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Amount of Paper Emission—Congress destitute of Means to support the War—Supplies apportioned upon the States—Evertions of the Commander in Chief-Mutiny in a part of the Army—The British make an Excursion into New Jersey–The American Troops bravely resist them—The Court of France promises a Naval and Land Armament to act in America—Preparation to co-operate with it—A French Squadron arrives on the American Coast—Count Rochambeau lands at Newport with five thousand Men—The American and French Commanders meet at Hartford to settle the Plan of the Campaign -The Second Divison of the French Troops fails—General Arnold becomes a Traitor—He Corresponds with Major André —André comes on Shore at West Point-Attemps to return to New York by land—He is taken into Custody by three Militia Men—A Board of General Qfficers condemn him—He is executed—Letter of General Washington on the State of the Army—Congress adopts a Military Establishment for the War -The Army goes into Winter Quarters.
1780.] TWO hundred millions of dollars in
paper currency were at this time in circulation, upon the credit of the United States. Congress had the preceding year solemnly pledged the faith of government not to emit more than this sum. The national treasury was empty. The requisitions of Congress for money by taxes, assessed by the authority of the states, were slowly complied with, and supplies of money, in this way obtained, bore no proportion to the expenses of the war.
A novel state of things was in consequence introduced. Congress, the head of the nation, had no command of the resources of the country. The power of taxation, and of every coercive measure of government, rested with the state sovereignties. The only power left with the national council was, to apportion supplies of provision for the army, as well as recruits of men, upon the several states.
The military establishment for 1780, consisted of thirty-five thousand, two hundred and eleven men. No portion of these was to be raised by the authority of Congress, but in the whole transaction an absolute dependence was placed on the agency of the states. Upon the states also specific articles of provision, spirits and forage were apportioned for the subsistence of the army. Congress gave assurances that accurate accounts should be kept, and resolved, “That any state which shall have taken the necessary measures for furnishing its quota, and have given notice thereof to Congress, shall be authorised to prohibit any continental quarter master, or commissary from purchasing within its limits.”
General Washington greatly lamented the necessity of managing the war by state authorities. . He freely suggested to Congress the defects of their system, defects which would prevent the attainment of competent and seasonable supplies for the troops. The estimate, he observed, in all articles was below the ordinary demand, the time of reception was left in a vague manner; and no provision was made for extraordinary exigencies.
No means were adopted to obtain for the use of the army any surplus of produce, which a particular state might conveniently supply, beyond its apportionment; but a state under this predicament was authorised to prohibit the national commissary from purchasing such surplusage, whatever might be the public wants. To a friend in Congress, he in a private letter thus freely expressed his opinion. “Certain I am, that unless Congress speaks in a more decisive tone; unless they are vested with powers by the several states, competent to the great purposes of the war, or assume them as matter of right, and they, and the states respectively act with more energy than they hitherto have done; that our cause is lost. We can no longer drudge on in the old way. By ill timing the adoption of measures, by delays in the execution of them, or by unwarrantable jealousies, we incur enormous expenses, and derive no benefit from them. One state will comply with a requisition from Congress, another neglects to do it, and a third executes it by halves; and all differ in the manner, the matter, or so much in point of time, that we are always working up hill; and, while such a system as the present one, or rather want of one, prevails, we ever shall be unable to apply our strength or resources to any advantage. “This, my dear sir, is plain language to a member of Congress, but it is the language of truth and friendship. It is the result of long thinking, close application, and strict observation, I see one head gradually changing into
thirteen. I see one army branching into thirteen; and instead of looking up to Congress as the supreme controling power of the United States, considering themselves as dependent on their respective states. In a word, I see the power of Congress declining too fast for the consequence and respect which are due to them as the great representative body of America, and am fearful of the consequences.” Although General Washington had weighty objections to the plan of Congress, he exerted himself to carry it into effect. His personal influence was greater than that of any other man in the union, and this new order of things required its full exercise. He wrote to the executives and legislatures of the several states, stating the critical situation of public affairs, pointing out the fatal consequences that must flow from the inattention and neglect of those who alone possessed the power of coertion, and urging them by all the motives of patriotism and self-interest to comply with the requisitions of Congress. But each of the states felt its own burdens, and was dilatory in its efforts to promote a general interest. A system, which in its execution required the conjoint agency of thirteen sovereignties, was too complex for the prompt operations of a military body. In the course of the winter forage had failed, and many of the horses attached to the army had died, or were rendered unfit for use. General Washington therefore struggled with almost insuperable difficulties in supplying the army. He
possessed no means to transport provisions from a distance but by impressment, and to this painful and oppressive mode, he was obliged frequently to recur. The unbounded confidence placed in his patriotism, wisdom and prudence, enabled him to carry these measures into effect, among a people tenacious of individual rights, and jealous of the encroachment of power. The pay of the officers of the army had scarcely more than a nominal value. They were unable to support the appearance of gentlemen, or to furnish themselves with the conveniences which their situation required. The pride essential to the soldier was deeply wounded, general dissatisfaction manifested itself, and increased the perplexities of the Commander in Chief. The officers of whole lines belonging to some of the states in a body, gave notice that on a certain day, they should resign their commisions, unless provision was made for their honourable support. The animated representation of the danger of this rash measure to that country in whose service they had heroically suffered, induced them to proffer their services as volunteers until their successors should be appointed. This their General without hesitation rejected, and the officers reluctantly consented to remain in the army. A statement of the great difficulties which the General encountered, led Congress to depute a committee of their body to camp to consult with him upon measures necessary to be adopted to remove the grievances of the army. This commitee reported, “That the army was unpaid for five