Sunday, June 23, 2019

Episode 102 Cherokee War in the South




While the British were focusing their forces on New York and to a lesser extent Canada, the southern colonies / states could not take it easy.  Southerners had defeated an organization of Tory militia at Moore’s Creek Bridge North Carolina in February 1776.  They had then defeated the regulars at Fort Sullivan outside of Charleston South Carolina in June.

British Indian Agents

But even with the Tories captured and dissipated, and the British Army and Navy chased back north in abject failure, there was still one hostile group with which to contend.  On July 1, 1776, the Cherokee began a series of coordinated raids on western settlements all through Georgia, the Carolinas, and even Virginia.

Cherokee Warriors (from Wikimedia)
Patriots accused the area’s British agent, John Stuart, for encouraging the Cherokee to go to war.  Stuart had tried to encourage the Cherokee to fight in 1775 and early 1776, even supplying them with ammunition.  But Stuart had been forced to flee from his home in Charleston to St. Augustine Florida in early 1776.  Stuart had made clear that the British would be happy if the Cherokee attacked rebel forces, but he now had to operate from afar.  To make things even more difficult, patriots kept his family under house arrest in Charleston.

Another loyalist named Alexander Cameron, who had a Cherokee wife, was apparently more active in motivating the Cherokee to go to war.  When he left his farm to join the Cherokee in the spring, many were concerned that his intentions were to start a Cherokee uprising.  Those concerns proved correct, though Cameron was far from the only instigator.

Treaty of Sycamore Shoals

The Cherokee did not need much provocation.  They believed, correctly, that the colonists would continue to push them further west, out of their lands.  The main reason they were not fighting, was a fear that the colonists would win a military confrontation as had happened during the Cherokee Uprising in 1760 that I discussed way back in Episode 15.  Now the British Indian agents only had to say, go for it.  Britain would not back up the colonies because they were in rebellion, the Cherokee saw the opportunity to fight back.

The most recent incident that had convinced the Cherokee of the need to fight was the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, signed in March 1775.  There a group of colonists from North Carolina, with Daniel Boone acting as their agent, agreed to purchase about 20 million acres of land covering most of what is today Kentucky and part of northern Tennessee.  In exchange the various tribes received roughly £10,000 in cash, debt forgiveness, and trade goods.

Land purchased under Treaty of Sycamore Shoals
(from Wikimedia)
At the time, the treaty violated the King’s Proclamation of 1763, which forbade colonists from moving into lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.  Many Cherokee Chiefs also objected to the Treaty and refused to sign.  Those who did agree took all the cash and prizes offered. Many later argued they thought they were simply granting hunting and travel rights over the territory, or temporary leases, not exclusive ownership.  By 1776, most Cherokee recognized that enforcement of this treaty would spell their doom.

Cherokee Chiefs from all over the region met and debated the merits of an all out attack.  They were convinced that military victory was the only way to prevent further colonial encroachments onto their land.  Also attending the meeting were representatives of the Iroquois, who still maintained official neutrality.  However, those attending the conference encouraged the Cherokee to go to war, and told the assembled about patriot attacks on Iroquois settlements farther north.  Delaware and Shawnee representatives from the Ohio Valley had similar stories to tell.

British agents let be known that they would supply arms and ammunition.  They also hoped the Cherokee would coordinate their attacks with General Henry Clinton’s attacks along the coast, which I already discussed in the Battle of Fort Sullivan, fought at the end of June.

Seizing the opportunity while the colonists and British were divided, the summer of 1776 seemed like the ideal time for the Cherokee to reassert control and take back the frontier.  With British logistical support and promises that the King had no objections to them retaking this territory, this was their best opportunity to push back the colonists and reclaim their land.

McCall Expedition

Patriots were well aware of Cherokee support for the Tories in the western parts of the colonies and also heard stories about the plans for an all out war. In June the patriot militia sent a small contingent of 33 men led by James McCall, to visit the Cherokee villages in the Carolina backcountry.  Their purported mission was to negotiate for the return of stolen property on earlier raids.  Their true, secret mission was to capture the British Indian Agent Alexander Cameron and bring him back as a prisoner.  They met with several villages without incident.

On the evening of June 26, McCall met with a group of elders at the Cherokee village of Seneca.  There, a group of warriors burst into the room and took him prisoner.  At the same time, another group attacked his soldiers, who were camped just outside of town.  The Cherokee killed four men, but the rest escaped, spending the next few weeks quietly making their way back east to friendlier territory.  Captain McCall remained a prisoner for several months, regularly threatened with torture and death.  Months later, he was able to make his escape with the help of a friendly female Cherokee and made his way to Virginia.

Cherokee Attack

The July 1 attacks struck all along the western borders of the southern colonies, hitting isolated farms and villages, ruthlessly killing men, women, and children.  They took some prisoners to return to camp as slaves.  The Cherokee tortured some of their prisoners to death, including children.  There was a reason settlers genuinely feared the natives.

The Cherokee were clearly siding with the British in their attacks, not striking at colonists randomly.  Loyalist farms and towns marked their homes with “passover poles,” basically a pole with a white cloth wrapped around it, so that the Cherokee would know to pass over them without harm.  As for the patriots, anyone not killed in the first strike fled to area forts, for protection, while the militia mobilized to do battle.

Gen. Charles Lee

These attacks came on the heels of the American victory at Fort Sullivan at the end of June.  General Charles Lee was still in the Carolinas when the attacks began. As commander of the Southern Department, Lee provided some strategic advice, but did not seem ready to deploy his Continentals anywhere, or march himself into the field of battle.  Instead, he remained near the coast, moving down to Savannah at one point.  He planned to attack British outposts in Florida, but nothing seemed to come of it.  Militia did most of the fighting along the frontier and Lee did not seem to bother himself that.

Instead, Lee spent much of his time writing letters to Washington in New York and Congress in Philadelphia.  During this time, he seemed deeply concerned of rumors that a British general might join the Continental cause and be placed ahead of him in the command structure.  He also wrote to the French Governor of Haiti asking for arms and ammunition, though it does not appear that got very far with that either.  Most of the fighting consisted of short hit and run raids rather than major campaigns that would need a strategic commander.  As a result, Lee accomplished rather little.

Inland though, fighting broke out all over.  It is going to be impossible to discuss every little raid or massacre that took place over the summer without making this a 20 part episode, so I’ll try to cover a few of the larger events only.

Western Raids

While there were few colonists living as far west as present day Tennessee and Kentucky, those few who were there, deep inside Cherokee territory, found themselves surrounded by hostile warriors, although I guess I need to start calling the colonists Americans, since after July 4, the people living in the south considered themselves living in states independent of Britain. One of the Chiefs who had opposed the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals and who had walked out of the signing was a man named Dragging Canoe.  He became a leading warrior in the Cherokee raids.  On July 20, at an area known as Indian Flats in present day Tennessee, Dragging Canoe sent an advance party forward looking for militia.  The militia ambushed the advance party and wounded several.  About 150 militia chased the retreating party back to the main body of Cherokee.  The two sides fought a pitched battle in which the Cherokee suffered 13 killed and more wounded, including Dragging Canoe.  The militia suffered only four wounded before the Cherokee broke off the attack and retreated.

Fort Caswell (from Wikimedia)
Around the same time, the Cherokee began to lay siege to another inland fort where a small group of Americans had gathered for protection.  A militia force of about 75 defended Fort Watauga, aka Fort Caswell.  The Americans, discovered the Cherokee before the attack and successfully secured the fort.  The Cherokee attacked for about three hours, attempting to set fire to the fort wall.  One woman fended off such an attack by dumping boiling water over the wall. After the initial attack failed, the Cherokee began to besiege the fort.  Following his retreat from Indian Flats, Dragging Canoe joined the siege with his warriors.  The Cherokee managed to capture at least two defenders who left the fort.  They burned one of them at the stake, a teen aged boy.  They also planned to burn a captured woman but relented when another long time female prisoner who lived with the Cherokee for years begged them not to kill her. After about two weeks, a large militia relief force arrived to break the siege.

McDowell’s Station (NC)

In North Carolina, Cherokee raids killed dozens along the Catawba River, leading about 120 women and children to take refuge at an area fort commanded by Militia Lt. Col. Charles McDowell.  The fort only had about ten soldiers.  The Cherokee had ambushed another contingent of eight soldiers in nearby Quaker Meadows, killing and scalping seven while an eighth survived by hiding under a log and returned to tell the tale.  The remaining soldiers at what became known as Fort McDowell were able to hold the Cherokee at bay for several weeks until a larger militia relief force arrived.

Lindley’s Fort (SC)

A number of settlers in South Carolina took refuge at Lindley’s Fort (aka Lyndley’s Fort).  A group of about 150 militia also took shelter there while awaiting a larger contingent to do battle with the Cherokee.

A around 1:00 AM on the morning of July 15, a group of nearly 200 attackers, about half Cherokee and half loyalist militia, attacked the fort, thinking it was only civilians, and not realizing the militia had entered the fort only a few hours earlier.  Both sides traded shots all night until the attackers learned a much larger relief force was on the way.  They broke off their attack and left the fort, but the much larger force of around 430 patriot militia pursued them and captured 13 of the attackers.  The prisoners were shipped to the jail at Ninety-Six.

Georgia

North Georgia saw some raiding, but much of its frontier was spared by the fact that mostly Creek Indians lived there, not Cherokee.  The Creek had debated going to war alongside the Cherokee.  However, the southern colonies and the Continental Congress had requested the services of George Galphin, a popular trader who had a good relationship with the Creek Chiefs.  Galphin managed to keep the Creek out of the war and reduced Georgia’s exposure to Indian Attack.

Patriots Fight Back

The Patriots, of course, organized themselves quickly to meet the serious Cherokee threat.  As I have already alluded to in the relief of several besieged forts, by early August, the Patriots had militia brigades in the thousands from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, marching through the backcountry to relieve outposts and protect civilians.

The patriots also had more than protection on their minds.  They aimed to push the Cherokee out of the frontier area once and for all.  This meant a brutal campaign of burning Cherokee villages, killing men, women, and children, and stealing or destroying all Cherokee crops and food stores, which would inevitably lead to starvation later in the year.

Rutherford Expedition (from Sutori)
One campaign known as the Rutherford Campaign, was led by militia General Griffith Rutherford, through what is today western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Rutherford teamed up with another large brigade from South Carolina.  They also had the support of the Catawba Indians who occupied limited areas on the northern frontier.  The combined force burned dozens of Cherokee villages during the late summer and early fall.  The army fought several pitched battles with Cherokee warriors, including Dragging Canoe.  The militia’s superior numbers and better access to arms and ammunition eventually forced the Cherokee to retreat to the west.

Another group from Virginia led by Militia Colonel William Christian, sometimes called “Christie” led nearly 2000 Virginia militia on a rampage over the fall and early winter of 1776, driving the Cherokee out of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.

The fighting, which went on for months, brought out savagery on both sides.  Provincial governments paid for Cherokee scalps.  Soldiers on both sides made little distinction between combatants and civilians.  Fighting was often hand to hand, and neither side had much interest in accepting a surrender.  You won or you died.  Death was usually preferable to either side than to be captured.  Americas were happy to torture any captured Cherokee as payback for what the Cherokee were doing with American prisoners.

By some estimates, the patriots had killed over 2000 Cherokee, out of a population of an estimated 13,000.  The Cherokee had only about 3000 armed warriors, but many of those killed were civilians, including women and children.  Patriots burned at least 52 Cherokee towns, and innumerable smaller encampments.

The Catawba had allied themselves with the patriots and assisted in attacks on the Cherokee.  Only a small number of Creek joined the fight, with most of the Creek opting for neutrality.  Even worse patriots’ scorched earth policy of burning all villages and food stored met that many Cherokee would go without much food or shelter over the winter.

Attempts on St. Augustine

The fighting continued throughout the summer and fall, and into the winter.  General Lee worked out a plan with General Moultrie to mount an expedition against St. Augustine.  This was where British Indian agents continued to operate and attempt to encourage the Indians to fight the patriots.  Others agents operated out of Pensacola and Mobile, but those were farther away.  St. Augustine also held some prisoners of war, making it an attractive target for the Continental Army.  General Lee had actually set off on an expedition against St. Augustine in September, when he received orders to return to New York.

Around the same time, General Moultrie received notice that the Continental Congress had granted him a commission as a brigadier general in the Continental Army.  General Moultrie mounted several expeditions to St. Augustine, but resistance from Creek Indians, the offensive measures by British Regulars in St. Augustine, and most importantly, malaria outbreaks among the soldiers caused all expeditions to turn back before reaching St. Augustine.

Surrender

By spring 1777, most of the older chiefs were ready to make peace with the Americans, ceding land and returning captured property.  In May the South Cherokee signed the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner, where the Cherokee ceded almost all of their land in what is today South Carolina, as well as parts of Georgia.  In July, the Middle and Northern Cherokee, in the Treaty of Long Island of Holston confirmed the cession of the lands from the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, as well as additional lands to Virginia and North Carolina.  In total, the treaties to end hostilities cost the Cherokee over five million acres of land.  The treaties also required the Cherokee to return any prisoners, as well as stolen horses, runaway slaves, or other property.  They also agreed to turn over any loyalists or British agents to Fort Rutledge for trial.  Beyond land, one Chief even offered 500 warriors to fight alongside the patriots against the British, though the Americans declined this offer.

Treaty of DeWitt's Corner
The final Article of the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner ended with “The hatchet shall be forever buried, and there shall be a universal peace and friendship established between the Cherokee and South Carolina and Georgia”  So, yeah, after this treaty, a close and tender relationship could grow into peace and harmony between the two groups.  Except, no there was no way that would happen, and no one seriously believed it even at that time.

Many of the younger warriors refused to surrender.  Although they could not continue to fight in the face of overwhelming forces.  They moved their warriors further west, into what is today mid-Tennessee and northern Alabama.  Dragging Canoe was one of these chiefs.  He formed a confederacy of displaced Tories, his own Cherokee, as well as members of  Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Shawnee tribes who all wanted to continue the fight against the settlers.  They would continue to raid and attack settlements for the remainder of the war, and would continue for more than a decade after the British recognized American independence.

So, once again, the Cherokee battling the settlers only led to another large loss of land, just as it had in 1760.  Beyond that, the raids accomplished almost nothing for the British, except perhaps tying up a few munitions, men, and supplies that might have been deployed further north.  But the Continental Army did not deploy any troops south beyond those who probably would have been there as a guard against a British coastal landing anyway.  Most of the fighters came from local militia.  If anything, the attacks mostly provided the militia with combat experience that benefitted them when the British tried to attack the south a few years later.  The experience also meant that the Cherokee would be unwilling to engage and cooperate with British regulars during that later invasion.  The Cherokee had been weakened, and also had no assurance that future cooperation would not result in the loss of even more land and property to the southern states.

- - -

Next  Episode 103: The Battle of Brooklyn (Available June 30, 2019)

Previous  Episode 101: The British Land at Staten Island



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Further Reading
Resources to learn more about today’s topic.

Websites

John Stuart: http://www.ncpedia.org/biography/stuart-john

Cherokee in the Revolutionary War: http://www.ncpedia.org/cherokee/revolutionarywar

Cherokee War (1776): http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/cherokee-war-1776

Treaty of Sycamore Shoals: http://www.self.gutenberg.org/articles/Treaty_of_Sycamore_Shoals

The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals: http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Publications/region/8/daniel_boone/chap8.htm

A Revised History of Fort Watauga, by Brian Compton (E.Tenn. State U. Master's thesis, 2005): https://web.archive.org/web/20080228200145/http://etd-submit.etsu.edu/etd/theses/available/etd-1221104-112846/unrestricted/ComptonB011305f.pdf

Battle of McDowell’s Station:
http://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/revolution_mcdowells_station.html

Battle of Quaker Meadows: http://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/revolution_quaker_meadows.html

Battle of Lindley’s Fort: http://www.carolana.com/SC/Revolution/revolution_lyndleys_fort.html

Capt. McCall & Alexander Cameron in the Cherokee War, by Wayne Lynch JAR (2013): https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/04/captain-mccall-and-alexander-cameron-in-the-cherokee-war

George Galphin and the War in the South, 1775-1780 by Bryan Rindfleisch (JAR 2015).
https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/09/george-galphin-and-the-war-in-the-south-1775-1780

Treaty of Dewitt’s Corner (May 1777): http://teachingushistory.org/documents/dewittscorner.pdf

The Treaty of Long Island of Holston (July 1777):
http://www.thereddoorcasino.com/notoweega/index.php/public-documents/139-the-treaty-of-long-island-of-holston-july-1777

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Drayton, John Memoirs of the American Revolution: From its Commencement to the Year 1776, inclusive, as relating to the state of South-Carolina, Vol II, A.E. Miller, 1821.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 2, M. St. Clair & Peter Force, 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 3, M. St. Clair & Peter Force, 1837.

Gibbes, Robert Documentary History of the American Revolution, consisting of letters and papers relating to the contest for liberty chiefly in South Carolina, 1764-1782, Vol 2, D. Appleton & Co. 1855.

McCall, Hugh The History of Georgia, Vol. 2, William T. Williams, 1816.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Dean, Nadia A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776, Valley River Press, 2012 (book recommendation of the week).

Hatley, Tom The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of Revolution, Oxford Univ. Press, 1995.

Lumpkin, Henry From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Mazzagetti, Dominick Charles Lee: Self Before Country, Rutgers Univ. Press, 2013.

Raphael, Ray, A People's History of the American Revolution, New Press, 2001.

Vine, Deloria Jr. & DeMallie, Raymond J. (eds) Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775-1979, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Episode 101: British Land at Staten Island




The Americans were feeling pretty good about themselves in the spring and summer of 1776.  They had chased the British Army out of Boston in March, and then declared independence in July.  For the patriots, there was no more bickering over taxing authority in London.  The United States were now separate from the British Empire.

Britain, though, had no intent of letting this relationship go that easily.  After all, you don’t build a world empire by giving away an entire continent just because some rebels kill a few hundred of your soldiers.  King George and Lord North had spent the winter assembling the largest military force the Empire had ever sent overseas.

Adm Richard Howe (fromWikimedia)
You would think that they would be ready to kick off their military reconquest of North America by April or May when the spring military season normally began.  But for a few reasons, they ended up delaying the whole program.  Part of the problem was leadership.  Admiral Richard Howe had been positioning himself in Parliament to lead the expedition, but he wanted diplomatic power, not just military command.  The debate inside the ministry took months before they decided that although Howe would head a Peace Commission, he would have no authority to make any political concessions. He could only grant pardons.  Howe did not like the restrictions on his authority, and considered walking away.  But in the end, this was the mission of a lifetime.  Howe was going to save North America for the Empire.  He could not walk away from that.

Another reason for delay was the assembly of the army and a fleet to carry them.  Carrying tens of thousands of troops across the Atlantic was no easy task in 1776.  It would require hundreds of transport ships which the government needed to build, buy, or lease.  Producing or acquiring all the arms and equipment took time as well.  Britain wanted all of this to arrive at once.  They wanted shock and awe, not some slow military build up over time.

Finally, even after London had its army and navy ready to go, along with all the equipment, it faced a series of storms in the Atlantic that spring, that delayed passage of most of the fleet for several months.  As a result, the British would not be ready to do much of anything before mid summer.

By June, General William Howe in Halifax was itching to go.  It had been three months since he evacuated Boston and he was ready to redeem  himself.  On June 29, 1776 most of General Howe’s fleet reached the waters just off Sandy Hook, NJ, just south of New York City.  He had more than 100 ships carrying around 10,000 soldiers.  This looked pretty intimidating to the continentals and militia preparing to defend the city.  But it was only the first phase.  General Howe would await the arrival of his brother Admiral Howe, with a larger fleet, as well as General Henry Clinton and his army returning from the Carolinas.  Over the next month, the patriots in New York would simply watch the enemy fleet grow and grow and grow.

Staten Island

Howe was not yet ready to engage the enemy, but he also did not plan to leave his men stuck in ships for weeks while the awaited the remainder of the invasion force.  He landed his force on Staten Island, where his men could camp and forage for fresh food.

At the time, Staten Island was lightly populated, with less than 3000 people, and ruled by a handful of prominent families.  It tended to be loyalist.  While the patriots had been trying to round up loyalists in much of the region, as well as build defenses to oppose a British landing, they had pretty much left Staten Island alone.  Most of the islands had been under the guns of the small British fleet that had been in New York’s harbor for the previous couple of years.

On July 2, General Howe began to disembark his troops on Staten Island, facing no military resistance, only a miserable rain storm.  The army set up camp and waited.  Almost all of the 500 adult males on the island signed oaths of loyalty to the King. The locals happily sold food to the hungry army.

After a few weeks, one officer commented that the good food and comforts of the island had a noticeably good effect on the soldiers.  They seemed more energetic and in high morale.  According to the officer, one measure of this improvement was the increased number of rapes reported by locals against soldiers.  He noted that because the locals failed to bear these attacks with resignation, he got to hear quite a few interesting court martials.  Yes, comments like this would probably get any officer kicked out of the army today, but the army of the 1770’s still had a long way to go in sensitivity towards women’s issues.

In any event, the army was regaining its strength and vigor, and the rapes did not seem to create too much ill will among the locals, at least not any that would induce them to change sides.  Staten Island became a comfortable base of operations for the British.

Admiral Howe Arrives

About the same time General Howe was approaching New York, his brother Admiral Howe arrived in Halifax.  Having found that the General had already departed, Admiral Howe immediately set sail down the coast toward New York.

While en route, Admiral Howe attempted to work out a proclamation to encourage the patriots to surrender, accept a pardon and return to British authority.  Although he had no political concessions to offer, Howe relied on the threat of his military force to convince the rebels to give up their cause.  If one is faced with the destruction and confiscation of all property, the rape of one’s family, and possibly being hanged, accepting that Parliament can levy a three cent tax on a pound of tea does not seem that outrageous an alternative.

1776 Map of NY Harbor 
As I’ve mentioned before, some officers thought they should terrorize the populace until they submitted.  Howe thought otherwise. He believed that the mere sight of the military force would be intimidating enough.  The leaders had to show mercy and magnanimity so that the rebels would accept that surrender would not be so bad after all.

Howe had prepared not only a public proclamation, but wrote letters to the colonial governors (the Royal Governors, not these provincial leaders pretending to be governors), as well as to his friend Benjamin Franklin.  You may recall that Howe and Franklin had spent months trying to work out a peace deal in 1774 and 1775 before Franklin finally left England to returned to Pennsylvania.  Howe hoped his old friend would assist in bringing the conflict to a peaceful conclusion.

Admiral Howe’s fleet encountered several patriot ships along the way.  His fleet captured a Nantucket whaler.  Howe released the ship and gave the captain a bottle of brandy to show his good intentions.  A day later, he encountered a ship smuggling goods in violation of the Prohibitory Act.  Again, Howe released the ship and allowed it to keep its cargo.  Howe attempted to give these captains copies of his proclamations to spread among the colonies.  However, no one wanted to take them.  They feared they might be prosecuted for collaborating with the enemy.

Unfavorable winds and poor weather slowed Admiral Howe’s approach to New York.  It also didn’t help that his navigator mistook Nantucket Island for Long Island, taking the fleet off course.  Finally on July 12, the first of Admiral Howe’s fleet would arrive at Staten Island.  Ships would continue to dribble in over the next few weeks.  But even with over 21,000 soldiers now, the Howe brothers continued to wait.  They were still expecting nearly 3000 more soldiers from General Clinton’s mission in the Carolinas as well as about 8000 Hessian mercenaries still on their way from Europe.  So the Howe Brothers sat and waited.

This also began a pretty familiar theme for the Howe offensives.  Neither Admiral Howe nor General Howe seemed in any hurry to defeat the rebels.  They moved slowly and methodically, to win their battles.  They never moved quickly or rashly to take advantage of surprise or confusion.  Remember, General Howe commanded the British attack at Bunker Hill.  He was not inclined to charge his men into an entrenched enemy and face another slaughter.  He preferred to move on the enemy using care to protect his advancing forces. Moving slowly against the enemy on their own terms meant that the British could be assured of victory.  It also usually meant that while they could win a battle, they could not capture the enemy.

Many have argued that the Howes did not want to win.  They generally favored the American cause and did not want to crush the colonists.  I don’t think they deliberately set out to lose the war, but they also did not seem intent on crushing the enemy either.  They seemed to think that, at some point, the rebellion would fall apart on its own after a series of battlefield losses.  They did not want a massacre that would create decades of resentment in the colonies.  Rather, if they could simply show the colonists that defeat was inevitable, and the terms of surrender were not so bad, that most of them would voluntarily return to the fold.  In hindsight, it was a poor strategy.  But at the time, it seemed reasonable to many.

Elizabeth Loring

Some have attributed another reason to General Howe’s slow pace to another reason.  While in Boston, Howe had met Elizabeth Loring.  Elizabeth or “Betsey” had married Joshua Loring, Jr., the son of a British naval officer.  By most accounts, Joshua Jr. was a dirt bag.  He had held a number of minor positions in the Massachusetts Government and had left Boston with the other Tories in the evacuation to Halifax.  Before the war, he had served as Sheriff in Massachusetts, during which time he got a reputation for ripping off suspected criminals and enriching himself.  During the British occupation of Boston and in Halifax, he made money supplying liquor to the British Army.  As a military contractor he had great incentive to ingratiate himself with General Howe.

Elizabeth Loring (from Geni)
Now, there are no verifiable records of the gossip of the day, but apparently Mrs. Loring had a bit of a reputation as a slut even before she met Howe in Boston. Some contend she had been a mistress of Dr. Joseph Warren, who died leading the patriots on Bunker Hill.  Mercy Otis Warren also wrote a play in 1772 that subtly made fun of her reputation for sleeping around.

Whatever her background, it seems that she began an affair with General Howe that became pretty open and notorious.  Her husband Joshua seemed to tolerate the affair, eventually being compensated with an appointment as Commissary of Prisoners.  The job had decent pay, but Loring enriched himself even more by embezzling money allocated for the feeding and care of American prisoners of war.  Loring grew rich while hundreds of prisoners literally starved to death.  General Howe, in turn, seemed willing to overlook these crimes against humanity as long as Loring let him enjoy sexual favors with his wife.

Partly, as the result of all this was that General Howe was in no hurry to see the war come to an end, when he would have to return home to his older wife.  Instead, he enjoyed long nights of attending shows, drinking, gambling, and sex.

Up the Hudson River

While the Howe brothers seemed in no real hurry to do much of anything, some of their junior officers were chomping at the bit.  On July 12, only a few hours before Admiral Howe arrived,  the 44 gun Phoenix, the 20 gun Rose and three smaller British ships, caught a favorable wind and sailed up the Hudson River, past Fort Washington and Fort Independence.  The Continentals had built these two forts with the specific intent of preventing the British from sailing up the river.

The patriot batteries fired on the ships, but inflicted only minimal damage to the rigging.  One sailor had to have a leg amputated.  The patriots did more damage to themselves.  The inexperienced artillery crews managed to blow up at least one gun.  They tried to load a powder charge without first swabbing the barrel.  As a result, the powder ignited from a spark still in the barrel from the previous shot, killing six members of the crew and seriously wounding several others.

Phoenix and Rose up the Hudson, 1776 (from Wikimedia)
According to some accounts, the crew had been getting drunk and hanging out at the whore houses at Holy Ground before they spotted the British ships, so in addition to their inexperience, their drunkenness may have contributed to the fatal accident.  The artillery crew was also commanded by an inexperienced 19 year old who had been a college student only a few months earlier.  Fortunately for Captain Alexander Hamilton, the Continental Army offered lots of second chances after poor performances like this.  His leadership would improve over time. The British returned fire, mostly hitting buildings in New York, killing and wounding several civilians.

For Washington, this was not only a huge embarrassment.  It proved that his defenses were worthless against the British Navy.  They could sail up behind his forces and cut off his line of retreat whenever they wanted.  He also had no idea what those ships planned to do.  Some rumors suggested they might be arming Tory regiments to launch an attack on Washington’s rear.  Others suggested they might be on a mission to destroy some American ships under construction further up river.  They might also be trying to open up lines of communication with General John Burgoyne’s forces who could be moving south over Lake Champlain to complete the British plan of sealing off New England from the rest of the colonies.

If fact, they had no real plans at all other than to test the American defenses.  The ship remained upriver for a few weeks,  The patriots maintained men along shore to oppose any attempts at landing.  After facing a failed patriot raid against the ships and a failed attempt at sending fire ships at them, the ships sailed back down the Hudson, leading to another minor firefight with the Continental artillery, before rejoining the main fleet off Sandy Hook.  They did succeed though, in proving to everyone that the American defenses were useless against the British naval domination of the rivers around New York.

Peace Negotiations

The day after Admiral Howe arrived in Staten Island, he began distributing his proclamations as a Peace Commissioner, promising pardons for all who would swear allegiance to the King and making vague and exaggerated claims that he could negotiate a peace and bring the violence to an end.  Howe was disappointed to hear the Americans had just declared independence, but still pushed forward with his plans to settle the dispute without further bloodshed.

General Washington used the opportunity to send General Howe a letter, objecting to the treatment of American prisoners, primarily those held in Canada.  These men were now prisoners of war of the independent United States, not criminals.

Admiral Howe then decided to send a letter under a flag of truce to “George Washington, Esq.”  Washington’s personal aid, Colonel Joseph Reed refused to accept the letter because it was not addressed to General Washington.  The British refused to recognize Washington’s commission and could not put his title on the message without tacitly accepting that he was a legitimate commander of a legitimate army.

Joseph Reed (from Geni)
A week later, on July 20, Howe sent his Adjutant General, Lieutenant Colonel James Patterson, under a flag of truce to meet with Washington to discuss prisoners.  The Americans blindfolded him and took him to meet with Washington.

There, Patterson attempted, once again, to hand deliver Howe’s letter, now addressed to George Washington, Esq, & etc. & etc.  This time, Washington himself refused to accept the letter without the proper title.  Patterson insisted the Admiral met no disrespect, and that the et ceteras were there to imply all appropriate titles.  Washington said that yes, they could mean anything and everything, but he would not even consider a negotiation until they recognized his proper title, which would implicitly mean recognizing American independence as well.

Washington went on to tell Patterson that he understood the Admiral’s only real power was to grant pardons.  No one wanted his pardons because they had not done anything wrong.  Also, if the British wanted to negotiate any sort of political solution, they needed to do that with the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, not a military general.  The meeting lasted several hours, and was apparently reasonably cordial.  But neither side seemed to be willing to do anything that would even begin any sort of peace talks.  By late afternoon, Patterson put on his blindfolded and was led back to the British ship waiting to carry him back to the fleet.

Howe did get his messages to Congress as well.  But they also seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Having committed to independence and with Howe having no real authority to offer any political reforms, Congress seemed in no mood to talk.  Benjamin Franklin received a private letter from Howe, which he had published in the newspapers along with his reply.  In his reply, Franklin noted that the relations had grown so poisoned between the British and Americans that neither could ever trust the other again as fellow subjects.  The only way the British could hope to govern America was to break the spirit of the people with the “severest tyranny”.   Clearly Franklin’s message was aimed more at Americans who were considering the negotiation option more than it was to Admiral Howe.  But it did make clear that the time for talk was over.  Only force of arms would decide anything going forward.

More Forces Arrive

With talks going nowhere, the Howes awaited the arrival of their remaining troops.  On July 31 and August 1, the fleet arrived from South Carolina with Admiral Peter Parker, General Clinton, and General Lord Cornwallis and 3000 regulars, following their defeat at Fort Sullivan in South Carolina.  On August 14 the fleet carrying 8000 Hessians arrived.  The soldiers disembarked at Staten Island following a long and difficult crossing.

By this time, the Howes had about 32,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors and more than 400 ships already to attack New York and begin the reconquest of America.  With peaceful negotiations at an impasse, the Howes decided it was time to use their army.

Next Week: before we get to the invasion of Long Island, I want to move south again.  The British had failed to establish a base along the Carolina coast, but they had stirred up the Cherokee in the west to fight the patriots.  We will take a look at patriot attempts to crush the Cherokee uprising.

- - -

Next  Episode 102: Cherokee War in the South

Previous  Episode 100 The Declaration of Independence



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American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy


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You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!




Further Reading

Websites

British Forces Land at Staten Island, the New York Campaign Begins:  http://www.revwartalk.com/Battles-1776/07-02-1776-battles-british-forces-land-at-staten-island-new-york-the-new-york-campaign-begins.html

Joshua Loring, Jr - American Revolution’s Public Enemy Number One:
http://tidewaterhistorian.blogspot.com/2010/09/american-revolutions-public-enemy.html

Washington Plays Hardball With the Howes, by John L. Smith, Jr. (JAR) (2015)
https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/11/washington-plays-hardball-with-the-howes

The Enigma Of General Howe, by Thomas Fleming, American Heritage, Vol. 15, Issue 2 (Feb. 1964): http://www.americanheritage.com/content/enigma-general-howe

Journal of HMS Phoenix, July-Aug 1776: http://revwar75.com/battles/primarydocs/phoenix.htm

Journal of HMS Rose, July-Aug 1776: http://revwar75.com/battles/primarydocs/rose.htm

Washington, George Memorandum of an Interview with Lieutenant Colonel James Paterson, July 20, 1776, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-05-02-0295

Letter from Lord Howe to Benjamin Franklin, June 20, 1776:
https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-22-02-0282


Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Lord Howe, July 20, 1776: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-22-02-0307

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)


Bouton, Nathaniel (ed) State Papers: Documents and Records Related to the State of New Hampshire, Vol. 8, NH Legislature, 1874.

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Flick, Alexander C. Loyalism in New York During the American Revolution, New York, The Columbia University Press, 1901.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 2, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Mather, Frederic The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, 1913.

Tomlinson, Abraham; Dawson, Henry B. New York city during the American revolution : Being a collection of original papers (now first published) from the manuscripts in the possession of the Mercantile library association, of New York city by New York (N.Y.). Mercantile Library Association;
Privately printed for the Association, 1861.


Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Bliven, Bruce Under the Guns: New York, 1775-1776, New York: Harper & Rowe, 1972.

Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Ellis, Joseph Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Gallagher, John J. Battle Of Brooklyn, 1776,  Da Capo Press, 1995.

Golway, Terry Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution, Henry Hold & Co. 2004.

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.
* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Episode 100 The Declaration of Independence




Over the last two weeks I’ve discussed the vote for independence and the creation of the Declaration itself.  This really is the key document to the American Revolution and one that fundamentally changed the the world.  So I’m devoting a third week to this important topic.  This week, I want to go through the Declaration line by line and explain the significance of each part.  With that, let’s begin:
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
The July 4 date is the date Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration, although Congress added the very next line calling it unanimous a couple of weeks later after the New York delegation changed its vote so that all 13 colonies supported the Declaration.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Declaration of Independence (from Wikimedia)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Ok, so this introduction summarizes quite well the idea of social contract theory.  Radical ideas first espoused by people like Thomas Hobbes, and later expanded by thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  As the age of reason replaced medieval superstition, theorists could not simply rely on the idea that leaders were leaders because God ordained it, the so-called divine right of kings.

John Locke (from Wikimedia)
Under social contract theory, governments came into being because people needed rules and enforcement of those rules to bring order to society.  The people collectively give this power to a government, but when a government proves unwilling to serve the people in this goal, the people can dissolve it and create a new one.  Locke listed fundamental rights which government should protect: life, liberty, and property.  If government did not protect people’s lives, let them live freely and protect their property, it was not doing its job and needed to be replaced.

Jefferson famously replaced “property” with “pursuit of happiness” a term Locke used elsewhere, as did other political philosophers.  It is also a shortened version of what George Mason wrote in his Virginia Declaration of Rights, published a month earlier.  Jefferson never explained this alteration.  Some have theorized this was he did not want property to be seen as code words for protecting slavery.  It could also simply be that Jefferson was thinking more about the right of taxation, which does take property and is acceptable if the people consent to it through elected representatives.

The phrase seemed to work.  Jefferson then proceeds to explain that any government attempt to undermine these rights is justification for its replacement.

The next section goes through the list of reasons why the King had violated the social contract with the colonists:
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
These are general objections to restrictions colonial legislatures had to face more often in recent years as London attempted to reign in colonial legislatures.  Although the King’s Privy Council had never rejected a bill of Parliament since before George I took power, George III’s Council had rejected colonial legislation on several occasions.  It also emphasizes the futility of attempting to govern from such a distance, where it could take months for messages to pass back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
This seems to be a dig at attempts to suspend colonial law making authority in colonies that objected to Parliamentary laws. The colonies had no representation in Parliament and could not relinquish legislative authority to that body.  Some have also said it is a criticism of the royal government’s failure to redistrict legislatures as populations move into western lands without representation in the colonial legislatures.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Signing the Declaration (from Wikimedia)
This appears to be a direct attack at royal directives that forced the Massachusetts legislature to meet in locations other than Boston.  Virginia and South Carolina also had to meet in other locations as well.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. 
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
In the years leading up to war, royal governors repeatedly suspended legislative sessions and elections when it was clear those legislatures would vote on things with which the leadership in London disagreed.  This effectively left some colonies without representative government, sometimes for years.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
This criticized attempts by the crown to limit immigrants from outside of the British Empire from settling in the colonies, and also attempts to restrict settlements in western lands.  Colonists wanted to settle more lands and expand westward.  London did not want large numbers of people with traditional allegiances to other European powers settling in large numbers.  It also did not want westward expansion to provoke new was with Indian tribes.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers. 
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
For nearly a decade, London had attempted to have judges be appointed by royal governors and to have London pay their salaries.  Colonists saw this as an attempt to bias judges in favor of London.  This was one reason Massachusetts began Committees of correspondence, to see if London was undermining judicial control in other colonies as well.  It was one of those sneaky behind the scenes power grabs that put patriot leaders on high alert.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
This is most likely a reference to the many tax collectors, customs officials, and other trade regulators that often cost more than the taxes they created.  Colonists also saw how British office holders often sucked up wealth in other colonies around the world. This included Bishops for the Anglican Church.  These created comfortable lives for well connected members of the British establishment, but left the colonies poorer overall.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
The most famous of these incidents was the British occupation of Boston beginning in 1768.  New York also had a fight over having to pay for soldiers they did not want.  Armies were necessary when there was an external threat.  Using them as law enforcement against the people was an act of tyranny.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
This fight went back at least as far as the French and Indian war, when British commanders simply did whatever they wanted, without feeling constrained to explain themselves to colonial legislatures, or even royal governors.  Civilian control, meaning local control of soldiers in their midst, was considered an absolute necessity.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
This seems to be a dig at the king for supporting the authority of the Parliament in London to legislate on behalf of the colonies.
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
Again, this is a reference to putting regulars in colonies that did not want them and which colonists had to support financially.  This was not just an issue of putting soldiers in individual homes.  Colonists did not was to support regular soldiers within their colonies, wherever the regulars slept.
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
This is a jab at one of the Coercive Acts, which ordered that colonial courts could not try soldiers for murder.  Such trials would be held back in London.
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
Britain had always barred direct trade between colonies and other countries outside the empire.  But with the outbreak of war, it has banned all colonial trade anywhere.  Such a blockade is generally considered an act of war.
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
This, of course, had been the rallying cry of protest since the Stamp Act of 1765.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
Britain, of course, had moved many hearings to admiralty courts without juries.
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
Britain had threatened to send colonists to London for trial of certain crimes, though I’m not sure they ever actually did this until the war began.
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
This referenced the Quebec Act.  Britain had maintained many French laws and refused to introduce basic English principles of government, like juries and elected legislatures.  It then gave Quebec control over all western lands.  This expanded the size of a colony that had no basic liberties, thus preventing other colonies from settling those lands without giving up their rights as Englishmen.
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
This is a pretty direct reference to the Massachusetts Government Act, the 1774 coercive act which revoked the colonial charter and took away most power of self-government.
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
Again, this references the suspension of colonial legislatures when a royal governor did not like what they were doing. This seems to be a direct reference to the Declaratory Act which held that Parliament had the right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever.  Also, of course, London seemed to bypass colonial legislatures and imposing its own rules on colonists on an ever expanding range of issues.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
In late 1775, following news of Lexington and Concord, the King declared the colonies in rebellion and outside his protection.  This effectively called on Parliament to go to war with the colonies.  The King’s decision to take Parliament’s side rather than broker a compromise was what led many moderates in the colonies to join the move for independence.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
Since the war began, the army and navy had of course engaged in open warfare, burning towns like Falmouth, Charlestown, and Norfolk.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
Although they had not been in battle yet, delegates were well aware that the King had paid German mercenaries to supplement the army that Britain was sending to America.  The idea that leader would hire foreigners to kill his own people was seen as an act of tyranny.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
Britain regularly captured merchant vessels and forced colonist sailors either to join the British Navy or be killed.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Domestic insurrections is generally considered to be a reference to Virginia Governor Dunmore’s attempts to get slaves to oppose the rebellion in defense of the Crown.  This also references attempts by British Indian agents to get various tribes to support British efforts in the war.  The phrase “merciless Indian Savages” has been tagged as racist in recent years.  However, it does reflect the fear at the time that native tribes engaged in warfare tended to commit horrific acts against civilians and prisoners.  Yes, colonists often visited the same level of cruelty against natives.  But for the colonists at this time, this was a particularly scary element of warfare that they wished to avoid.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Colonies had been sending petition for many years, but of course made no progress with these.  This was Congress’ way of saying that we tried to settle this by appealing to the government, but got nowhere.  The refusal of leaders even to consider petitions and debate the problems was a sign that the government was not interested in the support of the people, but rather relied on the tyrannical use of force to control them.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
Colonies also made direct appeals to the English people.  They sometimes got results when the English, concerned about trade boycotts, encouraged Parliament to back down.  But in recent years, the British public did not seem terribly sympathetic.  As a result, they seemed to hold different interests and could not remain as a single people anymore.  Someday, they might be allies again, but never again one people.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
This final paragraph states very directly that for the above reasons, the colonies are now sovereign States with no political ties to Britain.  They would continue a war against what they now regarded as the foreign nation of Great Britain, and would seek the assistance of other countries to win that war.

In pledging their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, the delegates recognized they were putting everything on the line.  After this open challenge to who would be the sovereigns of North American settlements, there was no turning back.

With that the Continental Congress and America awaited Britain’s response.

Next week: the British begin landing the largest military force ever seen in America at Staten Island, New York.
- - -

Next  Episode 101: British Land at Staten Island

Previous Episode 99: Declaring Independence



Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy


Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!




Further Reading

Websites:

Declaration of Independence (full text): http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document

Declaration of Independence (annotated)
http://americainclass.org/sources/makingrevolution/rebellion/text8/decindep.pdf

Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence: https://jeffersonpapers.princeton.edu/selected-documents/jefferson%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Coriginal-rough-draught%E2%80%9D-declaration-independence-0

Happy Independence Day: Which Day Is It? http://unlearnedhistory.blogspot.com/2015/07/happy-independence-day-which-day-is-it.html

Locke, John Two Treatises of Civil Government, 1689: https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/locke-the-two-treatises-of-civil-government-hollis-ed

Rousseau, Jean-Jaques The Social Contract, 1762:
https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/economics/rousseau/social-contract

Wolverton, Joe II In Pursuit of the "Pursuit of Happiness
https://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/history/item/21192-in-pursuit-of-the-pursuit-of-happiness

Declaration of Independence, Lesson Plan
http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/lessonplan/lesson0.html


Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Vol. 5, June 5 - Oct. 8, 1776, Gov’t Printing Office, 1904.

Becker, Carl L. Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas, Harcourt, Brace & Co. 1922.

Dwight, Nathaniel The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Harper & brothers, 1840.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Goodrich, Charles A. Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Mather, 1840.

Linn, William The Life of Thomas Jefferson: Author of the Declaration of Independence, and Third President of the United States, Andrus, Woodruff, & Gauntlett, 1843

Lossing, Benson J. Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence. The Declaration Historically Considered, Evans, Stoddart & Co. 1870.

Tyler, Moses, C. The Literary History of the American Revolution, 1763-1783, Vol. 2, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1897.


Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, Basic Books, 2013.

De Bolla, Peter The Fourth of July: And the Founding of America, Harry N. Abrams, 2008.

Maier, Pauline American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, Knopf, 1997  (Book recommendation of the week).

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.