History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 3

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX.
THE KING AWAITS NEWS OF SUCCESS.
MARCH–MAY 1775.

DURING this angry strife between the citizens and soldiers at Boston, Lord Howe at London broke off negotiations with Franklin, and the ministry used the pen of Samuel Johnson to inflame the public mind. Johnson was a poor man’s son, and had tasted the bitter cup of extreme indigence. From his father he inherited “the vile melancholy that made him mad all his life, at least not sober.” For years he had gained a precarious support as an author. He had escaped a prison for a trifle he owed by begging an alms of Richardson, and had known what it is from sheer want to go without a dinner, through all his sufferings preserving a rugged independence. The name of the retired and uncourtly scholar was venerable wherever the English was spoken, by his full display of that language in a dictionary, written amid inconvenience and distraction, in sickness, sorrow, and gloomy solitude, with little assistance of the learned and no patronage of the great. When better days came, he loved and cared for the poor as few else love them. It were to have been wished that a man who complained of his life as “radically wretched,” and who was so tenderly sensitive to the wretchedness of others, should have been able to feel for the wrongs of an injured people; but he consented to be employed by the ministry to defend the taxation of America by parliament; and the task was congenial to his hate of the Puritans and his life-long political creed.

The Bostonians had declared to the general congress their willingness to resign their opulent town, and wander into the

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