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despatched with four thousand men, and joined by General Clinton with another division from the Mohawk River. They entered the territory of the Indians, who, quite unable to resist so large a force, abandoned their homes and fled before them. The villages were then reduced to ashes, every trace of cultivation obliterated, and the region rendered as much as possible uninhabitable. This rigour is said to have been authorized by Washington, and justified on the ground, that without interposing a desert between the states and this savage race, no security could be enjoyed on the frontier.
The attention of Congress and of the commander was now called to plans for the campaign of 1779. The former, looking to their previous successes, and the powerful co-operation of France, cherished the most brilliant expectations, and had formed schemes truly magnificent. Concluding that the English would be speedily expelled, or would of their own accord depart from America, the chief object was to be the invasion of Canada from three different points, the French being invited to co-operate. Washington, on learning this vast design, took the utmost pains to prove its futility. He disclosed to them the painful truths, that the English were still so powerful both by land and sea, as to afford no speedy prospect of their complete expulsion; while the exhausted state of the finances, the imperfect organization of the army, and the extreme destitution
under which it laboured, furnished no means whatever for carrying on such mighty operations. A committee of Congress, on further consideration, recommended that the project should be deferred; yet the members still clung to it, fondly contemplating its execution some time before the season closed, and wishing communications to be opened on that subject with the French court. The general, considering the project, even thus modified, as still quite inadmissible, repaired to Philadelphia, where he urged strongly all his former arguments, and confidentially pointed out to the leading statesmen the danger of admitting France into a country where she had so long ruled, and whose people bore still decided traces of her relationship. It appears, indeed, that, probably from the dread of embarrassment in some future negotiation, that power by no means favoured schemes of American conquest. Washington at last succeeded in convincing Congress, that instead of these grand measures of invasion, they must limit themselves, during the present campaign, to a course strictly defensive.
In fact, both the civil and military strength of the union was now at a lower ebb than at any time since the struggle commenced. The members of Congress had originally consisted of the ablest men in America, animated by the most ardent zeal, and implicitly obeyed by all the votaries of their cause. After the declaration of independence, however, a new modification of the government was considered necessary. A constitution was drawn up, and, after many delays and difficulties, brought into operation early in 1779, under which the state legislatures were invested with all the most important powers, resigning only a few which were judged indispensable for united action. Congress still retained the direction of foreign affairs, of the war, and consequently of the naval and military force; but to furnish men and supplies for these services, they had no resource, except requisitions, addressed to the state legislatures. The latter had the complete option, whether they should or should not comply, and had many motives which strongly inclined them to the latter alternative; indeed, compliance could only be afforded by measures very unpopular, and which would have much disobliged their constituents. The demands of Congress were thus only partially and unequally fulfilled, and the levies never approached the amount at which they were nominally fixed. The financial state of the country, too, was embarrassing in the extreme. The colonists, at the beginning of the war, had been very little accustomed to any serious taxation; and having taken arms expressly to resist it, would have ill brooked
paying a larger amount for their expenses than Britain had ever demanded. It was not till November, 1777, that Congress ventured to make a requisition of five millions of dollars annually, to which the states but faintly responded. France and Spain gave some assistance, first in gift, and then in loan; but as their own finances grew embarrassed, these contributions became very stinted. The commissioners endeavoured to treat for loans with European capitalists, especially in Holland, and with this view drew a flattering picture of the future prosperity of the new republic, and her ultimate power to repay even the largest advances; but the Dutch were not inclined to be satisfied with such security, and money could be got only in small amounts, and on exorbitant terms. One house made a somewhat liberal offer, but on condition of carrying on the whole trade of the Union, and holding all its real and personal property in mortgage. In these circumstances, the states had no resource except paper money. In 1775, they issued three millions of dollars; and this moderate amount being easily absorbed in the circulation, proved an available resource. They were thus encouraged to pour forth repeated issues, which, at the beginning of 1779, had risen to above a hundred millions, and in the course of the year to double that amount, which they had pledged themselves not to exceed. The necessary consequence was a depreciation of the notes to about a fortieth part of their nominal value, and hence a miserable derangement in all mercantile and money transactions. The evil was aggravated, too, by preposterous remedies. The paper at its nominal value was made a legal tender for all debts; and by this iniquitous measure, which Washington deeply regretted, many creditors, both public and private, were defrauded, but no permanent relief could be afforded. As the articles furnished to the army, like all others, rose to an enormous nominal value, they were so ignorant as to fix a maximum, above which they should not be received. The consequence was, that at this inadequate rate none could be got; and the army would have perished had not these absurd regulations been rescinded.*
A naval action which took place this year excited considerable interest, from the distressing circumstances attending it. On the 7th of March, 1778, the Randolph, an American frigate of thirty-six guns, and three hundred and five men, commanded by Captain Nicholas Biddle, having sailed on a cruise from Charleston, fell in with the Yarmouth, of sixty-four guns, and engaged her in the night. Soon after the engagement commenced, Captain
Biddle was wounded in the thigh, and fell. He instantly ordered a chair to be brought; said he was only slightly wounded; and was carried forward to encourage his crew. Twenty minutes after, the action commenced, the Randolph blew up. Four men only were saved upon a piece of her wreck. These men subsisted for four days on nothing but rain water, which they sucked from a piece of blanket. On the fifth day, Captain Vincent of the Yarmouth, though in chase of a ship, on discovering them, suspended the chase and took them on board. Captain Biddle, who perished on board the Randolph, was an officer of distinguished merit; and his loss was universally regretted.
"The earnest desire I have to render the strictest compliance in every instance to the views and instructions of Congress, cannot but make me feel the greatest uneasiness, when I find myself in circumstances of hesitation or doubt with respect to their directions. But the perfect confidence I have in the justice and candour of that