« ZurückWeiter »
flot confirmed he mights resign, produced a confirma- WJ* tion. But the genuine patriotism of the commander in chief, would have prevented his declining to serve his country, while his exertions were acceptable, had the resolve been different. In that case, no censure could have sallen upon him, it would have been only declaring, that upon a close attention to the evidence contained in the trial, with a copy of which every member was furnished, congress thought the court martial mistaken.
Wednesday the 30th of December was observed by order* of congress as a thanksgiving day. At this very period, the affairs of the United States were in a most distressed, ruinous and deplorable condition. Idleness, dissipationand extravagance,- seemed to have laid fast hold of the generality; and peculation, speculation, and an insatiable thirst for riches, to have gotten the better of every other consideration and almost of every order of men. Partydisputes and personal quarrels were the great business of the day, while the momentous concerns of the empire, a great and accumulated debt, ruined finances, depreciated money, and want of credit (which in the consequences is the want of every thing) were but secondary considerations, and postponed by congress from time to time, as if their affairs wore the most promising aspect. The paper was sinking in Philadelphia daily 50 per cent. and yet an assembly, a consort, a dinner or supper (which cost two or three hundred pounds) did not only take men off from acting, but even from thinking of thisbusiness. Some of the most disinterested and patriotic Americans felt more real distress on account of this appearance of things, than they had done at any one time", since the commencement of the dispute.
»779* Congress resolved, that as many counterfeits had spx, ' peared in circulation of various denominations of the emission of May 20; 1777, and April 11, 1778; the •whole emissions of these two dates, should be taken out of circulation. They were to be received within a limited term for continental debts and taxes; and into the continental loan offices; either to loan or be exchanged at the election of the owners. The counterfeiting of the bills, according to my information, originated with either James or John Rankin, formerly of York county in Pennsylvania. Having quitted their farms and joined the royalists, that government confiscated their estates: one of them, to compensate for his losses and avenge himself upon the United States, entered upon the business of counterfeiting their paper currency, which was afterward practised by others.
The convention troops were sent off in the second week of November to Virginia: the Germans marched from Cambridge, the British from Rutland, in which town they had been quartered for some time back. But as the people could not banish from their minds, the notions they had imbibed of the cruelties the American prisoners had received, and as some were afraid of being plundered, and others of being killed, the troops while upon their march met with great incivility from all ranks and degrees of men. The militia guard, which escorted gen. Reidesel's baggage from Hartford to the York line, broke open some of the boxes and plundered them of several dozen of wine, a great number of spermaceti candles, and five dozen packs of cards. The general was so much displeased with their conduct, that be wrote a letter to gen. McDougall, who returned a very polite answer, and furnished a guard of continental 1779, troops to escort the baggage to Sussex court-house in the Jerseys.
: Mr. Gerard presented memorials to congress, the sub- Feb. ject of which they determined to take into immediate consideration, at the same time informing him, that if he wished to communicate any thing further, they would receive the same from him in a private audience. He having a wish to make further communication, attended on the 15 th, when congress was resolved into a committee of the whole. The committee reported, on the 23d, "That upon the consideration os all the matters referred, they are of opinion, that his Catholic majesty is disposed to enter into an alliance with the United States of America; that he hath manifested this disposition in a decisive declaration lately made to the court of Great Britain; that in consequence of such declaration, the independence of these United States must be finally acknowledged by Great Britain, and immediately thereon a negotiation for peace will be set on foot between the powers of France, Great Britain, and these United States, under the mediation of his Catholic majesty; or that Spain will take part in the war, and his Catholic majesty will unite his force with the most Christian king and the United States:—That in order to be in readiness for a negotiation, the ministers of the United States ought to be instructed by congress on the several following particulars, viz. 1. What to insist upon as the ultimatum of these states: 2. What to yield or require on terms of mutual exchange and compensation." The committee reported their opinion upon these points, Vol. III. Q_ which
1779-which were afterward the subjects of consideration in congress.
Mr. Gerard manifested a desire, that the war might not be prolonged by too high and unreasonable demands; and that the United States would bring their ultimatum as low as possible. He strongly recommended moderation. The fate of war was uncertain; and he hinted that a decisive naval engagement in favor of the British, might give a great turn to their affairs. Mr. S. Adams was for insisting upon the cession of Canada and Nova •. Scotia; and some wer'e for adding Florida. Congress 19. agreed, ist> What should be the bounds of the Thirteen United States in the ultimatum: ad, That every port and place within the United States, and every ifland, harbour and road to them, or any of them belonging, should be absolutely evacuated by the land and sea forces of his Britannic majesty, and yielded to the powers of the state to which they respectively belong. The fishery is a point which the New Englanders are much set upon having secured, and which will occasion repeated debates, and be long before it is fully and finally determined.
The Parisian minister, Monsieur Vergennes, does not confine his policy to the establishment of American independence; it aims at securing to the French the Newfoundland fishery to the exclusion of the United States,and to the Spaniards the sole navigation of the Mississippi, and the lands on the eastern side of it, at the back of the present settlements of the United States, and therefore called the Western lands. You must use this information as a elew to guide you through the labyrinthof Mr. Gerard's negotiation. Nine days after he had his audience of congress, they received the account of < 779* the king of Naples having opened his ports to the flag of the United States of America.
The stroke aimed at gen. Mifflin by the congress resolve of June Ii, 1778, (see p. 12.) having answered its intention, all further proceedings ceased; on which the general, on the 17th of August, sent a letter to congress enclosing his commission, which for reasons therein set forth, he begged leave to resign. That and two more letters of an earlier date were referred to a committee of three, who reported on the 23d of January 1779, that it did not appear to them that any proceedings had taken place since the resolve of June the nth, and that If the said resolution was to be carried into execution, it should be done in the usual manner, and that gen. Washington should have directions accordingly. Still the matter rested, so that Mifflin on the 25th of February, informed congress that he had not heard what was their pleasure as to his resignation, and requested of them afresh to accept it, which they then resolved to do. Thus he has been impelled to lay aside his military character, -which for the liberties of his country he had assumed, though of the quaker denomination: but he retains his patriotism, and will continue a volunteer in the service of the public. He resumed the quarter master general's department in September 1776 (then vacant through a resignation) by the desire and order of congress, and not for any private view Or emoluments of his own, so that he did not consider himself as responsible for the calamitous effects of any delay, which depended not on himself or his associates, but on congress.
Let us resume our account of military operations.