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WASAINGTON TO ARNOLD.
(I bave no doubt but a junction of your detachment with the army under General Montgomery, is effected before this. If so, you will put yourself under his command, and will, I am persuaded, give him all the assistance in your power, to finish the glorious work you have begun.”
Lord Danmore. His Plans of harassing Virginia. – Ler .
Policy respecting Tory Governors and Placemen. - Rhode Island harrassed 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.
N 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 reinforcements 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 hor. rors 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 destruction of the colony."
General Lee took the occasion to set forth bis own system of policy, which was particularly rigid wherever men in authority and tories were concerned. It was the old grudge against niinisters 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 struke, would have applied to Congress for approvation.
“ I propose the following measures,” would be 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 fur their maintenance.” 1
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
1 Lee to Rich. Henry Lee. Am. Archives, 4th Series, iv. 948.
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 niaraudings, he was said to have received countenance from the tory part of the inhabitants. It was now reported that a naval armament 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 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 indirectly, assist the wicked instruinents of ministerial tyranny and villainy com.
LEF'S EXPEDITION TO RHODE ISLAND. 115
monly called the king's troops and navy, by fur. nishing 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-banded, and were disapproved by Congress. Lee made light of legislative censures. must not be trammeled by laws in war-time,” aid he ; “in a revolution, all means are legal.” Washington approved of his measures.
“I have seen General Lee since his expedition,” writes be, “and hope Rhode Island will derive some advantage from it. I am told that Cap tain Wallace's ships have been supplied for some time by the town of Newport, on certain conditions stipulated between him and the committee.
I 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 highly concerns us to keep from them.
Vigorous regulations, and such as at another time would appear extraordinary, are now become absolutely necessary for preserving our