previous next

Chapter 31:

Effects of the day of Lexington and Concord continued; the general rising.

April—May, 1775.

on Sunday the twenty-third of April, the day after
Chap. XXXI.} 1775. April 23.
the dissolution of the provincial congress of New York, the news from Lexington suddenly burst upon the city. The emissaries who had undertaken to break the chain of union by intrigue, saw with dismay the arrest of their schemes by the beginning of war. The inhabitants, flushed with resentment, threw off restraints. Though it was Sunday, two sloops which lay at the wharfs laden with flour and supplies for the British at Boston, of the value of eighty thousand pounds, were speedily unloaded. The next day Dartmouth's despatches arrived with Lord North's conciliatory resolve, and with lavish promises of favor. But the royal government was already prostrate, and could not recover its consideration. Isaac Sears concerted with John Lamb to stop all vessels going to Quebec, Newfoundland, Georgia, or Boston; where British authority was still [329] supreme. The people who came together at beat of
Chap. XXXI.} 1775. April 24.
drum shut up the custom-house; and the merchants whose vessels were cleared out, dared not let them sail.

In the following days the city arms and ammunition of New York were secured; and volunteer companies paraded in the streets. Small cannon were hauled from the city to Kingsbridge; churchmen as well as presbyterians, without regard to creeds, took up arms. As the old committee of fifty-one lagged behind the prevailing excited zeal of the multitude, on Monday, the first of May, the people, at the usual places of election, chose for the city and county, a new general committee of one hundred, who ‘resolved in the most explicit manner to stand or fall with the liberty of the continent.’ All parts of the colony were summoned to choose delegates to a provincial convention, to which the city and county of New York deputed one and twenty as their representatives.

Eighty-three members of the new general committee met as soon as they were chosen; and on the motion of John Morin Scott, seconded by Alexander MacDougall, an association was set on foot, engaging under all the ties of religion, honor, and love of country, to submit to committees and to congress, to withhold supplies from British troops, and at the risk of lives and fortunes, to repel every attempt at enforcing taxation by parliament. The royalists had desired the presence of a considerable body of British soldiery; the blood shed at Lexington left them no hope but in a change of policy. Accordingly, fourteen members of the New York asassembly, most of them stanch supporters of the [330] plans of the ministry, entreated General Gage that

Chap. XXXI.} 1775. May.
hostilities might cease till fresh orders could be received from the king, and especially that no military force might be permitted to land or be stationed in the province of New York.

On the day for the sailing of the packet, all

May 5.
parties made their appeal to England. The royal council despatched two agents to represent to the ministry how severely the rash conduct of the army at Boston had injured the friends of the king; while the New York committee thus addressed the Lord Mayor and corporation of London, and through them the capital of the British empire, and the people of Great Britain:

Born to the bright inheritance of English freedom, the inhabitants of this extensive continent can never submit to slavery. The disposal of their own property with perfect spontaneity is their indefeasible birthright. This they are determined to defend with their blood, and transfer to their posterity. The present machinations of arbitrary power, if unremittedly pursued, will, by a fatal necessity, terminate in a dissolution of the empire. This country will not be deceived by measures conciliatory in appearance. We cheerfully submit to a regulation of commerce by the legislature of the parent state, excluding in its nature every idea of taxation. When our unexampled grievances are redressed, our prince will find his American subjects testifying by as ample aids as their circumstances will permit, the most unshaken fidelity to their sovereign. America is grown so irritable by oppression, that the least shock in any part is, by the most powerful sympathetic affection, [331] instantaneously felt through the whole continent.

Chap. XXXI.} 1775. May 5.
This city is as one man in the cause of liberty; our inhabitants are resolutely bent on supporting their committee and the intended provincial and continental congresses; there is not the least doubt of the efficacy of their example in the other counties. In short, while the whole continent are ardently wishing for peace upon such terms as can be acceded to by Englishmen, they are indefatigable in preparing for the last appeal.

We speak the real sentiments of the confederated colonies, from Nova Scotia to Georgia, when we declare, that all the horrors of civil war will never compel America to submit to taxation by authority of parliament.

The letter was signed by the chairman and eightyeight others of the committee, of whom the first was John Jay. They did this, knowing that at the time there were not five hundred pounds of powder in all the city, that several regiments were already ordered to New York, that it was commanded by Brooklyn heights, and that the deep water of its harbor exposed it on both sides to ships of war.

The packet for England had hardly passed Sandy Hook, when on Saturday, the sixth of May, the delegates to the continental congress from Massachusetts and Connecticut, drew near. Three miles from the city, they were met by a company of grenadiers and a regiment of the city militia under arms, by carriages and a cavalcade, and by many thousands of persons on foot. Along roads which were crowded as if the whole city had come out to meet them, they [332] made their entry, amidst loud acclamations, the ring-

Chap. XXXI.} 1775. May 8.
ing of bells, and every demonstration of joy.

On Monday the delegation from Massachusetts, with a part of that of New York, were escorted across the Hudson River by two hundred of the militia under arms, and three hundred citizens; and triumphal honors awaited them at Newark and Elizabethtown.

The governor of New Jersey could not conceal his chagrin, that Gage ‘had risked commencing hostilities,’ before the experiment had been tried of attempting to cajole the several colonial legislatures into an acquiescence in Lord North's propositions.

The committee of Newark were willing to hazard their lives and fortunes in support of their brethren of the Massachusetts Bay. Princeton and Perth Amboy advised a provincial congress; to which Morris county promptly appointed delegates. ‘All ranks of men’ in Woodbridge greatly applauded and admired the conduct and bravery of Massachusetts. On the second of May the New Jersey committee of correspondence called a provincial congress for the twenty-third at Trenton. To anticipate its influence, the governor convened the regular assembly eight days earlier at Burlington, and laid before them the project of Lord North. The assembly could see in the proposition no avenue to reconciliation; and declared their intention to ‘abide by the united voice of the continental congress.’

Such too was the spirit of Pennsylvania. ‘Let us not be bold in declarations and cold in action; nor have it said of Philadelphia that she passed noble resolutions and neglected them,’ were the words of [333] Mifflin, youngest of the orators who on the twenty-

Chap. XXXI.} 1775. May.
fifth of April, addressed the town-meeting called in Philadelphia on receiving the news from Lexington. Thousands of the inhabitants of the city were present, and agreed ‘to associate for the purpose of defending with arms, their lives, their property, and liberty.’ Each township in Berks county, resolved to raise and discipline its company. Reading formed a company of its old men also, who wore crape in lieu of a cockade, in token of sorrow for the slaughter of their brethren. In Philadelphia thirty companies, with fifty to one hundred in each, daily practised the manual exercise of the musket.

The Pennsylvania assembly which met on the first day of May, would not listen to the ministerial terms. ‘We can form,’ say they, ‘no prospect of any lasting advantages for Pennsylvania but what must arise from a communication of rights and property with the other colonies.’ The fifth of May saw

May 5.
the arrival of Franklin after a placid voyage over the smoothest seas; and the next morning he was unanimously elected a deputy to the congress. It was the signal for Galloway to retire; but the delegation, to which Thomas Willing and James Wilson were added, were still instructed to combine if possible a redress of grievances with ‘union and harmony between Great Britian and the colonies.’

The little colony of Delaware was behind no one in public spirit. In Maryland, at the request of the colonels of militia, Eden at Annapolis gave up the arms and ammunition of the province to the freemen of the county. Pleased with his concession, the provincial convention distinguished itself by its dispassionate [334] moderation; and ‘its delegates to congress

Chap. XXXI.} 1775. May 2.
went determined to bring about a reconciliation.’

Virginia was still angry at the seizure of its provincial magazine and at the menace of Dunmore to encourage an insurrection of slaves, when on the second day of May, at the cry from Lexington, the independent company of Hanover and its county committee were called together by Patrick Henry. The soldiers, most of them young men, kindled at his words, elected him their chief, and marched for Williamsburg. On the way it was thought that his army increased to five thousand.

‘There is scarce a county of the whole colony,’ wrote Dunmore, ‘wherein part of the people have not taken up arms, and declared their intention of forcing me to make restitution of the powder.’ Alarmed by the ‘insurrections,’ he convened the council of Virginia, and in a proclamation of the third of May did not scruple to utter the falsehood

May 3.
that he had removed the ammunition lest it should be seized by insurgent slaves. Message after message could not arrest the march or change the purpose of Henry. Lady Dunmore, who need have feared nothing for herself, professed to dread being retained as a hostage, and with her family retired to the Fowey man-of-war. The governor first resolved to resist and then thought it best to yield.

On the morning of the fourth, at about sunrise, a

May 4.
messenger met Patrick Henry at Doncastle's Ordinary in New Kent, and as a compensation for the gunpowder taken out of the magazine, paid him three hundred and thirty pounds, for which he was to account to the provincial congress of Virginia. When [335] it was afterwards found that the sum exceeded the
Chap. XXXI.} 1775. May.
value of the powder, the next Virginia convention directed the excess to be restored.

Two days after the return of the volunteers, Dunmore issued a proclamation against ‘a certain Patrick Henry,’ and his ‘deluded followers;’ and secretly denounced him to the ministry as ‘a man of desperate circumstances, one who had been very active in encouraging disobedience and exciting a spirit of revolt among the people for many years past.’ On the other hand, the interior resounded with the praise of the insurgents. On the eighth, Louisa county sent them its hearty thanks. On the ninth, Spottsylvania cordially approved their prudent, firm, and spirited conduct; and Orange county in a letter signed among others by the young and studious James Madison, a recent graduate of Princeton college, applauded their zeal for the honor and interest of the country. ‘The blow struck in Massachusetts,’ they add, ‘is a hostile attack on this and every other colony, and a sufficient warrant to use reprisal.’

On the eleventh, Patrick Henry set off for the

May 11.
continental congress; and his progress was a triumph. Amidst salutes and huzzas, a volunteer guard accompanied him to the Maryland side of the Potomac; and as they said farewell, they invoked God's blessing on the champion of their ‘dearest rights and liberties.’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Dunmore (4)
Gage (2)
James Wilson (1)
Isaac Sears (1)
John Morin Scott (1)
James Madison (1)
Alexander MacDougall (1)
John Lamb (1)
John Jay (1)
Richard Galloway (1)
Franklin (1)
Eden (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1775 AD (8)
May 5th (4)
May 2nd (3)
May 3rd (2)
May 1st (2)
April 23rd (2)
May, 1775 AD (1)
May 11th (1)
May 8th (1)
May 6th (1)
May 4th (1)
April 24th (1)
April 5th (1)
11th (1)
9th (1)
8th (1)
4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: