“The Womb of Fate”
In the summer of 1780, when Adams told Vergennes that the war could be won only if the French fleet acted in concert with the armies of Washington and Rochambeau, the French foreign minister had seen matters differently. He placed much of the blame for the military stalemate on General Washington. Writing to Lafayette, Vergennes revealed his unhappiness at “the inactivity of that American Army who before the alliance had distinguished themselves by their spirit of enterprise.” Not only was Washington's army doing nothing, he said with some heat, but each year it somehow managed to consume more livres than would have been devoured by a French army four times its size. The foreign minister grumbled that he now had only “feeble confidence” in the ability of Washington and the United States to wage the war with zeal and energy. 1
Three days after Adams sent his last communiqué to Vergennes, General Washington acknowledged to Congress that there is “a total stagnation of military business.” He attributed his inactivity to the absence of the French navy, but added that he could do nothing because only 6,000 of the 16,500 men whom Congress had sought to raise that year were under arms. 2
Washington had a point, but so did Vergennes. The American commander had grown cautious since the Valley Forge winter. Once the alliance was consummated, Washington was unwilling to risk his army when the likelihood existed that he soon would be able to act in concert with the French. In 1779 he had ordered daring, but small-scale assaults, as when he sent crack
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Publication information: Book title: Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution. Contributors: John Ferling - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 223.
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