Some of those who had leaned toward Loyalism, to be on what they supposed would prove the winning side, quickly forgot their lapse and were very enthusiastic in acclaiming the Patriotic victory. Those Irreconcilables who had not already fled did so at once, leaving their property behind them to be confiscated by the Government. On only one point did there seem to be unanimity and accord. That was that the dogged prosecution of the war and the ultimate victory must be credited to George Washington. Others had fought valiantly and endured hardships and fatigues and gnawing suspense, but without him, who never wavered, they could not have gone on. He had among them some able lieutenants, but not one who, had he himself fallen out of the command by wound or sickness for a month, could have taken his place. The people knew this and they now paid him in honor and gratitude for what he had done for them. If there were any members of the old cabal, any envious rivals, they either held their peace or spoke in whispers. The masses were not yet weary of hearing Aristides called the Just.
WASHINGTON RETURNS TO PEACE
Nearly two years elapsed before the real settlement of the war. The English held New York City, Charleston, and Savannah, the strong garrisons. It seemed likely that they would have been glad to arrange the terms of peace sooner, but there was much inner turmoil at home. The men who, through thick and thin, had abetted the King in one plan after another to fight to the last ditch had nothing more to propose. Lord North, when he heard of the surrender of Yorktown, almost shrieked, “My God! It is all over; it is all over!” and was plunged in gloom. A new ministry had to be formed. Lord North had been succeeded by Rockingham, who died in July, 1782, and was followed by Shelburne, supposed to be rather liberal, but to share King George’s desire to keep down the Whigs. Negotiations over the terms of peace were carried on with varying fortune for more than a year. John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin were the American Peace Commissioners. The preliminaries between Great Britain and America were signed on December 30, 1782, and with France and Spain nearly two months later. The Dutch held out still longer into 1783. Washington, at his Headquarters in Newburgh, New York, had been awaiting the news of peace, not lazily, but planning for a new campaign and meditating upon the various projects which might be undertaken. To him the news of the actual signing of the treaty came at the end of March. He replied at once to Theodorick Bland; a letter which gave his general views in regard to the needs and rights of the army before it should be disbanded: