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at work, to deprive him of the confidence of Congress, and remove him from the command of the army. To aid them in their dark and traitorous machinations, a report had been industriously spread, that he meant to resign. No positive proofs were ever brought to light of the authors of this plot; but circumstances were developed sufficiently strong to lead to the suspicion, that Lord Stirling, General Conway, and Samuel Adams, were principal actors in it, and that these were aided by several members of Congress. The design seems to have been to force Washington into a resignation, and to raise Gates, Lee, or Conway, to the head of the army. Whether General Gates was really ignorant of the machinations against the Commander in Chief, may be considered as doubtful; but nothing appears to justify a belief that he took an active part in them, or that he would have consented to raise himself upon the ruin of Washington. When the paragraph, said to have been taken from a letter of General Conway to General Gates, in which the inefficiency of the Commander in Chief was openly alleged, was communicated to Washington, the plain and obvious course for General Gates to have pursued, was to have laid the whole letter open to the inspection of Washington, and thus have removed all suspicion that he was in any degree a party to the assersion. But General Gates contented himself with denying, in terms rather more equivocal than conscious innocence would have dictated, that the letter contained the paragraph in question ; and his conduct on the occasion towards Brigadier General Wilkinson, who had been falsely accused by Lord Stirling of having communicated the paragraph, was certainly not the conduct of one wholly innocent of ambitious designs. But the plot, whatever might have been its design, or whoever might have been its contrivers and abettors, fortunately for the country, did not succeed. It served but to raise Washington still higher in the estimation of his country.
The situation of the American army was rendered still further distressing by the great number of sick, and the horrible mismanagement of the Hospital Department. The Director General, Doctor Shippen, was openly accused of the meanest peculation, in selling the wines and other stores provided for the sick, and of the most unpardonable neglect in never visiting the Hospitals. Doctor Rush, Physician General of the middle district, asserted that one half the soldiers who died, “ perished by the present medical establishment,” and that he might not be considered as participating in the guilt of such neglect, he requested permission to resign his appointment. A committee was sometime afterwards appointed by Congress to inquire into the conduct of the Director General, but it was too late to remedy the evil. Thousands had already fallen a sacrifice to the inattention of the Hospital Department.
The Commissariat had been saddled with so many restrictions by Congress, that it became another source of inconvenience and trouble to the Commander in Chief; and that body were at length induced to do away
all their former resolutions on the subject, and appoint a Commissary General with unlimited authority over his department.
Early in the year, Congress had determined upon the invasion of Canada, without a single requisite for so arduous an undertaking, in the depth of winter. The young Marquis de la Fayette was chosen to
command this expedition, with the Generals Conway and Starke, and the Baron de Kalb; but as might have been foreseen, the idea was abandoned almost as soon as formed, and it was followed by the resignation of General Conway as Inspector General. Washington had now an opportunity of recommending his friend the Baron de Steuben for that important office, which was soon after conferred upon him by Congress, with the rank of Major General. The great military talents of the Baron, were soon rendered conspicuous in the improved discipline of the men; and his cordial cooperation in all the views of Washington, rendered him eminently serviceable in effecting a radical and permanent reform in the army.
About the same time, the Count Pulaski was empowered to raise an independent legion; and the same power, with the rank of Major Commandant, was given to Captain Henry Lee of Virginia, whose gallant services with his brave troop of light dragoons have already been noticed.
General Gates, in the mean time, was ordered to take command of the troops in the northern department, and to make such a disposition of his means, as effectually to secure the passes of the bighlands on the North River.
While these preparations were making by the Americans for a vigorous opening of the campaign, Sir William Howe was passing the winter in Philadelphia, as he had done that in Boston-in a full and licentious enjoyment of all its pleasures. His conduct here again gave rise to surmises and suspicions injurious to his reputation as a soldier, and as a man of honour. That he should have spent the winter in
worse than idleness, with his well appointed army, within a few miles of the naked, starving and sickly army of Washington at Valley Forge, was a subject well calculated to excite unfavourable inquiries. It was well known that Sir William was a man of chi. valrick courage in the field, and we have already seen enough of his character to show, that his conduct could not have been influenced by any dishonourable partiality for his enemies—what then could have produced that disinclination to profit by the advantages which were so continually thrown in his way? This is a question which we cannot attempt to solve.
About the middle of April, copies of Lord North’s conciliatory bills were received by the English Governour Tryon, at New-York. Whether they were sent to him by the Minister bimself, with a view to their being privately circulated among the people, or whether they came to him from some other source, and this mode of trying their effect was the suggestion of his own folly, is not known. It is highly probable, however, that it made a part of Lord North's system. As soon as a copy of them came into the hands of Washington, he forwarded it to Congress at Yorktown; and that body very wisely determined to publish the whole as widely as possible, with such remarks as were calculated to counteract any injurious effect which it might have upon the ignorant. The knowledge of these measures on the part of the Ministry, excited even stronger resentment in the British army and refugees, than it did in the Americans themselves. The former had been looking for a promised reinforcement of 20,000 men, and to be amused with what they considered disgraceful proposi.
tions for a treaty, must necessarily have been a sore disappointment.
In a few days after Congress had taken the necessary precautions to guard against these insidious designs of the British Ministry, Mr. Simeon Deane arrived at Yorktown, with copies of the Treaties which had been signed at Paris with his most Christian Majesty Louis XVI. The treaty of Commerce had been signed on the 30th of January, and that of Alliance on the 6th of February. Mr. Deane was also the bearer of much other pleasing intelligence, and among other things of the preparations which the King of France was making to aid his new allies. This was a step which had been foreseen by every reflecting politician of Great Britain, from the moment that America was driven to resistance. The loss of the Colonies in America had never been forgotten by France, and it required no great sagacity to predict, that she would seize the earliest opportunity that presented itself of retaliating upon her ancient enemy.
The joy of Congress and of the people upon the receipt of these Treaties, was manifested by publick acclamation, by the firing of cannon, and by every species of extravagant demonstration. The Treaties were read by the Chaplains at the head of each bri. gade of the army, and loud huzzas testified the delight with which they were heard. One of the first steps of Congress, after the ratification of the Treaties, was the appointment of Commissioners, or Ambassadours, to the Courts of Spain, Tuscany, Vienna and Berlin; and as an evidence how much this new alliance had exalted them in their own eyes, these Commissioners were directed to live in a style and manner suitable to the dignity of their publick charVOL. II.