History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson
During the Oriskany Campaign
Annotated by Wm. L. Stone
With an Historical Introduction illustrating the Life of Johnson by J. Watts De Peyster, and Some Tracings from the Foot-Prints of the Tories, or Loyalists in America by T. R. Myers.
Joel Munsell, 1882
SIR JOHN JOHNSON
KNIGHT AND BARONET
Born 5th Nov., 1742. Died 4th Jan., 1830.
At times this is difficult to follow since there are footnotes to the footnotes. Just follow the same fonts and you will be able to read the various stories. ajb
"The Past appeals to the impartiality of the Future. History replies. But, often, generations pass away ere that reply can be given in a determinate form. For not until the voices of contemporaneous panegyric and censure are hushed ; not until passionate pulses have ceased to beat; not until flattery has lost its power to charm, and calumny to vilify, can the verdict of history be pronounced. Then from the clouds of error and prejudice the sun of truth emerges, and light is diffused in bright rays, of ever increasing refulgency and breadth. * * * Every age has its own heroes-men who seem to embody the prevailing characteristics of their relative epochs, and to present to after ages the idealized expression of their chief tendencies. Such men must be judged by no ordinary standard. History must view their actions as a whole, not subject them to separate tests, or examine them through the lenses of partial criticism and narrow-minded prejudice." OSCAR II., King of Sweden, in his "Life of Charles XII."
"I would serve my king;
Serve him with all my fortune here at home,
And serve him with my person in the wars ;
Watch for him, fight for him, bleed for him, and die for him,
As-every true-born subject ought!"
THOMAS OTWAY'S Tragedy, "The Orphan"1680.
Perhaps no man in "the Colonies" who adhered to the Crown, has been so cruelly misjudged and consistently misrepresented as Sir John Johnson. Every possible charge, derogatory to him, has been raked up and brought out against him. Why? Because he did not submit quietly to what he deemed injustice, but struck back boldly and severely-made himself felt, made those suffer who caused him to suffer. He was the only Loyalist who had the opportunity to force the bitter chalice which he had been compelled to drain, back upon the lips of those who filled it for him, and in turn obliged them to quaff the same hateful draught. The de Lanceys and many other Loyalists fought just as boldly and as bitterly, and as persistently, but they never had the same opportunity as Sir John to make every fiber of antagonism quiver.
The father of Sir John Johnson-the subject of this memoir-was the famous Sir William Johnson, Bart., Colonel in the Royal Army, Major-General in the Provincial service and British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. This gentleman was, perhaps, the most prominent man in the province of New York during the decade which preceded the Declaration of Independence. Peter Van Schaack, a very noted lawyer of the period, wrote, July, 1774, a few days after the Baronet's decease: "I own, I consider him as the GREATEST CHARACTER OF THE AGE.) If ever there was a leader who deserved the Corona Oleagina * of the Romans, it was Sir William. Whether a Jansen-a descendant of one of those indomitable Hollanders who assisted to subdue Ireland, and anglicized their names- or of English race," proper, Sir William was a strong example of those commonsense men who know how to seize Fortune by the forelock and not clutch in vain the
* This Corona Oleagina, was a wreath of olive leaves and the reward of a commander through whose instrumentality a triumph had been obtained though not himself in the action by which it was achieved. AUL. GELL., V., 6.; RICH. DICT., R. & G. A.
tresses which flow down her receding back. He opened to emigration two of the most productive valleys in the world-the Mohawk and Schoharie; and with the development of their riches rose himself to a height of opulence and influence unequaled in the "Thirteen Colonies." Just in his dealings with all men, he was particularly so with the Indians, and acquired a power over the latter such as no other individual ever possessed. Transferred from civil jurisdiction to military command he exhibited no less ability in the more dangerous exigencies of war, than in the laborious services of peace. He, it was, who first stemmed the tide of French invasion, and turned it at Lake George, in 1755; receiving both from his sovereign and from Parliament a grateful recognition of his extraordinary services. Nor were the people of the Province of New York less demonstrative in their applause or appreciative of his achievements. At "Johnson Hall" he lived in truly baronial state, and no other provincial magnate ever exhibited such affluence and grandeur as was displayed by him in his castle and home (Fort Johnson) on the Mohawk.
His greatest achievement, in immediate as well as ultimate results, was his victory at Lake George over the veteran Dieskau, 8th August, 1755. New England, always jealous of New York, has endeavored as usual to transfer the laurels from Johnson to one of her own people. As king, country and countrymen accorded the honor and reward to Johnson, "success," in his case, "proved the test of merit." That there were New Englanders who could-estimate Johnson at his true value, let the following letter (Stone' s "Sir W. J.," I., 521) attest. It is from Surgeon Williams, of Massachusetts, to his wife in Deerfield in that colony. It bears the date of the very day of the battle, which, by the way, was exactly a month less a day subsequent to Braddock's defeat; the Provincial by his ability redeeming in New York the incapacity of the Professional and Regular in Pennsylvania:"
"I must say," wrote Williams, "he [Johnson] is a complete gentleman, and willing to please and oblige all men; familiar and free of access to the lowest sentinel; a gentleman of uncommon smart sense and even temper; never saw him in a ruffle, or use any bad language-in short, I never was so disappointed in a person in the idea I had of him before I came from home, in my life ; to sum up, he is almost universally beloved and esteemed by officers and soldiers as a second Marlborough for coolness of head and warmness of heart."
His next exploit, scarcely less notable and resultive, was the defeat of a superior French force seeking to relieve Fort Niagara, and his capture of this noted stronghold, 24th July, 1759. The distinguished British general and military historian, Sir Edward Cust, in his "Annals of the Wars," refers in the following language to this notable exploit of Sir William: "This gentleman, like Clive, was a self-taught general, who, by dint of innate courage and natural sagacity, without the help of a military education or military experience, rivaled, if not eclipsed the greatest commanders. Sir William Johnson omitted nothing to continue the vigorous measures of the late general [Prideaux, killed] and added to them everything his own genius could suggest. The troops, who respected, and the provincials, who adored him," were not less devoted than the Six Nations of Indians, who gladly followed his own ever fortunate banner and the less fortunate guidon of his no less valiant and loyal son.
Thus, with a sway hard to comprehend at the present day, beloved, respected and feared by lawbreakers and evildoers, the mortal enemies of his semi-civilized wards- the Six Nations-he lived a life of honor; and died, not by his own hand, as stated by prejudiced tradition, but a victim to a chronic debilitating disease, and to that energy which, although it never bent in the service of king or country, had to yield to years and nature. Sick, and thereby unequal to the demands of public business, he presided at a council, 11th July, 1774, spoke and directed, until his ebbing strength failed, and could not be restored by the inadequate remedial measures at hand on the borders of the wilderness. To no one man does central New York owe so much of her physical development as to Sir William Johnson.
Wedded, in 1739, to a Hollandish or German maiden, amply endowed with the best gifts of nature, both physical and mental, "good sound sense, and a mild and gentle disposition," Sir William was by her the father of one son, born in 1742, and two daughters. The latter are sufficiently described in a charming, well-known book, entitled "The Memoirs of an American Lady"-Mrs. Grant, of Laggan. The former was Sir John Johnson, a more heroic representative of the transition era of this State, than those whom Success, and its Dupe-History, have placed in the national "Walhalla." While yet a youth this son accompanied his father to his fields of battle, and, when the generality of boys are at school or college, witnessed two of the bloodiest conflicts on which the fate of the colony depended. He had scarcely attained majority when he was entrusted with an independent command, and in it displayed an ability, a fortitude, and a judgment worthy of riper years and wider experience.
Sent out to England by his father in 1765, "to try to wear off the rusticity of a country education," immediately upon his presentation at court he received from his sovereign an acknowledgment-partly due to the reputation of his parent, and partly to his own tact and capacity -such as stands alone in colonial history. Although his father, Sir William, was already a knight and baronet for service to the crown, John was himself knighted, at the age of twenty-three; and thus the old-new baronial hall at Johnstown sheltered two recipients, in the same family and generation, of the accolade of chivalry. There is no parallel to this double knighthood in American biography, and but few in the family annals of older countries.
This was the era when "New York was in its happiest state."
In the summer of 1773, and in his thirtieth year, Sir John Johnson married the beautiful Mary--or, as she was affectionately called, "Polly"-Watts, aged nineteen. Mrs. Grant, of Laggan, has left us a charming pen-portrait of this bright maiden.
Inheriting his father's dignities and responsibilities, Sir John Johnson could not have been otherwise than a champion of his sovereign's rights. If he had turned his coat to save his property, like some of the prominent patriots, he would have been a renegade, if not worse. Some of the lights of patriotism had already cast longing glances upon his rich possessions in the Mohawk Valley. Its historian intimates (Simms, 120) that in a successful rebellion the latter counted upon dividing his princely domains into snug little farms for themselves. The germ of anti-rentism was developing already; although it took over sixty to seventy years to thoroughly enlist legislative assistance, and perfect spoliation in the guise of modern agrarian law. Surrounded by a devoted tenantry, backed by those "Romans of America," the "Six Nations," those "Indians of the Indians," the Iroquois, it was not easy "to bell the cat" by force. It is neither politic nor intended to revive hereditary animosities by the mention of names. Sufficient to say, might prevailed over right, and Sir John was placed under what the Albany Committee choose to define a "parole." Modern courts of inquiry, especially in the United States since 1860, have decided that such a vague system of paroling is in itself invalid, and that individuals subjected to such a procedure are absolved de facto from any pledges.
It is both persistent and popular to charge Sir John with having broken his parole. Before even entering into the question, it is simple justice to rebut the charge by denial. His superiors did not recognize it, and able men acquainted with military law are not unanimous in holding that a parole, imposed, as it was upon him, was binding either in law or honor. But, even if it were valid, he did not break it, since the very self-constituted authority that imposed it, abrogated it by its own action.
There are two parties to every contract, legal, equitable or honorable, and if one party uses duplicity and manifests the intention to alter an agreement by a procedure which would completely change the relation of the parties, whatever, great or small, could come within or under the legal signification of fraud, or even deception, or "a snare," abrogates every contract. If Sir John gave a parole to any parties having power to exact it, he was entitled to every right and privilege conferred by a parole. If using the parole as a blind, those by whom it was exacted, undertook to withdraw it simultaneously with the substitution of an order for his arrest and close and severe confinement, and the latter could only be effected by treachery to the obligations of the former, common justice must concede that the discovery of such an intention put an end to the obligation of the parole. The treatment of Lady Johnson subsequent to her husband's escape is the very best proof of the animus which dictated the course against Sir John. If a body in authority could hold the utmost penalty over the head of a helpless woman, detained as a hostage, it is only fair to believe that there would have been no mercy shown to the defiant husband. The little rare work already cited in these pages as an authority, "The Adventures of a Lady in the War of Independence in America," sets forth the cruelty exhibited towards Lady Johnson, and, until that can be shown to be false, it must be accepted as a trustworthy witness.
The treatment of Madame de Lavalette, by the French government, for cooperating in the escape of her husband, condemned to death for his adherence to Napoleon in 1815, has always been considered an indelible stigma upon it. General Cust pronounces him innocent of "treachery." Still, although this lady suffered a rigorous solitary confinement of twenty-six days, no one dreamed, even at this period, of the intensest feeling and bitterest animosity," or intimated, that she should, or would be, held as a hostage for the conduct of her husband. "Now, Madam," is the language addressed to Lady Johnson, as quoted by her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Colonel Christopher Johnson, "My command does not extend beyond this province; but, if Sir John comes one foot within my district with his murderous allies-your fate is sealed ! "How, sir; what do you mean? What can I do ! " gasped the lady, overcome for the moment by the information and the manner in which it was conveyed. "I mean, Madam, that if your husband lets his Indians go on scalping our people, we can't prevent then shooting you * * Your case, Madam, is different from all others. Sir John [Col. Guy was Superintendent of the Indians, not Sir John] has power over the Indians, whom no one else can control. We have no wish to injure you individually; but we must save our people from his savages. We hold you and your children as hostages; and we consider that another such descent as the Indians made yesterday on the village of--, will justify us in the eyes of the whole world in avenging the slaughter of many women and children, as helpless and more innocent than yourself! "
A prominent major-general, a regular officer, distinguished in his profession as well as with his pen, to whom the question of this parole was submitted, decided in favor of Sir John, and a lawyer of standing and an historian of ability has argued this question at length in his Notes, xxx., xxxi., to the " History of New York," by Judge Thomas Jones, who, likewise, exonerates Sir John. Mr. de Lancey after furnishing his proofs, sums up the matter in these words : " The common charge of historical writers, that Sir John broke his parole, is therefore without foundation and untrue." *
In a conversation with Gen. B. B. C--, had 5-3-80, discussing the question of paroles, this gentleman, author of "Battles of the American Revolution," who had given the closest attention to original documents at home and in England, furnished additional arguments as to the impossibility of the right to impose a parole on Sir John Johnson was put upon parole, so called, by
* In the Appendices ("Proofs Considered") to the writer's Address on Sir John Johnson, Bart., delivered before the New York Historical Society, at its annual meeting, 6th January, l880, Mr. de Lancey has not only been quoted at length, but additional evidence printed derived from other and various sources.
those who were styling themselves at the time "faithful subjects of his Majesty." If faithful subjects, how had Sir John rendered himself liable when the original charges against him were "subsequently proved false?"
There are some curious circumstances connected with this consideration would require a lawyer's brief to make them plain to common observation. Sufficient to say, everything turns on the success of the Revolution. Might made right, and Sir John, who if the Crown had won would have been exalted to the seventh heaven of honor, since the mother country failed, is thrust down into the lowest nether depths by those who rose on his fall and profited by the confiscation of his extensive estates. Such is human judgment. It is to he hoped the same law does not rule elsewhere. If, however, it was a simple exemplification of "might makes right," there is no more to be said. That is the supreme law of this country today ; no other.
Here it is not only pertinent but just to remark, that Count d'Estaing, the first French Commander who brought assistance to this country, had notoriously broken his parole, and yet American writers have never alluded to the fact as prejudicial to his honor. It did not serve their purpose. The French held that Washington once violated his parole; and Michelet, a devoted friend to liberty and this country, -feelingly refers to the case of Jumonville, to demonstrate one of the heart-burnings which France had to overcome in lending assistance to the revolted colonies. Marshall, in his "Life of "Washington," enters into a detailed explanation of this event but it only shows that if national antagonism is so difficult to reconcile, how much more so is the intenser spite of civil differences after blood has been shed. How many Southern officers, in spite of their paroles, met the Union troops on battlefield after battlefield. Regiments and brigades, if not divisions, paroled at Vicksburg, were encountered it is averred, within a few weeks in the conflicts around Chattanooga. French generals, paroled by the Prussians it has also been charged, did not hesitate to accept active commands in even the shortest space of time. Circumstances alter cases, and under those which govern in respect to him, the charge against Sir John was a pretext; but, weak as it is, it is not true. Power in all ages has not been delicate in its choice of means to destroy a dangerous antagonist.
It would have been well for some of the noblest historical victims, such as Abner, Amasa, Sertorius, Viriathus, Abd el-Kader, Osceola,-if they had comprehended the spirit of these verses (Ecclesiasticus xii., 10, 16) as well as the reply of van der Does, in Leyden, to the Spanish general Valdez, besieging the place:
'' The fowler plays sweet notes on his pipe while he spreads his net for the bird.''
Sir John was to have been simultaneously released from his parole and made a prisoner. The officer who carried the communication discharging Sir John from his parole, was the bearer also of directions to arrest him as soon as he had read it, "and make him a close prisoner, and carefully guard him that he may not have the least opportunity to escape." Sir John had some friends among those who were now in power, and received intelligence of what was going on. He exercised ordinary discretion, and escaped before the trap-a "snare," as Lossing styles it-could be sprung upon him.
Sir John fled, but he did not fly unaccompanied; and among his subsequent associates, officers and soldiers, were men of as good standing as those who remained behind to profit by the change of authority. Many of the latter, however, expiated their sins or errors on the day of reckoning at Oriskany.
"Sir John, after nineteen days of inconceivable hardships, reached Montreal with his companions in a state of fatigue and destitution which they could not have survived many days longer. The regular roads were so entirely occupied by the rebels, that they had to take a circuitous route through the thickets of the forests. The few provisions the Indians had prepared were soon exhausted, and they had to subsist on roots ; their boots and clothes were completely destroyed, and when they reached the shores of the St. Lawrence, it was difficult to recognize or understand the gaunt specters who emerged from the 'bush,' to seek shelter and a passage across [the St. Lawrence] from the wondering habitants of the first settlement they came to. But a few weeks sufficed to restore Sir John to his usual vigor, both of mind and body; and, before he was able to assume an active command, he was at work organizing a force of Loyalists, of which he is the colonel, and his frequent eruptions into the territory held by the Continentals, as they call themselves, were the causes of your [Lady Johnson's] being removed from Albany. He is charged by them with having broken his word of honor, pledged that he would remain passive; but we all know that his person would have been seized, he remained that night [when Col. Dayton arrived] at the Hall." Stone, in his 'Life of Brant' (I., 144), corroborates this. ' After nineteen days of severe hardship, the Baronet and his partisans arrived at Montreal in a pitiable condition-having encountered all of suffering that it seemed possible for man to endure.' Stone then adds (Ibid, 144), and he presents almost the identical; idea of the magnanimous Sabine (I., 581); 'Sir John was immediately commissioned a colonel in the British service, and raised a command of two battalions, composed of those who accompanied him in his flight, and other American loyalists who subsequently followed their example. They were called the 'Royal Greens.' In the month of January following, he found his way into New York, then in possession of the British forces. From that period he became, not only one of the most active, but one of the bitterest foes of his own countrymen of any who were engaged in that contest-and repeatedly the scourge of his own former neighbors. He was unquestionably a loyalist from principle, else he would scarcely have hazarded, as he did, and ultimately lost, domains larger and fairer than probably ever belonged to a single proprietor in America. William Penn only excepted."
Sabine (I., 581) observes: "It is thought that he was conscientious loyalist; and this maybe allowed. He lived in a style of luxury and splendor which few country gentlemen in America possessed the means to support. His domains were as large and as fair as those of any colonist of his time, the estate of Lord Fairfax only excepted; and no American hazarded more, probably, in the cause of the Crown. Faithfulness to duty is never a crime, and, if he sacrificed his home his fortune, and his country, for his principles, he deserves admiration. * * * The conduct of the Whigs towards him may have been harsh, and, in the beginning,too harsh for his offenses."
The majority of those who were most active in wronging the family of Sir William Johnson experienced severe punishment, either in themselves or their surroundings, and the consequences of their injustice threatened to undo the work of a century and make Schenectady once more a frontier town.
Not able to seize the man (Sir John), disappointment determined to capture a woman. The victim was his wife. Why? The answer is in the words of a letter preserved in the series of the well-known Peter Force, which says: "It is the general opinion of people in Tryon County, that while Lady Johnson is kept as a kind of hostage, Sir John will not carry matters to excess." Lady Johnson must have been a bold woman ; for even when under constraint, and in the most delicate condition that a woman can be, she exulted in the prospects of quickly hearing that Sir John would speedily ravage the country on the Mohawk river to redress his own and her wrongs and suffering. To quote another letter from the highest authority, "It has been hinted that she is a good security to prevent the effects of her husband's virulence."
With a determination even superior to that exhibited by her husband, because she was a woman and he a man, Lady Johnson in midwinter, January, 1777, in disguise, made her escape through hardships which would appall a person in her position in the present day. Through the deepest snows, through the extreme cold, through lines of ingrates and enemies, she made her way into the loyal city of New York. Her story reads like a romance. People cite Flora MacDonald, Grace Darrell, Florence Nightingale. We had a heroine in our midst who displayed a courage as lofty as theirs; but she is forgotten, because she was the wife of a man who had the courage to avenge her wrongs even upon the victors, and chastise her enemies and persecutors as well as his own.
It was intended at first to embody the whole of Mrs. Colonel Christopher Johnson's story of her stepmother's (would this not be her mother-in-law? ajb) wrongs; but this sketch, as it is, will far outrun all previous calculation. For particulars, the reader is referred to the ''Appendices'' to his Address before the Historical Society, on file there; to pages 76-81, "History of New York," by Judge Thomas Jones; and to Note XXXI. thereto, by Edward Floyd de Lancey, Esq. The conclusion of the story of her escape, after she had parted from her sister, is too interesting and too touching to be omitted.
"We must now follow the course of the poor dispirited, agitated mother, who, though relying much on the zeal and fidelity of her devoted servants, yet felt keenly the loss of her active and affectionate sister [Anne Watts, afterwards Countess of Cassilis], whose stronger health and spirits were such an inestimable support. Poor Tony's [one of her husband's faithful Negro slaves, who risked so much from affection for the family] chief ground of consolation arose from the conviction that, being so very near the British lines, they could not fail of reaching them-they were almost within sight, he said! Poor fellow, if strength and courage could have insured the safety of his mistress and her children, he would have carried them or fought for them till he had dropped; but, as resistance to sentries was out of the question, the present business of all was to be prepared to exercise self command, and to reply with composure to the questions that would be asked. Fortunately, Grove House was but a little out of the way of their real destination, and as it was probable inquiries might be made there, it would not have been safe for them to take the sleigh on. They, therefore, stopped at the cattle-shed, a little distance from the mansion, and leaving the sleigh and horse there, with one of their heaviest wrappings, as an indication that they intended to return, pursued their way with as much speed as possible in the direction of the British camp. By means of their pass, and avoidance of the larger bodies posted at different stations, they went on uninteruptedly to the end of that day; and when they reached a resting place for the night, it was a matter of deep thankfulness to find that, as the Continental camp was protected on that side by a wide river just in a state of partial thaw, that rendered the crossing it dangerous for individuals and impracticable for a body of troops, it had been deemed unnecessary to keep that point very strictly guarded. They easily found, as usual, a meal and a bed; but the anxiety of the Lady was cruelly aggravated by the state of her infant, who depending entirely on the nourishment derived from its unfortunate mother, participated in her physical exhaustion and suffering. The elder children, too, were both so fagged that Tony and the nurse were obliged to carry them almost without intermission-so that the poor Lady could hardly be relieved from the burden of the infant. They rose, therefore, the next morning, with trembling frames and spirits, their sole consolation being that they were but two miles from the river; yet how to cross it was a question that could only be solved on its banks. While taking their breakfast, a soldier was seen looking about in the few cottages that were near their refuge, and presently he came in to them. Happily there was no sign of raveling about them, and supposing them to be the established inhabitants, he began explaining his business by asking after some people who had arrived in a sleigh driven by a black. Most fortunately, also, Tony had separated from them, and was taking his meal in another cottage. The soldier did not seem to have been dispatched with any very exact or urgent directions; but his officer having received a message from the camp near Grove House, to inquire after a party who had been expected there, and had not arrived, sent his servant to gain some information previous to the arrival of more particular instructions. Taking the license which young and inexperienced soldiers are apt to exercise, of using their own judgment, the man said, 'If the Britishers were sending women and children over to us, we'd send them back pretty smartly; but if any of the stupid fellows who are taking old George's pay, instead of fighting for their country, have a mind to have their wives with them, why, I say, let 'em have the keep of 'em; and I think my captain don't much approve of being sent woman-hunting, and not even a written order. However, if you hear anything of 'em, you can let me know. I'm going by the lane round the corner out there, for I believe there's a kind of an inn to be found ; and, so saying, he wished them good-bye, and marched off. No sooner was he out of sight than the terrified females summoned Tony, and with steps quickened by fear set off towards the river. It was no great distance, and on reaching it the state of the ice showed clearly why its shores were not very carefully guarded. It must here be remarked that the danger of crossing a river, partially covered with ice, is different from that incurred in a milder climate. As long as the ice lasts, it is much too thick to give way to the heaviest weights; but when repeated thaws have loosened its firm adherence to the shore, it breaks into enormous masses, which, driving and struggling against each other, and the force of the current, partially released from its winter bondage, form at once one of the grandest exhibitions of Nature, and threaten fearful peril to those who venture to attempt a passage. But, like most dangers to which the natives of a country are habituated, they often risk their lives even for an inconsiderable motive, and it is not uncommon to see a sleigh passing the well-marked road over the ice, which in two hours afterwards is floating away like a vast field, unbroken till it crushes against another mass, when both pile upon each other in awful grandeur, till further additions shove them on to final destruction.
"By the side of a mighty stream in this state, stand the fugitives, hopeless of escape, and supposing that the hour has come when they roust yield themselves back to captivity,-a bitter anticipation after all their toils and dangers. Tony's experienced eye, however, described, and pointed out to the Lady that the center of the river was tolerably clear, and that if they could take advantage of one of those moments when the opposing masses were locked against each other, a boat might land them on the opposite side. But could a boat be found ? Yes. They see one, and a man in it, paddling about, apparently seeking a safe nook wherein to bestow his little vessel. Tony chose a point nearest the shore, and springing over fissures and firm pieces of ice, succeeded in making the man hear. He was one of those bold, careless characters, who rather enjoyed the risk, as well as the acquirement of the dollars often lavishly bestowed for a passage. It was now unnecessary for the party to feign poverty, therefore the gold hitherto hidden in their garments was produced, and each carrying a child made their way with infinite labor and peril of slipping to the frail vessel, which was to be guided among masses that might in an instant be in motion to crush or overwhelm them. The poor Lady clasped her infant closer and closer to her bosom, not venturing to speak lest she should withdraw Tony's attention from the guidance of the boat; yet trembling at the suspension of the feeble cries which till then had wrung her heart with anguish. The little face was chilled, and the eyes closed; but though she feared the worst, she yet hoped that it was but the sleep of exhaustion. Half-an-hour, which seemed an interminable period, brought them to the opposite shore. The British tents were within sight, gold was thrown to the boatman, and though the snow was deep and soft, and the Lady staggered with weakness, she struggled on through a mile which yet separated them from the first line of sentries. Indians were the first who spied the party, and though they received with their usual composure the announcement of the Lady's name,* a glance sent off two of their number towards the camp, while the others, wrapping some furs around the Lady and her infant, lifted them with the utmost care and tenderness in their powerful arms, till they were met by the messengers returning with blankets and mattresses, hastily formed into litters. On these all were carefully deposited and carried on swiftly ; Tony weeping with joy and thankfulness over his mistress, and telling her Sir John was coming! The poor mother cast one hopeful glance towards the distance, and another of anxiety upon her infant, who just opened its little eyes, and ere she could see that it was the last convulsion of the sinking frame, she was clasped in the arms of her husband and borne insensible to the quarters of the Commander-in-Chief, where every care and comfort was bestowed on her and her children that their exhausted state required. The first delight of being restored to her husband and seeing her children at rest and in safety was marred by the anguish of missing the little loved one, whom she had borne through so much sorrow and suffering. 'But a few hours sooner,' she thought, 'and my pretty one had been saved.' But the joy and thankfulness of those around her soon stilled her repining. Both her surviving children appeared to be entirely restored to health; but with the little girl the appearance was
* Such was the affection borne by the "Six Nations" to the Johnson family, that, many years after, when the writer's father visited them, in Canada, and when the survivors of this once mighty Confederation, " the Romans of America," learned that he had married a niece of Lady Johnson, they adopted him with the affectionate pseudonym (according to Sir William George Johnson, Bart.): " SAITAT-TSINOU-IAKION," signifying, in substance, "One of us."
fallacious. After the first week her strength and appetite declined, and her parents had the grief of laying her in an untimely grave, from the destructive effects of cold and exposure on a frame previously debilitated by illness during her mother's captivity, when she could not procure either advice or proper medicines." ("Adventures of a Lady in the War of Independence in America," pages 53-7.)
It is not the intention of this work to reflect upon, or refer to, Revolutionary officials further than is absolutely necessary. The Johnson family, the loyalists, their friends and advocates, present an entirely different statement of facts from those which may be styled the popular account, which is that of the victors, realizing the bitter force of the proverb "voe victis." The judgments pronounced by either of these are not more severe in their conclusions and opprobrious in their language than the terms used in the various accounts of the contests between the settlers and their leaders of the New Hampshire Grants, now Vermont, and the authorities of New York and their agents; or of the collisions between the Connecticut settlers and their chief-men in the Wyoming Valley, and the "Pennamites " and their executives seeking to enforce the rights of the Penn Patentees in the Susquehanna Valley, or of the Union party or Loyalists and the Southerners during the "Slaveholder's Rebellion " in 1861-5 and since.
There is nothing so bitter and spiteful, so barbarous and revengeful and unforgiving as the rancor and recourse of political struggles and those arising from religious antagonisms, except family feuds. The conflict of the American Revolution necessarily partook of the nature of all three. Presbyterianism, in one form or another, gave energy to the Revolutionary party, while Episcopalianism was, as a rule, the creed of the Royalists or Loyalists. The former fought to obtain what the others enjoyed, and families and neighborhoods were divided, and blood poured forth like water, with spiteful savageness, by hands whose vigor was derived from the same veins, under the impulse of the same brains, of race, kinmanship and connection, family ties and associations. This was especially exemplified in the two bloodiest and decisive encounters of the war, King's Mountain at the South, and Oriskany at the North. In the Carolinas and in the Mohawk Valley, mortals on both sides sometimes surpassed demons in their enmity, because in both, particularly in the latter, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins and former friends exchanged shots, crossed steel and applied the torch. Men of this day cannot conceive the feelings of that, and to judge the Loyalists or Tories by the stories of the Rebels or Patriots is just as fair as to credit the charges of an ultra fire-eating Southerner against Loyal men and the invading troops of the Union. Furthermore, if the fury of the antagonism in the Carolinas equaled that in New York, there was a vast contrast in the legislation-that followed the peace. The Carolinas excelled in magnanimity and New York in ungenerous severity. There the offenses of the Loyalists were condoned from respect to their gallantry and convictions; in New York the confiscations and penalties were continued in force and the Loyalists, true-men, were compelled to live and die, as a rule, in poverty, pain, exile and proscription.
All this occurred prior to the spring of 1776.
Sir Guy Carleton, undoubtedly the grandest character among the British military chieftains, at this time, acting independently, in America, received Sir John with open arms, and immediately gave him opportunities to raise a regiment, which made itself know and felt along the frontier, throughout the war. With a fatal parsimony of judgment and its application, the Crown frittered away its strength, in some cases in protecting private or vested interests, and never accumulated sufficient troops at decisive points and moments. The arrival of these was too often delayed and even afterwards they were diverted from objects of highest importance to points where success could produce no lasting result. In 1777, when Burgoyne was preparing for his invasion of New York down the Hudson, St. Leger was entrusted with a similar advance down the Mohawk. Sir Henry Clinton, an able strategist and a brave soldier, but an indolent, nervous mortal, and an inefficient commander, recorded a sagacious opinion on this occasion-endorsed by Continental Nathaniel Greene- viz., that to St. Leger was assigned the most important part in the program with the most inadequate means of carrying it out. To play this part successfully, required a much larger force; and yet-to take a fort garrisoned by at least 750 (perhaps 950) not inefficient troops, with sufficient artillery (14 pieces ?), and fight the whole available population of Tryon County in arms beside,-St. Leger had not more than about 410 whites and an aggregation of 600 to 800 Indians from 22 different tribes gathered from the remotest points administered by British officers-even from the extreme western shores of Lake Superior. To batter this fort he had a few small pieces of ordnance, which were about as effective as pop-guns and were simply adequate, as he says in his report, "teasing," without injuring the garrison. St. Leger's second in command was Sir John Johnson.
For the relief of Fort Stanwix, Major (or only Brigadier) General Harkheimer, Sir John's old antagonist, gathered up all the valid men in Tryon county, variously stated from 800 and 900 to 1000, constituting four embodied regiments of militia, besides numerous volunteers of all grades and standing, a few mounted men (Hoffman), and some Oneida Indians. -These latter, traitors to a fraternal bond of centuries, seemed about as useless to their new associates as they were faithless to their old ties. To meet Harkheimer, Brigadier-General St. Leger allowed Sir John Johnson to proceed in person and carry out the able plan conceived by the latter. It is now clearly established beyond a doubt that his ability planned and his determination fought the battle of Oriskany. Had the Indians shown anything like the pluck of white men, not a Provincial would have escaped. In spite of their inefficiency, Sir John's whites alone would have accomplished business had it not been for "a shower of blessing" sent by Providence, and a recall to the assistance of St. Leger. As it was, this was the bloodiest battle of the Revolution at the North. Indecisive on the field of battle, it was morally decisive in results. Harkheimer lost his life, likewise several hundred of his followers, and Tryon County suffered such a terrific calamity, that, to use the inference of its historian, if it smiled again during the war it smiled through tears. The iron will of Schuyler, another old, almost lifelong personal and political antagonist of Sir John, sent Arnold, the best soldier of the Revolution, to save Fort Stanwix, the key to the Mohawk valley. The rapid advance of this brilliant leader, and the dastardly conduct and defection of the Indians, preserved the beleaguered work; and St. Leger and St. John were forced to retire. On this salvation of Fort Stanwix and NOT on, properly speaking, Hoosic or Walloomscoik, miscalled Bennington, nor on Saratoga, hinged the fate of the Burgoyne invasion and the eventful certainty of independence. No part of the failure is chargeable to Sir John.
As before mentioned, the English war administration seemed utterly inadequate to the occasion. They had not been able to grapple with its exigencies while the colonies were "doing for themselves," as Mazzini expressed it. When France and Spain entered the list, and Burgoyne's army had been eliminated from the war problem, they seem to have lost their heads; and, in 1778, abandoned all the fruits of the misdirected efforts of their main army. The nervous Clinton succeeded to the indolent Howe in the field, and the uncertain Haldimand to the determined Carleton in Canada. Haldimand, a Swiss by birth and a veteran by service, was entirely deficient in the priceless practical abilities in which his predecessor excelled. Those who knew him considered him an excellent professional soldier, but for administration and organization his gifts were small. He was so afraid that the French and Provincials would invade and dismember the remaining British possessions in North America, that he not only crippled Clinton in a measure, by constant demands for troops, but he was afraid to entrust such brilliant partisans as Sir John Johnson with forces sufficient to accomplish anything of importance. He suffered raids when he should have launched invasions, and he kept almost every available company and battalion for the defence of a territory, which, except in its ports, was amply protected by nature and distance. "Washington played on his timidity just as he afterward fingered the nervousness of Clinton. Thus the rest of 1777, the whole of 1778, and the greater part of 1779 was passed by Sir John in comparatively compulsory inactivity. He was undoubtedly busy. But like thousands of human efforts which cost such an expenditure of thought and preparation, but are fruitless in marked results, their records are " writ in water."
In 1779 occurred the famous invasion of the territory of the Six Nations by Sullivan. In one sense it was triumphant. It did the devil's work thoroughly. It converted a series of blooming gardens, teeming orchards and productive fields into wastes and ashes. It was a disgrace to developing civilization, and, except to those writers who ; -worship nothing but temporary success, it called forth some of the most scathing condemnations ever penned by historians. When white men scalp and flay Indians, and convert the skins of the latter's thighs into boot-tops, the question suggests itself, which were the savages, the Continental troops or the Indians. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that, for every Indian slain and Indian hut consumed in this campaign, a thousand white men, women and children paid the penalty; and it is almost unexceptionally admitted that the inextinguishable hatred of the redskins to the United States dates from this raid of Sullivan, worthy of the Scottish chief who smoked his enemies to death in a cavern, or of a Pellissier, a St. Arnaud or a Pretorius. Simms, in his " History of Schoharie County," N. Y., commenting on Sir John's devastations in 1880, remarks: "Thus was revenged the destruction of the Indian possessions in the Chemung and Genesee Valleys the year before by General Sullivan; which, had they a historian, would be found a no less gloomy picture."
Sullivan's ultimate military objective must have been Fort Niagara, the basis, for about a century, of inroads, French and British, upon New York. Why he did not make the attempt requires a consideration would occupy more space than can be assigned in this memoir. There were adversaries in his front who did not fear popgun artillery like the Indians, and were not to be dismayed by an ''elegant'' cannonade as at Newtown. Haldimand had sent Sir John Johnson to organize a body of 500 (S: Y. Col. Doc., viii, 779) white troops, besides the Indians, and these were rapidly concentrating (Stone's "Brandt," II., 10) upon Sullivan, when the latter countermarched. American historians give their reasons for this retreat; British writers explain it very differently. In any event this expedition was the last military command enjoyed by Sullivan. The Scripture here affords an expression which may not be inapplicable, "He departed without being desired."
Sir John's further aggressive movements were prevented by the early setting in of winter, which rendered the navigation of Lake Ontario too dangerous for the certain dispatch of the necessary troops and adequate supplies.
The diligent search for information in regard to the details of the movements upon this frontier, has been hitherto baffled. According to a reliable contemporary record, Sir John Johnson, Col. Butler and Capt. Brandt captured Fort Stanwix on the 3d of November, 1779. This is the only aggressive operation of the year attributed to him.
In 1780 Sir John was given head, or let loose, and he made the most of his time. In this year he made two incursions into the Mohawk Valley, the first in May and the second in October.
There is a very curious circumstance connected with the first of these raids. The burial of his valuable plate and papers, and the guarding of the secret of this deposit by a faithful slave, although sold into the hands of his master's enemies; the recovery of the silver through this faithful Negro, and the transport of the treasures, in the knapsacks of forty soldiers, through the wilderness to Canada; has been related in so many books that there is no need of a repetition of the details. One fact, however, is not generally known. Through dampness the papers had been wholly or partially destroyed; and this may account for a great many gaps and involved questions in narratives connected with the John son family. The "treasure-trove" eventually was of no service to him. God maketh the wrath of man to praise Him; and although Sir John was the rod of His anger, the staff of His indignation and the weapon of His vengeance for the injustice and barbarisms shown by the Americans to the Six Nations, but especially during the preceding year, the instrument was not allowed to profit, personally, by the service. * The silver and other articles, retrieved at such a cost of peril, of life, of desolation and of suffering, was not destined to benefit anyone. What, amid fire and sword and death and devastation, had been wrenched from the enemy was placed on shipboard for conveyance to England, and, by the "irony of fate," the vessel foundered in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its precious freight, like that described in the "Nibelungen Lied," sank into the treasury of so much of earth's richest spoils and possessions, the abyss of the sea.
* According to another tradition-as little reliable, perhaps, as such legends usually are-the vessel did not founder, but was captured by a New England privateer out of Salem, Mass. Another legend attributes Sir John's ill luck and loss to a French letter-of-marque.
There is a curious but complete moral in the career of Sir John Johnson. Those who from purely selfish motives persecuted him for his adherence to the crown-loyal from principle and simply striving to save his own; perished or suffered some other just punishment. Nevertheless, Sir John, the instrument of their chastisement, did not profit by his success to the extent of regaining his own, through his triumphant retaliation upon his enemies. The course and consequence of the whole original wrongdoing and reprisals realized the prophecy of Isaiah, to the effect that when the Lord had performed his whole -work upon Judah, through the Assyrian, "the rod of his anger and the staff of his indignation," he declared that in turn he would punish the instrument, because he had exceeded his commission and made it, as it were, a personal matter. Judah, the Whigs, were to be scourged to the bone for their sins, but the flail, the Loyalists, were not to profit personally by it. This is just about the view that the honest Sabine takes of the whole matter and agrees with the expression of Zechariah, that God was "sore displeased" with those whom he employed to execute his punishment, because he "was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction." So it is ever, alas, in this world. As Ecclesiasticus impresses upon its readers, there is an existing and unerring law of compensation. The pendulum of what "will be" sweeps far to the right, but the law of " must be " gravitates and the momentum brings it back as far to the left; and thus it swings, to and fro, as long as the impetus of cause and result continues to exert their forces; like a thousand agencies, great and small, scourging the world: the west like Attila, the east like Tamerlane; a continent, Europe, like Napoleon, or a country apart, Italy, like Hannibal; a province, as the Lowlands of Scotland, like Montrose, or a district, the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys, like Johnson. When the mission is fulfilled and the victims have suffered, the agent perishes or the instrument is laid aside; the former often dying peaceably, tranquilly, trustingly; because, however man may judge the act, it is God, alone, who can judge the motive, which is often fidelity to principle, pure and simple, and an execution in rigid obedience to a law that humanity cannot comprehend. Men in their wrath sow the wind to reap the whirlwind of the passions they arouse. The Whigs of the Mohawk Valley worked their will upon the Tories in 1770, and, if the day of evil had not been mercifully shortened for them, the rich district they coveted would have been left to them a desert.
It is said that Sir John's second invasion of this year was coordinate with the plan of Sir Henry Clinton, of which the basis was the surrender of West Point by Arnold. If so, the former bore to the latter the same relation that the advance of St. Leger did in respect to Burgoyne. St. Leger's failure burst the combined movement of 1777; and the capture of the unfortunate Andre exploded the conception of 1780. Thus Sir John's movement, which was to have been one of a grand military series, unhappily for him, his reputation became an apparent "mission of vengeance," executed, however, with a thoroughness which was felt far beyond the district upon which the visitation came--came in such a terrible guise, that a hundred years have scarcely weakened the bitterness of its memories. Whatever else may be debited to him, it can be said of Johnson, as of certain, but few, other honest, earnest, Loyal men, who have offended the masses, that he did his work effectively.
Even in 1781 Sir John was still a menace to the frontier. Affairs in New York and Vermont, along Lake Champlain, were in a very unsatisfactory condition. All the assistance that could be hoped for from France was directed to another and a distant quarter. The very districts of New York which had rallied to oppose Burgoyne and his lieutenants, were disaffected. ''The poison was actively at work even in Albany." At this time an expedition was meditated against Pittsburgh, to be led by Sir John Johnson and Colonel Connelly, in connection with combinations among the hostile Indians more extensive than any previously set on foot. Why these all failed is among the unsolved enigmas of the Revolution. If they depended on Gen. Haldimand, the explanation is clear. He had not sufficient activity, either of mind or body, to hold the wires, much less to pull them with the requisite energy.
Although scarcely one hundred years have passed away since the events considered in this sketch, there are almost as conflicting accounts of the personal appearance of Sir John as there are' antagonistic judgments in respect to his character. By some he has been represented as over six feet in height; by others as not taller than the ordinary run of men in his district. Doubtless in mature years he was a stout or stalwart figure, and this, always at least to some extent, detracts from height, and deceives unless everything is in exact proportion. The only likeness in existence, said to be of him, which is in accordance with descriptions, is a red stipple engraving of F. Bartolozzi, "R. A., that appeared in some contemporary publication, representing him in uniform. It is not inconsistent with the pictures of him at a more advanced age, ordinarily produced in well-known recent works. These, however, from the costume and expression, seem to have been taken at a much later date.*
By his inveterate hereditary enemies and historians, go styled, who have adopted traditionary bias as fact, Sir John has been "described as cold, haughty, cruel and implacable, of questionable'' courage, and with a feeble sense of personal honor. Mr. William O. Bryant, in his admirable biographical sketch, disposes of this repulsive picture with a single honest sentence: "The detested title of Tory, in fact, was a synonym for all these unnamable qualities."
According to a recently found sketch of Charleston, South Carolina, published in 1854, it would appear that every American opposed to French Jacobins was stigmatized as an aristocrat; and when Washington approved of Jay's treaty of 1795, six prominent advocates of his policy were hung in effigy and polluted with every mark of indignity; then burned. Even the likeness of Washington, at full length, on a sign, is reported to have been much abused by the rabble. These patriots experienced the same treatment accorded to the character of Sir John. The procession at Poughkeepsie, in this State, to ratify the adoption of the Federal Constitution, came near ending
* Mr. de Lancey, at page 642 (Note lv,), Vol. 3, appended to Jones' "History of New York," &c., furnishes a description of Sir John, which tallies exactly with the colored engraving by Bartolozzi, in the writer's possession, which has been reproduced for this work.
"He was a handsome, well-made man, a little short, with blue eyes, light hair, a fresh complexion, and a firm but pleasant expression. He was quick and decided in disposition and manner, and possessed of great endurance."
in bloodshed. Any one opposed to slavery, when it existed, risked his life, south of "Mason and Dixon's line," if he uttered his sentiments in public. No virtues would have saved him from, violence. On the other hand, there were classes and communities at the North who would not concede "a redeeming quality to a slaveholder. Passion intensifies public opinion. The masses never reflect.
Here let a distinction be drawn which very few, even thinking persons, duly appreciate. The rabble are not the people. Knox, in his "Races of Men," draws this distinction most clearly. And yet in no country to such an extent as in the United States is this mistake so often made. Old Rome was styled by its own best thinkers and analysts"the cesspool of the world:" and if any modern State deserves this scathing imputation, it is this very State of New York. Count Tallyrand-Perigord said that as long a there is sufficient virtue in the thinking classes to assimilate what is good, and reject what is vicious in immigration, there is true progress and real prosperity. When the poison becomes superior to the resistive and assimilative power, the descent begins. It is to pander to the rabble, not the people, that men like Sir John Johnson are misrepresented. Such a course is politic for demagogues. To them the utterance of the truth is suicidal, because they only could exist through perversions worthy of a Machiavelli. They thrive through political Jesuitism. The Roman populace were maintained and restrained by "panem et circences." The bulk of modern voters feed like them-to use the Scripture expression-on the wind of delusion; and it is this method of portraiture which enabled Local Committees to strike down Sir John Johnson, confiscate his property and drive him forth, and "Rings" to carry out their purposes in our very midst today.
People of the present period can scarcely conceive the virulence of vituperation which characterized the political literature of a century since. Hough, in his Northern Invasion," has a note on this subject which applies to every similar case. The gist of it is this: The opinions of local populations in regard to prominent men were entirely biased, if not founded upon their popularity or the reverse. If modern times were to judge of the character of Hannibal by the pictures handed down by the gravest of Roman historians, he would have to be regarded as a man destitute of almost every redeeming trait except courage and ability or astuteness; whereas, when the truth is sifted out, it is positively certain that the very vices attributed to the great Carthaginian should be transferred to his Latin adversaries.
Sir John was not cold. He was one of the most affectionate of men. Mr. Braying tells us that he was not "haughty," but, on the contrary, displayed qualities which are totally inconsistent with this defect. "His manners were peculiarly mild, gentle and winkling. He was remarkably fond of the society of children, who, with their marvelous insight into character, bestowed upon him the full measure of their unquestioning love and faith. He was also greatly attached to all domestic animals, and notably very humane and tender in his treatment of them." Another writer, commenting upon these traits, remarks : "His peculiar characteristic of tenderness to children and animals, makes me think that the stories of his inhumanity during the War of the Revolution cannot be true."
He was NOT "cruel." A number of anecdotes are related to the contrary by those not peculiarly favorable to him. These in themselves, recorded as they are by partisans of a different order of things to those represented by the Johnsons, are sufficient to raise strong doubts of the truth of the charges brought against him, even if they do not positively disprove such a sweeping judgment.
The honest Bryant penned a paragraph which is pertinent in this connection.
"Sir John, certainly, inherited many of the virtues which shed luster upon his father's name. His demotion to the interests of his government; Ms energetic and enlightened administration of important trusts ; his earnest championship of the barbarous race which looked up to him as a father and a friend; his cheerful sacrifice of a princely fortune and estate on what he conceived to be the altar of patriotism, cannot be controverted by the most virulent of his detractors. The atrocities which were perpetrated by the invading forces under his command are precisely those which, in our annals, have attached a stigma to the names of Montcalm and Burgoyne. To restrain an ill-disciplined rabble of exiled Tones and ruthless savages was beyond the power of men whose humanity has never in other instances been questioned."
The majority of writers absolved Montcalm; and Burgoyne disclaimed, and almost conclusively proved, that he was not responsible for the charges brought against him by the grandiloquent Gates and others, who did not hesitate to draw upon their imagination to make a point. Sir John, with his own lips, declared, in regard to the cruelties suffered by the "Whigs during his first inroad, that "their Tory neighbors, and not himself, were blamable for those acts." It is said that Sir John much regretted the death of those who were esteemed by his father, and censured the murderer. But how was he to punish! Can the United States at this day, with all its power, punish the individual perpetrators of cruelties along the Western frontier and among the Indians? It is justly remarked that if the "Six Nations" had an historian, the Chemung and Genesee valleys, desolated by Sullivan, would present no less glaring a picture than of those of the Schoharie and Mohawk, which experienced the visitations of Sir John. He, at all events, ordered churches and other buildings, certainly the houses of nominal friends, to be spared. Sullivan's vengeance was indiscriminate, and left nothing standing in the shape of a building which his fires could reach. Sir John more than once interposed his disciplined troops between the savages and their intended victims. He redeemed captives with his own money; and while without contradiction he punished a guilty district with military execution, it was not directed by his orders or countenance against individuals. Hough, for himself, and quoting others, admits that "no violence was offered to women and children." There is nothing on record or hinted to show that he refused mercy to prisoners; no instance of what was termed "Tarleton's quarter " is cited; nothing like the wholesale slaughter of Tories by Whigs at the South whenever the latter got the chance or upperhand: no summary hanging of prisoners as at King's Mountain; and it is very questionable if cold-blooded peculation in the American administrative corps did not kill off incalculably more in the course of a single campaign, than fell at the hands of all, white and red, directed by Johnson, during the war.
As, to the epithet "implacable," it amounts to nothing. To the masses, anyone who punishes a majority, even tempering justice with mercy, provided he moves in a sphere above the plane of those who are the subjects of the discipline, is always considered not only unjust but cruel. The patriots or rebels of Tryon county had worked their will on the liberties of the family and the properties of Sir John Johnson ; and he certainly gave them a good deep draught from the goblet they had originally forced upon his lips. He did not live up to the Christian code which all men preach and no man practices, and assuredly did not turn the other cheek to the smiter, or offer his cloak to him who had already stolen his coat. Will any unprejudiced person deny that there was great justification for his conduct. The masses a century since and previous could understand nothing that was not brought home to them in letters of fire and of suffering. Their compassion and their fury were both the blaze of straw; and their cruelty was as enduring as the heat of red hot steel, especially when their passions were thoroughly excited in civil and religious conflicts.
There is only one more charge against Sir John to dispose of, viz., that "his courage was questionable." The accusation in regard to his having a '' feeble sense of personal honor" rests upon the stereotyped fallacy in regard to the violation of his parole. This has already been treated of and declared, by experts, to be unsustained by justice. In fact, Mr. Edward Floyd de Lancey has proved that he did not do so. In this connection it is necessary to cite a few more pertinent words from the impartial William O. Bryant. This author says: "Sir John's sympathies were well known, and he was constrained to sign a pledge that he would remain neutral during the struggle then impending. There is no warrant for supposing that Sir John, when he submitted to tills degradation, secretly determined to violate his promise on the convenient plea of duress, or upon grounds more rational and quieting to his conscience. The jealous espionage to which he was afterwards exposed-the plot to seize upon his person and restrain his liberty-doubtless furnished the coveted pretext for breaking faith with the 'rebels.' "
Mrs. Martha J. Lamb, whose "History of New York" is one of the most remarkable productions of the age, writing with the bias of an American, but nevertheless desirous of doing justice to both sides, makes the following remarks in regard to Sir John Johnson.* "He was known to be a powerful leader of men; lie possessed the magnetism which inspired devotion." "Enough has been said about his own
* In regard to the personal appearance of Sir John, there are as wide discrepancies as in the opinions affecting his character. This, however, should not be surprising to any close student of history. Greater divergencies present themselves in different accounts of the Earl of Bothwell; some picturing him as strikingly ugly and boorish, others as eminently handsome and courtly; also of the Russian hero Suwarrow, who appears in one portrait as tall and commanding, in another as diminutive and repulsive, in one an eccentric genius, but still a genius; in another a buffoon devoid of even courage and ability. Where prejudice mixes the colors and passion holds the brush nothing like truth can be hoped for. "Homo solus out deus aut daemon," and party or faction elevate a friend or an ally to the former, or sink an enemy or opponent to the latter. This is particularly the case in civil wars. In them there is no juste milieu of feeling or opinion. Mr. Wm. C. Bryant, Sir John's most generous American biographer, presents him as six feet two, and large in proportion. This would almost make him gigantic. His kinsman, Edward F. de Lancey, Esq., historian, draws an entirely different portrait. It would be hard to reconcile such contrasts, were it not that some men, like the late General, our great George H. Thomas, are so erect and imposing that they impress beholders with the idea that their physical proportions are as mighty as their intellect and influence. A similar judgment-absit invidia-is opposite, as to the moral characteristics of Sir John.
It has been remarked that failure is the greatest crime that mortality recognizes, and that some of the most cruel tyrants would be accepted as exemplars if they had not failed. Such is the opinion of Froude, in regard to the Duke of Alva. He justly remarks: " 'Religious"-yes, more especially political history-" is partial in its verdicts. The exterminators of the Canaanites are enshrined among the saints, and had the Catholics come oft' victorious, the Duke of Alva would have been a second Joshua." The opinions of the people of this colony or State could scarcely be otherwise than unjust and injurious in regard to a man who, to a most important portion of it, resembled a tornado or a phenomenal tropical storm. Such cataclysms are not instantaneous developments, but the result of a series of causes. Their immediate effects are never beneficial. Their ultimate effects are often eminently so. The idea that Sir William Johnson committed suicide
fearful losses and the unjustifiable sufferings to which his wife was subjected. She had escaped, thanks to God and herself (1776)." " Thus no restraint could now be imposed to avoid the dilemma of casting his lot in with rebellion or against
the crown is utterly preposterous-one of those insane self-delusions that the American people indulged in, blinded with the idea of their own self-consequence. That a man who owed everything to the King, who had preeminently distinguished and rewarded him, should go over to the enemies of that monarch, would have stamped him at once as unworthy of the very benefits he had received. Centuries since, the the people were not of the consequence in the eyes of the ruling classes that they have since become. In this remark there is no attempt to presume that the people do not deserve the consideration they are now enabled to exact. But the fact is indisputable that they did not then enjoy it. Washington and Jefferson, and all the great lights of the Revolution, did not regard the masses as the politicians of this day are compelled to do. If they could rise from their graves they would marvel at the almost incredible progress made by the mass of humanity, in wringing, even from despots, a consideration for their opinions.
It is just as ridiculous to imagine that Sir John Johnson would be false to his allegiance as to imagine that Sir William killed himself to avoid changing his uniform. None of the most ardent patriots, so styled, desired in 1775 that complete severance of ties between the mother country and the colonies which the success of the latter gradually more and more concreted into a fixed determination. The wisest could not have foreseen the armed intervention of France and Spain, and yet, without this, independence could not have been secured. The event was still doubtful in 1781, and it was only a concurrence of circumstances beyond mortal control that decided the struggle. For Sir John Johnson to have turned his back on all those characteristics which, by generous minds, are regarded as the finest qualities in man-gratitude, loyalty, consistency-might have made him popular with those who would have profited by his treason, but would have damned him in greater degree with those whose opinions he valued. It is just about as sensible to expect, an impartial verdict upon Montrose and Claverhouse from the Whigs and Covenanters of Scotland as from the people of central New York upon Sir John Johnson. No man who is connected by the ties of blood or interest, or who has made up his mind, has a right to sit upon a jury ; and no one imbued with the prejudices of the Mohawk Valley, or its historians, has a moral right
upon Sir John's movements, since his family were safe under British protection, and lie plunged into the strife with a bitterness scarcely to be equalled. And he was as
to sit in judgment upon the Johnsons. Again, Sir John Johnson did not desire to have anything to do with the manipulation of the Indians. After his father's death he was offered the succession of Sir William, as Indian Superintendent under the Crown, and he refused it, and, at his suggestion, it was given to his cousin Guy. These two have been often confounded: and, on one occasion, when a public defense of Sir John was being made, a descendant of sufferers at the hands of the Indians rose to objurgate Sir John, and had his whole ground cut from under him by the simple demonstration that the party inculpated by him was Colonel Guy, and not Sir John. Let no one ' think that this is an excuse of the latter at the expense of Guy; but there is a proverb as old as language: "Let each man claim his own credit, or bear his own blame."
The Whigs, or Patriots, or Rebels, of 1774-6, made out a long list of grievances against the Crown, on which they founded the Revolution. Among these, none was so prominent as the hated Stamp Act.
It has been justly said that, in carping or commending, the eyes of most critics are like the turbot's, both on one side. This has never been shown more clearly than the American consideration of the Stamp Act. William Edward Hartpole Lecky, in his "History of England in the Eighteenth Century," 1882, Vol. III., Chap. 12, p. 340, has summed up the whole matter conclusively against the Colonies, and his verdict is irrefutable :
"I have no wish to deny that the Stamp Act was a grievance to the Americans; but it \a due to the truth of history that the gross exaggerations which have been repeated on the subject should be dispelled and that the nature of the alleged tyranny of England should be clearly defined. It cannot be too distinctly stated, that there is not a fragment of evidence, that any English statesman, or any class of the English people, desired to raise anything by direct taxation from the colonies for purposes that were purely English, They asked them to contribute nothing to the support of the navy which protected their coasts, nothing to the interest of the English debt. At the close of a war which had left England overwhelmed with additional burdens, in which the whole resources of the British Empire had been strained for the extension and security of the British territory in America, by which the American colonists had gained incomparably more than any other of the subjects of the crown, the colonies were asked to bear their share in the burden of the Empire by contributing a third part-they would no doubt ultimately have been asked to contribute the whole-of what was required for the maintenance of an army of 10,000 men, intended primarily for their own defence. £100,000 was the highest estimate of what the Stamp Act would
brave and energetic as he was vindictive, Jones says, that he did more mischief to the rebel settlements upon the
annually produce, and it was rather less than a third part of the expenses of the new army. This was what England asked from the most prosperous portion of her Empire. Every farthing which it was intended to raise in America, it was intended also to spend there.''
England (Great Britain) was right and just and the Thirteen Colonies were wrong and ungenerous ; and yet the best men in the Colonies suffered for their obedience to the orders of legally constituted authority. They were made to suffer officially and personally, in every line and every degree, in succeeding generations.
The Americans expend volumes of sympathy upon the victims of the British prison-ships. Are they aware that their own side had prison-ships, and on one occasion a number of captives perished in consequence, by a single accident ? Are they aware that there was a copper mine in Connecticut, to which respectable people were consigned as laborers, with a want of feeling akin to that with which the Czar Nicholas and his predecessors sent off convoys of noble champions of what they deemed the right, to Siberia. Lynch law was as active among the Patriots as on the so-styled borders of civilization, and the term does not emanate from the semi-barbarous West, but from the antirevolutionary times and center of Vermont. As an honest descendant of one of the sufferers at Wyoming justly observed, upon the very spot and under the shadow of the commemorative monument : "The story has two sides, and I am not going to allow myself to be carried away by the prejudices of tradition." To exonerate Sir John Johnson is to condemn his opponents, and to him and them is applicable the sentence of the Highest Authority: "It must needs be that offenses come ; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." Sir John did not inaugurate the conflict. He was defendant, and not plaintiff, either in the courts of law or the ordeal of battle.
How many of those who stirred up the difficulty perished at Oriskany, where first the wager of battle occurred, and how many were impoverished in the course of the conflict ? Again, the Scripture observes : " Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee." Good, undoubtedly, was evolved out of the evil that was done, but how many of those who were its agents lived to see the day? " The mills of the gods grind slowly ;" and time with God is nothing. The grist can only be valued when His time has come. Piedmont or Sardinia, Italy, expelled the Waldenses, and was compelled to permit them to return. Spain drove out the Moors, and accepted comparative ruin as the
frontiers of New York than all the partisans in the British service put together."
The charge of ''questionable courage'' is utterly ridiculous.
It originated with his personal enemies, and, if such evidence were admissible, it is disproved by facts. There is scarcely any amount of eulogy which has not
price of bigoted oppression. France thrust out the Huguenots, and thereby enriched and fortified hereditary enemies. The Stuarts persecuted the Puritans, and. lo, the American Revolution! France assisted a rebellion, and the retribution came within fifteen years. The Americans drove out the Loyalists.* and they constituted the bone and sinew, the industry and wealth of the Dominion of Canada.
The Seven United States, or Provinces of Holland, two hundred to three hundred years ago, were the "Asylum of Thought," the "Refuge" of persecuted mankind, and the freest country in the world. They fell before their time, from three causes, which are destined to wreck this country : centralization, the mistaking of national wealth for national greatness, and the mistaking of the virulence of political partisanship for the virtue of patriotism. These three disintegrated the whole structure of the body politic, and, when the storm arose and beat upon it, the condition of the fabric revealed itself in ruins.
The gods of Homer nod, and an aeon has passed away. God shuts his eyes to the evil, and centuries pass away before the expiation comes ; but it does come.
* "A number of Loyal Refugees had petitioned, and been permitted by Sir Henry Clinton to embody under proper officers, and to retaliate and make reprisals upon the Americans declared to be in actual rebellion against their sovereign. A party of them, who had formerly belonged to The Massachusetts, made an attempt upon Falmouth in Barnstable county, but were repulsed by the militia. They renewed it, but not succeeding, went off to Nanrucket, and landed 200 men, entered the town, broke open warehouses, and carried off large quantities of oil, whalebone, molasses, sugar, coffee, and everything that fell in their way. They also carried off two brigs, loaded for the West Indies, two or three schooners, and a large number of boats. In a proclamation they left behind they took notice of their having been imprisoned, compelled to abandon their dwellings, friends awl connections, had their estates sequestered, and been themselves formally banished, never to return, on pain of death. Thus circumstanced, they conceived themselves warranted, by the laws of God and man, to wage war against their persecutors, and to use every means in their power to obtain compensation for their sufferings." 6th April, 1778. Gordon, III., 236-7.
been lavished upon Arnold's expedition from the Kennebee, across the great divide between Maine and Canada, down to the siege of Quebec, and the same praise has been extended to Clarke for his famous march across the drowned lands of Indiana. Arnold deserves all that can be said for him, and so does Clarke, and everyone who has displayed equal energy and intrepidity. It is only surprising that similar justice has not been extended to Sir John. It is universally conceded that, when he made his escape from his persecutors, in 1776, and plunged into the howling wilderness to preserve his liberty and honor, he encountered all the suffering that it seemed possible for a man to endure. Even Napoleon admitted that Courage is secondary to Fortitude. As one, well acquainted with the Adirondack wilderness, remarked, " such a traverse would be an astonishing feat, even under favorable circumstances and season, at this day." Sir John was nineteen days in making the transit, and this too, at a time when snow and drifts still blocked the Indian paths, the only recognized thoroughfares. No man deficient in spirit, and fortitude would ever have made such an attempt. Both of the invasions under his personal leading were characterized by similar daring. In some cases the want of intrepidity was assuredly on the part of those who hurled the epithet at him. American writers admit it by inference, if not in so many words.
One of the traditions of Tryon county, which must have been well-known to be remembered after the lapse of a century, seems to be to the effect that in the last battle known as the fight on Klock's Field, or near Fox's Mills, both sides ran away from each other. In degree this was the case at Bull Run 1st. Were it true of both sides, it would not be an extraordinary occurrence. Panics, more or less in proportion, have occurred in the best of armies. There was a partial one after Wagram, after Guastalla, after Solferino, and at our first Bull Run. But these are only a few among scores of instances that might be cited. What is still more curious, while a single personal enemy of Sir John charged him with quitting the field, his antagonist, Gen. van Rensselaer, was generally abused for not capturing Sir John and his troops, although a court-martial decided that, while the General did all he could, his troops were very "bashful," as the Japanese term it, about getting under close fire, and they had to be withdrawn from it to keep the majority from going to the rear. The fact is that the American State Levies, quasi-regulars, under the gallant Col. Brown, had experienced such a terrible defeat in the morning, that it took away from the militia all their appetite for another fight with the same adversaries in the evening. Sir John's conduct would have been excusable if he had quitted the field because he had been wounded, and a wound at this time, in the thigh, in the midst of an enemy's country, was a casualty which might have placed a man "fighting," so to speak, "with a halter around his neck," at the mercy of an administration which was not slow, with or without law, at inflicting cruelties, and even "hanging in haste and trying at leisure." But Sir John did not quit the field prematurely. He was not there to fight to oblige his adversaries; his tactics were to avoid any battle which was not absolutely necessary to secure his retreat. He repulsed his pursuers and he absolutely returned to Canada, carrying with him as prisoners an American detachment which sought to intercept and impede his movements.
To qualify Sir John's evasion from Klock's Field as evincing want of courage, is to stigmatize as such the repeated retreats of "Washington, "the Father of his Country," before superior enemies, or the withdrawals after Antietam and Gettysburg, or from Petersburg, of Lee, the idol of the South. A successful retreat or escape in desperate circumstances is credited to a general as equivalent to a victory. To bring such a charge against Sir John on this occasion is as just as to censure Frederic the Great for disappearing from the field of Liegnitz when he had made London "get out of that," as did van Rensselaer's militia, and then did not wait to be fallen upon with crushing force by Daun and Lascy, represented in this case by Colonels Duboise and Harper, who had more men than he could oppose to them. Sir John's capture of Vrooman's detachment, sent to intercept him, will complete the parallel as a set off to Frederic's tricking Soltiboff, advancing for a similar purpose to complete the toils, in 1760.
"I know," said St. Paul (Phillipians iv., 12), "both how to be abased, and I know how to abound." This remark applies eminently to war. Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Frederic and Napoleon knew when to retreat and when to fight-the latter never at the volition of an enemy. Some generals are known to fame by little more than successful retreats : those of Baner from Torgau, in 1637 ; Vaudomont before Villeroi, in 1695 ; Frederic before Traun, in 1744; Moreau through the Black Forest, in 1796, and a hundred others are cited as brilliant efforts of generalship, better than victories, when a thousand successful battles are forgotten as unworthy of exemplary citation.
This little work, it is true, is treating of operations which are mere pigmies in comparison to the gigantic parallels cited, in connection; but the trite remark must be remembered, that '' the destinies of the world were being decided in America (during the Revolution) by collisions between mere detachments or squads of men."
While van Rensselaer, the scion of a race which displayed uncommon courage in the Colonial service, was being tried and it was sought to make him a scapegoat for the shortcomings of his superiors and inferiors, Sir John was receiving the compliments, in public orders, of his own superior, Gen. Haldimand, to whom the German officers in America have given in their published correspondence and narratives, the highest praise as a professional soldier, and therefore, professionally, a judge of military merit. What is more, as a farther demonstration of the injustice of ordinary history, the severe Governor Clinton was either with van Rensselaer or near at hand, and consequently as much to blame as the latter for the escape of Sir John. Stone, who wrote at a time when as yet there were plenty of living contemporaries, distinctly says that Gov. Clinton was with Gen. van Rensselaer just before the battle, and remained at Fort Plain while the battle was taking place a few miles distant. Finally, the testimony taken before the court-martial indicates that the Americans were vastly superior in numbers to Sir John's Whites and Indians (if not treble or even quadruple his force), and it was the want, as usual, of true fighting pluck in the Indians, and their abandonment of their white associates, which made the result at all indecisive for the Loyalists. Had the redskins stood their ground some of the militia ought not to have stopped short of Schenectady. All accounts agree that the invaders had been overworked and over-weighted, footsore and fatigued, having performed extraordinary labors and marches; whereas, except as to ordinary expeditiousness, the Americans, quasi-regulars and militia, were fresh and in light marching order, for they were just from home. So much stress has been laid on this fight, because it has been always unfairly told, except before the court-martial which exonerated van Rensselaer Ordinary human judgment makes the philosopher weep and laugh: weep in sorrow at the fallacy of history, and laugh in bitterness at the follies and prejudices of the uneducated and unreflecting.
Some of the greatest commanders who have ever lived have not escaped the accusation of want of spirit at one time or another. Even Napoleon has been blamed for not suffering himself to be killed at Waterloo, thus ending his career in a blaze of glory. Malice vented itself in such a charge against the gallant leader who saved the "middle zone" to the Union, and converted the despondency of retreat and defeat into victory. It is a remarkable fact that the majority of people always select two vituperative charges the most repugnant to a man of honor, to hurl at the objects of their dislike, perhaps because they are those to which they themselves are most open-falsehood and poltroonery; forgetting that it is not the business of a commander to throw away a life which does not belong to himself individually but to the general welfare of his troops. Mere "physical courage," as has been well said by a veteran soldier, "is largely a question of nerves." Moral courage is THE God-like quality, the lever which in all ages has moved this world. Moreover it is the cornerstone of progress; and without it brute insensibility to danger would have left the nineteenth century in the same condition as the "Stone Age." A man, bred as Sir John had been, who had the courage to give up everything for principle, and with less than a modern battalion of whites plunge again and again into the territory of his enemies, bristling with forts and stockaded posts, who could put in the field forty-five regiments (?), of which seventeen were in Albany and five in Tryon counties-the actual scenes of conflict-besides distinct corps of State levies raised for the protection of the frontiers-in which every other man was his deadly foe, and the majority capital marksmen, that could shoot off a squirrel's head at a hundred yards-such a man must have had a very large amount of the hero in his composition. Americans would have been only too willing to crown him with this halo, if he had fought on their side instead of fighting so desperately against them.
In conclusion, readers, your attention is invited for a short space to a few additional considerations. Sir William Johnson was the son of his own deeds and the creature of the bounty of his sovereign. He owed nothing to the people. They had not added either to his influence, affluence, position or power. If this was true of the father as a beneficiary of the Crown, how much more so of the son. The people undertook to deprive the latter of that which they had neither bestowed nor augmented. They injured him in almost every way that a man could be injured; and they made that which was the most commendable in him-his loyalty to a gracious benefactor, his crime, and punished him for that which they should have honored. They struck; and he had both the spirit, the power, and the opportunity to strike back. His retaliation may not have been consistent with the literal admonition of the Gospel, but there was nothing in it inconsistent with the ordinary temper of humanity and manliness.
Some disciples of "Indifferentism" have argued that Sir John should have remained neutral, like Lord Fairfax, and retained his popularity and saved his property by the sacrifice of his principles. These forget the severe judgment of the ancient Greek philosopher and lawgiver on such as they.
"It was a remarkable law of Solon, that any person who, in the commotions of the Republic, remained neuter, or an INDIFFERENT spectator of the contending parties, should be condemned to perpetual banishment."
The people of this era have no conception of the fearful significance of Loyalty, one hundred years since. Loyalty, then, was almost paramount to religion; next after a man's duty to his God was his allegiance to his prince. "Noblesse oblige" has been blazoned as the highest commendation of the otherwise vicious aristocracy of France. It is charged that when the perishing Bourbon dynasty was in direst need of defenders it discovered them "neither in its titled nobility nor in its native soldiers," but in mercenaries. Whereas, in America, George III found daring champions in the best citizens of the land, and foremost in the front rank of these stood Sir John Johnson. Hume, who is anything but an imaginative or enthusiastic writer, couples LOYALTY AND PATRIOTISM together; and with his philosophical words this vindication of Sir John Johnson is committed to the calm and unprejudiced judgment of readers:
"The most inviolable attachment to the laws of our country is everywhere acknowledged a capital virtue; and where the people are not so happy as to have any legislature but a SINGLE PERSON, THE STRICTEST LOYALTY IS IN THAT CASE, THE TRUEST PATRIOTISM."
"Hopes have precarious life;
They are oft blighted, withered, snapt sheer off:
But FAITHFULNESS can feed on SUFFERING,
And knows no disappointment."
BEARING UPON THE VIOLATION--SO-STYLED--OF A PAROLE (?)
SAID TO HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY SIR JOHN JOHNSON) BART.
(See text, page xl, supra.)
The plan on which turns the whole right or wrong of the parole story, as detailed in a letter to General Sullivan, 14th March, 1776, frequently cited, emphasizes the directions to Dayton, that care must be taken to prevent Sir John Johnson from being apprised of the real design of his opponents. Fortunately the communication dispatched, although cunningly conceived, was not sufficiently ingenious to conceal the latent intention. As van der Does, in Leyden, wrote to Valdez, the Spanish general besieging, and trying to delude him, its governor, into surrendering the town: '' The fowler plays sweet notes on his pipe when he spreads his net for the bird"-even so the Loyalist leader was not deceived by the specious words of his enemies, seeking to enmesh him.
Lossing, who had all the original papers in his hands, admits (II., 69) a snare : "The wily baronet was not to be caught in the snare laid for him by Schuyler."-J. W. de P.'s "Sir John Johnson's Address," Appendix I, page vi., col. 1, 2.
Dr. F. H. Roof, of Rhinebeck, forwarded, 19th June, 1880, to the writer, a copy of a letter, which is pretty good proof that, in the whole of the paroling business, the relative positions of the parties in antagonism, and the circumstances connected therewith, are not only misunderstood, but have been consistently misrepresented. To clear this up is impossible, because the documentary testimony on the loyal side has almost entirely perished or disappeared. This letter was the property of Henry Loucks, a brother-in-law of Mr. Roof's father (formerly a law partner of Abraham van Vechten) both now deceased. Upon the back of the original was the following note by Mr. Loucks : "Sir John Johnson's granddaughter, 1777, Helen McDonald ; presented me by a granddaughter of Jellis Fonda, Oct, 7, 1840. H. L." The date must refer to that of the letter, because Sir John could not have had a granddaughter capable of writing any letter in 1777; but one of his granddaughters did marry a Colonel McDonald, and the latter may have been a descendant, a relative, or a connection of the McDonell, or McDonald, who was chief of the Highlanders dependent upon Sir John, who surrendered their arms 20th January (?), 1776, and was one of the six hostages for the rest, seized at that time.
COPY OF LETTER.-"SIR: Some time ago I wrote you a letter, much to this purpose, concerning the Inhabitants of this Bush being made prisoners. There was no such thing then in agitation as you was pleased to observe in your letter to me this morning. Mr. Billie Laird came amongst the people to give them warning to go in to sign and swear. To this they will never consent, being already prisoners of General Schuyler. His Excellency was pleased by your proclamation, directing every one of them to return to their farms, and that they should be no more troubled nor molested during the war. To this they agreed, and have not done anything against the country, nor intend to, if let alone. If not, they will lose their lives before being taken prisoners AGAIN. They begged the flavor of me to write to Major Fonda and the gentlemen of the committee to this purpose. They blame neither the one nor the other of you gentlemen, but those ill-natured fellows amongst them that get up an excitement about nothing, in order to ingratiate themselves in your favor. They were of very great hurt to your cause since May last, through violence and ignorance. I do not know what the consequences would have been to them long ago, if not prevented. Only think what daily provocation does.
"Jenny joins me in compliments to Mrs. Fonda.
"I am, Sir,
"Your humble servant,
"CALLACHIE, 15th March, 1777. " HELEN MCDONELL."
"Major JELLIS FONDA, at Caughnawaga."
In this connection nothing can be more pertinent than the remarks of "our greatest and our best," General GEORGE H. THOMAS, at the breaking out of the "Slaveholders' Rebellion," in 1861-2: "In a discussion of the causes given for their action by some officers who deserted the Government at the beginning of the Rebellion, I (a friend of Thomas) ventured the assertion that, perhaps, some of them at distant posts had acted ignorantly; that I had been informed that some of them had been imposed upon by friends and relatives, and led to believe that there was to be a peaceable dissolution of the Union ; that there would be no actual government for the whole country, and by resigning their commissions they were only taking the necessary steps towards returning to the allegiance of their respective States. He replied, 'That this was but a poor excuse; he could not believe officers of the army were so ignorant of their own form of government as to suppose such proceedings could occur ; and as they had sworn allegiance to the Government, they mere bound to adhere to it, and would have done so if they had been so inclined.' He said, 'there was no excuse whatever in a United States officer claiming the right of secession, and the only excuse for their deserting the Government was, what none of them admitted, having engaged in a rebellion against tyranny, because the tyranny did not exist, and they well knew it.' I then asked him; 'Supposing such a state of affairs existed, that arrangements were being made for a peaceable dissolution by the Government, the North from the South, and that it was in progress, what would you have done ?' He promptly replied: ' That is not a supposable case; the Government cannot dissolve itself; it is the creature of the people, and until they had agreed by their votes-that is, the votes of the whole country, not a portion of it-to dissolve it, and it was accomplished in accordance therewith, the Government to which they had sworn allegiance remained, and as long as it did exist I should have adhered to it.' "
There is in this extract a clear recognition of the obligation of his oath to support the Government, and at this very point the better class of Southern officers who joined the Rebellion, and who perhaps took this step with reluctance, made direct issue with Thomas. They claimed that their oath of office was obligatory only while they held office, and that all obligation ceased with resignation, especially when their resignations were accepted. This assumption rests upon the supposed fact that supreme allegiance is due to a single State rather than to the Union of the States or nation represented by the General Government. The subtle logic, by which the doctrine of State Rights was carried to the complete negation of the national unity, or autonomy, had no force with General Thomas, although he greatly regretted the necessity of choosing between the General Government and his own State, in allegiance with other Southern States. And although he had not entertained Northern views of the institution of Slavery, he did not hesitate to maintain his allegiance to the National Government; and, in contrast with those who claimed their freedom from the obligation of their oath of allegiance, when their resignations had been accepted, carrying this freedom to the extreme sequence, that they could legitimately array themselves in war against the Government that had just freed them. Thomas believed that there was a moral and legal obligation that forbade resignation, with a view to take up arms against the Government. And from this point of view he condemned the national authorities for accepting the resignation of officers, when aware that it was their intention to join the Rebellion as soon as they were in this way freed from the obligation of their oath of allegiance. In his view, resignation did not give them freedom to take up arms against the General Government, and, resting upon this ground, he did not wait till his own State had seceded to make up his own decision, but made it in entire independence other probable action in the national crisis."-Chaplain Thomas B. Van Home's "Life of Gen. George H. Thomas," pp. 26, 27.
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