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Schuyler received the resolve of Congress with grim acquiescence, but showed in his reply that he was but half soothed. "At this very critical juncture," writes he, October 16, "I shall waive those remarks which in justice to myself, I must make at a future day. The calumny of my enemies has arisen to its height. Their malice is incapable of heightening the injury.. In the alarming situation of our affairs, I shall continue to act some time longer, but Congress must prepare to put the care of this department into other hands. I shall be able to render my country better services in another line: less exposed to a repetition of the injuries I have sustained."
He had remained at his post, therefore, discharging the various duties of his department with his usual zeal and activity; and Gates, at the end of the campaign, had repaired, as we have shown, to the vicinity of Congress, to attend the fluctuation of events.
Circumstances in the course of the winter had put the worthy Schuyler again on points of punctilio with Congress. Among some letters intercepted by the enemy and retaken by the Americans, was one from Colonel Joseph Trumbull, the commissary-general, insinuating that General Schuyler had secreted or suppressed a commission sent for his brother, Colonel John Trumbull, as deputy adjutant-general. The purport of the letter was re
1 The reader may recollect that it was Commissary-general Trumbull who wrote the letter to Gates calculated to inflame his jealousy against Schuyler, when the question of command nad risen between them. (See vol. i. ch. 28.)
MISUNDERSTANDINGS WITH CONGRESS. 39
ported to Schuyler. He spurned at the insinuation. "If it be true that he has asserted such a thing," writes he to the president, "I shall expect from Congress that justice which is due to me."
Three weeks later he inclosed to the president a copy of Trumbull's letter. "I hope," writes he, "Congress will not entertain the least idea that I can tamely submit to such injurious treatment. I expect they will immediately do what is incumbent on them on the occasion. Until Mr. Trumbull and I are upon a footing, I cannot do what the laws of honor and a regard to my own reputation render indispensably necessary Congress can put us on a par by dismissing one or the other from the service."
Congress failed to comply with the general's request. They added also to his chagrin by dismissing from the service an army physician, in whose appointment he had particularly interested himself.
Schuyler was a proud-spirited man, and, at times, somewhat irascible. In a letter to Congress on the 8th of February, he observed: "As Dr. Stringer had my recommendation to the office he has sustained, perhaps it was a compliment due to me that I should have been advised of the reason of his dismission."
And again: "I was in hopes some notice would have been taken of the odious suspicion contained in Mr. Commissary Trumbull's intercepted letter. I really feel myself deeply cha grined on the occasion. I am incapable of the meanness he suspects me of, and I confidently
expected that Congress would have done me that justice which it was in their power to give, and which I humbly conceive they ought to have done."
This letter gave great umbrage to Congress, but no immediate answer was made to it.
About this time the office of adjutant-general, which had remained vacant ever since the resignation of Colonel Reed, to the great detriment of the service, especially now when a new army was to be formed, was offered to General Gates, who had formerly filled it with ability; and President Hancock informed him, by letter, of the earnest desire of Congress that he should resume it, retaining his present rank and pay.
Gates almost resented the proposal. "Unless the commander-in-chief earnestly makes the same request with your Excellency," replies he, "all my endeavors as adjutant-general would be vain and fruitless. I had, last year, the honor to command in the second post in America; and had the good fortune to prevent the enemy from making their so much wished-for junction with General Howe. After this, to be expected to dwindle again to the adjutant-general, requires more philosophy on my part, and something more than words on yours." 1
He wrote to Washington to the same effect, but declared that, should it be his Excellency's wish, he would resume the office with alacrity.
Washington promptly replied that he had often wished it in secret, though he had never even 1 Gates' Papers. N. Y. H. Lib.
hinted at it, supposing Gates might have scruples on the subject. "You cannot conceive the pleasure I feel,” adds he, " when you tell me that, if it is my desire that you should resume your former office, you will with cheerfulness and alacrity proceed to Morristown." He thanks him for this mark of attention to his wishes; assures him that he looks upon his resumption of the office as the only means of giving form and regularity to the new army; and will be glad to receive a line from him mentioning the time he would leave Philadelphia.
He received no such line. Gates had a higher object in view. A letter from Schuyler to Congress, had informed that body that he should set out for Philadelphia about the 21st of March, and should immediately on his arrival require the promised inquiry into his conduct. Gates, of course, was acquainted with this circumstance. He knew Schuyler had given offense to Congress; he knew that he had been offended on his own part, and had repeatedly talked of resigning. He had active friends in Congress ready to push his interests. On the 12th of March his letter to. President Hancock about the proffered adjutancy was read, and ordered to be taken into consideration on the following day.
On the 13th, a committee of five was appointed to confer with him upon the general state of affairs.
On the 15th, the letter of General Schuyler of the 3d of February which had given such
offense, was brought before the House, and it was resolved that his suggestion concerning the dismission of Dr. Stringer, was highly derogatory to the honor of Congress, and that it was expected his letters in future would be written in a style suitable to the dignity of the representative body of these free and independent States, and to his own character as their officer. His expressions, too, respecting the intercepted letter, that he had expected Congress would have done him all the justice in their power, were pronounced, "to say the least, ill-advised and highly indecent." 1
While Schuyler was thus in partial eclipse, the House proceeded to appoint a general officer for the Northern department, of which he had stated it to be in need.
On the 25th of March, Gates received the following note from President Hancock; 66 I have it in charge to direct that you repair to Ticonderoga immediately, and take command of the army stationed in that department."
Gates obeyed with alacrity. Again the vision of an independent command floated before his mind, and he was on his way to Albany, at the time that Schuyler, ignorant of this new arrangement, was journeying to Philadelphia. Gates was accompanied by Brigadier-general Fermois, a French officer, recently commissioned in the continental army. A rumor of his approach preceded him. "What are the terms on which Gates is coming on?" was asked in Albany.
1 Journals of Congress.