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consider their grievances and to take steps to bring an end to their sufferings. It was written with very unusual skill and in language calculated to excite the anger and awaken still further the resentment of the soldiers, who with much justice felt that they had sacrificed their comfort and were now treated with scorn and contumely. “Can you then consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution, and retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honour!—If you can-GO -and carry with you, the jest of tories and the scorn of whigs—the ridicule, and what is worse, the pity of the world. Go, starve, and be forgotten! But if your spirit should revolt at this; if you have sense enough to discover, and spirit enough to oppose tyranny under whatever garb it may assume; whether it be the plain coat of republicanism, or the splendid robe of royalty, if you have yet learned to discriminate between a people and a cause, between men and principles—awake; attend you to your situation and redress yourselves. If the present moment be lost, every future effort is in vain; and your threats then, will be as empty as your intreaties now.'
"Fournals of Congress, April 29, 1783; Washington, Writings (Sparks's ed.), VIII., 555 - 558; Hatch, Administration of Am. Rev. Army, 197–199.
No better, no more vehement and virile English was written by the generation that produced Burke and Junius, and one is tempted to forget the offence in admiring the capacity of the offender. The paper seems to have been written by John Armstrong,' aide-de-camp to General Gates; but though the hands were the hands of Esau, the cunning and the force were probably supplied by more conspicuous men. If the pompous Gates was not the chief conspirator, he was at least the figurehead.
Washington discovered that the address had been circulated and at once appreciated the danger. General orders were issued calling for a meeting at a later day, in hopes that in the mean time the passion excited by the inflammatory address might have somewhat subsided. The senior officer in rank, who could, of course, be none other than the redoubtable Gates himself, was called on to preside at the meeting. At the appointed hour Washington appeared. The scene is one of the most dramatic in our history. The commander was in fear lest the passions of the army, inflamed by insidious suggestions and stimulated by real injustice, should lead them to turn upon the government or seek to compel the states to pay them their dues; civil war of the most odious and distressful kind might well ensue.
As he took his place at the desk he drew"his written address from his coat pocket, and his spectacles, with his other hand, from his waistcoat pocket, and then addressed the officers in the following manner: 'Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country.' This little address, with the mode and manner of delivering it, drew tears from (many) of the officers.” 1
'Hatch, Administration of Am. Rer. Army, 161; U. S. Magazine and Lit. and Polit. Repository, January, 1823, 37-41.
The paper was a manly, eloquent, telling appeal to the patriotism, judgment, and patient generosity of the officers; it was a stinging rebuke for the cowardly conspirators who were plotting to disgrace the army and ruin the country. “And let me conjure you, ' he said at length, “in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man, who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood.” ? Upon the conclusion of the address the whole assembly was in tears. Washington withdrew and resolutions were then adopted expressing unshaken confidence in the justice of Congress and the country, declaring that the officers of the American army
Cobb, in Washington, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 170; see also Pickering, Pickering, I., 431.
Washington, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 173, 174.
received with abhorrence and rejected with disdain the infamous proposals of the anonymous circular, and respectfully requesting Washington to urge upon Congress the prompt attention to their claims. And thus," that body of officers, in a moment, damned with infamy two publications, which, during the four preceding days, most of them had read with admiration, and talked of with rapture.'
Without more substantial assets than good in. tentions Congress found itself in an embarrassing situation. While the army was clamoring for wages, the opposition to giving the officers half-pay for life reached in some portions of the land incredible height, causing in New England, Madison said, “almost a general anarchy." In lieu of this method of payment, therefore, Congress determined to offer full pay for five years, and ere long the soldiers were given new promises and steps were taken to disband the army. But the fear of the soldiery, which aroused the sturdy patriots who had bided safe at home during the war, did not die out with the disappearance of the army; the Society of the Cincinnati, an order formed to perpetuate the memories of the Revolution and to preserve the friendships" formed under the pressure of common danger, and in numerous instances cemented by the blood of the parties,” 3 awakened the dread of many gloomy
· Letter of March 16, 1783, in Pickering, Pickering, I., 440. Fournals of Congress, March 22, 1783. 3 Brooks, Henry Knox, 175.
minded citizens, who shuddered at the spectre of an hereditary order.
The veterans who had “borne the heat and burden of the war" went home in good order, “without a settlement of their accounts, or a farthing of money in their pockets.” But there was mutiny among the Pennsylvania troops who were stationed at Lancaster. Some eighty of these “soldiers of a day” marched upon Philadelphia, and, though not directly threatening Congress, placed that body in a humiliating position. Just how perilous the situation was it is now difficult to say, but certainly while the authorities in the city were timidly negotiating for days with the band of mutineers, who had found their unerring way to the wine-bottles and the ale-casks of hospitable Philadelphia, the plight of Congress was unenviable and disagreeable. Feeling that its dignity was injured, and not unwilling to rebuke the Pennsylvania authorities, it passed over the river to Princeton, and there for a time continued its helpless process of recommendation and appeal. The event, though not particularly serious in its consequences, was a dramatic representation of the helplessness of the Congress, whose representatives abroad were asking for favors and expecting to be treated as the representatives of a great sovereign nation. Though the war was over, the year 1783 was full
1 Washington, Writings (Ford's ed.), X., 272.