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tion and joy how effectually we labour for their benefit; asid from being in a state of absolute despair and on the point of evacuating America, are now on tiptoe. Nothing, therefore, in my judgment, can save ur but a total reformation in our own conduct, or some de cisive turn of affairs in Europe. The former, alas ! to our shame be it spoken, is less likely to happen than the latter, as it is now consistent with the views of the speculators, various tribes of money-makers, and stockjobbers of all denominations, to continue the war, for their own private emolument, without considering that this avarice and thirst for gain must plunge every thing, including themselves, in one common ruin. “Were I to indulge my present feelings, and give a loose to that freedom of expression which my unreserved friendship would prompt to, I should say a great deal on this subject. But letters are liable to so many accidents, and the sentiments of men in office are sought after by the enemy with so much twidity, and besides conveying useful knowledge (if they get into their hands) for the superstructure of their plans, are so often perverted to the worst of purposes, that I shall be somewhat reserved, notwithstanding this letter goes by a private hand to Mount Vernon. I cannot refrain lamenting, however, in the most poignant terms, the fatal policy too prevalent in most of the states, of employing their ablest men at home, in posts of honour or profit, before the great national interest is fixed upon a solid basis. “To me it appears no unjust simile, to compare the affairs of this great continent to the mechanism of a clock, each state representing some one or other of the small parts of it, which they are endeavouring to put in fine order, without considering how useless and unavailing their labour is, unless the great wheel, or spring, which is to set the whole in motion, is also well attended to end kept in good order. 1 allude to Vol. I. 16
no particular state, nor do I mean to cast reflections upon any one of them, nor ought I, as it may be said, to do so upon their representatives; but as it is a fact too notorious to be concealed, that Congress is rent by party; that much business of a trifling nature and personal concernment, withdraws their attention from matters of great national moment, at this critical period; when it is also known that idleness and dissipation take place of close attention and application; no man who wishes well to the liberties of his country, and desires to see its rights established, can avoid crying out; —Where are our men of abilities 2 Why do they not come forth to save their country Let this voice, My dear sir, call upon you, Jefferson, and others. Do not, from a mistaken opinion that we are to sit down under our vine and our own fig-tree, let our hitherto noble struggle end in ignominy. Believe me when I tell you there is danger of it. I have pretty good reasons for thinking that administration, a little while ago, had resolved to give the matter up, and negotiate a peace with us upon almost any terms; but I shall be much mistaken if they do not now, from the present state of our currency, dissensions, and other circumstances, push matters to the utmost extremity. Nothing, I am sure will prevent it but the interruption of Spain, and their disappointed hope from Prussia.” The depreciation of the paper currency had reduced the pay of the American officers to a pittance, and the effects were severely felt. At the moment the campaign was to open, the dissatisfaction of a part of the sufferers broke out into acts of violence, which threatened the safety of the whole army. Early in May, the Jersey Brigade was ordered to march as part of a force destined on an expedition into the Indian country. On the reception of this order, the officers of the first regiment presented to their Colonel a remonstrance, addressed to the Legislature of the State, in which they professed the determination, unless that body inmediately attended to their pay and support, within three days to resign their commissions. This resolution greatly disturbed the Commander ir Chief. He foresaw its evil consequences, and on this important occasion determined to exert his persona influence. In a letter to General Maxwell, to be com municated to the dissatisfied officers, he dissuaded then by a sense of honour, and by the love of country from the prosecution of the rash measure they had adopted “There is nothing,” proceeds the letter, “which has happened in course of the war, that has given me so much pain as the remonstrance you mention from the officers of the first Jersey regiment. I cannot but consider it as a hasty and imprudent step, which on more cool consideration they will themselves rondemn. I am very sensible of the inconveniences under which the officers of the army labour, and I hope they do me the justice to believe, that my endeavours to procure them relief are incessant. There is more difficulty however, in satisfying their wishes than perhaps they are aware of Our resources have been hitherto very limited. The situation of our money is no simall embarrassment; for which, though there are remedies, \hey cannot be the work of a moment. Government is not insensible of the merits and sacrifices of the officers, nor, I am persuaded, unwilling to make a com pensation ; but it is a truth, of which a little observa tion must convince us, that it is very much straitened in the means. Great allowances ought to be made on this account, for any delay, and seeming backwardness which may appear. Some of the States indeed have done as generously as it is at this juncture in their power, and if others have been less expeditious, it ought to be ascribed to some peculiar cause, which a little time, aided by example, will remove. The patience and perseverance of the army have been, under every disadvantage, such as to do them th highest honour, both at home and abroad, and have inspired me with an unlimited confidence in their virtue, which has consoled me amidst every perplexity and reverse of fortune, to which our affairs in a struggle of this nature, were necessarily exposed. Now that we have made so great a progress to the attainment of the end we have in view, so that we cannot fail without a most shameful desertion of our own interests, anything like a change of conduct would imply a very unhappy change of principles, and a forgetfulness as well of what we owe to ourselves as to our country. Did I suppose it possible this could be the case, even in a single regiment of the army, I should be mortified and chagrined beyond expression. I should feel it as a
wound given to my own honour, which I consider as .
embarked with that of the army at large. But this I believe to be impossible. Any corps that was about to set an example of the kind, would weigh well the consequences; and no officer of common discernment and sensibility would hazard them. If they should stand alone in it, independent of other consequences, what would be their feelings on reflecting that they had held themselves out to the world in a point of light inferiour to the rest of the army. Or if their example should be followed, and become general, how could they console themselves for having been the foremost in bringing ruin and disgrace upon their country. They would remember that the army would share a double portion of the general infamy and distress, and that the character of an American officer would become as despicable, as it is now glorious. “I confess the appearances in the present instance are disagreeable ; but I am convinced they seem to mean more than they really do. The Jersey officers have not been outdone by any others in the qualities, either of citizens or soldiers; and I am confident, no part of them would seriously intend any thing that would be a stair on their former reputation. The gen
tlemen cannot be in earnest; they have only reasoned wrong about the means of obtaining a good end, and on consideration, I hope and flatter myself they will renounce what must appear improper. At the opening of a campaign, when under marching orders for an important service, their own honour, duty to the publick, and to themselves, and a regard to military propriety, will not suffer them to persist in a measure, which would be a violation of them all. It will even wound their delicacy, coolly to reflect, that they have hazarded a step which has an air of dictating terms to their country, by taking advantage of the necessity of the moment.
“The declaration they have made to the stato, at so critical a time, that unless they obtain relief in the short period of three days, they must be considered out of the service, has very much that aspect; and the seeming relaxation of continuing until the state can have a reasonable time to provide other officers, will be thought only a superficial veil. I am now to request that you will convey my sentiments to the gentlemen concerned, and endeavour to make them sensible that they are in an errour. The service for which the regiment was intended, will not admit of delay. It must at all events march on Monday morning, in the first place to this camp, and further directions will be given when it arrives. I am sure I shall not be mistaken in expecting a prompt and cheerful obedience.”
This letter made a deep impression upon the minds of the officers, but did not fully produce the desired effect. In an address to the Commander in Chief, they expressed their unhappiness, that any act of theirs should occasion him pain; but in justification of the measure they had adopted, they pleaded that their state government had paid no attention to their repeated petitions, that they were themselves loaded with debts, and that their families were starving “At length,”