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die. I send you my account of Arnold's affair, and, to justify myself to your sentiments, I must inform you, that I urged a compliance with André's request to be shot, and I do not think it would have had an ill effect; but some people are only sensible to motives of policy, and sometimes, from a narrow disposition, mistake it.
“When André's tale comes to be told, and present resentment is over, the refusing him the privilege of choosing the manner of his death will be branded with too much obstinacy.
“ It was proposed to me to suggest to him the idea of an exchange for Arnold; but I know I should have forfeited his esteem by doing it, and therefore declined it. As a man of honour, he could not but reject it; and I would not for the world have proposed to him a thing, which must have placed me in the unamiable light of supposing him capable of a meanness, or of not feeling myself the impropriety of the measure. I confess to you, I had the weakness to value the esteem of a dying man, because I reverenced his merit.”
All the chivalry of Hamilton's character speaks in the last paragraph. It is true, that Arnold was safe under the shelter of that British flag, which never
yet betrayed the fugitive who trusted to its protection, and that no English general would have consented to purchase the life of friend or brother, by delivering up the renegade whose proffered services he had once accepted. But Hamilton felt that there was dishonour in the very proposal, and that he should forfeit the esteem of André by even mentioning it to him. He measured the nobleness of the victim by his own lofty standard.
On that fatal morning, there was a gloomy silence in the camp, and, excepting the brigade on duty, officers and soldiers retired to their tents. the natural and spontaneous delicacy of true valour. Having breakfasted, and dressed himself with care in the full uniform of a British officer, André walked calmly to the place of execution.
There was serene smile on his lips, but, when he came in sight of the gibbet, he asked with some emotion : “Must I then die in this manner?” Being told it was inevitable, he said: “It will be but a momentary pang ;” and, springing upon the cart, he made the necessary preparations with admirable composure. He was informed, that the last moment was at hand, if he had anything more to say.
Nothing," he answered, “but to request you will bear witness, that
I meet my fate like a brave man.” It was the dying thought of a soldier, who felt that he had to maintain the martial honour of his country.
The tale has been told a thousand times, and still affects us, almost as it affected our grandfathers. In America, as in England, the name of André still awakens a sensation of sorrowing pity. “It was among the extraordinary circumstances that attended him,” says Hamilton, “that, in the midst of his enemies, he died universally regretted, and universally esteemed." And with regard to Hamilton himself, nothing is more fitted to endear his memory to gentle hearts on both sides of the Atlantic, than the generous humanity he displayed in the case of the unfortunate André.
CLOSE OF THE WAR.
HE struggle had now lasted for upwards of
five years, and still there seemed to be no sign of a speedy termination of the contest. Both France and Spain were in alliance with America, Holland was threatening to join the coalition, and the States of Northern Europe had united in an armed neutrality against the naval pretensions of Great Britain; but still the invincible pride of England refused to yield. On her own element, Rodney maintained her supremacy; from the rock of Gibraltar, her flag waved defiance to the world ; and she clung with desperate tenacity to what remained of her dominion on the continent of America. When the prolonged resistance to the independence of the colonies is ascribed (as it often is) to the obstinacy of George III., it should not be forgotten that, throughout the greater part of the war, the king fairly represented the opinions of the majority of the
nation. There was, indeed, a minority, brilliant in eloquence and talent, who, from the first, had taken the side of the Americans; but even these were slow to acquiesce in the dismemberment of the empire, and the main body of the people looked upon the surrender of their transatlantic possessions as tantamount to disgrace and ruin. We have since learned, indeed, that a kindred race may be more valuable as friends and customers than as subjects, and that a sovereignty which can only be preserved by force is not worth preserving at all: but the lesson was hard to learn ; and the knowledge of that fact should make us tolerant in our judgment of others, who, in our own day, have striven, with equal stubbornness, and hitherto with as doubtful fortune, to uphold the integrity of an empire against states resolved to be independent.
Meanwhile, the Americans had to suffer many privations, and were by no means exempt from reverses. Charleston had been taken by the English ; and, in North Carolina, Lord Cornwallis had surprised and defeated Gates, whose military reputation was rapidly declining. Besides all the old difficulties, Washington had to contend with a mutiny in his army, arising from the neglect of Congress to provide