Some Neglected Aspects of the Revolutionary War

THE people of every nation have their own way of writing history. With all the thoroughness and care of the German scholars, they have never been quite able to emancipate themselves so completely from certain fundamental proclivities as to present with impartiality all sides of the historical subject that happens to be under investigation. In France, Thiers glorifies the imperialism of Napoleon, and Lanfrey goes as far in the other direction. The Toryism of Hume and the Whiggism of Macaulay show that each took a retainer on his side. For such reasons, of the thousands of histories with which the world has been flooded, scarcely more than half a dozen can fairly be said to be alive after the lapse of a hundred years. When one has named the works of Herodotus, of Xenophon, of Thucydides, of Julius Cæsar, of Tacitus, and of Gibbon, what other historical books are there, more than a hundred years old, that can be said at the present day to have any real vitality ?

It is to be feared that the United States has fared no better than other nations. The fierce democracy of Bancroft blinded him to the other side, and the federalism of Hildreth gives to his work a kindred quality of partiality and incompleteness. However unconsciously, both were great advocates rather than great judges. Other historians have had the same defects, and the popular imagination has been obliged to feed itself upon representations more or less incomplete. Forty years or more ago, one of the foremost of American scholars remarked, before a large audience of university professors and students, that history must be rewritten from the American point of view. Although there may have been some reason for such a declaration, there seems to have been no need to give it special emphasis ; for, whatever have been the defects of American historians, lack of patriotism has certainly not been one of them. It may well be doubted whether, in any one of the crucial periods of our history, the unsuccessful side has ever been adequately presented.

Nor have we been altogether fortunate in our historical novels. The importance of fiction as a means of portraying the spirit of a time is not likely to be denied, either by those who conscientiously take an inventory of their own historical knowledge, or by those who stop to consider how it is that their fellows acquire historical impressions. Very many of us would have to admit that, aside from the somewhat unpalatable and perhaps nauseating intellectual pemmican of the old historical textbooks, we have derived our knowledge of European history chiefly from the historical romances of Scott and the other novelists and dramatists of this century. After all, history is but the way in which the thoughts, the impressions, and the acts of men and women have moved in procession toward some more or less definite end ; and it is hardly too much to say that this procession has seldom been so vividly represented by the historians as by the great novelists and dramatists. Of the craft and the cunning by which Louis XI. made France into a nation, have not the most of us learned more from Quentin Durward than from all other sources put together? Has not Woodstock given us a large share of what we know of the spirit and the atmosphere of the great Cromwellian struggle ? Do we not really know more of the essential characteristics of Scotch history than we do of the history of New England, or New York, or Virginia ? Nobody is likely to deny that The Antiquary and Rob Roy and Kidnapped and A Window in Thrums have done more to make us feel the atmosphere of Scotch life, and make us know how the Scotch have lived and moved and had their being during the last two centuries, than all the histories combined.

The business of acquiring what passes for knowledge is not altogether a question of accuracy, although on the matter of accuracy itself there is not a little to be said. Every historical scholar, as well as every lawyer, knows that one of the most difficult things in the world is to be certain about a fact. Our courts are organized for the purpose of promoting the quest of facts in case of differences of interests and opinions. Did not the great Burke say that the highest function of government was to put twelve good men into a jury-box ? It is by no means always certain that the historical description is more accurate as a representation of the moving forces of society than the novel ; but even when it is more accurate, it often fails to make any deep impression on the public, because nine persons are having their opinions rapidly formed from the novel, while only one is slowly reaching his conclusions from the study of history.

It can hardly be claimed that we in the United States have been very successful in presenting historical truth in this way. Not many of our novels have left a lasting impression. Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, it is true, by catching the weird and relentless spirit of Puritanism, and impressing it deeply and permanently upon the imaginations of all readers of good English everywhere, has done more to create a strong and correct understanding of the dominant spirit of New England Puritanism than all the histories of New England put together. Perhaps it should be said that service of a kindred nature was rendered by the representative historical novels of Cooper. But all the works of this author had grave defects. Though the picture was less accurate, it was scarcely less impressive ; and consequently, it served its purpose, for right or wrong, in essentially the same way. Americans, as well as Europeans, who fed their juvenile imaginations upon the Leatherstocking Tales formed impressions which subsequent knowledge has found it difficult to erase. So strong was this impression that of thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic it has mattered little that every one who has come into close contact with the Indian — indeed, every one who has even at a distance studied his characteristics with care — knows that he is a rudimentary human being; that, with hardly a trace of real nobility of nature, he is inferior to the white man, even in those lower qualities in which he has generally been thought to excel. It is of little consequence that he has easily been outdone whenever he has come into collision with the white man on even terms ; that he is outwitted by the frontiersman in the mysteries of woodcraft, and indeed in all those qualities of resourceful cunning which have been supposed to be his peculiar characteristic. It is curious to reflect how hard it has been to eradicate the impressions of the Indian that were stamped into the minds of all readers of novels some two generations ago.

Hawthorne and Cooper are the two great delineators of the spirit of the times and the localities of which they wrote ; but where, until recently, have we been encouraged to look for another ? The name of Mrs. Stowe will undoubtedly suggest itself to many minds as an adequate answer ; but a little reflection will probably convince any thinking reader that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not an historical novel in any true sense whatever. That remarkable book was certainly an important contribution to literature and to history. It is no doubt entitled to the unique distinction of having planted controlling impulses in the hearts of millions of people, and of having preached its sermon with a power that to a vast number of its readers was absolutely irresistible. It may be admitted, moreover, that it is not unfaithful in its delineation of what it portrays; for it probably cannot be successfully denied that every one of its horrors could be matched by some actual occurrence. But it still remains true that as a representation of slavery in its completeness, except as a political tract, it has the fatal defect of presenting a single phase of the subject as if it were the whole. Even its unrivaled effectiveness as a political pamphlet cannot rescue it from a one - sidedness which will forever prevent it from taking rank as a great historical novel. Quentin Durward, The Heart of Midlothian, and Henry Esmond are entitled to high rank, not so much because of their exceptional power of plot and description as because of the fidelity with which they portray or reflect all the phases of the life and society which they undertake to present. Bret Harte has described early life in California with a similar spirit, if not with similar success. Simms had some success in depicting certain phases of early life in the South ; Miss Murfree, Joel Chandler Harris, and Thomas Nelson Page have given us graphic pictures of more modern conditions. Miss Wilkins has shown with marvelous skill one side of life in New England ; and Paul Leicester Ford has made a strong representation of New York political methods in The Honorable Peter Sterling. But since the publication of The Spy of Cooper, until within the past year, unless we except Harold Frederic’s In the Valley, there has been no such representation in fiction of the dominant characteristics of the war for independence. For the most part, we have been obliged to rely, for our impressions of the life and atmosphere of that great contest, upon such representations as the historians have given us. It is not necessary to impute inaccuracy to them, unless it be inaccuracy to give such prominence to certain phases of the question as to leave a warped and imperfect impression upon the mind of the reader. It must be remembered that it is not from the fuller and larger and more carefully prepared histories that popular impressions are derived. They come rather from the books that are used in the public schools. This is evident when we remember how large is the percentage of the children who never pursue their studies beyond the grammar school grades, and that the masses are obliged to be content with popular books.

The school-books naturally present the most obvious events, and they are hardly to be condemned for failing to point out the hidden causes which are so often the potent factors of success and defeat. Thus, it has happened that certain very important phases of the war for independence have received scant consideration by those who have had much to do with framing public opinion. Moreover, there is nothing more sure than that the impressions which a child receives of the right and wrong of a dispute are difficult to eradicate.

One of the erroneous impressions lodged in the popular imagination is the supposed unanimity, or approach to unanimity, with which the Revolution was undertaken ; and there is also a popular impression, equally erroneous, that the logical and the constitutional objections to the Revolutionary policy were weak and insignificant. The fact is that the Revolutionary War was a civil war in a far more strict and comprehensive sense than was the war between the states which broke out in 1861. But there has never been lodged in the popular imagination any adequate impression of the tremendous significance of those who always insisted upon calling themselves “ Loyalists,” but who were early stigmatized by their opponents with the opprobrious epithet of “ Tories.” Did we not all receive a nearly indelible impression from our juvenile reading that the Tories of the Revolution were men of such thoroughgoing badness that simple hanging was too good for them ? It is now fair, however, to presume that we are far enough away from that exciting period to admit, without danger of bodily harm, that there were really two sides to the question as to whether fighting for independence was the more promising of the two policies open to the colonists. Until the appearance of Professor Tyler’s Literary History of the Revolution, who among the historians had fairly presented both sides of the case ?

As usual in times of great excitement, the public was divided by more or less indefinite lines into several parties. These may be conveniently classified into four groups, — two on either side. Of those who were governors or other officials of the Crown, and consequently were ready to stand by the king through thick and thin, nothing need be said. But a second class of opponents to the Revolutionary movement was far more important, and is entitled to more careful consideration. Many, while fully admitting that the policy of the British government was in many respects bad, denied that forceful revolt was the proper way to remedy the evils. They believed, and until the outbreak of the war they boldly asserted, that a loyal and persistent support of the party led by Pitt, Burke, and Fox would finally result in the downfall of the “ King’s Friends ” and the restoration of the Whigs, with all attendant advantages. They declared with confidence that open revolt would inevitably close the lips of those who in England sympathized with the American cause, and would drive all the members of Parliament to the support of the government in putting down what would be regarded as a rebellion. They declared also that in case of failure to secure the adoption of this policy by Parliament nothing would be lost, inasmuch as existing evils were far more than counterbalanced by existing benefits. They pointed out, moreover, that there was no evidence of a general disposition in England to oppress the colonists, and that there could be no lurking danger in the policy they advocated. There were many, too, who took the ground that in any event success by armed resistance was so overwhelmingly improbable as to be practicably impossible, and that an unsuccessful effort would probably augment the evils complained of.

Then, on the other hand, the Revolutionists, also, may be divided into two classes. There were those who protested earnestly against what they regarded as the oppressions of the mother country, but who, up to 1775, believed that reasonable protests would be met with reasonable replies and concessions. The leaders of this class were Washington and Franklin. Then there were those who at the beginning of the dispute were out-and-out advocates of resistance, and a little later out-and-out advocates of independence.

It is not strange that the latter class finally got the upper hand and secured the adoption of its policy. In times of intense political excitement it is the thoroughgoing who are apt to have their way. It was the Rhetts and the Yanceys who drew Lee and Stephens and the rest of the reluctant South after them into the whirlpool of 1861 ; and if they had succeeded, they would have been placed in that category of nationfounders in which Otis and Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry now occupy so lofty a position. After all, as has often been said, the most important difference between a revolution and a rebellion is the fact that the one justifies itself by success, while the other condemns itself by failure.

The importance of the Tory element in the Revolutionary War may be judged either by its numbers or by its respectability. Of the exact relative strength of the Tories and the Revolutionists it is not now easy to form a very confident opinion. Indeed, at the time of the war, in the absence of all machinery for taking a census of Loyalists and Revolutionists, the most careful estimate was not likely to be trustworthy. Two facts, however, are certain. One is that the Tories always claimed that if a census could have been taken, or if the question could have been fairly submitted to an unintimidated vote, it would have shown that a very considerable majority of the people throughout the country and throughout the entire war were opposed to the policy of resistance. The other fact is that those members of the Revolutionary party who had the best opportunity for observing and judging — men, for example, like John Adams, of Massachusetts, and Judge McKean, of Pennsylvania — believed that at least one third of the people were at all times opposed to the war. Moreover, it is obviously probable that many were Loyalists in secret. Indeed, it is well known that in all parts of the country and in all periods of the war many were in the habit of slinking away from the tar and feathers of the Revolutionists, and betakingthemselves either stealthily out of the country, or to rocks and caves and other impenetrable hiding-places. Thus, the number of real opponents to the war may easily have been even greater than was apparent.

But aside from the opinions of contemporary judges, if we look into such evidences as are now available, we are forced to the same conclusion. No one can study the energetic and comprehensive measures of the various legislatures without seeing that the Tory element was formidable in numbers as well as in character. The records in Massachusetts show that the Tories were a constant source of anxiety and dread. In Connecticut the strength of the opposing element was still greater. In New York the Dutch and their retainers and supporters were, as a rule, so notoriously opposed to the war that the Tories in the aggregate certainly formed a very considerable majority of the population. Here is a typical example. Judge Jones, in describing the election of members to Congress in April, 1775, says : “ The Loyalists, numbering three fourths of the legal voters, marched in a body to the polls, but their adversaries, having collected boys, unemployed sailors, and negroes, threatened all who opposed them. The result of this process was that a majority of the ballots cast were found to be in favor of the Revolutionary members.” But even the methods of this patriotic mob as portrayed by Jones were not very successful; for in May of 1775 the New York Assembly passed resolutions approving of the course of the British ministry,—resolutions which gave great satisfaction in England, and went far to convince the government that the colonial opposition had been greatly exaggerated ; that it was indeed insignificant, and could easily be overcome. In New York city, if Washington, soon after his arrival from Boston, had not sent a shivering chill through the enthusiastic opposition of the Tories by promptly hanging the foremost of their leaders, the Loyalist party might have been so successfully organized as to have kept the state solid in its support of the king. It was only this energetic action of Washington, supported as it was a little later by the similar energy of John Jay in judiciously banishing the most formidable of the Tory leaders, that finally brought the dominant forces of New York to the support of the war.

In Pennsylvania it was long doubtful whether the official support of the state could be given to the war movement ; and that support was never very thorough or very enthusiastic. What Dr. Mitchell, in Hugh Wynne, has represented as the condition in Philadelphia was the condition throughout the state. It is perhaps significant that when, not long after the evacuation of Philadelphia by Clinton, Arnold was placed in command of the city, he found the Tories in full social sway, and that he came so far under their influence as to fall in love with the most beautiful and accomplished of their daughters, — a proceeding preliminary to that alliance which, years afterward, caused his wife to be called “ the saddest as well as the handsomest woman in England.” His marriage with Margaret Shippen, however happy from a domestic point of view, yet gave an additional motive for Arnold’s final plunge.

Virginia seems to have had about the same proportion of Tories as Massachusetts. In North Carolina, the people, throughout the war, were nearly equally divided in their allegiance between the two Georges. South Carolina was Tory ; and Georgia was so true to its royal namesake that the state not only refused to supply its quota of troops to the American George, but at the moment when the untoward event at Yorktown upset its calculations the legislature was on the point of denouncing the resistance as a failure, and giving its formal allegiance to the British side.

But it was not in numbers only that the Tories were formidable. They were even more formidable in influence, character, and respectability. It was natural, of course, that they should include not only the considerable class who held office under the king, but also a very large proportion of those whom we should now ban or bless by calling them conservatives. Thus it happened that in the Tory ranks were many clergymen, lawyers, physicians, as well as college graduates in general. Before the war, these men had been considered not only respectable, but eminent, in their several callings. Professor Tyler has admirably shown that even in the political literature of the day the Tories took an important part. While it must be admitted that in the production of the curious concoctions of rhyme and water which in those days passed for poetry the Revolutionary patriots took the lead, yet in elegant, forceful, logical prose, it is hard to see that the writings of such Loyalists as Boucher, Seabury, Leonard, and Galloway were inferior to those of Otis, Dickinson, Paine, and Adams; nevertheless, their writings have been quite forgotten.

But if we turn from literary merit, and consider simply the soundness or the unsoundness of their political and constitutional arguments, we shall find that they are still more worthy of consideration. Indeed, the drift of opinion of the most intelligent constitutional critics of to-day, in America as well as in England, is toward the view that in their constitutional arguments the Loyalist or Tory writers had a strong case. Naturally, the long succession of British constitutional lawyers, from Lord Mansfield down to Sir William Harcourt, have uniformly and almost if not quite unanimously held that, according to the immemorial custom of the realm,—that is, according to the British Constitution, —the enactments of the imperial Parliament, consisting of Crown, Lords, and Commons, are constitutionally binding upon all British subjects. While they freely admit the authoritative force of the maxim, “ No taxation without representation,” they insist at all times that the maxim never has had, and has not now, the meaning that was attached to it by Otis, Dickinson, and the other colonial writers. They maintain that, in Parliament, the king, or the queen, represents all the members of the royal family ; the House of Lords, all the members of the nobility ; and the House of Commons, all the commonalty of the colonies as well as of the mother country. According to the British theory, every member of the House of Commons represents no more truly the people who elect him than he does also all the other members of the commonalty, both in Great Britain and in the colonies. It was in accordance with this theory that the great cities of the manufacturing districts, which until recently had never sent a single member to the House of Commons, were held to be as truly represented as were London and York. This doctrine carried with it the same right to tax the colonies as to tax the citizens of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds ; and the denial of that right by the colonial orators and essayists appears never to have made the least impression upon the constitutional lawyers of the mother country. Even Burke, who pleaded so eloquently and vehemently for conciliation with America, freely admitted, and never for a moment denied, that the government was acting within its constitutional rights. His contention was that, although Parliament possessed the constitutional right to impose taxation, it was nothing less than consummate madness to attempt to exercise that right, inasmuch as such action would inevitably, sooner or later, result in the loss of the colonies.

Now, this was exactly the ground taken by the American Tories, and exactly the opposite of the doctrine promulgated by the colonial writers on the Revolutionary side. There were two dominant notes in the contentions of the opponents of the British policy during the whole of the thirteen long years before the spring of 1776. The first was that the British Parliament had no constitutional right to tax the colonies ; and the second, that it was the duty of the selfrespecting colonists to resist the exercise of every unconstitutional act. Accompanying these assertions was the emphatic and oft-repeated declaration that nobody sought or was in favor of independence. As late as the time when the first Continental Congress adjourned in October, 1775, the idea of independence met with no favor from Washington ; and Franklin, who was then the American agent in London, assured the members of the British Parliament that he had “ never heard of anybody, drunk or sober, who favored independence.”

In view of all these facts, what wonder is it that the Tories, or what may be called the British party in America, contained within its ranks many of the most intelligent and the most highly educated people of the colonies? In 1778 the legislature of Massachusetts banished and confiscated the property of three hundred and ten of the most prominent of the Tory leaders of that state. Who were they ? In scanning the list of names, Professor Tyler significantly remarks that it reads “almost like the bead-roll of the oldest and noblest families concerned in the founding and upbuilding of New England civilization.” Dr. George E. Ellis, some years ago. pointed out the fact that in that list of three hundred and ten persons more than sixty were Harvard graduates. Nor was this exceptional. In the Middle States and in the South the Loyalist party contained a large representation of the graduates of Yale, Princeton, William and Mary, and Pennsylvania. Some of these were put to death, some were banished, and some were driven into hiding-places, whence, at the close of the war, they emerged only to be the targets of contempt and of all forms of abuse. A careful investigation of this phase of the contest will unquestionably lead every student to the conclusion that the ranks of the Tories contained a very considerable portion of the most thoughtful, the most intelligent, and the most refined of the colonial people.

That every effort should be made to destroy the power and the influence of these people while the war was going on was as natural as the attempt to make the cause successful. But, unfortunately, the severity of public opinion was not relaxed at the close of the war. Mr. Goldwin Smith has pointed out that there are special and exceptional reasons why the end of a civil war should always be followed by amnesty. But there was no amnesty at the close of the Revolutionary War. A single instance will serve as an example of the spirit that was shown. At the final evacuation of Charleston, after the treaty of peace had been signed, the departing British fleet took all the Tories it could carry. Those who, unhappily, were compelled to remain behind were subjected to the utmost indignities. “They were imprisoned, whipped, tarred and feathered, dragged through horse-ponds, and finally twentyfour of their number were hung upon a gallows in sight of the last of the retiring British.” So strenuous was the public opinion of the patriots everywhere that even the protests of officers and other men of influence were in vain. General Greene declared that it was “ an excess of intolerance to persecute men for opinions which twenty years before had been the universal belief of every class of society ; ” and John Jay denounced the “ injudicious punishment and unmanly revenge,” following the Revolution, as “without a parallel except in the annals of religious rage in the time of bigotry and blindness.”

The effect of the spirit so generally shown in all parts of the country was injurious in many ways. Mrs. Anne Grant, the vivacious and intelligent Scotch lady who lived for many years in America, and then wrote her interesting and valuable book, compares the loss of the colonies in expatriating the Loyalists after the Revolutionary War to the loss of the French in driving out the Huguenots after the Revocation ; and Mr. Gold win Smith, speaking of the fact that the expatriated Tories generally betook themselves, with all their rankling sense of injustice, to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canadas, remarks that if a power hostile to the republic should ever be formed under European influence in the north of the continent, the Americans would owe such an event to their ancestors who refused amnesty to the vanquished in civil war.

There is another phase of the war to which attention has not perhaps been sufficiently called, namely, what might be termed fortuitous good fortune, — in Puritan phraseology, “ special providence.” It is military commonplace to remark that the issue of a battle often turns upon a very trifling circumstance. Napoleon used to say that in war a grain of sand would sometimes turn the scale; and yet that great commander was a firm believer in the doctrine that providence fights on the side of the heaviest battalions. But in the Revolutionary War providence often seemed to prefer the other side. Several times nothing less than the Puritan’s “ providential interposition ” prevented a defeat, which might speedily have ended the contest. For instance, during the siege of Boston, although Tories and spies were everywhere, it was never revealed to the British that for several months the colonists had not ammunition enough for a single battle. If an assault upon the Americans had been made, it is difficult to see how the British could have failed of overwhelming success. So, too, after the battle of Long Island, when the capture of the entire American force seemed inevitable, the army was saved partly, no doubt, by the consummate skill of Washington in bringing the boats together, but partly, also, by a dense fog which enabled twelve thousand men, with all their guns and supplies, to cross the river without attracting the attention of the British pickets or the British fleet. When, a little later, in spite of Washington’s vigorous exhortations and the flat side of his heavy sword, American recruits gave way on the first fire of the British at Kipp’s Bay, the whole of his force in New York seemed to face inevitable annihilation. The British fleet guarded both shores of Manhattan Island, and the British army was above the Americans, opposite to what is now the East Thirty-Fourth Street Ferry. All that was needed to smother the American force, and apparently the American cause, was to march without delay across the island, and to hold the Americans with a large army in front and a naval force in the rear, as afterward Washington held Cornwallis at Yorktown. Howe’s army was more than twice as large as Washington’s; but the doom which the American commander with the flat and the edge of his sword could not prevent, the wit of Mrs. Murray, the resourceful mother of Lindley Murray, readily averted. Occupying the Murray country-seat, or mansion, as it was then called, on Murray Hill, she was directly in the line of the British march. The detention of the army for several hours by her tempting tea and other refreshments set before the officers enabled General Putnam, by a rapid movement up the west side of the island, to take the American force out of the trap before it was inexorably closed.

A still more striking instance of kindred nature was the reason why General Howe made his fatal move toward Philadelphia in 1777, instead of sending half of his troops northward to act with Burgoyne. The British plan of campaign, which resulted in the capture of the northern army, was so well designed and so comprehensive in its nature as to cause the most serious apprehensions. The plan to attack the Hudson from three directions — from Montreal, from Oswego, and from New York —certainly gave every promise of success. It failed simply for the reason that there was not proper coöperation of the three forces. In the absence of Howe’s cooperation with Burgoyne, the people of New England and New York so generously destroyed the supplies upon which the enemy depended, and turned out in such force, as to compel the invaders either to starve or to surrender. Moreover, St. Leger, even after the defeat of Herkimer at Oriskany, was scared away from the siege of Fort Stanwix by the false report of American successes. These several failures could hardly have occurred but for one very curious incident.

The war office in London, as is now well known, having designed the campaign, issued general orders for the three expeditions ; but, in giving preliminary directions to Sir William Howe, the department ordered him to await detailed instructions. These instructions were duly made out, directing him to divide his force, and to leave in New York only men enough to defend the city against any attacks that might be made by Washington, while with about half of his army he was to march north for the purpose of uniting and coöperating with Burgoyne. The plan threatened to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies, and also to rescue the state of New York, It is not easy to see how it could have failed if carried out as devised. But the final instructions to Howe did not arrive. His consequent inactivity made it possible for Schuyler at Albany, when he found that Burgoyne was likely to be taken care of, or at least was advancing so slowly through the woods to Whitehall as to cause no special anxiety, to send Arnold up the Mohawk to relieve Fort Stanwix and drive back the invading force under St. Leger. Arnold’s success, it will be remembered, was so rapid and so complete as to enable him to return in time to play the leading part in the final entrapment of Burgoyne. Thus, so far as we can see, it was the delay of the anticipated orders of Howe that left Burgoyne to complete isolation and at the mercy of people who flocked to the standard of Gates.

But why did not these orders arrive ? The reason was not discovered until afterward, when it was quite too late. It was found that the papers had been duly made out for the signature of the minister of war, Lord George Germain ; but the punctilious fastidiousness of that officer was dissatisfied with the copy that had been prepared, and he ordered that a new and “ fair ” copy should be written out before he would sign it. When this copy was completed it was placed in the proper pigeon-hole to await the signature of the minister. Meantime, Lord George, having gone to his country-seat, was absent so long that on his return the order was not recalled to mind. After Howe, acting in accordance with the traitorous advice of General Charles Lee, had moved toward Philadelphia, and Burgoyne had surrendered, the order was rescued from its innocent pigeon-hole to mock the fastidiousness of the minister. Had the order been sent, who will undertake to say what its influence would have been on the fate of the Revolution ?

One othor example only will be offered. There is abundant reason to believe that the British government, as well as the British officers, regarded the war as practically at an end, when, in the early winter of 1776, New Jersey had been cleared and Washington had been driven south of the Delaware. Howe had received his knighthood for the capture of New York, and Cornwallis, thinking his services no longer needed, had sent his portmanteau on board a ship, with the purpose of embarking immediately for home. That audacious recrossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, which caused Frederick the Great to put Washington into the rank of great commanders, broke up the New York festivities, and called for immediate punishment. When Cornwallis’s army played the return move, the Americans were in unquestionable peril. With the broad Delaware and its floating ice in Washington’s rear, and a British army twice the size of his own in front, it is not difficult to understand why Cornwallis thought he had at last, as he said, “ bagged the old fox.” If the British commander had attacked vigorously on the afternoon of his arrival, as Washington, Grant, Lee, or any other great general would have done, the chances seem to have been more than ten to one that “Washington and his whole army would have been taken prisoners. But Cornwallis was so sure of his game that he made the most stupendous blunder of the war, and decided to refresh his men by a night’s sleep. It was a blunder precisely like that which prevented General W. F. Smith from taking Petersburg in June of 1864 ; and it appears to have been simply this mistake that enabled Washington not only to draw his army out of extreme peril, but also to fall upon the enemy at Princeton early the next morning, and, by threatening the British stores throughout the state, to force Cornwallis back into New York, and so, at the end of the campaign, to take possession of the whole of New Jersey with the exception of two or three stations on the Hudson. When Cornwallis finally surrendered at Yorktown, well might he express his admiration of the wonderful skill which had suddenly hurled an army four hundred miles with such accuracy and deadly effect, and then generously add, “ But, after all, your excellency’s achievements in New Jersey were such that nothing could surpass them.”

One fact which, in the popular representations of the Revolutionary War, seems often either to have been overlooked or not to have been sufficiently emphasized, is the remarkable degeneration of Congress after the war had really begun. The first Continental Congress had brought together many of the very ablest men in the country. The colonies fully realized that questions of the utmost importance were to be considered, and they selected the best men as their representatives. With the possible exception of the Constitutional Convention, no other such body of men has ever yet come together in the history of the country. Its qualities went far to justify the remark of the elder Pitt to Franklin that it was “ the most honorable assembly since the times of Greece and Rome.”

But its successor was not of the same character. Moreover, for reasons which are not difficult to understand, a marked deterioration took place as time went on. As soon as the Declaration of Independence had been put forth, the people of the individual states began to think of organizing their own governments ; and they naturally called into the service of constitution-making the ablest men they could command. To adopt thirteen new constitutions and to set thirteen new governments in motion made large drafts upon the available intelligence of the country.

Added to this depleting influence was the still further necessity of a strong representation in Europe. One has only to recall the names of those who were governors of states, and of those who were engaged in France, in Holland, and in Spain, between 1776 and 1783, to understand that if these men had been in Congress they would have furnished a swaying and a staying power of incalculable value. Then, too, the army had drawn into its ranks large numbers of prominent men who otherwise would have been in Congress. Nor can we forget what may as well be called the disaffected element. Samuel Adams, as soon as he had succeeded in fairly launching the Revolution, was so energetic in the exercise of his doctrine of state sovereignty that he seems to have dreaded the power of the confederated states scarcely less than he dreaded that of George III.; and consequently he was an almost unceasing obstructionist to the cause of military efficiency. The fiery impatience of John Adams was as much in favor of the absurd and impossible policy of a “ short and violent war ” in the darkest period of the Revolution as was the impatience of Horace Greeley in 1862. Indeed, with the exception of Gouverneur Morris and John Jay, none of the members of Congress seem to have realized that the only practicable way of conducting the war to a successful close was the patient policy that was persistently followed by the commander-in-chief.

Now, a simple enumeration of these various facts is enough to show why it was that the second Continental Congress was so inferior to its great predecessor. When we look into its methods of dealing with the war, we ought not to be surprised to find that it was very far from being that unselfish body of intelligent patriots into which it seems to have been converted by the transforming and consecrating influence of time. On the contrary, it is not too much to say that one of the greatest difficulties that Washington had to contend with was the stupid, meddling, and obstructing inefficiency of those who sat at Philadelphia and at Yorktown for the supreme control of Continental affairs.

At some of the meetings of that Congress not more than a dozen members were present, and these were often men of small ability and dogged pertinacity. It was almost harder for Washington to persuade — that is, to conquer — Congress than it was to conquer the British. One who looks through the long and pathetic series of letters of the great commander, and studies them with the single purpose of understanding the relations of Congress to the struggle that was going on, is likely to be amazed not only at the wisdom and tact of Washington, but at the almost infinite stupidities and difficulties with which he had to contend. The embarrassments that arose from these relations were partly political, but they were also largely military. New England, though it had heartily supported Washington at the beginning, found its courage oozing out and becoming lukewarm soon after the theatre of active operations was transferred to New York. It is not altogether strange that, while Washington was being driven from the centre of operations and steadily forced out of New Jersey, the New Englanders should point at what they could do at Bennington and Saratoga when they were energetically commanded ; or that the New England sentiment, led by John Adams, had, in consequence, some sympathy with the Conway Cabal.

Neither Bancroft nor Hildreth nor any one of the older historians has adequately described the strength and the nature of the prevailing dissatisfaction. It is only in the light of letter’s and other documents that have become available within the past twenty years that we are able fully to understand the spirit of the time. Dr. Mitchell shows that spirit perfectly when he puts into the Diary of Jack Gainor these words : “ Most wonderful it is, as I read what he wrote to inefficient, blundering men, to see how calmly he states his own pitiful case, how entirely he controls a nature violent and passionate beyond that of most men. He was scarcely in the saddle as commander before the body which set him there was filled with dissatisfaction.” This expression of the novelist describes the situation better than do any of our historians, with the exception of John Fiske. It may be added that matters were brought to a favorable crisis only when Washington intimated that he might be driven to resignation, declaring, “ It will be impossible for me to be of any further service, if such insuperable difficulties are thrown in my way.”

Moreover, it was largely the shortsightedness as well as the energy of John Adams which led Congress to tolerate the policy of short enlistments. This policy Washington tried in every possible way to prevent, but his efforts were only partially successful. It was not till he failed in his appeals to Congress, and in his individual appeals to the governors of the various states, that he finally felt obliged to concentrate his views in the memorable Circular to States of October 18, 1780. What can be more instructive or suggestive than the following words? —

“ We have frequently heard the behavior of the militia extolled upon one and another occasion by men who judge from the surface, by men who had particular views in misrepresenting, by visionary men whose credulity easily swelled every vague story in support of a favorite hypothesis. I solemnly declare I never was witness to a single instance that could countenance the opinion of militia or raw troops being fit for the real business of fighting. I have found them useful as light parties to skirmish in the woods, but incapable of making or sustaining a serious attack. This firmness is only acquired by habit of discipline and service. . . . We may expect everything from ours that militia is capable of, but we must not expect from them any services for which regulars alone are fit. The battle of Camden is a melancholy comment upon this doctrine. The militia fled at the first fire, and left the Continental troops, surrounded on every side and overpowered by numbers, to combat for safety instead of victory.”

Not only was Congress inefficient in securing a proper organization, but it was equally inefficient in dealing with supplies. Later investigations have shown that the sufferings at Valley Forge did not arise from a general inadequacy of food and raiment, but from the fact that, the commissariat department was so woefully remiss in the distribution of supplies where they were needed. It soon came to be known that at the very moment when thousands of Washington’s troops were freezing and starving for want of blankets and food an abundant supply was accessible not many miles away. The mischief had been done when Congress, in opposition to Washington’s advice, reorganized the commissariat department in 1777. At that time Congress decided to divide responsibility, and in place of Colonel Joseph Trumbull, who had been the successful head of the department, it put two men with coequal authority to do his work, — the one to make the purchases, and the other to distribute the supplies. Then, too, as if for the purpose of insuring chaos, the subordinate officers were made accountable to Congress rather than to the heads of the department. Colonel Trumbull, who was retained in one of the places, was soon so disgusted with the inevitable results that he resigned. Is it strange that at one time the army was two days without meat, and three days without bread?

The quartermaster’s department was scarcely better. It was afterward ascertained that at the very time when, as Washington wrote, twenty-eight hundred and ninety-eight men were “unfit for duty because they were barefoot and otherwise naked,” “ hogsheads of shoes, stockings, and clothing were lying at different places on the roads and in the woods, perishing for want of teams, or of money to pay the teamsters.”

But even worse than all this, those who provided the supplies were tainted with peculation and fraud. The historical student, as he gives up the idea that the legislation of the time was supremely wise, must also, however reluctantly, abandon the idea that the Revolutionary period was an age of spotless political virtue. Again and again Washington pleaded with Congress and with the chief officers of the individual states. In appealing to President Reed, of Pennsylvania, on the 12th of December, 1778, to bring those whom he calls the “ murderers of our cause ” “ to condign punishment,” he unbridled his passion and sent these energetic words: “ I would to God that one of the most atrocious in each state was hung in gibbets upon a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman.” The situation seemed so desperate that, only six days later, he wrote to Benjamin Harrison, Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia, “ As there can be no harm in a pious wish for the good of one’s country, I shall offer it as mine that each state will not only choose, but compel their ablest men to attend Congress.”

But Washington’s prayer, for this once at least, was not answered. When, as time wore on, the French ministers arrived, they naturally had little difficulty in playing upon the credulity and simple-mindedness of the members. It is now well known that the policy of France in the alliance was twofold. She not only insisted that the colonies should not make peace until independence was recognized, but she was secretly determined that the colonies should not be so overwhelmingly successful as to endanger the interests of France and her allies by including the Canadas and the territories lying in the West and South. This latter phase of French policy, revealed as it has been by the publication of the correspondence between the French government and their ministers in America, has made it certain that Gérard, Marbois, and Luzerne employed all those arts of dissimulation, as well as of flattery, which have been called the mensonge politique. The letters of Vergennes to the envoys contain frequent references to donatifs, and those of de Circourt to sécours temporaires en argent. These expressions refer unmistakably to bribery, for Vergennes writes to Luzerne, " His Majesty further empowers you to continue the gifts which M. Gérard has given or promised, and of which he will surely have handed you a list.” The list of persons here referred to, who were to be persuaded with money, has not been disclosed ; but Durand tells us that Tom Paine, who was then the secretary of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and of course knew all its secrets, was engaged by the French minister, for a thousand dollars a year, " to inspire the people with sentiments favorable to France.” No doubt the rascal earned his money, but who the other members were that were thus inspired we do not know. That such “ inspiration,” however, was used to a greater or less extent there can be no possible doubt. One of the biographers of John Jay relates that, some thirty years after the events here mentioned, Gouverneur Morris went over from Morrisania to visit his old friend Jay at Bedford. During their conversation Morris suddenly ejaculated through clouds of smoke, “ Jay, what a set of damned scoundrels we had in that second Congress ! ” “ Yes,” said Jay, “ that we had,” and the venerable ex-Chief Justice knocked the ashes from his pipe.

But perhaps the most important of all the neglected phases of the Revolutionary struggle is the stupendous fact that Great Britain was prevented from prosecuting the war with vigor by complications in Europe. It would only partially express the truth to say that England fought the colonies with one hand tied behind her, or even to declare that it was only her left hand that was free. No adequate impression of the relations of the forces engaged can be obtained without keeping constantly in mind several all important facts that have too often been neglected.

It is necessary to remember that France had but recently been as bitterly humiliated by England as she was a century later by Germany. Those marvelous years of the domination of the elder Pitt had not only converted the Kingdom of England into the British Empire, but had accomplished this prodigious result mainly at the expense of France. It was from the French that India was taken by Clive and Pocock, as Canada was taken by Wolfe and Saunders. Not only was France stripped of her magnificent colonial possessions in Africa, as well as in Asia and America, but she saw her navy everywhere defeated and dispersed, and her commerce completely destroyed. These events had occurred less than twenty years before the outbreak of the American war ; and the natural consequence was that the hostile feelings of the people of France toward England from 1763 to 1778 were quite as intense as the feelings of the same people toward Germany during the fifteen years after the treaty of 1871. Everybody now knows that if, during that period, Germany had in any way become seriously involved with a foreign power, the French would have seized the opportunity to wipe out the humiliation that had overwhelmed them at Sedan and Paris. Of kindred nature had been the relations of England and France a hundred years before.

But even this was not all. The attitude of England in regard to the right of search had made her practically the enemy of every one of the European powers. While for some years there was no outbreak, it was evident that nothing but the utmost circumspection could prevent a hostile alliance of the most formidable character. The fact that Catherine II. was prevented from a declaration of war only by the earnest advice of Frederick the Great shows that there was not a little danger of a general European conflagration. Moreover, the English entered upon the American war with a full knowledge of all this rankling hatred upon the part of France, and of the certainty that if at any time the French should see an opportunity to interfere with success they would not fail to do so, and in all probability would draw several of the other European nations after them.

Nor must it be supposed that France had been so completely and permanently crippled as no longer to be formidable. Indeed, the nation had recovered from the material disasters of 1759 nearly as rapidly as, more than a century later, she recovered from the disasters of 1871. But, as their strength grew, the French seemed to remember all the more vividly that their navy had been ruined, root and branch, and that whenever a French merchantman had ventured out of port it had been pounced upon by some watchful British cruiser. The “ armed neutrality ” of the Baltic powers had not yet been directed against the supremacy of the sea power of England, and consequently not a ship of any nation, suspected of transporting goods out of a French port or destined to it, was exempt from search and confiscation ; nor could it be forgotten that it was to counteract this exercise of what seemed like omnipotence as well as omniscience that the family compact was made which bound Spain to declare war against England within a year after war was declared by France. It has not always been remembered by American historians that it was chiefly the discovery of this secret alliance by Pitt, and the opposition of the headstrong young king to the measures by which the great minister proposed to thwart the alliance, that led to Pitt’s downfall, and the substitution of Newcastle and Bute in his place.

Moreover, the situation was aggravated by certain other very irritating conditions. On the one hand, the needless failure of Byng to relieve Minorca, and the consequent fall of that important island into the hands of the French, was a source of such infinite chagrin to the English that it could not be wiped out by the mere execution of an admiral; while, on the other hand, the possession of Gibraltar by the British was so constant a humiliation to the Spanish that an offensive and defensive alliance between France and Spain was the inevitable consequence of the situation. These inflammatory elements were so menacing that Pitt, at one time, made the remarkable proposal to Spain to give up Gibraltar as the price of an alliance for the recovery of Minorca. The mere fact that such terms were offered is enough to show the gravity of the situation. At least, it may be said that if the answer of Spain had been different, either France would never have gone to the help of America, or in doing so she would have had Spain as an enemy rather than as an ally. But, whatever the course of France, the union of England and Spain might easily have turned the scale of the war ; for, without the French alliance, it is impossible to see how the colonies could have escaped from being overwhelmed by England and Spain combined. Even if France were not prevented from the alliance, her fleet could not have stood against the united navies of England and Spain; the expedition of de Grasse would have been impossible, and the Yorktown campaign could not have occurred. Thus, it is easy to see that if Pitt’s proposal had been accepted England might not only have regained Minorca, but might also have retained the American colonies. Such a result would hardly have been a dear purchase even at the tremendous price of Gibraltar.

The main significance of all these conditions for our purpose is the fact that the English knew of the discoveries of Pitt; that they were fully aware that Spain and probably other European nations would be allied with France whenever the French government should see fit to go to the assistance of the revolting colonies. As is well known, the consummation of this twofold project would have occurred much earlier than it did but for the natural reluctance of Louis XVI. to assist organized opposition to royal authority. These conditions, moreover, explain why it was that while England had not less than two hundred thousand men under arms, on land and sea, not more than about twenty thousand of them could be spared for the war in America. They also explain why it was that England decided to resort to the unusual method of using a part of the vast wealth she had recently acquired by her commercial supremacy for the employment of mercenary troops from Germany.

From the letters and other papers that are now coming to us in authentic form and in rich abundance, we are learning more perfectly than ever before how it was that the Revolution was achieved. These revelations seem likely to teach us that from the beginning to the very end the Revolution was a far more desperate and a far more doubtful struggle than the historians have led us to believe. They teach us also that it was kept from the disaster that seemed again and again ready to overwhelm it, chiefly by that watchful wisdom of Washington which, to use Goethe’s phrase, was as unhasting and as unresting as the stars.

Charles Kendall Adams.