페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

ducting military operations. The war raged in that year

' not only in the vicinity of the British head-quarters at New York, bat in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

In this extensive warfare, Washington could have no immediate agency in the southern department. His advice, in corresponding with the oflicers commanding in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, was freely and beneficially given; and as large detachments sent to their aid as could be spared, consistently with the security of West Point. In conduct ing the war, his invariable maxim was, to suffer the devastation of property, rather than hazard great and essential objects for its preservation. While the war raged in Virginia, the governor, its representatives in congress, and other influential citizens, urged his return to the defence of his native state.-But, considering America as his country, and the general safety as his object, he deemed it of more importance to remain on the Hudson ; there, he was not only securing the most important post in the United States, but concerting a grand plan of combined operations, which, as shall soon be related, not only delivered Virginia, but all the states, from the calamities of war.

In Washington's disregard of property, when in competition with national objects, he was in no respect partial to his

While the British were in the Potomac, they sent a flag on shore to Mount Vernon, his private estate, requiring & supply of fresh provisions. Refusals of such demands, were often followed by burning the houses and other property near the river. To prevent this catastrophe, the person entrusted with the management of the estate, went on board with the flag, and carrying a supply of provisions, requested that the buildings and iinprovements might be spared.--For this, he received a severe reprimand in a letter to him, in which the general observed: “It would have been a less painful circumstance to me to have heard, that, in consequence of your non-compliance with the request of the British, they had burnt my house, and laid my plantations in ruins. You ought to have considered yourself as my representative, and should have reflected on the bad example of communicating with the enemy, and making a voluntary offer of refreshment to them, with a view to prevent a conflagration.”

To the other difficulties with which Washington had to

own.

Bontend in the preceding years of the war, a new one was about this time added. While the whole force at his disposal was unequal to the defence of the country, against the common enemy, a civil war was on the point of breaking out amongst his fellow-citizens. The claims of the inhabitants of Vermont, to be a separate and independent state ; and the claim of the state of New York, to their country, as within its chartered limits, together with open offers from the royal commanders, to establish and defend Vermont as a British province, produced a serious crisis, which called for the interference of the American chief.-This was the more necessary, as the governments of New York and Vermont were both resolved on exercising a jurisdiction over the same people, and the same territory. Congress, wishing to compromise the controversy on middle ground, resolved, in August 1781, to accede to the independence of Vermont, on certain conditions, and within certain specified limits, which they supposed would satisfy both parties. Contrary to their expectations, this mediatorial act of the national legislature was rejected by Vermont, and yet was so disagreeable to the legislature of New York, as to draw from them a spirited protest against it.~ Vermont complained that congress interfered in their internal police; New York viewed the revolution as a virtual dismemberment of their state, which was a constituent part of the confederacy. Washington, anxious for the peace of the union, sent a message to Mr. Chittenden, governor of Vermont, desiring to know what were the real designs, views, and intentions, of the people of Vermont; whether they would be satisfied with the independence proposed by congress, or had it seriously in contemplation to join with the enemy, and become a British province.”--The governor returned an unequivocal answer; so that there were no people on the continent more attached to the cause of America than the people of Vermont; but they were fully determined not to be put under the government of New York; that they would oppose this by force of arms, and would join with the British in Canada, rather than submit to that government.”—While both states were dissatisfied with congress, and their animosities, from increasing violence and irritation, became daily more alarming, Washington, aware of the extremes to which all parties were tending, returned an answer to governor Chittenden, in which

K

[ocr errors]

were these expressions : “ It is not my business, neither do I think it necessary, now to discuss the origin of a right of a number of the inhabitants to that tract of country, formerly distinguished by the name of the New Hampshire Grants, and now known by that of Vermont.--I will take it for granted, that their right was good, because congress, by their resolve of the 7th August, imply it, and by that of the 21st are willing fully to confirm it, provided the new state is confined to certain described bounds. It appears therefore to me, that the dispute of the boundary is the only one that exists, and that being removed, all other difficulties would be removed also, and the matter terminated to the satisfaction of all parties.--You have nothing to do but to withdraw your jurisdiction to the confines of your own limits, and obtain an acknowledgment of independence and sovereignty, under the resolve of the 21st of August, for so much territory as does not interfere with the ancient established bounds of New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. In my private opinion, while it behoves the delegates to do ample justice to a body of people sufficiently respectable by their numbers, and entitled by other claims to be admitted into that confederation, it becomes them also to attend to the interests of their constituents, and see, that under the appearance of justice to one, they do not materially injure the rights of others. I am apt to think this the prevailing opinion of congress.

The impartiality, moderation, and good sense, of this letter, together with a full conviction of the disinterested patriotism of the writer, caused a revolution in the minds of the legislature of Vermont, and they accepted the propositions of congress, though they had rejected them four months before.

A truce amongst the contending parties followed, and the storm blew over. Thus, the personal influence of one man, derived from his pre-eminent virtues and meritorious services, extinguished the sparks of civil discord, at the time they were kindling into flame.*

Though in conducting the American war, General Washington often acted on the Fabian system, by evacuating, re

* For more particulars, see Williams' History of Vermont; a work, which, for its superior merit, deserves a place in every library. If the author had been a European, this wonld probably have been the case, soon after his enlightened, philosophical history had crossed the Atlantic, and made its appear agce in the United Statos.

е

a

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

.

treating, and avoiding decisive engagements, yet this was much more the result of necessity than of choice. His uniform opinion was in favour of energetic offensive operations, as the most effectual means of bringing the war to a termination. On this principle, he planned attacks in almost every year, on some of the British armies or strong posts in the United States. He endeavoured, from year to year, to stimulate the public mind to some great operation ; but was never properly supported.--In the year 1778, 1979, and 1780, the projected combined operations with the French, as has been related, entirely miscarried. The idea of ending the war by some decisive military exploit, continually occupied his active mind. To ensure success, a naval superiority on the coast, and a loan of money, were indispensably necessary. The last was particularly requisite in the year 1781 ; for the resources of the United States, were then so reduced, as to be unequal to the support of their army, or even to the transportation of it to any distant scene of action.--To obtain these necessary aids, it was determined to send an envoy extraordinary to the court of Versailles. Lieutenant colonel John Laurens was selected for this purpose. He was in every respect qualified for the important mission. • In addition to the most engaging personal address, his connexion with the commander-in-chief, as one of his aids-de-camp, gave him an opportunity of being intimately acquainted with the military resources and weaknesses of his country.These were also particularly detailed in the form of a letter to him from General Washington. This was written when the Pennsylvania line was in open revolt. Amongst other interesting matters, it stated, - That the efforts already made by the United States, exceeded the natural ability of the country, and that any revenue they were capable of making, would leave a large surplus to be supplied by credit ; that experience had proved the impossibility of supporting a paper system without funds, and that domestic loans could not be effected, because there were few men of monied capital in the United States; that from necessity, recourse had been had to military impressments for supporting the army, which, if continued longer, or urged farther, would probably disgust the people, and bring round a revolution of public sentiment:

" That the relief procured by these violent means was so

a

inadequate, that the patience of the army was exhausted, and their discontents had broken out in serious and alarming mutinies ; that the relief necessary was not within the power of the United States; and that from a view of all circumstances, a loan of money was absolutely necessary, for reviving public credit, and giving vigour to future operations." It was further stated, “ that next to a loan of money, a French naval superiority in the American seas was of so much importance, that, without it, nothing decisive could be undertaken against the British, who were in the greatest force on and near the coasts."

The future means possessed by the United States, to repay any loan that might be made, were particularly stated; and also that “there was still a fund of resource and inclination in the country equal to great exertions, provided that a liberal supply of money would furnish the means of stopping the progress of disgust which resulted from the unpopular mode of supplying the army by requisition and impressment."

So interesting a statement, sanctioned by the American chief, and enforced by the address of colonel Laurens, directly from the scene of action, and the influence of Dr. Frank. lin, who, for the five preceding years, had been minister plenipotentiary from the United States to the court of Versailles, produced the desired effect. His most Christian majesty gave his American allies a subsidy of six millions of livres, and became their security for ten millions more, borrowed for their use in the United Netherlands. A naval co-operation was promised, and a conjunct expedition against their common foes projected.

The American war was now so far involved in the conse, quences of naval operations, that a superior French fleet seemed to be the hinge on which it was likely soon to take a favourable turn. The British army being distributed in the different sea-ports of the United States, any division of it, blocked up by a French fleet, could not long resist the superior combined force which might be brought to operate against it. The marquis de Castries, who directed the marine of France, with great precision calculated the naval force which the British could concentrate on the coast of the United States, and disposed his own in such a manner as insured him a superiority.--In conformity with these princi.

« 이전계속 »