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zealous friends in England. The divisions and discontents of CHAP. II. that country had been represented as much greater than the fact 1774. would justify; and the exhortations transmitted to them, to persevere in the honourable course which had been commenced with so much glory, had generally been accompanied with assurances, that success must yet crown their patriotic labours. Very many had engaged with zeal in the resistance made by America, and had acted on a full conviction of the correctness of the principles for which they contended, who would very reluctantly have engaged in the measures which had been adopted, had they really believed that those measures would have terminated in war. But each party counted too much on the divisions of the other, and each seems to have taken step after step in the hope that its adversary would yield the point in contest without resorting to open force. Thus, on both sides, the public feelings had been gradually conducted to a point which would in the first instance have been thought of with horror; and had been prepared for events, the contemplation of which, in the beginning of the controversy, would have alarmed the most intrepid. The sentiment now prevailing in the middle and southern colonies was, that a reconciliation, on the terms proposed by America, was not even yet impracticable, and was devoutly to be wished; but that war, with all its hazards and its horrors, was to be preferred to a surrender of those rights for which they had contended, and to which they believed every British subject, wherever placed, to be unquestionably entitled.
They did not hesitate, therefore, which part of the alternative now offered them to embrace, and their delegates united
CHAP. III. cordially with those of their northern brethren in such measures
as the present exigency required. It was unanimously determined, that as hostilities had actually commenced, and as large reinforcements to the British army were expected, these colonies should be immediately put in a state of defence, and that the militia of New York should be armed and trained, and kept in readiness to act at a moment's warning. It was also determined to embody a number of men, without delay, for the protection of the inhabitants of that place; but they appear not to have been authorized to oppose the landing of any troops which might have been ordered to that station by the crown. The convention of New York had already consulted Congress on the steps to be pursued by that colony in the event of the arrival of the troops daily expected at that place from Europe; and they had been advised to permit the soldiers to take possession of the barracks, and to remain there so long as they conducted themselves peaceably; but if they committed hostilities, or invaded private property, the inhabitants were then to repel force by force. Thus anxious was Congress, even after a battle had been fought, not to widen still further the breach between the two countries. In addition to the real wish for recon ciliation, much felt by a majority of this body, the soundest policy directed that the people of America should engage in the arduous conflict which was approaching, with a perfect conviction that it was forced upon them, and that it had been occasioned by no fault of theirs, and by no intemperate conduct on the part of their leaders. The divisions existing in several of the states suggested the propriety of this conduct, even to those who despaired of deriving any other benefit from it than a greater degree of union among their own countrymen. In this
spirit, they mingled with their resolutions for putting the coun- CHAP. II. try in a state of defence, others expressive of their most earnest 1774, wish for reconciliation with the mother country; to effect which, they determined on addressing once more an humble and dutiful petition to the king, and on adopting measures for opening a negociation, in order to accommodate the unhappy disputes subsisting between Great Britain and the colonies.
As no great confidence could now be placed in the success Proceedings of of pacific propositions, the resolution for putting the country in a state of defence was accompanied with others rendered necessary by that undetermined state between peace and war, in which America was now placed. All exports to those colonies which had not deputed members to Congress were stopped ; and all supplies of provisions, and of other necessaries to the British fisheries, were prohibited. Though this resolution was only a further prosecution of the system of commercial resistance which had been adopted before the commencement of hostilities, and was evidently provoked by the late acts of parliament; yet it seems to have been entirely unsuspected, and certainly produced very great distress. A few days after the adoption of this measure, it was resolved that no bill of exchange drawn by any person belonging to the army or navy should be negociated, nor any money furnished to such person by the inhabitants of the colonies. All supplies of provisions, or other necessaries to the army or navy in Massachussetts’ Bay, and to any vessel employed in transporting British troops to America, or from one colony to another, were prohibited.
Massachussetts having stated the difficulties resulting from
CHAP. III. being without any regular form of government, " at a time
when an army was to be raised to defend themselves against the butcheries and devastations of their implacable enemies,” and having declared a readiness to conform to such general plan as Congress might direct for the colonies, and so to modify its particular government as to promote the interests of the union, and of all America; it was resolved, that no obedience is due to the act of parliament for altering the charter of that colony, nor to officers who, instead of observing that charter, seek its subversion.
The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor were, therefore, to be considered as absent, and their offices vacant. To avoid the intolerable inconveniences arising from a total suspension of government, especially at a time when General Gage had actually levied war, and was carrying on hostilities against his majesty's peaceable and loyal subjects of that colony; and, at the same time, to conform as nearly as possible to the substance and spirit of the charter; it was “recommended to the provincial convention to write letters to the inhabitants of the several places which are entitled to representation in Assembly, requesting them to choose such representatives, and that the assembly, when chosen, do elect counsellors; and that such assembly or council exercise the powers of government, until a governor of his majesty's appointment will consent to govern the colony according to its charter *."
These resolutions, occasioned by the peculiar situation of the
* Journals of congress, page 115.
country, were quickly followed by others of greater vigour, CHAP. III. and denoting more decidedly the determination to prepare for 1774. the last resort of nations.
It was most earnestly recommended to the conventions of all the colonies, to use their utmost endeavours to provide the means of making gunpowder, and to obtain sufficient supplies of ammunition. Even the non-importation agreement was relaxed in favour of such vessels as should bring in cargoes of these precious materials. They were urged too, very seriously, to arm and discipline their militia, and so to class them that one-fourth should be minute men. In addition to this military force, recommendations were made for the raising of several regular corps for the service of the continent; and a general resolution was entered into, declaring that any province thinking itself in danger might raise a body of regulars not exceeding one thousand men, which should be taken into the pay of the united colonies.
Congress also proceeded to organize the higher departments of the army. Bills of credit to the amount of three millions * of Spanish
* The ratio in which this sum was apportioned on the respective states was as follows:
New Hampshire............... ...............124,0691
Carried over 878,412 VOL. II.