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Events of 1777 continued.-Proceedings of Congress.-Resignation 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; but 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 ove 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 1 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 up all the republican blood of the house, and was finally rejected as degrading to the character of freemen. A resolution was then moved, "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.
Colonel Wilkinson, who was the bearer of despatches from General Gates to Congress, was sent for by that body on the 31st of October; and concluding from various questions which were put to him by some of the members, that they were disposed to regard the convention of Saratoga in a light unfavourable to General Gates, he requested time to arrange the papers in his possession, and was ordered to attend them again on the 3d of November. He had, in the mean time, under authority given to him by General Gates, and with the advice of the General's friends, Samuel Adams and James Lovell, prepared the following message from General Gates: "I have it in charge from Major General Gates to represent to the honourable the Congress, that Lieutenant General Burgoyne, at the time he capitulated, was strongly intrenched in a formidable post, with twelve days' provision: that the reduction of Fort Montgomery, and the enemy's consequent progress up the Hudson river, endangered our arsenal at Albany; a reflection which left General Gates no time to contest the capitulation with General Burgoyne, but induced the necessity of immediately closing with his proposal, hazarding a disadvantageous attack, or retiring from his position for the security of our magazine. This delicate situation abridged our conquest, and procured Lieutenant General Burgoyne the terms he enjoys. Had our attack been carried against General Burgoyne, the dismemberment of our army must necessarily have been such as would have incapacitated it for further action. With an army in health, vigour and spirits, Major General Gates now waits the commands of the honourable Congress."
Along with this message Colonel Wilkinson laid before Congress sundry papers relative to the convention, most of which have already been given to the reader. All these papers it appeared, had some how or other made their way not only to Congress but to the army under the Commander in Chief, some time before they were officially communicated; and it had been asserted by many that the terms allowed to Burgoyne were more favourable than the great superiority of General Gates would justify. Arnold was suspected of being at the bottom of the rumours to the prejudice of General Gates, and no doubt with some truth. Whether the statement of Colonel Wilkinson really satisfied the doubts of Congress, and removed their unfavourable impressions or not, they at least appeared to be satisfied, and voted that a gold medal should be struck in commemmoration of the convention and presented to General Gates. They at the same time voted their thanks to Gates, Lincoln, and Arnold, the latter of whom, from what has been seen, was to say the least, but doubtfully entitled to them. On the 6th, they rewarded Colonel Wilkinson with the brevet of a Brigadier General.
Major General Mifflin had, on the 8th of October, in consequence of the impaired state of his health, requested permission to resign both his appointments of Major General, and Quarter Master General. No notice was taken of his letter until the 7th of November, when it was "Resolved, that Major General Mifflin's resignation of the office of Quarter Master General be accepted, but that his rank and commission of Major General be continued to him, without the pay annexed to that office, until further order of Congress."