| Chap. 1 | Chap.
2 | Chap. 3 | Chap.
4 | Chap. 5 | Chap.
6 | Chap. 7 | Chap.
8 | Chap. 9
Portrait: Gilbert Stuart's George Washington,
for Week 1
A COLONY: MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY
THE PRIVILEGES OF KINGS
FREEDOM OF RELIGION, 1649
"CIVIL SOCIETY" CHALLENGES MONARCHY
GOVERNMENT: TWO VIEWS
IN COLONIAL AMERICA
RUM AND DEMOCRACY
"GIVE ME LIBERTY"
CALL FOR INDEPENDENCE
REVOLUTION: A LOYALIST VIEW
JOHN ADAMS: REMEMBER THE LADIES
ADDRESSES THE BRITISH
BLACK LOYALIST LEADER
AND THOMAS JEFFERSON ON SLAVERY
DEATH OF A
creed of political equality
"tyranny of the majority"
Bill of Rights
Stamp Act Crisis
The Philadelphia Convention
Lord Dunmore's Proclamation
MAYFLOWER COMPACT, 1620
Mayflower Compact was the first instrument of government drawn
up in the English Colonies and as such reflected the tentative
origins of the campaign for self‑government that culminated
in the American Revolution 156 years later.
the name of God, Amen.
We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our
dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great
Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the
Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage
to plant the first colony in the northern Parts of Virginia;
Do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence
of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together
into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation,
and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof
do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances,
Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall
be though most meet and convenient for the general Good of the
Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience."
Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York:
Knopf, 1961), p. 17.
OF A COLONY: MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY
following account describes the rapid development of the Massachusetts
Bay Colony in the 17th Century.
Founded in 1630 by Puritans from England, Massachusetts Bay
grew rapidly, aided in its first decade by 15,000 to 20,000
immigrants from England, and after that by natural increase.
By 1700, Massachusetts Bay's population had risen to almost
56,000 and by 1750, to approximately 188,000, making it one
of Great Britain's most populous North American possessions.
This rapid population growth forced the government of Massachusetts
Bay (called the General Court, which included the governor,
the deputy governor, the executive council of assistants,
and the representatives, all elected annually by the freemen
to organize new towns. Within the first year of settlement,
the six original towns of Massachusetts Bay were laid out‑Dorchester,
Roxbury, Watertown, Newtown (now Cambridge), Charlestown, and
Boston, all on the Charles River. By the time Middlesex
County (west of Boston) was organized in 1643, there were eight
towns in that county alone, and by 1700, there were twenty‑two.
The organization of towns was an important way for Puritan leaders
to keep control of the rapidly growing population. Unlike
settlers in the middle and southern colonies, colonists in
Massachusetts Bay could not simply travel to an uninhabited
area, select a parcel of land, and receive individual title
to the land from the colonial governor. Instead, a group of
men who wanted to establish a town had to apply to the General
Court for a land grant for the entire town. Leaders of
the prospective new town were then selected, and the single
church was organized. Having received the grant from
the General Court, the new town's leaders apportioned the available
land among the male heads of households who were church members,
holding in common some land for grazing and other uses (hence
the "town common"). In this way, the Puritan
leadership retained control of the fast‑growing population,
ensured Puritan economic and religious domination, and guaranteed
that large numbers of dissenters‑‑men and women
who might divert the colony from its "holy mission"
in the wilderness‑would not be attracted to Massachusetts
Source: William Bruce Wheeler and Susan
D. Becker, eds. Discovering the American Past: A Look
as the Evidence, vol. 1 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,
1999), p. 51-52.
GOVERNMENT: THE PRIVILEGES OF KINGS
the following account originally published in 1616, King James
I, of England describes how royal power is divinely conveyed.
The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth: for
kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth, and sit
upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called gods.
Kings are justly called gods, for that they exercise a manner
or resemblance of Divine power upon earth: for if you will consider
the attributes to God, you shall see how they agree in the person
of a king. God hath power to create, or destroy, make,
or unmake at His pleasure, to give life, or send death, to judge
all, and to be judged nor accountable to none: to raise low
things, and to make high things low at His pleasure, and to
God are both soul and body due. And the like power have kings:
they make and unmake their subjects: they have power of raising,
and casting down: of life, and of death: judges over all their
subjects, and in all causes, and yet accountable to none but
God only. They have power to exalt low things, and abase high
things, and make of their subjects like men at the chess; a
pawn to take a bishop or a knight, and to cry up, or down any
of their subjects, as they do their money. And to the king is
due both the affection of the soul and the service of the body
of his subjects...
I conclude then this point touching the power of kings, with
this axiom of divinity, that as to dispute what God may do,
is blasphemy...so is it sedition in subjects, to dispute what
a king may do in the height of his power; but just kings will
ever be willing to declare what they will do, if they will
not incur the curse of God. I will not be content that
my power be disputed upon: but I shall ever be willing to make
the reason appear of all my doings, and rule my actions according
to my laws.
Source: James I, Works (London, 1616),
529—531, reprinted in Richard W. Leopold, Arthur S. Link
and Stanley Corbin, eds., Problems in American History
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1966)
ESTABLISHING FREEDOM OF RELIGION, 1649
The first act establishing freedom of religion
was passed by the overwhelmingly Catholic Maryland Colonial
Legislature at the request of Lord Baltimore. By today’s
standards the measure was limited. It simply said that anyone
believing in Christianity would not be molested by the colonial
government or individuals in the practice of his or her faith.
It did not extend that protection to non-Christians. However
taken against the backdrop of state sanctioned or favored religion
in most nations and in the rest of the colonies, the very declaration
that anyone was free to worship in the Christian faith, regardless
of denomination, was considered a major statement of religious
tolerance and the first step toward the religious freedom guaranteed
by the U.S. Constitution. Part of the statute appears below:
And whereas the inforceing of the conscience
in matters of Religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous
Consequence in those commonwealths where it hath been practiced,
And for the more quiet and peaceable government of this Province,
and the better to preserve mutuall Love and amity amongst the
inhabitants thereof, Be it Therefore…Ordeyned and enacted…that
noe person or persons whatsoever in this Province…professing
to belieive in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth bee any waies
troubled in the free exercise thereof…or in any way compelled
to the beliefe or exercise of any other religion against his
or her consent…
Source: Website, "From Revolution to Reconstruction,
Documents: The Maryland Toleration Act, 1649."
LOCKE: "CIVIL SOCIETY" CHALLENGES MONARCHY
most of the ideas which Americans eventually used to challenge
the power of the British King over them, derived from English
political philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). In 1689
Locke wrote "The Second Treatise on Civil Government"
which describes the then radical concept of the right of individuals
to govern themselves.
Man being born...with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrolled
enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature,
equally with any other man or number of men in the world, hath
by nature a power not only to preserve his property—that
is, his life, liberty, and estate—against the injuries
and attempts of other men, but to judge and punish the breaches
of that law in others... Those who are united into one body,
and have a common established law and judicature to appeal
to, with authority to decide controversies between them and
punish offenders, are in civil society one with another...
Wherever, therefore, any number of men so unite into one society,
as to quit every one his executive power of the law of nature,
and to resign it to the public, there, and there only, is a
political, or civil society. And this is done wherever
any number of men, in the state of nature, enter into society
to make one people, one body politic under one supreme government,
or else when any one joins himself to, and incorporates with,
any government already made. For hereby he authorizes
the society, or which is all one, the legislative thereof, to
make laws for him, as the public good of the society shall require,
to the execution whereof his own assistance...is due.
Men being...by nature all free, equal, and independent, no
one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political
power of another, without his own consent, which is done by
agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community,
for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living, one amongst
another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties and a greater
security against any that are not of it...
Whosoever therefore out of a state of nature unite into a community
must be understood to give up all the power necessary to the
ends for which they unite into society, to the majority of the
community... And this is done by...agreeing to unite into
one political society...between the individuals that enter
into or make up a commonwealth. And thus that which...actually
constitutes any political society is nothing but the consent
of any number of freemen capable of a majority to unite and
incorporate into such a society. And this...[gives] beginning
to any lawful government in the world.
Source: John Locke, The Second Treatise of
Civil Government reprinted in David E Shi and Holly A Mayer,
eds., For the Record: A Documentary History of America
(Mew York, 1999), pp. 106-107.
GOVERNMENT: TWO VIEWS
and American political thinkers harbored vastly differing views
on representative government. Those differences are outlined
in the two passages below. The first is from Thomas Whately,
The Regulations Lately Made published in 1765 and the
second is from the Providence Gazette, May 11, 1765)
The British View: The Fact is, that the Inhabitants of
the Colonies are represented in Parliament: they do not indeed
choose the Members of that Assembly; neither are Nine Tenths
of the People of Britain Electors; for the Right of Election
is annexed to certain Species of Property, to peculiar Franchises,
and to Inhabitancy in some particular Places; but these Descriptions
comprehend only a very small Part of the Land, the Property,
and the People of this Island...
The Colonies are in exactly the same Situation: All British
Subjects are really in the same; none are actually, all are
virtually represented in Parliament; for every Member of Parliament
sits in the House, not as Representative of his own Constituents,
but as one of that august Assembly by which all the Commons
of Great Britain are represented. Their Rights and their
Interests, however his own Borough may be affected by general
Dispositions, ought to be the great Objects of his Attention,
and the only Rules for his Conduct; and to sacrifice these to
a partial Advantage in favour of the Place where he was chosen,
would be a Departure from his Duty; if it were otherwise, Old
Sarum would enjoy Privileges essential to Liberty, which are
denied to Birmingham and to Manchester; but as it is, they and
the Colonies and all British Subjects whatever, have an equal
Share in the general Representation of the Commons of Great
Britain, and are bound by the Consent of the Majority of that
House, whether their own particular Representatives consented
to or opposed the Measures there taken, or whether they had
or had not particular Representatives there.
The American View:
To infer, my lord, that the British members [of Parliament]
actually represent the colonies, who are not permitted to do
the least act towards their appointment, because Britain is
unequally represented, although every man in the kingdom, who
hath certain legal qualifications can vote for some one to represent
him, is such a piece of sophistry that I had half a mind to
pass by the cobweb without blowing it to pieces. Is there
no difference between a country's having a privilege to choose
558 members to represent them in parliament, though in unequal
proportions to the several districts, which cannot be avoided,
and not having liberty to choose any? To turn the tables,‑‑if
the Americans only had leave to send members to parliament,
could such sophistry ever persuade the people of Britain that
they were represented and had a share in the national councils?...
Suppose none of the 558 members were chosen by the people, but
enjoyed the right of sitting in parliament by hereditary descent;
could the common people be said to share in the national councils?
If we are not their constituents, they are not our representatives...
It is really a piece of mockery to tell us that a country, detached
from Britain, by an ocean of immense breadth, and which is so
extensive and populous, should be represented by the British
members, or that we can have any interest in the house of commons.
Source: John M. Blum, The
National Experience: A History of the
(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), pp. 90‑91.
VOTING REGULATIONS IN COLONIAL AMERICA
following vignettes describe the voting laws of Connecticut
and South Carolina.
Connecticut: That all such inhabitants in this Colony
as have accomplished the age of twenty-one years, and have the
possession of freehold estate to the value of forty shillings
per annum, or forty pounds personal estate in the general list
of estates in that year wherein they desire to be admitted freemen;
and also are persons of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and
civil conversation, may if they desire it, on their procuring
the selectmen of the town wherein such persons inhabit, or the
major part of them, to certify that the said persons are qualified
as above said, be admitted and made free of this corporation,
in case they take the oath provided by law for freemen: which
oath any one assistant or justice of the peace is hereby empowered
to administer in said freemen’s meeting.
And all such persons admitted and sworn, as aforesaid, shall
be freemen of this corporation; and their names shall be enrolled
in the roll of freemen in the Town-Clerk’s office of that
town wherein they are admitted, as aforesaid...
And that if any freeman of this corporation shall walk scandalously,
or commit any scandalous offence, it shall be in the power of
the Superior Court in this Colony, on complaint thereof to them
made, to disfranchise such freeman; who shall stand disfranchised
till by his good behavior the said Superior Court shall see
cause to restore him to his franchisement or freedom again:
which the said Court is empowered [sic] to do.
South Carolina: Be it enacted by his Excellency John
Lord Carteret, Palatine, and the rest of the true and absolute
Lords and Proprietors of this Province, by and with the advice
and consent of the rest of the members of the General Assembly,
now met at Charlestown for the south and west part of this Province,
and by the authority of the same, that every white man (and
no other) professing the Christian religion, who has attained
to the age of one and twenty years, and hath been a resident
and an inhabitant of the parish for which he votes for a representative
for the space of six months before the date of the writs for
the election that he offers to give in his vote at, and hath
a freehold of at least fifty acres of land, or shall be Able
to pay taxes to the support of this government, for the sum
of fifty pounds currant money, shall be deemed a person qualified
to vote for, and may be capable of electing a representative
or representatives to serve as a member or members of the Commons
House of Assembly for the parish or precinct wherein he actually
is a resident.
Source: Acts and Laws
of His Majesty's English Colony of
Connecticut in New England
(New Haven, 1769), 80-81; Thomas Cooper, ed., The
Statutes at Large of
(Columbia, 1838), III, 2-3., reprinted in Richard W. Leopold,
Arthur S. Link, and Stanley Corbin, eds. Problems in American
History (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1966), p. 33-34.
RUM AND DEMOCRACY
voters through various "enticements" is a practice
older than the nation as we see in this vignette which describes
George Washington's liberal distribution of rum to influence
the voters of Frederick County, Virginia Colony in 1758.
Although in this instance Washington encouraged the rum to be
distributed to those inclined to vote against him as well.
Candidates frequently arranged for treats to be given in their
names by someone else. Lieutenant Charles Smith managed
this business for George Washington during a campaign in Frederick
County in 1758. Two days after the election, which Washington
had not been able to attend, Smith sent him receipts for itemized
accounts that he had paid to five persons who had supplied refreshments
for the voters...
On election day the flow of liquor reached high tide. Douglas
S. Freeman calculated that during a July election day in Frederick
County in the year 1758, George Washington’s agent supplied
160 gallons to 391 voters and unnumbered hangers-on. This amounted
to more than a quart and a half a voter. An itemized list
of the refreshments included 28 gallons of rum, gallons of rum
punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and 2 gallons
of cider royal...
To avoid the reality as well as the appearance of corruption,
the candidates usually made a point of having it understood
that the refreshments were equally free to men of every political
opinion. If a candidate’s campaign was under investigation,
it was much in his favor if he could show that among his guests
were some who had clearly said that they did not intend to vote
for him. Washington reflected an acceptable attitude
when he wrote while arranging for the payment of large bills
for liquor consumed during a Frederick County election: I hope
no Exception were taken to any that voted against me but that
all were alike treated and all had enough; it is what I much
Source: Richard W. Leopold, Arthur S. Link and
Stanley Corbin, eds., Problems in American History
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1966), p. 48.
any 21st Century measure, colonial laws, enacted even in a limited
democratic setting, were strict and severe so as to prevent
any resistance to authority. Here are some laws from the
Connecticut colony enacted in 1672 to insure proper respect
for God, family and the Christian commonwealth.
If any man or woman, after legal conviction, shall have or worship
any other God but the Lord God, he shall be put to death.
If any person within this colony shall blaspheme the name of
God, the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, with direct, express, presumptuous,
or highhanded blasphemy, or shall curse in the like manner,
he shall be put to death.
If any man or woman be a witch, that is, has or consults with
a familiar spirit, they shall be put to death.
If any person shall commit any willful murder, committed upon
malice, hatred, or cruelty, not in a man's just and necessary
defense, nor by casualty [accident] against his will, he shall
be put to death.
If any man steals a man or mankind and sell him, or if he be
found in his hand, he shall be put to death.
If any person rise up by false witness wittingly and of purpose
to take away any man's life, he or she shall be put to death.
If any child or children above sixteen years old and of sufficient
understanding, shall curse or smite their natural father or
mother, he or they shall be put to death, unless it can be sufficiently
testified that the parents have been very unchristianly negligent
in the education of such children, or so provoked them by extreme
and cruel correction that they have been forced thereunto to
preserve themselves from death or maiming.
If any man have a stubborn or rebellious son, of sufficient
understanding and years, viz. sixteen years of age, which will
not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother
and that when they have chastened him, he will not harken unto
them; then may his father or mother, being his natural parents,
lay hold on him and bring him to the magistrates assembled in
court, and testify unto them that their son is stubborn and
rebellious, and will not obey their voice and chastisement...such
a son shall be put to death.
Source: George Brinley, ed, The Laws of Connecticut
(Hartford, 1865), pp. 9-10, reprinted in David E. Shi and Holly
A Mayer, eds., For the Record: A Documentary History of America
(New York, 1999), pp. 106-107.
DINNER IN COLONIAL AMERICA
Hamilton, an Annapolis physician, described two meals he had
on a 1744 journey from Maryland to New York. The first
is a dinner with a ferryboat and his family on the Susquehanna
River. The second is of a "Dutch" family in
New York. The descriptions provide a glimpse into the home life
of many colonial families.
They ate a homely dish of fish without any kind of sauce.
They desired me to eat, but I told them I had no stomach.
They had no cloth upon the table, and their mess was in a dirty,
deep, wooden dish which they evacuated with their hands, cramming
down skins, scales, land all. They used neither knife,
fork, spoon, plate, or napkin because, I suppose, they had none
to use. I looked upon this as a picture of that primitive
simplicity practiced by our forefathers...before the mechanic
arts had supplied them with instruments for the luxury and elegance
of life, I drank some of their cider, which was very good.
One day att two o'clock, [I] dined att one Corson's, an inn
across the Narrows from New York's Long Island. The landlady
spoke both Dutch and English. I dined upon what I never
had eat in my life before‑a dish of fryed clams, of which
shell fish there is abundance in these parts. The family
said grace; then we began to...stuff down the fryed clams with
rye‑bread and butter. They took such a deal of chawing
that we were long at dinner, and the dish began to cool before
we had eat enough. The landlady called for the bed pan.
I could not guess what she intended to do with it unless it
was to warm her bed to go to sleep after dinner, but I found
that it was used by way of a chaffing dish to warm our dish
of clams. I stared att the novelty for some time, and
reaching over for a mug of beer that stood on the opposite side
of the table, my bag sleeve catched hold of the handle of the
bed pan and unfortunately overset the clams, at which the landlady...muttered
a scrape of Dutch of which I understood not a word except "mynheer,"
but I suppose she swore, for she uttered her speech with an
Source Gentleman's Progress: The Itinerarium
of Dr. Alexander Hamilton, 1744 reprinted in Pauline Maier,
Inventing America: A History of the United States, vol.
1 (New York, 2003), p. 136.
HENRY: "GIVE ME LIBERTY"
the most famous speech to emerge from the Revolutionary War
Era is Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"
oration before 122 delegates of the Virginia House of Burgesses
who met illegally in St. John's Church in Richmond [The House
of Burgesses had earlier been Virginia's Royal Governor, Lord
Dunmore] on March 23, 1775. Henry called for armed resistance
to the British. Note the numerous references to the potential
political enslavement of the colonists by the British Empire.
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well
as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed
the House. But different men often see the same subject
in different lights; and, therefore, I hope that it will not
be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining
as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall
speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.
This is no time for ceremony. The question before the
House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own
part I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom
or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject
ought to be the freedom of the debate...
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is
the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future
but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know
what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for
the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen
have been pleased to solace themselves and the House?
Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the
storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have
remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves
before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest
the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.
Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced
additional violence and insult; our supplications have been
disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the
foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we
indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is
no longer any room for hope.
If we wish to be free...we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we
must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts
is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak—unable to cope with
so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger?
Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be
when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall
be stationed in every house...?
Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which
the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions
of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a
country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force
which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we
shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God
who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise
up to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not
to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the
brave... There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!
Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on
the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable—and
let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace! Peace!”—but there
is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next
gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash
of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field!
Why stand we here idle...? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,
as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take;
but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
William Safire, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History
(New York, 1997), p. 89-91.
CALL FOR INDEPENDENCE
May 23, 1776, the people of Boston called on their representatives
to make preparations for independence. In this statement
they describe why a political reconciliation with Great Britain
was now impossible. Such statements at the local level
paved the way for the Declaration of Independence.
...We have seen the humble petitions of these Colonies to the
King of Great Britain repeatedly rejected with disdain.
For the prayer of peace, he has tendered the sword; for liberty,
chains; and for safety, death. He has licensed the instruments
of his hostile oppressions to rob us of our property, to burn
our houses, and to spill our blood. He has invited every
barbarous nation whom he could hope to influence, to assist
him in prosecuting these inhuman purposes. The Prince,
therefore, in support of whose Crown and dignity, not many years
since, we would most cheerfully have extended life and fortune,
we are now constrained to consider as the worst of tyrants.
Loyalty to him is now treason to our country. We have
seen his venal Parliament so basely prostituted to his designs,
that they have never hesitated to enforce his arbitrary requisitions
with the most sanguinary laws.
We have seen the people of Great Britain so lost to every sense
of virtue and honour, as to pass over the most pathetic and
earnest appeals to their justice with an unfeeling indifference.
The hopes we placed on their exertions have long since failed.
In short, we are convinced that it is the fixed and settled
determination of the King, Ministry, and Parliament of that
Island, to conquer and subjugate the Colonies, and that the
people there have no disposition to oppose them.
A reconciliation with them appears to us to be as dangerous
as it is absurd. A spirit of resentment once raised, it
is not easy to appease. The recollection of past injuries
will perpetually keep alive the flame of jealousy, which will
stimulate to new impositions on the one side, and consequent
resistance on the other; and the whole body‑politick will
be constantly subject to civil commotions. We therefore
think it absolutely impracticable for these Colonies to be ever
again subject to or dependant upon Great Britain, without endangering
the very existence of the state. ...
Stanley I. Kutler, Looking for
The People's History
Vol.I, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979), p. 110.
account below describes the first confrontation of American
militia and British soldiers at Concord, Massachusetts Colony
from the perspective of Charles Hudson, a patriot supporter.
Between the hours of twelve and one, on the morning of the nineteenth
of April, we received intelligence by express, from the Honorable
Joseph Warren, Esq., at Boston, "that a large body of the
king's troops (supposed to be a brigade of about 12 or 1500)
were embarked in boats from Boston, and gone over to ]and on
Lechmere's Point (so called) in Cambridge; and that it was shrewdly
suspected that they were ordered to seize and destroy the stores
belonging to the colony, then deposited at Concord..."
Upon this intelligence, as also upon information of the conduct
of the officers as above‑mentioned, the militia of this
town were alarmed and ordered to meet on the usual place of
parade; not with any design of commencing hostilities upon the
king's troops, but to consult what might be done for our own
and the people's safety; and also to be ready for whatever service
providence might call us out to, upon this alarming occasion,
in case overt acts of violence or open hostilities should be
committed by this mercenary band of armed and blood‑thirsty
Accordingly, about half an hour after four o'clock, alarm guns
were fired, and the drums beat to arms, and the militia were
collecting together. Some, to the number of about 50 or 60,
or possibly more, were on the parade, others were coming towards
it. In the mean time, the troops having thus stolen a march
upon us and, to prevent any intelligence of their approach,
having seized and held prisoners several persons whom they met
unarmed upon die road, seemed to come determined for murder
and bloodshed‑and that whether provoked to it or not!
When within about half a quarter of a mile of the meetinghouse,
they halted, and the command was given to prime and load, which
being done, they marched on till they came up to the east end
of said meeting‑house, in sight of our militia (collecting
as aforesaid) who were about 12 or 13 rods distant.
Immediately upon their appearing
so suddenly and so nigh, Capt. Parker, who commanded the militia
company, ordered the men to disperse and take care of themselves,
and not to fire, Upon this, our men dispersed‑but many
of them not so speedily as they might have done, not having
the most distant idea of such brutal barbarity and more than
savage cruelty from the troops of a British king, as they immediately
experienced! For, no sooner did they come in sight of our company,
but one of them, supposed to be an officer of rank, was heard
to say to the troops, "Damn them! We will have them!"
Upon which the troops shouted aloud, huzza'd, and rushed furiously
towards our men.
About the same time, three officers (supposed to be Col. Smith,
Major Pitcairn and another officer) advanced on horse back to
the front of the body, and coming within 5 or 6 rods of the
militia, one of them cried out, "Ye villains, ye Rebels,
disperse! Damn you, disperse!"‑‑or words to
this effect. One of them (whether the same or not is not easily
determined) said, "Lay down your arms! Damn you,
why don't you lay down your arms?" The second of these
officers, about this time, fired a pistol towards the militia
as they were dispersing. The foremost, who was within a few
yards of our men, brandishing his sword and then pointing towards
them, with a loud voice said to the troops, "Fire! By God,
fire!"‑‑which was instantly followed by a discharge
of arms from the said troops, succeeded by a very heavy and
close fire upon our party, dispersing, so long as any of them
were within reach. Eight were left dead upon the ground! Ten
were wounded. The rest of the company, through divine goodness,
were (to a miracle) preserved unhurt in this murderous action!
Charles Hudson, History of The Town
(Boston, 1913), 1: 526‑530, reprinted Stanley I. Kutler,
ed. Looking for America: The People’s History,
vol. 1 (New York, 1979), p. 97-99.
REVOLUTION: A LOYALIST VIEW
deplored the American Revolution partly because they believed
the political differences with Britain, though significant,
did not warrant an independence movement, and partly because
they feared the American political Revolution might evolve into
a social revolution. In the following letter, Samuel Curwen,
a New York loyalist describes his bitterness at being forced
to leave North America and take refuge in England.
To Dr. Charles
I congratulate you on your retreat from the land of oppression
and tyranny... I sincerely wish well to my native country,
and am of opinion that the happiness of it depends on restraining
the violences and outrages of profligate and unprincipled men,
who run riot against all the laws of justice, truth and religion...
It is surprising what little seeming effect the loss of American
orders has on the manufactories; they have been in full employ
ever since the dispute arose; stocks are not one jot lessened,
the people in general little moved by it; business and amusements
so totally engross all ranks and orders here that Administration
finds no difficulty on the score to pursue their plans.
The general disapprobation of that folly of independence which
America now evidently aims at makes it a difficult part for
her friends to act.
Six vessels laden with refugees are arrived from Halifax, amongst
whom are R. Lechmere, I. Vassal, Col. Oliver, Treasurer Gray,
etc. Those who bring property here may do well enough,
but for those who expect reimbursement for losses, or supply
for present support, will find to their cost the hand of charity
very cold; the latter may be kept from starving, and beyond
that their hopes are vain. "Blessed is he (saith
Pope) that expecteth nothing, for he shall never be disappointed";
nor a more interesting truth was ever uttered.
I find my finances so visibly lessening that I wish I could
remove from this expensive country (being heartily tired of
it) and, old as I am, would gladly enter into a business connection
anywhere consistently with decency and integrity, which I would
fain preserve. The use of the property I left behind me
I fear I shall never be the better for; little did I expect
from affluence to be reduced to such rigid economy as prudence
now exacts. To beg is a meanness I wish never to be reduced
to, and to starve is stupid; one comfort, as I am fast declining
into the vale of life: my miseries cannot probably be of long
great esteem; etc.
Stanley I. Kutler, Looking For
The People's History
Vol.I, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979), pp. 115‑116.
ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS: REMEMBER THE LADIES
remarkable exchange of letters between one of the most famous
Revolutionary Era couples, Abigail and to John Adams, illustrates
that the calls for political freedom from Great Britain prompted
some women to consider the constraints on their freedom imposed
by their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.
to John Adams
March 31 1776
I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and
by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be
necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies,
and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.
Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands.
Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular
care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined
to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by
any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly
established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish
to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for
the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then,
not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to
use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of
Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as
the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed
by providence under your protection and in imitation of the
Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.
to Abigail Adams:
Ap. 14. 1776
to Declarations of Independency, be patient. Read our Privateering
Laws, and our Commercial Laws. What signifies a Word.
As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh.
We have been told that our Struggle has loosened the bands of
Government every where. That Children and Apprentices
were disobedient—that schools and Colleges were grown
turbulent—that Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes
grew insolent to their Masters. But your Letter was the
first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerful
than all the rest were grown discontented. —This
is rather too coarse a Compliment but you are so saucy, I wont
blot it out.
Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine
systems. Altho they are in full Force, you know they are
little more than Theory. We dare not exert our Power in
its full Latitude. We are obliged to go fair, and softly,
and in Practice you know We are the subjects. We have
only the Name of Masters, and rather than give up this, which
would compleatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat,
I hope General Washington, and all our brave Heroes would fight.
I am sure every good Politician would plot, as long as he would
against Despotism, Empire, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Oligarchy,
or Ochlocracy,—A fine Story indeed. I begin to think
the Ministry as deep as they are wicked. After stirring
up Tories, Landjobbers, Trimmers, Bigots, Canadians, Indians,
Negroes, Hanoverians, Hessians, Russians, Irish Roman Catholicks,
Scotch Renegades, at last they have stimulated the to demand
new Privileges and threaten to rebell.
May 7 1776
I can not say that I think you very generous to the Ladies,
for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, Emancipating
all Nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over
Wives. But you must remember that Arbitrary power is like
most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken—and
notwithstanding all your wise Laws and Maxims we have it in
our power not only to free our selves but to subdue our Masters,
and without violence throw both your natural and legal authority
at our feet— "Charm by accepting, by submitting sway
Yet have our Humour most when we obey."
Abigail and John Adams, letters 1776, in L. H. Butterfield et
al., eds., The Book of Abigail and John (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1975), p. 120-22, 127 reprinted in Mary Beth
Norton, Major Problems in American Women’s History
(Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1989), p. 83-84.
PIPE ADDRESSES THE BRITISH
vignette includes part of a 1781 speech made by Captain Pipe,
a leader of the Delaware Indians, when he responded to British
calls to attack frontier settlers who supported the American
Revolution. Although the Delaware refused to be brought
into the war, Revolutionary soldiers attacked and killed over
200 members of the tribe during the infamous Harrisburg Massacre
"Father!" he began; and he paused, turned round to
the audience with a most sarcastic look, and then proceeded
in a lower tone, as addressing them,--"I have said
father, though indeed I do not know why I should call
him so...I have considered the English only as brothers.
But as this name is imposed upon us, I shall make use of it
"Father"--fixing his eyes again on the Commandant--"Some
time ago you put a war-hatchet into my hands, saying, 'take
this weapon and try it on the heads of my enemies, the Long-Knives
[Revolutionaries], and let me know afterwards if it was sharp
Father--At the time when you gave me this weapon, I had neither
cause nor wish to go to war against a foe who had done me no
injury. But...in obedience to you I received the hatchet.
I knew that if I did not obey you, you would withhold from me
the necessaries of life, which I could procure nowhere but here.
Father--You may perhaps think me a fool, for risking my life
at your bidding--and that in a cause in which I have no prospect
of gaining any thing. For it is your cause, and not mine--you
have raised a quarrel among yourselves--and you ought to fight
it out--It is your concern to fight the Long-Knives--You
should not compel your children, the Indians, to expose themselves
to danger for your sake.
Father--Many lives have already been lost on your account--The
tribes have suffered, and been weakened--Children have lost
parents and brothers--Wives have lost husbands--It is not known
how many more may perish before your war will be at an
Father...although you now pretend to keep up a perpetual enmity
to the Long-Knives, you may, before long, conclude a peace with
Father--You say you love your children, the Indians--This you
have often told them; and indeed it is your interest to say
so to them, that you may have them at your service. But,
Father. Who of us can believe that you can love a people
of a different colour from your own, better than those who have
a white skin, like yourselves.
Father--Pay attention to what I am going to say. While
you, Father, are setting me on your enemy, much in the same
manner as a hunter sets his dog on the game; while I am in the
act of rushing on that enemy of yours, with the bloody destructive
weapon you gave me, I may, perchance, happen to look back to
the place from whence you started me, and what shall I see?
Perhaps I may see my father shaking hands with the Long-Knives;
yes with the very people he now calls his enemies. I may
then see him laugh at my folly for having obeyed his
orders; and yet I am now risking my life at his command!
Father, keep what I have said in remembrance...
You, Father, have the means of preserving that which would perish
with us from want. The warrior is poor, and his cabin
is always empty; but your house, Father, is always full.
Wayne Moquin, ed., Great Documents in American Indian History
(New York, 1973) pp. 127-128.
November, 1775, after it became apparent that a reconciliation
between the British and the rebellious colonists was impossible,
Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued the following
proclamation promising freedom to all slaves and servants who
supported the Crown.
As I have ever entertained hopes that an accommodation might
have taken place between Great Britain and this Colony,
without being compelled by my duty to this most disagreeable,
but now absolutely necessary step, rendered so by a body of
armed men, unlawfully assembled, firing on His Majesty's Tenders;
and the formation of an Army, and that Army now on the
march to attack His Majesty's Troops, and destroy the well‑disposed
subjects of this Colony: To defeat such treasonable purposes,
and that all such traitors and their abettors may be brought
to justice, and that the peace and good order of this Colony
may be again restored, which the ordinary course of the civil
law is unable to effect, I have thought fit to issue this my
Proclamation, hereby declaring, that until the aforesaid good
purposes can be obtained, I do, in virtue of the power and authority
to me given by His Majesty, determine to execute martial law,
and clause the same to be executed throughout this Colony.
And to the end that peace and good order may the sooner be restored,
I do require every person capable of bearing arms to resort
to His Majesty's standard, or be looked upon as traitors to
His Majesty's crown and Government, and thereby become liable
to the penalty the law inflicts upon such offenses‑‑such
as forfeiture of life, confiscation of lands, &c., &c;
and I do hereby further declare all indented [sic] servants,
Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free, that are
able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesty's Troops,
as son as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony
to a proper sense of their duty to His Majesty's crown and dignity.
I do further order and require all His Majesty's liege subjects
to retain their quit‑rents, or any other taxes due, or
that may become due, in their own custody, will such time as
peace may be again restored to this, at present, most unhappy
Country, or demanded of them for their former salutary purposes,
by officers properly authorized to receive the same.
Given under my hand, on board the Ship William, off
the 7th day of November, in the sixteenth year of His
Peter Force, ed., American Archives, A Documentary History
of the American Colonies, 94th ser., 6 vols.; Washington,
1837-1853), ser. 4, III, p. 1385.
TYE: BLACK LOYALIST LEADER
the Loyalists and Patriot forces in New Jersey created guerrilla
bands which included African Americans. The most famous
of these bands was led by a Monmouth County slave known as Titus
but who became "Colonel Tye" during the revolutionary
struggle. The vignette below relates his activities.
The British concentrated their military efforts on small but
effective raids into New Jersey from Staten Island...at the
beginning of 1778. British strongholds protected raiders
and offered safe refuge to escaping blacks... Fought near
Freehold on June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth proved indecisive
militarily but pivotal for New Jersey's black Loyalists in that
it marked the first known appearance of an African American
who would become one of the war's most feared Loyalists, white
or black--Colonel Tye, formerly known in Monmouth County as
John Corlies's slave Titus. Colonel Tye comported himself
gallantly in his first know military venture, capturing Elisha
Shepard, a captain in the Monmouth militia, and removing him
to imprisonment at the Sugar House in New York City. Tye's
title is noteworthy. Although the British army did not
formally commission black officers, it often granted such titles
out of respect, particularly in Jamaica and other West Indian
islands. The transformation of the servant Titus into
the warrior Tye was evidently overseen by soldiers who had served
in the Caribbean.
On July 15, 1779, accompanied by...Tory John Moody, Colonel
Tye and "about fifty negroes and refugees" landed
at Shrewsbury and plundered the inhabitants of nearly 80 heard
of cattle, about 20 horses and a quantity of wearing apparel
They also took off William Brindley and Elisha Cook, two of
This action established a pattern that was to be repeated over
the next year. Combining banditry, reprisal, and commissioned
assistance to the British Army, these raids served the aims
of local black rebellion quite intentionally, often being aimed
directly at former masters and their friends. In Monmouth
County, where slavery was a family affair and owners were not
distant patricians, enmities between slaves and masters could
understandably become prolonged and intense... The effects
of Tye's incursions upon the general population of Monmouth
County were exacerbated by reports...that blacks were planning
massacres of whites in Elizabethtown and in Somerset County.
In a typical raid Tye and his men, at times aided by white refugees
known as "cow-boys," would surprise Patriots in their
homes, kidnap soldiers and officers, and carry off sliver, clothing
and badly needed cattle for British troops in Staten Island
and New York City. For these accomplishments Tye and his
men were paid handsomely, sometimes receiving five gold guineas.
Tye's familiarity with Monmouth's swamps, rivers and inlets
allowed him to move undetected until it was too late.
After a raid, Tye and his interracial band, known to Patriots
as a "motley crew," would disappear again into nearby
In a raid on March 30, 1780, Tye and his men captured a Captain
Warner, who purchased his freed for "two half joes."
Less lucky were Captain James Green and Ensign John Morris,
whom Tye took to... New York City. In the same raid Tye
and his men looted and burned the home of John Russell, a fierce
Patriot associated with raids on Staten Island, before killing
him and wounding his young son.
During the second week of June 1780, Colonel Tye...and his men
murdered Private Joseph Murray of the Monmouth militia at his
home in Colt's Neck. Murray, a foe detested by local Tories,
had been personally responsible for several of their summary
executions. Three days later Tye led a large band of self-emancipated
blacks and refugee whites in a daring attack on the home of
Barnes Smock, a leader of the Monmouth militia, while the main
body of British troops was attacking Washington's forces.
Using a six-pound cannon to warn residents of the raid, Smock
summoned a number of men around his house to fight Tye.
After a stiff battle Tye and his men captured Smock and twelve
other Patriots... Tye himself spiked Smock's cannon--a
symbolically disheartening action for the Patriots--before spiriting
the prisoners back to [New York]
Tye's June incursions inspired great fear among New Jerseyans.
In the space of one week he and his men carried off much of
the officer corps of the Monmouth militia, destroyed their cannon,
and flaunted their ability to strike at will against a weakened
Patriot population. If before Tye had been seen in Monmouth
County as a bandit in the service of the British, he now had
to be reckoned an important military force. Local Patriots
wrote anguished letters to Governor William Livingston, begging
for help against the ravages of Colonel Tye and his raiders.
In response the governor invoked martial law in the county.
But a law is only as effective as its enforcement, and there
were few able-bodied men to police... While the New Jersey
Patriots were distracted by Tye and his men, other blacks were
quick to take advantage. The New Jersey Journal
noted that "twenty-nine Negroes of both sexes deserted
from Bergen County in early June 1780."
There were more raids to come. On June 22, 1780, "Tye
with thirty blacks, thirty-six Queen's Rangers and thirty refugees
landed at Conascung, New Jersey" The invaders...captured
James Mott, second major in the Monmouth militia's second regiment
[and] Captain James Johnson of the Hunterdon militia as well
as several privates... It was a stunning blow to the Patriots.
In a singe day Tye had captured eight militiamen, plundered
their homes and taken his captives to New York, moving in and
out of Monmouth County with impunity despite martial law and
the presence of several militias--all without any reported casualties....
On September 1, 1780, Tye attempted to capture Captain Josiah
Huddy, famed for his leadership in raids on British positions
in Staten Island...and despised by Loyalists for his quick executions
of captured Tories... During the battle Colonel Tye received
a bullet in the wrist... Within days lockjaw set in, and
lacking proper medical attention, Tye died.
Graham Russell Hodges, Slavery and
Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in
County, New Jersey, 1665-1865
(Madison, Wi.: Madison House Publishers, 1997), 96-104.
OTIS AND THOMAS JEFFERSON ON SLAVERY
era Americans were much more troubled by slavery than would
be most of their 19th Century descendants. James Otis,
a Boston attorney and later patriot leader in 1761 wrote an
anti-British pamphlet which condemned slavery and warned his
fellow colonists against denying liberty to anyone. Fifteen
years later Thomas Jefferson, himself a slaveowner torn over
the issue of slavery in a political revolution dedicated to
liberty, wrote a paragraph into one of the early drafts of the
Declaration of Independence denouncing King George III for promoting
slavery. The paragraph is reprinted below:
The Colonist are by the law of nature free born, as indeed all
men are, white or black. No better reasons can be given,
for enslaving those of any colour, than such as baron Montesquieu
has humorously given, as the foundation of that cruel slavery
exercised over the poor Ethiopians; which threatens one day
to reduce both Europe and America to the ignorance and barbarity
of the darkest ages.
Does it follow that it is right to enslave a man because he
is black? Will short curled hair, like wool, instead of
Christian hair, as it is called by those whose hearts are as
hard as the millstone, help the argument? Can any logical
inference in favor of slavery, be drawn from a flat nose, a
long or short face? Nothing better can be said in favour
of a trade, that is the most shocking violation of the law of
nature, has a direct tendency to diminish the idea of the inestimable
value of liberty, and makes every dealer in it a tyrant, from
the director of an Africa company to the petty chapman in needles
and pins on the unhappy coast. It is a clear truth, that
those who every day barter away other men’s liberty, will
soon care little for their own.
He [King George] has waged cruel war against human nature itself,
violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the
persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating
and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to
incur miserable death in their transport thither. This
piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the
warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. Determined
to keep open a market were MEN should be bought and sold, he
has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative
attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce; and
that this assemblage of horror might want no face of distinguished
die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among
us, and to purchase that liberty of which HE deprived them,
by murdering the people upon whom He also obtruded them; plus
paying off former crimes committed against the liberty of one
people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the
lives of another.
Otis, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved
(London, 1776), pp. 43-44; Lerone Bennett, Ebony
Pictorial History of Black America,
Vol. I, (Nashville, 1971), p. 71.
FEVER IN PHILADELPHIA
the following account Philadelphia resident James Hardie describes
the yellow fever epidemic that struck the city in 1794.
This disorder made its first appearance toward the latter end
of July, in a lodging house in North Water Street, and for a
few weeks seemed entirely confined to that vicinity. Hence it
was generally supposed to have been imported and not generated
in the city. This was the opinion of Doctors Currie, Cathrall
and many others. It was however combated by Dr. Benjamin Rush,
who asserts that the contagion was generated from the stench
of a cargo of damaged coffee...
But from whatever fountain we trace this poisoned stream, it
has destroyed the lives of many thousands‑and many of
those of the most distinguished worth... During the month of
August the funerals amounted to upwards of three hundred. The
disease had then reached the central streets of the city and
began to spread on all sides with the greatest rapidity. In
September its malignance increased amazingly. Fear pervaded
the stoutest heart, flight became general, and terror was depicted
on every countenance. In this month 1,400 more were added to
the list of mortality. The contagion was still progressive and
towards the end of the month 90 & 100 died daily. Until
the middle of October the mighty destroyer went on with increasing
havoc. From the 1st to the 17th upwards of 1,400 fell victims
to the tremendous malady. From the 17th to the 30th the mortality
gradually decreased. In the whole month, however, the dead
amounted to upwards of 2,000‑a dreadful number, if we
consider that at this time near one half of the inhabitants
had fled. Before the disorder became so terrible, the appearance
of Philadelphia must to a stranger have seemed very extraordinary.
The garlic, which chewed as a preventative[,] could be smelled
at several yards distance, whilst other[s] hoped to avoid infection
by a recourse to smelling bottles, handkerchiefs dipped in vinegar,
camphor bags, &c....
During this melancholy period the city lost ten of her most
valuable physicians, and most of the others were sick at different
times. The number of deaths in all amounted to 4041.
Source: James Hardie, The Philadelphia Directory
and Register (Philadelphia, 1794.) reprinted in William
Bruce Wheeler and Susan D. Becker, eds. Discovering the American
Past: A Look as the Evidence, vol. 1 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Company, 1999), pp. 111-112.
OF A FOUNDING FATHER
vignette below describes the death of former President George
Washington in December, 1799.
"On, Thursday. Decr. 12th,  the General [George Washington]
rode out to his farms... Soon after he went out, the weather
became very bad... A heavy fall of snow took place on Friday,
which prevented the General from riding out as usual.
He had taken cold (undoubtedly from being so much exposed the
day before) and complained of having a sore throat.
About two or three o'clk Saturday Morning he awoke Mrs. Washington
& told her he was very unwell, and had [fever]. She
observed that he could scarcely speak... As soon as the
day appeared...he desired that Mr Rawlins, one of the overseers
who was used to bleeding the people, might be sent for to bleed
him before the doctors could arrive... I found him breathing
with difficulty‑and hardly able to utter a word intelligibly.
A mixture of Molasses, Vinegar & butter was prepared, to
try its effect in the throat; but he could not swallow a drop.
Mr. Rawlins came in soon after sunrise and prepared to bleed
him. The General,
observing that Rawlins appeared to be agitated, said, as well
as he could speak, 'don't be afraid,' and after the incision
was made, he observed 'the orifice is not large enough.
Mrs. W being...uneasy lest too much blood should be taken,
it was stop'd after about half a pint was taken from him.
Finding that no relief was obtain'd, I proposed bathing the
throat externally with Salvalaltita... A piece of flannel
was then put round his neck. His feet were also soaked
in warm water. This, however, gave no relief."
In the meantime, several doctors arrived. They put a blister
of cantharides on the throat &,took more blood...and had
some Vinegar & hot water put into a Teapot, for the General
to draw in steam from the nozel. They also gave him sage
tea and Vinegar to be mixed for a Gargle, but when the, general
'held back his head to let it run down [his throat], it put
him into great distress and almost produced suffocation.
In the afternoon, he was bled again, and the blood ran slowly...and
did not produce any symptoms of fainting. They also administered
calomil & tarter but without any effect.
Around 6 p.m., the general told his physicians, "I feel
myself going... let me go off quietly; I cannot last long."
Two hours later, the doctors applied blisters to his legs, but
went out without a ray of hope. About 10, with great difficulty,
Washington said, "I am just going. Have me decently
buried, and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less
than two days after I am dead." I bowed assent.
A little while later, he expired without a struggle or a Sigh!
Tobias Lear's journal entry on the death of George Washington
at Mount Vernon, December 15, 1799 reprinted in Pauline Maier,
Inventing America: A History of the United States, vol.
1 (New York, 2003), p. 278.