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Washington Tecommends preparations for another campaign.—Rumors of peace, which are at first doubted, but afterwards are believed.—Discontents in the army. —A meeting of the officers.—Address of Washington to them.—Soldiers from Lancaster mutiny.—The army disbanded.—Washington takes leave of his officers.— Settles his accounts.—Returns his commission to congress, and retires to Mount Vernon.
1782. J He military establishment for 1782 was passed with unusual celerity, shortly after the surrender of lord Cornwallis; but no exertions of America alone could do more than confine the British to the sea coast. To dislodge them from their strong holds in New York and Charleston, occupied the unceasing attention of Washington. While he was concerting plans for further combined operations with the French, and at the same time endeavouring, by circular letters, to rouse his countrymen to spirited measures, intelligence arrived, that sundry motions for discontinuing the American war had been debated in the British parliament, and nearly carried. Fearing that this would relax the exertions of the states, he added in his circular letters to their respective governors, "I have perused these debates with great attention and care, with 16 a view a view if possible to penetrate their real design; and upon the most mature deliberation I can bestow, I am obliged to declare it as my candid opinion, that the measure in all its views, so far as it respects America, is merely delusory, having no serious intention to admit our independence upon its true principles—but is calculated to produce a change of ministers, to quiet the minds of their own people, and reconcile them to a continuance of the war—while it is meant to amuse this country with a false idea of peace, to draw us from our connexion with France, and to lull us into a state of security and inactivity, which taking place, the ministry will be left to prosecute the war in other parts of the world with greater vigour and effect. Your excellency will permit me on this occasion to observe, that even if the nation and parliament are really in earnest, to obtain peace with America, it will undoubtedly be wisdom in us to meet them with great caution and circumspection, and by all means to keep our armsfirm in our hands, and instead of relaxing one iota in our exertions, rather to springs forward with redoubled vigour, that we may take the advantage of every favourable opportunity, until our wishes are fully obtained. No nation yet suffered in treaty, by preparing
.(even in the moment of negociation) most vigorously for the field/' 1782. Early in May, sir Guy Carleton, who had succeeded sir Henry Clinton as commander in chief of the British forces in America, arrived •in New York, and announced, in successive communications, the increasing probability of a speedy peace,, and his disapprobation of farther hostilities, " which," he observed, " could only tend to multiply the miseries of individuals, without a possible advantage to either nation." The cautious temper of Washington gradually yielded to increasing evidence, that the British were seriously inclined to terminate the war; but in -proportion as this opinion prevailed, the exertions of the states relaxed. Not more than 80,000 dollars had been received from all of them, when the :month of August was far advanced. Every expenditure yielded to the subsistence of the army. A sufficiency of money could scarcely be obtained for that indispensably necessary purpose. To pay the troops was impossible. Washington, whose sagacity anticipated events, foresaw with concern the probable consequences likely to result from the tardiness of .the states to comply with the requisitions of congress. These had been ample; eight millions of dollars had been called for, to be
paid in four equal instalments, for the service 6f the year 1782. In a confidential letter to the secretary of war, Washington observed, "I cannot help fearing the result of reducing the army, 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, soured by penury, and, what they call, the ingratitude of the public—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 patrimonies, 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 brighten 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, or I would give anecdotes of patriotism and distress which have scarcely ever been paralleled, never surpassed in the -history ot mankind. But, you may rely upon, it the o 3 patience patience and long sufferance of the 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."
These apprehensions were well founded. To watch the discontents of his troops, the American chief continued in camp after they had retired into winter quarters, though there was no prospect of any military operation which might require his presence. Soon after their retirement, the officers presented a petition* to congress, respecting their pay,
u .' —^ —.. *
z * To the United States in Congress assembled.
The Address and Petition of the
That we, the officers of the army of the United States, in behaif of ourselves and our brethren, the soldiers, beg leave, with all proper deference and respect, freely to state to congress, the supreme power of the United States, the distress under which we labour.
At this period of the war, it is with peculiar pain w» find ourselves constrained to address your august body