Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

determined to go through with it. Yet I could wish to be assisted in it. I would then try it to a greater extent, and would the sooner be able to bring the cultivation of the grape into general use.

" It is in these vineyards, my Lord, and in clearing a large body of rich swamp-lands in New Jersey, and fitting it for the cultivation of hemp, in settling a good farm in the wilderness, and bringing to it some of the productions and improvements of Europe, that are my present employments. They have taken place of the pleasures of London, and I sometimes persuade myself that this is the happier life of the two. Yet there are some hours I could wish to have repeated ; those in which I was honored with your Lordship's conversation I shall ever recollect with the greatest pleasure."

The attempt to suppress those branches of trade which would check importation from the mother country was one of the grievances complained of at the Revolution. But this formed a part of the settled policy of England, and would not have been for a long time resisted, but for the more unreasonable pretensions which she afterwards attempted to enforce. In addition to his efforts to add to the productions of his country by the cultivation of the vine and of hemp, he soon after induced others to join him in establishing extensive ironworks in New Jersey, to which enterprise he devoted much of his time and attention.

The even tenor of his life, whilst engaged in these tranquil occupations, equally beneficial to the land of his birth, and to that other country which he, in common with his fellow-colonists, was accustomed to consider and speak of as “home,” were ere long interrupted by the mad attempt of the Tory administration to tax the American Colonies without their consent. This pretension was in violation at once of their charters and of their intrinsic rights as British subjects, and when once before suggested, it had been rejected by Sir Robert Walpole, for reasons the wisdom of which has long since been confirmed by history.

“ I will leave the taxation of America for some of my succes. sors, who may have more courage than I have, and be less a friend to commerce than I am. It has been a maxim with me, during my administration, to encourage the trade of the American Colonies in the utmost latitude; nay, it has been necessary to pass over some irregularities in their trade with Europe ; for by encouraging them to an extensive growing foreign commerce, if they gain €500,000, I am convinced that £250,000 of their gain will be in his Majesty's exchequer, by the labor and product of this kingdom; as immense quantities of every kind of our manufactures go thither; and, as they increase in their foreign American trade, more of our produce will be wanted. This is taxing them more agreeably to their own constitution and to

ours.”

One of his successors was found to possess the courage in which Walpole had declared himself deficient, and in March, 1765, Mr. Grenville, assisted by Charles Townshend, who bad now changed his party and opinions, carried through Parliament the Stamp Act, for levying duties on certain documents used in the Colonies. History has recorded how this pretension was received in America. Stirling was among the most active of its opposers. He encouraged resistance to its execution by promoting the agreement to dispense with the stamped paper without prejudice to the validity of contracts in which the act required it to be used. He also exerted his influence to procure the removal of the parliamentary agent of New Jersey, who had not opposed the enactment of the obnoxious law, and in causing the eminent solicitor, who had acted for himself in London, to be appointed in his place. A letter from this gentleman, announcing the subsequent repeal of the odious act, expresses the views of Stirling as well as his own. “I entirely agree with your Lordship that we should be content with your commerce, which, indeed, is all that is valuable in the Colonies ; and if this commerce will bring every farthing of your money to Britain, I agree with your Lordship that we can have no more.”

It became apparent that arms alone were to vindicate the just rights of the Colonies. A Whig, not merely from education and early associations, but from the convictions of his mature judgment, Stirling had opposed the Stamp act, and used his influence to procure its repeal ; he had opposed with equal determination the expedients by which, under another form, it was attempted to attain the same unlawful end of taxing the Colonies without their consent. When coercion was at length attempted in Massachusetts, and was followed by the resistance of its people and the shedding of their blood, Stirling was among the first in the other provinces to take up arms in defence of what he knew to be the common cause of all the Colonies. The military experience which he had gained on the Canadian frontier twenty years before, under Shirley, together with his local influence and personal popularity, and above all, his ardor in the cause of American liberty, led to his being unanimously chosen by the people of Morris county to command a regiment of militia, which he had been instrumental in raising in the summer of 1775; and the legislature of the province confirmed the choice, and commissioned him accordingly.

He displayed his characteristic energy and activity in recruiting and organizing his regiment, supplying arms at his own expense to such of bis men as were unable to arm themselves. Whilst engaged in this duty, he was ordered to organize two regiments of regular troops, which Congress had directed to be raised in New Jersey for the general service. He visited in rapid succession the various parts of the province to procure recruits, collect arms and ammunition, and prepare barracks.

barracks. In a few days, he succeeded in completing the regiment intended for his own command, the head-quarters of which were established at Elizabethtown. Immediately afterwards he commenced preparations to defend any vessels that might take refuge in the neighbouring waters of New Jersey from molestation by the British cruisers in the harbour of New York; and he asked authority from Congress to take for the public use from any merchant vessels that might arrive whatever ammunition they might have on board, on the payment of its value. This suggestion was adopted. Having reason to believe that the king's governor in New Jersey, William Franklin, son of Dr. Franklin, was likely to undertake something in favor of the royal cause, he caused him to be placed under guard. Having subsequently issued a proclamation in the king's name for assembling the provincial legislature, Franklin was removed to Connecticut by order of Congress, and guarded there as a prisoner.

Early in January, 1776, Stirling received a letter from General Washington, then commanding the army by which Boston was invested, advising him that the British were fitting out an expedition, which the general believed to be destined against Long Island, and possibly against New York itself. He stated that he had detached General Lee to take command in New York, and prepare for its defence, and to overawe Long Island, where many of the inhabitants were disaffected ; and he directed Stirling to reinforce Lee with troops from New Jersey.

[graphic]

Whilst he was executing these orders, intelligence reached him that a transport for the ministerial army at Boston was hovering off Sandy Hook in distress, waiting for assistance from the king's ships in New York. Supposing her to be laden with arms and ammunition, he immediately started for Amboy, seized a pilot-boat which lay there, and manned her with volunteers to attempt the capture of the transport. He was joined by three boats from Elizabethtown, under Colonel Dayton. They found the ship nearly twenty miles seaward from Sandy Hook, and immediately boarded, captured, and brought her into Elizabethtown. She proved to be laden with coal and provisions. Though Stirling felt a natural regret that the ship was not laden with arms and ammunition, as he had conjectured, yet the capture was a serious annoyance to the enemy. Provisions were already becoming scarce in Boston, and fuel was in such requisition to meet the rigors of a severe winter, that many of the houses were demolished for fire-wood. The promptness with which this little naval enterprise was conceived, and the spirit with which it was conducted, at once established bis character for zeal, activity, and gallantry, and gained for him and his followers one of the earliest votes of thanks from Congress. At the same time, he zealously exerted himself to check the attempts, that were made by the disaffected and avaricious, to ship provisions and wood from New Jersey for the aid of the troops in Boston.

On the 4th of February, 1776, he received orders from General Lee to march with his regiment to New York. He set out the following day, and crossing the Hudson with difficulty through the running ice, reached New York on the 6th. There he found no commissary of provisions, and was obliged to supply his regiment with rations by such ways and means as he could devise. On the 1st of March, Stirling was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general, and his commission was forwarded to him in a highly complimentary letter from the President of Congress. General Lee being soon after detached to take the command in the Southern Colonies, Stirling remained for a season in the chief command at New York. He immediately directed his efforts to cutting off the communication between Staten Island, off which the king's ships lay, and Long Island, by stationing parties along the shores of the bay, to watch the movements of the enemy, check their depredations, and destroy their boats, as opportunity offered.

He also made great exertions to prepare quarters in New York for the American army, under Washington, who proposed to march thither as soon as the royal forces should leave Boston, which it was evident they could not long continue to hold.

The forces under Stirling, including the New Jersey and Connecticut troops, and volunteers from the city, amounted to two thousand men. It being apprehended, that the fleet and army from Boston would proceed at once to New York, to occupy that place permanently, and endeavour to divide the Colonies by opening a communication through Hudson's river and the Lakes with Canada, every effort was made to strengthen the defences of the place. Stirling called for additional troops from New Jersey and Connecticut, and fortified the most commanding points on Long Island and at New York, being aided by the inhabitants in throwing up the works. In addition to other motives to exertion, he was stimulated by the assurance of Washington, “ that the fate of this campaign, and of course the fate of America, depends upon you, and the army under your command, should the enemy attempt your quarter." Though Washington reinforced him after General Howe had einbarked a portion of his forces with an apparent intention to depart from Boston, still, lest his preparation might be only a feint, Washington could not withdraw his troops until the British Aeet and army departed, on the 17th of March. Then he broke up his camp, and proceeded with his army by detachments to New York.

During a short time, Stirling was superseded in the chief command at New York by Brigadier-General Thompson, He employed the interval in superintending the construction of additional works on the Jersey shore of the Hud

General Thompson being soon after ordered to the Canada frontier, the chief command again devolved on Stirling, who continued to urge forward the completion of the defences. To the principal work on New York island he gave the name of Fort Washington ; to that opposite it, on the Jersey shore, the name of Fort Lee, in compliment to

« AnteriorContinuar »