Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department, Volume One
Henry Lee


ALTHOUGH the surrender of Burgoyne, and Howe’s declining to execute his menaced attack upon his adversary at White Marsh, did not convince the British minister of the futility of his attempt to subjugate these states, it produced a change in the temper of the cabinet. An idle and fruitless essay was made to reconcile the revolted colonies: idle, because too late; and fruitless, because founded on the revocation of their independence. Little minds always, in difficulty, resort to cunning, miscalling it wisdom: this quality seems to have been predominant in the cabinet of Great Britain, and was alike conspicuous in its efforts to coerce, and in its proffers to conciliate.

Lord North was their premier and first lord of the treasury. Heavy in mind as in body, dexterous in the management of the house of commons, dead to all those feelings whose infusion, into the mass of the people, gives comfort to the ruled, and strength to the ruler; cherishing with ardor the prerogative of the king, restricting with stubbornness the rights of the people; he seems never to have discerned that the only way to make the monarch great, is to make the subject happy—in finance rather systematic, plodding and adroit, than original, deep and comprehensive—in parliament decent, sensible, and laborious, with some of the glitter of wit, but with none of the effulgence and majesty of eloquence—in private life amiable and exemplary, better qualified for the enjoyments of its tranquil scenes, than to direct, in the storm of war, the helm of a brave, intelligent, powerful nation. The minister, in addition to the difficulties growing out of his own inadequacy, had to contend with obstacles inherent in the nature of the conflict, and powerful in their effect. Slavery, however dressed, is loathsome to the British palate; and the attempt to deprive America of her birthright, never could be cordially relished, although ostensibly supported. This innate abhorrence formed a current against administration, constant though slow, puissant though calm. Nor were statesmen wanting who proclaimed, with resistless force, the danger to British liberty from American slavery. At the head of this patriot band, stood the mighty Chatham. Towering in genius, superb in eloquence, decisive in council, bold in action, loving England first and England always, adored by the mass of the people, and dreaded by the enemies of English liberty, he unceasingly cherished the good old cause, for which Hampden fought, and Sidney bled. The premier, driven from his original purpose, by events resulting from his liberti-cide system, had not that sublimity of mind, which can renounce error with dignity, and turn calamity to account; or he would ere now have closed his vain and wasting war, by the acknowledgment of our independence, restoring and riveting our commercial intercourse.

Despairing of the subjugation of all the states, he determined to apply his disposable force to the reduction of the weakest portion of the Union. With this view sir Henry Clinton, on his return to New York, began to make arrangements for a plan of operation to be executed as soon as the French fleet should quit the American coast.

The count d’Estaing sailed from Boston, for the West Indies, on the 3d of November; soon after which lieutenant colonel Campbell was detached with three thousand men for the reduction of Georgia; orders having been despatched to brigadier general Prevost, commanding the British troops in East Florida, which adjoins the state of Georgia on the southwest, to invade it from that quarter, and to assume the direction of the united detachments.

Return to Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department