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the vexatious interference of Parliament with their trade, but in the main they were contented and loyal. They knew that all the great Statesmen of England, Chatham, Burke, Fox, were their champions in Parliament. They were aware that the sympathies of the English people were enlisted on their side.*
I think it may be inferred from the foregoing that the Revolution was not the work of the people of the Colonies generally, who had no hatred for the Royal Government, or any preference for a more Democratic organization of which they knew nothing. Of course, I except the New England States, whose Republicanism, and whose commercial interests, as previously remarked, inspired them with a profound craving after Independence. They were the real pioneers of the Revolution. In the other Colonies, Guizot observes that "the upper classes of society chiefly plotted for emancipation, expecting that great material advantages would accrue, and knowing that all political functions would fall into their hands." It may be doubted, therefore, if the Revolution would have occurred for long years if it had not been stimulated by the arrogant obstinacy of a single man, George III., who refusing to yield to the temperate demands of the Colonies for a change of policy, brought on a war which was destined not merely to deprive England of her richest Dependencies, but to create a New Nation, and a New System of Government whose effects on the world defy calculation.
* This was proved when the British Government found themselves obliged to hire troops in Germany, especially in Hesse, since the English people generally refused to enlist in the war against the Colonies.
SOME months before the Declaration of Independence the Royal Governors of the Colonies began to withdraw, and the Colonists proceeded to construct anew their Local Governments. Legislatures were elected consisting, as before, of two branches, and these in turn elected the Governor of the State. The Thirteen Colonies were now suddenly transformed into so many Sovereign States. They were not only independent of Great Britain, but independent of each other.
This condition of things soon filled the political leaders of the Revolution with the utmost alarm.
The young States were so proud of their Sovereignty that no one would be advised by the other. They began to think only of their individual interest, and to ignore the common good of all. To be sure, they were engaged in a war that threatened all alike. The general danger demanded harmonious action. Yet jealousies broke out and mistrust of each other began to spread.
What was to be the fate of these infant States? Were they destined to imitate the ancient States of Greece, and waste themselves in fratricidal conflicts till swallowed up by a modern Philip of Macedon? Europe contemplated the result with interest, if not anxiety.
Such was the general dislike of England, that every nation of Europe was pleased at the probable loss of
her Colonies. France and Spain more especially, enraged at their expulsion from the American Continent, 1763, were eager to aid the rebellious States and only waited for a favorable opportunity. Various maritime Powers, as Holland, Genoa, Naples, and Tuscany, from jealousy of the commercial ascendency of England, sympathized with the Revolutionists. Even Prussia and Russia, from envy of England, affected to condemn her deportment to her Colonies.
If the Statesmen of Europe could have possibly divined the astounding political results fated to spring from the Revolution they were patting so complacently on the back, it is hardly to be doubted that they would have been more eager than England herself to crush it in the bud. If the ghost of George III. takes any interest in passing events, it must be consoled at the havoc that the Democratic principles hatched in the American Revolution are making in the countries that plotted against him.
For more than a year after the Declaration of Independence, the Revolution was in constant danger of failure. Washington left Boston a victor, and brought his army to New York. In June, 1776, General Howe landed at Staten Island with a considerable force, which was soon augmented to 30,000 men. Washington's raw and ill-supplied levies were no match for such an army. In August, the campaign began with a battle on Long Island which the Americans lost. Washington then began a retreat which he was obliged to continue, until in December he found himself on the south side of the Delaware river at the head of less than 4,000 men, without tents, blankets, clothing, or food. So desperate had become the prospects of the Revolu
tion, that great numbers abandoned it and accepted the British General's offer of pardon and amnesty. Despondency seized the most confident, and the Rebellion seemed on the verge of utter discomfiture.
Worst of all, the Congress that was still sitting at Philadelphia could do nothing. It was composed of Delegates from the thirteen new States, but they had no authority to enforce their opinions. They could do no act without orders from their respective States: their only mission was to vote piteous appeals to the various Legislatures to furnish men and money to carry on the war.
The States were now all Sovereign, as said before, and independent of each other. There were rivalry of interests, and suspicion of motives. Many of them, too, were alarmed at raising a large army that might subjugate them again.
In this grave situation the difficulty was to induce them to act in concert. The political leaders saw it was imperatively necessary that the States should give their Delegates in Congress powers of some sort to sustain the war, and provide for the common welfare. The States hesitated to do this, lest Congress might obtain an ascendency over them. They were so jealous of their new Sovereignty, that they shrank from parting with the least portion of it. They feared lest Congress might become a sort of Central Authority, a kind of NationalGovernment, which might act contrary to their wishes and interests.
This was the gloomy condition of the rebellious States at the end of 1776. The helpless Members of Congress must have often fancied the halter round their necks. All they could do was to encourage Washington, and to implore their States to save the cause.
A gleam of hope suddenly lit up the horizon. The British army, consisting in part of Hessian mercenaries, was encamped at Trenton, New Jersey. On the opposite bank of the river, which was choked with ice, were posted Washington and his half-starved followers. The British and their German allies devoted the Christmas of 1776 to feasting and festivity. Plunged at night in the stupor of drunken sleep, the opportunity was irresistible. Washington embarked his dispirited Militia, and pushed over the river during the darkness in the face of a snowstorm. At daylight he fell on the stupefied enemy, put them to flight, and captured 1,000 Hessians. He followed them to Princeton, and two days later, January, 1777, defeated them again.
This double success rescued the sinking Revolution, and Washington was able to recruit his army to 7,000 The British General made every effort to bring on a general engagement, but the wary Washington skilfully eluded his purpose, knowing his ill-trained Militia was unfit to cope with an enemy so superior in discipline and numbers.
General Howe then withdrew from New Jersey, sailed with 16,000 men for Chesapeake Bay, and landing on Elk river, threatened Philadelphia. To protect the Capital, Washington made his way to Delaware, where he was defeated in the battle of Brandywine, September, 1777. The British then marched on Philadelphia, and Congress made a precipitate retreat to York, a town in the interior.
Hoping to retrieve himself Washington attacked the British army at Germantown near Philadelphia, in October, and was again repulsed.
The gloom of these disasters was relieved by a grand