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Chapter 35:

The revolution Emanates from the people.

May, 1775.

The motion of Jay was for many days the subject
Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May 18.
of private and earnest discussion; but the temper of the congress was still irresolute, when on the eighteenth of May they received the news of the taking of Ticonderoga. The achievement was not in harmony with their advice to New York; they for the time rejected the thought of invading Canada, and they were inclined even to abandon the conquest already made; though as a precaution they proposed to withdraw to the head of Lake George all the captured cannon and munitions of war, which on the restoration of peace were to be scrupulously returned.

For many days the state of the union continued to engage the attention of congress in a committee of the whole. The bolder minds, yet not even all the delegates from New England, discerned the tendency of events towards an entire separation of the colonies from Britain. In the wide division of opinions the decision appeared for a time to rest on South [362] Carolina; but the delegates from that province, no

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
less than from the others of the south, like the central colonies, nourished the hope of peace, for which they desired to make one more petition.

Vain illusion! The unappeasable malice of the supporters of the ministry was bent on the most desperate and cruel efforts, while every part of the continent rung the knell of colonial subjection. A new nation was bursting into life. Boston was so strictly beleaguered, that it was only from the islands in and near the harbor that fodder, or straw, or fresh meat could be obtained for the British army. On Sunday

May 21.
morning, the twenty-first of May, about sunrise, it was discovered, that they were attempting to secure the hay on Grape Island. Three alarm guns were fired; the drums beat to arms; the bells of Weymouth and Braintree were set a ringing; and the men of Weymouth, and Braintree, and Hingham, and of other places, to the number of two thousand, swarmed to the sea side. Warren, ever the bravest among the brave, ever present where there was danger, came also. After some delay, a lighter and a sloop were obtained; and the Americans eagerly jumped on board. The younger brother of John Adams was one of the first to push off and land on the island. The English retreated, while the Americans set fire to the hay.

On the twenty-fifth of May, Howe, Clinton,

May 25.
and Burgoyne, arrived with reinforcements. They brought their angling rods, and they found themselves pent up in a narrow peninsula; they had believed themselves sure of taking possession of a continent with a welcome from the great body of the [363] people, and they had no reception but as enemies,
Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May 27.
and no outlet from town but by the sea.

Noddle's Island, now East Boston, and Hog Island were covered with hay and cattle, with sheep and horses. About eleven in the morning of the twenty-seventh, twenty or thirty men passed from Chelsea to Hog Island and thence to Noddle's Island, and drove off or destroyed a great deal of stock. A schooner and a sloop, followed by a party of marines in boats, were sent from the British squadron to arrest them. The Americans retreated to Hog Island and cleared it of more than three hundred sheep, besides cows and horses. They then drew up on Chelsea Neck, and by nine in the evening received reinforcements, with two small four pounders. Warren was among his countrymen, of whom Putnam took the command. Cheered on by the presence of such leaders, they kept up an attack till eleven at night, when the schooner was deserted. At daybreak it was boarded by the provincials, who carried off four four-pounders and twelve swivels, and then set it on fire.

The English lost twenty killed and fifty wounded; the provincials had but four wounded, and those slightly.

The New Englanders were so encouraged by these successes, that they stripped every island between Chelsea and Point Alderton of cattle and forage; and the light-house at the entrance of Boston harbor was burned down. They were as ready for partisan enterprises on the water as on land; if they could only get gunpowder, they were confident of driving off the British.

The same daring prevailed on the northern frontier. [364] The possession of Ticonderoga and Crown

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
Point, the fortresses round which hovered the chief American traditions and recollections of military service, inflamed the imagination and stimulated the enterprise of the brave settlers of Vermont. A schooner, called for the occasion, ‘Liberty,’ was manned and armed; and Arnold, who had had experience at sea, took the command. With a fresh southerly wind he readily passed the lake; early on the morning of the eighteenth, at the head of a party
May 18.
in boats, he surprised a sergeant and twelve men, and captured them, their arms, two serviceable brass field pieces, and a British sloop which lay in the harbor of St. John's. In about an hour the wind suddenly shifted, and, with a strong breeze from the north, Arnold returned with his prizes.

Ethan Allen, who desired not to be outdone, thought with one hundred men to take possession of St. John's. The scheme was wild, and he was compelled to retire before a superior force; but preserving his boastful courage, he wrote to congress: ‘Had I but five hundred men with me, I would have marched to Montreal.’

The whole population west of the Green Mountains was interested to keep possession of Ticonderoga. Every man within fifty miles was desired by Arnold to repair to that post or to Crown Point with intrenching tools and all the powder and good arms that could be found. At the rumor of the proposed abandonment of their conquest, a loud protest was uttered unanimously by the foresters. ‘It is bad policy,’ said Ethan Allen, ‘to fear the resentment of an enemy.’ ‘Five hundred families,’ wrote Arnold, [365] ‘would be left at the mercy of the king's troops

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
and the Indians.’ The Massachusetts congress remonstrated; while Connecticut, with the consent of New York, ordered one thousand of her sons to march as speedily as possible to the defence of the two fortresses. The command of Lake Champlain was the best security against an attack from Indians and Canadians. Carleton, the governor of Canada, was using his utmost efforts to form a body capable of protecting the province. Officers from the French Canadian nobility were taken into pay; the tribes nearest to the frontiers of the English settlements were tampered with; in north-western New York, Guy Johnson was employing all his activity in insulating the settlers in Cherry Valley, winning the favor and support of the Six Nations, and duping the magistrates of Schenectady and Albany; while La Corne St. Luc, the old French superintendent of the Indians of Canada, a man who joined the reflective malice of civilization to the remorseless cruelty of the savage, sent belts to the northern tribes as far as the falls of St. Mary and Michilimackinack, to engage the ruthless hordes to take up arms, and distress the people along their extended frontier, till they should be driven to the British for protection.

Beyond the Alleghanies a commonwealth was rising on the banks of the Kentucky river, and by the very principles on which it was formed, it unconsciously renounced dependence on Britain.

Henderson and his associates had, during the winter, negotiated a treaty with the Cherokees for the land between the Ohio, the Cumberland mountains, the Cumberland river, and the Kentucky river; on the seventeenth of March they received their deed. [366] To this territory, Daniel Boone, with a body of en-

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
terprising companions, proceeded at once to mark out a path up Powell's valley; and through mountains and cane-brakes beyond. On the twenty-fifth of the month they were waylaid by Indians, who killed two men and wounded another very severely. Two days later the savages killed and scalped two more. ‘Now,’ wrote Daniel Boone, ‘is the time to keep the country while we are in it. If we give way now, it will ever be the case,’ and he pressed forward to the Kentucky river. There, on the first day of April, at the distance of about sixty yards from its west bank, near the mouth of Otter Creek, he began a stockade fort; which took the name of Boonesborough. At that place, while the congress at Philadelphia was groping irresolutely in the dark, seventeen men assembled as representatives of the four
May 25.
‘towns’ that then formed the seed of the state. Among these children of nature was Daniel Boone, the pioneer of the party. His colleague, Richard Galloway, was one of the founders of Kentucky and one of its early martyrs. The town of St. Asaph sent John Floyd, a surveyor who emigrated from southwestern Virginia; an able writer, respected for his culture and dignity of manner; of innate good breed ing; ready to defend the weak; to follow the trail of the savage; heedless of his own life if he could recover women and children who had been made captive; destined to do good service, and survive the dangers of western life till American independence should be fought for and won.

From the settlement at Boiling Spring came James Harrod, the same who, in 1774, had led a [367] party of forty-one to Harrodsburg, and during the

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
summer of that year, had built the first log-cabin in Kentucky; a tall, erect, and resolute backwoodsman; unlettered but not ignorant; intrepid yet gentle; revered for energy and for benevolence; always caring for others, as a father, brother, and protector; unsparing of himself; never weary of kind offices to those around him; the first to pursue a stray horse, or to go to the rescue of prisoners; himself a skilful hunter, for whom the rifle had a companionship, and the wilderness a charm; so that in age his delight was in excursions to the distant range of the receding buffaloes, till at last he plunged into the remote forest, and was never heard of more.

These and their associates, the fathers of Ken-

May 23.
tucky, seventeen in all, met on the twenty-third of May, beneath the great elm tree of Boonesborough, outside of the fort, on the thick sward of the fragrant white clover. The convention having been organized, prayers were read by a minister of the church of England. A speech was then delivered to the convention in behalf of the proprietary purchasers of the land from the Cherokees:

You are assembled for a noble purpose, however ridiculous it may seem to superficial minds; a work of the utmost importance to the well-being of this country in general, and of each and every individual. As justice is and must be eternally the same, so your laws, founded in wisdom, will gather strength by time.

You are placing the corner-stone of an edifice, whose superstructure can only become great and glorious in proportion to the excellence of its foundation. [368] These considerations, gentlemen, will inspire you with

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
sentiments worthy of the grandeur of the subject.

One common danger must secure to us harmony in opinion. If any doubt remain amongst you with respect to the force or efficacy of whatever laws you now or hereafter make, be pleased to consider, that all power is originally in the people.

‘We represent the good people of this infant country,’ replied the convention on the twenty-fifth, in the words of a committee of which Calloway was the head. ‘Deeply impressed with a sense of the

May 25.
importance of the trust our constituents have reposed in us, we will attempt the task with vigor, not doubting but unanimity will insure us success. That we have a right as a political body, without giving umbrage to Great Britain, or any of the colonies, to frame rules for the government of our little society, cannot be doubted by any sensible or unbiassed mind.’

So reasoned the fathers of Kentucky. In their legislation, it was their chief care ‘to copy after the happy pattern of the English laws.’ Their colony they called Transylvania. Their titles to their lands they rested on a deed from the head warriors of the Cherokees as the first owners of the soil. Dunmore had taunted them with opening ‘an asylum for debtors and disorderly persons;’ they repelled the calumny by instituting courts of justice. For defence against the savages, they organized a militia; they discountenanced profane swearing and sabbath breaking; they took thought for preventing the waste of game, and improving the breed of horses; and by solemn agreement they established as the basis of their constitution, the annual choice of delegates; [369] taxes to be raised by the convention alone;

Chap. XXXV} 1775 May.
salaries to be fixed by statute; land offices to be always open; and ‘a perfect religious freedom, and general toleration.’ Thus the pioneer law-givers for the west provided for freedom of conscience. A little band of hunters put themselves at the head of the countless hosts of civilization, in establishing the great principle of intellectual freedom. Long as the shadows of the western mountains shall move round with the sun, long as the rivers that gush from those mountains shall flow towards the sea, long as seed time and harvest shall return, that rule shall remain the law of the West. When Sunday dawned, the great tree which had been their council chamber became their church. Penetrated with a sense of the Redeemer's love, they lifted up their hearts to God in prayer and thanksgiving, and the forest that was wont to echo only the low of the buffalo and the whoop of the savage, was animated by the voices of their devotion. Thus began the commonwealth of Kentucky; it never knew any other system than independence, and was incapable of any thing else.

The state, now that it has become great and populous, honors the memory of the plain, simple-hearted man, who is best known as its pioneer. He was kindly in his nature, and never wronged a human being, not even an Indian, nor, indeed, animal life of any kind. ‘I with others have fought Indians,’ he would say, ‘but I do not know that I ever killed one; if I did, it was in battle, and I never knew it.’ He was no hater of them, and never desired their extermination. In woodcraft he was acknowledged to be the first among men. This led him to love solitude, [370] and habitually to hover on the frontier, with

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
no abiding place; accompanied by the wife of his youth, who was the companion of his long life and travel. When at last death put them both to rest, Kentucky reclaimed their bones from their graves far up the Missouri, and now they lie buried on the hill above the cliffs of the Kentucky river, overlooking the lovely valley of the capital of that commonwealth. Around them are emblems of wilderness life; the turf of the blue grass lies lightly above them; and they are laid with their faces turned upward and westward, and their feet toward the setting sun.

A similar spirit of independence prevailed in the highlands which hold the head springs of the Yadkin and the Catawba. The region was peopled chiefly by Presbyterians of Scotch Irish descent, who brought to the new world the creed, the spirit of resistance, and the courage of the covenanters.

The people of the county of Mecklenburg had carefully observed the progress of the controversy with Britain; and during the winter, political meetings had repeatedly been held in Charlotte. That town had been chosen for the seat of the Presbyterian college, which the legislature of North Carolina had chartered, but which the king had disallowed; and it was the centre of the culture of that part of the province. The number of houses in the village was not more than twenty; but the district was already well settled by herdsmen who lived apart on their farms.

Some time in May, 1775, they received the news of the address, which in the preceding February had been presented to the king by both houses of parliament, [371] and which declared the American colonies to be in a

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
state of actual rebellion. This was to them the evidence that the crisis in American affairs was come, and the people proposed among themselves to abrogate all dependence on the royal authority. But the militia companies were sworn to allegiance; and ‘how,’ it was objected, ‘can we be absolved from our oath?’ ‘The oath,’ it was answered, ‘binds only while the king protects.’ At the instance of Thomas Polk, the commander of the militia of the county, two delegates from each company were called together in Charlotte, as a representative committee. Before their consultations had ended, the message of the innocent blood shed at Lexington came up from Charleston, and inflamed their zeal. They were impatient that their remoteness forbade their direct activity; had it been possible, they would have sent a hundred bullocks from their fields to the poor of Boston. No minutes of the committee are known to exist, but the result of their deliberations, framed with superior skill, precision of language, and calm comprehensiveness, remains as the monument of their wisdom and their courage. Of the delegates to that memorable assembly, the name of Ephraim Brevard should be remembered with honor by his countrymen. He was one of a numerous family of patriot brothers, and himself in the end fell a martyr to the public cause. Trained in the college at Princeton, ripened among the brave Presbyterians of Middle Carolina, he digested the system which was then adopted, and which formed in effect a declaration of independence, as well as a complete system of government. ‘All laws and commissions confirmed by [372] or derived from the authority of the king or parlia-
Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
ment,’ such are the bold but well considered words of these daring statesmen, ‘are annulled and vacated; all commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the crown to be exercised in the colonies, are void; the provincial congress of each province, under the direction of the great continental congress, is invested with all legislative and executive powers within the respective provinces, and no other legislative or executive power does or can exist at this time, in any part of these colonies. As all former laws are now suspended in this province, and the congress has not yet provided others, we judge it necessary for the better preservation of good order, to form certain rules and regulations for the internal government of this county, until laws shall be provided for us by the congress.’

In accordance with these principles the freemen of the county formed themselves into nine military companies, and elected their own officers. Judicial powers were conferred on men to be singled out by the vote of the companies, two from each of them; the whole number of eighteen constituting a court of appeal. The tenure alike of military and civil officers was ‘the pleasure of their several constituents.’ All public and county taxes, all quitrents to the crown were sequestered; and it was voted that persons receiving new commissions from the king, or exercising old ones, should be dealt with as enemies of the country.

The resolves were made binding on all, and were to be enforced till the provincial congress should provide [373] otherwise, or, what they knew would never take

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
place, till the British parliament should resign its arbitrary pretensions with respect to America. At the same time the militia companies were directed to provide themselves with arms, and Thomas Polk and Joseph Kenedy were specially appointed to purchase powder, lead and flints.

Before the month of May had come to an end, the

May. 31.
resolutions were signed by Ephraim Brevard, as clerk of the committee, and were adopted by the people with the determined enthusiasm which springs from the combined influence of the love of liberty and of religion. Thus was Mecklenburg county, in North Carolina, separated from the British empire. The resolves were transmitted with all haste to be printed in Charleston, and as they spread through the South, they startled the royal governors of Georgia and North Carolina. They were despatched by a messenger to the continental congress, that the world might know their authors had renounced their allegiance to the king of Great Britain, and had constituted a government for themselves.

The messenger stopped on his way at Salisbury, and there, to a crowd round the court-house, the resolves were read and approved. The western counties were the most populous part of North Carolina; and the royal governor had flattered himself and the king, with the fullest assurances of their support. ‘I have no doubt,’ said he, ‘that I might command their best services at a word on any emergency. I consider I have the means in my own hands to maintain the sovereignty of this country to my royal master in all events.’ And now he was obliged to transmit [374] the deliberate, consistent, and well-considered

Chap. XXXV.} 1775. May.
resolutions of Mecklenburg, which he described as the boldest of all, ‘most traitorously declaring the entire dissolution of the laws and constitution, and setting up a system of rule and regulation subversive of his Majesty's government.’

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