Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

and as if the winds and waves were anxious to waft it on, the vessel reached France in eighteen days. Lord Germain, Secretary of the American department, received it in London, on Sunday the 25th of November, just two days before Parliament was to meet. Lord Walsingham, who had been selected to second the address in the house of Peers on the following Tuesday, happened to be present when the official intelligence arrived. Lord Germain immediately called a hackney coach, and taking Lord Walsingham with him, proceeded to Lord Stormount's in Portland Place. The three then hastened to the Lord Chancellor's, when, after a brief consultation, they decided to go at once and present the intelligence to Lord North in person. They reached his house between one and two o'clock. The dreadful tidings completely unmanned the stern prime minister. When asked, afterward, how he took it, Lord Germain replied, “As he would a ball in his breast. For he opened his arms, exclaiming wildly, as he paced up and down the apartment during a few minutes, “Oh, God, it is all over!' As the full extent of the catastrophe continued to press on him, he could only repeat, 'Oh, God, it is all overit is all over ! » In it he saw the hand-writing on the wall, and knew that the hour of his overthrow had come. At length he became inore composed, and the four ministers began to discuss the matter seriously. They concluded it would be impossible to prorogue Parliament for a few days, and the first thing to be attended to, therefore, was the alteration of the King's speech, which had already been prepared. Lord Germain then sent a dispatch to the king, George III., at Kew. Sir N. W. Wraxall, who dined with Lord Germain that day, says that the first news was publicly communicated at the table. All were anxious to hear how the king bore it, when Lord Germain read aloud his reply. It was calm and composed, bearinnar Lord Germain remarked, "1 observe that the king has omitted to mark the hour and minute of his writing with his usual precision.

The opening of Parliament was the signal for the onslaught of the opposition. This humiliation of the British arms furnished them the occasion and material for the most terrible invective. Fox, and Burke, and the younger Pitt, came down with the swoop of the eagle on Lord North. The stern minister, however, bore proudly up for awhile against the storm, but was at last compelled to bow before its force

CHAPTER XIII.

Sickness and Death of young Custis-Departure of the French Fleet-Destinatior

of the "roops-Circular Letter to the States—Lincoln Secretary of War-Greene around charleston-Head-quarters at Newburgh-The Temple-Case of Captain Huddy and Captain Asgill Defeat of the English Ministry-Proposal to make Washington King-Settlement of the Case of young Asgill-Meeting of French and American Troops at King's Ferry-Destitution of the Officers-Washington's Views on the Subject—« Newburgh Addresses”-Proclamation of Peace Washington addresses a Circular Letter to the States-Visits Northern Battle Fields-Disbanding of the Army-Evacuation of New York-Farewell to the Officers-Washington Surrenders his Commission to Congress His Feelings on laying down Power-Visits his Land West-Improves his Farm-Interview with Lafayette, and Letter to him after his Departure-His Habits of LifeInefficiency of Congress-Washington's Views and Feelings respecting it-Society of the Cincinnati-Convention called to form a Constitution—Washington chosen President-The Constitution—Washington elected First President of the United States.

WHILE Yorktown was yet ringing to the acclamations of the allied armies, Washington received a blow which made him for a time forget even the glorious victory which he had achieved. The only child of his wife, and beloved by him like an own son, had been from the commencement of the war his aid-de-camp. The mother's heart was wrapped up in that youth, and often in battle his safety lay nearer the father's heart than his own. He rode by the chieftain's side during the siege of Yorktown, and saw with pride and exultation the British army march forth and lay down its

But this victory cost him his life. While the balls of the allied troops were demolishing the enemy's entrenchments without the camp, fever was desolating frightfully within. To this disease young Custis fell a victim. Immediately after he was attacked by it, Washington directed him to be removed to Eltham in New Kent, whither he was accompanied by his mother and Dr. Craik, the old family physician. The disease made frightful progress, and it was soon apparent that nothing could save him. A messenger was immediately dispatched to Yorktown with the melancholy tidings. He arrived in the night. Instantly mounting his horse, taking with him but one officer, Washington started for the sick-bed of the sufferer. The two solitary horsemen galloped silently and swiftly forward, and just as day was breaking, reached the house where the young aid lay dying. Summoning Dr. Craik, Washington eagerly asked, Is there any hope?The doctor shook his head. He immediately retired into a private room where his wife joined him, and the two remained for a lon? ther. Washington, with the tears of grief still depicted on his countenance, then remounted his horse and rode back

arms.

to camp

He had been exceedingly anxious to enlist the Count de Grasse in an expedition against Charleston, but the orders of the latter forbade his compliance. An attempt to obtain the use of the troops for nearer service was equally unsuccessful. Finding the fleet was about to set sail, Washington went on board the admiral's vessel to pay his respects and express his thanks to the Count, to whom also he presented two superb horses.

The latter having at length re-embarked that portion of the troops commanded by the Marquis St. Simon, sailed for the West Indies. Two thousand Continentals under St. Clair were dispatched to the aid of Greene in the South, while the remainder, under Lincoln, embracing those north of Pennsylvania, marched to their winter quarters in New Jersey—the light troops of New York joining their respective regiments in the Highlands. The French under Rocham beau remained in Virginia, the head-quarters of the latter being at Williamsburg. The prisoners being 'marched to Winchester, Virginia and Fredericktown, Maryland, Lord Cornwallis and the principal British officers went on parole to New York. Washington repaired to Philadelphia to con xult with Congress on the measures necessary to be adopted for the next campaign. Lafayette in the meantime and many other French officers, had obtained leave to return to France, carrying back with them the warmest, feelings of love and admiration for Washington.

Notwithstanding the disasters that had befallen the British army, there were no indications that the government intended to relax its efforts to reduce the colonies. But fearing such would be the impression of the different States, causing them to put forth less energy, Washington, in consultation with Congress, issued two circular letters to themone asking for supplies, and the other stating the condition and prospects of the army. Said he, « The broken and

perplexed state of the enemy's affairs, and the successes of the last campaign on our part, ought to be a powerful incitement to vigorous preparation for the next. Unless we strenuously exert ourselves to profit by these successes, we shall not only lose all the solid advantages that might be derived from them, but we shall become contemptible in our own eyes, in the eyes of our enemy, in the opinion of posterity, and even in the estimation of the whole world, which will consider us a nation unworthy of prosperity, because we know not how to make a right use of it." Notwithstanding all his efforts, however, there was a general belief that the war was virtually over. Still the government did not act on this basis. Money was sought from France, General Lincoln was appointed Secretary of War to give greater energy and efficiency to that department, and every effort made to put the nation in a posture to renew hostilities the coming spring

While these events were transpiring at Philadelphia, Greene, with his suffering, half clad army, was gathering closer and closer round the enemy in Charleston. The British general, however, maintained his position till the next autumn, when, despairing of help, he at length agreed to evacuate the place and on the 14th of December marched

« ForrigeFortsett »