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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

On the summons of the Virginia Convention

[Illustration: Destruction of the Tea----378]

The catastrophe was becoming imminent. Already a riot at Boston had led to throwing into the sea a cargo of tea which had arrived on board two English vessels, and which the governor had refused to send away at once as the populace desired; already, on the summons of the Virginia Convention, a general Congress of all the provinces had met at Philadelphia; at the head of the legal resistance as well as of the later rebellion in arms marched the Puritans of New England and the sons of the Cavaliers settled in Virginia; the opposition, tumultuous and popular in the North, parliamentary and political in the South, was everywhere animated by the same spirit and the same zeal. "I do not pretend to indicate precisely what line must be drawn between Great Britain and the colonies," wrote Washington to one of his friends, "but it is most decidedly my opinion that one must be drawn, and our rights definitively secured." He had but lately said: "Nobody ought to hesitate a moment to employ arms in defence of interests so precious, so sacred, but arms ought to be our last resource."

The day had come when this was the only resource henceforth remaining to the Americans. Stubborn and irritated, George III. and his government heaped vexatious measures one upon another, feeling sure of crushing down the resistance of the colonists by the ruin of their commerce as well as of their liberties. "We must fight," exclaimed Patrick Henry at the Virginia Convention, "I repeat it, we must fight; an appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts, that is all we have left." Armed resistance was already being organized, in the teeth of many obstacles and notwithstanding active or tacit opposition on the part of a considerable portion of the people.

It was time to act. On the 18th of April, 1775, at night, a picked body of the English garrison of Boston left the town by order of General Gage, governor of Massachusetts. The soldiers were as yet in ignorance of their destination, but the American patriots had divined it. The governor had ordered the gates to be closed; some of the inhabitants, however, having found means of escaping, had spread the alarm in the country; already men were repairing in silence to posts assigned in anticipation. When the king's troops, on approaching Lexington, expected to lay hands upon two of the principal movers, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, they came into collision, in the night, with a corps of militia blocking the way. The Americans taking no notice of the order given them to retire, the English troops, at the instigation of their officers, fired; a few men fell; war was begun between England and America. That very evening, Colonel Smith, whilst proceeding to seize the ammunition depot at Concord, found himself successively attacked by detachments hastily formed in all the villages; he fell back in disorder beneath the guns of Boston.

Some few days later the town was besieged by an American army, and the Congress, meeting at Philadelphia, appointed Washington "to be general- in-chief of all the forces of the united colonies, of all that had been or should be levied, and of all others that should voluntarily offer their services or join the said army to defend American liberty and to repulse every attack directed against it."

George Washington was born on the 22d of February,

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