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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10


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If a tenth part of the spirit had been shown by the British government which had been shown in the German wars, where hundreds of millions were voted for soldiers and ships, such a force would have been sent into the American towns, and such a fleet along its coasts, as would speedily have reduced all resistance. The only towns of any considerable size were Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and Charlestown: the three largest scarcely contained twenty thousand inhabitants each; and none of the others had half that number.. All these towns lay on or near the sea-board. They could have been all held by strong garrisons, the ports blockaded, and the trade of America annihilated, by a sufficient fleet. The settlements extended for a thousand miles along the Atlantic. Nothing could have been easier, with a sufficient naval force, than to have scoured the whole of this coast, cut off all trading, and sate still on shore awaiting the event. This was the plan suggested by colonel Barre, who. knew the nature of the country, and warned them of all things not to follow the practised riflemen of America into the woods and swamps of the interior* But the necessary ships were not forthcoming; all the force, the miserable one of twenty thousand, that the ministry in this imminent emergency had sent for the support of the English authority, was cooped up in Boston, inactive - as it were paralysed, and invested by an army without shoes, many of them without shirts, without discipline, and without powder; and all this the British officers, as we shall see, perfectly well knew, and yet they lay still, as if under some spell of sorcery!

When Washington arrived at the camp at Cambridge, instead of twenty thousand men, which he expected on his side, he found only sixteen thousand, and of these only fourteen thousand fit for duty. He describes them as " a mixed multitude of people under very little order or government." They had no uniforms; and Washington recommended congress to send them out ten thousand hunting shirts, as giving them something of a uniform appearance. There was not a single dollar in the military chest; the supply of provisions was extremely deficient and uncertain. There was a great want of engineering tools; and he soon discovered that the battle of Bunker's Hill, which, at a distance, was boasted of as a victory, had been a decided defeat. He immediately set about to reduce this discouraging chaos into new order. Assisted by general Lee, he commenced by having prayers read at the head of the respective regiments every morning. He broke up the freedom which confounded officers and men; he compelled subordination by the free use of the lash, where commands would not serve. He kept them daily at active drill. He laboured incessantly to complete the lines, so that very soon it would be impossible for the enemy to get between the ranks.

The reverend William Emerson, one of the army chaplains, gives a picturesque description of this camp, and which vastly resembles, in its tents and booths, an Australian digging: - " It is very diverting to walk amongst the tents. They are as different in their form as their owners are in their dress, and every tent is a portraiture of the temper and taste of the persons who encamp in it. Some are of boards, and some of sail-cloth; some partly of the one, and partly of the other. Others, again, are made of stone and turf, brick, or brush. Some are thrown up in a hurry; some curiously wrought with doors and windows, done with wreaths and withes in the manner of a basket. Some are your proper tents and marquees, looking like the regular camp of an army."

But the great and - if the English generals had been only properly awake - the fatal want, was that of powder. Washington found that they had but nine rounds of powder to a musket, and next to none for the artillery. "The world," said Franklin, " wondered that we so seldom fired a cannon; why, we could not afford it! " The Massachusetts assembly had passed a resolution that " no inhabitant in the colony should fire a gun at beast, bird, or mark, without a real necessity therefore." And all this was disclosed to general Gage by a deserter, and he still lay in a profound catalepsy! The ministry at home, scarcely more awake to the real danger, were yet astonished at his lethargy; at his thus allowing the insurgents every day to strengthen their position and perfect their discipline; and they recalled him under the plea of consulting him on the affairs of the colony. He sailed from Boston in October, leaving the chief command to general Howe.

Before this, Georgia had sent in her adhesion to the congress. The reverend Dr. Zably and four others were elected delegates to that body. Though Georgia was not at all included in the late severe acts, its representatives declared that, to remain aloof on that account, would betray a mean insensibility to the oppression of the rest of the colonies. They adopted resolutions similar to those of the congress of Virginia, and on their accession the general congress assumed the style of "The Thirteen United Colonies."

In England, during these transactions in America, the people were in general equally besotted with the government, and more enraged at the resistance of the colonies, than indignant at the unconstitutional government which originated that resistance. The metropolis, however, exhibited a very different spirit. There Wilkes was now lord mayor; and he and his party presented an address to the king, in strong terms condemning the proceedings of ministers, as calculated to establish despotism both at home and in our colonies. They prayed for their instant dismissal; but the king replied that he was astonished that any of his subjects should be found encouraging the Americans in their rebellion, and declaring his resolve to follow the recommendations of parliament. At the very next common hall another address, or rather remonstrance, was voted, and the sheriffs were instructed to inquire whether the king would receive it of the throne. The king declined, claiming the right to receive addresses when he pleased. The address was eventually received in some manner. Government, however, to check the insolence of the city, issued a proclamation against encouraging rebelling, and to authorise the suppression of seditious correspondence. Wilkes, as lord mayor, would not suffer this proclamation to be read in the usual manner at the Royal Exchange, by the proper officers on horseback, but sent inferior officers on foot; and the mob, on hearing the proclamation, broke out into a storm of hisses and groans.

A few days after this, Richard Perm, attended by Arthur Lee, the resident agent of the American colonies, presented to the king the petition from congress, and was informed that there was no answer. This was certain to put the finish to the American resentment. It was received as an act of the last contempt; and ever after, through the unhappy contest, if any Americans were inclined to regret the war, they were always reminded of the second petition of congress, and the haughty rejection of it, and with it all chance of adjustment.

The gentlemen and traders of London, struck with consternation at this unyielding temper on the part of the government, presented, on the 11th of October, a solemn address to the throne, expressing the most awful apprehensions of the results, and of the ruin of our commerce; of the well-grounded expectation that France and Spain would come into the struggle against us; and of the report, only too correct, that the ministry were contemplating the employment of foreign mercenaries to tread down the liberties and the people of America, who were our own flesh and blood. Other addresses were poured in from town and country of the like kind, and ministers and their friends exerted themselves to procure counteracting ones from both London and the provinces.

Under such circumstances parliament met on the 26th of October. The king, in his speech, declared that he had called the parliament together thus early, on account of the disturbed condition of America. He seemed to attribute the presumption of the American colonies to the encouragement they had received here from persons who had been active to infuse into the minds of the colonists ideas contrary to the constitution of those dependencies; that the Americans had now openly avowed their hostility, and proceeded to bloodshed; they had usurped all the legislative and executive authority there, had laid hands on the revenue, and were in arms against our whole power. He complained that they had tried to arouse us, whilst we were candidly and anxiously seeking to satisfy them; and after praising the moderation and forbearance of the parent state, he declared it was time to exert our mighty strength and resources to quell the rebellion. He avowed that he had hired foreign troops at a cheaper rate to assist in the task of reducing the insurgents, but that, in order to employ as many as possible of our own soldiers in this office, he had sent his own electoral troops to supply the place of British ones at Gibraltar and Port Mahon.

This was a sad confession, confirming all that the city addresses had surmised, that foreign troops were to be employed to cut down our own kindred. Yet the deluded monarch talked of tempering severity with mercy; and having just repelled the Americans who had petitioned for a last hearing, and a last chance of argument, he declared that he had sent commissioners over to America to receive the submission of any repentant state. Lastly, George assured parliament that he had received the most satisfactory assurances from all foreign powers of peace and sympathy, and that, therefore, he saw no probability of the dispute being prolonged by the interference of any other state.

Such was this most unprophetic speech. Application had indeed been made to the continental powers on friendly terms with us, requesting them to prevent their subjects supplying ammunition or other assistance to the rebellious colonists. Spain refused to pledge herself to any such condition. France merely announced to her subjects, that, if they traded with the Americans, they would do it at their own risk. Denmark and Holland engaged to maintain neutrality and non-intervention of trade. But in most of these countries the subjects were left to elude the conditions. From Holland powder was exported as schiedam; and in cases where such cargoes were brought to the notice of the government, the offender was only fined the paltry sum of ninety pounds.

Lord John Cavendish moved an amendment upon the address, praying the king to institute fuller inquiry into the circumstances and conditions of America before calling foreign troops, expressing a conviction that the whole difference arose from want of adequate information in this country, and that a serious review of the whole causes of the unhappy difference might yet avert the threatened horrors of a civil war.

This amendment was zealously supported by the opposition. Barre declared that the late campaign had been conducted by fools and madmen. Fox said that we had lost more already in one campaign than Alexander the Great had ever gained in all his conquests, for we had lost a continent. General Conway was equally severe. Lord North defended this measure, and the amendment was thrown out by two hundred and seventy-eight votes against one hundred and eight. In the house of lords, lord Rockingham moved a similar amendment, and a warm debate took place, presenting some startling features. Lord Dartmouth, the secretary for American affairs, admitted that the late campaign had been unsuccessful; and lord Gower attributed this to the delusive nature of the information regarding America which had hitherto been given to ministers. But the most startling thing was to see the duke of Grafton, who had originally been as active as any one in the ministry in prosecuting the quarrel, suddenly back out of it, and take the most determined stand against the war. In August Grafton had written to lord North, strongly urging the advisability of a reconciliation with America. Seven weeks he had waited in vain for a reply, and that only came inclosing the king's speech. Grafton immediately hastened up to town, and in an audience with the king told him that he would discover too late that his ministers were misleading him, and that he would find that twice the number of troops would only augment the disgrace, and never effect his purpose. This remonstrance having no effect, he immediately resigned the privy seal, and took his stand with the opposition, to the public astonishment, in favour of a full and immediate conciliation of the outraged colonists.

Unfortunately for England, lord Chatham was again oppressed with his former malady, and could not take an active part in politics, nor did he recover fully from it till the spring of 1777. His powerful voice was therefore lost oil this most important occasion, but his opinions were well known, and he had lately recovered himself sufficiently to show how strong that opinion was. His eldest son, lord Pitt, had been aide-de-camp to general Carleton in Canada, and this autumn was sent home with despatches. Chatham now induced him to withdraw from the army rather than be employed against the Americans; and the earl of Effingham also resigned his commission on the same grounds.

These circumstances added great force to the resignation of the duke of Grafton, and to his decided testimony to the impolicy and wickedness of the war against the colonies. He confessed his hitherto total ignorance of the real condition and real temper of the colonies; that he had been persuaded that a show of coercion would prevent the exercise of coercion itself; that he now saw the folly of these opinions, and protested that nothing but a total and immediate repeal of all the coercive acts would make accommodation possible.

The bishop of Peterborough supported the views of Grafton, fully justifying the duke for his present conduct by the total failure of all the promises of ministers to him, and by the delusive information given him. It was difficult to say where this defection would end, and nothing was more significant than the fact that all the men of superior genius and ability, Chatham, Burke, Fox, Barre, and out of parliament, Junius and Home Tooke, were ranged on the side of conciliation; all the commonplace and routine minds only were for increased rigour. America was lost in spite of the most determined warnings of the highest intellect of the nation, and by men only fitted to travel in the wake of greatness. The motion of lord Rockingham suffered the fate of such motions, though two bishops voted in favour of it, and nineteen peers entered a protest against the decision.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10

Boston Boys
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North American forest scene
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Flag of the Colonists
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View on the river St. Lawrence
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First house erected at Quebec
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