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nevertheless made ready for the wider conflict which they saw might follow. They resolved that the colonies be immediately put into a state of defence, and appointed committees to consider means for obtaining ammunition and military stores, and to decide what posts in New York ought to be occupied.1
From Massachusetts came a call to a wider field of duty. A letter asking advice about establishing a government closed with a respectful suggestion that, as the army now collecting was for the common defence, it would be well for Congress to take the “regulation and general direction of it.”2 On June 2 President Hancock laid the letter before Congress. After a week's consideration Congress advised Massachusetts to form a government, but said nothing about assuming control of the army. It would seem, however, that the question had already been practically decided; for, on the day after the letter from Massachusetts was submitted to Congress, the New York delegates wrote to the Congress of their colony, asking whom they would prefer to command "the Continental army in our province, which is to be maintained at the general charge;"4 and Congress could hardly have kept up a force in New York, which was not yet invaded, and at the same time have left the troops before Boston to be supported by the local governments. The delay of Congress in complying with the request of Massachusetts that they would undertake the management of the army, was probably due chiefly to the difficulty of agreeing on a commander-in-chief.
No other American had the military experience and reputation of Colonel George Washington. Moreover, he had been chosen a delegate to both the First and the Second Continental Congress, and was held in high regard by his colleagues. Patrick Henry had said, “ If you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on the floor."'5 Washington had also other advantages which were con
1 Journals of Congress, i. 102, 105, 106, May 15, 26, 27, 1775.
2 Massachusetts Congress to Continental Congress, May 16, 1775, Force, American Archives, 4th series, ii. 621.
8 Journals of Congress, i. 115, June 9, 1775.
CHOOSING A GENERAL.
sidered very important. He was, for example, a man of wealth and position; and Congress wished to show that the “rebel” leaders were not penniless adventurers, but persons of substance, with an interest in the maintenance of social order. The spirit of '76 was by no means so democratic as Fourth of July orators would have us believe; we have many instances of aristocratic feeling. The New York Congress wrote to their delegates at Philadelphia that a general in America should not only be brave, able, and experienced in war; but that he should be favored by fortune, a man who would rather communicate lustre to his dignities than receive it from them, and one whose property, kindred, and connections might give sure proof of faithful exercise of power, and of a readiness to lay it down when the public welfare demanded.1 When Clinton was elected governor of New York, Schuyler said that he hoped every patriot would support him, “although his family and connections do not entitle him to so distinguished a predominance.”2 Montgomery wished that “some method could be fallen upon of engaging gentlemen to serve”;3 Washington advised the colonel of a cavalry regiment to “take none but gentlemen” as officers; 4 and John Adams said that a general "ought to be a gentleman of letters and general knowledge, a man of address and knowledge of the world.”'5
Furthermore, Washington was from Virginia ; and to Virginia, the largest and oldest of the colonies, there was conceded, partly through policy and partly on account of the ability and advanced views of her delegates, a kind of primacy. The first president of Congress, Peyton Randolph, was a Virginian; later, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was selected to make the motion for independence; and Thomas Jefferson, of the same colony, was chosen to write the Declaration.
On the other hand, though a majority of the members of Congress were willing to give the command of the army to Virginia,
June 7, 1775, Force, American Archives, 4th series, ii. 1281–1282. 2 Schuyler to Jay, July 14, 1777, Pellew, Jay, 92.
3 Montgomery to Schuyler, November 13, 1775, Washington, Writings (Ford), iii. 250-251, note.
* Washington to Baylor, January 9, 1777, Ibid. v. 159.
there were some who thought it too hazardous an experiment to send a Southerner to command a New England army on New England soil. The danger was increased by the offence which such an appointment would give to certain influential men. Hancock, who had been colonel of a Boston regiment, wished to exchange the presidency of Congress for the command of the army. The Massachusetts general, Artemas Ward, had been allowed to exercise most of the powers of a commander-in-chief, and there was strong opposition to superseding him.
In Massachusetts the necessity for action was better appreciated than at Philadelphia. John Adams was continually receiving letters, many of them from civilians, others from military men, including Ward himself; and the burden of them was that, without help from Congress, the army must dissolve. Adams was told that Ward was incompetent, and that the easiest way of superseding him was for Congress to intervene and appoint a commander. Elbridge Gerry wrote to the Massachusetts delegates in Congress," I should heartily rejoice to see this way the beloved Colonel Washington, and do not doubt the New England generals would acquiesce in showing to our sister colony Virginia, the respect, which she has before experienced from the Continent, in making him generalissimo."1 Accordingly, Adams resolved to bring matters to a decision. Early one morning he informed his cousin, Samuel Adams, of his intention; and when Congress met, he rose, set forth the dangerous condition of affairs, and moved that the army be "adopted” and a general appointed. Without mentioning any name, he indicated his own preference for “a certain gentleman from Virginia now in Congress ”; whereat Washington, “from his usual mod. esty,” as Adams remarks in telling the story, darted into the
President Hancock had listened with evident enjoyment to the first part of the speech, but at the reference to Washington he was at once transformed. Adams says, in his autobiography: “ I never remarked a more sudden and striking change of countenance. Mortification and resentment were expressed as forcibly as his face could exhibit them. Mr. Samuel Adams seconded
1 June 4, 1775, Austin, Gerry, i. 79.
ELECTION OF WASHINGTON.
the motion, and that did not soften the president's physiognomy at all.” 1
In the debate which followed, several members said that matters were going on well in Boston; that the soldiers appeared satisfied with Ward; and that, although they had no objections to Washington personally, they thought it unwise to send him to command a New England army. Against the suggestion Pendleton of Virginia and Sherman of Connecticut took the lead in opposition ; Cushing of Massachusetts and others expressed similar opinions, though less positively; Paine avoided committing himself, but eulogized Ward, who had been his fellow-student at Harvard Unanimity was important, and the subject was postponed.
Meantime, efforts were made to obtain an agreement. The local prejudices of New England were met by those of the South. Some of the supporters of Washington had shown themselves so determined that, either from sectional pride or from fear of a New Englander, they seemed ready to defeat the “adoption" of the army unless Washington were put at the head. A large majority of the delegates favored him, and the rest patriotically consented to waive their opposition.?
On June 15, 1775, Congress resolved to appoint a general, with an allowance of five hundred dollars a month for salary and expenses, and Washington was unanimously elected. The next day President Hancock officially informed the new general of his appointment. Washington rose in his place, and with
? John Adams, Works, ii. 417. John Adams considered Hancock unfit to command the army because of his feeble health and lack of military experience; and he thought that perhaps Hancock wished merely the compliment of an offer, to which, Mr. Adams says, “ he had some pretensions, for, at that time, his exertions, sacrifices, and general merits in the cause of his country had been incomparably greater than those of Colonel Washington ” (John Adams, Works, ii. 416). Hancock, however, had a good opinion of his own abilities: he wrote to Washington that he should like a place in the army; he took part in the expedition to Rhode Island in 1778; and he would probably have accepted the command had it been offered to him.
2 John Adams's Autobiography, in Works, ii. 417-418. 8 Journals of Congress, i. 119, June 15, 1775.
the mingled resolution and modesty so characteristic of the man, replied that, the choice having fallen on him, he would not decline the post, but that he begged, for his own future justification, to assure Congress most sincerely that he felt unequal to his task. He added that, as no profit could have tempted him to sacrifice his “domestic ease and happiness," he would accept no pay, but would simply present an account of his expenses. 1
Having appointed a commander-in-chief, Congress proceeded to select the other generals; but here, owing to lack of sufficient information, they were less fortunate. Two English officers living in America had indicated their willingness to accept commissions. One was Horatio Gates, a former major, who had taken part in Braddock's expedition, but had since resigned and settled in Virginia. The other, Charles Lee, had also served in the French and Indian War, and was now a lieutenant-colonel in the British army, retired on half-pay. He was a restless, unstable, untrustworthy adventurer; but his true character was not known in America, and he was believed to possess much military knowledge and skill. There was, however, some doubt of the advisability of employing foreigners.
John Adams was distracted by thoughts of the “great experience and confessed abilities” of Lee and Gates on the one hand, and of the “natural prejudices, and virtuous attachment of our countrymen to their own officers” on the other. He was finally decided in the Englishmen's favor by the wishes of Washington and of many of the warmest patriots in the South; by the thought of the moral effect which the accession of these veterans would produce, especially in Boston; and, finally, by the “real American merit of them both.”2 Influenced probably by similar reasons, Congress determined to give Gates and Lee important places in the American service. Gates was appointed adjutantgeneral with the rank of brigadier ;3 his duty was to act as a kind of assistant to the commander-in-chief in the management of the army. Gates had much military experience and was a friend of Washington, and the choice was therefore a natural one.
1 Journals of Congress, i. 120, June 16, 1775.