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LETTER XVII. P. 448-458.
The French fleet sails from Brest and joins the Spanish, p. 448. The Spanish ambassador presents a manifesto to the British secretary, p. 449. The combined fleet steer for Plymouth, p. 450-abandon the British coasts, p. 451. Grenada taken by the French, p. 452. Admiral Byron engages count d'Estaing, 453. Captain Paul Jones engages Captain Pearson, p. 454. Sir Joseph Yorke presents a memorial to their High Mightinesses, p. 456. The state of Ireland, p. 457. Gibralter invested, p. 459.
RBSE, PROGRESS, AND CONCLUSION
NORTH AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
Roxbury, April 26, 1776.
YOU have been informed of the measures which the promo
ters of independency adopted for the ripening of that event; in the advice which congress were prevailed upon to give to the New-Hampshire, the South-Carolina, and Virginia conventions.
[ Jan. 55 1776.] The New-Hampshire provincial convention proceeded in their design, and voted," that this congress take up civil government in form following--We being authorised in particular to establish some form of government, provided that measure be recommended by the continental congress, and a recommendation being transmitted—the sudden departure of his excellency John Wentworth and several of the council leaving us destitute of legislation, and no executive courts being open to punishi criminal offenders--therefore protesting that we never meant to throw off our dependence upon Great-Britain, and that we shall rejoice if such a reconciliation, between us and our parent state, can be effected, as shall be approved by the continental congress--do resolve, that the congress do assume the narne and power of a house of representatives: that they proceed to choose twelve persons, to be a distinct branch of the legislature, by the name of a council for this colony; and that no act shall be valid unless passed by both branches.” But this procedure was not universally approved. A memorial and remonstrance of the freeholders and inhabitants of Portsmouth was presented to the convention sitting at Exeter. [Jan. 10.) It sets forth, that "the memorialists are greatly alarmed, by the information, that they are about to dissolve their existence as a convention and assume that of a house of representatives, and to proceed to the election of twelve counsellors, who are to act as another branch of legislation for the future government of this colony." They remonstrate against the procedure from an opinion that the inhabitants will not generally approve it; and wish therefore that the minds of the people may be fully taken on such a momentuous concernment, for that it is their inherent right to knuw the plan, before adopted and carried into execution. They say also, “ it amounts to an open declaration of independency, which we can by no means countenance." A dissent and protest was brought into convention, [Jan. 12.] by several of the representatives; the purport of it was, “ We disa sent and protest against the present plan of taking up governe ment for the following reasons--the vote of the continental congress countenancing the same, was obtained by the unwearied importunity of our delegates there, as appears by their letter ;the said vote does not appear to have been unanimous, but we have reason to think otherwise ;-New-York and Virginia (which are in similar circumstances with us, and are much larger and more opulent, and we presun.e much wiser, and to which we would pay all due deference), have not attempted any thing of the kind, nor as we can learn have desired it;mit appears assuming far so small a colony to take the lead in a matter of so great importance ;--our constituents never expected us to make a new form of government, but only to set the judicial and executive wheels in motion;---it appears to us, too much like setting up an independency on the mother country.” The convention how ever proceeded in their plan ; but when it was executed, and the body had assumed the form of two houses, they had the consiste ency to receive petitions [Jan. 18.] from the towns of Portsmouth, Dover, Newington, Rochester, Stratham, North-Hampton, Ryé, New-Market, Kensington, Greenland, and part of Brentwood, against taking up government in the new established form. Both houses met in the town-house, the petitions were read, considered, and fully argued by the council for the petitioners. It was voted, [ Jan. 27.] that the committee write to the continental congress, and lay the plan of government taken up by the colony before them, and let them know that a number of members of this house dissented from and protested against the same, because of its being supposed to breathe too much of the spirit of independency; and request to know the judgment of the congress thereon. Whatever letter the committee might write was porbably forwarded under cover to one of their own delegates; and by the advice of certain members was not brought be. fore congress as a body, till the day after they had given their sanction to the plan, by admitting upon their journals, on the 29th of February, the credentials of the delegates chosen by the house of representatives on January the 23d.
When Mr. S. Adams saw the instructions given by the capital of New-Ha npshire, he was dissatisfied, and fearful, lest if that colony took a wrong step, it should wholly defeat the design, he owned, he had much at heart. He had been alarmed before in the beginning of the month, when a motion was made in con: gress to this purpose. Whereas we have been charged with aiming at independency, a committee shall be appointed to explain to the people at large the principles and grounds of our opposition, &c.". It would not do for Mr. S. Adams evidently to interest himself in opposing the motion, though he was apprehensive that they should get themselves on dangerous ground; but some other delegates prevailed so far as to have the matter postponed ; and yet they could not prevent the assigning of a day to consider it. Some little time before, he lrad conversed with another gentleman, probably a Virginia delegate, about a confederation ; when they agreed it must soon be brought on, and that if all the colonies would not come into it, it had better be done by those that incline to-it. Mr. Adams promised, he would endeavour to unite the New-England colonies in confederation, if none of the rest would join in it; the other approved of it, and said that if Mr. S. Adams succeeded, he would cast in his lot among them. Many of the principal gentlemen in the Massachusetts have been long urging their delegates at congress to bring forward independency, the more so, for a persuasion that, resistance unto blood having been once made against the governmental measures the British spirit will never be quieted, with any thing short of those concessions and satisfactions, which Americans never make. General Washington has no wish, that the congress would declare the colonies independent: but many other officers, especially among the New-Englanders, are desirous of it, though the situation of their military affairs could of late afford them no reasonable encouragement. They have been obliged to change their army by a new cnlistment under the mouths of their enemy's cannon; and wlrile employed in this operation, had not forsome time men enough to defend their livas had the British troops commenced an attack. They had to guard an extent of better than a dozen miles, with few more troops than what were in Boston. Such was the want of muskets, that in order to supply the new enlisted soldiers, they forcibly detained those belonging to the privates whose time was out, and who refused to serve longer ; but not without paying for them.
Gen. Greer wrote from-Prospect Hill, January 4, 1776. * Had the enemy been fully acquainted with our situation, X cannot pretend to say what might have been the consequences: I this day manned the lines upon this hill, and feel a degree of pleasure that I have not felt for several days. Our situation has. been critical. We have no part of the militia on this hill; and the night after the old troops went off, I could not have mustered. seven hundred men, notwithstanding the returns of the new inlisted troops amounted to nineteen hundred and upward. I am now strong enough to defend myself against all the force in Bos. ton." Gen. Washington thus expressed himself on the first of the month : “ It is not perhaps in the power of history to fur nish a case like ours-to maintain a post within musket shot of the enemy for six months together without powder, he avoided inserting ths word lest the letter should miscarry ;) and at the same time to disband one army and recruit another, within that distance of twenty odd British regiments, is more than probsable was ever attempted."
The conduct of the New Yorkers not answering the desires of captain Sears, he had for some time taken up his abode in Connecticut. Being apprehensive, that general Clinton who was preparing to go upon some expedition with a body of troops might possibly be destined for New-York, and considering of what importance it was that the city should not be possessed by him, he came to gen. Washington, and urged the necessity of its being secured by American forces. But the general could spare no troops, every man of them being wanted in the envi. rons of Boston. Sears proposed that Washington should write to? gov. Trumbull, pressing him to raise two regiments for the service. His application was strengthened by a letter of gen. Lee's, who yrote to the commander in chief, [ Jan. 5.] “ New-York must be secured, but it will never, I am afraid, be secured by direct orders of congress for obvious reasons. I propose that you. should detach me into Connecticut, and lend your name for cola. Jecting a body of volunteers. I am assured, that I shall find no cyficulty in assembling a sufficient number for the purpose wanted. This measure I think absolutely necessary to our salvation; and if it meets with your approbation, the sooner it is entered upon the better--indeed the delay of a single day may be fatal.” Mr. John Adains being at Watertown with the general court, gap. Wasbington desired his opinion on Lee's plan. Mr. Joha