« AnteriorContinuar »
ation of a little pelf to individuals is to be placed in competi
a tion with the essential rights and liberties of the present generations, and of millions yet unborn.” He alludes to the in
" creasing rapacity of the times,” and “the declining zeal of the people”; and speaks of “the virtuous few,” who were struggling against the corruptions and “stock-jobbing of the multitude.” Other documents might be cited, were further evidence necessary, to prove the selfishness and rapacity of individuals in those times.
Again, we frequently hear it said that the American people are less patriotic than their fathers were, and less ready to vindicate their rights. This accusation, also, we think, is unfounded, and we shall test its truth by reference to the records of the Revolution. In the first place, then, it should be remembered, though the war was undertaken for the holiest cause which ever arrayed men in battle, that the Whigs were a minority in some of the States, barely equalled their opponents in others, and in the whole country composed but an inconsiderable majority. The Loyalists embodied, and kept in the field, a large army of their partisans; and a considerable number of those who refrained from taking up arms were still active on the side of the crown, and by their conduct prolonged and embittered the contest. Whatever
be said to palliate the guilt of this portion of our countrymen, it will hardly be contended that they were distinguished for patriotism ; and nearly one half of the adult male population of the country may therefore be dismissed from the discussion.
To say nothing of the Whigs of Vermont, who at one period were declared by Washington to be “ a dead weight upon the cause, some examination of the resources * of the thirteen confederate States has served to convince us, that, had the advice and plans of the Commander-in-chief, of Franklin, and other judicious and patriotic persons been adopted, and had there been system and common prudence and integrity in the management of affairs, the army might
* We do not admit that the Thirteen Colonies were poor, though such appears to be the common impression. Franklin estimated the annual consumption of tea, before the Revolution, at £ 500,000. The people who expended two and a half millions of dollars in a year for one article of luxury were not poor. During the most distressing periods of the contest, the importation of superfluities was continued to an extent which drew from Franklin earnest remonstrance and rebuke. See Sparks's edition of his Works, Vol. VIII. pp. 327, 376, 393, 403.
have been well fed, clothed, and paid throughout the struggle. Particular States, and thousands of individuals, exhausted their means to aid in achieving the independence of their country; but we are satisfied that the want of patriotism in other States and in other individual Whigs produced the appalling calamities and distresses of the war, and compelled the resort to the seizure of private property, and other objectionable expedients. The issuing of bills of credit was, perhaps, unavoidable ; but their excessive depreciation might and should have been prevented. The exports of the Colonies before the war were large, and, with a liberal allowance for diminished production * during the hostilities, there were still provisions in the country at all times to feed the people and both the Whig and the royal forces. The king's troops were well supplied ; for his generals paid “hard money,” and not the “ Continental stuff.” "I am amazed,” said Washington to Colonel Stewart, " at the report you make of the quantity of provision that goes daily into Philadelphia † from the county of Bucks" ; and this was written in January of that memorable winter which the American army passed in nakedness and starvation at Valley Forge.
So, too, there were men enough who in name were Whigs to meet the strongest force that was ever employed to suppress the popular movement.
There was always an army on paper ; but the votes of Congress were seldom executed by the States. At the close of one campaign, there was not a sufficient number of troops in camp to man the lines ; and at the opening of another, when the Commander-in-chief was expected to take the field, “scarce any State in the Union,"
“ as he himself said, had “ an eighth part of its quota” in service. The bounty finally paid to soldiers was enormous. Omitting details, the general fact will be indicated by stating that the price for a single recruit was as high as seven hundred and fifty dollars in one State, and one thousand dollars in another, on enlistment for the war, besides the bounty and emoluments given by Congress; and one hundred and fifty
* The prizes taken by the numerous Whig privateers were very valuable, and increased the ability of the country, probably, nearly as much as it was lessened by the partial interruption of agriculture. Šo successful were these privateers, that the premium of insurance, as appears by a speech in Parliament, rose to 20, and even 25 per cent.
| Then occupied by the royal army.
dollars “in specie” were exacted and paid for a term of duty of only five months. Such were the extraordinary inducements necessary to tempt some men to serve their country, when their dearest interests were at issue. Still, large numbers of the Whigs demanded that Washington should face and fight their enemies, without troops, without stores, and even at times without their own confidence and sympathy. If we admit that much of the reluctance to enter the army arose from the knowledge of the privations and sufferings to be endured in camp, and from aversion to receive payment for service in a depreciated currency, we shall palliate the conduct of the class expected to become soldiers only to censure by implication another class, who possessed, but kept back, the means of supporting those who fought their battles.
In the further vindication of the present generation from the charge of degeneracy, it becomes necessary to consider whether, in point of character, the army of our day will not compare favorably with that of the Revolution. It seems to be the common impression, that the rank and file of the force which achieved our independence were composed principally of the yeomanry and farmers of the country. As far as the regular Continental army is concerned, we consider this opinion a mistaken one. In some of the Colonies, the occupants of the soil were mere retainers or dependants of the great landholders, and, with them, very generally adhered to the royal cause; while in other districts, the recruiting officers often enlisted foreigners, deserters from the army of the king, minors, and even young boys. That persons of this description formed a large part of the army is not probable ; but if we admit that the Continental line consisted of men of property in land, the conclusion, that the yeomanry of the Revolutionary era, as a class, were less moral than are those who now till the earth, becomes irresistible.
Making every allowance for the effects of hunger and want, for the claims of families at home, and for other circumstances equally imperative, we must still consider desertion, mutiny, robbery, and murder as high crimes. There were soldiers of the Revolution who deserted in parties of twenty and thirty at a time, and several hundreds of those who thus abandoned the cause fled to Vermont, and were among the early settlers of that State.
A thousand men, the date of whose enlistment had been misplaced, perjured
themselves in a body, as fast as they could be sworn, in order to quit the service which they had voluntarily entered. In smaller parties, hundreds of others demanded dismission from camp under false pretexts, and with lies upon their lips. Some also added treason to desertion, and joined the various corps
of Loyalists in the capacity of spies upon their former friends, or of guides and pioneers. Many more enlisted, deserted, and reënlisted under new recruiting officers, for the purpose of receiving double bounty ; while others, who placed their names upon the rolls, were paid the money to which they were entitled, but refused to join the army; and others still
, who were sent to the hospitals, returned home without leave after their recovery, and were sheltered and secreted by friends and neighbours, whose sense of right was as weak as their own. Another class sold their clothing, provisions, and arms,* to obtain means for revelling, and to indulge their propensity for drunkenness; while some prowled about the country, to rob and kill the unoffending and defenceless. A guard was placed over the grave of a foreigner of rank, who died in Washington's own quarters, and who was buried in full dress, with diamond rings and buckles, “ lest the soldiers should be tempted to dig for hidden treas
These facts are sufficient to show that virtue in the American camp was not, at any rate, universal, and accusations of immorality may be made and proved against the Whig army as well as against those which have succeeded it. Indeed, we fear that whippings, drummings from the service, and even military executions, were more frequent in the Revolution than at any subsequent period of our history.
If we turn our attention to the officers, we shall find that many had but doubtful claims to respect for purity of private character, and that some were addicted to grave vices. We have not space to discuss the subject at length, and a general view must suffice. In point of personal courage and conduct, there were several delinquents of standing and rank. The battle of Breed's Hill was lost probably by the want of valor on the part of officers who were intrusted with honor
* Such were the waste and theft of arms by the soldiers, that until Steuben had control of the matter, an allowance of five thousand stand, annually, was made in the official estimates, to meet the deficiency.
able and responsible commands; * and had not one of the British generals,t before the attack, tarried too long with the beautiful daughter of that stout old Loyalist, “ Master Lovell,” — who educated half of the prominent Whigs of Massachusetts, and was himself “a castaway,” — the royal artillery might have been better served in the action, and the brave Prescott sooner driven from the works.
It affords us no pleasure to dwell upon the crimes and frailties of a single individual whose name is connected with, or distinguished in, our annals. We pass lightly over the cases of Lee and Arnold, and will only allude to two others, each of whom bore a general's commission. One of them shocked the pure by his open and repeated scoffs at religion ; and the other passed a large portion of his life in tippling and gaming, and, though repentant in his declining years, it was pithily said of him, that " no man better loved this world, and no man more reluctantly quitted it.”
In tracing the career of officers of inferior rank, we find much to lament. Judge Marshall states that Arnold was the only one who “ turned his sword against his former companions in arms ; but the great jurist was mistaken. cannot go into details, and will barely remark that there were several who had held commissions in the Whig army who went over to the royal side, and that among them was one lieutenant-colonel, who had served a campaign under St.
* That the reader may not suppose we mean to censure the many brave men who participated in the battle, we state that Gridley, who commanded the battalion of artillery, and by whose misconduct it afforded but little aid, and Captain Callender, who withdrew his field-pieces and company from the strife, and Colonel Gerrish, who would not leave Bunker's Hill, and whose whole regiment refused to march to Breed's, and kept out of action during the three attacks, are here particularly alluded to.
+ General Cleveland. It is said, that is in order to win favor with the damsel, he had given her young brother an appointment in the ordnance department for which he was not qualified." To this circumstance the sending over the “over-sized cannon-balls is attributed, which occasioned delay, after the British troops landed at Morton's Point. The mistake did not allow the artillery to be of essential service until suitable balls were obtained from Boston. Meantime, two attacks were repulsed. We hardly know of another mention of Cleveland's name in the history of the war. It is a singular coincidence, that the artillery on both sides should have been badly served. The celebrated Count Rumford desired employment in the Whig army at this time, and would, but for the course of Colonel Gridley, who obtained the appointment for his son above mentioned, have commanded the American artillery on this occasion. Rumford subsequently adhered to the crown, and was a colonel of dragoons. — See Life of Warren, by the late A. H. Everett, in Sparks's Biography.