The Forgotten Holiday
Take Your Mark, Get Set, Good-bye! The Period Between Yorktown and Evacuation Day, 1783With the beginning of World War I, a New York City holiday that had been celebrated commemorating the last day of the American Revolution was cancelled because, of all things, no one hated the British anymore! Until the bicentennial of the event twenty-five years ago, few remembered the part that early leaders of this new country, some with Masonic ties and some with the age old lament, My brother, uncle, father, father-in-law were Masons, I'm not! played such an important role in this forgotten holiday, the day the British Army left New York and ended foreign occupation in these United States. On November 25, 1783, General of the Army George Washington, Gen. Henry Knox and New York Governor (and General) George Clinton led the American forces into New York City and down Broadway right behind the leaving British Army. That afternoon the Brits took a left turn on Pearl Street, past Fraunces Tavern, boarded ships on the East River and sailed out to sea. This signaled the end of the American Revolution and began the celebration of "Evacuation Day." The holiday was celebrated with parades, speeches and fireworks much in the same way as today's celebration of the Fourth of July.
Take Your Mark....The battle of Yorktown (October 19, 1781) marked the last battle of the American Revolution when Gen. Cornwallis surrendered his entrapped army to General Washington. Sir Henry Clinton, who controlled New York City, could affect nothing but the control of the Hudson River with his small navy. The British had once before almost seized the river as far up as Albany, NY. Should hostilities be resumed, the northern colonies could be separated from the rest - as had been tried in the past. To prevent such a contingency Washington moved the American Army to encamp at New Windsor, a town near Newburgh, NY, on April 1, 1782. The officers and men eagerly awaited news from the peace negotiators in Paris. And then they waited some more.
Newburgh 26th March 1783 My dear Knox: Such as I have, I give unto thee. God grant the news may be true. But whether it is or not, the late conduct of the army will redound to the immortal honor of it. Yrs most sincerely, Go. Washington.The letter is believed to have been written by Washington upon receipt of a letter from Lafayette announcing the signing of the preliminary articles of peace in France. The scriptural reference is from the 3rd Chapter of Acts, verse 6. As Peter was entering the Temple a lame beggar at the door sought alms. Peter said: "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk..." General Washington omitted "silver and gold I do not have," evidently intending the words to be understood by General Knox. The money question in the army had been serious. Washington possibly intended the news of peace to sooth the troubles of the army. 1 Sir Guy Carleton proclaimed the end of hostilities in New York on April 8th. Congress on the 11th signed off and proclaimed the end of the war. Washington delayed telling the troops in Newburgh for a week about the end of the war because he feared that those signed for the duration of the war would all leave in mass. On April 19th Washington ordered the cessation of hostilities to be read at noon at Newburgh and left for Ringwood to meet the Secretary of War for the purpose of making arrangements for release and exchange of prisoners. This was the eighth anniversary of the Battle at Lexington.
Get Set....And what about the problems that existed over a year ago? The Tories are leaving in droves on ships to Canada/Nova Scotia and some going back to England. There are still the prisoners, the sick and wounded and the slave seen as property to be decided. Importantly, there will be a need for government and police protection in New York City once the British leave. But now, finally, somewhere in the not too distant future, the British will be leaving. Now is the time to clear up these sticky issues. might eventually be paid for the slaves who were entitled to their Freedom by British proclamations and promises." Washington appeared startled, and said, "Already embarked?" Sir Guy pointed out that nothing could be changed in any articles that were inconsistent with prior policies or national honor. He added that the only mode was to pay for the Negroes in which case justice was done to all, the slaves and the owners. Sir Guy Carleton stated that it would be a breach of faith not to honor their promise of liberty to the Negro and declared that if removing them proved to be an infraction of the treaty then compensation would have to be paid by the British Government. To provide for such a contingency, he had a register kept of all Negroes who left, entering their name, age, occupation, and name of their former master. This was agreed to by the Americans but, as far as can be determined, no compensation was ever paid. 2 Details were discussed and in the late afternoon, General Washington noted that dinner was approaching and offered wine and bitters. The meeting was over. Sir Guy rose and General Washington asked him to check over the notes of the meeting so that he, Washington, could pass them on correctly to Congress to avoid any misunderstandings. A "plentiful repast" or as another recorded, "a most Sumptuous Dinner" was served under a tent nearby. About thirty officers and guests took part. This dinner was prepared by a friend of Washington's, none other than Samuel Fraunces, a member of Holland Lodge and owner of a tavern in lower New York City at 54 Pearl Street. That evening, Washington sent a letter to Governor of Virginia Benjamin Harrison that told him of the meeting in progress, that Sir Guy was indisposed and has been taken back to New York before the business could be brought to a close and I have discovered enough however, in the course of the conversation which was held, to convince me that the Slaves which have been absconded from their Masters will never be restored to them. Vast numbers of them are already gone to Nova Scotia.3 And to Sir Guy he wrote: ...I cannot however conceal from your Excellency that my private opinion is, that the measure is totally different from the Letter and Spirit of the Treaty. But waving the Discussing of the point, and leaving its decision to our respective Sovereigns I find it my Duty to signify my Readiness, in Conjunction with your Excellency, to enter into any Agreements, or take any Measures which may be deemed expedient to prevent the future Carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American Inhabitants. 4 The next day, May 7th, Captain Lutwyche, of the H.M.S. Perseverance, gave a dinner for General Washington and his staff aboard the ship. Sir Guy was not feeling well, having an "ague" caught before or just after coming aboard the ship and did not attend. Accompanying Washington were Governor Clinton, Mr. Scott, Mr. Duer, Mr. Benson, Colonel Cobb, Colonel Humphreys, Colonel Smith and Mr. John Trumbull, Washington's secretary. The comment of Richard Varick, a former aide to Gen. Arnold, and now a member of Washington's staff, was that While an elegant dinner (tho' not equal to the American) was prepared" not much was accomplished. Both sides had to check with their respective bosses or sovereigns, letters had to be and would be exchanged and both were eager to continue negotiations favorable to their side. Washington wrote in the closing of his expense account, To Expenditures upon an Interview with Sir Guy Carleton at Orange Town, exclusive of what was paid by the Contractors viz: Maj. Blauvelt for the use of his House, furniture etc. 10 guineas a 37/4 5 The Americans were represented by General Washington. His Masonic record is quite well known to all. General Henry Knox is thought to have been a member of the First Lodge of Boston. General Clinton was not a Mason and his Masonic membership is often confused with his nephew George, a member of Warren Lodge No. 17, of Little Britain, NY. Another, nephew, De Witt Clinton, was Grand Master of New York for the longest time and also New York's Governor. Sir Guy Carleton (aka. Lord Dorchester) has a close tie to the Craft. In 1772, Sir Guy married Lady Maria. From 1782 until 1789, Carleton's brother-in-law, Thomas, 3rd Earl of Effingham served as Acting Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. One of the more interesting events in Effingham's tenure as Acting Grand Master was that in 1784 Prince Hall wrote to a Brother Moody in London seeking help in applying for a warrant for Hall's "African Lodge No. 1."6 The Petition was successful and the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) issued a warrant to African Lodge No. 459 on 20 September, 1784. It was the Grand Master's practice to leave the signing of warrants to Effingham – Sir Guy's brother in law - so Effingham's signature appears on that important warrant. 7 General Washington wrote to the President of Congress that, the men engaged to serve three years were formed into regiments and corps in the following manner' namely, the troops of Massachusetts compose four regiments; Connecticut, one regiment; New Hampshire, five companies; Rhode Island, two companies; and New York artillery, two companies. The army being thus reduced to merely a competent garrison for West Point, that being the only object of importance in this quarter, and it being necessary to employ a considerable part of the men in building an arsenal and magazines at that post, agreeably to the directions given by the secretary at war, the troops accordingly broke up the cantonment (at New Windsor) yesterday, and removed to that garrison, where Major-General Knox still retains command. 8 An important letter was written June 11, 1783 to John Hancock from Headquarters at Newburgh. Washington was setting the stage for America's future with this introductory preface:
Sir The great object for which I had the honor to hold an appointment in the Service of my Country being accomplished, I am now preparing to resign it into the hands of Congress, and to return to that domestic retirement, which, it is well known I left with the greatest reluctance; a Retirement for which I have never ceased to sigh through a long and painful absence, and in which (remote from the noise and trouble of the World) I meditate to pass the remainder of life in a state of undisturbed repose. But before I carry this resolution into effect, I think it a duty incumbent on me to make this my last Official communication... There are four things, which I humbly conceive are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States, as an Independent Power — 1st An indissoluble Union of the States under one federal Head. 2dly A sacred regard to public Justice. 3dly The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment, and 4thly The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community. These are the Pillars on which the glorious Fabric of our Independency and National Character must be supported--Liberty is the Basis and whoever should dare to sap the foundation or overturn the Structure, under whatever specious pretexts he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured Country.On July 16, Washington in Newburgh wrote the President of Congress a note. I have resolved to wear away a little time (while expecting the definitive treaty) in performing a tour to the northward, as far as Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and perhaps as far up the Mohawk River as Fort Schuyler. I shall leave this place on Friday next, and shall probably be gone about two weeks. Continued on next page »
Endnotes1 The American Scrap Book: The Golden Harvest of Thought and Achievement, from the NY Times, McKellar & Platts, Inc, 1929, p. 111. 2. Thomas W. Smith "The Slave in Canada," "Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, X. (1896-98), p. 22, n. 1 3. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, Vol. 26, January 1, 1783-June 10, 1783. Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office. 4. Ibid. 5. Washington's Expense Account 6. http://www.fortunecity.com/marina/indiabasin/58/phcharter.htm 7. Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, at http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/carleton_g/guy_carleton.html 8. "Itinerary of General Washington from June 15, 1775 to December 23, 1783," William S. Baker, 1892. Reprinted by Hunterdon House 1970. 9. Johnson Hall, State Historic Site at http://www.oldfortjohnson.org/jhallfolder/jhall.html 10. Leaflets of Masonic biography, or, Sketches of eminent freemasons, Cornelius Mooreat http://worldcat.org/wcpa/oclc/11083836 11. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge Collection at http://220.127.116.11:81/index.php 12. MQ Magazine, October 2007 issue 23 at http://www.mqmagazine.co.uk/site/index.php 13. "Historical Sketches of Hudson embracing the Settlement of the City, etc", Stephen P. Miller, Bryan and Webb Printers, Hudson, NY, 1862, p. 85. 14. George Washington in New York: Allan Boudreau and Alexander Bleimann: 1987. pgs. 66 – 70. 15. Cooperstown New York: America's Village at http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/news/download/americas_village.PDF 16. Rockingham State Historic Site, Kingston, New Jersey at http://www.rockingham.net/history.html 17. The Men of the Commander-in-Chief Guards Captain Bezaleel Howe, Donald N. Moran at http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/howebezaleel.html 18. Magazine of American History, v.109. 19. Itinerary Of General Washington June 15, 1775 to December 23, 1783, William Spohn Baker, >Lambertville, N. J., Hunterdon House 1970, c1892, p. 310-311. 20 Van Cortland House Museum at http://www.vancortlandthouse.org/history 21. Itinerary of Washington, p. 312. 22. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Evacuation of New York By the British, 1783. November 1883, p. 914. 23. Ibid., p. 919. 24. The Right Honorable William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, was a favorite of the Americans and in public testimony to his memory especially that of repealing the Stamp Act, in 1770, a marble statue was shipped to America and displayed. After the Americans broke up George III's statue with axes, and when the British took control of NYC they knocked Pitt's statue down breaking off the head. For years the broken statue remained in the area as witness to the destruction of NYC.
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