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conjunction (if there should appear occasion to summon them) with the Jersey regiment under the command of Lord Stirling, now at Elizabethtown, will effect the security of New York, and the expulsion or suppression of that dangerous banditti of tories, who have appeared on Long Island, with the professed intention of acting against the authority of Congress. Not to crush these serpents before their rattles are grown would be ruinous.

"This manœuvre, I not only think prudent and right, but absolutely necessary to our salvation; and if it meets, as I ardently hope it will, with your approbation, the sooner it is entered upon the better; the delay of a single day may be fatal.”

Washington, while he approved of Lee's military suggestions, was cautious in exercising the extraordinary powers so recently vested in him, and fearful of transcending them. John Adams was at that time in the vicinity of the camp, and he asked his opinion as to the practicability and expediency of the plan, and whether it "might not be regarded as beyond his line."

Adams, resolute of spirit, thought the enterprise might easily be accomplished by the friends of liberty in New York, in connection with the Connecticut people, "who are very ready," said he, "upon such occasions.”

As to the expediency, he urged the vast importance, in the progress of this war, of the city and province of New York, and the Hudson River, being the nexus of the northern and southern colonies, a kind of key to the


whole continent, as it is a passage to Canada, to the Great Lakes, and to all the Indian nations. No effort to secure it ought to be omitted.

That it was within the limits of Washington's command, he considered perfectly clear, he being "vested with full power and authority, to act as he should think for the good and welfare of the service."

If there was a body of people on Long Island, armed to oppose the American system of defense, and furnishing supplies to the British army and navy, they were invading American liberty as much as those besieged in Boston.

If, in the city of New York, a body of tories were waiting only for a force to protect them, to declare themselves on the side of the enemy, it was high time that city was secured.*

Thus fortified, as it were, by congressional sanction, through one of its most important members, who pronounced New York as much within his command as Massachusetts, he gave Lee authority to carry out his plans. He was to raise volunteers in Connecticut; march at their head to New York; call in military aid from New Jersey; put the city and the posts on the Hudson in a posture of security against surprise; disarm all persons on Long Island and elsewhere, inimical to the views of Congress, or secure them in some other manner

* Adams to Washington, Corr. of Rev., i. 113.

if necessary; and seize upon all medicines, shirts, and blankets, and send them on for the use of the American army.

Lee departed on his mission on the 8th of January. On the 16th he was at New Haven, railing at the indecision of Congress. They had ordered the enlistment of troops for the security of New York. A Connecticut regiment under Colonel Waterbury had been raised, equipped, and on the point of embarking for Oyster Bay, Long Island, to attack the tories, who were to be attacked on the other side by Lord Stirling, "when suddenly," says Lee, "Colonel Waterbury received an order to disband his regiment; and the tories are to remain unmolested till they are joined by the king's assassins."

Trumbull, the governor of Connecticut, however, "like a man of sense and spirit," had ordered the regiment to be reassembled, and Lee trusted it would soon be ready to march with him. "I shall send immediately," said he, "an express to the Congress, informing them of my situation, and at the same time, conjuring them not to suffer the accursed Provincial Congress of New York to defeat measures so absolutely necessary to salvation."

Lee's letter to the President of Congress, showed that the instructions dictated by the moderate and considerate spirit of Washington, were not strong enough on some points, to suit his stern military notions. The scheme, simply of disarming the tories, seemed to him totally ineffectual; it would only embitter their minds,



"The plan of explaining

and add virus to their venom. They could and would always be supplied with fresh arms by the enemy. That of seizing the most dangerous would, from its vagueness, be attended with some bad consequences, and could answer no good one. to these deluded people the justice of the American cause, is certainly generous and humane," observed he, "but I am afraid will be fruitless. They are so riveted in their opinions, that I am persuaded, should an angel descend from heaven with his golden trumpet, and ring in their ears that their conduct was criminal, he would be disregarded."

Lee's notion of the policy proper in the present case was, to disarm the disaffected of all classes, supplying our own troops with the arms thus seized; to appraise their estates, and oblige them to deposit at least one half the value with the Continental Congress, as a security for good behavior; to administer the strongest oath that could be devised, that they would act offensively and defensively in support of the common rights; and finally, to transfer all such as should prove refractory, to some place in the interior, where they would not be dangerous.

The people of New York, at all times very excitable, were thrown into a panic on hearing that Lee was in Connecticut, on his way to take military possession of the city. They apprehended his appearance there would provoke an attack from the ships in the harbor. Some,

who thought the war about to be brought to their own doors, packed up their effects, and made off into the country with their wives and children. Others beleaguered the committee of safety with entreaties against the deprecated protection of General Lee. The committee, through Pierre Van Cortlandt, their chairman, addressed a letter to Lee, inquiring into the motives of his coming with an army to New York, and stating the incapacity of the city to act hostilely against the ships of war in port, from deficiency of powder, and a want of military works. For these, and other reasons, they urged the impropriety of provoking hostilities for the present, and the necessity of "saving appearances," with the ships of war, till at least the month of March, when they hoped to be able to face their enemies with some countenance.

"We, therefore," continued the letter, "ardently wish to remain in peace for a little time, and doubt not we have assigned sufficient reasons for avoiding at present a dilemma, in which the entrance of a large body of troops into the city, will almost certainly involve us. Should you have such an entrance in design, we beg at least the troops may halt on the western confines of Connecticut, till we have been honored by you with such an explanation on this important subject, as you may conceive your duty may permit you to enter upon with us, the grounds of which, you may easily see, ought to be kept an entire secret."

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