JEDBURGH ABBEY. (After the Painting by Sir George Reid, P.R.S.A.) D'Estaing, who expected to have taken the place with little trouble, greatly alarmed lest the English should seize most of the French West Indian islands in his absence, urged an assault contrary to the wishes of Lincoln, and this was made on the 9th of October. The forces, five thousand eight hundred in number, were led on in two columns, but they were received by such a raking fire from walls and redoubts, and from the brig flanking the right of the British lines, that they were thrown back in confusion; and before D'Estaing and Lincoln could restore order, Colonel Maitland made a general sortie with fixed bayonets, and the whole attacking force fled in utter rout. D'Estaing would now remain no longer, but re-embarked his forces, and sailed away, to the unspeakable chagrin of the Americans, who retreated in all haste, the greater part of the militia breaking up and returning home.
Notwithstanding the real outbreak of the war, Congress yet professed to entertain hopes of ultimate reconciliation. When the reinforcements had arrived from England, and it was supposed that part of them were destined for New York, it issued orders that, so long as the forces remained quiet in their barracks, they should not be molested; but if they attempted to raise fortifications, or to cut off the town from the country, they should be stoutly opposed. When the news of the surprise of the forts on the Lake Champlain arrived, Congress endeavoured to excuse so direct a breach of the peace by feigning a belief in a design of an invasion of the colonies from Canada, of which there was notoriously no intention, and they gave orders that an exact inventory of the cannon and military stores there captured should be made, in order to their restoration, "when the former harmony between Great Britain and her colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, should render it consistent with the overruling law of self-preservation." After the battle of Bunker's Hill, Congress still maintained this tone. On the 8th of July they signed a petition to the king, drawn up by John Dickinson, in the mildest terms, who, when to his own surprise the petition was adopted by the Congress, rose, and said that there was not a word in the whole petition that he did not approve of, except the word "Congress." This, however, was far from the feeling of many members; and Benjamin Harrison immediately rose and declared that there was but one word in the whole petition that he did approve of, and that was the word "Congress." The petition to the king expressed an earnest desire for a speedy and permanent reconciliation, declaring that, notwithstanding their sufferings, they retained in their hearts "too tender a regard for the kingdom from which they derived their origin to request such a reconciliation as might be inconsistent with her dignity or welfare." At the same time, they resolved that this appeal, which they called "The Olive Branch," should, if unsuccessful, be their last. They could hardly have expected it to be successful. ARREST OF SIR FRANCIS BURDETT. (See p. 597.)
Nothing could exceed the consternation and indignation of the Spanish people when they found their great strongholds guarding the entrances from France into the country thus in the hands of the French. Had there been a king of any ability in Spain, an appeal to the nation would, on this outrage, have roused it to a man, and the plans of Buonaparte might have been defeated. But Godoy, knowing himself to be the object of national detestation, and dreading nothing so much as a rising of the people, by whom he would most certainly be sacrificed, advised the royal family to follow the example of the Court of Portugal, and escape to their trans-Atlantic dominions; which advice could only have been given by a miscreant, and adopted by an idiot. To surrender a kingdom and a people like those of Spain, without a blow, was the extreme of cowardice. But, as if to urge the feeble king to this issue, at this moment came a letter from Buonaparte, upbraiding him with having received his acceptance of the match between their houses coldly. Charles, terrified in the extreme, wrote to declare that nothing lay so near his heart, and at the same time made preparations to be gone. The intention was kept as secret as possible, but the public soon became aware of the Court's proposed removal from Madrid to Cadiz, in order then to be able to embark for America. The Prince of Asturias and his brother protested against the project; the Council of Castile remonstrated; the populace were in a most tumultuous state, regarding the plan as originating with Godoy, and surrounded the palace with cries and gestures of dissatisfaction. The king was in a continual state of terror and irresolution, but Godoy pressed on matters for the flight.