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Aware of the coyness with which his last letter would be received, he feels himself neither disappointed nor displeased with the caution it has met. He well knew that it spoke a language which, 'till now, had been heard only in whispers, and that it contained some sentiments which confidence itself would have breathed with distrust. But their lives have been short, and their observations imperfect indeed, who have yet to learn, that alarms may be false ; that the best designs are sometimes obliged to assume the worst aspect ; and that, however synonimous surprize and disaster may be in military phrase, in moral and political meaning, they convey ideas as different as they are distinct. Suspicion, detestable as it is in private life, is the loveliest trait of political character. It prompts you to enquiry, bars the door against design, and opens every avenue to trutha. It was the first to oppose a tyrant here, and still stands centinel over the liberties of America. With this belief it would illy become me to stifle the voice of this honest guar. dian-a guardian who, authorised by circumstances digested into proof, has herself given birth to the address you have read, and now goes forth among you with a request to all, that it may be treated fairly ; that it may be considered before it be abused, and condemned before it be tortured ; convinced that, in a search after error, truth will appear; that apathy itself will grow warm in the pursuit, and though it will be the last to adopt her advice, it will be the first to act upon it.
The general orders of yesterday, which the weak may mistake for disapprobation, and the designing dare to represent as such, wears, in my opinion, a very different complexion, and carries with it a very opposite tendency. 'Till now, the commander in chief has regarded the steps you have taken for redress with good wishes alone. His ostensible silence has authorized your meetings, and his private opinion has sanctified your claims. Had he disliked the object in view, would not the same sense of duty which forbad you from meeting on the third day of the week, have forbidden you from meeting on the seventh ? It not the same subject held up for your discussion ? And has it not passed the seal of office, and taken all the solemnity of an order ? This will give system to your proceedings, and sta. bility to your resolves. It will ripen speculation into fact ; and, while it adds to the unanimity, it cannot possibly lessen the independency of your sentiments. It may be necessary to add upon this subject, that, from the injunction with which the general oj ders close, every man is at liberty to conclude that the report to be made to head-quarters is intended for congress. Hence will arise another motive for that energy which has been recommended : for, can you give the lie to the pathetic description of your representations, and the more alarming' predictions of your friends ? To such as make a want of signature an objection to opinion, I reply, that it matters very little who is the author of sentiments which grow out of your feelings, and apply to your wants ; that in this instance diffidence suggested what experience enjoins; and that while I continue to move on the high road of argument and advice, which is open to all, I shall continue to be the sole confident of my own secret. But, should the time come, when it shall be necessary to depart from this general line, and hold up any individual among you as an object of the resentment or contempt of the rest; I thus publicly pledge my honor as a soldier, and veracity as a man, that I will then assume a visible existence, and give my name to the army, with as little reserve as I now give my opinions.
CANTONMENT, 15th March, 1783. The oficers of tbe army being contened, agreeably to a general
order of the 11tb instant, tbe bonorable major-general GATES, president, bis excellency tbe COMMANDER IN CHIEF was pleased to address the meeting as follows
GENTLEMEN, DY an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to D convene you together. How inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order • and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide.
. . In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation, addressed more to the feelings and passions than to the reason and judgment of the army. The author of the piece is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his pen ; and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his heart ; for, as, men see through different optics, and are ir.iuced, by the reflecting faculties of the mind, to use different means to attain the same end, the author of the address should have had more charity than to mark for suspicion, the man who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance ; or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and ad as he advises. But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of sentiment, regard to justice and love of country, have no part : and he was right to insinuate the darkest suspicion to effect the blackest design. That the address is drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes ; that it is calculated to impress the mind with an idea of premeditated injustice in the sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must unavoidably flow from such a belief; that the secret: mover of this scheme, whoever he may be, intended to take advantage of the passions, while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberate thinking, and that composure of mind which is só necessary to give dignity and stability to measures, is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proof than a reference to the proceeding. Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to shew upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hastyo meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last, and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity, consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you, that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. ' But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country ; -as I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty ; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and ace krowledge your merits ; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army'; as my heart has ever expanded with joy when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen when the mouth of de traction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indiffer-nt to its interests. But how are they to be promoted ? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. If war continues, remove into the unsettled country ; there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But who are they to defend ? Our wives, our children, our farms and other property, which we leave behind us! Or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first, (the latter cannot be re. moved) to perish in a wilderness with hunger, cold and nakedness? If peace takes place, never sheath your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice. This dreadful alternative of either deserting our country in the ex. tremest hour of her distress, or turning our arms against it, which is the apparent object, unless congress can be compelled into instant compliance, has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God ! what can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather is he not an insidious foe? some emissary, perhaps, from New-York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends measures, in either alternative, impracticable in their nature? But, here, gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because, it would be as imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception to suppose you stood in need of them. A moment's reflection will convince every dispassionate mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into exem cution. There might, gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice in this address to you, of an anonymous production ; but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the ariny, the effect it was intended to have, together with
some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of that writing. With respect to the advice given by the author, to suspect the man, who shall recommend moderate measures, and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must ; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of mankind ; reason is of no use to us. The . freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we , may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter. I cannot in justice to iny own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings will do it complete justice: that their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease' 'till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But like all other large bo. dies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why then should we distrust them ? and in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer! No, most certainly in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance. For myself, and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity and justice ; a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me-a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an'army I have so long had the honor to command, will oblige me to declare in this public and solemn manner, that in the attainment of conplete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratifi. cation of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country, and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmose