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quest of Canada, which had always been a favourite object ever since the commencement of
This scheme was fraught with consequences which might, and probably would, have gone far to ruin our cause. The bloody plains of Abraham attest the difficulties of such an enterprise; and in all probability the waning resources necessary to the safety of the states, would have been wasted on a hopeless enterprise, which, even if it succeeded, would have had no decisive influence on the result of the great struggle in which we were engaged.
The first intimation that this plan had been decided on, was received by Washington in a letter from Congress, desiring him to write to Franklin, then minister at Paris, to endeavour to induce the court of France to aid in its execution. Instead of complying with this request, he addressed a letter to that body, couched in the most respectful terms, yet detailing, with manly firmness, the difficulties in the way of this wild project, and offering such unanswerable reasons against all probability of success, that it was promptly abandoned. Thus everywhere, at all times, and in all situations, did. Washington prove the guardian of his country,
Consequences of the Alliance with France-Remission of ac
tivity on the part of Congress and the People, The British Ministers roused to new exertions Incitements of Washing ton to Vigilance and Preparation-Wants and disaffection of the Troops-Mutiny of the Connecticut Line-Overtures for Pacification rejected by Congress-Massacre of WyomingCapture of Stony Point-General Wayne-The Tide of War flows towards the South,
ONE of the ill consequences almost always attending a reliance on the assistance of others, is a remission of our own exertions. Selfdependence, united with a firm belief in the justice of our cause, and the consequent aid of the Being whose great attribute is to side with the right, are the best foundations for success in every honourable pursuit. The moment of the treaty of alliance with France was the crisis of greatest danger to the cause of liberty. I am strongly inclined to think that this event did not greatly accelerate the independence of the United States, since it gave them a ground of hope distinct from a reliance on their own efforts and resources. They now considered their cause beyond the reach of ruin, and from that moment seem to have remitted their exertions to arrest its destruction.
Independently of this pernicious consequence of almost all foreign alliances, the connection with France without doubt aggravated the offences of her former subjects in the eyes of the English ministers, and, above all, in those of the people of England. It was a new effort of disobedience, which entailed on Great Britain a war with France, and finally with Spain and Holland. The necessity of the case, and the feeling of indignation, combined to produce new and more vigorous efforts, and the result of the French alliance was an augmentation of the British force in this country which more than counterbalanced that of France. During the whole of the two succeeding campaigns, Washington was obliged to act on the defensive with diminished means; and there were times when the prospect of a successful termination of the great struggle for liberty, was more gloomy if possible than it ever had been before. That issue still, as it ever did, depended not on the
will or the interests of rival despots, but on Washington, the countrymen of Washington, and the great Being who inspired him with virtue, talents, and courage to save his country.
During all this while, though deprived by the apathy of the states and the people, who now dreamed their independence secure, of the means of active service, he continued to be the guardian of their safety. He lost no opportunity to urge his impressive warnings against the dangers of this false security; he conjured them to resist the delusions of a too sanguine hope; he called upon them loud and often to prepare for future and inevitable misfortune, if they continued to rely on others alone; and with the wisdom of inspiration foretold, that, if they fell asleep in the cradle of this false security, they would be awakened to dismay and destruction.
A minute detail of the military operations in which Washington was personally concerned, is not within the compass of my design, and those which took place in the two following years are in themselves inconsiderable. The army was suffered to dwindle
away until it amounted to less than three thousand; the depreciation of that miserable substitute for value, paper-money,
followed by its total annihilation as a medium for procuring the comforts and necessaries of life, and the consequent inability of Congress to pay even this small army, produced the most disastrous consequences. Disaffection spread among
the Connecticut Line mutinied; and the farmers, having lost all faith in the ability of Congress to pay for their produce, refused to trust any longer in the promises of that body. It is within the knowledge of the writer, that the army in the Highlands would have been at times destitute of provisions, had not the then deputy commissary-general pledged his personal credit to the farmers of Westchester and Dutchess counties. By this act of patriotism he served the cause at the expense of his own ruin.
During this period, also, the British ministry made another attempt at conciliating the United States. Commissioners were appointed, and preliminaries discussed; but as nothing was said about an acknowledgment of independence, the negotiation entirely failed, as in all previous cases. Disappointed in this, the commissioners resorted to corruption, and attempts were made to bribe certain leading members of Congress.