Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

meritorious services. And let me conjure you in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honour, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your ut. most horror and detestation of the man who wish. es, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in riood.

“By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attain. ment of your wishes ;. you will defeat the insidi. ous designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising supe. rior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; and you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhib. ited to mankind, “Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attain. ing."

The address being ended, Washington with. drew. No person was hardy enough to oppose the advice he had given.* The impression made by his address was irresistible. The happy moment was seized. While the minds of the offi. cers, softened by the eloquence of their beloved commander, were in a vielding state, a resolution was offered and adopted, in which they assured him “ that they reciprocated his affectionate expressions with the greatest sincerity of which the heart was capable." Before they dispersed, they unanimously adopted several other resolutions, in which they declared, “ That no circumstance of distress or danger should induce a conduct that might tend to sully the reputation and glory they had acquired at the price of their blood and eight years faithful service; that they continued to have an unshaken confidence in the justice of Congress and their country; that they viewed with abhorrence, and rejected with disdain, the infamous proposition contained in a late anonymous address to the officers of the army."

* "It was happy for the army and country, that when his Excellenoy had finished and withdrawn, no one rose and observed, “That General Washington was about to quit the military line laden with honqur, and that he had a considerable estate to support hin with dignity, but that their case was very different.' Had such ideas been thrown out, and properly enlarged upon, the meeting would probably have conclude ed very differently.” Gordon': Ilistory, vol. 4, p. 3578

The storm which had been long gathering, was suddenly dissipated. The army acquired additional reputation, and the commander in chief gave a new proof of the goodness of his heart, and the soundness of his judgment. Perhaps in no instance did the United States receive from heaven a more signal deliverance through the hands of Washington, than in the happy termination of this serious transaction. If ambition had possessed a single corner of his heart, the opportunity was too favourable, the temptation too splendid, to have been resisted. But his soul was superior to such views, and his love of country so ardent, and at the same time so pure, that the charms of power, though recommended by the imposing appearance

of procuring justice for his unrewarded army, made no impression on his unshaken mind. He viewed the character of a patriot as superior to that of a sovereign. To be elevated to supreme power, was less in his esteem than to be a good man.

Instead of turning the discontents of an unpaid army to his own aggrandizement, he improved the late events to stimulate Congress to do them justice. His letter to their President on this occasion was as follows.

“SIR, “ The result of the proceedings of the grand convention of the officers, which I have the honour of enclosing to your excellency for the inspection of Congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as the last glorious proof of patriotism which could have been given, by men who aspired to the distinction of a patriot army; and will not only confirm their claim to the justice, but will increase their title to the gratitude of their country. Haying seen the proceedings on the part of the army terminate with perfect unanimity, and in a man. ner entirely consonant to my wishes ; being im. pressed with the liveliest sentiments of affection for those who have so long, so patiently, and so cheerfully suffered and fought under my immedi. ate direction ; having from motives of justice, duty, and gratitude, spontaneously offered myself as an advocate for their rights; and, having been requested to write to your excellency, earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of Congress upon the subjects of the late address from the army to that honourable body ; it now only remains for me to perform the task I have assumed, and to intercede in their behalf, as I now do, that the sovereign power will be pleased to verify the predictions I have pronounced of, and the confidence the army have reposed in, the justice of their coun. try. And here i humbly conceive it is altogether unnecessary, while I am pleading the cause of an army which have done and suffered more than any other army ever did in the defence of the rights and liberties of human nature, to expatiate on their claims to the most ample compensation for their meritorious services, because they are known perfectly to the whole world, and because, although the topics are inexhaustible, enough has already been said on the subject. To prove these assertions, to evince that my sentiments have ever been uni. form, and to show what my ideas of the rewards in question have always been, I appeal to the archives of Congress, and call on those sacred deposites to witness for me. And in order that my observations and arguments in favour of a future adequate provision for the officers of the army may be brought to remembrance again, and considered in a single point of view, without giving Congress the trouble of having recourse to their files, I will beg leave to transmit herewith an extract from a representation made by me to a committee of Congress, so long ago as the 29th. of January, 1778, and also the transcript of a letter to the President of Congress, dated near Pasaic Falls, October 11th. 1780.

“ That in the critical and perilous moment when the last mentioned communication was made,

amit a doubn mended, unless n

there was the utmost danger a dissolution of the army would have taken place, unless measures similar to those recommended had been adopted, will not admit a doubt. That the adoption of the resolution granting half pay for life has been at. tended with all the happy consequences I had fore. told, so far as respected the good of the service, let the astonishing contrast between the state of the army at this instant, and at the former period, determine. And that the establishment of funds, and security of the payment of all the just de. mands of the army, will be the most certain means of preserving the national faith, and future tran. quillity of this extensive continent, is my decided opinion.

« By the preceding remarks it will readily be imagined, that instead of retracting and reprehending, from farther experience and reflection, the mode of compensation so strenuously urged in the enclosures, I am more and more confirmed in the sentiment; and if in the wrong, suffer me to please myself with the grateful delusions.

“ For if, beside the simple payment of their wages, a farther compensation is not due to the sufferings and sacrifices of the officers, then have I been mistaken indeed. If the whole army have not merited whatever a grateful people can bestow, then have I been beguiled by prejudice, and built opinion on the basis of error. If this coun. try should not in the event perform every thing which has been requested in the late memorial to Congress, then will my belief become vain, and the hope that has been excited, void of foundation. And if, as has been suggested for the purpose of

« ForrigeFortsett »