South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXI
GEORGIA AND SOUTH CAROLINA CONQUERED, 1778-1780

The French Alliance and British Conciliation. --Before the events just related had ended, important military and political developments had occurred at the North. Sir Henry Clinton and Commodore Sir Peter Parker, abandoning attempts to conquer South Carolina, had had better success in New York, where they co-operated under General Howe and Admiral Lord Howe in taking the city in September, 1776. Washington's gloomy experience of defeat was relieved by his brilliant capture of the thousand Hessians at Trenton on December 26, 1776, and his victory at Princeton eight days later. The long monotony of defeat was interrupted on October 17, 1777, by the capture of Burgoyne's army. Its vast significance was appreciated by both France and England. The former ended her secret aid and on February 6, 1778, signed a treaty pledging her and the United States to make no peace save a joint treaty acknowledging American independence. Parliament, anticipating this, enacted the three conciliatory acts of March 11, 1778, abandoning every practice that had driven the colonies to rebellion.

British hopes of reconciliation were not unreasonable. We may estimate that about a third of the Americans cared enough for the Revolution to sacrifice something for it. Probably about as many preferred to remain in the British Empire. About a third were unwilling to sacrifice anything one way or the other. The suffering at Valley Forge was due, not to the poverty, but to the indifference, of the country. While Washington's soldiers endured cold and hunger, Pennsylvania and New Jersey farmers exchanged their abundant supplies for the metal money of the British in Philadelphia. It was thus in America's darkest hour that Britain offered conciliation. But conciliation came too late. On April 22, ten days before news of the French alliance, Congress, hearing of the British acts, unanimously agreed to hold no conference unless the British should first "withdraw their fleets and armies, or else, in positive and express terms, acknowledge the independence of the said States." Nevertheless one commissioner addressed letters to influential public men, holding out to some of them hopes of great rewards for effecting a reconciliation.

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