Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

cess were as nothing, is now apparent; and their behaviour is explained upon the
ground of the utterly erroneous views they entertained of the dispositions of the
mass of the American people. These views were derived from the reports of the
refugees and the late civil officers in the Colonies, who had returned to England.
The distresses of our people, though great, were exaggerated : the weak condition
of our army was over-rated: the disagreements in Congress; the exhaustion of the
country; and the discontents of the soldiery, were all over-estimated : in fact, the
fervid spirit of patriotism in our leaders and in the great body of the people, was
not conceived by the King and his servants. Reports were constantly sent to
England of different intended movements and prepossessions in favour of the
mother country, which invariably deceived expectation; and they had the effect,
too, of interfering with the plans and arrangements of the British commanders in
America—perhaps, fortunately for us.

Mr. Sparks says:
“ This delusion prevailed during the whole war. The ministers acted under a
perpetual deception. In looking back upon events, as they actually occurred, it is
impossible to conceive a collection of state papers more extraordinary for the erro-
neous impressions, contracted knowledge, and impracticable aims of the writer,
than the correspondence of Lord George Germain with the British commanders in
America."

Sir Henry Clinton in particular felt much annoyance at this; and he could not avoid, at times, a decided expression of his opinion of the course pursued by the administration.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ In writing to Lord George Germain, after stating the numerous difficulties with which he had been obliged to contend, and hinting at the apparent want of confidence implied by the tenor of the instructions lately received, he goes on to say;— Is it to be supposed, that I am not on the watch to profit by every favourable disposition in any part of the continent, or to improve every accidental advantage of circumstances? I am on the spot; the earliest and most exact intelligence on every point ought naturally to reach me. It is my interest, as well as my duty, more than any other person's living, to inform myself minutely and justly of the particular views, connexions, state, and temper of every province, nay, of every set of men within the limits of my command, and it is my business to mark every possible change in their situation. Why then, my Lord, without consulting me, will you admit the ill-digested or interested suggestions of people, who cannot be competent judges of the subject, and puzzle me hy hinting wishes, with which I cannot agree, and yet am loath to disregard? For God's sake, my Lord, if you wish that I should do any thing, leave me to myself, and let me adapt my efforts to the hourly change of circumstances, and take the risk of my want of success. do not wish to be captious, but I certainly have not had that attention paid to my wishes, and that satisfaction, which the weight of my situation, and the hopes which you held forth for me, gave me reason to expect.'

The subject of Arnold's treason is that of most interest in the volumes before us; and to it we shall now turn our reader's attention. It will be recollected, that Arnold was placed in command of the troops at Philadelphia, after the evacuation of that city by the British. The discharge of his functions, though said to have been performed in strict accordance with his duty, gave great offence, and procured him many enemies. Mr. Sparks, upon this head, says:

“ He issued a proclamation requiring the shops to be closed and forbidding any sales to be made, till a joint committee of Congress and the government of Pennsylvania should examine the goods that remained in the city when the enemy left it, and ascertain whether any of them belonged to the king of Great Britain, or to any person adhering to the royal cause. Although this order was the necessary

[ocr errors]

consequence of a resolve of Congress, and was advised by some of the principal inhabitants, yet it seemed oppressive to many persons in its operation, and was a source of loud complaint.

“ The odium, which this first measure brought upon the commandant, was neither removed nor weakened by his subsequent carriage and conduct. On the contrary, his haughty and overbearing manners, his arbitrary proceedings in his official station, his disrespect for the civil authority of the State, and the faults of his private character, gradually obscured the splendid military reputation on which he mainly relied for securing public favour, and involved him in difficulties of a serious nature. The Executive Council of Pennsylvania, after submitting to what they deemed many indignities, and remonstrating in vain against certain offensive acts, at last determined to bring the matter to a formal and decisive issue.”

They passed resolutions enumerating eight distinct causes of complaint; laid them before Congress and the Commander-in-chief, and directed the Attorney General to commence a prosecution for those matters of which a court of law could take cognizance. The report of the Committee of Congress was in Arnold's favour : this report was attributed to party feelings. The Report itself, was, however, never acted upon. A Joint Committee of Congress and of the Assembly and Council of Pennsylvania, subsequently appointed, agreed that the charges should be submitted to a court-martial under the direction of Washington. After considerable delays, the court, finally, acquitted him of two of the four charges that had been particu. larly pressed against him, and found him censurable as to the two others. He was directed to be censured by the Commander-in-chief.

The letters which, from time to time, during the progress of this business, he wrote to Washington, are curious; we shall present an extract or two. There can be no doubt, that the feeling exhibited against him by the government of Pennsylvania, and which, he thought, amounted to persecution, exasperated him to a high degree; and assisted to impel him to his subsequent treason. Mr. Sparks thinks he was in some degree aggrieved; though his bad private character furnished the cause of much of the dislike evinced towards him.

Arnold wrote to Washington on the 5th of May, 1779, thus :

GENERAL ARNOLD TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.

· Philadelphia, May 5th.-Dear General; I have been honoured with your Excellency's two letters of the 26th and 28th of April, and am extremely sorry that it should be thought there was a necessity of postponing my trial to so late a period as June or July, for no other reason than the Council of this State “representing that the period appointed for the purpose, and the previous notice given, were too short to admit of the necessary evidence being produced in time. From a candid view of the charges and of the whole proceedings against me contained in the papers transmitted to your Excellency, you must be fully persuaded that I have been unjustly accused, and that I have been refused justice from Congress on the report of their committee. From a knowledge of my public conduct, since I have been in the army, no man is better qualified to judge whether I have merited the treatment I have received.

“ If your Excellency thinks me criminal, for Heaven's sake let me be immediately tried, and, if found guilty, executed. I want no favour; I ask only justice. If this is denied me by your Excellency, I have nowhere to seek it but from the candid public, before whom I shall be under the necessity of laying the whole matter. Let me beg of you, Sir, to consider that a set of artful, unprincipled men in office may misrepresent the most innocent actions, and, by raising the public clamour against your Excellency, place you in the same disagreeable situation I am in. Having made every sacrifice of fortune and blood, and become a cripple in the service of my country, I little expected to meet the ungrateful returns I have received from my countrymen; but as Congress have stamped ingratitude as a

current coin, I must take it. I wish your Excellency, for your long and eminent services, may not be paid in the same coin. I have nothing left but the little reputation I have gained in the army. Delay in the present case is worse than death; and, when it is considered, that the President and Council have had three months to produce their evidence, I cannot suppose the ordering of a court-marti:l to deter. mine the matter immediately in the least precipitating it, as in justice it ought to have been determined long since. The President and Council wish to put it off until the campaign opens, considering undoubtedly that the service will then prevent the court-martial from sitting, and cause the trial to be postponed until the end of the campaign. I must there'ore entreat, that a court-martial may be ordered to sit as soon as possible, and, if the court find sufficient reasons, they will of course adjourn to a longer time. Not doubting but my request will be granted, I have the honour to be, &c.”

Again, on the 14th of the same month

GENERAL ARNOLD TO GENERAL WASHINGTON,

Philadelphia, May 14th.- Dear Sir; Yesterday I had the honour to receive your Excellency's favour of the 7th instant, informing me that the time of my trial was finally fixed on the 1st day of June; which I am very happy to hear, as nothing can be more disagreeable than the cruel situation I am in at present, not only as my character will continue to suffer until I am acquitted by a court-martial, but as it effectually prevents my joining the army, which I wish to do as soon as my wounds will permit; and to render my country every service in my power at this critical time; for, though I have been ungratefully treated, I do not consider it as from my countrymen in general, but from a set of men, who, void of principle, are governed entirely by private interest.

The interest I have in the welfare and happiness of my country, which I have ever evinced when in my power, will I hope always overcome my personal resentment for any injury I can possibly receive from individuals. I have the honour to be, &c."

It must be confessed, from the tenor of Washington's letters, that, notwithstanding his dislike of many things which he saw in the behaviour of Arnold, on the whole that officer was a favourite with him. The reasons are clear. Of his patriotism, he knew nothing to warrant doubt; Arnold's subsequent treachery was a perfect surprise to his commander. Of his military talents he had formed, and justly, a high estimate. He knew the value of warlike accomplishments and energy such as Arnold possessed, to the welfare of his beloved country; and he was anxious that she should have the full benefit of them. His high sense of justice, too, revolted at the idea of any considerations other than those immediately bearing upon the point, having any influence upon the decision of the question. Upon the whole matter of Arnold's dispute with the Council of Pennsylvania, and of his claims upon Congress, Mr. Sparks, in conclusion, remarks—and the remark would seem perfectly just

" Whether entire justice was rendered to him, amidst so many obstacles to a per. fect knowledge of the merits of his case, and to an unbiassed judgment, it would be difficult at this time to determine."

Of Arnold's treason many interesting details are supplied in the seventh volume. It appears, that eighteen months before the completion of his treachery, he had been in the habit of communicating information to Sir Henry Clinton, anonymously. A proclamation in June 1780, addressed to the inhabitants of Canada, about which both Congress and Washington felt much anxiety, and desired the most perfect secrecy, was disclosed by Arnold to the enemy. A copy had been sent by the Commander-in-chief to him for the purpose of having it printed. The object, consequence of the disclosure, failed. The British Commander, not knowing the VOL. XVII.NO. 34.

69

[ocr errors]

rank of his anonymous correspondent, though he permitted the continuance of communications between him and Major André, his aid, (who was entrusted with the business,) did not enter very warmly into the matter. Subsequently, when Arnold got command of West Point, and had discovered himself to Clinton, the affair wore a different face, and Clinton eagerly encouraged his advances. The important command referred to was procured by Arnold, through solicitations to members of Congress and to Washington, no doubt with a view to his subsequent behaviour. In a note, Mr. Sparks observes:

“ Mr. Livingston had suggested his fears, that General Howe, in case of an exigency, would not inspire such a degree

of confidence in the New York militia, as would be essential for engaging their efficient services. He solicited the appointment for General Arnold. "If I might presume so far,' he said, 'I should beg leave to submit it to your Excellency, whether this post might not be safely confided to General Arnold, whose courage is undoubted, who is the favourite of our militia, and who will agree perfectly with our governor.'—MS. Letter, June 22d.

“ Arnold had some time before written on the same subject to General Schuyler, who was then in camp as one of the committee from Congress. “I know not,' said Arnold, who is to have the command on the North River. If General Heath joins the army, as I am told he intends, that post will of course, I suppose, fall under his command. When I requested leave of absence from General Washington for the summer, it was under the idea, that it would be a very inactive campaign, and that my services would be of little consequence, as my wounds made it very painful for me to walk or ride. The prospect now seems to be altered, and there is a probability of an active campaign, in which, though attended with pain and difficulty, I wish to render my country every service in my power; and, by the advice of my friends, I am determined to join the army; with which I beg you will do me the favour to acquaint General Washington, that I may be included in any arrangement that may be made.”—MS. Letter, May 25th.

“ The application, on the part of Mr. Livingston, was no doubt made at the request of General Arnold, who immediately afterwards visited the camp and West Point. On the 30th of June, General Howe wrote to General Washington from that post;— I have taken General Arnold round our works, and he has my opinion of them, and of many other matters. I have long wished to give it to you, but I could not convey it by letter.'”

On the 3d of August, 1780, Washington conferred the appointment upon him. He had, in his general orders of the first of the month, assigned Arnold to the command of the left wing of the army, thinking his services more important in that position. That officer was, however, so dissatisfied with the arrangement, that Washington finally complied with his request to be stationed at West Point.

We forbear a further prosecution of this topic, as the subsequent details--the arrest and just execution of the unfortunate André--the discovery of Arnold's treason and his flight—though possessing great interest, cannot but be familiar to our readers. They have, moreover, been so fully set forth in the late work of Mr. Sparks on the “Life and Treason of Benedict Arnold,” that any other notice of them would be superfluous. We regret, too, that our limits compel us to make but a general reference to the remaining contents of the seventh volume. The abilities of Washington as a statesman and politician are broadly developed in his correspondence. The masterly views taken of the probable course of the British ministry, and of the complexion of public affairs on the continent, as well as of the internal arrangement of operations in his own country, and his clear insight and exposition of the causes of her embarrassments, render his letters highly valuable in a political light, and evince the comprehensive grasp of his mind. With the President and leading members of Congress, and with the governors and influential citizens of the different states, he was in constant correspondence; and his able suggestions and opinions no

doubt gave an inclination to the whole course of administration. Some of these letters, if we had space, we should delight to extract and dwell upon; we can how. ever merely refer now to his letter to the President of Congress of 20th August, 1780, (Vol. VII. p. 156, &c.)—to Joseph Reed of the 28th of the previous May, (p. 58,)—to John Mathews of 4th of October of the same year, (p. 223,)--and to John Laurens of the 15th of January, 1781, (p. 368.)

The Infidel, or the Fall of Mexico. A Romance. By the Author

of Calavar.

It is delightful to read the compositions of an author who thoroughly understands the powers, capacities, and uses of language—one who can apply it with equal felicity to the expression of the sternest and most energetic passion, or the lightest sports of fancy-who, with the graphic skill of an artist, can make language delineate an object, or can excite those deep-seated emotions which are inherent in the whole human family, and which serve to make us all feel closely akin,

1-one whose origi. nality of style is constantly reminding us of that fine saying of Pope

“ True wit is Nature to advantage dressed,

What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed;" one, in short, who thinks with the common sense of mankind, and writes with a power and felicity all his own. Such a writer was Scott—and such a writer is Bird.

Of course we do not speak with a precise reference to what he has actually accomplished, for he is not yet sixty years old—indeed they say he is hardly on the wrong side of thirty—but we speak with reference to the style in which he executes whatever he undertakes—the style of language—of thought-of study—of preparation—of effect. He is an adept in his art. But if he shall go on as he has begun, peradventure we have not yet seen his masterpiece.

The period which he has chosen to illustrate in the two novels already before the public, viz. “Calavar” and the “Infidel”—the scenes, characters, and spirit of the age to which they refer—indeed his whole subject was such as to require a peculiar style—one in which there should be united a romantesque richness, and a classical strength, by no means within the reach of ordinary writers. Yet, in adopting and sustaining this style, the author has shown powers which convince the critical reader that almost any other style is as much at his command. We hazard little in asserting that if he should choose a modern subject, and a locality at our very doors, he would be equally at his ease, and we should then be as much fascinated with the nerve, piquancy, and playfulness of his dialogue, and the delicate pencilling of his descriptions, as we are now with the quaintness of conversation, the imposing stateliness, and chivalric pomp and glory, so appropriate in these Hispano-American

[ocr errors]

romances.

What a masterly command, too, he has of his materials. Let any one at all skilled in any of the fine arts—any one who has ever tested his powers of invention and combination, just take up the dialogue in the beginning of the “ Infidel,” and examine it with reference to its bearing on the rest of the work, and he will not fail to be struck with the wonderful skill and address displayed in its contrivance and execution. It irresistibly reminds one of some splendid overture in which the whole action of the opera is sketched—for in this very dialogue, which is by no means long, he has succeeded in introducing us to all the leading characters and interests,

« PreviousContinue »