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WHATEVER relates to the birth of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation, must, necessarily, form an important era in the history of the world that we inhabit. Abortive attempts by nations to relieve themselves from the chains of oppression, are always denominated treason against the rulers of the day, and the records of criminal jurisprudence constitute, perhaps, their only memorial: so true is the remark of Dr. Priestly, that every unsuccessful revolt is called a rebellion, and every successful struggle a Revolution. Wallace died upon the scaffold, while Washington was triumphant.
Those who performed a conspicuous part in the early stages of our Revolution, not being recognized by their enemies as the agents of an independent power, were stigmatized as rebels, denounced as traitors, and interdicted from the common rights of humanity exercised by all belligerent nations, and which may now be said, even in times of hostility, to constitute a part of national law. The word rebel was, during our
revolutionary struggle, a sanction to any enormity that our enemies were capable of inflicting. It is now said, and there is indeed a precedent that gives a colourable pretext for such an assertion, that all resistance to established authority becomes, ipso facto, criminal; and while the true friend of liberty deplores the enormities, the pander of arbitrary power rejoices in the history, of the French revolution. It furnishes the latter with a pretext to prove his favourite position, that no nation is to be entrusted with the government of itself: it serves to consecrate any tyranny on the part of the rulers, and any state of servile acquiescence on the part of the people. To this example, however, the former may proudly oppose the history of the American revolution; it was a revolution in favour of a free government; it was a revolution in favour of that law, that had been handed down to us as an invaluable legacy by our ancestors; it was a revolution that preserved to the Colonies, under another name, the rights secured by Magna Charta. Astonishing as the fact may appear, it is nevertheless true, that so little did the Americans contend for, beyond what was secured to them in the grant of their royal charter, that some of them have preserved those very charters to the present day, notwithstanding they have renounced the authority of the Monarch by whom they were granted. Others have, in the constitutions that have been subsequently framed under the name of the people, recognized and adopted all those rights guaranteed by the royal charters ; and even at the present day, the constitution of the
United States, and the constitutions of the several States, have only given to those chartered rights a new name. The People now speak in their collective majesty, where a Monarch, in his individual majesty, formerly spoke; and the lips of both utter precisely the same sentiments—so false was the opinion prevalent in the day of our revolution, that our ancestors were rebels.
In the prosecution of the present work, it is deemed proper to state, that the facts have been drawn from what is honestly believed to be the most unquestionable sources : from a painful and accurate examination and comparison of the various histories of that important event; from the correspondence of those who were the immediate parties in a struggle so glorious to our country; from official documents, from the archives of our Continental Congress, and those of the different Legislatures; and from the orderly books, that may properly be denominated the journals of the army. Much, perhaps, remains to be known, that may yet be preserved to posterity, if the private correspondence of those who were the immediate actors in this important drama, has yet survived the dilapidations of time and of accident; but much is irrevocably covered by the ashes of the grave.
It may be proper here to mention, that the author. in recording the events of our Revolution, is largely indebted to the voluntary services of two of his literary friends, without whose kind assistance it is probable that he should have never been able to have complied with his obligations to the publick : an assistance, so