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State of Affairs in America

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

January 1.—At the opening of the last year, the American cause wore a sickly aspect. The Continental army, reduced to an inconsiderable body, retired as fast as the enemy advanced; and a vast tract of country, from the Hudson River to the Delaware, lay exposed to the ravages of an insulting foe. Roused at length from the lethargy which at first seemed to seize them, the militia poured in to the assistance of General Washington, and gave his little army an appearance of numbers. The fortunate surprisal of the Hessians, and the brilliant manoeuvre at Princeton, first checked the current of misfortune, and gave the tide of affairs a contrary direction. General Howe, confining himself to the narrow limits of Brunswick and Amboy, suffered us to invest him with a handful of militia. The States wisely improved the breathing spell which Heaven lent them; and such were the exertions of the winter, that, before the British army took the field, we had a respectable force on foot. A force, part of which, assisted by the gallant militia of New York and New England, hath destroyed their northern army; while the residue, though unable to stop the progress of General Howe, hath nevertheless fought him bravely, and even now limits his conquests to “just so much territory as he can command with the mouths of his cannon.” It is true the British are in possession of the first city on the continent; the loss is deeply felt by the unhappy citizens. But America disdains to say she suffers by the event.

Thus the new year opens favorably upon us, but what its future complexion will be, depends upon the manner in which we employ the present winter. Heaven hath indeed smiled upon us; but some drops of bitterness hath been kindly mingled in the cup of joy, lest the draught should intoxicate and lull us to sleep. Our successes encourage the most sanguine hopes; our losses forbid the least presumption. The power of the enemy, and the resources of Britain, are not to be despised; and if prosperity betrays us into security, if we think the work is done, and become remiss in our exertions, our successes have only smoothed the way to destruction, and the laurels which entwine our brows serve but as ornaments to deck us for the sacrifice.

Hitherto the regular force which we have kept on foot hath been no ways proportionate to the strength of the States, or the importance of the object it was raised to secure. It would have been useless to have had more men in the field than we could supply with arms, ammunition, and other military stores; hence our operations against the enemy’s main army have been feeble and. indecisive; and the general, checking the impulses of his own gallant and enterprising spirit, has been obliged to consult the safety of America by protraction and delay. But, through the blessing of Heaven, we can now arm thousands with muskets of the best kind, and of one calibre; we have artillery, ammunition, and camp equipage in abundance, and can feed and pay our troops without difficulty. The period is therefore arrived, when, by arming our beloved general with the united force of the States, we shall enable him to take the field with a superiority of strength, and which will insure him all those advantages (and they are neither few nor small) which assailants ever have over those who act on the defensive.

This can only be done by immediately filling up the Continental regiments, and whatever mode the States devise for raising men, it is of the highest importance that it be speedily adopted and vigorously pursued. The present winter is worth millions to America, and if she idles it away, her folly will be without a parallel. We have every argument that can work upon our hopes and fears, to excite us to the most strenuous exertions. Peace, liberty, and safety, lie before us as the reward of our exertions. Infamy, distress, and all that we have felt and feared from the tyranny of Britain, may be the consequence of supineness and inaction. The main army of the enemy is in our country, and still formidable. Britain, enraged at the loss of her northern army, will exert her utmost power, and having no troops in Canada to reinforce, will direct her undivided strength against the Middle States. We, too, thank Heaven, can meet them with an undivided army; but we must increase its numbers to insure its success.

Let us, then, make one general and mighty effort; and if we can but rouse the unwieldy strength of these States, and bring their united force against the enemy, the contest will at once be over, and the footsteps of tyranny shall never mark this land of freedom more.1


1 “Adolphus,” in the New Jersey Gazette, January 21.

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