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On that retrograde march, notwithstanding its rapidity, the British began to reap the harvest of their own insolence and rapacity. Such had been the brutalities practised by them, that, with the first ebb of their prosperity, rolled upon them the swift vengeance of those whom they had wantonly outraged. The militia of Jersey, its husbandmen and labourers, hung upon the steps of the retiring troops, and on every possible opportunity, wreaked full vengeance on the stragglers, for the insults, injustice, and oppression which had been meted out to them.
After resting a few days at Pluckemin, General Washington fell back to Morristown, which is situated among hills difficult of access, having a fine country in the rear, and otherwise well situated for keeping open the communications with the New England states on the one side, and Philadelphia and Congress on the other.
From this point, as his centre of operations, though it has been called his winter-quarters, he threw out detachments which overran East and West Jersey, crossed the Raritan, and penetrated into the county of Essex, where they took possession of the coast opposite Staten Island. With a greatly inferior army, by judicious movements he thus wrested from the British almost all their conquests in the Jerseys. Brunswick and Amboy were the only posts remaining in their hands, and even in them they were not a little harassed and straitened. The American detachments were thus in a state of constant activity, frequently surprising and cutting off the British advanced guards, keeping them in perpetual alarm, and melting down their numbers by a desultory and indecisive warfare.
The successful and brilliant enterprises which closed the campaign commenced at Long Island, at once raised the spirits and stimulated the courage of the Americans, and impressed the mind of the British general with the necessity of the utmost circumspection, and with a high respect for the military talents of General Washington.
The favourable effect produced on the minds of his countrymen by these operations, induced General Washington to issue a proclamation, for the purpose of counteracting that issued by General Howe. This was a seasonable and necessary step. Intimidated by the desperate aspect of American affairs when the American army retreated into Pennsylvania, many of the inhabitants of the Jerseys had taken advantage of General Howe's proclamation, promising them protection in their persons and property, and submitted to the British authority; but with respect to the promised
protection, they had been entirely disappointed. Instead of protection and conciliation, they had been insulted by the rude insolence of a licentious soldiery, and plundered with indiscriminate and unsparing rapacity. General Washington's proclamation accordingly absolved the inhabitants from their engagements to Britain, and promising them protection on their submission to Congress. Many took advantage of this proclamation, and the militia of New Jersey afterwards did good service in the American
"Thus terminated the eventful campaign of 1776, which witnessed the heroic defence of Charleston in the south; the evacuation of Canada in the north; the operations of Washington in the Middle States, first at the head of a respectable force in Long Island; subsequently defeated there, and on York Island; his soldiers leaving him as soon as their terms of service had expired; retreating through New Jersey, with what Hamilton has called the phantom of an army; compelled to cross the Delaware; turning, when it was confidently expected by the British that all his army would be disbanded, and inflicting severe wounds on their widely scattered forces; and, in the end, acting on the offensive, and hunting them from place to place, until they are cooped up in New York, Amboy, and Brunswick. True, the British had taken possession of Rhode Island; but it was of no advantage to them yet, nor at any period of the war; and they were compelled to weaken their armies for the purpose of keeping a garrison there. And finally,
duced anding the joy of the British at the capture of
General Lee, the effects which they anticipated were not produced on the American people; and subsequent events showed them conclusively that they had not captured the American Palladium."
The success of Washington in the Jerseys enabled Congress to return to Philadelphia in the month of February. In the mean time, they had set in motion elsewhere agencies favourable to America. Convinced of the necessity of foreign relations, they resolved that commissioners should at once be sent to the courts of Spain, Vienna, Prussia, and Tuscany. The uneasiness, pride, jealousy, and hatred of England manifested by France, `excited their strongest hopes. They used every means in their power to gain and cultivate the friendship of that great nation. They appointed Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, commissioners to negotiate at Paris the preliminaries of friendly relations between the two countries. Mr. Deane had already been
some time in Paris, and had had audiences of the foreign minister, but was unable to effect any thing decisive. By great exertions, and after many difficulties, he concluded an agreement with a French merchant, M. Beaumarchais, to ship for the United States clothing for twenty thousand men, thirty thousand muskets, one hundred tons of powder, two hundred brass cannon, twenty-four mortars, and a large quantity of military stores of all kinds. He undertook to supply these on credit, accepting Mr. Deane's security as the agent of Congress. Many obstacles interfered to prevent the transportation of these stores. The remonstrances of the English minister, who kept spies on all the ports, constituted the chief difficulty. At length, Beaumarchais was able to despatch one vessel from Havre in the beginning of November. She arrived in New Hampshire in the following April, deeply needed, and loudly welcomed, as bearing a large supply of arms, ammunition, and clothing, for the opening campaign.
Mr. Deane had also undertaken and concluded another negotiation of far more brilliant results. The young and adventurous Marquis de Lafayette proposed to him to volunteer his services, on the sole condition of obtaining the rank of a brigadier-general in the republican army. The proposal was acceded to, and the name and sword of Lafayette soon shed glory, destined to be lasting, on the War of Liberty.
Early in December, Franklin and Lee arrived in Paris, to associate their address and ability with Mr. Deane, in obtaining the support, or at least the recognition of the court of Versailles. Hesitating assurances and equivocal promises were, however, all that could be then obtained. The commissioners, more than ever convinced that it is mature determination, aided by action and success, that can alone procure the sympathy and support of great powers, turned their thoughts elsewhere. They were even induced to dissuade from his purpose the generous young warrior, who was about to peril life, fortune, and fame, in a sinking cause, by representing to him that the scattered forces of America were flying through their native forests before the victorious and avenging army of England. But he was not to be disconcerted. At his own cost, he purchased a vessel to bear him from the land where he was born to greatness, that he might share in the success or fall of a weak, struggling people. In early spring, he gained the country of his ambition, and, with the rank of major-general, joined Washington's army.
Another illustrious name, too, graced that muster-roll of war