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this expedition, and with the approbation of the general court, in order to protect the eastern frontiers of the province, two forts were built on that river; one on the present site of Augusta, on the eastern bank; and one eighteen miles higher, at the junction of the main river with the Sebasticook, opposite the Teconnett falls.
While these measures of precaution were taken by Massachusetts alone, at the instance of her provident and intelligent governor, the British ministry, with a view to the protection of all the colonies, supposed to be in great danger from the French in Canada, proposed a convention to be composed of delegates from each provincial government, to secure the friendship of the Indian tribes, called the Six Nations. They had, in indeed, been long in amity with the English, and had acknowledged themselves subject to the British king. But it was important to brighten the chain of friendship anew; especially, as they had been dissatisfied with the conduct of New York. This meeting was holden in Albany, in June, 1754; but only six provinces had delegates attending it. About 150 of the Six Nations were present, who professed friendly sentiments for the English, but desired some assurances might be given that no encroachments should be made on their territory. This assurance was given, as well as that of protection against the French and the tribes in alliance with them; and large presents were distributed, as was usual on such occasions.
At this convention, it was proposed to form a union of the colonies, from New Hampshire to South Carolina inclusive, under one general government, for the purpose of common defence; each province, or colony however, to retain its constitution and charter, except as to general powers for the welfare of all, The only government which had proposed such a system before the meeting, was Massachusetts. the convention, when the plan was laid before the several general assemblies, it was not approved; nor did the British government urge the proposition, from an apprehension probably, that it might soon lead to independence.
The taxes at this period, as for several preceding years, were so great as to be oppressive, especially to the landholders, who found it difficult to raise money, and who therefore complained that the polls and real estate were unduly rated. The complaint was considered so reasonable, that the general court manifested a wish to afford relief; and hence originated a bill for raising money by excise on spirituous liquors, which was advocated by the members, from the inland towns, but
opposed generally by the towns on the sea coasts excepting Boston. The opposition of the latter to the bill was not supposed to arise from interested motives, but from a regard to personal rights and liberty, which were in some measure violated by it. For with a design to prevent all evasions, the bill provided, that every private householder should make oath, whenever required, that the liquor which he had was purchased of a person duly licensed and that the duties had been paid. This feature of the bill was extremely obnoxious, since it authorized the officer of the customs to enter any dwellinghouse where he suspected there was spirituous liquors, on which the duties had not been paid. Even the governor declined giving his sanction to the bill, in its original form; and there being but a small majority in favor of it, and probably, if all the members had been present, it would not have passed, it was postponed, and in the meantime submitted to the people in the several towns, for their opinion. This was a singular course of proceeding in legislation, and many doubted the policy of the measure. But the people were much divided on the subject, and it became necessary for the general court to take the responsibility entirely on themselves. After much discussion, it was passed with some alterations, which however did not change the principles of the bill; and the governor, at last, gave it his signature For this want of consistency, as it was called, he was censured by a great portion of the people; and his motives were impeached, when the majority of the representatives who were the friends of the bill, soon after made him a liberal grant for services, which had long been solicited, but postponed.
On occasion of this excise act, and the conduct of certain members of the general court, who were accused of voting from selfish views, there was an unusual excitement of the public mind, and the spirit of the people was manifested, as is common in a free country, by severe reproaches and invectives. The language, in one of the Boston papers, was considered libellous by the general court, and the printer was arrested. After due examination, he was ordered into confinement, by the house, and kept in prison several days; when, at the entreaties of his family, he was dismissed with a reprimand from the speaker. The printer conceived the arrest and confinement to be illegal, and commenced a suit against the speaker for false imprisonment. His cause was sustained by the judicial tribunal to which he appealed, the speaker was discharged, and the printer was mulct by payment of coasts.
The winter of 1754-5 was passed in maturing plans and in
preparations for prosecuting the war with effect the ensuing season, and in representations to the British government of the need of efficient aid from England for this object. Governor Shirley_manifested his usual zeal and loyalty on this occasion. He proposed to the general court to raise men for an expedition in the spring, against Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, then in the hands of the French from Canada. The plan was suggested to them in confidence, as it was important, in his opinion, to take the enemy by surprise. The assembly soon came into his views, and granted such facilities as could be well done, till the time arrived for carrying the enterprise into execution. The general court also readily agreed to raise men, for the conquest or protection of Nova Scotia, then invaded by the French. The plan was proposed by the British government; and it was in compliance with its requisition, that the troops were raised for that expedition. It was indeed approved and forwarded by the governor ; and he hastened to Boston, from a convention, held at the south in April, by request of General Braddock, to forward the embarkation of the men destined for that eastern territory. Most of the troops in this expedition were from Massachusetts; but as it was at the expense of England, they were to be paid the same wages as regular soldiers, and yet to be a distinct corps and under the immediate command of their own officers*. Colonel Monckton, a British officer, was appointed the commander-in-chief of the expedition; but the Massachusetts troops were commanded by Colonel (afterwards General) John Winslow of Plymouth county, a brave and intelligent officer. He was, in fact, the efficient leader in this prompt and successful enterprise. His popularity was so great, that 2000 men, the number required, were raised in a few weeks. He sailed from Boston towards the close of the month of May; and before thirty days had elapsed, being joined by about 300 regular British troops, he took the two fortified places then in possession of the French, which entirely put an end to their power in Nova Scotia. Louisbourg was then in the hands of France, and to that place the prisoners were sent; while the inhabitants, who professed to be neutral, but who were thought too subservient to the French government to remain, were transported to Massachusetts and to other British provinces.
This fortunate expedition was not the only, nor the principal military enterprise which engaged the attention of the
* Some difficulties arose, both before and after this period, from directing British officers to command the provincial troops.
governor and general court of Massachusetts, at this period. At the convention in April, called by General Braddock, it was agreed, that while that officer proceeded against the enemy on the Ohio River, an attack should be made on Oswego, situated on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario near Niagara, by the two regular provincial regiments, called Shirley's and Pepperell's regiments, under Governor Shirley; and that the expedition, projected in Massachusetts, and a favorite object, both with the governor and the general court, should proceed against Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. For the last expedition, Massachusetts voted to raise 2000 troops, being a full moiety proposed for that purpose and 300 afterwards, as recruits, if they should be wanted. It was also voted to appropriate £600 for the use of the six Indian tribes in the interior of New York. The people of the province, generally, entered into the project with great ardor and promptitude; for, after the success against the French and Indians at the eastward, the only way for those in Canada to make inroads on the settlements would be by Lake Champlain.
With all these formidable and expensive* preparations, nothing decisive or important was effected; but, on the contrary, the campaign closed and left matter for recollection, only of defeat, jealousies rivalries and criminations.†
General Braddock met a disastrous defeat; himself and most of his officers being slain and the few who escaped, were saved by the agency of Major Washington, that brave and prudent man, who, under providence, afterwards saved the whole country from tyranny and oppression. The detachment ordered to Oswego on Lake Ontario, though commanded by the resolute and enterprising Shirley, could not be brought to act with effect; from unfavorable weather, and a failure to furnish the men which had been promised. The troops which were to make an attack on fort Frederick at Crown Point, under command of General Johnson, met with various obstacles, some of which were unexpected, and others owing to a want of due caution or promptness in the commanding officer. The forces in this enterprise were chiefly from Massachusetts and Connecticut, and were under the im
*In consequence of these expeditions, a loan was resorted to of £50,000; of which £17,350 were for the Crown Point enterprise, and £12,500 for forts.
De Lancy, the Lt. Governor of New York, and General (afterwards Sir) William Johnson were opposed to Gen. Shirley, who, after the death of Gen. Braddock, was commander-in-chief of all the British forces in America. Instead of aiding, they thwarted his plans, and were always seeking or devising pretexts for censuring him.
mediate command of General Lyman. He was sent in advance, and threw up a fort on the eastern side of the Hudson, below Lake George, and about sixty miles from Albany. General Johnson soon followed, and pushed forward to the south end of that lake; and it was in his plan to have hastened immediately to Ticonderoga, situated between the lakes George and Champlain; there to fortify himself, and thence to proceed, if advisable, to Crown Point, which it was the chief object of the expedition to take and maintain, as a check to the enemy. But he had such reports of a formidable force at Crown Point, that he considered it imprudent to proceed further without more troops. He therefore called for recruits from several of the nearest colonies. Massachusetts, although there were then more than two thousand of her citizens in the army, voted to raise two thousand more by enlistment, or impressment, and offered a liberal bounty to such as should engage. Before these recruits were ready to march, or had reached his quarters, General Johnson had intelligence that the enemy from Crown Point were on their way to attack him. He sent out a party to reconnoitre, and if possible to prevent their approach. This party was surprised and retreated; and the enemy continued to advance: But halting, from some unknown cause, at a short distance from the American camp, General Johnson seized the fortunate moment, and making a vigorous assault, when not expected, he routed the French and their Indian allies. This partial defeat was followed the ensuing night, by two hundred of the New Hampshire troops, falling on them unexpectedly in their quarters, and causing their entire dispersion. Colone! Williams, an officer in the Massachusetts line, who commanded the troops sent out by General Johnson to check the French, was killed in this affair.*
After the sad reverses, in other places, this brave defence was matter of some triumph, though the great object of the expedition was not accomplished. The enemy did not lose the important posts in that quarter, which it had been confidently predicted would be wrested from them, by such a powerful force as was sent against them; nor were they in any measure discouraged from further efforts, by the very partial check they received from General Johnson.
After the affair between General Johnson and Baron Dies
* Colonel Williams was a native of Newton, but was then an inhabitant of Berkshire county. He was the founder of the college in Williamstown. His will, giving a large part of his property for the purpose, was made while on his way in this expedition.