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taken aggregately or by paragraphs, convey any meaning which, in any construction, is offensive to your excellency, that was by no means the intention of the writer. After this, I cannot believe your excellency will either suffer your suspicions, or the prejudices of others, to induce
you to spend another moment upon the subject.”
The communications with Gates were closed on the twenty-fourth February, seventeen hundred and seventyeight, with a dignified assent to his humble proposition to bury all that had passed in oblivion.
“I yesterday received your favor of the nineteenth instant. I am as averse to controversy as any man; and had I not been forced into it, you never would have had occasion to impute to me even a shadow of a disposition towards it. Your repeatedly and solemnly disclaiming any offensive views in these matters which have been the subject of our past correspondence, makes me willing to close with the desire you express, of burying them hereafter in silence; and, as far as future events will permit, oblivion.
My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is particularly my wish to avoid any personal feuds or dissensions with those who are embarked in the same great national contest with myself; as every difference of this kind must in its consequences be injurious.”
This correspondence, while it defeated the machinations of the faction, was a source of gratification to Hamilton, not merely as a vindication of the commanderin-chief, but of his own wantonly assailed character.
The projected invasion of Canada which was to crown Gates with honor, failed in a most unexpected
“ Among the general attacks upon the confidential friends of Washington,” La Fayette relates,* “ for
* MS. Memoir of Gen. La Fayette.
it would have been too unpopular to have indulged in open attacks upon him personally, in which his pretended incapacity had rendered the campaign in the South so different from that in the North, under a general conversant with European tactics, and the much lamented influence of such men as Greene, Knox, and Hamilton, over the subjugated mind of the commander-in-chief, were artfully suggested and circulated, it had not been deemed expedient to include La Fayette. A better use, it was supposed, might be made of his growing popularity with the country, and of his correspondence with his friends in Europe.”
With this view, though then but twenty years of age, only six months in America, and without military knowledge or experience, the selection had been made. The prospect of glory and the pride of a separate command, it was supposed, would dazzle his youthful ardent mind, and tempt him to become a partisan of the faction, while the conduct of the enterprise would in fact devolve upon Conway.
The deportment of the Board of War towards Washington was marked. The official letter of Gates to La Fayette was transmitted through the hands of the commander-in-chief without an explanation. On the delivery of the packet to La Fayette, Washington simply observed : “ Since it is to be so, I had rather it was you than any body else.”
La Fayette states, that “struck with the proffered opportunity of counteracting a measure, the tendency of which was not less injurious to the cause, than invidious to his paternal friend, under the pretence that it was necessary for him to visit Congress to arrange the measures for the expedition, he proceeded immediately to Yorktown. There he omitted no arguments with Gates,
and in his conferences with Laurens, the President of Congress, to convince them that the whole charge of the military operations should be under the control of the commander-in-chief. Finding that his views were little in accordance with the intentions of the faction, he firmly resisted the temptations offered by the glory and facilities of an independent command; and stated, that considering himself as one of Washington's family, he could not accept the trust except on the condition that he should act under Washington's immediate orders."
To this proposal, the Board of War were compelled to accede; and, at the request of La Fayette, De Kalb, a senior officer to Conway, was attached to the command. La Fayette, after a conference with Washington, proceeded to Albany. There, in pursuance of the instructions of the Board of War, he ought to have found a body of two thousand five hundred men, besides militia, at the Cohoes, and all the means “ of acting on the ice on Lake Champlain and burning the British flotilla, whence he was to proceed to Montreal.” Conway had preceded him. “ His first words were, that the expedition was quite impossible.” Schuyler, Lincoln and Arnold had all expressed the same opinion. “I have consulted every body,” La Fayette writes,* " and every body answers it would be madness. I have been deceived by the Board of War. I do not believe I can find twelve hundred fit for duty, and the greatest part of these are naked even for a summer campaign. I was to find General Stark with a large body; and indeed General Gates told me, • General Stark will have burnt the fleet before your arrival.' Well, the first letter I receive in Albany is from General Stark, who wishes to know what number of men, from where, for what time, and for what rendezvous I desire
* La Fayette to Washington, Feb. 19, 1778.
him to raise. Colonel Biddle, who was to raise men, would have done something had he received money.'
Greatly mortified, La Fayette wrote Washington: “I fancy the actual scheme is to have me out of this part of the continent, and General Conway as chief, under the immediate direction of Gates.” La Fayette was rewarded for his alacrity by the thanks of Congress, and retained the command of the northern department during the residue of the winter. The project having exploded, Conway was ordered to repair to the post at Peekskiil under McDougall.
The faction now crumbled to pieces. “We have determined,” Gouverneur Morris wrote to Washington, “to send Gates to Hudson River, where he is to command largely. But he is to receive instructions, which shall be proper. You are directed to call a council of majorgenerals” (those in Pennsylvania), “in which the chief engineer is officially to be a member, and to which, by a subsequent resolution, Generals Gates and Mifflin were ordered to repair. As these gentlemen ought not to receive orders immediately from Congress, they are, as you will see, permitted to leave the Board of War upon your order.” This amendment was acquiesced in unanimously. Mifflin was soon after ordered to join the main army. “I was not a little surprised,” Washington writes,“ to find a certain gentleman, who, some time ago, when a cloud of darkness hung heavy over us, and our affairs looked gloomy, was desirous of resigning, to be now stepping forward in the line of the army. But if he can reconcile such conduct to his own feelings as an officer and a man of honor, and Congress has no objection to his leaving his seat in another department, I have nothing personally to oppose to it.”—“I am told that Conway, from whom I have received another impertinent letter, demanding the
command of a division of the continental army, is, through the medium of his friends, soliciting his commission again. Can this be? and if so, will it be granted ?
Conway had been ordered from Peekskill to Albany. Thence he wrote to Congress : “What is the meaning of removing me from the scene of action on the opening of a campaign? I did not deserve this burlesque disgrace, and my honor will not permit me to bear it. It is not becoming the dignity of Congress to give such usage to an officer of my age and rank.” He tendered his resignation. Morris avowed his satisfaction, his joy, at the receipt of this letter. Panegyric dwindled to apology, and no opposition was made. * Conway had little expectation of this result. He wrote to Congress "that he had no thoughts of resigning,” and also to his patron. Gates applied to Congress in his behalf: “I hope Congress will not think me importunate when I say, I wish the only gentleman who has left France with the rank of a colonel of foot should not be returned to his prince and nation in any other manner than such as becomes the gratitude, honor and dignity of the United States.” The exhortation was vain. Conway then repaired to Yorktown, whence he wrote to Gates, “I never had a sufficient idea of cabals until I reached this place. My reception, you may imagine, was not a warm one.
I must except Mr. Samuel Adams, Colonel Richard Henry Lee, and a few others who are attached to you, but who cannot oppose the torrent. One Mr. Carroll, on whose friendship I depended, is one of the hottest.” “ The New York gang," † writes a tool of Gates, “ has reached the
* G. M. to Washington, May 21, 1778. The vote on the journal shows only four members in his favor, to twenty-three-Gerry of Massachusetts, Chase of Maryland, R. H. Lee and Bannister, of Virginia.
+ Duer and G. Morris.