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The generosity of the house of representatives was manifested by the insertion of an amendment to give him a whole section of a mile square (six hundred and forty acres) of land, instead of three hundred and twenty. But the senate disagreed to it, and the house receded. So that his grant remained as originally introduced.
REVIEW.–FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
Memoirs of a Life, chiefly passed in Pennsylvania, within the last sixty years,
with occasional remarks upon the general occurrences, character and spirit of that eventful period. Harrisburg, 1811. p. 378
- This work, though anonymous, is generally known to have been written by Alexander Graydon, Esq. of Harrisburg, and to be his own biography. From the reputation of the author, we expected to find a sensible, spirited book; and our expectations have not been disappointed. Indeed, we have seldom read a volume better written on this side of the Atlantic. We therefore seize, with pleasure, the opportunity of introducing it to our readers. Our author is aware of the necessity of making some apology for his undertaking; and after mentioning the reasons which induced De Retz, Marmontel, Franklin, and Cumberland, to write memoirs of their lives, he thus explains himself:
“ Unfortunately for the person who here presumes to appear before the public, he is without any of these claims to attention. He has no pretensions to fame or distinction of any kind, neither as soldier, nor statesman, nor traveller, nor author. He is not wholly without hope, however, that his presumption may be palliated, and that in his object of giving a representation of the cha. racter, spirit, and more minute occurrences of his time, it will be perceived, that there is no form into which his work can be thrown with so much advantage, as into that of personal memoirs. By his own story, if he is not misled by self-love, a kind of menstruum is afforded for the incongruous mass of his materials, serving to harmonize, in some degree, the abrupt transitions and detach. ed details which a delineation of the various incidents of many coloured life requires. As to himself he is fully conscious that
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and therefore he would fain buttress his undertaking by the opinion of an emi. nent poet, as vouched by Mr. Walpole, viz. “ That if any man were to form a book of what he had seen or heard himself, it must, in whatever hands, prove a most useful and entertaining one.” A most seducing ignis fatuus truly con. sidering the latitude with which it is laid down.”
Notwithstanding the modesty of our author's pretensions, he by no means requires the aid of the remark last quoted, whether just or not: and his readers, we think, will find sufficient entertainment and instruction in his narrative to excuse some defect of form if there be any.
Our author was born at Bristol, in the year 1752. His schoolboy anecdotes and the incidents of his youth are well told. Our limits, however, will not permit the insertion of any of them. Although they are, for the most part, deficient in the interest which is connected with celebrated names, yet they have, in general, the merit of being in a high degree characteristic of the manners of the times: they illustrate the state of society during the periods to which they refer, and mark the changes which have taken place in a new and rapidly improving country. This observation is applicable to the subsequent as well as to the earlier portion of the memoirs.
After finishing his education, our author commenced the study of the law, though conscious, as he declares, of his inaptitude for that profession, and indeed for any other pursuits of business. The revolution, however, interrupted his studies; and on the 6th of January, 1776, he received from congress the commission of captain. The recruiting business, which immediately followed, went on as our author declares very heavily; and great exertions were required to fill the ranks. We are sensible that the language of our author in this part of his book will by many be deemed incorrect and even heretical; but considering him as a respectable witness upon an important subject, we cannot forbear to quote his remarks. In his opinion it is an error
“ To conceive the year 1776 to have been a season of almost universal patriotic enthusiasm. It was far from prevalent, in my opinion among the lower ranks of the people, at least in Pennsylvania. At all times indeed licentious levelling principles are much to the general taste, and were of course popular with us; but the true merits of the contest werelittle understood or regarded. The opposition to the claims of Britain originated with the better sort: it was truly aristocratic in its commencement; and as the oppression to be appre. hended had not been felt, no grounds existed for general enthusiasm. The cause of liberty, it is true, was fashionable, and there were great preparations to fight for it; but a zeal, proportioned to the magnitude of the question, was only to be looked for in the minds of those sagacious politicians, who inferred. effects from causes, and who, as Mr. Burke expresses it,“ snuffed the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze."
Certain it is, that the revolution was not produced by any actual feeling of oppression upon the great mass of the people. None was felt. It was a question of principle merely. The people of America, at that period, selected their wisest and best men to administer their affairs; and having done so, they reposed in the men of their choice an honourable and magnanimous confidence. By such men, the amount of the tax was not calculated. The right to impose it was the only consideration; and it was resisted with a sagacious foresight which has rendered this nation eternal honour.
In May, captain Graydon was designated by president Hancock, and appointed to carry a sum of money in specie to general Schuyler, at Lake George, for the purpose of promoting the operations in Canada; and soon after his return to Philadelphia, he marched to New York to join the main army under general Washington. Our hero was now not only a soldier but a lover; and his departure from Philadelphia was imbittered by the pangs of separation. He very justly claims some merit for his sacrifices on this occasion, and affirms that on the score of sufferings, none were greater than his.
The troops assembled at New York, according to our author, were, in general, a mixed multitude, extremely deficient in discipline, arms, and equipment. There were very few good officers, particularly among the troops from New England. The latter are described by him as far less respectable than any other portion of the army. And he is at a loss to account for the very low rank which the eastern men sustained at that time. Our readers will be amused with the ensuing description:
“ Among the military phenomena of this campaign, the Connecticut light horse ought not to be forgotten: They consisted of a considerable number of
old-fashioned men, probably farmers and heads of families, as they were generally middle-aged, and many of them apparently beyond the meridian of life. They were truly irregulars; and whether their clothing, their equipments, or caparisons were regarded, it would have been difficult to have discovered any circumstance of uniformity, though in the features derived from local habitation, they were one and the same. Instead of carbines and sabres, they generally carried fowling pieces, some of them very long and such as in Pennsylvania are used for shooting ducks. Here and there, one “his youthful garments well saved” appeared in a dingy regimental of scarlet, with a triangular tarnished laced hat. In short, so little were they like modern sol. diers in air or costume, that dropping the necessary number of years, they might have been supposed the identical men who had in part composed Pepperill's army at the taking of Louisburg. Their order of march corresponded with their other irregularities. It “ spindled into longitude immense” presenting so extended and ill compacted a flank as though they had disdained the adventitious prowess derived from concentration. These singular dragoons were volunteers, who came to make a tender of their services to the commander in chief. But they staid not long at New York: as such a body of cavalry had not been counted upon, there was in all probability a want of forage for their Jades, which, in the spirit of ancient knighthood, they absolutely refused to descend from; and as the general had no use for cavaliers in his insular operations, they were forthwith dismissed with suitable acknowledgments for their truly chivalrous ardour.* An unlucky trooper of this school had, by some means or other, found his way to Long-Island and was taken by the enemy in the battle of the 27th of August. The British officers made themselves very merry at his expense, and obliged him to amble about for their entertainment. On being asked what had been his duty in the rebel army, he answered, that it was to flank a little and carry tidings. Such at least was the story at New York among the prisoners."
In the latter end of June, the regiments of Shce and Magaw, to the former of which captain Graydon belonged, were marched towards Kingsbridge, encamped upon the ground on which Fort Washington was erected, and employed in the construction of that fortress, under the direction of colonel Putnam. They remained here until they were sent for by express, on the 27th of August, the day of the battle on Long-Island; but they did not reach New York until the conflict was over. Early the next day they were transported to Long-Island. Mr. Graydon approves the conduct of general Washington, both in hazarding
• “ It appears, from a letter of general Washington, that they refused fatigue duty, because it was beneath the dignity of troopers.”
the battle upon Long-Island, and in the retreat from it; and although he thinks that general Howe might have carried the intrenchments at Brooklyn and cut off the troops posted there, yet that he had very strong reasons to justify the cautious conduct which he adopted.
The army now took a position upon the high grounds surrounding Fort Washington, comprehending the heights of Haerlem and the difficult pass towards Kingsbridge. Mr. Graydon exposes the danger attending the choice of this situation, and the impracticability of maintaining a war of ports or of disputing, inch by inch, our ground: an idea which he says seems about this time to have been taken up, and which originated, in part, from the evils of short enlistments and of the militia system. “ For want, says he, of a permanent established force, which would have placed our cause above the reach of vulgar opinion, the public mind was perpetually to be consulted. The popularity of the measure declaratory of independence was suspended on our chance of success; and this would principally be estimated by the ground we maintained or lost. Hence, as every acre had its political value, the defensive warfare on the large scale could not safely be adopted; nor for that reason can the Fabian fame of “ never having yielded the public safety to clamour," be fully ascribed to general Washington.” It is painful indeed to read, in the letters of this great man at that period, the difficulties which he encountered for want of a permanent force, and the struggle which he was obliged to make against popular prejudi. ces. The army was repeatedly upon the point of dissolving in its own weakness. It is manifest, indeed, from the letters of general Washington, confirmed by the events of our revolutionary war and of every other war, that no dependence can be placed upon militia.
In a long and very interesting letter to congress, on the 24th September, 1776, he writes, “ If I was called upon to declare upon oath, whether the militia have been most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole, I should subscribe to the latter.” And he adds, “ Experience which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to militia, that no man who regards order, regularity and