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by a number of the publick transactions of that body A board of war was instituted and General Gates placed at its head, Conway was raised over every other Brigadier, and appointed inspector of the army.
These machinations to tarnish the character of the Commander in Chief were known to him, but he silently noticed their operation. The good of his country was with him paramount to all other considerations, and he stifled his just indignation and left his reputation to rest on his own merits, lest the open dis sension of the civil and military ministers of the revo lution should endanger the publick interest.
At length, the presumption of his enemies, forced him into an expression of his feelings on the subject. The following correspondences give a general view of the progress of their measures Mr. Lawrens, President of Congress, in a private letter communicated to the General information of an anonymous complaint laid before him, in his official capacity, containing high charges against General Washington, to which he replied :
“ I cannot sufficiently express the obligation I feel towards you, for your friendship and politeness upon an occasion in which I am so deeply interested. I was not unapprized that a malignant faction had been for some time forming, to my prejudice, which, conscious as I am of having ever done all in my power to answer the important purposes of the trust repos: 'd in me, could not but give me some pain on a personal account; but my chief concern arises from an apprebension of the dangerous consequences, which intestine dissensions may produce to the common cause.
“ As I have no other view than to promote the publick good, and am unambitious of honours not founded on the approbation of my country, I would not desire in the least degree to suppress a free spirit of inquiry into any part of my conduct, that even faction itself may deem reprehensible. The anonymous paper
handed you, exhibits many serious charges, and it is mv wisn that it may be submitted to Congress. This I am more inclined to, as the suppression, or concealment, may possibly involve you in embarrassments hereafter, since it is uncertain how many, or who, may be privy to the contents.
“ My enemies take an ungenerous advantage of me. T'hey know the delicacy of my situation, and that mo. tives of policy "deprive me of the defence I might otherwise make against their insidious attacks. They know I cannot combat their insinuations, however injurious, without disclosing secrets, it is of the utmost moment to conceal. But why should I expect to be exempt from censure, the unfailing lot of an elevated station ? Merit and talents, which I cannot pretend to rival, have ever been subject to it. My heart tells me it has been my unremitted aim to do the best, which circumstances would permit; yet I may have been very often mistaken in n.y judgment of the means, and may, in many instances, deserve the imputation of errour.”
To a friend in New-England, who expressed by letter his anxiety in consequence of a report that he vras about to resign his commission, he wrote:
“ I can assure you that no person ever heard me drop an expression that had a tendency to resignation. The same principles that led me to embark in the opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain, operate with additional force at this day; nor is it my desire to withdraw my services while they are consider. ed of importance in the present contest; but to report a design of this kind, is among the arts, which those who are endeavouring to effect a change, are practising to bring it to pass. I have said, and I still do say, that there is not an officer in the service of the United States, that would return to the sweets of do. mestick life with more heartfe.t joy than I should. But I would have this declaration accompanied by
these sentiments, that while the publick are satisfied with iny endeavours, I mean not to shrink from the cause : but the moment her voice, not that of faction, calls upon me to resign, I shall do it with as much pleasure as ever the wearied traveller retired to rest."
His friend Mr. Patrick Henry, then Governour of Virginia, informed him of the intrigues that were going on in his native state. To which he replied :
“ 'The anonymous letter with which you were pleased to favour me, was written by
so far as I can judge from the similitude of hands.
"My caution to avoid any thing that could injure the service, prevented me from communicating, except to a very few of my friends, the intrigues of a faction which I knew was formed against me, since it might serve to publish our internal dissensions, but their own restless zeal to advance their views has too clearly betrayed them, and made concealment on my part fruitless. I cannot precisely mark the extent of their views, but it appeared in general, that General Gates was to be exalted on the ruin of my reputation and influence. This I am authorized to say from undeniable facts in my possession, from publications the evident scope of which could not be mistaken, and from private detractions industriously circulated. ********** it is commonly supposed, bore the second part in the
and General Conway, I know, was a very activo and malignant partisan ; but I have good reason to believe that their machinations have recoiled most sensi. bly upon themselves.”
General Gates learning that a passage in a lettar from Brigadier Conway to him had been communicated to the Commander in Chief, wrote the follow. ing letter, as extraordinary for the manner of its con. veyance, as for the matter it contains.
“ I shall not attempt to describe, what, as a private gentleman, I cannot he to!.ME "in representing to
-my mind, the disagreeable situation, which confidential letters, when exposed to publick inspection, may place an unsuspecting correspondent in; but, as a publick officer, I conjure your Excellency to give me all the assistance you can, in tracing out the author of the in fidelity, which put extracts from General Conway's letters to me into your hands. Those letters have been stealingly copied; but which of them, when or by whom, is to me as yet an unfathon.able secret.
“ There is not one officer in my suite, or among those who have a free access to me, upon whom I could with the least justification to myself, fix the suspicion; and yet my uneasiness may deprive me of the usefulness of the worthiest men. It is, I believe, in your Excellency's power to do me, and the United States, a very important service, by detecting a wretch who may betray me, and capitally injure the very operations under your immediate direction. For this reason, sir, I beg your Excellency would favour me with the proofs you can procure to that effect. But the crime being eventually so important, that the least loss of time may be attended with the worst consequences; and it being unknown to me whether tha letter came to you from a member of Congress, o: from an officer, I shall have the honour of transmitting a copy of this to the President, that Congress may, in concert with your Excellency, obtain, as soon as possible, a discovery which so deeply affects the safety of the States. Crimes of that magnitude ought not to remain unpunished.”
To which ine General with dignity replied.
“ Your letter of the 18th ultimo, came to my hands a few days ago, and to my great surprise informed me, that a copy of it had been sent to Congress, for what reason, I find myself unable to account; but as some end doubtless was intended to be answered by it, I am laid under the disagreeable necessity of returning my answer through the same channel, lest any member of
that honourable body should harbour an unfavourable suspicion of my having practised some indirect means co come at the contents of the confidential letters between
you and General Conway. “I am to inform you then, that ********* way to Congress, in the month of October last, fell in with Lord Sterling at Reading; and, not in confidence that I ever understood, informed his Aid de camp, Major M Williams, that General Conway had written thus to you, 'Heaven has been determined to save your country, or a weak General and bad Counsellors would have ruined it.' Lord Sterling, from motives of friendship, transmitted the account with this remark.
• The enclosed was communicated by ******** to Major M’Williams; such wicked duplicity of conduct, I shai] always think it my duty to detect.”
“ In consequence of this information, and without having any thing more in view, than merely to show that gentleman that I was not unapprized of his intriguing disposition, I wrote him a letter in these words.
“ Sir, a letter which I received last night, contained the following paragraph.
“In a letter from General Conway to General Gates, he saye, 'heaven has been determined to save your country; or a weak General and bad Counsellors would have ruined it ; I am, sir, &c.'
“ Neither the letter, nor the information which occasioned it, was ever direetly, or indirectly, communicated by me to a single officer in this army (out of my own family) excepting the Marquis de la Fayette, who having been spoken to on the subject, by General Conway, applied for, and saw, under injunctions of secrecy, the letter which contained this information ; so desirous was I of concealing every matter that could, in its consequences, give the smallest interruption to the tranquillity of this army, or afford a gleam of hope to the enemy by dissensions therein.
Thus, sir, with an openness and candour, which /