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Accordingly, in his terse answer to Clinton, he says: “We have no particulars but those which the French have published.”
Mr. Ross would have saved himself all this unfortunate note, if he would have condescended to pay any attention to the printed authorities of the time.
His last words should read :“Two things are quite clear; that the despatches had arrived when this dinner is said to have taken place, and that they contained all the French account of the capitulation.”
We speak literally, when we say there is an error on every page of the editor's own work. For instance (p. 124): “ Major Cochrane . . . . was killed by a cannon-ball, October 17, 1781.” Five lines above, he has said that on that morning Lord Cornwallis had proposed a surrender. The impression given is, that Major Cochrane was shot while the chiefs were negotiating. In fact, he was killed on the 15th.
Page 125. “It was observed that salutes were universally exchanged between them (the French and English], while such marks of courtesy were almost totally omitted by the Americans.”
For this statement Mr. Ross gives no authority. We venture to say that he derives it from a careless reading of Lord Mahon's narrative, where, using the Abbé Mably as authority, he says: “ The English officers courteously saluted every French officer, even of the lowest rank; a compliment which they withheld from every American, even of the highest."
Pages 126 and 127 consist of letters of the time. On a note to page 127, the author calls Henry Laurens the President of the United States. He was as much President of the United States, as the Lord Chancellor is President of Great Britain because he presides over the House of Lords. Page 128, again, is made up of copied correspondence. On page 129 comes the note on Wraxall, which we have quoted, — all wrong. And so we might go on. There is a long tirade because the exchange of Lord Cornwallis against Mr. Laurens was so long delayed. If, again, Mr. Ross would have looked at the printed authorities, he would have been spared his extravagances. In Burke's letters, the matter of the English politics about those prisoners of war is dwelt on at no little length. The English ministry, in keeping up a spite they had against Burgoyne, attempted to the last to prevent his exchange against Mr. Laurens. This was under negotiation when Lord Cornwallis wanted to be exchanged against him. Lord Cornwallis thought, - and his biographer thinks after him, — that nobody had rights in anything which could take any precedence of his. But the British opposition thought that Burgoyne had a right to the relief of that exchange, - and it is not surprising if the American negotiators took their view.
We will close these criticisms by saying, in general, that while Mr. Ross never takes Lord Mahon's authority in censure of his hero, he permits himself on other occasions to be misled by that author, and rushes even into exaggeration of him. Where Lord Mahon is satisfied with an innuendo, Mr. Ross plunges in with an acçusation, which he does not and cannot sustain. We have no wish to open up the sad history of the André tragedy. We are satisfied with the world's verdict. But we must remark, that our English critics are hard to please. Lord Mahon complains at length that the Court of Inquiry who tried André were all but two Americans. His argument is, that André should have been tried by officers used to foreign customs and the foreign service. He suggests Knyplausen, Rochambeau, and perhaps Steuben, as a proper board. Mr. Ross means to follow Lord Mahon in his charge. Mahon says that Greene, who presided over the court, had been a blacksmith. Under Mr. Ross's pen this appears, — “ Among the members were several of the coarsest and most illiterate of the American generals.” And then, with a stupid fatuity, where Lord Mahon urges that the whole court should have been foreigners, Mr. Ross misses the point, and complains that Steuben and Lafayette served upon it at all, because they were ignorant of the English language! *
* In fact, Lafayette at that time used the English language with perfect ease. Steuben had been three years in America, and had only required an interpreter in the first of them.
As we may never have occasion to allude again to the discussions relating to André, we take this place for a remark on Sir Henry Clinton's note on the “ Case of Major André," which was printed for the first time by Lord Mahon. Sir Henry Clinton, in one point, makes almost a personal matter of the whole, by saying:
The memoir and the letters leave us with a favorable impression of Lord Cornwallis's spirit and heart. He rose at once superior to the routine of the English service. He at once caught an adequate notion of the requisitions of war in the country which he served, and he must have made his American experience a good school for his after-life. There is a fine illustration of the spirit of his family in the fact that four of his descendants were killed in the service of the Queen in the Crimea, - one of them the son of Mr. Ross, his biographer, who married Lord Cornwallis's granddaughter. All the titles of Lord Cornwallis became extinct on the death of the nephew of our Lord Cornwallis, in 1852.
The other new book of which we have spoken is Mr. Friedrich Kapp's life of his countryman, Baron Steuben. Mr. Kapp is an accomplished scholar, now, we are glad to say, our countryman, and one who, like his hero, brings us good store from the studies and memories of Germany. He had the great mass of the Steuben papers to work from, — has worked with an enthusiastic desire to set forth worthily the contributions of Germany to our independence, - how
“ Steuben brought the foreign arts from far," — and has made a very entertaining book for us. It is marked by the delusion, which, as we have said, is an injury to Mr. Ross's volume. Just as Mr. Hamilton thinks his father won all General Washington's laurels for him, just as Mr. Ross thinks Lord Cornwallis the only hero of the American Revolution, so Mr. Kapp thinks that Steuben was, on the whole, the only reliable assistant to Washington in the struggle.
“Mr. Washington ought also to have remembered that I had never, in any one instance, punished the disaffected Colonists within my power with death, but, on the contrary, had in several shown the most humane attention to his intercession, even in favor of avowed spies. His acting, therefore, in so cruel a manner, in opposition to my earnest solicitations, could not but excite in me the greatest surprise,” &c., &c., &c. We reprint this passage, and mark with italics some phrases in it, that we may ask if Clinton does not mean covertly to contrast his own behavior, not only with Washington's, but with that of his own predecessor, Sir William Howe. The American officers considered André's case the parallel of Captain Nathan Hale’s of their own army. They declared the parallel openly. Sir William Howe executed that young gentleman in the most brutal way. Does not Clinton perhaps mean, “ Thou canst not say I did it”?
Both the books remind us of the old anecdote relating to the Congress of Vienna, when one of the lobby-members of that Congress, discoursing of the fate of empires, extinguished all the conversation of the rest of the circle by saying, “I have dined with Fouché, and none of you can know anything unless you have dined with Fouché."
There is no doubt that Steuben brought an immense gift to the young republic, in his military skill, his generosity of temper, and his general freedom from jealousy. He richly deserves all that can be said in his praise for his great work in organizing the American army. But if he were slightly or coolly treated by the Continental Congress or by government afterwards, there were good reasons for it. He came here with a falsehood on his lips, which must have been soon detected. He let Washington suppose that he was a general officer of Frederick the Great, when he had held no such commission. So soon as those persons who had been deceived by this pretence discovered their error, they must have looked coolly on the pretender, whatever his merits were. When, too, he was put to the great test of an independent command, the results were not favorable. Through somebody's fault, everything went wrong in Virginia while he held the Continental command there. His own letters show this; he constantly complains that the militia under his command did not fire a shot, and that the enemy did just what they chose. It is perfectly true, that, in every detailed instance, Mr. Kapp shows that this was no fault of his hero. But the world has a way of judging by results. And this book will hardly change the American world's impression, that at that time the Baron, though an admirable inspecting officer and thoroughly faithful to the cause, was perhaps too much worn out in the service, or perhaps too quick-tempered, or perhaps too much used to disciplined troops, and too little ready to yield to exigencies entirely untried; certainly that, for some reason, he was unable to command successfully where command implied the softening of every sort of prejudice, and the harmonizing of every sort of jealousy. It is certain that, as soon as Lafayette succeeded him, everything worked well again in this same Virginia. The only drawback we have found on the fairness of the book is its
unwillingness to give Lafayette due credit. The old Teuton prejudice against the Kelt peeps out too distinctly.
We accord, however, altogether with Mr. Kapp's statement that Baron Steuben “holds one of the most important positions in our history.” If it has not been accorded to him, it is high time it were. His work still lives in the organization, not only of our army, but of every army in Europe. He was long-winded, it is true. There are documents of his in this volume, addressed to Washington and others, which have probably never been read but by five persons, — the Baron himself, namely, his aid who translated them, Mr. Kapp who edited them, the proof-reader who corrected them, and, lastly, “ this reviewer.” Certainly, they never could have been read, in that time of trial, by the persons to whom they were written. Most probably they will never be read again. Then, again, there must have been some traits about this CourtChamberlain transferred into the woods which excited everybody's amusement. Richard Peters, in soothing him down once when he was very angry, writes to him with a little of that charming humor which has since appeared so often in another generation of the same stock: “Apropos, we will and must take possession of the Bermudas, and you shall be the Governor.” This harmless allusion to Sancho Panza did not perhaps explain itself to the Baron, and may have escaped his biographer, but it is probably a key to the estimation in which, with all his excellences, he was regarded by the active men of the time. For all this, however, it would have been impossible to have spared him. And all America, we believe, will welcome this monument to his memory, and will be ready to own his great service to her cause.