Page images
[ocr errors]

provincial congress published an address to the inhabitants, of the fame nature with several others that have been mentioned, containing the strongest expreffions of loyalty and affe&ion, and declaring an earnest defire of reconciliation. Such were the proceedings in the southern colonies during this season ;-but we must now return to the proceedings in MassachusettsBay, and particularly of the armies in and about Boston.

General Gage having returned to England the beginning of O&tober, the command in chief devolved upon General Howe. This officer foon after his taking upon him the command issued a proclamation, by which such of the inhabitants as attempted to quit the town without licence, were condemned to military execution, if detected and taken; and if they escaped, to be proceeded against as traitors, and their effects to be forfeited.-By another proclamation, fuch as obtained permission to leave the town, were by severe penalties excluded from carrying more than a small specified sum of money along with them. He also enjoined figning and entering into an association, by which the remaining inhabitants offered their perfons for the defence of the town, and such of them as he approved of were to be armed, förmed into companies, and were to be instructed in military exercises and discipline, the remainder being obliged to pay their quotas in money towards the common defence.

The limited time for which the folliers in the pro, vincial army before Boston were inlisted, was near a. bour expired, and it was necessary that some measures fhould be taken for supplying their place.' A committee of the general congress, consisting of some of


[ocr errors]

the most respectable members, were sent thither to take the necessary measures, in conjunction with General Washington, for keeping it from dilbanding.--This was a work of small difficulty, for the whole army inlisted for an year to come, for certain. Of all the difficulties which the Americans met in attempts towards establishing a military force, nothing affected them so grievously, or was so hard to remedy as gunpowder. For though they used the utmost diligence in collecting nitre, and all the other parts of the manufacture, the resource from their industry was flow and with regard to any considerable effect it was distant. They had not yet opened that commerce, nor entered into those measures with foreign states, which have fince procured them a supply of military stores. The scarcity of powder was so great, that it was faid the troops at Bunker's Hill had not a single charge left at the end of that short engagement; and it is also said by fome that the weakness of the army before Bofton in that refpcét was at one time fo great, that 10-, thing but General Howe's ignorance of that circumstance could have saved them from being dispersed and ruined. They left nothing undone to supply that defect, and among other temporary expedients had contrived to purchase without notice or suspicion all the powder upon the African coait, and plundered the magazines on the island of Bermuda of about 100 barrels, which was carried off, as was pretended, without the knowledge of the inhabitants.

While plundering, threatening, and hostility was constantly carried on upon the sea coast, the town of Falmouth in the northern part of Massachusetts-Bay, was dooined to share in the calamities which were difpenfed to Norfolk in Virginia, upon October 18,


[ocr errors]

on account of fomne violence or misbehaviour relative to the loading of a mast-thip, drew the vengeance of the Admiral in that station upon this devoted place, and occasioned an order for its destruction.

The officers who commanded the ships upon that occasion, gave two hours previous notice to the inhabitants to provide for their safety, and this time was further enlarged till next morning, under the cover of a negotiation for delivering their artillery and finall arms at the price of saving the town. This however they refused to comply with, but had made use of the intermediate time in removing as many of their effects as they could procure carriages for, or as the darkness and the confusion of the night would admit.

About nine o'clock in the morning a cannonade was begun and continued with little intermiflion thro' the day. Above 3600 shot, besides bombs and car. cases, were thrown into the town, and the failors landed to compleat the destruction, but were repulsed with the loss of a few men. The principal part of the town which lay next the water, consisting of about 130 dwelling-houses, 27S stores and warehouses, with a large new church, a new handsome courthouse, with the public library, were reduced to attes; about 100 of the worst houses being favoured by their situation and distance, escaped destruction, though net without damage. Tho' the settlements in this

quar ter were new, beiаg mostly established since the last war, this small town was amazingly thriving, being situated on a fine harbour, and having a very confiderable trade, so that it was computed to contain about 600 families, though little inore than one-third of that number of dwelling-houses. The burning of churches and libraries is a new species of warfare, left to


the improvement of this polite age to be practised by a people who boast of their civilization, humanity, and politeness. In the most barbarous ages, churches, colleges, and seminaries of learning were held facred by all parties, and it was never known, that either in the civil wars or in any foreign ones that Englishmen waged war with learning and religion. This species of warfare was left to disgrace the present age, and to be handed down as a reproach to the government of Britain to the latest posterity.

The destruction of Falmouth provoked the Congress to the last degree, and probably pushed on the aslembly of Massachusetts-Bay to the daring measure of granting letters of marque and reprisals, and establishing courts of admiralty for the trial and condemnation of British fhips. In this law they declare an intention of only defending the coasts and navigation of Ame' rica, extending the power of capture only to fuch ships as should be employed in bringing supplies to the armies employed against them. From this time they did all that was in their power to seize such fhips as brought supplies to the troops.

During the course of the fummer, articles of confederation and perpetual union between the feveral colonies which were already associated, with liberty of admission to those of Quebec, St. John's, Nova Scotia, the two Floridas and Bermudas, containing rules of their general government in peace and war, both with respect to foreigners and each other, were drawn up by the general congrefs, and by them tranfnitted to their different colonies for the inspection and confideration of their respective affemblies. If these articles met with their approbation, they were to empower their delegates to the ensuing congress to ratify and


[ocr errors]

confirm them; and from that time the union which they established was to continue firm until, besides a redress of grievances, reparation was made for the lofses sustained by Boston, for the burning of Charlestown, for the expences of the war; and until the Bri. ' tish

troops were withdrawn from America :- When these events should take place, the colonies were to return to their former connections and friendship with Great Britain ; but on failure thereof, the confedera. tion was to be perpetual.

The people in general were not however fufficiently provoked, nor their affc&tions and prejudices sufficiently broken, to accede to a confederacy, tho' conditionally framed and worded, which yet led to a total separation from the mother country. For tho' they had taken up arms, and opposed the government, yet still it was general, under the hope of obtaining thereby a redress of grievances; and that being the more near and agreeable object, they would not willingly look to any thing further, especially to one fo dreadful as a total separation. It required more time in the contemplation of real or supposed injuries, and in fpeculation upon future ones, together with fresh and constant sources of irritation, to arrive at that habit' of hatred and vexation, which was necessary to break the ties of so long a continuance, to render so new an idea familiar.

When the autumn approached, and appearances of plenty gave the colonists grounds to conjecture what might be spared out of the abundance of a plentiful harvest, it was resolved by the congress that if the late restraining laws were not repealed within six months from the 20th of July, on which they commanded that the custom-houses should be every where that up,and

« PreviousContinue »