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in its calm and candid leader upon the hundredth anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill: “ While the great majority of the British people, as represented in public opinion and in literature, was on the American side, the government and the majority in both houses of Parliament were absolutely proof against every consideration of humanity, prudence, or common sense. ... The greater part of the American contention in that war was equally shared by the British people. The principles of popular representation, and no taxation without it, self-government by popular municipal institutions, the independence of the
judicial bench, and complete responsibility in the exercise of all power and patronage, were equally at stake on both sides of the Atlantic.” ... But the politicians “ were maintaining the principles of utter absolutism ;” and the British Government “persisted in the struggle with reckless and inhuman obstinacy.” 1
The battle of Bunker Hill, on the 17th June, 1775, showed the British what stuff the colonists were made of, and what they could do when put upon their mettle. That battle is not to be judged upon the scale of modern warfare; but old soldiers, who had been in European wars, testified that they had never seen so hot a conflict, or so many losses in proportion to the force engaged. On the one side, three thousand British regulars marching with bulldog courage up the hill under cover of the fire of their fleet; on the other, squads of militia, who had worked all night in putting up the breast-works from which they poured forth their deadly musketry. More than a thousand British fell, dead and wounded ; five hundred Americans, the Americans quitting their trenches only when their powder gave out, then fighting with the but-ends truth. Also these are not original. Thackeray says of George III., "He bribed; he bullied; he darkly dissembled on occasion; he exercised a slippery perseverance and a vindictive resolution, which one almost admires as one thinks his character over.”
As to the subserviency of Parliament, its own journals witness for that. But the people of England were not with Parliament. That it is possible for Parliament to run counter to the spirit and will of the nation, even in these days of a free and enlarged suffrage, was made evident by the almost contemptuous disregard of public feeling in passing the Royal Titles Act of 1876. Americans, who are often so grossly misrepresented by their own Congress, are not disposed to cherish a grudge against the English people for the misdoings of Parliament a century ago.
1 Times, June 17, 1875.
of their muskets, and retreating with little disorder from an enemy too crippled for pursuit. The British had won the hill; but the moral victory was with the Americans. Hence we date our emancipation from that battle, and the heroes of Bunker Hill are our immortals :
“ On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread.”
The news of Bunker Hill put the British Government in a rage. The Revolution must be put down by overwhelming numbers. Unhappily, Germany was then in a position to serve as the recruiting-ground of British despotism ; and while France gave us her Lafayette, and Poland her Kosciusko, Brunswick and Hesse hired out their soldiers by the thousand to suppress our liberties; though Prussia somewhat redeemed the disgrace through the scorn of the great Frederic for such infamy,' the services of Baron Steuben in drilling our raw volunteers, and the heroic sacrifice of De Kalb in our cause. With their German mercenaries, the British Government thought the subjugation of the Colonies an easy task. They would make Boston a base of operations and supplies, and overawe the continent. But now there was a Congress at Philadelphia, and Washington was at Cambridge as commander-in-chief of the Continental army. Too weak in
1 Franklin, writing from Paris 1 May, 1777, said of the traffic in Hessians, “The conduct of these princes of Germany, who have sold the blood of their people, has subjected them to the contempt and odium of all Europe. "The Prince of Anspach, whose recruits mutinied and refused to march, was obliged to disarm and fetter them, and side by the help of his guards, himself attending in person. In his return, he was publicly hooted by mobs through every town he passed in Holland, with all sorts of reproachful epithets. The King of Prussia's humor of obliging those princes to pay him the same toll per head for the men they drive through his dominions as used to be paid him for eir cattle, because they were sold as such, is generally spoken of with approbation, as containing a just reproof of these tyrants.” — BIGELOW's Life of Franklin, ii. p. 393.
In a valuable note to this passage, Mr. Bigelow has gathered the following important items. In a letter to Voltaire, Frede ys of the Landgrave of Hesse, “S'il était sorti de mon école, il ne se serait point fait Catholique, et il n'aurait pas vendu ses sujets aux Anglais comme on vend le bétail pour l'égorger.” – Euvres posth. de Frédéric, tom. i. p. 325.
In a letter to Lord North, dated from Kew Aug. 20, 1775, George III. said, "The only idea these Germans ought to adopt is the being contractors for raising recruits, and fixing the price they will deliver them at Hamburg, Rotterdam, and any other port they may propose.” Can any Englishman or German read that to-day without indignant shame?
powder and artillery to risk an engagement, Washington resolved first to hem the British in Boston, and then to drive them out; but, when he was ready to bombard the city, he hesitated to destroy the property of friends in punishing foes, and so applied to Congress for authority. Its president, John Hancock of Boston, was reputed to be the richest man in America ; and his property was largely in houses, which, from their position, must be among the first to fall, should Washington open fire upon the city. Rising in his place, Hancock said, “ Nearly all I have in the world is in the town of Boston; but if the expulsion of the British troops, and the liberty of my country, demand that my houses be burned to ashes, issue the order, and let the cannon blaze away.” At length the cannon were ready to blaze away; but the British fleet and army made an ignominious retreat.
Up to this time, little had been thought, and less said, by the leaders, touching independence as an issue of the conflict. Even Washington still hoped for a reconciliation that should secure the Colonies in the rights for which alone they had taken up arms. But the flames of war were kindling coastwise all along the Colonies; and, with these, the fire of independence was kindling in the hearts of the people. At length the force of events, and the vehemence of public feeling, compelled Congress to take up the measure of independence. For days the Declaration had been debated, and on the 4th of July the old State House of Philadelphia was besieged by an impatient populace, while the bell-ringer waited hour by hour in the belfry for the signal that he should announce the Declaration ratified. At last the signal came, and at every stroke rang out the legend that years before had been cast upon
1 During the winter of 1775–76, Washington held Gen. Howe's army in Boston under siege. With an army of only sixteen thousand men he guarded a semicircle of eight or nine miles, his centre being at Cambridge, his right wing at Roxbury, and his left upon the Medford River: from Boston all supplies by land. But Washington lacked ammunition, money, and clothing for his troops; and was hampered by the system of colonial enlistment, which made him dependent upon the governors of the several Colonies for recruits. Under these discouragements, he had to build up an army, and hold it together. On the night of March 4, 1776, Washington fortified Dorchester Heights; and, as his position was made stronger and more threatening day by day, Gen. Howe evacuated Boston, and embarked for Halifax on the 17th March. Congress presented Washington with a gold medal in commemoration of this event.
the rim of the bell : “ Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."1 As president of the Congress, John Hancock had signed the declaration that " these Colonies are free and independent States.” With his own hand he has issued the supreme order for the expulsion, not of the British troops only, but of the British government and name. Now “LET THE CANNON BLAZE AWAY.”
1 This bell was first hung in 1753. During the Revolutionary war it was taken down and buried, to avoid its being captured by the enemy. It was a favorite pleasure of my boyhood to climb the tower, and sit under the bell at the stroke of twelve. Years ago, on a festive day, it was cracked; and it has ever since been preserved as a national relic.
DOCTRINES OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
M HE men who, as a Congress of the Colonies, adopted
I the Declaration of Independence, indulged in no idle rhetoric when they said, “ For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Two of them, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, had already been proclaimed rebels and outlaws; and a price was set upon their heads. The famous mot of Franklin shows how clearly their colleagues realized what they were doing when they put their names to the Declaration. As the members of the Congress came to the final vote upon the document, Hancock
1 On the 12th of June, 1775, Gen. Gage, then royal governor of Massachusetts, proclaimed martial law throughout the Province, at the same time making an offer of pardon in the following terins: “I do hereby, in his Majesty's name, offer and promise his most gracious pardon to all persons who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects; excepting only from the benefit of such pardon SAMUEL ADAMS and JOHN HANCOCK, whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment” (Journal of the Provincial Congress, p. 331). The Boston Gazette (of June 24, 1775), with better wit than rhyme, thus parodied this exception:
“ But then I must out of this plan lock
Both Samuel Adams and John Hancock;
° (Quoted in Wells's Life of Samuel Adams, ii. 310.) John Adams testifies that "James Otis, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, were the three most essential characters, the first movers, the most constant, steady, persevering springs, agents, and most disinterested sufferers and firiest pillars, of the whole Revolution.” Of these, he rates Otis first; but he describes Samuel Adams as “the wedge of steel to split the knot of lignumvitve which tied North America to Great Britain." Works, x. 268.