[Transcriber's note: Many instances of misspelled words and inconsistent punctuation occur in this e-book. They have been retained as printed in the original. The most obvious instances have been marked [TN].]
Future Historians to Crack.
HORACE W. SMITH.
CADWALADER PAMPHLET, VALLEY FORGE LETTERS
etc., etc., etc.
PHILADELPHIA: HORACE W. SMITH, 20 SOUTH SIXTH STREET. 1856.
For some years I had been engaged in collecting material for a life of my great grandfather, the Rev. William Smith, D. D., Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and in doing so, I read all the Bibliographical and Historical works which I thought could in any way make mention of him. In no case did I find anything said against his character as a man, until I read Wm. B. Reed's Life of his grandfather, Gen. Joseph Reed. His remarks were uncalled for and ungentlemanly; what they were, amount to nothing, as they were untrue; and therefore not worth repeating. My first idea was to speak of Gen. Joseph Reed in the same manner, though with more truth; but finding the truth had been suppressed, and that to publish all I could wish in regard to Reed, would take up too much room in my work, and be departing from my original design, I therefore, concluded to publish all the historical facts in regard to Reed in a small volume by itself, and to publish such an edition, that it could not be bought up and destroyed.
I have taken the liberty of using the following extracts from an article published in the Fireside Visitor—by J. M. Church. Whom it was written by I do not know, but the writer evidently understood his subject.
* * * * *
"When it was announced that Mr. Irving was about to present to the public a life of Washington, we hailed the information with feelings of delight, not unmingled with gratitude, that the illustrious author of 'Columbus,' the Sketch Book, and Knickerbocker should make the crowning work of his life and literary labors, the history of the greatest and purest of patriots, so dear to the hearts of all his countrymen, and one who, the more time and investigation develop and explain his motives and actions, the greater and nobler he appears. Our expectations were great when we contemplated the vast field that time had laid open to the historian; and though Marshall and Sparks had left but little to do, we felt there was still enough to make Mr. Irving's the greatest history of that greatest of men.
On the appearances of the first volume, a number of errors were noticed by the press, which were subsequently corrected. The most important one, that in relation to Major Stobo, we are glad to see fully explained and corrected in a note at the end of the second volume. In the early part of the second volume, however, a far graver error occurs, we mean Mr. Irving's estimate of the conduct and character of Gen. Reed, and is it mainly the object of this communication to set that matter in its true light.
Who can read without emotion of the trials and difficulties that beset Washington throughout the whole of his career? A Congress so corrupt, that Livingston writes, 'I am so discouraged by our public mismanagement, and the additional load of business thrown upon me by the villainy of those who pursue nothing but accumulating fortunes, to the ruin of their country, that I almost sink under it.' False friends and traitors intrigue against him—even Gen. Reed, the very man Mr. Irving so delighted to honor, and an inmate of his household, writes a letter to Gen. Lee, the aspiring rival of Washington, reflecting, with harsh severity, on the conduct and character of his commander and benefactor. Lee's answer fell into the hands of Washington, and was read by him during the absence of Reed, who made no attempt at an explanation until Lee was taken prisoner. He then endeavored to explain the delay, by saying that he had been in the meantime endeavoring to get possession of his letter, in order that he might show to Washington that it contained nothing to call forth the violent answer of Gen. Lee, and, 'In the meantime,' writes Reed, 'I most solemnly assure you, that you would see in it nothing inconsistent with that respect and affection which I have, and ever shall bear to your person and character.' Who can read this without being shocked at the falsehood of the man!
It was, indeed, fortunate for Reed, that Washington never saw that letter. But how could Mr. Irving quote a portion of so important a document, while he suppressed the material part? Indeed, we are tempted to believe that some other hand had supervised those pages, before they were presented to the public.
We conceive it to be the duty of an impartial historian to collect facts, and present them to his readers, and he is guilty of falsifying history who suppresses them. His readers have the same right to all the evidence that bears upon important occurrence that he has, and though the author may give his views and conclusions, the reader is not of necessity compelled to agree with him. We for one, must beg leave to differ from Mr. Irving in his estimate of Reed's character, and we doubt not that every one reading his letter will sustain us in our opinion, that his conduct was false and treacherous in the extreme.
In order properly to appreciate the baseness of Reed's conduct, it is necessary to consider the circumstances under which it occurred. It was immediately after Washington had experienced the most trying reverses. Fort Washington had just been captured; over two thousand men had been taken prisoners, and his own eyes had beheld his men, partners of his toil, bayoneted and cut down while they begged for quarter. The Jerseys were overrun, and Philadelphia threatened by the enemy. Add to this, the accounts he received from Congress of the state of affairs at home, and it wanted but the discovery of such treachery to crush a spirit less mighty than his.
It appears strange that Mr. Irving should form such an undue estimate of Reed's character, nor can we believe him to be ignorant of what was his real position and standing among his brother officers. As early as 1776, when Reed contemplated resigning his commission as Adjutant General, the announcement was hailed with pleasure, for Reed had few friends. Col. Trumbull, writing to a member of Congress on the subject, says, "I heard Jos. Reed had sent his resignation some time ago; in the name of common sense, why is it not accepted? That man's want of abilities in his office had introduced the greatest disorders and want of discipline into the army; it ought to originate from that office. Then he had done more to raise and keep up a jealousy between the New England and other troops, than all the men in the army besides. Indeed, his stinking pride, as General George Clinton expresses it, has gone so far, that I expect every day to hear he is called to account by some officer or other; indeed, he is universally hated and despised, and it is high time he was displaced." If Mr. Irving has not seen that letter, we refer him to the New York Gazette, of December the 9th, 1776, or to Mr. Peter Force's American Archives, if that work be more accessible to him.
We have still another complaint of omission to make against Mr. Irving, and we think it too important a point in the history of Gen. Reed to be overlooked.
A few days previous to the battle of Trenton, when affairs were most gloomy, and not a single star appeared to give the faintest glimmer of hope, Reed appeared despondent: "He felt the game was up, and there was no use of following the wretched remains of a broken army; he had a family, and it was but right that he should look after their interests; besides, the time had nearly expired during which they could avail themselves of the pardon offered by Gen. Howe to all those who should go over to the enemy." Such were the lamentations of Gen. Reed, until, in the agony of his fears, he communicated them to Gen. Cadwalader. The feelings of that high-minded, chivalrous soldier can hardly be imagined—his first impulse was to order Reed under the arrest, but was deterred for fear of the effect the example might have on the men. He, however remonstrated with him, and his arguments appeared for the time to restore his composure. During the night previous to the battle of Trenton, Reed lay concealed in Burlington, in anxious expectation of the result of Washington's great master-stroke.
He had opposed the enterprise in his communications with Washington, by the most discouraging representations, and now anxiously awaited the result.
His fears were worked up to the highest pitch; and the burthen of his conversation was, how he should protect himself. He had with him a companion in his weakness, and the determination they both came to was, to go over to the enemy early in the morning. Before, however, they could execute their intentions, the news arived[TN] of the victory of the Americans, the turning point in our country's fortunes, which gave hope to the people and courage to Gen. Reed.
A few years after these transactions, Reed was accused in the public newspapers of having meditated a desertion to the enemy. He replied in a pamphlet, in which he attempted to defend himself, and addressed it to Gen. Cadwalader, whom he conceived to be the author of the charges and between whom and himself there was some unfriendly feelings, arising out of pecuniary transactions between them. Cadwalader came out with a crushing[A] "Reply," in which though he denied having published the statements in the newspapers, he yet affirmed the truth of them, and brought such overwhelming proofs to sustain his charges, that the public lost all confidence in Reed, and failed to re-elect him to the office he had just held. It is not within the limits of an article like this to go through Gen. Cadwalader's pamphlet, suffice it to say, he was supported by Alexander Hamilton, Dickinson, Doct. Rush, Bradford, and numerous others. Among other things, it was proved that previous to the battle of Trenton, Reed had sent to Count Dunop, who commanded at Bordentown, to ask if he could have a protection for himself and a friend. The messenger narrowly escaped being hanged, through the intercession of a friend of Count Dunop. This is corroborated by an extract from the Diary of "Mrs. Margaret Morris."
Extract from a Journal kept by Margaret Morris, for the amusement and information of her sister Mitcah Martha Moore. Her residence at the time, was on the "bank" at Burlington, N. J., at the corner of Ellis Street.
* * * * *
"January 4th, 1777, we were told by a woman who lodged in the same room where General Reed and Colonel C—— took shelter, when the battle of Trenton dispersed the Americans, that they (Reed and C——) had laid awake all night consulting together about the best means of securing themselves, and that they came to the determination of setting off next day as soon as it was light to the British Camp, and joining them with all the men under their command. But when the morning came an express arrived with an account that the Americans had gained a great victory. The English made to flee before the ragged American Regiments. This report put the rebel General and Colonel in high spirits, and they concluded to remain firm to the cause of America. They paid me a visit, and though in my heart I despised them—treated them civilly, and was on the point of telling them their conversation the preceding night had been conveyed to me on the wings of the wind, but on second thought gave it up—though perhaps the time may come when they may hear more about it."
There is still another page in the life of Gen. Reed that remains to be told, and that is the attempt alleged to have been made by Mrs. Ferguson to bribe him. All are familiar with his intensely patriotic reply, refusing ten thousand pounds, and the best office in the colonies, in his Majesty's gift. To be sure, Gov. Johnstone,[B] in a speech before Parliament, most emphatically denied having employed[C] Mrs. Ferguson to offer to Gen. Reed any bribe whatever, while at the same time he admits that other means besides persuasion were used. Does he allude to the pair of elegant pistols that Reed accepted after the attempt to bribe him, and with which he was charged in the public papers? But Mr. Irving has not yet approached this delicate subject, and to his able hands we leave it, fully conscious he will give it the attention so important a circumstance requires.
Should he fail, however, to do justice to Gen. Reed in this matter, he will pardon us if we again take the liberty of addressing him on the subject.
We have been careful in our strictures upon the character and conduct of Gen. Reed to assert nothing that unquestionable evidence does not sustain; and if by our remarks we have lowered him from the undeserved eminence to which the injudicious zeal of interested parties has so industriously labored to elevate him, this result must rather be attributed to the weakness of the support, and the frailty of the statue, than to the vigor of the blows we have bestowed upon it.
The most we have done has been to remove the deceptive varnish, and the idol has fallen to pieces.
T. S. P.
Proceedings of a General Court Martial of the line, held at Raritan in the State of New Jersey, for the trial of Major General Arnold, Published by order of Congress, Philadelphia.
Printed by Francis Bailey in Market Street, 1780.
Extract from the defence of General Arnold.
* * * * *
"On this occasion I think I may be allowed to say, without vanity, that my conduct, from the earliest period of the war to the present time, has been steady and uniform. I have ever obeyed the calls of my country, and stepped forth in her defence, in every hour of danger, when many were deserting her cause, which appeared desperate. I have often bled in it; the marks that I bear, are sufficient evidence of my conduct. The impartial public will judge of my services, and whether the returns that I have met with are not tinctured with the basest ingratitude. Conscious of my own innocence, and the unworthy methods taken to injure me, I can with boldness say to my persecutors in general, and to the chief of them in particular, that in the hour of danger when the affairs of America wore a gloomy aspect, when our illustrious general was retreating through New Jersey, with a handful of men, I did not propose to my associates basely to quit the general, and sacrifice the cause of my country to my personal safety, by going over to the enemy and making my peace.
"I can say I never basked in the sunshine of my general's favour, and courted him to his face, when I was at the same time treating him with the greatest disrespect, and villifying[TN] his character when absent. This is more than a ruling member of the Council of Pennsylvania can say," as it is alleged and believed.
The first edition of the Cadwalader Pamphlet was published in the year 1782, within the last twenty years all the copies, or nearly so, have been spirited away—where or by whom no one knows. They have been stolen from the public libraries and from the book cases of private individuals. In 1848 a second edition was issued. The publisher of this edition was threatened with prosecution, and although but six years have passed, it is now looked upon as a valuable curiosity. To the second edition was prefixed the following Introduction.
"A few years since a writer, over the signature of "Valley Forge," published in an evening paper of Philadelphia, called the "Evening Journal," and put forth certain statements connected with our revolutionary history, which caused a great excitement, and led to a challenge of an interview with the author, by the descendants of a person, whose character was considered as involved in doubt, as to his being a patriot of 1776. The party challenged failed to attend the proposed meeting, and this pamphlet will give a clue to the whole writings of "Valley Forge," and justify completely the course pursued by the editor of the "Evening Journal," who is not now of this world, and of course a matter immaterial perhaps to his friends and relatives.
NOTES.—"The allusion to the disrespectful treatment of the General refers in part, (I fancy) to the letter addressed by General Charles Lee to Reed, which came to head quarters and was opened by Washington."—See Life of Joseph Reed.
"Joseph Reed at the time of the prosecution of Arnold was President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, and as is well known, took an active and prominent part against him."—See Spark's Life of Arnold, page 140.
The letter of Major Lennox and P. Dickinson refer to a person whose name is not mentioned, who was included in the application to Count Donop for a protection. There certainly must be in the possession of some of the descendants of revolutionary families, evidence to show who this person was: and it may yet be produced, to do justice to the memory of the men who figured in those times.
Trenton, December 26th, 1846.
The Valley Forge Letters were originally published in the Evening Journal, edited by Reuben Whitney, Esq., in the year 1842. I have given the printer the cuttings from that paper, so that the reader will get them in the exact condition in which they appeared, perhaps not in the same order.
Genl. JOSEPH REED'S Remarks
ON A LATE PUBLICATION IN THE
WITH SOME OBSERVATIONS ON HIS
ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF PENNSYLVANIA.
By General John Cadwalader.
WITH THE LETTERS OF
Gen. George Washington, Gen. Alexander Hamilton, Major David Lennox, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Gen. P. Dickinson, Gen. Henry Laurens and others.
* * *
PRINTED AND SOLD BY T. BRADFORD.
In Front Street, the fourth door below the Coffee-House.
TO THE PUBLIC.
When an appeal is made to the public by a person who has interested himself in the affairs of America from the beginning of the present revolution, he has a claim to their attention, with respect to transactions that reflect either upon his political conduct or principles as a patriot.
I wish, most sincerely, that all prejudices in favor or against General Reed or myself, may be laid aside on the present occasion, and that truth and justice may influence the determination of the public.
The world is now in possession of General Reed's address to me, relating to a conversation I had with him at Bristol, in the winter of 1776, and as it contains the grossest reflections upon my character, as a man of veracity and a patriot, it is incumbent on me to reply.
Mankind have been much the same, in every age, with respect to their conduct in political life. Their minds have been inflamed by the same passions, prejudices, and resentments, and parties have been supported by complaints and representations, which naturally grow into invective and personal abuse.
From these principles, General Reed has deduced those arguments and conclusions, which he vainly affects to think will justify him in asserting, that my conduct has been influenced by motives of hatred, resentment, and disappointed ambition. But when it shall appear, from the testimony I have inserted in the following sheets, that the conversation alluded to was spoken of by me in confidence, at a time when he asserts that all former personal dislike was removed, and that "we united in confidence and danger at the battle of Monmouth;" at a time, too, when he admits, that "no party or prejudices existed, (at least as to him,") the premises from which he has drawn his conclusions must be removed, and consequently his arguments fall with them.
If my bare affirmative against his negative was the only foundation on which the public were to found their judgment, our several characters, in the article of veracity, would be fairly weighed by candor, and a verdict given in favour of the preponderating scale. If, then, I had hazarded an assertion, without other (the most respectable) testimony to support it, the consciousness of my own integrity would have suppressed any fears with respect to the public opinion.
The many and hasty movements of my family during the present contest, have displaced several valuable papers relating to property as well as military affairs. I do not, however, despair of yet finding important ones relating to this matter, that may some time hence be published. But what need is there of more than I shall here adduce; since every prejudiced mind must feel (if not acknowledge) the testimony too respectable and powerful to admit of apology or reply. Testimony, too, obtained, (in many instances,) from persons to whom I am scarcely known,—persons residing in other States, who cannot be supposed to be the particular enemies of General Reed, or in any way connected with the politics of Pennsylvania.
Many other certificates, supporting and confirming those I shall here offer to the public are omitted, as it is thought they will swell the publication to an unnecessary size; and affidavits may, if required, be obtained to all the certificates which appear in this pamphlet.
* * * * *
As the publication signed "Brutus," addressed to General Reed, containing certain queries, is referred to, it is thought necessary to reprint it.
To the Printer of the Independent Gazetteer.
SIR,—It is much to the honor of America, that in the present revolution, there have not been many instances of defection among officers of rank in the Continental army. In Oliver Cromwell's time, we frequently see a general fighting one day for the King, another for the Parliament; so unstable and wavering were the opinions of those republicans.
The corruption of the times is now become a universal complaint, and one would be almost tempted to believe, that the former days were better than these; that our forefathers were possessed of greater moral rectitude than the present generation, did not history and experience convince us of the contrary. There is, however, one great evil peculiar to this age—that of assuming the credit of being endowed with virtues to which we are perfect strangers. Cunning, address, and eloquence, have often misled the honest but too credulous multitude, and they have been taught to consider many a man as a patriot and a hero, whose real character was marked with nothing but deceit and treachery to his country. It is also amazing, that such men should meet with the highest success, and bear their blushing honors thick upon them, whilst modest merit and true patriotism could neither gain the suffrages of the people, nor the approbation of those who held the reins of government.
The reflections I am now making have, in a striking manner, been verified in this State. I should be extremely sorry to accuse without a just foundation, or to adduce a charge, were I not convinced that it is of the utmost importance that the public,—the people at large—should be enabled to form a right opinion of such men, who have been honoured, or may be honoured with their suffrages, and thereby exalted to places of the highest trust and confidence.
Impressed with this idea, and with a design to elucidate such characters, I shall take the liberty to propose to the public the following queries:
1. Was not General R——d, in December, 1776, (then A——t G——l of the Continental army,) sent by General Washington to the commanding officer at Bristol, with orders relative to a general attack intended to be made on the enemy's post at Trenton, and those below, on the 25th, at night?
2. Two or three days before the intended attack, did not General R——d say, in conversation with the said commanding officer at his quarters, that our affairs looked very desperate, and that we were only making a sacrifice of ourselves?
3. Did he not also say, that the time of General Howe's proclamation, offering pardon and protection to persons who should come in before the 1st of January, 1777, was nearly expired, and that Galloway, the Allens, and others, had gone over, and availed themselves of the pardon and protection offered by the said proclamation?
4. Did not he, General R——d, at the same time say, that he had a family, and ought to take care of them; and that he did not understand following the wretched remains of a broken army?
5. Did he not likewise say to the said commanding officer, that his brother, (then a colonel or lieutenant-colonel of militia,) was at Burlington with his family, and that he had advised him to remain there, and if the enemy took possession of the town, to take a protection and swear allegiance?
It is well for America, that very few general officers have reasoned in this manner; if they had, General Howe would have made an easy conquest of the United States. And it is very obvious, that officers of high rank, with such sentiments, can have no just pretensions to patriotism or public virtue, and can by no means be worthy of any post of honour or place of trust, where the liberties and interest of the people are immediately concerned.
Philadelphia, September 3, 1782.
TO GENERAL JOSEPH REED.
In the first part of your late publication, which is no less an invective against me, than it is a defence of yourself, you have, with sufficient art, insisted on my remarkably contentious, factious,[D] and jealous spirit, which suffers no man, undisturbed, to enjoy his well-earned fame; a circumstance in my character you expected to derive considerable benefit from in the controversy between us. For this point being once gained, every suggestion, every article of charge against you, which has its foundation and support in me, would naturally be referred to those fierce and malignant passions you have so unsparingly bestowed on me, and no longer rest upon the general credit and reputation I trust I have acquired and maintained. But as I cannot, without injustice to myself, make this concession to you, I must declare my general tenor of conduct to have been far otherwise,—that in my private life I have been at peace and harmony with all mankind; and in my public, at enmity only with such public men as have disgraced their country by their vices or injured it by their crimes.
Wherein until the present, except in a single instance, have I drawn the public attention by attacks upon the character of any man? and that instance, an impostor, like yourself, who had got into a seat of honor. In this, it was virtue to become his accuser.
If you rely upon your instance, as affording a proof of my eagerness for controversy, it will not answer your purpose. I have not brought you to the public bar; for, whatever was the amount of your offences, I neither urged nor wished a public inquiry; another has brought you there, and I appear only as a witness against you, challenged and defied by yourself.
This being premised, I shall enter upon my subject, and reply to such parts of your pamphlet as respect me, and therefore specially concern me to notice.
Your remarks, you say, are with propriety addressed to me; because though not the actual author, it is to me you are really indebted for the insidious attempt on your reputation.
That the public may have the most authentic proofs of the manner in which I have been involved in this controversy, I think it necessary here to insert the original letters that passed in the course of our correspondence, last fall, on this subject.
SIR,—I have, for a long time, treated the anonymous abuse which disgraces our public papers with the contempt it deserves. But in Oswald's paper, of last Saturday, are a set of queries, signed Brutus, in which the author, not daring to make an open assertion, has insinuated, that in 1776 I meditated a desertion to the enemy. Though my soul rises with indignation at the infamous slander, I should treat it with scorn, if it did not seem to deserve some credit from a reference to you. Prejudiced, as I know you are, I should be sorry to suppose you capable of propagating such a sentiment, or decline the opportunity of doing justice to my character, and in some degree your own. And this for two reasons: first, the gross falsehood of the insinuation; and, secondly, to preserve a consistency in your own character, which must suffer from your placing such confidence in me, with respect to the military operations of that period, and permitting General Washington to do the same, after such a conversation as these queries suppose. I need make no apology, in this case, for requesting an immediate answer,—and am, sir,
Your obedient humble servant, JOSEPH REED.
Market Street, Sept. 9, 1782. Gen. Cadwalader.
SIR,—In answer to your letter, which I received last evening by Mr. Ingersoll, relating to queries published in Mr. Oswald's paper of last Saturday, signed Brutus, I can assure you, (as I did Mr. Ingersoll,) that I am not the author of that publication; nor have I published one single word, since I came from Maryland, relating to the politics of this state; yet my character has, unprovoked, been traduced by you, or some of your friends. But, sir, I have repeatedly mentioned the substance of those queries to individuals immediately after the conversation alluded to happened; and since that time in many mixed companies. As charges of the same nature had some time since been made against you, to which you never made a reply, the world very justly concluded they were true; especially as the rank and character of the person who made the charge (at that time) merited your notice. From this circumstance, it occasioned an additional surprise, that you should, in this instance, undertake to investigate the matter, and declare in your letter to me, that the "insinuation" was "a gross falsehood." I therefore now assert, that in a conversation with you at the time and place mentioned in the above publication, signed Brutus, that you expressed the substance, and I think the very words, contained in the queries. If my character for veracity wanted credit with the world, one or two other gentlemen could be named, who, at nearly the same time, heard expressions from you, which created in them sentiments unfavourable to your character. You seem to insinuate that there is an inconsistency in my conduct, because I afterwards reposed a confidence in you, and because I permitted General Washington to do the same. It would have been very dangerous, at that critical period, to have exposed your weakness and timidity to the militia, as such an example might have been attended with the most fatal consequences to our cause. And as your conduct, upon this occasion, appeared to me to proceed from want of fortitude, and not the baser motives,—and as from the observations I made to you at the time, you seemed to resume more spirited sentiments in conversation, as well as from political motives, I continued to show an appearance of confidence, and concluded it best not to mention it to the General. The successes that soon followed gave a happy turn to our affairs, and thus, you, (with many others,) appeared to possess firmness in prosperity who had shown a want of it in times of imminent danger.
If your conduct in civil life had been such as could have been approved of, former transactions might have been buried in oblivion. But when I see a man endeavouring to injure the reputation of those, whose principles and conduct, from the beginning of the contest, have been uniformly exerted to obtain those ends intended by the revolution; and when he denies all merit to those who are not equally violent with himself, it is difficult to be silent.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Philadelphia, 10th Sept., 1782. JOHN CADWALADER.
Philadelphia, Sept. 10, 1782.
SIR,—After waiting some time, and being just about to set off for Bucks, I received your letter of this morning, and am at a loss which to admire most, the depravity of your heart, or the weakness of your understanding. Your quoting General Arnold's testimony to vindicate your own falsehood is perfectly consistent. You shall hear further from me on my return from Bucks. In the mean time, I have made inquiry of Messrs. T. Smith and Shippen, whom you mentioned to Mr. Ingersoll as hearing from you sentiments similar to those in the queries, with a view of communicating them to me; which they never did, because they deny the least recollection of any such information; which must have been too striking to them, and interesting to me, to have passed unnoticed. Your talent for invention is also displayed on this occasion most probably.
Whatever you may suppose, several of my friends well know, that I have been anxious to trace some loose reports that I had heard, which your residence in Maryland, and the improbability of your saying such things, had induced me to neglect.
As to your insinuation of my writing against you in the newspapers, or its being done with my privity, it is equally groundless with all the rest. I have not wrote in the newspapers for a long time, nor at any time in my life respecting you.
I am, sir, your very humble servant,
General Cadwalader. JOSEPH REED.
To General Reed.
SIR,—I shall make no reply, at this time, to the expressions contained in your letter of the 10th inst.; but as you inform me that you are on the point of setting off for Bucks, I do not think it incumbent on me to remain here until you return, especially as I informed Mr. Ingersoll, that I intended leaving town as soon as the dust was laid, and wished you to take your measures as soon as possible, as I should make my arrangements accordingly. Some of my servants are gone, and I have every thing packed up; it will, therefore, be very inconvenient to detain my family, as you do not mention when you purpose returning. As you say I shall hear from you on your return from Bucks, I must inform you, that the post leaves this city for the Eastern Shore every Wednesday, at three o'clock; be pleased to direct to me, in Kent County, Maryland, to be left at Stewart's. You shall have my answer by the return of the post, or if necessary, I shall attend in person for further investigation.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Philadelphia, 12th Sept., 1782. JOHN CADWALADER.
SIR,—Mr. Clymer delivered me your letter of the 12th instant. Your sudden departure from this city was indeed unexpected,—your declaration to Mr. Ingersoll not implying it to be so very soon;[E] and I should have supposed that my letter of the 10th, would have some weight to protract your journey. Before I received yours of the 10th, I had prepared a small publication, which the receipt of your letter did not influence me to alter or delay; as no signature could change the nature of things, and make falsehood truth, or truth falsehood. Having there declared the insinuation in Oswald's paper of the 7th instant to be false, I now apply the same epithet to your avowal of them; and am sorry, though not surprised, that your violence of temper should have occasioned such a deviation from the line of veracity so essential to the character of a gentleman.
I am already possessed of sundry authentic documents; a few days will complete them,—not to show my innocence,—the improbability of your charge, and inconsistency of your own conduct, making that unnecessary; but to show to what lengths a rancorous heart, puffed up by sudden and accidental wealth, can push a man of weak judgment and ungovernable passions.
I need not give you my address, though I think it incumbent on me to assure you, that if by investigation you mean a personal interview, I will endeavour to make it as convenient as possible, and will shorten the distance between us.
I am, sir, your obedient humble servant,
Philadelphia, 23d Sept., 1782. JOSEPH REED.
Maryland, 30th September, 1782.
SIR,—I received yours of the 23d inst. by the post. From the style of your first letter, (9th Sept.) in which you required an "immediate answer," I fully expected an immediate interview. As you declined the interview I proposed through Mr. Ingersoll, and left town the next morning, without saying when you proposed returning, and having determined not to "alter or delay" the "small publication," which you "had prepared before the receipt of my first letter,"—I am at a loss to know what could have occasioned your surprise at my departure, before your return from Bucks. After having promised to the public the most satisfactory proofs, that no such conversation as alluded to in the queries ever passed, it was reasonable to allow you some time to prepare your "authentic document." Your last letter (23d Sept) informs that they were not then completed. And could you reasonably expect that I should have remained in town till this is completed? or could you suppose I would suffer your publication, worked up, as it no doubt will be, with all the cunning and misrepresentation you are master of, to pass unanswered? As you have protracted this affair by your engagement to the public, I shall not put it in the power of accident to deprive me of the opportunity of laying the facts I am possessed of open to public view. The question will then be, whether what I have avowed is true? My wealth, judgment, or passions, can have no influence, either way, with impartial men. My own character, the character of others concerned, and all the circumstances combined, will determine the judgment of the public. This business being ended, an interview may reasonably be expected.
I am, sir, your humble servant, Gen. Reed, Philadelphia. JOHN CADWALADER.
Having for several years given over every expectation of seeing those changes made in the constitution of Pennsylvania, which I have ever thought necessary to secure that happiness and liberty intended by the revolution, I retired, and have never since even expressed my sentiments concerning the politics of this state, except among my particular friends. Your vexatious administration hath furnished an example, to what a dangerous length the authority of government may be carried under such a constitution.
The particular circumstances of my family made it necessary to spend a few months in this city, last summer, without an intention of taking up my residence here till the conclusion of the war; and though I never interfered in politics here, except among my particulr[TN] friends, I was attacked, in the public papers, by a party blindly devoted to you and your measures; I made no reply, from a confidence that such intimations could not injure me with those whose good opinion I regarded. But whether a friend published the piece signed Brutus, in the mere spirit of retaliation, or whether it was calculated for political purposes, at the last election, let the author determine. The conversation, alluded to in the queries, was known to many long before that period; among whom were some of your friends, in proof of which I offer Mr. Prior's certificate.[F]
Having mentioned the conversation publicly, those who heard it were certainly at liberty to make what use of it they saw proper.
Being entrusted with the command of the militia and a New England brigade, which lay at Bristol in December, 1776, I had permission from the Commander-in-chief to make an attack on the enemy, whenever I thought it could be done with success; I was prepared on the evening of the 22d December, to attempt the enemy's post, above the Black Horse, with seven hundred men; and about nine or ten o'clock, P. M., I received a letter from the general, requesting, if the enterprise was not too far advanced, to lay it aside, as he intended a general attack on the enemy's posts in a few days. From this circumstance, it appears, that the general gave me the information relating to the intended attack, the evening before you received his letter of the 23d December, in which the precise time was fixed. As he knew my intention to command the party myself, and therefore I might not be at Bristol the next day, this will account for his letter, of the 23d being directed to you. But here you mean to convey an idea that a preference in this communication was intended to you, though he had given me, in effect, the same information the evening before. This, too, you adduce as a proof of the general's "unbounded confidence in you," and you say you were sent by General Washington for the "express purpose of assisting me;" and "whatever my abilities were, that I had less experience of actual service than you had,—that you were received with cool civility, and very few marks of private attention;" though you acknowledge that I, at the same time, consulted you without reserve on our "military affairs." I will admit, that your opportunities of acquiring experience were greater than mine; and considering the extensive command I then had, (which was in number nearly equal to the force under the immediate command of General Washington,) I should have thought it no reflection on my abilities; nor would it have hurt my feelings, if an officer of superior abilities and rank had been sent to take the command,—or even an inferior officer to assist me. But whether your appointment was of the mere motion of the commander-in-chief, or at your instance, (for assisting me or other purposes,) may at least become a question.
That I received you "with cool civility, and very few marks of private attention," I do not remember; but to give what you mean to convey its full force, I will not hesitate to acknowledge it in its fullest extent; as you have granted, that I consulted "without reserve on our military affairs." In this instance, the world will do me justice, as it appears that I did not suffer personal dislike to interfere with public duty.
Though the world have little to do with the causes of private animosities, I shall think myself perfectly excusable, here to say a few words on this subject, as you have assigned causes for the interruption of our intimacy different from the true ones, and with a view of creating prejudices against me.
I acknowledge that such intimacy subsisted between us in early life, and you malignantly date its "dissolution" at the time of my sudden accession of fortune as owing thereto. If I were to admit, that you could properly date this breach from the moment you mention, I flatter myself, you would find it very difficult to persuade those who know me, to believe that to be the true cause. But this was really not the fact. The unworthy measures you took to evade the payment, (till compelled by a judgment of the court,) of Mr. Porter's order on you in favor of my brother and myself, which you had accepted, (to be paid out of a bond assigned by said Porter to you in trust,) was the true motive of that dissolution you complain of. If you turn to the records of the court, or review the correspondence with my brother on that subject, you must blush at such a subterfuge. From that time, and owing thereto, I avoided your company. I could here make the proper reflections, with respect to your veracity and integrity, but the world will do you justice.
The critical situation of our affairs, in the winter of 1776, is well known to every inhabitant of the United States; but those only who were at that time in the field, can have a true idea of the circumstances which often threatened the dissolution of the militia. My situation gave me better opportunities of knowing the feelings and temper of both officers and privates, than any other person; and the happy expedients used on several occasions, to prevent their going home in a body, are well known to many officers whom I then had the honour to command.
The first intimation we had of the capture of General Lee, was received by a flag which arrived at my quarters. To determine whether this was a misfortune, or an advantage to the cause of America, is at this time immaterial. It was then, however, generally thought a matter of great magnitude, in the British as well as in the American camp. The effect it had on our army is well remembered by those who were present, but particularly on the militia.
That men attached to a cause upon principle, should persevere in a prosperous situation of affairs, is not uncommon. We were at that time separated from our enemies only by a river, which we expected every day might be passable on the ice,—greatly inferior in number and discipline, and almost destitute of everything necessary even for defence. Add to this, a proclamation of General Howe, offering pardon and protection to those who should submit and swear allegiance before the first of January, 1777, and this time nearly expired. I say, under such circumstances, it would be wonderful indeed, if no officer of the army sunk under the apprehension of those dangers that threatened him. That there were more than yourself, I well know, whose expressions discovered a timidity unworthy an officer and a patriot, who, notwithstanding, from the well-timed and spirited remonstrances of their friends, were induced to assume a firmer tone of behaviour, and have since rendered their country considerable services.
Having fully stated the temper of men's minds at this alarming period, and the situation of public affairs, I shall now recite the conversation and circumstances relating thereto, which I have avowed in my letter to you of the 10th September, as having passed between us at Bristol.
I had occasion to speak with you a few days before the intended attack on the 26th December, 1776, and requested you to retire with me to a private room at my quarters; the business related to intelligence; a general conversation, however, soon took place, concerning the state of public affairs; and after running ever a number of topics,—in an agony of mind, and despair strongly expressed in your countenance and tone of voice, you spoke your apprehensions concerning the event of the contest,—that our affairs looked very desperate, and we were only making a sacrifice of ourselves; that the time of General Howe's offering pardon and protection to persons who should come in before the first of January, 1777, was nearly expired; and that Galloway, the Allens, and others, had gone over, and availed themselves of that pardon and protection, offered by the said proclamation; that you had a family, and ought to take care of them, and that you did not understand following the wretched remains (or remnants) of a broken army; that your brother (then a colonel or lieutenant-colonel of militia,—but you say of the five months' men, which is not material,) was then at Burlington, with his family; and that you had advised him to remain there, and if the enemy took possession of the town, to take a protection and swear allegiance; and in so doing he would be perfectly justifiable.
This was the substance, and I think nearly the very words; but that "you did not understand following the wretched remains (or remnants) of a broken army," I perfectly remember to be the very words you expressed.
That our situation was critical, and the dangers that threatened us great, were universally acknowledged; but I was astonished to hear such expressions from the Adjutant-General of the army, as your conduct had been approved of by report; for your good behaviour was not personally known to me. Judging from appearances, and from all circumstances at the time, I imputed these sentiments solely to timidity; and therefore, to rouse your feelings, and give new vigor to a mind weakened by fear, I recalled to your memory your former public professions and conduct, and endeavoured to paint, in the strongest colours, the fatal consequences, that would ensue from such an example, particularly to the militia; that if officers, (more especially one in your station,) discovered a want of firmness, we could not reasonably expect private soldiers to remain in the field; and added, that as I was commanding officer there, I should not pass over such expressions in future; appearing to be invigorated by these remonstrances, your subsequent conversation induced me to hope from you a more honourable resolution. The immediate turn in our affairs confirmed this hope. I had, besides, at the moment, a still stronger dissuasive. I foresaw that an "arrest," or discovery, on my part, would produce all the bad effects naturally to be apprehended from actual desertion; I mean with respect to the discouragement which such an example would have caused in the army, but particularly in the militia; and especially, as at that time the militia were assembling at Philadelphia, under General Putnam, from every part of the country, influenced by the example of the city troops, as well as by a sense of danger and duty. If, then, the city militia had disbanded, no person can hesitate to determine what would have been the fate of those from the country.
The reasons of my concealing it from the General were, that nothing but an arrest, on his part, could have prevented the execution of this plan of desertion, and the bad consequences ensuing from it, the betraying of secrets; and such arrest would have wrought the other ill consequences I have spoken of. In this dilemma, I used a discretion which I considered most advantageous to my country; and trusted to my hopes, that so important an event, as your defection, would not happen, and thus avoid the immediate and certain EVIL. And besides, I have, in every stage of the war, shown a disposition to overlook political weaknesses, conceiving that every man we could retain in the service an acquisition, tending to draw forth the whole strength and abilities of my country against the common enemy.
That the conversation alluded to is a new tale, devised in the malignancy of party, has been asserted by you; and on this assertion is founded many of your strongest conclusions in favour of your own innocence. But what must the world think of your effrontery, when they read the following letter of Col. Alexander Hamilton, who was then Aid-de-Camp to the Commander-in-chief, and now a delegate in Congress; whose conduct and character are well known and approved by the citizens of every State in the Union,—a gentleman, who, being a resident of the State of New York, cannot be supposed in any manner concerned in the politics of Pennsylvania?
PHILADELPHIA, 14th March, 1783.
DEAR SIR:—Though disagreeable to appear in any manner in a personal dispute; yet I cannot, in justice to you, refuse to comply with the request contained in your note. I have delayed answering it, to endeavour to recollect, with more precision, the time, place and circumstances of the conversation, to which you allude. I cannot, however, remember with certainty more than this: that some time in the campaign of seventy-seven, at head-quarters in this State, you mentioned to me and some other gentlemen of General Washington's family, in a confidential way, that at some period in seventy-six, I think after the American army crossed the Delaware in its retreat, Mr. Reed had spoken to you in terms of great despondency respecting American affairs, and had intimated, that he thought it time for gentlemen to take care of themselves, and that it was unwise any longer to follow the fortunes of a ruined cause, or something of a similar import. It runs in my mind, that the expressions you declared to have been made use of by Mr. Reed were, that he thought he ought no longer to "risk his life and fortunes with the shattered remains of a broken army:" but it is the part of candour to observe, that I am not able to distinguish with certainty, whether the recollection I have of these words arises from the strong impression made by your declaration at the time, or from having heard them more than once repeated within a year past.
I am, dear sir, with great esteem, your obedient servant, A. HAMILTON. To General Cadwalader.
At the time I communicated the contents of Colonel Hamilton's certificate to him, in confidence, it appears by your own acknowledgment, that[G] "no party or prejudices existed, (at least as to you,")—"the intercourse arising from these mingled duties and services, which were continued until the army went into winter quarters, at the VALLEY FORGE, soon did away the coolness which had for some years subsisted, and in no small degree revived our former habits of friendship;"—"but it was our lot to meet again, a few days before the battle of Monmouth; here we were again united in confidence and danger. After the battle, we left the army together, and that period closed our friendly intercourse forever." From these, (your expressions,) you affect to believe, and wish the world to think, that our former friendship was restored. It was not so; I cannot call it friendship. The transaction I have mentioned occasioned the dissolution of that intimacy, contracted in early life, which but little accorded with my notion of perfect integrity. From that time, and owing solely to that cause, I took the resolution to avoid your company, as a private gentleman, and which I constantly adhered to. Meeting in the army, where we served most of the time in the character of volunteers, I did not think it right to suffer former dislikes to interrupt the duties and services required of us by the commander-in-chief, so necessary for mutual and general safety. If, then, my dislike to you did not proceed from such motives as sometimes induce men to seek for opportunities of gratifying their resentments, for what purpose could I have invented such a "tale?" or if my resentment was such as you represent, why did I not gratify it by making it public immediately? at that time, my mind could not have been "inflamed by party;" because you admit, that no parties then existed, ("at least as to you;") nor could my ambition have been disappointed,—because, being commanding officer of the Pennsylvania Militia, (the council of safety, who then held the powers of government,) could not gratify me further. I could not have "mistaken a conversation with some other person," because there was not that "distance of time," which you suppose, nor can it be conceived by the most credulous to be "some jocular expression;" because the situation of affairs rather suppressed than excited in you the appearance of mirth. Having mentioned this conversation long before parties were formed here, it must appear to every impartial person, that it could not have been the mere invention of my own "brain," suggested in the spirit of party; and it is still more absurd to suppose, that I could have foreseen that you, who then thought as I did concerning the essential objections to the constitution of Pennsylvania, should refuse the appointment of Chief Justice, because you could not, in conscience, take the oath of office; that Mr. Wharton (the first President,) should die; and yet that you should afterwards accept the chair of government. It is, however, incontestibly proved, that the conversation alluded to was spoken of by me at an early period, and long before your appointment to the chair of government; and yet you say, "the prosecution of General Arnold, I have no doubt, gave rise to it." If I was to leave it to your ingenuity to explain to the world my motives for inventing such a "tale," to what purposes could you possibly impute my design? It could not be to gratify my resentment for the injury you attempted upon my property; because I did not then make it public; it could not be occasioned by any personal offence taken in 1777, (when I privately mentioned it to Colonel Hamilton,) because you contend that our "former habits of friendship" were revived, and acknowledge, that I never made it public for several years afterwards. Here, then, the man of humanity may ask me, why did you, at so late a date, publicly mention a circumstance injurious to General Reed's reputation, as adjutant-general of the army and a patriot, which after-services ought to have consigned to oblivion? The question is a natural one, and I will give it an answer. The first occasion of my mentioning this matter publicly was this: soon after our return to the city, in the year 1778, among the victims selected for public examples, there was a young gentleman, with whom I had formed an intimacy in early life. I considered him, as he was by many, (and his acquittal justified the opinion,) as unjustly persecuted; but General Reed, who had resumed his original profession, voluntarily aided the prosecution, and with all the force of declamation, labored to inflame his judges and jury against him. It was then, recollecting how near he once appeared to the commission of the same offence which he charged upon the other, or at least to a defection from the cause, that my indignation broke out at the trial, saying to those around me, that "it argued the extremity of effrontery and baseness, in one man to pursue another to death, for taking a step which his own foot had been once raised to take!"[H] This was anterior to his elevation to the Presidency, and whilst his powers of doing mischief, were he so inclined, were circumscribed by the narrowness of his sphere of action; at such a time, could I think his loss of fame so essential to the public good, or, if he will, to the purposes of party, as to be willing to attempt it, at the expense of my private veracity, my honour and conscience.
The inconsistency of such ostensible conduct, and the baseness of a meditated defection, is not irreconcilable to those who have had opportunities of knowing that he is not incapable of such vast extremes; who have seen him at the bar of the assembly he himself disqualified by the non-compliance with the test of laws, as since fully appears by a publication signed Sidney, unblushingly attempt to set aside the famous Chester election, upon the suggestion of its having been carried by electors disqualified from the like circumstances.
It is thus I would have answered the question, why I have mentioned publicly your meditated defection, and I trust that such provocation merited those reflections which might otherwise have remained in my own breast.
The objection to the force of my single testimony thus obviated, did no other offer to corroborate it, I should not hesitate to submit it, under such circumstances, to the judgment of the public, resting their determination upon the credit of my veracity against yours. Having supported an unblemished character, I dare defy any person to produce an instance where I have even been suspected of an untruth, or of a base or dishonourable action. Conscious of the truth of what I have asserted, I have no fears that my conduct will ever "dishonour me with the wise and virtuous."
The reason I have assigned for the dissolution of our intimacy antecedent to the war, will afford a better proof of your ingenuity than your integrity; and further, (with respect to your veracity,) if any other instance is necessary, let me add one which happened at camp, (at head-quarters,) in the year 1777, soon after the battle of Germantown, when in my hearing, and in the presence of three officers of the first rank in the army, you was charged to your face with a falsehood, and which was fully proved the next day, by the general officer who made the charge.
And now, before I introduce the concurrent testimony in support of my assertion, I shall take but a momentary notice here of those disrespectful expressions with which you have decorated your pamphlet. Weakness of head, is an accusation of a kind which it would equally puzzle the fool and the wise to reply to; but against that of badness of heart, my known tenor of conduct, in private and public life, must be my defence; if that fails, it must be needless in me to set up any other.
But if even prejudiced men should still doubt the truth of my assertion, with respect to the conversation alluded to, in the above representation, every doubt must be removed upon reading the following certificates.
Hermitage, 5th October, 1782.
DEAR GENERAL,—In the winter of 1776, after we had crossed the Delaware, General Reed, in conversation with me, said that he, and several others of my friends, were surprised at seeing me there. I told him, I did not understand such a conversation; that as I had engaged in the cause from principle, I was determined to share the fate of my country; to which he made no reply, and the conversation ended. As I had the honour of commanding the militia of New Jersey, both duty and inclination led me to use every exertion, in support of a cause I had engaged in from the purest motives. I was really much surprised at General Reed's manner, considering the station he then acted in, and his reputation as a patriot; but I considered it as the effect of despondency, from the then gloomy prospect of our affairs.
This I mentioned to several of my friends at the time, who all viewed it in the same point of light.
I am, dear General, yours,
General Cadwalader. P. DICKINSON.
I do hereby certify, that in December, 1776, while the militia lay at Bristol, General Reed, to the best of my recollection and belief, upon my inquiring the news, and what he thought of our affairs in general, said that appearances were very gloomy and unfavourable; that he was fearful or apprehensive the business was nearly settled, or the game almost up, or words to the same effect. That these sentiments appeared to me very extraordinary and dangerous, as I conceived they would, at that time, have a very bad tendeney[TN], if publicly known to be the sentiments of General Reed, who then held an appointment in the army of the first consequence.
Philadelphia, March 12, 1783. JOHN DIXON.
A few days before the battle of Trenton, on the 26th of December, 1776, I rode with Mr. Reed from Bristol to Head Quarters near New Town. In the course of our ride, our conversation turned upon public affairs, when Mr. Reed expressed himself in the manner following.
He spoke with great respect of the bravery of the British troops, and with great contempt of the cowardice of the American, and more especially of the New England troops. So great was the terror inspired by the British soldiers into the minds of our men, that he said, when a British soldier was brought as a prisoner to our camp, our soldiers viewed him at a distance as a superior kind of being.
Upon my lamenting to him the supposed defection of Mr. Dickinson, who it was unjustly said, had deserted his country, he used the following words: "Damn him—I wish the devil had him, when he wrote the Farmer's letters. He has began an opposition to Great Britain which we have not strength to finish."
Upon my lamenting that a gentleman, of his acquaintance, had submitted to the enemy, he said, "that he had acted properly, and that a man who had a family, did right to take that care of them."
The whole of his conversation upon the subject of our affairs, indicated a great despair of the American cause.
Upon my going to Baltimore, to take my seat in Congress, the latter end of January, I mentioned the above conversation to my brother. I likewise mentioned it to the Hon. John Adams, Esq., with whom I then lived in intimacy, a day or two after his return from Boston to Congress. I did not mention it with a view of injuring Mr. Reed, for I still respected him, especially as I then believed that the victory at Trenton had restored the tone of his mind, and dissipated his fears, but to show Mr. Adams an instance of a man possessing and exercising military spirit and activity, and yet deficient in political fortitude. To which I well remember Mr. Adams replied in the following words: "The powers of the human mind are combined together in an infinite variety of ways."
Philadelphia, March 3, 1783.
I went with Congress to Baltimore, in 1776. On the arrival of my brother there, a few weeks afterwards, I called to see him. To the best of my recollection, Mr. Clerk and Dr. Witherspoon, delegates from New Jersey, were in the room with him. The two former, after some time withdrew, and my brother then mentioned the conversation as related by him above. He informed me, also, of some other conversation that passed between Mr. Reed and him, which is not necessary at present to repeat.
Philadelphia, March 3, 1783.
Joseph Ellis, a Colonel of Militia, in the county of Gloucester, and State of New Jersey, doth hereby certify, that upon the retreat of a body of militia from before Count Donop, in the neighborhood of Mount Holly, in Burlington county, in the month of December, 1776, he met with Charles Pettit, Esq., then Secretary of the said State, that a conversation ensued between them respecting the situation of the public dispute at that period; that Mr. Pettit, in said conversation, representing that our affairs were desperate, Col. Ellis endeavoured to dissuade him from such an opinion, when Mr. Pettit replied, "What hurts me more than all is, my brother-in-law, General Reed, has, (or I believe he has,) given up the contest." That a good deal more passed between Mr. Pettit and Col. Ellis, during the said cnnversation[TN], but omitted here, as being thought unnecessary.
Woodbury, March 9, 1783.
I do certify that I was present at the conversation alluded to above; that although I cannot recollect the express words made use of in the said conversation, yet such conversation did take place, and that the substance of it answers to the certificate of Col. Ellis.
Woodbury, March 9, 1783.
These are to certify, that in December, 1776, and January, 1777, I, the subscriber, was Major of the second battalion of Philadelphia Militia, whereof John Bayard was Colonel, and then lay at Bristol, and part of the time opposite Trenton, on the Pennsylvania side. That while we lay at Bristol, Joseph Reed, Esq., joined us; that during his being there and near Trenton, he often went out for intelligence, as Col. Bayard told me, over to Burlington, in which place the enemy frequently were; that being absent frequently all day and all night, I as frequently inquired what could become of Gen. Reed. Col. Bayard often answered me, he feared he had left us and gone over to the enemy. One time in particular, being absent two days and two nights, if not three nights, Col. Bayard came to me with great concern, and said he was fully persuaded Gen. Reed was gone to join the enemy and make his peace. I asked him, how he could possibly think so of a man, who had taken so early a part, and had acted steadily. He replied, he was persuaded it was so; for he knew the General thought it was all over, and that we would not stand against the enemy; and at the same time wept much. I endeavoured all I could to drive such notions from him, but he was so fully persuaded that he had left us and gone over to the enemy, that arguing about the matter was only loss of time; Col. Bayard often making mention, that he knew his sentiments much better than I did. After being absent two or three nights, Gen. Reed returned, and I never saw more joy expressed than was by Col. Bayard; he declared to me, that he was glad Gen. Reed was returned, for he was fully convinced in his own mind that he was gone over to the enemy.
Manor of Moreland, Philadelphia County, March 15, 1783.
Having been called upon by General Cadwalader respecting a report which has been propagated concerning Mr. Joseph Reed—I declare on my honour, the circumstances are as follows. In the spring of 1780, I obtained permission for an interview with my brother at Elizabethtown. In the course of conversation, one day, he happened to mention that there were men among us, who held the first offices, who applied for protection from the British while they lay in New Jersey. I was alarmed at this assertion, and insisted on knowing who they were;—he said, that when the British army lay in Jersey, in 1776, Count Donop commanded at Bordentown; that he was often at that officer's quarters, and possessed some degree of his confidence; that one day, an inhabitant came into their lines, with an application from Mr. Joseph Reed, the purport of which was, to know whether he could have protection for himself and his property, (there was another person included in the application, whose name it is not necessary here to mention.) The man was immediately ordered for execution, but it was prevented by the interposition of my brother and some other persons, who had formerly known him. Perhaps Mr. Reed and his friends may say, that Count Donop would not have ordered the man executed, had he not thought he came for intelligence. No doubt that officer would have justified his conduct by putting upon the footing of a spy, but why was another person included in the application, and one who was not looked on as a trifling character? his name I will mention to any one who will apply to me; however, my brother said, the man who was sent with the application was a poor peasant, and the most unfit person in the world to send for intelligence; this argument was what had weight with Count Donop, and which saved his life.[I] These circumstances being mentioned by a brother, and which he declared to be true, naturally produced an alteration in my sentiments of Mr. Reed; for previous to this, there were few men of whom I entertained so high an opinion. On my return to Philadelphia, I made no secret of what I heard; indeed, I thought it my duty to mention it publicly, that it might prevent further power being put into the hands of a man who might make a bad use of it. The report circulated daily, and I was often called on to mention the circumstances, which I always did, and which I should have done to Mr. Reed, had he applied to me. I remember, among the number who came to me, was Major Thomas Moore, who said he intended to inform Mr. Reed; but whether he did or not, I cannot pretend to say.
There is another thing I wish to mention. My brother came into the river in a flag of truce, on special application of our commissary of prisoners, to take a number of prisoners who were exchanged, to save us the expense and trouble of sending them by land; this was in the month of May, 1781. He was detained, about nine miles below the city, upwards of four weeks, and never permitted to visit it, although application was made for that purpose, by several captains of vessels, who had been prisoners, and to whom he had rendered civilities. I declined making application myself, as I supposed my being in the service from the commencement of the war, and having endured a rigorous confinement for eighteen months, in the worst of times, to have been sufficient to have obtained permission for a brother to have been in my house, in preference to a cabin in a small vessel in a river;—however, I endeavoured to make his situation as agreeable as possible, by visiting him often, and by taking my friends with me. I REMEMBER Col. Francis Nichols went with me one day, to whom my brother mentioned Mr. Reed's intended desertion, and who, I doubt not, will acknowledge it, on any person's applying to him; he is at present in Virginia, but is expected in town in a few days.
Having been called upon by General Cadwalader, to certify, so far as my knowledge extends, as to the matter hereinafter mentioned, I do declare, that in the spring of the year 1781, I went with Major Lennox, of this city, on board of a flag of truce vessel, then lying in the river Delaware, where she had arrived from New York, and heard Mr. Robert Lennox, deputy commissary of prisoners under the British king, say, that in the year of 1776, a person had arrived at Count Donop's quarters, near Bordentown, in New Jersey, who told the Count, that he had been sent to him by Gen. Reed and another person, whose name I do not think necessary to mention, to procure a protection for them; that the Count refused to grant them a protection in that manner, and was about to treat the person who had applied to him as a spy, but was prevented by the entreaties of the said Robert Lennox, and some other gentlemen.
Philadelphia, 17th March, 1783. FRANCIS NICHOLS.
Here, then, it fully appears, that the testimony contained in the above certificates, all point to the same object, and to the same period mentioned by me, supporting and confirming each other. They likewise clearly prove the whole progress of your meditated defection; they prove that you deceived me by those professions, by which I had been induced to trust to your appearances of fidelity, as you absolutely made an application for a protection to Count Donop, in which an intimate friend of yours was included.
But what opinion must the world form of your veracity, when you are detected in falsely asserting, that you had not mentioned such sentiments to your most intimate friends and relations. "Is it not utterly incredible," you say, "that I should hold such communication or sentiments from my most intimate friends and relations, and make it to a person with whom I had held no friendship for many years; who had received me with coldness." Mr. Pettit is your relation, and Col. Bayard your most intimate friend, with whom, at that time, you had the freest intercourse. To these you communicated your sentiments, as appears by the certificates of Col. Bradford, Col. Ellis, and Mr. Davenport; but your friend, hinted at in Major Lennox's certificate, had consented to accompany you in your intended desertion. The height of your iniquity does not end here; you endeavoured, by your influence, to spread general disaffection, in order to lessen your share of the infamy, by dividing it among many. Had you conferred with men whose principles were in every instance like your own, you might have succeeded, as every person concerned might have carried off his particular friend with him.
If all the evidence which now appears against you, had been produced at that time, what would have been your fate, as you then, (being Adjutant-General of the army,) was subject to the Continental articles of war?
In the 10th page you say, you can "truly declare, that the subject of the present slander was not known to you, till its appearance in the newspaper." Having mentioned it at the Coffee House, (as appears by Mr. Pryor's certifiate[TN],) in the presence of some of your friends, it was reasonable to expect they would have informed you of it; but it seems there is some difference between private information and a public charge made in the papers. As a gentleman, there can, in my opinion, be no difference; as you say, in your letter of the 9th Sept. last, that this insinuation seems to deserve some credit from a reference to me. You insinuate, that if you had heard it, you should have noticed it. To this, however, the world will give little credit, as you made no public or private inquiry respecting the charge made in Major Lennox's certificate, though he communicated it to Major Thomas Moore, son of the late President, whose permission I have for asserting publicly, that he informed you of what Major Lennox had related, the very day he heard it.
The matters mentioned in Major Lennox's certificate, and in that of Col. Nichols reach vastly beyond me; here you absolutely apply for protection; and if one report demanded your notice, in reference to my authorities, why not another, more alarming to you, your notice in reference to Major Lennox?
But the consciousness of the communications made to confidential friends, and others, suggested the fear of other proofs. As long as it was only communicated by private information, you were willing to submit to private censure. But when a charge, which originated from me, was made in the papers, it reduced you to the disagreeable alternative of a tacit confession, or the hazard of public proof. And in the present instance, if I am rightly informed, you was perfectly disposed to treat the publication signed Brutus, with that "silent contempt," which, you say, you have for a "long time observed, with respect to the anonymous abuse which disgraces our public papers;" but your friends, feeling the weight of the charge, goaded you into so unfortunate a measure. "Unhappy man! against whose peace and happiness all are combined."
What answer can you make to the weight of testimony here produced against you? I see nothing left, but to declare to the world, that the whole is a wicked combination to destroy you; you may say, "you thought me entitled to the whole infamy of the insinuation," till the above mentioned witnesses "consented to divide it with me;" and that, "if you did not sufficiently measure the malignancy of their dispositions, or thought more favourably of them than you ought to have done, you are content to acknowledge your error, and do full justice in this respect hereafter;" and if any person should ask you, would all these gentlemen hazard such assertions without foundation? you may answer, "it is difficult to resolve what men of ungovernable passions will or will not say, when their minds are inflamed by party, and their breasts burning with disappointed ambition;" may they not have "mistaken a conversation with some other person, or at this distance of time, converted some JOCULAR EXPRESSION into such suspicions as they have mentioned;" and you may add, "the MEMORIES of MEN may fail; their minds are subject to the warp of prejudice and passion; they may convert into serious import what was dropped in JEST; and, from false pride, persist in what they have said, because they have said it, even against the conviction of their own consciences."
In your letter of the 23d of September last, you say, "you have declared the insinuations in Oswald's paper of the 7th inst. false; and you apply the same epithet to my avowal of them." This assertion has been fully refuted by the concurrent testimony of your intimate friends and others. In your friends, you thought yourself perfectly secure; but the weakness of two of them has betrayed you, and the third is proved your accomplice.
It would, indeed, have appeared somewhat extraordinary, if you had not discovered your intentions to some of your intimate friends and relations; and that "no circumstance should occur to correspond with this imputation," after having communicated the same to me. Nor are proofs wanting, if they were here necessary, independently of those I have already adduced, with respect to some of your friends, who at the time held considerable commands in the militia.
And "though specially sent by General Washington," as you say, "for the express purpose of assisting me," it may not be here improper to make a short observation, in which I conceive I shall be perfectly justifiable. Though the duties of an Adjutant General would naturally confine you to the Continental army, yet I can easily conceive that there was no difficulty, by hints thrown out, or by the interposition of a friend, to induce the commander-in-chief to permit you to come to Bristol, under the pretence of assisting me; being, as you represent, well acquainted with the inhabitants of Burlington, through whom you might obtain information. But from the evidence which appears against you, it will not be thought uncharitable to conclude, that you conceived your plan could be better executed at Bristol, than under the eye of General Washington. Besides, you might reasonably hope to shake more easily the constancy of untried officers of militia, than those in the army, whose minds might be supposed better fortified against such attacks.
I am at a loss for words to express my indignation for the attempt you made on my integrity; for though I did not see it in that point of view at the time, yet the whole testimony, as now collected, fully proves such to have been your intention; and happy I conceive it to be for my own honour and the safety of my country, that you found in me that strength of mind, which you might not have experienced in some of your particular friends, had they been in my situation.
The circumstances relating to the letter you wrote Count Donop, created at the time no suspicions; nor do I recollect any publication which alludes to it. This affair, and that mentioned by Major Lenox[TN], are distinct transactions; but it is not more than probable, that at the interview you proposed under cover of serving the inhabitants of Burlington, you intended to confer with Count Donop upon the subject of your own interest and personal safety? This suspicion, in my opinion, is perfectly warranted by the indubitable proofs of your intended desertion. Another circumstance relating to this affair was equally unusual and improper. Mr. Daniel Ellis,[J] by whom you sent the letter with a flag, was universally known to be disaffected; having been so long in the service you could not be ignorant of those obvious reasons, which prove the propriety of sending men with flags, whose attachment to the cause is well known, and men of observation.
Every page, almost, of your publication is full of reflections against me, and almost upon every subject; so intent have you been to injure my reputation. The errors I committed during my command may serve a double purpose; because he who committed them is subject to censure, and he who points them out claims the merit of the discovery. That I committed errors, I readily admit; my friends have marked some, and subsequent experience discovered others; but I am conscious they proceed from want of experience, not a want of integrity. Why, then, need I seek to justify myself, when, from the nature of the war, considerable commands were, from necessity, entrusted to young officers, there being few amongst us to whom the profession was not entirely new. But, I confess, it would give me infinite pain, if, by "a strange inattention of mine to the tide and state of the river," and the not arriving "one hour" sooner at Dunk's Ferry, we had lost the opportunity of striking a blow at Mount Holly, of equal glory with that at Trenton. When you insinuated, in the former part of your address, a superior knowledge in military matters, by saying you had more "experience," I gave up the point, and left you the happiness of thinking so; for why should I have contended a point with a man who, throughout his pamphlet, assumes to himself the merit of all those brilliant successes, so highly commended even by our enemies, and which determined the fate of American independence. And if I was sensible that the charge you now make was true, or could be thought so, by competent judges, I would scorn to defend my error.
My orders were, to make the attack one hour before day, and to effect a surprise, if possible. The impropriety, therefore, of sending the boats from Bristol to Dunk's Ferry, and marching the troops from the same place in open day, is evident, as such a movement must have been observed, and communicated to the enemy. And now, tell me the instance, where even continental troops have arrived at the point of attack at the given time? It was General Washington's intention to have made his attack on Trenton before day; yet, from unavoidable delays, he did not arrive there till after eight o'clock in the morning. We reached Dunk's Ferry a little before low water, and can any person believe, that if we had arrived "one hour sooner," we could have passed over near twenty-five hundred men, four pieces of cannon, ammunition wagons and horses, and all the horses belonging to officers, in that time, in the night too, and the river full of ice, with only five large batteauxs and two or three scows; when it took us at least six hours, (a day or two afterwards,) to cross above Bristol, in open day and the river almost clear of ice. Strange "inattention," unhappy commander! That "a single hour, which we might have enjoyed with equal convenience and equal risk," should be the only obstacle to a scene of equal glory with that of Trenton, and yet you have represented to General Washington, as appears by his letter,[K] dated six o'clock, P. M., 25th December, 1776, to me, being the very same night, and before we marched to Dunk's Ferry, that you gave him the most discouraging accounts of what might be expected from our operations below. What, then, were those discouraging accounts? Why was I not acquainted with them? or were they thrown out to influence him from making his attempt on Trenton, by representing that no co-operation from our quarter could favour his enterprise? In the general's opinion, it is plain, it had that tendency. But in the heedless fury of this stroke at me, you have incautiously unguarded your most tender part.
"Anxious to fill up the part of this glorious plan assigned to us," you "passed over, you say, with your horse, to see and judge for yourself." You did so. "Having seen the last man re-embarked, you proceeded before day to Burlington." Here permit me to correct you, because there is no circumstance better ascertained, than that many of the men were not brought back till eight o'clock the next morning.
Your motives for going to Burlington that night, were then thought a mystery; 'tis now no longer so; and the "other circumstances," that permitted you to join us again at Bristol, are now clearly accounted for. General Washington's success or defeat was, no doubt, to determine whether you were to remain a citizen of the United States of America, or to be a shameful deserter of your country.
You say, you went to Philadelphia, at my request, to confer with Gen. Putnam; that you set out in the evening, (the 24th December,) and reached Philadelphia about midnight; but what credit, can you reasonably expect, will be given to your "detail of proceedings," in other particulars, when you find yourself detected in such gross contradictions in the following instance?
In the 17th page you say, "Upon conference with General Putnam, (at Philadelphia,) he represented the state of the militia, the general confusion which prevailed, his apprehensions of an insurrection in the city in his absence, and many other circumstances, in such strong terms, as convinced me, no assistance could be derived from him;" and yet, in your letter to me, dated Philadelphia, 25th December, 1776, 11 o'clock, you say; "General Putnam has determined to cross the river, with as many men as he can collect, which, he says, will be about five hundred; he is now mustering them, and endeavouring to get Proctor's company of artillery to go with them. I wait to know what success he meets with, and the progress he makes; but, at all events, I shall be with you this afternoon."
Here the representation stated in your pamphlet is contradicted by a letter in your own handwriting. Having forgot, perhaps, that you had written such a letter, your ingenuity furnished materials for a plausible narrative, suitable to your purposes; not suspecting that such proof could be adduced in opposition to it.
Having returned to Bristol about daylight on the 26th December, with the greater part of the troops, I received an account, about 11 o'clock, A. M., from a person just arrived from Trenton Ferry, that General Washington had succeeded in his attack. I immediately despatched a messenger with a line to General Ewing, for information, but all I could learn was, that the victory was ours.
From the continuance of the rain and wind, I concluded the ice must be destroyed in the course of the day, and instantly sent down to Dunk's Ferry for the boats. This being an extraordinary service, required of men who had been exposed to the storm the whole night, was, however, cheerfully undertaken and executed. I then consulted Col. Hitchcock, who commanded the New England brigade, to know whether his troops would willingly accompany us to New Jersey, as I had determined to cross the river in the morning, if practicable, to co-operate with General Washington. He informed me, that his troops could not march, unless they could be supplied with shoes, stockings and breeches; upon which I instantly wrote to the Council of Safety, and obtained seven hundred pairs of each of the above articles, which arrived about sunrise on the morning of the 27th December. This second attempt being determined on, I went with several officers, in the afternoon of the 26th, to fix upon a proper place for crossing the river above Bristol, and the next morning before day viewed the Jersey Shore in a barge, for the same purpose. By your relation, one would imagine you had been the life and soul of this second movement across the Delaware,—as little privy to it as the emperor of Morocco,—but it is no unusual thing for you to intercept the praise due to others of creditable actions. Instead of being present to confirm my proposed movements, by your advice, you remained at Burlington, "in a kind of concealment, till the weather and OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES permitted you to join us at Bristol," after all our resolutions were taken, and the most of our arrangements made. In the tissue of your representations, it is your purpose to insinuate my deficiency in military conduct in the subsequent transactions. Let my relation of it be heard!
We marched on the 27th, in the morning, and the ice being by this time chiefly destroyed, we met with little obstruction in passing. The last division of the troops being embarked, and then crossing, we received private information, that General Washington had re-crossed the river, and returned to Newtown, in Pennsylvania, from whence he dates his letter, 27th December, 1776, informing me of the particulars of the action at Trenton, and which was not received, contrary to your assertion, till we had marched above a mile on our way to Burlington; it was then read to the troops, who were halted for this purpose. We had, however, before given full credit to the first information of his having re-crossed; on which previous information I called together the field officers, to consult what was then best to be done. From this circumstance, Col. Hitchcock, and some others, proposed returning to Bristol. I instantly declared my determination against it, and recommended an attack upon Mount Holly, as from the information we had of the force at that post, we might easily carry it, and should then have a retreat open towards Philadelphia, if necessary. You then, "as a middle course," advised our going to Burlington; in which those who had at first proposed our return, joined in opinion. This was the true cause of that hesitation you remarked with respect to me. Burlington was in a position, in my judgment, very dangerous; as in case we should be invested there, and the river impassable, we should be forced to submit at discretion, for want of provisions, or hazard an action against troops superior in discipline, and perhaps in number, if their whole force was collected to that point. Having no other retreat open to us, but that over the river, it was evident this could not be effected without the loss, at least, of those who might be ordered to cover the retreat. Having passed the river in open day, it was probable the enemy might be informed of it; and, in that case, the post at Mount Holly reinforced. To determine whether we should take a position, unanimously approved by the council, but which I thought extremely dangerous; or adhere to my own plan, unsupported by a single voice, was certainly a question that required more than a momentary consideration, even for an officer, at this stage of the war. Being pressed for some resolution, as the day was far spent, I waived my own opinion, and acquiesced in the desire of marching to Burlington; but it is ridiculous to suppose, as you say, that your brother's intelligence of Count Donop's retreat, could have influenced my acquiescence, for it did not arrive till after our resolutions were taken,—and besides, was not credited; because if it had reached us before, and been credited, I should not have acquiesced in such desire; if even after, I should naturally have taken another course, and pursued the flying enemy, instead of going to Burlington, which was five miles in the rear.