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Officers and men were in high spirits,
for they knew they were on the eve of great events. The citizens of
Philadelphia shared the feeling, and cheered the men as they marched
through the streets. On the way southward Washington made a hurried
visit to Mount Vernon, which he had not seen since the opening of the
war.

Aware of the grave danger threatening Cornwallis, a British fleet made
an effort to relieve him, but the more powerful French fleet easily beat
it off. The allied armies boarded the waiting ships at Elkton, and,
sailing down the Chesapeake to James River, joined Lafayette's force in
front of Yorktown.

[Illustration: THE SURRENDER AT YORKTOWN]

The historical siege of Yorktown opened September 30, 1781. The French
and American armies were ranged in a half-circle in front of Yorktown.
Cornwallis was indignant at the apparent desertion by Clinton, and wrote
to him in the middle of September: "This place is in no state of
defense. If you cannot relieve me very soon, you must expect to hear the
worst." Word came from Clinton that a fleet of twenty-three ships and
more than 5,000 troops would sail to his relief about the 5th of
October.

The French soldiers in their gay uniforms and the Continentals in their
rags maintained an ardent but friendly rivalry in pressing the siege.
Washington aimed and applied the match to the first gun that was fired
into Yorktown. Governor Nelson, being asked to direct the bombardment,
selected the house which he believed to be the headquarters of
Cornwallis, and calmly saw it battered to ruins. It was his own home.

The condition of the defenders hourly grew worse. The lack of forage
compelled them to kill most of their horses, whose bodies drifted down
the river. As is generally the case at such times, sickness broke out
among the British troops, and 2,000 of the 7,000 were in the hospital.
The allies steadily worked their way forward by means of parallels, and
finally the guns along the entire front of Cornwallis were dismounted
and his shells expended.

His situation had become so desperate that no one could have condemned
him for surrendering, but, before doing so, he resolved to make a
determined effort to extricate himself from the trap in which he was
caught. His plan was to abandon his sick, baggage, and all incumbrances,
cross the river in the darkness to Gloucester, attack and scatter the
French force stationed there, and then hasten northward through
Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York.

This attempt would have been made, but, after a part of the army had
crossed, a violent storm scattered the boats and compelled their return.
The result quenched the last spark of hope in the breast of Cornwallis.
He opened negotiations with Washington, and the terms of surrender were
signed October 18th.


THE SURRENDER.

At two o'clock the next afternoon, the British troops marched slowly out
of Yorktown, drums beating, muskets shouldered, and colors cased. The
American line was drawn up on the right of the road and the French on
the left, its extent being fully a mile. Washington allowed no idle
spectators present, and repressed every sign of exultation on the part
of the captors.

General O'Hara, riding at the head of the troops, saluted when he came
opposite Washington, and apologized for the absence of Cornwallis, who
was suffering from illness. When O'Hara's sword was offered to
Washington, he replied that General Lincoln had been designated to
receive it. There was poetical justice in this, since it was Lincoln who
had been obliged to surrender Charleston to Clinton the previous year.

The prisoners numbered 7,247 English and Hessian soldiers and 840
sailors. Seventy-five brass and thirty-one iron guns were also secured,
including the accoutrements of the army. Clinton with the promised
relief arrived off the Chesapeake on the 24th, and learned to his
consternation that every British soldier in Virginia was a prisoner of
war. With indescribable sadness he sailed back to New York, feeling, as
did everyone else, that English rule in America was ended and American
independence won.

Washington dispatched a courier with the glorious news to Philadelphia.
Riding at headlong speed and changing his horse frequently, he reached
the national capital on the evening of the 23d. In those days the city
was provided with watchmen, who made the tour of the streets crying the
hour. That night the cry rang out--

"PAST TWO O'CLOCK AND CORNWALLIS IS TAKEN."

Windows flew up, lights twinkled from every house, men rushed out
half-clothed, cheering, flinging their hats in air and embracing one
another in their joy. All the bells were set ringing, and the whole city
gave itself over to rejoicing. It was stirred to its profoundest depths
by the thrilling tidings, for even the dullest knew it meant the
independence for which the patriots had struggled throughout more than
six suffering years.

Congress assembled at an early hour and marched to the Dutch Lutheran
Church, where all united in giving thanks to God for His great mercy and
blessing. The aged doorkeeper of Congress was so overcome with joy that
he dropped dead. Washington directed that divine service be held at the
heads of the regiments, in gratitude for the "particular interposition
of Providence in their behalf."


THE NEWS IN ENGLAND.

It would be difficult to describe the dismay caused in England when the
news crossed the ocean. Lord North strode up and down his room, flinging
his arms above his head and moaning, "My God! it is all over!" While
others were equally stricken by the tidings, America had many friends in
that country who had opposed from the beginning the attempt to subjugate
the colonies. Even those who voted for the war measures were now loud in
insisting that no more blood and treasure should be wasted in continuing
hostilities. They demanded the removal of the ministers who advised the
contrary, and the House of Commons declared by vote that anyone who
favored the continuance of the war was a public enemy.

While the surrender at Yorktown virtually ended the struggle, Washington
was too wise to disband the army. No more battles took place, but the
country remained in an unsettled condition for a long time, and the
embers of hate often broke into flame. It is claimed that the last blood
shed in the Revolution was that of Captain Wilmot, shot in a skirmish in
September, 1782, at Stone Ferry.


TREATY OF PEACE AND ITS TERMS.

It had been agreed by both parties that hostilities should stop, and
commissioners were appointed to arrange the terms of peace. The
preliminary articles were signed at Versailles, November 30, 1782, but
the final treaty was not executed until September 3d of the following
year. On April 19, 1783, the eighth anniversary of Lexington, Washington
at the headquarters of the army officially declared the war at an end.

By the final treaty, England acknowledged the United States to be free
and independent, with Canada as a boundary on the north, the Mississippi
River on the west, and Florida, extending westward to the Mississippi,
on the south. Spain, which still owned Louisiana west of the
Mississippi, now received Florida from Great Britain.

The American army was disbanded, and officers and men went to their
homes dissatisfied because they had not been paid for years. Washington
presented himself before Congress at Annapolis and resigned his
commission. The British evacuated Savannah in July, 1782, Charleston in
December, and New York City, their last post, November 25, 1783. The
forts north of the Ohio, however, were held by English garrisons for
about twelve years longer.

[Illustration: UNITED STATES CAPITOL, WASHINGTON.]




CHAPTER VII.

ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED STATES.

The Method of Government During the Revolution--Impending Anarchy--The
State Boundaries--State Cessions of Land--Shays' Rebellion--Adoption of
the Constitution--Its Leading Features--The Ordinance of 1787--Formation
of Parties--Election of the First President and Vice-President.


War is not only a blight to mankind, but it inflicts wounds that can
never heal and brings a train of woe and suffering which lasts for
years. The social system is disorganized, industry checked, resources
exhausted, and a debt entailed whose burden is felt for generations. The
United States had won the priceless boon of independence, but the States
were exhausted and in the lowest depths of poverty. They were like those
who, having lost everything, are compelled to begin life anew.

[Illustration: A PLANTATION GATEWAY.

(Entrance to the Estate of William Byrd, at Westover, Va.)]


WEAKNESS OF THE GOVERNMENT.

While the war was under way, the States were held together by the one
common danger, and the Continental Congress managed the affairs of the
Union, but the body was without any authority to govern, and whatever it
did in that direction was only what the people permitted. The State
governments were tangible, for State constitutions had been formed and
the Legislatures received direct authority from the people. When they
chose to disobey Congress they did so, and no penalty could be visited
upon them. As the end of the war approached, the authority of the
respective States increased and that of Congress dwindled until it was
but a mere name and shadow.

The Articles of Confederation were agreed upon by Congress in 1777. They
defined the respective powers of Congress and were not to go into effect
until a majority of the States should agree to them. Within the
following two years all yielded their assent except Maryland, which did
so March 1, 1781.


DISPUTE OVER STATE BOUNDARIES.

The cause of this prolonged delay was the dispute over western
territory. Few persons suspect the extent of the wrangling over the
respective boundaries of the States. When the charters were granted by
England, the western boundaries of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland were defined, and
consequently they could not ask for an extension of them. New York
insisted that she had no western boundary.



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