Imagens das páginas

rican paper money, together with the eagerness of congress to starve the British army in Philadelphia, compelled him to extort supplies for his army at the point of the bayonet. In obedience to congress, he issued a proclamation, "calling on all the farmers within seventy miles of head-quarters, to thresh out one half of their grain by the 1st of February, and the residue by the 1st of March, under the penalty of having the whole seized as

[ocr errors]

Great were the difficulties Washington had to contend with for feeding and clothing his army; but they were not the only ones which at this time pressed on him. The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey were importunate with him to cover them from the incursions of the enemy. In both there were many discontented individuals, who, regretting-their1 past losses, and present danger from the vicinity of a conquering enemy, were go far misled by their own feelings, as to sus-< p^ect it to be the fault of general Washington, that .the inferior destitute army under his immediate command, had not been as successful as the superior well-supported northern army under general Gates. The legislature, sore from the loss of their capital, on hearing that Washington was about to retire into » S winter winter quarters, presented a remonstrance to congress on that subject, in which they plainly discovered their dissatisfaction with the general. . A copy of this being sent to him* he addressed congress in terms very different from his usual style. He stated, "that though every thing in his power had been, done for supporting his. army, yet their inactivity, arising from their manifold wants, was charged to his account; that the army seldom had provisions for two days in advance; that few of his men had more than one shirt, many, only a moiety of one, and some none aj ajl; that soap,, vinegar, and such like articles, though allowed by congress, had not been seen in camp for several weeks; that by a field return 2,898 of his army were unfit for duty, because they were barefooted,' and otherwise naked; that his whole effective force in camp amounted to no more than 8,200 men tit for duty; that notwithstanding these complicated evils, the remonstrance, of the Pennsylvania legislature repwibated the measure of his going into winter quarters, as if its authors thought the soldiers were made of stocks and stones, and as if they conceived ; it easily practicable for an inferior army, circumstanced as his was, to confine a superior one, well appointed, and every way provided for a winter campaign) wijthin the city of Philadelphia, and to cover all the circumjacent country from their depredations." He assured the complainers "that it was much easier to draw up remonstrances in a comfortable room, by a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak hill, and sleep under frost and snow without clothes or blankets/'

To the other vexations which crowded upon general Washington at the close of the campaign of 1777, was added one of a peculiar nature. Though he was conscious he had never solicited, and that it was neither from motives of interest nor of ambition he had accepted the command of the army, and that he had, with clean hands and a pure heart, to the utmost of his power, steadily pursued what his best judgment informed him was for the interest of his country; yet he received certain information that a cabal, consisting of some members of congress, and a few general officers of the army, was plotting to supersede him in his command.

The scheme was to obtain the sanction of some of the state legislatures to instruct their delegates in congress to move for an inquiry into the causes of the failures of the campaigns of 1776 and 1777, with the hope that

H 3 soma some intemperate resolutions passed by them, would either lead to the removal of the general, or wound his military feelings so far as to induce his resignation. Anonymous letters, containing high charges against him, tod urging the necessity of putting some more energetic officer at the head of the army, were sent to Henry Laurens, president of congress, Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, and others. These were forwarded to general Washington. In his reply to Mr. Laurens, he wrote as follows:—" I cannot sufficiently express the obligation I feel towards you, for your friendship and politeness upon an occasion in which I am so deeply interested. I was not unapprized that a malignant faction had been for some time forming to my prejudice, which, conscious as I am of having ever done all in my power to answer the important purposes of the trust reposed in me, could not but give me some pain on a personal account l but my chief concern arises from an apprehension of the dangerous consequences which intestine dissensions may produce to the common cause.


"As I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of ho, nours not founded in the approbation of my country, I would not desire, in the least de

C n gree, gree, to suppress a free spirit of inquiry into any part of my conduct, that even faction itself may deem reprehensible. The anonymous paper handed you exhibits many serious charges, and it is my wish that it may be submitted to congress. This I am the more inclined to, as the suppression or concealment may possibly involve you in embarrassments hereafter, since it is uncertain how many, or who may be privy to the contents.

"My enemies take an ungenerous advantage of me. They know the delicacy of my situation, and that motives of policy deprive me of the defence I might otherwise make against their insidious attacks. They know I cannot combat their insinuations, however injurious, without disclosing secrets it is of the utmost moment to conceal. But why should I expect to be exempt from censure, the unfailing lot of an elevated station? Merit and talents, which I cannot pretend to rival, have ever been subject to it. My heart tells me it has been my unremitted aim to do the best which circumstances would permit; yet I may have been very often mistaken in my judgment of the means, and may, in many instances, deserve the imputation of error."

About the same time it was reported that

Washington had determined to resign His

li 4 command.

« AnteriorContinuar »