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or said anything disagreeable to your Excellency. My career will soon be over, therefore justice and truth prompt me to declare my last sentiments You are, in my eyes, the great and good man. May you long enjoy the love, veneration, and esteem of these States, whose liberties you have asserted by your virtues,
“I am, with great respect, etc.,
Had Conway possessed the grace to die at once, after writing these lines, he might have been forgiven, as one is apt to be, who repents and confesses in extremis, but he persisted in recovering, and finding himself universally avoided and held in contempt, sailed for France and went out of sight forever. With his disappearance we gladly dismiss the infamous intrigue to which he gave a name.
THE PEACE COMMISSION-ATTEMPT AGAINST LAFAYETTE—THE FRENCH ALLIANCE.
'HE effect of the surrender of Burgoyne upon the opinion of the Brit
ish Parliament and people, was effectual in decidedly modifying the tone adopted in discussing the American war. Not the least cause of this change of heart could be found in the 'fear that France would be led into an alliance with the colonies. When, therefore, early in the winter, Lord North presented his famous “conciliatory bills,” they met but small opposition. The principal argument used against them was that embodied by Stėd. man, the British historian, in the words : “If what was now proposed was a right measure, it ought to have been adopted at first, and before the sword was drawn; on the other hand, if the claims of the mother country over her colonies were originally worth contending for, the strength and resources of the nation were not yet so far exhausted, as to justify ministers in relinquishing them without a further struggle.” Scarcely had Lord North's resolutions been adopted, when came news from Versailles that confirmed the worst fears of that statesman. It was to the effect that Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, American commissioners to the court of His Christian Majesty, had obtained the recognition of the independence of the United States, and that an alliance, offensive and defensive, had been perfected between the greatest European rival of Great Britain, and her revolting colonies. The treaty stipulated that, should war ensue between France and England, it should be made a common cause, that neither France nor America should make peace without the consent of the other, nor should either lay down its arms until the independence of the colonies should be established.
No sooner did the English ministry learn of the conclusion of this treaty, than it dispatched post haste to America, a copy of North’s bill, intending to pave the way for the peace commission and also to forestall the effect of the French alliance. Immediately upon the arrival of the document at New York, Governor Tryon had copies printed and sent throughout the country for circulation. He even had the inconceivable impudence to send copies to
Washington, accompanied by a personal letter to the commander, requesting that they be communicated to the army. Washington sent them, instead, to Congress, with the comment that the time for such negotiation had passed, and that nothing short of independence should form a basis of peace negotiations. Congress took the same view, and determined in advance to hold no conference with the commission and enter into no peace negotiations, until the fleets and armies should be withdrawn from America, or the independence of the colonies expressly recognized. On the following day, April 23d, Congress passed resolutions recommending that the various colonies should offer amnesty to such of their citizens as had levied war against the United States and should return to their allegiance on or before the 16th of June following. Copies of these resolutions were printed in English and German, and ordered to be distributed throughout the land. Washington was not given to joking; he was naturally a serious man, and the heavy responsibility which he bore tended to heighten his gravity. We cannot, however, but believe, that, when he penned the following lines to Governor Tyron, he must have smiled at the clever argumentum ad hominem which they conveyed :
“Sir: Your letter of the 17th and a triplicate of the same, were duly received. I had the pleasure of seeing the drafts of the two bills before those sent by you came to hand; and I can assure you they were allowed to have a free currency among the officers and men under my command, in whose fidelity to the United States I have the most perfect confidence. The enclosed Gazette, published the 24th at Yorktown, will show you that it is the wish of Congress that they should have an unrestrained circulation. I take the liberty to transmit to you a few copies of a resolution of Congress of the 23d instant, and to request that you will be instrumental in communicating its contents, so far as in may be in your power, to the persons who are the objects of its operations. The benevolent purpose it is intended to answer will, I persuade myself, sufficiently recommend it to your candor.
“I am, Sir, &c." The manifesto of Great Britain had little or no effect in moving the public. In Rhode Island, the copies which came into the colony were burned under the gallows, by the public executioner; everywhere its concessions were regarded as a sign of weakening, and it defeated its own aims, encouraging the confidence of some in every colony, who were somewhat fearful for the result. Early in May came the news of the French alliance. Its effect upon America was indescribable. The tories were dumb with apprehension; the patriots wild with joy. Everywhere bells rang, cannon pealed, fires blazed, and all restraint was cast off, in the universal delight of the hour. At Valley Forge a banquet was given by the officers; Washington was toasted and cheereil, and, when at last he left the room, mounted his horse, and rode down the lines to headquarters, every regiment united in
loud huzzas, and he was repeatedly constrained to halt and uncover, in recog. nition of the spontaneous tribute. As Irving says: "Gates and Miffin, if they were in the camp at the time, must have seen enough to convince them that the commander in chief was supreme in the affections of the
General Sir William Howe had long been discontented with his treatment by the British ministry; he deemed that his recommendations and advice were not respectfully considered, and that his requests for reinforcements and supplies did not elicit the prompt response which they deserved. Hence, during the winter of 1778, he tendered his resignation to the minister of war; in May he received notification that the same had been accepted, and, Sir Henry Clinton being ordered to relieve him, he surrendered command on the uth of May, and departed for England. Later in the season Admiral Lord Howe imitated him, and the maritime command passed into other hands. There is no question that there was much in General Howe's conduct of the war to justify the criticisms that were freely made upon him. He lacked decision and activity; he was prone, by his easy habit, to fail of following up an advantage to a decisive end. Again and again he might have crushed an enemy already defeated, but always moved so deliberately as to give time for recuperation and re-array. Such was the case on Long island; at Throg's neck; at Brandywine. His brother presented, in every particular, an entire contrast to Sir William, and his resignation was a great loss to the British cause in America.
No sooner had Clinton taken command at Philadelphia, than there were evident indications of a design to abandon that city. He had, in fact, received orders to remove his army and fleet from that place, as being untenable in the event of the arrival of a French fleet; to mass his army at New York, and to confine himself, for the time being, to waging a predatory warfare upon the adjacent colonies. These instructions at such a time were foolish and blind to a degree almost beyond belief. England held out with one hand the olive branch of peace; with persuasive smile she allured her erring children to return; in the other she held the scourge, and, while she caressed and fondled, beat with the most stinging of weapons. Had she found the colonies ever so well disposed for the dishonorable peace proposed, the burning houses, the pillaged farms, the bleeding victims who fell unarmed before the silent bayonets of her authorized robbers and marauders, would have forever dispelled the possibility.
Receiving report of the preparations for a movement from Philadelphia, Lafayette was detached with twenty-one hundred chosen men, to hover about the city, obtain useful information regarding the movements of the enemy, check his marauding parties, and be prepared to assail his rear when the evacuation should at length be made. Observing the approach of Lafayette, Clinton determined to entrap him, and to this end detached General