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with three British regiments, had been left at Princeton, and had but just quitted it on a different road to join the main army at Trenton, as the Americans came in sight-General Mercer, who commanded the centre of the American army, having advanced to attack him, with rather more courage than caution, his militia were thrown into complete confusion, and the result would have been fatal to the whole army, but for the most unexampled coolness and presence of mind, joined to the most heroick valour, on the part of Washington. The exposure of his person on that day to the fire of both armies, and his providential escape from injury, will call to mind the circumstance of his having been several times distinctly aimed at by his Indian enemies, on the day that proved so fatal to the unfortunate Braddock. These repeated instances of extraordinary preservation, not only to Washington but to the cause in which he had embarked, almost justify the prevalent superstition, that Heaven fought on our side.
The fortune of the day was soon changed by the intrepidity of Washington; and Colonel Mawhood, with great difficulty, saved his brigade from total de. struction. His troops fought with the most distinguished bravery, and suffered severely from the vigour with which they charged the American line. The surprise of Cornwallis, when roused the next morning by the firing at Princeton, may be easily imagined. He had fancied it impossible for the Americans to escape ; but now he began to fear that he might be able to push on to Brunswick, where the stores and baggage of his army lay without adequate protection, and with a view therefore to intercept them, he now retraced his march with as much rapidity as he had advanced to Trenton. General Washington, however,
did not deem it prudent to venture to Brunswick with his fatigued and harassed troops, though urged to it by the prospect of releasing General Lee from captivity, and of making himself master of the baggage of the whole British army. His men had been without sleep or provisions for two days and nights, and too much depended upon their safety to run the hazard of being overtaken by the fresh troops of Cornwallis. Washington therefore retired from Princeton to Pluckemin, about twenty miles North West of Brunswick, on the road to Morristown, which had been considered as a safe and important position. It was well that this determination was made, as Cornwallis did not halt until he reached Brunswick, where he arrived, before it would have been possible for the Americans to have effected any thing, had they attempted it. In this affair with Colonel Mawhood, General Mercer, by whom the attack was begun with the Philadelphia militia, received three bayonet wounds, which proved mortal.
Early in December, Congress had, by the advice of Generals Putnam and Mifflin, determined to adjourn from Philadelphia to Baltimore, where they met on the 20th : and one among their first acts was to declare the authority of General Washington supreme and independent, in every thing which concerned the conduct and management of the war. This was such an evi. dence of perfect reliance on the wisdom, vigour, and uprightness" of one man, as had never before been given by any people, under any circumstances; and it may be safely asserted, that the history of the world does not produce an instance of a man who presumed so little upon the possession of power so absolute. The lives and property of the whole country were placed
at his disposal. He was authorized to appoint and displace officers at will; to call
governments of the respective states for any number of men he might think proper; to raise a considerable army and to es
a tablish their pay; to take whatever he might want for the army, wherever he might be; and “ to arrest and confine persons who refuse to take the continental currency, or are otherwise disaffected to the American cause."
The modesty and forbearance of Washington under this weight of honour and of power, may be regarded as a phenomenon in the moral, as well as in the political world; and the full confidence which tho Congress now placed in the integrity of a man so lately and so suddenly raised to this high rank against the wishes of a numerous and powerful party, spoke more in his praise than all which could have been said by his most zealous panegyrist.
Nothing can more clearly show the scanty resources of the country, and the little hope that was entertained of a successful termination to the Revolutionary struggle, than the steps which Congress were compelled to take, to ensure a respect for the 6 continental currency"_those who refused to receive it, were threatened with punishment, and placed at the disposal of the military chief !-Labouring under so many disadvantages, with an army reduced almost to nothing, a militia ready to sell their services to the highest bidder, and a victorious enemy driving them from place to place, the Congress deserve immortal honour for the bold and independent tone of their measures ; as well those which related to their intercourse with foreign nations, as those that were intended to maintain the supremacy of their authority at home. The Com
missioners appointed to the courts of Vienna, Spain, Prussia, and Tuscany, were respectively instructed to assure them that the independence of the United States would be maintained at all hazards; and the Commissioners to France and Spain were directed to promise a declaration of war against the Portuguese Monarch, provided such an event would be agreeable to their Catholic and Christian Majesties.
The refusal of the enemy to abide by the terms of the cartel, which had been settled by Generals Wash. ington and Howe for the exchange of prisoners, in the case of General Lee, their cruelties to the prisoners in general, and the enormities which they every where committed against the persons and properties of innocent individuals, in Jersey and New York, have al. ready been spoken of. They not only exasperated the Congress to enter into resolutions of retaliation, but they had a result much more beneficial to the cause of the United States. The people were roused to acts of revenge, and the foraging parties of the enemy were made to feel the consequences of their licentious outrages. With regard to General Lee, the enemy affected to consider him as a deserter from his Britannick Majesty's service, and therefore not entitled to the common privilege of being treated as a prisoner of war. Under this pretence, they refused to receive six Hessian field officers which Washington offered in exchange for him, and made it the plea of confining and guarding him with the utmost severity. This however was only the ostensible motive for retaining Lee; the real one was, his eminent character as a soldier; and the idea that his advice and services were essential to the successful prosecution of their cause by the Americans. They hoped, that this early loss of almost the only officer of military experience in the Republican army, would tend to create dismay and confusion, and weaken the confidence of the people in their efficient protection. That this reasoning was in some measure correct, is proved by the steps which Congress took to procure the enlargement of General Lee; but the spirit of independence was too strong in the minds of the most virtuous portion of the United States, the middle class of people, to be subdued by one or two reverses of fortune, and the officers of talents too numerous to render the loss of any single individual irreparable,
The Resolution of Congress directed General Washington, in the event of General Howe's refusing to place General Lee upon the footing of a prisoner of war, to confine Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, and five Hessian field officers, who were prisoners, and to inflict upon their persons precisely the same treatment which General Lee should receive. This was a novel and dangerous experiment; and more peculiarly hazardous because of the vast disproportion between the English and American prisoners. Retaliation under any circumstances seldom leads to good-indeed we know not how it can be called retaliation, when the punishment due to the perpetrator of the crime is inflicted upon a third party entirely innocent. Lieutenant Colonel Campbell and the Hessian officers had no agency whatever in the treatment received by General Lee; as it concerned them, therefore, the resolution of Congress was an act of unprovoked cruelty, which involved in its consequences the safety of more than three bundred officers. It was unjustifiable, because they ought to have expected that the enemy would at ļeast be influenced by the same spirit that actuated