General Schuyler



Meanwhile the civil powers of the General Congress and of the province were strengthened by consolidation. In Massachusetts a House of Representatives was organized under the original charter, which vested executive powers in a council chosen by the people, in the absence of the governor and his lieutenant. That body, therefore, assumed such powers, as a single executive committee, vested with all the functions of Committees of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety. Under such a government the people of Massachusetts lived, until they formed a State Constitution in 1780.

We have observed that the General Congress sent an address to the inhabitants of Canada. It was affectionate in its terms. It invited them to join the other colonies in efforts to obtain a redress of grievances. But the duplicity of the Congress of 1774 had made the Canadians lukewarm, as John Brown reported them, if not actually hostile. That Congress had also addressed them in affectionate terms; but in their address to the people of Great Britain, who delighted in shouting "No Popery!" they had, unfortunately, in alluding to the Quebec Act, said: "We think the Legislature is not authorized by the constitution to establish a religion fraught with sanguinary tenets, in any part of the globe; nor can we suppress our astonishment, that a British Parliament should ever consent to establish in that country [Canada] a religion that has deluged your island in blood and dispensed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion through every part of the world." This address, like the one to the Canadians, was translated into the French language, and scattered among the priests and the people by the press. It created much indignation for awhile, but the resentment soon cooled, for the national hatred of the English by the French population made the latter soon feel kindly toward the "Bostonians," as the patriots were called.

Carleton proclaimed martial-law in Canada, and denounced the borderers who seized the lake posts, as rebels and traitors. He sought alliances with the Indian tribes, and proposed to invade New York for the purpose of recovering those posts. When, in June (1775), the Continental Congress heard of these things, the conquest of Canada seemed to them and to the people as a simple act of self-defence, and it was resolved to undertake that task. It ought to have been attempted sooner. Allen urged it with vehemence soon after the posts were taken. Hoping his advice to invade Canada at once would be followed, he began to prepare for the important work. A party of his Green Mountain Boys captured Skenesborough, at the head of Lake Champlain (now Whitehall), with a son of Skene, the proprietor, and many of his people. They also took away from them a schooner and several bateaux. Colonel Arnold armed the schooner with guns from Ticonderoga, fully manned it, and with some bateaux sailed down the lake to attack the fort at St. Johns, on the Sorel, its outlet, followed by Allen, with one hundred and fifty men, in boats and bateaux. Arnold left the schooner at the foot of the lake, and with thirty-five men, who went in boasts, he captured the little garrison at St. Johns, destroyed some vessels there, and sailed for Ticonderoga with his prisoners. He met Allen on the way. After a brief conference, the latter pressed forward to garrison the captured fort; but on the approach of a superior force of Canadians from Montreal and Chambly, he retreated. Then it was that Allen, by an earnest letter, entreated the Congress to invade Canada. The exploits of the Green Mountain Boys and of Arnold, showed how easily the conquest might be achieved. But the Congress then regarded the letter of the bold leader as the utterances of the wild fancy of an ambitious adventurer drunk with sudden success. But events soon changed their minds. After the information of Carleton's movements had been received, and the battle of Bunker's Hill had startled the continent, the Congress and the people saw the folly of the delay. The operations of the patriots on Lake Champlain had aroused the British authorities in Canada to a sense of their danger; the delay had enabled them to take measures for arresting that danger.

General Schuyler was ordered to repair to the lake fortresses, where Colonel Hinman was in command with a few Connecticut troops. He had been appointed to that station with the sanction of the Continental Congress. Schuyler was authorized, if he should "find it practicable and not disagreeable to the Canadians, immediately to take possession of St. Johns and Montreal, and pursue such other measures in Canada as might have a tendency to promote the peace and security of the province." These mild and cautious words were properly interpreted as an explicit order to invade Canada. Agents were sent among the Indians in the Mohawk country at the same time, to secure their neutrality, but not to force military alliances with the savages. The Congress also appointed a Board of Commissioners of Indian Affairs, of which General Schuyler was appointed chairman. His family had always maintained a great influence over the chiefs of the Six Nations; and the general was popular among them. The value of his services in keeping these nations neutral or passive during the struggle cannot be estimated.

General Schuyler did not reach Ticonderoga until the 18th of July, having been detained at Albany and vicinity in consequence of alarming news from the Indian country. It was asserted that Guy Johnson, the Indian agent, who had espoused the ministerial cause, was endeavoring to make the Six Nations the allies of the British in the impending struggle; and that Sir John Johnson, the son and heir of Sir William, was organizing a military force for the same purpose, among his retainers who were chiefly Scotch Highlanders and the Tories of Tryon county. These rumors were largely true, and demanded instant attention.

When Schuyler arrived at Ticonderoga, he found great confusion prevailing. Colonel Arnold, who claimed precedence to all others because of his earlier commission from the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, refused to acknowledge the authority of Colonel Hinman; and most of the Green Mountain Boys, disgusted by Arnold's offensive bearing toward Allen and other officers, had returned home. Complaint of his conduct was made to the body who commissioned him. It was a difficult case to deal with. Nobody doubted Arnold's bravery and skill, and his usefulness as a leader. But he was ambitious, unscrupulous, and so quarrelsome that few could endure him in his mood at that time. A committee was sent to investigate the matter. They were empowered to order his return to Massachusetts, or to submit to Hinman's authority. When their errand was revealed to Arnold, he was enraged. He stamped, swore, cursed all Congresses and kings, fate, committee-men in general and his present inquisitors in particular, and, with horrid oaths, he declared that he would be second to no man. Then he threw up his commission, disbanded his men, and rode to Cambridge to lay his grievances before Washington.

Schuyler's first object was to ascertain the state of the province he was about to invade. He employed Major Brown, an American resident on the Sorel, employed by Adams and Hancock for the same purpose, to obtain desired information. The major soon reported that there were only seven hundred regulars in Canada; that the militia would not serve under French officers lately appointed; that the peasantry were generally friendly toward the "Bostonians," and that it was a most auspicious time to invade the province. Meanwhile Schuyler had attempted to organize the crude army which had been slowly gathering at Ticonderoga, composed chiefly of Connecticut troops under Wooster. The general was, in his daily habits of life, a strict disciplinarian, and the insubordination which he encountered at the outset, annoyed him exceedingly. The Connecticut troops were extremely democratic in their notions. Each man felt himself equal to his officers in command, and could not brook the restraint of necessary discipline. Schuyler chafed under this state of things, and the friction then visible prevailed during the whole campaign.

Schuyler had a divided duty as leader of the army and head of the Indian Commission. The duties of the latter then imperatively demanded his attendance, and he summoned Montgomery, his favorite brigadier, to the actual leadership of the expedition. This handsome Irish gentleman, then forty years of age, had achieved distinction in the British army, and had lately married a sister of Robert R. Livingston, who was afterward the eminent chancellor of the State of New York. His devoted young wife accompanied him as far as the country seat of General Schuyler, at Saratoga, where he bade her adieu, kissed the tears from her cheeks, and with cheerfulness said at parting: "You will never have cause to blush for your Montgomery." Arriving at Ticonderoga on the 17th of August, he was placed in active command of the expedition, and Schuyler returned to Albany, where he soon afterward received a letter from General Washington, urging him to hasten the invasion of Canada.





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