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Motives of resentment actuate his conduct to
a degree equal to the destruction of the colony."
General Lee took the occasion to set forth his own system of policy, which was particularly rigid wherever men in authority and tories were concerned. It was the old grudge against ministers and their adherents set on edge.
"Had my opinion been thought worthy of attention,' would he say, "Lord Dunmore would have been disarmed of his teeth and claws." He would have seized Tryon too," and all his tories at New York," and, having struck the stroke, would have applied to Congress for approbation.
"I propose the following measures," would he add: "To seize every governor, government man, placeman, tory, and enemy to liberty on the continent, to confiscate their estates; or at least lay them under heavy contributions for the public. Their persons should be secured, in some of the interior towns, as hostages for the treatment of those of our party, whom the fortune of war shall throw into their hands; they should be allowed a reasonable pension out of their fortunes for their maintenance." *
Such was the policy advocated by Lee in his letters and conversation, and he soon had an opportunity of carrying it partly into operation. Rhode Island had for
* Lee to Rich. Henry Lee. Am. Archives, 4th Series, iv. 248.
LEE'S EXPEDITION TO RHODE ISLAND. 169
some time past been domineered over by Captain Wallace of the royal navy; who had stationed himself at Newport with an armed vessel, and obliged the place to furnish him with supplies. Latterly he had landed in Conanicut Island, opposite to Newport, with a number of sailors and marines, plundered and burnt houses, and driven off cattle for the supply of the army. In his exactions and maraudings, he was said to have received countenance from the tory part of the inhabitants. It was now reported that a naval armament was coming from Boston against the island. In this emergency, the governor (Cooke) wrote to Washington, requesting military aid, and an efficient officer to put the island in a state of defense, suggesting the name of General Lee for
Lee undertook the task with alacrity. "I sincerely wish," said Washington, "he may be able to do it with effect; as that place, in its present state, is an asylum for such as are disaffected to American liberty."
Lee set out for Rhode Island with his guard and a party of riflemen, and at Providence was joined by the cadet company of that place, and a number of minute men. Preceded by these, he entered the town of Newport on Christmas-day, in military style. While there, he summoned before him a number of persons who had supplied the enemy; some according to a convention originally made between Wallace and the authorities, others, as it was suspected, through tory feelings. All
were obliged by Lee to take a test oath of his own devising, by which they "religiously swore that they would neither directly, nor indirectly, assist the wicked instruments of ministerial tyranny and villainy commonly called the king's troops and navy, by furnishing them with provisions and refreshments." They swore, moreover, to "denounce all traitors before the public authority, and to take arms in defense of American liberty, whenever required by Congress or the provincial authority." Two custom-house officers, and another person, who refused to take the oath, were put under guard and sent to Providence. Having laid out works, and given directions for fortifications, Lee returned to camp after an absence of ten days. Some of his proceedings were considered too high-handed, and were disapproved by Congress. Lee made light of legislative censures. "One must not be trammeled by laws in war-time," said he; "in a revolution all means are legal."
Washington approved of his measures. "I have seen General Lee since his expedition," writes he, " and hope Rhode Island will derive some advantage from it. I am told that Captain Wallace's ships have been supplied for some time by the town of Newport, on certain conditions stipulated between him and the committee.
know not what pernicious consequences may result from a precedent of this sort. Other places, circumstanced as Newport is, may follow the example, and by that means their whole fleet and army will be furnished with what it
ous regulations, and such as at another time would ap pear extraordinary, are now become absolutely necessary for preserving our country against the strides of tyranny, making against it.”*
December had been throughout a month of severe trial to Washington; during which he saw his army dropping away piecemeal before his eyes. Homeward every face was turned as soon as the term of enlistment was at an end. Scarce could the disbanding troops be kept a few days in camp until militia could be procured to supply their place. Washington made repeated and animated ap peals to their patriotism; they were almost unheeded. He caused popular and patriotic songs to be sung about the camp. They passed by like the idle wind. Home! home! home! throbbed in every heart. "The desire of retiring into a chimney-corner," says Washington reproachfully, "seized the troops as soon as their terms expired."
Can we wonder at it? They were for the most part yeomanry, unused to military restraint, and suffering all the hardships of a starveling camp, almost within sight of the smoke of their own firesides.
Greene, throughout this trying month, was continually by Washington's side. His letters expressing the sam cares and apprehensions, and occasionally in the same language with those of the commander-in-chief, show
* Washington to Gov. Cooke. Sparks, iii. 227.
how completely he was in his councils. He could well sympathize with him in his solicitudes. Some of his own Rhode Island troops were with Arnold in his Canada expedition. Others encamped on Prospect Hill, and whose order and discipline had been his pride, were evincing the prevalent disposition to disband. "They seem to be so sick of this way of life, and so homesick," writes he, "that I fear the greater part of the best troops from our colony will soon go home." To provide against such a contingency, he strengthened his encampment, so that, "if the soldiery should not engage as cheerfully as he expected, he might defend it with a less number.'
Still he was buoyant and cheerful; frequently on his white horse about Prospect Hill, haranguing his men, and endeavoring to keep them in good humor. "This is no time for disgusting the soldiery," would he say, "when their aid is so essential to the preservation of the rights of human nature and the liberties of America."
He wore the same cheery aspect to the commander-inchief; or rather he partook of his own hopeful spirit. “I expect," would he say, "the army, notwithstanding all the difficulties we meet with, will be full in about six weeks."
It was this loyalty in time of trouble, this buoyancy ander depression, this thorough patriotism, which won for him the entire confidence of Washington.
The thirty-first of December arrived, the crisis of the
*Greene to Henry Ward.