« ZurückWeiter »
mourning, and, pausing for an instant only at Mount Vernon, hastened -on to Philadelphia. At the very moment of victory, and while honorable members were shaking each other's hands and congratulating each other that the war was now really over, the commander-in-chief had fallen again to writing them letters in the old strain, and was once more urging them to keep up the army, while he himself gave his personal attention to securing a naval force for the ensuing year, through the medium of Lafayette. Nothing was ever finished with Washington until it was really complete throughout, and he had as little time for rejoicing as he had for despondency or despair, while a British force still remained in the country. He probably felt that this was as untoward a time as he had ever met in a pretty large experience of unsuitable occasions, for offering sound advice, but he was not deterred thereby from doing it. This time, however, he was destined to an agreeable disappointment, for on his arrival at Philadelphia he found an excellent spirit prevailing in Congress. That body was acting cheerfully on his advice, it had filled the departments of the government, and set on foot such measures as it could to keep up the army. So Washington remained for some time at Philadelphia, helping and counselling Congress in its work, and writing to the States vigorous letters, demanding pay and clothing for the soldiers, ever uppermost in his thoughts.,
But although Congress was compliant, Washing
ton could not convince the country of the justice of his views, and of the continued need of energetic exertion. The steady relaxation of tone, which the strain of a long and trying war had produced, was accelerated by the brilliant victory of Yorktown. Washington for his own part had but little trust in the sense or the knowledge of his enemy. He felt that Yorktown was decisive, but he also thought that Great Britain would still struggle on, and that her talk of peace was very probably a mere blind, to enable her to gain time, and, by taking advantage of our relaxed and feeble condition, to strike again in hope of winning back all that had been lost. He therefore continued his appeals in behalf of the army, and reiterated everywhere the necessity for fresh and ample preparations.
As late as May 4th he wrote sharply to the States for men and money, saying that the change of ministry was likely to be adverse to peace, and that we were being lulled into a false and fatal sense of security. A few days later, on receiving information from Sir Guy Carleton of the address of the Commons to the king for peace, Washington wrote to Congress: "For my own part, I view our situation as such that, instead of relaxing, wre ought to improve the present moment as the most favorable to our wishes. The British nation appear to me to be staggered, and almost ready to sink beneath the accumulating weight of debt and misfortune. If we follow the blow with vigor and energy, I think the game is our own."
Again he wrote in July: "Sir Guy Carleton is using every art to soothe and lull our people into a state of security. Admiral Digby is capturing all our vessels, and suffocating as fast as possible in prison-ships all our seamen who will not enlist into the service of his Britannic Majesty; and Haldimand, with his savage allies, is scalping and burning on the frontiers." Facts always were the object of Washington's first regard, and while gentlemen on all sides were talking of peace, war was going on, and he could not understand the supineness which would permit our seamen to be suffocated, and our borderers scalped, because some people thought the war ought to be and practically was over. While the other side was fighting, he wished to be fighting too. A month later he wrote to Greene: "From the former infatuation, duplicity, and perverse system of British policy, I confess I am induced to doiibt everything, to suspect everything." He could say heartily with the Trojan priest, " Quicquid id est timeo Danaos et dona ferentes." Yet again, a month later still, when the negotiations were really going forward in Paris, he wrote to McHenry: "If we are wise, let us prepare for the worst. There is nothing which will so soon produce a speedy and honorable peace as a state of preparation for war; and we must either do this, or lay our account to patch up an inglorious peace, after all the toil, blood, and treasure we have spent."
No man had done and given so much as Washington, and at the same time no other man had his love of thoroughness, and his indomitable fighting temper. He found few sympathizers, his words fell upon deaf ears, and he was left to struggle on and maintain his ground as best he might, without any substantial backing. As it turned out, England was more severely wounded than he dared to hope, and her desire for peace was real. But Washington's distrust and the active policy which he urged were, in the conditions of the moment, perfectly sound, both in a military and a political point of view. It made no real difference, however, whether he was right or wrong in his opinion. He could not get what he wanted, and he was obliged to drag through another year, fettered in his military movements, and oppressed with anxiety for the future. He longed to drive the British from New York, and was forced to content himself, as so often before, with keeping his army in existence. It was a trying time, and fruitful in nothing but anxious forebodings. All the fighting was confined to skirmishes of outposts, and his days were consumed in vain efforts to obtain help from the States, while he watched with painful eagerness the current of events in Europe, down which the fortunes of his country were feebly drifting.
Among the petty incidents of the year there was one which, in its effects, gained an international importance, which has left a deep stain upon the English arms, and which touched Washington deeply. Captain Huddy, an American officer, was captured in a skirmish and carried to New York, where he was placed in confinement. Thence he was taken on April 12th by a party of Tories in the British service, commanded by Captain Lippencott, and hanged in the broad light of day on the heights near Middletown. Testimony and affidavits to the fact, which was never questioned, were duly gathered and laid before Washington. The deed was one of wanton barbarity, for which it would be difficult to find a parallel in the annals of modern warfare. The authors of this brutal murder, to our shame be it said, were of American birth, but they were fighting for the crown and wore the British uniform. England, which for generations has deafened the world with pseans of praise for her own love of fair play and for her generous humanity, stepped in here and threw the mantle of her protection over these cowardly hangmen. It has not been uncommon for wild North American savages to deliver up criminals to the vengeance of the law, but English ministers and officers condoned the murder of Huddy, and sheltered his murderers. When the case was laid before Washington it stirred him to the deepest wrath. He submitted the facts to twenty-five of his general officers, who unanimously advised what he was himself determined upon, instant retaliation. He wrote at once to Sir Guy Carleton, and informed him that unless the murderers were given up he should be compelled to retaliate. Carleton replied that a court-martial was ordered, and some attempt was made to recrim