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ceased to be serene and self-assured. In the lowest depths of fortune he said calmly to one of his chief officers, that he should strive to the last, retiring, if need were, from State to State, and from post to post, and if even forced back from all, maintaining the war beyond the Allegany mountains. * But many others, who in bygone years had bawled while he was quiet, and who had blamed him for being so, were now wavering and whispering, while he continued firm. There was a general gloom and despondency, an idea that the British arms were irresistible, and that the struggle for Independence was drawing to a close. In this state of public feeling, the recruiting for the new army, on which all Washington's hopes depended, made no progress. By the days of Trenton, and of Princeton, this state of public feeling was reversed. They had shown that it was not merely behind entrenchments and redoubts that the American forces could fight; but that even in the open field, under favourable circumstances, they could cope with, and might orerpower, their disciplined and veteran foes. Confidence returned, and with confidence exertion. New recruits began to come in, and some of the older enlisted were persuaded to remain, while clothing, stores, and other requisites for them were more freely supplied.
In no place was the change of temper more marked and more apparent, than in the ranks of Congress. When that assembly met again at Baltimore, so keen was their sense of the present peril, as to overcome what hitherto had been among their main principles of action, — their dislike of a standing army, their distrust of a military chief. On the day after the affair of Trenton, but of course before its issue could be known, they conferred upon their General, for six months to come, powers of the most extensive kind, -the powers, in truth, of a Dictator. Washington was authorised to raise sixteen battalions in addition to those already voted; to apply at his pleasure to any of the States for the aid of their Militia; to appoint and displace all officers below the rank of Brigadier-General; to take, wherever he might be, whatever he might want for the use of his army, allowing a reasonable price for the same;
to arrest and confine all persons who should refuse to take the continental currency, or who had given any other proof of disaffection to the cause. The extraordinary powers thus entrusted to him, were acknowledged by Washington in the most dutiful and becoming spirit. Referring to them, he says, “Instead of thinking myself freed from all civil “ obligations, by this mark of the confidence of Congress, “I shall constantly bear in mind, that as the sword was “ the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it
ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties “are firmly established. I shall instantly set about making the most necessary reforms in the army."
When, however, the day of Princeton had been fought, — when the Jerseys were recovered, and when, a few weeks afterwards, the Congress were enabled to return from Baltimore to Philadelphia,— they passed from their late dismay to overweening confidence. They seemed to think that it was only the caution of their General which prolonged the war, as if he need only lift his hand to annihilate and exterminate the entire British army! To their suggestions on this subject Washington replies on the 14th of March, with his usual clear good sense, and not without a touch of humour. He declares that he should be happy indeed if he could accomplish the important objects so eagerly wished by Congress, namely,
confining the enemy within their present quarters ; "preventing their getting supplies from the country; and
totally subduing them before they are reinforced.” “But,” adds Washington, “what prospect or hope can “there be of my effecting so desirable a work at this time? “ The whole force I have in Jersey is but a handful: and he then proceeds to explain why his force in Jersey was not only small, but ill-appointed. Perhaps we may
Letter, January 1. 1777. Even in England, at that time, the new Dictator came to be surnamed, in compliment, the American Fabius. (See Annual Regist. 1777, p. 20.) The American writers add, and are well justified in adding, that to no man mere truly than to Washington might be applied these lines on Fabius, which Ennius wrote, and Cicero records :
“ Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem :
suspect that, in the high-flown hopes which they formed, some at least of the members of Congress were misled by the high-flown terms which they employed. Like the Spanish chiefs and statesmen of old, and down to the present day, they had grown fond of bestowing exalted epithets upon their cause and country, until at last they wrought themselves into believing all their own compliments realities. *
General Howe, and consequently General Washington, remained nearly at rest during several months. A di. vision of the British army under General Clinton had been sent some time before to winter in Rhode Island. As Clinton approached, the enemy retired from the island, of which, therefore, he took peaceable possession, while the ships that brought him blockaded an American squadron under Commodore Hopkins, in the Providence river. It was, however, on the whole, an ill-judged expedition, which answered little purpose but to keep a large body of troops unemployed during three years. In February Washington took measures for inoculating, systematically, and by successive detachments, his whole force, the smallpox having proved a dreadful scourge to the Americans in their previous warfare. In March a detachment from New York destroyed the American barracks and stores at Peek's Hill. In April another detachment did similar service on a larger scale, and with a greater resistance, at Danbury. On the other hand, the Americans succeeded in burning some brigs and sloops belonging to the British at Sagg's Harbour in Long Island. But, until the return of summer, nothing of more importance was achieved on either side.
* In a lively work of our own time — “ Les Soirées de Neuilly' - may be seen described the weariness of the French officers under the Duke d’Angoulême, in 1823, at the oft-recurring phrase of each Spanish Alcalde: • Seigneur commandant, je viens vous
plimenter au nom des heroiques habitans de cette ville !” (p. 298.) Several towns, Madrid especially, rejoice in the official title of Eroica.
THE Session of Parliament, which had commenced on the last day of October, 1776, continued till June 1777. In it, as in the previous ones, America formed the principal topic of discussion. Even at the outset, an amendment to the Address upon this ground was moved by Lord Rockingham in one House, by Lord John Cavendish in the other. So small were then the minorities, than 46 of the Peers, no more than 87 of the Commons, and even these 87 on a subsequent motion dwindling to one-half, that the members, especially of the Rockingham section, lost heart and hope. Without any formal secession, they began to relax in their Parliamentary attendance, declaring that there was no such thing as saving a people against its will. One of their warmest partisans and defenders—in all probability no other than Burke himself — declares of them at this juncture that they appeared in their places, “only upon such matters “ of private Bills in which they had some particular concern or interest." *
In other words, they neglected the public business, but applied themselves to their personal affairs. And such conduct was called patriotism !
It is worthy of remark throughout these debates how greatly Fox had risen in importance. A report being spread at Arthur's Club that he intended to go for a few weeks to Paris, and that report being carried to the King, His Majesty wrote forthwith to Lord North, advising the Minister to bring forward his measures as quickly as he could during the absence of so much“noisy. declamation.”+ So keen—we may also note in passing —was Fox at this time, against the success of his King and country's arms, that in his confidential letters we find him refer to our
* Annual Register, 1777, p. 48.
victory at Brooklyn as “ the terrible news from Long “ Island."*
Later in the Session, there was certainly no point on which Fox and his friends had greater scope for their abilities, than when Lord North found himself under the necessity of announcing the new debts which had accrued upon the Civil List, and which amounted to more than 600,0001. Some part of this expense, as Lord North explained it, might, like other evils, be ascribed to the struggle in America, since there so many loyalists had been stripped of their property, and driven from their homes, without any means of sustenance beyond the bounty of the Crown. But another, and, probably, still more effective cause, as in an earlier Chapter I have shown, was the ill-regulated state of several departments in the Royal Household. The profusion and extortion which there prevailed were wholly independent of the will and example of the Sovereign, and for their amendment needed no less than. Burke's great measure of Economical Reform. Notwithstanding all the efforts of Opposition, the House of Commons agreed, not only to discharge these arrears, but with the view of guarding against such arrears for the future, to grant to the Crown, by Bill, a further yearly sum of 100,0001.
This Bill, entitled “ For the better Support of the Royal Household,” was of itself invidious, and unhappily became the more so from the circumstances of its passing. The Speaker, Sir Fletcher Norton, having now some private grudges against the Government, had determined to indulge them. It became his duty to present this Bill to the King, seated on the throne, and surrounded by the chief officers of State. It became his privilege, if he pleased, on that occasion to address his Sovereign. “Sir," said Mr. Speaker, “in a time of “ public distress, full of difficulty and danger, their “ constituents labouring under burdens almost too heavy “ to be borne, your faithful Commons postponed all other
business, and with as much despatch as the nature of “their proceeding would admit, have not only granted to
Memoirs by Lord
* To Lord Rockingham, Oct. 13. 1776. Albemarle, vol. ii. p. 297. (1853.)