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but a belief of its truth was greatly strengthened chap. IV. by many cases of the disease having occurred 1775. among those who had been permitted to leave the town. This, however, might well have happened although no means had been employed to produce the effect. The report, whether true or false, increased the caution observed in all communications with persons who had been within the lines of the enemy.
Although the close blockade of Boston, and the continued attention it was found necessary to bestow on the organization and discipline of the troops, gave no inconsiderable degree of employment to the general; and although his deficiency in military stores, and the very hazardous operation of renovating a disbanded army in the face of a veteran foe, rendered it, at least, a very bold measure to maintain the position which had been taken, and to make advances upon
enemy; yet he viewed with infinite mortification that semblance of inacti. vity to which his situation still compelled him to submit. In the commencement of the contest, while the minds of many were yet undetermined, it was of vast importance to secure the public confidence, and it was necessary to pay some attention even to the public caprice. The real difficulties under which he laboured were not generally known. His numbers were greatly exaggerated, and his means for carrying on offensive operations very much magnified.
CHAP. IV. The expulsion of the British army from Boston 1775. had been long since anticipated by many, and
there were not wanting those, who endeavoured to spread discontent by insinuating that he was desirous of prolonging the war, in order to continue his own importance. To these symptoms of impatience and discontent, and to the consequences they might produce, he could not be entirely insensible; but it was not in his power to silence such complaints by disclosing to the world his real situation. His views still continued to be directed towards Boston; and congress, to whom the result of the former council on this subject had been communicated, having manifested a disposition favourable towards an attempt on that place; the general officers hadbeen again assembled, and had again advised unanimously against the measure. It seems to have been understood, that fears for the safety of the town might embarrass the measures of the army. Congress, therefore,
who still inclined to favour the enterprise, December. came to a resolution, “ that if general Wash
ington and his council of war should be of opinion that a successful attack might be made on the troops in Boston, he should make it in any manner he might think expedient, notwithstanding the town and property in it might be thereby destroyed.”
Whilst waiting for a favourable opportunity to execute this bold plan, the American general
availed himself of the occasional aids received CHAP. IV. from the militia to advance on the enemy by 1775. taking positions which would' annoy them for Plans for the present, and would favour his ulterior operations. Plowed hill, Cobble hill, and Lech. mere's point, were successively occupied and fortified, by which his approaches were carried within half a mile of their works on Bunker's hill, and their floating batteries could no longer maintain the stations they had originally chosen. Floating batteries were also constructed on the part of the Americans, and would unquestionably have aided either offensive or defensive operations.
Hitherto the war, though carried on with the utmost activity of which the means possessed by America would admit, had for its professed object, only a redress of grievances. The language, that it was a war only against a corrupt administration was carefully kept up, and allegiance to the British crown was, as yet, every where avowed. The progress, however, of the public mind towards independence, though slow, was certain; and measures were necessarily taken apparently tending to that object. Among these was the act of establishing temporary governments, in place of that revolutionary system which followed those they had suspended.
The first application on this subject was made by Massachussetts, after which, several
CHAP. IV. of the colonies, being without any other than 1775. a revolutionary government, applied to con
gress for advice on the system to be adopted for conducting their affairs. These applications could not fail to draw forth the sentiments of the different members, on the very interesting question of separating entirely from the mother country, or endeavouring still to retain the connexion which had so long subsisted between them. Those who wished to lead the public opinion to the independence of the colonies, were of course desirous of establishing immediately, in each province, a regular government, entirely competent to the admi. nistration of its affairs; whilst those who were hostile to such an event, were opposed to any measure which might either dispose the colonists towards it, or strengthen the opinion in Great Britain, that it was the real object of those who had opposed the legislative supremacy claimed by parliament. It was not without much opposition that a resolution was obtained in the case of New Hampshire, which formed a precedent for others of the same nature, recommending it to the provincial convention to call a full and free representation of the people, who should establish such form of government as, in their judgment, would best produce the general happiness, and most effectually secure peace and good order in the colony, during the continuance of the present dispute with Great
Britain. Without this last clause, which still CHAP. IV. maintained the appearance of preserving the 1775. ancient connexion with the parent state, the recommendation would not have been made, About the same time it was also declared, that it would be extremely dangerous to the liberties and welfare of America, for any colony separately to petition the king or either house of parliament.
Having taken under their consideration a proclamation, declaring certain persons in the colonies to have forgotten their allegiance and to be in a state of open rebellion, and threatening with punishment those who should be found carrying on correspondence with those in rebellion, they declared, “in the name of the people of these United Colonies, and by authority according to the purest maxims of representation derived from them, that whatever punishment shall be inflicted upon any persons in the power of their enemies for favouring, aiding, or abetting the cause of American liberty, shall be retaliated in the same kind, and in the same degree upon those in their power, who have favoured, aided, or abetted, or shall favour, aid, or abet, the system of ministerial oppression.” “The essential difference,” say they, “ between our cause and that of our enemies, might justify a severer punishment; the law of retaliation will unquestionably warrant one equally severe.”