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1778.]

ARRIVAL OF ENGLISH COMMISSIONERS.

235

and South Carolina. The squadron which conveyed it was commanded by Commodore Hyde Parker.

The American army then went into winter quarters in Connecticut, and on both sides the Hudson near West Point; and being now better clothed by the supplies received from France, their situation was, for the first time, comparatively comfortable.

The proceedings of the Commissioners from England, with the last attempt at conciliation by Lord North, may form an episode, which deserves our notice as showing the alteration which had taken place in the sentiments and situation of Great Britain and her former colonies in the course of three years.

These Commissioners were the Earl of Carlisle, William Eden, brother to the late Governor of Maryland, and Governor Johnstone, formerly of New York. Notwithstanding the answer given by Congress when the proposed bills before Parliament were communicated to them, the ministers were induced to renew their efforts after those bills were passed.

Their propositions were to restore a free and friendly intercourse between the two countries, and to extend the freedom of trade as far as their interests required. That no military forces should be kept up in North America without the consent of Congress, or the particular Assemblies. To concur in measures calculated to discharge the debts of America, and to raise the value of the paper currency. To perpetuate the Union by a reciprocal deputation of an agent or agents, who should have a seat and voice in Parliament; and those sent from Great Britain, a seat and voice in the colonial Legislatures; so that the Legislature of each colony should have full powers of legislation and government, and exercise every privilege short of a total separation of interests.

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PROPOSALS OF BRITISH COMMISSIONERS. [CHAP. III.

There being, in the letter of the Commissioners, some expressions of an offensive character against France, the further reading was on that account objected to, and, after a warm debate, Congress adjourned. The next day they decided on reading the letter, and in their answer declared that nothing but their desire of peace could induce them to read a paper containing expressions disrespectful to the King of France, their great and good ally.

They say that the acts of the British Parliament, and the letter from the Commissioners, supposed the people of the United States still to be subjects, which was inadmissible. That under their great desire for peace they would be ready to enter into a treaty not inconsistent with existing treaties, on Great Britain acknowledging their independence, or withdrawing her fleets and armies.

Governor Johnstone at this time wrote letters to several members of Congress, in which he mingled with many flattering compliments assurances of the honors and emoluments that would reward those who restored harmony between the two countries.

In a second letter from the Commissioners they say, that as to the two preliminary alternatives mentioned by Congress, they consider the independence of the people of America on Great Britain, except so far as was necessary for preserving that union of force, essential to the safety of both, to have been acknowledged in their first letter; and they were willing to discuss those circumstances that might insure, or even enlarge that independency.

They excuse their not beginning with the other alternative, on account of the precautions required against their ancient enemies, and a regard to the safety of the

1778.]

ANSWER TO THE COMMISSIONERS.

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loyalists; but it was intimated that this measure might soon follow the first advances to a peace. As to the existing treaties referred to, they say that they should be furnished with copies, both for their consideration, and that of the constituents of Congress, who could judge whether such treaties furnished sufficient reasons for continuing this unnatural war. They also suggested a doubt about the power of Congress to contract foreign alliances, as the articles of Confederation were not yet in force; and they indicated a hope that, from the respect they entertained for the American people, the proceedings of the Commissioners would be communicated to them.

It seems clear that as Congress had rejected the pacific overtures first made by Great Britain before they knew of the treaty with France, the Commissioners could not suppose that their proposals would be favorably heard by the United States, now that those States had received aid so decisive: and that the communications of the Commissioners were, doubtless, intended for the people; in the hope that when every thing for which they professed to have taken up arms was conceded by Great Britain, they would put an end to a war, the pressure of which they so severely felt.

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Congress passed a resolution, that as neither of the alternatives they had proposed had been complied with, no further answer should be given to the Commissioners. They then required that all letters of a public nature from any British subject to any of the members should be laid before them. The letters from Mr. Johnstone were then produced, and some time afterwards Mr. Reed1

'This gentleman acquired no small credit with his countrymen for the answer he made to these attempts by Johnstone, to gain him over to the British cause, "That he was not worth purchasing, but such as he was, the King of England was not rich enough to buy him." He

238

MANIFESTO OF THE COMMISSIONERS.

[CHAP. III. stated that an offer had been made to him by a third person, of a large sum of money and of office, to use his influence in restoring harmony between the two countries. These facts were then published to the people. Congress, subsequently referring to these offers, expressed their opinion that these were direct attempts to bribe that body, and that they could not, consistently with their honor, hold any correspondence with George Johnstone. They also attempted to involve the Commissioners in these acts.

On receiving this communication Johnstone withdrew himself from the Commission; and his associates denied all knowledge of the facts adverted to. This last paper, like the others from the Commissioners, was evidently framed with a view of making an impression on the American people.

As a last effort, the Commissioners then published a solemn manifesto, addressed to the inhabitants of the colonies, in which they recited the steps they had taken, and the refusal of Congress to have any conference with them; and appealed to every motive which was likely to have influence with the American people. They at the same time offered pardon to all who had been guilty of rebellious practices-not forgetting threats towards recusants. They sent a copy to each State, and dispersed other copies as extensively as they could.

Congress declared the course of the Commissioners to be contrary to the law of nations. They recommended to the State Executives to secure in close custody every person employed in circulating those manifestoes; but, at the same time, they published it in American papers. had previously suffered in the estimation of some, from having, in a private correspondence with General Lee, detracted from Washington's military qualifications. See IV. Sparks's Washington, page 535.

1778.]

MASSACRE AT WYOMING.

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They also issued a counter-manifesto, declaring that if their enemies ventured to execute their threats, retaliation would immediately follow. Thus terminated offers which, three or four years before, would have been received with gratitude and joy by those who now rejected them with disdain: so much had the cause of independence apparently advanced in the interval.

In the month of July, Monsieur Gerard, the French minister, had a public reception in Congress, at which the chief functionaries of Pennsylvania were invited to attend.

In the latter part of this year the Western portions of Pennsylvania and Virginia suffered much from the incursions of the Indians. The settlement of Wyoming, in Pennsylvania, was assailed in July by a large body of savages, who, having obtained easy possession of it, indiscriminately butchered both the garrison and the inhabitants; and soon afterwards Wilkesbarré shared the same fate. Near three thousand persons had succeeded in effecting their escape. To prevent their return to the scenes of their former happiness, every thing that could contribute to their comfort-houses, crops, animalswere, with an industry equal to their malignity, destroyed by the savages.

Commissioners were sent by Congress to Pittsburg, to investigate the subject of Indian hostilities; and they having reported that the savages had been stimulated by Hamilton, the Governor of Detroit, Congress decided on sending an expedition against that post: but this purpose was anticipated by George Rogers Clarke, of Virginia, when the Legislature of that State established the County of Illinois. They then authorised Colonel Clarke to raise a regiment of infantry, with a corps of cavalry.

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