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Representatives meet, 19th July, 1775, and elect an Executive Council
Population and state of the Province-Army at Cambridge and Roxbury -Destitute of equipments-Want of cannon, fire-arms, and powderFalmouth burnt by the British-Powder Mills erected— Measures of defence adopted–Forts built--Privations-Courts organized-Public expenses-Invasion of Canada unsuccessful-Death of General Montgomery-Men enlisted for a year-Plan to attack Boston-Dorchester Heights fortified-British leave Boston.
On the nineteenth of July, representatives having been elected, in conformity to the advice of the continental congress, a house of assembly was held at Watertown, consisting of two hundred and six members; the most of whom had been delegates to the provincial congress, which had been in session for some time, till the eighteenth. They proceeded to elect counsellors, who were to act as one branch of the legislature, and also as the executive of the province, or commonwealth. And the following named persons were chosen: James Bowdoin, John Hancock, Benjamin Greenleaf, Joseph Gerrish, Samuel Adams, William Sever, Jedediah Foster, Michael Farley, Joseph Palmer, Jabez Fisher, John Pitts, John Winthrop, John Adams, Thomas Cushing, Benjamin Lincoln, Caleb Cushing, James Prescott, Azor Orne, Walter Spooner, Jarnes Otis, Robert T. Paine, Benjamin Chadbourn, Enoch Freeman, Charles Chauncey, Moses Gill, Samuel Holten, E. Taylor, and J. Taylor. Samuel Adams was chosen secretary; but, as he was a delegate to the continental congress, Perez Morton was appointed deputy secretary.
It was voted, by the representatives, that the council should exercise all the authority formerly in the hands of the governor and council; and that their acts should be observed accordingly. The ordinary civil affairs of the state were conducted with remarkable order and quiet; there were no acts of violence or irregularity committed, and no complaints of injustice or opposition. But the judicial courts were not duly organized till November.
In the month of August, the troops at Cambridge and vicinity were formed into a continental army, under General Washington, whose commission was from the general congress.
His quarters were in Cambridge. General Ward was put in command of the right wing, at Roxbury, and General Lee, of the left wing, at Prospect Hill.
The whole number of American troops, at this time, was estimated at fifteen thousand; of which nine thousand were of Massachusetts,* and most of the remainder from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. But several companies of riflemen soon after were added, from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
In July, 1775, the continental congress published a statement of the causes of a resort to arms. They gave a view of their rights, and of the late measures of the British parliament and ministry, by which their rights were infringed and violated. They professed a desire that the union with England might be continued, by a change of policy under which they suffered. “The usurpations of power, and the restraints on their liberty, as recently made,” they said, "they could not endure. We have remonstrated and petitioned, but all in vain. The terms proposed by the British ministry were as humiliating as could be dictated by remorseless victors to conquered enemies. In our condition, to accept them would be to deserve them. · We are reduced to the alternative of unconditional submission to tyrannical rulers, or resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom, which we receiyed from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning future generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them. * * * Our cause is just; our union is perfect; our internal resources are great ; and we solemnly declare, before God and the world, that, exerting all the means and power which our Creator hath bestowed, we will employ the arms which our implacable enemies have compelled us to use, with unabating perseverance and at every hazard, for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves. But we have not raised an army with the ambitious design of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent states. We fight not for glory or conquest. In our own native land, in defence of the freedom which is our birthright, and which we have ever enjoyed till the late violations of it, for the protection of our property, acquired by honest industry, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of our aggressors,
* The population of Massachusetts, at this time, was upwards of four hundred thousand, including Maine, which consisted of about ninety-five thousand. The harbor of Boston, and most of the coast, were exposed
to British armed ships ; and the fishing and coasting business, as well as foreign navigation, were entirely suspended.
and not before."
It required great attention and prudence to introduce the necessary discipline among the troops. They were the yeomanry of the country, and had voluntarily engaged in military services, from purely patriotic motives. Most of them were unused to a military life, and insensible of the necessity of subordination and strict obedience to their officers. The insufficiency of cannon, fire-arms, and powder, was another serious defect, requiring early attention. The towns were called upon by the congress of Massachusetts, at the request of General Washington, to send a portion of their common stock, which which was soon forwarded; but there were very few cannon to be had in the country. Some were brought soon after from Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which had been captured in May, of that year, by volunteers from Connecticut, Vermont, and the county of Berkshire, in Massachusetts. The greater part taken at those places, however, was not transported until the winter following, when the conveyance was comparatively easy. General Washington also called for more of the militia of Massachusetts, as it was apprehended the British would make an attack on the American lines, and the number of the militia assembled was not found to be so great as had been first reported.
A committee of the Massachusetts assembly was sent to Lake Champlain, in June, to see if the cannon and other military articles, lately taken in the forts there, could be removed to Cambridge, or secured for future use: and to take necessary measures for the defence of the northwestern frontiers, from depredations by the British and Indians. The committee continued at the lake several weeks, and ordered on some companies from Berkshire, to keep possession of the forts which had been captured. Some men also were soon after sent on from New York to that quarter. A statement was early made to the continental congress, by Massachusetts, of the importance
of retaining these forts, as well as of taking possession of Canada. And an expedition was prepared, a few months after, under Generals Montgomery and Schuyler, for that purpose. Major Hawley was early in favor of such a measure; for he considered it highly important for the safety of the New England colonies, that an efficient military force should be sent to Lake Champlain, if it did not proceed any farther.
The British army remained quietly in Boston for the residue of the season. Governor Gage went to England in September, and General Howe took the chief command. Generals Bourgoyne and Clinton were then with the British troops in the capital. They arrived a short time before the battle of Bunker Hill in Charlestown. The British armed vessels, however, committed depredations in several places on the sea board. A large American ship, with a valuable cargo, going into the harbor of Gloucester, in August, was taken by boats from a frigate at a little distance. But the frigate did not approach very near her, for fear of grounding. The people of Gloucester recaptured the ship with their boats, and carried her into the harbor in safety; and the British marines, who had boarded her from the frigate, were lodged in the county jail. In October, Bristol, in Rhode Island, was bombarded by three British ships-ofwar; a good deal of damage was done, and most of the inhabitants left their homes. About the same time, Falmouth; on Casco Bay, (Maine) was attacked and burnt by the British, who visited the place to obtain spars for the use of the ships in Boston harbor. "The people refused to furnish the spars; and after a few hours notice, and most of the inhabitants had time to depart, the town was bombarded, and most of the houses and stores were burnt.
The Americans were engaged in fortifying Prospect Hill and Lechmere's Point, in Cambridge: and two eminences in Charlestown still nearer to the neck leading to Bunker Hill, where some of the British troops were stationed. Roxbury was also fortified, and other places between that town and Cambridge, near the bay, to check the enemy if they should attempt to land from Boston.
The provincial congress of Massachusetts had been very vigilant and prompt in providing for the public defence; but the general court, formed the latter part of July, had much to perform for the same purpose. It was a difficult task to furnish provisions for so many troops ; and yet more difficult to obtain the military stores which were wanted. Loans were solicited, and large sums were collected in that way; but not sufficient for the calls and expenses of the occasion. The continental congress, at this time, called for three million dollars; and Massachusetts was assessed a sixth part of the sum. A tax of £40,000 was laid, and an emission of paper money voted, to the amount of £100,000. Two powder mills were erected, at the expense of Massachusetts; one at Andover, and one at Stoughton; and afterwards, a third at Sutton. Privateers were also fitted out by consent of the general court, which were very successful in taking British transports on the coast.
The inhabitants of Boston, who remained in the town, were subject to great privations and sufferings, and to harsh and severe treatment from the British. Contributions were made for their relief, by the people in all parts of the colonies, but it was difficult to convey it to them.
The general court made a request to the continental congress, to hold its meetings in Massachusetts, near Boston. This was declined; but a committee of that body was sent to Cambridge to confer with the executive of the state, and the commanderin-chief of the army. Dr. Franklin was one of the committee on the part of congress, and Bowdoin, Sever, Otis, and Spooner, on the part of Massachusetts. It was agreed to raise an army of twenty-four thousand men for the ensuing year, and to call on the several colonies for their respective proportions of money to meet the necessary expenses. . Soon after, congress issued a large amount of paper money : they said, “they could not borrow, and the people were unable to pay great taxes; and that they had no other resources but the worth of this fertile country. That on the credit of such a bank, they had emitted bills, and that the faith of the continent was pledged to redeem them."
În urging the people to enlist, the committee of the general court said, “ Happy will he be who shall be able to boast, that he was one of those who assisted in the arduous but noble work of defending the liberties of his country.” Washington said, “We have taken up arms in defence of the liberties of our country, and we are determined to maintain them, or die in the struggle." About this time, the liberty tree, so called, in Boston, was cut down by the British ; which gave occasion to one of the patriotic citizens to say, " that the American tree of liberty was too firmly rooted to be destroyed by all the power of Britain.”
Some small skirmishing took place in the month of September, between the American and British outposts. One was at Charlestown neck, where several of the British were wounded.