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gress a copy of Sir Henry's letter, but did not consider himself at liberty to grant the passport until authorized by them.
Without waiting the result, the commissioners forwarded, by the ordinary military post, their letter, accompanied by the "Conciliatory Acts" and other documents. They were received by Congress on the 13th. The letter of the commissioners was addressed "to His Excellency, Henry Laurens, the President and others, the members of Congress." The reading of the letter was interrupted; and it came near being indignantly rejected, on account of expressions disrespectful to France; charging it with being the insidious enemy of both England and her colonies, and interposing its pretended friendship to the latter "only to prevent reconciliation and prolong this destructive war." Several days elapsed before the Congress recovered sufficient equanimity to proceed with the despatches of the commissioners, and deliberate on the propositions they contained.
In their reply, signed by the president (June 17th), they observed, that nothing but an earnest desire to spare further effu sion of blood, could have induced them to read a paper containing expressions so disrespectful to his most Christian Majesty, or to consider propositions so derogatory to the honor of an independent nation; and in conclusion, they expressed a readiness to treat as soon as the King of Great Britain should demonstrate a sincere disposition for peace, either by an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of the States, or by the withdrawal of his fleets and armies.
We will not follow the commissioners through their various attempts, overtly and covertly, to forward the object of their mission. We cannot, however, pass unnoticed an intimation conveyed from Governor Johnstone to General Joseph Reed, at this
DISSAPPOINTMENT OF THE COMMISSIONERS.
time an influential member of Congress, that effectual services on his part to restore the union of the two countries might be rewarded by ten thousand pounds sterling, and any office in the colonies in His Majesty's gift. To this, Reed made his brief and memorable reply: "I am not worth purchasing; but such as I am, the King of Great Britain is not rich enough to do it."
A letter was also written by Johnstone to Robert Morris, the celebrated financier, then also a member of Congress, containing the following significant paragraph: "I believe the men who have conducted the affairs of America incapable of being influenced by improper motives; but in all such transactions there is risk; and I think that whoever ventures, should be assured, at the same time, that honor and emolument should naturally follow the fortune of those who have steered the vessel in the storm and brought her safely into port. I think Washington and the President have a right to every favor that grateful nations can bestow, if they could once more unite our interest, and spare the miseries and devastation of war."
These transactions and letters being communicated to Congress, were pronounced by them daring and atrocious attempts to corrupt their integrity, and they resolved that it was incompatible with their honor to hold any correspondence or intercourse with the commissioner who made it; especially to negotiate with him upon affairs in which the cause of liberty was concerned.
The commissioners, disappointed in their hopes of influencing Congress, attempted to operate on the feelings of the public, at one time by conciliatory appeals, at another by threats and denunciations. Their last measure was to publish a manifesto recapitulating their official proceedings; stating the refusal of
Congress to treat with them, and offering to treat within forty days with deputies from all or any of the colonies or provincial Assemblies; holding forth, at the same time, the usual offers of conditional amnesty. This measure, like all which had preceded it, proved ineffectual; the commissioners embarked for England, and so terminated this tardy and blundering attempt of the British Government and its agents to effect a reconciliation-the last attempt that was made.
Lord Carlisle, who had taken the least prominent part in these transactions, thus writes in the course of them to his friend, the witty George Selwyn, and his letter may serve as a peroration. "I enclose you our manifesto, which you will never read. 'Tis a sort of dying speech of the commission; an effort from which I expect little success.
a great scale upon this continent.
Every thing is upon
The rivers are immense; the
climate violent in heat and cold; the prospects magnificent; the thunder and lightning tremendous. The disorders incident to the country make every constitution tremble. We have nothing on a great scale with us but our blunders, our misconduct, our ruin, our losses, our disgraces and misfortunes, that will mark the reign of a prince, who deserves better treatment and kinder fortunes."
PREPARATIONS TO EVACUATE PHILADELPHIA-WASHINGTON CALLS A COUNCIL OF WAR-LEE OPPOSED TO ANY ATTACK--PHILADELPHIA EVACUATEDMOVEMENTS IN PURSUIT OF SIR HENRY CLINTON-ANOTHER COUNCIL OF WAR-CONFLICT OF OPINIONS-CONTRADICTORY CONDUCT OF LEE RESPECTING THE COMMAND-THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH COURT HOUSE-SUBSEQUENT MARCH OF THE ARMIES.
THE delay of the British to evacuate Philadelphia tasked the sagacity of Washington, but he supposed it to have been caused by the arrival of the commissioners from Great Britain. The force in the city in the mean time had been much reduced. Five thousand men had been detached to aid in a sudden descent on the French possessions in the West Indies; three thousand more to Florida. Most of the cavalry with other troops had been shipped with the provision train and heavy baggage to New York. The effective force remaining with Sir Henry was now about nine or ten thousand men; that under Washington was a little more than twelve thousand Continentals, and about thirteen hundred militia. It had already acquired considerable proficiency in tactics and field manoeuvring under the diligent instructions of Steuben.
Early in June, it was evident that a total evacuation of the city was on the point of taking place; and circumstances conVOL. III.-17
vinced Washington that the march of the main body would be through the Jerseys. Some of his officers thought differently, especially General Lee, who had now the command of a division composed of Poor, Varnum, and Huntington's brigades. Lee, since his return to the army, had resumed somewhat of his old habit of cynical supervision, and had his circle of admirers, among whom he indulged in caustic comments on military affairs and the merits of commanders.
On the present occasion he addressed a letter to Washington, dated June 15th, suggesting other plans which the enemy might have in view. "Whether they do or do not adopt any of these plans," added he, "there can be no inconvenience arise from considering the subject, nor from devising means of defeating their purposes, on the supposition that they will."
Washington, in his reply, gave the suggestions of Lee a candid and respectful consideration, but in the course of his letter took occasion to hint a little gentle admonition.
"I shall always be happy," writes he, " in a free communication of your sentiments upon any important subject relative to the service, and only beg that they may come directly to myself. The custom which many officers have, of speaking freely, and reprobating measures, which, upon investigation, may be found to be unavoidable, is never productive of good, but often of very mischievous consequences."
In consequence probably of the suggestions of Lee, Washington called a general council of war, on the 17th, to consider what measures to adopt; whether to undertake any enterprise against the enemy in their present circumstances-whether the army should remain in its actual position, until the final evacuation had taken place, or move immediately toward the Dela