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Chapter 47:

Effect of Bunker bill battle in Europe.


July 25—August, 1775.

during the first weeks of July the king contem-
Chap. XLVII.} 1775. July.
plated America with complacency; assured that, in New York, his loyal subjects formed the majority, that in Virginia the rebels could be held in check by setting upon them savages and slaves. Ships were to be sent at once; and if they did not reduce the country, the soldiery would finish the work at the very worst in one more campaign. Alone of the ministers, Lord North was ill at ease, and when a friend said to him, ‘The rebels may make you propositions,’ he replied with vivacity, ‘Would to God they may.’ Neither the court, nor the ministers, nor the people at large had as yet taken a real alarm. Even Edmund Burke, who, as the agent of New York, had access to exact information and foresaw an engagement at Boston, believed that Gage, from his discipline and artillery as well as his considerable numbers, would beat ‘the raw American troops,’ and succeed. An hour before [100] noon of the twenty fifth, tidings of the Bunker
Chap. XLVII.} 1775. July.
Hill battle reached the cabinet, and spread rapidly through the kingdom and through Europe. ‘Two more such victories,’ said Vergennes, ‘and England will have no army left in America.’ The great loss of officers in the battle saddened the anticipations of future triumphs; the ministry confessed the unexampled intrepidity of the rebels; many persons from that time believed, that the contest would end in their independence: but difficulties only animated the king; no one equalled him in ease, composure, and even gayety. He would have twenty thousand regular soldiers in America by the next spring. Barrington, the secretary at war, was of opinion, ‘that no such number could be procured;’ he therefore entreated the secretary of state to give ‘no expectation of the kind in the despatches going out to the colonies;’ and he wrote plainly to his sovereign: ‘The proposed augmentation cannot possibly be raised, and ought not to be depended on.’ But George the Third, whose excitement dispelled hesitation and gloom and left in his heart nothing but war, threw his eye confidently over the continent of Europe, resolved at any cost to accomplish his purpose.

The ministers were of opinion that Gage, at an

Aug.
early day, ought to have occupied the heights of Dorchester and of Charlestown; and he was recalled, though without official censure. For the time, the command in America was divided; and assigned in Canada to Carleton, in the old colonies to Howe. Ten thousand pounds and an additional supply of three thousand arms were forwarded to Quebec, and notwithstanding the caution of Barrington, word was [101] sent to Carleton, that he might depend upon a re-
Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Aug.
enforcement of regular troops, that it was ‘hoped the next spring to have in North America an army of twenty thousand men, exclusive of the Canadians and Indians.’ The first contribution was made by the king as elector of Hanover; nor did he drive a hard bargain with the British treasury: his predecessor, through Newcastle, took so much for the loan of Hanoverian troops, that no account of the payment could be found; George the Third asked only the reimbursement of all expenses. His agent, Colonel William Faucett, leaving England early in August, stopped at the Hague just long enough to confer with Sir Joseph Yorke on getting further assistance in Holland and Germany, and straightway repaired to Hanover to muster and receive into the service of Great Britain five battalions of electoral infantry. They consisted of two thousand three hundred and fifty men, who were to be employed in the garrisons of Gibraltar and Minorca, and thus to disengage an equal number of British troops for service in America. The recruiting officers of Frederic of Prussia and of other princes environed the frontier with the express design of tempting them to desert; for they were supposed to have an aversion for the sea. The port of Ritzebuttell, near the mouth of the Elbe, in the territory of Hamburg, was selected as the place of their embarkation, which was courteously promoted by the senate of that republic. It was the fifth of October before they got on board the transports, and then a strong south-west wind that blew incessantly for several weeks, locked them up till the afternoon of the first of November. [102]

Three days after the arrival of the news of the

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. July and Aug.
Charlestown battle, Rochford, the secretary of state, called the attention of De Guines, the French ambassador, to the dispute with the colonies; and remarked that ‘many persons of both parties were thoroughly persuaded that the way to terminate the war in America, was to declare war against France.’ De Guines suppressed every sign of indignation or of surprise; and encouraged the secretary's communicativeness. It was declared to be the English opinion, that England now, as before the last peace, was a match for Spain and France united; that, in the event of a war with those powers, America, through fear of the recovery of Canada by France, would give up her contest and side with England. Rochford repeated these remarks to the Spanish minister, from indiscretion, or in the hope to intimidate the two courts; but as the ministry had no object so dear as that of keeping their places, it followed that if the nation should clamor for an attack on the house of Bourbon, they would at once become belligerent. The subject was calmly revolved by Vergennes; who was unable to imagine, how sensible people could regard a war with France as a harbor of refuge; especially as her marine, which had been almost annihilated, was restored. ‘The English cabinet is greatly mistaken,’ said he, ‘if it thinks we regret Canada; it may come to pass that they will themselves repent having made its acquisition.’ He felt the want of gaining exact information on the state of opinion in America. For that end accident offered a most trusty agent in De Bonvouloir, a French gentleman, cousin german to the Marquis de Lambert; a man of good judgment and impenetrable secrecy. [103] He had been driven from St. Domingo by the climate,
Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Aug.
had returned by way of the English colonies, had, at Philadelphia, New York, Providence, and near Boston, become acquainted with insurgent Americans; and he reported that in America every man was turned soldier; that all the world crowded to the camp of liberty. The proposition to send him back to America was submitted by the ambassador at London through Vergennes to Louis the Sixteenth, who consented. Here is the beginning of his intervention in the American revolution. Neither his principles nor his sentiments inclined him to aid insurgents; but the danger of an attack from the English was held before his eyes, and on the seventh of August Vergennes could reply to De Guines: ‘Be assured, sir, the king very much approves sending Bonvouloir with such precaution that we can in no event be compromised by his mission. His instructions should be verbal and confined to the two most essential objects; the one, to make to you a faithful report of events and of the prevailing disposition of the public mind; the other, to secure the Americans against that jealousy of us, with which so much pains will be taken to inspire them. Canada is for them the object of distrust; they must be made to understand that we do not think of it at all; and that far from envying them the liberty and independence which they labor to secure, we admire the nobleness and the grandeur of their efforts, have no interest to injure them, and shall with pleasure see happy circumstances place them at liberty to frequent our ports; the facilities that they will find there for their commerce will soon prove to them our esteem.’ With [104] these instructions Bonvouloir repaired to the Low
Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Aug.
Countries, and after some delay found at Antwerp an opportunity of embarking for the colonies. His report might open the way for relations and events of the utmost importance. Yet all the while the means of pacifying America were so obvious that Vergennes was hardly able to persuade himself they could be missed by the English ministers. The folly imputed to them was so great, and was so sure to involve the loss of their possessions, that he called in question the accounts which he had received. The ambassador replied: ‘You say what you think ought to be done, but the king of England is the most obstinate prince alive, and his ministers will never adopt the policy necessary in a great crisis, for fear of compromising their safety or their places.’

The affairs of the United Colonies were at that time under discussion in the heart of the Russian empire, the ancient city of Moscow, at the court of Catharine the Second. The ruling opinion in Russia demanded the concentration of all power in one hand. From the moment the empress set her foot on Russian soil, it became her fixed purpose to seize the absolute sway and govern alone. Though she mixed trifling pastime with application to business, and for her recreation sought the company of the young and the very gay, she far excelled those around her in industry and knowledge. Frederic said of her, that she had an infinity of talent and no religion; yet she went over to the Greek church and played the devotee. Distinguished for vivacity of thought and judgment, for the most laborious attention to affairs, very proud of the greatness and power of her empire, [105] her intercourse with all her subjects was marked by

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Aug.
mildness and incomparable grace; and she made almost incredible exertions as a monarch to be useful even to the meanest, to benefit the future as well as the present age. Tragedy, comedy, music wearied her; she had no taste but to build, or to regulate her court; no passion but to rule and to make a great name; and this led her to undertake too much herself without sufficient aid from her ministers. In the crowd of the ambitious, who were all eager for advancement and favor, she compared herself to a hare worried by many hounds; and among an unscrupulous nobility in a land which was not that of her birth, she was haunted by a feeling of insecurity, and revealed a secret unrest and discontent of soul. But those around her were not offended at the completeness with which she belonged to a century representing the supremacy of the senses; the spiritual life that diffused itself over her form was a refinement of delight in physical pleasures; the blandishments of her manner, the smiles on her face, the flowers on her breast, covered fiery passions that coursed riotously through her veins.

Her first minister was Panin, without whom no council was held, no decision taken in foreign or domestic affairs. He alone could effectually promote her schemes of administrative greatness; though he was guided by experience rather than comprehensive views. With the faults of pride, inflexibility, and dilatoriness, he also had incorruptness; and he was acknowledged to be the fittest man for his post. At home his political principles led him to desire some limitation of the power of the sovereign by a [106] council of nobles; towards foreign powers he was

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Aug.
free from rancor. It had been the policy of France to save Poland by stirring up Sweden and Turkey against Russia; yet Panin did not misjudge the relations of Russia to France. Nor was he blinded by love for England; he wanted no treaty with her except with stipulations for aid in the contingency of a war with the Ottoman Porte, and as that condition could not be obtained, he always declined her alliance. His weak side was vanity, and Frederic of Prussia was said to have chained him to his interests by frequent presents of small value, and autograph letters filled with delicate flatteries. But Panin was thoroughly a Russian statesman, and to win his favor Frederic submitted to promise subsidies against Turkey.

The British minister relied on the good — will of Alexis Orloff, who had been a principal person in raising Catharine to the throne; but his influence was on the wane, and his brother, who remained for about ten years her favorite concubine, had been recently superseded and dismissed from the court.

His successor was Potemkin, who, to the person of a Titan joined a resolute ambition, and a commanding will, that became terrible to the empress herself; so that when she dismissed him from her bed, she found herself more and more subject to his control in the administration. Never did a favorite rise so rapidly, but at this time he cultivated the greatest intimacy with Panin, whose opinion he professed to follow.

The indifference of the king of Prussia on the relation of England to her colonies, extended to the [107] court of Moscow, and the Russian ministers never

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Aug.
spoke of the strife but as likely to end in American independence. Yet this coolness was not perceived by the British minister. One day Panin inquired of him the news; remembering his instructions, Gunning seized the moment to answer, that the measures in progress would shortly end the rebellion in America; then, as if hurried by excess of zeal to utter an idle, unauthorized speculation of his own, he asked leave to acquaint his king, that ‘in case the circumstances of affairs should render any foreign forces necessary, he might reckon upon a body of her imperial majesty's infantry.’ On the morning of the eighth of August, Panin reported the answer of the empress. Nothing was said specifically about troops; still less of placing Russian battalions under the command of a British general, or despatching them across the Atlantic; but she gave the strongest assurance of her entire readiness, from gratitude for favors received from England during her last war, upon this and upon every other occasion, to give the British king assistance, in whatever manner he thought proper. She charged Panin to repeat her very words, that ‘she found in herself an innate affection for the British nation which she should always cherish.’ The unobserving envoy drank in the words with delight; and interpreted a woman's lavish sentimentality as a promise of twenty thousand men to be forwarded from Asia and Eastern Europe to America. He flattered himself that he had conducted the negotiation with delicacy and success, and that the proposal, which was flying on the winds to other courts, was a secret to everybody but Panin and the empress. [108]

The reply to Bunker Hill from England reached

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Sept.
Washington before the end of September; and the manifest determination of the ministers to push the war by sea and land with the utmost vigor, removed from his mind every doubt of the necessity of independence. Such, also, was the conclusion of Greene; and the army was impatient when any of the chaplains prayed for the king. The general congress had less sagacity. It should have assembled on the fifth of September; but for eight days more there were too few delegates for the transaction of business.

The whole province of Georgia was now represented, and henceforward the confederacy never embraced less than thirteen members. The war developed the germ of a state that was to include both slopes of the Green Mountains, whose people fought with the army of the continent under officers of their own election; but the pretensions of New York to jurisdiction over their territory forbade as yet their recognition as a separate political body.

From the new commonwealth which was rising on the west of Virginia, an agent soon presented himself. The adventurers in that region spread the fame of the healthfulness of its climate, the wonderful goodness of its ranges for all kinds of game, and the seemingly miraculous fertility of the soil where it was underlaid by limestone; and they already foretold the great city that was to rise at the falls of the Ohio. Their representative discussed in private the foundation on which the swiftly growing settlements of Kentucky should rest; and received advice from their northern well-wishers to reserve that ‘most agreeable country’ exclusively for the free. The territorial [109] claim of Virginia barred against him the doors

Chap. XLVII.} 1775 Sept.
of congress, but the affection of the West flowed in a full current towards the Union.

The ‘inexpressibly distressing’ situation of Washington demanded instant and earnest attention; but the bias of the continental congress was to inactivity. The intercepted letters of John Adams, in which he had freely unbosomed his complaints of its tardiness, and had justly thrown blame on ‘the piddling genius,’ as he phrased it, of Dickinson, were approved by many; but Dickinson himself was unforgiving; wounded in his self-love and vexed by the ridicule thrown on his system, from this time he resisted independence with a morbid fixedness. He brushed past John Adams in the street without returning his salutation; and the New England statesman encountered also the hostility of the proprietary party and of social opinion in Philadelphia, and the distrust even of some of the delegates from the South. At times, an ‘unhappy jealousy of New England’ broke forth; but when a member insinuated distrust of its people, ‘as artful and designing men, altogether pursuing selfish purposes,’ Gadsden, of South Carolina, said in their defence: ‘I only wish we would imitate, instead of abusing, them. I thank God we have such a systematic body of men, as an asylum that honest men may resort to in the time of their last distress, if driven out of their own states; so far from being under any apprehensions, I bless God there is such a people in America.’

Harmony was maintained only by acquiescence in the policy of Dickinson. From Pittsburg, Lewis Morris of New York and James Wilson of Pennsylvania, [110] the commissioners, recommended an expe-

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Sept.
dition to take Detroit: the proposal, after a full discussion, was rejected; but the invasion of Canada, by way of the Chaudiere and of Isle aux Noix, was approved; and delegates from a convention of the several parishes of Canada would have been a welcome accession. Much time was spent in wrangling about small expenditures. The prohibition by parliament of the fisheries of New England and the restriction on the trade of the southern colonies, went into effect on the twentieth of July: as a measure of counteraction, the ports of America should have been thrown open; but though secret directions were given for importing powder and arms from ‘the foreign West Indies,’ the committee on trade was not appointed till the twenty second of September; and then they continued day after day, hesitating to act. The prospect of financial ruin led De Hart, of New Jersey, to propose to do away with issuing paper money by the provincial conventions and assemblies; but no one seconded him. The boundary line between Virginia and Pennsylvania was debated; as well as the right of Connecticut to hold possession of Wyoming. The roll of the army at Cambridge had, from its first formation, borne the names of men of color; but as yet without the distinct sanction of legislative approval. On the twenty sixth, Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina, moved the discharge of all the negroes in the army, and he was strongly supported by many of the southern delegates; but the opposition was so powerful and so determined that ‘he lost his point.’

At length, came a letter from Washington, implying [111] his sense that the neglect of congress had brought

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Sept.
matters in his army to a crisis. Not powder and artillery only were wanting, but fuel, shelter, clothing, provisions, and the soldiers' pay; and, while a great part of the troops were not free from mutiny, by the terms of their enlistment all of them, except the riflemen, were to be disbanded in December. For this state of things, congress could provide no adequate remedy. On the thirtieth of September, they therefore appointed Franklin, Lynch, and Harrison, a committee to repair to the camp, and, with the New England colonies and Washington, to devise a method for renovating the army.

While the committee were on the way, Gage,

Oct.
on the tenth of October, embarked for England, bearing with him the large requirements of Howe, his successor, which he warmly seconded. The king, the ministers, public opinion in England had made very free with his reputation; but, on his arrival, he was allowed to wear a bolder front than he had shown in Massachusetts, and was dismissed into retirement with the rank and emoluments of his profession. To Howe, the new commander-in-chief, the ministers had sent instructions, which permitted and advised the transfer of the war to New York; but, from the advanced state of the season, and the want of sufficient transports, he decided to winter at Boston, which place he did not doubt his ability to hold.

On the fifteenth of October, the committee from congress arrived at the camp. Franklin, who was its soul, brought with him the conviction that the American people, though they might be made to suffer, could [112] never be beaten into submission; that a separation

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Oct.
from Britain was inevitable. His presence in the camp, within sight of his native town, was welcomed with affectionate veneration. ‘During the whole evening,’ wrote Greene, ‘I viewed that very great man with silent admiration.’ With Washington for the military chief, with Franklin for the leading adviser from congress, the conference with the New England commissioners, notwithstanding all difficulties, harmoniously devised a scheme for forming, governing, and supplying a new army of about twenty three thousand men, whom the general was authorized to enlist without delay. The proposed arrangements, in all their details, had the aspect of an agreement between the army, the continental congress, and the New England colonies; their successful execution depended on those four colonies alone.

After the conference broke up, the committee remained two days, to advise with the general on every remaining question, and thus to establish a perfect understanding between him and the civil power. On this occasion Franklin confirmed that affection, confidence, and veneration, which Washington bore him to the last moment of his life. The committee were uncertain how to deal with Church, formerly an active member of the Boston committee, lately the director general of the hospital, a man of unsteady judgment, who had been discovered in a secret correspondence with the enemy in Boston: the extent of his indiscretion or complicity was uncertain; after an imprisonment for some months, he was allowed to pass to the West Indies; but the ship in which he sailed was never again heard of. [113]

Franklin was still at the camp, when news from

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Oct.
Maine confirmed his interpretation of the purposes of the British. In the previous May, Mowat, a naval officer, had been held prisoner for a few hours, at Falmouth, now Portland; and we have seen Linzee, in a sloop-of-war, driven with loss from Gloucester; it was one of the last acts of Gage to plan with the admiral how to wreak vengeance on the inhabitants of both those ports. The design against Gloucester was never carried out; but Mowat, in a ship of sixteen guns, attended by three other vessels, went up the harbor of Portland, and after a short parley, at half-past 9, on the morning of the sixteenth of October, he began to fire upon the town. In five minutes, several houses were in a blaze; parties of marines landed to spread the conflagration by hand. All sea-going vessels were burned except two, which were carried away. The cannonade was kept up till after dark; St. Paul's church, the public buildings, and about one hundred and thirty dwelling houses, three-fourths of the whole, were burned down; those that remained standing were shattered by balls and shells. By the English account, the destruction was still greater. At the opening of a severe winter, the inhabitants were turned adrift in poverty and misery. The wrath of Washington was justly kindled, as he heard of these ‘savage cruelties,’ this new ‘exertion of despotic barbarity.’ ‘Death and destruction mark the footsteps of the enemy,’ said Greene; ‘fight or be slaves is the American motto; and the first is by far the most eligible.’ Sullivan was sent to fortify Portsmouth; Trumbull, of Connecticut, took thought for the defence of New London. [114]

Meantime, the congress at Philadelphia was still

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Oct.
halting in the sluggishness of irresolution; and, so long as there remained the dimmest hope of favor to its petition, the lukewarm patriots had the advantage. No court as yet had power to sanction ‘the condemnation of vessels taken from the enemy.’ On the third of October, one of the delegates of Rhode Island laid before Congress their instructions to use their whole influence for building, equipping, and employing an American fleet. It was the origin of our navy. The proposal met great opposition; but John Adams engaged in it heartily, and pursued it unremittingly, though ‘for a long time against wind and tide.’ On the fifth, Washington was authorized to employ two armed vessels to intercept British storeships, bound for Quebec; on the thirteenth, congress voted two armed vessels, of ten and of fourteen guns, and seventeen days later, two others of thirty six guns. But much time would pass before their equipment; as yet, war was not waged on the high sea, nor reprisals authorized, nor the ports opened to foreign nations.

On the sixteenth of October, the day on which Mowat anchored below Falmouth, the new legislature of Pennsylvania was organized. Chosen under a dread of independence, all of its members who were present subscribed the usual engagements of allegiance to the king. In a few days the Quakers presented an address, in favor of ‘the most conciliatory measures,’ and deprecating every thing ‘likely to widen or perpetuate the breach with their parent state.’ To counteract this movement, the committee for the city and liberties of Philadelphia, sixty six in number, headed [115] by George Clymer and McKean, went two by two to

Chap. XLVII.} 1775. Oct.
the state-house, and delivered their remonstrance; but the spirit of the assembly, under the guidance of Dickinson, followed the bent of the quakers.

Congress, for the time, was like a ship at sea without a rudder, still buoyant, but rolling on the water with every wave. One day would bring measures for the defence of New York and Hudson river, or for the invasion of Canada; the next, nothing was to be done that could further irritate Great Britain. The continuance of the army around Boston depended on the efficiency of all the New England provinces; of these, New Hampshire was without a government. On the eighteenth of October, her delegates asked in her behalf, that the general congress would sanction her instituting a government, as the only means of preventing the greatest confusion; yet the majority of that body let the month run out before giving an answer, for they still dreamed of conciliation, and of the good effects of their last petition to the king.

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