« AnteriorContinuar »
second major-general in the army, will review the arrangement, and place General Knox before me, I will neither quit the service nor be dissatisfied.'
* Letter to the Secretary of War.
Washington Taxed Anew with the Cares of OfficeCorrespondence with Lafayette - A Marriage at
A Mount Vernon-Appointment of a Minister to the French Republic-Washington's Surprise-His Activity on His Estate-Political Anxieties-Concern about the Army.
ARLY in November (1798) Washington
left his retirement and repaired to Philadelphia, at the earnest request of the
Secretary of War, to meet that public functionary and Major-Generals Hamilton and Pinckney, and make arrangements respecting the forces about to be raised. The Secretary had prepared a series of questions for their consideration, and others were suggested by Washington, all bearing upon the organization of the provisional army. Upon these Washington and the two major-generals were closely engaged for nearly five weeks, at great inconvenience and in a most inclement season. The result of their deliberations was reduced to form, and communicated to the Secretary in two letters drafted by Hamilton, and signed by the commander-in-chief. Not the least irksome of Washington's task, in his present position, was to wade through volumes of applications and recommendations for military appointments; a task which he performed with extreme assiduity, anxious to avoid the influence of favor or prejudice, and sensitively alive to the evil of improper selections.
As it was part of the plan on which he had accepted the command of the army to decline the occupations of the office until circumstances should require his presence in the field; and as the season and weather rendered him impatient to leave Philadelphia, he gave the Secretary of War his views and plans for the charge and direction of military affairs, and then set out once more for Mount Vernon. The cares and concerns of office, however, followed him to his retreat. “It is not the time nor the attention only," writes he, “which the public duties I am engaged in require, but their bringing upon me applicants, recommenders of applicants, and seekers of information, none of whom, perhaps, are my acquaintances, with their servants and horses to aid in the consumption of my forage, and what to me is more valuable, my time, that I most regard ; for a man in the country, nine miles from any house of entertainment, is differently situated from one in a city, where none of these inconveniences are felt."
In a letter, recently received from Lafayette, the latter spoke feelingly of the pleasure he experienced in conversing incessantly with his son George about Mount Vernon, its dear and venerated inhabitants, of the tender obligations, so profoundly felt, which he and his son had contracted towards him who had become a father to both.
In the conclusion of his letter, Lafayette writes that, from the information he had received, he was fully persuaded that the French Directory desired to be at peace with the United States. “The aristocratical party,” adds he, “whose hatred of America dates from the commencement of the European revolution, and the English government, which, since the Declaration of Independence, have forgotten and forgiven nothing, will rejoice, I know, at the prospect of a rupture between two nations heretofore united in the cause of liberty, and will endeavor, by all the means in their power, to precipitate us into a war. But you are there, my dear general, independent of all parties, venerated by all, and if, as
I hope, your informant leads you to judge favorably of the disposition of the French goverement, your influence ought to prevent the breach from widening, and should insure a noble and durable reconciliation."
In his reply, December 25th, Washington says: “You have expressed a wish worthy of the benevolence of your heart, that I would exert all my endeavors to avert the calamitous effects of a rupture between our countries. Believe me, my dear friend, that no man can deprecate an event of this sort more than I should.
You add, in another place, that the Executive Directory are disposed to an accommodation of all differences. If they are sincere in this declaration, let them evidence it by actions; for words, unaccompanied therewith, will not be much regarded now. I would pledge myself that the government and people of the United States will meet them heart and hand at a fair negotiation ; having no wish more ardent than to live in peace with all the world, provided they are suffered to remain undisturbed in their just rights.”
“Of the politics of Europe," adds he, in another part of his letter, “I shall express no opinion, nor make any inquiry who is right or who is wrong. I wish well to all nations and to all men. My politics are plain and