The Revolutionary History of Virginia

Edmund Randolph

[1809 / Part 3 of 5]

It may however at first sight be supposed, that when this answer speaks of a free trade with all the world, it coincides with Doctor Robertson's suspicion and prediction; but it is obvious from the context that it is hinted at only as a condition for the concessions required from the colonies.

It was a dexterous management of the affections of the British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic, to refer to the bill of Lord Chatham, as susceptible with a modification of being made the ground of reconciliation. His name was engraven on the hearts of them all, and in America he was greeted, as the chief of her friends. How he would have extricated himself in fair argument from the embarrassments of his distinction between an external regulation of trade, and internal taxation, his eloquence alone could say, and it is problematical, whether if the American controversy had been accommodated upon that principle, his popularity or his consistency would not have been wrecked in the vindication of it in practice. While he dominated his bill, a bill of concession to America, he claimed for it the name of a bill asserting the rights of the mother country.

No. 43. But from an inquiry, instituted into the plunder of the gunpowder, symptoms of exasperation were appearing, not absolutely exempt from a pretext, that Dunmore and his family were in danger at least of insult. He therefore retreated with them on board of a frigate of war, lying at York town about twelve miles below Williamsburg. He was frivolous enough to submit to the choice of the assembly, either to forward to him on board, the business in which he would have participated on shore, or to adjourn to York Town, which on another occasion the commander of the frigate had threatened, (with perfect power to execute the threat) to batter down, if a body of marines, which he had landed as guards to the governor in his palace, should be interrupted in their march thither.

The result of this inquiry was a voluminous farrago of bitterness against the governor. I shall not comment on it farther, because it was much the child of licentiousness, as being without a rein upon it from cross examination. But with it the assembly and all the acts, which had been matured, up to the governor's exodus, died: and with this abortive assembly, the regal government breathed its last, except for the disturbance of the peace of Virginia. Dunmore not only gathered troops from ships of war, and enlisted a few malcontent white persons, but proclaimed emancipation to the slaves.

No. 44. In July 1775 the convention passed an ordinance appointing a committee of safety for the more effectual carrying into execution the several rules and regulations, established by that body for the protection of the colony. They were a temporary executive for one year, or until the then next convention. Thus did the colony glide from monarchy into self-government, without a convulsion or a single clogg to its wheels from its novelty or from disaffection. Thus too were falsified all the predictions of Dean Tucker the most inveterate of America's enemies, that to withdraw from the western hemisphere the superintending sun of Great Britain would involve it in darkness and misery.

No. 45. The intelligence of the bloodshed at Lexington and Bunkers hill in the neighborhood of Boston, had in Virginia changed the figure of Great Britain from an unrelenting parent into that of a merciless enemy, whose malice was the more severe, as her affection had been the more earnestly courted. George Washington had been unanimously elected by congress as captain general and commander in chief of the American Army. The convention had organized a large corps of militia styled minute men, who were to be trained at convenient seasons, and ready for service at all times. Two regiments of regular infantry had been also raised, the command of which was given to Patrick Henry, then a member of congress sitting in Philadelphia. Officers with military experience were rare: Virginia was compelled to rely principally on those elements of character which were indispensable in a soldier. Henry was seconded by men who had been active in the French and Indian war of 1755, and their imperfect lessons promised to render him with his ambition and attention an able defender of liberty in the field, as he had been in the forum.

No. 46. The navy of Dunmore was supposed to consist of three vessels of war of twenty, sixteen and fourteen guns; and his army of two companies of a British regiment and about one hundred negroes. He fed his vanity with menaces of destruction to every town and building on the eastern waters, and fancied that he was evincing a species of Roman heroism, when he warned the inhabitants of Hampton, a little village near the mouth of James River, that he would burn it in reprisal for two schooners, which the Virginians had captured.

No. 47. These inhabitants communicated their defenceless state to the committee of safety, who are represented by Burke, a late historian, to have canvassed the question, whether the lower country should not be abandoned as untenable. From what disclosure this fact is handed to us cannot be conjectured; as that body sat with closed doors and under injunctions of secrecy, and it was not rumoured abroad, until it appeared under the authority of his name. I do not with the assurance of knowledge peremptorily contradict it. It perhaps might have been very honestly discussed in the scantiness of military skill, and while raw militia alone were to sustain the charge of disciplined troops, and so long a line of coasts was accessible to the cannon of vessels of war. But crude counsels never confirmed by a majority of the acting rulers, quickly renounced, and blotted out by contrary conduct detract from neither the patriotism nor firmness of the committee. The names of the members attending at this conjuncture are at present unknown: but of the eleven, who constituted it, seven possessed large estates within the district intended to be derelict, and it may be concluded, that if so baneful and disgraceful an idea escaped the mind in which it was generated, it must have been the hasty excrescence of a brain disturbed from the perplexity of the moment, but recovering itself after more mature reflection. Howsoever this may be, it is certain, that under the orders of that very committee in seven hours after the request of aid had arrived in Williamsburg, a company of regulars, of which George Nicholas, the eldest son of Robert Carter Nicholas, and a company of minutemen of whom George Lyne was the captain, and one hundred riflemen commanded by Colo. William Woodford, were seen in Hampton after a march of thirty six miles. The enemy's little fleet enfiladed the town; but from the position, taken by the riflemen, no man could stand at the helm, or shew himself in the management of the sails, without being immediately devoted to slaughter. From the shyness and inactivity, which fear had caused in the sailors a part of the fleet was driven on shore, and the rest fled to Norfolk. Thus was the enemy repulsed with loss and ignomy to them, and with glory to the Virginians:---a glory probably not of excessive splendor in military records, but of immense utility in this stage of the revolution, which was fettered with a general sentiment, that the British navy was in its humblest shape invincible, and militia but sport for British regulars.

No. 48. Dunmore on his part made an excursion into Princess Anne county, to destroy some cannon. The same spirit, which produced the defeat at Hampton, stimulated Colo. John Hutchings, the commander of Norfolk county to raise his militia, and to endeavor by an ambush to intercept the motley corps of the governor. Dunmore fell into the snare, but was extricated by a panic, which could not be accounted for, and put the militia to flight after the first discharge of their musquetry, leaving their colonel a prisoner.

No. 49. The crest of Dunmore was now as high as that of the Virginians, after the affair at Hampton. Hearing that a large body of them were in motion to attack him, he advanced some miles to the Great Bridge to receive them. Woodford was detached to dislodge him; but was impeded by accidents, which he could not control, and by information, that Dunmore was hastening to Suffolk, a town on Nansemond River about twenty miles from Norfolk, to receive submissions and scatter his proclamations commanding the people to repair to the royal standard. He therefore sent lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott and Major Thomas Marshall, with 215 light troops, of whom one hundred and three were expert riflemen, to intercept him. At the same time he requested a reinforcement of at least 100 men, with further supplies, necessary for the equipment of the volunteers, who were joining him daily. Without delay his wishes were complied with, and Colo. Thomas Bullitt, celebrated in the Indian war was dispatched to aid Woodford with his experience. Scott and Marshall did not overtake Dunmore in his predatory retreat: but surprized a body of tories on their way to the great Bridge and disarmed many, who had renewed their allegiance to the king.

To describe the position of small forts and redoubts and to narrate all the humility of the warfare of that day, satisfies none of the desiderata of history. The bulk of such an inert map cannot be enlivened by one particle of interest to those, who read now the tales of those ancient times. But let it not be forgotten, that at the great Bridge, the Virginians faced like veterans the blaze of danger, and drove the enemy into a post of security; the companies of Nicholas and Walter Taliaferro were on the point of storming the fort, when the enemy deserted in confusion. Bullitt was solicitous for an assault of the strongest entrenchment, and strongest ground, occupied by the enemy. He was transported into the most decided confidence in the heroism of his inflamed countrymen. But the prudence of Woodford held fast the fame which had been recently acquired, knowing the importance of it as an incentive to future exertion and a passport to future victory. With inferior numbers did the detachment under Woodford kill or wound every officer and private of Dunmore's forces, and the injury to his own corps was confined to a single private wounded. I record however, with great pleasure, the humanity of the Virginians: They had been branded with opprobrious name of rebels, had been outraged as unworthy of the rights of war, and had fought under a conviction that the gibbett was already prepared for them in Dunmore's mind, should they be conquered. And yet did they not hesitate between a manly oblivion of resentment and the indulgence of ferocious passion. Their tenderness to the unfortunate was acknowledged by the British themselves.

No. 50. The news of this disaster was a death blow to the most aspiring hopes of Dunmore, whose compunctions were the more tormenting as he had impressed or inveigled into his army a body of highland Scotch, who under his auspices, had emigrated to America, to establish themselves as tillers of the earth, many of whose families were now bereft of bread, in a foreign land not friendly to them, except from motives of compassion. Dunmore had considered it as a stroke of profound and lucky policy to recruit the able bodied men among this tribe of wretches; indifferent about the probable consequence of their catching the feelings of citizens, whose aim was to plant their wives and children in a soil more promising, than that of their native land. Pure vengeance was the aliment of his soul, and blunted his understanding. He himself took refuge on board of his own ship, and the remains of his army in Norfolk: the highlanders were neglected by him as outcasts doomed to perish by nakedness or famine. Coals of fire must have been heaped on his head, when he heard, that those, whom he classed with traitors, administered to their necessities, and equipped them for a journey to and settlement in North Carolina, for which province they were destined, when they embarked from Scotland. Indeed in no state of exasperation, was the conduct of any public body marked with a severity or obduracy, disproportioned to the just suggestions of self preservation. The convention had by a special resolution protected the resident British merchants, factors and agents, who did not manifest enmity to the common cause, in the enjoyment of their civil rights and liberty, and discountenancing all national reflections; and when this extreme courtesy and tolerance had been grievously abused, they repealed it, but not without a licence to those, who had taken up arms against the country, or been inimical to leave it. It was reserved for the honor of an American nation to observe Christian like forbearance during the rage of civil war.

No. 51. Upon the junction of Colo. Robert Howe, and his regiment from North Carolina, he and Woodford advanced with their whole force to Norfolk. As soon as they appeared, Dunmore to efface the defeat at Great Bridge, and to intimidate the opposition to the supplies of wood and water which had been refused to him, drew up his squadron before the town; but this measure was so far from producing the desired effect, that it taught the Virginians, that even the British navy could not be secure in all situations. The riflemen were so stationed, as to reach with their bullets the man, who ventured to appear in their ships. The naval commander thereupon, commenced a bombardment of the town, and landed parties, which set fire to several houses near the river. The Virginian army rushed through the smoke and fires and drove the British to their boats. Thus the essence of Dunmore's prowess and talents served only to familiarize our raw troops to danger, and to inspire them with contempt for the terror of the British power. War was not longer unnerved by vain expectations of peace. Such too was the temper of the convention, which met in Richmond on the first day of December 1775, breathing the spirit of a nation invaded and no longer halting between the torpor of reconciliation and the exigencies of the crisis.

No. 52. Dunmore determined to try the last resort of his nominal office of governor. He proclaimed martial law, beckened to his standard, under the penalty of treason, every man capable of bearing arms, and emancipated all slaves of a similar description. So little were the convention alarmed, by this scheme of domestic murder, that they contented themselves with a determination to repel force by force, and promised pardon to such slaves as should return to their duty in ten days. That kindness of providence which is displayed in antidotes for the poison of almost every climate, is most peculiarly exhibited in giving to the general mind of a nation roused by oppression, an elasticity, by which it may rise from its depression above almost every terror.

No. 53. Virginia committed but few errors in the selection of men, to whom she committed her interests. But she was not equally fortunate in the repudiation of a father and his three sons, of the name of Goodrich. They were so original and happy in their genius of shipbuilding that from the construction of vessels adapted to all the waters of this colony, many cargoes escaped capture, and relieved the most urgent wants of the navy, and of the people. But upon a doubt, whether upon some occasion they had acted correctly, they were suspected of being unfaithful to the country and forced into the condition of enemies. Their hostility was not to be appeased. Their faculties were so applied, as to enable them to intercept every vessel, which they could discern in the shallowest water and most intricate navigation. It was said, that the whole British navy had scarcely made prizes of Virginia ownership to a equal amount with theirs. Fertile as revolutions generally are in character equal to every growing necessity, Virginia never repaired the loss, which she sustained in these men. They had explored every vulnerable point, and weakness in Virginia; and their hatred kept pace with their knowledge. Whether they were guilty or not, of the first imputations, was decided by the voice of the public, according to the temperament of him who judged. But a cloud may suddenly envelop well disposed and capable men, which they may not easily pierce, or which if lessened is never wholly dissipated. They may be forgiven, and the attainder of their reputation may be proclaimed to be unjust, but the suspicion infects every struggle towards full and delicate confidence. The cause of these men I pretend not perfectly to understand, or to advocate. But it is a superfluous function of history to warn a republic to avoid temerity in condemning without the highest proof, her servants, who until the hour of darkness shone with lustre in her service.

The convention closed their labours for supporting the war without expressing in any act a leaning to independence; and yet they had ascended an eminence from which independence was visible in all the surrounding horizon. An army had been levied; the regal government was laid aside; Virginia had exercised the rights of a nation, with reference only to the power, granted by the conventions. Still, if the most influential members of these bodies had in terms moved for independence, the exceptions would have been few to an universal clamor against it.

No. 56. However, Thomas Paine, an Englishman by birth, and possessing an imagination, which happily combined political topics, poured forth a style hitherto unknown on this side of the Atlantic, for the case, with which it insinuated itself into the hearts of the people, who were unlearned, or of the learned, who were not callous to the feelings of man. From his pen issued the pamphlet of "Common Sense," pregnant with the most captivating figures of speech:---with the abuse of the British government not before seen in America in so gross and palpable forms:---with proud republican theories, which flattered human nature:---with contempts of British power, which had appalled the most sanguine calculations---and with compliments on the docility of patriots in all the arts of war by land and sea. It was published under the reputed sanction of Doctor Benjamin Franklin, and was a text book, from which many of the most respectable officers in our army warmed the coldest among their civil friends. Under all these advantages, the public sentiment which a few weeks before had shuddered at the tremendous obstacles, with which independence was environed, overleaped every barrier. The election of delegates for convention, the stated meeting of which was to be in May 1776, now depended in very many, if not in a majority of the counties, upon their candidates pledging themselves or being understood to be resolved, to sever, as far as their voices could extend, the colonies from Great Britain. But in truth, this pamphlet put the torch to combustibles which had been deposited by the different gusts of fury, excited by successive acts of the ministry and those who were their agents. The effect on this body of inflamable materials was so rapid and instantaneous, that all previous indications were either concealed from, or discredited by, the most acute statesman. Franklin, it is true, was adored for political wisdom, and Paine entranced our understandings; but independence would have rested in the womb of time, had not its birth been as it were, studiously quickened by the excesses of the ministry, demonstrating that a peaceful reunion with embittered enemies who treated Americans as vassals of the mother country, was impossible. In fact therefore independence was imposed upon us by the misdeeds of the British government.

1776. In the convention of May, the members who filled the most space in the public eye, were Edmund Pendleton, who presided, Patrick Henry, who had from disgust, resigned his command of the first Virginia regiment, in time to be elected, George Mason, James Mercer, Robert Carter Nicholas, James Madison of Orange, Richard Bland, Thomas Ludwell Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson, George Wythe and John Blair. These were associated with numbers whose fortunes and unobtrusive good sense supported the ardor of the more active in the theatre of business. Madison, even then, attracted great notice. Until the meeting of the convention he was unknown at the metropolis. He was educated at Princeton College in New Jersey, and had been laborious in his studies, which ranged beyond strict academick limits, but were of that elementary cast, subservient in their general principle to any science, which he might choose to cultivate in detail. As a classical scholar, he was mature; as a student of belles lettres, his fancy animated his judgment; and his judgment without damping his fancy, excluded by the soundness of criticism, every propensity to tinsel and glitter. It still glowed, but it glowed without glare. His diffidence went hand in hand with his morals, which repelled vice, howsoever fashionable. In convention debate his lips were never unsealed, except to some member, who happened to sit near him; and he who had once partaken of the rich banquet of his remarks, did not fail to wish daily to sit within the reach of his conversation. It could not be otherwise; for although his age and the deference, which in private circles had been paid to him, were apt to tincture him with pedantry, he delivered himself without affectation upon Grecian, Roman and English history, from a well digested fund, a sure presage of eminence. A very sensible foreigner observed of him, that he never uttered anything, which was not appropriate, and not connected with some general principle of importance. Even when he commented upon the dignity, with which Pendleton filled the chair, it was in that philosophic spirit, which looks for personal dignity in officers of a republic as well as of a monarchy. While he thrilled with the ecstasies of Henry's eloquence, and extolled his skill in commanding the audience, he detected what might be faulty in his reasoning. Madison was enviable in being among the few young men, who were not inflated by early flattery, and could content themselves with throwing out in social discourse jewels, which the artifice of a barren mind, would have treasured up for gaudy occasions.

At this date commences the difficult alternative of either discarding from this history, all connection with that of the United States, or of torturing the latter into an alliance with the former. The best course seems to be, to give each state its separate rights of reputation, where separate rights have been acquired by particular exertions, or even by the decisive merits of its particular citizens. But as an extensive national operation combines a number of minutiae, which contribute almost imperceptibly to its final success, and even undistinguishably every measure and every battle, which obviously lends to the consummation of the great object may be appropriated by any state to its own history, as members of the same grand union, care being taken to prevent the abuse of repeating the whole revolutionary history of the United States as if it were naturally capable of combining with that of the particular state without any diminution. But this connection between the United States and Virginia, shall be postponed until after the end of the year 1781.

Continental Events etc. But more properly the Revolutionary history of the United States, as interwoven with that of Virginia.

This portion of the revolutionary history of the United States is engrossed by civil events and military transactions. The former rather indicates the temper of the belligerent parties: the latter their relative power or the approach of each to its proposed object:---of the king of England to conquest or subjugation:---of the United States to the Recognition of their Independence.

Prior, however to the first eminent consolidated act of power, under the United Colonies, the appointment of George Washington to the command of the American Army, a few circumstances seem more peculiarly to belong to individual states.

Copiously to extract these instances, as well as others which follow until the end of the war, from the only authentic history of that period, the life of George Washington by Chief Justice Marshall, might with difficulty escape the charge of plagiarizm, or of piracy, as it is sometimes expressed. I risque too the less, in merely giving, what I wish to call the philosophy of that period, as I profess nothing didactic in the military art.

1. The posts of Ticonderoga and Crownpoint were captured by an American force, principally from Connecticut under their own authority, and principally on their own credit and expence.

The military stores, which fell into our hands there were a seasonable supply for the prosecution of more enlarged views; and in addition to these succours, the seisure of a sloop of war at St. John's conferred on us the command of the lakes. These achievements teemed with the most solemn presages to the enemy.

2. The king has banished all hope of reconciliation by announcing to parliament a daring spirit of resistance in Massachusetts, and his determination to maintain the supreme authority of the British legislature over all his dominions. Both houses adopted the royal infatuation and pride. These the eloquence and influence of even Chatham, covered with the mantle of superstition, which his rapid descent to the grave seemed already to spread over his virtues, which his very feelings could not subdue or abate.

3. The battle of Concord and that of Lexington which formed the first entrance as it were into arms, was most propitious to the American cause.

4. On the eve of a revolution, trifles often weigh much in the estimate of human actions.

The reprisals in Virginia for the gunpowder removed by the British governor, became an universal pledge that to resist a governor in such circumstances should not be dreaded as treason.

5. An American cannot believe that it was material, to our success, whether the first onset of British hostility, came on the east or any other geographical division of America. Still he cannot refuse his assent to the probability that these were portions of the colonies, in which the position and army of the British general Gage might for a time, have produced a more unfavorable impression than at Boston. In the preparation for resistance at Bunker's or Breed's hill, farmers and labourers, accustomed to no other use of gunpowder, than for amusement or explosions to remove obstacles, were on a sudden to confront the highest order of discipline and terror in the enemy. They not only planted themselves in support of the breast-work, thrown up in haste and in the most unscientific manner, during the preceding night; but numbers also were mowed down by the cross fire of two ships of war, as the Americans were passing the isthmus to the rampart. There the unusual resort to cannon was soon so familiar to them, that with their skill and bravery in managing it, they staggered the British veterans in their approach, caused the general to halt and hold a council, and afterwards to arrest his movements, until reinforcements should arrive from Boston. The chief leader of these provincials was not recommended to them by a confidence in his military experience, or reflection on war. His profession and habits lay in the medical art. They asked themselves only, whether he was patriotic and brave. Besides this good fortune, they had from the long contemplation of dangers inevitable from the British Army, made up their minds to face extremities, when the other colonies perhaps had just begun to think seriously and awfully upon the prospect. Be the cause what it may; to the lustre of the day at Bunker's hill, we may trace much of our future splendor and success. It gave character, and banished one of the parents of fear in war, an idea of self humiliation in comparison with an army.


6. The contagion of heroic example would of itself have aroused Virginia to repel the British squadron in its invasion of Hampton, and animated her to the distinguished defeat of Dunmore at the Great Bridge.

7. Among the deferences paid to Virginia in the early congresses, it was natural, that her pretensions to give a commander in chief of the army, should be consulted. But independently of this motive, one of her sons enjoyed as high a character for military experience and acquirement as any inhabitant of another colony. This was George Washington, whose fame was as fair for so hazardous an experiment, as could be found in America. He was a native, with habits hardy, bold and active. His fortune was suitable to any station, and superior to every influence. He had been a disciple in the British school of Indian warfare, and a witness of the fatality of rashness in a general. In a word the title to public confidence was complete in him alone. Colo. Charles Lee and Major Horatio Gates, were Britons and British soldiers.

Upon the notification to him of his appointment he in his reply of acceptance, manifested, that he was secure from arrogance and presumption, and was neither hasty in overlooking difficulties, nor would be too flexible in yielding to them. Discernment and patriotism may be said to have concurred in the appointment as the best in the power of congress.

8. The work was, however, begun only. Large bodies of troops arrived from England; the governor of Massachusetts proclaimed marshal law, and excepted from an act of indemnity and pardon, two of the most distinguished citizens, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. This lesson, that safety was to be sought only in arms, dictated the immediate necessity of emitting paper money, collecting military stores, and raising an army according to our best energies.

9. The constitution of the army existing under the states was so far sound, that from its patriotism and bodily ability, a hope was inspired of its capacity to be well organized. But it was impossible from the manner and circumstances of assembling it, that it should be other than a crude mass, compounded of corps, distracted by various and independent authorities. The appointment of some of the most indispensable officers was omitted: even a quarter master general, a commissary general, engineers and many officers of the staff were unknown. The terms of enlistment being unequal in duration, forbade a coincidence of operation for any length of time. The roads were crowded with some returning home after short tours of duty, and others going to camp for a moment as it were, under the charm of novelty of military display. The equality in the intercourse of fellow citizens, necessary in the cultivation of a revolution, unnerved the army which was to support it. The unshrinking temper, maintained by the friends of the war in this condition of things, proclaimed, that the cause was deeply seated in the heart. It countenanced in some respects indeed the prediction of our friends in England, that attempts to conquer us, were desperate; but rendered the ministry callous.

10. To defend lines as extensive, as those, with which Boston was necessarily invested, when numbers, materials, and ammunition were so defective; to substitute enthusiasm and native courage for military habits, and experience, and to efface by a preference of military life a predilection for the comforts left at home:---to meet under all these disadvantages, a large, well disciplined well provided enemy, enjoying every facility of transportation by water, could not escape the penetration, though they did not alarm the breast of any officer. But it was unaccountable, that experienced British generals, of whose character, activity was the expence, should adopt a species of defensive warfare. For a considerable time, understanding, as it was believed, our situation as well from the disaffected as from facts of notoriety, our wide-stretched lines were permitted to remain as if they had been works indeed, when the only semblance of their impregnability arose perhaps from the suspicion excited at Bunker's hill, that to flee before British cannon was no American attribute. Of a great importance was this early promise of prowess.

11. It seemed to be the fate of England to mistake her policy and means of annoyance. The destruction of the town of Falmouth in Massachusetts denoted a cruelty, regardless of the usages of civilized war. It unintentionally, but decisively added fuel to the American flame. Letters of marque and reprisal were now granted, and under them vessels of great value, were captured, having on board articles of the first necessity. Supplies of provisions to Bermudas and the West Indies were intercepted, and the insidious popularity of several of the British governors now ceased to deceive: their persons were no longer held sacred, and the consequences of arresting them had fallen into contempt.

12. In the face of an enemy, who upon ordinary calculation was able to destroy with ease, was our army to be reenlisted, after the contrast of a camp had given to domestic life a zest and regret. This was undertaken with momentary expedients---with temporary enlistments---in the spirit of the times---not in the wisdom of congress---with men, wanting both fuel and clothing in the latitude of Boston;---with the militia and soldiery around that town visited by the smallpox.

13. But it was a noble trait in congress, to be ignorant of depression from adversity; and even amidst real weakness, to adopt measures of retaliation for infractions of the law of nations. It was a noble concealment which patriotism stretched over some of our most vulnerable parts. It was an illustrious effect that in March 1776 the enemy should be compelled to evacuate Boston. This step uttered the most explicit language, inviting America to confide and persevere. Our very disasters in Canada exhorted with the same strength. To be partially defeated and even to retreat is not to be subjugated. Light enough broke through this gloom in Canada, to penetrate all but British blindness, and inspire America with fresh vigor and alacrity. Various cheering rays were floating elsewhere. The British naval armament had been repulsed at Fort Maultrie in South Carolina, and a body of highland emigrants, who had risen on the side of England, was dispersed.

14. As congress were not to be heart stricken by misfortune, neither were they to be puffed into bravado. When they declared that foreign aid was attainable the assertion was ridiculed on the British side, and the British nation was duped by the arts or ignorance of their own diplomatists.

4th July 1776.

The declaration of Independence, though calculated to bring the temper of foreign nations to the test, for some time amounted only to an additional evidence that America was resolved to evince the sincerity of her purpose by a dependence on herself---alone, if necessary.

December 13, 1776.

15. A stormy season succeeded. We evacuated Long Island and New York. Fort Washington had been carried; the weakness of the American army, and the impracticability of a general stimulus to the militia compelled our general to retreat through Jersey until he was covered by the river Delaware, and possessed an open passage to the interior of the country. When he had thus far eluded the pursuit of his overwhelming antagonist, we were relieved by a confused hope, that all was not lost; although it was indistinctly murmured by the most sanguine, what were the means reserved by providence for our deliverance. General Charles Lee too had incautiously exposed himself to a surprize, and with malignant injustice was charged with being perfidious. But it was a war of the people's choice, to which they were pledged by the highest sanctions.

Jan. 3rd.

16. The success thereof at Trenton and Princeton were not insulated events, but formed an epoch, from which the reputation and safety of America may take a new date. The intelligence shot through America with electrical rapidity, and scattered wonder in its train, how those brilliant acts could have been achieved. To hear that Washington had emerged from behind the Delaware, when it was supposed that he could seize, and clutch a portion of safety, as the best fortune, which could then attend him; and had assumed the very ground, on which he had declined open battle, seemed at first one of those fictions, which those, who pant for news can forge so easily, and circulate with so shameful a disregard to truth.

17. The defeat of Arnold on the lakes, produced no extraordinary sensation at any great distance from the scene of action, although had he not miscarried no ministry could have withstood the impression, which he would have made in England. It was a refuge from our disappointment to see, not to feel.

18. In the calamitous and prosperous events of our revolution, it will be perceived, that many were so neutral in their operation, as in America to excite no other sensation than that of surprize, or in England to inflame opposition to the ministry. These are not within our plan of incorporation with this history of Virginia. Hence we pass over the reduction of the town of Newport in Rhode Island by General Clinton and Admiral Parker, and other transactions of a similar minor kind, when considered in relation to the war at large.

19. To our enemy however, admonition upon admonition was of little avail. Otherwise a striking catalogue, with no very great intervals if it did not disturb the repose, certainly deserved the attention of the ministry. The final view of independence was never to be relinquished. The bloody alliance of Great Britain with the Indians of the Six Nations was severed by the management of General Schuyler. Colo. Connelly had been intercepted in his traverse through the Western Frontiers; and his machinations of Indian hostility frustrated---The system of retaliation marked out by congress, was not in the parade of threat, but in a spirit, which while it might be appeased by equality and justice, was not to be intimidated. The British power on sea, in the midst of terror, had been shewn to be resistable on many occasions, and liable to be eluded on many more---Prizes had been taken in the year 1776 equal in amount to a million of dollars, and of the most precious qualities for war, and our particular necessities under it.

20. In other parts of our revolutionary picture the darkness was considerable, and nothing short of most fervid patriotism could enlighten it.

21. Paper money had been emitted by congress without funds of their own, without taxation, or even a pointed nominal pledge of redemption. In the Anglo-American family, such an anomaly had been hitherto a stranger. But legitimated by necessity, it was received into use with some cordiality. The disaffected to our cause inveighed against the spuriousness of its value, and caution and avarice denied to it hospitality. But the child waxed strong, and was protected in its existence, until its original constitution was lost, and to be connected with it, was to hazard fortune.

Is there any principle of religion or morality which forbade a weak infant nation, driven into war for the avoidance of slavery, to arm itself by the best means in its power?

It was scarcely possible indeed, that depreciation should not be foreseen. The degree of it and its havoc, probably were not. Yet to stop would have been political suicide. Thus what in established governments might have been fraud, in ours, which without final success, must have been annihilated, was explained, nay justified by its situation. A redemption dollar for dollar, if practicable, would have overpaid almost every holder of paper currency. It might have been heroically romantic. It would have gone beyond the most sublime precedents of any revolution. The patchwork of congress did not arraign their wisdom, so much as it proved the difficulty of devising a remedy.

The sternness of American virtue was exemplified in the fewness of the instances of defection among the people from the revolution. Where the enemy appeared, they committed devastation. They were too often cruel, and in the consternation of fire and sword obtained professions of returning allegiance from small numbers of those, whose families and property were unprotected from military vengeance; but the furrow of the kell on the ocean was scarcely less permanent.

22. Every day discovered some defect in the militia at such a time and in such a service, considered as a resource of perfect safety against invasion. It was rather a depository of pure purpose, and partaker of the same feelings with the people at large.

23. Even the regular forces were in a manner for a time, in serious danger in the hospitals, whither they had gone, to extinguish by one effort, the prevailing alarms from the smallpox. Hence the state of the army was low and perilous.

24. The recruiting service too proceeded heavily; almost every state acting with a solicitude to retain its force, within its own limits.

25. The dispersion of our army at Brandywine, must, in the mind of the enemy, have been productive of such pernicious consequences, had it been pursued with rigour, as to oblige America to summon up against despair all her recollections of the recovery of her affairs by the successes of Trenton and Princeton.

26. The eclat of possessing Philadelphia, the banishment of congress to Lancaster, our failure in the battle of German Town, the evacuation of Ticonderoga, and the loss of our stores, were hurrying the public mind into a painful abyss, when it was revived by the surrender of Burgoyne and his army. This opened the second seal in the volume of independence, so as to be legible by Great Britain. In truth it gave to America a strong foot-hold for her grand work. It supported with joyful anticipation, our army, amidst the huts of Valley Forge, the combinations for supplanting Washington, the privation and nakedness of American soldiery.

27. No doubt, Great Britain fancied, that our appetite for independence was reduced below arrogance, when she offered through her second commissioners the reconciliation, which could be received for consideration at best, only pro forma, and for final acceptance had passed over the time many years---It was the fatality of all British overtures, to ensure their rejection by this tardiness.

28. But if we could have wanted encouragement and refreshment, they came most seasonably in our treaty of alliance with France; in the evacuation of Philadelphia by the British army; in the expedition of Clarke against Detroit, and in the great stroke, meditated by Washington at Monmouth, which if executed as planned by him, would, to use a phrase of his own, "have crippled the enemy."

29. Here let us be permitted to remark, that in estimating the vicissitudes of the war, our disasters, though they may be sometimes detailed in frightful numbers, were, with a few exceptions, not formidable in magnitude; never treated by congress or by Washington beyond the reach of repair; while many of our successes spoke directly, as fiats to American Independence.

30. In the former class we rank the division of party in Congress; the reduction of Georgia, the insurrection of the tories in South Carolina, the invasion of Virginia by Matthews, the British general; and the discontents of the army.

31. In the latter the reduction of Stony Point rises above the surface of ordinary events.

32. Powles Hook witnessed a grandeur of military enterprize and merit.

33. The capture of St. Vincents and Granada, and the victory over the six nations, detracted something from British hostility.

34. The war with Spain brought accessions, which the British government well understood and felt. Tarlton was defeated by Colo. Washington.

35. Then indeed we are stunned by the surrender of Fort Moultrie, the capitulation of Lincoln, the settlement of the British government by Clinton, in South Carolina and Georgia; the defeat of Gates at Camden; the slothful proceedings of the states in the discharge of their federal duties, and the height to which parties were carried in congress.

36. The armed neutrality and the consequent war with Holland being nearer to the British home, were nearer to the British bosom. The American war and the American agency, were such strong ingredients in it, that it was obviously an engine in our labours for independence.

37. What remains of the capital events and circumstances of the war, except the battles of the Cowpens, Guilford and Eutaw are comprized in the body of history from the defeat of Ferguson. See Marshall's life of Washington, 4th Vol., p. 342.

It may possible be thought, that this continental history has been compressed or strained into membership with a general history of Virginia. But surely, the latter must have appeared mutilated, if those acts and counsels, in which she virtually always, and most effectually often bore a part, had been pretermitted.

38. Were political speculations to combine the various events of the war, which contributed to the confirmation of our independence, they would probably terminate in some or other of these ideas.

1. Disguise the source as we may, Virginia in common with other colonies, received from the parent country an original stamina, perhaps I might add something phlegmatic in her temper, which inclined her to regulated liberty, by saving her from those ebullitions which teem with violence and insubordination.

2. From an elevation of character, she was incapable of being seduced by the artifices of the British government.

3. Her associations in the more recent opposition to Great Britain were cool and deliberate suggestions of the people themselves, not impulses of ambition or of faction.

4. Her portion of merit, as a state, in accomplishing the revolution, may be estimated from her character, her wealth, her readiness to coalesce with other states upon principles of fraternity in danger and object.

5. In her concessions of interest in territory, and of political power in the confederation, her archives will shew, that she always deserved the confidence and never the obloquy or suspicion of her sister states.

We may justly question whether our American general ever was deceived by indulging himself too warmly in the flattery of some military prospect or by too great confidence in the appearance of a devotion to the American cause, unsound at the bottom. After the defeat of Gates at Camden, Cornwallis viewed the two Carolinas, not as to be subdued, but as to be protected and preserved, as actual British territory. For this purpose he sent Major Ferguson into the Western part of North Carolina near the mountains. He was to be supported in his communication with Cornwallis, by Tarleton's legion; but his messengers, announcing the approach of danger from several corps of America militia, were intercepted, and he was compelled to choose his ground for defence, and wait an attack on Kings Mountain. There Ferguson was slain, and with him expired the courage of his corps. The second in command immediately demanded quarter. Of British troops eight hundred and ten surrendered themselves and fifteen hundred stand of arms were also taken.

Hence Cornwallis was disabled from an expedition into North Carolina, and was obliged to wait for reinforcements from New York. General Clinton, dispatched General Lesslie not so much with succours as with augmented means to press Virginia. Portsmouth on Elizabeth River was fortified but Cornwallis ordered him to repair to Charleston: There for military objects, fresh troops were constantly thrown in, until Cornwallis marched himself to Petersburg and took the command, compelled thereto by the various miscarriages and disappointments which had befallen the British arms, though at first seduced by a supposed brilliancy of prosperity.

Introduction * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * Part 5