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No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the man who can build his greatness upon his country's ruin.” *
Hamilton endeavored to check some of these abuses. A plan had been formed in Congress for relieving the distresses of the army. It was intended to be secret. A member of Congress, one of the cabal, divulged it to certain friends, who were charged with having speculated with him in flour. The intended relief to the army was thus, in part, defeated.
Hamilton being informed of the facts, made them the subject of a few essays over the signature of “ Publius." “ The station of a member of Congress," he eloquently remarked at the close, “is the most illustrious and important of any I am able to conceive. He is to be regarded not only as a legislator, but as a founder of an empire. A man of virtue and ability, dignified with such a trust, would rejoice that fortune had given him birth at a time, and placed him in circumstances, so favorable for promoting human happiness. He would esteem it not more the duty than the privilege and ornament of his office to do good to all mankind. From this commanding eminence, he would look down with contempt upon every mean or interested pursuit.
“ To form useful alliances abroad, to establish a wise government at home, to improve the internal resources and finances of the nation, would be the generous objects of his care. He would not allow his attention to be diverted from these to intrigue for personal connections to confirm his own influence, nor would be able to reconcile it, either to the delicacy of his honor, or to the dignity of his pride, to confound in the same person the representative of the commonwealth, and the little member of a trading company. Anxious for the
Anxious for the permanent power and * Washington's Writings, vi. 132.
prosperity of the State, he would labor to perpetuate the union and harmony of the several parts. He would not meanly court a temporary importance by patronizing the narrow views of local interest, or by encouraging dissensions either among the people or in Congress. In council or debate he would discover the candor of a statesman, zealous for truth; and the integrity of a patriot, studious of the public welfare; not the cavilling petulance of an attorney contending for the triumph of an opinion, nor the perverse duplicity of a partisan devoted to the service of a cabal. Despising the affectation of superior wisdom, he would prove the extent of his capacity by foreseeing evils, and contriving expedients to prevent or remedy them. He would not expose the weak sides of the States, to find an opportunity of displaying his own discernment, by magnifying the follies and mistakes of others. In his transactions with individuals, whether with foreigners or countrymen, his conduct would be guided by the sincerity of a man, and the politeness of a gentleman; not by the temporizing flexibility of a courtier, nor the fawning complaisance of a sycophant.”
This appeal was not without effect. The State, thus misrepresented in Congress, passed a prudential vote.
DURING his sojourn at Philadelphia, conferences were held between the commander-in-chief and a committee of Congress. A paper relating to the recruiting and arrangements of the army, and the operations of the next campaign, was submitted to them by Washington. The draft of it is in Hamilton's hand.
“ The first and great object,” it stated, “is to recruit the army by re-enlisting the men now in it to serve during the war," for which purpose no bounty was to be spared, and “ by drafting upon some such plan as had been recommended” at Valley Forge.
“ The next object is, to fix some ideas respecting the northern preparations, concerning which the commanderin-chief now finds himself in a dilemma, and respecting the operations of the next campaign in general, in order that measures may be taken systematically. The following questions, on which the foregoing will depend, ought to be considered and decided.
“First. If the enemy retain their present force at New York and Rhode Island, can we assemble a sufficient force and means to expel them?
“Second. If we cannot, can we make a successful attempt against Niagara, and retain a sufficient force at
the same time on the sea-board to keep the enemy within bounds?
“ Third. Are our finances equal to eventual preparations for both of those objects?
“If the first is determined in the affirmative, and the enemy keep possession, we ought to direct almost our whole force and exertions to that point; and for the security of our frontiers, endeavor to make some expedition against Detroit and the Indian settlements, by way of diversion. Our preparations ought, then, to be adapted to this plan; and if we cannot conveniently unite our preparations for this object with an expedition against Niagara, we ought to renounce the latter.
“If the first question is answered negatively, and the second affirmatively, and if it is judged expedient to make such an attempt, our preparations ought to have reference principally thereto, and we must content ourselves with a merely defensive conduct elsewhere, and should study economy as much as possible. It is in vain to attempt things which are more the objects of desire than attainment. Every undertaking ought at least to be regulated by the state of our finances, the prospect of our supplies, and the probability of success.
Without this, disappointment, disgrace, and an increase of debt, will ensue on our part; exultation and renewed hope on that of the enemy. To determine, therefore, what we can undertake, the state of the army, the prospect of recruiting it, paying, clothing and feeding it, the providing the necessary apparatus for offensive operations; all these matters ought to be well and maturely considered. On them every thing must depend; and however reluctantly we yield, they will compel us to conform to them, as by attempting impossibilities we shall ruin our affairs.
“ If the third question is answered affirmatively, which
it is much to be feared cannot be done, then eventual preparations ought to be made for both. We shall then be best able to act according to future circumstances; for though it will be impossible to unite both objects in the execution, yet in the event of the enemy's leaving these States, we should be ready to strike an important blow for the effectual security of our frontiers, and for opening a door to a farther progress to Canada.
“ From the investigation of these points another question may possibly result.
“ Will not the situation of our affairs, on account of the depreciated condition of our currency, deficiency of bread, scarcity of forage, the exhausted state of our resources in the middle department, and the general distress of the inhabitants, render it advisable for the main body of the army to lie quiet in some favorable position for confining, as much as possible, the enemy to their present posts (adopting, at the same time, the best means in our power to scourge the Indians, and prevent their depredations), in order to save expenses, avoid new emissions, recruit our finances, and give a proper tone to our money for more vigorous measures hereafter ?
“ In determining a plan of operations for next campaign, much will depend on the prospect of European affairs; what we have to expect from our friends; what they will expect from us; and what the enemy will probably be able to do. These points should be well weighed, and every information concentred to throw light upon them. But upon the whole, it will be the safest and most prudent way to suppose the worst, and prepare for it.
“ It is scarcely necessary to say, that the providing ample supplies of arms, clothes, and ordnance stores, is essential, and that an uncertain dependence may not only be hurtful, but ruinous. Their importance demands that