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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 7


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But scarcely had this bill of lord North's been brought forward, when he seemed to have been struck with compunction. He had listened to the outlines of negotiation with Franklin, through lord Howe and David Barclay, and though these, as we have seen, had come to nought, he was still sufficiently impressed by the solemn warnings of Chatham and others to attempt a conciliatory measure of his own. Accordingly, on the 20th of February, only ten days after his bill restrictive of the American trade, and whilst it was progressing, he moved in a committee of the whole house, " That if the legislature of any of the American provinces should propose to make some provision for the common defence, and also for the civil government of that province, and if such proposal shall be approved of by the king and parliament, it would be proper to forbear, whilst such provision lasted, from levying or proposing any tax, duty, or assessment within the said province."

This proposal, which, at an earlier stage of the dispute, might have been listened to, was one at this stage which was sure to be rejected, and was only one of those miserable half measures which commonplace minds so frequently put forth only to demonstrate their inability to grasp the amplitude of the occasion. It was supposed that the measure had been intended to be larger, but that the Bedford party had fallen on it in council, and reduced it to these pitiable dimensions. Yet when it was introduced into the commons by lord North, the Bedford party looked at each other in consternation, and soon the tempest broke loose in the treasury benches themselves. Welbore Ellis, usually so compliant to ministerial measures, and Rigby, the Bedford creature, denounced the proposal as giving up everything to the Americans and the opposition. All was confusion, and, as lord Chatham afterwards observed, lord North looked like a man exploded; the whole cabinet seemed about to explode too, altogether. In vain did lord North endeavour to calm the enraged friends of government. Gibbon, in a letter to lord Sheffield, says - " We went into the house in confusion, expecting every moment that the Bedfords would fly into rebellion against these measures. Lord North rose six times in the midst of 4 lives and fortunes, war and famine.' He rose to appease the storm, but all in vain; till at length Sir Gilbert Elliot declared for administration, and the troops all rallied under their proper standard."

But the storm was appeased only by lord North's condescending to explain his measure in such a manner as deprived it of every particle of generous feeling, and reduced it to the lowest Machiavellian level. He said, the real object of the resolution was to divide the Americans - to satisfy the moderate part of them, and oppose them to the immoderate, to separate the wheat from the chaff; that he never expected his proposal to be generally acceptable. On this, colonel Barre and Burke assaulted him fiercely. Barre branded the whole scheme as founded on that low, shameful, abominable maxim, "Divide et impera." Burke declared that the proposition was at variance with every former principle of parliament, directly so with the restrictive measures now in progress; that it was mean without being conciliatory. But the resolution passed by two hundred and seventy-four votes against eighteen.

Whilst these measures were in agitation, a petition and memorial from the house of assembly of Jamaica was read. This document declared, that, to cut off the trade of the American colonies, was to ruin the sugar colonies too. It maintained the right of the Americans to tax themselves, and not to be taxed by others. Glover, the author of " Leonidas," was heard at the bar as the agent of the Jamaica assembly, and ably stated their views. He showed that the West Indian colonies contributed directly seven hundred thousand pounds yearly to the national resources, and exported forty thousand hogsheads of sugar annually to England, besides taking in return a vast quantity of our manufactures, and that this revenue and trade we were endangering, and even risking the loss of the West Indian colonies too.

Again, on the 22nd of March, Burke made another earnest effort to induce the infatuated ministers and their adherents in parliament to listen to reason. In one of the finest speeches that he ever made, he introduced a series of thirteen resolutions, which went to abolish the obnoxious acts of parliament, and admit the principle of the colonial assemblies exercising the power of taxation. In the course of his speech he drew a striking picture of the rapid growth and the inevitable future importance of these colonies. He reminded the house that the people of New England and other colonies had quitted this country because they would not submit to arbitrary measures; that in America they had cultivated this extreme independence of character, both in their religion and their daily life; that almost every man there studied law, and that nearly as many copies of Black- stone's Commentaries had been sold there as in England; that they were the protestants of protestants, the dissenters of dissenters; that the church of England there was a mere sect; that the foreigners who had settled there, disgusted with tyranny at home, had adopted the extremest principles of liberty flourishing there; that all men there were accustomed to discuss the principles of law and government, and that almost every man sent to the congress was a lawyer; that the very existence of slavery in the southern states made white inhabitants hate slavery the more in their own persons. "You cannot," he said, "content such men at such a distance - nature fights against you. Who are you that you should fret, rage, and bite the chains of nature? Nothing worse happens to you than does to all nations who have extensive empires. In all such extended empires authority grows feeble at the extremities. The Turk and the Spaniard find it so, and are compelled to comply with this condition of nature, and derive vigour in the centre from the relaxation of authority on the borders."

Both Burke and Chatham were on the verge of that true knowledge of colonial government, which our statesmen of to-day have learned from the great American catastrophe - the knowledge that it is best to leave colonies entirely to conduct their own affairs - the true profit to us flowing from their trade. The idea of imperial dignity blinded them only on that one point, but even so far as they saw they were not followed. Burke's resolutions were negatived by the same great majorities as was another scheme introduced by David Hartley, the son of the philosopher, soon after, which was negatived without a division. Clinging to the hope of some saving measure being yet adopted, Mr. Hartley proposed that the late restrictive acts on the trade of New England should be suspended for three years; but in vain.

In the meantime, petitions, memorials, and remonstrances were presented from New York and other places, and from the British inhabitants of Canada, but all were rejected. On the 26th of May George III. prorogued parliament, and expressed his perfect satisfaction in its proceedings; so utterly unconscious was this king that he was alienating a great empire, and which, indeed, was already virtually gone from him; for during the very time that parliament had been protesting against even the contemptible crumbs of concession offered by ministers, war had broken out, blood had flowed, and the Americans had triumphed!

During the winter they had been preparing for war; fabricating and repairing arms; drilling militia; and calling on one another, by proclamations, to be ready. On the 26th of February general Gage sent a detachment to take possession of some brass cannon and field-pieces collected at Salem. A hundred and fifty regulars landed at Salem for this purpose, but, finding no cannon there, they proceeded to the adjoining town of Danvers. They were stopped at a bridge by a party of militia, under colonel Pickering, who claimed the bridge as private property, and refused a passage. They then attempted to pass by a boat, but some Americans jumped into the boat, and cut holes in its bottom with their axes. There was likely to be bloodshed on the bridge, but it was Sunday, and some ministers of Salem pleaded the sacredness of the day, and prevailed on colonel Pickering to let the soldiers pass. They found nothing, and soon returned.

Again, on the night betwixt the 18th and 19th of April, general Gage sent a detachment of about eight hundred grenadiers and light infantry to destroy a depot of stores and arms at Concord, about twenty miles from Boston. They were commanded by lieutenant-colonel Smith, and major Pitcairn, of the marines. Every possible precaution had been taken to keep this movement secret, but the New Englanders were well informed by their spies and agents of every particular. The alarm was given - fires kindled, bells rang, guns discharged - and the whole country was up. It was supposed that the first intention was to seize Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were lodging at Lexington. The British troops reached Lexington at five o'clock in the morning, and pushed on their light infantry to secure the bridges. They encountered a body of militia under cover of a gun near the road, whom they ordered to retire, and they retired in haste.

Here the Americans assert, that when the minute men did not retire on the first order, the English fired on them and killed eight of them. The English, on the other hand, declare that the Americans, in retiring, no sooner reached the shelter of a wall than they fired on the British; that the firing came also from some adjoining houses, and shot one man, and wounded major Pitcairn's horse in two places; that then the English were ordered to fire, that they killed several, wounded others, and put the body, about a hundred in number, to flight. The English then pushed on to Concord, the grenadiers having now come up. On approaching Concord they observed another body of minute-men drawn up on a hill near the meeting-house, but, as the regulars advanced, these retired across a bridge into the town. The regulars advanced and took possession of the bridge, sending a number of soldiers into the town to destroy the stores there. They succeeded in throwing into the river five hundred pounds of ball, breaking to pieces sixty barrels of flour, part of which, however, was recovered, and spiking three guns.

By this time the alarm had spread, the minute-men came running from all places, and as the English, having executed their commission, began to retire, the Americans shouted, " The lobsters run!" The minute-men now rushed over the bridge after them, and firing from behind trees and walls, killed a considerable number of them. The Americans - excellent shots with their rifles - could only be seen by the smoke of these rifles, and the English, tired with their long night march, instead of halting to hunt them out, kept on their way towards Lexington. The whole march was of this description: the English, unable to get a good shot at their enemies, the minute-men pressing on their rear, still sheltered by trees and walls. The result would have been more disastrous had not general Gage sent on to Lexington another detachment of foot and marines, consisting of about sixteen companies, under command of lord Percy. His lordship formed his troops into a hollow square, in which he received the exhausted soldiers, who flung themselves on the ground with their tongues hanging out of their mouths, like dogs after a chase.

After they were somewhat rested, lord Percy slowly marched back towards Boston, but the Americans, who had drawn back at the junction of these fresh troops, now hung again on their rear in increased numbers, and, carefully concealing themselves behind trees, walls, and in houses, kept up an almost incessant fire the whole way - the English scarcely ever being able to get a shot at them. As they approached the river, some Americans endeavoured to draw them, on pretence of showing them a ford, into an ambuscade, but lord Percy used his own judgment, and crossed safely. But the other side of the river was equally infested with rifle-men, who followed the troops to the very gates of Boston, which they entered, quite worn out, about sunset. In this first bloodshed betwixt the colonists and the mother country, the English found they had lost sixty killed, forty-nine missing, and one hundred and thirty-six wounded. The Americans admitted that they had a loss of sixty, of whom two-thirds were killed.

The Americans, elated with their success, styled it "the glorious victory in the battle of Lexington," for we shall find the colonists continually exalting skirmishes into battles. They said that lord Percy, in the morning, marched to the tune of Yankee-Doodle, but came back in the evening in Chevy-Chace. They boasted that they would drive Gage and his soldiers out of Boston, but the men-of-war lying close under the town, and the works on the neck, kept them from any immediate attempt; and, instead of venturing on an assault, they determined to commence a blockade. The news spread on every side; the retreat of the English from Concord, which always was intended, as soon as the object was accomplished, was represented as an ignominious flight before the conquering Americans, and the effect was marvellous. Men flocked from all quarters. There were some twenty thousand men assembled round Boston, forming a line nearly as many miles in extent, with their left leaning on the river Mystic, and their right on the town of Boston. They were under the command of colonel Artemas Ward, assisted by Heath, Prescott, and Thomas. They were soon joined by the gallant colonel Israel Putnam, who had served in the two last wars, but, on the conclusion ofthat in 1763, had retired to a small farm, where he also kept a tavern., The news of the skirmish at Lexington reached him as he was repairing the stone fence of his land, dressed in a leathern frock and apron. Doffing those, he mounted his horse, and by sunrise the next morning was at Concord, where he was soon joined by three thousand men from Connecticut; and Jedediah Pribble having declined attending, on the plea of ill-health, Putnam became with Ward the souls of the American army. Gage, who was waiting fresh reinforcements, lay quiet, contented to hold his "post, when he might, according to military authorities, have attacked the American lines,, at first loose, and without any proper order and consistency, with great advantage.

The provincial congress of Massachusetts now established themselves at Water-town, about ten miles from Boston, and issued orders for raising an army of thirty thousand men, thirteen thousand of them to be of that province. They dispatched letters and messengers to the several colonies of Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island for assistance and further co-operation. They appointed Ward captain- general, Thomas lieutenant-general, and Gridley chief engineer. They also dispatched John Darly, of Salem, to England, to convey the account of the battle of Lexington to Franklin, and with an address to the people of England, declaring that they would never submit to the tyranny of a cruel ministry, but would die or be free. Franklin, however, had sailed for America, and the Massachusetts agency was left in the hand of Arthur Lee, who was ordered to communicate the particulars at once to the city of London, and to circulate them through the newspapers.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 7

Boston Boys
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John Adams
John Adams >>>>
North American forest scene
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The colonists under Liberty Tree
The colonists under Liberty Tree >>>>
The residence of George Washington
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The skirmish at Lexington
The skirmish at Lexington >>>>
View of Charlestown
View of Charlestown >>>>
George Washington and his mother
George Washington and his mother >>>>
Flag of the Colonists
Flag of the Colonists >>>>
Plan of the battle of Bunkers Hill
Plan of the battle of Bunkers Hill >>>>
A Canadian Indian
A Canadian Indian >>>>
View on the river St. Lawrence
View on the river St. Lawrence >>>>
Near Quebec
Near Quebec >>>>
A Canadian forest scene
A Canadian forest scene >>>>
The cauldron rapids, near Ottawa
The cauldron rapids, near Ottawa >>>>
Waterfall of Montmorency
Waterfall of Montmorency >>>>
First house erected at Quebec
First house erected at Quebec >>>>

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