« ForrigeFortsett »
against the effects of idleness and disease. He seized the present moment to have his whole army inoculated for the small pox, and nearly half his troops had actually gone through this terrible disease, before his enemy knew that such a scheme was intended. He was himself at all times present to watch and encourage them; and with the most unremitted attention applied himself to the promotion of their comfort in every thing.
Now it was that the change in the Commissariat department began to be severely felt the soldiers were sometimes for days without a mouthful of bread; and nothing can more clearly demonstrate the fitness of Washington for his great and responsible charge, than the fact of his being able under such circumstances to keep his army together. On the 23d, there was but one purchasing Commissary in his camp, and according to his letter of that date, “ he had not a single hoof of any kind to slaughter, and not more than twenty-five barrels of flour, and could not tell where to expect any. The present commissaries, (he continues) are by no means equal to the execution of the office, or the disaffection of the the people is past all belief. The change in that department took place contrary to my judgment, and the consequences thereof were predicted. No man ever had his measures more impeded than I have, by every department of the army. Since the month of July, we have had no assistance from the Quarter Master General, and to want of assistance from this department, the Commissary General charges great part of his deficiency. We have by a field return this day, no less than 2898 men in camp unfit for duty, because they are barefooted and otherwise naked.
Our whole strength in continental troops, (including the Eastern brigades, which have joined us since the surrender of Burgoyne) exclusive of the Maryland troops sent to Wilmington, is no more than 8200 in camp fit for duty. Since the 4th, our number fit through hardships, particularly on account of blankets, (numbers have been, and still are obliged to sit up all night by fires instead of taking comfortable rest in a common way) have decreased near 2000 men.—Upon the ground of safety and policy, I am obliged to conceal the true state of the army from publick view, and thereby expose myself to detraction and calumny. There is as much to be done in preparing for a campaign, as in the active part of it."
It is hardly credible, and yet such is the fact, that while the army were thus suffering for every article of clothing, packages of them were lying at various places in great abundance; but such was the defect of management, that no teams or means of transportation could be procured, to carry them to Valley Forge.
Events of 1777 continued.-Proceedings of Congress.-Resigna
tion of the President-Henry Laurens appointed President Colonel Wilkinson delivers a message to Congress from General Gates. Is brevetted a Brigadier General.-General Mifflin resigns as Quarter Master General.-Board of war appointed. Mr.Silas Deane recalled.-General Conway appointed Inspector General.-Discontent of the officers.—Confused state of the finances.-Articles of confederation.
It will be recollected that Mr. Peyton Randolph, who had been first elected President of Congress, was prevented from accepting that high and honourble office, by private reasons, which obliged him for a time to absent himself from Congress. It has been hinted that Mr. Hancock was fixed upon as his successor, not so much for his talents and devotion to the cause of independence, as with a view to ensure the fidelity of a man of influence and fortune, who had on several occasions shown a disposition to regulate his political sentiments by the relative strength of the contending parties. He was elected, under the general impression that this gratification of his love of popularity, would fix him in the interests of Congress; bnt it was also hoped and expected, that knowing the preference of that body for Mr. Randolph, delicacy would induce him to resign his seat on the return of that gentleman to the house. In this they were disappointed : Mr. Randolph returned, but Mr. Hancock showed no disposition to give up the honours of his situation; and for the first year no man could have acquitted himself with more satis. faction to the friends of liberty, or with more credit to himself. The subsequent intrigues of the royalists, particularly of the New-York junto, as it was called, gained him oveß in a great measure to their cause, and he was found upon all occasions to favour their views and measures. Finding that he was losing the ground which he had so long held in the publick estimation, instead of retracing his steps and shaking off the connexion which was rendering him obnoxious to his colleagues, he at length on the 29th of October offered his resignation. He took leave of Congress in a short speech, in which after modestly avowing his consciousness, that his abilities had not entitled him to that distinction, he proceeds : “ Every argument conspired to make me exert myself, and I endeavoured by industry and attention to make up for every other deficiency. As to my conduct both in and out of Congress in the execution of your busisiness, it is improper for me to say any thing. You are the best judges. But I think I shall be forgiven, if I say I have spared no pains, expense or labour, to gratify your wishes, and to accomplish the views of Congress. My health being much impaired, I find some relaxation absolutely necessary, after such constant application ; I must therefore request your indulgence for leave of absence for two months. But I cannot take my departure, gentlemen, without expressing my thanks for the civility and politeness I have experienced from you. It is impossible to mention this without a heartfelt pleasure. If in the course of so long a period as I have had the honour to fill this chair, any expression may have dropped from me, that may have given the least offence to any member, as it was not intended, so I hope his candour
will pass it over. May every happiness, gentlemen, attend you both as members of this house and as individuals; and I pray heaven that unanimity and perseverance may go hand in hand in this house ; and that every thing which may tend to distract or divide your councils, may be forever banished.”
It is remarkable that this speech occasioned almost as much debate in Congress, as is usual in the British Parliament on a notice for an address to his Majesty. A resolution was passed directing the Secretary to wait upon the President and ask for a copy of his speech. When this was handed in, an answer was proposed, which stirred np all the republican blood of the house, and was finally rejected as degrading to the character of freemen. A resolution was then moyed, “that it is improper to thank any President for the discharge of the duties of that office..” Upon this motion the States were equally divided. It was then moved and carried, six states to four, « That the thanks of Congress be presented to John Hancock, Esq. for the unremitted attention and steady impartiality which he has manifested in the discharge of the various duties of his office as President, since his election to the chair, on the 24th day of May, 1775." These little circumstances serve to show the character of the times, and the jealousy of our steady republican fathers of every thing that could tend to lessen their notions of independence.
On the 1st of November Congress proceeded to the election of a successor to Mr. Hancock, and made choice of Henry Laurens, Esq. of South Carolina, a gentleman of eminent talents and of undoubted republican principles.