A General of the Revolution: John Sullivan of New Hampshire

By Charles P. Whittemore | Go to book overview

XI: WOOED BY FRIEND AND FOE
NOVEMBER, 1780-AUGUST, 1781

Throughout his military and congressional careers Sullivan always seemed to have plenty of trouble on his hands. He is a perplexing figure because his actions, although often meritable, at times were censurable. He wanted to do the right thing, and he yearned for success and adulation. Yet at times he did not find his goal. In the army his repeated whining and occasional mishandling of assignment offset his courage and willingness to aid the patriot cause. Likewise in Congress he marred his record by an uneven performance. He had defended New Hampshire's position in the Vermont matter with vigor, and he had sought to ease the economic malady with diligence; but devious behavior tended to nullify these energetic contributions. Evidence indicates that John Sullivan became a tool of the French to an uncalled-for extent. Also during these months in Congress the British sought to win him over once more; although here the evidence, in some ways contradictory, shows that Sullivan had no intention of compromising the patriot cause for which he had fought so ardently. Some flaw in the man's character, however, suggested to both French and British, ally and foe respectively, that he might serve their purposes. Naturally, the French wanted to be able to influence Congress, as they had much at stake. Sullivan, because he was in need of money, was fair game; the Chevalier de la Luzerne, French minister at Philadelphia, knew his man and bided his time. He did not have long to wait.

Sullivan's letter of November 15, 1780, to Weare, in which he had complained of financial distress, fell into the hands of the

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