In 1772, his Majesty's revenue cutter Gaspee, while giving chase to the Providence, a packet sailing into Newport, and suspected of dealing in contraband wares, ran aground in Providence river, and was burned by the merchants and citizens in the vicinity. This was a bold act, and the sum of five hundred pounds was offered for the discovery of the offenders, and full pardon to any one who would become state's evidence: but in this case, as in that of Andre's capture, gold had no influence.
In 1773, provinces not exposed to the acts of lawless soldiery, were fast breathing the same spirit manifested by those which were: propitious gales wafted it to their remotest part. The talented Patrick Henry , who made human nature and human events his study, prophesied, during this year, that the colonies would become independent. Virginia, in March of 1773, again took the lead in legislative resolves, against tyrannic oppression. The legislatures of New England and Maryland responded cordially to them. Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts, who succeeded Mr. Bernard, by a system of espionage similar to that carried on by the latter, became to the people of that commonwealth very odious. During this year, standing committees were appointed in the colonial assemblies, to correspond with each other. At this period, town committees had been formed in almost every town in some of the colonies, which had for their chief object, the speedy communication of important information, there being then but few printing presses in the country. Some time in this year, Doctor Franklin obtained in London several original letters, written by Governor Hutchinson and others at Boston, to members of the British Parliament; stating that the opposition to the laws, were, in Massachusetts, confined to a few factious individuals: recommending at the same time, the abridging of colonial rights, and the adoption of more vigorous measures. These letters were transmitted to America, and their contents being soon known in every hamlet in New England, the popular indignation was greatly increased. The legislature of Massachusetts, in an address to his Majesty, demanded the recall of the governor and lieut. governor. This legislative proceeding was the cause of much opprobrium being cast upon Franklin in England.
Owing to the rigid observance of the non-importation resolves, the East India company now found their tea accumulating in vast quantities in their ware-houses. They were therefore under the necessity of petitioning Parliament for relief. Permission was granted them to import it on their own account: and they accordingly appointed consignees in several American sea-ports, and made heavy shipments to them. They intended, no doubt, to land it free of duty to the American merchant, but the law imposing the duty yet remained on the statute book of England; and the popular voice decided, that while the right to tax was maintained, the tea should not be landed. In Philadelphia, the consignees declined their appointment. In New York, hand-bills were circulated, but the consignees, threatening with ruin those who should vend tea; and warning pilots, at their peril, not to conduct ships into that port laden with the article. In Boston, inflammatory handbills were also circulated, but the consignees, being in favor with the governor, accepted their appointments. This excited the whole colony of Massachusetts, and enraged the citizens. In the mean time, several ships, containing thousands of chests, arrived on the coast. So determined were the people not to allow the tea to be landed, that ship after ship was compelled to return to England, without unlading a single chest. Philadelphia took the lead, and was nobly sustained by New York. In Charleston, it was landed but not permitted to be sold. On the twenty-ninth of November, the Dartmouth, and East India ship, laden with tea, entered the harbor of Boston. At a numerous meeting of the citizens, held to consult on the course to be pursued, it was resolved, "that the tea should not be landed, that no duty should be paid, and that it should be sent back in the same vessel." To enforce the resolutions, a vigilant watch was organized to prevent its being secretly landed. The captain was notified to return with his cargo; but Governor Hutchinson refused to sanction his return. In the mean time, other vessels, laden with tea, arrived there. On the sixteenth December, the citizens of Boston and vicinity assembled to determine what course to adopt. On the evening of that day, when it was known that the governor refused a pass for the vessels to return, a person in an Indian's dress gave the war whoop in the gallery of the assembly room. At this signal, the people hurried to the wharves; when a party of about twenty men, disguised as Mohawks, protected by thousands of citizens on shore, boarded the vessels, broke open and emptied the contents of three hundred and forty-two chests of tea into the ocean, without tumult or personal injury. What a tea party the fishes and sea-serpent must have had that night.
These violent proceedings greatly excited the displeasure of the British government. Early in 1774, an act was passed in Parliament, levying a fine on the town of Boston, as a compensation to the East India company for the tea destroyed the preceding December. About the same time, an act closing the port of Boston, and removing the custom house to Salem: another depriving the colony of Massachusetts of her constitution and charter, were passed: and to cap the climax of oppression, a bill was introduced making provision for the trial in England, instead of that colony for capital offense; which passed the same year. A few individual strenuously opposed those measures, believing that the colonists would be driven to acts of desperation; but they were passed by large majorities. When the bill for blockading the town of Boston was under discussion in March of this year, Gov. Johnston, who opposed the measure, said in a speech on that occasion, "I now venture to predict to this house, that the effect of the present bill must be productive of a general confederacy, to resist the power of this country." Gen. Conway was again found the champion of equal rights, and when the bill was under discussion to destroy the chartered privileges of the colony, he closed a brief but pertinent speech with the following sentence: "These acts respecting America, will involve this country and its ministers in misfortunes, and, I wish I may not add, in ruin." It has often been asserted that the whole bench of Bishops in England, who are legally constituted members of Parliament, were in favor of forcing the colonies to submit to the unwise acts of the mother country. As there was one most honorable exception, I take pleasure in making it more generally known. The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, was the nobleman to whom I allude. When the bill for altering the charter of the colony of Massachusetts was under discussion, he prepared a speech replete with wisdom, and containing the most convincing proofs, that the British government were in the wrong and were pursuing a course illy calculated to bring the colonies again to prove profitable to England. He showed the evil of making the governors dependent on the crown, instead of the governed, for support. Said he:
Your ears have been open to the governors and shut to the people. This must necessarily lead us to countenance the jobs of interested men, under the pretence of defending the rights of the crown. But the people are certainly the best judges whether they are well governed; and the crown can have no rights inconsistent with the happiness of the people." [Speaking of the act of taxation, he said:] "If it was unjust to tax them, [the Americans] we ought to repeal it for their sakes; if it was unwise to tax them, we ought to repeal it for our own." [He exhibited the fact that the whole revenue raised in America in 1772, amounted only to eighty-five pounds.] "Money that is earned so dearly as this [said he] ought to be expended with great wisdom and economy. My lords, were you to take up but one thousand pounds more from North America upon the same terms, the nation itself would be a bankrupt." [He added, in another place:] "It is a strange idea we have taken up, to cure their resentments, by increasing their provocations, to remove the effects of our own ill conduct, by multiplying the instances of it. But the spirit of blindness and infatuation has gone forth. * * Recollect that the Americans are men of like passions with ourselves, and think how deeply this treatment must effect them."
The able and argumentative speech of the learned Bishop, which was not delivered in the House for want of an opportunity, was published soon after, but, as he had anticipated, "not a word of it was regarded." While the declaratory bill of the sovereignty of Great Britain over the colonies was under discussion, in March, Mr. Pitt, then lord Chatham, again opposed the principle of taxation without representation, and closed an animated speech as follows:
"The forefathers of the Americans did not leave their native country, and subject themselves to every danger and distress, to be reduced to a state of slavery: they did not give up their rights; they looked for protection, and not for chains, from their mother country; by her they expected to be defended in the possession of their property, and not to be deprived of it; for should the present power continue, there is nothing they can call their own; or, to use the words of Mr. Locke, 'what property have they in that which another may by right take, when he pleases, to himself?'"
The news in the colonies of the passage of the unjust laws above mentioned, carried with it gloom and terror. The better informed saw the approaching contest, yet firmly resolved to live or die freeman. From the north to the south the same spirit was manifested, and the kindest sympathy felt for the Bostonians, who were considered as suffering in the cause of liberty. The first day of June, when the Boston port-bill began to operate, was observed in most of the colonies as a day of fasting and prayer.
Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts was recalled early in 1774, and General Gage appointed his successor; but the interests of the people found no material benefit from this change of rulers. On the 17th of June, the general court of Massachusetts, at the suggestion of a committee in Virginia, recommended the calling of a Congress at Philadelphia, on the first Monday of the following September. At a numerous meeting of the inhabitants of the city of New York, convened in an open field on the sixth of July, with Alexander McDougal in the chair, a series of spirited resolutions were adopted, among which was the following:
"Resolved, That any attack or attempt to abridge the liberties, or invade the constitution of any of our sister colonies, is immediately an attack upon the liberties and constitution of all the other British colonies."
About this time, the motto, "United we stand, divided we fall!" originated in Hanover, Virginia; while almost at the same instant the motto, "Join or die!" had its origin in Rhode Island. On the first day of September, the following circumstance gave a new impulse to the spirit of independence in the colony of Massachusetts. Gov. Gage had ordered a military force to take possession of the powder in the provincial arsenal at Charlestown, near Boston. It was rumored abroad, that the British fleet in the harbor were bombarding the town, and thirty thousand men, in less than two days, mostly armed, were on their way to Boston. Another circumstance took place in that city, about the same time, which added oil to the lamp of liberty. Gov. Gage deprived John Hancock of his commission as colonel of cadets; a volunteer body of governor's guards. The company took offense at the act, and instantly disbanded themselves. The late governors, Bernard and Hutchinson, repeatedly represented to the British ministry, that the colonies could never form a union. They had hoped as much, and taken no little pains to prevent such an event; but when the fifth of September arrived, delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies met in convention, Georgia alone excepted: she soon after joined the confederacy. Peyton Randolph, of Virginia, was chosen president, and Charles Thompson, of Pennsylvania, secretary of this body. Patrick Henry was the first to address the meeting. While in session, this Congress passed resolutions, approving the course of the citizens of Boston- opposing the acts of Parliament- advising union, peaceable conduct, etc. They remonstrated with General Gage against fortifying Boston Neck- recommended a future course to be pursued by the colonies- setting forth clearly the present evils, their causes and remedies. They advised economy and frugality- the abstaining from all kinds of intemperance, festivities, and the like- requiring committees to report all the enemies of American liberty, that their names might be published. They also addressed a petition to the king- a memorial to the citizens of England- an address to the people of the colonies- and another to the French inhabitants of Quebec, Georgia, Nova Scotia, and other British provinces not represented. In their petition to the king, they simply asked to be restored to their situation in the peace of 1763, in humble, strong and respectful terms. They urged the colonies "to be prepared for every contingency." They invited the cooperation of the British colonies not represented in that congress, in their resistance to oppression; and adjourned on the twenty-sixth of October, after a session of fifty-two days, to meet again on the tenth of the following May. Says Mr. Allan, author of the American Revolution:
"That an assembly of fifty-two men, born and educated in the wilds of a new world, unpractised in the arts of polity, most of them unexperienced in the arduous duties of legislation, coming from distant colonies and distant governments, differing in religion, manners, customs and habits, as they did in their views with regard to the nature of their connexion with Great Britain- that such an assembly, so constituted, should display so much wisdom, sagacity, foresight and knowledge of the world, such skill in argument, such force of reasoning, such firmness and soundness of judgment, so profound an aquaintance with the rights of man, such elevation of sentiment, such genuine patriotism, and above all, such unexampled union of opinion- was indeed a political phenomenon, to which history has yet furnished no parallel."
The resolves of Congress were strictly observed, by all the thirteen colonies, a system of commercial non-intercourse with the mother country was maintained, and the militia were drilled and preparations made for any emergency. In December following, Maryland alone resolved to raise 10,000 pounds, for the purchase of arms and ammunition for her defence. In January, 1775, colonial difficulties were the cause of warm discussions, in both Houses of the mother government. On a motion for an address to his Majesty, to give immediate orders for removing his troops from Boston, Lord Chatham delivered a powerful speech. He asserted that the measures of the preceding year, which had placed their American affairs in so alarming a state, were founded upon misrepresentation- that instead of its being only a faction in Boston, as they had been told, who were opposed to their unlawful government, it was, in truth, the whole continent. Said he,
"When I urge this measure for recalling the troops from Boston, I urge it on this pressing principle- that it is necessarily preparatory to the restoration of your prosperity." [He termed the troops under General Gage,] "an army of impotence- and irritation- I do not mean to censure the inactivity of the troops. It is a prudent and necessary inaction. But it is a miserable condition, where disgrace is prudence; and where it is necessary to be contemptible. Woe be to him who sheds the first, the unexpiable drop of blood in an impious war, with a people contending in the great cause of public liberty. I will tell you plainly, my lords, no son of mine, nor any one over whom I have influence, shall ever draw his sword upon his fellow subjects." [He stated, that from authentic information he knew that the whole continent was uniting, and not commercial factions, as had been asserted. Speaking of the principles which united the Americans, he said,] "'Tis liberty to liberty engaged, that they will defend themselves, their families and their country. In this great cause they are immovably affixed. It is the alliance of God and nature- immutable, eternal, fixed as the firmament of Heaven. When your lordships look at the papers transmitted us from America, when you consider their decency, firmness and wisdom, you can not but respect their cause and wish to make it your own- for myself I must declare and avow that, in all my reading and observation, and it has been my favorite study- I have read Thucidydes, and have studied and admired the master states of the world- that for solidity and reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of different circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships, that all attempts to impose servitude on such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation- must be vain- must be futile. To conclude, my lords, if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the King, I will not say that they can alienate his subjects from his crown, but I will affirm that they will make the crown not worth his wearing. I shall not say that the King is betrayed, but I will pronounce that the kingdom is undone."
Lord Chatham was nobly sustained by Lord Cambden, but they were of a small minority, and their reasoning was buried in the popular will of that immortal mortal, Lord North. A favorite measure of the latter gentleman, for healing the dissensions in the colonies was adopted, which was in substance, that if any colony would consent to tax itself for the benefit of the mother country, Parliament would forebear to tax that colony, as long as the contribution was punctually paid. One would suppose that head brainless that looked for a very beneficial result from the passage of such a law. In March of this year, the celebrated Edmund Burke delivered a long and able speech in Parliament in favor of conciliating colonial difficulties- but to no purpose. An effort was made by the British ministry, when they found the Americans uniting, to create a separation of interest, and prevent a union of the northern and southern, by conciliating the middle colonies, but without effect: the motto, United we stand, had gone forth, and no political maneuvering could annual it. At this period, there were not a few in the colonies, who, from reverence, timidity or sinister motives, clung to the authority of the mother country. The most of those, however, were recent immigrants from England and Scotland, and a multitude of officers dependent on the Crown and its authority, for a continuance of kingly honors. These adherents to British authority were called Tories, and the friends of liberty and equal rights were called Whigs; names originated many years before in England. To compel New England to submit to the acts of Parliament, they were prohibited, in the course of this year, from fishing on the banks of Newfoundland; and armed vessels were sent to enforce the law. This prohibition was severely felt, as several colonies were extensively engaged in that business.
The storm which had so long been gathering over this continent, was about to descend in all its fury. On the 19th day of April, 1775, Gen. Gage sent from Boston a detachment of 8 or 900 troops, under the command of Col. Smith and Maj. Pitcairn, to destroy a collection of military stores, accumulated at Concord by the friend of liberty. At Lexington, a small village which they had to pass, a company of sixty or seventy militia were paraded near the village church. Maj. P. riding forward, exclaimed, Disperse, you rebels- throw down your arms and disperse! The militia hesitated, and the Maj. firing a pistol, ordered a company under Capt. Parker, to fire upon them: the command was obeyed, and eight were killed and several wounded. The militia dispersed, and the troops marched on to Concord. Some of the stores had been removed, what remained were destroyed. The minute men of that town had assembled before the arrival of the regulars, but being too weak to oppose the latter, retired on their approach. As the report of the firing upon the militia at Lexington spread with almost lightening rapidity, from the ringing of bells, firing of signal guns, &c., the country was soon in arms. Finding themselves reinforced, the Concord militia advanced, and a skirmish ensued, in which several were killed on both sides. The British troops, seeing that they were to have hot work, as almost every male citizen between the ages of ten and eighty were arming for the fight, began to retreat. In their course they were fired upon from all manner of concealments. Every stone-wall, tree, stump, rock, old barn or workshop, sent forth its unerring bullet into the ranks of the enemy. Had not the British been reinforced by about 900 men under Lord Percy, few of the first detachment would ever had reached Boston alive. The British loss in this battle, called the battle of Lexington because it commenced and much of it was fought in that town, in killed wounded and prisoners, was 273; and that of the Provincials, 87. General Gage had thought, previous to the battle of Lexington, that five regiments of British infantry could march from Maine to Georgia. Possibly he had entered the right school, to learn how to appreciate American valor with more certainty. Thus closed the opening scene of a tragedy, destined to last eight long years. The news of this battle spread rapidly through the New England provinces. The plow was left in the furrow- the chisel in the mortice- the iron in the forge; and the hand that had placed it there, grasped the missile of death, and hastened to the vicinity of Boston. In a few days, a large army was assembled under the command of Generals Ward of Massachusetts, and Putnam of Connecticut, and closely invested the town.
While matters stood thus, in and around Boston, a plan for the capture of the fortresses of Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Skeenesborough, now Whitehall, commanding the route of intercommunication between the colonies and Canada; was conceived and boldly executed. The fortresses were all surprised and captured, as was a sloop of war near the outlet of Lake George, without bloodshed, by Colonels Ethan Allen, and Seth Warner, with two hundred and thirty Green Mountain boys, and officers Dean, Wooster, Parsons and Arnold, and forty other brave spirits of Connecticut. On the evening of the 10th of May, as the invaders approached Ticonderoga, a sentinel snapped his gun at Colonel Allen and retreated, followed by the latter and his brave comrades. On gaining possession of the fortress, the commander was found napping. Colonel Allen demanded of him the immediate surrender of the fort. "By what authority, sir?" It is possible the thought may not have entered the mind of the rebel chieftain, that such a question would be propounded; but his fruitful genius instantly prompted the following, singular, and laconic reply- "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." As may be supposed, the summons was from too high a power to be resisted.
A minute account of the battle of Lexington, with depositions to prove that the British troops shed the first blood, were transmitted without delay to England, by the provincial legislature of Massachusetts then in session; closing with the following sentence: Appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die, or be free. The Colonial Congress again assembled, on the very day their authority had been so successfully anticipated, by the intrepid Allen at Ticonderoga. Preparations at this time, were every where being made in the colonies, for the maintenance of the stand taken against oppression, by a resort to arms. A new impulse seemed given to the spirit of opposition, by the defeat of the British troops at Lexington, and the capture of the northern military posts; but a majority of Congress, had not as yet formed the resolve, to aim at a final separation from the mother country. John Hancock, in consequence of his having been proscribed by the British government, was chosen president of this Congress. As military preparations were making, a resort to arms had commenced, and it was pretty evident that others must follow; Congress saw the necessity of giving to those preparations a head, and most fortunately appointed THE WORLD'S MODEL MAN- GEORGE WASHINGTON, to that honorable post. He received the appointment of commander-in- chief while a member of Congress, on the 22nd of May, and began immediately to prepare for his laborious duties. He arrived at the American camp on the 3d day of July. Georgia having sent delegates to the Congress of 1775, all the colonies were then represented.
Early in June, several transports filled with troops under the command of generals Howe, Clinton and Burgoyne, arrived at Boston. On the 17th, the battle of Breed's now called Bunker's hill, was fought. An intrenchment was thrown up on the preceding evening, by a body of one thousand men under Colonel Prescot. The intention was to have fortified Bunker's hill, but the officers sent to throw up the redoubt, found that less tenable, and built the fortification on Breed's hill. Ground was broken at twelve o'clock at night, and by daylight a redoubt had been thrown up at eight rods square. In the morning, a reinforcement of five hundred men was sent to their assistance. Although a heavy cannonading was kept up from the daylight by the British shipping, the Americans, encouraged by General Putnam and other brave officers, did not cease their labors. About noon, General Gage, astonished at the boldness of the American militia, sent a body of three thousand regulars, under Generals Howe and Pigot, to storm the works. Generals Clinton and Burgoyne, took a station in Boston, where they had a commanding view of the hill. The towers of the churches- the roofs of the houses- indeed every eminence in and around Boston, was covered with anxious spectators; many of whom had dear relatives exposed to the known danger, awaiting with almost breathless anxiety the deadly conflict. Many, and heart-felt were the prayers then offered up, for the success of the patriot band. About the time the action commenced, General Warren, who was president of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, joined the Americans on the hill as a volunteer. The British troops, having landed from their boats, marched to attack the works. The Americans, reserving their fire until the white of the eye was visible, then opened a most destructive one, dealing death on every hand. Indeed, rank after rank was cut down, like grass before the mower. The enemy wavered, and soon retreated in disorder down the hill. Then might doubtless have been heard a stifled murmur of applause, among the eye witnesses in Boston, who believed their countrymen fighting in a just cause. And then too, might have been seen the lip of the British officer and rank tory, compressed with anger and mortification. While this attack was in progress, the fire-brand of the licensed destroyer, by the diabolical order of Gen. Gage, was communicated to the neighboring village of Charlestown, containing some six hundred buildings, and the whole in a short time were reduced to ashes; depriving about two thousand inhabitants of a shelter, and destroying property amounting to more than half a million of dollars. The British officers with much difficulty, again rallied their troops, and led them a second time to the attack. They were allowed to approach even nearer than before; when the Americans, having witnessed the conflagration of Charlestown, themselves burning to revenge the houseless mother and orphan, sent the messenger of death among their ranks. The carnage became a second time too great for the bravery of the soldier- the ranks were broken, and the enemy again retreated, some even taking refuge in the boats. When the British troops wavered a second time, Clinton, vexed at their want of success, hastened to their assistance with a reinforcement. On his arrival, the men were again rallied, and compelled, by the officers, who marched in their rear with drawn swords, to renew the attack. At this period of the contest, the ammunition of the Americans failed, and the enemy entered the redoubt. Few of the former had bayonets, yet for a while they continued the unequal contest with clubbed muskets, but were finally overpowered. The Americans loss in numbers, was inconsiderable until the enemy scaled the works. They were forced to retreat over Charlestown Neck, a narrow isthmus which was raked by an incessant fire from several floating batteries. Fortunately, few were killed in crossing the Neck. The following anecdote is characteristic of Yankee bravery: While the Americans were retreating from the hill across Charlestown Neck, Timothy Cleveland, of Canterbury, Ct., was marching with others with trailed arms, when a grape shot struck the small part of the breech of his gun-stock, and cut it off. He had proceeded several rods before he was aware of his loss- but ran back and picked it up, declaring, "The darned British should have no part of my gun." The gun-stock was repaired with a tin band, and was long after in the service of its patriotic owner, who was from the same county and under the command of Gen. Putnam.- Joseph Simms. The British loss in this, which was the first regular fought battle in the Revolution, was, in killed and wounded, one thousand and fifty-four, including many officers, among whom was Major Pitcairn of Lexington memory. 1 The American loss in killed and wounded, was four hundred and fifty-three; and among the former was the talented, the kind- hearted and zealous patriot, Gen. Warren; who received a musket bullet through the head. He was a distinguished physician in Boston, and warmly espoused the cause of his country, and yielded his life a willing sacrifice in her defence; undying be his memory in the American heart!
What a scene of sublime grandeur must this battle have presented, to the citizens of Boston and the surrounding hills! The roar of cannon and musketry- the clashing of steel, as hand to hand the foeman met- the groans of the wounded and dying- the shouts of the combatants- the dense cloud of smoke which enveloped the peninsula, lit up transversely by streams of death-boding fire- the sheet of flame and crash of burning buildings and falling towers at Charlestown- the intense anxiety of those interested for the safety of friends and their property- the probable effect of that day's transactions, on the future prosperity of the colonies- combined to render it one of the most thrilling spectacles mortal eye ever witnessed. The British trumpeted this battle as a victory. "If they call this a victory, how many such can the British army achieve without ruin?" asked the Americans.
The following anecdotes of the battle of Bunker's Hill, I find in a letter from
Col. John Trumbell, the artist, to Daniel Putnam, a son of General Israel Putnam,
dated New York, March 30th, 1818. The letter is published in a reply of the latter
to an unkind attack made by Gen. Dearborn, some time previous, in a public journal,
in which the imputation of cowardice was cast upon the brave "Old Put"- who always
dared to lead where any dared to follow. The writer, though a native of the same
county in which the old hero died, never heard of but one act in his adventurous
life which evinced a want of judgment, and that was far from a cowardly one. It was
that of his "entering a cavern to kill a wolf, and leaving his gun outside," until
he entered a second time.
"In the summer of 1786, I became acquainted, in London, with Gen. John Small, of the British army, who had served in America many years, and had known Gen. Putnam intimately during the war of Canada from 1756 to 1763. From him, I had the two following anecdotes respecting the battle of Bunker Hill: I shall nearly repeat his words. Looking at the picture which I had then almost completed, he said: 'I don't like the situation in which you have placed my friend Putnam; you have not done him justice. I wish you would alter that part of your picture, and introduce a circumstance which actually happened, and which I can never forget. When the British troops advanced the second time to the attack of the redoubt, I, with the other British officers, was in front of the line to encourage the men: we had advanced very near the works undisturbed, when an irregular fire, like a feu-de- joie, was poured in upon us; it was cruelly fatal. The troops fell back, and when I looked to the right and left, I saw not one officer standing; - I glance my eye to the enemy, and saw several young men leveling their pieces at me; I knew their excellence as marksmen, and considered myself gone. At that moment, my old friend Putnam rushed forward, and striking up the muzzles of their pieces with his sword, cried out, "For God's sake, my lads, don't fire at that man- I love him as I do my brother." We were so near each other that I heard his words distinctly. He was obeyed; I bowed, thanked him, and walked away unmolested.'"
The other anecdote relates to the death of Gen. Warren:
"At the moment when the troops succeeded in carrying the redoubt, and the Americans were in full retreat, Gen. Howe (who had been hurt by a spent ball, which bruised his ankle,) was leaning on my arm. He called suddenly to me: 'Do you see that elegant young man who has just fallen? Do you know him? I looked to the spot towards which he pointed- 'Good God, sir, I believe it is my friend Warren.' 'Leave me then instantly- run; keep off the troops, save him if possible.' I flew to the spot: 'My dear friend,' I said to him, 'I hope you are not badly hurt.' He looked up, seemed to recollect me, smiled and died! A musket ball had passed through the upper part of his head."
The Congress which met in the summer of 1775, had not yet determined to throw off all allegiance to the British crown, and in July of that year, prepared a declaration of American grievances for the preceding ten years, with the causes which had led to them. They also drew up a respectful address to the King, in which they avowed boldly, that they were, "resolved to die freemen rather than live slaves." This Congress established a general post office and general hospital, and resolved to emit a paper currency. Its proceedings, however, effected nothing towards healing the difficulties with the mother country. In November, the House of Lords, at the motion of the duke of Richmond, met to interrogate ex-governor Penn, who had been two years governor of Pennsylvania. He stated, in reply to certain questions, that he had resided four years in the colonies- that he was personally acquainted with all the members of the American Congress- that the colonists were united- were, to considerable extent, prepared for war- could make powder, small arms and cannon- were more expert at ship-building than Europeans- and that if a formidable force was sent to America, the number of colonists who would be found to join it, would be too trivial to be of any consequence. The duke of Richmond then proposed the last petition of Congress to the King, as a base for a plan of accommodation, and urged the impossibility of ever conquering America, as the learned John Wilkes had emphatically done in the House of Commons, the preceding February: but the motion was lost. In December, Mr. Hartley made an effort to have hostilities suspended: and the following February, Mr. Fox attempted the same thing; soon after which, the King, by a treaty with the Prince of Hesse Cassel, made an arrangement to hire sixteen thousand troops of that Prince, to aid in subduing his American subjects. It was urged in vain, that they were setting the example for the colonies to call in foreign aid. In March of 1776, the duke of Grafton made another ineffectual attempt to open the eyes of the King and ministry, after which war was considered as actually declared. It was thought by the court party, that one or two campaigns at most, would bring America in sack cloth and ashes at the foot of the British throne.
In 1775, the colonies adopted a plain red flag. By a resolution of Congress, the flag of the United States, consisting of thirteen stars and thirteen stripes, was adopted June 14, 1777. On the 13th January 1794, two new states, having been added to the compact, the stars and stripes were increased to fifteen each. In January, 1817, by an act of Congress, it was resolved that it should consist of thirteen stripes, and a star for every additional state.
If matters were every day becoming worse in England, in the latter part of the year 1775, and the early part of '76, they were assuming an aspect no more favorable to a reconciliation in the colonies. Many events had transpired after the battle of Bunker's hill, which served to feed the flame of discord. Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, had pursued a course which rendered him not only odious to a majority of the colonists, but which tended greatly to unite the anti-tea party. The governor of North Carolina, also proved himself to be a tool of the British ministry: while Governor Tryon of New York, in his efforts to please his master, became so unpopular, that he was obliged, in the course of the year to follow the example of Gov. Dunmore, and seek personal safety on board of an armed vessel.
The British, in 1775, burnt Stonington in Connecticut, Bristol in Rhode Island, and Falmouth in Massachusetts; and during the same year, the colonists, in several expeditions, had conquered a good part of Canada. Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, had for some time been arming the slaves, and instigating them to imbrue their hands in the blood of their masters; and on the first of January, 1776, he burnt Norfolk. On the 17th of March following, the British having been compelled to evacuate Boston, Washington entered it, to the great joy of its patriotic citizens. A fleet under Sir Peter Parker, with several thousand British and Hessian troops, arrived on the coast of America early that year. Sir Henry Clinton, after leaving Boston, intended to take possession of New York, but finding General Lee there to oppose him, he sailed with the British fleet to attack Charleston, South Carolina. Lee, learning his intentions, managed to arrive there before him, and prepare the city for an attack. A fort was quickly thrown up on Sullivan's Island, of palmetto trees and sand, commanding the entrance to the harbor.
On the 31st of May, the enemy under Commodore Parker and Sir Henry Clinton, attacked it with a strong force, but were repulsed with severe loss, by the troops under Col. Moultrie, whose name it afterwards bore. The conduct of two sergents, Jasper and McDonald, deserves particular notice.
Says the biographer of Marion: "A ball from the enemy's ships carried away our flagstaff. Scarcely had the stars of liberty touched the sand, before Jasper flew and snatched them up and kissed them with great enthusiasm. Then having fixed them to the point of his spontoon, [a kind of spear,] he leaped upon the breast-work amidst the storm and fury of the battle, and restored them to their daring station- waving his hat at the same time and huzzaing, 'God save liberty and my country forever!' A cannon shot from one of the enemy's guns entered a port-hole and dreadfully mangled McDonald, while fighting like a hero at his gun. As he was borne off in a dying state, he said to his comrades, "Huzza, my brave fellows! I die, but don't let the cause of liberty die with me!" The day after the action, many citizens of Charleston of the first rank of both sexes visited the fort, to tender in person their thanks for its gallant defence, and by it their own protection. Among them was Gov. Rutledge, distinguished for his patriotic zeal and devotion to the cause of his country. In the presence of the regiment to which Jasper belonged, he loosed his own sword and presented it to him, tendering him at the time a commission. The brave sergeant with heart-felt thanks declined accepting the latter, because he could not read. Let parents who neglect to educate their children, consider well the reason this young man gave, for not accepting proffered honor. Nor was this a solitary case, hundreds of daring spirits in the course of the war, were obliged to decline for the same reason the laurels their own valor had won, and see them adorn the brow of their less meritorious brethren.
A Mrs. Elliot, (whose husband was a colonel of artillery,) on the occasion above referred to, presented the regiment with a beautiful American standard, richly embroidered by her own hands. It was delivered to Jasper, who, on receiving it, declared he never would part with in life. He kept his promise; for some time after in an effort to bear off those colors in an attack on Savannah, he was mortally wounded. A short time before his death, he was visited by Major Horry. He spoke with freedom of his past life and future prospects, and dwelt with evident satisfaction on the virtues of his mother. How true it is, that mothers generally lay the foundation for man's future greatness- future happiness. The last moments of many a poor soldier and weather-beaten tar, have added their testimonny to the fact, that lasting advice may generally be traced to the affectionate and pious mother. Jasper sent the sword presented him by Gov. Rutledge, to his father, as a dying memento of his own patriotism. He also left with Major Horry his tender regards for the Jones family 2, in whose fate he had, by a daring exploit, become interested; giving evidence in death, that a just reward attends the good deeds of the virtuous.
About the time the attack was made on Fort Moultrie, Congress appointed Dr. Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll commissioners to carry addresses into Canada, but they affected very little; the Canadians being then, as they have ever since been, too loyal to appreciate liberty.
Early in May, 1776, Congress took measures to sound the colonies on the propriety of casting off all allegiance to the mother country. Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, gave notice that on a future day he would move for a declaration of Independence. From the time of his notice the press proved a powerful auxiliary in the popular cause. Many essays and pamphlets were published and distributed on the subject, and one from the pen of Thomas Paine, entitled Common Sense, aided much in preparing public opinion to sanction the step about to be taken. On the 1st of July it was introduced, and the three following days it was ably discussed, when the vote was taken and six states were enrolled for and six against the declaration, and one equally divided. One of the delegates from Pennsylvania, it is said, was influenced to leave the House, and thus a majority of one vote in a committee of the whole, decided the fate of the declaration. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and R. R. Livingston were appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence. Each prepared one, but that of Jefferson was, with a few slight alterations, adopted, on the fourth of July, 1776; and read as follows.
"THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect for the opinion of mankind requires, that they should declare the causes which inpel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident- that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former system of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
"He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
"He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation, till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend them.
"He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature- a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
"He has called together legislative bodies, at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
"He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.
"He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large, for their exercise; the state remaining, in the meantime, exposed to all the danger of invasion from without and convulsions within.
"He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others, to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
"He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
"He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
"He has erected a multitude of offices, and sent here swarms of officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
"He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
"He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
"He has combined with others, to subject us to a jurisdiction, foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them by a mock trial, from punishment for any murder they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas, to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free system of English law in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power, to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:
"He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.
"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
"He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries, to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun, with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
"He has constrained our fellow citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
"He had excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
"In every stage of these oppressions, we have petitioned for redress, in the most humble terms: our petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince whose character is thus marked, by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
"Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time, of attempts made by their legislature, to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connexions and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind- enemies in war; in peace, friends.
"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, for the rectitude of our intention, DO, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them and the state of Great Britain, is and aught to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Signed by order and in behalf of the Congress.
JOHN HANCOCK, President
Attest. CHARLES THOMPSON, Secretary
New Hampshire. Connecticut. New Jersey. Josiah Bartlett Roger Sherman Richard Stockton William Whipple Samuel Huntington John Witherspoon Matthew Thornton William Williams Francis Hopkinson Oliver Wolcott John Hart Massachusetts Bay. Abraham Clark Samuel Adams New York. John Adams William Floyd Pennsylvania. Robert Treat Paine Philip Livingston Robert Morris Elbridge Gerry Francis Lewis Benjamin Franklin Lewis Morris Benjamin Rush Rhode Island & c. John Morton Stephen Hopkins Virginia. George Clymer William Ellery George Wythe James Wilson Richard Henry Lee George Ross Delaware. Thomas Jefferson Caesar Rodney Benjamin Harrison South Carolina. Thomas M'Kean Thomas Nelson, jr. Edward Rutledge George Read Francis Lightfoot Lee Thomas Heyward, jr. Carter Braxton Thomas Lynch, jr. Maryland. Arthur Middleton Samuel Chase, North Carolina. William Paca, William Hooper Georgia. Thomas Stone, Joseph Hewes Button Gwinnett Charles Caroll of Carollton John Penn Lyman Hall George Walton