History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution/Chapter XXIX

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Before we close the curtain on the scenes that have empurpled the plains of America, with the blood of some of the best of her citizens, or before we congratulate the European world on the opportunity of closing the temple of Janus, for a season, it is proper to retrospect and mark some of the intermediate transactions of the American troops, from the capture of Lord Cornwallis and his army to the proclamation for peace, and the disbanding the troops of the United States.

We have seen through the narration of events during the war, the armies of the American states suffering hunger and cold, nakedness, fatigue, and danger, with unparalleled patience and valor. A due sense of the importance of the contest in which they were engaged, and the certain ruin an disgrace in which themselves and their children would be involved on the defeat of their object, a strong stimulus to patient suffering. An attachment to their commanding officers, a confidence in the faith of Congress, and the sober principle of independence, equity, and equality, in which the most of them had been nurtured, all united to quiet any temporary murmurs that might arise from present feelings, and to command the fidelity of soldiers contending or personal freedom, and the liberties of their country.

The deranged state of the American finances from a depreciating currency the difficulty of obtaining loans of moneys, and various other causes had sufficiently impressed them with the danger that threatened the great object, the independence of the United States of America. These circumstances had led the army to submit to a delay of payment of their equitable dues, notwithstanding their personal sufferings, and to wait the effects of war more efficient stipulations for adequate rewards in some future day.

But, on the certain intelligence that peace was at hand, that it had been proposed to disband the army by furloughs, and that there was no appearance of a speedy liquidation of the public debts, many of both officers and soldiers grew loud in their complaints, and bold in their demands. They required an immediate payment of all arrearages; and insisted on the security of the commutation engaged by Congress some time before, on the recommendation of General Washington. He had requested that the officers of the army might be assured of receiving seven years' whole pay, instead of half pay for life, which had been stipulated before; this, after reducing the term to five years, Congress had engaged.

They also demanded a settlement for rations, clothing, and proper consideration for the delay of payment of just debts which had long bee due, and an obligation from Congress for compensation or immediate payment. They chose General McDougal, Colonel Brooks, and Colonel Ogden, a committee from the arm to wait on Congress, to represent the general uneasiness, and to lay the complaints of the army before them, and to enforce the requests of the officers, most of whom were supposed to have been concerned in the business. Anonymous addresses were scattered among the troops; poisonous suggestions whispered, and the most inflammatory resolutions drawn up, and disseminated through the army These were written with ingenuity and spirit, but the authors were not discovered.

Reports were everywhere circulated that the military department would do itself justice; that the army would not disband until Congress had acceded to all their demands; and that they would keep their arms in their hands, until they had compelled the delinquent states to a settlement, and Congress to a compliance with all the claims of the public creditors.

These alarming appearances were conducted with much art and intrigue. It was said and doubtless it was true that some persons not belonging to the army, and who were very adroit in fiscal management, had their full share in ripening the rupture.

Deeply involved in public contracts, some of the largest public creditors on the continent were particularly suspected of fomenting a spirit and encouraging views inconsistent with the principles and professions of the friends to the Revolution. These were disgusted at the rejection of the late 5 per cent impost, which had been contemplated. The were thought to have been busy in ripening projects which might bring forward measures for the speedy liquidation of the public demands. The private embarrassments and expenses of some of this class had frequently prompted them to all-digested systems of relief to themselves, in which the public were also involved, from the confidence placed in men by men of the first consideration. But their expedients and their adventures ended in the complete ruin of some individuals.

Those gentlemen, however, most particularly implicated in the public opinion, sustained a character pure, and morals correct, when viewed in comparison with others who were looking forward to projects of extensive speculation, to the establishment of banks and funding systems, and to the erected a government for the Untied States, in which should be introduced ranks, privileged orders, and arbitrary powers. Several of these were deep, designing instruments of mischief; characters able, artful, and insinuating; who wee undoubtedly engaged in the maneuvers of the army; and though their designs were not fully comprehended, it was generally believed that they secretly encouraged the discontents and the attempts of the disaffected soldiery.

In answer to the address of the officers of the army, Congress endeavored to quiet by palliatives and by expressions of kindness, encouragement, and hope, Several months passed in this uneasy situation. The people anxious, the officers restless, the army instigated by them and by ambitious and interested men in other departments, proceeded to the most pernicious resolutions and to measures of a very dangerous nature.

In the mean time, General Washington, both as commander in Chief and a man who had the peace of his country at heart, did everything in his power to quiet complaint, to urge the patience, and to dissipate the mutinous spirit that prevailed in the army. By his assiduity, prudence, and judgment, the embers were not slightly covered, but the fire was not extinguished. The secret murmurs that had rankled for several months, and had alternately been smothered in the sullen bosom or blazed high in the sanguine, now broke out into open insurrection.

On June 20, 1783, a part of the Pennsylvania line, with some others belonging to the different corps of several of the United States, in defiance of all order and military discipline, and in contempt of the advice and even importunity of such as were better disposed, marched from Lancaster to Philadelphia. There they were joined by some discontented soldiers in the barracks within the city, who had recently returned poor, emaciated, and miserable, from the southern service.

This seditious host surrounded the State House when Congress was sitting, placed guards at the doors, and threatened immediate outrage, unless their demands were complied with in the short space of 24 minutes.

Prompt requisitions and immediate decision, all well-disciplined armies are used to, but this is no apology for the precipitation of their present measures. However, from the pride and success of military maneuvers, to which they had been accustomed, they felt themselves superior to all civil subordination or control. This is usually the case with all armies or detachments from them, in all countries, after they have stood their ground long enough to feel their strength sufficient to indulge that military tyranny which grows by habit, and makes a standing army a fit instrument for the support of the most cruel despotism.

It was indeed very alarming to see the General Congress of the United States held in a kind of duress, by a part of their own army; but though extremely clamorous and insolent, the mutineers did not proceed to personal abuse; and, as if struck by a consciousness of the impropriety of their own conduct, or over-awed by the appearance of that honorable body in a state of imprisonment by those whom they ought to command, the members were soon permitted to separate. Indeed, they did not meet with any personal insult from the rude and disorderly soldiers, though their demands were not complied with, nor any new concessions made in favor of men who threatened to become the military masters of the country.

Congress, thus rudely assaulted, resented the public affront as they ought, and judged it improper for themselves to continue longer in a city where they could not be sure of protection. The president and the members of Congress agreed to leave Philadelphia immediately, and to meet on the 26th at Princeton, to proceed on the business of the United States.

General Washington, very far from countenancing any of the measures of these disturbers of order and tranquility, and very unhappy at the discontents that had appeared among many of his officers, lost not a moment after he was informed of the riotous proceedings of a part of his army in Philadelphia. He ordered General Robert Howe to march without delay, with a body of 1500 men, to quell the mutineers. Aided by the prudent conduct of the magistrates of the city, things were not carried to the extremities apprehended. The refractory soldiers were soon reduced to obedience, tranquility restored, and no blood spilt.

Some of the ringleaders of sedition were taken into custody, but soon after received a pardon from Congress. The most decided steps were immediately taken, not only to quell the clamors of the rioters, but to do justice to the armies of the United States. The commutation, which had labored in Congress for some time, was finally agreed on: five years' full pay was acceded to, instead of half pay during the live of the officers of the army. To this was added a promise of large proportion of uncultivated land in the western territory, to be distributed among them according to their rank in the army. Yet they were not satisfied. Their complaints were loud, the grievances and the merits of the army recapitulated, and their demands high, even to the alarm of all who had the interest of their country at heart, lest the consequences of this mutinous sprit might be fatal to its future tranquility.

The disbanding of an army and throwing a number of idle people at once on the community always requires the most guarded, cautious, and judicious steps. Congress, sensible of this, had immediately on the news of peace recommended to General Washington the measure of furloughing a number of commissioned and non-commissioned officers. They were of the opinion that if a considerable part of the soldiery who had enlisted for three years were sent from the army in this way, it would be the most prudent method of separating a body of men, usually dangerous to the liberties and morals of their own country, when no foreign foe obliges them to unite in the general defense.

But it was a measure not pleasing to the army, and had fomented the uneasiness and increased the clamor among the officers, previous to the audacious step of investing the congressional assembly, and obliging them, under the threats of an armed force, to disperse for their own personal safety. Yet this mutinous disposition did not appear to have infected the whole army. Many of the soldiers were the substantial yeomanry of the country. Many of the officers had stood in the same grade of life, and were far from wishing to involve the inhabitants of their native country in scenes of new confusion and distress for the redress of their complaints or the payment of their arrearages.

At the same time, the people at large generally thought that the compensations engaged by Congress were equal to the services and sufferings of the army, however meritorious. It was judged, that if held up in a comparative view with the exertions, the sufferings, and the dangers of men in other departments, that gratitude was not exclusively due to the military line; but that others, who had with vigilance and energy opposed the common enemy, were entitled to some consideration in the public eye. Every sober and judicious man considered patience and moderation requisites that ought to adorn every public character and censured, in strong terms, the indulgence of that restless and turbulent spirit that had recently appeared to prevail in the army of the United States.

The public in general were soon confirmed in the opinion that the intrigues of some of the officers were deep, ambitious, designing, and pernicious. In the outset of the American Revolution, the institution of ranks, the creation of nobles, the rearing a monarchy, or the aggrandizement of a monarch, and the factitious ideas of aristocratic birth had no existence in the minds of a rising republic or their army, organized to oppose the encroachments of kings. These were ideas afterwards suggested by aspiring individuals who had no prescriptive rights by any superiority of birth, wealth, or education, to assume dignified names or ennobled orders. By degrees, these views were nurtured by certain designing characters and matured by circumstances to which the inhabitants of the states had hitherto been strangers.

But a connection with European powers, formed from necessity, kept open by negotiation, and the intercourse strengthened by speculators and men of pleasure, tainted the purity and simplicity of American manners, long before the conclusion of the war. The friendships formed in the field with a foreign army had their influence, and the habits and opinions of military men, who had long been the servants of monarchy or despotism, were adopted by a considerable part of the army of the United States. Nor were some men of other descriptions less fascinated with the splendor of courts and the baubles of ambitious spirits, scepters, diadems, and crowns. Doubtless, some of these had lent their cooperating influence to undermine the beautiful fabric of republicanism, which Americans had erected with enthusiastic fondness, and for which they had risked ease, property, and life.

It may be observed that pure republicanism is cherished by the philosopher in his closet and admired by the statesman in his theories of government. Yet, when called into operation, the combinations of interest, ambition, or party prejudice too generally destroy the principle, though the name and the form may be preserved.

There is a change of manners, of sentiments, of principles, and of pursuits which perhaps similar circumstances will in time produce, in all ages and countries. But from the equality of condition to which they had been used, from their modes of life, and from the character and professions of its inhabitants; such a change in America was not contemplated, nor could have been expected to approach, at so early a period of her independence. But new ideas, from a rivalry of power and a thirst for wealth, had prepared the way to corruption, and the awakened passion were hurried to new images of happiness. The simpler paths which they had trodden in pursuit of competence and felicity were left to follow the fantastic fopperies of foreign nations, and to sigh for the distinctions acquired by titles, instead of that real honor which is ever the result of virtue.

A writer of celebrity has observed that "military commanders acquiring fame and accustomed to receive the obedience of armies are in their hearts generally enemies to the popular equality of republics." Thus, the first step taken in the United States for the aggrandizement of particular families by distinguished orders, and assumed nobility, appeared to originate in the army; some of whom, as observed of the ancient barons of England, "soon forgot the cause and the patriotism of their ancestors, and insensibly became the servant of luxury of government."

By the Articles of Confederation unanimously acceded to by each legislature on the continent, the great American Republic admitted no titles of honor, no ennobled or privileged orders. But willing to make the experiment, and reap the first fruits of exclusive dignity, a self-created rank was contemplated by some officers of the army, and an order of military knighthood projected, before the disturbances at Philadelphia, but not publicly avowed until after the insurrection was subdued.

This institution embraced the whole body of officers belonging to the army and navy, both French and Americans. The right of admitting as honorary members persons of eminence of any nation was also assumed. This adoption of honorary members gave the right only of partaking present munificence, and the enjoyment of the honor during their own lives, however they might have been distinguished in name or character. A hereditary claim to the peerage of the Order of Cincinnati, and the privileges annexed thereto, was confined solely to the military line.

The Count de Rochambeau, the Duke de Noailles, and many of the principal officers of the French army, and several other foreign officers, whose term of service had been too short to admit a claim according to the rules of the order were, however, adopted on its first institution. The French ambassador and many other gentlemen bred in the schools of monarchy in various parts of Europe, and even some princes and crowned heads, were invited to dignify the order by becoming honorary members.

This was a deep laid plan, which discovered sagacity to look forward, genius to take advantage, and art to appropriate to themselves the opening prospects of dignity and rank, which had fired the minds of ambitious men. The ostensible design of this novel institution was striking to the compassionate mind, and flattering to the lovers of freedom among the American officers. Many of them knew not enough of the world and of the history and character of man to suspect any latent mischief or any concealed object that must not yet be divulged, for fear of disgusting the public ear. Others had comprehensive ideas of the system, and with great complacency of mind anticipated the honor of hereditary knighthood, entailed on their posterity.

The members were invited to embody as a society of friends, to perpetuate the memory of the Revolution, and to engage to be vigilant in preserving inviolate the exalted rights and liberties of human nature, for which they had fought and bled. On his initiation into the society, each member was to advance a month's pay, in order to begin a fund for the relief of any unfortunate family or distressed individual, who did himself or whose father had belonged to the order.

They mutually engaged that this union should not be dissolved but with their lives; and that their attachment and their honors should descend to the eldest of their mail posterity, and in failure thereof, to the collateral branches.

They were to be furnished with a diploma, and to appropriate to themselves as a badge of their order, a golden medal, with a bald eagle spread on the one side, and on the other a symbol and a motto indicative of the dignity of their order. The medal was to be suspended on a broad blue ribbon edged with white, designed to intimate the union between America and France. This was to be hung to a buttonhole of their vest.

As the officers of the American army had styled themselves of the order and assumed the name of Cincinnatus, it might have been expected that they would have imitated the humble and disinterested virtues of the ancient Roman; that they would have retired satisfied with their own efforts to save their country, and the competent rewards it was ready to bestow, instead of ostentatiously assuming hereditary distinctions and the insignia of nobility. But the eagle and the ribbon dangled at the buttonhole of every youth who had for three years borne an office in the army, and taught him to look down with proud contempt on the patriot grown grey in the service of his country.

Arduous indeed was the talk of raising, regulating, and maintaining an army, to secure the freedom, the mediocrity, and the independent spirit, as well as the name of Americans Those who had been long engaged in this laborious work had never imagined, that any class of the citizens of the United States would pant for peerages in the shade of retirement, instead of practicing in their primeval state, the humble virtues, and imitating the laudable manners of their ancestors.

The benevolent principles avowed in the declarations of the society, allured many to unite with them who had no ideas of establishing an hereditary rank of nobility in America. Their views were too circumscribed, and perhaps too virtuous, to wish for anything more than independence, retirement, and peace, and to return to the plow or to the humbler occupations of their former life, with the conscious disposition of doing good to their old associates, if affliction should assail, or misfortunes render them, in any future day, the objects of commiseration and beneficence. But America had nurtured sons of boundless ambition, who thus early contemplated stars, garters, and diadems, crowns, scepters, and the regalia of kings, in the yet simple bosom of their country.

General Washington was looked up to as the head of the society, though for a time he prudently declined the style of president or grand master of the order, and chose to be considered only as an honorary member. This might have been from an apprehension that it would give a stab to his popularity, but more probably it was from a sense of the impropriety of an assumption so incompatible with the principles of a young republic. The commander of the armies of the United States, however, after the Baron de Steuben had acted as grand master of the order until October, 1783, publicly acknowledged and subscribed himself the president of the Society of the Cincinnati.

It was observed by a writer in England that "this was the only blot hitherto discovered in the character of this venerable hero." The same writer adds "It is impossible, however, to exculpate him. If he understood the tendency of his conduct, his ideas of liberty must have been less pure and elevated than they have been represented; and if he rushed into the measure blindfold, he must still be considered as wanting in some degree that penetration and presence of mind so necessary to complete his character." He was censured by several opposed to such an institution, who wrote on the subject both in Europe and America. It was considered as a blamable deviation in him from the principles of the Revolution, which he had defended by his sword, and appeared now ready to relinquish by his example.

The name of Washington was alone sufficient to render the institution popular in the army; but neither his or any other name could sanction the design in the eye of the sober republican, and other men of moderate views in the common grades of life. These were tenacious of the principles and the Articles of the Confederation, which expressly forbade any rank or dignity to be conferred on the citizens of the United States, either by princes abroad or self-created societies at home. [Confederation, article 6].

Much less satisfied were many high-spirited individuals in the higher classes of life. Ambassadors abroad, who had adopted a fondness for nominal distinctions, members of Congress and state legislatures, and many others who had acquired a taste for the external superiority that wealth and titles bestow, could not be pleased to see themselves and their children thus excluded from hereditary claim to the honors, privileges, and emoluments of the first order of American nobility. These asserted without hesitation that this self-created peerage of military origin would throw an undue weight into the scale of the army; while the sincere votaries to freedom and the natural equality of man apprehended that this institution would give a fatal wound to the liberties of America.

Many judicious observers of the story of mankind thought that the United States had now, at the conclusion of the war, an opportunity to make a fair experiment between the advantages of a republican form of government and more despotic modes.

It is true, America had obtained her independence, and spurned at every idea of kingly power. Yet, at this period it was difficult to conjecture into what form of government the United States would finally settle. Republicanism had been the order of the day. The theory was beautiful and the system warmly advocated by many of the best political writers. But the manners and the opinions of many discovered that they had not entirely shaken off their prejudices in favor of monarchy, under which their ancestors had suffered enough to lead them to impress the wisest lessons on their posterity.

Some circumstances augured symptoms that Americans, like most other nations, would succumb to the will of assumed superiority, and by their servility justify the attempt to establish inequalities of rank; and that they would relinquish with their rights, the spirit that ought to support them; that the dignity of republican principles would, in some not very distant day, be lost in the adulation of the sycophant, trembling under the frown of despotic master.

This was consistent with the ideas of a sensible American writer on the subject of the institution of the Cincinnati. He observes "that this order was a deep laid plan, to beget and perpetuate family grandeur in an aristocratic nobility, which might terminate at last in monarchical tyranny. But (adds the same writer) never let so foul a stain be fastened on the human character as that the very men who, with unfading honor, rescued their country from the galling yoke of foreigners, should lay the corner stone for erecting a tyranny themselves. Let not their example provide that all that Plato, Sidney, and Locke have said and others have bequeathed to posterity on the subject of political happiness was no more than ideal pictures of a fine imagination." [Edanus Burke, esquire, chief justice of the state of South Carolina.]

The Baron de Steuben and many other foreign officers were very active and zealous in promoting this new institution. It was, however, generally thought it originated more in the ambition of some American, than in the influence of any European officers; and perhaps the society was not more indebted to any individual who was a native son of America for this dignified innovation, than to Major General Knox, a man of extensive ambition, who had imbibed ideas of distinction too extravagant for a genuine republican.

Mr. Knox had not had the advantages of a literary education; but his natural inquisitive disposition and attention to books rendered him a well-informed, agreeable man, with ingratiating accomplishment. His love of military parade, and the affability of his manners brought him forward to the command of a cadet company in Boston before the commencement of the American war. Naturally of a complacent disposition, his jovial humor and easy deportment rendered him acceptable in all companies, and made him a favorite with the commander in chief, even before his talents as a soldier were called into exercise. With an assemblage of pleasing qualities, it is not strange that he rose rapidly in the military line. He commanded the artillery department for several years before the conclusion of the war; and performed his duty in this line with courage and vigilance, which did honor to this military character.

Towards the close of the war, many gentlemen had indulged the most expensive modes of life, without resources sufficient to support the pernicious habits, which they had adopted from a wild fondness for novel ideas of rank, titles, and privileged orders, little short of men of princely education, birth, and expectations. These probably might think that some badge of hereditary nobility might give consequence to certain characters and families. While they might have sagacity to see that new exigencies might arise that would open new sources of wealth to favored individuals, sufficient to maintain the pageantry, assumed by self-originated titles and distinguished orders.

Friendship and brotherly kindness, patriotism and charity were held up as the basis of the institution; and however the pride of man might be flattered by the ideas of a frivolous honorary title, attached to his family forever, doubtless the urbanity of Mr. Knox, as well as many other gentlemen, members of the society, was gratified more by the expectation that much utility would redound to a very large class in the community who might be benefited by the donations of the society, though they reaped none of the honors of the institution.

But it was not long before the people were generally aroused from their supineness by the alarming aspect of these pretensions of the officers of the army. Instead of an affectionate respect to them, which had been generally felt, or any new veneration awakened toward the new military nobles, a universal disgust was intermingled with the apprehensions of danger. This innovation was considered as striking at once at the equality, liberty, simplicity, and interest of the nation at large. The legislatures of several states announced their disapprobation of the institution, in strong and pointed language. They declared it an unjustifiable, dangerous, and bold presumption; and threatened, if persisted in, to manifest stronger tokens of their displeasure against the officers of the army, for separating themselves from their fellow citizens and erecting a pedestal on which they might be elevated to distinguished rank, and grades of honor inhibited by the Confederacy of the States, and the principles of the Revolution.

The state of Rhode Island carried their resentment still farther. They cut them of from the usual privileges which had been enjoyed by the subjects of the state, and annulled their claims to the common right of citizenship by declaring that any who were members of the Cincinnati should be considered as incapable of holding any office under the government. In short, so general was the dissatisfaction expressed at the appearance of a deep laid foundation for building up a strong aristocracy, if not a monarchy, on the ruins of the American Republic, that at the meeting of the Order of Cincinnati in May, 1784, they withdrew, or rather drew a veil over, some of their former pretensions. They apparently renounced the idea of hereditary distinctions, and several other obnoxious claims, but in reality they relinquished nothing.

They afterwards continued the general and state meetings, the former once in three years, and the latter annually, retained their badges of honor, invited the eldest sons of deceased officers to accept the diploma and to wear the eagle of their fathers, to associate with them on all public occasions, and to keep up the ancestral claim, in spite of the disapprobation of most of their countrymen. Their funds increased rapidly. According to their articles, the yearly interest only was to be annually appropriated to charitable purposes. This was much more than expended. Thus the wealth of the society was continually enhancing; and by their riches and their numbers they were indeed a formidable body, capable of becoming a preponderating weight in the political scale of their country, in whatever exigencies it might hereafter be in involved.

There was undoubtedly much merit in the conduct of the American officers and soldiers through the war. There was also much to apprehend from them by the existing circumstances at the close of hostilities. Various combinations and circumstances rendered it improbable that such a corps of ambitious spirits, hardened in the field of valor and enterprise, should at once return to their former occupations and sit down as quiet citizens, without intriguing or intermeddling too much, and claiming a kind of prescriptive right to dictate in the civil administration of government.

The distressed state of American finances was alarming. Congress was without revenue, resource, or fiscal arrangements that promised to be sufficiently productive; without power or energy to enforce any effectual measure, until the consent of each individual state was obtained. There had been a violent opposition to a proposal for raising a revenue, by an impost of 5 per cent on all goods imported from foreign countries. As this was an experiment, it was limited to 25 years. Had the expedient been adopted, it might have prevented many subsequent difficulties and embarrassments that took place previous to, as well as after, the adoption of a permanent Constitution of the United States of America.

It was said, however, by some very wise and judicious statesmen, that this imperceptible mode of drawing money from the pockets of the people was better suited to more despotic forms of government, than to the free and independent spirit that had produced the Confederacy of the American States; that more open measures, and even direct taxes were more consistent with republican opinions and manners, than the secret drains of imposts and excises, which might bankrupt a nation, admit the delusory dreams of wealth and independence.

Though this opinion was not universal, yet it had it influence so far as to retard the measure. Rhode Island rejected it entirely. Massachusetts and some other sates threw impediments in the way; and finally, no effectual step was yet taken to restore public credit, or to quiet the murmurs of the army, just on the point of dissolution. The sate, thus incapable of satisfying their just demands, had everything to fear from that "peremptory and untemporizing spirit which is usually the fruit of a series of military service."

America now beheld an existing clamorous army, on the point of dissolution, or about to assume military domination. There now appeared a large body of proud, ambitious officers, unsatisfied wit the honor of victory, and impatient under the promise of pecuniary compensation as soon as the exigencies of public affairs would admit. Many of them were needy from the delay of payment for meritorious military services an sufferings. They were now (as observed) fighting for distinction, aiming to establish hereditary rank among themselves, and eager for wealth sufficient to support the taste and style of nobility; a taste newly adopted by an intercourse with foreigners of high rank, and habits of expense an dissipation under monarchic governments.

It was obvious to everyone that dignified ranks, ostentatious titles, splendid governments, and supernumerary expensive offices to be supported by the labor of the poor or the taxation of all the conveniences of the more wealthy, of the aggrandizement of a few, were not the objects of the patriot in the cabinet; nor was this the contemplation of the soldier in the field, when the veins of the children of America were first opened, and the streams of life poured out, both on the borders and the interior of the United States, against the combinations of civilized and savage warriors. The views of the virtuous of every class in those exertions, were for the purchase of freedom, independence, and competence, to themselves and their posterity.

At the same time, the Congress of the United States as without sufficient powers by the old Confederation, either to restrain the most dangerous irregularities, or to command public justice. They were also deprived by absence, ineligibility, or death of the abilities of many of the members who first composed that honorable body.

Some men had been introduced in their stead, whose ideas of public liberty were very different; who had neither the capacity, the comprehension, nor even the wishes to establish the freedom of their country on the basis of equal liberty, and the renunciation of monarchic principles. Some of them had always been men of doubtful character; others had decidedly favored the claims of the British King and Parliament.

The several governments involved in a weight of public debt; the people embarrassed in their private resources, from the expensive exigencies of an eight years' war; and every difficulty enhanced by being long without a medium of stability, without confidence in the faith of public bodies, or securities that could be relied on in private contracts -- the public mind was now agitated like a forest shaken in a tempest, and stood trembling at the magnitude of opening prospects, and the retrospect of past events.

We have seen the seeds of animosity and dissension were sown among themselves before the American army as disbanded; dangerous symptoms, indeed, in a young republic, just setting out for itself, with the command and entire jurisdiction of an immense territory, while yet no digested system was formed, or seriously contemplated but by few, for governing a newborn nation, still in its pupilage with regard to the ends, the origin, and the most perfect mode of civil government.

America was a country remarkable for its rapid population, not yet so much from the ingress of foreigners, as in consequence of the operations of nature, where a people are not corrupted by habits of effeminacy, where subsistence for a family was easily acquired, and where few factitious wants had yet cankered the minds of the great mass of the people, and dislodged that complacency which results from competence and content. Many, indeed, at the present period, seemed to have lost sight of their primeval ideas and obligations; yet they were not eradicated from the intelligent, the virtuous, and well-informed mind. The genial flame of freedom and independence blazed in its original luster in the breasts of many, long after the termination of the Revolutionary War.

After this period, the American continent was viewed by all nations as a theater just erected, where the drama was but begun. While the actors of the Old World, having run through every species of pride, luxury, venality, and vice, their characters are become less interesting than those of the new. America may stand as a monument of observation, and an asylum of freedom. The eyes of all Europe were upon her. She was placed in a rank that subjected her to the inspection of mankind abroad, to the jealousy of monarchs, and the envy of nations, all watching for her halting, to avail themselves of her mistakes, and to reap advantages from her difficulties, her embarrassments, her inexperience, or her follies.

Perhaps at no period of her existence was America viewed with an eye of higher veneration than at the present, both by statesmen and princes. At the same time, the philosopher in his retirement contemplates, and the lovers of mankind of every description behold, the shackles of ancestral pride annihilated, in a respectable portion of the globe. Yet,it may be observed that it will require all the wisdom and firmness of the most sagacious heads, united with the most upright hearts, to establish a form of government for an extensive nation, whose independence has been recently acknowledged by Great Britain. This must be done on a just medium, that may control the licentiousness of liberty, and the daring encroachments of arbitrary power; a medium that may check the two extremes of democracy, and the overbearing influence of a young aristocracy, that may start up from a sudden acquisition of wealth, where it had never before been tasted.

But after all the speculative opinions with regard to government that have occupied the minds and pens of men, before many years roll over, some aspiring genius, without establishing the criterion or waiting the reward of real merit, may avail himself of the weakness, the divisions, and perhaps the distresses of America, to make himself the designator and the fountain of honor and expectation. Such a sovereign without a crown, or the title of king, with his favorites and his instigators about him, may not be a less dangerous animal, than the monarch whose brow is decorated by the splendor of a diadem.

These are, however, ideas that may vanish with time; or if realized, it must e to the grief of the genuine patriot and the misery of thousands, who now dream only of freedom, wealth, and happiness, beneath the protection of just, equal, and lenient governments of their own, without any commixture of foreign influence or domination.