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CHAPTER XIII. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. IV 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. IV.
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When General Howe sailed from Boston for Halifax on March 17, 1776, he was accompanied by rather more than 7,000 soldiers, besides 2,000 sailors and marines and about 1,500 loyalist refugees, while the army of Washington amounted to 21,800 men, of whom 2,700 were sick. The evacuation, though immediately due to the capture of Dorchester Heights, was not altogether involuntary, for the English ministers had some time before authorised and counselled him to leave Boston and repair to a Southern port, though they left the period to his discretion. In April, Washington left Boston, and on the 13th of the month he arrived at New York, which now became the great centre of the forces of the Revolution.
Several months passed with but little stirring action on either side. The Americans were busily employed in calling out and organising their forces, in arresting and imprisoning the loyalists, who were very numerous about New York, and in constructing powerful lines of entrenchment on Long Island for the defence of the city. Recruits came in slowly. Desertions, jealousies, and quarrels continued with little abatement, and the disastrous news of the result of the expedition against Canada and the appearance of small-pox among the troops had thrown a great damp upon American patriotism.1 In the beginning of July, Colonel Reed, the adjutant-general of the forces, wrote to a member of Congress that the American army was now less than 8,000 men, all of whom, from the general to the private, were exceedingly discouraged.1 Soon, however, several thousand volunteers or militiamen arrived from the country about New York, from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. On August 3, Washington's army was officially reckoned at 20,537 men, of whom, however, nearly 3,800 were sick or on furlough. By August 26 about 3,150 more men had come in.2 They were, however, badly clothed, imperfectly armed, and for the most part almost without discipline or military experience.
General Howe in the meantime was drawing nearer to New York. He passed from Halifax to Sandy Hook, and from Sandy Hook to Staten Island, where he was joined by the fleet from England under his brother, Lord Howe. Troops withdrawn from Virginia and South Carolina, regiments from England and the West Indies, and a large body of newly enrolled Germans, soon filled his attenuated ranks, and he found himself at the head of little less than 30,000 well-appointed soldiers. On August 22 and 23 between 15,000 and 16,000 men were landed without opposition on Long Island,3 and on the 27th they totally defeated the portion of the American army which was defending the entrenchments. If Howe had known how to improve his victory the whole force, consisting probably of about 10,000 men, must have been at his mercy. By the strange negligence of the English commander, by the great skill of Washington, and by the assistance of a dense fog, the Americans, who had been hemmed in on a corner of the island and who were separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea a mile wide, succeeded in effecting their retreat in the early hours of the morning, unimpeded and unobserved. They escaped, however, only by abandoning the lines they had constructed with much labour, and on September 15 Howe completed his campaign by the capture of New York.
The blow was a very formidable one to the American cause, and it had for some time been foreseen. On September 2 Washington wrote from New York a letter to the President of the Congress, in which he suggested no less a measure than the deliberate destruction of this great and wealthy commercial town. ‘Till of late,’ he said, ‘I had no doubt in my own mind of defending this place; nor should I have yet, if the men would do their duty, but this I despair of. … If we should be obliged to abandon the town, ought it to stand as winter quarters for the enemy? They would derive great conveniences from it on the one hand; and much property would be destroyed on the other. … At present I dare say the enemy mean to preserve it if they can. If Congress, therefore, should resolve upon the destruction of it, the resolution should be a profound secret, as the knowledge of it will make a capital change in their plans.’1
Such a suggestion, emanating from such a man, furnishes a remarkable comment upon the indignation so abundantly expressed by the revolutionary party at the burning of Falmouth and Norfolk at the time when these little towns were actually occupied by troops who were firing upon the English. If preparations for burning New York were not, as has been alleged, actually made before the Americans evacuated the city, it is at least certain that such a step was at this time openly and frequently discussed.1 Jay, who was one of the most conspicuous of the New York patriots, was of opinion that not only the city, but the whole surrounding country, should be reduced to ruin,2 and the former measure was strongly advocated by Greene, one of the most popular of the American generals. ‘The City and Island of New York,’ he wrote, ten days before the surrender, ‘are no objects to us. We are not to put them in competition with the general interest of America. Two-thirds of the property of the city and the suburbs belong to Tories. … I would burn the city and suburbs, and that for the following reasons.’ He then proceeds to enumerate the military advantages that would ensue, and adds, ‘all these advantages would result from the destruction of the city, and not one benefit can arise to us from its preservation, that I can conceive.’3 Joseph Reed, who was Adjutant-General of the American army, was also strongly in favour of burning New York—‘a city,’ he said, ‘the greater part of whose inhabitants are plotting our destruction.’4
Happily for its own reputation, happily perhaps for its influence in America, Congress rejected the counsel, and New York fell intact into the hands of the English.1 But the knowledge of the design had spread abroad, and there were men who were quite ready to carry it into effect. Shortly after midnight, on the morning of September 21, fires burst out simultaneously in several parts of New York. The church bells had all been carried away by Washington to be turned into cannon, so there was great difficulty in spreading the alarm. The fire-engines were in bad repair, and before the fire could be extinguished about a fourth part of the town was reduced to ashes. Several women and children perished in the flames, and many hundreds of families were reduced in an hour from comfort to beggary. But for the admirable efforts of English soldiers under General Robertson, and of sailors who landed from the fleet, assisted by a sudden change of wind, it is probable that nothing would have remained of the future capital of America. Men with combustibles in their hands were seized and killed either by the soldiers or the populace. Tryon, the English Governor of New York, expressed his firm belief that the conflagration had been deliberately prepared with the full knowledge of Washington before the Americans had left the town, and had been executed by officers of his army, some of whom ‘were found concealed in the city.’ In this conjecture he was undoubtedly mistaken. The letters of Washington show that he had no knowledge of the conflagration, but few impartial judges will question the distinct assertion of General Howe that the fire was, beyond all question, an incendiary one, and it is almost equally certain that it owed its origin to the revolutionary party.2
The superiority of the English over the Americans at Long Island, both in numbers, in arms, and in military experience, was so great that the defeat reflected no shadow of discredit upon the beaten army, who appear to have fought with great courage and resolution; but the extreme anarchy and insubordination that still reigned within the ranks, and the great want of real patriotism and self-sacrifice that was displayed, boded ill to the revolutionary cause. In the letter to which I have already referred, written by Colonel Reed before the battle, we have a vivid picture of the condition of the American army. ‘Almost every villainy and rascality,’ he wrote, ‘is daily practised with impunity. Unless some speedy and effectual means of reform are adopted by Congress our cause will be lost. As the war must be carried on systematically, you must establish your army upon a permanent footing, and give your officers good pay, that they may be, and support the character of, gentlemen, and not be driven by a scanty allowance to the low and dirty arts which many of them practise to filch the public of more money than all the amount of the difference of pay. It is not strange that there should be a number of bad officers in the continental service when you consider that many of them were chosen by their own men, who elected them, not for a regard to merit, but from the knowledge they had of their being ready to associate with them on the footing of equality. It was sometimes the case that when a company was forming, the men would choose those for officers who consented to throw their pay into a joint stock with the privates, from which captains, lieutenants, ensigns, sergeants, corporals, drummers, and privates drew equal shares. Can it be wondered at that a captain should be tried and broken for stealing his soldiers' blankets? or that another officer should be found shaving his men in the face of characters of distinction. … Had I known the true posture of affairs, no consideration would have tempted me to have taken an active part in this scene. And this sentiment is universal.’1
The letters of Washington at this time are full of complaints of the quarrels between the soldiers of the different provinces, of the numerous desertions in the most critical periods of the campaign, of the constant acts of insubordination, of the complete inefficiency of the militia.2 The defeat at Long Island had totally demoralised them. ‘The militia, instead of calling forth their utmost efforts to a brave and manly opposition in order to repair our losses, are dismayed, intractable, and impatient to return. Great numbers of them have gone off, in some instances almost by whole regiments, by half ones, and by companies at a time.’ ‘Their want of discipline and refusal of almost every kind of restraint,’ ‘their humours and intolerable caprice,’ their ‘entire disregard of that order and subordination necessary to the well-being of an army,’ their ‘impatience to get home,’ and their ‘abominable desertions’ were rapidly infecting the regular continental troops.1 On one occasion a body of New York militia under Colonel Hay simply refused to obey his commands or to do duty, saying that ‘General Howe had promised them peace, liberty, and safety, and that is all they want.’2 There was so little unity of action between the Congress and the local legislatures that, while the former offered a bounty of ten dollars to those who would enlist for a year in the continental service, the particular States sometimes offered a bounty of twenty dollars to the militia who were called out for a few months, and it was in consequence scarcely possible to obtain recruits for the more serious military service.3 This competition, indeed, between the Congress and the separate States continued during a great part of the war; and as late as 1779, when Franklin was endeavouring to borrow money from Holland, he complained bitterly of the difficulties he encountered through the rivalry of particular States which were applying at the same time for loans for their own purposes, and not unfrequently offering higher interest.4
To all these difficulties which beset the path of Washington must be added the widespread disaffection to the American cause which was manifest in the State of New York. The legal legislature of the province had indeed been superseded in 1775 by a Provincial Convention elected and governed by the revolutionists, and it passed a resolution that all persons residing in the State of New York who adhered to the King and Great Britain ‘should be deemed guilty of treason and should suffer death.’5 ‘A fierce mob was active in hunting down suspected Tories, and they had introduced the brutal New England punishment of carrying their victims astride upon rails;1 but the bulk of the property of New York belonged to loyalists, and they were very numerous, both among the middle classes of the town and in the country population. Before the arrival of the English, New York gaol was crowded with suspected loyalists, and among them were many of the first characters in the town. English recruiting agents penetrated even into the camp of Washington, and a plot was discovered for seizing his person.2 When Howe landed at Staten Island he was warmly welcomed by the inhabitants, who at once furnished him with all that he required, and came forward in numbers to take the oath of allegiance.3 When Washington was driven from Long Island, almost the whole population came forward gladly to testify their loyalty to the Crown,4 and a corps of several hundred loyalists recruited in the province was serving in the English army.5 The Queen's County, which comprehended the north side of Long Island, was especially noted for its loyalty. It refused to send a delegate to the Continental Congress or the Provincial Convention, and at the end of the war nearly a third part of its inhabitants are said to have emigrated to Nova Scotia.6
The conduct of the American troops, who were almost wholly unaccustomed to discipline, was, as might have been expected, far from faultless. ‘The abandoned and profligate part of our army,’ wrote Washington, ‘lost to every sense of honour and virtue, as well as their country's good, are by rapine and plunder spreading ruin and terror wherever they go, thereby making themselves infinitely more to be dreaded than the common enemy they are come to oppose.’ In a confidential letter to the President of the Congress he complained that except for one or two offences the utmost penalty he was empowered to inflict was thirty-nine lashes; that these, through the collusion of the officers whose duty it was to see them applied, were sometimes rather ‘a matter of sport than punishment,’ and that in consequence of the inadequacy of the penalty ‘a practice prevails of the most alarming nature, which will, if it cannot be checked, prove fatal both to the country and to the army.’ ‘Under the idea of Tory property, or property that may fall into the hands of the enemy, no man is secure in his effects and scarcely in his person.’1 American soldiers were constantly driving innocent persons out of their homes by an alarm of fire, or by actually setting their houses on fire, in order more easily to plunder the contents, and all attempts to check this atrocious practice had proved abortive. The burning of New York was generally attributed to New England incendiaries. The efforts of the British soldiers to save the city were remembered with gratitude, and, although some parts of the province of New York still obeyed the Provincial Congress, there is little doubt that in the city and in the country around it the British were looked upon not as conquerors but as deliverers.2
Washington, in October 1776, expressed his grave fear that in case of any unfavourable turn in American affairs the enemy might recruit soldiers at least as fast as the revolutionists.1 It was one of the great miscalculations of the English Government that they entertained a similar expectation, and hoped to suppress the rebellion mainly by American troops. Attempts were made to produce a rising among the Scotch emigrants in Virginia. Officers were authorised to raise provincial corps for the service of the King, and on a single occasion equipments were sent out from England for no less than 8,000 provincial troops. In the course of the struggle it is, no doubt, true that many thousands took arms for the King either in isolated risings or in the regular army,1 but the enlistments were much fewer than was expected, and the hope that America would supply the main materials for the suppression of the revolt proved wholly chimerical. One of the first acts of the Whig party in every colony was to disarm Tories, and the promptitude and energy with which this measure was accomplished, combined with the unfortunate issue of several small risings in the Southern colonies, paralysed the loyalists.
Nor was it surprising that they showed great reluctance and hesitation. That strong dislike to military life which pervaded the colonial population was nowhere more conspicuous than in the class of society in which loyal sentiments chiefly prevailed, and the American loyalists risked much more than the American insurgents. In addition to the Acts punishing with death, banishment, forfeiture of goods, or imprisonment, those who assisted the English, every State passed Acts of Attainder, by which the properties of long lists of citizens who were mentioned by name were confiscated. Pennsylvania and Delaware, following the example of the Irish Jacobite Parliament of 1689, gave the attainted person the option of appearing to take his trial for treason by a specified date, but usually the confiscations were absolute and unconditional. In Connecticut the simple offence of seeking royal protection or absenting himself from his home and country made the loyalist liable to the confiscation of all his property. In New York, in addition to an Act confiscating all the goods of fifty-nine persons, three of whom were women, and making them liable to the penalty of death if they were found in the State, a heavy tax was imposed on every parent who had a loyalist son.1 One of the first acts of the revolutionary party when they occupied Boston was to confiscate and sell all property belonging to loyalists, and in a country of farmers and yeomen most property was immovable. The loyalist exposed himself to the undying animosity of a large proportion of his neighbours; he exposed his family to those savage mobs who by plunder and torture were everywhere supporting the Revolution, and he was certain to incur absolute ruin not only in case of the defeat of the English cause, but even in case of the temporary evacuation of the district in which his property was situated. If the rebellion collapsed, it would probably do so speedily through the want of men and money and through the burden of the sufferings it produced, and it was not necessary for him to intervene and to excite against himself the hatred of those who would continue to be his neighbours. If the rebellion was prolonged, an American resident could estimate more truly than Englishmen how difficult it was to subdue an enormous, half-opened country, how absolutely impossible it was that the English power could be, for purposes of protection, a living reality over more than a very small section of it. Nor were the moral inducements to enter into the struggle very strong. Thousands who detested the policy of the New Englanders, and who longed to see the colonies reconciled to England, reprobated the Stamp Act and many other parts of the English policy, and felt in no way bound to draw the sword against their countrymen, or to add new fuel to a civil war which they had done their utmost to avert.
The remaining military operations of 1776 may be told in a few words. Washington, after his defeat, avoided any general action, though several slight skirmishes took place. The whole of New York Island was evacuated with the exception of Fort Washington, which, by the advice of General Greene, and contrary to the opinion of Washington, it was determined to defend. The British, however, took it by storm in a single day, and they captured in it 2,700 American soldiers and a large quantity of artillery and military stores, which the Americans could ill spare. Immediately after this brilliant success, a powerful detachment under Lord Cornwallis crossed the Hudson, entered New Jersey, to which Washington had fled, and prepared to besiege Fort Lee; but the garrison hastily evacuated it, leaving their artillery and stores in the hands of the British, and the whole province open to invasion. The Provincial Convention still held its meetings in distant towns of the Province of New York, and a few American soldiers under Lee continued in the province; but the main operations were now transferred to the Jerseys.
But before following the fortunes of the war in that province, it is necessary to enumerate the chief operations in other parts of the colonies. Schuyler, who commanded the Northern army, which had just evacuated Canada, though he appears to have been a capable officer, was disliked by the New England troops, and in the summer of 1776 the Congress, without as yet absolutely superseding him, gave a joint command to Gates, who was more popular in New England. The defeated army had fallen back on the strong fort of Ticonderoga; but the Americans also held the fort of Crown Point, which was fifteen miles distant, and they had constructed with great energy a small fleet, which for a time gave them the command of Lake Champlain. Gates appointed Benedict Arnold to command it; and this general, who had already shown himself a soldier of great daring and capacity, exhibited the same qualities in the novel functions of naval commander. The English at length constructed a fleet far more powerful than that of the Americans, and in October they compelled the Americans to evacuate Crown Point, and they totally defeated the American fleet. Only one or two vessels were, however, captured, for Arnold succeeded in running the others on shore, in burning them before they could fall into the hands of the English, and in conducting the soldiers who manned them safely to Ticonderoga. The winter was now drawing in, and General Carleton, who commanded the English, made no attempt to besiege Ticonderoga, but fell back into winter quarters on the Canadian frontier.
In June 1776 General Clinton, at the head of some troops which had lately arrived from Ireland, and supported by a fleet under Sir Peter Parker, attempted to capture Charleston, which was the wealthiest and most important town in the southern colonies. Had he succeeded, he would have stopped one of the chief sources of military preparation in the South, and would have probably called into activity the strong loyalist party which had already shown itself in South Carolina. Charleston had, however, recently been protected by a very strong fortification on Sullivan's Island, and it was skilfully defended by General Lee, the most experienced of all the soldiers in the service of the revolution. In attacking the fort, three frigates ran aground, and although two were saved, it was found necessary to burn the third; and after several attempts the difficulties of the enterprise were found to be so great that it was abandoned. In July, Parker and Clinton sailed for New York.
The successful defence of Charleston was a great encouragement to the revolution in the Southern colonies, and for two and a half years no new attempt was made to re-establish in those quarters the dominion of England. In December, however, the same commanders who had made the abortive attempt upon Charleston descended upon Rhode Island, and occupied it without resistance. One of the provinces most hostile to British rule was thus effectually curbed, considerable impediments were thrown in the way of the naval preparations of the enemy, and a good harbour was secured for the British; but military critics have doubted, or more than doubted, whether these advantages justified the British commander in detaining at least 6,000 soldiers for nearly three years inactive in the island.
The employment of Indians in the war was now on both sides undisguised. I have related in a former chapter what appears to me to be the true history of its first stages, and in the Canadian campaign the Indians gave great assistance to the English. Actuated, according to the English view, by a strong personal attachment to Sir William Johnson and Colonel Guy Johnson, and by an earnest loyalty to the Crown, which had so often protected them against the encroachments of the colonists—according to the American view by a mere selfish desire to support the side on which there was most to gain and least to lose,1 the Indians along the Canadian frontier remained steadily loyal; and it is but justice to add that their fidelity was never more conspicuous than in the first period of the campaign, when it appeared as if the forces of Montgomery and Arnold would have carried everything before them. In May 1776 the Congress resolved that ‘it is highly expedient to engage the Indians in the service of the United Colonies;’ in the following month they authorised General Schuyler to raise 2,000 Indians for his service in Canada, and Washington to employ Indians to any extent he thought useful; and they at the same time promised a reward to all Indians who took English officers or soldiers prisoners.1 Schuyler found it impossible to shake the allegiance of the Canadian Indians; but in July 1776 Washington wrote an urgent letter to the General Court of Massachusetts begging them to enlist 500 or 600 Indians for his own army.2 It is a remarkable fact, however, that in nearly every period of the struggle, and in every part of the States, the great majority of the Indians, if they took part in the war, ranged themselves on the side of the Crown, and England obtained in consequence much the larger share both of the benefit and of the discredit of their assistance.3
The English Government had certainly no desire to instigate or encourage acts of atrocity, and they Strongly exhorted the Indians to abstain from such acts; but at the same time they knew that it was often wholly impossible to restrain them; they deliberately calculated upon the terrors of Indian warfare as a method of coercion; they were not content with employing Indians in their own armies, and under the supervision of their own officers, but urged them to independent attacks against the colonists, and there were men in the English service who would have readily given them uncontrolled licence against the enemy.1 Shortly before the attack upon Charleston, a very formidable conspiracy of loyalists and Indians to invade Virginia and the Carolinas was discovered. Mr. Stuart, who had for a long time directed the Indian affairs of the Southern colonies, was the leading agent in organising it; and it was intended to bring the Creeks and Cherokees, who inhabited lands to the west of the Carolinas and of Georgia, into the field, and to assist them by an expedition of English soldiers and by a great loyalist rising. The project was paralysed by its premature disclosure, and the great body of Indians in these parts remained passive; but the Cherokees took up arms, and waged a very savage war in the back settlements of Virginia and the Carolinas. The Southern colonists, however, soon collected an army for their defence, and not only cleared their own territory, but crossed the Alleghanies, traversed the Indian settlements, burnt the villages, destroyed the crops, and soon compelled the savages to sue for peace, and to cede a great part of their land to South Carolina. It was noticed that the barbarities practised by the Indians in this campaign had a great effect in repressing the loyalist sentiment in the Southern colonies.1
Another subject which greatly occupied the attention of the Americans was the indispensable necessity of creating a navy for the purpose of protecting their commerce and injuring that of the enemy. The Americans have at all times shown a remarkable aptitude for the seafaring life, and they did not wait for the Declaration of Independence to take measures for the construction of an independent navy. In the last three months of 1775 Congress ordered seventeen cruisers, varying from ten to thirty-six guns, to be built. In February 1776 the first American squadron, consisting of eight small ships—the largest carrying twenty-four guns—sailed under Commander Hopkins from Delaware Bay, and in October 1776 twenty-six American vessels were either built or building.2 A few larger vessels were afterwards constructed in France, but the American navy appears to have been almost wholly manned by natives, and in this respect it furnished a great contrast to the army, in which the foreign element was very prominent. The populaity, however, of the regular naval force could never compete with that of privateering, which was soon practised from the New England and Pennsylvanian coasts on a scale and with a daring and success very rarely equalled. The zest with which the Americans threw themselves into this lucrative form of enterprise is a curious contrast to their extreme reluctance to take up arms in the field. ‘Thousands of schemes of privateering,’ wrote John Adams in August 1776, ‘are afloat in American imaginations.’1 In the beginning of the war this kind of enterprise was especially successful, for a swarm of privateers were afloat before the English appear to have had the smallest suspicion of their danger. The names are preserved of no less than sixteen privateers belonging to Rhode Island alone, which were on the sea in 1776;2 and it is probable that these form but a small fraction of the total number. At the end of 1776 250 West Indiamen had been captured,3 the injury already done to the West India trade was estimated in England at 1,800,000l., and the rate of insurance had risen to 28 per cent., which was higher than at any period in the last war with France and Spain.4
The leading merchants speculated largely in privateers, and it was noticed that ‘the great profit of privateering was an irresistible temptation to seamen,’5 and a formidable obstacle to enlistment in the army. At the end of 1776, Robert Morris, in describing the gloomy prospects of the revolution, complained that ‘in the Eastern States they are so intent upon privateering that they mind little else;1 but when Chastellux visited Philadelphia a few years later, he found this distinguished patriot and merchant himself so occupied with the trade that he regarded a week as a calamitous one in which no prize was brought in by his cruisers, and his fortune had risen in the most disastrous period of the American war to between 300,000l. and 400,000l.2 It was found impossible to man the navy without laying an embargo on the privateers, and in 1776 the Assembly of Rhode Island proposed to the other States a general embargo until the quotas of enlistments required by the Congress for the army had in each State been filled.3 It may be questioned, however, whether American enterprise could have been on the whole more profitably employed, for successful privateering brought great wealth into the country, impoverished the enemy, and added very largely to the popularity of the war.
It needed, indeed, all the popularity that could be derived from this source, for the latter months of 1776 form one of the darkest periods in the whole struggle. The army of Washington had dwindled to 3,000 and even to 2,700 effective men. Except two companies of artillery belonging to the State of New York that were engaged for the war, the whole of the continental troops had only been enlisted for a year, and when their time of service expired in November and December, it appeared as if none of them would consent to re-enlist or to postpone their departure. In the face of an enemy of overwhelming numbers, in the very agonies of a struggle upon which the whole future of the contest depended, company after company came forward claiming instant dismissal. Fourteen days after the capture of Fort Washington had deprived the Americans of nearly 3,000 soldiers, a large division of the army took this course. Every hope of success seemed fading away. An urgent despatch was sent to Gates, who commanded the remains of the army which had invaded Canada, to send assistance from Ticonderoga. Unfortunately two of the regiments which he sent were from New Jersey, their time of service had expired, and as soon as they found themselves in their native State they disbanded to a man.1
General Lee had been left with some troops at the east side of Hudson River, and Washington now urgently summoned him to his assistance. Lee had served with much distinction in the English army in America during the last war, and his fierce energy had gained for him among the Indians the title of ‘the spirit that never sleeps.’ He returned to England after the capture of Canada, served in 1762 in Portugal with the auxiliary forces against the Spaniards, and performed at least one brilliant exploit in the capture of a Spanish camp near Villa Velha, on the Tagus. Having, however, quarrelled with his superiors, and being disappointed in his hopes of promotion, he passed into the Polish service, where he became a major-general. He afterwards spent some years in travelling, fought several desperate duels, and was everywhere noted for his violent and turbulent character; but he was also an accomplished linguist and a man of some literary talent, and he was one of the many persons to whom the letters of Junius were ascribed. He travelled in America in an early stage of the colonial dispute, and appears to have conceived a genuine enthusiasm for the American cause; but he was even more of an adventurer than an enthusiast, and was much disappointed at being placed in the American army not only below Washington, but also below Ward,—‘a fat old gentleman,’ as he complained, ‘who had been a popular churchwarden, but had no acquaintance whatever with military affairs.’ General Ward retired shortly after the recovery of Boston, and the star of Lee seemed for a time rising very high. His military experience was eminently useful in organising the American army. His defence of Charleston against the fleet of Sir Peter Parker in the summer of 1776 had been skilful and successful; and having afterwards been summoned to the north, his advice is said to have decided the evacuation of New York Island, which probably saved the American army from capture.
His self-willed, impracticable, and insubordinate temper, however, soon became apparent; he was extremely jealous of Washington, whose ability he appears to have greatly underrated, and after the capture of Fort Washington he thought the situation nearly hopeless. ‘Between ourselves,’ he wrote to his friend Gates,’ a certain great man is most damnably deficient. He has thrown me into a situation where I have my choice of difficulties. If I stay in this province I risk myself and army, and if I do not stay, the province is lost for ever. I have neither guides, cavalry, medicines, money, shoes, nor stockings. I must act with the greatest circumspection. Tories are in my front, rear, and on my flanks. The mass of the people is strangely contaminated. In short, unless something which I do not expect turns up, we are lost. Our councils have been weak to the last degree.’ For some time he positively disobeyed the summons of his chief, hoping to strike some independent blow near New York. At length, slowly and reluctantly, he entered New Jersey; but having on December 13 gone some way from his army to reconnoitre, he fell into the hands of a British party and was captured. To the officers who took him he expressed his disgust at ‘the rascality of his troops,’ his disappointment at the deep division of opinion in America, and his conviction that ‘the game was nearly at an end.’1
The incident struck terror into the American army at a time when no additional discouragement was needed. Washington, closely pursued by a greatly superior force under Lord Cornwallis, retreated successively to Newark, to Brunswick, to Princeton, to Trenton, and to the Penn-sylvanian side of the Delaware. Seldom has a commander found himself in a more deplorable position, for in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania, as well as in New York, the bulk of the people were either utterly indifferent or positively hostile to his cause. ‘The want of exertion,’ he wrote ou December 5, ‘in the principal gentlemen of the country, or a fatal supineness and insensibility of danger … have been the causes of our late disgraces.’ The militia he described as ‘a destructive, expensive, and disorderly mob.’2 On the 12th he wrote that, a great part of the continental troops having insisted on abandoning him, he had ‘hoped to receive a reinforcement from the militia of the State of New Jersey sufficient to check the further progress of the enemy,’ but had been ‘cruelly disappointed.’ ‘The inhabitants of this State, either from fear or disaflection, almost to a man refused to turn out.’1 In Pennsylvania, things were a little, but only a little, better. About 1,500 men of the militia of Philadelphia marched to Trenton, ‘but the remainder of the province continues in a state of supineness, nor do I see any likelihood of their stirring to save their own capital, which is undoubtedly General Howe's great object.’2
‘With a handful of men,’ he wrote a few days later, ‘compared to the enemy's force, we have been pushed through the Jerseys without being able to make the smallest opposition and compelled to pass the Delaware.’3 ‘Instead of giving any assistance in repelling the enemy, the militia have not only refused to obey your general summons and that of their commanding officers, but, I am told, exult at the approach of the enemy and on our late misfortunes.’4 ‘I found … no disposition in the inhabitants to afford the least aid.’ ‘We are in a very disaffected part of the province, and between you and me I think our affairs are in a very bad condition; not so much from the apprehension of General Howe's army as from the defection of New York, the Jerseys, and Pennsylvania. In short, the conduct of the Jerseys has been most infamous. Instead of turning out to defend their country and affording aid to our army, they are making their submission as fast as they can. If the Jerseys had given us any support we might have made a stand at Hackinsac, and, after that, at Brunswick; but the few militia that were in arms disbanded themselves and left the poor remains of our army to make the best we could of it.’ ‘If every nerve is not strained to recruit the new army with all possible expedition I think the game is pretty nearly up. ‘The enemy are daily gathering strength from the disaffected.’ ‘I have no doubt but General Howe will still make an attempt upon Philadelphia this winter. I see nothing to oppose him a fortnight hence.’1
Clothes, shoes, cannon, entrenching tools were imperatively needed. A great part of the military stores of the Revolution had been captured at Fort Washington. Even small arms were beginning to fail. ‘The consumption and waste of these,’ wrote Washington, ‘this year have been great. Militia and flying-camp men coming in without them were obliged to be furnished or become useless. Many of these threw their arms away; some lost them; whilst others deserted and took them away.’2 And in the midst of all this distress there was incessant jealousy and recrimination, dishonesty and corruption; ‘the different States, without regard to the qualifications of an officer, quarrelling about the appointments and nominating such as are not fit to be shoeblacks, from the local attachments of this or that member of the Assembly;’3 ‘the regimental surgeons, many of whom are very great rascals, countenancing the men in sham complaints to exempt them from duty, often receiving bribes to certify indispositions with a view to procure discharges or furloughs.’ quarrelling incessantly around the beds of the sick, and ‘in numberless instances’ drawing ‘for medicines and stores in the most profuse and extravagant manner for private purposes;’4 the troops, in fine, so full ‘of local attachments and distinctions of country,’ that after vainly trying to unite them by ‘denominating the whole by the greater name of American,’ Washington acknowledged that the task was an impossible one, and that the best way of governing his army was by stirring the emulation of the contingents of the different States.1
It seemed at this time not only probable but almost certain that the American Revolution would have collapsed; and if it had done so, it is strange to think how completely the commonplaces of history would have been changed, and how widely different would now have been the popular estimate of the rival actors both in England and in America. In the course of a few months the English had driven the Americans from Canada and from New York. They had taken possession of Rhode Island without opposition. They had overrun the whole of the Jerseys, and nothing but the Delaware saved Philadelphia from capture. It is almost certain that with the most ordinary vigilance and enterprise Howe could have compelled the chief American army to surrender in Long Island, and that if he had at once pursued Washington across the Delaware, Philadelphia would have immediately fallen into his hands. In either of these cases the American Revolution would probably have ended in 1776. In all the provinces which had been conquered, except Rhode Island, the feelings of the people had been at least as favourable to the British as to the revolutionists, and the more closely the correspondence of the time is examined the more evident it will appear that, in the middle colonies at least, those who really desired to throw off the English rule were a small and not very respectable minority. The great mass were indifferent, half-hearted, engrossed with their private interests or occupations, prepared to risk nothing till they could clearly foresee the issue of the contest.
In almost every part of the States—even in New England itself—there were large bodies of devoted loyalists.1 The different States still regarded themelves as different countries, and one of the sentiments that most strongly pervaded the majority of them was dislike of the New Englanders.2 Washington, in New Jersey, issued a stringent proclamation ordering the inhabitants along the march of the English to destroy all hay and corn which they could not remove, but the order was nearly universally disobeyed, and Howe never at this time found the smallest difficulty in obtaining all necessary supplies.3 Had the Americans as a whole ever looked upon the English as the Dutch looked upon the Spaniards, and as the Poles look upon the Russians, had they manifested in the struggle of the revolution but a tenth part of the earnestness, the self-sacrifice, the enthusiasm which they displayed on both sides in the war of Secession, Howe would at least have been enormously outnumbered. But during the whole of the campaign in New Jersey the army of Washington was far inferior in numbers to that which was opposed to him, and it was so ragged, inexperienced, and badly armed that it had rather the appearance of a mob than of an army. Howe issued a proclamation offering full pardon to all rebels who appeared before the proper authorities within sixty days and subscribed a declaration of allegiance, and great multitudes, including most of the chief persons in the State, gladly availed themselves of it. At Philadelphia itself there was so much disaffection that Washington was obliged to detach a portion of his shrunken army for the purpose of intimidating those who were opposing all defensive works against the British, and he was in almost daily expectation that the British would make an attempt to pass the Delaware, and only too certain that if they succeeded in doing so, Philadelphia would be at their mercy.
The Congress regarded the capture of the town as so imminent that it fled precipitately to Baltimore. Probably the last member who remained in Philadelphia was Robert Morris, afterwards well known for the great ability he displayed in organising the finances of the Union, and he wrote on December 21, 1776, a report of the condition of affairs to the American Commissioners at Paris, which gives a most vivid and instructive picture of the light in which the struggle now appeared to the ablest of its partisans. He describes the ruinous consequences of the capture of Fort Washington, the interception of the despatches of Washington, the sickness that was raging in the army, the want of warm clothing in the coldest period of the winter, the headlong flight through New Jersey before an overwhelming force of the enemy, the disappointment of all hopes of assistance from the people. ‘Alas, our internal enemies had by various arts and means frightened many, disaffected others, and caused a general languor to prevail over the minds of almost all men not before actually engaged in the war. Many are also exceedingly disaffected with the constitutions formed for their respective States, so that, from one cause or other, no Jersey militia turned out to oppose the march of an enemy through the heart of their country; and it was with the utmost difficulty that the Associators of this city could be prevailed on to march against them.’ The capture of Lee had been a new and terrible blow, but the party he commanded, and also 500 men returning from the Lakes under General Gates, had just joined Washington; and as the army of Howe had been scattered, the one hope of the Americans was that they might be able to cut off the detached parties of the British, and thus compel them to abandon New Jersey. ‘Unless that task is performed, Philadelphia—nay, I may say Pennsylvania—must fall.’
But the difficulties were almost insuperable. The dispositions of the people were such that the English had excellent intelligence, while the revolutionists could scarcely obtain any. The proclamation of Howe ‘had a wonderful effect, and all Jersey, or far the greater part of it, is supposed to have made their submission. … Those who do so of course become our most inveterate enemies; they have the means of conveying intelligence, and they avail themselves of it.’ Philadelphia was in a state of complete panic, and numbers of its citizens were taking flight. ‘We are told the British troops are kept from plunder,1 but the Hessians and other foreigners, looking upon that as the right of war, plunder wherever they go, from both Whigs and Tories without distinction, and horrid devastations they have made.’ The rapid depreciation of the continental currency in itself threatened ‘instant and total ruin to the American cause.’ ‘The enormous pay of our army, the immense expenses at which they are supplied, … and, in short, the extravagance that has prevailed in most departments of the public service, have called forth prodigious emissions of paper money.’ Unless some brilliant success immediately changed the prospects of the war, nothing, in the opinion of this most competent observer, but the speedy assistance of France could possibly save the American cause. ‘Our people,’ he continues, ‘knew not the hardships and calamities of war when they so boldly dared Britain to arms; every man was then a bold patriot, felt himself equal to the contest, and seemed to wish for an opportunity of evincing his prowess; but now, when we are fairly engaged, when death and ruin stare us in the face, and when nothing but the most intrepid courage can rescue us from contempt and disgrace, sorry I am to say it, many of those who were foremost in noise shrink coward-like from the danger, and are begging pardon without striking a blow.’1
Nothing, indeed, could now have saved the American cause but the extraordinary skill and determination of its great leader, combined with the amazing incapacity of his opponents. There is no reason to doubt that Sir William Howe possessed in a fair measure the knowledge of the military profession which books could furnish, but not one gleam of energy or originality at this time broke the monotony of his career, and to the blunders of the Jersey campaign the loyalists mainly ascribed the ultimate success of the revolution. The same want of vigilance and enterprise that had suffered the Americans to seize Dorchester heights, and thus to compel the evacuation of Boston, the same want of vigilance and enterprise that had allowed them when totally defeated to escape from Long Island, still continued. When Washington was flying rapidly from an overwhelming force under Lord Cornwallis, Howe ordered the troops to stop at Brunswick, where they remained inactive for nearly a week. In the opinion of the best military authorities, but for that delay the destruction of the army of Washington was inevitable. The Americans were enabled to cross the Delaware safely because, owing to a long delay of the British general, the van of the British army only arrived at its bank just as the very last American boat was launched.1 Even then, had the British accelerated their passage, Philadelphia, the seat and centre of the Revolutionary Government, would have certainly fallen. The army of Washington was utterly inadequate to defend it. A great portion of its citizens were thoroughly loyal. The Congress itself, when flying from Philadelphia, declared the impossibility of protecting it, and although Washington had burnt or removed all the boats for many miles along the Delaware, there were fords higher up which might easily have been forced, and in Trenton itself, which was occupied by the English, there were ample supplies of timber to have constructed rafts for the army.2
But Howe preferred to wait till the river was frozen, and in the meantime, though his army was incomparably superior to that of Washington in numbers, arms, discipline, and experience, he allowed himself to undergo a humiliating defeat. His army was scattered over several widely separated posts, and Trenton, which was one of the most important on the Delaware, was left in the care of a large force of Hessians, whose discipline had been greatly relaxed. Washington perceived that unless he struck some brilliant blow before the close of the year, his cause was hopeless. The whole province was going over to the English. As soon as the river was frozen he expected them to cross in overwhelming numbers, and in a few days he was likely to be almost without an army. At the end of the year the engagement of the greater part of his troops would expire, and on December 24 he wrote to the President of the Congress, ‘I have not the most distant prospect of retaining them a moment longer than the last of this month, notwithstanding the most pressing solicitations and the obvious necessity for it.’1 Under these desperate circumstances he planned the surprise of Trenton. ‘Necessity,’ he wrote, ‘dire necessity, will, nay, must justify an attack.’ It was designed with admirable skill and executed with admirable courage. On the night of Christmas 1776, Washington crossed the Delaware, surprised the German troops in the midst of their Christmas revelries, and with a loss of only two officers and two privates wounded, he succeeded in capturing 1,000 prisoners and in recrossing the river in safety.2
The effect of this brilliant enterprise upon the spirits of the American army and upon the desponding, wavering, and hostile sentiments of the population was immediate. Philadelphia for the present was saved, and the Congress speedily returned to it. Immediately after the victory a large force of militia from Pennsylvania joined the camp of Washington,3 and at the end of December the disbandment of the continental troops, which a week before he had thought inevitable, had been in a great measure averted. ‘After much persuasion,’ he wrote, ‘and the exertions of their officers, half, or a greater proportion of those [the troops] from the eastward have consented to stay six weeks on a bounty of ten dollars. I feel the inconvenience of this advance, and I know the consequences which will result from it, but what could be done? Pennsylvania had allowed the same to her militia; the troops felt their importance and would have their price. Indeed, as their aid is so essential and not to be dispensed with, it is to be wondered at, that they had not estimated it at a higher rate.’1 ‘This I know is a most extravagant price when compared with the time of service, but … I thought it no time to stand upon trifles when a body of firm troops inured to danger was absolutely necessary to lead on the more raw and undisciplined.’2
No money was ever better employed. Recrossing the Delaware, Washington again occupied Trenton, and then, evading an overwhelming British force which was sent against him, he fell unexpectedly on Princeton and totally defeated three regiments that were posted there to defend it. The English fell back upon Brunswick, and the greater part of New Jersey was thus recovered by the Americans. A sudden revulsion of sentiments took place in New Jersey. The militia of the province were at last encouraged to take arms for Washington. Recruits began to come in. The manifest superiority of the American generalship and the disgraceful spectacle of a powerful army of European veterans abandoning a large tract of country before a ragged band of raw recruits much less numerous than itself, changed the calculations of the doubters, while a deep and legitimate indignation was created by the shameful outrages that were perpetrated by the British and German troops.
Unfortunately these outrages were no new thing. An ardent American loyalist of New York complains that one of the first acts of the soldiers of General Howe when they entered that city was to break open and plunder the College library, the Subscription library, and the Corporation library, and to sell or destroy the books and philosophical apparatus; and he adds, with much bitterness, that during all the months that the rebels were in possession of New York no such outrage was perpetrated, that during a great part of that time the regular law courts had been open, and that they had frequently convicted American soldiers of petty larcenies, and punished them with the full approbation of their officers.1 In New Jersey the conduct of the English was at least as bad as at New York. A public library was burnt at Trenton. A college and a library were destroyed at Princeton, together with an orrery made by the illustrious Rittenhouse, and believed to be the finest in the world.2 Whigs and Tories were indiscriminately plundered. Written protections attesting the loyalty of the bearer were utterly disregarded, and men who had exposed themselves for the sake of England to complete ruin at the hands of their own countrymen, found themselves plundered by the troops of the very Power for which they had risked and sacrificed so much. Nor was this all. A British army had fallen back before an army which was manifestly incomparably inferior to it, and had left the loyalists over a vast district at the mercy of their most implacable enemies. Numbers who had actively assisted the British were obliged to fly to New York, leaving their families and property behind them. Already loyalist risings had been suppressed in Maryland, in Delaware, and in Carolina, and had been left unsupported by the British army. The abandonment of New Jersey completed the lesson. A fatal damp was thrown upon the cause of the loyalists in America from which it never wholly recovered.1
In the meantime the Congress was busily engaged in raising a new continental army to replace the troops that were disbanded. The language of Washington on this subject was very decided. He again and again urged in the strongest terms the absolute impossibility of carrying on the war successfully mainly by militia, and he declared his firm conviction that, on the whole, this branch of the service had done more harm than good to the cause. He was equally positive that no system of short enlistments would be sufficient, and that the continental troops should be raised for the whole duration of the war. To do this it was necessary to offer high pay and a large bounty, but it was a measure of capital importance, and no sacrifice must be grudged. The class of officers appointed must be wholly changed. The pay of the officers must be greatly raised both absolutely and in its proportion to the pay of the privates. The system of allowing soldiers to appoint their own officers must be abandoned, and no persons who were not gentlemen should be chosen. It is curious, in tracing the foundation of the great democracy of the West, to notice the emphasis with which Washington dwelt on the danger to discipline of ‘the soldiers and officers being too nearly on a level,’ and on the facility with which degrees of rank were transferred from civil to military life. ‘In your choice of officers,’ he wrote to one of his colonels, ‘take none but gentlemen. Let no local attachments influence you,’2
It was only with great hesitation and reluctance that the Congress could be induced to adopt these views. They hated the notion of a standing army. They dreaded the expense of additional bounties, and, the unpopularity of a great difference between officers and privates, and a strong jealousy of Washington prevailed with many members. John Adams expressed his firm conviction that if the system of enlistments for the war were adopted, few men, except mercenaries of the lowest type, would serve in the American army.1 At length, however, in September 1776 the Congress agreed to vote that eighty-eight battalions, each consisting of 750 men, should be enlisted for the war. It entrusted the enlistment of these battalions to the different States, but assigned to each its quota and gave to the States the right of appointing colonels and all inferior officers, and it at the same time revised the articles of war and made them somewhat more stringent. A bounty of twenty dollars was offered to each recruit, and future advantages were very lavishly promised. Every private was to be entitled at the end of his service to 100 acres of land, while larger quantities, proportioned to their rank, were promised to the officers. Congress also offered eight dollars to every person who should obtain a recruit; and in spite of the strong protest of Washington, several of the States offered additional and separate bounties for enlistment. It was found, however, impossible, even on these terms, to obtain any considerable number of recruits for the whole duration of the war; so it was determined to admit recruits for three years, who were to have no land, but were entitled to all the other advantages. Congress also, after some hesitation, gave Washington an extraordinary power of raising and organising sixteen additional battalions of infantry, three regiments of cavalry, three regiments of artillery, and a corps of engineers; and as the State appointment of officers proved very prejudicial, they gave Washington a dictatorial power over officers under the rank of Brigadier-General.1 But in spite of all efforts to encourage enlistment, a large proportion of the continental soldiers were raised by compulsion. The States passed laws drafting the militia, and compelling every person drafted to enter the military service or to find a substitute under pain of imprisonment. In Virginia a law exempted every two persons who could find a recruit from all military service, and servants were manumitted who consented to enter the army.2
The difficulty of obtaining soldiers was by no means the only one that weighed upon the Congress. The powers of this body were so little defined and so imperfectly acknowledged that it had scarcely any coercive authority over the separate States. Prior to the Declaration of Independence, Congress was merely regarded as an organisation for enabling them to cooperate in resisting the encroachments or coercive measures of Great Britain, and the delegates had been severely limited by the instructions of their constituents. Since the Declaration of Independence, Congress had become the Government of the country, but its authority rested only upon manifest necessity and general acquiescence, and had no real legal basis. It was not even a representation of the different State Assemblies. The great majority of its members were elected by Provincial Conventions, summoned with every sort of irregularity, and often representing very small sections of the people.1 It was obvious that such a body could not strain allegiance or impose sacrifices. It was only in November 1777 that the Articles of Confederation were voted by Congress, which settled its constitution and powers, and defined the respective limits of the central and State governments. But these Articles of Confederation were not ratified by any of the States till July 1778, and they were not ratified so as to become obligatory on all the States till March 1781.2 In the meantime Congress exercised the authority of a sovereign power, but it was obliged to be more than commonly careful not to arouse the jealousy of the States. Several questions of great difficulty had indeed already arisen. It was necessary to determine the proportion of men and money to be contributed by each State, and there were dangerous controversies about the exact boundaries of the different States, and upon the question whether the Crown lands should be regarded as common property at the disposition of Congress for the public good, or as State property subject only to the local legislatures.3 It was only by great skill, management, and forbearance that these questions were solved or evaded, and a unity and consistency of action imparted to the whole machine.
The first necessity of the war was to raise money to carry it on. A great portion of the military stores had to be manufactured or imported, and it was very evident that in no part of the world was it less possible than in America to count upon gratuitous service. But the first step in the quarrel with Great Britain had been due to the attempt of the British Parliament to tax America, and a great impatience of taxation had been one of the chief supports of the revolutionary party. Under these circumstances, Congress did not venture to claim the power of directly imposing any tax, and at the beginning of the contest the separate States, which had an indisputable right of self-taxation, did not venture to exercise it for military purposes, knowing how large a part of the population were lukewarm or hostile to the revolution. During the first two years of the war no additional taxes of any importance appear to have been imposed, in spite of the earnest entreaties of Congress.1 But money was imperatively needed, and the plunder of loyal subjects went but a small way in providing it. A foreign loan was obviously impossible until the revolutionary government had acquired some aspect of permanence and security. The only course that remained was the issue of paper money, and this Congress authorised with the general implied assent of the States. Five issues, amounting in the whole to fifteen million dollars, had been made by the end of July 1776. Congress apportioned the debt thus incurred to the several States upon the basis of population, and each State was primarily bound to raise taxes for the gradual redemption of its portion of the debt, and if it failed, the other States were liable to the creditor. At first this expedient was very popular, and the struggle was undertaken under the belief that it would be only a short one. But already, in July 1776, there were alarming symptoms of that depreciation of the continental paper which was perhaps the most serious danger to the cause of the Revolution, and it was aggravated by the failure of an attempt which was made to raise a loan of 5 millions of dollars at 4 per cent.
The financial question, indeed, was, perhaps, the most formidable which the party of the Revolution had to encounter. America started with the great advantage of a prosperous and economical people, and of a government entirely free from the profuse extravagance and corruption of the English political system. In a remarkable memorial drawn up by Franklin, the continental nations were reminded that the colonies of America, having borrowed 10,000,000 dollars in the last French war, had paid off the whole of this debt in 1772, and that the entire amount expended by the civil governments of three millions of people was only 70,000l.1 But the very payment of the debt, though it greatly raised the credit of the country, had left it with but little money, and it was estimated that the whole amount of specie in the colonies amounted to less, probably to much less, than twelve millions of dollars.2 The Congress judiciously threw open the ports, as far as the British cruisers would allow it, to commerce, and the American privateers brought in much wealth to the nation, but the revenues derived from these sources could not balance the expense of the war. At the end of 1777, Congress advised the different States to confiscate and sell for public purposes the property of all who had abandoned their allegiance to the State and passed over to the enemy, and this measure was energetically pursued. In some States, the estates and rights of married women, of widows and minors, and of persons who had died within the territory possessed by the British, were forfeited, and great masses of property were thus brought into the public treasury.1 But in spite of all such palliatives, the financial stress was rapidly increasing, and measures of the most violent character were taken to arrest it. Already, at the end of 1776, Robert Morris described the proportionate rate of paper money to specie as from 2 or 2 1/2 to 1, and the depreciation naturally advanced with accelerated speed.2 It was not uniform in all the States, but in 1778 the rate was 5 or 6 to 1. In 1779 it was 27 or 28 to 1, and in the beginning of 1780, when new measures were taken on the subject, it was 50 or 60 to 1.3 Its necessary consequence was a corresponding elevation of all nominal prices, and an utter confusion of all pecuniary arrangements which had been made before the war. Multitudes of quiet and industrious men, who had been perfectly indifferent to the Stamp Act and the tea duty, found themselves brought face to face with ruin, and a cry of indignation and distress rose up over the land. ‘The country people,’ wrote a French officer from Philadelphia, ‘are so exasperated at the high price everything bears, that unless some change soon takes place they threaten not only to withhold provisions from the town, but to come down in a body and punish the leaders.’4
In the beginning of 1777, Congress, with the warm approval of the great body of the people, determined to enter upon a course which the more sagacious men in America knew to be little better than insane. It imagined that it could regulate all prices by law, and maintain them at a level greatly below that which the normal operation of the law of supply and demand had determined. Laws with this object were speedily made in all the States. The prices of labour, of food, of every kind of manufacture, of all domestic articles, were strictly regulated, and committees employed to see that these prices were not exceeded. The measure, of course, aggravated the very evil it was intended to diminish. Goods that were already very rare and greatly needed were carefully concealed and withdrawn from sale lest they should be purchased at prices below their real value. In most cases the law was disregarded, and sellers continued to sell, sometimes secretly, sometimes openly, at prices higher than the law permitted, charging an additional sum to compensate them for the risk they incurred. Mob violence directed against the ‘engrossers, monopolisers, and forestallers,’ combinations of the more patriotic merchants binding themselves to sell only at the authorised prices, newspaper denunciations and occasional legal punishments, were all insufficient and impotent; and in September 1777, John Adams wrote that in his sincere opinion the Act for limiting prices, if not repealed, would ‘ruin the State, and introduce a civil war.’ At last, in October 1778, Congress voted that ‘all limitations of prices of gold and silver be taken off;’ but the States continued for some time longer to endeavour to regulate prices by legislation.1
Still more terrible in their consequences than the attempted limitation of prices were the laws which were passed by the different States at the invitation of Congress, making paper money legal tender, compelling all persons to receive it in full payment of debts or obligations contracted before the Revolution, and pronouncing those who refused to do so enemies of the liberty of America. Few laws have spread a larger amount of distress, dishonesty, and injustice through a great community. All those who subsisted on life-incomes or fixed rents or interest of money found their incomes rapidly reduced to a small fraction of their previous value; while, on the other hand, vast wealth was suddenly created, as the whole debtor class were enabled to free themselves from their obligations. Debts incurred in gold were paid off in depreciated paper which was only worth a twentieth, a thirtieth, a fortieth, a fiftieth part of its real value. They were legally extinguished by a payment which was in reality not 1s. or 6d. or even 3d. in the £.
In a country where debtors were extremely numerous, and where the whole social and economical system rested on the relation of debtor and creditor, this law opened the door to the most enormous and far-reaching fraud, but it acted differently on different classes, and this difference had an important influence upon the fortunes of the Revolution. To the labourer who lived upon his daily wages, the depreciation was of little moment, especially if he had been too improvident to lay by any store for the future. Earning and spending in the same currency, the change was no disadvantage to him, and he was even benefited by the unnatural stimulus which the immense quantities of paper money thrown suddenly upon the market had given to all kinds of labour. On the other hand, the wealthy and the saving and the helpless classes were in general utterly ruined. Debts of merchants which had been contracted when goods were cheapest and had often been for years on the books, were now discharged in paper not a twentieth part of the real value. Widows and orphans in great numbers, who had been left fortunes in money, were paid off by guardians, trustees, or executors in depreciated paper. Old men who had lent out the savings of industrious lives, and had been living comfortably upon the interest, were fortunate if they did not receive back their principal shrunk to perhaps a fiftieth part of its original value. Everyone who had been sufficiently saving to lend was impoverished. Everyone who had been reckless and improvident in borrowing was enriched, and ‘truth, honour, and justice,’ in the emphatic words of a contemporary American historian, ‘were swept away by the overflowing deluge of legal iniquity.’1 Among the enterprising men who had thrown themselves into the first movement of the revolution were many of broken fortunes and doubtful antecedents, many ardent speculators, many clever and unscrupulous adventurers. Such men found in the violent depreciation, the local variations, and the sudden fluctuations of the currency a ready path to fortune, and they soon acquired a new and sinister interest in the continuance of the struggle. Among others, the gentleman who called himself Earl of Stirling, and who had attained the position of brigadier-general in the American service, had entered it overwhelmed with debt, but by availing himself of the condition of the currency, he is stated to have paid off debts amounting to nearly 80,000l. with 1,000l. of gold and silver.2
Very seldom in the history of the world had the race for wealth been so keen, or the passion for speculation so universal, or the standard of public honesty so low. ‘The first visible effect,’ wrote a contemporary American economist, ‘of an augmentation of the medium and the consequent fluctuation of value was a host of jockeys, who followed a species of itinerant commerce, and subsisted upon the ignorance and honesty of the country people; or, in other words, upon the difference in the value of the currency in different places. Perhaps we may safely estimate that not less than 20,000 men in America left honest callings and applied themselves to this knavish traffic.’1 ‘The manners of the continent,’ wrote the Committee of Foreign Affairs in March 1778, ‘are too much affected by the depreciation of our currency. Scarce an officer but feels something of a desire to be concerned in mercantile speculation, from finding that his salary is inadequate to the harpy demands which are made upon him for the necessaries of life, and from observing that but little skill is necessary to constitute one of the merchants of these days. We are almost a continental tribe of Jews.’2 ‘Speculation,’ wrote Washington, ‘peculation, engrossing, forestalling, with all their concomitants, afford too many melancholy proofs of the decay of public virtue.’3 The vast gains rapidly acquired by privateering, the enormous rate of insurance, the enormous prices given for such European goods as arrived safely in America, had already produced a spirit of fierce and general gambling which the depreciation and fluctuation of the currency immeasurably increased. Immense fortunes were suddenly accumulated; and, in the gloomiest period of the struggle, Philadelphia was a scene of the wildest and maddest luxury. Many years after the peace with England had been signed, the older Americans could clearly trace in the prevailing spirit of reckless and dishonest speculation the demoralising effects on the national character of the years of the depreciated currency.1
It was gradually becoming evident to intelligent observers that the war was not likely to be determined by mere hard fighting. In its first stages a decisive English victory might more than once have concluded it; but it was plain that, if the American people, or any very large proportion of them, persevered, no military expeditions could subdue them. In no country in the world was it more easy to avoid a decisive action, and the whole texture and organisation of colonial life hung so loosely together, that the capture of no single point was likely to be of vital importance. In the course of the war every important town—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Newport, Savannah, Charleston—fell into the hands of the British, but the struggle still continued. A Rebel Convention governed a part of the State of New York at the very time when the capital and the surrounding country were in the undisputed possession of the King's army; and whole districts submitted without a struggle whenever the troops appeared, and cast off their allegiance the moment they had gone. To occupy and maintain in permanent subjection a country so vast, so difficult, and so sparsely populated; to support a great army in the midst of such a country, and 3,000 miles from England, if the people were really hostile, was absolutely and evidently impossible, and the attempt could not long be made without a ruinous expense.
The real hope of success lay in the languor, divisions, and exhaustion of the Americans themselves. A large minority detested the revolution. A large majority were perfectly indifferent to it, or were at least unwilling to make any sacrifice for it. Jealousies and quarrels, insubordination and corruption, inordinate pretensions and ungovernable rapacity divided and weakened its supporters. The extreme difficulty of inducing a sufficient number of soldiers to enrol themselves in the army of Washington, the difficulty of procuring cannon and gunpowder and every kind of military stores, the want of woollen clothes, and of other important articles of European commerce, the ruin, the impoverishment, and the confusion that resulted from the enormous depreciation of the currency, and finally the impossibility of paying for the essential services of the war, made it probable that a peace party would soon gain the ascendent, and that the colonies would soon be reunited to the mother country.
If America had been left unaided by Europe this would probably have happened. A large proportion of the States would almost certainly have dropped off, and although the war might have been continued for some time in New England and Virginia, it was tolerably evident that even there no large amount of gratuitous service or real self-sacrifice could be expected. Washington himself at one time gravely contemplated the possibility of being reduced to carry on a guerilla warfare in the back settlements. But at this most critical period foreign assistance came in to help, and it is not too much to say that it was the intervention of France that saved the cause.
I have already noticed the circumstances under which Congress in 1775 determined to seek this assistance, and the strong motives of resentment, rivalry, and interest that disposed France to accede to the request. It was in November 1775 that a committee was appointed to correspond with ‘friends of America in other countries;’ and early next year Silas Deane was sent to Paris as secret agent, with instructions to ascertain the dispositions of the French Court, and to endeavour to obtain arms and supplies. He arrived in Paris in July 1776, but before that date the French ministers had resolved upon their policy. Choiseul, who had watched with especial eagerness the rise of the troubles in the colonies, and who had steadily laboured to reconstruct the shattered navy of France, to maintain a close alliance between the different branches of the House of Bourbon, and to oppose on all occasions the interests of England, had fallen from power in 1770, but he was still said to have some influence, and to have exerted it in favour of the colonies. The existing ministry was presided over by Count Maurepas, and its most powerful members were Vergennes, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the illustrious Turgot, the Comptroller-General.
In the beginning of 1776 Vergennes drew up a memorial on American affairs, which was laid before the King. It was written in a tone of extreme hostility to England, and although it affected to deprecate a war, its whole tendency was to urge the Government to a more directly aggressive policy. The civil war that had arisen was, in the opinion of Vergennes, infinitely advantageous both to France and to Spain, in so far as it was likely to exhaust both the victors and the vanquished, but there were some grave dangers to be feared. It was possible that the English would acknowledge the impracticability of coercing America, and would enter into a policy of conciliation; and it was only too probable that in that case they would employ the great army they had collected in America to seize the possessions of France and Spain in the West Indies. Such an enterprise would be extremely popular. It would speedily efface the recollection of the domestic quarrel; it would be almost certainly successful, for the French and Spanish West Indies were practically indefensible; and it was especially likely if Chatham again became minister, as it would enable him to overthrow the arrangements of the Treaty of Paris, against which he had so bitterly protested. It was possible again, that the King of England, having conquered the liberties of America, would endeavour to subvert those of England, but he could only do so by flattering the national hatred and jealousy, and by surrounding himself with the popularity that springs from a successful foreign war. If, on the other hand, the American States became independent, it might be feared that England would seek to indemnify herself for her loss and humiliation by seizing the French and Spanish West Indies; and it was not impossible that America herself, being shut out from the English markets, might be compelled by necessity to seek in new conquests an outlet for her productions.
The Kings of France and Spain were animated by a strong love of peace, and peace must in consequence, if possible, be preserved. If, however, they had thought fit ‘to follow the impulse of their interests, and perhaps of the justice of their cause … if their military and financial means were in a state of development proportionate to their substantial power, it would, no doubt, be necessary to say to them that Providence had marked out this moment for the humiliation of England … that it is time to avenge upon her the evils which, since the commencement of the century, she has inflicted upon her neighbours and rivals; that for this purpose all means should be employed to render the next campaign as animated as possible, and to procure advantages to the Americans. The degree of passion and exhaustion should determine the moment to strike the decisive blows which would reduce England to a secondary Power … and deliver the universe from a greedy tyrant that was absorbing all power and all wealth.’ This bold policy, however, of undisguised assistance the two Kings did not wish to adopt, and so another policy was submitted to the King and to his council.
‘The continuance of the war for at least one year is desirable to the two Crowns. To that end the British ministry must be maintained in the persuasion that France and Spain are pacific, so that it may not fear to embark in an active and costly campaign; while on the other hand the courage of the Americans should be kept up by secret favours and vague hopes which will prevent accommodation. … The evils the British will make them suffer will embitter their minds; their passions will be more and more inflamed by the war; and should the mother country be victorious, she will for a long time need all her strength to keep down their spirit.’ To carry out this policy the ministers must ‘dexterously tranquillise the English ministry as to the intentions of France and Spain,’ while secretly assisting the insurgents with military stores and money, and they must at the same time strengthen their own forces with a view to a war.1
In order to judge the real character of the advice so frankly given, we must remember that England was at this time at perfect peace with France; that she had given no provocation or reasonable pretext for hostility; that as the American colonies had not yet declared their independence, their quarrel with the mother country was as yet a purely domestic one, and also that no consideration of their welfare or of the principles they were advocating entered in the smallest degree into the motives of action of Vergennes.
By the command of the King the memorial of Vergennes was submitted to Turgot, who, in April 1776, presented a paper containing his own views of the question. Sooner or later, in the opinion of Turgot, the independence of America was a certainty, and it would totally change, not only the relations of Europe with America, but also all the prevailing maxims of commerce and politics. America must necessarily be a nation of free-traders. She need not seek new conquests in order to find a market for her produce. By throwing open her own ports she would soon oblige other nations to do the same; and they would not be long in discovering that the whole system of monopoly, restriction, and dependence on which the colonial system of all European nations during the last two centuries was founded was an absolute delusion.
It is a remarkable illustration of the manner in which economical ideas were growing in Europe, that this opinion, which a few years before would have been regarded as the most extravagant of paradoxes, was in 1776 independently promulgated by the greatest French statesman of his age, and by the founder of political economy in England. Turning, however, to the immediate interests of France, Turgot considered her most pressing and immediate necessity to be peace. Her finances were so deranged that nothing but extreme and long-continued frugality could avert a catastrophe, and the foreign dangers that threatened her were much exaggerated. There was no sufficient reason to believe that the English ministers contemplated attacking her, and it was extremely unlikely that in the very probable event of England losing her colonies she would launch into a new and costly war, especially as in that case she would have lost the basis of her operations against the French West Indies. The severance of the colonies from England would not injure England, and it would be a great benefit to the world, on account of its inevitable influence on colonial and commercial policy. ‘Wise and happy will be that nation which shall first know how to bend to the new circumstances, and consent to see in its colonies allies and not subjects. … When the total separation of America shall have extinguished among the European nations the jealousy of commerce, there will exist among men one great cause of war the less, and it is very difficult not to desire an event which is to accomplish this good for the human race.’
The immediate interests, however, of France and Spain must be judged upon narrower grounds. England was their great rival, and the policy of the English ministers was so infatuated that their success in America would be the result most favourable to French and Spanish interests. If England subdued her colonies by ruining them, she would lose all the benefits she had hitherto derived from them. If she conquered them without materially diminishing their strength, she would find them a source of perpetual weakness, for they would always be awaiting their opportunity to rebel. The true interest of France was to remain perfectly passive. She must avoid any course that would lead to war. She must give no money and no special assistance to the revolted colonists, but the ministers might shut their eyes if either of the contending parties made purchases in French harbours.1
Maurepas and Malesherbes supported the pacific views of Turgot, but Vergennes found the other ministers on his side, and his policy speedily prevailed. Malesherbes, discouraged at the resistance to his internal reforms, retired from the ministry in the beginning of 1776, and Turgot, who was detested by the aristocracy and disliked by the Queen, was dismissed a few months later. The French Government, while duping the English ministry by repeated and categorical assertions of their strict neutrality, subsidised the revolt; and in May 1776, nearly two months before the arrival of Silas Deane in Europe, Vergennes wrote a letter to the King, of which it is no exaggeration to say that it is more like the letter of a conspirator than of the minister of a great nation. He was about to authorise Beaumarchais to furnish the Americans with a million of livres for the service of the English colonies. He was so anxious to preserve the secrecy of the transaction that he had taken care that his letter to Beaumarchais should not be in his own handwriting or in the handwriting of any of his secretaries or clerks, and he had accordingly employed his son, a boy of fifteen, on whose discretion he could rely. He would now write to Grimaldi, the minister of Spain, proposing to him to contribute a similar amount.2
The reputation which literary achievement gives, so far eclipses after a few years minor political services that it is probable that only a small fraction of those who delight in the ‘Marriage of Figaro’ or in the ‘Barber of Seville’ are aware that Beaumarchais was for a time one of the most active of the confidential agents of Vergennes, and that he bore a very considerable part in the transactions that led to the independence of America. Under an assumed name, he brought a first loan of a million livres from Vergennes to the Americans. A similar sum was sent by Spain, and the money was employed in purchasing from the royal arsenals of France such munitions of war as were necessary for the army. In the course of 1776, Deane was able in this way to procure for his countrymen 30,000 stand of arms, 30,000 suits of clothes, more than 250 pieces of cannon, and great quantities of other military stores.1
The assistance at this critical moment was of vital importance, and from this time France continued steadily, by successive loans and supplies of military munitions, to maintain the army of Washington. In September 1776, Franklin and Arthur Lee, together with Deane, were appointed commissioners at Paris for the purpose of negotiating treaties with foreign Powers, and especially with France, and rather more than a year later a furious quarrel broke out between Lee and Deane, which ended in the recall of the latter, with serious imputations upon his integrity. He was replaced by John Adams, but before that time the alliance with America had been signed. The assistance of France, however, was never more valuable than in the first period of the war, while she was still at peace with England. American vessels were admitted, by the connivance of the ministers, into French ports with articles of commerce of which by law French merchants had a strict monopoly, and the American agents were soon able to inform the Congress that France gave the commerce of the insurgent colonies greater indulgences in her ports than the commerce of any other nation whatever.2 Privateers were sheltered and equipped; prizes were secretly sold in the French harbours. Experienced officers, trained in the French army, were sent to America with the permission, or even at the instigation, of the French ministers, to organise or command the American forces. In the beginning of 1777 one of the ablest sea officers in France was engaged, by the permission of the minister, in superintending the construction in French harbours of ships of war for America,1 and finally a new grant of two millions of livres from the Crown was made, the King exacting no conditions or promise of repayment, and only requiring absolute secrecy.2
It was not possible that these things could be wholly concealed from the English Ambassador, but the comedy was boldly if not skilfully played. Vergennes professed his absolute ignorance of the despatch of military stores to America, at the very time when by his authorisation they were freely exported from the King's own arsenal. He gave orders that vessels which were pointed out as laden with such stores should be stopped, and then allowed them secretly to escape. He formally recalled the leave of absence of officers who were said to be going to America, but did not oblige them to return to their regiments. He gave orders that no prizes should be sold in the French ports, and then instructed persons about the Court to inform the American agents that this measure was necessary, as France was not yet fully prepared for war, but that they must not for a moment doubt the good-will of the Court. He even imprisoned for a time some who were too openly breaking the law, and restored some prizes which were brought too ostentatiously into French harbours, but he secretly granted 400,000 livres as a compensation to their captors, and the prisoners found no difficulty in escaping from the prison at Dunkirk. He again and again, in every term that could be binding upon men of honour, assured the English Ambassador of the perfect neutrality and pacific intentions of France, and of the determination of the French King to observe religiously the treaties he had signed; and he at the same time steadily pressed on his naval preparations for the war.1 If the French were somewhat slower in throwing away the mask and the scabbard than the Americans could have wished, they at least gave the colonies the assistance most needed, and, as the commissioners acutely said, the very delay was not without its compensation. ‘Enjoying the whole harvest of plunder upon the British commerce, which otherwise France and Spain would divide with us, our infant naval power finds such plentiful nourishment as has increased and must increase its growth and strength most marvellously.’2
‘All Europe,’ they wrote, about this time, ‘is for us.’ ‘Every nation in Europe wishes to see Britain humbled, having all in their turn been offended by her insolence, which in prosperity she is apt to discover on all occasions.’3 England under the great ministry of Pitt had acquired an empire and a preponderance on the sea not less overwhelming and not less menacing than that which Charles V. and Lewis XIV. had acquired on land, and it had become a main object of the governing classes on the Continent to reduce it, while the merchants in every nation were looking forward with eagerness to the opening of the great field of American commerce, which had hitherto been a monopoly of England. Spain, which was greatly under the influence of France, and very hostile to England, supplied the colonies with money and with gunpowder, and gave their vessels greater trade privileges than those of any other country,1 though without any real wish for American independence. The Grand Duke of Tuscany secretly removed all duties from American commerce, and expressed himself so favourable to the American cause that Deane assured his employers that they might safely purchase or construct frigates at Leghorn.2 Frederick of Prussia, who had never forgiven his desertion by England, without committing himself openly to the Americans, or even consenting to receive their envoy, watched with undisguised delight the growing embarrassments of his old ally, threw every obstacle in his power in the way of German enlistments, and took great pains to assure France that he would remain perfectly passive if she entered into war with England. The Emperor, hostile on all other points to Frederick, agreed with him in discouraging the German enlistments for England. Holland was delighted to find in America a new market for her goods, and the little Dutch island of St. Eustatius became a great mart for supplying the wants of the insurgents.
In France public opinion began to flow with irresistible force in favour of war. The old enmity towards England, the martial spirit which had been repressed and profoundly humiliated, the recollection of the long series of defeats and disasters which had terminated in the shameful peace of 1763, and also the prevailing fear that, unless the power of England were diminished, all the French dominions in the West Indies and South Africa must speedily be captured, had deeply stirred the French people; while all that was best in French thought and most generous in French character welcomed the rise of the great republic of the West. The small but growing school of economists saw in it the future champion of free trade. The followers of Voltaire, who aspired beyond all things to religious liberty, pointed with enthusiasm to the complete separation of Church and State and the total absence of religious restrictions in the American constitutions, and they began to extol America even more than they had hitherto extolled China, as the ideal land of philosophers and freethinkers. The followers of Rousseau, who valued beyond all things political equality and liberty, and who were at this time in the zenith of their influence, saw in the New World the realisation of their principles and of their dreams, the final refuge of liberties that were almost driven from Europe. The influence of French speculation on the American contest had in truth been extremely slight. The struggle in New England was of an essentially English kind, directed to very practical ends, and turning mainly on the right of taxation and on disputed principles or interpretations of the British Constitution; but there were a few men in America who had been in some degree touched by French thought, and among them was Jefferson, the chief author of the Declaration of Independence. The passage in that document—curiously unlike the cautious spirit of New England lawyers and of Pennsylvanian Quakers, and curiously audacious in a document that emanated from an assembly consisting largely of slave-owners—in which the American legislators asserted as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal, and were endowed by the Creator with an inalienable right to liberty, might have been written by Rousseau himself; and the much nobler passage in which they maintained that all governments exist only for the benefit, and derive their just powers from the consent, of the governed; and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to the ends for which government was instituted, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, awoke a mighty echo on the Continent.
It was a strange thing to see the public opinion of a purely despotic country thrilling with indignation because England had violated the constitutional liberties of her colonies; especially strange when it is remembered that one of the great American grievances was that England had perpetuated in Canada something of the French system of colonial government. Of the sincerity of the enthusiasm, however, there can be little question. The very judicious selection of Franklin as the chief representative of the colonies greatly added to it. His works were well known in France through several translations; his great discovery of the lightning conductor had been made when the Parisian enthusiasm for physical science was at its height, and it was soon found that the man was at least as remarkable as his works. Dressed with an almost Quaker simplicity, his thin grey hair not powdered according to the general fashion, but covered with a fur cap, he formed a singular and striking figure in the brilliant and artificial society of the French capital. His eminently venerable appearance, the quaint quiet dignity of his manner, the mingled wit and wisdom of his conversation, the unfailing tact, shrewdness, and self-possession which he showed, whether he was negotiating with French statesmen or moving in a social sphere so unlike that from which he had arisen, impressed all who came in contact with him. Vergennes declared him to be the only American in whom he put full confidence. Turgot, in an immortal line, described him as having torn the lightning from heaven and the sceptre from the tyrant's hand.1 Voltaire complimented him in his most graceful phrases, and expressed his pride that he was himself able to address him ‘in the language of Franklin.’ Poets, philosophers, men and women of fashion, were alike at his feet, and all the enthusiasms and Utopias of France seemed to gather round that calm American, who, under the appearance of extreme simplicity, concealed the astuteness of the most accomplished diplomatist, and who never for a moment lost sight of the object at which he aimed. His correspondence and his journal show clearly the half-amused, half-contemptuous satisfaction with which he received the homage that was bestowed on him. It became the fashion to represent him as the ideal philosopher of Rousseau. He was compared by his admirers to Phocion, to Socrates, to William Tell, and even to Jesus Christ. His head, accompanied by the line of Turgot, appeared everywhere on snuffboxes and medallions and rings. He was the idol alike of the populace and of society, and he used all his influence to hurry France into war.2
A few warning voices were heard, but they were little heeded. Necker, who now managed the finances, saw as clearly as Turgot had seen before him that continued peace was a vital interest to France and to her dynasty, for it alone could avert the impending bankruptcy. Even Vergennes hesitated to strike the fatal blow till it had been somewhat more clearly demonstrated that a reconciliation of England with her colonies was no longer to be feared. When at the request of Franklin the Declaration of Independence was translated, and scattered, with the permission of the ministers, broadcast over France, Mirabeau, who was then a prisoner at Vincennes, asked whether those who were so anxious to ally themselves with the revolted colonies had really read or understood this Declaration, and had considered whether on its principles any European governments, except those of England, Holland, and Switzerland, could be deemed legitimate. When a few months later the French ministers informed England that the Americans had become independent by virtue of their Declaration, Lafayette remarked with a smile that they had announced a principle of national sovereignty which they would soon hear of at home.1 The King hesitated much, but Marie Antoinette, who caught up every fashion and enthusiasm with the careless levity of youth, assisted the American cause with all her influence, little dreaming that she was giving the last great impulse to that revolutionary spirit which was so soon to lead her to misery and to death. ‘Give me good news,’ she said to Lafayette, when he visited her in 1779, ‘of our good Americans, of our dear republicans.’2 Paine's ‘Common Sense,’ with all its denunciations of monarchy, was translated into French, and was, if possible, even more popular in France than in America.1 Few things in history are more tragical than the mingled gaiety and enthusiasm with which the brilliant society of Versailles plunged into the stream that was to sweep them so speedily to the abyss. As yet, however, there were few misgivings, and American observers believed and hoped that if a revolution broke out it would not be in Paris but in London. ‘The King and Queen,’ wrote John Adams from Paris in 1778, ‘are greatly beloved here. Every day shows fresh proof of it. On the other side of the Channel there is a king who is in a fair way to be the object of opposite sentiments to a nation if he is not at present.’2
One of the chief signs of the prevailing enthusiasm was the multitude of soldiers who went to America to enlist in the army of the insurgents. ‘I am well-nigh harassed to death,’ wrote Deane in 1776, ‘with applications of officers to go out to America.’ ‘Had I ten ships here I could fill them all with passengers for America.’ ‘The desire that military officers here of all ranks have,’ wrote the commissioners a few months later, ‘of going into the service of the United States is so general and so strong as to be quite amazing. We are hourly fatigued with their applications and offers which we are obliged to refuse.’3 Most of them, no doubt, were mere soldiers of fortune, animated only by love of adventure, hatred of England, or hope of higher rank or pay than they could gain at home; but a few were of the purest type of enthusiasts for liberty. Among these the most conspicuous was Lafayette, who abandoned a great fortune and position and a young wife to serve gratuitously in the army of Washington, and who was appointed a major-general at the age of nineteen.
The great majority of these foreigners were French, but there were a few of other nationalities. Among the latter were Pulaski, who had distinguished himself beyond all other men in resisting the first partition of Poland, and Kosciusko, the hero of her later struggle. Steuben, a veteran German soldier, who had served under Frederick through the Seven Years' War, did more than perhaps any other single person to discipline and organise the army of Washington. Baron Kalb, who, like many other Germans, had fought with much distinction under the banner of Marshal Saxe, had visited America in 1768 as the secret agent of Choiseul, and when the war broke out he hastened to place his sword at the disposal of the Americans. Another officer of whom great hopes were entertained was Conway, an Irishman in the French service, who was esteemed ‘one of the most skilful disciplinarians in France,’ but whose intriguing and ambitious character produced one of the most serious of the many divisions in the American army.1
This incursion of foreign soldiers into America was by no means without embarrassments. It was not at all in the character of the American troops to place themselves under the command of strangers, or to give up to strangers the most lucrative posts in their army, and the swarms of French soldiers who came over with promises of high rank given them by Deane excited endless jealousy and difficulty. Great numbers of American officers at once resigned. General Du Coudray, who came out with a large party of French officers, was drowned in the Schuylkill, and his followers, after much angry contention about the rate of pay, declared that the terms of their engagement were broken, and returned to France. An attempt was made to enlist a brigade of French Canadians, and to employ the French officers in organising it, but it utterly failed, and no class of Canadians showed the smallest disposition to throw off the English rule.1 In the eighteenth century the type of mercenary soldier who sought pay and adventure in foreign armies was a very common one, and men of this stamp were often more than commonly capacious and unprincipled. Numbers of officers, through their ignorance of English, were wholly unable to communicate with the troops they aspired to command, while the leading authorities in America who were obliged to organise the public service were often, if not usually, absolutely ignorant of French. Washington himself was completely so, though he found time, in the midst of the occupations of the campaign, to learn enough to understand, though not to speak it,2 and in the busiest and most anxious period of the struggle John Adams wrote to his wife lamenting bitterly that he had not her knowledge of that language, and imploring her to send him the name of the author of her ‘thin French grammar which gives the pronunciation of the French words in English letters.’3
It needed all the tact and skill of management which Washington eminently possessed to surmount these difficulties, but in spite of every drawback the presence of this large foreign element was of great assistance to the Americans. In addition to several excellent officers who had fought in the British army during the conquest of Canada, they had now among them many veteran soldiers trained in the very best armies of the Continent, and it is a significant fact that out of 29 major-generals in the American army, no less than 11 were Europeans.1
The remainder of the winter of 1776–7, after the combat of Trenton, passed without any memorable incident in America. The English remained for several months absolutely inactive in their entrenchments, and, to the unfeigned astonishment of Washington,2 they made no attempt to regain the territory they had lost, or to force the passage of the Delaware and capture Philadelphia. Washington, on the other hand, was endeavouring to form an army, and his letters are full of bitter complaints of the want of patriotism he on all sides discovered. In New Jersey, it is true, the tide of feeling had been turned by the outrages of the British and Hessian troops. The New Jersey militia were in arms against the British, who now found the difficulties of obtaining provisions, forage, and intelligence greatly enhanced; but the laws of Congress directing the States to provide specified contingents for the American army were almost inoperative. The reluctance to enlist was extreme, and the delays of the State authorities threatened the utter ruin of the cause. The attempt to enlist troops for the whole duration of the war almost entirely failed. For some time Washington had not more than 1,500 men in his camp, while the English army was nearly ten times as numerous.3 The theft of arms by the soldiers who deserted or disbanded themselves had been carried to such an extent that it had become difficult even to provide the soldiers with common guns, when fortunately in March the first great supplies of guns and military stores arrived from France, and in this respect restored the condition of the army.1 In the beginning of this month Washington reckoned the army of Howe in the Jerseys at not less than 10,000 men, while his own army was 4,000, nearly all ‘raw militia, badly officered, and under no government.’2 In the beginning of April he complained that the extravagant bounties given by different States for raising bodies of men upon colonial establishments had made it almost impossible to procure them for the continental service, as ‘the men are taught to set a price upon themselves, and refuse to turn out except that price be paid.’ ‘How I am to oppose them’ [the British], he adds, ‘God knows; for excepting a few hundreds from Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, I have not yet received a man of the new continental levies.’3 Ten days later, in a confidential letter to his brother, he once more expressed his utter astonishment at the continued inactivity of General Howe, and declared that if the English general abstained much longer from taking advantage of the extreme weakness of his opponents it would show that he was totally unfit for the trust that was reposed in him.4 In the beginning of June he again acknowledged that it was still ‘impossible, at least very unlikely, that any effectual opposition can be given to the British army with the troops we have, whose numbers diminish more by desertion than they increase by enlistments.’1 If, indeed, as most historians are accustomed to assume, the bulk of the American people were really on the side of Washington, their apathy at this time is almost inexplicable, and it could only be surpassed by the stupendous imbecility of the English, who appear to have been almost wholly ignorant of the state of the American army, who remained waiting for reinforcements from England long after the season for active operations had begun and at a time when there was scarcely any enemy to oppose them, and who, by burning and plundering houses, destroying crops, insulting and outraging peaceful inhabitants, were rapidly turning their friends into foes.
One great cause of the slow organisation of the Americans was the difficulty of appointing the principal officers. In addition to the numerous foreigners who were to be provided for, great perplexity arose from the claim of every State to have a proportion of general officers corresponding to the number of troops it furnished.2 In the absence of any universally recognised superior, conflicting claims and pretensions had free course; and several admirable letters remain in which Washington endeavoured to soothe the resentment or the vanity of neglected officers. John Adams, who visited the army in the summer of 1777, was much shocked at the disunion he found prevailing, and in a letter to his wife he expressed himself on the subject with great bitterness. ‘I am wearied to death,’ he wrote, ‘with the wrangles between military officers high and low. They quarrel like cats and dogs. They worry one another like mastiffs, scrambling for rank and pay like apes for nuts.’1
In the spring and early summer a few inconsiderable expeditions took place in different quarters. The English destroyed large quantities of American stores at a place called Peeks-Kill, about fifty miles from New York, and at Danbury in Connecticut. The Americans destroyed a quantity of English stores in Long Island, and a small party of volunteers passing into Rhode Island succeeded in surprising and taking prisoner General Prescott, who was ultimately exchanged for General Lee. In June, Howe, having received some reinforcements from England, abandoned his quarters at Brunswick, but he made no effort to march upon the Delaware. After much complex manœuvring and several skirmishes which it is not here necessary to recount, he returned to his old quarters at Staten Island, despatched a portion of his troops to New York, and then sailed by a circuitous route to Chesapeake Bay, where he landed with about 16,000 men at a point some sixty miles from Philadelphia.
If the States had done what was expected from them, he would have been at least greatly outnumbered, but it was estimated by Galloway, and probably not untruly, that, of the 66,000 men voted by Congress for the continental service of 1777, they did not bring into the field 16,000, and that not half of these had enlisted voluntarily.2 Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire—the States where the anti-English spirit might have been expected to be strongest—were obliged to pass laws drafting militiamen to serve by compulsion as substitutes in the continental army for twelve months.3 There were also great numbers of ‘redemptioners,’ or men who had bound themselves to serve their masters for a specified number of years, and who were freed from their obligations if they would enlist in the American army.1 Even Boston had lost much of her old enthusiasm,2 and every State fell far short of its quota. Washington endeavoured to arrest the march of Howe, but on September 11, 1777, he was totally defeated in the battle of Brandywine. His army fled in utter confusion to Chester, and Du Portail, a French officer who was then in the American service, in reporting the circumstances to the French War Office, expressed his firm conviction that ‘if the English had followed their advantage that day, Washington's army would have been spoken of no more.’3
As usual, however, Howe did nothing to complete his victory, and the American army was able to re-form itself. The revolutionists took great pains to intimidate the loyal inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and they sent several of the principal inhabitants of Philadelphia prisoners to Virginia.4 On September 26, Howe entered Philadelphia, and appears to have been warmly received both in the town and in its neighbouring country. He left four regiments to occupy the city, but posted the bulk of his army at German-town, about ten miles distant. On October 4, Washington, having received large reinforcements of militia from Maryland and New Jersey, surprised this post, but after an obstinate battle he was again utterly defeated. The British, with the assistance of some men-of-war, then proceeded to open the navigation of the Delaware, attacking the powerful forts which the Americans had constructed to command it, and though they were once very gallantly repulsed, they were in the end completely successful. Washington still continued, at the head of a regular army, to maintain himself in Pennsylvania, but the capital was in the undisputed possession of the English, the Congress was obliged to fly to Lancaster and Yorktown, the army of the Americans was demoralised by two great defeats, and the communications between the English fleet and army were fully established.
The position of Washington at this time was in all respects deplorable. As early as March he had written to General Schuyler: ‘The disaffection of Pennsylvania, I fear, is beyond anything you have conceived,’1 and the experience of the campaign fully justified his apprehensions. General Howe, during the many months his army was stationed at Philadelphia, never found the smallest difficulty in obtaining from the people abundance of fresh provisions. Profiting by his experience in New Jersey, he had given stringent orders, which appear to have been on the whole complied with, that no peaceful inhabitants should be molested; he even despatched a severe remonstrance to Washington, who had destroyed some mills in the neighbourhood; and he succeeded without difficulty in establishing perfectly amicable relations with the inhabitants. It would, perhaps, be an exaggeration to say that the active loyalists were the true representatives of Pennsylvanian feeling; but it is, in my opinion, not doubtful that the sympathies of this great and wealthy province were much more on the side of the Crown than on the side of the Revolution. Had the Pennsylvanians really regarded the English as invaders or oppressors, the presence of an English army in their capital would most certainly have roused them to passionate resistance. But, in truth, it was never found possible to bring into the field more than a tenth part of the nominal number of the Pennsylvanian militia, and the Pennsylvanian quota in the continental regiments was never above one-third full, and soon sank to a much lower point.1 Washington complained bitterly that he could obtain no military intelligence, the population of whole districts being ‘to a man disaffected’—disaffected ‘past all belief.’2 Millers refused to grind corn for his army. Provisions of every kind were systematically withheld, and often only obtained by forced requisitions or from other provinces. Carriages could rarely be obtained except by force, and Washington candidly described himself as in an enemy's country.3 No American of any military or political eminence could separate himself from the army in Pennsylvania without great danger of being seized by the inhabitants and delivered up to the English.4 As Lafayette bitterly complained, there were whole regiments of Americans in the British army, and in every colony there was a far greater number who, without actually taking up arms, made it their main object ‘to injure the friends of liberty and to give useful intelligence to those of despotism.’5
The American army had sunk into a condition of appalling destitution. In September, Washington wrote that ‘at least 1,000 men were barefooted and have performed the marches in that condition;’6 and in the depth of winter the misconduct or inefficiency of the commissaries appointed by the Congress, and the general disaffection of the people, had reduced the revolutionary forces to a degree of misery that almost led to their destruction. On one occasion they were three successive days without bread. On another, they were two days entirely without meat. On a third, it was announced that there was not in the camp ‘a single hoof of any kind to slaughter, and not more than twenty-five barrels of flour.’ There was no soap or vinegar. ‘Few men’ had ‘more than one shirt, many only the moiety of one, and some none at all;’ and, besides a number of men confined in hospitals or farmers' houses for want of shoes, there were on a single day 2,898 men in the camp unfit for duty because they were ‘barefoot and otherwise naked.’ In the piercing days of December, numbers of the troops were compelled to sit up all night around the fire, having no blankets to cover them, and it became evident that unless a change quickly took place the army must either ‘starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can.’ In three weeks of this month the army, without any fighting, had lost by hardship and exposure near 2,000 men.1 So large a proportion of the troops were barefoot that ‘their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet.’2 Yet week after week rolled on, and still, amid unabated sufferings, a large proportion of those brave men held together and took up their winter quarters, diminished indeed in numbers, and more than once defeated in the field, but still unbroken and undismayed, within a day's march of a greatly superior army of British soldiers.
The time was, indeed, well fitted to winnow the chaff from the grain; and few braver and truer men were ever collected around a great commander than those who remained with Washington during that dreary winter in Valley Forge, some twenty miles from Philadelphia. ‘For some days past,’ wrote their commander on February 16, 1778, ‘there has been little less than a famine in the camp; a part of the army has been a week without any kind of flesh, and the rest three or four days. Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery, that they have not been ere this excited by their sufferings to a general mutiny and dispersion. Strong symptoms, however, of discontent have appeared in particular instances, and nothing but the most active efforts everywhere, can long avert so shocking a catastrophe.’1 Many, indeed, fell away. ‘No day, nor scarce an hour passes,’ wrote Washington in December, ‘without the offer of a resigned commission.’2 Many fled to the country and to their friends, and not less than 3,000 deserters came from the American camp to the British army at Philadelphia.3
But while the American army in Pennsylvania seemed thus on the eve of dissolution, and owed its safety chiefly to the amazing apathy of the English, an event had happened in the North which changed the whole fortune of the war, and made the triumph of the Revolution a certainty. We left the greater part of the northern American army posted in the strong fort of Ticonderoga and in a series of neighbouring entrenchments, which, it was believed, might be long maintained against the enemy. General Carleton had been lately superseded by General Burgoyne in the command of the English army in those quarters. Burgoyne was already well known to fame. He had served with distinction in the war in Portugal. He had been a member of Parliament and a frequent speaker, and he had attained much reputation in another and very different field, as the author of an exceedingly popular comedy, called the ‘Heiress.’ He was esteemed a good soldier and a man of much general ability and ambition, though not equally distinguished for the rectitude of his judgment. In June 1777 he marched from St. John's at the head of a well-appointed army of nearly 8,000 men, about half of them foreigners; and he soon after summoned the Indians who had taken arms, to a war feast, and in an emphatic speech impressed upon them the duty of humanity in war, offered a reward for every prisoner brought in alive by the savages, and threatened severe punishments against all who were guilty of outrages against old men, women, children, or prisoners. He afterwards issued a proclamation to the insurgents, which was greatly and justly blamed. He enumerated in highly coloured terms the crimes which had been committed against the loyalists, promised impunity and protection to all who would lay down their arms, but threatened those who resisted with the most terrible war, and reminded them that a word from him would abandon them to the ferocity of the Indians.
The advance upon Ticonderoga was made by land and water, and the army and fleet arrived before it on July 1. Works were speedily thrown up. Batteries were planted; a hill which commanded the chief fortifications of the Americans, and which had been left unguarded, was seized; and General St. Clair, who commanded the American forces, having hastily summoned a council, it was agreed that the whole army could only be saved from capture by an instant evacuation of the fortress and of all the adjoining works. Congress had been already informed that between 13,000 and 14,000 men were required for their defence, and less than 3,500 were left to guard them against an English force which was much larger than the Americans had anticipated. On the night of July 5 the Americans precipitately abandoned the fortification. Their flight was disastrous in the extreme. Ninety-three cannon were left in Ticonderoga. The chief part of the provisions and stores were embarked on 200 boats and despatched up the South River to Skenes-borough, but on the morning of the 6th the English fleet hastened in their pursuit, burst through a ponderous boom which had been constructed to impede its progress, overtook the American flotilla, burnt three galleys, captured two others, and took or destroyed the greater portion of the stores and provisions. The American army which retreated by land was rapidly pursued, and the rearguard, consisting of 1,200 men under Colonel Warren, was overtaken and almost annihilated. It is said that not more than ninety men rejoined the ranks. St. Clair succeeded, however, after a rapid march of seven days, in gaining Fort Edward, where Schuyler was stationed with the remainder of the Northern army. The combined forces of the Americans now numbered 4,400 men, including militia, and they hastily fled before the approaching army of Burgoyne in the direction of Albany.1
The evacuation of Ticonderoga, and the crushing disasters that immediately followed it, struck a panic through New England which had hardly been equalled when New York or Philadelphia was taken. The strongest post in the American possession had fallen almost without a blow, and it appeared for a time as if the design which the English generals were seeking to accomplish would be speedily attained. It was the object of Burgoyne, in co-operation with Clinton, who was stationed at New York, and with Howe, who was stationed at Philadelphia, by occupying the whole line of the Hudson, to sever New England from the Central and Southern States, and, by thus isolating the part of America which was seriously disaffected, to reduce the whole contest to narrow limits. Washington wrote in great alarm describing the evacuation as unjustifiable and almost inexplicable, and John Adams declared that the Americans would never learn to defend a post till they had shot one of their generals. Charges not only of incapacity but of treachery were freely made. Schuyler was deprived of his command and replaced by Gates, who, as a New Englander, was more acceptable to the soldiers. Such small reinforcements as could be raised were hastily despatched, and with them was Lincoln, who was very popular with the Massachusetts militia, and Benedict Arnold, whose high military qualities were now generally recognised. The country into which the English had plunged was an extremely difficult one, full of swamps, morasses, and forests, but at length on July 30 the Hudson was reached.
But by this time the first panic had subsided, and a spirit of resistance had arisen wholly unlike anything the British had yet encountered during the war. The militia of New England and of the disaffected portions of New York were called to arms, and they responded with alacrity to the summons. It was partly a genuine enthusiasm for the cause, for the New Englanders had thrown themselves into the Revolution with an earnestness which was almost wholly wanting in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and their keen intelligence fully realised the importance of the crisis. It was partly also the dread of Indian incursions, and the many instances of Indian atrocities perpetrated under the shelter of the English flag, which roused, as they always roused, the dormant energies of the people. The American army soon rose to more than 13,000 men.1 Burgoyne found himself enormously outnumbered in the heart of a country where the natural difficulties of obtaining provisions, preserving communications, procuring intelligence, and moving troops were immense. Two isolated detachments of German troops, under Colonel Baum and Colonel Breyman, accompanied by some Indians and by some loyalists, were totally defeated near Bennington, with a loss of 600 or 800 men, and of four cannon. An attempt made by another separate expedition to capture a small fort called Fort Stanwix failed, after some severe fighting, in the course of which many wounded and prisoners were brutally murdered by Indians in the English service. False intelligence of a defeat of Burgoyne, and exaggerated accounts of the force that was sent to relieve the fort, induced St. Leger, who commanded the expedition, hastily to abandon the siege, and his artillery and stores fell into the hands of the garrison. But still Burgoyne pressed on, and, having with great difficulty collected provisions for thirty days, he crossed the Hudson, marched for four days along its banks, and on September 19 he encountered the American forces at Stillwater. The American wing which was first attacked was commanded by General Arnold, who appears to have fought, as he always did, with eminent courage and skill.2 The battle was fierce and obstinate, and was only terminated, after about four hours' fighting, by the approach of night. The English retained the field of battle, but all the real advantages were on the side of the Americans. The dwindling army of the English was reduced by between 500 and 600 men, while the loss of the Americans was probably somewhat smaller.
The hunting season of the Indians had now begun, and as they had obtained little plunder and were much dispirited by the combats of Bennington and Stillwater, they began rapidly to desert. A large proportion of the Canadian volunteers followed their example. Provisions were beginning to run short. By crossing the Hudson the English had greatly added to the difficulty of maintaining their communications with the storehouses on Lake George. An expedition was planned by Gates and Arnold to recover Ticonderoga, and although it failed in its main object, it succeeded in intercepting large supplies intended for the English. The army of Burgoyne was now reduced to little more than 5,000 men, many of them incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and they were limited to half the usual allowance of provisions. The forage was soon exhausted, and the horses perished in numbers through hunger. The only hope remaining was that relief might arrive from New York, and Burgoyne had already succeeded in sending a message to Clinton describing his situation, and he had arranged all his later movements with a view to such relief. An attempt was made from New York to effect it, but the relieving army never reached the unhappy commander. The almost certain prospect of capturing a British army elated the Americans to the highest degree, and new volunteers rapidly poured in. On October 7 another desperate fight took place; Arnold had all but succeeded in capturing the British lines, when he was laid low by a severe wound; and the British lost, besides many killed and wounded, 200 prisoners and nine pieces of cannon. Next day, Burgoyne retired to Saratoga, where he was speedily surrounded by an army nearly four times as large as his own, and so advantageously posted that it was scarcely possible to attack it. Burgoyne estimated the number of his own men who were still capable of fighting as not more than 3,500.1 All communications were cut off; the hope of relief from New York was almost gone, and the small amount of provisions in the camp was nearly exhausted. Burgoyne refused, even in this extremity, to yield without conditions, but on October 17, 1777, the memorable convention was signed, by which the whole British army, with all its arms and artillery, were surrendered to the enemy.
The number of men who surrendered, including Canadians, irregular and militia troops, camp followers and labourers, was about 5,800, and it was stipulated, among other things, that they should march out with the honours of war, and that they should be permitted at once to return to England on condition of not serving again in North America during the war. The overwhelming nature of the disaster was at once felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Clinton, who had captured some forts and advanced some distance along the Hudson to the relief of Burgoyne, retired to New York. The small garrison which had been left at Ticonderoga, knowing that it was impossible to defend that post against the army which was now free to act against it, hastily abandoned it and retreated to Canada.
In Europe, one of the first effects of the calamity was to fix the determination of the French ministers. Their desire of injuring and humiliating Great Britain had hitherto been restrained by their dread of war, by the miserable condition of their finances, by their fear that the long succession of American disasters would lead, either to a speedy compromise or to a total subjugation of the insurgents. It is a common error of politicians to overrate the wisdom of their opponents and to underrate the influence of resentment, ambition, and temporary excitement upon their judgments or their acts; and many of the best English observers appear to have believed in 1777 that France would not enter openly into the war, but would content herself with the line of sagacious policy which had been indicated by Turgot. This appears to have been, on the whole, the opinion of Burke.1 It was the decided opinion of Gibbon, who visited Paris in August;2 and the King, though quite aware of the secret assistance which the French were giving to the Americans, expressed his belief, in September, that the chances of war with France had greatly diminished.3
It is probable, indeed, that the French ministers themselves were undecided until the tidings arrived, in the first week of December, of the surrender of Saratoga. In those tidings they heard the knell of English dominion in America, of English greatness in the world. Their decision was speedily taken. On the 17th of that same month they informed the American commissioners that they were resolved to enter into a treaty of commerce with America, to acknowledge and support her independence, and to seek no advantage for themselves except a participation in American commerce and the great political end of severing the colonies from the British Empire. The sole condition exacted was that the Americans should make no peace with England which did not involve a recognition of their independence.1 On February 6, 1778, treaties to this effect were formally signed in Paris.
It will now be necessary to revert to the course of opinion in England. The undoubted popularity of the war in its first stage had for some time continued to increase, and in the latter part of 1776 and the first half of 1777 it had probably attained its maximum. At the close of 1776 the greater part of the Rockingham connection, finding themselves beaten by overwhelming majorities, abstained from attending Parliament except in the mornings, when private business was being transacted. A great part of the majorities against them consisted, no doubt, of courtiers and placemen, of representatives of Cornish boroughs, or other nominees of the Government; but the Whigs at this time very fully admitted that the genuine opinion of the country was with the Government and with the King. The victory of Long Island, the capture of New York, Fort Washington, and Fort Lee, the successful invasion of the Jerseys, and at a later period the battle of Brandywine and the occupation of Philadelphia and of Ticonderoga, convinced a great section of the English people that the insurrection was likely to be speedily suppressed, and that the area of real disaffection had been extremely exaggerated. The Declaration of Independence, and the known overtures of the Americans to France, were deemed the climax of insolence and ingratitude. The damage done to English commerce, not only in the West Indies, but even around the English and Irish coast, excited a widespread bitterness, and it was greatly intensified by a series of attempts which were made at the close of 1776 and in the beginning of 1777 to burn the arsenals at Portsmouth and Plymouth, and the shipping at Bristol. Several houses at Bristol were actually destroyed, but at last the culprit was detected and convicted, and he proved to be an artisan who had recently returned from America, and who by his own confession had acted at the direct instigation of Silas Deane, the American commissioner at Paris.1 Besides all this, war in itself is seldom unpopular in England. English privateers were soon afloat, rivalling in their gains those of the colonies, and the spirits of patriotism, combat, domination, and adventure were all aroused.
Sir George Savile, writing confidentially to Rockingham in January 1777, described the condition of opinion in the most emphatic terms: ‘We are not only patriots out of place, but patriots out of the opinion of the public. The reputed successes, hollow as I think them, and the more ruinous if they are real, have fixed or converted ninety-nine in one hundred. The cause itself wears away by degrees from a question of right and wrong between subjects, to a war between us and a foreign nation, in which justice is never heard, because love of one's country, which is a more favourite virtue, is on the other side. I see marks of this everywhere and in all ranks.’2 In his admirable letter on the American question addressed to the Sheriffs of Bristol, which was published in the beginning of 1777, Burke made no secret of his belief that English opinion had deserted the Americans. A few months later he wrote to Fox that ‘the popular humour’ was far worse than he had ever known it; that his own constituency, Bristol, had just voted the freedom of the city to Lord Sandwich and Lord Suffolk; that ‘in Liverpool they are literally almost ruined by this American war, but they love it as they suffer from it.’ ‘The Tories,’ he added, ‘do universally think their power and consequence involved in the success of this American business. The clergy are astonishingly warm in it; and what the Tories are when embodied and united with their natural head, the Crown, and animated by their clergy, no man knows better than yourself. The Whigs … are what they always were (except by the able use of opportunities), by far the weakest party in this country. … The Dissenters, their main effective part, are … not all in force. They will do very little.’1
Measures were carried without difficulty suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in the case of persons suspected of high treason committed in North America or on the high seas, or of piracy, and granting letters of marque and reprisal against American vessels. Supplies amounting to a little less than 13 millions were voted for the expenses of the year, and an address, which was moved by Lord Chatham in May, for repealing the many oppressive Acts relating to America since 1763, was easily rejected. The language of the Opposition in their private correspondence, and sometimes in public, was that of extreme despondency. Burke was never weary of impressing upon the people that the American question should not be decided by philosophical or historical disquisitions upon the rights of Parliament or of provincial assemblies, but by considerations of practical policy, and that no possible good could result from the course which was being pursued. The English, he argued, never could get a revenue from America. They were masters only of the ground on which they encamped. They were rapidly, by the employment of savage allies and of German mercenaries, depriving themselves of every friend in America. They were adding enormously to their own national debt, and were exposing themselves to the danger of a foreign war under most disadvantageous circumstances. Nor were these the only evils resulting from the contest. The party most hostile to British liberty was raised to power. The principles of liberty were discredited. Precedents were admitted and a bias was created extremely hostile to the British Constitution, and some of its most essential maxims, being violated in America and asserted by insurrection, would soon cease to be respected at home. The Duke of Richmond even expressed his firm belief that Parliament in its present mood would be perfectly ready to establish despotism in England.1
The Whig secession was a very short one, and it was imperfectly observed. Fox, who was now rapidly rising to a foremost place among the opponents of the Ministry, never joined it. His speeches at this time, by the confession of the best judges, were among the most powerful ever heard in Parliament; and a significant letter is preserved in which the King recommended North to push on as much business as possible during a few days when the young orator was at Paris.2 Whether, however, these speeches were as advantageous to the Whig party as they were to the reputation of the speaker, may, I think, be much doubted. It was one of the peculiarities of Fox, which he showed both during the American War and during the war of the French Revolution, that whenever he differed from the policy of the Government, he never appeared to have the smallest leaning or bias in favour of his country. Believing at this time that his friends were as completely proscribed as the Jacobites in the two preceding reigns, and that he had nothing to look forward to except the reputation of a great orator,1 he placed no check upon his natural impulses. More than any other man he gave the Whig party that cosmopolitan and unnational character which was one of the chief sources of its weakness, and which it only lost at the Reform Bill of 1832. Chatham, in his most vehement denunciations of the policy of the Government, never forgot that he was beyond all things an English statesman, and the greatness of England was at all times the first object of his ambition. Burke, although he was guilty of innumerable faults of temper and taste, and although he was quite prepared to recognise the Independence of America, if it became necessary, seldom failed to put forward reconciliation as the ultimate end of his policy; and in his letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol in 1777 he offended some of the more violent members of his party by expressing his earnest wish that the whole body of authority of the English Crown and Parliament over America which existed before the Stamp Act, might be preserved perfect and entire.2 But the language of Fox was that of a passionate partisan of the insurgents. I have already mentioned his eulogy of Montgomery, who fell at the head of the American army. In one of his letters he described the first considerable success of the English in America as ‘the terrible news from Long Island,’ and spoke of what would happen ‘if America should be at our feet—which God forbid.’3 In Parliament he exerted all his eloquence to show that it was the true interest of France and Spain to draw the sword in favour of American Independence.1 When the news of the crushing disaster of Saratoga arrived, the Opposition did not suspend for a single day their party warfare; they expressed no real desire to support the Government in its difficulties, and Fox at once signalised himself by a furious invective against Lord George Germaine, accusing him of disgracing his country in every capacity, and expressing his hope that he would be brought to a second trial.2
In every stage of the contest the influence of the Opposition was employed to trammel the Government. In 1776 they denounced the garrisoning of Minorca and Gibraltar with Hanoverian soldiers as a breach of the Act of Settlement.3 After the surrender of Saratoga, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow each raised a regiment. Several independent companies were raised in Wales, and the patriotic enthusiasm was so strong that no less than 15,000 soldiers were presented by private bounty to the State.4 But the Opposition did everything in their power to discourage the movement. They denounced the raising of troops by private subscription as unconstitutional and dangerous to liberty, while they dilated upon the indefensible condition of the country in a strain that must have greatly encouraged the French,5 and Fox at the same time moved that no more troops should be sent out of England.6 The statement of Wraxall that the Whig colours of buff and blue were first adopted by Fox in imitation of the uniform of Washington's troops,1 is, I believe, corroborated by no other writer; but there is no reason to question his assertion that the members of the Whig party in society and in both Houses of Parliament during the whole course of the war wished success to the American cause and rejoiced in the American triumphs.2 Benedict Arnold was attacked, Franklin and Laurens were eulogised in the British House of Commons in a strain which would have been perfectly becoming in the American Congress, and the American cause was spoken of as the cause of liberty.3 Dr. Price, who was one of the great lights of the democratic party, and whose knowledge of finance was widely celebrated, was invited by the Congress at the end of 1778 to go over to America and to manage the American finances. He declined the invitation on the ground of his feeble health and spirits, but with a profusion of compliments to the Assembly, which he ‘considered the most respectable and important in the world,’ with the warmest wishes for the success of the Americans, and without the smallest intimation that the fact that they were at war with his country made it difficult for him to place his talents at their disposal.4 In 1781 a young poet of the party, who afterwards became the great Sir William Jones, told how Truth, Justice, Reason, and Valour had all fled beyond the Atlantic to seek a purer soil and a more congenial sky.1 ‘The parricide joy of some,’ wrote Sir Gilbert Elliot about this time, ‘in the losses of their country makes me mad. They don't disguise it. A patriotic Duke told me some weeks ago that some ships had been lost off the coast of North America in a storm. He said 1,000 British sailors were drowned—not one escaped—with joy sparkling in his eyes. … In the House of Commons it is not unusual to speak of the Provincials as our army.’ The same acute observer expressed his conviction that the North Ministry had repeatedly made mistakes which would have destroyed it had it not been for the course which was adopted by the Opposition. ‘It was the wish of Great Britain to recover America. Government aimed at least at this object, which the Opposition rejected. … The principles [of Government] respecting America were agreeable to the people, and those of Opposition offensive to them.’2
And while the Opposition by their grossly unpatriotic language and conduct exasperated the national feeling, the King, on his side, did the utmost in his power to embitter the contest. It is only by examining his correspondence with Lord North that we fully realise how completely at this time he assumed the position not only of a prime minister but of a Cabinet, superintending, directing, and prescribing, in all its parts, the policy of the Government. It was not merely that he claimed a commanding voice in every kind of appointment. The details of military management, the whole course and character of the war, and sometimes even the manner in which Government questions were to be argued in Parliament, were prescribed by him; and ministers, according to the theory which had now become dominant in Court circles, were prepared to act simply as his agents, even in direct opposition to their own judgments. We have already seen that Lord Barrington, who, as minister of war, was most directly responsible for the manner in which the war was conducted, had distinctly informed his brother ministers as early as 1774 that he disapproved of the whole policy of coercing the colonies, that be believed the military enterprises which he organised could lead to nothing but disaster, and that he was convinced that, though the Americans might be reduced by the fleet, they could never be reduced by the army. We have seen also that, although Barrington never failed to express his opinions frankly and fully to the Cabinet, he consented, at the request of the King, to remain the responsible minister till the end of 1778. Lord Howe and Lord Amherst agreed with Barrington in thinking that an exclusively naval war was the sole chance of success, and it is extremely probable that this opinion was a just one. In the divided condition of American opinion, the stress of a severe blockade might easily have rendered the Revolutionary party so unpopular that it would have succumbed before the Loyalists, had it not been strengthened by the great military triumph of Saratoga, and by the indignation which the outrages of British and German troops and the far more horrible outrages of Indian savages had very naturally produced. But the King had a different plan for the war, and Barrington obediently carried it out. ‘Every means of distressing America,’ wrote the King, ‘must meet with my concurrence.’ He strongly supported the employment of Indians, and in October 1777 he expressed his hope that Howe would ‘turn his thoughts to the mode of war best calculated to end this contest, as most distressing to the Americans,’ which, the King reproachfully added, ‘he seems as yet carefully to have avoided.’1 It was the King's friends who were most active in promoting all measures of violence. Clergymen who in, the fast-day sermons distinguished themselves by violent attacks on the Americans or by maintaining despotic theories of government, were conspicuously selected for promotion. The war was commonly called the ‘King's war,’ and its opponents were looked upon as opponents of the King.2
The person, however, who in the eye of history appears most culpable in this matter, was Lord North. He disclaimed indeed the title of Prime Minister, as a term unknown to the Constitution; but as First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer he was more than any other person responsible to the country for the policy that was pursued, and but for his continuance in office that policy could hardly have been maintained. Nearly all the great politicians of Europe—Frederick in Prussia, Turgot in France, Chatham and Burke in England—pronounced the course which the English Government were adopting to be ruinous; and the bitterness with which the Opposition attacked Lord North was always considerably aggravated by the very prevalent belief that he was not seriously convinced of the wisdom of the war he was conducting, and that the tenacity with which he pursued it long after success appeared impossible, was due to his resolution, at all hazards to his country, to retain his office. The publication of the correspondence of George III. has thrown a light upon this question which was not possessed by contemporaries, and, while it completely exculpates North from the charge of excessive attachment to office, it supplies one of the most striking and melancholy examples of the relation of the King to his Tory ministers. It appears from this correspondence that for the space of about five years North, at the entreaty of the King, carried on a bloody, costly, and disastrous war in direct opposition to his own judgment and to his own wishes. In the November of 1779 Lord Gower, who had hitherto been one of the staunchest supporters of the Government, resigned his post on the ground that the system which was being pursued ‘must end in ruin to his Majesty and the country;’ and North, in a private letter to the King, after describing the efforts he had made to dissuade his colleague from resigning, added these memorable words: ‘In the argument Lord North had certainly one disadvantage, which is that he holds in his heart, and has held for three years past, the same opinion with Lord Gower.’1 And yet in spite of this declaration he continued in office for two years longer. Again and again he entreated that his resignation might be accepted, but again and again he yielded to the request of the King, who threatened, if his minister resigned, to abdicate the throne, who implored him, by his honour as a gentleman, and his loyalty as a subject, to continue at his post, who reiterated his supplications in letter after letter of passionate entreaty, and who, though perfectly aware that Lord North regarded the war as hopeless and inevitably disastrous, uniformly urged that resignation would be an act of culpable, cowardly, and dishonourable desertion. Unhappily for his country, most unhappily for his own reputation, North suffered himself to be swayed and became the instrument of a policy of which he utterly disapproved. He was an amiable but weak man, keenly susceptible to personal influence, and easily moved by the unhappiness of those with whom he came in contact, but without sufficient force of principle to restrain his feelings, or sufficient power of imagination to realise adequately the sufferings of great bodies of men in a distant land. His loyalty and personal attachment to the King were stronger than his patriotism. He was cut to the heart by the distress of his Sovereign, and he was too good-natured to arrest the war.
The King was determined, under no circumstances, to treat with the Americans on the basis of the recognition of their independence; but he acknowledged, after the surrender of Burgoyne, and as soon as the French war had become inevitable, that unconditional submission could no longer be hoped for, and that it might be advisable to concentrate the British forces in Canada, Nova Scotia, and the Floridas, and to employ them exclusively against the French and Spanish possessions in the West Indies.1 He consented, too, though apparently with extreme reluctance, and in consequence of the unanimous vote of the Cabinet, that new propositions should be made to the Americans. The stocks had greatly fallen. No recruits could any longer be obtained from Germany; the ministerial majorities, though still large, had perceptibly diminished, and outside the Parliament, Gibbon noticed, even before the news of Saratoga arrived, that the tide of opinion was beginning to flow in the direction of peace.2 On December 10, 1777, a few days after the surrender of Burgoyne had been announced, when the attitude of the French was yet unknown, and when Parliament was about to adjourn for Christmas, Lord North announced that at the close of the holidays he would bring in a project of conciliation.
The next day Chatham made one of his greatest speeches on the subject. Though now a complete invalid, he had several times during the last few months spoken in the House of Lords on the American question, with little less than his old eloquence, and with a wisdom and moderation which in his greater days he had not always exhibited. America, he emphatically and repeatedly maintained, never could be subdued by force; the continued attempt could only lead to utter ruin, and France would sooner or later inevitably throw herself into the contest. He reprobated, in language that has become immortal in English eloquence, the policy which let loose the tomahawks of the Indians upon the old subjects of England. In a passage which is less quoted, but which was eminently indicative of his military prescience, he had in November spoken of the total loss of the army of Burgoyne as a probable contingency,1 and he dilated on the insufficiency of the naval establishments in a language which was emphatically repudiated by the ministers, but which subsequent events fully justified. He strongly maintained, however, that England and America must remain united for the benefit of both, and that though every week which passed made it more difficult, and though the language of the ministers, and especially the employment of Indians, had enormously aggravated the situation, it was still possible, by a frank and speedy surrender of all the constitutional questions in dispute, and by an immediate withdrawal of the invading army, to conciliate the colonies. ‘America is in ill-humour with France on some points that have not entirely answered her expectations; let us wisely take advantage of every possible moment of reconciliation. Her natural disposition still leans towards England, and to the old habits of connection and mutual interest that united both countries. This was the established sentiment of all the continent. … All the middle and southern provinces are still sound … still sensible of their real interests.’ ‘The security and permanent prosperity of both countries’ can only be attained by union, and by this alone the power of France can be repressed. ‘America and France cannot be congenial; there is something decisive and confirmed in the honest American that will not assimilate to the futility and levity of Frenchmen.’ Prompt, conciliatory action was, however, necessary, and he accordingly strenuously opposed the adjournment, which left the country without a Parliament in the six critical weeks that followed the arrival of the news of the capitulation of Saratoga.1
His counsel was rejected, but in the course of the recess some private overtures were vainly made to Franklin by persons who are said to have been in the confidence of the English Government. The feeling of uneasiness in the country was now very acute, and it was noticed that in January 1778 the Three per Cents, stood at 71 1/4, whereas in January 1760, which was the fifth year of a war with the united House of Bourbon, they were 79.2 On February 17, North rose to move Bills of conciliation which virtually conceded all that America had long been asking. The Act remodelling the constitution of Massachusetts and the tea duty, which were the main grievances of the colonies, were both absolutely and unconditionally repealed. Parliament formally promised to impose no taxes upon the colonies for the sake of revenue, and although it retained its ancient right of imposing such duties as were necessary for the regulation of commerce, it bound itself that those duties should always be applied to public purposes in the colony in which they were levied, in such manner as the colonial assemblies should determine. It was enacted also that commissioners should be sent out to America to negotiate a peace, with full powers to treat with Congress, to proclaim a cessation of hostilities by land and sea, to grant pardons to all descriptions of persons, and to suspend the operation of all Acts of Parliament relating to the American colonies which had passed since February 1763.1
The propositions were listened to with blank amazement by the most devoted followers of the ministers. They were in effect much the same as those which Burke had vainly advocated nearly three years before. They completely surrendered all for which England had been contending at such a ruinous cost, and the speech with which Lord North introduced them was one of the most extraordinary ever made by an English minister. He contended that his present measures were not only perfectly consistent with his present opinions, but consistent also with the opinions he had always held and with the policy he had always pursued. He never, he said, had any real belief in the possibility of obtaining a considerable revenue from America. The policy of taxing America was not his, but that of his predecessors. He found the tea duty established and was not able to abandon it. The measure enabling the East India Company to send its tea to America, paying a small duty there, but with a drawback of the much larger duty previously paid in England, was in reality an act not of oppression but of relief, and it had only been turned into a new grievance by the combined artifices of demagogues who wished to produce a separation, and of smugglers who feared that the contraband trade in tea would be extinguished. The coercion Acts had been introduced on account of great acts of violence which had occurred in the colonies. They had not produced the results that were hoped for, and he was quite prepared to abandon them. They had, however, been so far from representing what, in the opinion of North, ought to be the permanent relations of England to the colonies, that he had accompanied them by a conciliatory measure which he still thought would have formed the happiest, most equitable, most lasting bond of union between the mother country and her colonies. He had proposed that any colony might secure itself against all taxation by Parliament if it would, of its own accord, raise such a sum towards the payment of its civil government and towards the common defence of the Empire as Parliament thought sufficient. The proposal was most honestly meant, but the Americans had been persuaded, partly by their own leaders, and partly by the English Opposition, that it was a deceptive one. He had afterwards authorised Lord Howe and his brother to negotiate with members of the Congress in 1776, but it was then objected that the commissioners had insufficient powers. This objection was obviated by the present Bill. The new commissioners would be instructed to endeavour to induce the colonies to make some reasonable, moderate, and voluntary contribution towards the cost of the common empire when reunited, but no such contribution was to be demanded as essential; the right of Parliament to tax the colonies was formally and finally renounced, and the States were not to be asked to resign their independence till the treaty with the mother country had been agreed on and ratified in Parliament. It was added in the course of the debate on the part of the Government, that a security of the debts of Congress, and a re-establishment of the credit of the paper money which had now been so enormously depreciated, would be one of the objects of the Commission and, it was hoped, one of the chief inducements to the Americans to receive it with favour.
The speech, wrote a keen observer,1 was listened to ‘with profound attention, but without a single mark of approbation to any part, from any description of men or any particular man in the House. Astonishment, dejection, and fear overclouded the whole assembly.’ Everything, as devoted followers of the Ministry explained, except independence, was conceded, and offers were made which a little before would certainly have been welcomed with alacrity. Now, however, they clashed against two fatal obstacles—the treaties with France, which, though not yet formally declared or ratified, were already signed, and the antecedents of the ministry, which made it impossible that any proposals that emanated from it could be received without hostility and distrust. That Lord North in his speech truly represented his own later opinions on American questions is very probable, but they were at least opinions which were utterly opposed to those which the world ascribed to him and to the general policy of his party. He was the special leader of men who in every stage of the long controversy had uniformly shown themselves the most implacable enemies of the pretensions of the colonies, and who had spared no insult and no injury that could exasperate and envenom the conflict. Sandwich and Rigby, Weymouth and Hillsborough, Wedderburn and Germaine, the King's friends and the Bedford faction, were very naturally regarded by the Americans as their most rancorous enemies. The language of the ministerial newspapers, the disposal of ministerial patronage, the gradual displacement of every politician who leaned towards a milder policy, had all abundantly indicated their spirit.
In such hands it was scarcely possible that conciliation could succeed. The commissioners appointed were Lord Carlisle, William Eden, and George Johnstone, a former governor of Florida. The first two were as yet very little known in politics, but after the Declaration of Independence, Lord Carlisle had moved the address in answer to the royal Speech which denounced the Americans as rebels and traitors, while Eden had been Under-Secretary to Lord Suffolk, the most vehement advocate of the employment of Indians in the war. Johnstone had, it is true, opposed the ministerial measures relating to the colonies, and he was well known in America; but he greatly injured the cause by private overtures to members of Congress, endeavouring by personal offers to obtain their assistance, and after much angry altercation he withdrew from the Commission. Congress unanimously declined any reconciliation which was not based on a recognition of American independence. The commissioners appear to have done everything in their power to execute their mission. They even went beyond their legal powers, for besides promising the Americans complete liberty of internal legislation, they offered an engagement that no European troops should be again sent to America without the consent of the local assemblies, and they also offered an American representation in the English Parliament. Gates was in favour of negotiation, and Lee, who had now lost almost all sympathy with the American cause, was on the same side; but, though a great section of the American people would have gladly closed the quarrel by a reconciliation, the Congress was in the hands of the insurgent party. In October the commissioners published a manifesto appealing from the Congress to the people, offering the terms which had been rejected to each separate State, and threatening a desolating war if those terms were not accepted. Offers, however, emanating from the North ministry were almost universally distrusted, and the new alliance with France was welcomed with enthusiasm. On May 4, 1778, the treaties of alliance and commerce were unanimously ratified by Congress. On the 13th of the preceding March the latter treaty had been formally communicated by the French ambassador at London, and immediately after, the ambassadors on each side were recalled, and England and France were at war.
The moment was one of the most terrible in English history. England had not an ally in the world. One army was a prisoner in America; and the Congress, on very futile pretexts, had resolved not to execute the Convention of Saratoga, which obliged them to send it back to England. The great bulk of the English troops were confined in Philadelphia and New York. The growing hostility of the German Powers had made it impossible to raise or subsidise additional German soldiers; and in these circumstances, England, already exhausted by a war which its distance made peculiarly terrible, had to confront the whole force of France, and was certain in a few months to have to encounter the whole force of Spain. Her navy was but half prepared; her troops were barely sufficient to protect her shores from invasion; her ministers and her generals were utterly discredited; her Prime Minister had just admitted that the taxation of America, which was the original object of the war, was an impossibility. At the same time, the country believed, as most men believed both on the Continent and in America, that the severance of the colonies would be the beginning of the complete decadence of England; and the Imperial feeling, which was resolved to make any sacrifice rather than submit to the dismemberment of the Empire, was fully aroused. It is a feeling which is rarely absent from any large section of the English race, and however much the Americans, during the War of Independence, may have reprobated it, it was never displayed more conspicuously or more passionately than by their own descendants when the great question of secession arose within their border.
There was one man to whom, in this hour of panic and consternation, the eyes of all patriotic Englishmen were turned. In Chatham England possessed a statesman whose genius in conducting a war was hardly inferior to that of Marlborough in conducting an army. In France his name produced an almost superstitious terror. In America it was pronounced with the deepest affection and reverence. He had, in the great French war, secured the Anglo-Saxon preponderance in the colonies; he had defended the colonies in every stage of their controversy about the Stamp Act, and had fascinated them by the splendour of his genius. If any statesman could, at the last moment, conciliate them, dissolve the new alliance, and kindle into a flame the loyalist feeling which undoubtedly existed largely in America, it was Chatham. If, on the other hand, conciliation proved impossible, no statesman could for a moment be compared to him in the management of a war. Lord North implored the King to accept his resignation, and to send for Chatham. Bute, the old Tory favourite, breaking his long silence, spoke of Chatham as now indispensable. Lord Mansfield, the bitterest and ablest rival of Chatham, said, with tears in his eyes, that unless the King sent for Chatham, the ship would assuredly go down. George Grenville, the son of the author of the Stamp Act, and Lord Rochford, one of the ablest of the late Secretaries of State, employed the same language, and public opinion loudly and unanimously declared itself in the same sense. Lord Barrington represented to the King ‘the general dismay which prevails among all ranks and conditions, arising from an opinion that the administration was not equal to the times, an opinion so universal that it prevailed among those who were most dependent and attached to his ministers, and even among the ministers themselves.’ ‘Every rank,’ wrote one of the foremost bankers in London, ‘looks up to Chatham with the only gleam of hope that remains; nor do I meet with anyone who does not lament and wonder that his Majesty has not yet publicly desired the only help that can have a chance to extricate the country from the difficulties which every day grow greater, and must otherwise, I fear, become insurmountable.’ The Rockingham party believed, what Chatham still refused to admit, that the only possible course was to acknowledge at once the independence of America; and the old jealousies that divided them from Chatham were far from extinct. But the Rockingham party also agreed in thinking that it was now in the easy power of France and Spain to give ‘a deadly blow’ to this country, and as Chatham had clearly said that America could never be overcome by force, the difference between them was in reality chiefly in the more or less sanguine hope they entertained of the possibility of conciliation. The Duke of Richmond, who of all prominent politicians was the most vehement supporter of the necessity of admitting the independence of America, sent to say that ‘there never was a time when so great a man as Lord Chatham was more wanted than at present,’ and that if Chatham thought it right to make another attempt to prevent the separation of the colonies he would ‘be the first to give him every support in his power.’ Lord Camden, who now usually acted with the Rockingham party, and was somewhat alienated from Chatham, wrote of him to Rockingham: ‘I see plainly the public does principally look up to him, and such is the opinion of the world as to his ability to advise as well as execute in this perilous crisis, that they will never be satisfied with any change or arrangement where he is not among the first.’1
Everything seemed thus to point to a Ministry under the guidance of Chatham as the last hope of English greatness. Alone amid the accumulating disasters of his country and the concurrence of the most hostile parties the King was unmoved. He consented indeed—and he actually authorised Lord North to make the astounding proposition—to receive Chatham as a subordinate minister to North, in order to strengthen the existing administration; but this was the utmost extent to which he would go. His own words, which are too clear for cavil or for dispute, should determine for ever his claims to be regarded as a patriot king. ‘I declare in the strongest and most solemn manner,’ he wrote to North, ‘that though I do not object to your addressing yourself to Lord Chatham, yet that you must acquaint him that I shall never address myself to him but through you, and on a clear explanation that he is to step forth to support an administration wherein you are First Lord of the Treasury. … I will only add, to put before your eye my most inward thoughts, that no advantage to this country, no present danger to myself, can ever make me address myself to Lord Chatham or any other branch of the Opposition. … Should Lord Chatham wish to see me before he gives his answer, I shall most certainly refuse it. … You have now full powers to act; but I do not expect Lord Chatham and his crew will come to your assistance.’ ‘I solemnly declare,’ he wrote on the following day, ‘that nothing shall bring me to treat personally with Lord Chatham;’ and again, a little later, ‘No consideration in life shall make me stoop to opposition.’1
It is worthy of notice that the determination of the King at any cost to his country, and in defiance of the most earnest representations of his own minister and of the most eminent politicians of every party, to refuse to send for the greatest of living statesmen at the moment when the Empire appeared to be in the very agonies of dissolution, was not solely or mainly due to his own opinions on the American question. Chatham had declared, as strongly as the King himself, his determination not to concede American independence; and the King, by permitting Lord North to introduce his conciliatory Bills, had sanctioned the surrender of every other constitutional question in dispute. The main motives that influenced the King were personal. The many provocations he had undoubtedly received from Chatham had produced in his eminently sullen and rancorous nature an intensity of hatred which no consideration of patriotism could overcome, and he also clearly saw that the triumph of the Opposition would lead to the destruction of that system of personal government which he had so laboriously built up. Either Chatham or Rockingham would have insisted that the policy of the country should be directed by its responsible ministers, and not dictated by an irresponsible sovereign. It is not difficult to detect in the passionate expressions of the King that the great question in whose hands the real and efficient determination of the policy of government was to rest, was that which most deeply affected his mind. The Opposition, he said, ‘would make me a slave for the remainder of my days.’ ‘Whilst any ten men in the kingdom will stand by me I will not give myself up into bondage.’ ‘I will never put my hand to what would make me miserable to the last hour of my life.’ ‘Rather than be shackled by those desperate men (if the nation will not stand by me, which I can never suppose), I will rather see any form of government introduced into this island, and lose my crown than wear it as a disgrace.’ No change, he emphatically said, should be made in the Government which did not leave North at its head, and Thurlow, Suffolk, Sandwich, Gower, Weymouth, and Wedderburn in high office. On such conditions he well knew that he could always either govern or overthrow the administration.1
This episode appears to me the most criminal in the whole reign of George III., and in my own judgment it is as criminal as any of those acts which led Charles I. to the scaffold. It is remarkable how nearly, many years later, it was reproduced. Terrible as was the condition of England in 1778, the dangers that menaced it in 1804 were probably still greater. The short peace of Amiens had ended; Napoleon, in the zenith of his power and glory, was preparing the invasion of England, and the very existence of the country as a free and independent State was menaced by the most extraordinary military genius of modern times, disposing of the resources of the greatest and most warlike of continental nations. Under these circumstances, Pitt strenuously urged upon the King the necessity of a coalition of parties, and especially of the introduction of Fox into the ministry. Fox had not, like Chatham, shown the genius of a great war minister; but he was at the head of a powerful party in the State, and, as he had been one of the strongest opponents of the war when it first broke out, his acceptance of office would not only have given Government the strength it greatly needed, but would also have been the most emphatic demonstration of the union of all parties against the invaders. But the obstinacy of the King proved indomitable. He ‘expressed his astonishment that Mr. Pitt should one moment harbour the thought of bringing such a man [as Fox] before his royal notice.’ He announced that the great Whig statesman was excluded by his ‘express command;’ and when, in the succeeding year, Pitt resumed his efforts, the King said ‘that he had taken a positive determination not to admit Mr. Fox into his councils, even at the hazard of a civil war.’1
It is an idle, though a curious question, whether it would have been possible for Chatham at the last moment to have induced the Americans to acquiesce in anything short of complete independence. If the foregoing narrative be truly written, it will appear manifest to the reader that a great part of the American people had never really favoured the Revolution, and that there were many of the remainder who would have been gladly reunited with England on terms which Chatham was both ready and eager to concede. The French alliance had, however, made it a matter of honour and of treaty obligation for the Americans to continue the struggle, and passions had risen to a point that made reconciliation almost hopeless. The Rockingham party, in strongly asserting that an immediate recognition of American independence was the true policy of England, probably took a more just view of the situation than Chatham, while, on the other hand, their declaration would have greatly aggravated the difficulty of carrying out his policy. Nor was it possible that the task of reconciliation, even if it were practicable, could have been reserved for Chatham. The sands of that noble life were now almost run. On April 7, 1778, he appeared for the last time in the House of Lords. Wrapped in flannel, supported on crutches, led in by his son-in-law Lord Mahon, and by that younger son who was destined in a few years to rival his fame, he had come to protest against an address moved by the Duke of Richmond calling upon the King to withdraw his forces by land and sea from the revolted colonies. His sunk and hueless face, rendered the more ghastly by the still penetrating brilliancy of his eyes, bore plainly on it the impress of approaching death, and his voice was barely audible in the almost breathless silence of the House; but something of his old fire may be traced in the noble sentences of indomitable and defiant patriotism with which he protested ‘against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy,’ and laughed to scorn the fears of invasion. After the reply of the Duke of Richmond, he tried to rise again, but fell back senseless in an apoplectic fit. He lingered till May 11. It was afterwards remembered that, as he lay on his death-bed looking forward to his own immediate end, he caused his son to read to him the passage in Homer describing the stately obsequies of Hector and the sorrow and despair of Troy.
The death of Chatham would under any circumstances have made a profound and general impression, and the closing scene in the House of Lords was eminently fitted to enhance it. It was an exit, indeed, combining every element of sublimity and pathos. So awful a close of so glorious a career, the eclipse of a light that had filled the world with its splendour, the remembrance of the imperishable glory with which the dying statesman had irradiated, not only his country, but the dynasty that ruled it, the prescience with which he had protested at every stage against the measures that had ruined it, the lofty patriotism which, amid many failings and some follies, had never ceased to animate his career—appealed in the strongest manner to every sensitive and noble nature. Lord North showed on the occasion the good-feeling and generosity which never failed to distinguish him when he was able to act upon his own impulses; and Burke, though he had long and deeply disliked Chatham, combined with Fox in paying an eloquent tribute to his memory. The vote of a public funeral and monument, and a Bill paying the debts of the deceased statesman and annexing, for all future time, an annuity of 4,000l. a year to the title of Chatham, were carried almost unanimously through Parliament.
Beneath this decorous appearance, however, we may trace some very different feelings, and there were those who looked with indifference, if not with pleasure, on the death of Chatham. When he was struck down by the fatal fit the King wrote curtly and coldly to North, ‘May not the political exit of Lord Chatham incline you to continue at the head of affairs?’ When Parliament a little later voted a public funeral for the most illustrious of English statesmen, the King wrote, ‘I was rather surprised the House of Commons have unanimously voted an address for a public funeral and a monument in Westminster Abbey for Lord Chatham, but I trust it is voted as a testimony of gratitude for his rousing the nation at the beginning of the last war … or this compliment, if paid to his general conduct, is rather an offensive measure to me personally.’ When the funeral took place it was observed that all persons connected with the Court were conspicuously absent.1
Among the politicians of the Opposition also there were some who looked upon the removal of Chatham in a very similar spirit. The Duke of Portland, who at a later period became the head of the Whig connection, wrote to Rockingham declining, on the plea of private business, and in terms that are singularly disgraceful both to his head and heart, to be present at the funeral of Chatham. ‘I feel no inducement,’ he wrote, ‘to attend the ceremony this morning, but the pleasure of meeting you.’ He approved of the conduct of Lord Rockingham in attending the funeral, but added a sentence, which is peculiarly painful as showing the opinion of the man to whom, beyond all others, Chatham was attached by the warmest personal and political friendship. ‘Lord Camden might possibly not be much mistaken in considering Lord Chatham's death as a fortunate event.’2 Chatham, indeed, though in his own family he was one of the most amiable of men, and though in the country at large he was the object of an almost adoring affection, never had the power of attaching to himself real private friends. Camden and Shelburne were the two statesmen to whom he appears to have given his fullest confidence, but Camden considered his death a fortunate event, and Shelburne, in his posthumous memoir, did the utmost in his power to blacken his memory.
His death, though it gave substantial unity to the Opposition, no doubt on the whole strengthened the Government. By far the greatest name opposed to it was removed, and nearly the whole Opposition now advocated the concession of complete American independence, for which the country was most certainly as yet not prepared. The declaration of France aroused the indignation of the nation and changed the sentiments of many. Perhaps the class among whom the Americans had hitherto found the warmest and most uncompromising friends were the Presbyterians of Ulster, and a letter from Buckingham, the Lord Lieutenant, written immediately after the new war had become inevitable, asserts that ‘by accounts received from very good authority, the idea of a French war has not only altered the language but the disposition of the Presbyterians.’1 In England, too, many who had refused to regard the Americans as enemies, determined, as a matter of patriotism, to rally round the Government, now that a foreign enemy was in the field.2 The militia were called out; some great noblemen undertook to raise regiments. The old spirit of international rivalry, the old self-confidence, and the old pugnacity were fully stirred, and the nation prepared with a thrill of not unjoyful enthusiasm to encounter its old enemy.3
In the negotiations that had taken place just before the death of Chatham it had at one time appeared not improbable that a considerable fusion of parties might be effected. Fox, though usually acting with the Rockingham Whigs, had not yet finally attached himself to them, and it is a remarkable fact that, although he at this very time surpassed all other politicians in the extraordinary violence and power of his attacks upon the ministers, he had no disinclination to take office with them in a coalition ministry. He appears to have insisted only that places should be found for some other members of the Whig party, that the measures he had protested against relating to America should be repealed, and that Lord George Germaine should be excluded.1 Negotiations arising from the desire of Lord North to resign went on in an intermittent manner for several months, and in January 1779 Fox wrote to Lord Rockingham, expressing a decided inclination for a coalition ministry, provided that North, Germaine, and Sandwich were no longer members. He contended that it was only by a gradual introduction of a Whig element into the Cabinet that the national policy could be modified. Rockingham, on the other hand, acting on the opinion which Burke had steadily advocated, considered that the party connection or organisation must be inflexibly maintained, and that the Whigs should only accept administration in a body and on such terms as would enable them fully to control its policy. Richmond wrote a long and very able letter advocating the same view, and it is evident that he considered a junction of Fox with the greater part of the North ministry extremely probable.2
The opinion of Rockingham and Richmond prevailed, and all overtures to the Whigs were at this time rejected, but in the course of 1778 a few minor changes were made. In February Sir W. Howe, at his own request, was recalled from America and succeeded in the command of the English army by Sir Henry Clinton. In March, in consequence of a personal quarrel, the resignation of Lord G. Germaine was tendered and accepted, but it was afterwards withdrawn, apparently on account of the difficulty of finding a successor, and shortly after some changes were made in the legal appointments. In the negotiations that preceded the death of Chatham, Shelburne had noticed and deplored the growing importance of lawyers in politics, and it was from this class that by far the ablest of the King's friends were drawn. The ministry of Lord North was on the whole very deficient in ability, but its Attorney-General and its Solicitor-General were both men of extraordinary talent.
Thurlow and Wedderburn—the Moloch and the Belial of their profession—had both made it their line of policy to attach themselves specially to the King. Thurlow was not a great lawyer, but he was a most powerful and ready debater, a man of much rugged sense and indomitable courage, coarse, violent, arrogant, shameless and profane. A leonine countenance, a loud commanding voice, fierce, shaggy brows, a demeanour like that of an insolent counsel brow-beating a timid witness and manifestly delighting in his distress, a quickness of repartee that seldom or never failed him, and a complete freedom from every vestige of deference, modesty, or hesitation, all added to the impression of overbearing and exuberant strength which he made on those with whom he came in contact. On a single question—the excellence of the African slave trade—he appears to have had a genuine conviction almost rising to enthusiasm, but in general, though he had a strong natural bias towards harsh and despotic measures, he seems to have taken his politics much as he took his briefs, and he had that air of cynical, brutal, and almost reckless candour which is sometimes the best veil of a time-serving and highly calculating nature. Wedderburn, who had already astonished the world by the flagrancy of one great act of apostasy, had not indeed the daring or the power, the genuine simplicity and directness of intellect that enabled Thurlow to play so great a part in politics, but he excelled him and almost all his other contemporaries in the art of elaborate and subtle reasoning, and he was in the highest degree plausible, insinuating, persevering, dexterous, and intriguing. Both of these men played a great part in the political system of George III. as representing especially the King in Cabinets which did not possess his full confidence, and in June 1778, Lord Bathurst, being induced to resign the Chancellorship, was replaced by Thurlow, who thus passed into the Cabinet. The promotion was one for which the King was extremely anxious with a view to the apparently imminent resignation of North.
In America the intervention of France speedily changed the conditions of the war. Philadelphia, though it had so lately been the seat of the Revolutionary Congress, never appears to have shown any restlessness under the English occupation. There were, no doubt, many Whigs among the young men, and a portion of the population had emigrated, but there appears to have been no popular movement against the English, no difficulty in supplying them with all that they required, no necessity for any military measures of exceptional stringency, no signs of that genuine dislike which had been so abundantly displayed at Boston. The English officers were received in the best society with much more than toleration, and they soon became extremely popular. The winter during which the forces of Washington remained half-starved at Valley Forge, and in which their commander complained so bitterly of the sullen or hostile attitude of the population, was long remembered in Philadelphia for its gaiety and its charm. In May, 1778, a more than commonly splendid festival was given by the English officers in honour of Sir William Howe, who was just leaving America, and of his brother. It was called the Mischianza, and comprised a magnificent tournament, a regatta, a ball, and a great display of fireworks, with innumerable emblems and exhibitions of loyalty to England. It brought together one of the most brilliant assemblages ever known of the youth, beauty, and fashion of Philadelphia, and it was afterwards remembered that the unfortunate Major André was one of the most prominent in organising the entertainment, and that the most admired of the Philadelphian beauties who adorned it was Miss Shippen, soon after to become the wife of Benedict Arnold.1
Very soon, however, the aspect of affairs was changed, and in June, 1778, Clinton, in consequence of express orders from England, evacuated Philadelphia, and prepared to fall back on New York. The blow was a terrible one, and no less than 3,000 of the inhabitants went into banishment with the British army.2 The Delaware was crowded with ships bearing brokenhearted fugitives who had left nearly all they possessed, and of those who remained many were banished or imprisoned by the Americans. The retreat was effected without much difficulty, though the Americans tried to impede it, and fought a battle with that object at Monmouth. In July, Count D'Estaing arrived off the coast with a French fleet of twelve ships of the line, four frigates, and about 4,000 French soldiers. He had hoped to find Lord Howe's fleet still in the Delaware, where it had gone to co-operate with the army in Philadelphia, and as that fleet was less than half the size of his own, it would in this case scarcely have escaped. The English, however, were already at New York, and D'Estaing followed them there; but though he for a time blockaded, he did not attempt to force the harbour. The French had for a few weeks a complete command of the sea, and by the advice of Washington an attempt was made to capture, or annihilate, the British force which had occupied Rhode Island since December 1776, and which now amounted to about 6,000 men. An American force of 10,000 men, consisting partly of a section of the army of Washington and partly of militia and volunteers raised in New England, was placed under the command of General Sullivan, and it succeeded on August 9 in landing on the island. The French fleet had a few days before forced its way into Newport harbour and obliged the English to burn several transports and warships in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy.
The operations of the French and Americans appear, however, to have been badly combined, and they ended in complete and somewhat ignominious failure. Four ships of the line—the first ships of a fleet sent from England under Admiral Byron—had just joined Lord Howe, who hastened, though still inferior to the French, to encounter them, when a great storm separated and dispersed the rival fleets, and greatly injured some of the French ships. To the extreme indignation of the Americans, and in spite of an angry written protest by Sullivan, the French admiral refused to pursue the enterprise, and withdrew his ships under the shelter of the batteries of Boston. Between two and three thousand of the troops of Sullivan at once deserted, and it was with much difficulty, and after some hard fighting, that the remainder succeeded in effecting their retreat.1 Clinton, with 4,000 men, had hastened to the relief of Rhode Island, but owing to adverse winds he arrived just too late, and returned to New York.
Several small expeditions, however, were made, and the war on the part of the English was in 1778 carried on with energy and success, but sometimes with great harshness and barbarity. They destroyed two or three little naval towns which had been conspicuous resorts of American privateers, burnt numerous houses and great quantities of shipping, and carried away much cattle and large stores of arms. They surprised by a night attack a regiment of light cavalry in New Jersey, and also a small brigade under Count Pulaski, and they almost cut them to pieces, little or no quarter being given. A more considerable expedition, was sent to Georgia, where the loyalist feeling had always been very strong, and it speedily captured Savannah, the capital of the province, and drove the American troops into South Carolina. The inhabitants of Georgia for the most part gladly took the oath of allegiance; many of them bore arms in the service of the Crown, and a State legislature acknowledging the royal authority was once more established in the province. Some predatory guerilla war was carried on with various success along the borders of Florida, and a very horrible Indian war raged near the Susquehanna. The desolation of the new and flourishing settlement of Wyoming by 900 Indians, accompanied by about 200 loyalists under Colonel John Butler, has furnished the subject of a well-known poem by Campbell. It was accompanied by all those circumstances of murder, torture, and outrage that usually followed Indian warfare, and about three months later it was terribly avenged by some Pennsylvanian troops under another Colonel Butler. In November D'Estaing sailed from Boston, quickly followed by an English fleet, to carry the war into the West Indies.
The magnitude of the empire and interests of England was indeed vividly illustrated by the enterprises of the year, and there was no want of that vigour and daring which in the earlier American operations had been so conspicuously absent. In Hindostan the English at once took up arms against the French settlers, and before 1778 had ended all the French possessions in India had fallen into their hands, except the little the English islands of St. Vincent and Grenada. At home the English discovered with alarm that the naval preparations of France were much more considerable than they had anticipated. The command of the Channel fleet was given to Admiral Keppel—an appointment very creditable to the Government, for Keppel was a member of Parliament on the side of the Opposition, and was appointed only on account of his great professional eminence. He sailed in June towards the French coasts, and captured or destroyed two French frigates before war had been formally declared, but retired precipitately on discovering that the French fleet was much greater than his own. Having received reinforcements, he again sailed in July, and fought a somewhat larger French fleet off Ushant. The battle was indecisive. It was terminated by a sudden squall and the approach of night, and next day neither commander was disposed to renew it.
The result created much disappointment in England, and bitter recriminations broke out between Keppel and Sir Hugh Palliser, the second in command. The conflict was greatly increased by party spirit, for both admirals were members of Parliament, and they were attached to opposite parties. Each of them demanded a courtmartial. Keppel was in all respects fully acquitted, and he received the thanks of the House, but he was so angry at what he conceived to be the bias of the Government that he threw up his command; while Palliser was also acquitted on every serious point that was alleged against him, though he was censured for not having apprised the commander-in-chief of the disabled state of his ship during the battle. Public opinion in London, and also in the navy, ran violently in favour of Keppel. London was illuminated for two nights on the occasion of his acquittal, and some serious riots were directed against Palliser and against the Admiralty.
The rapid growth of the navy of France was the most alarming feature of the year, but on the whole the English appeared still to hold their accustomed pre-eminence in seamanship. It was feared that the sudden outbreak of the war with France would lead to the destruction of a great part of the British commerce which was now afloat, but these fears were not realised. By sound seamanship, by good fortune, and by the neglect of the enemy, an important fleet of merchantmen from the East Indies, another from Lisbon, and a third from Jamaica, all arrived in safety,1 while English privateers swept every sea with their usual enterprise and success. It was computed that by the end of 1778 the Americans alone had lost not less than.900 vessels.2
The internal dissensions, and the great want of any efficient organisation which had hitherto impaired the American enterprises, continued unabated. At the end of 1777 there was a long and bitter cabal against Washington by Generals Gates, Miffin, and Conway, supported by some members of Congress, and forged letters attributed to Washington were printed and widely disseminated. Lee, who had now been exchanged and again put at the head of an American army, was removed from his command by court-martial on account of his disobedience to Washington at the battle of Monmouth, followed by disrespectful language to his chief. An extreme jealousy of the army was one of the strongest feelings of Congress, and a long and painful dispute took place with the commander-in-chief about the wisdom of providing half-pay for the American officers when the war was over. In some very remarkable and well-reasoned letters, Washington urged its absolute necessity. ‘Men may speculate,’ he wrote, ‘as they will; they may talk of patriotism; they may draw a few examples from ancient stories of great achievements performed by its influence; but whoever builds upon them as a sufficient basis for conducting a long and bloody war, will find himself deceived in the end. … I know patriotism exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest; but I will venture to assert that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest or some reward.’ In the English army commissions were so valuable that companies had lately been sold for from 1,500l. to 2,200l., and 4,000 guineas had been given for a troop of dragoons. In America all prices had risen to such a point through the depreciated currency, that it was scarcely possible for an American officer to live upon his pay, and he had nothing to look forward to when his service had expired. The result of this state of things was abundantly seen in ‘the frequent defection of officers seduced by views of private interest and emolument to abandon the cause of their country,’ ‘Scarce a day passes without the offer of two or three commissions,’ and ‘numbers who had gone home on furlough mean not to return, but are establishing themselves in more lucrative employments.’ ‘The salvation of the cause,’ Washington solemnly avowed, depends on the establishment of some system of half-pay, and without it the ‘officers will moulder to nothing, or be composed of low and illiterate men void of capacity for this or any other business.’ ‘The large fortunes acquired by numbers out of the army afford a contrast that gives poignancy to every inconvenience from remaining in it.’ But for the sudden prospect of a speedy termination of the war given by the French alliance, Washington doubted whether in the beginning of 1779 America would have ‘more than the shadow of an army,’ and in spite of that alliance he believed that few officers could or would remain on the present establishment.1 A compromise was at last effected in 1778 by which the officers who served to the end of the war were to receive half-pay for seven years, and the common soldiers who served to the end of the war a gratuity of 80 dollars.2
The enlistments, as usual, continued very slow. Scarcely a third part of the men voted by the different states actually came in, and it was found necessary to take extraordinary measures to obtain recruits. In the beginning of the war a few free negroes had been admitted into the army of Washington, and in 1778 a regiment of slaves was raised in Rhode Island. They were promised their freedom at the close of the war, and the owners were compensated for their loss. The negroes proved excellent soldiers; in a hard-fought battle that secured the retreat of Sullivan they three times drove back a large body of Hessians, and during the latter years of the war large numbers of slaves were enlisted in several states.3
Some recruits were also drawn from another and a much more shameful source. The convention of Saratoga had explicitly provided that the captive army of Burgoyne should without delay be sent to Boston, and should there be met by English transports and embarked for England, on the condition that it should not serve in North America during the existing war. This article was naturally disliked by the Congress, as it allowed the English troops to be employed either in home garrisons or in foreign service, except in America, and it was deliberately and most dishonourably violated. The keen legal gentlemen who directed the proceedings of Congress had no difficulty in discovering pretexts, though they were so flimsy that it is difficult to understand how any upright man could for a moment have admitted them. Something was said about a deficiency in the number of cartouche boxes surrendered, but the ground ultimately taken was an expression in a letter of General Burgoyne. Shortly after the surrender six or seven English officers had been crowded together in one room without any distinction of rank, contrary to the 7th article of the convention, and Burgoyne, in remonstrating against the proceeding, had incautiously used the expression, ‘the public faith is broken.’ This, the Congress maintained, was equivalent to a repudiation of the convention by one of its signers. Burgoyne at once wrote disclaiming any such intention, and he formally pledged himself that his officers would join with him in signing any instrument that was thought necessary for confirming the convention, and removing all possible doubt of its being binding upon the English Government. The Congress, however, pretended to be unsatisfied, and resolved to detain the English troops ‘till a distinct and explicit ratification of the convention of Saratoga be properly notified by the Court of Great Britain to Congress.’
No such ratification could be obtained for several months, and it was doubtful whether the English would consent to it, as it involved a recognition of the Congress, and was at the same time absolutely without necessity, according to the terms of the convention. The commissioners, however, who came to America in 1778 with the fullest powers to negotiate on the part of the King and Parliament, offered to renew the convention; and Sir H. Clinton subsequently sent to the Congress instructions from the English Secretary of State authorising him expressly to demand a fulfilment of its terms, and, if required, to ratify in the King's name all the conditions stipulated in it; but the Congress still refused to release the prisoners, who were thus by an act of barefaced treachery detained in America for several years.1 After a time, many of them were persuaded to enlist in the American army, and Massachusetts appears to have especially employed them as substitutes for her own citizens, who refused to serve. Washington strongly censured this practice, which was as impolitic as it was dishonourable, for many of the captive soldiers only joined the American army in order to escape, and soon found themselves again under their own flag, where, under the very peculiar circumstances of the case, they were gladly welcomed.2
On the part of the English there were manifest signs of a fiercer spirit and a harsher policy than had hitherto been pursued, and a very bad impression was made by some sentences in the address issued by the English Commissioners before they left the continent after their unsuccessful mission. While making wide offers of pardon and reconciliation to the separate states and to all individuals who renewed their allegiance to the Crown, they added that hitherto the English had as much as possible ‘checked the extremes of war, when they tended to distress a people still considered as our fellow-subjects and to desolate a country shortly to become again a source of mutual advantage.’ By throwing themselves into the arms of the natural enemy of England, the Americans had changed the nature of the contest, ‘and the question is, how far Great Britain may by every means in her power destroy or render useless a connection contrived for her ruin and for the aggrandisement of France. Under such circumstances the laws of self-preservation must direct the conduct of Great Britain; and if the British colonies are to become an accession to France, will direct her to render that accession of as little avail as possible to her enemy.’1
It is extremely difficult amidst the enormous exaggerations propagated by the American press to ascertain how far the English in this contest really exceeded the ordinary rights of war. It was the manifest interest of the revolutionary party to aggravate their misdeeds to the utmost, both for the purpose of inflaming the very languid passions of their own people and of arousing the indignation of Europe, and much was said in the excitement of the contest which seems singularly absurd when judged in the dispassionate light of history. George III. was habitually represented as a second Nero. The Howes—who, whatever may have been their other faults, were certainly free from the smallest tendency towards inhumanity—were ranked ‘in the annals of infamy’ with Pizarro, Alva, and Borgia. There were proposals for striking medals representing on one side the atrocities committed by the English, and on the other the admirable actions of the Americans—for depicting British barbarities upon the common coins, for introducing them as illustrations into school-books in order to educate the American youth into undying hatred of England.2 If we put aside the Indian wars, it does not appear to me that anything was done in America that was not very common in European wars, but there were undoubtedly many acts committed for which the English had deep reason to be ashamed. Owing apparently to a want of management or proper organisation, the American prisoners who had been confined in New York and Fort Washington after the battle at Long Island were so emaciated and broken down by scandalous neglect or ill-usage that Washington refused to receive them in exchange for an equal number of healthy British and Hessian troops.1 There were numerous instances of plunder and burning of private houses brought home to the British soldiers or to their German allies; and several small towns were deliberately burnt because they had fired on the British soldiers, because they had become active centres of privateering, or because they contained stores and magazines that might be useful to the American army.
In the horrible tragedy at Wyoming the English do not appear to have been directly concerned, but some American loyalists took part in, or prompted its worst atrocities, and the hatred between the loyalists and the Whigs became continually stronger. The former were being rapidly driven to despair. The wholesale confiscation of their properties; their shameful abandonment on many occasions by the British troops; the innumerable insults and injuries inflicted on them by their own countrymen; and the almost certain prospect that England must sooner or later relinquish America, had rendered their position intolerable. The Congress, by a resolution passed in December 1777, ordered that all loyalists taken in arms in the British service should be sent to the States to which they belonged to suffer the penalties inflicted by the laws of such States against traitors.2 When Philadelphia was reoccupied by the Americans, Washington vainly desired that pardon should be granted to such loyalists as consented to remain in the town, but no such proposition was listened to. Two Quaker gentlemen of considerable position in Philadelphia, who were convicted of having actively assisted the English during the period of the occupation, were hanged; and twenty-three others were brought to trial but acquitted.
It is, however, but justice to the Americans to add that, except in their dealings with their loyal fellow-countrymen, their conduct during the war appears to have been almost uniformly humane. No charges of neglect of prisoners, like those which were brought, apparently with too good reason, against the English were substantiated against them. The conduct of Washington was marked by a steady and careful humanity, and Franklin also appears to have done much to mitigate the war. It was noticed by Burke, that when a great storm desolated the West Indian Islands in 1780, Franklin issued orders that provision-ships should pass unmolested to the British as well as to the other isles, while the English thought this a proper time to send an expedition against St. Vincent's, to recover it from the French.1 In the instructions which Franklin gave to Paul Jones in 1779, he ordered him not to follow the English example of burning defenceless towns, except in cases where ‘a reasonable ransom is refused,’ and even then to give such timely notice as would enable the inhabitants to remove the women and children, the sick and the aged.2 In the same year he issued directions to all American captains who might encounter the great nagivator, Captain Cook, not only not to molest him, but to give him every assistance in their power as a benefactor to the whole human race.3
The relations of the Americans with their new allies were by no means untroubled. In the army the jealousy between the American and the foreign officers was extreme. Even Washington was once tempted to express a wish that there was not a single foreigner in the army except Lafayette,1 and some of the strongest feelings of the American population were shocked by the alliance with the French. The New Englanders had always been taught to regard France as a natural enemy, and they were Protestants of Protestants. Congress, having very lately expressed its unbounded horror at the encouragement by England of Popery in Canada, had now allied itself with the leading Catholic power against the leading Protestant power of Europe. Very bitter indignation was felt and expressed at the conduct of Count D'Estaing in retiring from Rhode Island, and it needed all the tact and unvarying moderation of Washington to prevent at this time an open outbreak. At Boston and at Charleston there were violent riots between the French sailors and the populace, and several lives were lost.
The subsequent departure of the French squadron for the West Indies was deemed a proof that France was only regarding her own interests in the contest. A plan of again invading Canada with a combined force of French and Americans was propounded by Lafayette in 1778, and was warmly espoused by many members of Congress, but Washington, in a most remarkable secret letter, warned them of its extreme political danger. The French, he said, had no doubt bound themselves by the treaty of alliance not to regain any of the territory in America which they had abandoned at the Peace of Paris, but if a large body of French troops found themselves in possession of the capital of the province which had so lately belonged to France, and which was bound to France by the ties of religion and race and old associations, was it likely that they would relinquish it? By keeping Canada France would gain a vast commerce, absolute command of the Newfoundland fishery, the finest nursery of seamen in the world, complete security for her own islands, and what, perhaps, she would value not less, a permanent control over the United States. If, as seemed probable, France and Spain would soon combine to destroy the naval power of England, they would be without a rival on the sea, and France could always pour troops into Canada, which would make all resistance by the Americans hopeless. In such case, America might again seek to be united with England, but she would find that England, if she had the disposition, would not have the power to help her. Nor was it difficult for the French to find a pretext for holding Canada, for they might treat it as a pledge or surety for the large sums for which America was already indebted to France.1
These arguments had probably a considerable weight with Congress, and the projected invasion was abandoned. The secret instructions, however, furnished by the French Government to Gerard, their minister in America, have of late years been laid before the public, and they show that France not only had no intention of taking possession of Canada, but also that she was determined as far as possible to discourage all attempts of the Americans to invade it. The possession of Canada and Nova Scotia by the English, and, if it could be attained, the possession of the whole or part of Florida by the Spaniards, would, in the opinion of the French ministers, be eminently favourable to French interests, for it would keep the American States in a condition of permanent debility and anxiety, and would, therefore, make them value more highly the friendship and alliance of France. So important did this consideration appear to Vergennes, that he assured the French ambassador at Madrid of his perfect readiness to guarantee to England her dominion over Canada and Nova Scotia.1
The folly of continuing the war after the French alliance had been declared, was keenly felt not only by the English Opposition and by continental Europe, but even by Lord North himself; but the determination of the King, and the pride that would relinquish no part of the British Empire, still prevailed, and sanguine hopes were entertained that American resistance might even now speedily collapse.1 Nor were those hopes without some real foundation. In May 1778 Washington himself expressed his fear that ‘a blow at our main army, if successful, would have a wonderful effect upon the minds of a number of people still wishing to embrace the present terms, or indeed any terms, offered by Great Britain.’2 Recruits, which were always obtained with great difficulty and in insufficient numbers, became still more rare as soon as there was a prospect of foreign assistance, and the depreciation of the continental currency continued with an accelerated speed. Nothing in the American Revolution is more curious than the obstinacy with which the several States, to the end of 1778, refused the urgent and repeated entreaties of Congress to impose some serious taxation in order to meet the enormous expenses of the war.3 Whether it was timidity, or indifference, or parsimony may be difficult to say, but Congress everywhere met with a refusal, and the consequent derangement of the currency steadily grew, and in reality imposed far more serious loss than the heaviest taxation. But for the large sums of money which France annually sent, the struggle could hardly have continued, and already to those brave men who still continued to serve their country in the field without entering into questionable speculations, life was fast becoming almost impossible. Washington wrote in October 1778 that the most puny horses for military purposes cost at least 200l., a saddle 30l. or 40l.; boots 20l.; flour sold at different places from 5l. to 15l. per hundredweight; hay from 10l. to 30l. per ton, and other essentials in the same proportion.1 Six months later Mrs. Adams wrote to her husband that all butchers' meat was from a dollar to eight shillings per lb.; corn 25 dollars a bushel; butter and sugar both 12s. a lb.; a common cow from 60l. to 70l.; labour six or eight dollars a day.2 ‘Unless extortion, forestalling, and other practices which have crept in and become exceedingly prevalent and injurious to the common cause, can meet with proper checks,’ wrote Washington, ‘we must inevitably sink under such a load of accumulated oppression.’3 The evil was a growing one, and in the last month of 1778, when the French alliance and the immediate prospect of a Spanish alliance appeared to make the triumph of America a certainty, Washington was writing in a tone of extreme despondency: ‘Our affairs are in a more distressed, ruinous, and deplorable condition than they have been since the commencement of the war;’ ‘the common interests of America are mouldering and sinking into irretrievable ruin if a remedy is not soon applied.’4
A feeling very much of the same kind was beginning to press upon the mind of the French Minister, who was now the main support of the American cause. Two confidential letters written by Vergennes to the French ambassador at Madrid, in November 1778, are very curious, as showing that the closer view which the alliance had given him of the character, dispositions, and circumstances of the American people had profoundly disappointed him. With a little more energy England, he was convinced, might have totally suppressed the revolt, and even now, and in spite of the active intervention of France, he had great fears lest the whole edifice of American Independence should crumble into dust.1
In truth the American people, though in general unbounded believers in progress, are accustomed, through a kind of curious modesty, to do themselves a great injustice by the extravagant manner in which they idealise their past. It has almost become a commonplace that the great nation which in our own day has shown such an admirable combination of courage, devotion, and humanity in its gigantic civil war, and which since that time has so signally falsified the predictions of its enemies, and put to shame all the nations of Europe by its unparalleled efforts in paying off its national debt, is of a far lower moral type than its ancestors at the time of the War of Independence. This belief appears to me essentially false. The nobility and beauty of the character of Washington can indeed hardly be surpassed; several of the other leaders of the Revolution were men of ability and public spirit, and few armies have ever shown a nobler self-devotion than that which remained with Washington through the dreary winter at Valley Forge. But the army that bore those sufferings was a very small one, and the general aspect of the American people during the contest was far from heroic or sublime.1 The future destinies and greatness of the English race must necessarily rest mainly with the mighty nation which has arisen beyond the Atlantic, and that nation may well afford to admit that its attitude during the brief period of its enmity to England has been very unduly extolled. At the same time, the historian of that period would do the Americans a great injustice if he judged them only by the revolutionary party, and failed to recognise how large a proportion of their best men had no sympathy with the movement.
END OF THE FOURTH VOLUME.
Washington's Works, iii. 466
Stedman's History of the American War, i. 207.
Washington's Works, i. 187; iv. 66.
Howe's Narrative, p. 45. I must, however, warn the reader that the English and American authorities are hopelessly disagreed about the exact numbers engaged in Long Island, and among the Americans themselves there are very great differences. Compare Ramsay, Bancroft, Stedman, and Stanhope.
Washington's Works, iv. 74.
In a letter dated Aug. 17, 1776, a loyalist who had escaped from New York wrote: ‘Every means of defence has been concerted to secure the city and whole island of New York from an attack of the royal army. Should General Howe succeed in that enterprise, his antagonist, Mr. Washington, has provided a magazine of pitch, tar, and combustibles, to burn the city before he shall retreat from his present station.’—Moore's Diary of the Revolution, i. 288. On Aug. 23, Washington wrote to the Convention of New York that ‘a report now circulating that if the American army should be obliged to retreat from this city, any individual may set it on fire,’ was wholly unauthorised by him.—Washington's Works, iv. 58.
Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, i. 235.
Washington's Works, iv. 85, 86. This letter was written on Sept. 5, 1776.
Life of J. Reed, i. 218.
‘The Congress having resolved that it [New York] should not be destroyed.’—Washington's Works, iv. 86.
See, on this fire, the description sent by Governor Tryon to Lord George Germaine, in the Documents relating to the History of New York, viii. 686, 687, and some interesting contemporary accounts in Moore's Diary, i. 311–315. See, too, Washington's Works, iv. 100, 101. Stedman speaks of the conflagration as the accomplishment of a settled plan of the Americans formed before the evacuation, and he states that several cartloads of bundles of pine-sticks dipped in brimstone were found next day in cellars to which the incendiaries had not time to set fire. He adds that about 1,100 houses were burnt.—Stedman's Hist. i. 208, 209. In that very interesting book the History of New York by the loyalist Judge Jones, who was present when the event took place, there is an account of the conflagration in which it is attributed without any question to the revolutionists (Jones's History of New York, i. 120, 121); and the editor has collected a great number of contemporary documents supporting the same conclusion (pp. 611–619). General Greene had predicted that, if Washington was obliged to retire, ‘two to one, New York is laid in ashes.’—Life of J. Reed, i. 213.
Stedman, i. 206, 207. See, too, the Life of Reed, i. 243.
See Washington's Works, iv. 8, 7, 37, 89, 90, 105.
Washington's Works, iv. 72, 73, 89, 94, 95, 157.
Ibid. p. 162.
Ibid. i. 207; iv. 73.
Franklin to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, May 26, 1779.—American Diplomatic Correspondence, iii. 88–91.
Ramsay, i. 295.
Moore's Diary, i. 288.
Washington's Works, i. 181.
Governor Tryon to Lord George Germaine, July 8, 1776.—Documents relating to the History of New York, viii. 681.
‘I am sorry to say that from the best information we have been able to obtain, the people of Long Island have since our ovacuation gone generally over to the enemy and made such concessions as have been required; some through compulsion, I suppose, but more from inclination.’—Washington to Trumbull, Washington's Works, iv. 88. Moore's Journal, i. 304.
Documents relating to the Hist. of New York, viii. 681, 687.
Jones's Hist. of New York, i. 107, 108.
Washington's Works, iv. 118, 119.
On Feb. 11, 1777, Governor Tryon wrote to Lord George Germaine from New York: ‘The success that accompanied my endeavour to unite the inhabitants of this city by an oath of allegiance and fidelity to his Majesty and his Government has met my warmest wishes; 2,970 of the inhabitants having qualified thereto in my presence,. … I have the satisfaction to assure your lordship, as the invitation to the people to give this voluntary testimony of their loyalty to his Majesty and his Government was made even without a shadow of compulsion, it gave me peculiar satisfaction to see the cheerfulness with which they attended the summons. I believe there are not 100 citizens who have not availed themselves of the opportunity of thus testifying their attachment to Government. The mayor, since I went through several wards, has attested fifty more men (and is daily adding to the number), which makes the whole sworn in the city 3,020, or 3,030, which, added to those attested on Staten Island, in the three counties on Long Island, and in Westchester county … makes the whole amount to 5,600 men. … I have assured the General that should he remove all his troops from the city, there would not be the least risk of a revolt from the inhabitants, but on the contrary was confident large numbers would take a share in the defence of the town against the rebels.’—Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 697.
Washington's Works, iv. 132. ‘One unhappy stroke will throw a powerful weight into the scale against us, enabling General Howe to recruit his army as fast as we shall ours; numbers being so disposed and many actually doing so already’ (p. 134). In another letter he reports that he has learned from Long Island that ‘the enemy are recruiting a great number of men with much success,’ and expresses his fear that ‘in a little time they will levy no inconsiderable army of our own people’ (p. 127). See, too, on the American loyalists, pp. 519–523, and Galloway's Examination.
Some attempts to estimate the number of loyalists who actually took arms will be found in Sabine's American Loyalists, 58–61.
See a long list of these Acts of Attainder in Sabine's American Loyalists, pp. 78–81. See, too, Jones's History of New York, ii. 269, 270.
Compare the letters of Col. Guy Johnson in the Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, vol. viii. (especially pp. 656, 657), and a note in Washington's Works, iii. 407. Ramsay (History of the American Revolution, ii. 138) attributes the fidelity of the Canadian Indians chiefly to the impression the expulsion of the French had made upon their minds, and to the nonimportation agreement of 1774, which put it out of the power of the Americans to supply the Indians with the articles of commerce they chiefly valued. There is a striking statement of the unwavering fidelity of the Mohawks to England during the war, of the great sufferings they endured for her, and of the ungrateful way in which they were abandoned at the peace, in Jones's History of New York, i. 75, 76.
Secret Journals of Congress, May 25, June 17, July 8,1776.
Washington's Works, iii. 430, 431, 460. See, too, v. 273, 274.
Ramsay, ii. 139.
A disgraceful affair occurred in Canada in the summer of 1776, when several American prisoners were killed and others plundered by Indians after capitulation, and the English officer declared his inability to control the savages. (Washington's Works, iv. 1, 2.) Feb. 15,1777, Col. Guy Johnson wrote to Lord George Germaine: ‘The terror of their name without any acts of savage cruelty will tend much to the speedy termination of the rebellion.’—Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 699. On April 21, 1777, Governor Tryon wrote to Secretary Knox: ‘I am exactly of opinion with Colonel La [Corne] St. Luc, who says: “Il faut lacher les sauvages contre les miserables rebels, pour imposer de terreur sur les frontiers. Il dit de plus (mais un peu trop pour moi), qu'il faut brutalizer les affaires; assurement il est bien enragée de la mauvais traitement qu'il a reçu de les aveugles peuples”’ (sic). Ibid. p. 707. On March 12,1778, Col. Johnson wrote to Lord George Germaine: ‘It is well known, my lord, that the colonies solicited the Indians early in 1775; that they proposed to make me prisoner, that they carried some Indians then to their camp near Boston, as they did others since, who were taken in the battle on Long Island; that the tomahawk which is so much talked of is seldom used but to smoak through or to cut wood with, and that they are very rarely guilty of any cruelty more than scalping the dead, in which article even they may be restrained. It is also certain that no objection was made to them formerly; that the King's instructions of 1754 to General Braddock, and many since, direct then being employed, while some of the American colonies went further by fixing a price for scalps. Surely foreign enemies have an equal claim to humanity with others. … I am persuaded. … that I can restrain the Indians from acts of savage cruelty.’ Ibid, pp. 740, 741. See, too, on this subject, the note in Washington's Works, v. 274–276. Governor Pownall, who was intimately acquainted with Indian affairs, said ‘the idea of an Indian neutrality is nonsense—delusive, dangerous nonsense. If both we and the Americans were agreed to observe a strict neutrality in not employing them, they would then plunder and scalp both parties indis criminately.’
Annual Register, 1777, p. 122.
Cooper's History of the Navy of the United States, i 76, 77, 89, 90, 101, 102.
Adams's Familiar Letters, p. 208. See, too, pp. 220, 226, 230.
Arnold's History of Rhode Island, ii. 386.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 248.
Ibid. p. 262. See, too, American Remembrancer, 1776, part ii. p. 267.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, ii. 93.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 243.
Chastellux, Travels in North America, i. 199–201. According to a note, however, appended to the English translation of this book, a large part of the great fortune of Morris was due to other causes, and especially to the manner in which (without actual dishonesty) he employed his position of Financier-General to the colonies, to subserve his private interests. See, too, Bancroft's Hist. of the United States, x. 566, 567.
Arnold's Hist. of Rhods Island, ii. 388, 389.
Ramsay, i. 312. Hildreth, iii. 159.
For the fullest particulars about this remarkable man see an interesting monograph called The Treason of Charles Lee, by George H. Moore (New York, 1860). The life and writings of Lee were published in one volums in 1794.
Washington's Works, iv. 202, 203.
Washington's Works, iv. 212.
Ibid. p. 213.
Ibid. p. 215.
Ibid. p. 223.
Washington's Works, iv. 230, 231, 234.
Ibid. p. 238.
Ibid. p. 184.
Ibid. pp. 116, 117. One regimental doctor was drummed out of his regiment at the American camp at Harlem for selling the soldiers certificates that they were unfit for duty, at the rate of 8d. a man.—Moore's Journal, i. 315.
Washington's Works, iv. 236.
Thus Governor Tryon writes to Lord G. Germaine, Dec. 31, 1776, giving the report of two of his Majesty's Council who had just returned from Connecticut: ‘They tell me, from the intelligence they had opportunities to collect, they are positive a majority of the inhabitants west of Connecticut river are firm friends to Government. This report I can give the more credit to from the number of Connecticut men that enlist in the provincial corps now raising.’—Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, viii. 694.
Adams's Works, iii. 87. Hildreth, iii. 147.
Galloway's Examination, pp. 17, 18.
The good conduct ascribed to the British soldiers is not borne out by other authorities. Washington speaks of the devastations and robberies in New Jersey as equally the work of the British and the Hessians, and he notices that at Princeton, where some very scandalous acts were perpetrated, there were no German soldiers. (Washington's Works, iv. 255, 268, 309, 310.) Galloway, who had particularly good means of ascertaining the truth, also ascribes the outrages indifferently to both nations. (Examination before the House of Commons, pp. 39, 40.) Judge Jones, in his loyalist Hist. of New York (i. 114), speaking of the plunderings by the British army near that city, says: ‘The Hessians bore the blame at first, but the British were equally alert.’ Jones notices, however, that the army under General Carleton was honourably distinguished for its good conduct (ibid. 90, 91).
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 233–246.
See Stedman, i. 220–223.
Jones's History of New York, i. 124–128.
Washington's Works, iv. 244.
Ibid. pp. 247–252.
Ibid. 249, 251.
Washington's Works, iv. 254, 255.
Jones's History of New York, i. 136, 137.
Annual Register, 1777, p. 13. After this time,’ says the same writer, ‘every load of forage that did not come from New York was sought or purchased at the price of blood.’—Ibid. p. 21.
See Galloway's Examination, pp. 23, 65.
Washington's Works, iv. 111, 139 140, 269. Mr. Kinglake observes that ‘social difference between the officers and the common soldiers is the best contrivance hitherto discovered for intercepting the spread of a panic or any other bewildering impulse ‘through an army.—Hist. of the Crimean War, i. 807.
He says: ‘I never opposed the raising of men during the war. …. but I contended that I knew the number to be obtained in this manner would be very small in New England, from whence almost the whole army was derived. A regiment might possibly be obtained of the meanest, idlest, most intemperate, and worthless, but no more. …. Was it credible that men who could get at home better living, more comfortable lodgings, more than double wages in safety, not exposed to the sicknesses of the camp, would bind themselves during the war? … In the middle States, where they immported from Ireland and Germany so many transported convicts and redemptioners, it was possible they might obtain some.’—Adams's Works, iii. 48.
Hildreth, iii. 164, 166. Washington's Works, i. 205–207, 225.
Galloway's Examination, pp. 18, 19.
Galloway's Examination, p. 11. The editor of this Examination says: ‘In no colony where these delegates were not appointed by the Assemblies, which were in four only, were they chosen by one-twentieth part of the people.’
Story On the Constitution, book ii. ch. i.
Ibid. book ii. ch. ii.
Bolles's Financial Hist. of the United States, pp. 195–197.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, iii. 16, 18.
Bolles's Financial Hist. of the United States, pp. 34, 45, 46.
Bolles's Financial History of the United States, pp. 56, 57.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 239.
Ramsay's History of the American Revolution, ii. 129.
Quoted in Bolles's Financial History of the United States, p. 159. Many details about the prices of the chief articles of consumption will be found in that very charming book, Familiar Letters of John Adams and his Wife during the Revolution.
See a full history of this Subject in Bolles's Financial History of the United States, pp. 158–173.
Jones's History of New York, ii. 324.
Noah Webster's Essays, p. 105.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 375. See, too, on the speculations by officers, Bolles, p. 118.
Washington's Works, vi. 210.
Oct. 4, 1779, Franklin wrote: ‘The extravagant luxury of our country in the midst of all its distresses is to me amazing.’—American Diplomatic Correspondence, iii. 116. Chastellux, in his Travels in North America, gives a vivid picture of the luxury at Philadelphia. Mr. Bolles (to whose excellent work I am indebted for most of these quotations), cites the striking description given by a modern American writer: ‘Speculation ran riot. Every form of wastefulness and extravagance prevailed in town and country, nowhere more than at Philadelphia, under the very eyes of Congress; luxury of dress, luxury of equipage, luxury of the table. We are told of one entertainment at which 800l. was spent in pastry. As I read the private letters of those days I sometimes feel as a man might feel if permitted to look down upon a foundering ship whose crew were preparing for death by breaking open the steward's room, and drinking themselves into madness. … The moral sense of the people had contracted a deadly taint. The spirit of gambling … was undermining the foundations of society.’—Greene's Historical View of the American Revolution.
See Bancroft's History of the American Revolution.
See this memoir in Turgot's Works, viii. (ed. 1809).
Flassan, Hist. de la Diplomatie Française, vi. 143, 144.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 131.
Ibid. pp. 37, 69, 92, 93.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 273, 341.
Ibid. p. 273.
See the full details of these proceedings in the very curious letters of Franklin and Deane, American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 272, 273, 311, 313, 319, 320, 322, 341, 371. Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 68, 69. On the repeated assurances given by the French, both in Paris and through their ambassador in London, of their pacific intentions, see Adolphus's Hist. of England, ii. 309, 429, 439.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 321.
Ibid. pp. 278, 281.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 92, 93, 275.
Ibid. pp. 65, 92, 93.
The famous line, ‘Eripuit cœlo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis,’ was perhaps suggested by a passage in Manilius:
According to Condorcet (Vie de Turgot), Turgot wrote: ‘Eripuit cœlo fulmen, mox sceptra tyrannis.’
Some curious particulars about Franklin's French life will be found in a very able article on Franklin in M. Philarète Chasles' Le Dix-huitième Siècle en Angleterre.
Rocquain, L'Esprit Revolutionnaire avant la Revolution, pp. 370, 371; Memoires de La-fayette, i. 50.
‘Dites-moi de bonnes nou-velles de nos bons Américains, de nos chers républicains.’ This was told by Lafayette to Augustin Thierry. See Circourt, Action commune de la France et de l'Amérique, i. 171. Paine, many years later, wrote: ‘It is both justice and gratitude to say that it was the Queen of France who gave the cause of America a fashion at the French Court.’—Rights of Man.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 29, 30.
Familiar Letters of J. Adams and his Wife, p. 350.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 71, 93, 276.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 71–73, 76, 97, 98, 295, 296. The lives of Steuben and of Kalb have been written in German by Kapp, and in English by Greene (G. W.), in his interesting little book on The German Element in the War of Independence.
See, on these difficulties, American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 336, 337, 346–349. Washington's Works, iv. 327–329, 419–425, 450–452; v. 32–35.
Sparks's Life of Washington. Count Fersen, however, who had interviews with Washington in Oct. 1780, says he neither spoke nor understood French.—Lettres du Comte Fersen, i. 40, 41.
Familiar Letters, p. 136.
Greene's Historical View of the American Revolution, p. 283.
Washington's Works, iv. 301, 340, 352.
Ramsay, ii. 1, 2. See, too, the Cornwallis Correspondence, i. 29.
Washington's Works, iv. 337–339. The stealing of guns continued to be a great evil in the American army. In July 1777 Washington again complains of their rarity, though the importation of arms far exceeded the number of troops raised to make use of them. Ibid. p. 477.
Ibid. pp. 339, 340. About a fortnight later, he wrote that the numbers ‘fit for duty’ were under 3,000, of whom all but 981 were militia, whose term of service would expire in about a fortnight. Ibid. p. 364.
Ibid. pp. 375, 376.
Ibid. p. 387.
Washington's Works, iv. 447.
Ibid. pp. 378.
Familiar Letters, p. 276.
Galloway's Examination, pp. 18, 19.
Hildreth, iii. 189.
Hildreth, iii. 190.
Adams writes (March 31, 1777): ‘We have reports here not very favourable to the town of Boston. It is said that dissipation prevails, and that Toryism abounds and is openly avowed at the coffee-houses.’—Familiar Letters, p. 252. His wife answered: ‘If it is not Toryism, it is a spirit of avarice and contempt of authority, an inordinate love of gain, that prevails not only in town but everywhere I look or hear from.’—Ibid. p. 261.
Jones's History of New York, i. 197.
Ramsay, ii. 8, 9.
Washington's Works, iv. 360.
Washington's Works, v. 96, 146. Hildreth, iii. 217.
Washington's Works, v. 69, 198.
Ibid.pp. 187, 197–199. Galloway's Examination, pp. 25–27.
Life of Joseph Reed, i. 359.
Mém. de Lafayette, i. 16.
Washington's Works, v. 71.
Washington's Works, v. 193, 197, 199.
Ibid. p. 329. See, too, the Mém. de Lafayette, i. 22.
Washington's Works, v. 239.
Ibid. p. 201.
Galloway's Examination, pp. 19, 20.
Ramsay, Stedman, Hildreth.
Ramsay, pp. 11, 38.
An attempt has been made in America, supported by the authority of Mr. Bancroft, to prove that Arnold was not actively engaged on this day. Mr. Isaac Arnold, however, the recent biographer of Benedict Arnold, appears to have established beyond dispute that this is a mistake, and that on this, as on all other occasions, Benedict Arnold showed himself an excellent soldier. See the Life of Benedict Arnold and a considerable amount of additional evidence in a pamphlet called Benedict Arnold at Saratoga (reprinted from the United Service, Sept. 1880), by Isaac N. Arnold. See, too, Stedman's very full account of the campaign.
See the Minutes of the Council of War, Oct. 13, in Burgoyne's State of the Expedition from Canada.
Burke's Correspondence, ii. 145, 146.
Miscellaneous Works, ii. 210.
Correspondence of George III. and Lord North, ii. 83, 84. See, too, pp. 98, 106, and Walpole's Last Journals, ii. 178.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, i, 355–357.
See his confession in Howell's State Trials, xx. 1365.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 305.
Burke's Works, ix. 152, 153. So the Duke of Grafton writes: ‘The majority, both in and out of Parliament, continued in a blind support of the measures of Administration. Even the great disgrace and total surrender of General Burgoyne's army at Saratoga was not sufficient to awaken them from their follies.’—MS. Autobiography.
Burke's Correspondence, ii. 118.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 40.
Fox's Correspondence, i. 169–171.
See Burke's Works, iii. 176, 178.
Fox's Correspondence, ii. 145, 147.
Parl. Hist. xviii. 1430.
Walpole's Last Journals, ii. 170, 171. Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 95.
Adolphus, ii. 265–267.
Ibid. pp. 504, 505.
Ibid. pp. 509–515.
See Parl. Hist. xix. 620, 622. He said ‘that Scotland and Manchester were so accustomed to disgrace that it was no wonder if they pocketed instances of dishonour and sat down contented with infamy.’
Wraxall's Memoirs, ii. 2. There is a long discussion on the origin of the Whig colours in the Stanhope Miscellanies, pp. 116–122, but it leaves the question in great uncertainty. Sparks thought that the Americans adopted the uniform from the Whigs, but it appears to have been worn in America from the very beginning of the contest. Jones speaks of a soldier who, ‘dressed in buff and blue, afterwards joined Montgomery in Canada, was wounded and taken prisoner at Quebec.’—Hist. of New York, ii. 343.
Wraxall's Memoirs, i. 470, 471.
Parl. Hist. xxii. 1176. Burke was the warmest eulogist of Franklin and Laurens.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, ii. 222, 224.
See a poem called The Muse Recalled; Jones continued:—
Lady Minto's Life of Sir Gilbert Elliot, i. 74, 76, 77.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, i. 274, ii. 84. See, too, Bancroft's History of the United States, ix. 321, and also a paper, ‘On the Conduct of the War from Canada,’ copied from the handwriting of the King, in Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 330–332.
See Nichols's Recollections of George III. i. 35.
See Fox's Correspondence, i. 212.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 118, 125, 126.
See a remarkable letter of Gibbon (Dec. 2, 1777). A month previously the Duke of Richmond had written: ‘I will say, too, that the people begin to feel the continuance of the war, the losses, the taxes, the load of debt, the want of money, and the impossibility of such success as to reestablish a permanent tranquillity.’—Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 318. Sir George Savile, however, thought that in November the people were still on the side of the war. Ibid. p. 322.
Chatham Correspondence, iv. 452.
Chatham Correspondence, iv. 454, 455, 457.
Parl. Hist. xix. 617.
18 Geo. III. c. xi. xii. xiii.
Annual Register 1778.
Compare Chatham Correspondence, iv. 493–506, 511, 512; Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, i. 348–351.
Fox's Correspondence, i. 188, 189; Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 149, 153.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 151, 154, 156.
Russell's Life of Fox, iii. 330–332, 349.
Correspondence of George III. with Lord North, ii. 171, 184–186.
Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 356, 357. In a letter written immediately after the fit of Chatham, which Lord Stanhope prints from the Grafton papers, Camden speaks somewhat more feelingly on the subject. See, too, the Chatham Correspondence, iv. 519–528.
Buckingham to Weymouth (Private), March 29, 1778.—MSS., Record Office.
See Walpole's Last Journals, ii. 232, 233.
See Lady Minto's Life of Hugh Elliot, pp. 142–145.
See a curious paper by Eden describing a secret negotiation he carried on with the Opposition as agent of the Government in March 1778,—Fox's Correspondence, i. 180–183.
Ibid. i. 206–223.
Many curious particulars about the Mischianza will be found in Arnold's Life of Benedict Arnold, pp. 224–227, and Jones's Hist. of New York, i. 241–251, 716–720. A pen-and-ink sketch of Miss Shippen in the Mischianza, drawn by André, is still preserved. The editor of Jones's History has preserved a remarkably pretty poem by a Philadelphian lady describing the charm of the English occupation of that town. Some interesting letters describing Philadelphia in the summer of 1778, written by Eden the Commissioner and by his wife, will be found in Lady Minto's Life of Hugh Elliot, pp. 173–178. Mrs. Eden writes: ‘I found the account we had heard of so much apparent distress in the town perfectly false; indeed it is quite impossible to believe by the people's faces and the extreme quietness of the town, that you are not in a city perfectly at peace and at ease. As to security, I feel quite as safe here as if I was in my own dressingroom in Downing Street,’ p. 176.
Ibid. p. 177.
The deep disappointment of Washington appears clearly in his letter to his brother. ‘An unfortunate storm (so it appeared, and yet ultimately it may have happened for the best), and some measures taken in consequence of it by the French admiral, perhaps unavoidably blasted in one moment the fairest hopes that ever were conceived, and from a moral certainty of success rendered it a matter of rejoicing, to get our own troops safe off the island. If the garrison of that place, consisting of nearly 6,000 men, had been captured, as there was in appearance at least a hundred to one in favour of it, it would have given the finishing blow to British pretensions of sovereignty over this country.’—Washington's Works, vi. 68, 69.
Walpole's Last Journals, ii. 289–292.
Hildreth, iii. 241.
Washington's Works, v. 305, 312, 313, 322, 323, 328, 351; vi. 168.
Hildreth, iii. 245.
See Historical Notes on the Employment of Negroes in the American Army, by George H. Moore.
Ramsay, ii. 56, 57; Stedman, ii. 56, 57. That excellent and most impartial American historian, Mr. Hildreth, has related the circumstances of this transaction with a severe and simple truthfulness (History of the United States, iii. 237, 255, 256), which is much more honourable to his countrymen than the laboured apologies of Mr. Bancroft.
Washington's Works, v. 287, 346, 347.
Stedman, ii. 60, 61.
See Moore's Diary of the American War, passim. American Diplomatic Correspondence, i. 500–507; iii. 107, 127, 128. Adam's Familiar Letters, pp. 258, 259, 266.
See Washington's Works, i. 240, 241; iv. 380–386, 557–559.
Ibid. v. 308, 309.
Parl. Hist. xxii. 220.
American Diplomatic Correspondence, iii. 78.
Ibid. pp. 67, 68. It must be admitted, however, that as early as 1777 both Franklin and Deane had given their full approbation to projects that were entertained of burning and plundering Liverpool and Glasgow (ibid. i. 92, 298). I have already noticed the American proposals for burning New York and desolating the surrounding country (supra, pp. 356, 357), and Lee strongly recommended the burning of Philadelphia in 1776. (Moore's Treason of Charles Lee, p. 69.) Washington contemplated burning Newport, the capital of Rhode Island (Washington's Works, vi. 373), but this was in order to dislodge an English army, and he was never guilty of such depredations as those perpetrated by the English in Connecticut and Virginia. In 1779 Congress ordered the marine committee to take measures for burning and destroying towns belonging to the enemy in Great Britain and the West Indies as a measure of retaliation, but this order was never carried into effect (Adolphus, iii. 59). Lord Cornwallis asserts that the Americans treated their prisoners in S. Carolina with an ‘inhumanity scarcely credible,’ and that several were barbarously murdered (Cornwallis, Correspondence, i. 67, 71), but these appear to have been loyalists.
Washington's Works, vi. 15, 47.
Washington's Works, pp. 106–110.
‘Lea députés du Congrès avaient proposé an roi de prendre l'engagement de favoriser la conquête que les Américains entreprendraient du Canada, de la Nouvelle-Ecosse et des Florides, et il y a lieu de croire que le projet tient fort à cœur au Congrès. Mais le roi a considéré que la possession de ces trois contrées, ou au moins du Canada, par l'Angleterre, serait un prin cipe utile d'inquiétude et de vigilance pour les Américains, qui leur fera sentir davantage tout le besoin qu'ils ont de l'alliance et de l'amitié du roi; il n'est pas de son intérêt de le détruire.’ See the instructions to Gerard in Circourt's translation of Bancroft, De l'action commune de la France et de ‘Amérique, iii. 259, See, too, pp. 307, 311, 312.
A certain Captain Blankett, from the Victory (May 31, 1778), forwarded to Shelburne an abstract of an intercepted letter of a French engineer giving his impressions of the state of things at this time prevailing in America. He thought that the Americans owed their success much more to English blunders than to themselves, and that if Howe had followed up his victory at Brandywine, the whole American army would have been dispersed. ‘Each State,’ he writes, ‘is jealous of the other. The spirit of enthusiasm in defence of liberty does not exist among them; there is more of it for the support of America in one coffee-house in Paris than is to be found in the whole continent. The Americans are averse to war from a habit of indolence and equality. Their antipathy to the French is very great.’—Lansdowne Papers, British Museum, Add. MSS. 24131, p. 29. There is an admirably impartial and powerful summary of the arguments of the ministers to show that America must soon collapse, in the Annual Register, 1779, p. 106.
Washington's Works, v. 359.
See Bolles's Financial History, pp. 193–198.
Washington's Works, vi. 80.
Adams's Familiar Letters, p. 361.
Washington's Works, vi. 91.
Ibid. p. 151. The evil was not confined to the Americans at home. Adams writing from Passy says: ‘The delirium among Americans here is the most extravagant. All the infernal arts of stockjobbing, all the voracious avarice of merchants have mingled themselves with American politics here.’—Familiar Letters, p. 356.
‘C'est gratuitement qu'on voit dans le peuple nouveau une race de conquérants. … Malgré le grand attachement que le peuple et même les chefs témoignent pour leur indépendence, je souhaite que leur constance ne les abandonne pas avant qu'ils en aient obtenu la reconnaissance. Je commence à n'avoir plus une si grande opinion de leur fermeté, parce que celle que j'avais de leurs talents, de leurs vues et de leur amour patriotique s'affaiblit à mesure que je m'éclaire.’ ‘Leur république, s'ils n'en corrigent pas les vices, ce qui me paraît très difficile … ne sera jamais qu'un corps faible et susceptible de bien peu d'activité. Si les Anglais en avaient mis davantage, ce colosse apparent serait actuellement plus soumis qu'il ne l'avait jamais été. Dieu fasse que cela n'arrive pas encore. Je vous avoue que je n'ai qu'une faible confiance dans l'énergie des Etats-Unis.’—Circourt, iii. 312–314.
The following very emphatic passage is from a letter of Washington from Philadelphia, Dec. 30, 1778: ‘If I were called upon to draw a picture of the times and of men from what I have seen, heard, and in part know, I should in one word say that idleness, dissipation, and extravagance seem to have laid fast hold of most of them; that speculation, peculation, and an insatiable thirst for riches seem to have got the better of every other consideration and almost of every order of men; that party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day; whilst the momentous concerns of an empire, a great and accumulating debt. ruined finances, depreciated money and want of credit, which in its consequences is the want of everything, are but secondary considerations and postponed from day to day, from week to week, as if our affairs wore the most promising aspect. … Our money is now sinking 50 per cent. a day in this city, and I shall not be surprised if in the course of a few months a total stop is put to the currency of it; and yet an assembly, a concert, a dinner, or supper, will not only take men off from acting in this business, but even from thinking of it; while a great part of the officers of our army from absolute necessity are quitting the service, and the more virtuous few, rather than do this, are sinking by sure degrees into beggary and want.’—Washington's Works, vi. 151, 152.