Imágenes de páginas

totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house ? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot ? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those 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 friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, Sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, Sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. 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!

“It is vain, Sir, to extenuate the matter. Gen tlemen 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 ? What is it that gentlemen wish ? What would they have? 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 !"

This spirited and powerful speech determined the character of the proceedings of the Convention. After another eloquent speech from Richard Henry Lee, in support of the resolutions, a committee, of which Henry and Washington were among the members, was appointed to prepare and report a plan for the organization of the militia. The report was accordingly made, and the plan adopted; after which, and the transaction of some other business of less importance, the Convention closed its session.


Military Movements.— Henry appointed Command

er-in-Chief of the Virginia Forces. - Resigns his Commission. Elected the first Governor under the new Constitution.

UNDER the present system of conducting political and military affairs in the Christian world, it rarely happens that the same persons, whose opinions in council and eloquence in debate determine the commencement of hostile relations between two countries, are called upon themselves to share the personal hardships and dangers of the conflict. The political leaders, who direct the concerns of nations, content themselves, in general, with declaring wars, and leave it to others to carry them on. It has sometimes been thought that this division of labor has a tendency to render wars more frequent, and that statesmen would be less prompt in urging a resort to arms, if the blood which is to flow were to be their own. However this may be, it was pretty soon apparent that Patrick Henry was not one of those persons, who are disposed to shrink themselves from the dangers to which they may deem it necessary to expose their countrymen. We have thus far seen him

[ocr errors]

engaged in the various civil employments of cultivator, merchant, lawyer, and statesman. At the next stage in his career, we find him assuming the character of a military leader, and discharging its duties with a spirit and efficiency which seem to show that, if circumstances of a wholly accidental nature had not checked his progress, his energies would probably have taken this direction, and given him as high a rank among the warriors of his country as he has in fact obtained among her orators and statesmen.

When the state of the controversy with the mother country began to render it probable, that it would be necessary to resort to arms, the Governors of the several colonies, either in consequence of instructions from home, or of a concert among themselves, attempted, at about the same time, to get possession of the military stores at all the various points at which they had been collected. On the 20th of April, 1775, the day following the celebrated 19th of April, which was distinguished by the attempt of Governor Gage, in Massachusetts, to seize the military stores at Cambridge and Concord in Massachusetts, a similar proceeding took place in Virginia under the direction of Lord Dunmore. About midnight, Captain Collins, of the armed schooner Magdalen, then lying at Burwell's Ferry, on James River, entered the city of Williamsburg,

at the head of a body of marines, and carried away from the public magazine about twenty barrels of powder, which he succeeded in getting on board his schooner before day.

The next morning, when the transaction was made known, it created great excitement among the inhabitants, and a considerable number of them mustered in arms for the purpose of compelling Captain Collins to restore the powder. The members of the municipal government, with some difficulty, restrained this tumultuous movement; but afterwards, in their corporate capacity, addressed a memorial to Lord Dunmore on the subject. The Governor returned a verbal answer, in which he stated, that, having heard of an insurrection in a neighboring county, he had thought it necessary to remove the powder to a place of safety, but assured the petitioners, upon his word of honor, that, whenever it was wanted for any proper purpose, it should be delivered. This assurance, supported by the influence of Peyton Randolph, R. C. Nicholas, and other prominent and popular citizens, restored for a time the public tranquillity.

In the course of the following night, however, a false report was circulated that a body of marines had again landed from the Magdalen, at some distance from the city, for the purpose of plunder. The inhabitants again rose in arms,

« AnteriorContinuar »