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British posts and factories on the Senegal and Gambia, and their other settlements on the coast of Africa.
Against such a formidable combination of enemies, in all quarters, the British nation made prodigious exertions, and displayed astonishing resources. Her feets were manned
and supplied at a vast expense; the spirit of her people fur* nished means to an unexpected magnitude, and bore up
against depressions and increased difficulties with a courage that demands high admiration. Ministers, though the public confidence in their system of policy had declined, gathered temporary strength from the public necessities, and commanded that support as the head of a nation assailed by powerful and inveterate enemies, which would not have been given to the line of policy by which they had produced so much of the mischief. On the opening of Parliament, in November, the result of every effort made by the minority, opposed to the war and the administration, indicated the growth of this disinclination to the wars, and distrust of the capacity of the ministers, and at the same time
showed the resolution to supply abundantly, even lavishly, Et all the means for upholding the naval and military forces in
every quarter. To the customary addresses in reply to the
king's speech, Lord John Cavendish in the House of Come mons, and the Marquis of Rockingham in the House of á Lords, moved amendments, proposing no new line of policy,
but censuring ministers, and asking for their removal from ile office. Both were lost by large majorities. This was followed
up throughout the country by associations and petitions against the war; and the feeling growing stronger, a simultaneous movement was made in behalf of economical reform, in such a manner as to alarm the government and king, and nearly succeeded by the powerful efforts of Fox, Burke,
and Dunning, in Parliament, in procuring a change of minfo istry. As the session advanced, and the public burdens be
came more evident, the national enthusiasm against the
French and Spanish coalition, was made less available for i upholding Lord North. On one occasion, on the celebrated il motion of Dunning that “the influence of the crown had
increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished,” the ministry were left in a minority. But they rallied, and be
ing aided by the occurrence of the “No Popery” riots under by Lord George Gordon, which alarmed the wavering, and
brought over many to the side of the government, were bv
the end of the session completely re-established in power. Parliament did not adjourn till the middle of 1780. Before adjournment they voted for the service of the year 1780, eighty-five thousand seamen, including marines, and thirtyfive thousand troops, exclusive of those already abroad. For the service of the year, the House of Commons granted 21,196,4961.
In America the public exertions presented a striking and melancholy contrast to the energy and resources of Britain. The several causes of distress and embarrassment, so frequently alluded to, were at a fearful height towards the close of 1779 and the beginning of 1780. No effectual measures were taken to establish a permanent army. The officers i generally remained, but the privates were to be annually recruited. The inefficiency of Congress, and the delays of the States, invariably left the Commander-in-chief without a respectable force at the opening of the campaign, and then sent him, at different periods, raw and undisciplined troops. The commissariat department fell into total discredit from the injudicious regulations of Congress, the annihilation of the public credit
, and the manifold evils of the currency. No magazines of supplies could be provided for winter, and a scarcely current provisions for the active season. The absurd measures for regulating prices by law were continued, and urged by Congress on the States with renewed pertinacity, after their bad effects were demonstrated by experience; and, it is painful to add, that large numbers of men of influence, including members of Congress, disgraced themselves by employing these for purposes of speculation and private gain. The national treasury was empty. The requisitions for money upon the States were complied with 80 slowly and scantily, as to be of little avail. Two hundred millions of paper money were in circulation, and no means provided for redemption, and no prospect for the future. Congress, in the middle of the year, had pledged the faith of the nation, in the most solemn manner, not to exceed this
A stratagem of the British government enhanced the confusion of this currency. Vast quantities of forged paper, closely imitating the genuine, were sent from England, and scattered throughout the country. This mean device aggra. vated the popular distrust, in the States, of the paper bills, and reduced their value still further. The aggregate of bills issued was, on the 1st of January, 1780, a little more than
- 203,000,000 of dollars. This prodigious amount had been
thrown into circulation in about four years and a half, the date of the first emission being May, 1775. The amount issued in these years were thus: in 1776, $20,064,464; in 1777, $26,426,333; in 1778, $66,965,269; and in 1779, $149,703,856. These estimates are furnished by the register of the treasury in 1790. The bills passed at their nominal value until the issues exceeded nine millions. The depreciation was afterwards very great, and increased with the quantity put forth. In January, 1777, they were at a discount in Philadelphia of about twenty per cent.; before the close of the year, they were down to seventy-five per cent. discount. In December, 1778, they were worth about one-sixth of their nominal value. The fall throughout the year 1779, induced by the desperate state of the public finances, the immense issues, and the rage for speculation, was rapid and enormous. Paper dollars in January were to specie as about eight to one; in the summer, they fluctuated between eighteen and twenty-four for one; and in December, they had fallen to more than forty for one. These rates are the Philadelphia prices; in other parts of the country, the value was different, and in general lower.
A detailed history of continental money in all its vascillations and mischievous influences upon the morals, character, and fate of the revolution, would be a work fit for the study of the philosopher, and abounding with lessons of wisdom to nations. The mere money cost of the revolution was enhanced prodigiously by the wastefulness and expensiveness of those financial trickeries; and the whole was extorted, not from the nation, but by a sort of forced loans from individuals, and those, too, the patriots, for the tories shunned it from the beginning, except as an object of speculation. Every man in whose hands these bills de preciated, was in effect taxed so much for the war expenses, against his will and without law. The acts of compulsion, passed by Congress and the States, made this injustice more Aagrant, and did not diminish, but the rather aggravaied, the mischief. The ruin of credit, the suspension of all faith in business contracts, the discouragement to industry, the impoverishment of the innocent, and the robbing of labor of its earnings, did more to exhaust the available resources of the country than even the ravages of the enemy. The feverish excitements, the aversion to business, the spirit of
gambling and speculation, with all their train of demoral! izing consequences, which sprung out of such an unnatural condition, were even more fatal in their effects. At this period of the war the States and the people, Congress and the army, every branch of public service, and the condition of the mass of the people, show how terribly they suffered under the distresses of the public finances and ruinous state of the currency, and the miserable legislation of Congress. The soldiers were paid in this worthless money, which would not produce them the necessaries of life, except at exorbitant rates. Three months pay would not purchase a pair of shoes. Their wants were, in consequence, extreme during the whole of this winter. Before the month of January expired, the soldiers, which had been encamped at Morristown and at West Point, were totally destitute of food. The stores were exhausted, and neither meat nor flour could be distributed for some days. They were driven by hunger to plunder the neighboring inhabitants, and the Commander-in-chief was compelled to make a military requisition upon New Jersey, apportioning to each county a certain quantity of provisions, to be furnished within six days. To the honor of the patriotic people of New Jersey, it is to be recorded, that the full quantity was promptly and seasonably furnished.
Notwithstanding the solemn pledge of Congress not to extend their issues of paper beyond two hundred millions of 1 dollars, the increased wants of the army, and the failures of the States to comply with the requisitions made upon them, increased the amount, by the 1st of March, 1780, to more than three hundred millions. The expectation previously held out that the bills would be redeemed at their nominal amount was formally abandoned, and the States were required to bring them in for redemption at forty for one. Before this expedient was resorted to, Congress called upon the States to supply specific articles of provision and forage, but that scheme was found impracticable. The commutation experiment was then tried, and the old emission of bills was made receivable for taxes, at forty for one; and to be reissued, to the extent of one-twentieth of their previous amount, under the guarantee of the individual States. Fourtenths of these were made subject to the orders of Congress, und six-tenths to that of the States. This financial experiment failed. The States did not comply with the conditions,
and but a small amount of paper was brought in. The new issues altogether amounted to little more than two millions.
The next resort was to press for loans from their European allies, and in some cases, late in the year, so urgent were their necessities, they drew bills upon their ministers in Europe with no assurance of payment.
The history of continental money after this period is short, and may be summarily despatched here. The issues continued through 1780, though in diminished quantities, because worthless, until they amounted finally, in the beginning of 1781, to $357,476,545 of the old emission, and $2,070,485 of the new. The depreciation went on, until in May, 1781, they were sold at two hundred to five hundred for one. On the 31st of May, they ceased to circulate as money, and were bought up on speculation from five hundred for one, up to one thousand to fifteen hundred for one. So died the continental paper, quietly in the hands of the possessors.
Under such unfavorable internal auspices opened the year 1780. The hardships of the Northern army in their quarters at Morristown and West Point, were hardly less severe than those of the season at Valley Forge. The winter was one of extraordinary rigor. The frosts were so excessive, that New York bay and the rivers were frozen 80 hard that large armies, with the heaviest artillery, might have passed over safely. The city was, in consequence, assailable; but the deficiency of the American army in the requisite numbers, as well as in all things necessary for success, rendered it impossible for Washington to profit by the opportunity. The military establishment voted by Congress was 35,211 men, but few of them were in the field. Through the spring the efforts of the Commander-in-chief, his continued representations and pressing entreaties to Congress, and his appeals to the executives of the several states to act with energy, and prepare a proper force for active service, produced but tardy effects. In the beginning of April, the dissatisfaction of the army assumed a more alarming aspect, and threatened a mutiny. On one occasion the officers of some of the state lines, in a body, joined in giving notice, that on a certain day, they would resign their commissions, unless proper provision was made for them. They were by the personal exertions, prudence, and firmness of Washington, induced to forego their determination and continue in the service. In May two Connecticut