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[342]

Chapter 33:

Effects of the day of Lexington and Concord in Europe.


May to July, 1775.

the news from Lexington surprised London in the
Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. May.
last days of May. The people had been lulled into a belief, that the ministry indulged in menaces only to render the olive branch acceptable; and the measures of parliament implied confidence in peace. And now it was certain that war had begun, that Britain was at war with herself.

The Massachusetts congress, by a swift packet in its own service, had sent to England a calm and accurate statement of the events of the nineteenth of April, fortified by depositions, with a charge to Arthur Lee their agent, to give it the widest circulation. These were their words to the inhabitants of Britain: ‘Brethren, we profess to be loyal and dutiful subjects, and so hardly dealt with as we have been, are still ready, with our lives and fortunes, to defend the person, family, crown, and dignity of our royal sovereign. Nevertheless, to the persecution and tyranny of his cruel ministry we will not submit; [343] appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. May.
determine to die or be free.’

Granville Sharpe, who was employed in the ordnance department, declined to take part in sending stores to America, and after some delay, threw up his employment.

Lord Chatham was the real conqueror of Canada for England; and Carleton had been proud to take to Quebec as his aide de camp Chatham's eldest son. But it was impossible for the offspring of the elder Pitt to draw his sword against the Americans; and his resignation was offered, as soon as it could be done without a wound to his character as a soldier.

Admiral Keppel, one of the most gallant officers in the British navy, expressed his readiness to serve, if required, against the ancient enemies of England, but asked not to be employed in America.

An inhabitant of London, after reading morning prayers in his family as usual, closed the book with a face of grief, and to his children, of whom Samuel Rogers, the poet, was one, told the sad tale of the murder of their American brethren.

The recorder of London put on a full suit of mourning, and being asked if he had lost a relative or friend, answered, ‘Yes, many brothers at Lexington and Concord.’

Ten days before the news arrived, Lord Effingham, who in his youth had been prompted by military genius to enter the army, and had lately served as a volunteer in the war between Russia and Turkey, finding that his regiment was intended for America, renounced the profession which he loved, as the only means of escaping the obligation of fighting [344] against the cause of freedom. This resignation

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. June.
gave offence to the court, and was a severe rebuke to the officers who did not share his scruple; but at London the Common Hall, in June, thanked him publicly as ‘a true Englishman;’ and the guild of merchants in Dublin addressed him in the strongest terms of approbation.

On the twenty-fourth of June, the citizens of Lon-

June <*>4.
don, agreeing fully with the letter received from New York, voted an address to the king, desiring him to consider the situation of the English people, ‘who had nothing to expect from America but gazettes of blood, and mutual lists of their slaughtered fellowsubjects.’ And again they prayed for the dissolution of parliament, and a dismission for ever of the present ministers. As the king refused to receive this address on the throne, it was never presented; but it was entered in the books of the city and published under its authority.

The society for constitutional information, after a special meeting on the seventh of June, raised a hundred pounds, ‘to be applied,’ said they, ‘to the relief of the widows, orphans, and aged parents of our beloved American fellow-subjects, who, faithful to the character of Englishmen, preferring death to slavery, were, for that reason only, inhumanly murdered by the king's troops at Lexington and Concord.’ Other sums were added; and an account of what had been done was laid before the world by Home Tooke in the ‘Public Advertiser.’ The publication raised an implacable spirit of revenge. Three printers were fined in consequence one hundred pounds each; and Home was pursued unrelentingly [345] by Thurlow, till in a later year he was convicted be-

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. June.
fore Lord Mansfield of a libel, and sentenced to pay a fine of two hundred pounds and to be imprisoned twelve months. Thurlow even asked the judge to punish him with the pillory.

It was Hutchinson, whose false information had misled the government. The moment was come when he was to lose his distinction as chief counsellor to the ministers, and to sink into insignificance. A continent was in arms, and the prize contended for was the liberty of mankind; but Hutchinson saw nothing of the grandeur of the strife, saying: ‘The country people must soon disperse, as it is the season for planting their Indian corn, the chief sustenance of New England.’

With clearer vision Garnier took notice, that the Americans had acted on the nineteenth of April, after a full knowledge of the address of the two houses of parliament to the king, pledging lives and fortunes for the reduction of America, and of the king's answer. ‘The Americans,’ he wrote to Vergennes, ‘display in their conduct, and even in their errors, more thought than enthusiasm, for they have shown in succession, that they know how to argue, to negotiate, and to fight.’ ‘The effects of General Gage's attempt at Concord are fatal,’ said Dartmouth, who just began to wake from his dream of conciliation. ‘By that unfortunate event, the happy moment of advantage is lost.’

The condemnation of Gage was universal. Many people in England were from that moment convinced, that the Americans could not be reduced, and that England must concede their independence. The [346] British force, if drawn together, could occupy but

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. June.
a few insulated points, while all the rest would be free; if distributed, would be continually harassed and destroyed in detail.

These views were frequently brought before Lord North. That statesman was endowed with strong affections, and was happy in his family, in his fortune and abilities. In his public conduct, he, and he alone among ministers, was sensible to the reproaches of remorse; and he cherished the sweet feelings of human kindness. Appalled at the prospect, he wished to resign. But the king would neither give him a release, nor relent towards the Americans. Every question of foreign policy was made subordinate to that of their reduction. The enforcement of the treaty of Paris respecting Dunkirk, was treated as a small matter. The complaints of France for the wrongs her fishermen had suffered, and the curtailment of her boundary in the fisheries of Newfoundland, were uttered with vehemence, received with suavity, and recognised as valid. How to subdue the rebels was the paramount subject of consideration.

The people of New England had with one impulse rushed to arms; the people of England quite otherwise stood aghast, doubtful and saddened, unwilling to fight against their countrymen; languid and appalled; astonished at the conflict, which they had been taught to believe never would come; in a state of apathy; irresolute between their pride and their sympathy with the struggle for English liberties. The king might employ emancipated negroes, or Indians, or Canadians, or Russians, or Germans; [347] Englishmen enough to carry on the war were not to

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. June 14.
be engaged.

The ministers, as they assembled in the cabinet, on the evening of the fourteenth of June, were in very bad humor; Lord North grieved at the prospect of further disagreeable news. The most prominent person at the meeting was Sandwich, who had been specially sent for; a man of talents, greedy alike of glory and of money, but incapable of taking the lead, for he was incapable of awakening enthusiasm. There was no good part for them to choose, except to retire, and leave Chatham to be installed as conciliator; but they clung to their places, and the stubborn king, whatever might happen, was resolved not to change his government. There existed no settled plan, no reasonable project; the conduct of the administration hardly looked beyond the day. A part of them threw all blame on the too great lenity of North.

As there were no sufficient resources in England for the subjugation of America, some proposed to blockade its coast, hold its principal ports, and reduce the country by starvation and distress. But zeal for energetic measures prevailed, and the king's advisers cast their eyes outside of England for aid. They counted with certainty upon the inhabitants of Canada; they formed plans to recruit in Ireland; they looked to Hanover for regiments to take the place of British garrisons in Europe. The Landgrave of Hesse began to think his services as a dealer in troops might be demanded; but a more stupendous scheme was contemplated. Russia had just retired from the war with Turkey, with embarrassed finances, and an army [348] of more than three hundred thousand men. England

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. June.
had courted an alliance with that power, as a counterpoise to the Bourbons; had assented to the partition of Poland; had invited and even urged a former Czar to exercise a controlling influence over the politics of Germany; by recent demonstrations and good offices, had advanced the success of the Russian arms against the Ottoman Porte. The empress was a woman of rare ability; ambitious of conquest; equally ambitious of glory. Her army, so Potemkin boasted, might alone spare troops enough to trample the Americans under foot. To the Russian empress, the king resolved to make a wholesale application; and to the extent of his wants, to buy at the highest rate battalions of Russian serfs, just emancipated by their military service; Cossack rangers; Sclavonian infantry; light troops from fifty semi-barbarous nationalities, to crush the life of freedom in America. The thought of appearing as the grand arbitress of the world, with paramount influence in both hemispheres, was to dazzle the imagination of Catherine; and lavish largesses were to purchase the approval of her favorites.

This plan was not suddenly conceived; at New York, in the early part of the previous winter, it had been held up in terror to the Americans. Success in the negotiation was believed to be certain.

But the contracting for Russian troops, their march to convenient harbors in the north, and their transport from the Baltic to America, would require many months; the king was impatient of delay. A hope still lingered that the Highlanders and others in the interior of North Carolina, might be induced [349] to rise, and be formed into a battalion. Against

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. June.
Virginia, whose people were thought to exceed all bounds in their madness, it was intended to employ a separate squadron, and a small detachment of regular troops. Three thousand stand of arms, with two hundred rounds of powder and ball for each musket, together with four pieces of light artillery, were instantly shipped for the use of Dunmore; and as white men could not be found in sufficient numbers to use them, the king rested his confidence of success in checking the rebellion on the ability of his governor to arm Indians and negroes enough to make up the deficiency. This plan of operations bears the special impress of George the Third.

At the north, the king called to mind that he might ‘rely upon the attachment of his faithful allies, the Six Nations of Indians,’ and he turned to them for immediate assistance. To insure the fulfilment of his wishes, the order to engage them was sent directly in his name to the unscrupulous Indian agent, Guy Johnson, whose functions were made independent of Carleton. ‘Lose no time,’ it was said; ‘induce them to take up the hatchet against his majesty's rebellious subjects in America. It is a service of very great importance; fail not to exert every effort that may tend to accomplish it; use the utmost diligence and activity.’

It was also the opinion at court, that ‘the next word from Boston would be that of some lively action, for General Gage would wish to make sure of his revenge.’

The sympathy for America which prevailed more and more in England, reached the king's own brother, [350] the weak but amiable duke of Gloucester. In July

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. July.
he crossed the channel, with the view to inspect the citadels along the eastern frontier of France. When he left Dover, nothing had been heard from America later than the retreat of the British from Concord, and the surprise of Ticonderoga. Metz, the strongest place on the east of France, was a particular object of his journey; and as his tour was made with the sanction of Louis the Sixteenth, he was received there by the Count de Broglie as the guest of the king. Among the visitors on the occasion, came a young man not yet eighteen, whom de Broglie loved with parental tenderness, Gilbert Motier de la Fayette. His father had fallen in his twenty-fifth year, in the battle of Minden, leaving his only child less than two years old. The boyish dreams of the orphan had been of glory and of liberty; at the college in Paris, at the academy of Versailles, no studies charmed him like tales of republics; rich by vast inheritances, and married at sixteen, he was haunted by a passion to rove the world as an adventurer in quest of fame, and the opportunity to strike a blow for freedom. A guest at the banquet in honor of the duke of Gloucester, he listened with avidity to an authentic version of the uprising of the New England husbandmen. The reality of life had now brought before him something more wonderful than the brightest of his visions; the youthful nation insurgent against oppression and fighting for the right to govern themselves, took possession of his imagination. He inquired; he grew warm with enthusiasm; and before he left the table, the men of Lexington and Concord had won for America a volunteer in Lafayette. [351]

In Paris, wits, philosophers, and coffee-house poli-

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775. July.
ticians, were all to a man warm Americans, considering them as a brave people, struggling for natural rights, and endeavoring to rescue those rights from wanton violence. Their favorite mode of reasoning was, that as the Americans had no representatives in parliament, they could owe no obedience to British laws. This argument they turned in all its different shapes, and fashioned into general theories.

The field of Lexington, followed by the taking of Ticonderoga, fixed the attention of the government of France. From the busy correspondence between Vergennes and the French embassy at London, it appeared, that the British ministry were under a delusion in persuading themselves that the Americans would soon tire; that the system of an exclusively maritime war was illusory, since America could so well provide for her wants within herself. Franklin was known to be more zealous than ever, and perfectly acquainted with the resources of Great Britain; and at Versailles he enjoyed the reputation of being endowed by Heaven with qualities that made him the most fit to create a free nation, and to become the most celebrated among men.

The sagacity of Vergennes traced the relation of the American revolution to the history of the world. ‘The spirit of revolt,’ said he, ‘wherever it breaks out, is always a troublesome example. Moral maladies, as well as those of the physical system, can become contagious. We must be on our guard, that the independence which produces so terrible an explosion in North America, may not communicate itself to points that interest us in the hemispheres. [352] We long ago made up our own mind to the results

Chap. Xxxiii} 1775 July
which are now observed; we saw with regret that the crisis was drawing near; we have a presentiment that it may be followed by more extensive consequences. We do not disguise from ourselves the aberrations which enthusiasm can encourage, and which fanaticism can effectuate.’

The subject, therefore, grew in magnitude and interest for the king and his cabinet. The contingent danger of a sudden attack bn the French possessions in the West Indies, required precaution; and Louis the Sixteenth thought it advisable at once to send an emissary to America, to watch the progress of the revolution. This could best be done from England; and the embassy at London, as early as the tenth of July, began the necessary preliminary in-

July. 10.
quiries. ‘All England,’ such was the substance of its numerous reports to Vergennes, ‘is in a position, from which she never can extricate herself. Either all rules are false, or the Americans will never again consent to become her subjects.’

So judged the statesmen of France, on hearing of the retreat from Concord, and the seizure of Ticonderoga.

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