I enjoy digging through historical documents immensely. It’s like diving for sunken treasure. Little bits of gold in the form of eye-witness accounts, pictures, signs of the times. Today, Memorial Day 2011, I found a report from America in the 18th century. It gives a picture of a young America still at war, still uncertain, but still fighting to completely claim its independence. It talks about international affairs and prisoners of war and debt and world conflicts. But our country kept pressing forward to victory. I italicized a passage toward the end that stood out to me. But everything else is exactly how it was typed, including spacing and spelling. (I included two links for you at the bottom of this page, in case you’d like to read other reports. It includes news of the times … good and bad… But to block out history means you have no knowledge to move forward with — and help change circumstances for the better. So, if you’re interested, read it for yourself when you have time.) Here’s one news piece, sent from Boston to Virginia, that you would’ve read had you lived back then (and, unlike today, you would’ve gotten your news a little late):
“Boston, May 2.
Extract of a letter from a gentleman of undoubted credit at Bourdeaux, dated February 21, 1777.
The Hon. Arthur Lee, esq; passed through this place two days ago, in his way to Madrid, where he is to represent the Congress. I had the honour of dining with him in company, and breakfasting at his lodgings with him alone. He says they have very good assurance that the whole force going to America will consist of 10,000 men, and about 10 of war, to be commanded by general Burgoyne, and to go directly to Boston, and make a violent effort for a lodgment in that part of the country. General Clinton to assist him, by a feigned attempt to penetrate through the country.
By the last and most authentic intelligence from France and England, we learn that there is not relaxation of warlike preparations in England, and yet the ministry have so contrived that few people believe there will be a war in Europe. This is done to aid the subscriptions to the load of six millions, which otherwise will be obtained at a loan of 10 or 12 per cent. Transports are getting ready to bring out the additional British and German troops, and it was intended they should all fail by the beginning of March. Administration intended the campaign should be opened very early in the spring, and the operations directed wholly, and on all sides, against New England; they expected, by early and vigorous exertions, to crush the northern colonies before they could be assisted from the southward, and before any foreign relief could be given, and thus end the war. That it was difficult to determine what was intended by their great and hasty armament. They appeared something more than a mere scarecrow, and improbable as it might appear on some accounts yet there was some reason to suppose that when the loan was completed, and the American war ended, they would hold a high language to France, and possibly turn their arms against her, and with the forces here attack St. Domingo. That the plan of operations was, for Howe and his recruited army to attack New England, while Carleton should make his way over the lakes; and Burgoyne, with 10,000 men from England, to make a diversion to the southward, and probably attack Virginia and Maryland. That it was pretended 10,000 Germans were actually engaged, though these were good assurances that it was with the greatest difficulty that they could procure the recruits necessary to keep up the number formerly stipulated. That it was believed the forces of their different armaments would fall greatly short of what they intended. That we should however be prepared for their plan, but that it was almost certain the three attacks would be made, and infallible that their utmost efforts would be exerted this campaign, because nothing was more certain than that the present state of Europe forbade every expectation of their being long unemployed nearer home, and that it was certain, if they did not succeed against us this year, there was an end of their prospects of ravage and revenge. That they had put everything at hazard: England, Ireland, and Hanover, were left almost defenseless by their efforts against us. That the troops to be sent here, both English and Germans, were new raised and totally undisciplined, and therefore should not bring with them the terror of disciplined troops. That the kind of Britain endeavored, in vain, to get troops in Germany to supply the place in Hanover of those which he sent to garrison Gibraltar. That all things concurred to show that they were pressed on every side to make this last effort against our liberties; which it was hoped, by our friends, would be met here by proportionable exertions on our part, and under the providence of Heaven defeated. That the press continued very violent, but not equally productive of men; and the great preparations in France and Spain seemed to render the continuance of peace many months impossible. That government had determined to send out a number of armed cutters to take our small cruisers, from which their West India trade suffered so much last year, and that their merchantmen would be armed as in time of war; and that, by some late intelligence, a bill was passing for granting letters of marquee against us. Also, that the British government had been barbarous enough to offer the prisoners taken at Long Island and to the East India company, to be transported to their settlements; and this proposition was on record in the company’s books, and a general court had been held upon it.
We hear that fresh disputes have arisen between Russia and the Turks, which threaten another rupture between those two powers – The merchants of Britain, in a memorial laid before lord Sandwich, reckon their losses by the captures our privateers have made on their West India trade to be 1 860,000l. Ensurance had risen to 28 per cent, and many bankrupcies had taken place.”
Virginia Gazette, Purdie, May 30, 1777, page 2
Williamsburg: Printed by Alexander Purdie, at the Constitutional Post-Office.