« EdellinenJatka »
No means were adopted to obtain for the use of the army any surplus of produce, which a particular state might conveniently supply, beyond its apportionment; but a state under this predicament was authorised to prohibit the national commissary from purchasing such surplusage, whatever might be the public wants. To a friend in Congress, he in a private letter thus freely expressed his opinion.
“ Certain I am, that unless Congress speaks in a more decisive tone; unless they are vested with powers by the several states, competent to the great purposes of the war, or assume them as matter of right, and they, and the states respectively act with more energy than they hitherto have done; that our cause is lost. We can no longer drudge on in the old way. By ill timing the adoption of measures, by delays in the execution of them, or by unwarrantable jealousies, we incur enormous expenses, and derive no benefit from them. One state will comply with a requisition from Congress, another neglects to do it, and a third executes it by halves; and all differ in the manner, the matter, or so much in point of time, that we are always working up hill; and, while such a system as the present one, or ratlıer want of one, prevails, we ever shall be unable to apply our strength or resources to any advantage.
“ This, my dear sir, is plain language to a member of Congress, but it is the language of truth and friendship. It is the result of long thinking, close application, and strict observation. I see one head gradually changing into
thirteen. I see one army branching into thirteen; and instead of looking up to Congress as the supreme controling power of the United States, considering themselves as dependent on their respective states. In a word, I see the
see the power of Congress declining too fast for the consequence and respect which are due to them as the great representative body of America, and am fearful of the consequences.”
Although General Washington had weighty objections to the plan of Congress, be exerted himself to carry it into effect. His personal influence was greater than that of any other man in the union, and this new order of things required its full exercise. He wrote to the executives and legislatures of the several states, stating the critical situation of public affairs, pointing out the fatal consequences that must flow from the inattention and neglect of those who alone possessed the power of coertion, and urging them by all the motives of patriotism and self-interest to comply with the requisitions of Congress. But each of the states felt its own burdens, and was dilatory in its efforts to promote a general interest. A system, which in its execution required the conjoint agency of thirteen sovereignties, was too complex for the prompt operations of a military body.
In the course of the winter forage had failed, and many
of the horses attached to the army had died, or were rendered unfit for use. General Washington therefore struggled with almost insuperable difficulties in supplying the army. He
possessed no means to transport provisions from a distance but by impressment, and to this painful and oppressive mode, he was obliged frequently to recur. The unbounded confidence placed in his patriotism, wisdom and prudence, enabled him to carry these measures into effect, among a people tenacious of individual rights, and jealous of the encroachment of power.
The pay of the officers of the army had scarcely more than a nominal value. They were unable to support the appearance of gentlemen, or to furnish themselves with the conveniences which their situation required. The pride essential to the soldier was deeply wounded, general dissatisfaction manifested itself, and increased the perplexities of the Commander in Chief. The officers of whole lines belonging to some of the states in a body, gave notice that on a certain day, they should resign their commisions, unless provision was made for their honourable support. The animated representation of the danger of this rash measure to that country in whose service they had heroically suffered, induced them to proffer their services as volunteers until their successors should be appointed. This their General without hesitation rejected, and the officers reluctantly consented to remain in the army.
A statement of the great difficulties which the General encountered, led Congress to depute a committee of their body to camp to consult with him upon measures necessary to be adopted to remove the grievances of the army. This commitee reported, “ That the army was unpaid for five months ; 'that it seldom had more than six days provision in advance, and was on several occasions for several successive days, without meat; that the army was destitute of forage; that the medical department had neither sugar, tea, chocolate, wine or spirituous liquors of any kind; that every department of the army was without moncy, and had not even the shadow of credit left; that the patience of the soldiers, borne down with the pressure of complicated sufferings, was on the point of being exhausted.”
Congress possessed not the means to apply adequate remedies to these threatening evils. They passed a resolution, which was all they could do, “ That Congress will make good to the line of the army, and to the independent corps thereof, the deficiencies of their original pay, which had been occasioned by the depreciation of the continental currency; and that money or other articles heretofore received, should be considered as advanced on account, to be comprehended in the settlement finally to be made.” This resolution was published in general orders, and produced a good effect; but did not remove the complaints of officers or men.
The promise of future compensation from a country, whose neglect was conceived to be the source of all their sufferings, they deemed a feeble basis of dependence, at the moment they were severely pressed by privations of every kind.
March 25.] Murmurs at length broke out into actual mutiny. Two of the Connecticut regiments paraded under arms, announcing the intention to return home, or by their arms to obtain subsistence. The other regiments from Connecticut, although they did not join in the revolt, exhibited no inclination to aid in suppressing the mutineers, but by the spirited and prudent exertions of the officers, the ringleaders were secured, and the regiments brought back to their duty.
The perplexities of a general, who commands an army in this situation, are not to be described. When the officers represented to the soldiery the greatness of the cause in which they were engaged, and stated the late resolution of Congress in their favour, they answered, that for five months they had received no pay, and that the depreciated state of the currency would render their pay of no value when received: they wanted present relief, and not promises of distant compensation ; their sufferings were too great to be supported ; and they must have immediate and substantial recompense for their services. To the complaints of the army were joined murmurs of the inhabitants of New Jersey, on account of the frequent requisitions unavoidably made upon them.
These disaffections were carried to New York with the customary exaggerations of rumour. General Knyphausen, the commanding officer at that post, supposing the American citizens and soldiers ripe for revolt, passed over into New Jersey with five thousand men, [JUNE 6.] to avail himself of favourable events, and probably with the intention to drive General Washington from his camp at Morristown. He took the road to Springfield, and the behaviour of the Americans soon con