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"self. There are open dissensions in Congress; parries who "hate one another as much as the common enemy; men who, l: without knowing any thing about war, undertake to judge "you and to make ridiculous comparisons. They are infa"ruated with Gates, without thinking of the difference of "circumstances, and believe that attacking is the only thing "necessary to conquer."*
.Of these intrigues the conduct pursued to La Fayette himself was soon to afford another instance. He was appointed the chief of an expedition against Canada, which had been planned and ordered by the Board of War, without any reference whatever to the Commander-in-chief. La Fayette accordingly set out for Albany. There, on consultation with General Schuyler and other good officers, he found that the Board of War, so strenuous on paper, had neglected any real preparation for the field. Neither men nor clothes, nor money nor supplies, were in readiness, nor likely to be so. It therefore became necessary forLaFayette, though with great regret, to relinquish the enterprise and return to the middle provinces. It is due to him to observe that, through the whole of this transaction, he had acted with perfect honour and cordial regard to Washington. The latter pithily observes, in one of his private letters of the period: "I shall say no more of the Canada expedition than "that it is at an end. I never was made acquainted with a "single circumstance relating to it."**
It was not until mid-April that a better hope for harmony arose, a majority of Congress deciding that General Gates should relinquish the Board of War and resume his command
* Letter, Dec. 30• 1777. See Washington's Writings , vol v. pp 99. 488. The whole of Mr. Sparks'! note in the Appendix headed "Conway's "Cabal," is well deserving of persual, though seeking to glide gently over the participation of the New England members. For his proof to the contrary he appeals to the biography of Mr. Elbridge Gerry, which, however, seems to me wholly inconclusive, and to make (for an American book) one most singular blunder. It saya that "Mr. Samuel Adams left Philadelphia" — meaning the seat of Congress — "for Massachusetts, on November II. "1777." But Philadelphia was then in possession of the British troops. See Austin's Life of Gerry, vol. i. 236.
** To Major-General Armstrong, March 27. 1778,
1778. LA PAYETTE ON BARREN HILL. 255
in the Northern district. Such was the prospect of affairs in the camp at Valley Forge, when Washington received the first draft of Lord North's Conciliatory Bills. . While forwarding them to the President of Congress, he did not conceal his apprehensions that they might have what he terms • "a malignant influence" on the public in America.* But joy and thankfulness became predominant in his mind when, early in May, landed Mr. Simeon Deane, brother of the plenipotentiary at Paris, and bearer of the treaty of alliance between France and the United States. "It has pleased the "Almighty Ruler of the Universe," says Washington, in his General Orders, "to raise us up a powerful friend among "the Princes of the earth. It becomes us then to set apart "a day for gratefully acknowledging the Divine goodness "and celebrating the important event." The day thus set apart was commenced with public prayer; there was afterwards a general muster of the troops, and a general discharge of the small arms; a volley from the cannon of thirteen rounds in honour of the Thirteen States; and a huzza from the whole army, "Long live the King of France!"
Earlier in the year Washington, among his other military cares, had attentively considered the best measures to be taken for the defence of Hudson's River. Hitherto that object had been attained by Forts Montgomery and Clinton. But these having been demolished by the British, the question arose as to the most eligible place for the construction of new works. On full reflection and inquiry West Point was selected. There, accordingly, strong batteries were soon in rapid progress which, supported as they were by Chevaux-de-frise and by the old boom of Fort Montgomery, seemed fully sufficient to secure the passage up the stream.
The first step taken by Washington to commence the campaign was in the middle of May, by sending the Marquis de La Fayette with 2400 men to take post on Barren Hill. Against this force a much larger was despatched from Philadelphia in two divisions, which La Fayette only escaped by
* Letter, April 18. 1778.
a precipitate retreat. Such, together with a few foraging excursions, is the only feat to be recorded of the British troops during many months. Through the whole of the spring and winter they had remained almost wholly inactive; the young officers engaged in diversions — as high play and loose amours—that gave no small offence to the soberPhiladelphians. Sir William Howe was much beloved for his warm heart and winning manners; and the news of his recall was heard with great concern. Before he sailed for England twenty-two of the field officers combined to entertain him at a splendid festival, to which they gave the Italian name of Mischianza, or Medley. It was the imitation of a Tournament; the first, perhaps, ever displayed in the New World. Knights in rich array, each attended by. a Squire, each bearing some motto or device, each appearing in honour of some peerless damsel whose name was publicly proclaimed, entered the lists and tilted against each other, whilst ladies looked on in Turkish attire, ready to bestow the price of valour on the victors.* No doubt it was honourable to the General on his retirement to receive that parting token of regard, but perhaps more honourable still had he left his army a little less of leisure for it!
The successor of Howe, Sir Henry Clinton, was in character as upright and amiable; in skill and enterprise much superior. Had the earlier stages of the war been under his direction, his ability might not have been without influence upon them. But it was his misfortune to be appointed only at a time when other foes had leagued against us, when the path was beset with thorns and briars, when scarce any laurels rose in view. In consequence of the impending war with France, and in conformity with the advice of Lord Amherst to the King, instructions had been addressed to Sir Henry, on the 23d of March, to retire from the hard-won city of Philadelphia, and concentrate his forces at New
* See a full account of the Mischianza (May 18. 1778) in the Annual Register for that year, p. 264. The device which the officers put forth for General Howe, was gracefully chosen; a setting sun with the motto: "Luceo discodons, aucto splendore resurgam."
THE BRITISH COMMISSIONERS.
York. This order reached him at Philadelphia in the month of May: only a few days after he had assumed the chief command; only a few days before there came on shore the British Commissioners for peace. These Commissioners might well complain with some warmth, in a secret letter to Lord George Germaine, that an order so important, so directly bearing on the success of their mission, should have been studiously concealed from them until they landed in America and beheld it in progress of execution. Thus to a private friend wrote Lord Carlisle: — "We arrived at "this place, after a voyage of six weeks, on Saturday last, "and found every thing here in great confusion, the army "upon the point of leaving the town, and about three thou"sand of the miserable inhabitants embarked on board of "our ships to convey them from a place where they think "they would receive no mercy from those who will take possession after us."*
Thus, from the first, the Commissioners had against them the news of a retreat from Philadelphia and the news of a treaty at Paris. Further still they had against them, as the Opposition in England had along foreseen and foretold, the fact of their connexion with Lord North. Even at the outset, before their offers could be known, one of the leaders in America, GeneralJoseph Reed, answered a private note from one of them as follows: — "I shall only say "that, after the unparalleled injuries and insults this coun"try has received from the men who now direct the affairs "of Britain, a negotiation under their auspices has much "to struggle with."** How different might have been his feelings had they brought their commission from Lord Chatham!
Not any, even the smallest opening, was afforded to
* To G. Selwyn', June 10. 1778; printed in the Selwyn Correspondence. In a later letter from New York, Lord Carlisle thus sums up his general impressions: "The country is beautiful beyond description; the climate "the worst I ever experienced." It is interesting to compare his remarks with those of his grandson, the present Earl. (Lecture at Leeds, 1850.) ** To Governor Johnstone, June 14. 1778. Life of Reed, vol. i. p. 378.
ttahon, History. VI. 17
these messengers of peace. They desired to despatch to the seat of Congress their secretary, Dr. Adam Ferguson, the well-known Professor of Edinburgh, and they applied to Washington for a passport, but Washington refused it until the pleasure of Congress should be known. The Congress, on the other part, had put forth a Resolution declining even to hold any conference with the Commissioners, unless, as a preliminary, they should either withdraw the fleets and armies, or else, in express terms, acknowledge the Independence of the United States. In vain did the Commissioners address the President of Con• gress, and entreat some consideration of their terms. Their powers were, indeed, most ample. They declared themselves ready to agree that no military forces should be maintained in North America without the consent of the General Congress or particular Assemblies; that measures should be taken to discharge the debts of America and to raise the credit and value of the paper circulation; that in order to cement the union with the mother-country, there should be a reciprocal deputation of an agent or agents from the different States, who should have a seat and voice in Parliament, or, if sent from Britain, a seat and voice in the several Assemblies; and that there should be established the power of the respective legislatures in each State to settle its revenue, and to exercise a perfect freedom of legislation and internal government. In short, in the verywords of the Commissioners, there was offered the irrevocable enjoyment of every privilege short of a total separation of interests. To none of these terms, so tempting heretofore, would the Congress hearken; and, after their first letter, they decided in a summary manner that no further reply should be returned.
Not that such offers were altogether without effect upon the people. Several Members of the Congress found it necessary to write to their constituents to explain and vindicate their votes in this transaction. Only a few weeks previously, Washington himself had observed: "There are