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HistRevolV1_101-150.indd 26 3/16/12 11:43 AM CHAPTER V I I A Continental Army • Mr. Washington appointed to the Command • General Gage recalled-succeeded by Sir William Howe • Depredations on the Sea Coast • Falmouth burnt • Canadian Affairs • Death and Character of General Montgomery CHAP. VII [229] Freedom, long hunted round the globe by a succession of 1 1 1 s tyrants, appeared at this period, as if about to erect her standard in America; the scimitar was drawn from principles, that held life and property as a feather in the balance against the chains of servitude that clanked in her disgusted ear. The blood of innocence had already crimsoned over the fields which had teemed for the nourishment of Britain, who, instead of listening to the groans of an oppressed country, had recently wrung out the tears of anguish, until the inhabitants of the plundered towns were ready to quit the elegancies of life, and take refuge in the forest, to secure the unimpaired possession of those privileges which they considered as a grant from heaven, that no earthly potentate had a right to seize with impunity. The bulk of mankind have indeed, in all countries in their turn, been made the prey of ambition. It is a truth that no one will contest, [230] though all may regret, that in proportion to the increase of wealth, the improvement in arts, and the refinements in society, the great body of the people have either by force or fraud, become the slaves of the few, who by chance, violence, or accident, have destroyed the natural equality of their associates. Sanctioned by time and habit, an indefeasible right has been claimed, that sets so mischievous a creature as man above all law, and subjects the lives of millions, to the rapacious will of an individual, who, by the intoxicating nature of power, soon forgets that there are any obligations due to the subject, a reptile in his opinion, made only for the drudgery necessary to maintain the splendor of government, and the support of prerogative. Every step taken by the British government, relative to the colonies, 126 HistRevolV1_101-150.indd 27 3/16/12 11:44 AM VOLUME ONE 127 confirmed this truth, taught them their danger, and evinced to the CHAP. vn Americans the necessity of guarding at all points, against the assumed 1 7 7 s jurisdiction of an assembly of men, disposed to innovate continually on the rights of their fellow subjects who had no voice in parliament, and whose petitions did not reach, or had no influence on the ear of the sovereign. The success of the last supplicatory address offered to the parliament of Britain by the United States, still hung in suspense; yet the crisis appeared so alarming, that it was thought necessary by many, to attend immediately to the establishment of a continental army on [231] some stable and respectable footing. But there were some influential members in congress, who dreaded the consequence of a step so replete with the appearance of hostility, if not with the avowed design of independence; they observed, that such a measure would be an inevitable bar to the restoration of harmony. Some, who had warmly opposed the measures of administration, and ably advocated the rights of the colonies, were of this opinion. The idea of dissevering the empire, shocked their feelings; they still ardently wished, both from the principles of humanity, and what they judged the soundest policy, to continue if possible, the natural connexion with Britain. Others of a more timid complexion, readily united with these gentlemen, and urged, notwithstanding the contempt poured on all former supplications, that even, if their late petition should be rejected, they should yet make one effort more for conciliation and relief, by the hitherto fruitless mode of prayer and remonstrance. Men of more enlarged and comprehensive views, considered this proposal as the finesse of shallow politicians, designed only to prevent the organization of a continental army. The celebrated Machiavel, pronounced by some the prince of politicians, has observed, "that every state is in danger of dissolution, whose government is not frequently reduced [232] to its original principles." The conduct of the British administration towards the colonies, the corruption of the government in every department, their deviations from first principles, and the enormous public debt of the nation, evinced not only the necessity of a reform in parliament, but appeared to require such a renovation of the British constitution, as...


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