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In August Sir Guy officially informed General WASHINGTON, that negotiations for a general peace had commenced at Paris ; and that his Britannick Majesty had directed his Minister to propose the In dependence of the United States as a preliminary.
The deficiency of the states in paying their respec tive requisitions of money into the national treasury subjected the Minister of Finance to extreme difficul. ty ; but by anticipating the publick revenue, and by exerting, to the utmost, his personal influence, he was enabled barely to support the army. Neither Officers nur men received any pay. In September Congress contemplated the reduction of their military establishment. By this measure many of the officers would be discharged. In a confidential letter to the Secretary of War, the Commander in Chief expressed a full persuasion, that the gentlemen would gladly retire to private life, could they be reinstated in a situation as favourable as that which they quitted for the service of their country ; but added he,
“I cannot help fearing the result of the measure, when I see such a number of men goaded by a thousand stings of reflection on the past, and of anticipation on the future, about to be turned into the world, snured by penury, and what they call the ingratitude of the publick; involved in debts without one farthing of money to carry them home, after having spent the flower of their days, and many of them, their patri. monies in establishing the freedom and independence of their country ; and having suffered every thing which human nature is capable of enduring on this side of death. I repeat it, when I reflect on these irritable circumstances, unattended by one thing to sooth their feelings, or hrighten the gloomy prospect, I cannot avoid apprehending that a train of evils will follow of a very serious and distressing nature.
“ I wish not to heighten the shades of the picture so far as the real life would justify me in doing, or !
would give anecdotes of patriotism and distress which have scarcely ever been paralleled, never surpassed in the history of mankind. But you may rely upon it, the patience and long-suffering of this army are almost exhausted, and there never was so great a spirit of discontent as at this instant. While in the field, I think it may be kept from breaking out into acts of outrage; but when we retire into winter quarters, (unless the storm be previously dissipated) I cannot be at ease respecting the consequences. It is high time for a peace.”
Although the military services of the field did not require the presence of the Commander in Chief, yet he was induced on account of the irritable state of the army to remain the whole season in camp.
The disquietude of the army arose more from an apprehension, that their country would ultimately fail in the compensation promised them, than from the deficiency of prompt payment.
In October 1780, Congress had passed a resolution, granting half pay to the officers for life ; but they had no funds to pledge for the fulfilment of these engage
Publick opinion seemed to be opposed to the measure, and the pointed opposition by a number of the members of the National Legislature, rendered it doubtful whether a future Congress would feel theniselves bound by that resolution. This doubt was strengthened by the consideration that, since the paysage of the resolution, the articles of confederation had been adopted, and by these the concurrence of nino states, in Congress assembled, is necessary to the ap.. propriation of publick money. Could absolute confidence be placed in the honour and faith of the National Council, still they must depend on state sovereignties for the ways and means to execute their promises. The country had been greatly deficient to the army, in the time of war, when their services were absolutely necessary. World this country, amidst the security Vol. II
and tranquillity of peace, be more just ? As the prospects of immediate peace brightened, the attention of the officers became the more engaged to secure a compensation for those services which were the means to establish the independence of their country. In De. cember they presented a memorial to Congress, stating that many of them had expended their private fortunes, and most of them the prime of life in the service of their country, and petitioning that a gross sum mighi be granted them for the money actually due, and as a commutation for half pay. They chose a committee of officers to present their petition to Congress, and to attend its passage through that honourable body.
At this period, Congress was much divided in opinion upon the most important publick questions. State jealousies and interests arose in opposition to the engagements of the Nation; and although part of Con gress, respectable for number and weight of character, acknowledged the merit of the military, and were in
clined to do them justice, yet in March, the 1783. committee at the seat of government wrote the
officers in camp, that no decisive measures were taken upon their petition. At this time, the intelligence arrived that the provisioned articles of peace between the United States and Great Britain were signed. The army viewed the moment as the crisis of their destiny. They recollected their past sacrifices, they felt their present wants, and anticipated future sufferings. Resenting the ingratitude of their country, and apprehending that it would ultimately be unjust, an irritable state of mind ensued, which threatened violences that would tarnish the glory of their own services, and commit the peace of their country.
On the 10th of March, an anonymous paper was circulated, requesting a meeting at eleven o'clock, on the next day, at the public building, of the general and field officers, of an officer from each company, and a delegate from the medical staff to a consider their late
letter from their representatives in Philadelphia, and what measures (if any) should be adopted to obtain that redress of grievances which they seemed to have solicited in vain.”
On the same day, the following publication, artfully addressed to the passions of the officers, and admirably calculated to stimulate them to adopt the despe. rate measure it recoinmended, was circulated through
" To the Officers of the Army. 4 GENTLEMEN,
" A fellow soldier, whose interest and affections bind him strongly to you, whose past sufferings have been as great, and whose future fortune may be as desperate as yours—would beg leave to address you.
“ Age has its claims, and rank is not without its pretensions to advise ; but though unsupported by both, he flatters himself, that the plain language of sincerity and experience will neither be unheard nor unregarded. Like
many of you, he loved private life, and left it with regret. He left it, determined to retire from the field, with the necessity that called him to it, and not until then—not until the enemies of his country, the slaves of power, and the hirelings of injustice, were compelled to abandon their schemes, and acknowledge America, as terrible in arms, as she had been humble in remonstrance. With this object in view, he has long shared in your toils and mingled in your dangers. He has felt the cold hand of poverty without a mur. mur, and has seen the insolence of wealth without a sigh—but, too much under the direction of his wishes, and sometimes weak enough to mistake desire for opinion, he has until lately, very lately, believed in the justice of his country. He hoped that as the clouds of adversity scattered, and as the sunshine of peace and better fortune broke in upon us, the coldness and severity of government Jould relax, and that more
than justice, that gratitude would blaze forth upon those hands which had upheld her in the darkest stages of her passage, from impending servitude to acknowledged independence. But faith has its limits as well as temper, and there are points beyond which neither can be stretched, without sinking into cowardice, or plunging into credulity—This, my friends, I conceive to be your situation-hurried to the very verge of both, another step would ruin you for everto be tame and unprovoked when injuries press hard upon you, is more than weakness ; but to look up for kinder usage, without one manly effort of your own, would fix your character, and show the world how richly you deserve those chains you broke ageinst this evil, let us take a review of the ground upon which we now stand, and froin thence carry our thoughts forward for a moment, into the unexplored field of expedient.
“ After a pursuit of seven long years, the object for which we set out is at length brought within our reach -yes, my friends, that suffering courage of yours was active once—it has conducted the United States of America through a doubtful and a bloody war. It has placed her in the chair of independency, and peace returns again to bless—whom? A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your worth, and reward your services ? A country courting your return to private life, with tears of gratitude, and smiles of ad. miration, longing to divide with you that independency which your gallantry has given, and those richon which your wounds have preserved ? Is this the case ? Or is it rather a country that tramples upon your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your
distresses ? Have you not more than once suggested your wishes, and made knuwn your wants to Congress ? Wants and wishes which gratitude and policy should have anticipated rather than evaded; and have you not lately in the meek langgage of entreating memorials, begged