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war, the cessation of hostilities with Great Britain was, by order of General Washington, proclaimed in the American camp. A number of negroes, who had once belonged to American citizens, were sent off by the British. This produced an interview between Generals Carleton and Washington, at Tappan, on the 6th of May, which ended without any decisive result.
On the 25th of November the British troops evacuated New York, and an American detachment, under General Knox, took possession of the town. General Washington and Governor Clinton, accompanied by a number of civil and military officers and respectable citizens, soon afterward entered the city; and the Americans, after a struggle which had lasted eight years, gained full and undisputed possession of the provinces.
The independence of the United States was acknowledged, and peace with Great Britain concluded : but the dangers of America were not at an end. She had succeeded in repelling foreign aggression; but was threatened with ruin by internal dissension. In the interval between the cessation of hostilities and the disbanding of the troops, congress found itself in a trying and perilous situation. Their army was in a state of high dissatisfaction and irritation. In October, 1780, a season of danger and alarm, congress promised half-pay to the officers on the conclusion of peace. That promise they now seemed neither very able nor willing to perform. The danger had passed away, and the spirit of liberality, engendered by fear, had evaporated. The state legislatures affected much jealousy of what they called their liberty, but discovered little inclination to fulfil their obligations to those who had been instrumental in establishing it. The chicanery, evasions, and subterfuges even of congress deprived it of the respect and sympathy due to unsullied honor in distress. Spotless integrity is the brightest ornament and best shield of nations, as well as of individuals. The shuffling policy of congress roused the indignation of the officers of the army, many of whom manifested an inclination to procure redress of their own wrongs with the same weapons which had asserted the independence of their country.
In the month of December, 1782, soon after going into winter quarters, the officers presented a memorial and petition to congress, and deputed a committee of their number to call its attention to the subject. They had shed their blood, spent their time, and wasted their substance, in the service of their country. Large arrears were due to them, and they had received liberal promises ; but there was no certain prospect that the arrears would ever be paid, and there was much reason to suspect that there was no serious intention to perform the promises. After all their sufferings and sacrifices, they had nothing before them but the melancholy prospect of being discharged without even money to carry them to their respective homes, and of being cast naked on the world, and spending old age in penury and neglect, after having lost the prime of life in vindicating the claims and establishing the independence of an ungrateful people
To men who had long and zealously served their country in the midst of the greatest hardships and wants, these were irritating considerations. Accordingly, early in March, on receiving a letter from their committee in Philadelphia, purporting that their solicitations had not been successful, meetings of the officers were held to consider what measures should be adopted for obtaining redress of their grievances. An ably written address was circulated through the army, inviting a general meeting of the officers at a given time and place.
“ To the Officers of the Army. “GENTLEMEN: A fellow-soldier, whose interests and affections bind him strongly to you, whose past sufferings have been as great, and whose future fortunes may
be as desperate as yours, would beg leave to address you. Age has its claims, and rank is not without its pretensions to advise; but, though unsupported by both,
he flatters himself that the plain language of sincerity and experience will nei ther be unheard nor unregarded.
“ Like many of you, he loved private life, and left it with regret. He left it, determined to retire from the field with the necessity that called him to it, and not till then--not till the enemies of his country, the slaves of power and the hirelings of injustice, were compelled to abandon their schemes, and acknowledge America as terrible in arms as she had been humble in remonstrance. With this object in view, he has long shared in your toils and mingled in your dangers. He has felt the cold hand of poverty wlthout a murmur, and has seen the insolence of wealth without a sigh. But, too much under the direction of his wishes, and sometimes weak enough to mistake desire for opinion, he has till lately, very lately, believed in the justice of his country. He hoped that, as the clouds of adversity scattered, and as the sunshine of peace and better fortune broke in upon us, the coldness and severity of government would relax, and that more than justice, that gratitude, would blaze forth upon those hands which had upheld her, in the darkest stages of her passage, from impending servitude to acknowledged independence. But faith has its limits as well as temper, and there are points beyond which neither can be stretched without sinking into cowardice or plunging into credulity. This, my friends, I conceive to be your situation. Hurried to the very verge of both, another step would ruin you for
To be tame and unprovoked when injuries press hard upon you, is more than weakness; but to look up for kinder usage, without one manly effort of your own, would fix your character, and show the world how richly you deserve those chains you broke. To guard against this evil, let us take a review of the ground upon which we now stand, and thence carry our thoughts forward for a moment into the unexplored field of expedient. After a pursuit of seven long years, the object for which we set out is at length brought within our reach Yes, my friends, that suffering courage of yours was active once—it has conducted the United States of America through a doubtful and a bloody war; it has placed her in the chair of independence, and peace returns again-to bless whom? A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your worth, and reward your services ? A country courting your return to private life with tears of gratitude and smiles of admiration-longing to divide with you the independency which your gallantry has given, and those riches which your wounds have preserved? Is this the case ?, or is it rather a country that tramples upon your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your distresses? Have you not more than once suggested your wishes, and made known your wants, to congress-wants and wishes which gratitude and policy should have anticipated rather than evaded? And have you not lately, in the meek language of entreating memorials, begged from their justice what you could no longer expect from their favor ? How have you been answered ? Let the letter which you are called to consider to-morrow reply.
“ If this then be your treatment while the swords you wear are necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect from peace, when your voice shall sink, and your strength dissipate, by division--when those very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory, shall be taken from your sides, and no remaining mark of military distinction left but your wants, infirmities, and scars? Can you then consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution; and, retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependancy, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honor ? If you can, go, and carry with you the jest of tories and the scorn of whigs; the ridicule, and, what is worse, the pity, of the world! Go, starve and be forgotten! But, if your spirit should revolt at this—if you have sense enough to discover
and spirit enough to oppose tyranny, under whatever garb it may assume, whether it be the plain coat of republicanism or the splendid robe of royalty--if you have vet learned to discriminate between a people and a cause, between men and principles-awake, attend to your situation, and redress yourselves! If the present moment be lost, every future effort is in vain, and your threats then will be as empty as your entreaties now..
“I would advise you, therefore, to come to some final opinion upon wnat you can bear, and what you will suffer. If your determination be in any proportion to your wrongs, carry your appeal from the justice, to the fears, of government. Change the milk-and-water style of your last memorial; assume a bolder tone, decent, but lively, spirited, and determined ; and suspect the man who would advise to more moderation and longer forbearance. Let two or three men, who can feel as well as write, be appointed to draw up your last remonstrance; for I would no longer give it the suing, soft, unsuccessful epithet of memorial. Let it be represented, in language that will neither dishonor you by its rudeness nor betray you by its fears, what has been promised by congress, and what has been performed; how long and how patiently you have suffered; how little you
have asked, and how much of that little has been denied. Tell them, that though you were the first, and would wish to be the last, to encounter danger, though despair itself can never drive you into dishonor, it may drive you from the field ; that the wound, often irritated, and never healed, may at length become incurable;' and that the slightest mark of malignity from congress, now, must operate like the grave, and part you for ever. That, in any political event, the
army has its alternative : if peace, that nothing shall separate you from your arms but death; if war, that, courting the auspices and inviting the directions of your illustrious leader, you will retire to some unsettled country, smile in your turn, and mock when their fear cometh on.' But let it represent also, that should they comply with the request of your late memorial, it would make you more happy, and them more respectable. That while war should continue, you would follow their standard into the field ; and when it came to an end, you would withdraw into the shade of private life, and give the world another subject of wonder and applause--an army victorious over its enemies, victorious over itself.”
General Washington's Speech at the Meeting of Officers. “ GENTLEMEN : By an anonymous summons an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide. In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation, addressed more to the feelings and passions than to the judgment of the army. The author of the piece is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his pen; and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his heart: for, as men see through different optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the mind to use different means to attain the same und, the author of the address should have had more charity than to mark for suspicion the man who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance ; or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises.
" But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of sentiment, regard to justice, and love of country, have no part; and he was right to insinuate the darkest suspicion to effect the blackest design. That the address was drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes ; that it is calculated to impress the mind with an idea of premeditated injustice in the sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all the resentinents which must unavoidably flow from such a belief; that the secret mover of this scheme, whoever he may be, intended to take advantage of the passions
while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving uime for cool, deliberative thinking, and that composure of mind which is so necessary to give dignity and stability to measures, is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proofs than a reference to the proceedings.
“ Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last, and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity, consistent with your own honor and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct, therefore, has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But, as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country ; as I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits ; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army; as my heart has ever expanded with joy when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it; it can scarcely be supposed, at this stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests. But how are they to be promoted ? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. If war continues, remove into the unsettled country, there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But who are they to defend ? Our wives, our children, our farms, and other property which we leave behind us ? or, in this state of hostile preparation, are we to take the first two (the latter can not be removed), to perish in the wilderness with hunger, cold, and nakedness?
“ If peace takes place, never sheath your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice. This dreadful alternative of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our arms against it, which is the apparent object, unless congress can be compelled into instant compliance, has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! what can this writer have in view by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country ? Rather, is he not an insidious foe; some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent ? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends measures, in either alternative, impracticable in their nature ?
" But here, gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because it would be as impru dent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception to suppose you stood in need of them. A moment's reflection will convince every dispassionate mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution. There might, gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this address to you, of an anonymous production ; but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the army, the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observation on the tendency of that writing:
“With respect to the advice given by the author, to suspect the man who should recommend moderate measures, I spurn it, as every man, who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consid eration of mankind, reason is of no use to us. The freedom of speech may