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‘ [134] assures me once more, that it is determined to burn
Chap. XLIX.} 1775. Aug.
the town of Boston, and in the coming spring to transfer the seat of operations to New York. You may be sure the plan of these people is, by devastations to force back America fifty years if they cannot subdue it.’ Vergennes had already said: ‘The cabinet of the king of England may wish to make North America a desert, but there all its power will be stranded; if ever the English troops quit the borders of the sea, it will be easy to prevent their return.’

Vergennes could not persuade himself that the British government should refuse conciliation, when nothing was demanded but the revocation of acts posterior to 1763; and in his incredulity he demanded of the ambassador a revision of his opinion. ‘I persist,’ answered De Guines, ‘in thinking negotiations impossible. The parties differ on the form and on the substance as widely as white and black. An English ministry in a case like this can yield nothing, for according to the custom of the country it must follow out its plan or resign. The only sensible course would be to change the administration. The king of England is as obstinate and as feeble as Charles the First, and every day he makes his task more difficult and more dangerous.’ Vergennes gave up his doubts,

saying: ‘The king's proclamation against the Americans changes my views altogether; that proclamation cuts off the possibility of retreat; America or the ministers themselves must succumb.’

In a few weeks the proclamation reached the col-

onies at several ports. Abigail Smith, the wife of John Adams, was at the time in their home near the

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