« AnteriorContinuar »
« 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 especting that they would continue patiently to bear such an over pro. portion of the common calunities growing out of the necessary war, in which all were equally in. terested; 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 officers whose coinmissions, 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 committce of Congress the defects 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 pres. ent 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 busi. ness, 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 coinmander attached both officers and soldiers so strongly to his person, as enabled him to keep them together under priva
tions almost too much for human nature to bear. Their effective force throughout the winter was little more than five thousand men, though their numbers on paper exceeded seventeen thousand. It was well for them that the British made no attempt to disturb them while in this destitute con. dition. In that case the Americans could not have kept their camp for want of provisions ; nor could they have retreated from it without the certain loss of some thousands who were barefooted and oth. erwise almost naked. Neither could they have risked an action with any probable hope of suc. cess, or without hazarding the most serious consequences.
The historians of the American revolution will detail the particulars of a treaty entered into about this time between France and the United States, and also that thereupon the government of Great Britain offered terms to the Americans equal to all they had asked anterior to their declaration of independence. The first certain intelligence of these offers was received by Gen. Washington in a letter from Major General Tryon, the British Governor of New York, enclosing the conciliatoTý proposals, and recommending “ that they should be circulated by Gen. Washington among the of. ficers and privates of his army.” Instead of .com.. plying with this extraordinary request, he forwarded the whole to Congress. The offers of Great Britain, which, if made in due time, would have prevented the dismemberment of the empire, were promptly rejected. The day after their rejection a resolution formerly recommended by Washington was adopted by Congress, in which they urged
upon the different states “to pardon, under certain limitations, such of their inisguided citizens as had levied war against the United States.” Copies of this were struck off in English and German, and Gen. Washington was directed to take measyres for circulating them among the American ley. ies in the British army. He immediately enclosed them in a letter to Tryon, in which he acknowledged the receipt of his late letter covering the British conciliatory bills, and requesting their circulation in the American army; and in the way of retort requested the instrumentality of Tryon in making the resolves of Congress, known to the Americans in the. British army, on whom they were intended to operate.
About this time Sir William Howe resigned the command of the British army, and returned to Great Britain. His successor, Sir Henry Clinton, had scarcely entered on the duties of his office, when he received orders to evacuate Philadelphia. This was deemed expedient from an apprehen. sion that it would be a dangerous position in case a French fleet, as was expected, should arrive in the Delaware to co-operate with the Americans.
The design of evacuating Philadelphia was soon discovered by Washington ; but the object or course of the enemy could not be precisely ascertained. Their preparations equally denoted an expedition to the south ; an embarkation of their whole army for New York ; or a march to that city through New Jersey. In the two first cases Washington had not the means of annoyance; but as the probability of the last daily increased, he directed his chief attention to that point. Gen.
his best judgment informed him was for the interest of his country; yet he received certain information that a cabal, consisting of some mem. bers of Congress, and a few General Officers of the army, was plotting to supersede him in his command. The scheme was to obtain the sanction of some of the state legislatures to instruct their delegates to move in Congress for an inquiry into the causes of the failures of the campaigns of 1776 and 1777, with the hope that some intemperate resolutions passed by them would either lead to the removal of the General, or wound his military feelings so as to induce his resignation. Anonymous papers containing high charges against him, and urging the necessity of putting some more en. ergetic officer at the head of the army, were sent to Henry Laurens, President of Congress, Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, and others. These were forwarded to Gen. Washington. In his reply to Mr. Laurens, he wrote as follows; “I can. not sufficiently express the obligation I feel toward you for your friendship and politeness, upon an occasion in which I am so deeply interested. I was not unapprized that a malignant faction had been for some time forming to my prejudice, which, conscious as I am of having ever done all in my power to answer the important purposes of the trust reposed in me, could not but give me some pain on a personal account; but my chief concern arises from an apprehension of the dangerous consequences which intestine dissensions may prove to the common cause.
" As I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honours not founded in the approbation of my country, I would