Слике страница


Third Provincial Congress, March, 1775-Its advice and orders - More British troops arrive- War or submission - British Patriots - Affair at Lexington and Concord - Meeting of Provincial Congress - More men raised - Governor Gage denounced as an enemy to the ProvinceMilitia collect at Cambridge and Roxbury, and from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island - Advice of General Congress desired, as to civil government - Measures of defence - Battle of Bunker Hill-Great slaughter - Death of General Warren - Cause of its Failure - General Washington appointed Commander-in-chiefMeasures adopted to augment the Army,

THE provincial congress was again held the 22d of March at Concord. The affair at Salem, and the movements of General Gage excited apprehensions of attacks on other places; and a report was circulated that the British troops in Boston would be sent out to destroy the military stores which had been collected. It was an object with the congress to strengthen the committee of safety, and to prepare for self-defence, if the British should make such an attempt. The elite corps, or minute companies, were desired to improve themselves in military discipline; and several artillery companies were ordered to be raised. The people were urged to pay their taxes to the new treasurer, with all possible despatch; and loans were solicited for the use of the province. The "counsellors who had been appointed by the British ministers, and who had accepted the trust, were declared to be enemies to the country.


Early in the spring, an additional number of British troops arrived at Boston; and an opinion prevailed, that the crisis was approaching, when the alternative must be base submission o war. With a very great majority of the people, there was no hesitation as to the choice. A few, indeed, who had long opposed the policy of the parent government, thought it would be most prudent still to petition and submit. But the love of

Those who declined acting, by virtue of their appointment by the king, were Danforth, Powell, Watson, Russell, Lee, Royall, Hooper' Worthington, Paine, Williams, Vassall, Palmer, and Woodbridge.

liberty was so strong with the great body of the people, including a due proportion of the best educated and opulent, that they were resolved to oppose the measures of administration in England, at every hazard. They admitted that the prospect presented almost insuperable difficulties. But, probably, they looked to the support to be given by the whole country, as some cause for hope; and still cherished a belief, that the friends of constitutional freedom in England would have influence to introduce more favorable counsels. The strong measures then adopted by ministers were opposed by Lord Chatham, and others; who expressly declared, "that they considered the people of Massachusetts as standing in defence of constitutional rights, and the conduct of administration as unjust and tyrannical." They predicted forcible opposition, and even expressed a hope that success might attend the struggle of the colonies for political liberty. It was believed, that ministers hesitated; for a conciliatory plan was proposed, for the colonies. to tax themselves, as had been made in 1765; but it was only a suggestion, and too indefinite to lead to any relaxation of measures of defence in America. It was afterwards disclosed to be only a pretence, for the purpose of preventing a union of the people in different parts of the country.

Before the provincial congress separated, which was on the 15th of April, it was agreed to raise troops immediately, for the defence of the province : for it was known that General Gage had received orders to put down all opposition; and all the civil power was concentrated in him, with an army for his support. The committee of safety was directed to appoint field officers for the regiments to be raised, and to make the greatest preparations for defence which the resources of the province would afford. Committees were also chosen to visit New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, to inform them of the measures adopted in Massachusetts, and to request their support and coöperation, as events might require. This meeting took care also to provide for another assembly of delegates or representatives of the people, to be held on the last Wednesday of May, the usual time for the organization of the general court.

On the 18th of April, several British military officers from Boston were observed riding through Cambridge and on the road to Lexington; and an apprehension arose that some hostile movement was at hand. The committee of safety gave orders for the removal of the stores from Concord. Dr. Warren, the chairman, who was most vigilant and enterprising, and who had directed a constant watch of the troops, received notice during

the night of the 18th, that a detachment of the British forces in Boston, of 1000 men, were landing at Lechmere's Point, in Cambridge. He immediately despatched messengers to Lexington and Concord to give the people notice, that they would probably be attacked. Directions were given for the militia to protect such stores at Concord as had not been removed. Notice was also sent to Mr. Adams and Mr. Hancock, who were then at the house of the clergyman, in Lexington, of the expected approach of the British troops. These two patriots were among the most active opponents of arbitrary power, and were particularly denounced, as deserving the vengeance of the British government. The detachment of British troops arrived at Lexington, near the church, soon after day-light. A company of the militia was already collected there. The British commander rode up to them, and said, "Disperse! you damned rebels, disperse!" and immediately fired his pistol; and the soldiers who were in front fired also. The militia dispersed, but some of them fired on the British as they retired. In this attack, eight of the militia were killed and several wounded.

The British reported, that the militia first fired; but it was fully proved afterwards, that the British began the attack, and that the firing from the Americans was only from a few as they were retiring.

The British detachinent proceeded to Concord, about five miles further, without meeting any opposition. Some of the militia had assembled at this place, under arms, on the intelligence that the British troops were advancing. These were not very numerous; and they retired to a bridge, at the distance of nearly two miles, where they made a stand; in the expectation, probably, that the British forces would not pursue them, or that others of the militia would come to their aid. A part of the British troops followed them to the bridge. The militia, who were on the farther side, were desirous of returning to the village, to protect the people and their property, as well as the public stores. To prevent this, the British removed a part of the bridge; but the militia pressed forward, as if resolved to go to the village. The British troops then fired on them; and the fire was returned by the Americans with spirit and effect. And the former were pursued near to the village, when the militia received a check from the united force of the whole detachment. The militia, however, poured in from the vicinity; and the British commander gave orders to return to Boston. The militia hung upon their rear; and many of the regular troops were killed and wounded. At Lexington, they received a reinforcement from General Gage,

which rendered them so formidable that it was not prudent for the militia to make any systematic attack on them. Part of a regiment from Salem, under Colonel Pickering, reached Medford late in the afternoon, but not in season to give them any check. The loss of the British, on this occasion, killed, wounded, and missing, was nearly three hundred; and upwards of eighty of the militia were killed or wounded.

The provincial congress assembled again, on the 22d of the month, and voted to raise thirteen thousand men, who were to repair to Cambridge and vicinity, without delay. They also again made application to the neighboring colonies, for them to proceed to the same place. They said, "they had no hope left but in a large military force, sufficient to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies;" as they now for the first time called the British; "and they were determined to part with their liberties, only at the price of their lives." They denounced Governor Gage, as an enemy to the province, and an agent of tyrannical rulers, to oppress and enslave the people. And he, in his turn, issued a proclamation, declaring Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. In some of his conduct, General Gage was not only severe, but unjust. He promised to allow the citizens of Boston to leave the town, on condition of depositing their arms in a public place under his command; but when they gave up their arms, he utterly refused to let them go; as the hardened Pharaoh did the people of Israel.

Within ten days after the affair at Lexington and Concord, a large number of the militia collected in Cambridge and Roxbury; but many of them without suitable military equipments; and their organization was quite imperfect. The alarm occasioned by the battle at Concord, was very great; but a resolution was manifested, to hasten to the place of danger, and, if possible, to prevent further aggressions. Some of the militia. from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, arrived at an early day, accompanied by individuals who had been brave officers in the campaigns of 1756–260.*

A statement was made to the continental congress, then sitting in Philadelphia, of the affair at Concord and Lexington, and of the preparations made and making for defence. That august body approved of the conduct of Massachusetts, and recommended to all the other colonies to raise men and forward them to the neighborhood of Boston to act for the general welfare.

* The most distinguished were Col. Israel Putnam, of Connecticut, Col. John Stark, of New Hampshire, and Col. Greene, of Rhode Island.

At this time, the congress of Massachusetts applied to the continental congress for advice, as to the form of government proper to be adopted, in their peculiar situation. They had declared against the authority of Governor Gage, and of the counsellors appointed by the king; and though they had assumed the civil authority in the province, it was not precisely in the way pointed out in their charter. There was no general court and no house of assembly, according to the directions of that instrument. But they had acted, for several months, as the representatives of the people, chosen according to ancient usage: and had appointed a committee of safety, who performed the appropriate duties of the executive department. They were sensible this was only a temporary form of government, for the immediate exigency of the occasion; but did not wish to establish a government, without consulting the other colonies. They had been compelled to raise troops; yet, as the military, in all free states, should be subordinate to the civil power, they said they were concerned at having an army, even of their own citizens, without a civil power to provide for and control it. Few disorders or inconveniences had happened, in this period; for the great object of self defence, and of the preservation of liberty against arbitrary power, prevented all private disputes among the people. As the general congress did not immediately reply, another application was made for advice; which shewed the desire of Massachusetts, to have a fixed form of civil government, and to receive the approbation of the rest of America, in an affair of such vast importance. A few weeks after, the opinion of the general congress was received, "that it would be proper to conform, as far as might be, to the provisions of their charter;-to elect representatives, and these representatives to choose counsellors, who were to form an executive department, and exercise the powers before vested in the governor and council." plan met the views of the people generally in Massachusetts, and undoubtedly was suggested by some of her eminent citizens, either in the general, or in the provincial congress.


The provincial congress continued in session till the 27th of May; after a few days another assembled, which was before the opinion and advice of the general congress had been received. This continued together only a short time, and ordered, that representatives should be elected to meet in July, to proceed agreeably to the opinion given by the continental congress. While together, further measures were adopted, by the provincial congress, for organizing the militia, who had assembled at Cambridge and Roxbury, and to provide for their

« ПретходнаНастави »