If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favourable. — Seneca

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The British Flag Hauled Down

The news of the surrender of Cornwallis filled all American hearts with joy; for our people knew, as well as the British, that the war was now ended. The tidings reached Philadelphia at night, while the watchman, making his rounds as usual, was passing up and down the streets. To the customary announcement of the time, and the cry, "All's well," he therefore added, "and Cornwallis is taken!"

The joy of this event proved fatal to the old door-keeper of Congress, while on all sides bells were rung and loud cheers were heard. On the next day the members of Congress marched in a body to church, to return thanks for the "victory of a great and good man in a great and good cause." But when the news reached England it caused great dismay. We are told that Lord North fell back as if struck by a cannon ball, and gasped: "O God, it is all over!"

Washington's Headquarters at Newburgh

Although the War of Independence was really over, and several Americans went to Europe to settle the terms of peace, British troops staid in America some time longer, and kept possession of Savannah and Charleston about a year. Washington, therefore, did not dare dismiss his army. To keep better guard over the British at New York, he collected all his forces at Newburgh. But although there was no more fighting, Washington's presence was more sorely needed than ever, for the men, having received only a small part of their long-promised pay, and unable to go home and work for their destitute families, were restless and discontented. In fact, even the officers thought Congress managed things badly, and wished to make Washington king.

Had Washington thought of himself more than of others, or been unduly ambitious, he could now have gone, at the head of the army, to overthrow Congress and take the power into his own hands, like Caesar and Napoleon. But Washington was a real patriot, and had no thought beyond the good of his country. He therefore sent for his officers, and made them a little speech.

In reading a letter from a congressman, promising that they should receive their dues, he had to take out his glasses, and as he put them on he quietly begged them to excuse him, saying: "My eyes have grown dim in the service of my country, but I have never doubted her justice." In his address he urged them not to tarnish the glory of their past services by rash conduct, and explained that Congress would soon settle their just demands. Such was the reliance placed upon his mere word, and the good influence he had over every man in his army, that all now consented to wait patiently until their services could receive their reward.

While Washington was thus keeping the soldiers in order, Franklin was in Europe, treating for peace. In 1782 George III. formally announced that he would recognize the independence of the United States, and closed his speech by saying he hoped that the same "religion, language, interests, and affections might prove a bond of permanent union between the two countries."

The treaty, however, was signed in Paris, on the 3rd of September, 1783. On this occasion Franklin donned the suit of Manchester velvet clothes which he had worn ten years before, when insulted in Parliament, and which he had vowed never to use again until his country was free. By this treaty the seacoast from Maine to Georgia was given up to the United States, together with all the land between the Great Lakes and Florida, westward as far as the Mississippi. At the same time, the British gave Florida back to Spain.

The news of this treaty was followed by the departure of the British soldiers from New York. They sailed away, leaving their flag still floating from the top of the liberty pole. Here some soldiers had nailed it fast, carefully greasing the pole so that the Americans should not haul down their colors until they were at least out of sight.

But a clever New York boy, seeing, that it was useless to try to climb the greased pole in the usual way, ran into a neighboring store, and soon came back with a pocket full of nails, some cleats, and a hammer. Nailing a cleat a short distance up, he stood upon it to nail another still higher, sand, climbing thus from point to point, reached the top of the pole, tore off the British flag, and replaced it by the American colors, amid the cheers of the assembled people!


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell