shall be employed, to bring about the great end we have in view ; and so far as I can judge from the professions and apparent disposition of my troops, I shall have their support. The superiority of the enemy, and the expected attack do not seem to have depressed their spirits. These considerations lead me to think, that though the appeal may not terminate so happily as I could wish, yet the enemy will not succeed in their views without considerable loss. Any advantage they inay gain, will, I trust, cost them dear.''

Before serious hostilities commenced, the American army was reinforced by several regiments of permanent troops, and by detachments of militia, which made the whole number amount to twenty-seven thousand; 'but the men were not accustomed to the life of the camp; they were much exposed from the want of tents, and one quarter of the whole army were taken from duty by sickness.

While waiting the tardy movements of the enemy, General WASHINGTON, apprised of the impressions that would be made by the event of the first encounter, exerted himself to the utmost to bring his inexperienced troops under subordination, and to excite in them military arccur, without which he could have no hope of successful warfare. In general orders, he called upon mificers to be cool in action, and upon the soldiery to be obedient to orders, and to be firm and courageous. Ho directed, that any soldier, who deserted his ranks in time of battle, should be immediately shot down. lle desired commanders of corps to report to him every instance of distingrished bravery in the soldiery, with promise of reward. He endeavoured, by the lovo of liberty, of country, and of posterity, to animate his army to do their duty. " The time," he observed,

« ZurückWeiter »