« AnteriorContinuar »
it of struggling with difficulties, his courage at all times grew with the dangers which surrounded him. In the most disastrous situations he was far removed from despair. On the other hand, those fortunate events which induced many to believe that the revolution was accomplished, never op. erated on him so far as to relax his exertions or precautions. Though complete success had been obtained by the allied arms in Virginia, and great advantages had been gained in 1781 in the Carolinas, yet Washington urged the necessity of being prepared for another campaign. In a letter to Gen, Greene he observed, “ I shall endeavour to stimu. late Congress to the best improvement of our late success, by taking the most vigorous and effectual measures to be ready for an early and decisive campaign the next year. My greatest fear is that, viewing this stroke in a point of light which may too much magnify its importance, they may think our work too nearly closed, and fall into a state of languor and relaxation. To prevent this error, I shall employ every means in my power; and if unhappily we sink into this fatal mistake, no part of the blame shall be mine."
1782 and 1783.
Prospects of peace.....Languor of the States..... Discontents of the army.
Gen. Washington prevents the adoption of rash measures..... Some new levies in Pennsylvania mutiny, and are quelled..... Washingtort recommends measures for the preservation of independence, peace, liberty, and happiness... Dismisses his army.....Enters New York. Takes leave of his officers.....Settles his accounts..... Repairs to Annapolis..... Resigns his commission..... Retires to Mount Vernon, and resumes his agricultural pursuits.
THE' military establishment for 1782, was passed with unusual celerity shortly after the surrender of lord Cornwallis ; but no exertions of america alone could do more than confine the British to the sea coast. To dislodge them from their strong holds in New York and Charleston, occupied the unceasing attention of Washington. While he was concerting plans for farther combined operations with the French, and at the same time endeavouring by circular letters to rouse his countrymen to spirited measures, intelligence arrived that sundry motions for discontinuing the American war had been debated in the British Parliament, and nearly carried. Fearing that this would
of the British forces in America, arrived in New
York, and announced in successive communica'tions, the increasing probability of a speedy peace, and his disapprobation of farther hostilities, which, . he observed, “could only tend to multiply the miseries of individuals, without a possible advantage to either nation.” The cautious temper of Washington gradually yielded to increasing evidence that the British were seriously inclined to terminate the war; but in proportion as this opin. ion prevailed, the exertions of the states relaxed. Not more than eighty thousand dollars had been received from all of them, when the month of August was far advanced. Every expenditure yielded to the subsistence of the army. A suffi. ciency of money could scarcely be obtained for that indispensably necessary purpose. To pay the troops was impossible.
Washington, whose sagacity anticipated events, foresaw with concern the probable consequences likely to result from the tardiness of the states to comply with the requisitions of Congress. These had been ample. Eight millions of dollars had been called for, to be paid in four equal quarterly instalments, for the service of the year 1782. In a confidential letter to the Secretary of War, Washington observed, “I cannot help fearing the result of reducing the army, where I see such a number of men, goaded by a thousand stings of reflection on the past, and of anticipation on the future, about to be turned into the world, soured by, penury, and what they call the ingratitude of the public; involved in debts without one far. thing of money to carry them home, after having
spent the flower of their days, and many of them their patrimonies, in establishing the freedom and independence of their country, and having suffered every thing which human nature is capable of enduring on this side of death. I repeat it, when I reflect on these irritable circumstances, I cannot avoid apprehending that a train of evils will follow, of a very serious and distressing nature.
“I wish not to heighten the shades of the picture so far as the real life would justify me in do. ing, or I would give anecdotes of patriotism and distress, which have scarcely ever been paralleled, never surpassed, in the history of mankind. But you may rely upon it; the patience and long sufferance of this army are almost exhausted, and there never was so great a spirit of discontent as at this instant. While in the field, it may be kept from breaking out into acts of outrage ; but when we retire into winter quarters, unless the storm be previously dissipated, I cannot be at ease respecting the consequences. It is high time for a peace.”
These apprehensions were well founded. To watch the discontents of his troops, the American chief continued in caip after they had retired into winter quarters, though there was no prospect of any military operation which might require his presence. Soon after their retirement, the officers presented a petition to Congress respecting their pay, and depuned a committee of their body to so. licit their interests while under consideration.*
Nothing had been decided on the claims of the armix, when intelligence, in March, 1783, arrived, that preiminary and eventual articles of peace
* See the Appendix for this petition.