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2d. "That the several States be called upon to complete, without delay, the settlements with their respective lines of the army, up to the 1st day of December, 1780; and that the superintendant be directed to take such measures as shall appear to him most proper, for effecting the settlements from that period." And,
3d. "That the troops of the United States, in common with all the creditors of the Union, have an undoubted right to expect security, (with regard to future payments,) and that Congress will make every effort in their power to obtain from the respective States substantial funds, adequate to the object of funding the whole debt of the United States."
In prosecution of the policy indicated in the last of these resolutions, Congress, on the 18th of April, proceeded to recommend to the States, "as indispensably necessary to the restoration of public credit, and to the punctual and honourable discharge of the public debts, to invest the United States, in Congress assembled, with a power to levy, for the use of the United States, certain specified duties upon all spirituous and vinous liquors-teas, pepper, cocoa, sugars, and molasses, and on all other goods, a duty of 5 per cent. ad valorem, at the time and place of importation;" restricting the application of the money so raised, to the single purpose "of discharging the principal or interest of the debts, contracted on the faith of the public, for supporting the war;" limiting its continuance to twenty-five years, and vesting in the States respectively, the authority of appointing the officers necessary to the collection of the proposed duties.
These resolutions were accompanied by an address, prepared by Mr. Madison, Mr. Elsworth, and Mr. Hamilton, which, from the weight and conclusiveness of its arguments, would have left no room for doubt or for difficulty, with regard to the fate of the measure it recommended, had it not been known, that the best intentions, supported by the soundest and clearest reasoning, avail nothing in a contest with popular clamour, excited and maintained by private interest and local prejudice and that on this question, great pains had been taken to put into motion all those passions which most deform and degrade the human character.
It was probably these considerations, that suggested to the department of finance the employment of Thomas Paine, a celebrated writer of that day, to support, in the journals of Rhode Island, the system proposed by Congress, against the
declamations of its known and acknowledged opponents. And the same policy, at a period somewhat later, may have hastened the return to head quarters of Colonel Walter Stewart, who, to the duty of inspecting the troops, superadded that of drawing the attention of the army to the political crisis, which was fast approaching, and to the course of proceeding under it, which should be most proper for them to adopt. In executing this mission, Stewart was frank, honest, and assiduous; he saw all grades, and communicated freely with all; and whether justly or not, was under the most solemn conviction, that the creed of the army, without a single - exception, was settled on three points:-1st. That they would look to the national government alone for compensation: 2d. That in prosecuting their claims, they would make common cause with the civil creditors of the Union : and, 3d. That they would neither solicit nor accept furloughs, till the issue of the new appeal, to be made to the wisdom and justice of the states, should be distinctly known and officially promulgated.*
The uses and propriety of obtaining some public expression of these sentiments, were not overlooked; but the pursuit of the object, generally, was slackened, by information received from the Marquis La Fayette, that articles, preliminary to a treaty of peace, had been already signed in Paris. Joy at this great national event, absorbed, for a time, every other feeling; and even while considering its bearing on their own peculiar situation and views, few were to be found in the army who did not discover in it, some new reason for confiding in the promises of the public. The delusion was, however, but momentary, for the partisans of State sovereignty made
*Stewart's agency is mentioned in a letter from General Gates of the 22d June, 1783, in the following terms:-" Gordon has been very importunate to know, what he calls the secret history of the anonymous letters, &c. and has an impression that they were connected with some great financial arrangements. As he is an old friend, and an honest man, I have answered frankly: That Stewart was a kind of agent from our friends in Congress and in the administration, with no object, however, beyond that of getting the army to co-operate with the civil creditors, as the way most likely for both to obtain justice; and that the letters were written in my quarters by you-copied by Richmond, and circulated by Barker, and were intended to produce a strong remonstrance to Congress in favour of the object prayed for in a former one; and that the conjecture, that it was meant to offer the crown to Cæsar, was without any foundation; referring him to his townsman or neighbour, Dr. Eustis, for further information, as well as for the correctness of this."
haste to prove, as well by their language as by their conduct, that the great source of their jo at the near approach of peace, was the means it would afford, not of discharging public engagements, but of degrading the value of all evidences of national obligation; and in this way, of opening more widely the door to a vile and detestable speculation.
A letter from the military committee, attending on Congress, was received early in March, and bore testimony to the inauspicious aspect of the moment, in relation to the mission with which they had been charged. The communication of this document to the army, was thought to present a fit occasion for assembling the officers, not in mass, but by representation; and for passing a series of resolutions, which, in the hands of their committee, and of their auxiliaries in Congress, would furnish a new and powerful lever for operating on the two dissenting States. But to this end, there was yet wanting the interposition of a hand, which should touch with some ability the several chords of sympathy and feeling that belonged to the case, and thus secure to the deliberations and their result, that tone and energy, without which, they would be a dead letter. The choice fell upon Major Armstrong, a very young man, (the aid-de-camp of Gen. Gates,) who, yielding to the solicitations of his friends, in a few hours produced an address, which was believed to be peculiarly adapted to its object. Nor, according to the historian, was its effect less distinguished than its reception; for, besides being approved and applauded, all appeared to be ready to act on the advices it contained.
But there now arose motives, in another and powerful quarter, for lessening its influence, and even entirely counteracting it. While the Commander in Chief deliberated on the course of conduct which it became him to pursue on the present occasion, he received a letter from a southern correspondent,† informing him that a plan was matured at the seat of government, for the most wicked and parricidal purposes; that it aimed professedly at establishing public credit, and supporting national authority; but that its real object was to overturn republicanism, and to build on its ruins a government of despotic or monarchical character; that it made part
* And into what did these resolve themselves? into a recommendation of another and last remonstrance!
Mr. Harvie, of Virginia.
of the plan to put down the Commander in Chief, and to bring up in his room some one, who, holding from the faction, would be better disposed to support their projects; and that agents were already employed with the army to accomplish these purposes. Nor did the writer stop here; he went on to indicate the authors of the plan, and pointed distinctly at Robert and Governeur Morris, and Alexander Hamilton.*
This communication, though highly improbable in itself, though entirely unsupported by any auxiliary testimony from the seat of government, and though utterly unfounded in the facts it assumed, made a strong impression on the mind of Washington, and excited in that good and great man, a momentary alarm for himself and his country. Under its impulse, he identified the address with the machinations of his enemies; ascribed it to the pen of one or more of the imaginary triumvirate, and denounced it as the first step in the progress and developement of a deep and dangerous conspiracy. When on the 15th of March, 1783, the army had assembled under the general order of the 11th, this extraordinary letter
*Neither Colonel Hamilton, nor Governeur Morris, so far as our information extends, took any notice of these slanders; but the reader will not be displeased to see the manner in which they were rebuked by Robert Morris, in a letter of the 29th May, 1783, to General Washington. "By some designing men, my resignation of office (grounded on a conviction, that unless something were done to support public credit, very pernicious consequences would follow) was misconstrued. It was represented as a factious desire to raise civil commotion. It was said, that the army were to be employed as the instruments to promote flagitious and interested views, and these [suspicions] found admittance to minds that should have been for ever shut against them. We now rest on the event to show, whether a sincere regard to public justice and public interest, or a sinister respect to my own private emolument, were the influential motives to my conduct. I am a very mistaken man, if time and experience shall not demonstrate, that the interests of the army and of public creditors are given up. But I mention these things only to you, and in confidence; for it shall not again be supposed, that I am the leader of sedition." And again he says, “ Having done what was in my power, to establish those plans which appeared necessary for doing justice to all, and affording relief to our army in particular, I have acquitted what was the first and greatest duty. When it appeared that other modes were to be pursued, I would gladly have departed in peace; but it has been thought that my further agency was necessary, to procure for the army that species of relief which they seemed to desire. The factious, designing man, who was to have lighted up the flames of mutiny and sedition, has undertaken a most arduous and perilous business-TO SAVE HIS COUNTRY
FROM THOSE CONVULSIONS WHICH HER NEGLIGENCE HAD HAZARDED.
This became a duty, when the first duty to justice was performed, and this shall be performed also."
was not merely referred to, but publicly produced and read, and commented on by the Commander in Chief, and, substantially, became the basis of the proceedings of that memorable day. We ask, then, how it has happened, that a document so important, and which alone furnishes a clue to the conduct and opinions of both the General and the Army, on that important occasion, should not have been mentioned by any chronicler of the times, or biographer of Washington? There is but one way of explaining this extraordinary silence; the letter must have escaped their research; for it is quite impossible that either its application or importance to American history, could have been overlooked by any careful and intelligent inquirer, or that, having been seen, the letter itself should, from any motive, have been suppressed-since it was the testimony publicly offered, that a conspiracy against the liberties of the country did exist. Was it destroyed by Washington himself, under a conviction of its errors and injusticeand did he thus put it out of the power of accident or of malice, to commit any new or additional injury with it? Such is our conjecture: in support of which several other circumstances concur, viz. the particular esteem and confidence with which he subsequently regarded those men, who, in this letter, were most pointed at-for instance, Robert Morris became his intimate friend and counsellor; Alexander Hamilton his confidential minister; Governeur Morris his ambassador to the French court; and what equally establishes our conjecture, the offer made by him of a high employment (not accepted) to the acknowledged author of these very addresses.*
Nor was this all to repair the injury done to the motives of this writer, he took care to furnish him with an antidote against the poison contained in his own original opinions, (delivered to the army,) with regard to these very motives. This letter is a fine illustration of the foresight and justice of this great man, and is in the following words:
Philadelphia, February 23d, 1797.
"Believing that there may be times and occasions, on which my opinion of the anonymous letters and their author,
To these circumstances, and with the same view, we may add, that Timothy Pickering, (then quarter-master general, and, if we do not mistake, the only person who on the 15th of March opposed himself to the course recommended by Washington and adopted by the army,) became, at a subsequent period, his secretary of war.