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126 THE AMERICAN WAR. Book ili.
The province of Massachusetts was not the only theatre of popular commotions; all had a part in this general convulsion. The inhabitants, at many points, fearing the governor might get the start of them in respect to seizing the powder, as he had done at Charlestown, flew to possess themselves of what lay in the forts and powder magazines of the king. Thus it happened at Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, where the provincials stormed the fort, and carried off the powder and artillery. The inhabitants of Rhode Island did the same ; the people of Newport rose, and took possession of forty pieces of cannon, which defended the harbor.
The removal of the powder at Charlestown, and the fortifications carrying on at Boston, together with the popular agitations, occasioned a meeting of delegates from the different towns and boroughs of the county of Suffolk, of which Boston is the capital. They took very spirited resolutions; purporting, that no obedience was due to the late acts of parliament, but, on the contrary, hatred and execration, since they were attempts to enslave America; that the appointment of public officers by virtue of these acts, was contrary to constitutional statutes and principles; that the country would indemnify the subordinate officers, who should refuse to execute the orders of their superiors, appointed under the new laws; that the collectors of the public money should retain it in their hands, and make no payment, until the ancient laws of the colony should be reestablished, or until it should be ordered otherwise by the provincial congress; that those who had accepted the new offices must resign them before the 20th of September; and if not, they should be declared enemies to the country; that officers of the militia should be chosen in every town, selecting for this purpose, individuals skilful in arms, and inflexibly attached to the rights of the people; that, as it had been reported it was in contemplation to apprehend certain persons of the county, if this menace should be executed, the royal officers should be immediately seized, and detained as hostages; that the people should be exhorted to maintain tranquillity, and merit, by their moderation, by their steady, uniform and persevering resistance, in a contest so important, in a cause so solemn, the approbation of the wise, and the admiration of the brave, of every country, and of every age.
Another assembly, but of the entire province of Massachusetts, was held at Salem. The governor not choosing to sanction it by his presence, they formed themselves into a provincial congress, and elected Hancock president. After having addressed their complaints to the governor, of the fortifications of the isthmus, they took extraordinary measures for the defence of the province. They prepared munitions of war, they filled magazines with provisions, they enrolled twelve thousand of the militia, whom they called minute men; that is, soldiers that must hold themselves in readiness to march at a
BOOK III. THE AMERICAN WAR. 127
minute's notice. The decrees and recommendations of the provincial congress were executed with the same exactness as if they had emanated from a legitimate authority. Thus, the plans of the British ministers produced, in America, effects contrary to their intentions. Already, every appearance announced the approach of civil war. In the midst of this agitation, and of apprehensions inspired by the future, the general congress assembled at Philadelphia; it was composed of delegates from all the American colonies.
END OF BOOK THIRD. ,
1774. The deputies of the different colonies arrived in Philadelphia on the 4th of September, except those of North Carolina, who delayed their appearance until the 14th of the same month. All were men of note, and distinguished by the public favor. Far from being persons destitute of the goods of fortune, they were all landed É. and some possessed even great opulence. Several had een instructed by their constituents, to exert their utmost endeavors to secure the liberty of America, by the most suitable means, and to restore the ancient course of things with England; others, to vote for resolutions relative to the exercise of commerce, calculated to induce the English government to embrace milder counsels towards the colonies; others, finally, were invested with unlimited authority to do whatsoever, in the present circumstances, they should judge most conducive to the public good. Having met on the 5th, they resolved that their deliberations should be kept secret, until the majority should direct them to be published; and that, in determining questions, each colony should have but one vote, whatever might be the number of its deputies. They elected for president, Peyton Randolph, of Virginia; and for secretary, Charles Thomson. They were in number fifty-five.” For a long time, no spectacle had been offered to the attention of mankind, of so powerful an interest as this of the present American congress. It was indeed a novel thing, and as it were miraculous, that a nation, hitherto almost unknown to the people of Europe, or only known by the commerce it occasionally exercised in their ports, should, all at once, step forth from this state of oblivion, and, rousing as from a long slumber, should seize the reigns to govern itself; that the various parts of this nation, hitherto disjoined, and almost in opposition to each other, should now be united in one body, and moved by a single will; that their long and habitual obedience should be suddenly changed for the intrepid counsels of resistance, and of open defiance, to the formidable nation whence they derived their origin and laws. There had been observed, at intervals, it is true, in the vast dominions of Spain in America, some popular agitations; but they were easily repressed by the government. In the colonies of Portugal, the public repose had never been interrupted. France, in like manner, had always found her American subjects inclined to a willing submission. It was reserved for the English colonies, to afford the first example of resistance, and of a struggle to separate themselves from
* See Note I.
the parent state. Such, however, was the necessary consequence of the constitution of England, and of her colonies; of the opinions which prevailed in the latter; of the memory of ancient revolutions; and of the discontents which, from time to time, had manifested them.” selves in America, but which now, for the first time, menaced an inevitable, and not distant explosion; for the congress of Albany had presented nothing illegal in its character, since it had been convoked by the legitimate authorities. It had manifested no tendency towards a new order of things; though perhaps the secret counsels of those who composed it eventually aspired at independence; but, in effect, nothing was regulated by that assembly, except the interests of the English colonies with regard to the Indian nations of the vicinity. When the congress of New York was convened, the excitement of men's minds was not yet so extreme, the popular disorders had not taken so alarming a character, nor had the government then displayed so much rigor, nor prostrated so many colonial statutes. On the other hand, the members of this congress, though possessed of much, had not so entire an influence with the American people as those of the congress of Philadelphia; nor did they excite such public expectation of future events as the latter assembly. The colonists looked upon it as a convention of men who, in some mode or other, were to deliver their country from the perils that menaced it. The greater part believed that their ability, their prudence and their immense influence with the people, would enable them to obtain from the government the removal of the evils that oppressed them, and the reestablishment of the ancient order of things. Some others cherished the belief, that they would find means to conduct the American nation to that independence which was the first and most ardent of their aspirations, or rather the sole object of that intense passion which stung and tormented them, night and day. The confidence they had placed in the congress, was equal to the aversion they had conceived to the new laws. The generality of people, usually ignorant what obstacles must be encountered in great enterprises, deem their grievances already removed, when they have confided to a few the interests of all; the colonists, accordingly, attributing to their new delegates greater power than they in reality possessed, were generally elated with the most flattering hopes. They knew that a union of minds is the most efficacious instrument of success; and their concord was prodigious; all were ready to sacrifice their lives and their fortunes to the triumph of their cause. Not that there existed none of another mind, who would gladly have held a quite different course; but they were few, in this first impulse, and they were reduced to silence by the consent and enthusiasm of all the others. No other government, however consolidated by the lapse of ages or the force of arms, ever experienced so much promptness and punctuality of obedience as the American congress. The colonists were disposed WOL. I. 17
to receive its deliberations, not only as the useful and salutary laws of a good government, but as the revered precepts and oracles of men consecrated and generously devoted to the salvation of their country. Such was the posture of affairs in America at the epoch of the convocation of congress. But in Europe, the novelty of circumstances had excited strong emotions in the minds of all; in some, creating fear, in others hope, in all, astonishment. In England, the ministerial party declaimed with vehemence against the audacity of the Americans, who were called rebels; and the most rigorous counsels were already proposed. They could not comprehend how a people like that of America, divided, as they had always been, by a sectarian spirit, into various schisins and parties, should now be capable of a concord so entire, as to present but one only sentiment, and but one same will;-how, laying aside the mutual rancor resulting from the diversity of their opinions and interests, they should all, at the present moment, have concurred in a resolution to defend and maintain what they considered their rights, against England. “Is it conceivable, that a nation which subsists by its commerce, that has no naval armament, and, whose principal cities are exposed to the vengeance of a maritime enemy, that is unprovided with regular and veteran troops, should have the hardihood to dispute the will of the British nation, powerful in arms, radiant with the glory of its recent achievements, inexhaustible in public and private resources, strong in a government cemented by the hand of time, formidable for the prodigious number of its ships, and abounding in experienced commanders, both of land and sea P" But it was answered on the other side; ‘Wherefore this astonishment at the resolution of the Americans? Even though it were true, that, as to the means of sustaining war, they were thus inferior to Great Britain, who is ignorant that men inflamed by the zeal of political opinions do not descend to nice calculations, or spend time in weighing the probabilities of the future ? And has not England herself many difficulties to surmount: Is she not divided, even upon this question of America, by the spirit of party Opinions are so much at variance on this subject, that a great number, it is clear, would march against the colonists with extreme repugnance. A vast ocean separates from us the countries in which the war must be carried on ; this circumstance alone will, of necessity, cause an incalculable expense, an enormous waste of military stores, an affrightful sacrifice of men, the most fatal delays, and a frequent defect of correspondence between measures and exigencies. The finances of England are exhausted by the exorbitant debt contracted in times past, and especially during the late war; the revenue falls far short of meeting the ordinary expenditure; and so ponderous an increase of burthen as the disbursements of this new war must involve, would absolutely crush the resources of the state. Be