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Affairs in New York

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

August 19.—The following extract of a letter from a clergyman at New York, will convey a pretty lively idea of the joy which the British in that quarter must have felt at the news of Gates’s defeat; it contains some other more important matter, which those who feel themselves concerned will do well to ponder upon:—”With respect to politics, you know you have laid me under strong injunctions to transmit you a faithful picture of them. I shall therefore be all obedience; though the shade will much overpower the light in my description. Know then the storm which hath long threatened us, hath at length covered us. The French force has arrived in our neighborhood; and to add to its impression, our intelligence from the South is of much the same color with that which, at short intervals, made its way to us on the eve of the miserable event at Saratoga. The enemy imagine nothing but conquest, and God grant they imagine a vain thing; but there is something else which sits heavy at my heart. A lowering discontent prevails in our lines, which sometimes breaks out into murmurs. I explained to you some time ago the cause which began to generate these ugly symptoms. The great from whom countenance, honors, and presentments come, ‘Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old.’ They have shown an unwarrantable predilection for those whose hearts have ever been known to be in the enemy’s camp, and who, there is too good ground to presume, are more occupied in inventing topics of excuse of their present conduct to those on whom they think fortune now smiles, than in preparing cordials for those who have run their course with honor and consistency; and who must meet the worst rage of the foe. I, you know, am no party man. I add not one, therefore, to the number of murmurers. On the contrary, I exert my poor talents to assuage the dangerous and increasing malady, but reason on the other side too often reduces me to silence. I ventured to expostulate with our friend S—— G——, upon the injury which this temper might do to the common cause; who, in a rougher tone than I had ever heard from him, desired me to reserve my sermon for the pulpit. ‘You, sir, (said he,) are by accident tolerably easy in your circumstances; but before you enter upon this subject again, fetch down to a level with me at least —— and ——, who now soar so high above me in all their pride of place. You know what I have been. Survey my present apparel. I have a family. You saw my table to-day.’ I have been decided, so indeed have —— and ——: I for, they against, my sovereign. I this moment encountered ‘two dark Presbyterians in close consultation, debating, I suppose, upon the properest arts to practise for their profit, and elevation, upon another change of sides; though the flush for recent favors lavished upon them by the royal hand was yet warm upon their cheeks. One of them, doubtless, hath laid his finger upon the office of lieutenant-governor, and the other of chief justice, if the rebel power prevail. Let them but attempt it, and my word for it, their subtlety will dissolve every obstacle in their way; and perhaps the time is not very distant when you and I shall hold up our hands before the latter for high treason against the United States, and the former will sign our warrants. You will call it policy perhaps which has ordered things thus. I believe, indeed, it is partly owing to the doctrine of the Florentine school; but I am convinced, that it is more to be ascribed to the unfeelingness of men, new to power, who have thus trampled upon our services, and affronted us. They have provided for their minions from connection or caprice, after the fashion of their own country, and returned from us with scorn, to follow the pursuits of their own pleasure, their interest, or their vanity; but, however, though I cannot always govern my own passion, I trust I shall in the worst of times, behave like an honest man and a faithful subject.’ Judge, therefore, what I feel. Would I had the nerves of——, whose letter goes under cover with this; his spirit rises in proportion to our difficulties; and he overwhelms any man who doubts the ability of Cornwallis to keep what he has got, if he cannot yet penetrate further. It is his opinion that Washington’s army of half-starved ragamuffins, who, in the language of Job, ‘ Out up mallows by the bushes, and jumper roots for their meat,’ will melt before us as the vapor does before the sun; and he is preparing a suitable sermon, with the above verse for his text. Something, however, must happen in a few days, in the South, I mean, to end our doubts. To that quarter our eyes are more fixed than to what is rolling to ourselves. May my next make amends for this.”1


1 Upcott, vi. 89.