This spirited and brilliant action had a wonderful effect on the American mind. It revived the courage of the troops, which had sunk very low after so many defeats. It inspired them and the public at large with confidence in the talents and daring of their Commander-in-Chief, who was now eulogised as another Fabius. Such was the confidence inspired, even in himself, by this success, that, being immediately joined by three thousand six hundred Pennsylvanian militia, he determined to cross the Delaware, as it was now strongly frozen over. But General Grant had already joined General Leslie at Princeton, with a strong body of British and Hessian troops; and General Howe, on hearing of the fresh spirit of the American army, had detained Lord Cornwallis, who was about to leave for England. He hastened to Princeton, and took the command of the whole force, concentrating all the troops on the Delaware shore. On the 2nd of January, 1777, he marched from Princeton for Trenton, drove in the enemy's outposts, and reached Trenton by five o'clock the same afternoon. Washington retired as he approached. The British, on arriving at the fort and bridge of the Assumpinck, found both guarded by artillery, and Washington posted on[236] some high ground beyond. Cornwallis cannonaded the bridge and forts, and his fire was briskly returned. He then encamped for the night there, intending to force the creek the next morning; but Washington did not wait for him. With his raw militia only a few days in camp, he had no chance of resisting Cornwallis's army, and yeta thaw having taken placeit was impossible to cross the Delaware. He called a council of war, and it was concluded that, from the great force of Cornwallis in front, the rear could not be very strong. It was therefore determined to make an attempt to gain the rear, beat up the enemy's quarters at Princeton, now, as they supposed, nearly deserted, and, if they could succeed, fall on the British stores and baggage at New Brunswick. Their own baggage was, accordingly, sent quickly down the river to Burlington, the camp-fires were replenished, and small parties being left to deceive the enemy by throwing up entrenchments, Washington, about midnight, silently decamped by a circuitous route towards Princeton. At dawn they encountered two out of three English regiments, which had been at Princeton, on the march. These were the 17th and 55th, hastening to join Cornwallis at Trenton. They imagined the Americans, owing to a thick fog, to be a body of Hessians; but, on discovering the mistake, a sharp fight took place, and for some time the two British regiments withstood Washington's whole force. Colonel Mawhood, the English commander, posted his force advantageously on a rising ground between the Americans and Princeton, sent back his baggage waggons, and dispatched messengers to bring up the 40th regiment, still in Princeton, with all speed. The 40th not arriving, Washington managed to force his way between the two British regiments. The 17th continued its march for Trenton; the 55th fell back upon Princeton, where the 40th, which had defended itself in the college, after losing a considerable number of prisoners, joined the 55th, and retreated upon New Brunswick.

The year, gloomy in itself from the dislocation of trade and the discontent of the people, terminated still more gloomily from another causethe death of the Princess Charlotte. This event, wholly unexpected, was a startling shock to the whole nation. This amiable and accomplished princess was not yet twenty-two. She had been married only in May, 1816, to Prince Leopold of Coburg, and died on the 6th of November, 1817, a few hours after being delivered of a stillborn child. What rendered the event the more painful was that her death was attributed to neglect by her accoucheur, Sir Richard Croft. Dr. Baillie, who saw her soon after her confinement, refused to join in the issue of a bulletin which the other medical men had prepared, stating that she was going on well, and a few hours proved the fatal correctness of his opinion. Sir Richard, overwhelmed by the public indignation and his own feelings, soon afterwards destroyed himself. No prince or princess had stood so well with the nation for many years. The people saw in her a future queen, with the vigour, unaccompanied by the vices and tyrannies, of Elizabeth. She had taken the part of her mother against the treatment of her father, and this was another cause which drew towards her the affections of the people. All these hopes were extinguished in a moment, and the whole nation was plunged into sorrow and consternation, the more so that, notwithstanding the twelve children of George III., there had only been this single grandchild, and several of his sons remained unmarried.

At Calcutta, Francis, Clavering, and Monson were deeply engaged in what appeared to them a certain plan for the ruin of Hastings. The Maharajah Nuncomar, who styled himself the head of the Brahmins, came forward and laid before them papers containing the most awful charges against Hastings. These were that Hastings had encouraged him, at the command of the Secret Committee, to produce charges against Mohammed Rheza Khan and Shitab Roy, when they were in prison, in order to extort money from them; and that Hastings had accepted a heavy bribe to allow Mohammed to escape without punishment. Hastings broke up the Council, declaring that he would not sit to be judged by his own Council. If they had charges to prefer against him, they might form themselves into a committee, and transmit such evidence as they received to the Supreme Court of Justice at Calcutta, or to the Directors at home. But the three declared themselves a majority, voted their own competence to sit and try their own chief, and preferred another huge charge introduced by Nuncomarnamely, that Hastings had appropriated to[327] himself two-thirds of the salary of the Governor of Hooghly, a post formerly held by Nuncomar himself. They determined to introduce Nuncomar to confront Hastings at his own Council board. Hastings declared the Council not sitting; the three declared it sitting and valid, and called in Nuncomar, who proceeded to detail his charges, and ended by producing a letter from the Munny Begum, now Governor of Oude, expressing the gratitude which she felt to the Governor-General for her appointment as guardian of the Nabob, and that in token of this gratitude she had presented him with two lacs of rupees. Immediately on hearing that, Hastings declared the letter a forgery, and that he would prove it so; and he was not long in procuring an absolute denial of the letter from the Begum. Things being driven to this pass, Hastings commenced an action against Nuncomar, Mr. Fowke, one of the most active agents of the trio, and others, as guilty of a conspiracy against him. This was supported by native witnesses, and the Supreme Court of Justice, after a long and careful examination of the case, held Nuncomar and Fowke to bail, and bound the Governor-General to prosecute. [52]