Abbildungen der Seite

From the promulgation of this declaration every thing assumed a new form. The Americans no longer appeared in the character of subjects in arms against their sovereign, but as an

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled to the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands. He has excited domestic insurrestions amongus, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and eonditions. In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts made by their legislatures to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connexions and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war; in peace, friends.

independent people, repelling the attacks of an invading foe. Propositions and supplications for reconciliation were done away. The dispute was brought to a single point, whether the late British colonies should be conquered provinces, or free and independent states. The declaration was read publicly in all the states, and was welcomed with many demonstrations of joy. The people were encouraged by it to bear up under the calamities of war: the army received it with particular satisfaction, as it secured them from suffering as rebels, and held out to their view an object, the attainment of which would be an adequate recompense for the toils and dangers of the war. The flattering prospects of an extensive commerce, freed from British restrictions, and the honours and emoluments of office in independent states, now began to glitter before the eyes of the colonists, and reconcile them to the difficulties of their situation. That

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE and INDEPENDENT states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connexion between them and the state of GreatBritain is and ought to be totally dissolved ; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.

John HAN.cock, President.

separation, which they at first dreaded as an evil, they soon gloried in as a national blessing. By advice of the new American minister, lord George Germaine, the chief command of the vast naval and military force, now collected for the subjugation of America, was intrusted to the two Howes. Immediately after the declaration of independence, general Howe, with a powerful force, arrived near New-York, and landed the troops upon Staten Island. General Washington was in New-York, with about thirteen thousand men, who were encamped either in the city or the neighbouring fortifications. On the 12th of July lord Howe arrived and joined his brother, and though he was very much concerned to find that the declaration of independence had been promulgated, yet he resolved to make one effort for effecting an accommodation. His powers, however, were much too limited. He was ready to of. fer pardon to persons who contended that they had been guilty of no fault. Both sides, therefore, prepared seriously for action; and the general, being joined by the far greater part of his expected reinforcements, found himself at the head of thirty thousand veteran troops, supported by a formidable fleet, composing together a force far superior to any that had ever before been seen in the New World employed in the same service. The operations of the British began by the action on Long-Island, in the month of August. The Americans were defeated, and general Sullivan and lord Stirling, with a large body of men were made prisoners. The night after the engagement, a retreat was ordered and executed with such silence, that the Americans left the island without alarming their enemies and without loss. Almost immediately after this transaction ge

neral Sullivan was sent, upon parole, with a verbal message from lord Howe, requesting an interview. The committee appointed for this purpose, consisting of Dr. Franklin, Mr. John'Adams, and Mr. Rutledge, met lord Howe upon Staten Island, by whom they were treated with great attention; but the conference terminated without effecting any good purpose. In September the city of New-York was abandoned by the American army and taken by the British ; and in November Fort Washington, on York Island, was taken, and more than two thousand men made prisoners. Fort Lee, opposite to Fort Washington, on the Jersey shore, was soon after taken, but the garrison escaped. About the same time, general Clinton was sent with a body of troops to take possession of Rhode Island, and succeeded. In addition to all these losses and defeats, the American army suffered by desertion, and still more by sickness. All that now remained of it, which at the opening of the campaign amounted to at least twenty-five thousand men, did not exceed three thousafid. The term of their engagements being expired, they returned in large bodies to their families and friends, and the few who continued with Washington and Lee, were too inconsiderable to appear formidable in the view of a powerful and victorious enemy. In this alarming situation of affairs general Lee, through imprudence, was captured by a party of the British light-horse; this gave a severe shock to the remaining hopes of the little army, and rendered their situation truly distressing. In the opinion of many the affairs of the Americans were drawing to a crisis. But general Washington, always ready to improve every advantage to raise the drooping spirits of his handful of men, had made a stand on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Here he collected his scattered forces, and very early on the 26th of December, a day purposely selected, on the supposition that the preceding festivity might favour the project of a surprise, he crossed the Delaware, not without extreme difficulty, from the quantity of ice in the river, nine miles above Trenton, and immediately began his march in the midst of a storm of snow and hail at the head of his troops, and reached Trenton by day-break, and so completely surprised the army that upwards of nine hundred Hessians, after a slight resistance, were made prisoners. In the evening general Washington repassed the Delaware, carrying with him his prisoners, their artillery, and colours, and entered the city of Philadelphia in triumph. The charm was now dissolved, and it being found by experience that the Europeans were not invincible, great numbers of the Americans, who had deserted their colours, again repaired to the standard of their commander, who soon found himself at the head of a considerable army, and ready to act on the offensive. This successful expedition first gave a favourable turn to American affairs, which seemed to brighten through the whole course of the war. Soon after, general Washington attacked the British at Princeton, and obtained a complete victory. The to great address in planning and executing these enterprises reflected the highest honour on the commander ; and success revived the desponding hopes of America. This year was distinguished by several memorable events in favour of American liberty. On the opening of the campaign, governor Tryon was sent with a body of troops to destroy the

« ZurückWeiter »