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1775.] LETTER OF WASHINGTON lO GAGE. 369
himself and his army were to be treated on a footing of perfect equality. The correspondence arose from the treatment of several American officers.
"I understand," writes Washington to Gage, " that the officers engaged in the cause of liberty and their country, who by the fortune of war have fallen into your hands, have been thrown indiscriminately into a common gaol, appropriated to felons; that no consideration has been had for those of the most respectable rank, when languishing with wounds and sickness, and that some have been amputated in this unworthy situation. Let your opinion, sir, of the principles which actuate them, be what it may, they suppose that they act from the noblest of all principles, love of freedom and their country. But political principles, I conceive, are foreign to this point. The obligations arising from the rights of humanity and claims of rank are universally binding and extensive, except in case of retaliation. These, I should have hoped, would have dictated a more tender treatment of those individuals whom chance or war had put in your power. Nor can I forbear suggesting its fatal tendency to widen that unhappy breach which you, and those ministers under whom you act, have repeatedly declared your wish to see for ever closed. My duty now makes it necessary to apprise you that, for the future, I shall regulate all my conduct towards those gentlemen who are, or may be, in our possession, exactly by the rule you shall observe towards those of ours, now in your custody.
"If severity and hardships mark the line of your conduct, painful as it may be to me, your prisoners will feel its effects. But if kindness and humanity are shown to us, I shall with pleasure consider those in our hands only as unfortunate, and they shall receive from me that treatment to which the unfortunate are ever entitled."
The following are the essential parts of a letter from General Gage in reply:—
"Sir,—To the glory of civilised nations, humanity and war have been compatible, and humanity to the subdued has become almost a general system. Britons, ever preeminent in mercy, have outgone common examples, and overlooked the criminal in the captive. Upon these principles your prisoners, whose lives by the law of the land are destined to the cord, have hitherto been treated with care and kindness, and more comfortably lodged than the King's troops in the hospitals; indiscriminately, it is true, for I acknowledge no rank that is not derived from the King.
"My intelligence from your army would justify severe recriminations. I understand there are of the King's faithful subjects, taken some time since by the rebels, labouring, like negro slaves to gain their daily subsistence, or reduced to the wretched alternative to perish by famine or take arms against their King and country. Those who have made the treatment of the prisoners hi my hands, or of your other friends in Boston, a pretence for such measures, found barbarity upon falsehood.
"I would willingly hope, sir, that the sentiments of liberality which I have always believed you to possess, will be exerted to correct these misdoings. Be temperate in political disquisition; give free operation to truth, and punish those who deceive and misrepresent; and not only the effects, but the cause, of this unhappy conflict, will be removed. Should those, under whose usurped authority you act, control such a disposition, and dare to call severity retaliation; to God, who knows all hearts, be the appeal of the dreadful consequences," &c.
There were expressions in the foregoing letter well calculated to rouse indignant feelings in the most temperate bosom. Had Washington been as readily moved to transports of passion as some are pleased to represent him, the rebel and the cord might readily have stung him to fury; but with him, anger was checked in its impulses by higher energies, and reined in to give a grander effect to the dictates of his judgment. The following was his noble and dignified reply to General Gage :—
"I addressed you, sir, on the 11th instant, in terms which gave the fairest scope for that humanity and politeness which were supposed to form a part of your character. I remonstrated with you on the unworthy treatment shown to the officers and citizens of America, whom the fortune of war, chance, or a mistaken confidence, had thrown into your hands. Whether British or American mercy, for
titude, and patience, are most pre-eminent; whether our virtuous citizens, whom the hand of tyranny has forced into arms to defend their wives, their children, and their property, or the merciless instruments of lawless domination, avarice, and revenge, best deserve the appellation of rebels, and the punishment of that cord, which your affected clemency has forborne to inflict; whether the authority under which I act is usurped, or founded upon the genuine principles of liberty, were altogether foreign to the subject. I purposely avoided all political disquisition; nor shall I now avail myself of those advantages which the sacred cause of my country, of liberty, and of human nature give me over you; much less shall I stoop to retort and invective; but the intelligence you say you have received from our army requires a reply. I have taken time, sir, to make a strict inquiry, and find it has not the least foundation in truth. Not only your officers and soldiers have been treated with the tenderness due to fellow-citizens and brethren, but even those execrable parricides, whoso counsels and aid havo deluged their country with blood, have been protected from the fury of a justly-enraged people. Far from compelling or permitting their assistance, I am embarrassed with the numbers who crowd to our camp, animated with the purest principles of virtue and love to their country. ******
"You affect, sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own. I cannot conceive one more honourable, than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power. Far from making it a plea for cruelty, a mind of true magnanimity and enlarged ideas would comprehend and respect it.
"What may have been the ministerial views which have precipitated the present crisis, Lexington, Concord, and Charlestown, can best declare. May that God, to whom you, too, appeal, judge between America and you! Under his providence, those who influence the councils of America, and all the other inhabitants of the united colonies, at the hazard of their lives, are determined to hand down to posterity those just and invaluable privileges which they received from their ancestors.
"I shall now, sir, close my correspondence with yon, perhaps for ever. If your officers, our prisoners, receive a treatment from me different from that which I wished to show them, they and you will remember the occasion of it."
We have given these letters of Washington almost entire, for they contain his manifesto as commander-in-chief of the armies of the Eevolution; setting forth the opinions and motives by which he was governed, and the principles on which hostilities on his part would be conducted. It was planting with the pen that standard which was to be maintained by the sword.
In conformity with the threat conveyed in the latter part of his letter, Washington issued orders that British officers at Watertown and Cape Ann, who were at large on parole, should be confined in Northampton gaol; explaining to them that this conduct, which might appear to them harsh and cruel, was contrary to his disposition, but according to the rule of treatment observed by General Gage toward the American prisoners in his hands, making no distinction of rank. Circumstances, of which we have no explanation, induced subsequently a revocation of this order; the officers were permitted to remain as before, at large upon parole, experiencing every indulgence and civility consistent with their security.
Dangers in the Interior—Machinations of the Johnson Family—Rivalry of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold—Government perplexities about the Ticonderoga Capture—Measures to secure the Prize—Allen and Arnold ambitious of further laurels—Projects for the Invasion of Canada—Ethan Allen and Seth Warner honoured by Congress— Arnold displaced by a Committee of Inquiry—His indignation—News from Canada—The Revolution to be extended into that ProvinceEnlistment of Green Mountain Boys—Schuyler at Ticonderoga— State of Affairs there—Election for Officers of the Green Mountain Boys—Ethan Allen dismounted—Joins the Army as a Volunteer— Preparations for the Invasion of Canada—General Montgomery— Indian Chiefs at Cambridge—Council Fire—Plan for an Expedition against Quebec—Departure of Troops from Ticonderoga—Arrival at Isle Aux Noix.
We must interrupt our narrative of the siege of Boston to give an account of events in other quarters, requiring the superintending care of Washington as commander-in-chief.
Letters from General Schuyler, received in the course of July, had awakened apprehensions of danger from the interior. The Johnsons were said to be stirring up the Indians in the western parts of New York to hostility, and preparing to join the British forces in Canada; so that, while the patriots were battling for their rights along the seaboard, they were menaced by a powerful combination in rear. To place this matter in a proper light, we will give a brief statement of occurrences in the upper part of "New York, and on the frontiers of Canada, since the exploits of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold at Ticonderoga and on Lake Champlain.
Great rivalry, as has already been noted, had arisen between these doughty leaders. Both had sent off expresses to the provincial authorities, giving an account of their recent triumphs. Allen claimed command at Ticonderoga, on the authority of the committee from the Connecticut Assembly, which had originated the enterprise. Arnold claimed it on the strength of his instructions from the Massachusetts committee of safety. He bore a commission, too, given him by that committee; whereas Allen had no other commission than that given him before the war by the committees in the Hampshire Grants to command their Green Mountain Boys against the encroachments of New York.
"Colonel Allen," said Arnold, " is a proper man to head his own wild people, but entirely unacquainted with military service; and as I am the only person who has been legally authorized to take possession of this place, I am determined to insist on my right; * * * and shall keep it [the fort] at every hazard, until I have further orders." 1
The public bodies themselves seemed perplexed what to do with the prize, so bravely seized upon by these bold men. Allen had written to the Albany committee for men and provisions, to enable him to maintain his conquest. The committee feared this daring enterprise might involve the northern part of the province in the horrors of war and desolation, and asked advice of the New York committee. The New York committee did not think themselves author
1 Arnold to Mass. Comm. of Safety. Am. Arch. ii. 557.