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marching and fighting ever since the middle of August. Many among them were barefoot; and Washington was reduced to send round the Pennsylvania villages to beg or buy old clothes and blankets for his freezing soldiers. But at any rate they were soldiers, — true metal that had been tried in the fire; from whose ranks the cowards and sluggards had all deserted, while the feeble in body had been eliminated by the searching hardships of those cruel months. They were clad like scarecrows: but each of them carried a gun whose tricks he knew, with the barrel as clean as oiled rag could make it; and in that camp rags were plenty. They now were somewhat rested; for they slept sound under a tight roof, behind a broad river; and, for the first time during many a long day, they had enough to eat. Robert Morris, who was working with the zeal and devotion of ten fair-weather administrators, confessed that the transport and commissariat had been seriously deranged ever since Congress had retired to Baltimore. But the hamlet of Newtown, which contained Washington's head-quarters, lay only a few leagues distant from Philadelphia ; and the townsmen of that hospitable capital, on both sides of politics, loved to regale those who agreed with them in opinions. Provision-waggons came and went through the mud and snow with a regularity which showed that Benjamin Franklin, when he sailed for France, had not taken all the resource and energy of his adopted city with him. The veterans of Haerlem and of White Plains had never lost their courage; and now they got back their buoyancy. They were tired of being told that they had practised the back-step long enough. Their fancy was not captivated by the prospect of recommencing a retreat over vile log-roads, far away from any chance of good victuals; and they were more
1 Robert Morris to Colonel Cadwalader; American Archives.
2 "Where are your good ladies ? My love and best compliments to them, and desire that they will take care of themselves, lest our retrograde soldiers should run them down. I wish you would introduce a new step into your army. I am sure they are perfect in the back-step by this time.” William Shippen to Richard Henry Lee; December 1776.
inclined to push forward across the Delaware before the Hessians had killed all the turkeys, and burned up all the dry billets of wood, in the province of New Jersey.
These men entertained very definite notions about the cause which had brought them from their ploughs, from their dairies, and from the counters of their stores. They had learned to read at school; and they retained the habit in after life, instead of breaking off their education at that precise point of childhood when the intellect unfolds itself to the appreciation of the delight and instruction which books afford. "In many towns," (we are told,) "and in every city, they have public libraries. Not a tradesman but will find time to read. He is amused with voyages and travels, and becomes acquainted with the geography, customs, and commerce of other countries. He reads political disquisitions, and learns the outlines of his rights as a man and a citizen.” 1 Nor was that the case with townsmen only; for already good books were treasured, and slashing newspapers eagerly sought, by farmers and rural mechanics, who in the long Northern winter had more time for study and reflection than the people who lived in the streets of a city. Leisure, indeed, was not abundant in Washington's army on the Delaware; but the minds of his soldiers were profoundly stirred, and the full significance of national politics was brought before their eyes in a very visible and concrete shape. Nothing ever arouses so lively an interest in literary productions as personal intercourse with those who create them. The writers who had most successfully evoked a martial spirit in America did not lie open to the taunt which, since wars first began, has been levelled against those who instigate others to fight, but who will not fight themselves; a taunt which the ancients embodied in the fable of the trumpeter who begged for quarter on the plea that he never had killed anyone with his own
1 “Letter written by a foreigner on his Travels ;” by Francis Hopkinson. American Archives for December 1776.
sword. During the earlier operations in the campaign the author of the “ Answer to a Westchester Farmer" might have been seen loading and pointing in the thick of the fire, or trudging contentedly at the head of his battery while his charger helped to drag the cannon; and any patriot in uniform, when he had done his turn of sentry, and felt inclined for some conversation on public affairs, might exchange ideas with a still more celebrated pamphleteer, who occupied a humbler military station than Alexander Hamilton in that exceptionally constituted army.
Thomas Paine, in the very flush of his influence and reputation, had shouldered a knapsack, and joined the Flying Camp as a Pennsylvania militiaman. General Greene made him one of his aides-de-camp; but an appointment on that staff, during those weeks, carried with it very little either of privilege or luxury. In the flight from Fort Lee Paine lost his baggage and his private papers; but he had kept, or borrowed, a pen. He began to write at Newark, the first stage in the calamitous retreat; and he worked all night at every halting-place until his new pamphlet was completed. It was published in Philadelphia on the nineteenth of December, under the title of “The Crisis,” and at once flew like wildfire through all towns and villages of the Confederacy. In Europe the piece attracted less attention than had been paid to its predecessor; for, whereas “Common Sense” had been a reasoned exposition of state policy, “The Crisis" was an impassioned appeal to arms. That circumstance, however, endowed Paine's glowing rhetoric with a special value in the estimation of Americans. To their mind's eye the little work was adorned by an imaginary frontispiece of a soldier writing by the watch-fire's light, with his comrades slumber
1 A letter written from the British army relates that on this occasion “the rebels fled like scared rabbits, leaving some poor pork, a few greasy proclamations, and some of that scoundrel. Common Sense'man's letters; which we can read at our leisure, now that we have got one of the impregnable redoubts' of Mr. Washington's to quarter in.”
PT, II.-VOL. II.
ing round him; and it was among those comrades that the author found his warmest admirers and his most convinced disciples. The privates were called together in groups to hear “The Crisis” read; and it would have borne the test of reading aloud even before a more exacting audience. “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he, that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” 1
Such were the first words of that thrilling exhortation; and what followed was of a piece with the opening centences. Americans in the army were especially pleased by the parallel drawn between their commander and the last King of England who had been a famous warrior. William the Third, it was said,) never appeared to full advantage but in difficulty and danger.
The character fits General Washington. There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles. I reckon it among public blessings that God hath blessed him with uninterrupted health, and given him a mind that can flourish upon care.” If to applaud that sentiment was flattery on the part of Washington's soldiers, it was none the less a tribute which honoured those who paid it, and proved that they had not degenerated from their forefathers. The nation from which they issued,- of which, only six months before, they formed a part, --- in peril and disaster is slow to blame those of its servants who have honestly and faithfully done their best at home and in the field; and no other trait in the British character inspires foreigners with more genuine respect and admiration, not unmixed with envy. Washington deserved the confidence of his supporters; for he set an example of the manner in which men should think and act when their country is in grave peril. While labouring with all his powers to recapture success, he steadily
1 Moncure Conway's Life of Thomas Paine ; Vol. I., chapter vii. Tyler's Literary History; chapter xxiv., sections 1 and 2.
trained his mind to contemplate the very worst that could possibly befall. Asked what he would do if Philadelphia were taken, he is reported to have answered that he would retreat beyond the Susquehanna River, and thence, if necessary, into the Alleghany Mountains. He had penetrated the inward meaning of the secret which, in the last extremity of fortune, sustains the brave, “who resign themselves to everything in thought, but in action resign themselves never.” 2
1 The Life of Washington by Jared Sparks ; chapter ix.
3 "Il faut par la pensée se résigner à tout, et dans l'action ne se résigner jamais.”