History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 4

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII.
MASSACHUSETTS ASKS FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON AS COMMANDER-
IN-CHIEF.
MAY–JUNE 17, 1775.

“UNHAPPY it is,” said Washington, “to reflect that a brother’s sword has been sheathed in a brother’s breast, and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice? “He foresaw the long contest which was to precede the successful vindication of the liberties of America; and from the first he avowed to his friends “his full intention to devote his life and fortune” to the cause. To mark the necessity of immediate preparation for war, he wore in congress his uniform as an officer.

Franklin, who knew with certainty that every method of peaceful entreaty had been exhausted, reproved irresoluteness and delay. “Make yourselves sheep,” he would say, “and the wolves will eat you;” and again, “God helps them who help themselves; “adding, hopefully: “United, we are well able to repel force by force.” Thus “he encouraged the revolution,” yet wishing for independence as the spontaneous action of a united people. The people of the continent, now that independence was become inevitable, still longed that the necessity for it might pass by.

In this state of things Dickinson seconded the motion of Jay for one more petition to the king; but his determination to sustain Massachusetts was never in doubt. He did not ask merely relief from parliamentary taxation; he insisted on

-199-

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