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Events of 1778.-Proceedings of the British Parliament.-Lord
North's second conciliatory scheme. Duke of Richmond proposes to acknowledge the independence of America.-Last publick appearance of Lord Chatham.--Disgrace of Burgoyne.. Situation of the American army at Valley Forge. Commissary General appointed.-Baron Steuben appointed Inspector General.- Inactivity of Sir William Howe at Philadelphia. Conduct of Congress on receiving Lord North's Bills. Arrival of Mr. Simeon Deane with copies of the treaties with France.- Proceedings of Congress thereon.-Sir Henry Clinton arrives, and supersedes Sir William Howe. Arrival of the Commissioners, Lord Carlisle, Mr. Eden and Mr. Johnston.— Their unsuccessful negotiation and outrageous conduct.Sir Henry evacuates Philadelphia.—Is pursued by Washington.-Battle in New Jersey.- Arrest and trial of Lee.-Congress return to Philadelphia.- Lieutenant Brown shot by a centinel at Cambridge.- Arrival of Count D'Estaing with a French fleet.-Pursues Lord Howe to New York, and blockades him there.---Sails to Rhode Island to assist in the expedition of General Sullivan.--British and French fleets prevented from engaging by a storm.--Retreat of General Sullivan.-Count D’Estaing sails for Boston.--Mysterious affair of Captain Folger.--Mr. Deane.-Beaumarchais.--Loss of the Frigate Randolph.--Bloody massacre at Wyoming.--Colonel Clarke's expedition to the Mississippi.
In order to show more fully the effects produced by the campaign of 1777, and particularly by the unexpected disasters of General Burgoyne on the banks of the Hudson, it will be necessary to attend to the proceedings of the British parliament, at their meeting, after a short recess, in January 1778. It will be seen that the unfortunate General Burgoyne, on his return to England, was refused the miserable
consolation of throwing himself at his Majesty's feet, and that after having encountered dangers and difficulties sufficient to have appalled a man less devoted to the cause of his king and country, he was compelled to hide his head in disgrace, and add another to the thousand monuments of ministerial ingratitude.
In a few days after the meeting in January, Mr. Fox in a committee of the whole house, moved for an address to his Majesty, beseeching him not to send any more troops from England, Ireland, Gibraltar or Minorca, to America-Mr. Fox declared that his motive was grounded upon a retrospective view of the disasters which had occurred in America, where the losses and disgraces of the army had been so great as to endanger the safety of the kingdom; the army for the defence of which had been so reduced by the continual reinforcements sent to America, that the kingdom now laid at the mercy of the
, House of Bourbon; that necessity if not choice would compel the ministers to abandon their plan of conquest, which had as yet been attended with nothing but calamity.
Not a word was said by the Ministers or their friends in reply to Mr. Fox—the question on his motion was silently put and negatived—but the large majority clearly showed that the Minister was losing ground in the house.
Mr. Burke afterwards moved for the papers relative to the employment of the Indians ; and took occasion with his usual energy of style and manner to enlarge upon the horrid murder of Miss M-Crea, before related. But his motion was also rejected by a large majority; and a few days afterwards, Lord North, to the utter astonishment of all who heard him, gave notice that he had another plan of conciliation to offer.
The annals of the whole world do not present a system of such incorrigible absurdities, as that pursued by Lord North, in relatiou to America. No want of success, no calamities, no experience, could teach him wisdom. The disgraceful evacuation of Boston by Sir William Howe, the unsuccessful attempt of Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker, upon Charleston, the defeat and surrender of ten thousand troops under General Burgoyne at Saratoga, the ridiculous issue of the ridiculous negotiation entrusted to Lord Howe and his brother at New York, the knowledge which he had of the conclusion of a Treaty between France and the United States, were all insufficient to awaken Lord North to a sense of his ignorance and incompetence. The same means which had proved ineffectual at the very birth of our independence, were resorted to, now that that independence was confirmed and strengthened by the acknowledgment and alliance of a foreign power. Lord North’s plan of conciliation would hardly have succeeded even before the glorious era of 1776 ; he must have known therefore, that there was not the remotest prospect of its success on the 17th of February 1778, when he proposed it. A 6 Bill for removing all doubts and apprehensions concerning taxation by the Parliament of Great Britain in any of the Colonies and Plantations in North America,” and “ a Bill to enable his Majesty to appoint Commissioners, with sufficient powers to treat, consult, and argue upon the means of quieting the disorders now subsisting in certain of the Colonies in Ameri. ca,” formed the present conciliatory scheme of this
blind and obstinate Minister. He confessed that he meant to give up the notion of taxing America, and that the Commissioners should be authorised to treat with Congress as with a legal body, and further that he did not mean to insist on a preliminary renunciation of independence as a sine qua non of that treaty. What could have been his Lordship's views, it is utterly impossible to comprehend. He meant to do every thing but acknowledge the independence of America, and that independence he did not require of
, them to renounce, for the present. It would be difficult indeed to conceive, what advantages his Lordship expected to flow from a measure so ridiculously absurd. He saw, but was afraid to acknowledge it even to himself, that it was impossible to force America to recede from the stand she had taken, or he would not have consented to treat with Congress as if it were a legal body. He must have seen the impracticability of compelling her to renounce her independence, or he would have insisted upon the renunciation, as a preliminary step to the treaty which he talked about entering 'into. And what must have been the kind of treaty which his Lordship expected to form with rebellious subjects, to whom he was holding out the promise of pardon ? If they had rejected with indignation, and even with contempt, the offer of pardon which had been made to them while they were actually rebellious subjects, what benefit did he expect from its repitition, now that they no longer acknowledged themselves the subjects of his Britannick Majesty? But it would be useless to attempt to fathom his Lordship's views. In the language of Mr. Fox,“ his arguments might be collected into one point, his excuses comprised in one apology, in one single word-ignorunce, a palpable and total ignorance of every part of the subject. He hoped, and he was disappointed-he expected a great deal, and found little to answer his expectations-he thought America would have submitted to his laws, and she had resisted them—he thought she would have submitted to bis armies, and she had defeated them he made conciliatory propositions, and he thought they would succeed, but they were rejected-he appointed Commissioners to make peace, and he thought they had powers ; but he found that they could not make peace, and that they had no powers.”
This was indeed precisely the situation of his Lordship. He had brought himself into a labyrinth of difficulties, from which he had no clue to extricate him. He had depended upon his own sagacity, and had found it incompetent to his support; he had thought himself wiser than his predecessors, and found himself only more obstinate. But unfortunately for his Lordship's reputation as a Statesman, he had still too much influence in the Parliament, to permit him to see the degradation to which he was hurrying himself and his country. His Conciliatory Bills were passed, and Lord Carlisle, Mr. Eden, and Mr. Johnstone, were appointed the Commissioners.
We shall soon see with what effect their mission to America was attended.
During the present session of the British Parliament, the Earl of Chatham, for the last time, made his
appearance in the House of Peers.--Having been apprized that the subject of American affairs, in which he had never ceased to feel the most lively interest, would occupy the attention of the Grand Committee of Inquiry, on the 7th of April, his Lordship, bowed