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'The field of battle (Eutaw Springs,) was, at this instant, rich in the dreadful scenery which disfigures such a picture. On the left, Washington's cavalry, routed and flying horses, plunging as they died, or coursing the field, without their riders, while the enemy with poised bayonet, issued from the thicket, upon the wounded or unhorsed rider in the fore ground, Hampton covering and collecting the scattered cavalry; while Kirkwood, with his bayonets, rushed furiously to revenge their fall, [Whose fall ?] and a road strewed with the bodies of men and horses, and the fragments of dismounted artillery.'
"Notwithstanding the defection of his militia, and the retirement of the legion, Sumpter had still a sufficient number of troops, to have held the enemy in a state of investment, whilst he tried the effect of his artillery; but finding that it brought with it no supply of ammunition, being but twenty miles from Charleston, and at a place accessible by tide water, having heard that Lord Rawdon had moved down in force from Orangeburgh, being himself now fifteen miles below Monk's corner, which is but sixteen from Goose-creek bridge, where Lord Rawdon's force might already have arrived, there being serious ground for apprehending disaster, General Sumpter resolved to retreat across the Santee.' p. 174.
7th. Our last assertion under this general head is, that some of our author's terms, though sufficiently common, have been totally and shamelessly misapplied. Tired, however, of word-catching, we shall give but a few instances of this fault. Speaking of General Greene's papers, he says, 'I 'learnt that they had been carefully husbanded, and never yet 'submitted to the examination of any one, with a view either 'to add to the materials of general history, or furnish 'those of a biography of the great man,' &c. But husbanding a thing, always implies a use of it, though a frugal one, and of course does not express Mr. Johnson's idea. Speaking of the old congress, he says, 'A variety of events, expla'natory of their acts and errors, which transpired with closed 'doors, or out of doors, remain in utter obscurity.' To transpire at all, is, as we believe, to escape from concealment to publicity, or from darkness to light; but how a thing, which has transpired, either with closed doors or out of doors, can remain in utter obscurity, is what we do not comprehend. So, in describing the battle of Eutaw Spring, he represents the left wing of the British line as having fallen into irretrievable disorder; yet this very wing regains its order, unites in an attack on the American troops, and wrests from them a victory, which they had half won, and ought to have completed. Lastly, and to crown all, he tells us gravely, and
not in a whisper, as if there was any thing wrong in the circumstance, that his hero had always entertained a contemptible opinion of General Conway. On this we only remark, that a writer who does not know the difference between a contemptuous and a contemptible opinion, ought to be put into a short jacket and petticoat, and sent to school, with a horn-book and primer, to begin his education. We now proceed to our second general head, viz. the faults of Mr. Johnson's book, as a chronicle, or register of public
As no one can be more sensible than ourselves, that "art is long and life short," we shall neither waste our own time, nor that of our readers, in proving, what is sufficiently known already, that without truth, history becomes romance; and that, though it may amuse the imagination, it can never be made a rule of human conduct, either in acting or in judging. What is perhaps less obvious is, that deficient veracity may be the result of different causes; some of which involve a high degree of moral turpitude in the writer, while others impeach only his diligence or his capacity. The effects of these several causes are, however, nearly alike; and the credit of a person, or of an action, may be sent down to posterity as effectually obscured or destroyed by the ignorance which does not know, or the folly which cannot learn, as by the malignity and falsehood that designedly and mischievously misrepresents the truth. We make these remarks, with no ill will to the author of the work under examination, but, on the other hand, for the express purpose of acquitting him, at the threshold, of all voluntary misrepresentation; and the more so, as he has rendered every imputation of this kind wholly unnecessary, by candidly acknowledging a state of feeling, towards his heroes and demi-gods, far surpassing the effects of the nitrous oxide gas; and which, however excited, is quite incompatible with that fair, and sober, and quiet exercise of the faculties, that ought always to characterize the writer of history.
Without farther introduction, we proceed to examine the author's relation of what he denominates the two conspiracies, which disfigure our revolutionary story,-the one, 'to put down Gen. Washington;' the other, to close the war in usurpation and monarchy.'
Of the former, he says, 'We know not if there exists, or ever was
published, a detailed account of this mysterious affair; and at this late day, it may be an object of curiosity with our readers, to know what were the received opinions on the subject, of the best informed persons of that day. This we shall present from original papers in our possession.
'When Gen. Washington was hesitating what course to pursue, on the embarkation of Sir W. Howe from New-York, in 1777, Gen. Mifflin, then Quartermaster General, was exceedingly importunate with him to hasten to the protection of Philadelphia. General Washington was unwilling to march southwardly, as long as it remained doubtful whether Howe had not sailed for Boston, or might not suddenly return and ascend the North River, in co-operation with Burgoyne. But to pacify Mifflin, he submitted the subject to a council of war, and at that council Gen. Greene incurred the unrelenting hatred of Mifflin, by opposing successfully his wishes to march immediately to Philadelphia;-not that Washington or Greene had any serious doubts with regard to the real destination of Howe, but they thought his fleet would be sufficiently delayed in ascending the Delaware, to enable them to reach Philadelphia in time to oppose him; and there was, therefore, no necessity to leave him scope for a coup de main.' 'In the midst of the excitement that had been produced by Gen. Mifflin's complaints, the news arrived of the surrender of Burgoyne. The battle of Brandywine had then been lost, Howe was in possession of Philadelphia, and congress had fled to York Town.-The honours of Washington appeared to have been cast into shade by the brilliant successes of Gates. Impartial history will one day decide, whether the latter did not reap the laurels that ought to have graced the brows of Schuyler, of Starke, and of Arnold.
"It is certain, that invidious comparisons, unfavourable to Washington, were at that time too much the fashion of the day. But the nation and the army knew well his worth, and frowned his enemies into silence. Yet certain it is, that at that time he had enemies, and among them, were ranked Samuel Adams, the Lees of Virginia, Wilson of Pennsylvania, and some minor characters. Whether the design was to substitute Gates or Lee, appeared to have been unsettled among the party; but certainly to substitute one or the other.
-Whether General Mifflin ever entered deeply into the views of the party, cannot now be ascertained. It is, however, very certain, that, but for the clamour which he had so successfully excited against the commander in chief, Conway never would have dared to prosecute his machinations. The conformity of their views fastened upon them, in the public estimation, a co-operation in design.
An opinion was entertained, on some evidence against Gates and Conway, which was probably not unfounded in truth, that Samuel Adams, R. H. Lee, and Mifflin, had it in contemplation, to substitute General Lee for Washington, but that Gates and Conway thought it a favourable opportunity to make use of the discontents of that party to supplant him themselves.
"We know not if there exists any evidence to prove, that General Lee had embarked with either party. On the contrary, from the intercourse kept up between Generals Greene and Lee, during their lives, we are induced to think he had not.... That he would have accepted the command, and been gratified in it, there can be no doubt; but there exists no evidence of his having actively engaged in the effort to sink Washington in the estimation of the public, unless his conduct, during, and after the battle of Monmouth, and his severe animadversions on the affair of Fort Washington, receive a construction, of which it must be acknowledged, they were too fairly susceptible.'
'With respect to Gates and Conway, the evidence was such, as left not a doubt upon the public mind. It is well known, that the first development of the intrigue, was made at the table of Lord Sterling, by a gentleman attached to Gates' family.... The present Major General Wilkinson, has in his memoirs, given a detailed account of the circumstances, attending the communication. Until that was published, it was supposed to have been designedly made under the influence of patriotic feelings; but it is now candidly acknowledged, to have been an indiscretion.... In addition to this information, we have the evidence of General Morgan, who was then serving under Gates, and who being tampered with, as he considered it, by Gates, upon this subject, incurred his lasting hatred, by repulsing him with indignation. As to Conway, General Washington pronounced him "an active and malignant partisan."'
"The offensive passage in Conway's letter to Gates, was thisHeaven has determined to save your country, or a weak General and bad Counsellors would have ruined it.... We are in possession of various communications, to prove, that the "weak counsellors" of this best of men,... were Generals Greene and Knox, who were supposed to possess his private ear, and were known to be his faithful and affectionate adherents.' pp. 153-157, vol. i.
Such is the mirror, which, according to our biographer, is to reflect the opinions of the best informed persons of that day, in relation to this mysterious affair; and which, from their freshness and novelty, (for they never, it seems, have been detailed before,) cannot fail to be acceptable to modern readers. But did our learned author, in the hurry of his details, stop long enough to ask himself to what they all amounted? Was he aware, that no two of them will support each other? Or does he conclude, that because this discrepancy shows nothing of artifice in making up the story, that therefore it cannot but recommend it to both notice and belief?
It is worthy of remark, that notwithstanding our author's many and careful researches into the contents of the trunk, which Mrs. Shaw ordered to be delivered up to him, nothing
is found to fix even his own opinions, with regard to the leader of this first conspiracy. Whether,' he says the de
sign was to substitute Gates, or Lee, appeared to be unsettled ' among the party, but certainly to substitute one or the ' other.' Again, he adds, whether Mifflin ever entered
deeply into the views of the party, cannot now be ascer'tained;' and of course, from want of evidence, the General is acquitted. Yet, in the only proof submitted, and that a letter from Greene, Mifflin is denounced as the leader and head of the faction! An opinion,' says Mr. Johnson,' was ' entertained, on some evidence, [which it is, however, most ' prudent not to detail,] that Samuel Adams, and the Lees, ' &c. had it in contemplation to substitute Lee for Washing6 ton; but we know not, that any evidence exists to prove, 'that Lee embarked with either party, and we are induced ' to think he did not, from the intercourse kept up between him and Greene, during their lives.' And accordingly, though an open and decided vilifier of Washington, he also is absolved by our literary pope !
Gates and Conway, the only remaining military conspirators, not having such intercourse with Greene to plead, do not meet with any similar indulgence, but, on the other hand, are pursued, as we think, without mercy, or reason, or justice. A letter of Conway's, said to contain an irreverential passage with regard to Washington's military character and conduct, was written to Gates; and, letters being like stolen goods, the receiver was not unreasonably held to be equally guilty with the writer. Such is the substance of the argument employed; and a very ingenious process it certainly is, for making two criminals out of one. But are we sure there was one? Where shall we seek for this obnoxious letter? Has our biographer seen it? No: but Wilkinson saw it, and, in a moment of indiscretion,' stated its contents to M'Williams-who communicated them to Sterlingwho reported them to Washington-who sent a copy of them to Gates. And what then? Did Gates acknowledge the correctness of the copy transmitted to him? Just the reverse; he declared it to be "spurious," and that, "in both "words and substance, it was a wicked forgery." Indeed! And what said Wilkinson to this? Did he attempt to make good the statement he had furnished? No. Such a course, had it been practicable, would no doubt have been pursued ; because, to have fixed a falsehood upon the old, honest, ve