Page images

by these sentiments, that, while the public are satisfied with my endeavours, I mean not to shrink from the cause. But the moment her voice, not that of faction, calls upon me to resign, I shall do it with as much pleasure as ever the weary traveller retired to rest. This, my dear doctor, you are at liberty to assert; but, in doing it, I would have nothing formal. All things will come right again, and soon recover their proper tone, as the design is not only seen through, but reprobated."

These machinations finally resulted in the shame and destruction of all concerned in them, and redounded to the honour of Washington. Even the troops who fought under General Gates indignantly resisted this attempt to raise him to the place of their beloved commander-in-chief. The resentment of the main army was such, that none of the known enemies of the general dared to show themselves in the camp. General Conway, in the spring of 1778, wrote an impertinent letter to Congress, in which he intimated a wish to resign his commission, unless they should give him a separate command, instead of serving under General McDougall. A motion to accept his resignation was carried, without a dissenting voice. The intelligence of this created such astonishment, that, after writing a letter, saying that he had been misunderstood, in supposing that he intended to resign, he himself proceeded to York, appeared before Congress, and claimed to be restored. It was in vain. His freedom of speech soon after involved him in difficulties with General Cadwallader of Philadelphia, with whom he fought a duel, and thinking himself mortally wounded, addressed the following confession to General Washington:

"I find myself just able to hold the pen during a few minutes, and take this opportunity to express my sincere grief for having done, written, or said any thing disagreeable to your excellency. My career will soon be over; therefore, justice and truth prompt me to declare my last sentiments. You are, in my eyes, the great and good man. May you long enjoy the love, veneration and esteem of these states, whose liberties you have asserted by your virtues."

The end of Conway was not as near as he supposed. He recovered rapidly, and before the end of the year returned to France.

To add still more to the distresses of Washington, a pamphlet, lately published in England, was, during the encampment of the army at Valley Forge, republished in the papers of New York and

Philadelphia. The title of this pamphlet was, "Letters from General Washington to several of his friends, in the year 1776; in which are set forth a fairer and fuller view of American politics than ever yet transpired, or the public could be made acquainted with through any other channel." They purport to have been written in New York, in June and July, 1776, to Mr. Lund Washington, Mrs. Washington, and Mr. Custis, and to have been found in the possession of General Washington's servant, who had been left behind, sick, when Fort Lee was evacuated. The design of the fabrication of these letters seems to have been to disparage General Washington in the minds of his countrymen, by representing him as opposed to the war with Great Britain. One of these pamphlets was sent to General Washington by General Henry Lee, of Virginia, in the beginning of May, 1778. He had before heard of its existence, and had seen one or two of them which were published in New York. He acknowledged the receipt of the pamphlet, on the 25th of May, and wrote to General Lee :

"If any thing of greater moment had occurred, than declaring that every word contained in the pamphlet, which you were obliging enough to send me, was spurious, I should not have suffered your favour of the 6th instant to remain so long unacknowledged. These letters are written with a great deal of art. The intermixture of so many family circumstances (which, by the by, want foundation in truth) gives an air of plausibility which renders the villany greater; as the whole is a contrivance to answer the most diabolical purposes. Who the author of them is, I know not. From information, or acquaintance, he must have had some knowledge of the component parts of my family; but he has most egregiously mistaken facts, in several instances. The design of his labours is as clear as the sun in its meridian brightness."

The author of these letters was never discovered; and they would not have been noticed in this place, had they not been republished towards the close of his presidency, for party purposes, when he contented himself with denying their authenticity in a letter to the secretary of state.

During this year the Congress adopted articles of confederation for the government of the United States. After much discussion, at thirty-nine sittings, the articles were approved by Congress, transmitted to the several state legislatures, and, meeting with their approbation, were ratified by all the delegates on the 15th of No

vember, 1777. Though the affairs of the new government, during the greater part of the year, wore the most gloomy aspect, Congress maintained an erect posture, and after having thus united their several states into one confederacy, carried on the subsequent military operations under its provisions and authority.

The great powers of the continent of Europe had been attentive observers of the struggle between Great Britain and her American colonies, and to those powers the Americans made an early application for assistance. But the strength and vengeance of Britain were not to be invoked on slight grounds. The first power courageous enough to declare herself the friend and ally of the United States was France. The battles of the Brandywine, Germantown, and the Convention of Saratoga, were already preparing the way for a treaty between France and the United States.

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

OON after the intelligence of the capture of Burgoyne's army reached Europe, the court of France concluded, at Paris, treaties of alliance and commerce with the the United States. Dr. Franklin, Mr. Deane, and Mr. Lee had been appointed commissioners to proceed to France for the purpose of concluding this treaty as early as September, 1776. Their efforts had hitherto been baffled by the

vacillating counsels of the French court, which were affected by every intelligence and even report which arrived from America. Nothing could be effected towards the conclusion of an open and public treaty until December, 1777, when the momentous tidings of Burgoyne's surrender gave a decisive turn to the French cabinet.

On the 16th of December, M. Gerard intimated to the commis


sioners, that, after long deliberation, the king had determined to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and also to afford them support, though thereby involving himself in an expensive war. It was frankly admitted that he thus acted, not merely from a friendly disposition towards them, but for the promotion of his own political interests.

On the 8th of January, 1778, Louis XVI. wrote a letter to his uncle, the King of Spain, referring to Britain as their common and inveterate enemy. During the pending contest, he had afforded to the colonies supplies of money and stores, at which England had taken deep umbrage, and would no doubt seize the first opportunity of avenging herself.

The Americans had indeed shown that they were not to be subdued, but Britain might succeed in her present attempt to form a close and friendly alliance with them, and thus turn her arms undivided against her continental enemies: now, therefore, was the time to form such a connection as might prevent any re-union between them and the mother-country.

In pursuance of these views, there was concluded on the 6th of February, a treaty of commerce, accompanied by one of defensive alliance, in the well-foreseen case of war being the result. The allies were to make common cause with the States, and to maintain their absolute independence. Whatever conquests should be made on the continent, were to be secured to them; but those in the West Indies to the crown of France. The treaty between France and America, though soon generally known, was for some time studiously concealed from the British minister. On the 13th of March, however, the French ambassador at London delivered a note referring to the United States as already in full possession of independence, whence his majesty had concluded with them a treaty of friendship and commerce, and would take effectual measures to prevent its interruption. Professions were made of the king's anxiety to cultivate a good understanding with Britain and his sincere disposition for peace, of which it was ironically said that new proofs would be found in this communication. On the 17th, this document was laid before Parliament, with a message from the crown, stating that the British ambassadors had in consequence been ordered to withdraw from Paris, and expressing trust in the zealous and affectionate support of the people for repelling this unprovoked aggression, combined with insult. An address, echoing the message, was moved in both Houses; but the opposition reproached ministers with not having duly foreseen or

« PreviousContinue »