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was greatly deficient in arms, tents, clothing, and all military stores ; and notwithstanding his urgent entreaties on this subject, such was the destitute siate of America, that Congress with all their exertions were unable to supply him. Two thousand men in camp, were at this time without arms; and no confidence could be placed in many of the muskets, which were in the hapds of the soldiery. In this weak and deficient condition, General Washington was to pose a powerful and well appointed army, and tr, guard against the intrigues of those in New-York and its neighbourhvod, who were disaffected to the American causc : the.e were numerous, powerful, and enterprising. A, lan was laid by Governour Tryon, through the agency of the Mayor of the city, to aid the enemy in landing, and to seize the person of General WashINGTON. The defection reached the American army, and even some of the General's guard engaged in the conspiracy; but it was seasonably discovered, and a number of those concerned in it were executed.
The permanent troops being found incompetent to defend the country, it became necessary to call detachments of militia into the field ; and Congress, placing implicit confidence in the judgment and patriotism of their General, invested him with discretionary powers, to call on the governments of the neighbouring Colonies, for such numbers as circumstances should require ; and they empowered him to form those maga. zines of military stores, which he might deem to be necessary. In pursuance of the measure recommend. ed by Congress, a requisition was made for thirtcen thousand-and eight hundred of the militia from Mas. sachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, and New-Jersey.
While these defensive preparations were going for ward in the camp, Congress was ripening measures to dcclare the Colonies independent of Great Britain. The free exercise of their constitutional rights was
e extent of the American claim at the commence
ment of the controversy, and a reconciliation with the parent state, by a redress of grievances, was the ardent desire of the great body of the American people ; but the operations of war produced other feelings and views: A general alienation of affection from the British government took place, and it was thought that the mutual confidence of the two countries could never be restored. In the common apprehension, it becamo an absurdity, that one country should maintain authority over another, distant from it three thousand miles The restrictions of Great Britain upon the Colonial trade, in the course of investigation, appeared as a heavy burden, and the commerce of the world was viewed as a high reward of independence : common sense dictated, that the ability successfully to contend for the liberty formerly enjoyed as British Colonies, strenuously exerted, would secure to the country the more honourable and permanent blessings of an independent and sovereign nation. The declaration of independence was supposed to be the most effectual means to secure the aid of foreign powers; because the great kingdoms of Europe would be disposed to assist the efforts of the Colonies to establish an inde. pendent government, although they would not interfore with their struggles to regain the liberties of British subjects. By reasonings of this nature, the minds of the American people were ripened to renounce their allegiance to Britain, and to assume a place am ng independent nations; and the representatives of most of the Colonies were instructed to support in Congrese ineasures for his important purpose.
Early in June, the following resolution was moved in Congress by Richard Henry Lee, and seconded by John Adams, “ Resolved that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; and that all political connexion between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.'. This resolution was solemnly de
bated for several days, and finally passed Con. JULY 4. grers, in the affirmative, by the unanimous
suffrage of its members. The duties of the field precluded General WashingTon from a primary agency in this important, national nieasure; but it met his full approbation. On the re. coption of the instrument, he wrote as follows to the President of Congress.
“I perceive that Congress have been employed in de. liberating on measures of the most important nature. It is certain that it is not with us to determine in many ilistances, what consequences will flow from our counscls; but yet it behooves us to adopt such, as, under the smiles of a gracious and all kind Providence, will be most likely to promote our happiness. I trust the late decisive part they have taken, is calculated for that end, and will secure us that freedom, and those privileges, which have been, and are, refused us, contrary to the voice of nature, and the British Constitution. Agreeable to the request of Congress, I caused The Declaration to be proclaimed before all the army, under my immediate command ; and have the pleasure to inform them, that the measure seemed to have their most hearty consent; the expressions and behaviour of both officers and men, testifying their warmest approbation of it.”
General Howe had sailed from Halifax in June, and early in July landed his army, without serious opposition, cn Staten Island; and on the twelfth of that month, he was joined by Lord Howe, with the reinforcements for the arıy. Lord How? had been ap. pointed to command the naval force on the American station ; and he and the General were invested with the powers of Commissioners to treat with individuals, and with corporate bodies in the Colonies, upon terms of reconciliation with Britain. Although independence was already declared, yet they were anxious to commence negotiation; and thongh unwilling to re cognise the official capacity of Congress, or of General
Washington, yet they desired to open with them a correspondence. His Lordship sent a letter by a flag, directed to “George Washington, Esq.” This the General refused to receive, as“ it did not acknowledge the publick character, with which he was invested by Congress, and in no other character could he have any intercourse with his Lordship.” Congress, by a formal resolution, approved the dignified conduct of their General, and directed, “ That no letter or message bo received on any occasion whatever from the enemy, by the Commander in Chief, or others, the Commanders of the American army. but such as shall be directed to them in the character they respectively sustain."
An intercourse between the British commander, and General Washington, was greatly desired for political reasons, as well as for purposes growing out of the
Not yet disposed to adopt his military address, they sent Colonel Patterson, Adjutant General of the British army, to the American head quarters, with a letter directed to“ George Washington, &c. &c. &c.' When the Colonel was introduced to the General, he addressed him by the title of Excellency, and said, “ that General Howe greatly regretted the difficulty that had arisen respecting the address of the letter; that the manner of direction had been common with Ambassadors and Plenipotentiaries, in cases of nispute about rank and precedency; that General WASH. INGTON had himself, the last vear, directed a letter in the foliowing manner, “ The Hon. William Howe ;" that Lord and General Howe held his person and character in the highest respect, and did not mean to derogate from his rank; and, that the et ceteras inn. plied every thing which ought to follow.” He then laid the letter which had been before sent, on the table.
The General, declining its reception, observed, “that a letter, directed to a publick character, should have an address descriptive of that character, or it might be considered as a private letter. It was true that the
ef. ceteras implied every thing, they also implied any thing. The letter alluded to, was in answer to one received from General Howe, under the like address, wlich being received by the officer on duty, he did not think proper to return; and therefore answered in the same mode of address; and that he should abso. lutely decline any letter relating to his publick station, directed to him as a private person.”
Colonel Patterson then said, that General Howe would not urge his delicacy farther, and repeated his assertion, that no failure of respect was intended. Some general conversation then passed, respecting the treatment of prisoners, when the Colonel proceeded to observe, that the goodness of the King had induced him to appoint Lord and General Howe his commissioners, to accommodate the dispute that had unhappily arisen ; that their powers were very extensive, and they would be highly gratified in effecting the accommodation; and he wished his visit might be considered as the introduction to negotiation.
General Washington replied, that Congress had not invested him with powers to negotiate ; but he would observe, that from what had transpired, it appeared that Lord and General Howe were only empowered to grant pardons : that they who had committed no faults, wanted no pardon; and that the Americans were only defending what they thought their indubitable rights. Colonel Patterson rejoined, that this would open a wide field of argument, and after expressir.g his fears, that an adherence to forms might obstruct business of the greatest moment, took his leave. The highest courtesy was observed in this conference: the address of Colonel Patterson was manly and polished; the American General fully supported the dignity of his character and station; and the scene was highly interesting to spectators
The Commander in Chief expected no salutary consequences to result from the agency of the British