Page images
PDF
EPUB

not desire in the least degree to suppress a free spirit of inquiry into any part of my conduct, that even faction itseif may deem reprehensible. The anonymous paper handed you exhibits many serious charges, and it is my wish that it may be submitted to Congress. This I am the more inclined to, as the suppression or concealment may possibly involve you in embarrassments hereafter, since it is uncertain how many, or who may be privy to the contents.

“My enemies take an ungenerous advantage of me. They know the delicacy of my situation, and that motives of policy deprive me of the defence I might otherwise make against their insidious attacks. They know I cannot combat insinuations, however injurious, without disclosing secrets it is of the uimost moment to conceal. But why should I expect to be exempt from censure, the unfailing lot of an elevated station ? Merit and talents, which I cannot pretend to rival, have ever been subject to it; my heart tells me it has been my unremitted aim to do the best which circumstances would permit; yet I may have been very often mistaken in my judgment of the means, and may, in many instances, deserve the imputation of error."

About the same time it was reported that Washington had determined to resign his command. On this occasion he wrote to a gentleman in New England as follows; "I can assure you that no person ever heard me drop an expression that had a tendency to resignation. The same principles that led me to embark in the opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain, operate with additional force at this day; nor is it my desire to withdraw my services while they are considered of importance in the present contest; but to report a design of this kind is among the arts which those who are endeavouring to effect a change, are practising to bring it to pass. I have said, and I still do say, that there is not an officer in the United States that would return to the sweets of domestic life with more heart felt joy than I should. But I would have this declaration accompanied by these sentiments, that while the public are satisfied with my endeavours, I mean not to shrink from the cause ; but the moment her voice, not that of faction, calls upon me to resign, I shall do it with as much pleasure as ever the weary travel. ler retired to rest."

[graphic]

These machinations did not abate the ardour of Washington in the common cause.

His patriotism was too solid to be shaken either by envy or ingratitude. Nor was the smallest effect produced in diininishing his well earned reputation. Zeal the most active, and services the most beneficial, and at the same time disinterested, had rivetted him in the affections of his country and army. Even the victorious troops under General Gates, though comparisons highly flattering to their vanity had been made between them and the army in Pennsylvania, clung to Washington as their po. litical saviour. The resentment of the people was generally excited against those who were supposed to be engaged in or friendly to the scheme of appointing a new commander in chief over the

American arnıy.

CHAPTER V.

CAMPAIGN OF 1778.

General Washington prepares for the campaign of 1778..... Surprises

the British, and defeats them at Monmouth....trests General Lee. Calms the irritation excited by the departure of the French fleet from Rhode Island to Boston..... Dissuades from an invasion of Canada.

WASHINGTON devoted the short respite from field duty which followed the encampment of the army at Valley Forge, to prepare for an early and active campaign in the year 1778. He laboured to impress on Congress the necessity of having in the field a regular army, at least equal to that of the enemy.. He transmitted to the individual states a return of the troops they had severally furnished for the continental army.

While this exhibited to each its deficiency, it gave the General an opportunity to urge on them respectively the necessity of completing their quotas.

Congress deputed a committee of their body to reside in camp, and, in concert with Gen. Washington, to investigate the state of the army, and to report such reforms as might be deemed expe. dient. This committee, known by the name of

[ocr errors][merged small]
[graphic]

« The Committee of Arrangements,” repaired to Valley Forge, in January, 1778. Washington laid before them a statement, in which a comprehensive view of the army was taken, and in which he minutely pointed out what he deemed necessary

for the correction of existing abuses, and for the advancement of the service. He recommended, “as essentially necessary, that in addition to present compensation, provision should be made by half pay, and a pensionary establishment for the future support of the officers, so as to render their commissions valuable.” He pointed out “the insufficiency of their pay, especially in its present state of depreciation, for their decent subsistence; the sacrifices they had already made, and the unreasonableness of expecting that they would continue patiently to bear such an over proportion of the common calamities growing out of the necessary war, in which all were equally interested; the many resignations that had already taken place, and the probability that more would follow, to the great injury of the service; the impossibility of keeping up a strict discipline among oificers whose commissions, in a pecuniary view, were so far from being worth holding, that they were the means of impoverishing thein.” These, and other weighty considerations, were accompanied with a declaration by Gen. Washington, " that he neither could nor would receive the smallest benefit from the proposed establishnent, and that he had no other inducement in urging it, but a full conviction of its utility and propriety.'

In the same statement the commander in chief explained to the committee of Congress the defects

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in the quarter masters, and other departments connected with the support and comfort of the army; and also urged the necessity of each state completing its quota by draughts from the militia. The statement concludes with these impressive words ; “Upon the whole, gentlemen, I doubt not you are fully impressed with the defects of our present military systein, and with the necessity of speedy and decisive measures to place it on a satisfactory footing. The disagreeable picture I have given you of the wants and sufferings of the army, and the discontents reigning among the officers, is a just representation of evils equally melancholy and important; and unless effectual remedies be applied without loss of time, the most alarming and ruinous consequences are to be apprehended.” The committee were fully impressed with the correctness of the observations made by the coinmander in chief, and grounded their report upon them. A general concurrence of sentiment took place. Congress passed resolutions, but with sundry limitations, in favour of half pay to their officers for seven years after the war; and gave their sanction to the other measures suggested by Washington, and recommended by their committee. But, from the delays incidental to large bodies, either deliberating upon or executing public business, much time necessarily elapsed before the army received the benefits of the proposed reforms; and in the mean time their distresses approached to such a height as threatened their immediate dissolution. Respect for their commander attached both officers and soldiers so strongly to his person, as enabled him to keep them together under priva

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »