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ing.” And again, a few days later: “First impressions, you know, are generally longest remembered, and will serve to fix in a great degree our national character among the French. In our conduct towards them we should remember that they are a people old in war, very strict in military etiquette, and apt to take fire when others scarcely seem warmed. Permit me to recommend, in the most particular manner, the cultivation of harmony and good agreement, and your endeavor to destroy that ill-humor which may have got into officers.” Το Lafayette he wrote: “ Everybody, sir, who reasons, will acknowledge the advantages which we have derived from the French fleet, and the zeal of the commander of it; but in a free and republican government you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks, or, more properly, without thinking, and consequently will judge of effects without attending to the causes.
The censures which have been levelled at the French fleet would more than probably have fallen in a much higher degree upon a fleet of our own, if we had had one in the same situation. is the nature of man to be displeased with everything that disappoints a favorite hope or flattering project; and it is the folly of too many of them to condemn without investigating circumstances.” Finally he wrote to D’Estaing, deploring the difference which had arisen, mentioning his own efforts and wishes to restore harmony, and said : “ It is in the trying circumstances to which your Excellency
has been exposed that the virtues of a great mind are displayed in their brightest lustre, and that a general's character is better known than in the moment of victory. It was yours by every title that can give it; and the adverse elements that robbed you of your prize can never deprive you of the glory due you. Though your success has not been equal to your expectations, yet you have the satisfaction of reflecting that you have rendered essential services to the common cause. This is not the letter of a dull man. Indeed, there is a nicety about it that partakes of cleverness, a much commoner thing than greatness, but something which all great men by no means possess. Thus by tact and comprehension of human nature, by judicious suppression and judicious letters, Washington, through the prudent exercise of all his commanding influence, quieted his own people and soothed his allies. In this way a serious disaster was averted, and an abortive expedition was all that was left to be regretted, instead of an ugly quarrel, which might readily have neutralized the vast advantages flowing from the French alliance.
Having refitted, D’Estaing bore away for the West Indies, and so closed the first chapter in the history of the alliance with France. Nothing more was heard of the allies until the spring was well advanced, when M. Gérard, the minister, wrote, intimating that D’Estaing was about to return, and asking what we would do. Washington replied at length, professing his willingness to coöperate in
any way, and offering, if the French would send ships, to abandon everything, run all risks, and make an attack on New York. Nothing further came of it, and Washington heard that the fleet had gone to the Southern States, which he learned without regret, as he was apprehensive as to the condition of affairs in that region. Again, in the autumn, it was reported that the fleet was once more upon the northern coast. Washington at once sent officers to be on the lookout at the most likely points, and he wrote elaborately to D’Estaing, setting forth with wonderful perspicuity the incidents of the past, the condition of the present, and the probabilities of the future. He was willing to do anything, or plan anything, provided his allies would join with him. The jealousy so habitual in humanity, which is afraid that some one else may get the glory of a common success, was unknown to Washington, and if he could but drive the British from America, and establish American independence, he was perfectly willing that the glory should take care of itself. But all his wisdom in dealing with the allies was, for the moment, vain. While be was planning for a great stroke, and calling out the militia of New England, D’Estaing was making ready to relieve Georgia, and a few days after Washington wrote his second letter, the French and Americans assaulted the British works at Savannah, and were repulsed with heavy losses. Then D'Estaing sailed away again, and the second effort of France to aid England's revolted colonies
came to an end. Their presence had had a good moral effect, and the dread of D'Estaing's return had caused Clinton to withdraw from Newport and concentrate in New York. This was all that was actually accomplished, and there was nothing for it but to await still another trial and a more convenient season.
With all his courtesy and consideration, with all his readiness to fall in with the wishes and schemes of the French, it must not be supposed that Washington ever went an inch too far in this direction. He valued the French alliance, and proposed to use it to great purpose, but he was not in the least dazzled or blinded by it. Even in the earliest glow of excitement and hope produced by D’Estaing's arrival, Washington took occasion to draw once more the distinction between a valuable alliance and volunteer adventurers, and to remonstrate again with Congress about their reckless profusion in dealing with foreign officers. To Gouverneur Morris he wrote on July 24, 1778: “ The lavish manner in which rank has hitherto been bestowed on these gentlemen will certainly be productive of one or the other of these two evils: either to make it despicable in the eyes of Europe, or become the means of pouring them in upon us like a torrent and adding to our present burden. But it is neither the expense nor the trouble of them that I most dread. There is an evil more extensive in its nature, and fatal in its consequences, to be apprehended, and that is the driving of all our own
officers out of the service, and throwing not only our army, but our military councils, entirely into the hands of foreigners. . . Baron Steuben, I now find, is also wanting to quit his inspectorship for a command in the line. This will be productive of much discontent to the brigadiers. In a word, although I think the baron an excellent officer, I do most devoutly wish that we had not a single foreigner among us except the Marquis de Lafayette, who acts upon very different principles from those which govern
the rest. A few days later he said, on the same theme, to the president of Congress : “ I trust you think me so much a citizen of the world as to believe I am not easily warped or led away by attachments merely local and American; yet I confess I am not entirely without them, nor does it appear to me that they are unwarrantable, if confined within proper limits. Fewer promotions in the foreign line would have been productive of more harmony, and made our warfare more agreeable to all parties." Again, he said of Steuben: “I regret that there should be a necessity that his services should be lost to the army; at the same time I think it my duty explicitly to observe to Congress that his desire of having an actual and permanent command in the line cannot be complied with without wounding the feelings of a number of officers, whose rank and merits give them every claim to attention; and that the doing of it would be productive of much dissatisfaction and extensive ill consequences."