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would give anecdotes of patriotism and distress which ha e 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 af 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 retiro into winter quarters, (unless the storm be previously dissipated) I cannot be at ease respecting the consequences. It is righ 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 ap. prehension, 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. ments. 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 themselves bound by that resolution. This doubt was strengthened by the consideration that, since the passage of the resolution, the articles of confederation had been adopted, and by these the concurrence of nine states, in Congress assembled, is necessary to the ap. propriation of publick money. Could absolute confi dence be placed in the honour and faith of the National Council, still they must depend on state sovereigntier 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. Would this country, amidst the security Vol. II
LIFE OF WASHINGTON. [1783 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 cernber 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 might 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 opi nion upon the most important publick questions. State jealousies and interests arose in opposition to the en gagements 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 desti. ny. They recollected their past sacrifices, they fel: 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 " consider their late
1783.) LIFE OF WASHINGTON.
31 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, artful- . ly 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. 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 pre. tensions 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 .n 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 murmur, 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
To guard against this evil, let us take a review of the ground upon which we now stand, and from 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 admiration, longing to divide with you that independency which your gallantry has given, and those riches 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 antici. pated rather than evaded; and have you not lately in the meek language of entreating memorials, begged
from their justice, what you could no longer expect from their favour? How have you been answered ? Let the letter which you are called to consider to-inor row reply.
“ If this, then, be your treatment while the sworils you wear are necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect from peace, when your voice shall sink, and your strength dissipate hy divi. sion ? When those very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory shall be taken from your sides, and no remaining mark of military distinction left but your wants, infirmities, and scars ? Can you then consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution, and retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honour ? If you can--go --and carry with you the jest of tories and the scorn of whigs—the ridicule, and what is worse, the pity of the world. Go, starve, and be forgotten ! But if your spirit should revolt at this; if you have sense enough to discover, and spirit enough to oppose tyranny, under whatever garb it may assume ; whether it be the plain coat of republicanism, or the splendid robe of royalty ; if you have not yet learned to discriminate between a people and a cause, between men and principles—awake; attend to your situation, and redress yourselves. If the present moment be lost, every future effort is in vain ; and your threats then, will be as empty as your entreaties now.
6 I would advise you, therefore, to come to sono final opinion upon what you can bear, and what you will suffer. If your determination be in any proportion to your wrongs, carry your appeal from the justice to the fears of government. Change the milk and water style of your last inemorial; assume a bolder tone—decent, but lively, spirited, and determined, ar:d suspect the man