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“ I could wish to lay before congress, more minutely, the state of the army, the condition of our supplies, and the requisites necessary for carrying into execution an undertaking that may involve the most serious events. If congress think this can be done more satisfactorily in a personal conference, I hope to have the army in such a situation before I can receive their answer, as to afford me an opportunity of giving my attendance.”
The personal interview requested in this letter, was agreed to by congress, and a committee appointed by them to confer with him. The result was, that the proposed expedition against Canada was relinquished by those, who, after repeated deliberation, had resolved upon it.
CAMPAIGN OF 1779.
The distresses of the American army. General Washing
ton calms the uneasiness in the Jersey line. Finds great difficulty in supporting his troops, and concentrating their force. Makes a disposition of them with a view to the security of West Point. Directs an expedition against the Six Nations of Indians, and for the reduction of Stony Point. Paules Hook taken. A French fleet, expected to the northward, arrives on the coast of Georgia. Washington, unequal to offensive operations, retires into winterquarters.
The years 1779 and 1780, passed away in the northern states without any of those great military exploits which enliven the pages of history; but they were years of anxiety and distress, which called for all the passive valour, the sound practical judgment, and the conciliatory address, for which General Washington was so eminently distinguished. Yielding to the pleasing delusion, that their alliance with France placed their independence beyond the reach of accident, and that Great Britain, despairing of success, would speedily abandon the contest, the states relaxed in their preparations for a vigorous prosecution of the war.-To these ungrounded
hopes, Washington opposed the whole weight of his influe ence. In his correspondence with congress, the governors of particular states, and other influential individuals, he pointed out the fallacy of the prevailing opinion, that peace was near at hand, and the necessity for raising, equipping, and supporting a force sufficient for active operations.—He particularly urged, that the annual arrangements of the army should be made so early, that the recruits for the year
should assemble at head-quarters on the first of January ; but, such was the torpor of the public mind, that, notwithstanding these representations, it was as late as the 23d of January, 1779, when congress passed resolutions authorizing the commander-in-chief to re-enlist the army; and as late as the 9th of the following March, when the requisitions were made on the several states for their quotas. The military establishment for 1780 was later; for it was not agreed upon till the 9th of February ; nor were the men required before the first of April.
Thus, when armies ought to have been in the field, nothing more was done than a grant of the requisite authority for raising them.
The depreciation of the current paper-money had advanced 80 rapidly, as to render the daily pay of an officer unequal to his support. This produced serious discontents in the army. An order was given in May, 1779, for the New Jersey brigade to march by regiments to join the western army. In answer to this order, a letter was received from general Maxwell, stating that the officers of the first regiment had delivered to their colonel a remonstrance, addressed to the legislature of New Jersey ; in which, they declared, that, unless their former complaints on the deficiency of pay obtained immediate attention, they were to be considered, at the end of three days, as having resigned their commissions; and on that contingency they requested the legislature to appoint other officers in their stead.-General Washington, who was strongly attached to the army, and knew their virtue, their sufferings, and also the justice of their complaints, immediately comprehended the ruinous consequences likely to reBult from the measure they had adopted. After serious deliberation, he wrote a letter to general Maxwell, to be laid before the officers. In the double capacity of their friend and their commander, he made a forcible address, both to their pride and their patriotism.--" There is nothing," he
observed, “which has happened in the course of the war, that has given me so much pain as the remonstrance you mention from the officers of the first Jersey regiment. I cannot but consider it a hasty and imprudent step, which, on more cool consideration, they will themselves condemn. I am very sensible of the inconveniences under which the officers of the army labour, and I hope they do me the justice to believe, that my endeavours to procure them relief are incessant. There is more difficulty however, in satisfying their wishes, than perhaps they are aware of. Our resources have been hitherto very limited. The situation of our money is no small embarrassment, for which, though there are remedies, they cannot be the work of a moment. Government is not insensible of the merits and sacrifices of the officers, nor unwilling to make a compensation ; but it is a truth, of which a very little observation must convince us, that it is very much straitened in the means. Great allows ances ought to be made on this account, for any delay and seeming backwardness which may appear. Some of the states, indeed, have done as generously as was in their power; and if others have been less expeditious, it ought to be ascribed to some peculiar cause, which a little time, aided by example, will remove.—The patience and perseverance of the army have been, under every disadvantage, such as do them the highest honour, at home and abroad ; and have inspired me with an unlimited confidence in their virtue, which has consoled me amidst every perplexity and reverse of fortune, to which our afrairs, in a struggle of this nature, were necessarily exposed. Now, that we have made so great a progress to the attainment of the end we have in view, so that we cannot fail, without a most shameful desertion of our own interests; any thing like a change of conduct would imply a very unhappy change of principles, and a forgetfulness, as well of what we owe to ourselves, as to our country.Did I suppose it possible this should be the case, even in a single regiment of the army, I should be mortified and chagrined beyond expression. I should feel it as a wound given to my own honour, which I consider as embarked with that of the army. But this I believe to be impossible. Any corps that was about to set an example of the kind, should weigh well the consequences; and no officer of common discernment and sensibility would hazard them. If they should stand
alone in it, independent of other consequences, what would be their feelings, on reflecting that they had held themselves out to the world in a point of light inferior to the rest of the army ? Or, if their example should be followed, and become general, how could they console themselves for having been wie foremost in bringing ruin and disgrace upon their country? They should remember, that the army would share a double portion of the general infamy and distress; and that the character of an American ollicer would become as despi. cable as it is now glorious.
“I confess the appearances in the present instance are disagreeable; but I am convinced they seem to mean more than they really do. The Jersey officers have not been outdone by any others, in the qualities, either as citizens, or soldiers; and I am confident no part of them would seriously intend any thing that would be a stain on their former reputation. The gentlemen cannot be in earnest; they have only reasoned wrong about the means of attaining a good end, and, on consideration, I hope, and flatter myself, they will renounce what must appear improper.--At the opening of a campaigu, when under marching orders, for an important service, their own honour, duty to the public and to themselves, and a regard to military propriety, will not suffer them to persist in a measure which would be a violation of them all. It would even wound their delicacy coolly to reflect that they have hazarded a step, which has an air of dictating terms to their country, by taking advantage of the necessity of the moment
“ The declaration they have made to the state, at so critical a time, that unless they obtained relief in the short period of three days, they must be considered out of the service,' has very much that aspect, and the seeming relaxation of continuing until the state can have a reasonable time to provide other officers, will be thought only a superficial veil. I am now to request that you will convey my sentiments to the gentlemen concerned, and endeavour to make them sensible of their error. The service for which the regiment was intended, will not admit of delay. It must, at all events, march on Monday morning, in the first place to this camp, and further directions will be given when it arrives. sure I shall not be mistaken in expecting a prompt and cheerful obedience.”
The officers did not explicitly recede from their claims;
but were brought round so far as to continue in service. In an address to General Washington, they declared, "their unhappiness that any step of theirs should give him pain;" but alleged in justification of themselves, “that repeated memorials had been presented to their legislature, which had been neglected ;” and added, “ we have lost all confidence in that body. Reason and experience forbid that we should
Few of us have private fortunes; many have fa milies, who are already suffering every thing that can be received from an ungrateful country. Are we then to suffer all the inconveniences, fatigues, and dangers of a military life, while our wives, and our children, are perishing for want of common necessaries at home; and that without the most distant prospect of reward, for our pay is now only nominal ? We are sensible that your excellency cannot wish or desire this from us.
“ We are sorry that you should imagine we meant to disobey orders. It was, and still is, our determination to march with our regiment, and to do the duty of officers, until the legislature should have a reasonable time to appoint others, but no longer.
“We beg leave to assure your excellency, that we have the highest sense of your ability and virtues; that executing your orders has ever given us pleasure ; that we love the service, and we love our country; but when that country is so lost to virtue and to justice, as to forget to support its servants, it then becomes their duty to retire from its service.”
The ground adopted by the officers for their justification, was such as interdicted a resort to stern measures ; at the same time, a compliance with their demands was impossible. In this embarrassing situation, Washington took no other notice of their letter, than to declare to the officers, through general Maxwell, “ that while they continued to do their duty, he should only regret the part they had taken.” The legislature of New Jersey, roused by these events, made some partial provision for their troops. The officers withdrew their remonstrance, and continued to do their duty.
The consequences likely to result from the measures adopted by the New Jersey officers, being avoided by the good sense and prudence of General Washington, he profited by the event, when communicated to congress, by urging on them the absolute necessity of some general and adequate