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racious conqueror of Burgoyne, and that too in defence of a conspirator, would, at that time, have been merit enough to have made any man's fortune. But "conscience makes cowards of us all." Wilkinson knew well that the statement was false, and, what was still more appalling, tha Gates held the letter in question, and could at all times disprove any misrepresentation of it. Thus unable to go forward, and incapable of remaining where he was, he was constrained to go back; and, though three times questioned on the contents of the letter-once by Conway, again by Sterfing, and lastly by Washington-he uniformly answered in a way to avoid contradicting Gates, and at length came out with a full and unqualified declaration, that the whole story, transmitted by Sterling to Washington, was a falsehood.

As this testimony of Wilkinson is the pivot on which the accusation turns, and as our author (notwithstanding his quoting it as an authority) cannot but be ignorant both of its nature and its extent, we must be permitted, at even the hazard of being tedious, to make a few extracts from it. At page 340, vol. 1st, of the Memoirs, we read as follows:"Whilst at camp, I was visited by Gen. Conway, a stran


ger, with whom I never spoke before or since. He took "me aside, and inquired whether I had seen a letter of his "to Gen. Gates, containing certain expressions concerning "Gen. Washington's military conduct. He stated the ex'pressions to me, and informed me that Gen. Washington "had charged him with having made use of expressions derogatory from his professional character. I recollected "the letter, but I did not think its language accorded with "that, then expressed to me by Gen. Conway; and I answer"ed him to that effect." It is to this interview with Conway, and to this first denial of the correctness of the extract, that Lord Sterling alludes, in the following passage of a letter to Wilkinson :-"After you had lately been in camp, he "(Conway) says, that he inquired, whether you had seen "the letter he wrote to Gen. Gates ;-that you said you "had, and that you had declared, in the presence of several, "that there were no such words, or any words to that effect, "in the letter." To this Wilkinson replies :-" On my late "arrival in camp, Brig. Gen. Conway informed me, that he "had been charged by Gen. Washington with writing a let




ter to Major Gen. Gates, reflecting on the General and the army. The particulars of this charge I cannot now recolVOL. V.


"lect. I had read the letter alluded to, and I did not con"sider the information conveyed in his Excellency's letter, "(to Conway,) as expressed by him, to be literal; and well "remember replying to that effect." At page 394, vol. 1st, we have Mr. Wilkinson's account of the conversation held between him and Gen. Washington, on the subject of this very extract:-"I went early, agreeably to request, was "kindly received, and after a few minutes, the General in"vited me into his cabinet, and opened the subject of Gen. "Conway's letter. A conversation ensued, in which I took "occasion to remark on the cruel misrepresentations of Lord "Sterling, disclaiming any correspondence, or even acquaintance with M Williams, and utterly denying the information he "(Gen. W.) had received from his Lordship."


Here, then, is the most direct evidence (derived too from the informer himself) that the slander, founded on the supposed contents of Conway's letter, propagated and believed for half a century, and now adduced by our biographer, as a proof that two distinguished officers of the army of the revolution had conspired to put down the Commander in Chief, is an impudent and vile falsehood from beginning to end.*

What remains of the evidence brought to support this miserable fiction, are two anecdotes,—the one, told in an anonymous work, ascribed to Capt. A. Graydon, and which affects Conway alone; the other, found in a note attached to Lee's Memoirs, and which affects Gates exclusively. On the former of these we remark, that though we do most conscientiously believe that the whole story of this conspiracy was a fabrication, got up merely to divert public opinion from those invidious comparisons, unfavourable to Wash'ington, which were so fashionable at that day,' and which were the unavoidable result of contrasts, forcing themselves on every unprejudiced mind, between battles won in the north and others lost in the south,-still it is by no means our intention, either to assert or to insinuate, that the indiscretion of individuals did not, in some degree, give colour to the fabrication. Rush's ridiculous letter to Patrick Henry, leaves no doubt on this head; and Conway's hasty and in

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* How comes it, that our pains-taking biographer should not have noticed the two letters from Gates and Mifflin, published by Gordon, and never contradicted during their lives? In these, they severally and solemnly deny any connexion with a party, having a design to put down Washington, and even any knowledge of the existence of such a party.

decorous remark (as recorded by Graydon) proves it quite as decisively.


Of this gentleman-this French-Irish knight of St. Louis-we happen to know something personally, and what we do know, leaves us perfectly convinced, that among many good qualities which belonged to him, prudence was not to be found. Had he lived in the time, and served in the army of Alexander, his would, no doubt, have been the fate of Philotas. He would neither have believed that the hero was a God, nor the son of a God; nor, (what by the way would have been much easier,) could he have been prevailed upon to say, that he believed he was either; on the contrary, nothing is more probable, than that to the first courtier he met, he would have criticised the pretension, and left to his frank and honourable companion the merit, or the meanness, of remembering the censure, and printing it in a book. That he did not think, like our biographer, that General Washington's military talents never were equalled, is unquestionably true; and that he may have even spoken freely of them, as stated by Graydon, is probable,-but what justice demands is, that we should not exaggerate a mere indiscretion into a case of leze-majesté, and punish it as the act of a conspirator; for, if speaking freely of Washington's military conduct and character, give title to this kind of distinction, how few of our author's greatest favourites will escape? Will he be responsible, that the opinion of Alexander Hamilton has, on that head, been uniformly respectful? and can he assure himself, that that of Baron Steuben differed at all from Hamilton's? Is he aware, that of the trio, who were to grace the banks of the Savannah, by a common residence, two have committed themselves to paper, and in letters to the supposed heads of the very conspiraey we are discussing? As these documents are already before the public, there is no reason why we should not make Mr. Johnson better acquainted with them.

General Joseph Read, of Pennsylvania, who was first the secretary, and again the adjutant-general of Washington, who knew him well, appreciated him justly, and loved him sincerely; and, 'from whose pen,' Mr. Johnson tells us, 'had 'not death interposed, we were to have had such a history of 'the revolution, as we can no longer hope ever to have.' This gentleman, we repeat, thus qualified to judge, addressed the following letter to General Lee, and to give it more solemnity, made it official, by adding his title to his signature:


"The letter you will receive with this, contains my sentiments with respect to your present station; but, besides this, I have reasons for most earnestly wishing to have you, where the principal scene of action is laid. I do not mean to flatter you, at the expense of any other, but I confess I do think, that it is entirely owing to you, that this army and the liberties of America, so far as they are dependant on it, are not totally cut off. You have decision, a quality often wanting in minds otherwise valuable; and I ascribe to this, our escape from York Island, from Kingsbridge, and the Plains; and I have no doubt, had you been here, the garrison of Mount Washington would now have composed a part of this army; and from all these eircumstances, I confess I ardently wish to see you removed from a place, where, I think there will be little call for your judgment and experience, to that where they are likely to be so necessary. Nor am I singular in my opinion; every gentleman of the family, and the officers and soldiers generally, have a confidence in you. The enemy constantly inquire where you are, and seem to me to be less confident, when you are present. Colonel Cadwallader has been liberated from New-York, and he informs me that the enemy have a southern expedition in view, and that they hold us very cheap in consequence of the late affair at Fort Washington, where both the plan of defence and execution, were contemptible. If a real defence of the lines was intended, the number was too few; if the fort only, the garrison was too numerous by half. General Washington's own judgment, seconded by representations from us, would, I believe, have saved the men and their arms; but unluckily General Greene's judgment was contrary. This kept the General in a state of suspense till the stroke was struck. Oh General! an indecisive mind is one of the greatest misfortunes which can befall an army: how often have I lamented it this campaign. All circumstances considered, we are in a very awful and alarming state, one that requires the utmost wisdom and firmness of mind. I conclude, with my clear and explicit opinion, that your presence is of the last importance," &c.*

Hackensack, November 21st, 1776.

The letter of General Wayne, the other person to whom we alluded, was addressed to General Gates, is a year later in date than Read's, and shows, that the indecision, which was our affliction in 1776, had by no means diminished in 1777.

"Camp at White Marsh, Nov. 21, 1777.


"I most sincerely congratulate you on the unparalleled success of our arms under your conduct, which has surpassed even our most sanguine hopes, and which must, eventually, save this (otherwise) devoted

* Memoirs of the Life of General Charles Lee, p. 178.

country. Fortune, to us, has proved a fickle goddess, although at one time she wore a pleasing aspect; but, like some other females, changed for the first new face she saw. I cannot say we treated her so kindly as she deserved; we slighted, in an idle moment, some of her best favours. I wish we had not done it more than once-for she more than once presented them. Before the battle of Brandywine, we had a most delightful opening. We neglected making the proper use of it; and in the great valley, the enemy took and remained in the most injudicious camp that ever troops sat down in. The hills, on each side, not more than a mile asunder-the enemy in the hollow, and the strongest ground I ever saw, with the Schuylkill in front, and unfordable, and the country [behind] open to receive us, in case of misfortune. We risked but little, the enemy their all. At Germantown, again, fortune smiled on our arms for near three hours, -the enemy broke, dispersed and flying in all quarters, and we in possession of their whole encampment, together with their artillery, park, &c. &c. A wind-mill attack was made on a house, into which six companies of light infantry had thrown themselves to avoid our bayonets. This gave the enemy time to rally. Our troops were deceived by the attack, thought it something formidable, and fell back to assist in what they deemed a serious affair. The enemy, finding themselves no longer pursued, and believing it to be a retreat, followed. Confusion ensued, and we ran away from the arms of victory ready open to receive us. We have lost Fort Mifflin, alias Mud Island, after an investment of six weeks, and without any attempt to raise the siege; the consequence of which will be, the loss of all our other works and shipping in the river, and will give easy winter quarters to Mr. Howe and his army, whilst we shall be reduced to the hard necessity of making a winter campaign in the open field, with naked troops, or give up the greatest part of this once happy state to be subjugated and laid under contribution. I have thus given you a true picture of our present situation, over which we must draw a veil until our arms produce one more lovely, which I do not yet despair of, if our worthy General will but follow his own good judgment, without listening too much to some councils.* I am,"

&c. &c.

Our inference from these letters is,-not that Read and Wayne had joined a conspiracy against the lawful authority of Washington, and, under this impulse, had spoken disrespectfully of the talents and services of this officer, but that, being men of independent character and feelings, and having only the public good in view, they believed it to be at once their right and their duty to speak of him and of them as they were, "nothing extenuating, nor setting down aught in ma

*Wilkinson's Memoirs.

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