Page images
PDF
EPUB

part of the American troops, accompanied by the governor, lieutenant governor, some members of the council, and many of the citizens of the state of New York, marched in, and took possession of that city.

The joyful event of peace, was here celebrated, on the first of December, Here also four days after, the commander in chief took leave of his officers. Having met them at a place appointed, the general taking a glass of wine, thus addressed them, -“With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish, that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.” After a short pause, each one received the hand and embrace of their beloved general. Being then on his way to congress, to resign his commission, his officers, in a procession accompanied him to the boat in which he was to embark, and as it put from the shore, an alternate waving of hats, gave the last silent adieu.*

After remaining a few days at Philadelphia, for the purpose of settling his accounts, (the whole of which was only nineteen thousand three hundred pounds eleven shillings and nine pence, Virginia money,) he repaired to the seat of the general government, at Annapolis ; and on the 23d of December, at a public audience, and in the presence of a great concourse of his fellow citizens, he resigned into the hands of congress, that commission, which more than eight years before, he had, with so much diffidence, and in far other circumstances, received from them. In doing this, he made the following address.

Mr. President- The great events, on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I have now the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to congress, and of presenting myself before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.

“Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovercignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United

* Gordon p. 377.

States, of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence,-a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task; which, however, was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the union, and the patronage of heaven.

“ The successful termination of the war verified the most sanguine expectations ; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous contest.

“ While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings, not to acknowledge in this place, the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen, who have been attached to my person, during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers, to compose my family, should have been more fortunate.

“ Permit me, sir, to recommend, in particular, those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of congress.

“ I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those, who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.

“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

The following answer was returned by the president.

“Sir—The United States in congress assembled, receive with emotions too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities, under which you have led their troops with success, through a perilous and a doubtful war.

Called upon by your country to defend its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge, before it formed alliances, and whilst it was without funds VOL. II.

23

or a government to support you. You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power, through all disasters and changes. You have, by the love and confidence of your fellow citizens, enabled them to display their martial genius, and transmit their fame to posterity. You have persevered, till these United States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation, have been enabled, under a just Providence, to close the war in freedom, safety, and independence ; on which happy event we sincerely join you in congratulations.

Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world : having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict, and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action, with the blessings of your fellow citizens ; but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command, it will continue to animate remotest ages.

“We feel with you our obligations to the army in general, and will particularly charge ourselves, with the interests of those confidential officers, who have attended your person to this affecting moment.

“We join you, in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, beseeching him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded them, of becoming a happy and respectable nation. And for you, we address to him our earnest prayers, that a life so beloved, may be fostered with all his care; and that your days may be as happy as they have been illustrious ; and that he will finally give you that reward, which this world cannot give."*

This was the closing military scene of the American revolution. This scene, with the declaration of independence, the surrender of general Burgoyne, and the capture of lord Cornwallis, in pursuance of a late order of congress, have been selected, to be commemorated by appropriate paintings, for national use. These have been executed by John Trumbull, a celebrated American artist, and placed in the capitol at the seat of the general gov. ernment.

* Journals of Congress, vol. 9.

CHAPTER XVI.

After the peace of 1783, congress take measures to restore public credit-Amount of

the debt of the United States—States requested to vest congress with power to levy duties on imports, and to establish funds for the payment of the interest of the debt -Address to the states on the subject-All the states grant the impost, except New York-Congress propose to enter into commercial treaties with most of the powers of Europe-Establish certain principles respecting treaties—Appoint ministers to form commercial arrangements with foreign nations—Pitt's bill respecting commercial intercourse with the United States—Not approved by the new ministry and the navigating interest-Lord Sheffield's observations upon it-King and council authorized to regulate the commerce with the United States-Americans excluded from the West India trade-Disputes with Great Britain about the inexecution of the treaty of peace-Mr. Adams sent minister to England—His instructions-His reception at the court of London-Presents a memorial to the British ministers British complain of infractions of the treaty on the part of the United States-Congress recommend the repeal of all laws contrary to the treaty-Disputes with Spain renewed about limits and the navigation of the Mississippi—Gardoqui, minister from Spain arrives Mr. Jay appointed to negociate with him-His instructions, and course of negociation with the Spanish minister-Cessions of lands by the statesTerritory of the United States formed into a district-Ordinance of congress for the government of the territory—Inefficiency of the general government–Depressed state of American commerce-Insurrection in Massachusetts-Alarms congressTroops ordered to be raised to assist Massachusetts—Meeting of commissioners from several states at Annapolis, to amend the articles of confederation General convention recommended by these commissioners and by congress-Delegates to this convention appointed by all the states except Rhode Island.

ONE of the first objects which claimed the attention of congress, after the signature of the provisional articles of peace, was the restoration of public credit, and the establishment of funds for the payment of the debts incurred by the war. It was obvi- . ous, that duties on imports, must constitute no inconsiderable portion of these funds. Congress, however, had no power to levy these duties, without the assent of all the states.

[ocr errors]

The whole expense of the war, has been estimated at the sum of one hundred and thirty-five millions of dollars. In this is included the specie value of all the bills advanced from the treasury of the United States, reduced according to a scale of depreciation, established by congress. The whole amount of the debt of the United States, as ascertained in 1783, was about forty-two millions of dollars ; eight millions of which arose, from loans obtained in France and Holland, and the remainder was due to American citizens. The annual interest of this debt, was, two millions four hundred and fifteen thousand nine hundred and fifty-six dollars.

On the 12th of February, 1783, congress, with great unanimity, declared, “ that the establishment of permanent and adequate funds on taxes or duties, which shall operate generally, and on the whole, in just proportion, throughout the United States, are indispensably necessary towards doing complete justice to the public creditors, for restoring public credit, and for providing for the future exigencies of the war."

It was much easier to agree, in this general resolution, than to provide the means for carrying it into effect. After much debate, congress, on the 18th of April, recommended to the states, as being “indispensably necessary, to the restoration of public credit, and to the punctual discharge of the public debts,” to vest congress with power to levy certain specified duties on spirits, wines, teas, pepper, sugar, molasses, cocoa, and coffee, and a duty of five per cent. ad valorem, on all other imported goods. These duties were to be applied solely to the payment of the interest and principal of the public debt, and for that purpose, to continue twenty-five years : the collectors to be chosen by the states, but removeable by congress.

The states were also required, to establish for the same time, and for the same object, substantial and effectual revenues of such nature, as they should judge convenient, for supplying their proportion of one million five hundred thousand dollars, annually,

« PreviousContinue »