Congress still hopes to avert war.
July 19 to August.
the continental congress, acting as a promiscu-
ous executive, neither formed a carefully considered system, nor felt the weight of personal responsibility.
It never presented to itself a vivid picture of Washington
's situation, and never went in advance to mitigate his difficulties or supply his wants; but, from the first, waited inactively for his appeals.
On the nineteenth day of July it read his first report from Cambridge
, by which it appeared that the army was defective in discipline and in numbers; that officers for the regiments were in excess, while the files were not full; that the order in rank of the major generals
and brigadiers had displeased the troops and the New England
governments; that still another class of officers was needed, to bring method into the system of supplies; that there was the most urgent want of tents and clothing; of hospitals; of skilful engineers; of every kind of arms, especially
of artillery; and above all, of powder.
Chap. XLIII.} 1775. July.
also called to mind, that he had not as yet been furnished with any money whatever.
The next day, though it was strictly kept as the national fast, congress came together to hear from Schuyler
, that still greater confusion prevailed at Ticonderoga
The northern army consisted of about twenty eight hundred men, of whom seven parts in eight were from Connecticut
, most of them under Wooster
; exhibiting all the defects which had shown themselves around Boston
Sentinels sleeping on their posts, disorderly equality between officers and common soldiers, a universal want of discipline provoked Schuyler
to anger; but while he found fault enough with all that he saw, he had little power to govern and reform a body of men whose education and manners were uncongenial to his own.
Compelled to look at the condition of the army, congress still shrunk from every act that could endanger the acceptance of its petition to the king.
Except the companies of riflemen, who were enlisted only for one year, it called into being no troops whose period of service extended beyond the time when an answer to that petition was expected.
On the side of Canada
, it did little more than sanction the employment of a body of five thousand men for the protection of the border and the frontier, and confirm Schuyler
in his command, subject to its own former orders and the future instructions of the commander in chief
, who had represented the necessity of an army of twenty two thousand men in Massachusetts
, was authorized to keep up that number; but no method for obtaining troops was proposed
beyond recommendations to the several gov-
Chap. XLIII.} 1775. July.
ernments of New England
and New York; and no leave was given for permanent enlistments.
Thus far Franklin
, who was constant in his attendance, had left his associates to sound their own way and shape their own policy; but he could maintain silent reserve no longer, and on the twenty first of July, the statesman who, twenty one years before, had at Albany
reported a plan of union of provinces, submitted an outline for confederating the colonies in one nation.
Each colony was to retain and amend its own laws and constitution according to its separate discretion, while the powers of the general government were to include all questions of war, peace, and alliance; commerce, currency, and the establishment of posts; the army, the navy, and Indian affairs; the management of all lands not yet ceded by the natives.
The common treasury was to be supplied and taxes to be laid and collected by the several colonies in proportion to their numbers.
Congress was to consist of one body only, whose members were to be apportioned triennially according to population, and annually chosen.
One of its committees was to wield the executive power.
Every colony of Great Britain
in North America
, and even Ireland
, which was still classed with the colonies, was invited to accede to the union.
The imperfections in the new constitution which time and experience would surely reveal, were to be amended by congress with the approbation of a majority of the colonial assemblies.
Unless Britain should consent to make acceptable retractions and indemnities, the confederation was to be perpetual.
intention of Franklin
, who well knew that the re-
Chap. XLIII.} 1775. July.
quired concessions never would be made, the plan was a declaration of independence
and an effective system of a self-perpetuating republic.
His scheme aimed at a real, ever enduring union, and it contained the two great elements of American political life; the domestic power of the several states, and the limited sovereignty of the central government.
The proposition of Franklin
was, for the time, put aside; the future confederacy was not to number fewer members than thirteen; for news now came, that Georgia
‘was no more the defaulting link in the American
On the fourth of July, it had met in provincial congress; and on the sixth had adhered to all the measures of resistance.
It had also resolved neither to purchase, nor to employ, any slave imported from Africa
after that day.
Lord North's proposal had already been declared inadequate; but as it was founded on joint resolves of parliament, officially recommended by Lord Dartmouth, and referred by Virginia
, New Jersey
, and Pennsylvania
, to the decision of congress, Franklin
, John Adams
, and Richard Henry Lee
, were constituted a committee to report on its conditions as a basis for the desired accommodation.
Meantime congress remembered the friendly interposition of Jamaica
, whose peculiar situation as an island of planters forbade active assistance, but whose good wishes ministered consolation.
America and Ireland
also came nearer to each other.
In July the merchants of Dublin
applauded the earl of Effingham
for ‘refusing to draw his sword against the lives
and liberties of his fellow-subjects in America
the same month congress sent to Ireland
a pledgeof their unalterable sympathy, and their joy that their own trials had extorted some mitigation of its wrongs.
was of an Irish family; to the Irish, therefore, they expressed their amazement at finding his name in the catalogue of their enemies; and they fletched their complaint by adding: ‘America loved his brother.’
While these addresses were in progress, the British
government was exerting every nerve to provide the means of reducing America
; and as the aid of Indian tribes was believed to be absolutely necessary, Guy Johnson
, acting independently of Carleton
, was lavishing promises without bounds on the Six Nations and the savages of Northwest Canada
chief, who attended the conference at Montreal
, consented to take home a very large black war belt, emblazoned with the device of the hatchet, but would engage himself no further; while the other savages, for whom a pipe of wine was broached, feasted on an ox that was named Bostonian, drank of his blood, and sang the war song, with loud promises of prowess when they should be called to the field.
Yet the majority of the congress, scrupulous not to outrun the convictions and sympathies of their constituents, and pleasing themselves by confiding in the speedy restoration of peace, not only made no adequate preparations for resistance, but would not even consent to relieve the state of anarchy by sanctioning the institution of governments in the several colonies.
The hesitancy of so many members, especially
, incensed John Adams
, who maintained
Chap. XLIII.} 1775. July.
that the fifty or sixty men composing the congress, should at once form a constitution for a great empire, provide for its defence, and, in that safe attitude, await the decision of the king.
His letters to New England
, avowing these opinions, were intercepted; and so little were the central colonies prepared for the bold advice, they were published by the royalists as the surest way of destroying his influence, and heaping obloquy upon his name.
So hard it was to rend the tie that bound America
The king's decision was already irrevocably taken; even while the congress was engaged in timid deliberations to manifest to the world that war and independence, if they came, would come unavoidably.
The most decisive measure was the adoption of the paper, prepared by Jefferson
, on Lord North's proposal for conciliation.
The American congress asked of the king a cessation of hostilities, and a settlement of the disputed questions by a concert between the crown and the collective colonies; Lord North offered, as the British
ultimatum, to treat separately with each assembly for grants towards the general defence and for its own civil government, with the promise that parliament would abstain from taxing the province that should offer satisfactory terms.
This proposition was pronounced unreasonable, because it implied a purchase of the forbearance of parliament at an uncertain price; invidious, as likely to divide the colonies, and leave the dissatisfied to resist alone; unnecessary, for America
had ever voluntarily contributed fully, when called upon as freemen; insulting, since the demand
for money was made with fleets and armies;
Chap. XLIII.} 1775. July.
unjust, as it asked increased contributions without renouncing as an equivalent the monopoly of trade; unwarrantable, as a wrongful intermeddling in the colonial support of civil government; unsatisfactory, since it left the obnoxious acts unrepealed; insufficient, as it did not renounce the claim of a right to alter colonial charters and laws; insincere, as coming from a minister who had declared ‘that he would never treat with America
, till he had brought her to his feet;’ and delusive, as it offered no option but of devastation or abject submission.
On the other hand, if the king would order a truce and point out a method for treating with the colonies jointly, they would desire nothing better than a colonial constitution, to be established by a mutual agreement.
Content with this declaration, and clinging to the hope of a speedy adjustment with Britain, congress shunned energetic measures to the last.
For the transmission of intelligence, Franklin
was selected to organize a post office, and thus came to be known as the first postmaster general
; a hospital was agreed to for the army, and Benjamin Church elected its director; the rate of pay of officers and soldiers was finally settled; but these votes added no real strength; what was really wanting was money and munitions of war. For money, a third million of dollars was ordered to be struck in paper bills.
To promote their credit, some mode for redeeming them must be devised.
There was no commerce, and therefore no hope of revenue from duties upon imports.
Besides, congress had no power to enforce taxes of any kind.
It was necessary, therefore,
to charge each separate colony with the obliga-
Chap. XLIII.} 1775. July.
tion to provide for sinking its quota of the bills issued by the general congress.
Here, at the creation of the national finances, the question arose as to the proper principle for the apportionment; whether wealth or population; and, if of population, whether slaves should be numbered as well as freemen.
After a long opportunity for deliberation, it was agreed that population should constitute the distributive rule; and that all persons, including free negroes, mulattoes, and slaves, should be counted.
Thus, to the correct principle of ‘no representation, no taxation,’ and of representation in proportion to population, was added the injustice of taxation in proportion to representation; so that the continental revenue was to be sustained by a collective poll tax. Of four annual instalments, by which the continental notes were to be redeemed, the earliest was adjourned to the last day of November, 1779; in other words, was adjourned indefinitely.
Paper money, which was never to be sunk but by the concurring action of twelve or thirteen colonies at distant periods, was virtually irredeemable, and would surely depreciate with rapidity; yet the united colonies had no other available resource, when they rose against a king who easily commanded annually twenty millions of pounds sterling in solid money.
There was no mode of obtaining munitions of war but by throwing open the ports and inviting commerce, especially with the French
colonies; yet the last act of congress, before its adjournment, was the renewal of the agreement, neither
directly nor indirectly to export any merchandise or
commodity whatever to Great Britain
, or to the British
, or even to the foreign, West Indies
On the first day of August the congress adjourned for five weeks, leaving the insurgent country without a visible government, and no representative of its unity but Washington
and the army.