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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: The Home Front
"Exhortations to Renewed Vigor," 1780-1781

By mid-1780, General Washington had come to view 1781 as the critical year in the war. He believed that if the United States did not defeat the British in 1781, all might be lost. His greatest concern was the declining morale of the citizenry and increasing dissension among the populace. He was not alone in these beliefs. Leaders in both Pennsylvania and Connecticut, for example, issued broadsides designed to "exhort the populace to renewed vigor." What were the messages conveyed by the two broadsides below? What problems do the two broadsides address?

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An Address . . . to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, August 7, 1780

Friends and Countrymen! . . .

To men who in the cool moment of temperate deliberation pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honours, and who, appealing to heaven for the justice of their cause, the rectitude of their intentions, and the firmness of their resolutions, drew the sword in defence of their liberties, every attempt to animate to action may be deemed unnecessary. But as no other period of the contest has furnished such cogent reasons for vigour and activity, nor could any combination of circumstances exhibit a more glorious prospect, we have been induced to address you on this interesting occasion.

Our enemies having long since relinqished the idea of conquest by arms, have converted a war of manly offence into one of mean distress and pitiful depredation, hoping to weary us out; and by that wicked industry for which fraud and art are often conspicuous, sow dissensions, and thereby encourage that momentary supineness, to which they owe the few successes they have to boast. It is their last resource; and perhaps the only instance in which their pride and ignorance have yielded to motives of discretion. . . .

We entreat you to repress the spirit of discontent, and uncharitableness towards our rulers, or each other; ever remembering that our great strength lies in union, and that a state of war is always attended with many unavoidable calamities and distresses. You will also remember, how difficult it is for those entrusted with the conduct of affairs, to regulate to advantage our internal police, or call to account the public defaulters, while their whole time is employed in furnishing the means of resisting the attacks, or stopping the progress of the common enemy. In vain shall we bewail the distresses of the times, and the laying waste our country; unjustly shall we arraign the conduct of our rulers, if we do not step forward with the most determined activity, to support the present exertions of authority, crush the murmurs of obstinacy and discontent, and oblige every man, and even disaffection itself, to contribute to the immediate relief of America. Placed at the head of government, and entrusted with the power of enforcing every salutary measure, we wish to be indebted to your feelings as patriots, rather than to any possible exertion of authority. We call upon you, therefore, by every consideration which can animate men, enliven hope, or invigorate resolution, not to suffer the curse of another campaign to rest on America, so far as depends on you. The forces of our ally have crossed the ocean, and already taken the field in our favour, determining to share with us the danger and glory of terminating the war. The eyes of all Europe are upon us. The devastation of our frontiers, the cries of women and children flying in distress before inhuman savages, and unoffending infants butchered in the presence of their captured parents, point to the field. The ghosts of our fellow-citizens suffocated in prison ships, and starved in the goal of New-York, demand vengeance on the enemy; and Providence seems to declare its purpose, that where the crimes were committed, there the criminals should suffer, and appointed us to the honourable service.--Rouse, then, Friends and Fellow Citizens, at the call of your country! Set one more example worthy of Pennsylvania to your sister states. View that Liberty, that darling Liberty, for which you so chearfully flew to arms. Behold that peace, safety, and independence you have so long sighed for. All are within your grasp, and will be the reward of your vigorous exertions. Furnish in time the supplies to the army; follow with alacrity your commanding officer to the field, partake with him and your brethren in the neighbouring States, in the glory of finishing the contest; and hasten the happy hour when agriculture shall flourish, commerce revive, peace be in your borders, and plenty in all your dwellings.

JOSEPH REED, President.

A Declaration by Jonathan Trumbull, March 8, 1781

This Declaration [of Independence] hath been fully recognized and confirmed by the several States in the union--and a firm and perpetual confederation, is finally fully compleated, ratified and established. And by virtue thereof, all overtures and propositions for peace are now to be made to the United States in Congress assembled, they having the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, of sending and receiving ambassadors, and of entering into treaties, alliances, &c. And in pursuance of those powers, the Congress of these United States, ever willing and desirous of bringing this bloody and cruel war, to a speedy and happy close, upon just, reasonable, safe and equitable terms, have in fact sent, and still have an able ambassador, residing in Europe, fully instructed and empowered, to receive, treat with, conclude and ratify, any reasonable propositions that Great-Britain shall propose or make for an accommodation; all which, that court is fully apprized of, and if really inclined to a pacification or negociation with these States, the proper door is open for that purpose; All declarations therefore, made by Commissioners from the King of Great-Britain, through a different channel, to the inhabitants of seperate States, or to any associations of men therein, offering pardon for all past treasons, &c. are insidious and futile. None are guilty of treason, nor are any inhabitants in these States, on the continent of North-America, now in rebellion, nor ever have been in rebellion against the King of Great-Britain. Rebels are those who endeavour the destruction of the constitution of government, established for the preservation of peace and good order among a people--Who endeavour to subvert and destroy the liberties and privileges of a people, in order to subject them to an arbitrary and despotic government. Who they are that have done this evil is easy to determine, when the conduct and doings of the British King, his ministers and parliament, is considered. An injurious war is continued and protracted, with unrelenting perseverance, rage and cruelty. Every insiduous art and design that our enemies can devise, is practiced to injure us, by bribery, corruption, sending in counterfeited bills of credit among us, introducing and carrying on illicit trade, with ministerial goods imported and sent among us for that purpose, in order to cherish covetousness, luxury and pride; to alienate and corrupt the minds of the people, and to enervate the sinews of defence, and to divide and conquer us; and to set those who call themselves loyalists, to combine with internal traitors and villains, under a board of directors of associated loyalists to ravage plunder and distress these States; these are the most attrocious rebels and paracides, and ought to be treated accordingly.

Is it not surprising, that any persons pretending to be commissioners from the King of Britain, for restoring peace and granting pardons, &c. should imagine that the people who have so repeatedly seen their citizens slaughtered, their towns and settlements lacked, plundered and laid in Ashes, their wives and daughters treated in a manner that would make a savage blush, should yet, nevertheless, after these things, and after suffering a vast variety of other injuries, predicted upon them with peculiar circumstances of cruelty, barbarity and revenge, be brought so much as to listen, much less to place any confidence in those who have thus treated them? And who have ever uniformly shewn by their conduct to the people of these States, whenever they have had it in their power, that they paid no regard to the most solemn treaties and engagements--witness their conduct to the people of Boston and their capitulation at Charlestown; but have acted in direct violation thereof. The burdens of the war are great and heavy; but when compared with those invaluable liberties and privileges which we are contending for, they ought to be deemed but light. The contest is for every liberty, both civil and sacred that ought to be dear to a people: And shall it be said that America, after such noble exertions, in a cause to just and glorious, which has not only drawn the favorable attention and admiration of all the world upon us, but has gained us a most generous and powerful ally; and while almost all the powers of Europe seem to be arming in our favour, to bring down the haughty pride of Britain, . . . that America begins to relax, that all patriotism has fled our land, that we are torn by intestine broils, or settling down in a sordid supine, fitted for slavery and destruction, and to become the scorn of out enemies and contemp of all nations, heaven forbid!--No! Let us exert ourselves with renewed vigour and with firmness, freely part with so much of our property as shall be requisite, to secure the important ends in view-- retrench all unncecessary expence in living, suppress all commercial intercourse with the enemy, guard against and detect all their insiduous arts and designs, suppress vice, immorality and profaneness, and we shall soon, by the blessing of Heaven, drive our enemies from our land, and bring the war to a happy close.
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View the original documents by clicking on the links above. Both documents are from An American Time Capsule. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.