The True George Washington: Enemies: Continental Congress

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Continental Congress

These attempts to undermine Washington owed their real vitality to the Continental Congress, and it is safe to say that but for Washington's political enemies no army rival would have ventured to push forward. In what the opposition in that body consisted, and to what length it went, are discussed elsewhere, but a glance at the reasons of hostility to him is proper here.

John Adams declared himself "sick of the Fabian systems," and in writing of the thanksgiving for the Saratoga Convention, he said that "one cause of it ought to be that the glory of turning the tide of arms is not immediately due to the commander-in-chief.... If it had, idolatry and adulation would have been unbounded." James Lovell asserted that "Our affairs are Fabiused into a very disagreeable posture," and wrote that "depend upon it for every ten soldiers placed under the command of our Fabius, five recruits will be wanted annually during the war." William Williams agreed with Jonathan Trumbull that the time had come when "a much exalted character should make way for a general" and suggested if this was not done "voluntarily," those to whom the public looked should "see to it." Abraham Clark thought "we may talk of the Enemy's Cruelty as we will, but we have no greater Cruelty to complain of than the Management of our Army." Jonathan D. Sargent asserted that "we want a general?thousands of Lives & Millions of Property are yearly sacrificed to the Insufficiency of our Commander-in-Chief?Two Battles he has lost for us by two such Blunders as might have disgraced a Soldier of three months standing, and yet we are so attached to this Man that I fear we shall rather sink with him than throw him off our Shoulders. And sink we must under his Management. Such Feebleness, & Want of Authority, such Confusion & Want of Discipline, such Waste, such destruction would exhaust the Wealth of both the Indies & annihilate the armies of all Europe and Asia." Richard Henry Lee agreed with Mifflin that Gates was needed to "procure the indispensable changes in our Army." Other Congressmen who were inimical to Washington, either by openly expressed opinion or by vote, were Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Adams, William Ellery, Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, Samuel Chase, and F.L. Lee. Later, when Washington's position was more secure, Gerry and R.H. Lee wrote to him affirming their friendship, and to both the General replied without a suggestion of ill-feeling, nor does he seem, in later life, to have felt a trace of personal animosity towards any one of the men who had been in opposition to him in Congress. Of this enmity in the army and Congress Washington wrote,?

"It is easy to bear the first, and even the devices of private enemies whose ill will only arises from their common hatred to the cause we are engaged in, are to me tolerable; yet, I confess, I cannot help feeling the most painful sensations, whenever I have reason to believe I am the object of persecution to men, who are embarked in the same general interest, and whose friendship my heart does not reproach me with, ever having done any thing to forfeit. But with many, it is a sufficient cause to hate and wish the ruin of a man, because he has been happy enough, to be the object of his country's favor."

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