The position of American affairs alarmed the English people. "We are undone at home with increased expenses; abroad, by ill-luck and incapacity," exclaimed Chesterfield, one of the most enlightened of the English aristocracy. He uttered the opinions of the British nation outside of that aristocracy, and their rulers were soon compelled to listen. Light concerning the Americans was spreading over England. Thinking men saw justice in their demands for local self-government, and reason for their restiveness and irritation because they were continually plagued by the rapacity and haughty bearing of many of the royal governors and the unjust exactions of the British ministry. They saw the danger of the Americans being driven to the renunciation of their allegiance to Great Britain, if a more just policy toward them should not be speedily exercised; and the English people became so clamorous for a change in the administration, that the alarmed king, after suffering England to be eleven weeks without a ministry, was compelled to recall Pitt to the cabinet in June, 1757, invested with powers which made him, in fact, prime minister of the realm. To him was entrusted the supreme direction of military and foreign affairs. He wielded his power with wisdom, and won glory for his country.
While Loudon was trying his best to conquer the Americans by overawing their assemblies and bringing the people into submission to the royal will, Pitt was devising plans for conciliating them by just and generous treatment. When, late in the year, Bostonians refused to submit to the billeting of royal soldiers upon them, the imperious earl sent a manifesto to the authorities of that city, saying: "I have ordered the messenger to wait but forty-eight hours in Boston; and if, on his return, I find things not settled, I will instantly order into Boston the three regiments from New York, Long Island and Connecticut; and if more are wanted, I have two in the Jerseys at hand, besides three in Pennsylvania." When that message was on its way to the New England capital, another from Pitt was crossing the Atlantic for the recall of Loudon, for the minister could "never hear from him, and did not know what he was about." So the Americans were relieved.
"Give me your confidence," Pitt said to the king, "and I will deserve it." The monarch replied: "Deserve any confidence and you shall have it." Upon this foundation Pitt began his brilliant administration, in the summer of 1757. American affairs demanded and received his early attention. General Abercrombie was appointed the successor of Loudon in chief military command in America. Relying upon the cheerful patriotism of the colonists, Pitt invited them to raise as many men as possible for an expedition against Montreal and Quebec. He assured them that England would provide arms, ammunition and tents, and that nothing would be required of them but the levying, clothing and pay of the men, for which expenditures the king would recommend parliament to grant a proper reimbursement. By order of the king, he sent instructions for all provincial officers no higher than a colonel to have equal command with officers of the same rank commissioned by the crown, according to the date of their respective commissions. These were cheering omens for the Americans, and they prepared for the campaign of 1758 with alacrity. In these liberal schemes Pitt was opposed by the aristocracy, because they yielded to the notions of independence cherished by the Americans, and the law-lords opposed the concessions as being contrary to the spirit of the British constitution. The great Commoner met their decisions with this telling maxim: "The lawyers are not to be regarded in questions of liberty."
Preparations for the campaign of 1758 were pressed with vigor. A strong naval armament was placed under the command of Admiral Boscawen, and twelve thousand additional English troops were allotted to the service of America. Equal vigor and more enthusiasm was observed in the colonies. Pitt asked for twenty thousand provincial troops. An excess of levies soon appeared. New England, alone, raised fifteen thousand. In Massachusetts the zeal of the people was unbounded, and the sacrifice of personal interest for the public good was marvellous. Public and private advances in that colony amounted to more than a million dollars, during the year 1758. In order to raise money, enormous taxes were levied and cheerfully paid. In many instances the tax was equal to two-thirds of the income of the taxpayer. It was levied by their own chosen representatives, and the people were content.
New York furnished twenty-seven hundred men; New Jersey, one thousand; Pennsylvania, three thousand, and Virginia, two thousand. Some came from the more southern provinces; but to the people of that region was entrusted the defence of their frontiers, and, if opportunity should offer, the expulsion of the French from Louisiana. When Abercrombie took command of the army in May, 1758, he found fifty thousand men at his disposal--a number about equal to the entire masculine French population in America at that time.
The plan of the campaign was a renewal of that of General Shirley for 1756, spoiled by Loudon. It included expeditions against Louisburg, Fort Duquesne, the strong posts on Lake Champlain, and Montreal and Quebec. To Sir Jeffery Amherst, a veteran soldier then about forty years of age, with the accomplished James Wolfe, ten years his junior, as his lieutenant, was entrusted the leadership of the expedition against Louisburg, in connection with Boscawen's fleet. General Joseph Forbes was placed in command of the troops that were to attempt the conquest of Fort Duquesne and the Ohio Valley; and General Abercrombie, with young Lord Howe as his lieutenant, was directed to sweep the French from Lake Champlain, and attempt to expel them from Montreal and Quebec. To Wolfe and Howe, Pitt looked for success, more than to Abercrombie and Amherst. They were both young men; experienced in military life; judicious, magnetic, and full of energy.
Return to Our Country, Vol. I