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The depreciation of the paper currency had reduced the pay of the American officers to a pittance, and the effects were severely felt. At the moment the campaign was to open, the dissatisfaction of a part of the sufferers broke out into acts of violence, which threatened the safety of the whole army. Early in May, the Jersey Brigade was ordered to march as part of a force destined on an expedition into the Indian country. On the reception of this order, the officers of the first regiment presented to their Col. onel a remonstrance, addressed to the Legislature of the State, in which they professed the determination, unless that body immediately attended to their pay and support, within three days to resign their commissions.
This resolution greatly disturbed the Command. er in Chief. He foresaw its evil consequences, and on this important occasion determined to exert his personal influence. In a letter to General Maxwell, to be communicated to the dissatisfied officers, he disa suaded them by a sense of honour, and by the love of country from the prosecution of the rash measure they had adopted.
“There is nothing," proceeds the letter, “which has happened in course of the war, that has given me so much pain as the remonstrance you mention from the officers of the first Jersey regiment. I cannot but consider it as a hasty and imprudent step, which on more cool consideration they will themselves condemn. I am very sensible of the inconveniences under which the officers of the army labour, and I hope they do me the justice to believe, that my en.
deavours to procure them relief are incessant. There is more difficulty, however, in satisfying their wishes than perhaps they are aware of. Our resources have been hitherto very limited. The situation of our money is no small embarrassment; for: which, though there are remedies, they cannot be the work of a moment. Government is not insensible of the merits and sacrifices of the officers, nor, I am persuaded, unwilling to make a compensation ; but it is a truth, of which a little observation must convince us, that it is very much straitened in the means. Great allowances ought to be made on this account, for any delay, and seeming backwardness which may appear. Some of the States indeed have done as generously as it is at this juncture in their power, and if others have been less expeditious, it ought to be ascribed to some peculiar cause, which a little time, aided by example, will remove. The patience and perseverance of the army have been, under ev. ery disadvantage, such as to do them the highest honour, both at home and abroad, and have inspired me with an unlimited confidence in their virtue, which has consoled me amidst every perplexity and reverse of fortune, to which our affairs in a struggle of this nature, were necessarily exposed. Now that we have made so great a progress to the attainment of the end we have in view, so that we cannot fail without a most shameful desertion of our own inter. ests, any thing like a change of conduct would imply a very unhappy change of principles, and a forgetfulness as well of what we owe to ourselves as to our country Did I
suppose it possible this could
be the case, even in a single regiment of the army, I should be mortified and chagrined beyond expression. I should feel it as a wound given to my own honour, which I consider as embarked with that of the army at large. But this I believe to be impossible. Any corps that veas about to set an example of the kind, would weigh well the consequences ; and no officer of common discernment and sensibil. ity would hazard them.. If they should stand alone in it, independent of other consequences, what would be their feelings on reflecting that they had held themselves out to the world in a point of light inferiour to the rest of the army. Or if their example should be followed, and become general, how could they console themselves for having been the foremost in bringing ruin and disgrace upon their country. They would remember thạt the army would share a double portion of the general infamy and distress, and that the character of an American officer would become as despicable, as it is now glorious.
“I confess the appearances in the present instance are disagreeable; but I am convinced they seem to mean more than they really do. The Jersey officers have not been outdone by any others in the qualities, either of citizens or soldiers ; and I am confident, no part of them would seriously intend any thing that would be a stain on their form. er reputation. The gentlemen cannot be in earnest; they have only reasoned wrong about the means of obtaining a good end, and on consideration, I hope and flatter myself they will renounce what must appear improper.
At the opening of a campaign, when under marching orders, for an important service, their own honour, duty to the publick, and to themselves, and a regard to military propricty, will not suffer them to persist in a measure, which would be a violation of them all. It will even wound their delicacy, coolly to reflect, that they have hazarded a step which has an air of dictating terms to their country, by taking advantage of the necessity of the moment.
“ The declaration they have made to the state, at so critical a time, that unless they obtain relief in the short period of three days, they must be consid. ered out of the service, has very much that aspect ; and the seeming relaxation of continuing until the state can have a reasonable time to provide other officers, will be thought only a superficial veil. I am now to request that you will convey my sentiments to the gentlemen concerned, and endeavour to make them sensible that they are in an errour. vice for which the regiment was intended, will not admit of delay. It must at all events march on Monday morning, in the first place to this camp, and further directions will be given when it arrives. I am sure I shall not be mistaken in expecting a prompt and cheerful obedience.”
This letter made a deep impression upon the minds of the officers, but did not fully produce the desired effect. In an address to the Commander in Chief, they expressed their unhappiness, that any act of theirs should occasion him pain; but in justification of the measure they had adopted, they pleaded
that their state government had paid no attention to their repeated petitions, that they were themselves loaded with debts, and that their families were starv. ing. “ At length,” said they, “ we have lost all confidence in our Legislature. Reason and experience forbid that we should have any,
Few of us have private fortunes ; many have families who are already suffering every thing that can be received from an ungrateful country. Are we then to suffer all the inconveniences, fatigues and dangers of a military life, while our wives and our children are perishing for want of common necessaries at home; and that without the most distant prospect of reward, for our pay is only nominal? We are sensible that your Excellency cannot wish nor desire this from us.
“ We are sorry that you should imagine we meant to disobey orders. It was and still is our determination to march with our regiment, and to do the duty of officers, until the Legislature shall have a reasonable time to appoint others, but no longer.
“ We beg leave to assure your Excellency that we have the highest sense of your ability and virtue, that executing your orders has ever given us pleasure; we love the service, and we love our country; but when that country gets so lost to virtue and justice as to forget to support its servants, it then becomes their duty to retire from its service.”
This attempt in the officers to justify their conduct placed General Washington in a very critical and delicate situation. Severe measures,