« ZurückWeiter »
THE hint you have received of a design to remove general
I Washington from the command of the American army, will have made you desirous of knowing more of that business; Jet it then be first related. The general being applied to by one of his correspondents, answered from Valley-forge, January the 23d, 1778-" Whether a serious design of placing general Lee, (before captivation) at the head of the army, had ever entered into the head of a member of congress or not, I never was at the trouble of enquiring. I am told ascheme of that kind is now on foot by some, in behalf of another gentleman-whether true or false-serious or merely to try the pulse-I neither know nor care. Neither interested nor ambitious views led me into the service. I did not solicit the command; but accepted it aster much entreaty, with all that diffidence which a conscious want of ability and experience equal to the discharge of so important a trust must naturally excite in a mind not quite devoid of thought; and after I did engage, pursued the great line of my duty, and the object in view (as far as my judgment could direct) as pointedly as the needle to the pole. So soon as the public gets dissa. tisfied with my services, or a person is found better qualified to answer her expectation, I shall quit the helm with as much pleasure, and retire to a private station with as much content, as ever the wearied pilgrim felt upon his safe arrival at the holy land, or haven of hope; and shail wish most devoutly, that those who come after, may meet with inore prosperous gales than I have done, and less difficulty. If the expectation of the public has not been answered by my endeavors, I have more reasons than one to regret it; but at present I shall only add, that a day may come, when the public cause is no longer to bc benefited by a concealment of our circumstances, and till this period arrives, I shall not be amoug the first to disclose such truths as may injure it, howa ever my character in the mean while may suffer.” On the 15th of February he had occasion for writing-" I can assure you that no person ever heard me drop an expression that had a tendency to resignation. The same principles that led me to einbark in the opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great-Britain, operate with additional force at this day; nor is it my desire to withdraw my services while they are considered of inportance in the present contest. But to report a design of this kind, is among the arts , which those who are endeayoring to effect a change, aus praca - VOL. II, - " Q9
tising to bring it to pass. There is not an officer in the service of the United States, that would return to the sweets of domestic life with more heart-felt joy than I should, but I mean not to shrink in the cause. The design is not only seen through, but reprobated.” On the 20th, Patrick Henry, esq. governor of Vire
ginia, forwarded an anonyinous letter which had been sent him, ✓ to the general, and added—“There may be some scheme or par
ty forming to your prejudice. The enclosed leads to a suspicion. Believe me, Sir, I have too high a sense of the obligations America has to you, to abet or countenance so unworthy a proceeding. I really think your personal welfare, and the happiness of America are intimately connected." The anonymous letter was dated-York-Town, January 12, 1778. It begins with highly complimenting Mr. Henry, and then proceeds to sketch out a dismal picture, and to hint at the remedy--- America can be only undone by herself. Her representation in congress is dwindled to only twenty-one members--her Adanıs-her Wilson--her Henry—are no more among them. Her counsels weak-and. partial remedies applied constantly for universal diseases. Her army--what is it? a mob. Discipline unknown, or wholly ne. glected--the quarter-masters and commissioners departments filled with idleness, ignorance and peculation. Our hospitals crowded with six thousand sick, and more dying in one month than perished in the field during the whole of the last campaign. The country distracted with the Don Qnixote attempts to regu. Jate the price of provisions. An artificial famine created by it, and a real one dreaded from it. The northern army has shown what Americans are capable of with a general at their head. The southern army is no ways inferior. A Gates, a Lee, or a Conway, would in a few weeks render them an irresistible body of men. The last in one of his letters to a friend; says, “ A great and good God hath decreed America to be free; or the--and weak councellors would have ruined her long ago. You may rest assured of each of the facts related in this letter.” When Conway had recovered his original letter, which was written in October, he said tó gen. Washington, in one of January the 27th_"1 find, with great satisfaction, that the paragraph so much spoken of, does not exist in said letter, nor any thing like it. I must de pend upon your justice, candor and generosity, for putting a stop to this forgery.” Had he sent the letter itself, the conviction of the forgery might have been deemed much stronger; whereas many will doubt whether there was a forgery, upon being told that one of his warmest friends quoted the paragraph as authentic so early as October the 21st. Periodical letters were published and circulated in the continental ncwspapers, under the signature
the people succeeded posed
of De Lisle, and the pretence of being translations from the French, artfully calculated to promote the design against Wash; ington, by insinuating into the mind of the reader, ideas tending to lessen hiin in the eye of the public. The writer of the preceding anonymous letter, is supposed to be the author of them. The design has not succeeded. The general has had too great a share of the people's confidence and affection, to admit of an open attempt to remove him. Several members of congress were engaged in the business_some of the Massachusetts delegates-particularly. Mr. Samuel Adams. The army was so con tident of it, and so enraged, that persons were stationed to watch him as he approached the camp, on his return home. But he is commonly possessed of good intelligence, and was careful to kcep at a safe distance. Had he fallen into the hands of the officers when in that paroxism of resentment, they would probably have handled him so as to have endangered his life, and tarnished their own honor.
The plan seems to have been this--To engage the Massachusetts assembly and Virginia house of hungesses to give instructions to their delegates in congress, to move for an enquiry into the causes of the ill success attending the campaiga of 1776; and then to contrive that such resolves should be given into, as would either remove the general or produce his resignation. Mean while the names of Gates and Mitlin were held up, and played off to ripen the ineasure. But the anonymous attempt upon the governor of Virginia was reprobated by hiin, and the Massachusetts assembly was not in a temper to adinit of the trial to ensnare them. As to generals Gates and Miftiin, they had cleared themselves from having any design of removing the commander in chief. The former has written to an intinzate.correspondent
“ York-Town, 4th April, 1778. Dear Sir, Last nigaat I received your affectionate letter of the loth last; that of the 25th of February came to hand a few days before. Your remarks upon the works and defences of your capital city are just; and I am convinced the town is lost in a very few hours after they are · attacked. I have daily and weekly been telling your, and the other eastern delegates, that not only the metropolis, but the whole coasts of New England were, in my opinion, the grand object of the enemy's resentment for the ensuing campaign ; they were a parcel of blundering blockleads not to make that their object the last year. I think they might then have united their whole force, and have made a much more honorable end of their sumuier's work than it pleased Heaven to give them. I find by your letters, that Boston, as well as ilus part of the continent, is infected by incendiaries, who endeavor, ly eve
ry villainous art, to impress a belief that general Mifflin and my self, are in a league with other designing and ambitious spirits, to supersede general Washington. Nothing can be more wick. ed, nothing more false, than this diabolical calumny. General Mimin, to whom I made known the industry of his enemies and mine, and the tricks of their emissaries, writes to you by this conveyance. You know his honor, Inerit and services to the public'; you also know that whenever I have been called forth, I have done my best for the establishment of independence and peace: Is it generous, therefore, that we two should be selected for a sacrifice to a junto? For my part, I solemnly declare, I never was engaged in any plan or plot for the removal of general Washington, * nor do I believe any such plot ever existed
so help me Yours most truly.”
You may credit Gates's not believing such plot; but you must belicve differently. The stile of general MiMin's letter was“Dear Mr.
Audi et alterem partem. I declare to you, with the greatest sincerity and solemnity, that I never formed a plan or a party to injure general Washington's command. I never desired to have any, person whomsoever, take the command of the American army from him; nor have I said or done any thing of, or respecting him, which the public service did not require ; and which I would not have said, with great freedom to you, as his friend, and as a friend to American independency. I never aspired, in thought, to the command of the army; and always would have deprecated the idea as improper and dangerous to myself and to America, had that idea occurred, which it never did to me-I hope to see you before longa-1 most ardently wish it--and I pledge myself to you and my cour. try, that I can and will justify my character of a patriot in all points, to your satisfaction.” This disagreeable relation will finish with a paragraph from general Washington's letter of March the 28th.- " My caution to avoid every thing that could injure the service, prevented me from communicating, but to a very few of my friends, the intrigues of a faction which I know was formed against me, since it might serve to publish our internal dissentions; but their own restless zeal to advance their views, has too clearly betrayed them, and made conceal. ment on my part fruitless.”
Let us pass on to another event, which has the appearance of being related to some plot. On Monday, January the 12th, the president laid before congress a packet containing blank papers,
* When gen. Gates's letters were examined by me, at his fest in Virginia, the latter end of 1981, there was not a single paragraph to be met with, that contained any intimation of his beirg concerned in such a plan.
which he received the day before from capt. John Folger, who was sent by the commissioners at Paris with dispatches to congress. Mr. Folger was ordered to be confined in close prison; but in the beginning of May, the committee who were appointed to examine into his conduct reported, “That they have made as full an examination into that business as the evidence they were able to obtain would permit, and on the whole have no proof of any guilt in Mr. Folger ;" whereupon the captain has been permitted to go home, and has had all his expences paid him. The committee suspect there has been foul play somewhere.-. They have taken off the seal from the packet, and sent it back to Paris, to be examined by the original impression, that they may see if the fraud can be detected by that mean. What makes the affair more mysterious, is, that the other dispatches brought by the captain, contained state papers directed for the late president Mr. Hancock, and had noappearances of having been search . ed. Time must produce an explanation of this dark business; which has been rendered the more suspicious by the arrival of Mr. Francey with a letter from Mr. Deane only, dated Paris, September the loth, 1777, recommending him as Mr. Beaumarchais' agent, and pressing the execution of the business which he came upon. The committee for foreign affairs, in their first letter to the commissioners after his arrival, said, “We think it strange that the commissioners did not jointly write by Mr. Fran cey, considering the very important designs of his coming over, viz. to settle the mode of payment for the past cargoes, sent by Roderique Hortales and comp. [alias Mr. Beaumarchais] and to make contracts for future. It is certain that much eclaircissement is, at this last moment, wanting.” Mr. Francy from time to time sent to the committee of commere, letters upon the business with which he was intrusted, which were reported to congress for their consideration. After being before them once and again, Mr. Francey, as agent for Roderique Hortales and company, settled his contract with them, on the 8th of April. By that contract is was stipulated among other articles, that the costs of the several cargoes already shipped by the said company, were to be fairly stated at the current prices and usual mercantile charges in France, of the dates at which they where shipped.
Let us for a while employ ourselves about military concerns.
[Jan. 1. 1778.] The condition of the army at Valley-forge, was far from being the most eligible or respectable : and in case the enemy had come out of Philadelphia, and made a general · push, would have been exceeding hazardous. Gen. Washing
ton was compelled by necessity to employ the troops in making seizures ; which excited die greatest uneasiness imaginable