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Ch. 12: The Plains of Abraham and the Stamp Act


The gathering of soldiers from France, England and the colonies, and the
rousing of the Indians on one side and the other, made the great forest
which stretched across northern New York and New England populous with
troops and resonant with the sounds of war. Those solemn woodland aisles
and quiet glades were desecrated by marchings and campings, and in the
ravines and recesses lay the corpses of men in uniforms, the grim remains
of peasants who had been born three thousand miles away. Passing through
the depths of the wilderness, apparently remote from all human habitation,
suddenly one would come upon a fortress, frowning with heavy guns, and
surrounded by the log-built barracks of the soldiery, who, in the
intervals of siege and combat, passed their days impatiently, thinking of
the distant homes from which they came, and muttering their discontent at
inaction and uncertainty. The region round the junction of Lake George and
Lake Champlain, where stood the strongholds of Fort Edward and Fort
William Henry, of Crown Point and Ticonderoga, was the scene of many
desperate conflicts, between 1758 and 1780; and the wolves of the forest,
and the bears of the Vermont mountains, were disturbed in their lairs by
the tumults and the restless evolutions, and wandered eastward until they
came among the startled hamlets and frontier farms of the settlements. The
savagery of man, surpassing theirs, drove them to seek shelter amid the
abodes of man himself; but there was no safety for them there, as many a
bloody head and paws, trophies of rustic marksmanship, attested. The
dominion of the wilderness was approaching its end in America. Everywhere
you might hear the roll of the drum, and there was no family but had its
soldier, and few that did not have their dead. There were a score of
thousand British troops in the northern provinces, and every week brought
rumors and alarms, and portents of victory or defeat. The haggard
post-rider came galloping in with news from north and west, which the
throng of anxious village folks gather to hear. There have been
skirmishes, successes, retreats, surprises, massacres, retaliations; there
is news from Niagara and Oswego on far away Lake Ontario, and echoes of
the guns at Ticonderoga. There are proclamations for enlistment, and
requisitions for ammunition; and the tailors in the towns are busy cutting
out scarlet uniforms and decorating them with gold braid. Markets for the
supply of troops are established in the woods, far from any settled
habitations, where shrewd farmers bargain with the hungry soldiery for
carcasses of pigs and beeves, and for disheveled hens from distant
farmyards; the butcher's shop is kept under the spreading brandies of the
trees, from whose low limbs dangle the tempting wares, and a stump serves
as a chopping-block. Under the shrubbery, where the sun cannot penetrate,
are stored home-made firkins full of yellow butter, and great cheeses, and
heaps of substantial home-baked bread. Kegs of hard cider and spruce beer
and perhaps more potent brews are abroach, and behind the haggling and
jesting and bustle you may catch the sound of muskets or the whoop of the
Indians from afar. Meanwhile, in the settlements, all manner of industries
were stimulated, and a great number of women throughout the country, left
to take care of their children and themselves by the absence of their
men-folk, went into business of all kinds, and drove a thriving trade.
Lotteries were also popular, the promoters retaining a good share of the
profits after the nominal object of the transaction had been attained. It
was well that the war operations were carried on far from the populous
regions, so that only the fighters themselves were involved in the
immediate consequences. The battle was for the homes of posterity, where
as yet the woodman's ax had never been heard, except to provide defenses
against death, instead of habitations for life. Those who could not go to
the war sat round the broad country hearthstones at night, with the fire
of logs leaping up the great cavern of the chimney, telling stories of
past exploits, speculating as to the present, praying perhaps for the
future, and pausing now and then to listen to strange noises abroad in the
night-ridden sky--strains of ghostly music playing a march or a charge, or
the thunder of phantom guns.

Governor Shirley, who while in France in 1749 had married a French wife
and brought her home with him, and who for a while had the chief command
of the king's forces in America, was in disfavor with the people, who
suspected his wife of sending treasonable news to the enemy; and having
also proved inefficient as a soldier, he was recalled to England in 1756,
and vanished thenceforth as a factor in American affairs, in which his
influence had always been selfish and illiberal, if not worse. Thomas
Pownall succeeded him and held his position for three years, when he was
transferred to South Carolina. He was a man of fashion, and of little
weight. From the shuffle of men who appeared and disappeared during the
early years of the war, a few stand out in permanent distinctness.
Washington's reputation steadily increased; Amherst, Wolfe and Lyman
achieved distinction on the English side, and Montcalm and Dieskau on the
French. In 1757, General Loudoun, one of the agents of the despoiling of
Acadia, made a professed attempt to capture Louisburg, which had been
given back to the French at the last peace; but after wasting a summer in
vain drilling of his forces, retired in dismay on learning that the French
fleet outnumbered his own by one vessel. The place was bombarded and taken
the next year by Amherst and Wolfe, but Halifax was the English
headquarters in that region. Before this however, in the summer of 1755,
immediately after the defeat of Braddock, an army of New Englanders
assembled at Albany to capture Crown Point, where the French had called
together every able-bodied man available. William Johnson was commander,
and associated with him was Phinehas Lyman, a natural-born soldier. They
marched to the southern shore of what the French called the Lake of the
Holy Sacrament, but which Johnson thought would better be named Lake
George. The army, with its Indian allies, numbered about thirty-four
hundred; a camping ground was cleared, but no intrenchments were thrown
up; no enemy seemed to be within reach. Dieskau, informed of the advance,
turned from his design against Oswego in the west, and marched for Fort
Edward, in the rear of Johnson's troops. By a mistake of the guide he
found himself approaching the open camp. Johnson sent a Massachusetts man,
Ephraim Williams, with a thousand troops, to save Fort Edward. They nearly
fell into an ambush; as it was, their party was overpowered by the enemy;
Williams was killed, but Whiting of Connecticut guarded the retreat.
During the action, a redoubt of logs had been constructed in the camp, and
was strengthened with baggage and wagons. The Americans, with their
fowling-pieces, defended this place for five hours against two hundred
regular French troops, six hundred Canadians, and as many Indians. Johnson
received a scratch early in the engagement, and made it an excuse to
retire; and Lyman assumed direction. Dieskau bravely led the French
regulars, nearly all of whom were killed; he was four times wounded; the
Canadians were intimidated. At length, about half past four in the
afternoon, the French retreated, though the American losses equaled
theirs; a body of them were pursued by Macginnes of New Hampshire and left
their baggage behind them in their haste; but the body of Macginnes also
remained on the field. The credit for this battle, won by Lyman, was given
by the English government to Johnson, who received a baronetcy and a "tip"
of five thousand pounds. It would have been the first step in a series of
successes had not Johnson, instead of following up his victory, timidly
remained in camp, building Fort William Henry; and when winter approached,
he disbanded the New Englanders and retired. The French had taken
advantage of their opportunity to intrench themselves in Ticonderoga,
which was destined to become a name of awe for the colonists. At the same
time that Braddock marched on Fort Duquesne, Shirley had set out with two
thousand men to capture the fort at Niagara, garrisoned by but thirty
ill-armed men; the intention being to form a junction there with the
all-conquering Braddock. The latter's annihilation took all the heart out
of the superserviceable Shirley; he got no further than Oswego, where he
frittered the summer away, and then retreated under a cloud of pretexts.
He and the other royal officials were all this while pleading for a
general fund to be created by Parliament, or in any other manner, so that
a fund there be; and asserting that the frontiers would otherwise be, and
in fact were, defenseless. In the face of such tales the colonies were of
their own motion providing all the necessary supplies for war, and
Franklin had taken personal charge of the northwest border. But the
English ministry saw in these measures only increasing peril from popular
power, and pushed forward a scheme for a military dictatorship. In May,
1756, war was formally declared, and England arbitrarily forbade other
nations to carry French merchandise in their ships. Abercrombie was chosen
general for the prosecution of the campaign in America, and arrived at
Albany, after much dilatoriness, in June. Bradstreet reported that he had
put stores into Oswego for five thousand men; and that the place was
already threatened by the enemy. Still the English delayed. Montcalm
arrived at Quebec to lead the French army, and immediately planned the
capture of Oswego. In August he took an outlying redoubt, and the garrison
of Oswego surrendered just as he was about to open fire upon it. Sixteen
hundred prisoners, over a hundred cannon, stores, boats and money were the
prize; and Montcalm destroyed the fort and returned in triumph. Loudoun
and Abercrombie, with an army of thousands of men, which could have taken
Canada with ease, thought only of keeping out of Montcalm's way, pleading
in excuse that they feared to trust the "provincials"--who had thus far
done all the fighting that had been done, and won all the successes. In
spite of the remonstrances of the civic authorities, the British troops
and officers were billeted upon New York and Philadelphia. Two more
frightened generals were never seen; and the provinces were left open to
the enemy's attack. But the Americans took the war into their own hands.
John Armstrong of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, crossed the Alleghanies
in September and in a desperate fight destroyed an Indian tribe that had
been massacring along the border, burned their town and blew up their
powder. In January of 1757, Stark, a daring ranger, with seventy men, made
a dash on Lake George, and engaged a party of two hundred and fifty
French. About the same time, at Philadelphia and Boston it was voted to
raise men for the service; a hundred thousand pounds was also voted, but
the proprietors refused to pay their quota, and represented in England
that the Pennsylvanians were obstructing the measures for defense.
Franklin, sent to England to remonstrate, was told that the king was the
legislator of the colonies. All action was paralyzed by the corruption and
cowardice of the royal officials. The pusillanimity of Loudoun, with his
ten thousand men and powerful fleet in Nova Scotia, has been already
mentioned. In July Montcalm, with a mixed force of more than seven
thousand, advanced upon Fort William Henry. Webb, who should have opposed
him, retreated, leaving Monro with five hundred men to hold the fort. He
refused Montcalm's summons to surrender; Webb, who might still have saved
him, refused to do so; he fought until his ammunition was gone and half
his guns burst, and then surrendered upon Montcalm's promise of the honors
of war and an escort out of the country. But the Indians had got rum from
the English stores and passed the night in drunken revelry; in the morning
they set upon the unarmed English as they left the fort, and began to
plunder and tomahawk them. Montcalm and his officers did their utmost to
stop the treacherous outrage; but thirty men were murdered. Montcalm has
been treated leniently by history; he was indeed a brilliant and heroic
soldier, and he had the crowning honor of dying bravely at Quebec; but he
cannot be held blameless in this affair. He had taught the Indians that he
was as one of themselves, had omitted no means of securing their amity;
had danced and sung with them and smiled approvingly on their butcherings
and scalpings; and he had no right to imagine that they would believe him
sincere in his promise to spare the prisoners. It was too late for him to
cry "Kill me, but spare them!" after the massacre had commenced. It was
his duty to have taken measures to render such a thing impossible
beforehand. He had touched pitch, and was denied.

Disgrace and panic reigned among all the English commanders. Webb
whimpered to be allowed to fall back on the Hudson with his six thousand
men; Loudoun cowered in New York with his large army, and could think of
no better way of defending the northwest frontier than by intrenching
himself on Long Island. There was not an Englishman in the Ohio or the St.
Lawrence Basins. Everywhere beyond the narrow strip of the colonies the
French were paramount. In Europe, England's position was almost as
contemptible. Such was the result of the attempt of the aristocracy to
rule England. There was only one man who could save England, and he was an
old man, poor, a commoner, and sick almost to death. But in 1757 William
Pitt was called to the English helm, accepted the responsibility, and
steered the country from her darkest to her most brilliant hour. The
campaigns which drove the soldiers of Louis XV. out of America were the
first chapter of the movement which ended in the expulsion of the British
from the territory of the United States. Catholicism and Protestantism
were arrayed against each other for the last time. Pitt was the man of the
people; his ambition, though generous, was as great as his abilities; the
colonies knew him as their friend. "I can save this country, and nobody
else can," he said; and bent his final energies to making England the
foremost nation in the world, and the most respected. The faith of Rome
allied France with Austria; and Prussia, with Frederic the Great, standing
as the sole bulwark of Protestantism on the Continent, was inevitably
drawn toward England.

With one movement of his all-powerful hand, Pitt reversed the oppressive
and suicidal policy of the colonial administration. Loudoun was recalled;
his excuses were vain. Amherst and Wolfe were sent out. The colonies were
told that no compulsion should be put upon them; they were expected to
levy, clothe and pay their men, but the government would repay their
outlay. Instantly they responded, and their contributions exceeded all
anticipation. Massachusetts taxed herself thirteen and fourpence in the
pound. Provincial officers not above colonel ranked with the British, and
a new spirit animated all. On the other hand, Canada suffered from famine,
and Montcalm foresaw eventual defeat. Amherst and Wolfe, with ten thousand
men, captured Louisburg and destroyed the fortifications. At the same
time, a great army was collected against Ticonderoga. Nine thousand
provincials, with Stark, Israel Putnam, and six hundred New England
rangers, camped side by side with over six thousand troops of the British
regulars under Abercrombie and Lord Howe. The French under Montcalm had
erected Fort Carillon on the outlet from Lake George to Champlain,
approachable only from the northwest. It was here that he planned his
defense. The English disembarked on the west side of the lake, protected
by Point Howe. In marching round the bend they came upon a French party of
three hundred and defeated them, Howe falling in the first attack.
Montcalm was behind intrenchments with thirty-six hundred men; Abercrombie
rashly gave orders to carry the works by storm without waiting for cannon,
but was careful to remain far in the rear during the action. The attack
was most gallantly and persistently delivered; nearly two thousand men,
mostly regulars, were killed; and, at the end of the murderous day,
Montcalm remained master of the field. Abercrombie still had four times as
many men as Montcalm, and with his artillery could easily have carried the
works and captured Ticonderoga; but he was by this time "distilled almost
to a jelly by the act of fear" and fled headlong at once. Montcalm had not
yet met his match.

Bradstreet, however, with seven hundred Massachusetts men and eleven
hundred New Yorkers, crossed Lake Ontario and took Port Frontenac, the
garrison fleeing at their approach. Amherst, on hearing of Abercrombie's
cowardice, embarked for Boston with over four thousand men, marched thence
to Albany and on to the camp; Abercrombie was sent to England, and Amherst
took his place as chief. The capture of Fort Duquesne was the first thing
planned. Over forty-five hundred men were raised in South Carolina,
Pennsylvania and Virginia; Joseph Forbes commanded them as
brigadier-general; Washington led the Virginians; John Armstrong and the
boy, Anthony Wayne, were with the Pennsylvanians. Washington, who had clad
part of his men in Indian deerskins, wanted to follow Braddock's line of
march; but Forbes, who had not long to live, though his brain remained
clear, preferred to build a road by which ready communication with
Philadelphia could be kept up. Washington got news that the Fort had but
eight hundred defenders, and a strong reconnaissance was sent forward,
without his knowledge, under Major Grant, who, thinking he had the French
at advantage, exposed himself and was defeated with a loss of three
hundred. The remaining five hundred reached camp in good order, thanks to
the discipline which had been given them by Washington. Forbes had decided
to advance no further that season--it was then November; but Washington
had information which caused him to gain permission to advance with
twenty-five hundred provincials, and he occupied intrenchments near
Duquesne. Nine days later the rest of the army arrived; and the garrison
of the Fort set fire to it at night and fled. The place was entered by the
troops, Armstrong raised the British flag, and at Forbes' suggestion it
was rechristened Pittsburgh. And there, above the confluence of the two
rivers, the city named after the Great Commoner stands to-day. A vast and
fertile country was thenceforward opened to the east. After burying the
bleaching bones of the men killed under Braddock, a garrison was left on
the spot, and the rest of the army returned.

Washington, who had seen five years' arduous service, resigned his
commission, and after receiving cordial honors from his fellow officers
and the Virginia legislature, married the widow, Martha Custis, and
settled down as a planter in Mount Vernon. He was a delegate to the
Virginia House of Burgesses and to the Continental Congresses of 1774 and
1775; but it was not until the latter year that he reappeared as a
soldier, accepting the command of the Continental forces on the 15th of
June, not against the French, but against the English.

In 1759 the genius and spirit of Pitt began to be fully felt. The English
were triumphant in Europe, and a comprehensive plan for the conquest of
Canada was intrusted for the first time to men capable of carrying it out.
Thousands of men were enlisted and paid for by the colonies north of
Maryland. Stanwix, Amherst, Prideaux and Wolfe were the chiefs in command.
Fifty thousand English and provincial troops were opposed by not more than
an eighth as many half-starved Frenchmen and Canadians. Montcalm had no
illusions; he told the French Minister of War that, barring extraordinary
accidents, Canada's hour had come; but he "was resolved to find his grave
under the ruins of the colony." And young General Wolfe had said, on being
given the department of the St. Lawrence, "I feel called upon to justify
the notice taken of me by such exertions and exposure of myself as will
probably lead to my fall." The premonitions of both these valiant soldiers
were fulfilled. Wolfe was at this time thirty-two years of age, and had
spent half his life in the army. The Marquis de Montcalm was forty-seven
when he fell on the Plains of Abraham. Neither general had been defeated
up to the moment they faced each other; neither could succumb to any less
worthy adversary.

But the first objective point was not Quebec, but Fort Niagara, which,
standing between Erie and Ontario, commanded the fur trade of the country
to the west. Prideaux, with an adequate force of English, Americans and
Indians, invested the place in July, D'Aubry, the French commander,
bringing up twelve hundred men to relieve it. Just before the action,
Prideaux was killed by the bursting of a mountain howitzer, but Sir
William Johnson was at hand to take his place. On the 24th the battle took
place; the French were flanked by the English Indians, and charged by the
English; they broke and fled, and the Fort surrendered next day. Stanwix
had meanwhile taken possession of all the French posts between Pittsburgh
and Erie. The English had got their enemy on the run all along the line.
Gage was the only English officer to disgrace himself in this campaign; he
squirmed out of compliance with Amherst's order to occupy the passes of
Ogdensburgh. Amherst, with artillery and eleven thousand men, advanced on
the hitherto invincible Ticonderoga. The French knew they were beaten, and
therefore, instead of fighting, abandoned the famous stronghold and Crown
Point, and retreated down to Isle aux Nois, whither Amherst should have
followed them. Instead of doing so, he took to building and repairing
fortifications--the last infirmity of military minds of a certain order
--and finally went into winter quarters with nothing further done.
Amherst, at the end of the war, received the routine rewards of a
well-meaning and not defeated commander-in-chief; but it was Wolfe who won
immortality.

He collected his force of eight thousand men, including two battalions of
"Royal Americans," at Louisburg; among his ship captains was Cook the
explorer; Lieutenant-colonel Howe commanded a body of light infantry.
Before the end of June the army stepped ashore on the island that fills
the channel of the St. Lawrence below Quebec, called the Isle of Orleans.
Montcalm's camp was between them and the tall acclivity on which stood the
famous fortress, which had defied capture for a hundred and thirty years.
The French outnumbered the English, but neither the physical condition nor
the morale of their troops was good. That beetling cliff was the ally on
which Montcalm most depended. All the landing-places up stream for nine
miles had been fortified: the small river St. Charles covered with its
sedgy marshes the approach on the north and east, while on the west
another stream, the Montmorenci, rising nearly at the same place as the
St. Charles, falls in cataracts into the St. Lawrence nine miles above the
citadel. All these natural features had been improved by military art.
High up, north and west of the city, spread the broad Plains of Abraham.

Wolfe's fleet commanded the river and the south shore. Point Levi, on
this shore, opposite Quebec, was fortified by the English, and siege guns
were mounted there, the channel being but a mile wide; the lower town
could be reached by the red-hot balls, but not the lofty citadel. After
personally examining the region during the greater part of July, Wolfe
decided on a double attack; one party to ford the Montmorenci, which was
practicable at a certain hour of the tide, and the other to cross over in
boats from Point Levi. But the boats grounded on some rocks in the
channel; and Wolfe was repulsed at the Montmorenci. Four hundred men were
lost. An expedition was now sent up stream to open communication with
Amherst; but though it was learned that Niagara, Crown Point and
Ticonderoga had fallen, Amherst did not appear. Wolfe must do his work
alone; the entire population of the country was against him, and the
strongest natural fortification in the world. His eager anxiety threw him
into a fever. "My constitution is entirely ruined, without the consolation
of having done any considerable service to the state, and without any
prospect of it," was what he wrote to the English government. Four days
afterward he was dying victorious on the Plains of Abraham.

The early Canadian winter would soon be at hand. The impossible must be
done, and at once. Wolfe, after several desperate proposals of his had
been rejected by the council of war, made a feint in force up the river,
in the hope of getting Montcalm where he could fight him. He scrutinized
the precipitous north shore as with a magnifying glass. At last, on the
11th of September, the hope that had so long been burning within him was
gratified. But what a hope! A headlong goat-track cleft its zigzag way up
the awful steep, and emerged at last upon the dizzy and breathless height
above. Two men could scarce climb abreast in it; and even this was
defended by fortifications, and at the summit, against the sky, tents
could be seen. Yet this was the only way to victory: only by this
heartbreaking path could England drive France from the western continent,
and give a mighty nation to the world. Wolfe saw, and was content; where
one man could go, thousands might follow. And he perceived that the very
difficulty of the enterprise was the best assurance of its success. The
place was defended indeed, but not strongly. Montcalm knew what daring
could accomplish, but even he had not dreamed of daring such as this.
Wolfe, with a great soul kindled into flame by the resolve to achieve a
feat almost beyond mortal limitations, dared it, and prevailed.

Till the hour of action, he kept his troops far up the stream. By the
13th, all preparations were made. Night came on, calm, like the heart of
the hero who knows that the culminating moment of his destiny has arrived.
At such a crisis, the mortal part of the man is transfigured by the
towering spirit, and his eyes pierce through the veils of things. His life
lies beneath him, and he contemplates its vicissitudes with the high
tranquillity of an immortal freedom. What is death to him who has already
triumphed over the fetters of the flesh, and tasted the drink of
immortality? He is the trustee of the purpose of God; and the guerdon his
deed deserves can be nothing less noble than to die.

It was at one in the morning that the adventure was begun. Silently the
boats moved down the stream, the dark ships following in silence.
Thousands of brave hearts beat with heroic resolve beneath the eternal
stars. The shadowy cove was gained; Wolfe's foot has touched the shore; as
the armed figures follow and gather at the foot of the ascent, no words
are spoken, but what an eloquence in those faces! Upward they climb, afire
with zeal; Howe has won a battery; upward! the picket on the height, too
late aroused from sleep by the stern miracle, is overpowered. With panting
lungs man after man tops the ascent and sees the darkling plain and forms
in line with his comrades, while still the stream winds up endlessly from
the depths below. The earth is giving birth to an army. Coiling upward,
deploying, ranging out, rank after rank they are extended along the front
of the forest, with Quebec before them. No drum has beat; no bugle has
spoken; but Wolfe is there, his spirit is in five thousand breasts, and
there needs no trumpet for the battle.

As the last of the army formed upon the rugged field, dawn broke upon the
east, and soon the early sunshine sparkled on their weapons and glowed
along the ranks of English red. Meanwhile Montcalm had been apprised; his
first instinct of incredulity had been swept away by the inevitable truth,
and he manned himself for the struggle. Often had he conquered against
odds; but now his spirit must bow before a spirit stronger than his, as
Antony's before Augustus. And what had he to oppose against the seasoned
veterans of the English army, thrice armed in the consciousness of their
unparalleled achievement?--Five weak and astounded battalions, and a horde
of inchoate peasants. But Montcalm did not falter; by ten he had taken up
his position, and by eleven, after some ineffectual cannonading, to allow
time for the arrival of re-enforcements which came not, he led the charge.
The attack was disordered by the uneven ground, the fences and the
ravines; and it was broken by the granite front of the English
(three-fourths of them Americans) and their long-reserved and withering
fire. The undisciplined Canadians flinched from that certain death; and
Wolfe, advancing on them with his grenadiers, saw them melt away before
the cold steel could reach them. The two leaders faced each other, both
equally undaunted and alert; it was like a duel between them; no opening
was missed, no chance neglected. The smoke hung in the still air of
morning; the long lines of men swayed and undulated beneath it obscurely,
and the roar of musketry dinned terribly in the ear, here slackening for a
moment, there breaking forth in volleying thunders; and men were dropping
everywhere; there were shoutings from the captains, the fierce crash of
cheers, yells of triumph or agony, and the faint groans of the wounded
unto death. Wolfe was hit, but he did not heed it; Montcalm has received a
musket ball, but he cannot yet die. The English battle does not yield; it
advances, the light of victory is upon it. Backward stagger the French;
Montcalm strives to check the fatal movement, but the flying death has
torn its way through his body, and he can no more. Wolfe, even as the day
was won, got his death wound in the breast, but "Support me--don't let my
brave fellows see me drop," he gasped out. His thoughts were with his
army; let the retreat of the enemy be cut off; and he died with a happy
will, and with God's name on his lips. Montcalm lingered, suggesting means
by which to retrieve the day; but the power of France died with him.
Quebec was lost and won; and human history was turned into a new channel,
and no longer flowing through the caverns of mediaeval error, rolled its
current toward the sunlight of liberty and progress. "The more a man is
versed in business, the more he finds the hand of Providence everywhere,"
was the reply of William Pitt, when Parliament congratulated him on the
victory. He had wrought his plans with wisdom and zeal; but "except the
Lord build the city, they labor in vain who build it." There have been
great statesmen and brave soldiers, before Pitt and Wolfe, and since; but
there could be only one fall of Quebec, with all which that implied.

The following spring and summer were overshadowed by an unrighteous war
against the Cherokees, precipitated by the royalist governor of Virginia,
Lyttleton. An attempt by the French under Levi to recapture Quebec failed,
in spite of the folly of the English commander, Murray; Pitt had foreseen
the effort, and destroyed it with an English fleet. Amherst, in his own
tortoise-like way, advanced and took possession of Montreal; and by
permission of the Indian, Pontiac, who regarded himself as lord of the
country, the English flag was carried to the outposts. Canada had
surrendered; in the terms imposed, property and the religious faith of the
people were respected; but nothing was promised them in the way of civil
liberty. In discussing the European peace that was now looked for,
question was raised whether to restore Canada, or the West Indian island
of Guadaloupe, to France. Some, who feared that the retention of Canada
would too much incline the colonies to independence, favored its return.
But Franklin said that Canada would be a source of strength to England.
The expense of defending that vast frontier would be saved; the rapidly
increasing population would absorb English manufactures without limit, and
their necessary devotion to farming would diminish their competition as
manufacturers. He pointed out that their differences in governments and
mutual jealousies made their united action against England unthinkable,
"unless you grossly abuse them."--"Very true: that, I see, will happen,"
returned the English lawyer Pratt, afterward Lord Cam den, the
attorney-general. But Pitt would not listen to Canada's being given up;
he was for England, not for any English clique. On the other hand, one
of those cliques was preparing to carry out the long meditated taxation of
the colonies; and the sudden death of George II., bringing his son to the
throne, favored their purpose; for the Third George had character and
energy, and not a little intelligence for a king; and he was soon seen to
intend the re-establishment of the royal prerogative in all its integrity.
As a preliminary step to this end, he accepted Pitt's resignation in
October, 1761.

Much to the displeasure of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, already
Judge of Probate, was by Governor Bernard appointed to the Chief
Justiceship of the colony; the royalist direction of his sympathies was
known. In February, 1761, he heard argument in court as to whether revenue
officers had power to call in executive assistance to enforce the acts of
trade. The crown lawyer argued that to refuse it was to deny the
sovereignty of the English Parliament in the colonies. Then James Otis
arose, and made a protest which tingled through the whole colony, and was
the first direct blow aimed against English domination. Power such as was
asked for, he said, had already cost one king of England his head and
another his throne. Writs of assistance were open to intolerable abuse;
were the instrument of arbitrary power and destructive of the fundamental
principles of law. Reason and the constitution were against them. "No act
of Parliament can establish such a writ: an act of Parliament against the
constitution is void!" These words were the seed of revolution. Hutchinson
was frightened, but succeeded in persuading his colleagues to postpone
decision until he had written to England. The English instruction was to
enforce the law, and the judges acted accordingly; but the people replied
by electing Otis to the assembly; and Hutchinson was more distrusted than
ever. At the same time, in Virginia, Richard Henry Lee denounced the slave
trade; the legislature indorsed his plea, but England denied it. South
Carolina was alienated by the same decree, and also by an unpopular war
against the Cherokees. In New York, the appointment of a judge "during the
king's pleasure" roused the assembly; but the result of their remonstrance
was that all colonial governors were instructed from England to grant no
judicial commissions but during the king's pleasure. This was to make the
Bench the instrument of the Prerogative. A judge acted on questions of
property, without a jury, on information furnished by crown officers, and
derived emoluments from his own award of forfeitures; and the governor
would favor large seizures because he got one-third of the spoils. All the
assemblies could do, for the present, was to reduce salaries; but that did
not make the offenders any less avaricious. Moreover, the king began the
practice of paying them in spite of the assemblies, and reproved the
latter for "not being animated by a sense of their duty to their king and
country."

James Otis continued to be the voice of the colonies. "Kings were made
for the good of the people, not the people for them. By the laws of God
and nature, government must not raise taxes on the property of the people
without the consent of the people. To tax without the assembly's consent
was the same in principle as for the king and the House of Lords to usurp
legislative authority in England." For the utterance of these sentiments
he was honored by the hearty support of the people, and still more by the
denunciations of men of the Hutchinson sort. The ministers were not silent
on the popular side. "May Heaven blast the designs, though not the soul,"
said Mayhew, with Christian discrimination, "of whoever he be among us who
shall have the hardiness to attack the people's rights!" King George's
answer, as soon as he had concluded the peace with France and Spain, in
1763, was to take measures to terrorize the colonists by sending out an
army of twenty battalions to be kept permanently in America, the expenses
of which the colonists were to pay. But by enforcing the acts of trade,
England had now made herself the enemy of the whole civilized world, and
the American colonies would not be without allies in the struggle that was
drawing near.

While these matters were in agitation among the white people, the Indians
in the north were discovering grievances of their own. Pontiac, an Ottawa
chief, and by his personal abilities the natural leader of many tribes,
was the instigator and center of the revolt. The English masters of Canada
had showed themselves less congenial to the red men than the French had
done; they could not understand that savages had any rights which they
were bound to respect; while Pontiac conceived that no white man could
live in the wilderness without his permission. Upon this issue, trouble
was inevitable; and Pontiac planned a general movement of all the Indians
in the north against the colonists. The success of the scheme could of
course be only momentary; that it attained the dignity of a "war" was due
to the influence and energy of the Indian general. His design was of broad
scope, embracing a simultaneous attack on all the English frontier forts;
a wide coalition of tribes was effected; and though their tactics were not
essentially different from those heretofore employed by savages, yet their
possession of arms, their skill in their use, and their numbers, made
their onslaughts formidable. On several occasions they effected their
entry into the forts by stratagem: a tale of misery told by a squaw; a
ball in a game struck toward the door of the stronghold; professedly
amicable conferences suddenly becoming massacres; such were the naive yet
successful ruses employed. Many lives were lost, and the border lands were
laid waste and panicstricken; but it was impossible for the Indians to
hold together, and their victories hastened their undoing. No general
engagement, of course, was fought, but Pontiac's authority gradually
abated, and he was finally compelled to go into retirement. His Conspiracy
has its picturesque side, but it is not organically related to our
history; it was merely a fresh expression of the familiar fact that there
could be no sincere friendship between the white and the red. The former
could live with the latter if they would live like them; but no attempt to
reverse the case could succeed. The solemnity with which the practice of
signing treaties of peace with the Indians has uniformly been kept up is
one of the curious features of our colonial annals, and indeed of later
times. Indians will keep the peace without treaties, if they are kindly
used and given liberty to do as they please; but no engagement is binding
on them after they deem themselves wronged. They are pleased by the
formalities, the speeches, and the gifts that accompany such conferences;
they like to exchange compliments, and to play with belts of wampum; and
it is possible that when they make their promises, they think they will
keep them. They can understand the advantages of trade, and will make some
sacrifice of their pride or convenience to secure them. But the mind is
never dominant in them; the tides of passion flood it, and their wild
nature carries them away. It may be surmised that we should have had fewer
Indian troubles, had we never entered into any treaty with them. But
thousands of treaties have been made, and broken, sometimes by one side,
sometimes by the other, but always by one of the two. And then,
punishments must be administered; but if punishment is for improvement, it
has been as ineffective as the treaties. The only rational thing to do
with an Indian is to kill him; and yet it may fairly be doubted whether
complete moral justification could be shown for the killing of any Indian
since Columbus landed at San Salvador.--As for Pontiac, a keg of liquor
was inducement sufficient to one of his own race to murder him, five years
after the failure of his revolt.

Toward the end of September, Jenkinson, Secretary of the Treasury in
England, presented the draft for an American stamp-tax--the true
authorship of which was never disclosed. This tax was the result of the
argument of exclusion applied to the problem, How to raise a permanent and
sufficient revenue from the colonies. Foreign and internal commerce taxes
would not serve, because such commerce was forbidden by the Navigation
Acts. A poll-tax would be inequitable to the slaveholders. Land-taxes
could not be collected. Exchequer-bills were against an act of Parliament.
Nothing but a stamp-tax remained, and all persons concerned were in favor
of it, the colonists only excepted. Their opinion was that taxation
without representation was an iniquity. But they did not perhaps consider
that England owed a debt of seven hundred million dollars which must be
provided for somehow; and that the interests of the empire demanded, in
the opinion of those who were at its head, that the colonies be ruled with
a stronger hand than heretofore. George Grenville accepted the
responsibility of the act.

The king gave his consent to the employment of the entire official force
of the colonies to prevent infringements of the Navigation Acts, and the
army and navy were to assist them. There were large emoluments for
seizures, and the right of search was unrestricted, afloat or ashore. In
order to diminish the danger of union between the colonies, a new
distribution, or alteration of boundaries, was adopted, with a view to
increasing their number. But the country between the Alleghanies and the
Mississippi was to be closed to colonization, lest it should prove
impossible to control settlers at such a distance. It proved, of course,
still less possible to prevent emigration thither. But all seemed going
well, and the Grenville ministry was so firmly established that nothing
seemed able to shake it. The fact that a young Virginia lawyer, Patrick
Henry by name, had said in the course of an argument against the claim of
a clergyman for the value of some tobacco, that a king who annuls salutary
laws is a tyrant, and forfeits all right to obedience; and that if
ministers fail to fulfill the uses for which they were ordained, the
community may justly strip them of their appointments--this circumstance
probably did not come to the ears of the British ministry; but it had its
effect in Virginia. Grenville, however, was induced by the appeals of some
influential Americans in London to postpone his tax for a year, so that
the assemblies might have an opportunity to consent to it. By way of
tempting them to do this, he sought for special inducements; he revived
the hemp and flax bounties; he permitted rice to be carried south of
Carolina and Georgia on payment of half subsidy; and he removed the
restrictions on the New England whale fishery. He then informed Parliament
of his purpose of applying the stamp-tax to America, and asked if any
member wished to question the right of Parliament to impose such a tax. In
a full house, not a single person rose to object. The king gave it his
"hearty" approval. It only remained for America humbly and gratefully to
accept it.

First came comments. "If taxes are laid upon us in any shape, without our
having a legal representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from
the character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary
slaves?" asked Samuel Adams of Boston. "These duties are only the
beginning of evils," said Livingston of New York. "Acts of Parliament
against natural equity are void," Otis affirmed; and in a lucid and cogent
analysis of the principles and ends of government he pointed out that the
best good of the people could be secured only by a supreme legislative and
executive ultimately in the people; but a universal congress being
impracticable, representation was substituted: "but to bring the powers of
all into the hands of one or some few, and to make them hereditary, is the
interested work of the weak and wicked. Nothing but life and liberty are
actually hereditable.... British colonists do not hold their liberties or
their lands by so slippery a tenure as the will of princes; the colonists
are common children of the same Creator with their brethren in Great
Britain.... A time may come when Parliament shall declare every American
charter void; but the natural, inherent rights of the colonists as men and
citizens can never be abolished. The colonists know the blood and treasure
independence would cost. They will never think of it till driven to it as
the last fatal resort against ministerial oppression: but human nature
must and will be rescued from the general slavery that has so long
triumphed over the species." The immediate practical result was, that the
colonists pledged themselves to use nothing of English manufacture, even
to going without lamb to save wool. And even Hutchinson remarked that if
England had paid as much for the support of the wars as had been
voluntarily paid by the colonists, there would have been no great increase
in the national debt.

All this made no impression in England. The dregs of the Canadian
population were a handful of disreputable Protestant ex-officers, traders
and publicans--"the most immoral collection of men I ever knew," as Murray
said--but judges and juries were selected from these gentry, and the
Catholics were disfranchised. In New England, boundaries were rearranged,
and colonists had to buy new titles. New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island,
protested before Parliament against the taxation scheme; Philadelphia at
first petitioned to be delivered from the selfishness of its proprietors
even at the cost of becoming a royal colony; but later, Franklin advised
that they grant supplies to the crown only when required of them "in the
usual constitutional manner." George Wythe, speaking for Virginia,
remonstrated against measures "fitter for exiles driven from their country
after ignominiously forfeiting its favor and protection, than for the
posterity of loyal Britons." Yet there were many royalist Americans who
were urgent that English rule should be strengthened; and the English
Board of Trade declared that the protests of the colonies showed "a most
indecent disrespect to the legislature of Great Britain." The king decreed
that in all military matters in America the orders of the
commander-in-chief there, and under him of the brigadiers, should be
supreme; and only in the absence of these officers might the governors
give the word. This became important on the occasion of the "Boston
Massacre" a few years later. In Parliament, Grenville said that he would
never lend a hand toward forging chains for America, "lest in so doing I
forge them for myself"; but he shuffled out of the American demand not to
be taxed without representation by declaring that Parliament was "the
common council of the whole empire," and added that America was to all
intents and purposes as much represented in Parliament as many Englishmen.
This assertion brought to his feet Barré, the companion of Wolfe at
Quebec. He denied that America was virtually represented, and said that
the House was ignorant of American affairs. Charles Townshend, who posed
as an infallible authority on America, replied that the last war had cost
the colonies little though they had profited much by it; and now these
"American children, planted by our care, nourished up to strength and
opulence by our indulgence, and protected by our arms, grudge to
contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy burden under which we
lie."

Barré could not restrain his indignation. In the course of a fiery
rejoinder he uttered truths that made him the most loved Englishman in
America, when his words were published there. "Your oppressions planted
them in America," he thundered. "They met with pleasure all hardships
compared with those they suffered in their own country. They grew by your
neglect of them: as soon as you began to care for them, deputies of
members of this house were sent to spy out their liberties, to
misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men whose behavior
caused the blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil within them: men who
were often glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to
the bar of justice in their own. They 'protected by your arms'?--They
have, amid their constant and laborious industry, nobly taken up arms for
the defense of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its
interior parts yielded all its little savings to your emolument. And
believe me--remember--the same spirit of freedom which actuated that
people at first will accompany them still. They are as truly loyal as any
subjects the king has; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who
will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated." But Grenville had
gone too far to retreat; the case went against America by two hundred and
forty-five to forty-nine; and only Beckford and Conway were on record as
denying the power of Parliament to enact the tax. All petitions from the
colonies were refused. "We have power to tax them, and we will tax them,"
said one of the ministers. In the House of Lords the bill was agreed to
without debate or dissent. The king, at the time of signing the bill, was
suffering from one of his periodic attacks of insanity; but the
ratification was accepted as valid nevertheless. Neither Franklin nor any
of the other American agents imagined the act would be forcibly resisted
in America. Even Otis had said, "We must submit." But they reckoned
without their host. The stamp act was a two-edged sword; in aiming to cut
down the liberties of America, it severed the bonds that tied her to the
mother country.

The prospect before the colonies was truly intolerable. No product of
their industry could be exported save to England; none but English ships
might enter their ports; no wool might be moved from one part of the
country to another; no Bible might be printed anywhere; all hats must come
from England; no ore might be mined or worked; duties were imposed on
almost every imported article of use or luxury. No marriage, promissory
note, or other transaction requiring documentary record was valid except
with the government stamp. In a word, convicts in a jail could hardly be
shackled more severely than were these two millions of the most
freedom-loving and intelligent people on the globe. "If this system were
to prevail," remarked Thacher of Boston, "it would extinguish the flame of
liberty all over the world."

But it was not to prevail. Patrick Henry had been elected to the
legislature of Virginia. His first act was to maintain, in committee of
the whole, that the colony had never given up its right to be governed by
its own laws respecting taxation, and that it had been constantly
recognized by England; and that any attempt to vest such power in other
persons tended to destroy British as well as American freedom. In a
passionate peroration he warned George III. to remember the fate of other
tyrants who had trampled on popular liberties. Otis in Massachusetts
suggested the novel idea of summoning a congress from all the colonies to
deliberate on the situation. In New York a writer declared that while
there was no disposition among the colonies to break with England as long
as they were permitted their full rights, yet they would be "satisfied
with no less."--"The Gospel promises liberty and permits resistance," said
Mayhew. Finally, the dauntless and faithful Christopher Gadsden of South
Carolina, after considering Massachusett's suggestion of a union,
pronounced, as head of the committee, in its favor.

In England, meanwhile, the cause of the colonies had been somewhat
favored by the willfulness of the king, who, in order to bring his court
favorites into power, dismissed the Grenville ministry. There were no
persons of ability in the new cabinet, and vacant feebleness was accounted
better for America than resolute will to oppress. The king himself,
however, never wavered in his resolve that the colonies should be taxed.
On the other hand, the colonies were at this time disposed to think that
the king was friendly to their liberties. But whatever misapprehensions
existed on either side were soon to be finally dispelled.

In August, 1765, the names of the stamp distributers (who were to be
citizens of the colonies) were published in America; and the packages of
stamped paper were dispatched from England. There was an old elm-tree in
Boston, standing near the corner of Essex Street, opposite Boylston
Market. On the morning of the 14th of August, two figures were descried by
early pedestrians hanging from the lower branches of the tree. "They were
dressed in square-skirted coats and small-clothes, and as their wigs hung
down over their faces, they looked like real men. One was intended to
represent the Earl of Bute, who was supposed to have advised the king to
tax America; the other was meant for the effigy of Andrew Oliver, a
gentleman belonging to one of the most respectable families in
Massachusetts, whom the king had appointed to be the distributer of
stamps." It was in vain that Hutchinson ordered the removal of the
effigies; the people had the matter in their own hands. In the evening a
great and orderly crowd marched behind a bier bearing the figures, gave
three cheers for "Liberty, Property and no stamps," before the State
House, where the governor and Hutchinson were in session, and thence went
to the house which Oliver had intended for his stamp office, tore it down,
and burned his image in the fire they kindled with it, in front of his own
residence. "Death to the man who offers stamped paper to sell!" they
shouted. "Beat an alarm!" quavered Hutchinson to the militia colonel.--"My
drummers are in the mob," was the reply; and when Hutchinson attempted to
disperse the crowd, they forced him to run the gantlet, in the Indian
fashion which was too familiar to New Englanders, and caught him several
raps as he ran. "If Oliver had been there he'd have been murdered," said
Governor Bernard, with conviction; "if he doesn't resign--!" But Oliver,
much as he loved the perquisites of the office, loved his life more, and
he resigned before the mob could threaten him. Bernard, with chattering
teeth, was ensconced in the safest room in the castle. There remained
Hutchinson, in his handsome house in Garden Court Street, near the North
Square. Late at night the mob came surging and roaring in that direction.
As they turned into Garden Court Street, the sound of them was as if a
wild beast had broken loose and was howling for its prey. From the window,
the terrified chief-justice beheld "an immense concourse of people,
rolling onward like a tempestuous flood that had swelled beyond its bounds
and would sweep everything before it. He felt, at that moment, that the
wrath of the people was a thousand-fold more terrible than the wrath of a
king. That was a moment when an aristocrat and a loyalist might have
learned how powerless are kings, nobles, and great men, when the low and
humble range themselves against them. Had Hutchinson understood and
remembered this lesson he need not in after years have been an exile from
his native country, nor finally have laid his bones in a distant land."

The mob broke into the house, destroyed the valuable furniture, pictures
and library, and completely gutted it. The act was denounced and
repudiated by the better class of patriots, like Adams and Mayhew; but it
served a good purpose. The voice of the infuriated mob is sometimes the
only one that tyranny can hear. One after another all the colonies refused
to accept the stamp act, and every stamp officer was obliged to resign.
Meanwhile the leaders discussed the people's rights openly. The law was to
go into effect on November 1st. "Will you violate the law of Parliament?"
was asked. "The stamp act is against Magna Charta, and Lord Coke says an
act of Parliament against Magna Charta is for that reason void," was the
reply. "Rulers are attorneys, agents and trustees of the people," said
Adams, "and if the trust is betrayed or wantonly trifled away, the people
have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed,
and to constitute abler and better agents. We have an indisputable right
to demand our privileges against all the power and authority on earth."
Never had there been such unanimity throughout the colonies; but in New
York, General Gage, who had betrayed lack of courage under Amherst a few
years before, but who was now commander-in-chief, declared he would put
down disaffection with a strong hand. There were ships of war in the
harbor, and the fort in the town mounted heavy guns. Major James of the
artillery was intrusted with the preparations. "I'll cram the stamps down
their throats with the end of my sword: if they attempt to rise I'll drive
them out of town for a pack of rascals, with four and twenty men!" It was
easy to pass a stamp act, and to bring stamped paper into the colonies;
but it would take more than Major James, and Governor Golden, and General
Gage himself to make the people swallow them. The day of the "Sons of
Liberty" was dawning.

Julian Hawthorne