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AARON had not been at Litchfield quite a year when the news of Lexington came echoing along the Connecticut hillsides. Already for a decade the clouds had been gathering the Stamp Act, the Massacre, the Tea Party, the Port Bill, the Continental Congress and in August, 1774, Aaron had written to tell Ogden that at Barrington a mob of several hundred persons had torn down the house of a man 'suspected of being unfriendly to the liberties of the people," and interrupted the session of the Court; an early manifestation, it seems to have been, of the Vigilantes spirit, for Aaron had observed about fifty men on horseback entering the town, each of them armed with a white club. The thing was in the air, all during those years-and now, in April, 1775, there were bells ringing, and drums rolling, across the New England greens.
Aaron immediately slapped down his books and was off to the war, and Matthias Ogden, of course, must come with him. In July, the two young volunteers were at Cambridge, with a letter from John
Hancock to General Washington, recommending "Mr. Ogden and Mr. Burr of the Jerseys." But Cambridge was slow, Cambridge was full of Massachusetts colonels, there was no discipline in the camp among the eighteen thousand New Englanders, there was nothing to do so it seemed to the impetuous Mr. Burr in his letters to Sally, written in reply to those from her in which she begged him to "write some newes we are starving for want of it,” and promised him that the "frightful nois of great guns would not keep her from him if he should be "sick or wonded." But that was the trouble-there was not enough likelihood of being "wonded," there was not a sufficiently "frightful nois of great guns" to suit Aaron; and when it was learned that Colonel Benedict Arnold was enlisting men for an expedition against Quebec, in Canada, Mr. Ogden and Mr. Burr of the Jerseys both offered their services, and Samuel Spring was going too, as chaplain, and a certain Mr. James Wilkinson, of Maryland.
There were several reasons for this Canadian venture. Canada had, in 1763, been ceded by France to England, and the Quebec Act of 1774, voted by the British Parliament and maintaining French civil law and the privileges of the Roman Catholic Church, had aroused the most acute fears in the American Colonies. Even Alexander Hamilton, who passed for an extremely intelligent person, was convinced that the continued existence of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada must result in the Inquisition and the burning of heretics at New York and Boston.
The clauses of the Act were simply "dark designs" on the part of King George III to establish a Roman Catholic despotism on the American continent. Mr. Hamilton was to be a prey to a variety of such personal prejudices during his life.
Aside from that, General Washington had his own. slightly erroneous convictions. The war for Independence was to be won in Canada; the Canadians, only recently transferred to the jurisdiction of a "tyrant" King, would rise and fight at the side of their American brothers-all this in spite of the fact that Congress, in condemning the Quebec Act, had not hesitated to voice certain exaggerated opinions concerning the Roman Catholic Church, scarcely calculated to please the devout populations of Canada; and that the Canadians themselves remained in a state of the most complete indifference towards the American revolution, since they were, actually, quite satisfied with their "tyrant" King, under whose authority they enjoyed far greater liberties than they had during the last corrupt years of the French régime.
But General Washington was determined to push the war into Canada; Colonel Ethan Allen had captured Fort Ticonderoga in May; there should now be two expeditions against Quebec-one, under General Schuyler, by way of Lake Champlain into the St. Lawrence; the other, under Benedict Arnold, straight to Quebec through Maine. And when General Schuyler fell ill, his command was given to General Richard Montgomery, who had once served under Wolfe. In spite of the poor quality of his troopsNew Englanders who he found were "every man a