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common country; as I have never left your side one moment but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army; as my heart has ever expanded with joy when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it; it can scarcely be supposed at this last stage of the war that I am indifferent to its interests.”
For myself,” observes he, in another part of his address,“
a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you
under tude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honour to command, will oblige me to declare in this public and solemn manner, that for the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country and those powers we are bound to respect, you may fully command my services to the utmost extent of
abilities. " While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever abilities I am possessed of in your favour, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained ;-let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in the resolutions which were published to you two days ago; and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your n sacred honour as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious
WASHINGTON ADDRESSES THE ARMY.
pretences, to overturn the liberties of our country ; and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood. By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes ; you will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice; you will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; and you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind,— Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of, perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.'
After he had concluded the address, he observed that, as a corroborating testimony of the good disposition in Congress toward the army, he would communicate to them a letter received from a worthy member of that body, who on all occasions had approved himself their fast friend. He produced an able letter from the Hon. Joseph Jones, which, while it pointed out the difficulties and embarrassments of Congress, held up very forcibly the idea that the army would, at all events, be generously dealt with.
Major Shaw, who was present, and from whose memoir we note this scene, relates that Washington, after reading the first paragraph of the letter, made a short pause, took out his spectacles, and begged the indulgence of his audience while he put them on, observing at the same time that he had grown gray in their service, and now found himself growing blind. “ There was something,” adds Shaw, “ so natural, so unaffected in this appeal, as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory; it forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”
Happy for America,” continues Major Shaw, “ that she has a patriot army, and equally so that Washington is its leader. I rejoice in the opportunities I have had of seeing this great man in a variety of situations ;-calm and intrepid when the battle raged; patient and persevering under the pressure of misfortune; moderate and possessing himself in the full career of victory. Great as these quali
fications deservedly render him, he never appeared to me more truly so than at the assembly we have been speaking of. On other occasions he has been supported by the exertions of an army and the countenance of his friends; but on this he stood single and alone. There was no saying where the passions of an army which were not a little inflamed might lead; but it was generally allowed that further forbearance was dangerous, and moderation had ceased to be a virtue. Under these circumstances he appeared, not at the head of his troops, but as it were in opposition to them; and for a dreadful moment the interests of the
army and its general seemed to be in competition ! He spoke, -every doubt was dispelled, and the tide of patriotism rolled again in its wonted course. Illustrious man! What he says of the army may with equal justice be applied to his own character :- Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.
The moment Washington retired from the assemblage, a resolution was moved by the warm-hearted Knox, seconded by General Putnam, and passed unanimously, assuring him that the officers reciprocated his affectionate expressions with the greatest sincerity of which the human heart is capable. Then followed resolutions, declaring that no circumstances of distress or danger should induce a conduct calculated to sully the reputation and glory acquired at the price of their blood and eight years' faithful services; that they continued to have an unshaken confidence in the justice of Congress and their country; and that the commander-in-chief should be requested to write to the President of Congress, earnestly entreating a speedy decision on the late address forwarded by a committee of the army.
A letter was accordingly written by Washington, breathing that generous, yet well-tempered spirit, with which he ever pleaded the cause of the army.
“The result of the proceedings of the grand convention of officers,” said he, “ which I have the honour of enclosing to your Excellency for the inspection of Congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as the last glorious proof of patriotism which could have been given by men who 1783.] LETTER IN BEHALF OF THE ARMY. 1373 aspired to the distinction of a patriot army, and will not only confirm their claim to the justice, but will increase their title to the gratitude, of their country.
1 Quincy's Memoir of Major Shaw, p. 104.
“Having seen the proceedings on the part of the army terminate with perfect unanimity, and in a manner entirely consonant to my wishes ; being impressed with the liveliest sentiments of affection for those who have so long, so patiently, and so cheerfully suffered and fought under my immediate direction; having, from motives of justice, duty, and gratitude, spontaneously offered myself as an advocate for their rights; and having been requested to write to your Excellency, earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of Congress upon the subjects of the late address from the army to that honourable body; it only remains for me to perform the task I have assumed, and to intercede on their behalf, as I now do, that the sovereign power will be pleased to verify the predictions I have pronounced and the confidence the army have reposed in the justice of their country.”
After referring to former representations made by him to Congress on the subject of a half-pay to be granted to officers for life, he adds: “If, besides the simple payment of their wages, a further compensation is not due to the sufferings and sacrifices of the officers, then have I been mistaken indeed. If the whole army have not merited whatever a grateful people can bestow, then have I been beguiled by prejudice and built opinion on the basis of
If this country should not, in the event, perform everything which has been requested in the late memorial to Congress, then will my belief become vain, and the hope that has been excited void of foundation. And if, as has been suggested for the purpose of inflaming their passions, the officers of the army are to be the only sufferers by the Revolution ; if, retiring from the field, they are to grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt; if they are 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;' then shall I have learned what ingratitude is, then shall I have realized a tale which will embitter every moment of my future life. But I am under no such apprehensions. A country, rescued by their arms
from impending ruin, will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude.”
This letter to the president was accompanied by other letters to members of Congress, all making similar direct and eloquent appeals. The subject was again taken up in Congress, nine States concurred in a resolution commuting the half-pay into a sum equal to five years' whole pay; and the whole matter, at one moment so fraught with danger to the republic, through the temperate wisdom of Washington was happily adjusted.
The anonymous addresses to the army, which were considered at the time so insidious and inflammatory, and which certainly were ill-judged and dangerous, have since been avowed by General John Armstrong, a man who has sustained with great credit to himself various eminent posts under our government. At the time of writing them he was a young man, aide-de-camp to General Gates, and he did it at the request of a number of his fellow-officers, indignant at the neglect of their just claims by Congress, and in the belief that the tardy movements of that body required the spur and the lash. Washington, in a letter dated 23rd January, 1797, says, “I have since had sufficient reason for believing that the object of the author was just, honourable, and friendly to the country, though the means suggested by him were certainly liable to much misunderstanding and abuse."
CHAPTER CLX. News of peace
Letter of Washington in behalf of the army Cessation of hostilities proclaimed – Order of the Cincinnati formed Letter of Washington to the state governors — Mutiny in the Pennsylvania line - Letter of Washington on the subject — Tour to the
northern posts. At length arrived the wished-for news of peace. A general treaty had been signed at Paris on the 20th of January. An armed vessel, the Triumph, belonging to the Count d'Estaing's squadron, arrived at Philadelphia from Cadiz on the 23rd of March, bringing a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette to the President of Congress, communicating