Hero of Stony Point - James Barnes

The End of the War

With the end of the war General Wayne found himself confronted by serious problems. Almost immediately after reaching South Carolina he had found his health seriously impaired; in consequence of the fatigue and exposure to which his strenuous campaigns had subjected him, he fell an easy victim to the malarial infections of the Southern swamps; and never afterward did he regain his full health and vigor. Descriptive of this phase of his life, he wrote his friend, Dr. Rush, a characteristic letter:

"My physicians, after trying the powers of almost the whole gamut of materia medica, have directed the substitution of regimen and moderate exercise . . . . Be that as it may, I have this consolation, that neither idleness nor dissipation has so injuriously affected my constitution; but that it had been exhausted and broken down, by encountering almost every excess of fatigue, difficulty, and danger, in the defense of the rights and liberty of America, from the frozen lakes of Canada to the burning sands of Florida. . . "

He nevertheless continued with the army of the South, taking his share of the labors that fell to the officers of the depleted little band of men. During the winter, he concluded treaties of peace with the Greek and Cherokee Indians, as one biographer remarks, "completing the work that he had begun with the sword." Also he received the allegiance of the disaffected portion of the inhabitants of North and South Carolina, thus ending his work of pacification.

In 1783 General Wayne received a tardy recognition of the extraordinary value of his services to his country by his appointment as major-general by brevet, by Congress on recommendation of the executive council of the State of Pennsylvania. In all the annals of army history there is found no parallel case to the failure to make Wayne a major-general by promotion; and it does not improve one's opinions of the political methods of his day to learn that this signal neglect of a man whom all knew to be one of the most patriotic and efficient officers of the patriot army was the result of well meant efforts on the part of Congress to avoid incurring jealousy on the part of the states which had furnished the greatest number of men for the field. Pennsylvania had a sufficient quota of men in service to entitle her to three major-generals, but since a part of them were dispersed on the frontiers, this state had but two commissions; one of these was held by General Mifflin, and the other by General St. Clair, both of whom, it must be admitted, had claims to political influence. Had there been a third commission, its holder would undoubtedly have been Anthony Wayne. Certainly, it is curious to note that, although there was no dissenting voice as to General Wayne's skill as a strategist or record for personal bravery, Congress was compelled by political necessity to withhold from him all public recognition, until his services had been of so conspicuous a nature that to have longer withheld his commission would have been a national scandal.

About this time, too, much unpleasantness and actual sorrow overtook Wayne in connection with his affiliation with and the prominent part he took in the formation of the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternal association established among the surviving officers of the Revolution for the laudable purpose of aiding each other, and, at the same time, commemorating their valiant deeds. With what seems to have been the characteristic attitude of those who were guiding the helm of state during this critical period of our national life, every effort was made by politicians to discredit the motives of the sponsors of the Society. They were hailed as aristocrats, denounced as the forerunner of the entire loss of national liberty; and some malcontents and hot-heads declared it should be possible to disenfranchise every member of the Society—and, if necessary, "to drive every soul of them out of the state." General Wayne, who had borne without complaint all slights to his own personal dignity, as he himself had said, "solely because of his love for his country and his sense of duty," felt keenly the unjust and ungenerous suspicions which were being circulated concerning the good intentions of the patriotic founders of the Society and expressed his sorrowful and indignant, but clear-headed, view of the situation in a letter to his friend, General Irvine. He wrote:

"Dear General: The revolution of America is an event that will fill the brightest page of history to the end of time. The conduct of her officers and soldiers will be handed down to the latest ages as a model of virtue, perseverance and bravery. The smallness of their numbers, and the unparalleled hardships and excess of difficulties they have encountered in the defense of their country, from the coldest to the hottest sun, places them in a point of view hurtful to the eyes of the leaders of the factions and parties who possess neither the virtue nor the fortitude to meet the enemy in the field, and seeing the involuntary deference paid by the people to the gentlemen of the army,—envy, that green-eyed monster, will stimulate them to seize with avidity every opportunity to depreciate the merits of those who have filled the breach and bled at every pore." Again he descants upon "Caitiff" ingratitude, going back for his precedents to the story of Greece and Rome, and possibly to the early teachings of his Uncle Gilbert.

General Wayne's solicitude for his men did not end with the war, and his anxiety that the return of his soldiers to civil life should be made as easy and simple for them as possible was yet another source of friction between his ideas and those of the government of the state. On April 20, 1783, he wrote President Dickenson, the governor of Pennsylvania, the following letter:

"You are pleased to ask my advice on anything respecting the troops under my command belonging to the state . . . I fondly flatter myself that the wisdom and justice of the Executive and Legislative bodies of Pennsylvania will receive the returning soldiers with open arms and grateful hearts, and I can not entertain a doubt that they, on their part, will cheerfully and contentedly resume the garb and habits of the citizen."

What must have been his feeling in regard to the disgraceful occurrence which accompanied the discharge and disbanding of his beloved Pennsylvania troops!

In June, 1783, the soldiers of the American army received a six months' furlough, and, a definite treaty of peace having been agreed upon in the meanwhile, they were discharged in the following December. The soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line were paid off with notes of a nominal value of twenty shillings each, but which were discounted to one-tenth of that amount; and some recruits from the western counties went in a body to Philadelphia to demand justice, an action concerning which there was an unwarrantable misunderstanding. Without the slightest intention or sign of violence on the part of these troops, some of the members of Congress became alarmed and adjourned to Princeton, alleging that their liberty was threatened by a mob, a statement which failed to win either the sympathy or the credulity of the populace. There was, in troth, small need for disturbance, since the first two companies of Wayne's veterans had just arrived from South Carolina and were quartered in the city barracks. Had the disgruntled recruits, many of whom had never been in the field, really been dangerous, the general's loyalty, would have led him to give the authorities any necessary protection.

General Wayne saw the last of his Pennsylvania troops embarked from Charleston, en route to Philadelphia, July, 1783. So shattered was his health by the fever and privations he had undergone, that he was prevented from being a participator in the impressive ceremonies that attended Washington's farewell to his army. Also, he was unable to appear in line with his chief on his triumphal progress through Philadelphia on his way to Mount Vernon. Wayne now settled down on his patrimonial estate in Chester county, and gave the time which be had freely bestowed upon his country to the service of his state,

In 1776 the Constitution of the state of Pennsylvania had created a Board of Censors—a body of men who should be elected once in seven years to review the work of the various branches of the state government; and to determine whether this same government had been well or ill conducted; also they were to make a report of their findings to the people—in all, a most comprehensive program. To this Board of Censors General Wayne was elected late in the year 1783, and he became at once one of its most active members. As the chairman of the committee appointed to ascertain how far the provisions of the Constitution had been carried out by legislation, and in what way, if at all, they had been violated, he made a memorable report. In this be showed his anxiety that, now that peace was restored, conciliatory measures should be adopted and such a course pursued as to make the transition from a state of revolution to a condition of normal citizenship as simple a matter as possible. Among the important measures advised by the committee, of which General Wayne was spokesman, was a report strongly urging the revision of the Constitution for the reasons thus frankly stated; "It is known how in times of danger, the Constitution of 1776 forsook us, and the will of our rulers became our only law. It is well ]mown, likewise, that a great part of the citizens of Pennsylvania, from a perfect conviction that political liberty could never long exist under such a frame of government, were opposed to the establishment of it, and when they did submit to it, a solemn engagement was entered into by its friends, that after 7 years should be expired and the enemy driven from our coasts, they would concur with them in making the wished-for amendments."

On his retirement from the Board of Censors, in 1784, General Wayne was elected to the General Assembly to represent his native county of Chester, serving with distinction during the years 1784-1786. This post found him as active and as aggressive in the interest of justice and humanity as past record had proved him to have been in the performance of any duty to which he was called. His chief desire was to make the Revolution and its results a source of blessing to all, and with this in view, his efforts were mainly directed to the unification and general satisfaction of all who made up the body politic of the state. In this endeavor, his attention was necessarily directed to the notorious "test laws" of Pennsylvania, passed in 1777 and 1778, and which disenfranchised forever, as suspected, Tories, Royalists, and others who had refused, before November,1779, to take the oath renouncing allegiance to the King of Great Britain and declaring fidelity to the state of Pennsylvania. Among those to whom this law bore great hardship were the Quakers, who from religious scruples were opposed to all political tests, and who formed the most praise-worthy part of the state. In all, these acts affected nearly one-half of the population of Pennsylvania—if the amount of taxable property be taken into consideration, more than that—and those who refused to subscribe were declared incapable of electing or being elected, or holding any place ruder the government, they were precluded from serving on juries, keeping schools, except in private houses, and forever excluded from taking said oath afterward.

By reason of his distinguished military career, General Wayne was particularly adapted to the task of amending this grievance to the citizens of his state, and here, as elsewhere, he showed himself a fearless and persistent fighter. His first petition asking for the abandonment of these "tests," presented in March, 1784, was defeated. In September, and again in December, propositions made by General Wayne were voted down, a committee reporting on the latter occasion, "that it would be impolitic and dangerous to admit persons who had been inimical to the sovereignty and independence of the state to have a common participation in the government so soon after the War." A bit of sophistry as short-sighted as it was lacking in ingenuity. The straggle began in 1784 and continued until 1789, when a motion was adopted to repeal all laws requiring any oath or affirmation of allegiance from the inhabitants of the state.

In 1787 General Wayne was a member of the Convention called in Pennsylvania to ratify the Constitution of the United States, and it is needless to say that he was one of the most ardent supporters of its adoption. His distinguished public career had, however, for a long time been harassed by the unfortunate state of his domestic concerns. By the year 1790 it was clear to all that the brave and resourceful general was a very poor business man—if success meant the ability to compete with the money-makers of his time. It was a disgraceful period, when low, thievish methods of transacting business were looked upon with the greatest indulgence. Also, the sanguine nature which had been one of his most valuable characteristics in enheartening his soldiers and bringing his military campaigns to a victorious end, became in private life his most serious drawback; and with the fatality which seemed to attend him, the plantation in Georgia, with which its citizens had presented him with such good intentions, now became the source of his deepest unhappiness and humiliation.

He had devoted much of his time since his return from the army to the rehabilitation of his handsome patrimonial estate in Chester county, which had suffered severely in the hands of the agents in whose hands he had been obliged to commit his interests daring his long absence in his country's behalf. In the meantime, he was seeking to devise a means by which his rice plantation in Georgia could he made productive. This could not be managed without the purchase of slaves to a considerable number, and for this outlay he did not have the means. Someone, probably his friend Robert Morris, suggested to him that he negotiate a loan for that purpose in Holland. Acting upon this hint, Wayne wrote the Minister Resident of Holland in this country, Mr. Van Berkle, a letter wherein he set forth the nature of his security and his needs in picturesque terms that bear unmistakable evidence of the integrity with which he expected to carry out his share of the bargain. After some formal information as to location, etc., he says:

"The estate used to net Sir James Wright from 800 to 1,000 guineas per annum—it is therefore an object of considerable consequence to me to set to work again as soon as possible, for which purpose I shall proceed for that Quarter in the course of a few weeks in order to prepare it for a crop in the Spring, but I shall want the aid of about 4,000 guineas to stock it with negroes.

"I will punctually pay the Interest by annually remitting rice to Amsterdam, altogether with the principal in the course of two or three years."

It is a sad commentary on the state of our national credit at the beginning of our history as a united people that neither in this country nor in Europe could one of America's greatest military heroes borrow four thousand guineas on the security which included both his Georgia plantation and his Pennsylvania estate. Unfortunately it did not occur to the general that such a state of things could exist, and thinking the loan concluded, he drew bills for that amount on his correspondents, probably, as evidence goes to show, using the whole amount for the purchase of negroes. The bills fell into the hands of a Scotch agent in Savannah who demanded immediate payment. After many difficulties and embarrassments, Wayne was ultimately obliged, in order to save his patrimonial estate, to sacrifice his Georgia property. In full justice to him let it be here said that he had made this proposition in the beginning of the controversy, and that the only answer to this was a snit in law, the only object of which was to make both his estates liable for payment.

In 1890, although it was quite apparent that all hope of his becoming a resident of Georgia, even for a part of the time, as he had intended to do, was past, a large number of his friends there determined that General Wayne should represent them in Congress. Accordingly he was returned as elected on January 3, 1791; but at the instigation of his opponent the House investigated and on March 16, 1792, set forth that "Anthony Wayne was not duly elected a Member of this House." At no time was it ever charged that Wayne had any knowledge of or part in the irregularities charged to his over zealous friends. His own version of the matter, given soon after the decision of the House, is no doubt the correct one. He says: "Both Federalists and Anti-Federalists pronounced in the halls of Congress, after the fullest investigation, my character stood pure and unsullied as a soldier's ought to be."

After the chagrin attendant upon the unfortunate Georgia controversy, it was small wonder that General Wayne felt an overwhelming desire to go back to military life. In line with this he urged one of his friends, a member of Congress, to petition for his appointment to the command of the forces which his judgment with regard to the dangers that menaced his country convinced him would be needed at no distant date to repel the incursions of the Creek Indians. Only a few days after the question of his Congressional election had been decided President Washington evinced his confidence in him as a man of honor and the foremost military leader of the young Republic by appointing him General-in-Chief of the army.