Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII
Prelude to Victory

WHILE Washington was fretting over the lack of patriotism of the people and Congress was surrendering its diplomatic autonomy to France, two events occurred which were to have far-reaching effect upon the outcome of the war: the appointment of Robert Morris as superintendent of finance, and the involvement of Holland as a belligerent in the war. Unrelated as they were, these two incidents contributed vitally to set the stage for the last act at Yorktown.

Congress was at last driven to face the hard facts: despite all its efforts, the country was sinking deeper into the financial morass. As a discouraged member observed, Congress appeared "to know nothing about either getting Money or saving it." For many years, congressmen had wrestled with this odious problem, only to find themselves in the end bruised and beaten. "What a pity it is," exclaimed a patriot, "that some Locke or Colbert could not start up and teach us the Art of Financing." Hopefully casting about for such a guide, in 1778 Congress invited Richard Price, the English radical who enjoyed considerable repute as a writer upon financial subjects, to come to the United States to save the Continental dollar. Price refused to leave England, however, and in 1780 the name of Alexander Hamilton was put forward in Congress as a financial expert who might restore the currency. Congress was slowly being converted to the view that the control of the country's finances must be "the work of one Mind."

It went against the grain of the revolutionary patriots to look to one man for salvation: the wisdom of legislative bodies rather than the talents, however pre-eminent, of an individual was regarded by these republicans as the mainstay of the state. When that individual happened to be a war profiteer, the case against one-man rule was clinched. Nevertheless,

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