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from prosperity came at the precise conjuncture when that influence could be utilised with the greatest possible effect. On the twentieth of December he had addressed to the President of Congress a long and earnest exposition of the evils arising from the plan of short enlistments in the Continental armies; from a low average of professional capacity in the commissioned ranks; from the weakness of the artillery, and the entire absence of cavalry and of scientific officers. Congress, in reply, invested him with “full, ample, and complete powers" to raise sixteen additional battalions of infantry, three thousand light-horse, three regiments of artillery, and a corps of engineers; to call upon any of the States for such aid of the militia as he should deem necessary; to displace and appoint all officers beneath the rank of Brigadier; to take, at a fair price, all supplies of provisions, or articles of equipment, which he might require for the use of the army; and to arrest, confine, and send for trial in the Civil Courts, any persons whatsoever who were disaffected to the American cause. This dictatorship, -- for it was nothing less, — was extended over the old Roman period of six months; and Congress specifically announced that the step was taken in perfect reliance on the wisdom, the vigour, and the uprightness of General Washington. It was handsomely worded; but the force of the compliment lay not so much in the phrasing, as in the timing, of the Resolution. Although a final decision was not taken until the day after Trenton, Washington's letter had been read and considered, and a committee had been appointed to prepare an answer, before the issue of that battle was known in Baltimore. Such an expression of confidence, unstintedly and unanimously accorded during the closing hours of the very darke season in American history, will remain on record through all ages as a tribute to the man, and not to his fortune.
That fortune had now turned. After a year and a half's intense and continual study of Sir William Howe,
Washington had read his character, and understood his ways. Divining with certainty that the British general would leave him in peace during the rest of the winter and well forward into the spring, he set himself calmly to the task of reinforcing and remaking the Continental army. Congress, acting on his advice, had sanctioned the enlistment of soldiers for a term of three years, or for the duration of the war; and the sixteen new battalions were to be formed of men taken indiscriminately from all or any of the States. The last provision was much to the mind of Washington, who, (to use his own language,) had laboured to discourage all kinds of local attachments and distinctions throughout the army, "denominating the whole by the greater name of American.” 1 That sentiment, in the early days of the Revolution, was not congenial to the national tastes and temperament. In the view of a New Englander, or a Pennsylvanian, the ideal regiment was a provincial corps where he was at home among friends and neighbours; where discipline was loose, and furloughs might be had for the asking, or even for the taking; and where the period of service was terminable within the twelvemonth. Previously to Trenton it would have been impossible to exact the strict conditions indispensable for the solidity of a regular army; but the name of Washington was now endowed with a power to inspire and attract his younger fellow-countrymen; and he succeeded in engaging a considerable supply, although not a sufficiency, of recruits who bound themselves to see the war through. If they came in slowly, they came steadily; and those who presented themselves were for the most part well worth retaining
Washington still had plenty of room in his ranks for privates; but the case was otherwise with regard to his officers. The muster-rolls showed a superfluity of captains and lieutenants, and a veritable glut of colonels. There were good and bad among them; but their indi
1 Washington to the President of Congress; Camp above Trenton Falls, December 20, 1776.
PT. II.--VOL. II.
vidual worth had been severely and decisively tested on Long Island and at White Plains, in the Jersey retreat, and amid the hardships of the Canadian expedition. Washington had an intimate personal acquaintance with those brigades which he had led in battle; he knew for himself whether an officer sought, or shunned, work and danger; and he spared no pains to ascertain the merits and defects of those who had served in distant parts of the Continent under other generals. Absolute trust was reposed in his justice and impartiality; his authority no one ventured to dispute; and there seldom, or never, has been a fairer opportunity for the exercise of that unAlinching and enlightened selection which is the keystone of warlike efficiency. The labour of reorganisation was carried forward under dire pressure; but it was not scamped or hurried. Before the end of the ensuing summer a very censorious critic was at his post of observation when the American Commander-in-Chief marched down the main street of Philadelphia at the head of nine or ten thousand of his troops. Though indifferently dressed, (so this witness remarked,) they held well-burnished arms, and carried them like soldiers; and they looked as if they might have faced an equal number of their redoubtable adversaries with a reasonable prospect of success. That opinion was justified, in the
1 The American Archives contain a curious report to the New York Convention, made at the close of 1776 by a committee appointed for the purpose of revising the list of officers in the State Contingent. The work was done conscientiously and rigidly; and some of the entries are in remarkably plain and unvarnished English. “Not so careful and attentive as could be wished." “A sober officer, but rather too old.”
“Too heavy and inactive for an officer.” “Too heavy and illiterate for an officer.” “Of too rough a make for an officer ; better qualified for the Navy than the Army." “A very low-lived fellow." “A good officer, but of a sickly constitution, and had better quit the service.” “Wanting in authority to make a good officer. He has deceived the Convention by enlisting the men for six and nine months, instead of during the war.” “These three lieutenants wish to decline the service. They will be no loss to it." Many of the names are noted as excellent, creditable, and promising; but it is evident that there had been little time to pick and choose among the candidates for commissions during the stress and hurry which accompanied the outbreak of hostilities.
3 Pennsylvanian Memoirs; chapter xii.
five years which were to come, by a long series of battles honourably lost, or arduously won. The military force which Washington brought into shape at Morristown, — waxing or waning in numbers, but constantly improving in quality, — followed him obediently, resolutely, and devotedly as long as their country had occasion for a general and an army.
FEARS FOR ENGLISH LIBERTY. THE NEWSPAPERS.
NORTH AND SOUTH BRITAIN
The events, which took place during those stirring months in the regions watered by the Delaware and Hudson rivers, form a plain and straightforward narrative; but the story of what was passing in England is more complicated, and far more difficult to tell. For that was no affair of marches and countermarches, of skirmishes, and panics, and surprises. The conflict there was in the senate, the market-place, and the newspaper; in the interior of every household, and within the breast of every thinking citizen. Before the year 1777 was six weeks old it became plain that the hour had arrived when it was incumbent upon all men to form an opinion of their own, to profess it frankly, and to abide by it courageously. Up to this time many had concerned themselves but little with the rights and wrongs of the quarrel, or with the expediency of an appeal to arms. The Government, which was supposed to know, had proclaimed that the colonists were contemptible as antagonists, that the war would be short and cheap, and that the cost of it would very soon be covered, several times over, by the produce of taxes which Americans would never again refuse to pay when once they had been well beaten; and quiet people, who liked being governed, had believed the Government. Some, indeed, among the Peers and members of Parliament who supported the Cabinet had long ago admitted to each other, in whispers and sealed letters, that they had begun to be desperately uneasy.
" Administration, (wrote Lord Carlisle to George Selwyn as early as the