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derived from the people; and should also prepare the way for their darling object, a declaration of independence.
A resolution was introduced, recommending that a convention of representatives, freely elected by the people of that colony, should be called, for the purpose of establishing such a form of government as they might deem proper. It was warmly opposed by those members who were yet desirous of an accommodation with the mother country. An amendment being made, providing that the government established should continue in force no longer than the existing contest with Great Britain, the resolution passed. Representatives were accordingly chosen, who, on the 5th, of January, 1776, adopted a written constitution, acknowledging no source of power but the people. In other colonies, the same course was soon afterwards pursued.
A transaction, displaying the vindictive feelings of the British, occurred in October. The ministry had issued orders to the officers of the navy to proceed, as in the case of actual rebellion, against all the colonial sea-ports accessible to ships of war, which should discover symptoms of attachment to the cause of liberty. Falmouth, a flourishing town in Massachusetts, having given some particular offence, its destruction, under colour of these orders, was resolved on, and Captain Mowatt, with four ships, was despatched on that service.
The citizens made an effort, by negociation, to avert their ruin; but as the terms which were
offered could not be accepted without dishonour, they were at once rejected. The bombardment immediately commenced, the town was set on fire, and four hundred buildings reduced to ashes. This wanton act of devastation was strongly reprobated throughout America, and served to inflame, rather than to intimidate the people. The town has since been rebuilt, its name changed to Portland, and it is now the capital of Maine.
As the year 1775 drew near to a close, the condition of the army, employed in the blockade of Boston, engaged the attention of congress. A speedy adjustment of the dispute being at first expected, the men had been enlisted to serve only until the first of January. No prospect now appeared of an immediate accommodation. It was therefore resolved to form a new army, to consist of twenty thousand men, and to be raised as far as practicable, from the troops then in service. Unfortunately it was determined, that the enlistments should be made for one year only, an error the consequences of which were afterwards very severely felt.
It was supposed that most of those whom patriotism had impelled to join the army, would continue in the service of their country; but when the experiment was made, it was found that their ardour had considerably abated. The blockade of Boston presented no opportunity of acquiring glory by deeds of noble daring; the fatiguing duties of the camp wore upon their spirits, affected their health, and produced an
unconquerable longing to revisit their homes. Notwithstanding the great exertions of General Washington, no more than half the estimated number had been enlisted at the close of the year.
The people and the troops, supposing the army to be stronger than it was, expressed great dissatisfaction at the inactivity of the commander-in-chief, which some imputed to dishonourable motives. An attack upon Boston was loudly demanded. Washington three times proposed it to a council of war; but in every instance the decision was unanimous against it. At the last time, however, the council recommended that the town should be more closely invested. On the evening of the fourth of March, 1776, the attention of the enemy being diverted, by a brisk cannonade, to a different quarter, a party of troops, under the command of General Thomas, took possession, in silence, of Dorchester heights, and with almost incredible industry, erected before morning, a line of fortications which commanded the harbour and the town.
The view of these works, raised like an exhalation from the earth, excited the astonishment of General Howe, who, on the resignation of General Gage, had been appointed commander-in-chief. He saw that he must immediately dislodge the Americans or evacuate the town. The next day he ordered 3000 men to embark in boats, and proceeded, by way of Castle Island, to attack the works on the heights. A furious storm dispersed them; the fortifications, in the mean time, were
rendered too strong to be forced; and General Howe was compelled to seek safety in an immediate departure from Boston.
Of the determination of the enemy to evacuate the town, General Washington was soon apprized. The event being certain, he did not wish by an attack to hasten it, as the fortifications at NewYork, to which place he presumed they would repair, were not in sufficient forwardness to protect it. The embarkation was made on the 17th of March ; a few days after the whole fleet set sail, and the American army hastened, by divisions, to New York.
The acquisition of this important town occan sioned great and general rejoicing. The thanks of congress were voted to General Washington and his troops, for their wise and spirited conduct, and a medal of gold was ordered to be struck in commemoration of the event. The British fleet, instead of conveying the troops to New York, steered for Halifax, having on board a large number of tories and their baggage.
EXPEDITION AGAINST CANADA.
It has been already stated, that two expeditions were despatched against Canada. The command of that, which was to proceed by way of lake
Champlain, was given to General Schuyler of New York. The number of troops to be employed was fixed at three thousand, and they were to be drawn from New York and New England. Governor Carleton, gaining intelligence of the project, despatched about eight hundred men to strengthen the works at St. Johns, on the river Sorel, a position commanding the usual entrance into Canada.
Brigadier General Montgomery, a young officer of brilliant talents, and ambitious of glory, was ordered to proceed in advance, with the troops then in readiness, and attack this important position before it had been made too strong to be taken. When commencing his career, the glory and fate of Wolfe were present to his thoughts, and to his wife his parting words were, “ You shall never blush for your Montgomery.” General Schuyler soon followed, and on arriving at Isle Aux Noix, in the vicinity of the British works, he addressed a proclamation to the Canadians, exhorting them to join their brethren in the cause of freedom, and declaring that the American army came as friends of the inhabitants, and as enemies only of the British garrisons.
The fortification at St. Johns being found stronger than was anticipated, General Schuyler returned to Albany to hasten the departure of the remaining troops, artillery, and munitions of war. He was prevented, by a severe illness, from again joining the army, and the chief command devolved upon Montgomery. On receiving a reinforcement, he invested St. Johns: but being yet almost des