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after deducting for deficiencies in all conceivable ways, we may allow the whole land force, with which the united colonies will have to combat, to be at least 40,000 privates and officers.
[May 23.] His majesty went to the house of peers; gave his royal assent to such bills as were presented; and then put an end to the session. In his speech he said, “It is with pleasure I inform you, that the assurances which I have received of the dispositions of the several powers in Europe, promise a continuance of the general tranquility."
Many in Britain are more then ever disgusted with coercive measures, from the ill success which has attended their execution. The disasters which have happened, have made a deep impression upon their minds; and they are ready to impute them, rather to the iniquity, than to the imprudence of the schemes in agitation. But administration has been supported by both the press and the pulpit. Several pamphlets, composed with much art and ability, and recommended by many of the beauties of lauguage, have painted in black and hateful colours, the claims and conduct of the Americans; and have, by that mean not a little inflamed the resentment of the mother country. One of the leading methodist preachers, Mr. W- -, has revived the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance, nearly as asserted in the last century. He declines practising them toward his superiors in the English church, of which he professes himself a member. The doctors Johnson and Shebbeare, as in duty and gratitude bound for their respective pensions, have published many ingenious things on the side of ministry. But none have distnguished themselves more among the political champions of the day, than Dr. Price. He published in February a most admirable peace, stiled "Observations on the nature of civil liberty, the principles of government, and the justice and policy of the American war." Such was the avidity with which it was read, that it ran through four editions within a month. His opponents may write against it as much as they will, but they will never be able to confute it. On the 24th of March, at a court of common council, a motion was made and carried, "That the thanks of the court be given to Dr. Price, for his excellent pamphlet of civil liberty; also, that the freedom of the city be presented to him in a gold box." Three days after, at a court of assistants of the drapers company, a motion was made and carried to present the doctor with the freedom of that company. The doctor has conveyed his acknowledgments to the lord mayor, alderman, and common council; and expressed his hope that their approbation would lead the public to fix their
views more on such measures as should save a sinking constitution, and preserve us from impending calamities.
You may wish to know the sentiments of the French relative to the American contest. Those of the nobility and gentry, who are tolerably versed in the English language, accustom themselves to the reading of the papers containing the disputes between Britain and the colonies. The generality conceive of the affair as a family quarrel, which the parties will make up after a while. Whatever they may wish, as to its continuance and increase, and however they may covertly contribute towards its support, they will decline, for the present, all public interference, and give the most satisfactory assurances to the court of London, from an apprehension that both sides would otherwise accommodate, unite and fall upon them. Should the late acts which parliament have passed, and the hiring of German auxiliaries, force the congress into a declaration of independence, they will still remain inactive, whatever preparations they may make, until some very favourable occurrences brings them forward. Till then, they will not think of taking the colonies by the hand; lest Britain should, upon its being done, offer every thing short of independence, and thereby unite them afresh to the inother country; which might disgrace France in the eyes of other European powers, if not expose her to worse consequences.
You will easily conceive of my eager expectation of hearing from you shortly. The operations in America will soon be extremely interesting. Let your informations be as early and frequent as possible.
Roxbury, July 19, 1776.
HE affairs of Canada shall employ our first attention. Sir Guy Carleton has treated the prisoners, taken at the attack of Quebec, both officers and privates, with the utmost humanity. In conversation with major Meigs, when returning
his sword, Sir Guy said, "You were certainly deceived in our numbers, and did not expect we were so strong." The major answered, "No we knew your strength." Carleton persisted, "You must have been deceived: for you never could have attacked us, had you known that we were double your number.' The major rejoined, "We were not deceived; but were persuaded, that many of your men would not fight, and thought that some of them might join us." The discourse was changed, and soon ended.
The blockade of Quebec was continued; but great were the fears of the Americans, as they had no more than 400 men to do duty, while there were upward of three times the number in the city. They were in daily expectation, that the latter would sally out upon them. At length capt. Seaborn, with twenty-seven men from the Massachusetts arrived for their encouragement; (Jan. 25.) and was followed by other small reinforcements, whereby they were enabled to rest one night out of two, whick had not been the case for a month. They advanced, and began a gain to erect works before Quebec: but their ordnance proved inadequate. All the troops that could be spared from the garrison of Montreal were sent down: but it was not till late in February, that the army before the city amounted to 960, officers included, of rank and file fit for duty, the number was only 772. Mr. Beaujeu imbodied a party of Canadians, with the design of raising the siege; but was encountered, and easily dispersed (Mar. 25.) by a detachment from the continentals. The misconduct of the American soldiery however, lost them the friendship of the Canadians. The account forwarded by an officer was to the following purport-"When gen. Montgomery first penetrated the country, the Canadians were friendly. His most unfortunate fate and other accidents have produced such a change, that they can be no more looked upon as friends. Their clergy have been neglected, perhaps ill used, and so are unanimously, though privately against the Americans. The peasantry in general have been mal-treated; in some instances liave been dragooned with the point of the bayonet, to furuish wood at a lower rate than the current price. They have had given them, for articles furnished, certificates which are not legible, or are without a signature; so that one half them have, of consequence, been rejected by the quarter-master-general. They have had promises of payment, without being paid; and so been brought to look upon the promises as vague, their labor and property as lost, and congress as bankrupt. With respect to the better sort of people, both French and English, seven-eights wish to see the throats of the continentals cut. The whole country has been left without
any kind of law, other than that of the arbitrary and despotic. power of the sword, in the hands of the several commanding officers, too frequently abused in all cases of this nature. The Americans have themselves brought about by mismanagement, what gen. Carleton himself could never effect. A priest's house has been entered with great violence, and his watch plundered from him. At another house the Americans ran in debt about twenty shillings sterling; and because the owner wanted to be paid, they ran him through the neck with the bayonet. Women and children have been terrified, and forced to furnish horses to private soldiers, without any prospect of pay. While the Canadians have in this way been alienated from, and imbittered against the continentals, these have been practising the most scandalous waste of provisions, and by it, absurdly adding to the danger arising from their other conduct." On the receipt of this information, congress resolved [April 13.] "That instructions be sent to the commissioners, to cause justice to be done to the Canadians; and that the commanding officer in Canada be directed to be very attentive to military discipline, and to inflict exemplary punishment on all those who violate the military regulations established by congress." They had before ordered four battalions to Canada, they now added six more; and directed the commissary-general to forward 2000 barrels of pork thither with all possible dispatch.
While the troops lay before Quebec, they caught the smallpox from a girl who had been a nurse in the city hospital, and came out among them. The distemper spread, and the soldiers inoculated themselves for their own safety, regardless of all orders to the contrary. The reinforcements, which were daily arriving, practised the same method; so that though, by the first of May, the army consisted of more than 3000 men, there were not 900 fit for duty at the several posts; and the whole were greatly scattered for want of barracks. What added to the distress, medicines and every thing necessary for the sick, were wanted. This was the situation of the troops when gen. Thomas arrived to take the command; but still something was attempted. The river about Quebec being sufficiently cleared from ice [May 3.] the Americans took the opportunity of the flood for sending up a fire-ship, about ten o'clock at night, in order to fire the shipping; and drew up ready to attack the walls, if the fire should take place. They were provided with Ladders, and their scheme was well laid. Had it succeeded, the garrison must have been thrown into great confusion and had that opportunity for making an assault been embraced, the town must have been in eminent danger of being taken. The ship coming from below was at first supposed to be a friend, ar
rived from sea to the relief of the besieged. Being night, it was not till she was very near the shipping, that she was disco vered to be an enemy, when a heavy fire at her commenced; the people on board, finding that they were no longer conceal ed, lighted the train, and in a moment she was in a blaze; her sails took fire, and checked her way; and the tide beginning to ebb, she was carried down the river. The men made their es cape in boats.
General Thomas, perceiving that nothing effectual could be done by the army in its present condition, learning that they had only three days provision, and apprehensive of the danger that would take place upon the arrival of British reinforcements [May 5.] called a council of war, when it was concluded to make the best retreat in their power. The measures which immediately followed, were sufficient indications to the enemy of what was intended. It so happened, that early in the morning [May 6.] after the retreat was concluded upon, the Surprise frigate, from Great-Britain arrived, and was soon followed by the Iris of 54 guns, and the Martin sloop, with succours. They had, by the zeal and activity of the officers and crews, forced their way through the ice while the passage up the river was deemed almost impracticable. They had on board 1000 marines, and two companies of the 29th regiment, which were landed with all expedi tson. About noon, gen. Carleton having joined them to his own troops, marched out, 800 strong, to attack the Americans, who had began their retreat before; for gen. Thomas could not hazard waiting an attack, as he was not able to collect more than about 300 men, on account of their being so scattered on Point Levi, Isle of Orleans, Beau Port and other villages. The Americans abandoned their baggage, artillery, stores and other incumbran ces. The sick got off as they could, creeping away from the hospitals, many with the small-pox full on them. The Canadians proved kind, secreted and took care of them till they were able to march off and join their comrades. Sir Guy Carleton did not take more than about 100 prisoners. The king's troops that had just arrived, were in no condition for a pursuit; but could the whole have followed with vigor, they must have taken or destroyed nearly all the American forces, for they had little ammunitie on. They retreated forty-five miles before they stopped, having marched almost the whole night. After halting a few days, they proceeded to Sorel, in a condition not to be expressed by words, but had the satisfaction of being joined there by four regiments, that were waiting for them. Here they remained, and were reinforced by the arrival of other battalions. During this period gen. Thomas sickened by the small-pox, and died. Having ordered