Imágenes de páginas

of tyranny ; and that arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

As to the second article, which respe&s the performance of public justice, congress have, in their late address to the United States, almost exhausted the subject; they have explained their ideas so fully, and have enforced the obligations the states are under to render complete justice to all the public creditors, with so much dignity and energy, that, in my opinion, no real friend to the honor and independency of America, cần hesitate a sing gle moment respecting the propriety of complying with the just and honorable measures proposed.. If theịr arguments do not produce conviction, I know of nothing that will have greates iufluence, especially when we reflect that the system referred to, being the result of the collected wisdom of the continent, must be esteemed, if not perfect, certainly the least objectionable of any that could be devised ; and that, if it should not be carried into immediate execution, a national bankruptcy, with all its deplorable consequences, will take place before any differ: ent plan can possibly be proposed or adopted ; so pressing are the present circumstances, and such is the alternative now of. fered to the states.

The ability of the country to discharge the debts, which have been incurred in its defence, is not to be doubted. And inclination, I flatter myself, will not be wanting ; the path of our duty is plain before us; honesty will be found, on every experiment, to be the best and only true policy. Let us then, as a nation, be just ; let us fulfil the public contracts which congress had undoubtedly a right to make for the purpose of carrying on the war, with the same good faith we suppose ourselves bound to perform our private engagements. In the mean time let an attention to the chearful performance of their proper business, as individuals, and as members of society, be earnestly inculcated on the citizens of America ; then will they strengthen the bands of government, and be happy under its protection. Every one will reap the fruit of his labors : every one will enjoy his own acquisitions, without molestation, and without danger.

In this state of absolute freedom and perfect security, who will grudge to yield a very little of his property to support the common interests of society, and ensure the protection of goo vernment? Who does not remember the frequent declarations at the commencement of the war, That we should be com pletely satisfied, if at the expence of one-half, we could defend the remainder of our possessions? Where is the man to be found, who wishes to remain in debt for the defence of his own person and property to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood of others, without making one generous effort to pay the debt of hořor and of gratitude ? In what part of the continent shall we find any man, or body of men, who would not blush to stand up, and propose measures purposely calculated to rob the soldier of his stipend, and the public creditor of his due ? And were it possible that such a flagrant instance of injustice could ever happen, would it not excite the general indignation, and tend to bring down upon the authors of such measures the aggravated vengeance of heaven? If, after all, a spirit of dis. union, or a temper of obstinacy and perverseness should mania fest itself in any of the states; if such an ungracious disposition should attempt to frustrate all the happy effects that might be expected to flow from the union; if there should be à rèfusal to comply with requisitions for funds to discharge the annual interest of the public debts, and if that refusal should retive all those jealousies and produce all those evils which are how happily removed ; congress, who have in all their transactions shewn a great degree of magnanimity and justice, will stand justified in the sight of God and man! and that state alone, which puts itself in opposition to the aggregate wisdom of the continent, and follows sueh mistaken and pernicious councils, will be responsible for all the consequences.

For my own part, conscious of having acted, while a servant of the public, in the manner I conceived best suited to promote the real interests of my country ; having in consequence of my fixed belief, in some measure, pledged myself to the army, that their 'country would finally do them complete and ample justice, and 'not wishing to conceal any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the world, I have thought proper to transmit to your excellency the enclosed collection of papers, relative to the half-pay and commutation granted by congress, to the officers of the army ; from these communications, my decided sentiment will be clearly comprehended, together with the conclusive reasons which induced me, at an early period, to recommend the adoption of this measure in the most earnest and sea rious manner. As the proceedings of congress, the army, and myself, are open to all, and contain, in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the prejudices and errors which may have been entertained by any, I think it unnecessary to say any thing more, than just to observe, that the resolutions of congress, now alluded to, are as undoubtedly and absolutely binding upon the United States, as the most solemn acts of confederation or legislation.

As to the idea, which I am informed has, in some instances, prevailed, that the half-pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the odious light of a pension, it ought to be exploded for ever : that provision should be viewed, as it really was, a reasonable compensation offered by congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give to officers of the army, for ser. vices then to be performed. It was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service. It was a part of their hire'; I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their blood, and of your independency ; it is therefore more than a common debt; it is a debt of honor ; it can never be considered as a pension, or gratuity, nor cancelled until it is fairly discharged.

· With regard to the distinction between officers and soldiers, it is sufficient that the uniform experience of every nation of the world, combined with our own, proves the utility and propriety of the discrimination. Rewards in proportion to the aid the public draws from them, are unquestionably due to all its .servants. In some lines, the soldiers have perhaps generally

had as ample compensation for their services, by the large boun-ties which have been paid them, as their officers will receive in, the proposed commutation; in others, if, besides the donation of land, the payment of arrearages of clothing and wages (in , which articles all the component parts of the army must be put

upon the same footing) we take into the estimate, the bounties many of the soldiers have received, and the gratuity of one year's full pay, which is promised to all, possibly their situation (every circumstance being duly considered) will not be deemed less eligible than that of the officers. Should a farther reward, however, be judged equitable, I will venture to assert, no man will enjoy greater satisfaction than myself, in an exemption from taxes for a limited time (which has been petitioned for in some instances) or any other adequate immunity or compensa tion granted to the brave defenders of their country's cause. But neither the adoption or rejection of this proposition, will, in any manner, affect, much less militate against, the act of congress, by which they have offered five years full pay, in lieu. of the half pay for life, which had been before promised to the officers of the army.

BEFORE I conclude the subject on public justice, I cannot omit tò mention the obligations this country is under to that meritorious class of veterans, the non-commissioned officers and privates; who have been discharged for inability, in consequence of the tesolution of congress, of the 23d of April, 1782, on an annual pension for life : their peculiar sufferings, their singular merits and claims to that provision, need only to be known, to interest the feelings of humanity in their behalf: nothing but a punctual payment of their annual allowance, can rescue them from the most complicated misery; and nothing could be a more melancholy and distressing sight, than to behold those who have shed their blood, or lost their limbs in the service of their coun. trý, without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of obtaining any of the comforts or necessaries of life, compels ted to beg' their daily bread from door to door. Suffer ne to recommend those of this description, belonging to your state, to tủe warmest patronage of your excellency and your legisla. ture.

It is necessary to say but a few words on the third topic which was proposed, and which regards particularly the defence of the republic-As there can be little doubt but congress will recommend a proper peace establishment for the United States,

in which a due attention will be paid to the importance of placing the militia of the Union upon a regular and respectable footing. It this should be the case, I should beg leave to urge the great advantage of it in the strongest terms.

The militia of this country must be considered as the palla. dium of our security, and the first effectual resort in case of hostility. It is essential, therefore, that the same system should

pervade the whole ; that the formation and discipline of the . militia of the continent, should be absolutely uniform ; and that the same species of arms, accoutrements, and military apparatus, should be introduced in every part of the United States. No one, who has not learned it from experience, can conceive the difficulty, expence, and confusion, which result from a contrary system; or the vague arrangements which have hitherto prevailed.

· Ir, in treating of political points, a greater latitude than usual has been taken in the course of the address, the importance of the crisis, and the magnitude of the objects in discusa sion, must be my apology. It is, however, neither my wish nor expectation, that the preceding observations should claim any regard, except so far as they shall appear to be dictated by a good intention, consonant to the immutable rules of justice ; calculated to produce a liberal system of policy, aud founded on whatever experience may have been acquired by a long and close attention to public business. Here I might speak with more confidence, from my actual observations ; and if it would not swell this letter (already too prolix) beyond the bounds I had presbribed myself, I could demonstrate to every mind, open to conviction, than in less time, and with much less exe pence than has been incurred, the war might have been brought to the same happy conclusion, if the resources of the continent could have been properly called forth; that the distresses and disappointments which have very often occurred, have, in too many instances, resulted more from a want of energy in the continental government, than a deficiency of means in the particular states: that the inefficacy of the measures, arising from the want of an adequate authority in the supreme power, from a

« AnteriorContinuar »