Page images

Verniont, to be a separate independent state, and of the state of New York, to their country, as within its chartered limits, together with open offers from the royal commanders to establish and defend them as a British province, produced a serious crisis, which called for the interference of the American chief. This was the more necessary, as the governments of New York and of Ver-, mont were respectively resolved on exercising a jurisdiction over the same people and the same territory. Congress resolv- . ed in August 1781 to accede to the independence of Vermont on certain conditions, and within specified limits. This act of congress was not accepted by Vermont, and yet was so disagreeable to the legislature of New York, as to draw from them a spirited protest against it. Vermont complained that congress interfered in the internal police of an independent state. New York viewed the resolve as a virtual dismemberment of their state, which was a constituent part of the confederacy. Washington, anxious for the peace of the union, sent a message to Chittenden, governor of Vermont, desiring to know what where the real designs, views, and intentions of the people of Vermont; whether they would þe satisfied with the independence


proposed by congress, or had it seriously in contemplation to join with the enemy, and become a British province? The governor returned an unequivocal and decisive answer, that there were no people on the continent more attached to the cause of America than the people of Vermont; but that they were fully determined not to be put under the government of New York; that they would oppose this by force of arms, and would join with the British in Canada, rather than to submit to that government.

While both states were dissatisfied with congress, and their animosities, from increasing violence and irritation, became daily more alarming, general-Washington, aware of the extremes to which all parties were tending, returned an answer to governor Chittenden, in which were these expressions : “ It is not my business, neither do I think it necessary now to discuss the origin of the right of a number of inhabitants to that tract of country formerly distinguished by the name of the New Hampshire Grants, and now known by that of Vermont. I will take it for granted that their right was good, because congress by their resolve of the 7th of August imply it, and by that of the 21st are willing fully to confirm it, provided the new state is



[ocr errors]

confined to certain described bounds. It
appears therefore to me that the dispute of
boundary is the only one that exists, and that
being removed, all other difficulties would be
removed also, and the matter terminated to
the satisfaction of all parties. You have no-
thing to do but withdraw your jurisdiction to
the confines of your old limits, and obtain an
acknowledgement of independency and sove-
Teignty, under the resolve of the 21st of Au-
gust, for so much territory as does not inter-
fere with the ancient established bounds of
New York, New Hampshire, and Massachu-
setts. In my private opinion, while it be-
hoves the delegates to do ample justice to a
body of people sufficiently respectable by
their numbers, and entitled by other claims to
be admitted into that confederation, it becomes
them also to attend to the interests of their
constituents, and see that under the

ance of justice to one, they do not materially
injure the rights of others. I am apt to think
this is the prevailing opinion of congress.”

The impartiality, moderation, and good sense of this letter, together with a full conviction of the disinterested patriotism of its author, brought round a revolution in the minds of the legislature of Vermont, and they acceded to the propositions of congress, though they


had rejected them four months before. A truce among the contending parties followed, and the storm blew over. Thus the personal influence of one man, derived from his preeminent virtues and meritorious services, extinguished the sparks of civil discord at the time they were kindling into flame.

Though, in conducting the American war, general Washington often acted on the Fabian system, by evacuating, retreating, and avoida ing decisive engagements, yet this was much more the result of necessity than of choice. His uniform opinion was in favour of offensive operations, as the most effectual means of bringing the war to a termination. On this principle, he planned attacks in almost every year on some or other of the British armies or strong posts in the United States. He endeavoured from

year to stimulate the public mind to some great decisive operation, but was never properly supported. In the years 1778, 1779, and 1780, the projected combined operations with the French, as has been related, entirely miscarried. The idea of ending the war by a grand military exploit continually occupied his active mind. To insure success, a naval superiority on the coast, and a loan of money, were indispensably neeessary. The last was particularly so, in



year to

the year 1781, for the resources of the United States were so reduced, as to be unequal to the support of their army, or even to the transportation of it to any moderately distant scene of action. To obtain these necessary aids, it was determined to send an envoy extraordinary to the court of Versailles. Lieutenant-colonel John Laurens was selected. He was in every respect qualified for the important mission. In addition to the most engaging personal address, his connexion with the commander in chief, as one of his aids, gave him an opportunity of being intimately acquainted with the military capacities and weaknesses of his country. These were also particularly detailed in the form of a letter to him from general Washington; which was written when the Pennsylvania line was in open revolt. Among other interesting matters, it stated, “ that the efforts already made by the United States, exceeded the natural ability of the country; and that any revenue they were capable of making, would leave a large surplus to be supplied by credit. That experience had proved the impossibility of supporting a paper system without funds, and that domestic loans could not be effected, because there were few men of monied capital in the United States. That from necessity


« PreviousContinue »