The real causes of its protraction lay in the incapacity of American politicians, and, it must be added, in the spineless and want of patriotism of the American people.
Continuing How the American Revolutionary War Ended,
our selection from War of American Independence by John M. Ludlow published in 1876. The selection is presented in 6 easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in How the American Revolutionary War Ended.
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Washington admitted that his countrymen — of that State — “from their form of government, and steady attachment heretofore to royalty,” would “come reluctantly” to that idea, but trusted to “time and persecution.” In 1781 the ground for transferring the seat of war to the Chesapeake was the number of loyalists in that quarter. In the Southern States the division of feeling was still greater. In the Carolinas, a Loyalist regiment was raised in a few days in 1776, and again in 1779. In Georgia, in South Carolina, the bitterest partisan warfare was carried on between the Whig and Tory bands; and a body of New York Tories contributed powerfully to the fall of Savannah in 1778 by taking the American forces in the rear.
On the other hand it is unquestionable that in the extent and quality of the support which they met with, the British generals were cruelly disappointed. Up to May, 1778, General Howe had declared that in thirteen corps raised, with a nominal strength of six thousand five hundred men, the whole number amounted only to three thousand six hundred nine, of whom only a small proportion were Americans, and that “all the force that could be collected in Pennsylvania, after the most indefatigable exertions during eight months,” was only nine hundred seventy-four men. Of the far more numerous loyalist levies in the South, Lord Cornwallis speaks in the most disparaging terms. A whole regiment in South Carolina marched off on one occasion in a body. Speaking of the friends to the British cause in North Carolina he wrote, “If they are as dastardly and pusillanimous as our friends to the southward, we must leave them to their fate.” At the time of the battle of Guilford Court House (1781) the idea of such friends “rising in any number and to any purpose had totally failed.” No “provincial” general ever rose to eminence on the British side, although more than one was appointed, and it is clear that if the struggle was so long protracted it was not through the valor or constancy of the loyalists.
The real causes of its protraction — though it may be hard to an American to admit the fact — lay in the incapacity of American politicians, and, it must be added, in the spineless and want of patriotism of the American people. If, indeed, importing into the struggle views of a later date, we look upon it as one between two nations, the mismanagement of the war by the Americans, on all points save one — the retention of Washington in the chief command — is seen to have been so pitiable from first to last as to be in fact almost unintelligible. We only understand the case when we see that there was no such thing as an American nation in existence, but only a number of revolted colonies, jealous of one another, and with no tie but that of a common danger.
Even in the army, divisions broke out. Washington, in a general order of August 1, 1776, says: “It is with great concern that the general understands that jealousies have arisen among the troops from the different provinces, and reflections are frequently thrown out which can only tend to irritate each other and injure the noble cause in which we are engaged.” It was seldom that much help could be obtained in troops from any State, unless that State were immediately threatened by the enemy; and even then these troops would be raised by that State for its own defence, irrespectively of the general or “Continental Army.”
“Those at a distance from the seat of War,” wrote Washington in April, 1778, “live in such perfect tranquillity that they conceive the dispute to be in a manner at an end; and those near it are so disaffected that they serve only as embarrassments.” In January, 1779, we find him remonstrating with the Governor of Rhode Island because that State had “ordered several battalions to be raised for the defence of the State only, and this before proper measures were taken to fill the Continental regiments.” The different bounties and rates of pay allowed by the various States were a constant source of annoyance to him. After the first year, the best men were not returned to Congress, or did not return to it. Whole States remained frequently unrepresented. In the winter of 1777-1778 Congress was reduced to twenty-one members. But even with a full representation it could do little. “One State will comply with a requisition of Congress,” writes Washington in 1780, “another neglects to do it, a third executes it by halves, and all differ either in the manner, the matter, or so much in point of time that we are always working up-hill.” At first Congress was really nothing more than a voluntary committee. When the Confederation was completed — which was only, be it remembered, on March 1, 1781 — it was still, as Washington wrote in 1785, “little more than a shadow without the substance, and the Congress a nugatory body”; or, as it was described by a later writer, “powerless for government, and a rope of sand for union.”
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