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bility of a successful defence of New York, But the importance of the place, and the difficulty which he had already experienced in dislodging an army from a fortified town, open to the protection and supplies of a fleet, inclined him to make the attempt. His own disposition to the measure was strengthened by the wishes of Congress, the opinion of his general officers, and by the expectation of his country. The resolution being formed, he called into action all the resources in his power to effect it. His first care was to put an end to the intercourse, which to this time had been continued, between the town and the British ships in the harbour, by which they were supplied with every necessary; and Tryon, the British governor, enjoyed the most favourable opportunity to concert his plans with the numerous disaffected inhabitants of the city and its vicinity; and by the aid of the committee of safety, this dangerous communication was effectually stopped. The general, with unremitted diligence, pushed on his works of defence. Hulks were sunk in the North and East rivers ; forts were erected on the most commanding situations on their banks; and works were flung up to defend the narrow passage between Long and York Islands.
The passes in the high lands, bordering on the Hudson, became an object of early and solicitous attention. The command of this river was equally important to the American and the British general, By its possession, the Americans easily conveyed supplies of provision and ammunition to the northern army, and secured an intercourse between the southern and northern colonies, an intercourse essential to the success of the war. In the hands of the British, this necessary communication was interrupted, and an intercourse between the Atlantic and Canada was opened to them. General Washington ordered these passes to be fortified, and made their security an object of primary importance, through every period of his command.
In these defensive preparations, the American army incessantly laboured until Lord and General How arrived at Sandy Hook with the British fleet and army. In the near prospect of active warfare, the mind of the Commander in Chief was agitated by innumerable embarrassments. He found himself destitute of the means to give his country the protection it expected from him; the colonies had not filled up their respective regiments; his force had been weakened by large detachments sent to reinforce the army in Canada ; he was greatly deficient in arms, tents, clothing, and all military stores; and notwithstanding his urgent entreaties on this subject, such was the destitute state of America, that Congress with all their exertions were unable to supply him. Two thousand men in camp were at this time without arms; and no confidence could be placed in many of the muskets which were in the hands of the soldiery. In this weak and deficient condition, General Washington was to oppose a powerful and well appointed army, and to guard against the intrigues of those in New York and its neighbourhood, who were disaffected to the American cause: these were numerous, influential and enterprising: A plan was laid by Governor Tryon, through the agency of the mayor of the city, to aid the enemy in landing, and to seize the person of General Washington. The defection reached the American
army, and even some of the General's guard engaged in the conspiracy ; but it was seasonably discovered, and a number of those concerned in it were executed.
The permanent troops being found incompetent to defend the country, it became necessary to call detachments of the militia into the field; and Congress, placing implicit confidence in the judgment and patriotisin of their General, invested him with discretionary powers, to call on the governments of the neighbouring colonies, for such numbers as circumstances should require ; and they empowered him to form those magazines of military stores, which he might deem to be necessary. In pursuance of the measure recommended by Congress, a requisition was made for thirteen thousand and eight hundred of the mic litia from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.
While these defensive preparations were going forward in the camp, Congress was ripening measures to declare the Colonies independent of Great Britain. The free exercise of their constitutional rights was the extent of the American claim at the commencement of the controversy, and a reconciliation with the parent state, by a redress of grievances, was the ardent desire of the great body of the American people; but the operations of war produced other feelings and views : a general alienation of affection from the British government took place, and it was thought, that the mutual confidence of the two countries could never be restored. In the common apprehension, it became an absurdity, that one country should maintain authority over another, distant from it three thousand miles: the restrictions of Great Britain upon the colonial trade, in the course of investigation, appeared as a heavy burden, and the commerce of the world was viewed as a high reward of independence : common sense dictated, that the ability successfully to contend for the liberty formerly enjoyed as British colonies, strenuously exerted, would secure to the country the more honourable and permanent blessings of an independent and sovereign nation. The declaration of independence was supposed to be the most effectual means to secure the aid of foreign powers; because the great kingdoms of Europe would be disposed to assist the efforts of the colonies to establish an independent government, although they would not interfere with their struggles to regain the liberties of British subjects. By reasonings of this nature, the minds of the American people were ripened to renounce their allegiance to Britain, and to assume a place among independent nations ; and the representatives of most of the colonies, were instructed to support in Congress measures for this important purpose.
Early in June, the following resolution was moved in Congress by Richard Henry Lee, and seconded by John Adams, “ Resolved that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” This resolution was solemnly debated for several days, and finally [July 4.] passed Congress, in the affirmative, by the unanimous suffrage of its members.
The duties of the field, precluded General Washington from a primary agency in this important, national measure ; but it met his full approbation. On the reception of the instrument, he wrote as follows to the President of Congress.
“ I perceive that Congress have been employed in deliberating on measures of the most important nature. It is certain that it is not with us to determine in many instances, what consequences will flow from our counsels ; but yet it behoves us to adopt such, as, under the smiles of a gracious and all kind Providence, will be most likely to promote our happiness. I trust the late decisive part they have taken, is calculated for that end, and will secure us that freedom, and those privileges, which have been, and are, refused us, contrary to the voice of nature, and the British Constitution. Agreeable to the request of Congress, I caused The Declaration to be proclaimed before all the army, under
immediate command ; and have the pleasure to inform them, that the measure seemed to have their most hearty consent ; the expressions and behaviour of both officers and men, testifying their warmest approbation of it.”
General Howe had sailed from Halifax in June,