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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 8


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The congress next ordered the issue of one hundred thousand pounds in paper money, in such small sums as should circulate as currency. This was the first step into the miseries of war, a paper currency not having been used in Massachusetts for a quarter of a century, and certain, if the war continued, to suffer fearful depreciation.

The inhabitants of Boston, not relishing the idea of a blockade, applied to Gage for permission to retire. He replied that they were at liberty to do so with their families and effects, on surrendering their arms. The Bostonians at once interpreted effects into the whole of their merchandise, and Gage, in consequence, countermanded his permission.

On the 10th. of May the second congress met at Philadelphia. Lord Dartmouth had sent a circular to the governors of the colonies, to obstruct and, if possible, prevent the appointment of delegates to this congress; but it had had no effect. The delegates had everywhere been easily elected, and Franklin, having arrived on the 5 th of May in Philadelphia, was in time to be added to the number already chosen there. The battle of Lexington had heated the blood of the delegates, and they assembled in no very pacific mood. They elected Peyton Randolph president, and, soon after, on his retirement, John Hancock, owner of the Liberty, sloop. They assumed the name of the congress of the United Colonies, and rejected with contempt the poor conciliatory bill of lord North, as it had already been deservedly treated by the provincial assemblies. They immediately issued a proclamation prohibiting the export of provisions to any British colony or fishery still continuing in obedience to Great Britain; or any supply to the British army in Massachusetts- Bay, or the negotiation of any bill drawn by a British officer. They followed the example of the New England congress, of ordering the issue of paper money to the extent of two millions of dollars; and the history of this paper money is curious. It became so rapidly depreciated in 1777, two years from this time, that ten additional millions, voted in 1779, were valued only at two hundred and fifty-nine thousand in specie! The whole sum they raised betwixt 1775 and 1779 were two hundred millions of dollars, and the losses sustained by the people by this money never were made up by the Americans on the achievement of their independence. Fearon, in his travels in the United States, in 1818, says: - " The nation have not redeemed their notes, nor, I presume, will they ever. I boarded at the house of a widow lady, whose family had been utterly ruined by holding these notes."

Congress ordered the military force of the colonies to be placed on an efficient footing. They called into existence a body of men, besides the provincial militia, to be maintained by the United Colonies, and to be called continental troops, which distinction must be kept in mind during the whole war. They then made a most admirable choice of a commander-in-chief in the person of colonel George Washington. We have met Washington as a youth acting as a surveyor, and setting out the new lands of the colonies under the rudest and simplest conditions of life. We have next met him sharing the unfortunate defeat of general Brad- dock, when he had a narrow escape of his life. In 1758 he resigned his commission in the Virginian militia; the next year married, and for sixteen years followed the unambitious life of a country gentleman, and was forty - three years of age when called by his countrymen to head their army. Washington was distinguished by no brilliancy of genius; he had no taste for reading or intellectual pursuits, but for farming, managing with great exactness his accounts, and for the enjoyment of domestic life. But he was endowed with strong good sense, great firmness of purpose, and calmness of judgment; and, above all, by a noble uprightness of character, which inspired all around and under him with confidence. He relied firmly on the guidings of Providence; and if Providence indicated by one thing more than another its intention to set America free, it was by providing so unpresuming yet worthy a hero on that side, and just at the same time taking away the only man on the British side whose genius for war was indisputable. Clive just then fell by his own hand, and the rest of the English generals were of that wretched mediocrity which is produced by the routine of the war-office, instead of the system of putting, as Chatham did, military genius in the van.

The congress voted Washington five hundred dollars per month, with the rank of commander-in-chief, and with four major-generals and eight brigadier-generals under him. Amongst these it is noteworthy that two Englishmen and one Irishman were included. Horatio Gates was a godson of Horace Walpole's, who had served with distinction against Martinico; Lee was a very eccentric man, a lieutenant-colonel in the British service, but who, from some unknown cause, had become bitterly hostile to the English ministry, and had been induced by Gates to purchase lands in Virginia. Montgomery was a native of Ireland, who went over from our ranks. Wood and Putnam, already in the camp before Boston, were become, one a major-general, the other a brigadier.

The moment that the congress assumed this military attitude, and issued its orders to the provincial assemblies, the British government seemed to fall everywhere. The governors took to flight, and committees of safety were appointed, and their places supplied by persons of their selecting. Washington having accepted the nomination of commander-in-chief, but declined the offered salary, declaring that he would only accept the payment of his expenses, of which he should, and through the war did, keep a very exact account, in six days, or on the 21st of June, set out for the army at Boston.

The spirits of the Americans had been raised by the success of attempts against the forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. Early in the spring, some of the leading men of Connecticut, and chief amongst them Wooster and Silas Deane, projected this expedition, as securing the passes into Canada. The volunteers who offered for this enterprise were to march across the frontiers of New York, and come suddenly on these forts. They were joined on the way by what were called the " Green- Mountain Boys," three hundred in number, under Ethan Allen, an active partisan of that district, and at the same time an old friend of captain La Place, who was in command at Ticonderoga. They advanced secretly through the woods to the shores of Lake Champlain, and sent forward one Noah Phelps, a self-appointed captain of the volunteers, to reconnoitre. The wretched condition of carelessness existing in these important outposts, notwithstanding the alarming state of the colonies, may be known by the result. Phelps, disguised as a countryman, entered the fort on pretence of seeking a barber; and, whilst roaming about in feigned search of him, noted well the ruinous condition of the fort and the utter negligence of the guard. The next day, Ethan Allen went alone to the fortress, ostensibly on a visit to his friend the commander, leaving his troops concealed in the wood. He represented that he wanted to conduct some goods across the lake, and borrowed twenty of La Place's soldiers to help him. These men he made dead drunk; and then, rushing suddenly to the fort, where La Place had only twenty-two soldiers more, he compelled them in their surprise to lay down their arms, set a guard over them, and entered his friend's bed-room and pronounced him a prisoner. La Place demanded by whose authority; and Allen replied, on that of "the Great Jehovah and the continental congress."

This Allen, so far from being a religious enthusiast, as you might suppose from his language, was a notorious disbeliever in Christianity, and had written a book called " Reason, the only Oracle of Man." He certainly had his reason in much more active play than his drowsy antagonists. He hastened to secure a hundred iron cannon, fifty swivels, two mortars, ten tons of musket - balls, three cart-loads of flints, a hundred stand of small-arms, and other military stores. He then advanced against the fort of Crown Point, where he found only a garrison of twelve men, and immediately afterwards secured Skenesborough, the fortified house of major Skene, and took his son and his negroes.

Benedict Arnold, formerly a druggist and horse-dealer, of Newhaven, but now appointed a colonel of militia, had hastened from another point to support Allen. He assisted him to secure Crown Point, and then he put out a number of men on batteaux and flat-bottomed boats, and surprised j a schooner lying at St. John's, at the north end of Lake Champlain, the only vessel of war on that lake. Allen and Arnold, however, did not long agree. Arnold held the schooner, calling himself high admiral of those waters, and Allen remained in possession of Ticonderoga. Arnold soon returned to the army before Boston, but Allen remained at the fort till the middle of June. He wrote to the New York congress, pointing out the immense advantages of keeping these lake forts, the keys of Canada. He and Arnold, during their brief co-operation, had planned an expedition into Canada. Allen assured the congress of New York that England could spare no power to defend Canada without weakening her army in the United Colonies, and declared that he would, with one thousand five hundred men, undertake to secure Montreal, and that, with no very large force, Quebec might be taken. These hints were afterwards acted upon.

When Washington arrived at Boston, on the 15th of June, he found the English army augmented to ten thousand by fresh forces, under generals Burgoyne, William Howe, the brother of lord Howe, and Henry Clinton. Burgoyne we have formerly met with in Spain, where he showed considerable spirit; but none of the generals showed much here, though the soldiers were brave and well- disciplined, and could, if well commanded, have soon cleared the neighbourhood of the Americans. The American troops consisted of twenty thousand militia and volunteers, still in a most rude and confused condition, extended over a line of twenty miles in length, and only required an attack of five thousand men, led on by a general of courage and ability. They were, moreover, greatly deficient in powder and other necessaries. Now was the time to deal with them; every moment was of consequence, because it allowed the Americans to organise themselves, which they did actively. At this time, besides the want of ammunition and drilling in the army, there was much heart-burning amongst the officers. There was a decided opposition to the appointment of Lee and Gates; Wooster and Spencer loudly complained of Putnam being promoted over them; and Pomeroy, from mere disgust, quitted the service.

But the English generals lay as if there was no urgent need of action, and as the most incompetent men alone could lie. Had a sudden movement on the neck been made from Boston, five hundred men could have broken and dispersed the Americans nearest to that position before the other ill- trained troops, some of them at great distances, could have come up to their assistance; and they might have been easily beaten in detail by the simultaneous efforts of four good, spirited generals and ten thousand efficient soldiers. But a lethargy seemed to have seized Gage, and to have fallen from him on his coadjutors. The English soldiers could not understand what their generals meant by keeping them on the neck twisting their tails and powdering their heads, whilst the Yankees were gathering in their front and on their flank in clouds; every day practising themselves in evolutions, condensing their line, and rendering more complete the blockade.

In the month of May, governor Trumbull and the Connecticut assembly made some overtures to Gage, which much alarmed the people of Massachusetts, and the provincial congress now voted Gage a public enemy, and an instrument in the hands of tyrants, whom there was no further occasion to obey. They recommended the people to elect for themselves a governor, and council, and house of assembly, and to act in other respects as perfectly independent. On the 12th of June Gage offered a full pardon to all who would immediately lay down their arms, except John Hancock and Samuel Adams, whose offences were described as of too flagitious a character to merit pardon. The proclamation had no other effect than to provoke the Americans to more determined action. North of the peninsula of Boston, separated from it only by an arm of the sea, called the Charles river, about as broad as the Thames at London-bridge, stands Charlestown, built also on a peninsula, surrounded everywhere by navigable water, except a neck somewhat wider than Boston neck. On the peninsula of Charlestown were two eminences: the lower one, nearest to Boston, being called Breed's Hill, the higher and more remote, Bunker's Hill. These hill3, which commanded Boston, would have immediately attracted the eye of any general of the least talent. But Gage had utterly neglected this most vital point; when it was urged on his attention, he still had continued to disregard it, and Burgoyne, Howe, and Clinton had been more than twenty days at Boston, with Bunker's Hill staring them in the face, without its suggesting an idea of their being commanded from it, when the army and the officers in Boston, on awaking on the morning of the 17th of June, suddenly saw the height of Breed's Hill covered with soldiers and military works, as by magic, and the Americans shouting and beginning to fire upon the town and shipping in the harbour.

The Americans had marched on the evening of the 16th with orders to make themselves masters of Bunker's Hill. By some mistake, they had planted themselves on Breed's Hill, and instantly began to throw up a formidable redoubt and entrenchments, and to place their guns in battery. Though Boston and the fortified Neck were so near, and the water all round Charlestown swarming with men-of-war and transports, nothing whatever was observed of them till the morning dawned; then the Lively, sloop, and the battery on Copp's Hill, in Boston, began to cannonade the new apparition on Breed's Hill. Gage then ordered a detachment of troops, under the command of general Howe and brigadier Pigott, to drive the Americans, at all costs, from that position. It was noon before Howe crossed the river and landed on the Charlestown peninsula; but then Howe perceived the strength of the Americans to be greater than had been supposed, and, halting, he sent for reinforcements. During every minute of this delay, the enemy was also receiving fresh reinforcements, a large body of whom were headed by Dr. Joseph Warren, a physician of Boston, lately elected president of the Massachusetts congress, and, by his own authority, nominated major-general.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 8

Boston Boys
Boston Boys >>>>
John Adams
John Adams >>>>
North American forest scene
North American forest scene >>>>
The colonists under Liberty Tree
The colonists under Liberty Tree >>>>
The residence of George Washington
The residence of George Washington >>>>
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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