Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

death. A committee of Congress, appointed to inquire into the circumstances of these sufferings, reported on the 20th November, that “from a number of papers styled proclamations, under the hand and seal of Henry Hamilton, Lieutenant Governour of Fort Detroit, as well as from other information and circumstances, it appears, that these savages have been instigated by British agents and emissaries, and particularly by the said Henry Hamilton to this barbarous and murderous war.” In justice to the British nation, let it be said, that the government and not the people, sanctioned and authorised these enormities.

In order to correct the injurious rumours, that were carefully propagated by the British for obvious reasons, in those countries of Europe to which the United States sent agents, that a treaty had been formed between Congress and the British commissioners, and that the colonies would be again reconciled to the mother country; Congress about this time sent instructions to their commissioners at the several foreign courts to contradict the report; and to represent to them, that no proposals for a treaty between the king of Great Britain, or any of his commissioners, and the United States of America, would be received, unless it acknowledged the independence of the states, and was in every thing consistent with the treaties or alliances then under negotiation.

The continued depreciation of the bills of credit and the paper currency of the United States, had enhanced the nominal price of labour and of every commodity of traffick, to so enormous an amount, that Congress were continually devising new schenies to overcome the difficulties, each of which in its turn

led them into new embarrassments. In proportion as the paper dollars sunk in value, Congress by new emissions increased them in quantity, and thus continually increased the evils of a system at first erroneous and inadequate. By fixing a maximum to prices, Congress could obtain nothing but by resorting to the unpleasant necessity of seizing all that they wanted, for the holders of commodities in constant demand, would not consent to lose the opportunity of making large profits, and would therefore not sell at a fixed price. The odious expedient of confiscation was at length resorted to as a means of supplying the want of money. This, however, was a power which Congress did not choose to exercise on their own responsibility. They therefore passed the following resolution on the subject : “ Resolved, that it be earnestly recommended to the several states, as soon as may be, to confiscate and make sale of all the real and personal estates therein of such of their inhabitants, and other persons who have forfeited the same, and the right to the protection of their respective states; and to invest the money arising from the sales in continental loan office certificates, to be appropriated in such manner as the respective states shall hereafter direct.Some benefit might have been expected to result from this resolution, if Congress bad required that the money should be paid into the continental treasury, but by giving to each state the right of appropriating the amount of its own sales, they removed none of the evils under which the country laboured, and opened a door for individual fraud and peculation, the consequences of which continue to be felt at the present day.

The reader will recollect the spirited enterprise by which General Prescott fell into the hands of a small party under Lieutenant Colonel Barton of the Rhode Island militia ; and for which it was deemed a sufficient reward to present him a sword. This spirited officer, however, was not content to wear a sword, which he had not the liberty of using under the authority of Congress. He requested to be employed in their service; and on the 24th December, they resolved to promote him to the rank and pay of a Colonel in the service of the United States, and that he be recommended to General Washington, to be employed in such services as he may deem most adapted to his genius.”

A few days previous to the first battle of Gates and Burgoyne, General Lincoln who had been placed by Washington in command of the eastern militia, planned an expedition against Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. Fearful if he attempted to convey information of his design to General Gates, that the enemy might become apprized of it, and thus frustrate bis plans, he took upon himself the responsibility of undertaking it without the knowledge of Gene. ral Gates, and was completely successful. On the 13th September he detached Colonels Brown and Johnson, at the head of 500 men each, the former to Lake George, and the latter to Mount Independence; and with a further view to distract the attention of the enemy, a like number of men under Colonel Woodbridge were sent to Skeensborough and the other posts in the neighbourhood in possession of the enemy. Colonel Brown executed his orders with such skill and dexterity, that he surprised all the enemy's outposts between Lakes George and Ticon

deroga, and on the 18th gained possession of the French blockhouses on Mounts Hope and Defiance, and entered the works of Ticonderoga with but little loss. An armed sloop, several gunboats, 200 batteaux, and nearly 300 prisoners fell into his hands; besides which, 100 American prisoners, confined at Lake George, were released. The American standard also, which had been left at Ticonderoga, when that fortress was evacuated, was recovered. Colonels Brown and Johnson after retaining possession of the two forts for three or four days, abandoned them, and returned to their commander.“ The enemy immediately reentered them; but evacu

; ated them a month afterwards, on the surrender of Burgoyne's army.

The mention of Ticonderoga will bring to the recol. lection of the reader, the circumstances attending its evacuation by Major General St. Clair, in the month of July. That unfortunate and aspersed officer, though soon after ordered to attend Congress to undergo an investigation of his conduct, was still held in a state of distressing suspense, as will appear by the following extract of bis letter to General Gates of the 21st November.-“ My affair is still in the same situation as when I last wrote you. I am firmly persuaded it is the intention of Congress, to avoid bringing it to a trial as long as possible, in hopes that the matter will die away of itself and be forgotten; that, however, is rot my intention. I have been pretty constant in my applications for justice to myself, and to my country, and shall continue them until I prevail, or they throw off the mask.After some severe remarks

upon

the cabals that distracted the councils of the country, justified perhaps by his peculiar situation, he adds

21

VOL. II.

6 This moment I have a letter from the President, covering the following very extraordinary resolve : Whereas the committee appointed to inquire into the causes of the loss of Ticonderoga and Fort Independence, have not yet been able to collect materials, and make their report, resolved, that Major General St. Clair be at liberty to attend to his private af. fairs, until he shall have notice to attend head quarters, in order to an inquiry into his conduct.'-"

This was indeed what General St. Clair indignantly denominated it, an extraordinary resolve, and sufficiently justified the following comments, with which he concluded his letter to General Gates. “Judge now, Sir, what I ought to think of them, for I made no such application as this would indicate ; or whether the suspicion I threw out above is not but too well founded. If they had candour or common honesty, they would have owned, that after five months spent in searching for an accusation, they had been unable to find one-one at least which they dared to own; and instead of commanding me to retire from the army, which is the English of the resolve,with all the ignominy upon my head which they had unjustly endeavoured to fix there, could have acknowledged their errours, and done what was in their power to remove it; but many of them are incapable of a generous sentiment or action in private life; and a publick station, by making men more acquainted with the vices and frailties of others, confirms and increases their own. A trial however they shall give me ; be the event what it will, they cannot rob me of that heartfelt satisfaction, which is the companion and reward of virtuous actions."

« ForrigeFortsett »