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THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE
136. Proclaiming Independence. The Declaration of Independence, once passed as a resolution in the Continental Congress, was then to be proclaimed in the various States. This had to be done anyway, since the Congress itself had no authority to pass laws for the States themselves. Accordingly, at various periods during the month of July, 1776, each of the thirteen States forming part of the federation issued its own proclamation, which was read to the people of the capital, together with a reading of the Declaration of Independence. In the case of New York, the procedure was different, on account of the known hostility of the people of New York City. The city was at the time occupied by the Continental Army which had just come from Boston; and the Declaration of Independence was privately read to the Army, as soon as the news arrived from Philadelphia, by their commander-in-chief, George Washington, who was personally opposed to the idea of independence, and who was therefore all the more anxious to suppress the news from the general public. The public proclamation was then made about two weeks later.
The title of State, used in the Declaration as a sign of independent government, was immediately adopted by all the colonies. In most cases, celebrations followed the proclamations of independence. In New York, the celebration was practically confined to the Continental Army―mostly New Englanders―who pulled down the statue of King George on the Bowling Green, melted it up, and made it into bullets, while the citizens, horrified at such disloyalty, remained sullenly submissive as usual, but made special efforts to secure deliverance from the British military camp across the bay on Staten Island.
In many cities, royal names in use for various localities were immediately changed. This was especially to be observed in Boston, where a number of streets received new names on that account. King Street, which was famous historically for both the overthrow of Andros and the Boston Massacre, could not be allowed to retain such a name, and its title was appropriately changed to State Street; while its continuation, Queen Street, became Court Street. In New York, the Continental Army ordered similar changes of names, which the people never recognized, and which did not actually become effective until after the peace treaty; Queen Street, which had been Perel Street under the Dutch, was to resume its old name, and be called Pearl Street; while Crown Street was called Liberty Street by the Continental Army. The names of Kings and Queens County on Long Island, and of the King's Highway near Brooklyn, however, remain unchanged to the present.
Lord Howe, the military governor who had been forced to evacuate Boston, came to Staten Island, in New York Harbor, with reinforcements for the British camp there, and, on Friday, July 12, replied to the Declaration of Independence with an offer of pardon for all rebels who would return to their old allegiance. This document was reprinted by the Continental Congress, and transmitted to all States.
Up to this point, Massachusetts had been fighting the British military authorities almost alone, except for a few isolated regions in other parts of the northern colonies. The Declaration of Independence, however, together with Lord Howe's reply from Staten Island, brought North America in general actively into the conflict. It was practically a declaration of war on both sides, and it now became a national war between United States and Great Britain, instead of the fight for a new form of government as it had been before. The American Revolution, as revolution, was practically over; what now began was the War for Independence. These two terms are usually spoken of as synonymous; but there is properly a distinction between the first year of the fighting, when there was honestly an attempt to overthrow established authority, and the subsequent fighting, which was merely a patriotic war on behalf of already established authority against a foreign power. The motivating forces in the two cases were entirely opposed to one another, being in one case opposition to established authority, and, in the other case, blind support of established authority. This is a risk run by every revolution, since success can convert what was previously rebel activity into blinder support of the established order than the previous regime ever demanded; and the danger is magnified when support of a cause and a principle is allowed to turn into support of a nationality and an administration; the true revolutionary can always take the former stand, but must of necessity oppose the latter, which all too frequently gains adherents in the name of a revolution which has failed in the very process of success. In this case, there was no longer the original rebel movement, but a patriotic and nationalistic one, which was rapidly deserted by many of the original Massachusetts insurrectionists, even though gaining the support of many former rebel sympathizers all over America; and a movement to which liberty meant, not the rights of the individual, but the separation of America from England irrespective of individual rights.
After the Declaration of Independence, Vandalia applied to the Continental Congress for admission as a fourteenth State of the federation; but Virginia, whose claim for independence had been mainly for purposes of aggression in the west, replied by sending an army west, subduing the two colonies of Vandalia and Transylvania, and annexing them to Virginia, alleging in justification an old charter of King Charles I, and in total disregard of the fact that this territory had in the meantime been under French possession!
As the Continental Congress was getting ready to draw up a constitution for itself in accord with the precedent of the Iroquois and Penacook Federations, it also, misunderstanding the purpose of such a constitution, urged all the States, when the proclamation of independence was transmitted, to draw up their own State constitutions. This was not the original purpose of the written constitution, which was that of a treaty between the units of a federation creating the federation, and defining its organization and functions. A State constitution, which was the constitution of an individual national government, could have no such purpose. But, as the original precedent for written constitutions was that of a treaty creating a federation of independent governments, the individual States adapted it so that it was virtually in the form of a written contract federating the people into a State, defining the functions and organization of the State, and the respective rights of the State and of the individuals. Connecticut and Rhode Island, in which, as we have seen, no actual change of government took place as a result of the American Revolution, made no attempt to re-organize, but continued under the same charters that had been granted to them by England. Besides, Connecticut was originally organized as a federation of towns, and therefore had the first federate constitution of any white settlements; so that it was merely retaining the constitution that it had given itself, ignoring England, in 1636; and, in a way, the charters of Connecticut and Rhode Island served as a basis for the constitutions of the other States. This reorganization of State governments brought them more nearly into line with precedents of the former colonial regime, from which the legislatures of the various States were actually inherited. However, it was several years before the States went through this reorganization.
137. England Recovers New York. As we have seen, New York City at the time of the Declaration of Independence was occupied by the Continental Army, which had to deal with a hostile population looking to the British army camp on Staten Island for deliverance. So well was the hostility of the population in New York recognized that the news of the Declaration of Independence was suppressed there until the Continental Army had heard a private reading of the Declaration, and could be lined up in support of independence. Independence also meant that the Continental Army, principally composed of insurrectionists from New England, had to deal with new desertions, not only of many new recruits it had acquired in New York, but also on the part of many of the old New England rebels who were revolting against established authority and who were not interested in helping a new established authority conquer and subjugate a recalcitrant city. The public proclamation of independence, accompanied by the Continentals staging a demonstration on the Bowling Green by pulling down the leaden statue of King George, and melting it for bullets, served to increase the hostility of the city population against the revolutionaries.
On Friday, July 12, 1776, before the news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York, Lord Howe, the ousted English governor of Massachusetts, who had fled to Halifax on evacuating Boston, came to Staten Island in New York with a large reinforcement for the British camp there. A proclamation was then issued from the camp on Staten Island offering pardon to all such as would return to British allegiance, and it did have the effect of consolidating monarchist sentiment in New York City, but it had little effect in the rest of America, although the Continental Congress actually had this British proclamation reprinted and spread broadcast over the country.
On Monday, August 26, a night crossing was made by a large British detachment from Staten Island across the Narrows to the southwestern end of Long Island, at places which were then about ten miles outside Brooklyn, although now sections of Brooklyn known as Bay Ridge and Gerritsen Beach. From these landing points, the British forces spread during the night, occupying the whole western end of Long Island south of the Great Terminal Moraine (a high ridge which splits the island lengthwise), and by morning they had come to the moraine on the north and as far east as the town of Jamaica. Some of the Continental Army were stationed in Brooklyn, north of the moraine, and, the moraine being a natural defense, the passes in the ridge near Brooklyn were well guarded. A fight ensued at the moraine passes; but the Continentals had no guard at the pass on the Jamaica Road (now known as East New York), which made it a simple matter for the British to get north of the moraine by that route, and around the east flank of the Continental Army. The pass at what is now known as Greenwood Cemetery was held by the American forces several hours more, but eventually it became a British victory all around, and the Continental troops were forced to retreat and abandon Brooklyn to the British. A last stand was made by the Americans on Brooklyn Heights, on the shore of the East River near Brooklyn; but another fight there two days later forced the Americans to retreat over the river into New York itself, leaving the whole of Long Island in British possession.
Since the British were making visible preparations to cross the East River to Manhattan above New York, and since the city proved difficult for the Continentals to keep subdued, another retreat was made on Friday, September 13, to Murray Hill, where the Americans concentrated at about the present location of East 34th Street, leaving the city of New York to be entered by Lord Howe and his army. The city welcomed the British as a deliverance from the Yankee rebels, but enough rioting arose in the city over the event to start a serious fire, which burned a large part of the city. In spite of this catastrophe, the enthusiasm of the New Yorkers over the return of the British army was not a bit dampened, and the city remained loyal to England throughout the War for Independence. During the entire time that the United States was building itself up as a nation, a small British dominion including a large territory around New York and its surroundings had become quite firmly established, and the entire United States had been able to become thoroughly organized without New York and its surroundings forming any part of it. Through the War for Independence, New York was the British headquarters in America.
Even on Murray Hill, the Continentals were not able to hold their position for long. It was attempted to throw the American line across the entire island at this point, but before this could be done the British troops in the city started in pursuit, and were in a good position to circle the Americans from the west side. The Americans retreated over Murray Hill in a northwesterly direction, both to elude pursuit and to head off a British march up the old tribal trail that led up the length of the island. A temporary stand was made at the Long Acre, a deserted region on that trail, part of which was at a much later date converted into a city square called Longacre Square―now known as Times Square. After a hurried conference at the place now occupied by one of New York’s great theater buildings, the Paramount Theater, it was decided that the Long Acre was a very weak spot to defend, and a further retreat was made to the high hills in the center of the Island of Manhattan (now Central Park), where a fort was established on the top of one of the hills west of Harlem Mere.
During all these retreats the American army actually received much aid from the civilian population, who were more anxious to see the Yankees leave than to see them come; in fact, it seemed to be quite agreed that they ought to be sent back to Massachusetts, whence they came. The fact that this aid in many cases took the form of women’s detaining the British soldiers with an excess of hospitality seems to indicate that there was no antagonism to the British involved.
In the meantime further British forces were sent up the west side of the Hudson River, and occupied the portion of New Jersey which is near New York. To block their spread northward behind the Continental lines, some of the Continental Army were posted on the New Jersey Palisades, while, in Manhattan itself, the American troops occupied Harlem Heights (now called Morningside), while the British occupied the villages of Bloomingdale and Harlem, between which lay the hills on which the Continental Army had built their fortifications. The British were finally successful in storming Harlem Heights, forcing the Americans to another retreat northwards to almost the tip of the island, while a corresponding retreat was made across the river, establishing the American lines for a while at new fortifications called Fort Washington in Manhattan, and Fort Lee in New Jersey, located near the present site of the George Washington Memorial Bridge. Even these proved untenable, and the American forces left the island of Manhattan altogether, and returned to the American continent proper. In accordance with the civilian population’s policy of helping the Americans to get out of there, it is said that when the American soldiers came down the first mainland ridge the women threw featherbed mattresses on the road to deaden the noise of marching; from which circumstance that road, now a street in the Bronx, bears the name of Featherbed Lane.
The gradual retreat of the Continental Army proceeded in all directions from the city, until they had been forced to the Connecticut border on the east, to the Hudson River Highlands on the north, and to the Delaware River on the west. On Christmas night of 1776, a surprise return of American troops from Pennsylvania over the Delaware resulted in a temporary defeat of the British at Trenton the following day, and the western part of New Jersey again came into rebel possession. In Westchester County, the mainland north of New York, it was not found feasible for either British or Americans to occupy the place, so it remained a neutral ground, subject to constant raids from both sides, and actually ruled till the end of the war by two organized rival gangs of marauders who were known as the Skinners and the Cowboys.
138. "Burgoyning." As we have seen, Ticonderoga, which had been captured by the Vermonters at the beginning of the revolution, formed a center around which the revolutionary element of the state of New York was able to congregate. This ultimately meant the organization of an independent state over a region reaching from Lake Champlain to the upper part of the Hudson Valley, with Albany as a metropolis; it was to Albany that the Assembly of the province of New York fled when the Continental Army started retreating from the city of New York―as a result, Albany became the capital of the state of New York, and has remained so ever since; while New York City became the capital of British territory in the old English colonies of America.
In the same way as, in 1689, the French sought an outlet to the sea from Montreal by Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, the British armies in Canada, under General Burgoyne, attempted the same outlet in 1777, expecting thereby to effect a junction with the British forces under Howe in New York, and separate New England from the rest of the rebel country. The east side of Lake Champlain, Vermont, was too hopelessly rebel territory for the British to attack directly into their mountains; but on the west, or Adirondak, side, the British had the aid of their ally the Iroquois Federation; as a result of the combination, Ticonderoga was recaptured in July by the British, who proceeded triumphantly as far as the southern end of Lake Champlain, where, coming to the end of that water barrier, they had to spread out somewhat. An entry into Vermont was then attempted around the southern end of Lake Champlain, in the hope that this would form an easier way to get into that region which had defied England for nineteen years with complete success. However, the Vermont army, the "Green Mountain Boys," aided by the minute-men of New Hampshire, met them at Bennington on Saturday, August 16, 1777, and inflicted on the British a severe defeat which drove them back to the Hudson Valley. By this time reinforcements were arriving from the Continental Army in New Jersey. In September the retreating army of Burgoyne made a stand at Saratoga, when the Continentals joined the pursuit forces from Vermont and New Hampshire, and several skirmishes ensued at that point.
In the meanwhile, the British troops in New York, finding the American army weakened in New Jersey, made a drive across New Jersey and into Philadelphia, expecting that the capture of the rebel capital would end the war. In this case, however, the federate form of government, which Europe had never possessed, and could not understand, proved an unexpected source of strength, since the real capitals were in the states, while the Continental Congress, being a loosely organized federation with little to hold it to any one spot, simply moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster. The Quakers of Pennsylvania were neutral, but, since the British had the money, while the revolutionaries had none, it was the British who procured the supplies, there being even much smuggling through the lines into Philadelphia, while the Continental Army had to spend a winter with little in the way of food or clothing, at Valley Forge, between Philadelphia and Lancaster.
But the volunteer groups in the north, with such aid as the Continentals were able to send them, were faring differently. They rapidly closed in on Burgoyne’s army, and, after a few indecisive fights, the Vermonters and their temporary allies finally won out so definitely that, on Friday, October 17, 1777, General Burgoyne surrendered his army to the United States.
It was planned to send Burgoyne’s army back to Europe from the port of Boston; but the Americans at that time had difficulty in arranging for the transportation of eight thousand men and their supplies, so they were sent to Virginia instead, to await some opportunity of transportation across the ocean. Many of them were Germans from the armies of little principalities in Germany, and who were rented out to England for the special service; and these expressed a preference for staying in America. They were allowed to become citizens of the United States, and remained in America, while the Englishmen in Burgoyne’s army were later returned to England under parole.
This sudden victory, at the time when the revolution seemed losing in all directions and doomed to defeat, was a great surprise to the Americans themselves, and might not have been possible but for the intervention of the little independent republic of Vermont, which the United States no less than England regarded as an enemy, since they were defying the sovereign claims of the State of New York. But it was nevertheless this intervention of Vermont that turned the tide of the war definitely, at least as far as the north was concerned, and made it impossible for the British ever again to be a serious menace to the northern states, outside of the neighborhood of New York City, which was at that time more pro-British than England itself.
This victory over such a powerful nation as Great Britain immediately brought the revolution in America to the attention of the world, and, for the first time, Europe began to pay attention to America as a possible factor in international affairs. Lexington and Concord had been much more decisive victories; but the complete surrender of an army of eight thousand was enough to excite attention across the sea.
From this victory at Saratoga, there was in use in America for some time after that a new word, "to burgoyne," expressing the sudden and unexpected conversion of hopeless defeat into triumphant victory.
139. Foreign Aid. The War for Independence proved an attraction for certain classes of European adventurers looking for some new quarter of the world to fight in. The first case was the Marquis de Lafayette, who had a small army of private soldiers of his own, and was looking for a chance to give them practice in warfare; they left France for Spain quietly, and sailed in secret for America, landing at Charles Town, in South Carolina, in the spring of 1777. The Polish aristocrats Kosciusko and Pulaski, and the Prussian Baron von Steuben, came over to America later on in the same way, although Lafayette’s group of French was the only effective foreign ally the United States had in the War for Independence. Lafayette and his Frenchmen were with the Continentals at Valley Forge, and later, in 1778, helped to drive the British out of the naval base in Newport, the only New England point the British still retained.
As the Marquis de Lafayette was one of the high French nobility, and in the king’s favor, France followed up his departure officially with a diplomatic recognition of the United States as an independent nation―the first foreign recognition the United States had ever received. Benjamin Franklin was sent over as American ambassador to France, and became exceedingly popular in Paris, apparently as the latest Parisian fad.
This recognition of the United States was interpreted in London as an insult to the British Empire, and trouble immediately arose between England and France over the situation. Since the French government saw in this situation a chance to recover Canada and India, and in other ways to cripple England as a rival, there was no objection on the part of France to letting the matter drift into a war. The declaration of war was followed by a treaty of alliance between France and the United States, both nations pledging themselves not to make separate peace―an agreement which almost proved completely disastrous later on.
This sudden declaration of war by a neighbor resulted in a surge of nationalist enthusiasm in England, whose people had up to then comparatively little interest in the doings in far-off America. But a new nation was to come in on the side of France and America. Spain, finding England engaged with two enemies, decided that it would be a good opportunity to recover Gibraltar as well as some of it former Western Hemisphere possessions such as Florida, Belize, and Jamaica. So Spain concluded an alliance with France, and declared war against England; and Spain and France together started a siege of Gibraltar.
England now, being beset with enemies, proceeded on her old theory that "Britannia rules the waves," to take it out on neutral shipping in the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, searching and seizing many neutral ships. As a result, the various neutral countries in Europe, including Prussia, Austria, Russia, and many others, formed an alliance called the Armed Neutrality, to protect their rights as neutrals, and particularly defining the rights of neutral ships on the high seas. Although only one nation of the Armed Neutrality, namely, Holland, became actually involved in the war, the entire alliance was a menace to England, to such an extent that, by 1780, very little English shipping was left on the ocean, England's supplies were to a great extent cut off, and an armed military force had to be kept in London itself to avert possible uprising at home.
140. Articles of Confederation. In the meantime, the committee of the Continental Congress appointed at the time of the Declaration of Independence to draft a constitution for the newly-independent federation, was at work drawing up what it entitled "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union."
The States themselves were also urged to show their independence by making up constitutions of their own to replace the charters which represented authority England had given them to have a government of their own. As we have seen, Rhode Island and Connecticut, whose charters gave England no control, and which had declared their independence before the Congress did, continued to function without any change in form of government, keeping their old charters; Connecticut actually had among its fundamental laws a compact which served the purpose of a federate constitution, being a treaty of federation of towns into a single provincial administration. In Massachusetts, the minute-men's organization, carried over from the civil disobedience period, differed from the other states in that it was not based on the previous regime, and had no precedents but its own to follow or to overthrow. New Hampshire also differed from the other states in having participated in the revolution before the declaration of independence; but, unlike the case of its neighbor Massachusetts the revolt was definitely one of the legislature against the English-appointed governor and judges, and, even before independence was declared, New Hampshire proceeded to reorganize its government on a standard British model, with an elected executive to replace the governor whom it was desired to overthrow.
In New Hampshire, accordingly, during the year 1776, the legislature called together a special convention of towns to draft a constitution for the new government, this convention being largely modelled on the County Conventions of the Massachusetts civil disobedience. It was, however, part of the old government that was rebelling, so the British type of government was largely followed, but restricted by individual rights in a manner similar to that theorized about in the Declaration of Independence issued about the same time. As the old capital, Portsmouth, was recognized to be too easily accessible to the British authority, the reorganized State selected the town of Rumford, which was built on the site of the old capital of the Penacook federation, and which, after the battles opening the revolutionary activity in Massachusetts, was renamed Concord, after the Massachusetts town which had driven the British into a panic. The constitution which New Hampshire drew up was one emphasizing the rights of property, having in mind particularly the farmers’ claims to the land as against the manorial lords whom the administration represented. Since the drafting was started before independence was declared, the new executive was definitely not the Governor, which meant the representative of England; the title of New Hampshire’s new executive head was taken from that used by the Continental Congress, whose head was its President. Here, for the first time, the name President was used apart from actual presiding functions to denote the chief executive of a democratic government.
This constitution served as a model for other states. As we have already mentioned, Connecticut and Rhode Island made no change in their charters: in Massachusetts, the old civil-disobedience part of the state government constituted considerable opposition to following New Hampshire’s lead, the same being true to a lesser extent of Vermont. The States generally, one after another, began to adopt constitutions based, not on the inalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence, but on the rights of property, with a central executive head who differed from a king or royal governor only in being elected, and with voting in the hands of property-owners (a qualification which had always been there in the South, but which England had had to impose on the Puritan colonies, and which Massachusetts’ civil-disobedience system totally ignored).
Virginia had a peculiar problem in reorganizing the state government. There, the Church of England was recognized as the official church, and no tolerance whatsoever was shown to any other sects; but to reorganize with the Church of England as established church would have involved recognizing allegiance to the King of England as head of the church. At the same time, all the important personages were Episcopalians, and there was no revolt whatever against the church. It was finally decided to compromise by disestablishing the Episcopal Church, at least until that church could be reorganized under American control. Thus Virginia was forced to declare religious tolerance, contrary to all Virginian precedent, and even contrary to the personal opinion of such prominent citizens as George Washington, who would have preferred to retain the established church had it been possible to do so. The same problem appeared to a lesser extent in the Carolinas and Georgia, where, although the Church of England had been the officially established church, it had actually less following, and where religious tolerance had long been recognized.
State constitutions, however, were a departure from the original purpose of the written constitution, which was a treaty of federation, although in the New Hampshire case it was begun as if it were to be a treaty of federation between the town meetings, on whose long-standing rivalry to the British regime the revolution there was based. The Articles of Confederation were essentially the sort of written constitution that the original constitutions among the red people were; and there, as the original purpose was adhered to, the original red model was followed, rather than the British pattern of government drawn up by the states whose revolution was conducted by legislatures inherited from the old regime. However, in this case, the fact that the federation was formed before its constitution instead of as a result of it, had an important effect on the functioning of that constitution.
The Articles of Confederation began with the declaration: "The style of this Confederacy shall be the United States of America," and then went on to establish a form of government, declaring the status of the confederation as a "league of friendship" between the states, and reserving to the states the full sovereignty that belonged to any nation. It was provided that Canada could enter the federation at any time on application, but that admission of any other state would have to be passed upon by Congress. The Congress itself was specified as composed of annually elected delegates sent by the state legislatures, subject to recall at any time; the number of delegates for each state was to be from two to seven, according to the quota contributed by the state to Congress (the federation, under the First Republic, had no taxation powers). However, it was not left to money contribution to determine the actual vote of each state in Congress, since the Congress was required to vote by states, the delegation from each state having one vote, and the vote of nine states being required to pass any resolution (this being intended as a requirement of a two-thirds vote). Amendments to the Articles of Confederation could be made upon ratification of all states; and the Articles themselves were to go into effect upon ratification by all the states.
As to the functions of the federation, they consisted, under the Articles, of war, peace, treaties, diplomatic relations, post offices and post roads, coining money, and a few other special items; besides which, provision was made for Congress to contribute arbitration commissions in case of disputes between states on any subject whatever. The existing diplomatic relations (as of 1777, when the Articles were drafted) with France and Spain were confirmed by the Articles of Confederation. No executive or judicial functions were created, and all laws of "United States in Congress assembled" were to be considered treaties between the states, to be enforced by individual states. In addition, certain miscellaneous agreements between the states in regard to mutual privileges of citizens were written into the Articles of Confederation, such as an agreement providing that citizens of each state should have the full civil rights of citizens in any state, and should be allowed free ingress and egress in all states.
Although this constitution was proposed by Congress in 1778, it was not until 1781 that it was ratified by all the states, so that, during the period of actual fighting in the War for Independence, the Congress of the United States functioned without any definition for its powers and form other than the common consent of the states. During the four years of this period, the Continental Congress acquired new functions not mentioned in the Articles, but likewise not forbidden by them, and which have sometimes been treated as illegal usurpations, even though it was not any documents, but the development of the revolution that constituted Congress’s actual authority, so that such new functions were in no sense illegal. Since the Articles of Confederation were considered largely as a written confirmation of the actual state of affairs, it followed that such new functions as Congress acquired pending ratification were continued after the Articles went into effect. It must be remembered that the First Republic was not actually formed by the Articles, but by the Declaration of Independence, the Articles being merely a later confirmation of what was already done.
Among other things the Congress did in completing the organization of the federation, besides drafting a constitution, was deciding on a flag for the federation. For this purpose, the mullets or starfish of the Washington family shield replaced the Union Jack of the "mongrel" flag George Washington had introduced at Cambridge, with a result that almost completely removed the original red flag of the minute-men. The thirteen red and white stripes of the "rebel stripe" flag were retained by Congress’s resolution of Saturday, June 14, 1777, but the design in the corner was blue with thirteen of the Washington starfish emblems arranged in a circle. On this arrangement has been based the flag of the United States ever since, though for many years the North and the South had different interpretations of the stripes, since in the North it was the original red with six white stripes, while in the South it was white with six red stripes. That internal split in the federation was thus reflected in an actual difference in the federal flag.
The First Republic never actually coined money or established a money standard, though authorized to do so by the Articles of Confederation. But, before the Articles were ratified―in fact, about the time they were first proposed―the Congress, like many governments short of funds, issued paper money, as did many of the states. Although English money was still the basis of reckoning in America, most English coins in America during the war were badly clipped, and, since most of America’s foreign trade was then with Spanish possessions, the main sort of money in circulation was Spanish. The states still continued to issue their notes in terms of shillings and pounds; but the Continental Congress issued its notes principally in terms of Spanish money, the unit of which was the peso, known to the English as the piece of eight, the doubloon, the piaster, or the dollar. So it came about that "continental money" was issued in terms of Spanish "dollars"―a fact that was later to determine the American basis of currency. Soldiers were largely paid off in "continentals," which, towards the end of the war, became almost valueless for a while. The expression "not worth a continental" or "I don’t care a continental" arises from this circumstance.
The Articles of Confederation themselves were largely based on the Iroquois and Penacook models of a federate constitution. The federation as it existed was a temporary wartime alliance―in origin thus similar to the Penacook Federation―but the Articles declared the Union to be perpetual, that is to say, a permanent organization, without any self-imposed time limit. The Union governed by these Articles did not last long; and the entire spirit of the Articles of Confederation is against the later interpretation which used the "perpetuity" of the Union as justifying the use of force against recalcitrant states. Under the First Republic, each state could do what it pleased practically without restriction, and change its type of government to suit itself.
141. The War in the West. After the surrender of Burgoyne, the British had to concentrate on the defense of New York, enabling the Continental Army to advance the following summer and recapture Philadelphia; and the little British dominion about New York became settled down to a long and steady siege. This little dominion covered Long Island and Manhattan and Staten Islands, and New Jersey as far west as the Watchung (or Orange) Mountains. The mainland of Westchester was subject to raids from both sides, but occupied by neither, and ruled by gangs, as we have seen, the British confining themselves to maintaining a guard at the King’s Bridge, connecting Manhattan with the mainland.
After the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, the victorious rebels of New York State turned their attention largely to the conquest of Vermont, which really won the victory; but in this plan they were never successful, though the "Green Mountain War" continued long after the War for Independence was over. The Iroquois Federation, which was still the most powerful political factor on the continent, and which had helped Burgoyne in his advance from Canada through their territory, now came directly in contact with the Continentals. Since the first rebel demonstration in New York State had been for the purpose of forming white settlements in Iroquois territory, an active war against the Iroquois was started by the Continental Army, and particularly by the State of New York. Settlers were sent up from Pennsylvania to invade and occupy the Wyoming Valley, the mountain pass which formed the southern entrance to Iroquois territory, while other groups of settlers from the upper Hudson valley invaded Iroquois territory proper. The Iroquois armies, naturally resenting this wholesale invasion of the Federation’s territory, attacked and wiped out these settlements in the summer of 1778. The following year General Sullivan of New Hampshire, leading a large part of the Continental Army, took the war into Iroquois territory, where the Continentals inflicted defeats on the Iroquois armies, led by Thayendanagea (sometimes called General Brandt). The Iroquois federation, as a political power, had now practically ceased to be of any importance, and, with its army surrendered, an armistice was concluded giving the State of New York control over the Federation territory. The Federation, however, has continued to function ever since, and still claims national independence, which was recognized by the United States as late as 1917, when the State of New York claimed and took over complete control over such Iroquois as remained within its limits.
Farther west were the Shawnees and the remnants of the Lenape Federation, who were at first inclined to be friendly with the rebels, and made overtures to that effect to the authorities of Pennsylvania, which held many outposts such as Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) and neighboring forts. However, the stream of settlers who were coming out to that region, and to the south side of the Ohio River (the former colony of Transylvania, now under Virginia), regarded all the red tribes merely as obstacles to their settling this territory, as though the land belonged to the settlers and not to the red men. Consequently, in spite of the red men’s willingness to tolerate settlements, clashes were inevitable, especially when the settlers began to claim large tracts of land under individual ownership. Finally, the settlers near the Pennsylvania forts, who had long been anxious to secede from Pennsylvania on account of the state’s willingness to ally itself with the Shawnees and Lenapes, forced the issue by killing two envoys of the Shawnee Nation, who had come to negotiate for an alliance. A hasty attempt was made to revive the old Ottawa Federation in the Great lakes region, and alliances were arranged with Cherokee mountain tribes (who, being closely related to the Iroquois, naturally aligned themselves on the same side), and with the Maskoki nations in the South, as well as with the British western headquarters at Detroit. The Lenape federation, whose affiliate, the Sons of Tammany, had been the moving spirit behind the revolution in the middle states, issued its own Declaration of Independence, modelled on the one the United States had issued.
This alignment of tribes promptly declared war on the United States, although it was only the western settlers and the Southern "land-grabbers" who were inclined to prosecute the war to any extent on the white side.
In 1776, shortly after the Declaration of Independence, we have seen that the Transylvania and Vandalia colonies were taken over by Virginia, which had claimed for its aristocrats the ownership of lands there. This action was followed by North Carolina’s similarly conquering the Watauga settlements; then South Carolina and Georgia claimed, though they did not attempt to settle, strips of land in the western region. In 1779, Virginia, finding herself, through the newly-acquired territory of Transylvania, in the front of the new war against the interior red nations, sent out an army under George Rogers Clark to conquer the Illinois nations west to the Mississippi, and the British fortifications of Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia, in that area. This army set out and captured these forts with their surrounding settlements, and had temporary control over a bit of territory extending north and east from the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. This was done in spite of the fact that Virginia itself was being invaded by the British and had to call in Northern help for defense at home while their own army was a thousand miles to the westward seeking new lands to conquer. In fact, George Washington and the prominent Virginians were proclaiming the newly-conquered realm in the west as the refuge to which Virginia could move in a body when the British should conquer the coast country.
Virginia now proclaimed the annexation of the entire territory as far west as the Mississippi, and as far north as the Great lakes, though actually in possession of but a small portion of the region, and though the war on the red allies was not, on the whole, a successful one. This claim was based on an old charter issued by England in 1609, and which, as far as concerned western territory, had been nullified by subsequent treaties with France, besides having been issued at a time when European monarchs were free in giving title to land not in their possession. In addition, the territory claimed included the headquarters of the British forces at Detroit, which did not come into United States possession till long after the end of the First Republic. Virginia attempted to organize a temporary civilian government for its "overmountain territory," erecting "Kentucky County" to cover the original Transylvania colony, south of the Ohio River, while the entire region from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes, most of which was not in actual Virginian possession, was organized as "Illinois County."
At about the same time came New York’s acquisition of a sort of suzerainty over Illinois terrain, and, since the Iroquois claimed the Lenapes as part of their empire, though the Lenapes refused to acknowledge this, it meant that the State of New York laid claim to land as far west along the south shore of Lake Erie as the Cuyahoga River, conflicting with Virginia’s attempt to annex some of the same territory on the basis of a temporary victory hundreds of miles farther west. In addition, Massachusetts and Connecticut, whose original charters extended westward indefinitely, and which had ceded to New York their strips only from the Hudson valley to the Delaware River, laid claim to strips of land across Virginia’s claim of "Illinois County."
The war in the west was thus strictly a war of aggression on the part of the rebels―aggression by the settlers against the red tribes, and by the State authorities along the coast against the settlers. Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, all had their western claims definitely marked out, the Virginian claim covering most of the territory which Washington had tried to take away from the French in 1755 in the north, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts had their western claims, though the two latter states made no attempt at actual military conquest in the west. The only southern state was Maryland, organized on the same feudal and slavery basis as the other southern states, and therefore requiring the same sort of unlimited expansion to keep its aristocracy in power; but unfortunately, Maryland’s old English charter did not call for any western claims as did the others; while the remaining northern states had but little interest in extending their territory westward. Accordingly, Maryland, in an effort to cut itself into some of the rich claims to western territory, gave notice that she would not ratify the Articles of Confederation unless the states claiming the territory northwest of the Ohio River (Virginia’s "Illinois County") would relinquish their claims to the Continental Congress. Accordingly Virginia, already invaded by British forces, and afraid of losing much-needed outside help if the Articles of Confederation failed to materialize, gave in to the necessity, agreeing to cede the giant "county" to the United States. This action was followed by New York and Massachusetts and Connecticut giving assurances that similar action would be taken, resulting in Maryland’s ratifying the Articles of Confederation, which thereupon went into effect, but with the Congress saddled with a new function not specified in the Articles, that of governing a new territory which was actually in the hands of the red tribes.
The war against the Shawnees and Lenapes and their allies was going on in the meantime without any marked decision, and white settlers sailing down the Ohio River to invade Kentucky had many conflicts with hostile attackers from the "Indian shore," as the north shore of the river came to be called. In 1782, the Shawnees were forced about twenty miles back from the upper part of the Ohio River, and immediately settlers from the coast began to pour in. The first organized attempts to sell land to settlers came, however, not from the South, but from New England; and "Ohio Company" (named for the group of Virginian aristocrats who originally invaded the Ohio valley in 1755) was formed in Boston, at the present site of the Boston Stock Exchange, and sent out from Boston the first group of settlers to the new Northwest Territory (excepting the old forts at Vincennes and a few other points). This first Ohio River community of newcomers was given the name of Marietta. Other settlements, mainly of New Englanders, were made along the north bank of the Ohio River, such as Chillicothe and Losantiville (the latter name meaning the town opposite the mouth of the Licking River, consisting of L for Licking, os meaning "mouth" in Latin, anti meaning "opposite" in Greek, and ville meaning "town" in French).
142. The "Commonwealth." As we have seen, during the war the various State legislatures followed New Hampshire’s example in drawing up constitutions reorganizing the State governments much after the old model, the legislatures which led the rebellion being largely inherited from the former regime and therefore, in the long run, having to return to that form. In Massachusetts, the case was different in that the framework of the State was new, though the Provincial Congress was primarily organized under the enemy regime, and afterwards "went over" to the rebels; it thus, unlike the other states, became an issue as between the legislature, and the people who were the original prime movers of the rebellion. In other words, the legislature of Massachusetts, finding itself in direct opposition to the existing state governmental machinery, was attempting to overthrow that machinery and substitute its own, against the opposition of the County-Convention rebel machinery which belonged to the civil disobedience regime. The adoption of a constitution in Massachusetts was thus an issue between the hold-over part of the government, as represented by the legislature and the merchants with their smuggling ring, on the one hand, and the town-meeting and county-convention organization, on the other hand, representing the farmers and the workers in the old secret factories, which had now largely come out into the open since the territory of Massachusetts was no longer under British occupation.
The legislature was naturally the side of the government of Massachusetts recognized by the Continental Congress, and therefore by the Continental Army, the minute-men supporting and representing the other part of the Massachusetts administration being either subdued by Washington’s iron discipline, or scattered among the people and no longer effectively organized as they were in 1774 and 1775. Accordingly, the legislature could be expected to encounter little immediate resistance to a direct attempt to organize the Massachusetts government as it pleased. Accordingly the Massachusetts legislature called together at Cambridge in 1779 a convention representing the larger property-owners of the state, and adopted a new constitution modelled almost entirely on the New Hampshire one, recognizing most particularly the rights of property, and abolishing completely the old County Conventions and all the rest of the administrative machinery organized by the old civil disobedience movement. It also created the office of Governor, a single executive head of the government to take the place of the old-time British governors, and gave to this centralized administration much of the functions which towns and County Conventions were then handling. This new regime, being practically a counter-revolution against the "State of Massachusetts Bay" as established by the Middlesex rebellion, adopted, instead of "State," the title or "Commonwealth of Massachusetts." For the red pine-tree flag of the civil disobedients was substituted a white one, which has become the basis for the present flag of the Commonwealth. This new regime, controlling as it did the militia, had no difficulty in taking possession of Massachusetts upon its organization in 1780.
The first point of attack by the property-owners was the factories, which were owned by the workers in them. As many of the merchants in the "Sons of Liberty" had lent money to start the factories in the days before the rebellion, it was easy for them to claim mortgages on the factories on these grounds, and one by one the factories were taken over by private individuals and their workers given the choice of getting out, or working at whatever terms the new owners dictated, thus imposing a new slavery on the workers of Massachusetts, who had started the revolution for freedom. The hide-away food products plant at Dorchester Lower Mills, for instance, was converted into a private chocolate factory which still bears the sign "Established 1780." The same procedure took place with most of the other "hide-out" factories, though the Continental Congress managed to hold on to the munitions manufactories at Springfield and Watertown. The "Manufactory House" in Boston was simply confiscated and closed up by the new owners, to whom the printing of paper money appeared more attractive than the actual manufacture of goods; they obtained a charter for this purpose from the "Commonwealth" shortly after the end of the war, in 1784, as the Massachusetts Bank, one of the first banks in America.
Of course, it was not to be expected that either the workers or the farmers (who were equally hard hit with the new foreclosing policy under the Commonwealth), and, in many parts of Massachusetts, where the old civil disobedience regime had succeeded in going into hiding instead of being broken up completely, there were many attempts at reviving civil disobedience. The Okamakamessets treated the Commonwealth as a revival of the old British royal regime, and considered themselves at war with the Commonwealth as they had been at war with the British administration. Sporadic riots of workers and farmers against the Commonwealth took place as the result of the Commonwealth’s sustaining the series of foreclosures on farms and factories, and it flared up into open revolt for a short period in 1782 at Hatfield. But the supporting association that the civil disobedients had built up in 1775 was no longer there, and nothing could really be done until it was possible to reorganize support for the revolutionary movement among farmers and workers of Massachusetts.
One incidental result of the Commonwealth, however, was the complete abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. This was not intended by the counter-revolutionists who established the Commonwealth. The constitution, as adopted, merely echoed the Declaration of Independence’s formal statement that "all men are created equal;" but such was the pressure of wartime sentiment in the state, that, when the Commonwealth was established, this provision was interpreted as completely outlawing slavery—the first complete and definite abolition of slavery in America, or, for that matter, in the entire white men’s world. It is true that slavery was never recognized by the civil-disobedience regime, and this is probably what made it impossible for the Commonwealth to re-establish slavery. The only difference was that the civil disobedience movement did not have to specify in writing any such rule; while the Commonwealth, being organized on a red-tape basis as were the old British regimes, had to formulate it as a definite judicial decision. In this matter the other New England states, and Vermont and Pennsylvania, quickly followed the example of Massachusetts, so that, by the end of the War for Independence, the only two states north of Mason and Dixon’s line still recognizing slavery were New York and New Jersey.
143. The War in the South. In 1779, Sir Henry Clinton, the new British military governor at New York, sent out an expedition under Tarleton and Cornwallis to raid the coast of Virginia. Since most of the rebellion in Virginia was in the interior, it was easy to take over the tidewater region of the state, especially as Virginia’s army was then some thousand miles away capturing forts in the Illinois country. The British soon spread out over the entire coast region south of Chesapeake Bay. In Charleston, South Carolina, a small insurrectionist force hid in the cypress swamps near the town, and succeeded in maintaining a constant though fruitless guerrilla warfare.
The Continental Army soon sent troops to the aid of the South, and New England minute-men were soon busy trying to hold Virginia for the rebels while Virginia’s army was away conquering new Western territory. In spite of this, with General Greene’s boast that he would "burgoyne Cornwallis," the British succeeded not merely in overrunning the entire coastland in the South, but in capturing all of South Carolina, so that the state government had to move into North Carolina temporarily in order to function at all.
In 1780, however, the British attempted to conscript citizens of the Carolinas into the army, and immediately a new rebellion flared up. By this time, England was, as has been described, afraid of trouble at home, while a large part of the army was removed to India and to Gibraltar to hold those regions against enemy attacks, and this defense was too important to make it possible for England to send any troops back to America. The new rebellion immediately swept through the Carolinas and Georgia, and drove the British back to the seaports of Charleston and Savannah, where the various loyalists from the South gathered. Around the two seaports a condition almost approaching an armistice prevailed, and, by the end of 1780, even before the fighting had ceased in Virginia and around New York, the Carolinas offered amnesty to any of their loyalists who would swear allegiance to the state and return; many took advantage of this offer, and it brought many citizens to the side of the United States of America who might otherwise have remained hostile. The same thing had happened before, in New England, after the evacuation of Boston.
In the meantime, fighting continued in Virginia, where there was a great concentration of Continental and French forces. In 1781, the centralization of French armies in Virginia resulted in a naval defeat of the French in the West Indies; but at about the same time the combined Americans and French cornered the British at Yorktown in Virginia, not far from the ruins of Jamestown, Virginia’s original settlement. On [Friday,] October 19, 1781, Cornwallis was finally forced to surrender his army to the United States, ending hostilities around the neighborhood of New York. The British in Charleston and Savannah gradually withdrew to New York, and only there and in the west was there any continuance of warfare. Virginia, in the meantime, had lost much of its western conquests, being forced to defend itself at home.
An attempt at negotiating an armistice on the New York front in 1780 had resulted in General Arnold, on whose initiative the negotiations were carried on, being accused as a spy, and compelled to take refuge in New York. In August 1781, the Prince of Wales came to New York as a British officer, and was given a great ovation on Broadway by the people of the city. He later, in 1782, organized a raid on the Thames region of Connecticut, capturing for a short time the towns of New London and Groton; but the British were finally forced back on Long Island. Meanwhile, along the Hudson River, fighting practically stopped in 1782, and the entire Continental Army concentrated up the river at Newburgh, about sixty miles from New York.
After the surrender of the main British army at Yorktown, George Washington, now in his home land, proceeded to organize aristocracy for future conquest of America, by forming the army officers into a secret society with himself as president, and with membership to descend in the hereditary male line in the same way as European titles of nobility, to the eldest son, the object being to take control of politics in America and in all the states, and ultimately to overthrow the First Republic and establish some form of oligarchy with Washington as the dictator. The secret lodge took its name from the ancient Roman dictator Cincinnatus, and thus called itself the Society of the Cincinnati. In this manner George Washington contrived to sow the seeds of conspiracy against the very Continental Congress which he was at the time supposed to be serving. Their emblem was that of ancient Rome officialdom, the fasces.
But, after the cessation of active hostilities, other tendencies than Washington’s aristocratic plans began to manifest themselves. We have already seen that in New England there began a serious attempt to revive the original minute-men’s revolution which Washington and the Continental Congress had contrived to swerve so far from its original purpose. Besides this, the Continental Army began to rebel against the complete absence of any attempt to pay them for their service after the discipline and unquestioning obedience which Washington and his officers were exacting. The first such attempt took place among some Pennsylvania troops at Morristown in New Jersey in the spring of 1781, before fighting had actually stopped; but the fact that the British, thinking they had turned loyalist, tried to enlist them, sent them back into the Continental ranks. However, in 1782, by the time that the condition was almost one of armistice, this consideration did not come up, since the Continental soldiers no longer felt that the cause of American independence would require them to remain loyal to their officers; then General Gates took up the cause of the strikers at the Newburgh headquarters where most of the army was now concentrated, and helped to draw up literature calling on the army to demand payment from Washington. The circulation of this literature, however, was carried out too openly, and Washington was able to head off the movement by calling the army together before plans could be perfected, and holding the officers off with profuse promises as well as threatening them with a possible British attack if they persisted in wanting to be paid.
In the meantime, as the result of the surrender of such a large portion of the British army, as well as the close siege maintained against England itself in the English Channel by France and Holland, an administrative crisis resulted in spite of the success of British arms in other parts of the world, such as India, Gibraltar, and the West Indies, and even the British capture from Holland of the great continent of Australia. The result was that England started peace negotiations during 1782 with all the enemy countries, thus involving in principle the recognition of the independence of the United States.