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tion than in practice. Unless the geography of the country is far different from any thing I can conceive, to effect this would require a chain of posts, and such a number of men at each, as would never be practicable or maintainable, but to an immense army. In their progress, by hanging upon their rear, and seizing every opportunity of skirmishing, their situation might be rendered insupportably uneasy.
" But for fear of mistake, the general has determined to collect a considerable body of troops at or about Peekskill, which will not be drawn off till the intentions of the enemy bave acquired a decisive complexion. These will be ready, according to conjunctures, either to proceed northerly or southerly, as may be requisite. Every precaution should be taken to prevent the boats from being destroyed, by collecting them at the first movement of the enemy under cover of one of the forts, or into some inlet, difficult of access and easily defensible with a small number of men. The loss of them would be an irreparable disadvantage.
“The enemy's attempt upon Peekskill is a demonstration of the folly of having any quantity of stores at places so near the water, and so much exposed to a sudden inroad. There should never be more there than sufficient to answer present demands. We have lost a good deal in this way at different times, and I hope experience will at last make us wiser.
“ His excellency lately had a visit from the Oneida chief and five others. He managed them with a good deal of address, and sent them away perfectly satisfied. He persuaded them to go to Philadelphia, but they declined it, alleging their impatience to return, and remove the erroneous opinions of their countrymen, from the misrepresentations of British emissaries, which they were appre
hensive might draw them into some rash proceedings. They parted, after having made the most solemn protestations of friendship and good will. His excellency has been very busy all day in despatching the southern post, which has prevented me giving him your resolve. It will, no doubt, be very acceptable ; and it is with pleasure I inform you, that the zeal and abilities of the New York convention hold the first rank in his estimation.
“No news from France, save that the Congress have obtained a credit there, for which they can draw bills to the amount of £100,000 sterling. This will be extremely serviceable in carrying on a trade with the French. The new troops begin to come in. If we can shortly get any considerable accession of strength, we may be able to strike some brilliant stroke.”
A few days after he again wrote : " By several persons who have come out of New York within these few days, it is pretty well confirmed that they have constructed a bridge to be laid upon boats, for the purpose, in all probability, of crossing the Delaware.
“The new levies begin to come in from the southward, but not in such large numbers as could be wished. It is to be hoped, however, that we shall shortly be sufficiently reinforced to give an effectual obstruction to their designs.
The Congress have resolved, if the general approves, to form a camp on the west side of the Delaware, and have called upon Pennsylvania to furnish three thousand militia to join the same. Every nerve must and will be strained to prevent Philadelphia falling into the enemy's hands. It is a place of infinite importance.”
On the seventeenth of April he again addressed the committee, giving a particular account of an attack at Boundbrook upon the troops under General Lincoln; in
forming them that three of the enemy's vessels had entered the Delaware ; that a vessel from France had been attacked in the river, and to prevent her falling into their hands, had been blown up.
A letter of the same date from a member of Congress* in Philadelphia depicts the state of feeling there at this time. “I am extremely sorry to inform you, that notwithstanding the invasion which threatens this city, a languor prevails amongst the inhabitants of almost all ranks. The disputes about their constitution and a want of vigilance and vigor in detecting and defeating the designs of the disaffected, have given the malignants a dangerous ascendency. The depreciation of the continental money is astonishingly rapid, and I see, with concern, that no attempts are made to check so fatal a measure. You will see by the enclosed resolutions of Congress of the fourteenth and fifteenth of April, that they have been under the necessity of supplying an executive authority in this State.
"By the recess of the supreme executive council, there was an absolute interregnum; and if Congress had not interposed, this State would have fallen an easy prey to a very small body of the enemy's army. I have the pleasure to assure the convention, that the State of New York stands in a very high point of light in the eyes of the continent, and that General Washington, in his public letters to Congress, gives the most honorable testimonials in its favor. These, sir, are the happy effects of its unanimity and vigor.” He adds: “ The disputes in Pennsylvania grew out of no want of attachment to the cause, but from disputes about the constitution. I wish the establishment of new forms of government had been deferred. The union, vigor and security, derived from conventions and
William Duer to Abraham Ten Broeck.
committees are not to be found in any State under its new constitution."
In a private letter of this period, * Washington also adverts to the state of the currency. “That Great Britain will exert every nerve to carry her tyrannical designs into execution, I have not the smallest doubt-her very existence as a nation depends now upon her success, for should America rise triumphant in her struggle for independence, she must fall. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, after she has departed from that line of justice which ought to characterize a virtuous people, that she should descend to such low arts and dirty tricks as will for ever remain a reproach to her; none of which has she practised with more success, and, I fear, with more dangerous consequences to our cause, than her endeavors to depreciate the continental bills of credit. Nothing, therefore, has a greater claim to the close attention of Congress than the counteraction of this part of her diabolical scheme. Every thing depends upon it.” Urging there should be no relaxation in measures of resistance, he adds, “) profess myself to be of that class who never built sanguinely upon the assistance of France, farther than her winking at our supplies from thence for the benefits derived from our trade, and how far the measures and offers of Great Britain may contravene this, time only can discover, and is somewhat to be feared.”
The constitution of New York, recently established + by the convention of that State, was made public at this time. Hamilton's attention was called to it in a letter from Gouverneur Morris, a member of the body.
Looking to the recent proceedings as to Pennsylvania and to this act, there is presented to the view one of the most remarkable scenes in the drama of the American
* Washington to R. H. Lee. --Lee's Demoir, ii. p. 12.
† April 20, 1777.
revolution. At the same moment, the Congress of the United States, by their assumed unlimited power, unhesitatingly submitted to, are seen instituting an executive authority in a State ; and the other States are beheld, in the midst of a war for their existence, forming strictly limited governments, in all of which were provisions to hold the general Congress under their absolute control. At the same moment, this Congress are seen conferring upon a military chief of their own creation, dictatorial powers, and the separate States are beheld tenaciously reserving to themselves the appointment of the officers to execute the commands of that chief.
The former were acts of high necessity, expressly avowed to have been done to provide “ for the general welfare of the United States.” The latter indicate the pervading distrust of a general governing power consequent to abuses by a sovereign they had rejected, and were resisting.
Magna Charta and the succeeding guards to liberty established by the wisdom of England, formed the basis of these State constitutions. But their structure shows the quick vibration from confiding devotion to a monarch, to the jealous caution of democracy. Contests with the representatives of the monarch had prepared the colonists, in a measure, for self-government; and had taught them that safety would only be found in a government by representatives of the people. Thus, representative democracies were the natural fruits of the revolution; and in organizing them, the prevailing effort would be to render the executive authority, dependent, feeble, of short duration.
The first government instituted under a recommendation of Congress was that of New Hampshire in January, seventy-six.