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ICY RESPECTING TORY GOVERNORS AND PLACEMEN RHODE ISLAND HARASSED BY WALLACE AND HIS CRUISERS, AND INFESTED BY TORIES LEE SENT TO ITS RELIEF HIS VIGOROUS MEASURES THE ARMY DISBANDING WASHINGTON'S PERPLEXITIES —
SYMPATHY OF GENERAL GREENE HIS LOYALTY IN TIME OF TROUBLE THE CRISIS CHEERING NEWS FROM CANADA GLOOMY OPENING OF THE NEW YEAR NEWS FROM COLONEL KNOX.
IN the month of December a vessel had been captured, bearing supplies from Lord Dunmore to the army at Boston. A letter on board, from his lordship to General Howe, invited him to transfer the war to the southern colonies; or, at all events, to send re-enforcements thither; intimating at the same time his plan of proclaiming liberty to indentured servants, negroes, and others appertaining to rebels, and inviting them to join his majesty's troops. In a word to inflict upon Virginia the
horrors of a servile war.
"If this man is not crushed before spring," writes Washington, "he will become the most formidable enemy America has. His strength will increase as a snowball. ... Motives of resentment actuate his conduct to a degree equal to the destruc tion 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 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 burned 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 defence, suggesting the name of General Lee for the purpose.
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
1 Lee to Rich. Henry Lee. Am. Archives, 4th Series, iv., 248.