« ZurückWeiter »
“ I have attentively taken up the report of the Com. mittee of the fifth, (approved by Congress) on the subject of my letter of the 11th ultimo, on the proposed expedition into Canada. I have considered it in several lights, and sincerely regret that I should feel myself under any embarrassment in carrying it into execution. Still I remain of opinion, from a general review of things, and the state of our resources, that no extensive system of co-operation with the French for the complete emancipation of Canada, can be positively decided on for the ensuing year. To propose a plan of perfect co-operation with a foreign power, without a moral certainty in our supplies; and to have that plan actually ratified with the Court of Versailles, might be attended, in case of failure in the conditions on our part, with very fatal effects.
"If I should'seem unwilling to transmit the plan as prepared by Congress, with my observations, it is because I find myself under a necessity (in order to give our minister sufficient ground to found an application on) to propose something more than a vague and indecisive plan; which, even in the event of a total evacuation of the states by the enemy, may be render ed impracticable in the execution by a variety of in surmountable obstacles; or if I retain my present sentiments, and act consistently, I must point out the dif ficulties, as they appear to me, which must embarrass his negotiations, and may disappoint the views of Congress.
“ But proceeding on the idea of the enemy's leaving those states, before the active part of the ensuing camvaign, I should fear to hazard a mistake, as to the precise aim and extent of the views of Congress. The conduct I am to observe in writing to our Minister at the Court of France, does not appear sufficiently delineated. Were I to undertake it, I should be much afraid of erring through misconception. In this dilem ina, I would esteem it a particular favour to be excus
ed from writing at all on the subject, especially as it is the part of candour in me to acknowledge, that I do not see my way clear enough to point out such a plan for co-operation, as I conceive to be consistent with the ideas of Congress, and as will be sufficiently explanatory, with respect to time and circumstances, to give efficacy to the measure.
“ But if Congress still think it necessary for me to proceed in the business, I, must request their more definite and explicit instructions, and that they will permit me, previous to transmitting the intended de spatches, to submit them to their determination.
" I could wish to lay before Congress more minutely, the state of the army, the condition of suprlies, and the requisites nocessary for carrying into execution an undertaking that may involve the most serious events. If Congress think this can be done more satisfactorily in a personal conference, I hope to have the army in such a situation before I can receive their answer, as to afford me an opportunity of giving my attendance.”
Congress indulged the General with the proposed interview, and a Committee of their body was chosen to confer with him on this business and on the state of the army. His objections were found to be unanswer. able, and the Canada expedition was laid aside.
To the magnificent schemes of Congress upon Ca. nada, succeeded through United America a state of supineness and inaction. An alliance with. France was re. ceived as a security for independence in the expectation that Great Britain would relinquish the American war, that she might with her united force contend with her ancient enemy in Europe, Congress appeared not disposed to encounter the expense necessary to prepare for another active campaign. The delusive supposition that the war was over prevailed gb the country, and palsied the spirit of the community General WASHINGTON perpetually stimulated his coun. tromen to exertion. Uninfected with the coinnion de
lusion, he believed that Great Britain would continue the American war, and in every possible way exerted himself seasonably to be prepared for the conflict of the field. But Congress was slowly roused to attention to this important business. Their resolution empowering the Commander in Chief -o recruit the army did not pass until the 23d of January 1779, and the requisition
the several states was not made until the 9th of March.
The dissensions which at this time existed in Congress, the speculations that prevailed through the country in consequence of the depreciation of paper money, and the apparent reluctance among all classes of citizens to make sacrifices for the publick interest, greatly alarmed General WASHINGTON. His apprehensions are fully disclosed in the annexed letter written at the time to a confidential friend of distinguished reputation in the political world.
“I am particularly desirous of a free communication of sentiments with you at this time, because I view things very differently, I fear, from what people in general do, who seem to think the contest at an end, and that to make money and get places are the cnly things now remaining to be done. I have seen with: out despondency, even for a moment, the hours which America has styled her gloomy ones; but I have be held no day since tlie commencement of hostilities, when I have thought her liberties in such imminent danger as at present Friends and foes seem now to combine to pull down the goodly fabrick we have hitherto been raising, at the expense of so much time, blood, and treasure ; and unless the bodies politick will uxert themselves to bring things back to first principles, correct abuses, and punish our internal foes, inevitable ruin must follow. Indeed we seem to be verg. ing so fast to destruction that I am filled with sensations to which I lave been a stranger until within these three months. Our enemy behold with exulta
tion and joy how effectually we labour for their bene. fit ; and from being in a state of absolute despair and on the point of evacuating America, are now on tiptoo. Nothing, therefore, in my judgment, can save us but a total reformation in our own conduct, or some de cisive turn of affairs in Europe. The former, alas ! to our shams be it spoken, is less likely to happen than the latter, as it is now consistent with the views of the speculators, various tribes of money-makers, and stock. jobbers of all denominations, to continue the war, for their own private emolument, without considering that this avarice and thirst for gain must plunge every thing, including themselves, in one common ruin.
“Were I to indulge my present feelings, and give a loose to that freedom of expression which my unreserved friendship would prompt to, I should say a great deal on this subject. But letters are liable to so many accidents, and the sentiments of men in office are sought after by the enemy with so much evidity, and besides conveying useful knowledge (if they get into their hands) for the superstructure of their plans, are so often perverted to the worst of purposes, that I shall be somewhat reserved, notwithstanding this letter goes by a private hand to Mount Vernon. I cannot refrain lamenting, however, in the most poignant terms, the fatal policy too prevalent in most of the states, of employing their ablest men at home, in posts of honour or profit, before the great national interest is fixed upon a solid basis.
“To me it appears no unjust simile, to compare the affairs of this great continent to the mechanism of a clock, each state representing some one or other of the small parts of it, which they are endeavouring to put in fine order, without considering how useless and un. a vailing their labour is, unless the grcat wheel, or spring, which is to set the whole in !tion, is also well attended to end kept in good order. I allude to
no particular state, nor do I mean to cast retlections upon any one of them, nor ought I, as it may be said, lo do so upon their representatives ; but as it is a fact too notorious to be concealed, that Congress is rent by party; that much business of a trifling nature and personal concernment, withdraws their attention from matters of great national moinent, at this critical period; when it is also known that idleness and dissipation take place of close attention and application ; no man who wishes well to the liberties of his country, and desires to see its rights established, can avoid crying out -Where are our men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save their country? Let this voice, My dear sir, call upon you, Jefferson, and others. Do noi, from a mistaken opinion that we are to sit down under our vine and our own fig-trce, let our hitherto noble strugglo end in ignominy. Believe me when I tell you there is danger of it. I have pretty good reasons for thinking that administration, a little while ago, had resolved to give the matter up, and negotiate a peace with us upon almost any terms; but I shall be much mistaken if they do not now, from the present state of our currency, dissensions, and other circumstances, push matters to the utmost extremity. Nothing, I am sure will prevent it but the interruption of Spain, and their disappointed hope from Prussia.”
The depreciation of the paper currency had reduced the pay of the American officers to a pittance, and tho effects were severely felt. At the moment the cam. paign was to open, the dissatisfaction of a part of the sufferers broke out into acts of violence, which threatened the safety of the whcle army. Early in May, the Jersey Brigade was ordered to march as part of a force destined on al expedition into the Indian country. On the reception of this order, the officers of the first regiment presented to their Colonel a remonstrance, additressed to the Legislature of the State, in which