TO MAJOR-GENERAL SCHUYLER.
New York, 21 May, 1776.
I have Enclosed for your perusal Copies of two Informations, and a letter I received on Saturday last from the Committee of King’s district by the hands of a Martin Bebee, who says he is their clerk and was sent express. From these you will readily discover the diabolical and Insidious Arts and Schemes carrying on by the Tories, and friends of government, to raise distrust, dissensions, and divisions among us. Having the utmost confidence in your Integrity, and the most incontestable proof of your great attachmt to our common Country and Its Interest, I could not but look upon the charge agt. you with an eye of disbelief, and sentiments of detestation and abhorrence; nor should I have troubled you with the matter, had I not been Informed, that Copies were sent to different Committees and to Govr Trumbull, which I conceived would get abroad, and that you, should you find that I had been furnished with them, would consider my suppressing ’em as an Evidence of my belief, or at best of my doubts of the charges.
The confidence and assurance I have of the Injustice and Infamy of the charges agt. the Convention obliged me also to lay the matter before them; lest my not doing it should be construed a distrust by them of their Zeal, and promote the views of the Tories; who, to excite disorder and confusion, judge it essential to Involve those in high departments in a share of the plot, which is not unlikely to be true in some parts, believing that our Internal Enemies have many projects in contemplation for to subvert our liberties. Before I conclude, I wou’d mention, that some Officers called upon me a few days agoe, having your permit to goe to Pennsylvania and settle some affairs there. This License, when there is really business, is certainly countenanced by Humanity and Generosity, but, nevertheless, it shou’d not be Indulged, and I hope will not be granted in future, as it gives them an opportunity of getting Intelligence of all our Operations, of forming opinions of our strength, the places proper for attack, and settling a channel of Correspondence with the disaffected by which our Enemies may and will be furnished with full accounts of our designs and every thing that can promote their service and Injure ours.—There is but little reason to believe, nay we are certain they will not conduct themselves upon principles of the strictest honor for the favors done ’em, but will, when in their power, exercise every matter, that can operate to our prejudice. I am, Sir, &c.
When the army retreated from Canada, and left all the upper parts of the Lake open to the ravages of the enemy, the inhabitants were greatly alarmed for their own safety, and, in the midst of their murmurs of despair, they were ready to throw all the blame upon the commander of the northern department. Committees of towns and districts assembled, and passed resolves, expressing distrust of General Schuyler, and insinuating weighty charges against his motives and conduct. Resolves of this kind were forwarded to Washington, and to the New York Provincial Congress. To a committee of the Provincial Congress, who had been the organ for communicating these charges to him, Schuyler wrote:—
“I am much obliged to you for having taken prudent measures to prevent the evils, that might be occasioned by the scandalous and false reports propagated to prejudice your respectable body and myself with the public. We must bear with the caprice, jealousy, and envy of our misguided friends, and pity them. Our Tory enemies we must watch with care and circumspection, and convince our countrymen by our actions, that we are true sons of liberty. I have some reason to apprehend, that the Tories are not the only ones, that have been assiduous in propagating this story. In the district you mention are some persons, who applied for offices, which neither the Committee nor I could confer. This disappointment chagrins them, and I believe they have occasioned the report. I am much obliged to Mr. Trumbull for the step he has taken. It is something singular, that at the very time I was sending troops to apprehend Tories, to whom I am so obnoxious that they would not hesitate to assassinate me, the country below should be arming against me as a Tory.”
On the very day that Washington sent to General Schuyler the papers containing the charges against him. Schuyler wrote from Fort George: “Bennet informs me that a report prevails in the western parts of Connecticut that I was to head some of the regiments raised in this Colony, join the Tories, and fall upon the country; that the people were ordered to collect on the occasion; and that affidavits to support this report had been taken and sent to your Excellency. I hope the scoundrels may be secured and held up to public contempt. Ungrateful villains [Editor: illegible character] to attempt to destroy a man’s reputation who, having lighted the candle at both ends, is rapidly bringing on old age, by fatigues that nothing but a wish to be instrumental in procuring liberty to my country would make me undergo.” And again on the 28th of May:—
“Your Excellency’s letter of the 21st instant, enclosing a copy of the infamous libel transmitted to you by the Committee of King’s district, I received last night. Whilst this was only report, I treated it with contempt, without taking any notice of it; but it is now a duty, which I owe myself and my country, to detect the scoundrels; and the only means of doing this is by requesting, that an immediate inquiry may be made into the matter, when I trust it will appear, that it was more a scheme calculated to ruin me, than to disunite and create jealousies in the friends to America. Your Excellency will therefore please to order a court of inquiry the soonest possible; for I cannot sit easy under such an infamous imputation, since, on this extensive continent, numbers of the most respectable characters may not know what your Excellency and Congress do of my principles and exertions in the common cause. It is peculiarly hard, that at the very time that assassins and incendiaries are employed to take away my life and destroy my property, as being an active friend to my country; at the very time when I had taken measures and given orders, some of which are actually executed, to secure the Tories and to send them down to your Excellency, a set of pretended Whigs (for such they are that have propagated these diabolical tales) should proclaim me through all America a traitor to my country.”
“May 31st.—I am informed by persons of good credit, that about one hundred persons, living on what are commonly called the New Hampshire Grants, have had a design to seize me as a Tory, and perhaps still have. There never was a man so infamously scandalized and ill-treated as I am, and I hope Congress will publicly do me that justice, which I thank your Excellency for having done me in your letter of the 21st, if that respectable body is convinced (of which I make no doubt) of my zeal and attachment to the cause of my injured country. I am, dear Sir, ever most sincerely, your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant.”
The following communication is interesting chiefly as it exhibits in a condensed form the charges of the people against General Schuyler:
“Address of the Committees of Safety and Inspection for several Towns in the County of Berkshire, Massachusetts Bay, bordering on the Colony of New York, and with the Approbation of King’s District in said Colony “May it please your Excellency,
“We beg leave to lay before your Excellency the distresses of our minds with all humility. Fear of injuring our common cause by writing as well as speaking, on the one hand, or by silence on the other, has filled us with peculiar concern. The purport of this epistle is so delicate, that we write with fear and trembling, lest, when we mean to serve our country, we do it an irreparable injury. Purity of intention will not always secure us against wrong steps. We beg leave to assure your Excellency, that it is our hearty intention to support you in the defence of America against the tyranny and usurpation of Great Britain to the last extremity, and, if that is the pleasure of the Continental Congress, to the building up of a distinct republic or American empire. But what has filled our minds with a peculiar sense of danger to the common cause are the following things, which we take to be facts, though we may be deceived as to some of them.
“That General Schuyler has had the superintending oversight of our Canadian army; that, after the defeat of December 31st, 1775, at Quebec, in an attempt to take it by storm, recruits were forwarded in the slowest and most dilatory manner; that our army before the walls of Quebec, during a long and tedious winter, underwent every kind of hardship, and their spirits were broken by being neglected; that about the 4th of May so inconsiderable was the army, so miserably provided with provisions and ammunition, in a word, so greatly neglected, that it was obliged precipitately to raise the siege, and disgracefully to retreat, so as not only to leave those five hundred valiant sons of America taken within the walls of Quebec to the mercy of our enemies, but an additional number of sick to be disposed of at their pleasure; that General Schuyler some time last winter went on an expedition to subdue the internal enemies of this country, collected in arms against the country at Johnstown, and after the suppression of the said rebellion, the ringleader, Sir John Johnson, was not so much as put under moderate confinement; that the said Sir John Johnson has since collected a number of said enemies, as we suppose, and joined some of the King’s forces in the upper forts, and raised a number of Canadians and Indians, and come down upon Colonel Bedel’s regiment stationed at the Cedars, and taken them to a man, not less than about five hundred in number, many of whom were shot and others tomahawked in cool blood by the insatiable savages, after they were made prisoners; this we have from men of credibility, who were made prisoners at the same time, but found means to get away, the Colonel of said regiment being necessarily absent at the time of said fight; that our army has long been in a most deplorable situation in Canada as to provisions and intrenching tools, and we view them as in danger of being driven wholly out of those territories, which event we have too much reason to fear will decide the fate of New England, and be of the most dangerous consequence to all the United Colonies; that the minds of many officers, soldiers, and others are greatly dissatisfied with the conduct of General Schuyler, and have great fears respecting his fidelity to his country, though they may be wholly without foundation, and we find a great backwardness in men to enlist in this expedition on this account.
“God forbid that we should harbor ungrounded jealousies of the deliverers, and, in a sense, saviours of our country, or wilfully shut our eyes against the greatest dangers. We beg leave to assure your Excellency, that we consider all the United Colonies but as one, and observe no other distinctions, than those of friends and enemies to their country. We indulge no private disgust or resentment; we are of no faction or party. We wish not to injure the reputation and glory of General Schuyler, were it in our power; we sincerely hope his name may be handed down with immortal honor to the latest posterity, as one of the great pillars of the American cause. We must not conclude, without assuring your Excellency of the utmost confidence placed in you by persons of all ranks and conditions, within the sphere of our knowledge. We can cheerfully rest in your wisdom under the direction of Him, who ruleth over all, for directing the military operations in general through this great continent, in conformity with the advice of the Continental Congress. We heartily pray for success to your arms and salvation to America; and that your disinterested services may meet with a glorious reward. By order of the Committee.”