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house, as persuaded them that the proposition went to maintain the right of the British parliament to tax the colonies, and to divide America against itself, while at home it would have the effect of uniting the country. When this proposition reached America,it was found to contain nothing more than apromise that parliament would not tax the colonies, provided the colonists would of their own act tax themselves to any amount the minister might think proper to dictate. On the face of it, this was a virtual declaration of the right of the parliament to tax America, being avowedly a supension of one mode of taxation upon the substitution of another. As such it was viewed by the Americans, who so far from being divided by it as the minister predicted, were united in still stronger bands of amity and mutual support. The middle and southern states fell in with that of Massachusetts, with resolutions to support it in every measure of opposition which they should adopt. No sooner was the intelligence of the proceedings received in England, than the ministers brought in a bill imposing the same restraints as those placed in Massachusetts, upon all the other colonies, New York and North Carolina excepted, which being thought less disaffected, were more particularly favoured than the rest. N.York however was soon convinced, by the insolent rejection of a petition of its legislature, offered in parliament by Mr. BURKE, that they had no other alternative to pursue than resistance or unconditional submission, and that accommodation was entirely out of the question.
It was at this crisis that, not at all deterred from the performance of his duty, either by the unsuccessful issue of all the former attempts of the minority, or by the hopelessness of those to come, Mr. Burke, on the twenty second day of rch 1775, brought forward a series of resolutions for conciliation with America, to which allusion has been heretofore made. The plan of those resolutions may be considered as reflecting the most perfect image of the heart and genius of its illustrious author ; wisdom and mildness alike characterised the one and the other. To place the colonies in their ancient state was the amount of that simple and majestic scheme; and as there never was conceived by the mind of man a nobler design, so no specimen of eloquence ancient or modern ever equalled the
speech in which he opened, explained and enforced it ; whether for force of reasoning, sound and acute argument, felicitous language, splendid and deversified imagery, or apposite illustration. * But what availed truth itself, even when so recommended, against the strongly compacted system of court corruption which then prevailed! All was unavailing, and the whole plan of conciliation, with the eloquence which enforced it, served no other purpose than to delight an auditory, who, while their hearts confessed thorough conviction of the path which they ought to pursue, had predetermined to act in the manner in which they ought not. Other plans were proposed, but were also rejected, and, in a word, every attempt to turn ministers out of the wayward road they had taken, experienced the same fate, and was alike abortive. The fact was, that the administration was obstinately determined to fix inherently in · parliament two rights belonging to the colonists, which the Americans were very properly determined never to surrender. One was the right of taxation; the other the power to alter the laws and charters of the provinces; while on the other hand doctor FRANKLIN, on the part of the Americans, peremtorily declared, that while the parliament claimed and exercised a power of internal legislation for the colonies, and of altering American constitutions at pleasure, there could be no agreement, as that would render the Americans unsafe in every privilege they enjoyed, and would leave them nothing in which they could be secure. This was the hinge upon which the revolution turned. To reconcile determinations so opposite was impossible. The sword alone could adjust them.
The patriots in England, and the chief men in America, now began to perceive that civil war was unavoidable. All the expectations with which they had flattered themselves had vanished. The parliament and the ministers both manifested an obstinate determination to follow up their late acts with further offence, and armed coercion. Neither the general unanimity and bold spirit of the Americans, nor the union which had taken place between the several colonies, nor all their remonstrances, were of any avail. The day of delusion was passed; and the congress of Massachusetts was,
* Sir James Mackintosh sets this at the head of all Burke's works.
as usual, the first to step forward in a new attitude of preparation. Early in 1775, they came to a resolution, that there was cause to fear, from the conduct of the British parliament, that their just claims would meet no favourable reception; but, that on the contrary, from the large reinforcement of troops expected in that colony, from the tenor of intelligence from Great Britain, and from all general appearances, they had reason to apprehend that the sudden destruction of that colony in particular was intended. They, therefore, urgently recommended to the militia and to the minute men, to make themselves perfect in military discipline with all the dispatch possible. They then took measures for procuring and making arms of every military denomination. The colonial governors could not but see that preparations were making for self defence ; and, construing every thing done by the colonists into a preconcert for attack, did all they could to frustrate them, each at the same time affecting to have no hostile intentions, but suspiciously waiting for the assault of the other. Among the colonists some, who were more fiery and hasty than the rest, were for more open operations. Those said, that it was downright madness to let the enemy (such they considered the British government) introduce fresh troops into the country and fortify themselves, when the people were able and not unwilling to cut them off. The prudence of the leaders, and the moderation and wisdom of congress over-ruled them ; and happy is it that they possessed that power. A premature act of violence to the king's troops might not only have stirred up government to more prompt and vigorous measures than those which they actually pursued, but would have left an indelible stain upon their cause. It would have severed them from the hearts of those in Europe who felt for their sufferings, and struggled for their defence, and deprived them of much of the sympathy and good will of the other provinces. For a long time the sagacious inhabitants of New England courageously fought with their own resentments, and, with a patience beneath which was concealed the most intrepid resolution, endured the insults of the king's officers and men. Posterity will do honour to the people of Boston for their conduct at this trying crisis. They
avoided (says RAMSAY) every kind of outrage and violence; preserved peace and good order among themselves ; successfully engaged the other colonies to make a common cause with them, and counteracted general GAGE so effectually, as to prevent his doing any thing for his royal master, while, by patience and moderation, they screened themselves from censure. Though resolved to bear as long as prudence and policy dictated, they were all the time preparing for the last extremity. They were furnishing themselves with arms and ammunition, and training the militia. And they collected together, and stored in several places, provisions for their support in case of necessity. In the mean time every province elected delegates for the next congress. Not all the powers and influence of government, great though it was, could prevent the people of N. York itself, from meeting in convention for the purpose of electing members to represent them in congress. All were firm to their trust; all foresaw that the sword would be drawn, and prepared to meet it. And now the crisis approached, when their firmness was to be put to the test.
The principle depot of military stores and provisions, laid up by the people of Massachusetts, was at a town about twenty miles from Boston, named Concord. General GAGE, conceiving that it would be of consequence, not so much to any purposed military operation, as to the preserving of peace, which it is but justice to say seemed to be chiefly his object, determined to destroy those stores, and being desirous to effect it without bloodshed, endeavored to surprise the place without alarming the country. All his precaution however was unavailing. Intelligence of the enterprise reached the militia. About five o'clock in the morning on the 19th April, 1775, the royal troops, amounting to eight hundred men, the flower of the British army, advancing to Concord, were met at Lexington by the militia of that place, to the number of only seventy, prepared to dispute as well as they were able, the passage to the stores. With such an immense inequality it were hopeless to resist. Yet such was the resolution of the provincialists that the royal troops could not execute their orders without having recourse to force. Major
PITCAIRN, who led the van, rode up to the Americans, and ordered them to disperse: “ disperse ye rebels (said he) throw down your arms and disperse,” The militia still retained a firm position in a body, on which Major PITCAIRN advanced nearer to them, discharged a pistol and ordered the soldiers to fire. The militia began to disperse, but nevertheless the soldiers continued to fire upon them. Some individuals of the provincialists, finding that though moving away they were still fired at, faced about and discharged their pieces at the troops, and several of them were, in consequence, killed. The royal troops reached Concord, and after some resistance from the Concord militia, in which some were killed, executed their orders; spiked two twenty-four pounders, throwing an immense quantity of shot into the wells and rivers, and destroying sixty barrels of flour. Having done this, they began to return to Boston with great expedition, perceiving that the inhabitants of the adjacent country were assembling to harrass them. On their retreat, the Americans attacked them in every direction, some pressing on their rear, some pouring in upon either side, firing from behind stone walls, and other coverts. So enraged, so dauntless, and for the short notice they had, so numerous were the armed provincialists, who poured forth from all sides upon them, that it is highly probable few of the eight hundred would have reached Boston again, had they not been joined at Lexington by nine hundred men, commanded by lord PIERCY, sent out by general GAGE to reinforce them, and which having two field pieces, in some degree awed the Americans, and obliged them to keep at a greater distance. Notwithstanding which, however, the latter kept up a constant but irregular fire, which galled the royal troops, and did considerable execution among them. On the other hand the British, though confounded at the unexpected vehemence and fury of the New England men, who, being excellent marksmen, shot them down with great dexterity and certainty, made an admirable retreat, firing with considerable effect upon the provincialists, till they reached 'Charlestown common and passed the neck to Bunkers's hill, where, exhausted with the excessive fatigue of a march of near forty miles, fighting for the greater part of the time, they rested all