History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI.
THE TREATY BETWEEN FRANCE AND SPAIN. REFORMS IN
VIRGINIA. PROGRESS OF THE WAR.
1779.

THE alliance with France gave to the United States a respite from active war; but the forced acceptance of irredeemable paper money as legal tender necessarily wrecked public credit and impaired private contracts and debts. The British officials had circulated counterfeits so widely that congress, in January 1779, was compelled to recall two separate emissions, each of five millions. The want of a central power paralyzed every effort at an organization of the strength of the collective states. Washington remained more than a month at Philadelphia in consultation with congress. Fort Niagara and Detroit, as well as New York city, were in the possession of Britain; yet all agreed that the country must confine itself to a defensive campaign.

Even a defensive campaign was attended with difficulties. To leave the officers, by the depreciation of the currency, even without means to provide themselves with decent clothes and subsistence, augured the reduction of the army to a shadow. Few of them were willing to remain on the existing establishment, and congress was averse to promising pensions to them or to their widows. To each of the rank and file who would agree to serve during the war a bounty of two hundred dollars, besides land and clothing, was offered; while those who had in former years enlisted for the war received a gratuity of one hundred dollars. Yet all would have been in vain but for the earnestness of the people.

-317-

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