Nuts for Future Historians to Crack - Part 2

Part 2

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, signed Brutus, I can a.s.sure 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 circ.u.mstance, 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 a.s.sert, 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 fort.i.tude, 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.

General Reed.

_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 pa.s.sed 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 inc.u.mbent 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 Sh.o.r.e 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 doc.u.ments; 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 pa.s.sions.

I need not give you my address, though I think it inc.u.mbent on me to a.s.sure 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.

General Cadwalader.

_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 pa.s.sed, it was reasonable to allow you some time to prepare your "authentic doc.u.ment." 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 pa.s.s 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 pa.s.sions, can have no influence, either way, with impartial men. My own character, the character of others concerned, and all the circ.u.mstances 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 const.i.tution 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 const.i.tution.

The particular circ.u.mstances 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 circ.u.mstance, 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 a.s.sisting 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 a.s.sist me. But whether your appointment was of the mere _motion_ of the commander-in-chief, or at your instance, (for a.s.sisting 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 a.s.signed 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 a.s.signed 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 circ.u.mstances 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 pa.s.sable on the ice,--greatly inferior in number and discipline, and almost dest.i.tute 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 circ.u.mstances, 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 a.s.sume 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 circ.u.mstances relating thereto, which I have avowed in my letter to you of the 10th September, as having pa.s.sed 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 circ.u.mstances 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 pa.s.s 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 a.s.sembling 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 a.s.serted by you; and on this a.s.sertion 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 circ.u.mstances 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 const.i.tution 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 circ.u.mstance 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 circ.u.mscribed 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.