« ZurückWeiter »
feelings which distinguish a civilized people from the most barbarous savages.” With such thoughts he sought to make Congress appreciate the probable long duration of the struggle, and he bent every energy to giving permanency to his army, and decisiveness to each campaign. The other idea which had grown in his mind during the weary siege was that the Tories were thoroughly dangerous and deserved scant mercy. In his second letter to Gage he refers to them, with the frankness which characterized him when he felt strongly,
“ execrable parricides,” and he made ready to treat them with the utmost severity at New York and elsewhere. When Washington was aroused there was a stern and relentless side to his character, in keeping with the force and strength which were his chief qualities. His attitude on this point seems harsh now when the old Tories no longer look very dreadful. . But they were dangerous then, and Washington, with his honest hatred of all that seemed to him to partake of meanness or treason, proposed to put them down and render them harmless, being well convinced, after his clear-sighted fashion, that war was not peace, and that mildness to domestic foes was sadly misplaced.
His errand to New England was now done and well done. His victory was won, everything was settled at Boston; and so, having sent his army forward, he started for New York, to meet the harder trials that still awaited him.
SAVING THE REVOLUTION.
AFTER leaving Boston, Washington proceeded through Rhode Island and Connecticut, pushing troops forward as he advanced, and reached New York on April 13th. There he found himself plunged at once into the same sea of difficulties with which he had been struggling at Boston, the only difference being that these were fresh and entirely untouched. The army was inadequate, and the town, which was the central point of the colonies, as well as the great river at its side, was wholly unprotected. The troops were in large measure raw and undrilled, the committee of safety was hesitating, the Tories were virulent and active, corresponding constantly with Tryon who was lurking in a British man-of-war, while from the north came tidings of retreat and disaster. All these harassing difficulties crowded upon the comriander-in-chief as soon as he arrived. To
appreciate him it is necessary to understand these conditions and realize their weight and consequence, albeit the details seem petty. When we comprehend the difficulties, then we can see plainly the greatness of the man who quietly and silently took
them up and disposed of them. Some he scotched and some he killed, but he dealt with them all after a fashion sufficient to enable him to move steadily forward. In his presence the provincial committee suddenly stiffened and grew strong.
All correspondence with Tryon was cut off, the Tories were repressed, and on Long Island steps were taken to root out “ these abominable pests of society," as the commander-in-chief called them in his plainspoken way. Then forts were built, soldiers energetically recruited and drilled, arrangements made for prisoners, and despite all the present cares anxious thought was given to the Canada campaign, and ideas and expeditions, orders, suggestions and encouragement were freely furnished to the dispirited generals and broken forces of the north.
One matter, however, overshadowed all others. Nearly a year before, Washington had seen that there was no prospect or possibility of accommoda tion with Great Britain. It was plain to his mini that the struggle was final in its character and would be decisive. Separation from the mother country, therefore, ought to come at once, so that public opinion might be concentrated, and above all, permanency ought to be given to the army. These ideas he had been striving to impress upon Congress, for the most part less clear-sighted than he was as to facts, and as the months slipped by his letters had grown constantly more earnest and more vehement. Still Congress hesitated, and at last Washington went himself to Philadelphia and
held conferences with the principal men. What he said is lost, but the tone of Congress certainly rose after his visit. The aggressive leaders found their hands so much strengthened that little more than a month later they carried through a declaration of independence, which was solemnly and gratefully proclaimed to the army by the general, much relieved to have got through the necessary boatburning, and to have brought affairs, military and political, on to the hard ground of actual fact.
Soon after his return from Philadelphia, he received convincing proof that his views in regard to the Tories were extremely sound. A conspiracy devised by Tryon, which aimed apparently at the assassination of the commander-in-chief, and which had corrupted his life-guards for that purpose, was discovered and scattered before it had fairly hardened into definite form. The mayor of the city and various other persons were seized and thrown into prison, and one of the life-guards, Thomas Hickey by name, who was the principal tool in the plot, was hanged in the presence of a large concourse of people. Washington wrote a brief and business-like account of the affair to Congress, from which one would hardly suppose that his own life had been aimed at.
It is a curious instance of his cool indifference to personal danger. The conspiracy had failed, that was sufficient for him, and he had other things besides himself to consider. “We expect a bloody summer in New York and Canada," he wrote to his brother,
and even while the Canadian expedition was coming to a disastrous close, and was bringing hostile invasion instead of the hoped-for conquest, British men-of-war were arriving daily in the harbor, and a large army was collecting on Staten Island. The rejoicings over the Declaration of Independence had hardly died away, when the vessels of the enemy made their way up the Hudson without check from the embryo forts, or the obstacles placed in the stream.
July 12th Lord Howe arrived with more troops, and also with ample powers to pardon and negotiate. Almost immediately he tried to open a correspondence with Washington, but Colonel Reed, in behalf of the General, refused to receive the letter addressed to “ Mr. Washington." Then Lord Howe sent an officer to the American camp with a second letter, addressed to “ George Washington, Esq., etc., etc.” The bearer was courteously received, but the letter was declined. “The etc., etc. implies everything,” said the Englishman. It may also mean "anything,” Washington replied, and added that touching the pardoning power of Lord Howe there could be no pardon where there was no guilt, and where no forgiveness was asked. As a result of these interviews, Lord Howe wrote to England that it would be well to give Mr. Washington his proper title. A small question, apparently, this of the form of address, especially to a lover of facts, and yet it was in reality of genuine importance. To the world Washington represented