Item of the Day: Botta’s History of the War of Independence (1834)

Full Title:

History of the War of Independence of the United States of America.  By Charles [Carlo Giuseppe Gugliehmo] Botta.  Sixth Edition, in two volumes, revised and corrected.  Vol. I. Translated from the Italian, by George Alexander Otis, Esq.   New Haven: Published and Printed by Nathan Whiting.  1834.

Book V.  1775.

[…] In New Jersey, at the news of the affair at Lexington, the people took possession of the provincial treasure; and a part of it was destined to pay the troops which were levied at the same time in the province.

At Baltimore, in Maryland, the inhabitants laid a strong hand upon all the military stores that were found in the public magazines; and among other arms, fifteen hundred muskets thus fell into their power.  A decree was published, inderdicting all transportation of commodities to the islands where fisheries were carried on, as also to the British army and fleet stationed at Boston.

The inhabitants of Philadelphia took the same resolution, and appeared in all respects, equally disposed to defend the common cause.  The Quakers themselves, notwithstanding their pacific institutions, could not forbear to participate in the ardor with which their fellow-citizens flew to meet a new order of things.

When Virginia, this important colony, and particularly opposed to the pretensions of England, received the intelligence of the first hostilities, it was found in a state of extreme commotion, excited by a cause, which, though trivial in itself, in the present conjuncture became of serious importance.  The provincial congress, convened in the month of March, had recommended a levy of volunteers in each county, for the better defense of the country.  The governor, lord Dunmore, at the name of volunteers, became highly indignant; and conceived suspicions of some pernicious design.  Apprehending the inhabitants intended to take possession of a public magazine, in the city of Williamsburg, he caused all the powder in it to be removed, by night, and conveyed on board an armed vessel, at anchor in the river James.  The following morning, the citizens, on being apprised of the fact, were violently exasperated; they flew to arms, assembled in great numbers, and demonstrated a full determination to obtain restitution of the powder, either by fair means or force.  A serious affair was apprehended; but the municipal council interposed, and, repressing the tumult, dispatched a written request to the governor, entreating him to comply with the public desire.  They complained, with energy, of the injury received; and represented the dangers to which they should be exposed, in case of insurrection on the part of the blacks, whose dispositions, from various reports, they had too much reason to distrust.  The governor answered, that the powder had been removed, because he had heard of an insurrection in a neighboring county; that he had removed it in the night time to prevent any alarm; that he was much surprised to hear the people were under arms; and that he should not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation.  He assured them, however, that in case of a revolt of the negroes, it should be returned immediately.  Tranquility was re-established; but in the evening, an alarm was given, that the soldiers of the ship of war were approaching the city in arms; the people again also took up theirs, and passed the whole night in expectation of an attack.

The governor, not knowing, or unwilling to yield to the temper of the times, manifested an extreme irritation at these popular movements.  He suffered certain menaces to fall from his lips, which it would have been more prudent to suppress.  He intimated, that the royal standard would be erected; the blacks emancipated, and armed against their masters; a thing no less imprudent than barbarous, and contrary to every species of civilization; finally, he threatened the destruction of the city, and to vindicate, in every mode, his own honor, and that of the crown.  These threats excited a general fermentation throughout the colony, and even produced an absolute abhorrence toward the government.  Thus, incidents of slight importance, assisted by the harsh and haughty humors of the agents of England and America, contributed to accelerate the course of things toward that crisis, to which they tended already, but too strongly, of themselves.

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Filed under 1770's, 1830's, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, History, Military, New Jersey, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, Slavery, United States

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