Page images
PDF
EPUB

well as their interest to.remain forever connected with Great Britain ; they accounted it the greatest sophistry when used in an argument at this time. Great Bii. tain had rejected all their former petitions, and treated all their earnest requests with scorn; and it was now out of her power to redress the new and fresh grievances that they had reason to complain of fince these petitions had been presented. The Commisfioners could not raise from the dead, their beloved friends and dear relations, whom their haughty nation had flain in a cruel and unreasonable war ; nor was it in the power of Britain, through a succession of ages, to *make reparation for the injury she had done them.

She had driven them by her violence and cruelty, to declare themselves independent, and to enter into a' treaty with foreign powers for their assistance, and wanted now to redress their grievances, at the expence of the blood of their friends, the ruin of their country, and their public faith. Had Britain offered fooner, the half of what she now proposed, it would have been accepted thankfully, and gratefully received; but the time was now past for redressing of grievances, in the manner proposed by the Commisfioners.

The Americans told the publishers of the manifesto, that they had already concluded a folenin treaty with France, on the footing of, and for establishing of their

dependency. That if they now treated with the Commissioners upon the ground of dependence, they fhould at once break their treaty with France, forfeit their credit with all foreign nations, be confi. dered as a faithless and infamous people, and for evermore be cut off from the hope of foreign succour er resourse. At the same time they would be thrown Hhh

totally

totally on the mercy of thofe, who had already purfued every measure of fraud, force, cruelty, and deceit for their destruction ; as neither the King, the ministers, nor the parliament of England, would be un. der the necessity of ratifying any one condition, which theyagreed upon with the Commissioners. Or if they ever found it necessary to ratify them for the prefent purpose, it would be to call a new parliament, to undo the whole. Nothing, they faid, could be trusted to an enemy whom they had already found so faithlefs, and fo obstinately persevering in malice and cruelty. The fraudulent intention of the proposed negociations, they faid, was strongly evinced by the Commissioners, who went far beyond their avowed powers ; being neither warranted by the commission, nor by the acts of parliament which they presented. Tbese arguments had more effect upon the minds of the people, ihan all the pompous promises and threatnings in the manifesto and proclamation. The whole proceedings of the Commissioners were considered as political craft to ensnare, intangle, and seduce the people ; that having once put them off their guard, they might be more eafily subdued, and brought to accept the terms which were proposed to them.

There were several concurrent circumstances which tended to frustrate this negociation. It was too long in being proposed, for if our ministry actually intended a reconciliation, they ought to have made their of. fers thereof before the French treaty was concluded: for it was quite irrational to fuppofe, that a people who were possessed of the smallest degree of honour or principle, would immediately break a solemn treaty, and the first of the kind they had ever been engaged in. The imagination of fuccefs, on the part of the

Commissioners,

Commissioners, must have proceeded from the idea of what they themselves would have done in the like circumstances, or what they believed was lawful to be done on such an occasion. The conduct which they were in this transaction authorized to pursue, marks, with the strongest emphasis, the opinion of the miniftry, with regard to treaties of the most folemn nature; that when their own ambition, pride, or interest, are to be fulfilled, they account it no crime to break a pofitive agreement. If it was lawful for the Americans to break their new treaty with the French, it could be no crime in any others to do the fame thing. And the ministry, through the channel of their Commission ers, were now publishing to all the world, their opinion of the faith of treaties ; that they were no longer to be observed, than something which they supposed better might be obtained. This kind of proceeding gave the world reason to believe that the charges brought against our ministry in the French and Span, ish rescripts, were not without foundation; and that the charges of perfidy brought against the French, were more than balanced by our present conduct ex, pressed in this new commission. Many thought that the charges of perfidy came with an ill grace from a court, that had with great folemnity sent out Commif. fioners with power and authority, to persuade and inforce a reconciliation upon principles of the baselt in. fidelity towards a party who had lately engaged in a treaty with an independent people. There were ng reasons to persuade our ministry, that the Americans would keep their faith to Britain if they should pursue the doctrine they were now taught by the English Commissioners; for men who fhould break such a folemn treaty as they had now entered into with the

French

French nation, could not be supposed to be a people to be trusted in any matter whatsoever.

The abandoning Philadelphia, which had been the objeet of near two years contest, and the precipi. tate retreat of our army, were no ways favourable to the proposed negociation. This having happened about the time of the arrival of the Commissioners, was of itself sufficient to have frustrated the intention of the commislion. Men with a commiffion from a sovereign whose forces were retreating, and had just abandoned the advantage of two years war, could not promise themselves great success in any treaty; and the more advantageous the offers which they should znake in such circumstances were, the more their con: cessions were likely to be considered as proofs of weak. ness, and not of any good intention. The reason of the British troops abandoning Philadelpliia, is one of those mysteries of the present war that has not as yet been unveiled, or cleared up on this side the Atlantick, with any degree of consistency. It has been alledged that the reason of this precipitate retreat proceeded from the knowledge of the French squadron under D'E. staing being upon the coast ; but whatever might be the apprehensions of the general, from circumstances he had learned in England before his embarking for America, of a French force coming to that part of the world, it is plain that neither the army nor navy apprehended any such thing, till after the 5th of July, when Lord Howe received the intelligence, by his cruizers, that D’Estaing's fleet had been seen on the coast of Virginia. It was indeed happy for both the fleet and army that they had made their escape before D'Estaing's arrival; for had the French fleet shut up the Delaware, their case would have been very critical,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

if not absolutely desperate. But it does not appear from any thing that has yet been published to the world, that this new danger was in the least apprehended by Lord Howe, who ought to have been in the secret as well as Sir Henry Clinton, nor has General Clinton ever given it as a reason of his abandoning Philadelphia, that a French fleet was upon the coast. It would appear that the evacuation of Philadelphia was determined before Sir William Howe returned to England, and that there were fome reasons independent of the arrival of the French Acet which made it necessary to abandon that city.

Experience, during the winter, had taught our generals that the Americans were determined to affault ihem with all their force, as soon as they could find a suitable opportunity; they had also discovered by their attack upon them at German-Town, that in case of an universal or general engagement, that matters would at least be doubtful. They could not remain cooped up in Philadephia, and they could nor march into the country without risking a battle with great difadvantage. In case of a defeat they could not get aboard their ships but with the greatest danger.They had no hopes of any reinforcement from Britain which had been promised last year, and the troops were much weakened through skirmishes, fickness, and other circumstances attending war and a foreign climate. It was plainly perceived, that though they were in the poffeffion of Philadelphia, that they could not continue in that city, norin case of a defeat make à safe rerreat from it on board their ships, as there was not such free access to thips of war for their defence in time of embarking as at New-York.

York,

« PreviousContinue »