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ART. III. Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia ; a pastorale Romance.
(From the Retrospective Review.)
Art. V. Sir Thomas Overbury's Characters. (From the
Art. I. The General Biographical Dictionary; containing an
historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons in every nation :new edition by A. CHALMERS, F. S. A. London. 1817. (Article “ WASHINGTON,” Vol. 31st.)
Our attention has been recently directed by a friend to the 31st Volume of Chalmers' General Biographical Dictionary; Article Washington, p. 204. We find there the following passage.
Much has been said, by the American Biographers of Wash• ington, concerning his magnanimity during the ravages of a civil
war, in which he acted so conspicuous a part; but, on the other • hand, two instances have been mentioned, in which he is thought s to have been deficient in this great quality of a hero. Granting (it " has been said) that duty required him to execute, as a spy, the s accomplished Major Andrè, true magnanimity would have pre
vented him from insultingly erecting, in the view of that unfortu• nate officer, the gallows on which he was to be hung, several days s before his execution. And, when Earl Cornwallis was overpowersed by numbers and obliged at Yorktown to surrender to the
united armies of America and France, a magnanimous conqueror
Yjet this pasived, than
shington, Le gallow
give some sufficient name, as an authority for the facts which he asserts; or in defect of this, to furnish proof of his having had the means of knowing them personally. On this occasion, however, Mr. Chalmers has thought proper to dispense with both these rules, and to substitute for them, a loose and illogical language, obviously calculated to leave it matter of doubt, whether the American Biographers of Washington, did or did not themselves furnish both the praise and the censure. His expression is substantially this “ Much has been said by American Biographers in commendation " of the magnanimity of Washington; but, on the other hand, two - instances, which detract from this praise, have been mentioned.” And by whom? This, is precisely what the compiler wished to conceal; because, had he told the public, that these two enormities in the conduct of Washington, had come down to him through the Welds, the Parkinsons or the Bristeds of the day, the plan would have failed—the trap would have caught nobody, and like the accomplished Andrè, Mr. Chalmers would have had the satisfaction only, of having meditated à mischief, he was unable to effect. But let this pass : our business is less with the sources whence his fictions are derived, than with the fictions themselves : and
1st. That General Washington, for the purpose of insulting the feelings of Major Andrè, caused the gallows (on which the Major was afterwards hanged) to be erected, several days before the exe·cution, and within the view of the prisoner.'
This assertion has not even the colour of truth to support itbut before we touch the positive evidence, within our reach, we will briefly examine the charge, on the ground of probability.
It will be remembered, that Major André was apprehended on the 23d of September (1780); that on the 28th, he was removed to Tappan; that on the 29th he was brought to trial ; that the last sitting of the court-in which was decided the mode of his punishment-was held on the 1st day of October, and that his execution took place, precisely at 12 o'clock, on the 2d. Now between the time of his arrival and that of his execution, are but three days and a half ; and between this last event and the final sentence of the court, we count even less than twenty-four hours ! This computation of time leaves no room for Mr. Chalmers' “ several days" except upon the very improbable supposition, that Washington, in his haste to insult the feelings of Andrè, had caused a gallows to be erected, before the court had decided, either the guilt of the prisoner, or the mode of his punishment.
The historical relation of the conduct of Washington, on this occasion, given in England, and at a time when every circumstance attending it, was matter both of curiosity and interest, holds a language totally different from that of Mr. Chalmers. In the An
was afle of Majeneral Washing
nual Register for 1781, (Vol. 24) it is expressly stated, that “ as
To the sympathy, shown for Andrè on the part of the army of
In another relation of this affecting story, (by the late General
(a) Now Treasurer of that Institution---Mr. John Pintard..
“ was erected on the morning of that day; that it was impossible for " Major Andrè to have seen the Gibbet from the quarters where " he was confined,—the place of execution being at least half a 66 mile distant from said quarters, and any view thereof, intercept“ed by intervening objects.”
2d. • That on the surrender of the British army at Yorktown, General Washington, contrary to the usages of civilized war, claimed the sword from the hands of the British Commander in Chief, Lord Cornwallis.'
This assertion, is made with as little regard to truth as the former, and with much less regard to prudence ;-because, in the affair of Andrè, the official documents do not reach the circumstance in' controversy, and of course leave it undetermined-but here, the Biographer is confronted by articles of capitulation, signed by Lord Cornwallis himself:--the 4th of which expressly saves, to the officers surrendering, their “side arms and private property of every kind.”
As the whole of this story appears to be new to Mr. Chalmers, we shall give a short sketch of it from the pen of old Marshal Rochambeau, and another from that of the late General Lee; by 'which it will be seen, that, so far from suffering the outrage stated by the British Biographer, Lord Cornwallis was not even present at the actual surrender, but left to the gallant O'Hara the duty of going through that necessary but unpleasant ceremony.
“On the 17th of October, the enemy began to negotiate, and 6 the capitulation was signed on the 19th, -by which, Lord Corn66 wallis and his army became prisoners of war. At 12 o'clock - the Americans and French took possession of the two bastions. 66 The garrison marched out, at 2 o'clock, between the two armies 66with drums beating and shouldered arms, which were after- wards stacked, together with twenty stands of colours. Lord 66 Cornwallis, being unwell, General O'Hara marched at the head " of the garrison. When he came up, he presented to me his 66 sword- I pointed to General Washington who was opposite to si me and at the head of the American troops, and told him, that " as the French were auxiliaries only, he must receive his orders " from the American General.” a
“ At 2 o'clock,” says General Lee, “the British army, led by "General O'Hara, marched out of its lines with colours cased and 66 drums beating a British march. When the head of the column * approached the commander in chief, O'Hara, mistaking the cir"cle, turned to that on his lest, for the purpose of paying his re“ spects and requesting further orders; when quickly discovering
(a) Memoires militaires historiques et politiques de Rochainbeau. Tom. Ir. P. 295.