Soon after the opening of the British Parliament in the autumn of 1775, that body, stimulated by Lord North, the premier, and Lord George Germain
, secretary for the colonies, and at the suggestion of Admiral Howe
, promptly voted 25,000 men for service against the Americans
It was difficult to obtain enlistments in Great Britain
, and mercenaries were sought in Germany
At the close of the year, and at the beginning of 1776, bargains were effected between representatives of the British
government and the reigning princes of Hesse-Cassel
, Anspach, and Waldeck
In the bargains, the fundamental law of trade—supply and demand—prevailed.
had money, but lacked troops; the German rulers had troops, but wanted money.
The bargain was a natural one on business principles; the morality of the transaction was another affair.
About 30,000 German troops, most of them well disciplined, were hired.
The German rulers were to receive for each soldier a bounty of $35, besides an annual subsidy, the whole amounting to a large sum.
The British government agreed to make restitution for all soldiers who might perish from contagious disease while being transported in ships and in engagements during sieges.
They were to take an oath of allegiance to the British
sovereign during their service, without its interfering with similar oaths to their respective rulers.
Their chief commanders
, when they sailed for America
, were Generals Baron de Riedesel
, Baron Knyphausen
, and De Heister
The general name of “Hessians” was given to them by the Americans
, and, because they were mercenaries, they were heartily detested by the colonists.
When any brutal act of oppression or wrong was to be carried out, such as a plundering or burning
expedition, the Hessians were generally employed in the service.
The transaction was regarded by other nations as disgraceful to the British
of Great Britain
shrank from the odium it inflicted, and refused to give commissions to German recruiting officers (for he knew their methods of forcing men into the service), saying, “It, in plain English
, amounts to making me a kidnapper, which I cannot think a very honorable occupation.”
and Frederick the Great
, of Prussia
, took every opportunity to express his contempt for the “scandalous man-traffic” of his neighbors.
Without these troops, the war would have been short.
A part of them, under Riedesel
, went to Canada
(May, 1776); the remainder, under Knyphausen
and De Heister
, joined the British
, before New York, and had their first encounter on Long Island
, Aug. 27.