صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

directed labors have furnished. No man in this country has done so much in this sphere of action, and no man could have done it better. We are glad to perceive that he intends to pursue these researches still further; and we anticipate from his projected Life of Franklin, additional light on that great man's diplomatic conduct. It may not be impertinent here to remark, that within the last quarter of a century, the indefatigable labors of English scholars have done more to disabuse the world on topics of English history, than had been done during the previous century and a half. This has been accomplished, in the main, “ by going to the record.” Thither Mr. Sparks has gone.

The volume, which is called second, (though it is, in fact, the first of Washington's Writings,) includes his letters from 1754 to 1775, when he was appointed “Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies.” The third volume comes down to July 1776, about three months after he reached New York, upon the evacuation of Boston by General Howe.

The letters in the second volume “relate chiefly to the French war, in which Washington was actively engaged for five years. During a large part of that time, he was commander in chief of the Virginia forces; and his correspondence in that capacity, both as furnishing historical materials and manifesting the characteristics and resources of his own mind, is curious and valuable. Many years after the letters were written, he revised the first drafts, and caused them to be carefully recorded in volumes."*

At Braddock's defeat, Washington lost all his papers. They were taken by the French, and first sent to Canada, and thence to France. Among these papers was his official correspondence of the preceding year. Mr. Sparks has, in a great measure, repaired this loss, by his researches in the archives of the public offices in London, in the library of the war department in Paris, and in other sources, public and private, foreign and domestic, to which he obtained access in his untiring editorial inquiries.

* The whole number of volumes in Mr. Sparks's series, will be from eight to twelve. The transcripts of Washington's revolutionary papers occupy forty-four large folio volumes. After the revolution, his correspondence was very extensive with eminent persons in this country and in Europe, and from that time to his acceptance of the presidency, his copied letters fill six folio volumes. During the presidency, he found leisure to prepare seven volumes of recorded letters, besides many others of which presscopies were taken, and which are not preserved in books. There are fourteen other volumes in which are recorded the transactions of the president with Congress and the heads of departments, and which consist of letters which passed between him and the secretaries on special subjects. Among other records is a private journal in which his official acts and intercourse are daily noted down.

The course, which the editor of these volumes has pursued, is thus explained by himself :

' “I have laid down two rules, which I have labored to follow with as much discrimination as possible; first, to select such parts, as have a permanent value on account of the historical facts which they contain, whether in relation to actual events, or to the political designs and operations in which Washington was a leading or conspicuous agent; secondly, to comprise such other parts, as contain the views, opinions, counsels and reflections of the writer on all kinds of topics, showing thereby the structure of his mind, its powers and resources, and the strong and varied points of his character. Upon this plan it has been my study to go carefully through the manuscripts, without regard to what has heretofore been made public, and gather from the whole, and combine into one body, the portions most important for their intrinsic value and historical characteristics; so that the work, in its complete form, may be a depository of all the writings of Washington, which it is essential to preserve, either as illustrating his political and private life, or the history of his country during the long and brilliant period of his public career.Introd. to Vol. II. p. xiv.

Short historical and explanatory notes are added to some of the letters, and an appendix at the end of each volume, in which some materials of great value are reposited, that were not suited to the body of the work.

Washington's letters of an earlier date than 1754, have all been lost. But as he was in his minority until about that time, it is not probable that their contents would have given great additional value to the work, though they would doubtless have gratified the reader's laudable curiosity.

It is obviously impracticable—and it is not desirableto give an analysis of the contents of volumes like these. Our object is to present some of the prominent historical facts which are here found, and which are not so generally known as they ought to be. Mr. Sparks has well justified the fullness of his Notes to the second volume, by alleging the fact, " that the history of the events upon which they have a bearing is but little known, and that hardly any of the letters to which they are attached have hitherto been published."

4, pericter and ist mited, giventile dire

Judge Marshall, in his Life of Washington, has quoted very freely from bis letters written during the war of the revolution, and afterwards; but has made little direct use of his earlier writings. He has, indeed, given a very clear general view of Washington's first military career, and has done his whole character and services ample and discriminating justice. A perusal of the letters and notes in this second volume will greatly strengthen the impression, made by his different biographers, concerning his inflexible firmness under unexampled difficulties and vexations, and his manly forbearance under provocation and obloquy. Even the cautious pen of Marshall has characterized Dinwiddie, (the governor of Virginia,) to whom Washington “ was in every minute circumstance subjected,” as “ a weak, obstinate, and rude man, without just conceptions of the situation or real interests of the colony."

One trait in Washington's military character, which appeared early, and which was never for a moment obscured, was his scrupulous subjection to the civil authority. “He could not be prevailed upon to exercise a delegated power to any greater extent than was absolutely necessary for a full discharge of the duties of his station. This control of that strong passion, the love of power, was one of the marked traits of his character, and a main cause of his popularity through the whole of his brilliant career.” p. 230, note. In a letter to the Earl of Loudoun, in February, 1757, he complained of a law of the Virginia assembly, forbidding courtsmartial to sit out of the colony, “by which means, (he remarked,) all proceedings held at Fort Cumberland (in Maryland) were illegal, and we were obliged to remove to Virginia for the trial of offenders, or act contrary to law, and be open to prosecution.”

“On the 12th of January, Colonel Washington wrote to the Governor respecting the trial of several subaltern officers and soldiers for a mutiny. “I thought it needless,' said he, 'to send you the proceedings of the court-martial, or to ask warrants for execution, as we have no law to inflict punishment, even of the smallest kind. I shall keep those criminals in irons, and, if possible, under apprehensions of death, until some favorable opportunity may countenance a reprieve.' The Governor replied, that, as the men were enlisted and paid with money raised for the King's service, he conceived they were subject to the articles of war, in the same manner as the King's regular forces. But so

tenacious was Colonel Washington in upholding the rights of the Assembly and the laws of the Colony, that he did not accede to this opinion. He considered the Assembly as the only proper authority to prescribe rules of discipline for an army, raised and maintained at their expense; and he believed himself anenable to the civil laws for any acts of severity pot countenanced by that code. This was conformable to the scrupulous exactness with which, during all his future military career, and frequently when the interest of the public service offered the strongest temptations to the contrary, he yielded implicit obedience to the civil power."Vol. II. p. 224.

In this, as in many other points, the man, who was the first President of the United States, may well be contrasted with him who now holds that office.

The character of Washington, in reference to the death of Jumonville, has greatly suffered in the hands of the French historians. Flassan, Lacretelle, Montgaillard, and other eminent French writers, have given an account of this affair, which, is true, would leave a blot on the reputation of the American commander. Mr. Sparks has most successfully vindicated Washington's conduct in this affair. We strongly wish to give our readers the entire statement; but it is too long to be copied here. We give, however, Washington's official letters on the subject, as now, for the first time, published.

Letter to Gov. Dinwiddie, May 29, 1754. “Now, sir, as I have answered your letter, I shall beg leave to acquaint you with what has happened since I wrote by Mr. Gist. I then informed you, that I had detached a party of seventy-five men to meet fifty of the French, who, we had intelligence, were upon their march towards us. About nine o'clock the same night, I received an express from the Half-King, who was encamped with several of his people about six miles off, that he had seen the tracks of two Frenchmen crossing the road, and that, behind, the whole body were lying not far off, as he had an account of that number passing Mr. Gist's.

“I set out with forty men before ten, and it was from that time till near sunrise before we reached the Indians' camp, having marched in small paths, through a heavy rain, and a night as dark as it is possible to conceive. We were frequently tumbling one over another, and often so lost, that fifteen or twenty minutes' search would not find the path again.

. “When we came to the Half-King, I counselled with him, and got his assent to go hand-in-hand and strike the French. Accordingly, he, Monacawacha, and a few other Indians set out with us; and when we came to the place where the tracks were, the Half-King sent two Indians to follow their tracks, and discover their lodgement, which they did at a half a mile from the road, in a very obscure place surrounded with rocks. I thereupon, in conjunction with the Half-King and Monacawacha, formed a disposition to attack them on all sides, which we accordingly did, and, after an engagement of about fifteen minutes, we killed ten, wounded one, and took twenty-one prisoners. Amongst those killed was M. de Jumonville, the commander. The principal officers taken are M. Drouillon, and M. La Force of whom your Honor has often heard me speak, as a bold enterprising man, and a person of great subtlety and cunning. With these are two cadets.

“ These officers pretend they were coming on an embassy; but the absurdity of this pretext is too glaring, as you will see by the instructions and summons enclosed. Their instructions were to reconnoitre the country, roads, creeks, and the like, as far as the Potomac, which they were about to do. These enterprising men. were purposely chosen out to procure intelligence, which they were to send back by some brisk despatches, with the mention of the day that they were to serve the summons; which could be with no other view, than to get a sufficient reinforcement to fall upon us immediately after. This, with several other reasons, induced all the officers to believe firmly, that they were sent as spies, rather than any thing else, and has occasioned my detaining them as prisoners, though they expected, or at least had some faint hope, that they should be continued as ambassadors.

“They, finding where we were encamped, instead of coming up in a public manner, sought out one of the most secret retirements, fitter for a deserter than an ambassador to encamp in, and sta yed there two or three days, sending spies to reconnoitre our camp, as we are told, though they deny it. Their whole body moved back near two miles, and they sent off two runners to acquaint Contrecæur with our strength, and where we were encamped. Now thirty-six men would almost have been a retinue for a princely ambassador, instead of a petit. Why did they, if their designs were open, stay so long within five miles of us, without delivering their message, or acquainting me with it?

Their waiting could be with no other design, than to get detachments to enforce the summons, as soon as it was given. They had no occasion to send out spies, for the name of an ambassador is sacred among all nations, but it was by the track of those spies, that they were discovered, and that we got intelligence of them. They would not have retired two miles back without deJivering the summons, and sought a skulking-place (which, to do them justice, was done with great judgment,) but for some special reason. Besides, the summons is so insolent, and savors so much

VOL. III. 16

« السابقةمتابعة »