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    But for Newcastle to form a Cabinet was no such easy matter. Pitt refused to take office with him unless he had the whole management of the war and foreign affairs. The king then agreed to send for Henry Fox, who accepted the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer; but Newcastle was so sensible of Fox's unpopularity that he was terrified at undertaking an Administration with Fox and without Pitt, though he was equally reluctant to let a Cabinet be formed without the former. For three months the fruitless endeavours to accomplish a Ministry went on, Parliament sitting all the time, and a great war commencing. Finally, the king and Newcastle were compelled to submit to the terms of "the Great Commoner," as they called Pitt, who became Secretary of State, with the management of the war and foreign affairs. Newcastle became again First Lord of the Treasury, but without one of his old supporters, and Legge Chancellor of the Exchequer; Holderness, a mere cipher, was the other Secretary of State; Anson was placed at the head of the Admiralty; Lord Temple was made Lord Privy Seal; and Pratt, an able lawyer and friend of Pitt, Attorney-General. Fox condescended to take the office of Paymaster of the Forces; and thus, after a long and severe struggle, the feeble aristocrats, who had so long managed and disgraced the country, were compelled to admit fresh blood into the Government in the person of Pitt. But they still entertained the idea that they only were the men, and that wisdom would die with them. One and all, even the otherwise sagacious Chesterfield, prognosticated only dishonour and ruin for such a plebeian appointment. "We are no longer a nation," said Chesterfield; "I never yet saw so dreadful a prospect."
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    But whilst England had been thus preparing for the augmentation of the navy, America had been aiming a blow at the efficiency of that navy, which must for years, if successful, have prostrated our whole maritime forces, and exposed our shores to the easiest invasion. This intended blow was nothing less than the destruction of our great naval dockyards and arsenals, and military storehouses, at Portsmouth and Plymouth. The chief agent in this infamous design, if the evidence of a miscreant can be believed, was Silas Deane. On the 7th of December the rope-house of the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth was found to be on fire. By active exertions it was got under, after it had destroyed that building, and was imagined to be an accident. But on the 15th of January, 1777, one of the officers of the dockyard found a machine and combustibles concealed in the hemp in the hemp-house of the same dockyard. Suspicion now fell on a moody, silent artisan, who, on the day of the fire, had been looking about the dockyard, and who, by some chance, had got locked up in the rope-house the night before. His name was not known, but the[234] fact only that he was a painter, and had been called John the Painter. Government immediately offered a reward of fifty pounds for his apprehension; the same sum, with a strange simplicity, being offered to him if he would surrender himself for examination. Nothing, however, could be learned of him in Portsmouth or the country round; but fresh fires were now breaking out at Plymouth Dockyard and on the quays of Bristol. At Plymouth the fire was instantly checked, and the perpetrator was nearly seized. At Bristol the fire was laid near a narrow, deep creek, crowded with shipping, which was nearly dry at low water, so that it was impossible to get the shipping out. Six or seven warehouses were destroyed, but the shipping escaped. In another house at Bristol combustibles were discovered, and the alarm became general that the American incendiaries, having failed to burn New York, were come to England to burn our dockyards and maritime houses. Fortunately, in the beginning of February, a man was apprehended for the perpetration of a burglary at Odiham, in Hampshire; and, by the activity of Sir John Fielding, the London magistrate, he was identified as John the Painter. When brought before Sir John and other magistrates in town, the man conducted himself with tact and address. Though closely examined and cross-questioned by some of the members of the Privy Council, by Lords of the Admiralty, and other officers of the board, he maintained the scrutiny without betraying any embarrassment, or letting anything escape him that could in any degree incriminate him. A confession was, however, wormed out of him by another painter, named Baldwin. Silas Deane, John the Painter declared, according to Baldwin's evidence, had encouraged him to set fire to the dockyards of Plymouth and Portsmouth, Woolwich and Chatham, as the most effectual means of disabling Great Britain; that he gave him bills to the amount of three hundred pounds on a merchant in London, and promised to reward him according to the amount of service he should do to the American cause. Before his execution he freely admitted the truth of the charges against him. He confessed to having twice attempted to fire the dockyard at Plymouth, and to burning the warehouses at Bristol, having in vain endeavoured to deposit his combustibles on board the ships. He, moreover, stated that he had a recommendation from Silas Deane to Dr. Bancroft, in London, to whom he had declared that he would do all the harm he could to England; that the doctor did not approve of his conduct, but had, at his request, promised not to betray him.
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    Lord Howe arrived from England, and cast anchor off Sandy Hook, a few hours after the Declaration of Independence had been read to the army by Washington. He had been expected by his brother, General Howe, who had arrived at the same point on the 29th of June, supposing he should find the admiral there. General Howe found Washington already in New York, and actively engaged in throwing up entrenchments, both there and on Long Island, to close the Hudson against the British fleet. Washington's headquarters were at New York; those of General Sullivan, at the western extremity of Long Island, opposite to New York; and Governor's Island, Paulus Hook, New Rochelle, and other points, were strongly defended to protect the rear of the city. At the time of Admiral Howe's arrival, the army of Washington did not amount to more than seventeen thousand men, of whom three[228] thousand were sick, and but about ten thousand men fit for duty. From his letters to Congress, it is clear that he entertained very little hope of maintaining his ground in case of attack, for the fresh forces brought by Howe from England, being joined by the shattered remains of Sir Peter Parker's squadron, amounted to twenty thousand men. A few days afterwards, however, he was joined by two regiments from Philadelphia, and by large bodies of New York and New England Militia, raising his army to twenty-seven thousand men, but of these a large number were sick. He now posted strong reinforcements in Brooklyn. On this General Howe quitted Sandy Hook, and advanced to Staten Island, where he could watch the operations of the enemy. The Americans abandoned Staten Island, on his approach, without firing a gun.

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