« PreviousContinue »
State of Great Britain in the Summer of 1776— Meeting of Parliament— Debate on
the Proclamation of the American Commissioners--Secession of the Minority-Habeas Corpus Act suspended—Fire in Portsmouth Dock-Yard Shameful Profusion of Ministers—Debates on the Augmentation of the Civil List- Address of the Speaker, Sir F. Norlon, to the King-Censured by Ministry-Dispute with Holland-Campaign in America-Action on the Brandywine — Philadelphia takenBattle of German-Town-American Forts taken-Progress of General Burgoyne
-Ticonderoga evacuated British repulsed at Fort_Schuyler-Defeat of Colonel Baum-Actions at Stillwater, &c.—Surrender of Burgoyne-Conclusion of the Campaign.
STATE OF GREAT BRITAIN. jected, with circumstances of indignity and 1777.—The summer of 1776 passed in insult
, the means of conciliation held out to England with but little agitation of the pub-them under the authority of his majesty's lic mind. The pompous accounts which commission, and had presumed to set up had been detailed by ministry of the suc- their rebellious confederacies for indepencesses of our arms, amused and misled the dent states. If their treason were suffered unthinking many; and the extensive influ- to take root, much mischief must grow from ence which they had established by means it, to the safety of his majesty's colonies, of jobs, loans, contracts, and commissions, the commerce of the kingdom, and indeed silenced all opposition. Even the minority the present system of all Europe. One in both houses of parliament, though consist- great advantage, however, would be derived ing of the most respectable of the ancient from the object of the rebels having been nobility of the realm, and of the best fami- openly avowed, and clearly understood ; we lies of the landed interest, were so dispirited should have unanimity at home, founded in by continued disappointments and fruitless the general conviction of the justice and efforts, that they even meditated a secession necessity of our measures. The two houses from their public duty.
were informed of the recovery of Canada, The inattention of the British nation to and the success on the side of New York, the deplorable situation, in which the errors which, although they had been so important and wickedness of the ministry had involved as to give the strongest hopes of the most them, is the more extraordinary, when we decisive good consequences, would neverrecollect the ever-wakeful attention of the theless not prevent the preparations for ancommercial world to their own interests, other campaign. His majesty observed that and observe, at the same time, that the cap- he continued to receive assurances of amity tures made on the seas by the American from the several courts of Europe, but that cruisers were calculated at no less than one nevertheless it was necessary we should be million sterling. The West India islands in a respectable state of defence at home. were also reduced to a state of almost intol-An apology was made to the commons for the erable distress, from the failure of the usual unavoidable expense. The speech concluded supplies from America ; and in most of them with an assurance that his majesty had no the necessaries of life had risen to three or object in this arduous contest but to promote four times their usual price.
the true interest of all his subjects. No A contemporary historian has remarked, people ever enjoyed more happiness, or lived that the speech from the throne at the under a milder government, than those now opening of parliament, on the 31st October revolted provinces; the improvements in 1776, was distinguished by "an unguarded every art, of which they boast, declare it; and undignified intemperance of language.” their numbers, their wealth, their strength
Nothing, his majesty observed, could have by sea and land, which they think sufficient afforded him so much satisfaction, as to have to enable them to make head against the been able to inform the houses, at the open-whole power of the mother country, are iring of this session, that the troubles in North refragable proofs of it.—The debates on the America were at an end; but so daring and addresses, in consequence of this speech, desperate was the spirit of those leaders were long and tedious. whose object had always been dominion and Addresses, the echo of the speech, were power, that they had now openly renounced brought forward in both houses; but an all allegiance to the crown, and all political amendment, which was in reality another connexion with this country; they had re-address in a totally different strain, was moved by lord John Cavendish in the house wonderful effects.” The expectation of unaof commons, and the marquis of Rocking- nimity from the present situation of affairs ham in the house of lords, containing a was, however, said to be of all the parts of masterly recapitulation of the manifold er- this extravagant speech the most ridiculous. rors of that system which had caused the What! shall we at last concur in meaentire alienation, and at length the open sures, because all the mischiefs which were revolt of so large a part of his majesty's once originally predicted have ultimately resulted loyal and affectionate subjects. It concluded from them? Have ministers the unparalwith the observation, that a wise and prov- leled effrontery to call upon us to give our ident use of the late advantages might be sanction to that fatal system which we in productive of happy effects, as the means vain warned and implored them to shun, of establishing a permanent connexion be- and which persisted in must terminate in tween Great Britain and her colonies, on utter ruin ?" On a division, the amendment principles of liberty, and terms of mutual was rejected in the house of commons by a benefit."
majority of 242 to 87, and in the house of “ We should look," said this truly excel- peers by 91 to 26, fourteen of whom joined lent and admirable address, “ with shame in a protest, in which the proposed amendand horror on any events that should bow ment was verbatim inserted, in order that it them to any abject and unconditional sub- might remain as a perpetual memorial on inission to any power whatsoever-annihi- the journals of that house. late their liberties, and subdue them to ser- DEBATE ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE vile principles and passive habits by the mere BRITISH COMMISSIONERS IN AMERICA. force of foreign mercenary arms.
In a few days after the addresses were The speech from the throne, under the presented, lord John Cavendish exhibited in established and decorous pretext of its being the house a printed paper, purporting to be the speech of the minister, was treated with a proclamation of his majesty's commissionthe most contemptuous and sarcastic severi-ers in America, and called upon ministers to ty: “Where," it was asked, “are those inform him as to the authenticity of it. This mighty leaders to be found whom the Ame- being acknowledged, his lordship expressed ricans obey so implicitly, and who govern in the strongest terms his astonishment at them with so despotic a rule? They have the contempt and indignity offered to the no grandees among them; their soil is not house, who, through the medium of a comproductive of nobility; in no country are mon newspaper only, were at length informthere in fact so few individuals possessed of ed that they stand engaged to America to a commanding or extensive influence; the undertake a revision of all those laws by president of their supreme assembly was a which the Americans lrad conceived themmerchant; the general of their armies a selves to be aggrieved. Notwithstanding the private gentleman. Nothing could be more resentment he felt as a member of the house evident than that a sense of common danger at this ministerial insolence of conduct, his and of common suffering had driven them lordship said that he felt a dawn of joy break to the necessity of creating leaders, who in upon his mind at the bare mention of rewere possessed only of such powers as the conciliation, whatever color the measures people had thought it expedient to intrust might wear that led to so desirable an event. them with. In the same spirit of falsehood The great object of restoring peace and unity it was asserted, “that the Americans had to this distracted empire outweighed so far rejected with circumstances of indignity with him all other present considerations, and insult the terms of conciliation offered that he not only would overlook punctilios them.' The truth was, that no terms had on this account, but even such matters of been offered them but the offer of a pardon real import as would upon any other occaon unconditional submission, which the min- sion call all his powers into action. On isters well knew they would never accept; these grounds his lordship moved, “ that the nor was even this mock offer made till the house should resolve itself into a committee, whole system of irritation and oppression to consider of the revisal of all acts of parwas completed by the injustice and cruelty liament by which his majesty's subjects in of the capture act, by which they were put America think themselves aggrieved." out of the protection of the law, and their SECESSION OF THE MINORITY IN PARproperty held out as common spoil. The
LIAMENT. position in the speech, so undeniably true, THE opposition were strenuous in assert. that no people ever enjoyed greater happi- ing, that the crown promised in this proclaness, or lived under a milder government, mation more than it could grant without than these now revolted colonies,' implied permission of parliament; the crown having the severest censure on those who had so only a voice in the passing or repeal of laws, wantonly and wickedly departed from a sys- but no power to revise such as the parliatem which had produced such noble and ment have again and again confinned contrary to all endeavors from opposition. No trial, during the continuance of the law, thing can be more unjust than to pretend to with a provision, however, enabling a cerdisarm the Americans previous to a negotia- tain number of the privy-council to grant tion. Such a practice cannot derive a founda- an order for admitting such persons to bail tion even from the most tyrannical edicts or or trial. practices; and after having by sure and de- Of the few members in opposition who liberate degrees impelled the Americans to happened to be present, Mr. Dunning anithe natural protection, self-defence, to ask madverted most severely on the bill now them to lay down their arms, and intrust proposed by the minister. He expressed the themselves to their mercy, who had undone utmost astonishment, that a bill of such magthem, who had tortured them to desperation, nitude and importance, which was to suspend is not more absurd than cruel, and not more all the functions of the constitution, should unlike Britons, than unlike savages. The be attempted to be smuggled through a thin question, after great animosity of debate, be-bouse under false colors, before the nation ing put, the motion was rejected by a major-could be apprized of its danger, or their conity of 109 to 47.—This event was followed stituents have the smallest notice, that they be that secession, which had been long med- were going to surrender the foundation of itated, of a great number of the members all their other rights, and the peculiar charof opposition, particularly of the Rocking- acteristic of the British government. ham party; they no longer saw duty or ad- The alarm excited by this measure revantage to the public in wasting their time called a few of the minority gentlemen, who and strength in unavailing attempts to op had before refused their attendance, and the pose the resistless determinations of minis- debates were renewed with as great viotry. They had long ago foretold everything lence as ever. Among the manifold objecthat had happened; they had made uniform tions to this bill, it was remarked, that it efforts to prevent the impending danger, but was framed with " such treacherous artifice they saw that all their efforts now served of construction,” that by the enacting clausonly to expose them to the resentment of a es, the crown was enabled, at its pleasure, people infatuated and deluded. We may to commit, not only Americans, but any other add, that few circumstances contributed person resident in the British dominions, more to open the eyes of the besotted people without bail or mainprize, to any place of of England, than this secession. They now confinement in Great Britain or elsewhere. feit themselves at the mercy of the ministry, Thus was the habeas corpus act, that great and deserted by all the wisdom and patriot- bulwark of British liberty, completely anniisin of the nation; and the dissatisfaction hilated by a construction of law, which left which soon after broke forth in various pa- it in the power of the crown to apprehend triotic meetings and resolves, may in part on the slightest suspicion, or pretence of susbe attributed to this proceeding.
picion, any individual against whom the venHABEAS CORPUS ACT SUSPENDED. geance of the court was meant to be direct
Soon after the recess, which continued ed; and to convey them beyond the seas to from December the thirteenth to the twen- any of the garrisons in Africa or the Indies, ty-first of January, 1777, lord North moved far from all hope or possibility of relief. At for leave to bring in a bill, to enable his ma- ngth the minister, with that inconsistency jesty to secure and detain persons charged which marked his conduct, explicitly disawith, or suspected of the crime of high trea- vowed as to himself all design of extending son committed in America, or on the high the operation of the bill beyond its open and seas, or the crime of piracy. The bill was avowed objects. He said, “ that the bill was brought in and read the following day (Feb- intended for America, and not for England; ruary the 7th), and a motion made, that it that, as he would ask for no power that was should be read a second time on the 10th: not wanted, so he would scorn to receive it But the principal enacting clause appearing by any covert means; and that, far from in a very alarming point of view, it was wishing to establish any unconstitutional strongly combated by such of the opposition precedent, he neither sought nor wished any as were present. This clause declared all powers to be vested in the crown or its minpersons taken in the act of high treason, isters which were capable of being employcommitted in any of the colonies, or on the ed to bad or oppressive purposes." He therehigh seas, or in the act of piracy, or who are fore agreed to receive the amendments proor shall be charged with or suspected of any posed; the principal of which were in subof these crimes, liable to be committed to stance: 1. That the clanse empowering his any common jail
, or to any other place of majesty to confine such persons as might be confinement, appointed for that purpose un- apprehended under this act in any part of der his majesty's sign manual, within any his dominions, should be modified by the inpart of his dominions, there to be detained sertion of the words, “ within the realm;" in safe custody, without bail, mainprize, or) and secondly, That an additional clause of
proviso be inserted, " that nothing in this act|crimes. This man was almost the sole evishall be construed to extend to persons resi- dence brought forward on the trial, and dent in Great Britain." These concessions though a person of infamous character, on gave extreme offence to the leaders of the his testimony respecting the communications high prerogative party, who had zealously which took place in the prison, John the defended the bill in its original state, and Painter was condemned and executed. On who now exclaimed, that they were desert- his way to the place of execution, he is said ed by the minister in a manner which seem to have made a confession of his guilt to a ed calculated to disgrace the whole measure, certain commissioner of the admiralty, addto confirm all the charges and surmises of ing, that he had been encouraged to the untheir adversaries, and to fix all the odium dertaking by Silas Deane, one of the Ameriupon them." And it was indeed sufficiently can agents at Paris. evident (a modern writer observes) from the Such are the outlines of this mysterious whole conduct of the business, that the min- transaction. The fact was generally beister, on this as on other occasions, was not lieved at the time, though there were some admitted into the inmost recesses of the roy- who entertained doubts, even then, concemal cabinet.'
ing the truth of every particular. It was JOHN THE PAINTER'S PLOT. thought extraordinary that John the Painter, WHILE these affairs were transacting, the who was certainly a man of considerable ministry were enabled, by a fortunate occur- talents, and who knew how much depended rence, to raise an alarm in the minds of the upon keeping his own counsel, should unpeople, and still farther to excite their ab- burden himself at a few interviews to a man horrence of the Americans. The absurd who was before a perfect stranger to him, story of a plot against the government which and who, he might justly suspect, was sent had been fabricated in 1775, and on which purposely to draw from him the fatal secret. Mr. Sayre had been committed to the Tower, The infamous character of the witness was was not found to answer the purposes of the also severely animadverted upon; and even ministry, and had rather contributed to over-the confession which he was said to have whelm them with disgrace, than to raise made to the commissioner of the admiralty, their popularity. The instance we have to did not serve entirely to remove these doubts. relate, was more favorable to their views; The confession, as to its genuineness, must either the man in question was really guilty, ultimately rest upon the veracity of that or the circumstances were involved in such commissioner; but we are not informed, it perplexity, that it was impossible to unravel was said, what methods were made use of the mystery. In the latter end of the year to extort that confession, or what hopes of 1776, a fire was discovered in the rope- pardon might have been held out to a man, house at the royal dock-yard of Portsmouth, who, within sight of the gibbet, considered which was however extinguished without his case as desperate. The other circumcommunicating to the other magazines. On stances adduced on his trial were too slight the seventh of January, a fire also broke out to have determined a case where the life of in some warehouses at Bristol; six or seven a fellow-creature is depending; and it must of which were consumed. The alarm was not be forgotten, that the poor victim was a instantly raised of plots and incendiaries, friendless and destitute wretch, without and the suspicions of the public were at either money or support of any kind, and length directed to an itinerant painter of the whose character, from his itinerant mode of name of John Aitken, by birth a Scotchman, life, &c. was involved in suspicion. In a but who was said lately to have returned word, however guilty John the Painter might from America, where he had resided some be, we trust the precedent will not operate time. As the fire at Bristol had taken place in other cases : we trust that no person, more while he was supposed to be in that city, innocent or more meritorious, will ever be and some suspicious circumstances in his convicted on circumstantial proof, or on the conduct, and his solitary mode of life, had testimony of such a witness as the person attracted attention, he was arrested soon on whose evidence he was condemned. after his departure from that place. On his MINISTERIAL PROFUSION. examination, however, before the lords of SEVERE inquiries were about this period the admiralty, nothing appeared to criminate instituted in parliament, concerning
the exhim, but he was nevertheless committed to penditure of the public money. prison. In the mean time, every stratagem counts were said to be in many places ob was employed to draw from him a confes- scure, and, if anywhere intelligible, they sion of guilt. Another American painter were extravagant, and only calculated to was enlisted for this purpose, who, by pre-enrich the avaricious contractor at the extending to sympathize with the misfortunes pense of the public. Lord North assured of John the Painter, asserted that he had the house, that great economy had been obextorted from him a full confession of his served, and that in some cases the contract
ors were losers; but in every exigency he thousand pounds, and one hundred and fourhad been careful to make such bargains as teen thousand pounds, were charged in two were most advantageous for the public. The lines for secret service, under the disposal landgrave of Hesse, however, had made a of the two secretaries of the treasury, which demand for forty-four thousand pounds of could not but seem dangerous as well as levy-money; this demand was unexpected, mysterious. It was allowed to be right and and seemingly unfair; the minister to this necessary that the secretaries of state should replied, that the landgrave quoted the treaty be allowed money for the purpose of proof 1755 as a precedent, and was entitled to curing foreign intelligence; but that the the advantages both of the former and pres- officers of the treasury, who can have no ent treaties, although his troops had never public connexion beyond their own office, served in America; the demand was unex- much less any intercourse with foreign states, pected, indeed, but perfectly fair. A very should be the agents for disposing of the severe and continued debate was daily re- public money in secret service, was most newed in the committee of supply on these alarming, and had in itself sufficient evisubjects, and the minister had scarcely fin- dence to put an end at once to all doubts as ished his defence, however lame, when he to its design or application. The expense was under a necessity of laying before them charged under the heads of Cofferer's Office, a message from his majesty, at a time very Board of Works, and Foreign Ministers, unfavorable for the request contained in it. was said to be enormous beyond measure.
On the ninth of April 1777, a message It now appeared, that an attempt was made was delivered by the minister from the king, to realize the wretched policy of James II. in which his majesty expressed " his con- viz. the maintaining an army of ambassadors, cern in acquainting the house with the diffi- at the same time that every transaction, culties he labored under from the debts in- either with regard to foreign or domestic curred by expenses of the civil government, affairs, proclaimed aloud the imbecility of amounting, on the fifth of January preceding, ministers, and the folly of their negotiations. to upwards of six hundred thousand pounds." Above half a million was stated under the And the house, on this message, resolving article of the Board of Works, without the itself into a committee of supply, the min- least item to show to whom, or for what ister moved, “That the sum of six hundred purpose it was disposed; or on what palace, and eighteen thousand pounds be granted, house, park, or royal garden it had been exto enable his majesty to discharge the debts pended. of the civil government; and that the sum But leaving inquiries into past transacof one hundred thousand pounds per annum, tions, and deductions drawn from them, it over and above the sum of eight hundred was maintained by several members in both thousand pounds, be granted as a farther houses, that if the revenues proceeding from provision for the same."
Wales, Cornwall, the dutchy of Lancaster, These propositions called forth the whole Ireland, the West India islands, American strength of opposition. The gentlemen on quit-rents, and other sources of smaller conthat side of the house, while they lamented sequence, were taken into considerationi, the degrading situation of the sovereign, and added to the civil list establishment, the and the many distresses brought upon indi- crown would be found to have possessed, for viduals, ascribed the debt entirely to the several years, & revenue of more than a milboundless and scandalous profusion of min- lion sterling : that if the American quit-rents isters, and insisted that the present revenue had not been lost, or could be recovered, this was, without any possibility of doubt, not revenue, solely in the crown, independent only sufficient to answer all the purposes of of account, and free from inquiry, would, in government, when under the restriction of a few years, increase in such a degree, as to a prudent economy, but also fully to support afford a greater fund of treasure for private the grandeur, splendor, and magnificence of disposal than the most powerful and arbitrary the crown, in a manner suitable to its own sovereign in Christendom could boast of. dignity, and the greatness of the nation, even Though the revenues of Hanover and Osnain its happiest era. It was too manifest, burgh did not come within the cognizance however, that the debt had been incurred in of parliament, they were, however, to be supporting and carrying on a system of cor- considered as objects of attention in all quesruption.
tions relative to the excessive growing powThe opposition animadverted on the ac- er, and dangerous influence of the crown. connts in the most severe manner. They Notwithstanding these arguments, and the were fabricated, they said, to perplex, and detestable light in which the ministry were not v, give information; the facts of which placed by opposition on the present occasion, their titles announced the discovery, could the grant of six hundred eighteen thousand not bear the light. It was observed, that three hundred and forty pounds, was, howthe largesumsof one hundred and seventy-one ever, carried without a division ; and soon