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been so well trained by the French and Indian wars. The New England army was now away from home; it was unused to marches or evolutions, but it had learned some confidence in itself and in its commander, though it did not always do credit to either. It was soon reinforced by troops from the Middle States, but a period of disaster followed, which severely tested the generalship of Washington. He no longer had, as in Massachusetts, all the loyalists shut up in the opposing camp; he found them scattered through the community. Long Island was one of their strongholds, and received the Continental army much less cordially than the British army was received at Staten Island. The Hudson River was debatable ground between opposing factions; Washington's own military family held incipient traitors. The outlook was not agreeable in any direction, at least in the northern colonies, where the chief contest lay.
There was a disastrous advance into Canada, under Montgomery and Arnold, culminating in the defeat before Quebec, December 30, 1775, and the retreat conducted the next spring by Thomas and Sullivan. It was clearly a military repulse, but it was a great comfort to John Adams, looking from the remoteness of Philadelphia, to attribute all to a quite subordinate cause. "Our misfortunes in Canada,'' he wrote to his wife, June 26, 1776, “are enough to melt a heart of stone. The small-pox is ten times more terrible than Britons, Canadians, and Indians together. This was the cause of our precipitate retreat from Quebec.” Thus was disappointment slightly mitigated; but in the Carolinas, about the same time, it was the British who were disappointed, and the defence of Fort Moultrie especially gave comfort to all the patriotic party. It was a brilliant achievement, where the fate of Charleston and the Carolinas was determined by the defence of a fortress of palmetto logs, manned by less than five hundred men, under Moultrie, aided by Motte, Marion, and the since-renowned Sergeant Jasper. They had thirty-one cannon, but only a scanty supply of powder. Over them waved a flag of blue, with a crescent inscribed “Liberty.” Against them was a squadron of British ships, some of them carrying fifty guns; and they defended themselves so successfully for ten hours that the British invasion was checked and then abandoned. This happened on June 28, 1776, just in time to counteract the discouragement that came from the fatal Canadian campaign.
The encouragement was needed. Just before the time when the Continental Congress had begun its preliminary work on the great Declaration, General Joseph Reed, the newly appointed adjutant-general, and one of Washington's most trusted associates, was writing thus from the field:
“With an army of force before, and a secret one behind, we stand on a point of land with six thousand old troops, if a year's service of about half can entitle them to this name, and about fifteen hundred raw levies of the province, many disaffected and more doubtful. Every man, from the general to the private, acquainted with our true situation, is exceedingly discouraged. Had I known the true posture of affairs, no consideration would have tempted me to take part in this scene; and this sentiment is universal.”
N the days of the Continental Congress the dele
gates used to travel to the capital, at the beginning of each session, from their several homes, usually on horseback; fording streams, sleeping at miserable country inns, sometimes weather-bound for days, sometimes making circuits to avoid threatened dangers, sometimes accomplishing forced marches to reach Philadelphia in time for some special vote. There lie before me the unpublished papers of one of the signers of the great Declaration, and these papers comprise the diaries of several such journeys. Their simple records rarely include bursts of patriotism or predictions of national glory, but they contain many plaintive chronicles of bad beds and worse food, mingled with pleasant glimpses of wayside chat, and now and then a bit of character-painting that recalls the jovial narratives of Fielding. Sometimes they give a passing rumor of “the glorious news of the surrendering of the Colonel of the Queen's Dragoons with his whole army,” but more commonly they celebrate "milk toddy and bread and butter" after a wetting, or "the best dish of Bohea tea I have drank for a twelve month." When they arrived at Philadelphia, the delegates put up their horses, changed their riding gear for those garments which Trumbull has immortalized, and gathered to Independence Hall to greet their brother delegates, to interchange the gossip of the day, to repeat Dr. Franklin's last anecdote or Francis Hopkinson's last joke; then proceeding, when the business of the day was opened, to lay the foundation for a new nation.
“Before the 19th of April, 1775," said Jefferson, “I had never heard a whisper of a disposition to separate from the mother-country.” Washington said: “When I first took command of the army”—(July 3, 1775)—“I abhorred the idea of independence; but I am now fully convinced that nothing else will save us.” It is only by dwelling on such words as these that we can measure that vast educational process which brought the American people to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The Continental Congress, in the earlier months of that year, had for many days been steadily drifting on towards the distinct assertion of separate sovereignty, and had declared it irreconcilable with reason and a good conscience for the colonists to take the oath required for the support of the government under the crown of Great Britain. But it was not till the 7th of June that Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, rose and read these resolutions:
That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign alliances.
“That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective colonies for their consideration and approbation."
These resolutions were presented under direct instructions from the Virginia Assembly, the delegates from that colony selecting Mr. Lee as their spokesman. They were at once seconded, probably after previous understanding, by John Adams, of Massachusetts—Virginia and Massachusetts being then the leading colonies. It was a bold act, for it was still doubtful whether anything better than a degrading death would await these leaders if unsuccessful. Gage had written, only the year before, of the prisoners left in his hands at Bunker Hill, that “their lives were destined to the cord.” Indeed, the story runs that a similar threat was almost as frankly made to the son of Mr. Lee, then a school-boy in England. He was one day standing near one of his teachers, when some visitor asked the question, “What boy is that?” “He is the son of Richard Henry Lee, of America,” the teacher replied. On this the visitor put his hand on the boy's head and said, “We shall yet see your father's head upon Tower Hill”—to which the boy answered, “You may have it when you can get it." This was the way in which the danger was regarded in England; and we know that Congress directed the secretary to omit from the journals, for safety, the names of the mover and seconder of these resolutions. The record only says: “Certain resolutions respecting independence being moved and seconded, Resolved, That the consideration of them be deferred until to-morrow morning; and that the members be enjoined to attend punctually at ten o'clock, in order to take the same into their consideration."
On the next day the discussion came up promptly, and was continued through Saturday, June 8th, and on Monday, June roth. The resolutions were op