They were informed by M. Girard, one of the secretaries of the king's council of state, that it was determined to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and to make a treaty with them. That his Most Christian Majesty was resolved not only to acknowledge, but to support their independence. That in doing this, he might probably soon be engaged in a war; yet he should not expect any compensation from the United States on that account; nor was it pretended that he acted wholly for their sakes; since, besides his real good will to them, it was manifestly the interest of France that the power of England should be diminished by the separation of her colonies. The only condition he should require would be that the United States, in no peace to be made, should give up their independence, and return to their obedience to the British government.
On determining to take this decisive course, the cabinet of Versailles had despatched a courier to his Catholic majesty with information of the line of conduct about to be pursued by France. On his return, the negotiation was taken up in earnest, and a treaty of friendship and commerce was soon concluded. This was accompanied by a treaty of alliance eventual and defensive between the two nations, in which it was declared, that if war should break out between France and England during the existence of that with the United States, it should be made a common cause; and that neither of the contracting parties should conclude either truce or peace with Great Britain without the formal consent of the other, first obtained; and they mutually engaged "not to lay down their arms until the independence of the United States shall have been formally, or tacitly assured by the treaty, or treaties that shall terminate the war."
It was the wish of the ministers of the United States to engage France immediately in the war; and to make the alliance, not eventual, but positive. This proposition, however, was rejected.
In a few weeks after the conclusion of these negotiations, the Marquis de Noailles announced officially to the court of London, the treaty of friendship and commerce France had formed with the United States. The British government, considering this notification as a declaration of war, published a memorial for the purpose of justifying to all Europe the hostilities it had determined to commence.
Soon after their commencement, the Count de Vergennes received private intelligence that it was contemplated in the cabinet of London to offer to the United States an acknowledgment of their independence as the condition of a separate peace. He immediately communicated this intelligence to the American ministers, requesting them to lose no time in stating to congress that, though war was not declared in form, it had commenced in fact; and that he considered the obligations of the treaty of alliance as in full force; consequently that neither party was now at liberty to make a separate peace. Instructions of a similar import were given to the minister of France in the United States.
[Sidenote: Information received of treaties of alliance and commerce being entered into between France and the United States.]
The despatches containing these treaties were received by the president on Saturday the second of May, after congress had adjourned. That body was immediately convened, the despatches were opened, and their joyful contents communicated.
In the exultation of the moment, the treaty of alliance, as well as that of commerce and friendship was published; a circumstance which, not without reason, gave umbrage to the cabinet of Versailles; because that treaty, being only eventual, ought not to have been communicated to the public but by mutual consent.
From this event, which was the source of universal exultation to the friends of the revolution, the attention must be directed to one which was productive of very different sensations.
Among the various improvements which struggling humanity has gradually engrafted on the belligerent code, none have contributed more to diminish the calamities of war, than those which meliorate the condition of prisoners. No obligations will be more respected by the generous and the brave; nor are there any, the violation of which could wound the national character more deeply, or expose it to more lasting or better merited reproach.
In wars between nations nearly equal in power, and possessing rights acknowledged to be equal, a departure from modern usage in this respect is almost unknown; and the voice of the civilized world would be raised against the potentate who could adopt a system calculated to re-establish the rigours and misery of exploded barbarism. But in contests between different parts of the same empire, those practices which mitigate the horrors of war yield, too frequently, to the calculations of a blind and erring resentment. The party which supports the ancient state of things, often treats resistance as rebellion, and captives as traitors. The opposite party, supporting also by the sword principles believed to be right, will admit of no departure from established usage, to its prejudice; and may be expected, if possessing the power, to endeavour, by retaliating injuries, to compel the observance of a more just and humane system. But they participate in the fault imputable to their adversaries, by manifesting a disposition to punish those whom they deem traitors, with the same severity of which they so loudly and justly complain, when they are themselves its victims.
General Gage, as Commander-in-chief of the British army, in the harshness of spirit which had been excited while governor of Massachusetts, not only threw all his prisoners into a common jail, but rejected every proposition for an exchange of them. When the command devolved on Sir William Howe, this absurd system was abandoned, and an exchange took place to a considerable extent. But the Americans had not made a sufficient number of prisoners to relieve all their citizens, and many of them still remained in confinement. Representations were continually received from these unfortunate men, describing in strong terms, the severity of their treatment. They complained of suffering almost the extremity of famine, that even the supply of provisions allowed them was unsound, and that they were crowded into prison-ships, where they became the victims of disease.
[Footnote 103: In the execution of this agreement, the inconveniences arising from having committed the custody of prisoners to the several states, was severely felt. In addition to the delay inseparable from the necessity of inquiring for them, and collecting them from different places, they were often sent in without the knowledge of General Washington; and, in some instances, they passed unobserved, with permits from a state government, through his camp, into that of the enemy. These irregularities, and the remonstrances of the Commander-in-chief, at length, induced congress to appoint a commissary of prisoners.]
When charged with conduct so unworthy of his character and station, Sir William Howe positively denied its truth.
It would be unjust to ascribe this excess of inhumanity to an officer who, though perhaps severe in his temper, did not mingle cruelties in his general system, which would excite universal indignation in other wars. It must be admitted that his supplies of provisions were neither good nor abundant; and that the American soldiers, in their own camp, were unhealthy. But the excessive mortality prevailing among the prisoners can be accounted for on no ordinary principles; and the candid, who were least inclined to criminate without cause, have ever been persuaded that, if his orders did not produce the distress which existed, his authority was not interposed with sufficient energy, to correct the abuses which prevailed.
The capture of General Lee furnished an additional ground of controversy on the subject of prisoners. As he had been an officer in the British service, whose resignation had not, perhaps, been received when he entered into that of America, a disposition was, at first, manifested to consider him as a deserter, and he was closely confined. On receiving information of this circumstance, congress directed General Howe to be assured that Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, and five Hessian field-officers, should be detained, and should experience precisely the fate of General Lee. These officers were taken into close custody, and informed that the resolution announced to General Howe should be strictly enforced.
The sentiments of the Commander-in-chief on the subject of retaliation, seem to have been less severe than those of congress. So great was his abhorrence of the cruelties such a practice must generate, that he was unwilling to adopt it in any case not of absolute and apparent necessity. Not believing that of General Lee to be such a case, he remonstrated strongly against these resolutions. But congress remained inflexible; and the officers designated as the objects of retaliation, were kept in rigorous confinement until General Lee was declared to be a prisoner of war.
[Footnote 104: See note No. XIII. at the end of the volume.]
The resolutions of congress respecting the prisoners taken at the Cedars, were also the source of much embarrassment and chagrin to the Commander-in-chief. Alleging that the capitulation had been violated on the part of the enemy, and that the savages had been permitted to murder some of the prisoners, and to plunder others, they withheld their sanction from the agreement entered into by General Arnold with Captain Forster, and refused to allow other prisoners to be returned in exchange for those liberated under that agreement, until the murderers should be given up, and compensation made for the baggage said to have been plundered. As the fact alleged was not clearly established, Sir William Howe continued to press General Washington on this subject. Reminding him of the importance of a punctilious observance of faith, plighted in engagements like that made by General Arnold, he persisted to hold the Commander-in-chief personally bound for an honourable compliance with military stipulations entered into by an officer under his authority.
General Washington, feeling the keenness of the reproach, pressed congress to change their resolution on this subject; but his remonstrances were, for a long time, unavailing.
After the sufferings of the prisoners in New York had been extreme, and great numbers had perished in confinement, the survivors were liberated for the purpose of being exchanged; but so miserable was their condition, that many of them died on their way home. For the dead as well as the living, General Howe claimed a return of prisoners, while General Washington contended that reasonable deductions should be made for those who were actually dead, of diseases under which they laboured when permitted to leave the British prisons.
Until this claim should be admitted, General Howe rejected any partial exchange. General Washington was immoveable in his determination to repel it; and thus all hope of being relieved in the ordinary mode appeared to be taken from those whom the fortune of war had placed in the power of the enemy.
[Sidenote: Complaints made by General Washington of the treatment of American prisoners in possession of the enemy.]
In the mean time, the sufferings of the American prisoners increased with the increasing severity of the season. Information continued to be received, that they suffered almost the extremity of famine. Repeated remonstrances, made on this subject to the British general, were answered by a denial of the fact. He continued to aver that the same food, both in quantity and quality, was issued to the prisoners, as to British troops when in transports, or elsewhere, not on actual duty; and that every tenderness was extended to them, which was compatible with the situation of his army. He yielded to the request made by General Washington to permit a commissary to visit the jails, and demanded passports for an agent to administer to the wants of British prisoners.
When Mr. Boudinot, the American commissary of prisoners, who was appointed by General Washington to visit the jails in Philadelphia, met Mr. Ferguson, the British commissary, he was informed that General Howe thought it unnecessary for him to come into the city, as he would himself inspect the situation and treatment of the prisoners. There is reason to believe that their causes of complaint, so far as respected provisions, did not exist afterwards in the same degree as formerly; and that the strong measures subsequently taken by congress, were founded on facts of an earlier date.
But clothes and blankets were also necessary, and the difficulty of furnishing them was considerable. General Howe would not permit the purchase of those articles in Philadelphia; and they were not attainable elsewhere.
[Sidenote: Proceedings of congress on this subject.]
To compel him to abandon this distressing restriction, and to permit the use of paper money within the British lines, congress resolved, that no prisoner should be exchanged until all the expenditures made in paper for the supplies they received from the United States, should be repaid in specie, at the rate of four shillings and sixpence for each dollar. They afterwards determined, that from the 1st day of February, no British commissary should be permitted to purchase any provisions for the use of prisoners west of New Jersey, but that all supplies for persons of that description should be furnished from British stores.
Sir William Howe remonstrated against the last resolution with great strength and justice, as a decree which doomed a considerable number of prisoners, far removed into the country, to a slow and painful death by famine; since it was impracticable to supply them immediately from Philadelphia. The severity of this order was in some degree mitigated by a resolution that each British commissary of prisoners should receive provisions from the American commissary of purchases, to be paid for in specie, according to the resolution of the 19th of December, 1777.
About the same time, an order was hastily given by the board of war, which produced no inconsiderable degree of embarrassment; and exposed the Commander-in-chief to strictures not less severe than those he had applied to the British general.
General Washington had consented that a quartermaster, with a small escort, should come out of Philadelphia, with clothes and other comforts for the prisoners who were in possession of the United States. He had expressly stipulated for their security, and had given them a passport.
While they were travelling through the country, information was given to the board of war that General Howe had refused to permit provisions to be sent in to the American prisoners in Philadelphia by water. This information was not correct. General Howe had only requested that flags should not be sent up or down the river without previous permission obtained from himself. On this information, however, the board ordered Lieutenant Colonel Smith immediately to seize the officers, though protected by the passport of General Washington, their horses, carriages, and the provisions destined for the relief of the British prisoners; and to secure them until farther orders, either from the board or from the Commander-in-chief.
General Washington, on hearing this circumstance, despatched one of his aids with orders for the immediate release of the persons and property which had been confined; but the officers refused to proceed on their journey, and returned to Philadelphia.
[Footnote 105: They alleged that their horses had been disabled, and the clothing embezzled.]
This untoward event was much regretted by the Commander-in-chief. In a letter received some time afterwards, General Howe, after expressing his willingness that the American prisoners should be visited by deputy commissaries, who should inspect their situation, and supply their wants required, as the condition on which this indulgence should be granted, "that a similar permit should be allowed to persons appointed by him, which should be accompanied with the assurance of General Washington, that his authority will have sufficient weight to prevent any interruption to their progress, and any insult to their persons." This demand was ascribed to the treatment to which officers under the protection of his passport had already been exposed.
General Washington lamented the impediment to the exchange of prisoners, which had hitherto appeared to be insuperable; and made repeated, but ineffectual efforts to remove it. General Howe had uniformly refused to proceed with any cartel, unless his right to claim for all the diseased and infirm, whom he had liberated, should be previously admitted.
At length, after all hope of inducing him to recede from that high ground had been abandoned, he suddenly relinquished it of his own accord, and acceded completely to the proposition of General Washington for the meeting of commissioners, in order to settle equitably the number to which he should be entitled for those he had discharged in the preceding winter. This point being adjusted, commissaries were mutually appointed, who were to meet on the 10th of March, in Germantown, to arrange the details of a general cartel.
The Commander-in-chief had entertained no doubt of his authority to enter into this agreement. On the fourth of March, however, he had the mortification to perceive in a newspaper, a resolution of congress calling on the several states for the amounts of supplies furnished the prisoners, that they might be adjusted according to the rule of the 10th of December, before the exchange should take place.
On seeing this embarrassing resolution, General Washington addressed a letter to Sir William Howe, informing him that particular circumstances had rendered it inconvenient for the American commissioners to attend at the time appointed, and requesting that their meeting should be deferred from the 10th to the 21st of March. The interval was successfully employed in obtaining a repeal of the resolution.
It would seem probable that the dispositions of congress on the subject of an exchange, did not correspond with those of General Washington. From the fundamental principle of the military establishment of the United States at its commencement, an exchange of prisoners would necessarily strengthen the British, much more than the American army. The war having been carried on by troops raised for short times, aided by militia, the American prisoners, when exchanged, returned to their homes as citizens, while those of the enemy again took the field.
General Washington, who was governed by a policy more just, and more permanently beneficial, addressed himself seriously to congress, urging, as well the injury done the public faith, and his own personal honour, by this infraction of a solemn engagement, as the cruelty and impolicy of a system which must cut off for ever all hopes of an exchange, and render imprisonment as lasting as the war. He represented in strong terms the effect such a measure must have on the troops on whom they should thereafter be compelled chiefly to rely, and its impression on the friends of those already in captivity. These remonstrances produced the desired effect, and the resolutions were repealed. The commissioners met according to the second appointment; but, on examining their powers, it appeared that those given by General Washington were expressed to be in virtue of the authority vested in him; while those given by Sir William Howe contained no such declaration.
This omission produced an objection on the part of the United States; but General Howe refused to change the language, alleging that he designed the treaty to be of a personal nature, founded on the mutual confidence and honour of the contracting generals; and had no intention either to bind his government, or to extend the cartel beyond the limits and duration of his own command.
This explanation being unsatisfactory to the American commissioners, and General Howe persisting in his refusal to make the required alteration in his powers, the negotiation was broken off, and this fair prospect of terminating the distresses of numerous unfortunate persons passed away, without effecting the good it had promised.
Some time after the failure of this negotiation for a general cartel, Sir William Howe proposed that all prisoners actually exchangeable should be sent in to the nearest posts, and returns made of officer for officer of equal rank, and soldier for soldier, as far as numbers would admit; and that if a surplus of officers, should remain, they should be exchanged for an equivalent in privates.
[Sidenote: A partial exchange agreed to.]
On the representations of General Washington, congress acceded to this proposition, so far as related to the exchange of officer for officer, and soldier for soldier; but rejected the part which admitted an equivalent in privates for a surplus of officers, because the officers captured with Burgoyne were exchangeable within the powers of General Howe. Under this agreement, an exchange took place to a considerable extent; but as the Americans had lost more prisoners than they had taken, unless the army of Burgoyne should be brought into computation, many of their troops were still detained in captivity.
NOTE—No. I. See Page 5.
It will not be unacceptable to the reader to peruse this first report of a young gentleman who afterwards performed so distinguished a part in the revolution of his country, it is therefore inserted at large.
I was commissioned and appointed by the Hon. Robert Dinwiddie, Esq. Governor &c. of Virginia, to visit and deliver a letter to the commandant of the French forces on the Ohio, and set out on the intended journey on the same day: the next, I arrived at Fredericksburg, and engaged Mr. Jacob Vanbraam to be my French interpreter, and proceeded with him to Alexandria, where we provided necessaries. From thence we went to Winchester, and got baggage, horses, &c. and from thence we pursued the new road to Wills' Creek, where we arrived the 14th November.
Here I engaged Mr. Gist to pilot us out, and also hired four others as servitors, Barnaby Currin, and John M'Quire, Indian traders, Henry Steward, and William Jenkins; and in company with those persons left the inhabitants the next day.
The excessive rains and vast quantity of snow which had fallen, prevented our reaching Mr. Frazier's, an Indian trader, at the mouth of Turtle creek, on Monongahela river, until Thursday the 22d. We were informed here, that expresses had been sent a few days before to the traders down the river, to acquaint them with the French general's death, and the return of the major part of the French army into winter quarters.
The waters were quite impassable without swimming our horses, which obliged us to get the loan of a canoe from Frazier, and to send Barnaby Currin and Henry Steward down the Monongahela, with our baggage, to meet us at the forks of Ohio, about ten miles; there, to cross the Alleghany.
As I got down before the canoe, I spent some time in viewing the rivers, and the land in the fork, which I think extremely well situated for a fort, as it has the absolute command of both rivers. The land at the point is twenty, or twenty-five feet above the common surface of the water; and a considerable bottom of flat, well timbered land all around it very convenient for building. The rivers are each a quarter of a mile or more across, and run here very nearly at right angles; Alleghany, bearing northeast; and Monongahela, southeast. The former of these two is a very rapid and swift running water, the other deep and still, without any perceptible fall.
About two miles from this, on the southeast side of the river, at the place where the Ohio company intended to erect a fort, lives Shingiss, king of the Delawares. We called upon him, to invite him to council at the Loggstown.
As I had taken a good deal of notice yesterday of the situation at the fork, my curiosity led me to examine this more particularly, and I think it greatly inferior, either for defence or advantages; especially the latter. For a fort at the fork would be equally well situated on the Ohio, and have the entire command of the Monongahela, which runs up our settlement, and is extremely well designed for water carriage, as it is of a deep, still nature. Besides, a fort at the fork might be built at much less expense than at the other places.
Nature has well contrived this lower place for water defence; but the hill whereon it must stand being about a quarter of a mile in length, and then descending gradually on the land side, will render it difficult and very expensive to make a sufficient fortification there. The whole flat upon the hill must be taken in, the side next the descent made extremely high, or else the hill itself cut away: otherwise, the enemy may raise batteries within that distance without being exposed to a single shot from the fort.
Shingiss attended us to the Loggstown, where we arrived between sun-setting and dark, the twenty-fifth day after I left Williamsburg. We travelled over some extremely good and bad land to get to this place.
As soon as I came into town, I went to Monakatoocha (as the half king was out at his hunting cabin on Little Beaver creek, about fifteen miles off) and informed him by John Davidson, my Indian interpreter, that I was sent a messenger to the French general; and was ordered to call upon the sachems of the Six Nations to acquaint them with it. I gave him a string of wampum and a twist of tobacco, and desired him to send for the half king, which he promised to do by a runner in the morning, and for other sachems. I invited him and the other great men present, to my tent, where they stayed about an hour and returned.
According to the best observations I could make, Mr. Gift's new settlement (which we passed by) bears about west northwest seventy miles from Wills' creek; Shanapins, or the forks, north by west, or north northwest about fifty miles from that; and from thence to the Loggstown, the course is nearly west about eighteen or twenty miles: so that the whole distance, as we went and computed it, is, at least, one hundred and thirty-five or one hundred and forty miles from our back inhabitants.
25th. Came to town, four of ten Frenchmen, who had deserted from a company at the Kuskuskas, which lies at the mouth of this river. I got the following account from them. They were sent from New Orleans with a hundred men, and eight canoe loads of provisions, to this place, where they expected to have met the same number of men, from the forts on this side of lake Erie, to convoy them and the stores up, who were not arrived when they ran off.
I inquired into the situation of the French on the Mississippi, their numbers, and what forts they had built. They informed me, that there were four small forts between New Orleans and the Black Islands, garrisoned with about thirty or forty men, and a few small pieces in each. That at New Orleans, which is near the mouth of the Mississippi, there are thirty-five companies of forty men each, with a pretty strong fort mounting eight carriage guns; and at the Black Islands there are several companies and a fort with six guns. The Black Islands are about a hundred and thirty leagues above the mouth of the Ohio, which is about three hundred and fifty above New Orleans. They also acquainted me, that there was a small pallisadoed fort on the Ohio, at the mouth of the Obaish, about sixty leagues from the Mississippi. The Obaish heads near the west end of lake Erie, and affords the communication between the French on the Mississippi and those on the lakes. These deserters came up from the lower Shannoah town with one Brown, an Indian trader, and were going to Philadelphia.
About three o'clock this evening the half king came to town. I went up and invited him with Davidson, privately, to my tent; and desired him to relate some of the particulars of his journey to the French commandant, and of his reception there; also, to give me an account of the ways and distance. He told me, that the nearest and levelest way was now impassable, by reason of many large miry savannas; that we must be obliged to go by Venango, and should not get to the near fort in less than five or six nights sleep, good travelling. When he went to the fort, he said he was received in a very stern manner by the late commander, who asked him very abruptly, what he had come about, and to declare his business: which he said he did in the following speech:
"Fathers, I am come to tell you your own speeches; what your own mouths have declared. Fathers, you, in former days, set a silver basin before us, wherein there was the leg of a beaver, and desired all the nations to come and eat of it, to eat in peace and plenty, and not to be churlish to one another: and that if any such person should be found to be a disturber, I here lay down by the edge of the dish a rod, which you must scourge them with; and if your father should get foolish, in my old days, I desire you may use it upon me as well as others.
"Now, fathers, it is you who are the disturbers in this land, by coming and building your towns; and taking it away unknown to us, and by force.
"Fathers, we kindled a fire a long time ago, at a place called Montreal, where we desired you to stay, and not to come and intrude upon our land. I now desire you may despatch to that place; for be it known to you, fathers, that this is our land and not yours.
"Fathers, I desire you may hear me in civilness; if not, we must handle that rod which was laid down for the use of the obstreperous. If you had come in a peaceable manner, like our brothers the English, we would not have been against your trading with us, as they do; but to come, fathers, and build houses upon our land, and to take it by force, is what we can not submit to.
"Fathers, both you and the English are white, we live in a country between; therefore, the land belongs to neither one nor the other. But the great Being above allowed it to be a place of residence for us; so, fathers, I desire you to withdraw, as I have done our brothers the English; for I will keep you at arm's length. I lay this down as a trial for both, to see which will have the greatest regard to it, and that side we will stand by, and make equal sharers with us. Our brothers, the English, have heard this, and I come now to tell it to you; for I am not afraid to discharge you off this land." This he said was the substance of what he spoke to the general, who made this reply.
"Now, my child, I have heard your speech: you spoke first, but it is my time to speak now. Where is my wampum that you took away, with the marks of towns in it? This wampum I do not know, which you have discharged me off the land with: but you need not put yourself to the trouble of speaking, for I will not hear you. I am not afraid of flies or musquitoes, for Indians are such as those: I tell you down that river I will go, and build upon it, according to my command. If the river was blocked up, I have forces sufficient to burst it open, and tread under my feet all that stand in opposition, together with their alliances; for my force is as the sand upon the sea shore: therefore here is your wampum; I sling it at you. Child, you talk foolish; you say this land belongs to you, but there is not the black of my nail yours. I saw that land sooner than you did, before the Shannoahs and you were at war; Lead was the man who went down and took possession of that river. It is my land, and I will have it, let who will stand up for, or say against it. I will buy and sell with the English (mockingly). If people will be ruled by me, they may expect kindness, but not else."
The half king told me he had inquired of the general after two Englishmen, who were made prisoners, and received this answer:
"Child, you think it a very great hardship that I made prisoners of those two people at Venango. Don't you concern yourself with it: we took and carried them to Canada, to get intelligence of what the English were doing in Virginia."
He informed me that they had built two forts, one on lake Erie, and another on French creek, near a small lake, about fifteen miles asunder, and a large wagon road between. They are both built after the same model, but different in size: that on the lake the largest. He gave me a plan of them of his own drawing.
The Indians inquired very particularly after their brothers in Carolina gaol.
They also asked what sort of a boy it was who was taken from the south branch; for they were told by some Indians, that a party of French Indians had carried a white boy by Kuskuska town, towards the lakes.
26th. We met in council at the long house about nine o'clock, when I spoke to them as follows:
"Brothers, I have called you together in council, by order of your brother the governor of Virginia, to acquaint you, that I am sent with all possible despatch, to visit and deliver a letter to the French commandant, of very great importance to your brothers the English; and I dare say to you, their friends and allies.
"I was desired, brothers, by your brother the governor to call upon you, the sachems of the nations, to inform you of it, and to ask your advice and assistance to proceed the nearest and best road to the French. You see, brothers, I have gotten thus far on my journey.
"His honour likewise desired me to apply to you for some of your young men to conduct and provide provisions for us on our way; and be a safeguard against those French Indians who have taken up the hatchet against us. I have spoken thus particularly to you, brothers, because his honour our governor treats you as good friends and allies, and holds you in great esteem. To confirm what I have said, I give you this string of wampum."
After they had considered for some time on the above discourse, the half king got up and spoke.
"Now, my brother, in regard to what my brother the governor had desired of me, I return you this answer.
"I rely upon you as a brother ought to do, as you say we are brothers, and one people. We shall put heart in hand and speak to our fathers, the French, concerning the speech they made to me; and you may depend that we will endeavour to be your guard.
"Brother, as you have asked my advice, I hope you will be ruled by it, and stay until I can provide a company to go with you. The French speech belt is not here; I have it to go for to my hunting cabin. Likewise, the people whom I have ordered in are not yet come, and can not until the third night from this; until which time, brother, I must beg you to stay.
"I intend to send the guard of Mingos, Shannoahs, and Delawares, that our brothers may see the love and loyalty we bear them."
As I had orders to make all possible despatch, and waiting here was very contrary to my inclination, I thanked him in the most suitable manner I could; and told him that my business required the greatest expedition, and would not admit of that delay. He was not well pleased that I should offer to go before the time he had appointed, and told me, that he could not consent to our going without a guard, for fear some accident should befall us, and draw a reflection upon him. Besides, said he, this is a matter of no small moment, and must not be entered into without due consideration; for I intend to deliver up the French speech belt, and make the Shannoahs and Delawares do the same. And accordingly he gave orders to king Shingiss, who was present, to attend on Wednesday night with the wampum; and two men of their nation to be in readiness to set out with us next morning. As I found it was impossible to get off without affronting them in the most egregious manner, I consented to stay.
I gave them back a string of wampum which I met with at Mr. Frazier's, and which they sent with a speech to his honour the governor, to inform him, that three nations of French Indians, viz. Chippoways, Ottoways, and Orundaks, had taken up the hatchet against the English; and desired them to repeat it over again. But this they postponed doing until they met in full council with the Shannoah and Delaware chiefs.
27th. Runners were despatched very early for the Shannoah chiefs. The half king set out himself to fetch the French speech belt from his hunting cabin.
28th. He returned this evening, and came with Monakatoocha, and two other sachems to my tent; and begged (as they had complied with his honour the governor's request, in providing men, &c.) to know on what business we were going to the French? This was a question I had all along expected, and had provided as satisfactory answers to as I could; which allayed their curiosity a little.
Monakatoocha informed me, that an Indian from Venango brought news, a few days ago, that the French had called all the Mingos, Delawares, &c. together at that place; and told them that they intended to have been down the river this fall, but the waters were growing cold, and the winter advancing, which obliged them to go into quarters; but that they might assuredly expect them in the spring, with a far greater number; and desired that they might be quite passive, and not intermeddle unless they had a mind to draw all their force upon them: for that they expected to fight the English three years (as they supposed there would be some attempts made to stop them) in which time they should conquer. But that if they should prove equally strong, they and the English would join to cut them all off, and divide the land between them: that though they had lost their general, and some few of their soldiers, yet there were men enough to reinforce them, and make them masters of the Ohio.
This speech, he said, was delivered to them by one Captain Joncaire, their interpreter in chief, living at Venango, and a man of note in the army.
29th. The half king and Monakatoocha, came very early and begged me to stay one day more: for notwithstanding they had used all the diligence in their power, the Shannoah chiefs had not brought the wampum they ordered, but would certainly be in to night; if not, they would delay me no longer, but would send it after us as soon as they arrived. When I found them so pressing in their request, and knew that returning of wampum was the abolishing of agreements; and giving this up was shaking off all dependence upon the French, I consented to stay, as I believed an offence offered at this crisis, might be attended with greater ill consequence, than another day's delay. They also informed me, that Shingiss could not get in his men; and was prevented from coming himself by his wife's sickness; (I believe, by fear of the French) but that the wampum of that nation was lodged with Kustalogo, one of their chiefs, at Venango.
In the evening, late, they came again, and acquainted me that the Shannoahs were not yet arrived, but that it should not retard the prosecution of our journey. He delivered in my hearing the speech that was to be made to the French by Jeskakake, one of their old chiefs, which was giving up the belt the late commandant had asked for, and repeating nearly the same speech he himself had done before.
He also delivered a string of wampum to this chief, which was sent by king Shingiss, to be given to Kustalogo, with orders to repair to the French, and deliver up the wampum.
He likewise gave a very large string of black and white wampum, which was to be sent up immediately to the Six Nations, if the French refused to quit the land at this warning; which was the third and last time, and was the right of this Jeskakake to deliver.
30th. Last night, the great men assembled at their council house, to consult further about this journey, and who were to go: the result of which was, that only three of their chiefs, with one of their best hunters, should be our convoy. The reason they gave for not sending more, after what had been proposed at council the 26th, was, that a greater number might give the French suspicions of some bad design, and cause them to be treated rudely: but I rather think they could not get their hunters in.
We set out about nine o'clock with the half king, Jeskakake, White Thunder, and the Hunter; and travelled on the road to Venango, where we arrived the fourth of December, without any thing remarkable happening but a continued series of bad weather.
This is an old Indian town, situated at the mouth of French creek, on Ohio; and lies near north about sixty miles from the Loggstown, but more than seventy the way we were obliged to go.
We found the French colours hoisted at a house from which they had driven Mr. John Frazier, an English subject. I immediately repaired to it, to know where the commander resided. There were three officers, one of whom, Captain Joncaire, informed me that he had the command of the Ohio; but that there was a general officer at the near fort, where he advised me to apply for an answer. He invited us to sup with them, and treated us with the greatest complaisance.
The wine, as they dosed themselves pretty plentifully with it, soon banished the restraint which at first appeared in their conversation, and gave a license to their tongues to reveal their sentiments more freely.
They told me, that it was their absolute design to take possession of the Ohio, and by G-d they would do it: for that, although they were sensible the English could raise two men for their one, yet they knew their motions were too slow and dilatory to prevent any undertaking of theirs. They pretend to have an undoubted right to the river from a discovery made by one La Salle, sixty years ago: and the rise of this expedition is, to prevent our settling on the river or waters of it, as they heard of some families moving out in order thereto. From the best intelligence I could get, there have been fifteen hundred men on this side Ontario lake. But upon the death of the general, all were recalled to about six or seven hundred, who were left to garrison four forts, one hundred and fifty or thereabout in each. The first of them is on French creek, near a small lake, about sixty miles from Venango, near north northwest: the next lies on lake Erie, where the greater part of their stores are kept, about fifteen miles from the other: from this it is one hundred and twenty miles to the carrying place, at the falls of Lake Erie, where there is a small fort, at which they lodge their goods in bringing them from Montreal, the place from whence all their stores are brought. The next fort lies about twenty miles from this, on Ontario lake. Between this fort and Montreal, there are three others, the first of which is nearly opposite to the English fort Oswego. From the fort on lake Erie to Montreal is about six hundred miles, which, they say, requires no more (if good weather,) than four weeks voyage, if they go in barks or large vessels, so that they may cross the lake: but if they come in canoes, it will require five or six weeks, for they are obliged to keep under the shore.
5th. Rained excessively all day, which prevented our travelling. Captain Joncaire sent for the half king, as he had but just heard that he came with me. He affected to be much concerned that I did not make free to bring them in before. I excused it in the best manner of which I was capable, and told him, I did not think their company agreeable, as I had heard him say a good deal in dispraise of Indians in general: but another motive prevented me from bringing them into his company: I knew that he was an interpreter, and a person of very great influence among the Indians, and had lately used all possible means to draw them over to his interest; therefore, I was desirous of giving him no opportunity that could be avoided.
When they came in, there was great pleasure expressed at seeing them. He wondered how they could be so near without coming to visit him, made several trifling presents, and applied liquor so fast, that they were soon rendered incapable of the business they came about, notwithstanding the caution which was given.
6th. The half king came to my tent, quite sober, and insisted very much that I should stay and hear what he had to say to the French. I fain would have prevented him from speaking any thing until he came to the commandant, but could not prevail. He told me, that at this place a council fire was kindled, where all their business with these people was to be transacted, and that the management of the Indian affairs was left solely to Monsieur Joncaire. As I was desirous of knowing the issue of this, I agreed to stay; but sent our horses a little way up French creek, to raft over and encamp; which I knew would make it near night.
About ten o'clock, they met in council. The king spoke much the same as he had before done to the general; and offered the French speech belt which had before been demanded, with the marks of four towns on it, which Monsieur Joncaire refused to receive, but desired him to carry it to the fort to the commander.
7th. Monsieur La Force, Commissary of the French stores, and three other soldiers, came over to accompany us up. We found it extremely difficult to get the Indians off to-day, as every stratagem had been used to prevent their going up with me. I had last night left John Davidson (the Indian interpreter) whom I brought with me from town, and strictly charged him not to be out of their company, as I could not get them over to my tent; for they had some business with Kustologa, chiefly to know why he did not deliver up the French speech belt which he had in keeping: but I was obliged to send Mr. Gist over to-day to fetch them, which he did with great persuasion.
At twelve o'clock, we set out for the fort, and were prevented from arriving there until the eleventh by excessive rains, snows, and bad travelling through many mires and swamps; these we were obliged to pass to avoid crossing the creek, which was impossible, either by fording or rafting, the water was so high and rapid.
We passed over much good land since we left Venango, and through several extensive and very rich meadows, one of which, I believe, was nearly four miles in length, and considerably wide in some places.
12th. I prepared early to wait upon the commander, and was received, and conducted to him by the second officer in command. I acquainted him with my business, and offered my commission and letter: both of which he desired me to keep until the arrival of Monsieur Reparti, captain at the next fort, who was sent for and expected every hour.
This commander is a knight of the military order of St. Louis, and named Legardeur de St. Pierre. He is an elderly gentleman, and has much the air of a soldier. He was sent over to take the command, immediately upon the death of the late general, and arrived here about seven days before me.
At two o'clock, the gentleman who was sent for arrived, when I offered the letter, &c. again, which they received, and adjourned into a private apartment for the captain to translate, who understood a little English. After he had done it, the commander desired I would walk in and bring my interpreter to peruse and correct it; which I did.
13th. The chief officers retired to hold a council of war, which gave me an opportunity of taking the dimensions of the fort, and making what observations I could.
It is situated on the south, or west fork of French creek, near the water; and is almost surrounded by the creek, and a small branch of it which forms a kind of island. Four houses compose the sides. The bastions are made of piles driven into the ground, standing more than twelve feet above it, and sharp at top; with port holes cut for cannon, and loop holes for the small arms to fire through. There are eight six pound pieces mounted in each bastion, and one piece of four pound before the gate. In the bastions are a guard house, chapel, doctor's lodging, and the commander's private store: round which are laid platforms for the cannon and men to stand on. There are several barracks without the fort, for the soldiers' dwelling, covered, some with bark, and some with boards, made chiefly of logs. There are also several other houses, such as stables, smith's shop, &c.
I could get no certain account of the number of men here; but according to the best judgment I could form, there are an hundred, exclusive of officers, of which there are many. I also gave orders to the people who were with me, to take an exact account of the canoes which were hauled up to convey their forces down in the spring. This they did, and told fifty of birch bark, and an hundred and seventy of pine; besides many others which were blocked out, in readiness for being made.
14th. As the snow increased very fast, and our horses daily became weaker, I sent them off unloaded, under the care of Barnaby Currin and two others, to make all convenient despatch to Venango, and there to wait our arrival, if there was a prospect of the river's freezing: if not, then to continue down to Shanapin's town, at the forks of Ohio, and there to wait until we came to cross the Alleghany; intending myself to go down by water, as I had the offer of a canoe or two.
As I found many plots concerted to retard the Indians' business, and prevent their returning with me, I endeavoured all that lay in my power to frustrate their schemes, and hurried them on to execute their intended design. They accordingly pressed for admittance this evening, which at length was granted them, privately, to the commander and one or two other officers. The half king told me that he offered the wampum to the commander, who evaded taking it, and made many fair promises of love and friendship; said he wanted to live in peace and trade amicably with them, as a proof of which, he would send some goods immediately down to the Loggstown for them. But I rather think the design of that is to bring away all our straggling traders they meet with, as I privately understood they intended to carry an officer, &c. with them. And what rather confirms this opinion, I was inquiring of the commander by what authority he had made prisoners of several of our English subjects. He told me that the country belonged to them; that no Englishman had a right to trade upon those waters; and that he had orders to make every person prisoner who attempted it on the Ohio, or the waters of it.
I inquired of Captain Reparti about the boy that was carried by this place, as it was done while the command devolved on him, between the death of the late general, and the arrival of the present. He acknowledged that a boy had been carried past: and that the Indians had two or three white men's scalps, (I was told by some of the Indians at Venango, eight) but pretended to have forgotten the name of the place where the boy came from, and all the particular facts, though he had questioned him for some hours, as they were carrying past. I likewise inquired what they had done with John Trotter and James M'Clocklan, two Pennsylvania traders, whom they had taken with all their goods. They told me that they had been sent to Canada, but were now returned home.
This evening, I received an answer to his honour the governor's letter, from the commandant.
15th. The commandant ordered a plentiful store of liquor, provision, &c. to be put on board our canoes, and appeared to be extremely complaisant, though he was exerting every artifice which he could invent to set our Indians at variance with us, to prevent their going until after our departure: presents, rewards, and every thing which could be suggested by him or his officers. I can not say that ever in my life I suffered so much anxiety as I did in this affair. I saw that every stratagem, which the most fruitful brain could invent, was practised to win the half king to their interest; and that leaving him there was giving them the opportunity they aimed at. I went to the half king and pressed him in the strongest terms to go; he told me that the commandant would not discharge him until the morning. I then went to the commandant, and desired him to do their business, and complained of ill treatment; for keeping them, as they were part of my company, was detaining me. This he promised not to do, but to forward my journey as much as he could. He protested he did not keep them, but was ignorant of the cause of their stay; though I soon found it out. He had promised them a present of guns, &c. if they would wait until the morning. As I was very much pressed by the Indians to wait this day for them, I consented, on a promise that nothing should hinder them in the morning.
16th. The French were not slack in their inventions to keep the Indians this day also. But as they were obliged, according to promise, to give the present, they then endeavoured to try the power of liquor, which I doubt not would have prevailed at any other time than this: but I urged and insisted with the king so closely upon his word, that he refrained, and set off with us as he had engaged.
We had a tedious and very fatiguing passage down the creek. Several times we had like to have been staved against rocks; and many times were obliged all hands to get out and remain in the water half an hour or more, getting over the shoals. At one place, the ice had lodged, and made it impassable by water; we were, therefore, obliged to carry our canoe across the neck of land, a quarter of a mile over. We did not reach Venango until the 22d, where we met with our horses.
This creek is extremely crooked. I dare say the distance between the fort and Venango, can not be less than one hundred and thirty miles to follow the meanders.
23d. When I got things ready to set off, I sent for the half king, to know whether he intended to go with us, or by water. He told me that White Thunder had hurt himself much, and was sick, and unable to walk; therefore he was obliged to carry him down in a canoe. As I found he intended to stay here a day or two, and knew that Monsieur Joncaire would employ every scheme to set him against the English, as he had before done, I told him, I hoped he would guard against his flattery, and let no fine speeches influence him in their favour. He desired I might not be concerned, for he knew the French too well, for any thing to engage him in their favour; and that though he could not go down with us, he yet would endeavour to meet at the forks with Joseph Campbell, to deliver a speech for me to carry to his honour the governor. He told me he would order the Young Hunter to attend us, and get provisions, &c. if wanted.
Our horses were now so weak and feeble, and the baggage so heavy, (as we were obliged to provide all the necessaries which the journey would require) that we doubted much their performing it. Therefore, myself and others, except the drivers, who were obliged to ride, gave up our horses for packs, to assist along with the baggage. I put myself in an Indian walking dress, and continued with them three days, until I found there was no probability of their getting home in any reasonable time. The horses became less able to travel every day; the cold increased very fast; and the roads were becoming much worse by a deep snow, continually freezing: therefore, as I was uneasy to get back, to make report of my proceedings to his honour the governor, I determined to prosecute my journey, the nearest way through the woods, on foot.
Accordingly, I left Mr. Vanbraam in charge of our baggage, with money and directions to provide necessaries from place to place for themselves and horses, and to make the most convenient despatch in travelling.
I took my necessary papers, pulled off my clothes, and tied myself up in a watch coat. Then, with gun in hand, and pack on my back, in which were my papers and provisions, I set out with Mr. Gist, fitted in the same manner, on Wednesday the 26th. The day following, just after we had passed a place called Murdering town, (where we intended to quit the path and steer across the country for Shanapin's town) we fell in with a party of French Indians, who had laid in wait for us. One of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not fifteen steps off, but fortunately missed. We took this fellow into custody, and kept him until about nine o'clock at night, then let him go, and walked all the remaining part of the night without making any stop, that we might get the start, so far, as to be out of the reach of their pursuit the next day, since we were well assured they would follow our track as soon as it was light. The next day we continued travelling until quite dark, and got to the river about two miles above Shanapin's. We expected to have found the river frozen, but it was not, only about fifty yards from each shore. The ice, I suppose, had broken up above, for it was driving in vast quantities.
There was no way for getting over but on a raft, which we set about, with but one poor hatchet, and finished just after sun setting. This was a whole day's work: we next got it launched, then went on board of it, and set off; but before we were half way over, we were jammed in the ice, in such a manner, that we expected every moment our raft to sink, and ourselves to perish. I put out my setting pole to try to stop the raft, that the ice might pass by, when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole, that it jerked me out into ten feet water; but I fortunately saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs. Notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not get to either shore, but were obliged, as we were near an island, to quit our raft and make to it.
The cold was so extremely severe, that Mr. Gist had all his fingers, and some of his toes frozen, and the water was shut up so hard, that we found no difficulty in getting off the island on the ice in the morning, and went to Mr. Frazier's. We met here with twenty warriors, who were going to the southward to war; but coming to a place on the head of the great Kanawa, where they found seven people killed and scalped, (all but one woman with very light hair) they turned about and ran back, for fear the inhabitants should rise and take them as the authors of the murder. They report that the bodies were lying about the house, and some of them much torn and eaten by the hogs. By the marks which were left, they say they were French Indians of the Ottoway nation, &c. who did it.
As we intended to take horses here, and it required some time to find them, I went up about three miles to the mouth of Yohogany, to visit queen Alliquippa, who had expressed great concern that we passed her in going to the fort. I made her a present of a watch coat and a bottle of rum, which latter was thought much the best present of the two.
Tuesday, the first of January, we left Mr. Frazier's house, and arrived at Mr. Gist's, at Monongahela, the second, where I bought a horse, saddle, &c. The sixth, we met seventeen horses loaded with materials and stores for a fort at the forks of Ohio, and the day after, some families going out to settle. This day, we arrived at Wills' creek, after as fatiguing a journey as it is possible to conceive, rendered so by excessive bad weather. From the first day of December to the fifteenth, there was but one day on which it did not rain or snow incessantly; and throughout the whole journey, we met with nothing but one continued series of cold, wet weather, which occasioned very uncomfortable lodgings, especially after we had quitted our tent, which was some screen from the inclemency of it.
On the 11th, I got to Belvoir, where I stopped one day to take necessary rest; and then set out and arrived in Williamsburg the 16th, when I waited upon his honour the governor, with the letter I had brought from the French commandant, and to give an account of the success of my proceedings. This I beg leave to do by offering the foregoing narrative, as it contains the most remarkable occurrences which happened in my journey.
I hope what has been said will be sufficient to make your honour satisfied with my conduct; for that was my aim in undertaking the journey, and chief study throughout the prosecution of it.
* * * * *
NOTE—No. II. See Page 10.
The author is indebted, for the letter alluded to, to the Editor of the Lancaster Journal.
SIR,—I am really sorry that I have it not in my power to answer your request, in a more satisfactory manner. If you had favoured me with the journal a few days sooner, I would have examined it carefully, and endeavoured to point out such errors as might conduce to your use, my advantage, and the public satisfaction; but now it is out of my power.
I had no time to make any remarks upon that piece which is called my journal. The enclosed are observations on the French notes. They are of no use to me separated, nor will they, I believe, be of any to you; yet I send them unconnected and incoherent as they were taken, for I have no opportunity to correct them.
In regard to the journal, I can only observe in general, that I kept no regular one during that expedition: rough minutes of occurrences I certainly took, and find them as certainly and strangely metamorphosed—some parts left out which I remember were entered, and many things added that never were thought of; the names of men and things egregiously miscalled; and the whole of what I saw Englished, is very incorrect and nonsensical:—yet, I will not pretend to say that the little body who brought it to me, has not made a literal translation, and a good one.
Short as my time is, I can not help remarking on Villiers' account of the battle of, and transactions at the Meadows, as it is very extraordinary, and not less erroneous than inconsistent. He says the French received the first fire. It is well known that we received it at six hundred paces distance. He also says, our fears obliged us to retreat in the most disorderly manner after the capitulation. How is this consistent with his other account? He acknowledges that we sustained the attack, warmly, from ten in the morning until dark, and that he called first to parley, which strongly indicates that we were not totally absorbed in fear. If the gentleman in his account had adhered to the truth, he must have confessed, that we looked upon his offer to parley as an artifice to get into and examine our trenches, and refused on this account, until they desired an officer might be sent to them, and gave their parole for his safe return. He might also, if he had been as great a lover of the truth as he was of vain glory, have said, that we absolutely refused their first and second proposals, and would consent to capitulate on no other terms than such as we obtained. That we were wilfully, or ignorantly deceived by our interpreter in regard to the word assassination, I do aver, and will to my dying moment; so will every officer that was present. The interpreter was a Dutchman, little acquainted with the English tongue, therefore might not advert to the tone and meaning of the word in English; but, whatever his motives were for so doing, certain it is, he called it the death, or the loss of the Sieur Jumonville. So we received and so we understood it, until to our great surprise and mortification, we found it otherwise in a literal translation. That we left our baggage and horses at the Meadows is certain; that there was not even a possibility to bring them away is equally certain, as we had every horse belonging to the camp killed or taken away during the action; so that it was impracticable to bring any thing off that our shoulders were not able to bear, and to wait there was impossible, for we had scarce three days provisions, and were seventy miles from a supply; yet, to say we came off precipitately is absolutely false; notwithstanding they did, contrary to articles, suffer their Indians to pillage our baggage, and commit all kinds of irregularity, we were with them until ten o'clock the next day; we destroyed our powder and other stores, nay, even our private baggage, to prevent its falling into their hands, as we could not bring it off. When we had got about a mile from the place of action, we missed two or three of the wounded, and sent a party back to bring them up-this is the party he speaks of. We brought them all safe off, and encamped within three miles of the Meadows. These are circumstances, I think, that make it evidently clear, that we were not very apprehensive of danger. The colours he speaks of to be left, was a large flag of immense size and weight; our regimental colours were brought off and are now in my possession. Their gasconades, and boasted clemency, must appear in the most ludicrous light to every considerate person who reads Villiers' journal;—such preparations for an attack, such vigour and intrepidity as he pretends to have conducted his march with, such revenge, as by his own account, appeared in his attack, considered, it will hardly be thought that compassion was his motive for calling a parley. But to sum up the whole, Mr. Villiers pays himself no great compliment, in saying, we were struck with a panic when matters were adjusted. We surely could not be afraid without cause, and if we had cause after capitulation, it was a reflection upon himself.
I do not doubt, but your good nature will excuse the badness of my paper, and the incoherence of my writing—think you see me in a public house in a crowd, surrounded with noise, and you hit my case. You do me particular honour in offering your friendship: I wish I may be so happy as always to merit it, and deserve your correspondence, which I should be glad to cultivate.
* * * * *
NOTE—No. III. See Page 51.
SIR,-We your most obedient and affectionate officers, beg leave to express our great concern, at the disagreeable news we have received of your determination to resign the command of that corps, in which we have under you long served.
The happiness we have enjoyed, and the honour we have acquired together, with the mutual regard that has always subsisted between you and your officers, have implanted so sensible an affection in the minds of us all, that we can not be silent on this critical occasion.
In our earliest infancy you took us under your tuition, trained us up in the practice of that discipline, which alone can constitute good troops, from the punctual observance of which you never suffered the least deviation.
Your steady adherence to impartial justice, your quick discernment, and invariable regard to merit, wisely intended to inculcate those genuine sentiments of true honour and passion for glory, from which the greatest military achievements have been derived, first heightened our natural emulation and our desire to excel. How much we improved by those regulations and your own example, with what alacrity we have hitherto discharged our duty, with what cheerfulness we have encountered the severest toils, especially while under your particular directions, we submit to yourself, and natter ourselves that we have in a great measure answered your expectations.
Judge, then, how sensibly we must be affected with the loss of such an excellent commander, such a sincere friend, and so affable a companion. How rare is it to find those amiable qualifications blended together in one man! How great the loss of such a man! Adieu to that superiority, which the enemy have granted us over other troops, and which even the regulars and provincials have done us the honour publicly to acknowledge! Adieu to that strict discipline and order, which you have always maintained! Adieu to that happy union and harmony, which have been our principal cement!
It gives us additional sorrow, when we reflect, to find our unhappy country will receive a loss no less irreparable than our own. Where will it meet a man so experienced in military affairs—one so renowned for patriotism, conduct, and courage? Who has so great a knowledge of the enemy we have to deal with?—who so well acquainted with their situation and strength?—who so much respected by the soldiery?—who, in short, so able to support the military character of Virginia?
Your approved love to your king and country, and your uncommon perseverance in promoting the honour and true interest of the service, convince us that the most cogent reasons only could induce you to quit it; yet we, with the greatest deference, presume to intreat you to suspend those thoughts for another year, and to lead us on to assist in the glorious work of extirpating our enemies, towards which, so considerable advances have been already made. In you, we place the most implicit confidence. Your presence only will cause a steady firmness and vigour to actuate in every breast, despising the greatest dangers, and thinking light of toils and hardships, while led on by the man we know and love.
But if we must be so unhappy as to part, if the exigencies of your affairs force you to abandon us, we beg it as our last request, that you will recommend some person most capable to command, whose military knowledge, whose honour, whose conduct, and whose disinterested principles, we may depend on.
Frankness, sincerity, and a certain openness of soul, are the true characteristics of an officer, and we flatter ourselves that you do not think us capable of saying any thing contrary to the purest dictates of our minds. Fully persuaded of this, we beg leave to assure you, that, as you have hitherto been the actuating soul of our whole corps, we shall at all times pay the most invariable regard to your will and pleasure, and will always be happy to demonstrate by our actions with how much respect and esteem we are, &c.
* * * * *
NOTE—No. IV. See Page 54.
The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of Newcastle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina:
To George Washington, esquire.
We, reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, valour, conduct, and fidelity, do, by these presents constitute and appoint you to be general and commander-in-chief of the army of the United Colonies, and of all the forces now raised, or to be raised by them, and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service, and join the said army for the defence of American liberty, and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof: and you are hereby invested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.
And we do hereby strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under your command, to be obedient to your orders, and diligent in the exercise of their several duties.
And we also enjoin and require you to be careful in executing the great trust reposed in you, by causing strict discipline and order to be observed in the army, and that the soldiers be duly exercised and provided with all convenient necessaries.
And you are to regulate your conduct in every respect by the rules and discipline of war, (as herewith given you) and punctually to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from this or a future congress of these United Colonies, or committee of congress.
This commission to continue in force, until revoked by us, or a future congress.
* * * * *
NOTE—No. V. See Page 78.
This letter is so truly characteristic of the writer, and treats in a manner so peculiar to himself, the measures of congress on this subject, that, although it may not be immediately connected with the Life of General Washington, the reader will not be displeased with its insertion.
Stamford, January 22, 1779.
SIR,—As General Washington has informed the congress of his motives for detaching me, it is needless to trouble you upon the subject. I am therefore only to inform you that I have collected a body of about twelve hundred men from the colony of Connecticut, whose zeal and ardour demonstrated on this occasion can not be sufficiently praised. With this body I am marching directly to New York to execute the different purposes for which I am detached. I am sensible, sir, that nothing can carry the air of greater presumption than a servant intruding his opinion unasked upon his master, but at the same time there are certain seasons when the real danger of the master may not only excuse, but render laudable, the servant's officiousness. I therefore flatter myself that the congress will receive with indulgence and lenity the opinion I shall offer. The scheme of simply disarming the tories seems to me totally ineffectual; it will only embitter their minds and add virus to their venom. They can, and will, always be supplied with fresh arms by the enemy. That of seizing the most dangerous will, I apprehend, from the vagueness of the instruction, be attended with some bad consequences, and can answer no good one. It opens so wide a door for partiality and prejudice to the different congresses and committees on the continent, that much discord and animosity will probably ensue; it being next to impossible to distinguish who are, and who are not the most dangerous. The plan of explaining to these deluded people the justice and merits of the American cause is certainly generous and humane, but I am afraid, will be fruitless. They are so riveted in their opinions, that I am persuaded should an angel descend from heaven with his golden trumpet, and ring in their ears that their conduct was criminal, he would be disregarded. I had lately myself an instance of their infatuation which, if it is not impertinent, I will relate. At Newport I took the liberty, without any authority but the conviction of necessity, to administer a very strong oath to some of the leading tories, for which liberty I humbly ask pardon of the congress. One article of this oath was to take arms in defence of their country, if called upon by the voice of the congress. To this Colonel Wanton and others flatly refused their assent; to take arms against their sovereign, they said, was too monstrous an impiety. I asked them if they had lived at the time of the revolution whether they would have been revolutionists—their answers were at first evasive, circuitous, and unintelligible, but, by fixing them down precisely to the question, I at length drew from them a positive confession that no violence, no provocation on the part of the court, could prevail upon them to act with the continent. Such, I am afraid, is the creed and principles of the whole party great and small.—Sense, reason, argument, and eloquence, have been expended in vain; and in vain you may still argue and reason to the end of time. Even the common feelings and resentments of humanity have not aroused them, but rather with a malignant pleasure they have beheld the destruction of their fellow-citizens and relations. But I am running into declamation, perhaps impertinent and presuming, when I ought to confine myself to the scheme I submit to your consideration. It is, sir, in the first place, to disarm all the manifestly disaffected, as well of the lower as the higher class, not on the principle of putting them in a state of impotence (for this I observed before will not be the case) but to supply our troops with arms of which they stand in too great need. Secondly, to appraise their estates and oblige them to deposite at least the value of one half of their respective property in the hands of the continental congress as a security for their good behaviour. And lastly, to administer the strongest oath that can be devised to act offensively and defensively in support of the common rights. I confess that men so eaten up with bigotry, as the bulk of them appear to be, will not consider themselves as bound by this oath; particularly as it is in some measure forced, they will argue that it is by no means obligatory; but if I mistake not, it will be a sort of criterion by which you will be able to distinguish the desperate fanatics from those who are reclaimable. The former must of course be secured and carried to some interior parts of the continent where they can not be dangerous. This mode of proceeding I conceive (if any can) will be effectual—but whether it meets with the approbation or disapprobation of the congress, I most humbly conjure them not to attribute the proposal to arrogance, or self-conceit, or pragmatical officiousness, but, at worst, to an intemperate zeal for the public service.
Notwithstanding the apparent slimness of the authority, as I am myself convinced that it is substantial, I think it my duty to communicate a circumstance to congress. I have with me here, sir, a deserter from Captain Wallace's ship before Newport. It is necessary to inform you that this Captain Wallace has the reputation of being the most imprudent and rash of all mortals—particularly when he is heated with wine, which, as reported, is a daily incident: that in these moments he blabs his most secret instructions even to the common men. This deserter, then, informs us that the captain a few days ago assembled the sailors and marines on the quarter-deck, and assured them, by way of encouragement, that they were to proceed very soon to New York, where they were to be joined by his majesty's most loyal subjects of White Plains, Poughkeepsie, and Long Island, and at the same time bestowed abundantly his curses on the admiral and general for their dilatoriness and scandalous conduct in not availing themselves sooner of the invitation they had received from the worthy gentlemen. The congress will make what comments they please on this information, which I must repeat I thought it my duty to communicate. Upon the whole, sir, you may be assured that it is the intention of the ministerialists to take possession, and immediately, of New York. The intercepted letters, the unguarded expressions of their officers, in their interviews with ours on the lines, but above all the manifest advantages resulting to their cause from this measure, put their intention beyond dispute. With submission therefore to the wisdom of the congress, it behooves them, I should think, not to lose a moment in securing this important post, which, if in the hands of the enemy, must cut the continent in twain, and render it almost impossible for the northern and southern colonies to support each other. This crisis, when every thing is at stake, is not a time to be over complacent to the timidity of the inhabitants of any particular spot. I have now under my command a respectable force adequate to the purpose of securing the place, and purging all its environs of traitors, on which subject I shall expect with impatience the determination of the congress. Their orders I hope to receive before or immediately on my arrival.
This instant, the enclosed, express from the provincial congress of New York, was delivered into my hands, but as these gentlemen probably are not fully apprised of the danger hanging over their heads, as I have received intelligence from the camp that the fleet is sailed, and that it is necessary to urge my march, I shall proceed with one division of the forces under my command to that city. A moment's delay may be fatal. The force I shall carry with me is not strong enough to act offensively, but just sufficient to secure the city against any immediate designs of the enemy. If this is to give umbrage, if the governor and captain of the man of war are pleased to construe this step as an act of positive hostility, if they are to prescribe what number of your troops are and what number are not to enter the city, all I can say is that New York must be considered as the minister's place, and not the continent. I must now, sir, beg pardon for the length of this letter, and more so, for the presumption in offering so freely my thoughts to the congress, from whom it is my duty simply to receive my orders, and as a servant and soldier strictly to obey; which none can do with greater ardour and affection than,
Your most obedient humble servant,
To the honourable John Hancock, esquire, president of the continental congress.
* * * * *
NOTE—No. VI. See Page 153.
THE NAMES OF THE MEMBERS WHO SUBSCRIBED THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE WERE AS FOLLOWS, VIZ:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
Rhode Island, &c.
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery.
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott.
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris.
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abram Clark.
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross.
Cesar Rodney, George Reed.
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, jun. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
William Hooper, Joseph Hughes, John Penn.
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, jun. Thomas Lynch, jun. Arthur Middleton.
Button Gwinn, George Walton, Lyman Hall.
The people of the United States have taken such universal interest in the composition of this celebrated instrument as to excuse a more minute attention to it than has been bestowed on the other cotemporaneous state papers.
Mr. Jefferson has preserved a copy of the original draft as reported by the committee, with the amendments made to it in congress, which has been published in his correspondence. The following is extracted from that work.
Mr. Jefferson's draft as As amended by congress. reported by the committee.
A declaration by the A declaration by the representatives of the representatives of the United States of America United States of America in general congress in congress assembled. assembled.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal Not altered. station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable certain inalienable rights; rights; that among these are that among these are life, life, liberty, and the pursuit liberty, and the pursuit of of happiness; that to secure happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving instituted among men, deriving their just powers from their just powers from the consent of the governed; the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of that whenever any form of government becomes destructive government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its new government, laying its foundation on such principles, foundation on such principles, and organising its powers in and organising its powers in such form, as to them shall such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence safety and happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that indeed will dictate that governments long established governments long established should not be changed for should not be changed for light and transient causes; light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and long train of abuses and usurpations begun at a usurpations pursuing distinguished period and invariably the same object, pursuing invariably the same evinces a design to reduce object, evinces a design to them under absolute despotism, reduce them under absolute it is their right, it is despotism, it is their right, their duty to throw off such it is their duty to throw off government, and to provide such government, and to provide new guards for their future new guards for their security. Such has been the future security. Such has patient sufferance of these been the patient sufferings of colonies, and such is now the these colonies; and such is necessity which constrains now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former them to expunge their systems of government. The former systems of government. history of the present king of The history of the Great Britain is a history of present king of Great Britain repeated injuries and is a history of unremitting usurpations, all having injuries and usurpations in direct object among which appears no the establishment of an solitary fact to contradict the absolute tyranny over these uniform tenor of the rest, but states. To prove this let facts all have in direct object the be submitted to a candid establishment of an absolute world. tyranny over these states. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.
He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome Not altered. and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended Not altered. in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Not altered. representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depositary of Not altered. their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly and houses repeatedly for continually, for opposing with opposing with manly firmness manly firmness his invasions his invasions on the rights of on the rights of the people. the people.
He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people Not altered. at large for their exercise, the state remaining, in the mean time, exposed to the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners, Not altered. refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has suffered the He has obstructed the administration of justice administration of justice totally to cease in some by refusing his assent of these states, refusing his to laws for establishing assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. judiciary powers.
He has made our judges He has made judges dependent dependent on his will alone on his will alone for the for the tenure of their offices, tenure of their offices, and the and the amount and payment amount and payment of their of their salaries. salaries.
He has erected a multitude He has erected a multitude of new offices, by a of new offices, and sent hither self-assumed power, and swarms of new officers to sent hither swarms of new harass our people and eat out officers to harass our people their substance. and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us in He has kept among us in times of peace standing armies times of peace standing armies and ships of war without without the consent of our the consent of our legislatures. legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independence of Not altered. and superior to the civil power.
He has combined with He has combined with others to subject us to a others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and constitutions and unacknowledged unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended to their acts of pretended legislation for quartering legislation for quartering large bodies of armed troops large bodies of armed troops among us; for protecting by among us; for protecting by a mock trial from punishment a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants should commit on the inhabitants of these states; for cutting of these states; for cutting off our trade with all off our trade with all parts of the world; for imposing parts of the world; for imposing taxes on us without taxes on us without our consent; for depriving us our consent; for depriving us of the benefits of trial by in many cases of the jury; for transporting us beyond benefits of trial by jury; seas to be tried for pretended for transporting us beyond offences; for abolishing seas to be tried for pretended the free system of English offences; for abolishing the laws in a neighbouring province, free system of English laws establishing therein an in a neighbouring province, arbitrary government, and establishing therein an enlarging its boundaries, so arbitrary government, and as to render it at once an enlarging its boundaries, so example and fit instrument for as to render it at once an introducing the same absolute example and fit instrument for rule into these states; for introducing the same absolute taking away our charters, rule into these colonies; abolishing our most valuable for taking away our charters, laws, and altering fundamentally abolishing our most valuable the forms of our governments; laws, and altering fundamentally for suspending our the forms of our governments; own legislatures, and declaring for suspending our own themselves invested with legislatures, and declaring power to legislate for us in themselves invested with all cases whatsoever. power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government He has abdicated government here, withdrawing his here by declaring us out governors and declaring us of his protection and waging out of his allegiance and war against us. protection.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our Not altered. towns and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation works of death, destruction and tyranny already begun and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy unworthy the and perfidy scarcely head of a civilized nation. paralleled in the most barbarous ages and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow-citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to Not altered. become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has endeavoured to He has excited domestic bring on the inhabitants of insurrections among us and has the frontiers the merciless endeavoured to bring on the Indian savages whose known inhabitants of the frontiers rule of warfare is an the merciless Indian savages undistinguished destruction of whose known rule of warfare all ages, sexes and conditions is an undistinguished destruction of existence. of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
He has excited treasonable insurrections of our fellow-citizens, with the Struck out. allurements of forfeiture and confiscation of our property.
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for Struck out. suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most Not altered. humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injuries.
A prince whose character is A prince whose character is thus marked by every act thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free. free people. Future ages will scarcely believe that the hardiness of one man adventured, within the short compass of twelve years only, to lay a foundation so broad and so undisguised for tyranny over a people fostered and fixed in principles of freedom.
Nor have we been wanting Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British in attention to our British brethren. We have warned brethren. We have warned them from time to time of them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to attempts by their legislature to extend a jurisdiction over extend an unwarrantable these our states. We have jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration circumstances of our emigration and settlement here; no one of and settlement here; we have which could warrant so appealed to their native justice strange a pretension; these and magnanimity, and we were effected at the expense have conjured them by the of our own blood and treasure, ties of our common kindred unassisted by the wealth or to disavow these usurpations the strength of Great Britain; which would inevitably that in constituting indeed interrupt our connexion and our several forms of government, correspondence. They too have we had adopted one been deaf to the voice of common king; thereby laying justice and of consanguinity. a foundation for perpetual We must therefore acquiesce league and amity with them; in the necessity which denounces but that submission to their our separation, and hold them parliament was no part of our as we hold the rest of mankind, constitution, nor ever in idea enemies in war, in peace if history may be credited; friends. and we appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, as well as to the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations which were likely to interrupt our connexion and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity, and when occasions have been given them by the regular course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have by their free election re-established them in power. At this very time too, they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch and foreign mercenaries to invade and destroy us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these unfeeling brethren. We must endeavour to forget our former love for them, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. We might have been a free and a great people together; but a communication of grandeur and of freedom, it seems, is below their dignity. Be it so, since they will have it. The road to happiness and to glory is open to us too. We will tread it apart from them, and acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our eternal separation.