« PrejšnjaNaprej »
1783.] CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE GOVERNORS.
known, I left with the greatest reluctance; a retirement for which I have never ceased to sigh, through a long and painful absence, and in which (remote from the noise and trouble of the world) I meditate to pass the remainder of life in a state of undisturbed repose.
His letter then described the enviable condition of the citizens of America. “Sole lords and proprietors of a vast tract of continent, comprehending all the various soils and climates of the world, and abounding with all the necessaries and conveniences of life ; and acknowledged possessors of “absolute freedom and independency. “This is the time,” said he,“ of their political probation ; this is the moment when the eyes of the whole world are turned upon them; this is the moment to establish or ruin their national character for ever. This is the favorable moment to give such a tone to the federal government, as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution; or this may be the moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European politics, which may play one State against another, to prevent their growing importance, and to serve their own interested purposes.
“ With this conviction of the importance of the present crisis, silence in me would be a crime. I will therefore speak the language of freedom and sincerity without disguise.
"I am aware, however,” continues he, modestly, “ that those who differ from me in political sentiment may perhaps remark, that I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty, and may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is the result of the purest intention. But the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives; the part I have hitherto acted in life; the determination I have formed of not taking any share in public business hereafter; the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying, in private life, after all the toils of war, the benefits of a wise and liberal government; will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my countrymen that I could have no sinister views in delivering with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this address.”
He then proceeded ably and eloquently to discuss what he considered the four things essential to the wellbeing, and even the existence of the United States as an independent power.
First. An indissoluble union of the States under one federal head, and a perfect acquiescence of the several States, in the full exercise of the prerogative vested in such a head by the constitution.
Second. A sacred regard to public justice in discharging debts and fulfilling contracts made by Congress, for the purpose of carrying on the war.
Third. The adoption of a proper peace establishment; in which care should be taken to place the militia throughout the Union on a regular, uniform and efficient footing. "The militia of this country,” said he,
* “must be considered as the palladium of our security, and the first effectual resort in case of hostility. It is essential, therefore, that the same system should pervade the whole ; that the formation and discipline of the militia of the continent should be absolutely uniform, and that the same species of arms, accoutrements
1783.] CIRCULAR LETTER TO THE GOVERNORS.
and military apparatus should be introduced in every part of the United States.
And fourth. A disposition among the people of the United States to forget local prejudices and policies ; to make mutual concessions, and to sacrifice individual advantages to the interests of the community.
These four things Washington pronounced the pillars on which the glorious character must be supported. “Liberty is the basis ; and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the structure, under whatever specious pretext he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured country.”
We forbear to go into the ample and admirable reasoning with which he expatiates on these heads, and above all, enforces the sacred inviolability of the Union: they have become familiar with every American mind, and ought to govern every American heart. Nor will we dwell upon his touching appeal on the subject of the half pay and commutation promised to the army, and which began to be considered in the odious light of a pension. “That provision,” said he, "should be viewed as it really was—a reasonable compensation offered by Congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give to the officers of the army for services then to be performed. It was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service. It was a part of their hire. I may be allowed to say it was the price of their blood and of your independency ; it is therefore more than a common debt, it is a debt of honor.'
Although we have touched upon but a part of this
admirable letter, we cannot omit its affecting close, addressed as it was to each individual governor.
“I have thus freely declared what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency,
I as the chief magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of office and all the employments of public life.
“It remains, then, to be my final and only request that your Excellency will communicate these sentiments
your legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered the legacy of one, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his country, and who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to implore the divine benediction on it.
“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you,
and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection ; that he would incline the hearts of
1 the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field ; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which are the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without whose example in those things we can never hope to be a happy nation.
While the patriot army, encamped under the eye of Washington, bore their hardships and privations with
MUTINY IN THE PENNSYLVANIA LINE.
out flinching, or returned quietly to their homes with, as yet, no actual reward but the weapons with which they had vindicated their country's cause; about eighty newly recruited soldiers of the Pennsylvania line, stationed at Lancaster, suddenly mutinied and set off in a body for Philadelphia, to demand redress of fancied grievances from the legislature of the State. Arriving at that city, they were joined by about two hundred comrades from the barracks, and proceeded on the 2d of June with beat of drum and fixed bayonets to the State House, where Congress and the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania were in session.
Placing sentinels at every door to prevent egress, they sent in a written message to the president and council, threatening military violence if their demands were not complied with in the course of twenty minutes.
Though these menaces were directed against the State government, Congress felt itself outraged by being thus surrounded and blockaded for several hours by an armed soldiery. Fearing lest the State of Pennsylvania might not be able to furnish adequate protection, it adjourned to meet within a few days at Princeton; sending information, in the mean time, to Washington of this mutinous outbreak.
The latter immediately detached General Howe with fifteen hundred men to quell the mutiny and punish the offenders ; at the same time, in a letter to the President of Congress, he expressed his indignation and distress at seeing a handful of men, “contemptible in numbers and equally so in point of service, and not worthy to be called soldiers,” insulting the sovereign