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required to furnish their respective quota. The towns which should furnish their proportions by the first of June were to receive a bounty from the state. A few weeks later, five hundred of the militia were ordered to Rhode Island and a regiment was raised to serve within the state, to defend the
It was proposed again by the general court, in February, 1779, to the people, to express their opinion of forming a constitution, and of calling a convention for that object. In June, a return was made of their votes on the subject. The majority given in was in favor of the measure, but many towns made no return. Precepts were issued for a convention to be held in September; and it was formed at that time. James Bowdoin was elected president. A committee was chosen to prepare the draft of a constitution; and after a few weeks, the convention adjourned to January, 1780.
Congress made a requisition for $45,000,000; and the portion of Massachusetts was $6,000,000. It was to be paid in their own paper, before issued, which had become much depreciated, so that the nominal sum was far beyond the real value.* Massachusetts obtained relief, however, under this heavy demand, by a loan from Congress, for three months, of $2,500,000. A request was also made to congress, to use the six millions for the immediate benefit of the state, as its advances were already great to the continent; congress was not able to comply with the request, but acknowledged "the great zeal and exertions of Massachusetts in the common cause.
In June, 1779, a British naval force from Halifax took possession of Penobscot. There were nine armed vessels, with one thousand troops, in the enterprise. It was believed they would commit depredations on the fishing and coasting vessels, and on the inhabitants of the seaboard. An armament was fitted out in July, to dislodge them. It was the plan and at the expense of Massachusetts, though congress was made acquainted with the expedition. The popular voice was in favor of the measure. The fleet consisted of nearly forty armed vessels and transports, with twelve or fourteen hundred men; a part of which was pressed into the service, on that occasion. The fleet was commanded by Commodore Saltonstal, and the troops by Generals Lovell and Wadsworth. The armament sailed under disadvantages, for want of time in making the preparations; and there was some disagreement between the naval
*The paper was then about $20 for one in specie; and it continued rapidly to depreciate, so that in 1780 it was at $40 for one,
commander and General Lovell, after their arrival at Penobscot. The British had erected fortifications on an eminence. But an attack was soon made by the Americans; and in doing it, they were obliged to climb up a very high and steep cliff. But they resolutely advanced, though exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy; whom they drove into their entrenchment. Many of the Americans were killed and wounded in ascending the precipice. They retired to a little distance from the fort, to wait for a reinforcement from their vessels. But no assistance was received, as was expected; and in the meantime, the British were strengthened by more troops from their fleet; when all further attempts would have been desperate. The Americans retired from the peninsula; and destroying most of their vessels, proceeded to Boston by land. The country was then a wilderness most of the way to Kennebec; and the men suffered very much. A committee of the general court was appointed to inquire into the causes of the failure. Lovell and Wadsworth were acquitted of all misconduct; but the naval commander was censured for not acting more promptly in concert with them.
Further efforts were made to regulate the price of the necessary articles of living by the general court, and by county conventions; but they proved ineffectual. All those who received salaries, including the officers and soldiers of the army, suffered extremely. In many towns the people generally provided for the support of the clergy; but their losses were still great, on account of the depreciation of the paper in circulation. The evil was so great, that congress soon after negotiated loans in Europe, and made large importations of specie; and the general court of Massachusetts chose rather to raise money by taxes, than to emit more paper, which it was supposed would increase the depreciation. The public taxes were very high, and the people generally with little means to pay them.
The state was still threatened with an attack from the British, and the alarm on the seacoasts was kept up by reports of an intended invasion. There had always been state or continental regular troops stationed in Boston; and occasionally, the militia had been called in, for the defence of that place. In September, 1779, Colonel Jackson's regiment, then recently returned from the Penobscot expedition, was ordered to Castle Island, and four hundred of the militia were called out to man the other fortified places in the vicinity. £600,000, (or $65,000 real value,) were put into the hands of the board of war, for the purchase of provisions, military stores, and vessels
for individuals, to replace those lost at Penobscot. The expenses of that unfortunate expedition added much to the debt of the state. The tax for 1779, besides the portion of the continental tax, was two millions of dollars, being $200,000 in real value. Added to all these burdens and expenses, provision was to be made for raising men after the year expired. The term of enlistment of the men then in service, would close with the year; for but a small part had engaged for the whole war. It was an object to have the enlistments made from the men already in the army: and a committee of the general court visited the camp, to engage them for a longer time. They were authorized to give a bounty of $300. The sum of $700,000 was appropriated for the purpose: and advances were again made to the officers. The towns were also required to furnish clothing, to be sent on to the soldiers who should enlist anew. While efforts were making for a new enlistment, and before the numbers required were engaged, General Washington called on congress for the militia, and Massachusetts furnished two thousand, on a requisition from that body. A bounty was also given to those who engaged at this time; and a large sum besides placed at the disposal of the board of war. The general court was in session the greater part of the year 1779, from January to October; and when they adjourned, they authorized the council to call out more of the militia, if required, not exceeding four thousand. The state of the continental army was such as to render it probable they might be called for at short notice. The British had then a large force at New York, and there was an apprehension of some formidable attack from them. A public fast was appointed in Massachusetts; which was the fourth, besides those usual, after the war began; and two were also appointed by congress.
At this time, when many, both of the officers and soldiers of the army were discouraged by the protracted term of the service and depreciated paper for pay, at the instance of General Washington, congress promised the officers half pay, first for seven years, and soon after for life, if they would continue till the close of the war. To the soldiers, a large bounty was given, and a promise of land when peace should take place.
War at the South, in Georgia and South Carolina--Charleston taken--General Lincoln commanded American troops-Constitution reported for Massachusetts, and accepted-Alterations in it proposed by people of Boston -John Hancock chosen Governor-Finances-Congress propose to call in old bills-New emission of paper-Continental and State debt-Agent sent to Europe-People in Maine harassed by the British-Academy of Arts and Sciences-General Washington calls for more of the MilitiaComplaints of the people.
THE principal scene of hostilities, in the autumn of 1779, was in the southern part of the United States, in Georgia and South Carolina. General Lincoln, of Massachusetts, was then the commander of the American troops in that department: but he had to contend with the enemy at great disadvantage. They were more numerous; and the American forces consisted chiefly of militia. A French fleet afforded some aid in the siege of Savannah; but it departed before the preparations for an assault were completed. General Lincoln, however, made an attack on the city; but was repulsed with great loss. He then marched to Charleston, but the British in that quarter were soon reinforced by troops from New York; and after a siege of five months, the place was taken. The besiegers were far more numerous than the Americans. No aid could justly be expected by General Lincoln; and the inhabitants repeatedly urged him to surrender. In this situation, Charleston was given up to the enemy, but on terms honorable to the American general.
In January, 1780, the convention of Massachusetts, chosen to prepare a form of civil government, agreed on a constitution; which was submitted to the people in March, for their consideration. The votes given, on the question of its adoption, were ordered to be returned in June, when it appeared that more than two thirds were for its acceptance.
The return of votes from Boston, though in favor of the
constitution, was accompanied by a proposition for some alterations, if practicable. One was, that the governor alone should have power to march the militia to a neighboring state, in time of imminent danger. Another was respecting the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which they wished extended, so that none should be held in confinement merely on suspicion. But the chief objection they offered was to the third article in the bill of rights. They were satisfied of the importance of having public religious worship, and religious teachers, for the order and peace of society. And they thought all the people should be obliged to pay for the support of ministers of the gospel. But they expressed the opinion, that none should be compelled to attend on teachers, except such as they chose; and that the tax of those who did not attend at all, should be for the benefit of the poor.
The Baptists generally complained of this article. For, although every one had full liberty to attend on such teacher or society as he should prefer, and there was a perfect equality of civil and religious privileges secured to every one, yet it would be necessary, to become a member of a society which was not of the standing or congregational order, to obtain a license and certificate therefor. This was said to be a hardship, and inconsistent with the idea of a perfect equality of rights and privileges. It was contended, that the civil authority should not interfere, in any way, with religion, and that the constitution should contain no restriction or provision on the subject. It was provided in the constitution, that in fifteen years, there might be another convention, to make such alterations in it, as experience should prove necessary or important. In 1795, the question was submitted to the people, and they expressed an opinion against having a convention to make any alterations. The government was organized, agreeably to this constitution, in October, 1780: when John Hancock was chosen governor of the commonwealth, by a large majority of votes, and James Bowdoin, lieutenant governor; but he declined the office.
During the year 1780, congress proposed to call in $15,000,000 monthly, for the term of a year. The continental paper bills, which had been issued, then amounted to $160,000,000. The proportion of this sum, for Massachusetts to redeem, was $2,000,000 monthly: but the depreciation was then forty to one; and the real value of the monthly tax, for this purpose, was $50,000; making $600,000 for a year. But even this exceeded the ability of the state. It was therefore proposed to congress, that each state should become