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Page 4

James Wilson

1742-1798


   Another charge has also been brought against Mr. Wilson, (viz.) a participation in the combination which was formed against General Washington, towards the close of the year 1777. This conspiracy, if it may be so called, originated in the discontent of many who felt envious at the exalted station which Washington occupied; and was founded, at this time, upon the high military reputation which General Gates had acquired by the capitulation of Saratoga, and the gloomy aspect of affairs in the region where Washington was in particular command. In this combination, it was supposed several members of congress, and a very few officers of the army, were concerned. Among these officers, it is believed, General Gates himself may be included. "He had not only omitted," says Marshall, in his life of Washington, "to communicate to that general the successes of his army, after the victory of the seventh of October had opened to him the prospect of finally destroying the enemy opposed to him; but he carried on a correspondence with General Conway, in which that officer had expressed himself with great contempt of the commander in chief, and on the disclosure of this circumstance, General Gates had demanded the name of the informer, in a letter expressed in terms by no means conciliatory, and which was accompanied by the very extraordinary circumstance of being passed through congress.
   The state of Pennsylvania, too, chagrined at losing its capital, and forgetful of its own backwardness in strengthening the army, which had twice fought superior numbers in its defense, furnished many discontented individuals, who supposed it to be the fault of General Washington that he had not, with an army inferior to that of the enemy in numbers, and in every equipment, effected the same result, which had, been produced in the north, by a continental army, in itself much stronger than its adversary, and so reinforced by militia as to amount to three times the number opposed to them. The legislature of that state, on the report that General Washington was moving into winter quarters, addressed a remonstrance to congress on the subject, which manifested, in very intelligible terms, their dissatisfaction with the commander in chief. About the same time, a new board of war was created, of which General Gates was appointed the president; and General Mifflin, who was supposed to be also of the party unfriendly to Washington, was one of its number. General Conway, who was, perhaps, the only brigadier in the army that had joined this faction, was appointed inspector general and was elevated above brigadiers older than himself, to the rank of major general. There were other evidences that, if the hold which the commander in chief had taken of the affections and confidence of the army, and of the nation, could be shaken, the party in congress which was disposed to change their general, was far from being contemptible in point of numbers."
   Fortunately for America, it was impossible to loosen this hold. Even the northern army clung, to Washington as the savior of their country. The only effect of this combination was, to excite a considerable degree of resentment, which was directed entirely against those who were believed to be engaged in it. General Gates himself, in consequence of this, and of the disastrous battle of Camden, fell into obscurity; and General Conway, the great calumniator of General Washington, scorned by honorable men, on account of his cowardice at the battle of Germantown, and other equally unworthy conduct, resigned his commission on the 28th of April, 1778.

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Last modified December 31, 2003