Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
The Conway Cabal

FOR Washington, the winter of Valley Forge was in many ways the most harrowing period of the war. From these bleak heights, he beheld his army on the point of scattering to the winds, the patriotism of the people gravely impaired, and his leadership of the army jeopardized by the intrigues of his enemies at home. It is significant that Washington was now more preoccupied and distressed by the backslidings of the home front than by the menace of the British army -- a state of affairs that was to endure for the rest of the war.

In the American colonies, Englishmen's traditional dislike of regular armies had been intensified by the struggle for liberty waged with the home government. From 1765 to 1775, the colonists were in a ferment over the dread of military power with which, it was feared, the mother country intended to enforce its tyranny. In Boston, on each anniversary of the Boston Massacre, a public oration was delivered upon the iniquity of standing armies, with special reference to the British standing army that had spilled the blood of American patriots.

Americans carried over into the War of Independence much of the fear of a regular army engendered by their experiences as British subjects. It was upon an "inspired yeomanry," embodied in militia, that many patriots at first depended to defeat the British army. Even after its inadequacies had been exposed they, clung to the militia as the sheet anchor of their faith that free people were the best defenders of liberty and that to create a regular army was to place in jeopardy the very liberties it was called upon to protect. The militia was often identified with democracy. "The Militia," said a patriot, "is the fundamental line of every well constituted Government." Freedom was not secure unless every citizen was a soldier and every soldier a citizen. Victory with

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