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Washington."


Was it by entering into a treaty with England to surrender French
property on board American ships to be seized by the English, while
English property on board American ships was declared by the French
treaty not to be seizable, _that the bonds of friendship between America
and France were to be drawn the closer?_ Was it by declaring naval
stores contraband when coming to France, whilst by the French treaty
they were not contraband when going to England, that the _connection
between France and America was to be advanced?_ Was it by opening the
American ports to the British navy in the present war, from which ports
the same navy had been expelled by the aid solicited from France in the
American war (and that aid gratuitously given) (2) that the gratitude
of America was to be shewn, and the _solicitude_ spoken of in the letter
demonstrated?

1 The italics are Paine's. Paine's free use of this document
suggests that he possessed the confidence of the French
Directory.--_Editor._

2 It is notable that Paine adheres to his old contention in
his controversy with Deane. See vol. i., ch. aa of this work;
and vol. i., ch. 9 of my "Life of Paine."--_Editor._.

As the letter was addressed to the Committee of Public Safety, Mr.
Washington did not expect it would get abroad in the world, or be seen
by any other eye than that of Robespierre, or be heard by any other ear
than that of the Committee; that it would pass as a whisper across the
Atlantic, from one dark chamber to the other, and there terminate. It
was calculated to remove from the mind of the Committee all suspicion
upon Jay's mission to England, and, in this point of view, it was suited
to the circumstances of the movement then passing; but as the event
of that mission has proved the letter to be hypocritical, it serves no
other purpose of the present moment than to shew that the writer is
not to be credited. Two circumstances serve to make the reading of the
letter necessary in the Convention. The one was, that they who succeeded
on the fall of Robespierre, found it most proper to act with publicity;
the other, to extinguish the suspicions which the strange conduct of
Morris had occasioned in France.

When the British treaty, and the ratification of it by Mr. Washington,
was known in France, all further declarations from him of his good
disposition as an ally and friend, passed for so many cyphers; but still
it appeared necessary to him to keep up the farce of declarations. It
is stipulated in the British treaty, that commissioners are to report
at the end of two years, on the case of _neutral ships making neutral
property_. In the mean time, neutral ships do _not_ make neutral
property, according to the British treaty, and they _do_ according to
the French treaty. The preservation, therefore, of the French treaty
became of great importance to England, as by that means she can employ
American ships as carriers, whilst the same advantage is denied to
France. Whether the French treaty could exist as a matter of right after
this clandestine perversion of it, could not but give some apprehensions
to the partizans of the British treaty, and it became necessary to them
to make up, by fine words, what was wanting in good actions.

An opportunity offered to that purpose. The Convention, on the public
reception of Mr. Monroe, ordered the American flag and the French flags
to be displayed unitedly in the hall of the Convention. Mr. Monroe made
a present of an American flag for the purpose. The Convention returned
this compliment by sending a French flag to America, to be presented by
their Minister, Mr. Adet, to the American government. This resolution
passed long before Jay's treaty was known or suspected: it passed in
the days of confidence; but the flag was not presented by Mr. Adet till
several months after the treaty had been ratified. Mr. Washington made
this the occasion of saying some fine things to the French Minister; and
the better to get himself into tune to do this, he began by saying the
finest things of himself.

"Born, sir (said he) in a land of liberty; _having_ early learned its
value; _having_ engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it; _having_,
in a word, devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent
establishment in my own country; _my_ anxious recollections, my
sympathetic feelings, and _my_ best wishes are irresistibly excited,
whenever, in any country, I see an oppressed people unfurl the banner of
freedom."

Mr. Washington, having expended so many fine phrases upon himself, was
obliged to invent a new one for the French, and he calls them "wonderful
people!" The coalesced powers acknowledged as much.

It is laughable to hear Mr. Washington talk of his _sympathetic
feelings_, who has always been remarked, even among his friends, for
not having any. He has, however, given no proofs of any to me. As to the
pompous encomiums he so liberally pays to himself, on the score of the
American revolution, the reality of them may be questioned; and since
he has forced them so much into notice, it is fair to examine his
pretensions.

A stranger might be led to suppose, from the egotism with which Mr.
Washington speaks, that himself, and himself only, had generated,
conducted, compleated, and established the revolution: In fine, that it
was all his own doing.

In the first place, as to the political part, he had no share in it;
and, therefore, the whole of _that_ is out of the question with respect
to him. There remains, then, only the military part; and it would have
been prudent in Mr. Washington not to have awakened enquiry upon that
subject. Fame then was cheap; he enjoyed it cheaply; and nobody was
disposed to take away the laurels that, whether they were _acquired_ or
not, had been _given_.

Mr. Washington's merit consisted in constancy. But constancy was the
common virtue of the revolution. Who was there that was inconstant? I
know but of one military defection, that of Arnold; and I know of no
political defection, among those who made themselves eminent when the
revolution was formed by the declaration of independence. Even Silas
Deane, though he attempted to defraud, did not betray.(1)

1 This generous judgment by Deane's old adversary has become
questionable under recent investigations.--_Editor._.

But when we speak of military character, something more is to be
understood than constancy; and something more _ought_ to be understood
than the Fabian system of _doing nothing_. The _nothing_ part can be
done by any body. Old Mrs. Thompson, the housekeeper of head quarters,
(who threatened to make the sun and the wind shine through Rivington of
New York,) 'could have done it as well as Mr. Washington. Deborah would
have been as good as Barak.

Mr. Washington had the nominal rank of Commander in Chief, but he was
not so in fact. He had, in reality, only a separate command. He had no
controul over, or direction of, the army to the northward under Gates,
that captured Burgoyne; nor of that to the south under [Nathaniel]
Greene, that recovered the southern States.(2) The nominal rank,
however, of Commander in Chief, served to throw upon him the lustre
of those actions, and to make him appear as the soul and centre of all
military operations in America.

1 The Tory publisher of New York City, whose press was
destroyed in 1775 by a mob of Connecticut soldiers.--
_Editor._

2 See Mr. Winterbotham's valuable History of America, lately
published.--Author. [The "History of the Establishment of
Independence" is contained in the first of Mr.
Winterbotham's four volumes (London, 1795).--_Editor._.]

He commenced his command June, 1775, during the time the Massachusetts
army lay before Boston, and after the affair of Bunker-hill. The
commencement of his command was the commencement of inactivity. Nothing
was afterwards done, or attempted to be done, during the nine months
he remained before Boston. If we may judge from the resistance made at
Concord, and afterwards at Bunker-hill, there was a spirit of enterprise
at that time, which the presence of Mr. Washington chilled into cold
defence. By the advantage of a good exterior he attracts respect, which
his habitual silence tends to preserve; but he has not the talent of
inspiring ardour in an army. The enemy removed from Boston in March
1776, to wait for reinforcements from Europe, and to take a more
advantageous position at New York.

The inactivity of the campaign of 1775, on the part of General
Washington, when the enemy had a less force than in any other future
period of the war, and the injudicious choice of positions taken by
him in the campaign of 1776, when the enemy had its greatest force,
necessarily produced the losses and misfortunes that marked that gloomy
campaign. The positions taken were either islands or necks of land.
In the former, the enemy, by the aid of their ships, could bring their
whole force against apart of General Washington's, as in the affair
of Long Island; and in the latter, he might be shut up as in the bottom
of a bag. This had nearly been the case at New York, and it was so in
part; it was actually the case at Fort Washington; and it would have
been the case at Fort Lee, if General Greene had not moved precipitately
off, leaving every thing behind, and by gaining Hackinsack bridge, got
out of the bag of Bergen Neck. How far Mr. Washington, as General, is
blameable for these matters, I am not undertaking to determine; but they
are evidently defects in military geography. The successful skirmishes
at the close of that campaign, (matters that would scarcely be noticed
in a better state of things,) make the brilliant exploits of General
Washington's seven campaigns. No wonder we see so much pusillanimity in
the President, when we see so little enterprise in the General!

The campaign of 1777 became famous, not by anything on the part of
General Washington, but by the capture of General Burgoyne, and the
army under his command, by the Northern army at Saratoga, under General
Gates.



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