THE WONDERFUL STORY OF WASHINGTON
“The ingenuous youth of America will hold up to themselves the bright model of Washington’s example, and study to be what they behold; they will contemplate his character, till all his virtues spread out and display themselves to their delighted vision; as the earliest astronomers, the shepherds on the plains of Babylon, gazed at the stars till they saw them form into clusters and constellations, overpowering at length the eyes of the beholders with the united blaze of a thousand lights.”--WEBSTER.
_Inspiration Series of Patriotic Americans_
THE WONDERFUL STORY OF WASHINGTON
AND THE MEANING OF HIS LIFE FOR THE YOUTH AND PATRIOTISM OF AMERICA
BY C. M. STEVENS Author of “_The Wonderful Story of Lincoln_”
NEW YORK CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
Copyright, 1917, by CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
I. INTRODUCTORY CONSIDERATIONS American Patriotism and the Meaning of America. Washington’s Early Surroundings.
II. THE BOY WITH A WILL AND A WAY Early Circumstances of the First American Hero. A Community Proud of Its Family Honor. The Self-Pity and Sentimentalism of Youth.
III. BEGINNINGS OF EXPERIENCE IN BORDER WARFARE Getting Used to Roughing It. Land Speculation as the Beginning Leading to American Self-Government. The Struggle for the Indian’s Hunting Grounds.
IV. THE RIVALRY AND DIPLOMACY OF THE FRONTIER The First Great Problems of the Indians. Alarm for the Future. Indifference to Great Interests.
V. THE CONSEQUENCE OF ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE Annoyances and Antagonisms. Dishonors and Disasters. Washington Entering the School of War.
VI. THE STRUGGLE FOR FORT DUQUESNE The Separation Beginning Between the Colonies and England. Lessons Gathered from Defeat. Some Personal Interests at Home.
VII. THE FATE OF THE OHIO VALLEY Frontier Fears and Panics. Political Intrigue and Official Confusion. “A Matter of Great Admiration.”
VIII. THE BEGINNING SIGNS OF A GREAT REVOLUTION Military Victory and a Happy Marriage. Life Fulfilled as a Virginia Country Gentleman. The Momentous Struggle Between Might and Right.
IX. SOWING THE WIND AND REAPING THE WHIRLWIND Mount Vernon at First in a Zone of Calm. Giving the Appearance and Keeping the Substance. “Soft Words Butter No Parsnips.”
X. ANTAGONISMS AND HOSTILITIES Blazing the Way to War. The Double-Quick March to Revolution. Violence and Flattery as Methods of Mastery.
XI. GREAT MINDS IN THE GREAT STORM Suppressing Americans. The Business of Getting Ready. Many Men of Many Minds.
XII. THE HOUSE LONG DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF Unpatriotic Confusion of Opinions and Interests. Sometimes Too Late to Mend. Selecting the Leader of Liberty for America.
XIII. LARGE BODIES MOVE SLOWLY The First Commander-in-Chief. Big Business, Money-Makers and Patriotism. The Strong Mind for Great Needs.
XIV. TURNING REVOLUTION INTO GOVERNMENT Seeking Retirement for Life. Freedom and the Wrangle for Personal Gain. Laying the Foundations of Liberty and Law.
XV. THE PEACE OF HOME AT LAST Sorrow for the Departed Scenes. Crowned in the Fullness of Time. A Life-Like Scene from Washington’s Home Life.
XVI. STANDARDS OF AMERICAN PATRIOTISM Foundations. Freedom of the Western Hemisphere. The Loyalty of Youth.
XVII. CONCLUDING REFLECTIONS The Washington Ideal as the American Ideal. Not Birth But Character Makes Americans. The American Lesson Learned from the Greatest Leaders in the Making of America.
WASHINGTON AND AMERICAN LIBERTY
I. AMERICAN PATRIOTISM AND THE MEANING OF AMERICA
“America for Americans” is a patriotic appeal that has arisen in many a political crisis, and then gone to pieces in the confusions of what we mean by “Americans” and “America.” American Liberty has been a goddess of worship from the beginning, and yet we find ourselves in an endless turmoil concerning what we mean by “American liberty.”
Washington and his associate patriots wrote a great definition in history and established that definition in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, but human meaning, like the skies, seems hard to get clear and to keep clear. To know clearly what the definition of freedom means and to promote it in the right-minded way, is the patriotism that identifies anyone anywhere as being American. The makers of America loved the right-minded way, and their primary test of justice unfailingly required, as a basis, the personal liberty that has been described to us by all as freedom to do the right that wrongs no one. To these “rights of man,” they gave “the last full measure of devotion,” as Lincoln defined patriotism, for “the birth of a new freedom under God.”
The public-school youth, who is not in one way or another familiar with the Americanism of Washington and Lincoln, is not yet prepared either for college or for life, and, still more clearly, is not prepared to be an American. The number of un-Americans in America may, in some crisis, become appalling, if, in fact, they do not succeed in Europeanizing America. Against that possibility there is nothing to save us, if we do not save ourselves as our hereditary task of American patriotism.
Washington and Lincoln are the two incomparable constructive ideals of American liberty and manhood. The two lives together complete the meaning of America. Washington began his life with a super-abundance of everything aristocratic in his age. Lincoln began his life in worldly nothingness that had indeed nothing for him but the democratic wilderness till he became a man. And yet both became the same great soul in the same great cause, the maker and preserver of American civilization, as the moral law of man and God.
[Illustration: The Birthplace of George Washington--Bridges Creek, Westmoreland Co., Virginia.]
American life and its ideal humanity cannot be understood by American youth until the wonderful character and struggle of these two supremely typical Americans are understood as the expression of the meaning of America, and even no less as a meaning for the world.
The Great Teacher said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he will lay down his life for a friend,” and no man on earth has a greater friend than the America of Washington and Lincoln.
II. WASHINGTON’S EARLY SURROUNDINGS
We cannot think with a true vision, in estimating the meaning of colonial and revolutionary days, if we allow the glamor of fame and the idolatry of colonial patriotism to obscure our view of those times. There were heroes immortal with what we know as “the spirit of ’76,” but, grading from them were the good, bad and indifferent, that often seemed overwhelming in numbers.
George Washington is known chiefly through the rather stilted style of writing that then prevailed, and the puritanic expressions that were used in describing commendable conduct. Even Washington’s writings were edited so as not to offend sensitive ears, and so as not to give an impression to the reader different from the idealized orthodox character of that severe pioneer civilization. The people were free in everything but social expression. That was sternly required to conform to a rigid puritanic or cavalier standard.
Washington, more than any other great man, seems to have composed his early life from what some well-meaning reformers have termed “copy-book morality;” that is, proverbial morality or personal rules of conduct. Washington in his boyhood wrote out many moral sentences as reminders for his own guidance. He was a persistent searcher after the right way toward the right life.
Washington’s mother is described as being stern in business and moral discipline, even as having a violent temper and being capable of very severe measures to accomplish needed results. It seems that Washington, seeing this method in both father and mother, reinforced, as it were, by the military bearing of his much-admired elder half-brother, took that form of life as his earliest ideal. He was as tireless in perfecting models of business and life as Lincoln was in mastering the unconventional meaning of human beings. Washington at the ages of eleven and twelve delighted to copy various book-keeping forms and mercantile documents. His school books at that age are still preserved and they are models of accuracy and neatness. Besides that, he loved to discipline himself. He was always subjecting himself, either mentally or physically, to some kind of orderly training.
For one who was destined to have such a leading part in framing a new nation for a new world, such a making of mind seems to have been just the thing for that great task.
He enjoyed a great local reputation as the boy who could ride any horse in that county, and who could throw a stone across the Rappahannock. He was a leader in every group of boys to which he came. He drilled them in military parades and umpired them in their disputes and games. Students of the mind-making process have much to consider in the comparison and analogy of a boy being first military chieftain to his playmates, and then step by step, the legislator, judge and chief executive in their political affairs, with the generalship of a revolution for national independence, and the statesmanship of a new empire built in the cause of humanity.
THE BOY WITH A WILL AND A WAY
I. EARLY CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE FIRST AMERICAN HERO 1732
George Washington has his place in American history, not only as being the great commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary army, but as being no less influential and powerful as a political leader and constructive American statesman. He was born February 22, 1732, in one of the wealthiest and most cultured homes in America. From the front door of his father’s house, on the estate that was a few years later named Mount Vernon, could be seen many miles of the Potomac River, and a wide sweep of the shores of Maryland. All that can enter into making life delightful flourished abundantly about the cradle of this child, and contributed toward his preparation and development for leadership, that was to produce a new power in the cause of human freedom for the world. There are easily seen many contributing interests that seemed to be carefully engaged in fitting him for the consequential task of taking the divine right from kings and giving it back to the people who alone have the right to the freedom of the earth.
Very soon after the birth of this child, the family moved to an estate owned by the father on the shores of the Rappahannock, across from Fredericksburg.
All traditions agree that the boy’s father was exceedingly careful that his son should have his mind built up in the most gentlemanly honesty.
Somehow, as we trace the early lives of great men, that word honesty is always intruding as of first importance. In an age when so many men seem to arrive at riches and power through intrigue and the unscrupulous manipulation of means, the word honesty loses significance and is looked upon either as hypocrisy or a joke. And yet, such conditions fail and the success does not succeed.
George Washington was fortunate in his childhood protectors. Besides having his father and mother to take watchful care of his right views of life, there was Lawrence, fourteen years older than George. Lawrence Washington was a son of their father’s earlier marriage. He had been sent away to England to be educated and he returned when George was eight years old. He has been described as a handsome, splendid, gentlemanly young man. He dearly loved George and did all he could to give the boy his honorable ideas of social and political life.
In the midst of this fraternal interest, at the most impressionable age of a child, came a great military excitement. War for the possession of the West Indies was on between Great Britain and Spain. Admiral Vernon had captured Porto Bello on the Isthmus of Darien, and the Spaniards, aided by the French, were preparing to drive the English out. A regiment was to be raised in the Colonies and Lawrence Washington was eager to become a soldier. Such was his father’s position in Colonial affairs that Lawrence was given a Captain’s commission and he sailed away in 1740.
The sound of fife and drum, with Lawrence’s enlistment, doubtless excited the martial spirit in George, as is confirmed by many an anecdote, and started him on the way to that knowledge and training which fitted him to become the head of the revolutionary army.
Augustus Washington, George’s father, died suddenly in 1743, at the age of forty-nine. He was estimated to have been at his death the wealthiest man in Virginia. At least he was able to leave an inheritance to each of his seven children, so that they were each regarded as among the most extensive property owners of that prosperous colony.
Lawrence inherited the estate on the Potomac, which he named Mount Vernon, in honor of his commander in the war with the Spaniards.
George was eleven years old when his father died, and he, with the other four minor children, were left with their property to the guardianship of their mother.
She was indeed the great mother of a great man. Her management morally and financially was conscientious, exact and admirable. George, being her eldest child, was always her favorite, but, with scrupulous care she served each as needed and with the unstinted affection of a noble mother.
II. A COMMUNITY PROUD OF ITS FAMILY HONOR
Lawrence Washington showed in many ways that he dearly loved his reliable, busy little half-brother. George spent much of his time at Mount Vernon. Lawrence had become quite an important man in the public estimation. He had what might well be called a princely estate, which he upheld in princely style, without offence to any one, and with the admiration of all the people.
Next to him, on the picturesque Potomac ridge, lived his father-in-law on the beautiful estate named Belvoir. This very honorable and high-minded gentleman was of an old aristocratic English family, and he was the manager of the extensive estates in Virginia of his cousin, Lord Fairfax.
George Washington grew up in these severely aristocratic associations, in which the gentility had no snobbery and the class distinction nothing offensive beyond the requirements of merit, culture and the manners of genuine gentlemen. Doubtless in admiration for the neatness, cleanliness, harmony and scrupulous morality of these beautiful homes, he was inspired to draw up his famous code known as “Rules for Behavior in Company and Conversation.” We can easily imagine that the visitors he met at Mount Vernon and Belvoir were the very well-bred ladies and chivalrous gentleman of a courtly English period, among whom were mingled numerous heroic captains from the West Indies, whose chief topics of conversation were thrilling descriptions and stories of Pirates and Spaniards. Perhaps he was then receiving a vision of international affairs, from a world view, that was important to his mission in civilization, even as Lincoln learned his country’s welfare in his struggle upward among the backwoods commoners of his times.
That George was greatly influenced by the warship heroes he met is shown by his eagerness to join the navy. Everybody seemed to think this was the thing for him except his mother. Even her firm decisions were at last overcome, a midshipman’s place was obtained for him and his personal effects were sent aboard the man-of-war, but the mother could not say good-bye to her eldest son. She couldn’t give him up and she didn’t. It is hardly likely that the world, a hundred years later, could have known that there ever was such a person as George Washington, if his mother had not changed her mind and kept him from the boisterous turmoil of the uncertain sea. However that may be, he was sent to school instead of making a cruise in the West Indies. His study was mathematics and military tactics, the very thing most needed in the sublime undertaking that was to make his name immortal.
Strange to say, he was known as a very bashful boy. In fact, all through his life he was embarrassed in the presence of ladies. A girl of his own age, who saw much of him when he was a boy, wrote in later life, that “he was a very bashful young man.” She says, “I used often to wish that he would talk more.”
That his emotional feelings were very early developed is quite certain from his own diary written at that time. He wrote, with the usual foolishness of a boy, about some unnamed girl with whom he was madly in love. He was for a long time exceedingly unhappy. Even his well-disciplined mind and his severe regulation of conduct were no proof against the turmoil of unreturned affection. We have never known anything about this beautiful lodestone that had drawn the heart out of him. He never described her or told who she was. It was probably merely a fancy ideal with which he clothed some one utterly impossible as a real friend or mate to him. Such queer freaks of interest have often happened to the emotions of a growing mind, and later, the victim wondered what was possible in the object to cause such feelings. In all likelihood, there was nothing in the object that should have caused anything more than a just admiration or respect. But instead, the feelings caught on fire and had to burn out. So it was with Washington. As he was loyal to his ideals, even when they were merely fancy, foolishly wrapped about some inappropriate object, he remained devoted to his grief until years wore out the memory.
III. THE SELF-PITY AND SENTIMENTALISM OF YOUTH
Those who like their hero to be of chiseled marble may be shocked to think that George Washington, “the father of his Country,” wrote pages in his journal of foolish love-sighs and more foolish poetry. He often bewailed his “poor restless heart, wounded by Cupid’s dart,” and wrote of this wounded heart as “bleeding for one who remains pitiless to my griefs and woes.” That he never had a confidant to whom he could tell his sacred heart-burnings is indicated by the lines:
“Ah, woe is me, that I should love and conceal, Long have I wished and never dared reveal.”
But such experiences let George Washington come a little closer to us as a real boy, and is consolation for many a man who had a like foolish spell in his youth.
George not only kept a tell-tale diary, which has given us all we know of his inner life in youth, but he wrote letters in that journal to many persons. Whether those letters were imaginary or were actually copies of real letters we do not know. Some of these were written while visiting the Fairfax family of Belvoir, after Lord Fairfax had come there from England as the head of the family interests. He wrote to his “dear friend Robin”: “My residence is at present at his lordship’s, where I might, was my heart disengaged, pass my time very pleasantly, as there’s a very agreeable young lady lives in the same house; but, as that’s only adding fuel to the fire, it makes me the more uneasy, for, by often and unavoidably being in company with her, revives my former passion for your Lowland Beauty; whereas, was I to live more retired from young women, I might in some measure alleviate my sorrows by burying that chaste and troublesome passion in the grave of oblivion.”
The “lowland beauty” he refers to is said to have been Miss Grimes, of Westmoreland, who, as Mrs. Lee, became the mother of General Henry Lee, famous in revolutionary times as Light Horse Harry, and always a favorite with General Washington.
Lord Fairfax, to whom he often refers, had a strong influence on his life. This real nobleman had inherited through his mother the Virginia lands granted to Lord Culpepper by Charles II. Having been jilted at the altar, in the very height of a rather famous career, by a lady who had a chance to marry a duke, Lord Fairfax renounced society and left England for Virginia. He took a great liking to young George Washington and they became companions on many a fox-hunt.
Presently it became necessary for Lord Fairfax to have his lands surveyed, and Washington, having studied surveying, was chosen for this task. The boy, though now man’s size, was not yet seventeen when he undertook this very responsible work. But here his careful training served him well. Nothing was ever undertaken by him until it had been thoroughly thought out, and success was thus assured in this his first man-making task. He still kept his journal day by day, but it was now full of the business of life. The emotional dreams of his Lowland Beauty are recorded no more.
This escape from self-pity and individual sentimentalism is in line with Edison’s advice to get busy at something useful if you would avoid temptation and foolishness. Even one so sternly set as Washington needed to have his attention occupied with something to do, as employment for idle hands, in order to be free from devil-ideas sowing artificial interests in the growing mind.
THE BEGINNINGS OF EXPERIENCE IN BORDER WARFARE
I. GETTING USED TO ROUGHING IT
From the aristocratic tables and home comforts of Mount Vernon and Belvoir, the youthful Washington began roughing it in the forests and along the streams of the Shenandoah. He had begun to adapt himself to the primitive conditions of his country and to share the coarse fare of the commoners that composed the civilization of the new world.
To one of his friends, he wrote: “I have not slept more than three or four nights in a bed, but, after walking a good deal all day, I have lain down before the fire upon a little straw or fodder, or a bearskin, whichever was to be had, with man, wife and children, like dogs and cats; and happy is he who gets the berth nearest the fire.”
He wrote in his note-book that he received, when in active service, a doubloon per day, which was $7.20 in gold and worth much more than that correspondingly at that time. These first wages are in sharp contrast to those received by Lincoln, and the preparation for life coming to the two men was as notably different as their mission and as their times.
Soon after this, Washington, though only a boy, was appointed official surveyor for the government, and so accurate were his surveys that they have ever remained the undisputed authority. Meantime, he had an eye to the practical, and, as a result, the choicest parts of the Shenandoah Valley came into possession of the Washingtons and remained with them for many generations.
The able and talented young gentleman was frequently for long periods the guest of Lord Fairfax, after Lord Fairfax had moved from Belvoir to his “quarters” beyond the Blue Ridge, which he had made into a spacious new home named Greenway Court. All the culture of England was gathered there and nothing was failing to give the young man a clear idea of the social and political conditions of the world.
World history has much to do in making individual history and so it was with Washington. England and France were rivals and at war. The war came to a close, and, so anxious was each for peace, that they settled their home differences and left to the future their rivalry for territory in North America. It then became a race for them, who could occupy and defend territory the most rapidly. The vast overlapping claims ran down from the Saint Lawrence River to the Ohio River and on to the Mississippi.
French explorers had certainly been the first to pass through that region and map out the territory, but the English had occupied the eastern coast and given land titles that ran west to the setting sun. Evidently, the mother countries had settled their differences in Europe only to turn their energies to securing and fortifying their claims in the new world.
Strange indeed is the course of destiny. The revolutionary grandmothers used to recite a very vague stanza which ran as follows:
“A lion and a unicorn Were fighting for the crown Up jumped a little dog And knocked them both down.”
At least, England lost most of its possessions in North America, France lost all, and a little nation appeared that was the cradle of liberty for mankind and the unsurpassable maker of a greater world.
II. LAND SPECULATION AS THE BEGINNING LEADING TO AMERICAN SELF-GOVERNMENT
We may reasonably find a beginning of the American republic, involving the career of George Washington, in the formation of what is known as the Ohio Company. If this company had been formed of unscrupulous speculators, as were other big franchises granted by kings, it could well have been a near-relative to the get-rich-quick manias that present so queer a view of men’s minds, not only in those days but even in present times. But such honorable men as Lawrence and Augustine Washington were prominent in that company, and it was not long till Lawrence had chief management of the company.
A very significant controversy concerning freedom of conscience arose in the endeavor to induce the Dutch from Pennsylvania to settle on the new land grants. These Pennsylvanians were what is known as dissenters. They had a religious belief of their own. If they moved into the territory of the Ohio Company they would have to attend Episcopalian service and contribute taxes to the support of the Church of England.
Lawrence Washington was opposed to the English laws that demanded such sectarian contribution of means and life.
“It has ever been my opinion,” he argued, “and I hope it will ever be, that restraints on conscience are cruel in regard to those on whom they are imposed, and injurious to the country imposing them.... Virginia was greatly settled in the latter part of Charles the First’s time, and during the usurpation, by the zealous churchmen; and that spirit, which was then brought in, has ever since continued; so that, except a few Quakers, we have no dissenters. But what has been the consequence? We have increased by slow degrees, whilst our neighboring colonies, whose natural advantages are greatly inferior to ours, have become populous.”
This view may look as if it had been taken from the old saying that nothing succeeds like success, and yet this may, in the long run, be the necessary proof found in a thing being true as it works. In any event, the Washington idea was that of individual freedom, and this was the first essential in a mind that was to have such a large share in founding the government of America.
The romantic contest was now on for the possession of the great region of the Ohio and its tributaries. It was a vast wilderness of pathless forests, rich in the wild game that was then the fortune of new-world traders. The friendship of the Indians was of the highest importance to both sides. Every effort was made by both French and English to form alliances with the Indians. The French addressed themselves in all their meetings as “Fathers” to the Indians, while the English always used the term “Brothers.” It was clear to all that if the “Fathers” won the allegiance of the Indians, the “Brothers” would have to go, or likewise “t’other way ’round.”
While Mr. Gist, the surveyor of the Ohio Company, was finding the boundaries of their territory, he was met by an old Delaware Sachem who asked him a very embarrassing question.
“The French,” said the old Indian chief, “claim all the land on one side of the Ohio, and the English claim all the land on the other side, now where does the Indian’s land lie?”
The question was answered at last by time. The French “Fathers” and the English “Brothers” took it all, after which the new government of the United States came into possession; and the orator and the poet could fittingly say of the Indians, “Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains and read their doom in the setting sun.”
But American responsibility, if not its humanity, at last settled “The Indian Question,” and the “good Indian” became a new American.
III. THE STRUGGLE OF NATIONS FOR THE INDIAN’S HUNTING GROUNDS
The wild struggle between the French and English that now took place in the wilderness, for the possession of the Indian’s hunting ground could hardly be dignified enough to be called war, and the holiness of its cause could hardly be raised higher than rival commercial interests working for something in which neither had any clear claims. But it had a most momentous consequence on whether America should be French and Spanish or English and Spanish. In those dark forests where the dusky savages held the balance of power, to make the “Fathers” or the “Brothers” successful, was played the tragic scenes deciding the political destiny of the new world.
The French began to build forts and supply stations along their northern lines from Canada, and the English began to drill volunteers for the purpose of defending the Ohio Company’s territory, if not even further to expel the French entirely as a menace to the peace of the company.
Virginia was divided into military districts whose commander-in-chief was an adjutant-general, having the rank of major. Lawrence Washington secured one of these military districts for his brother George, who was then only nineteen years of age. Manhood of mind as well as of body had come to him rapidly and there is no evidence but that he fulfilled these high duties with complete satisfaction to all concerned. To American interests, these experiences were indeed a providential training for the priceless responsibilities to come.
Method, accuracy and persistence were prime characteristics of George Washington. He did not assume to know it all without any need of preparation. He believed he could take a job for which he was not fitted with the profound belief that before the job got to him he would be fitted. This reminds us of how Lincoln took the job of surveyor before he knew how to survey, but when he began the work of surveying, even with the rudest instruments, his work was correct.
There was a Westmoreland volunteer, Adjutant Muse, who had served through the Spanish Campaigns with Lawrence Washington. He was well informed by both experience and study in the art and theory of war. George brought him to Mount Vernon and became under him a strenuous student in military tactics. There was also Jacob Van Braam, a soldier of fortune, who was an expert in fencing, and who had likewise been through the West Indies with Lawrence. Jacob was speedily added to the military academy at Mount Vernon with its one student. But these teachers might well feel like Plato at the Academy in Athens. The story is that a stormy day had kept all of Plato’s pupils away but one. Nevertheless, Plato arose and began his lecture as usual. The pupil protested but Plato continued, saying, “It is true that only one pupil is here, but that one is Aristotle.”
Adjutant Muse and Swordmaster Van Braam had only one pupil for their distinguished instruction, but that one was George Washington.
It was probably about the time when George had learned all he needed of these teachers, that Lawrence’s health broke down, and his physicians ordered him to go to the Barbadoes for the winter. It was necessary for George to go with him, and he did so, writing a journal of all the occurrences and observations he considered worthy of note.
Within two weeks, after he arrived in that happy-go-lucky colony where no one was interested in anything but pleasure and pastime, George was struck down by the smallpox. He recovered in three weeks and was slightly marked for life, but with no other consequence than a disagreeable experience.
Lawrence decided to leave the Barbadoes for Bermuda, and so he sent George home to bring Mrs. Washington to Bermuda. But she did not go. Lawrence returned, and died soon after, at the age of thirty-four years.
This noble man and genuine American did much toward preparing his half-brother George for the immortal work to be done, and the name of Lawrence Washington should ever remain sacred in the memory of the American people.
THE RIVALRY AND DIPLOMACY OF THE FRONTIER
I. THE FIRST GREAT PROBLEMS OF THE INDIANS
From small events in the deep wilderness, human interests were forming into the flow of incalculable affairs. The Ohio Indians had gathered in council with their English brethren at Logstown, and entered into a treaty not to molest any English settlers in the territory claimed by the Ohio Company. The Six Nations of Iroquois to the northeast had very haughtily declined to attend the conference. This was because they were nearer the French and under their influence.
“It is not our custom,” said an Iroquois chief, “to meet to treat of affairs in the woods and weeds. If the Governor of Virginia wants to speak with us, we will meet him at Albany, where we expect the Governor of New York to be present.”
[Illustration: Washington and His Family.]
On the other side, the Ohio Indians sent a protest to the French at Lake Erie.
“Fathers,” said the messenger, “you are the disturbers of this land by building towns, and taking the country from us by fraud and force. If you had come in a peaceable manner, like our brothers, the English, we should have traded with you as we do with them; but that you should come and build houses on our land, and take it by force, is what we cannot submit to. Our brothers, the English, have heard this, and I now come to tell it to you, for I am not afraid to order you off this land.”
“Child,” was the reply of the French commander, “you talk foolishly. I am not afraid of flies and mosquitoes, for such are those who oppose me. Take back your wampum. I fling it at you.”
It became evident that the French intended to connect Canada with Louisiana by a chain of forts and so confine the English to the coast east of the Alleghanies. This meant the ruin of the Ohio Company. A strong appeal was made to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. He was a stockholder in the Ohio Company and was accordingly a ready listener to the danger of losing the Ohio country.
Governor Dinwiddie sent a commissioner with a protest to the French, who were rapidly breaking their way through from Canada, defeating the hostile Indians, and breaking to pieces their confidence in their English brothers. Captain Trent was the man selected for this dangerous and delicate task. He went to Logstown and then on into the Indian country, where the French had scattered the Indians and established their authority.
Trent could not see anything to do and he returned home a failure. This made matters worse, and required a still stronger man, able to restore the lost confidence of the Indians and to impress the French with the determination and power of the English. There was only one man who seemed qualified for such a hazardous undertaking, and he was only twenty-two years of age. This was George Washington.
He was appointed to the dangerous mission and given full instructions in writing. With the required equipment, Washington set forth on the remarkable journey, which was the beginning of his great career as the maker of a nation. The record of this great adventure belongs to history and little can be done toward telling any part of it without telling enough to make a book. The journey contained all the perils of such a wilderness, the usual intrigues characteristic of the times in the dealing with the Indians, and the customary experience of frontier diplomacy between two rival colonies, of which the mother countries were at peace. But with a thoroughness that was possible only to one who had made thoroughness an object and a habit of his life, Washington noted everything he saw among the tribes, at the French outposts, and at the French headquarters.
Washington had started with his message from Governor Dinwiddie on October 30, and he returned with the reply, January 16. The long journey through the trackless forests of the winter wilderness had been one of almost incredible hardship and peril, where his life many times appeared hopeless, but he won out and performed his mission. It is probable that nothing throughout his wonderful career was more trying to his character or more evidence of his indomitable manhood. One who was able to perform successfully such a mission, and bring back such a clear view of the situation, was henceforth to be rated as one of the worthiest sons of Virginia, and a reliable guardian of her fortunes.
II. ALARM FOR THE FUTURE
Washington’s journal, covering his journey and his observations, was printed, and it awakened the colonies to the fact that, if the French took possession of the Ohio Valley, the English would have no future beyond the Alleghenies. The French commander’s evasive reply, coupled with his statement that he was there by his superior’s orders and would obey them to the letter, made it plain that, however much the two home countries were at peace, the American colonies would have to fight for their rights, as they conceived them to be, in these Western regions. As is to be seen, this colonial English war with the colonial French was destined to accomplish three far-reaching results. It would unite the English colonies, it would give them an extended view of their human rights, and it would develop a leader in George Washington.
At first the support given the Governor, even in Virginia, was very meagerly and grudgingly given.
“Those who offered to enlist,” says Washington, “were for the most part loose, idle persons, without house or home, some without shoes or stockings, some shirtless, and many without coat or waistcoat.”
One of the French officers had boasted to Washington that the French would be the first to take possession of the Ohio lands, because the English were so slow, and it proved true.
Captain Trent had been sent with about fifty men to build a fort at the fork of the Ohio River, the place recommended by Washington. But, when it was less than half done, a thousand Frenchmen appeared and ordered the English fort-builders to leave. They were glad to have that privilege. A few days after Washington arrived at Will’s creek, with probably two hundred men, the fort-builders came in and told their story.
It was known that the French had abundance of war-supplies, could receive reinforcements on short notice, were already at least five to one in numbers, and had the assured support of at least six hundred Indians.
Washington’s men were undisciplined, and Trent’s men being volunteers for other service were insubordinate. There were no supplies, and reinforcements were doubtful.
But even in such a forlorn condition, he must be master of the situation or all would indeed be lost. He decided to fortify the Ohio Company’s storehouses at Redstone Creek, acquaint the colonies of his condition and await necessary reinforcements. In this management under difficulties, he had an experience and training, probably of great service to his country in the nobler cause of political liberty, that was destined to be his task for grander years to come.
III. INDIFFERENCE TO GREAT INTERESTS
The wilderness, the Indians, the French, and the slow-moving management coming from the colonies, offered difficulties almost insurmountable, and it would take a volume to describe in detail the conditions and affairs. Even the officers were almost in mutiny over their pay.
“Let me serve voluntarily,” Washington wrote to the Governor, “and I will, with the greatest pleasure, devote my services to this expedition,--but, to be slaving through woods, rocks and mountains for the shadow of pay, I would rather toil like a day laborer for a maintenance, if reduced to the necessity, than to serve on such ignoble terms.”
In a letter to his friend, Colonel Fairfax, in which he preferred to serve as a volunteer without pay, rather than for what he was getting, he added, “for the motives that have led me here are pure and noble. I had no view of acquisition but that of honor, by serving faithfully my king and my country.”
In the midst of all this dissatisfaction and distress, word came through Indian scouts that the French were marching to attack him. The tracks of a scouting party having been discovered, an Indian was put on the trail and he found the camp of the enemy. Washington determined to surprise them. He planned to slip up on one side of them, as his Indian allies did the same on the other side. Between them he believed he could capture them all. But the sharp watch of the French caught sight of the English and the forest battle began. One of Washington’s men had been killed and three wounded in a fifteen minutes’ battle, when the French, having lost several and becoming frightened at being between two fires, gave way and ran. They were soon overtaken and captured, excepting one who escaped and carried the news to the fort at the forks of the Ohio. Ten of the French had been killed and one wounded. Twenty-one were prisoners.
Though this battle, as measured in the deeds of other wars, was indeed a small affair, it was weighty with consequence for the interests of America. It was Washington’s first experience in battle. In a letter to one of his brothers, he says, “I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”
This statement of a boy, at the age of twenty-two in the first emotions of military excitement, is hardly to be called mere rodomontade as Horace Walpole termed it. It is said that George II remarked, when he was told of this expression used by the young Virginian commander, “He would not say so, if he had been used to hear many.” Forty years later, when Washington was President of the United States of America, he was asked about the so-called charm of whistling bullets, and he replied, “If I said so, it was when I was young.”
The victory of this battle, small as it was, aroused the colonists and held the confidence of the Indians. The Indian chief sent the scalps of the ten slain soldiers to the different tribes and called on them to come at once to the help of their brothers, the English.
Washington’s difficulty in getting supplies and in obtaining reinforcements taxed all his powers and all his stability of character. There was no doubt that the entire success of the campaign depended upon his patience and resourceful perseverance. It was making the twenty-two-year-old gentleman of Mount Vernon and Belvoir very rapidly into a hardy warrior of the wilderness, and a tactful manager of men. These qualities were being strengthened for the coming great day, when there should be a new nation. Doubtless the sordid stupidity of the colonial governors, in their tardy and meager support of him, had much to do in preparing the way for ideas of independence and a self-governing body of States.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE
I. ANNOYANCES AND ANTAGONISMS
Heroism appears often to be a thankless task. Patience had about vanished when, most opportunely, Adjutant Muse, Washington’s instructor in military tactics, arrived with much needed supplies, and also suitable presents for the Indians. A grand ceremonial of presentation took place. The pompous ceremonial seemed to be very dear to the heart of those so-called simple children of the forests. The chiefs were decorated in all their barbaric finery. Washington wore a big medal sent him by the Governor, intended to be impressively used on such occasions. Washington gave the presents and decorated the chiefs and warriors with the medals, which they were to wear in memory of their brethren, the English, and their father, the King of England.
One of the warriors, the son of Queen Aliquippa, wanted the honor of having an English name, so, in elaborate ceremonial, Washington bestowed upon him the name Fairfax. The principal chief of the tribes desiring a like honor was given the name of the governor, Dinwiddie.
William Fairfax had, about this time, written a letter to Washington advising that he hold religious services in camp, especially for the benefit of the Indians. This was done, and the imagination can picture the motley assembly being so solemnly presided over in that picturesque wilderness by the boyish commander of a no less motley army.
In reading about big wars, in which there are millions striving for the bloody mastery, with monster machines of modern destruction, it may sound trivial to read of the fear with which Washington’s wilderness army heard of the approach of ninety Frenchmen. But, in truth, this handful of men were at the beginning of the greatest human interests, and were giving direction to human affairs hardly less consequential than the European War.
Washington, with the buoyant fervor of youth, sallied forth from the fort, hoping to have the honor of presenting Governor Dinwiddie with a choice lot of French prisoners. The scouts had certainly been well scared. The ninety French warriors were found to be nine deserters anxious to be captured. But they gave valuable information regarding Fort Duquesne, which was put to good use by Washington.
Now began one of those little annoyances which marked the feeling of British officers toward Colonial officers, and showed the state of mind which was at last to be an intolerable antagonism between England and America.
Captain Mackay arrived with an independent company of North Carolinians. Captain Mackay held a commission direct from the King, Washington held his by Colonial authority; therefore, Captain Mackay believed himself and his company to have far superior standing to that of Washington and his provincial men.
The result was that he would not associate himself in any way with Washington nor allow his men to have anything in common with Washington’s men. No matter what Washington urged as to their common danger and their common cause, he very haughtily flouted every attempt made to have the two commanders work together.
The experience Washington had in managing this delicate and foolish situation was doubtless very valuable in handling even more delicate and foolish situations of vastly more consequence in the coming revolutionary war.
II. DISHONORS AND DISASTERS
Finding that co-operation with the North Carolina troops was impossible, Washington left Fort Necessity in their charge, and toiled forward through the forest, making a military road toward Fort Duquesne, which was at the point where Pittsburg now is, and which was in the very heart of the region claimed by the English colonies.
Washington reached the station kept by Christopher Gist. This was the heroic woodsman who had been his companion through the most perilous part of his romantic journey when he carried the history-making message from the Governor of Virginia to the Commander of the French.
Here he learned that a large force from Fort Duquesne was coming against him. He hastily threw up fortifications and called in all his forces, including several companies of Indians. A messenger was hastily despatched to Captain Mackay at Fort Necessity, thirteen miles away, and he came on with the swivel guns of the fort. A council of war soon decided that they could not hold their own at this place, and must retreat to more favorable grounds for a stand against the enemy.
In the retreat that followed, the Virginians were greatly exasperated by the North Carolinians. Mackay’s men were “King’s soldiers” and so would not belittle themselves with the labors of the retreat. At Great Meadows, in the center of which was Fort Necessity, the Virginians, exhausted and resentful, refused to go any farther, and Washington decided to make his stand there.
They had left Gist’s station none too soon. At dawn on the morning following the retreat, Captain de Villiers with five hundred Frenchmen and several hundred Indians surrounded the place. Finding that the English had escaped, they were about to return to Fort Duquesne, when a deserter from Washington’s camp arrived. He told them that he had escaped to keep from starving to death, and that the troops under Washington were in mutiny over their desperate situation.
De Villiers set out at once to capture Fort Necessity.
Meanwhile, Washington set the Virginians at work strengthening the defences of the fort. The Indians seeing such inferior equipment for defense, and the discord among the troops, became afraid and deserted.
On the morning of July 3, 1754, the French arrived at the edge of Great Meadows and began firing from behind trees, at whatever they could see. All day Washington kept his men close sheltered in the trenches, keeping the enemy at rifle’s distance in the edge of the woods. At night a steady downpour of rain began, half drowning the men in the trenches and ruining their ammunition.
At eight o’clock the French demanded a parley looking to the surrender of Fort Necessity. Washington at first refused, but their condition was hopeless. The only person with them who understood any French was Jacob Van Braam, the swordsmanship teacher of Washington at Mount Vernon.
Van Braam went back and forth in the drenching storm of the black night, between the lines, with the negotiations. At last the French sent in their ultimatum. Van Braam tried to translate it by the light of a candle, under cover of a rude tent, through which the rain was pouring upon candle, paper and persons. The terms of the surrender were very humiliating and reflected severely on Washington’s honor, but according to Van Braam’s translation the terms, though hard, were acceptable.
Washington signed the document and the next morning the bedraggled and disheartened men marched out with the honors of war, though the document of surrender, as afterward correctly translated, did not leave a shred of honor for the defeated colonists. It was then believed that Van Braam had purposely mistranslated it in the service of the French, with whom he and Captain Stobo had to remain as hostages. But subsequent information from the French exonerated Van Braam from this charge, deciding that the mistranslation was from ignorance and not intentional.
The soldiers were put into quarters at Will’s creek, and Washington went on to make his report to the Governor.
The Virginia legislature took up an investigation of the charges as to Van Braam’s treason and Captain Stobo’s cowardice, as well as the conduct of Washington, and the questions of the surrender. Thanks and rewards were freely voted to the troops, but it was some time later before evidence came in, establishing the patriotic character of Van Braam and Stobo.
III. WASHINGTON ENTERING THE SCHOOL OF WAR
The French were so elated with their victory, and the belief that the English had been permanently expelled, that they withdrew most of their troops from Fort Duquesne and abandoned all precautions against surprise and attack. Before the end of a month Captain Stobo, who was being held by them as hostage, smuggled a letter out by a friendly Indian describing all the conditions and laying out a plan by which the fort could easily be surprised and taken. He mentioned the boasts of the French and said it was worse than death to hear them. He said that he and his fellow prisoner, Van Braam, were ready at any time to lay down their lives for their country. This letter, after much wandering, reached the Governor of Pennsylvania and was by him sent to the Governor of Virginia.
Captain Stobo’s plan was practical. As all kinds of Indians were being allowed without question to come and go as they pleased at Fort Duquesne, he advised that the fort be first occupied by friendly Indians, who would hold it till it could be turned over to the Colonial troops.
Governor Dinwiddie wanted the honor himself and he planned several ways of his own to capture the fort. These were rejected by Washington.
Now began unceasingly the wrangle and turmoil between the arrogance of King’s authority and the native independence of the colonist’s ideals and character. The colonists were not allowed to have any officer above the rank of Captain, and Washington quit the service.
Governor Sharpe, of Maryland, was appointed by the King as Commander of all the forces used to recover the King’s territory from the French, and he wrote a letter to Washington, trying to enlist his services.
Washington’s reply gives some insight into his independence and maturity of mind at this time.
“You make mention,” he replied, “of my continuing in the service and retaining my colonel’s commission. The idea has filled me with surprise; for, if you think me capable of holding a commission that has neither rank nor emolument annexed to it, you must maintain a very contemptible opinion of my weakness, and believe me more empty than the commission itself.”
He added that it was no desire to quit the service which caused him to reject the offer, but the call of honor and the advice of friends, because his feelings were strong for the military life.
Washington now returned to Mount Vernon, where he took up a quiet agricultural life, though constantly in association and council with his countrymen over the rapidly developing questions of war between the colonies and the French.
France was secretly pouring troops and means into Canada, and England was as busy making ready in the equipment of the colonies, though the two home governments were professing to be profoundly at peace.
Alexandria, near by, merely a pleasurable horseback ride from Mount Vernon, was the scene of gathering forces, now under command of an experienced English General named Braddock. Ships of war and transports were constantly passing up the Potomac past Mount Vernon.
What a glorious array over Washington’s ragged forces of the year before! His military ardor was again kindled. The boom of cannon outranked the moo of cattle in his meadows. The youth of twenty-three, who had already tasted the glory as well as the defeat of battle, could no longer endure the peaceful shades of Mount Vernon. He let it be known that he would like to be attached as an independent volunteer to General Braddock’s staff. The offer was very decorously given and accepted. He had neither “rank nor emolument” in this position, but it was also neither subservient nor responsible. He was merely an attache, a visitor as it were, in General Braddock’s family of advisers.
His mother, hearing of this move to return to the army, hurried to Mount Vernon to dissuade him. She wanted him to remain a country gentleman attending to their property interests, which were hard for her to manage. But the spirit of Washington seemed to feel a greater destiny. His mind was made up and he joined the General whose name is so familiar in the history classes of the public schools in the United States.
This conflict, so important in preparing the colonies for the struggle toward independence and for the causes that made them seek independence, became known in American history as the French and Indian war.
The story of it can nowhere be better told, nor more understandingly read, for its significance to American independence, than in the school histories.
THE STRUGGLE FOR FORT DUQUESNE
I. THE SEPARATION BEGINNING BETWEEN THE COLONIES AND ENGLAND
The arrogance and ignorance that so estranged the American colonies and broke down their spirit of allegiance to Great Britain may be well exhibited in an extract from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The experiences of this eminent man in making a visit to General Braddock came to pass through the following series of events.
Sir John St. Clair was, at this time, in command at Fort Cumberland. He ordered the colony of Pennsylvania to cut a road through to the Ohio. The redoubtable commander seemed to think it was only a child’s job or a few days’ work. As it was not done promptly, he got into a rage, and, according to the pioneer woodsman, George Croghan, “stormed like a lion rampant.” He declared that “by fire and sword” he would oblige the inhabitants to build that road. He said that if the French defeated him it would be because of the slow Pennsylvanians, and, in that case, he would declare them “a parcel of traitors,” and the colony should be treated as being in rebellion against the King.
Likewise, as Braddock got ready to move, Sir John became furious at obstacles which, not knowing till then that they existed, he considered that they had no right to exist, and therefore that the people were to be blamed. In this state of trouble between the people and the English officers, who knew so little of the wilderness, Benjamin Franklin, then forty-nine years of age, was called on to act as peacemaker. He visited Braddock and was received and treated as a worthy guest. This visit gave him a chance to see into the fatal ignorance and arrogance of the English government, and to understand the irreconciliable points of view between the colonies and England.
“In conversation one day,” says Franklin, “General Braddock gave me some account of his intended progress. ‘After taking Fort Duquesne,’ said he, ‘I am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, on to Frontenac, if the season will allow time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days; and then I can see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.’”
Franklin very tactfully and diplomatically ventured to describe the long road that must be cut through forests all the way, the thin line of troops that would have to be stretched out in the march along the narrow way, and the ambush of Indians breaking out upon that thin, long line at various places.
“He smiled at my ignorance,” says Franklin, “and replied, ‘These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to raw American militia, but upon the King’s regular and disciplined troops, Sir, it is impossible that they should make any impression.’”
Franklin adds, “I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession, and said no more.”
To defeat an enemy, it is very clear that one should know how the enemy thinks and what he does. This was the schooling that George Washington was now getting. The place he had on General Braddock’s staff was teaching him the tactics of English generals, against which he was a few years later to wage a glorious war for an ideal of American freedom and the establishment of a democratic form of government in America.
The disastrous defeat of Braddock’s expedition and the death of Braddock has always formed a stirring chapter in American school histories, until in recent times it has been more and more lessened in the length of description because of the increasing story of American affairs. Washington’s part in it is interesting largely because of the preparation it gave him for the great work of leading the colonial armies in the Revolutionary War.
II. LESSONS GATHERED FROM DEFEAT
General Braddock, with the most stupid disdain of both natural obstacles and native advice, especially regardless of Washington’s warning, pushed on to overwhelm the French and Indians, as he had outlined to Franklin. His disastrous defeat and tragic death awoke the colonists to their danger, but it seemed to have little effect on the arrogance and ignorance of the supposed military protectors of the colonies.
Fugitives from the disastrous battle field spread through the colonies and the news ran from mouth to mouth along the wilderness roads, gathering in exaggeration as it went. To counteract this news at his own home, Washington wrote to his mother as speedily as possible. Referring to the battle, he said, “The Virginia troops showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed. The dastardly behavior of those they called regulars exposed all others, that were ordered to their duty, to almost certain death; and, at last, in spite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary they ran, as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them.”
In writing to his half-brother, Augustine, he said, “As I have heard, since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you that I have not composed the latter. But, by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability, or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, though death was levelling my companions on every side of me!”
The defeat of Braddock, we may safely set down as one of the most extensive liberating forces in the new world. It struck out of the minds of the colonists the respect and fear which held them captive to the mastery of hands from across the sea. The disaster was not only a rout and a slaughter but it was at last revealed as a military disgrace and an inexcusable blunder.
The commander of Fort Duquesne had only a handful of men. He was fully decided on either abandoning the fort at once, or in surrendering on the best terms he could get, when Captain de Beaujeu obtained leave to take two hundred and eighteen French soldiers and six hundred and thirty Indians, eight hundred and thirty-five in all, for the purpose of delaying the British advance by ambush. These forest rangers met Braddock’s twelve hundred select soldiers, and threw them back in such a panic that, when the commander, Dunbar, reached Fort Cumberland, where there were fifteen hundred more seasoned troops, no stand was made, but the flight was continued on to Philadelphia.
[Illustration: Washington in Command.]
Washington’s intimate associate, Dr. Hugh Mercer, was so severely wounded in the shoulder that he could not keep up with the fugitives. He hid in a fallen tree and witnessed the terrible scenes of the battlefield after the soldiers had fled. The wounded were tortured, scalped and all were stripped of everything the Indians could use. Then the wild horde left, yelling through the woods, waving aloft the scalps. The Indians were bedecked with glittering uniforms, and loaded with booty.
Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography that “this whole transaction gave us the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the powers of British regular troops had not been well founded.”
What Washington thought about it all is well summed up and very tersely expressed in a letter to his half-brother Augustine. It shows us what all this had done for the loyal and patriotic mind of Washington. It reveals how his mind, like that of other colonists, was being prepared for the event, that led to a break with the home-country England.
In that very expressive letter he says, “I was employed to go a journey in Winter, when I believe few or none would have undertaken it, and what did I get by it?--my expenses home! I was then appointed, with trifling pay, to conduct a handful of men to the Ohio. What did I get by that? Why, after putting myself to a considerable expense in equipping and providing necessaries for the campaign, I went out, was soundly beaten and lost all! Came in and had my commission taken from me; or, in other words, my command reduced, under pretense of an order from home (England). I then went out a volunteer with General Braddock, and lost all my horses, and many other things. But, this being a voluntary act, I ought not to have mentioned it; nor should I have done so, were it not to show that I have been on the losing order ever since I entered the service, which is now nearly two years.”
This historical summary was the experience in divers ways of very many colonists, but they did not have any; suggestion of how that bitter experience was really to become a great blessing to the cause of liberty throughout the earth.
III. SOME PERSONAL INTERESTS AT HOME
Here and there we catch glimpses of Washington showing that he was not the sculptured majesty that was pictured for his youth by writers in the early decades of the nineteenth century. We prefer to think of him as sympathetic, gallant, and enjoying the familiar courtesies of common life. That Washington was not without social friendship is shown in a note which he received from three young ladies written him from Belvoir on his return from the French and Indian war. It speaks for itself:
“After thanking heaven for your safe return, I must accuse you of great unkindness in refusing us the pleasure of seeing you this evening. If you will not come to us tomorrow morning very early, we shall be at Mount Vernon.
“SALLIE FAIRFAX. ANN SPEARING. ELIZABETH DENT.”
There is no record to complete the picture of these young ladies’ interest in Washington, but if they could have such a view of his sociability with such propriety, we may be sure that he was not above the common human sympathies that fill the hard lines of life.
Washington’s connection with the army had ceased at the death of Braddock, but he was still adjutant-general of the northern division of the Province. Braddock’s defeat had thoroughly frightened the colonists, and panic-stricken rumors surged around that French and Indians were about to make incursions here and there and everywhere. The slow-going legislative bodies suddenly woke up and voted the organization of ample supplies and men. An undignified scramble took place for favorites to be given high commands. Washington was urged by his friends to be a candidate, but he refused. As to this matter he wrote, “If the command should be offered me, the case will then be altered, as I should be at liberty to make such objections as reason, and my small experience, have pointed out.”
In the midst of this turmoil he received a letter from his mother begging him not to go back into the war but to return to his home-life and become a business man. His reply to her is quite significant of the character of Washington:
“If it is in my power to avoid going to the Ohio again, I shall; but if the command is pressed upon me by the general voice of the country, and offered upon such terms as can not be objected against, it would reflect dishonor upon me to refuse it; and that, I am sure, must, and ought to give you greater uneasiness than my going in an honorable command. Upon no other terms will I accept it. At present, I have no proposals made to me, nor have I any advice of such an intention, except from private hands.”
But, it so happened that on the same day, after this letter had been sent away, he received the news that he had been appointed commander-in-chief of all the forces of Virginia, and upon the terms he had outlined to his friends. Besides, his closest friends were appointed officers next in command to him.
This was a triumph over Governor Dinwiddie, who had a special favorite whom he had pressed hard for the appointment. It was also made for a man who had risen to that esteem among his countrymen, not through victories but through defeats, not through success but through failure. And, it must be remembered, that Washington was not yet twenty-four years old. But the general esteem in which he was held may be gathered from a statement made in a sermon at the time of his appointment, by the Rev. Samuel Davis. It might have been mere enthusiasm, but, in the light of such great subsequent events, it looked like prophecy.
He turned from his religious theme to the needs of the colonies, and then spoke of “that heroic youth, Colonel George Washington, whom I can not but hope Providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner for some important service to his country.”
THE FATE OF THE OHIO VALLEY
I. FRONTIER FEARS AND PANICS
There was an abundance of responsibility at once for Washington in his new official position. All the frontiers were being attacked by Indians urged on by the French. Washington tried to get his troops together to meet the Indians at the outposts, but he was unable at the main post to muster more than twenty-five of the militia. The others declared that if they had to die they preferred to die with their women and children.
In his first report to the Governor, he wrote, “No orders are obeyed, but such as a party of soldiers or my own drawn sword enforces. Without this, not a single horse, for the most earnest occasion, can be had,--to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived, by having every point hitherto submitted to them. However, I have given up none, where His Majesty’s service requires the contrary, and where my proceedings are justified by my instructions; nor will I, unless they execute what they threaten,--that is, to blow out our brains.”
This was naturally at the period of Washington’s greatest loyalty to his Sovereign, and also shows that some of Braddock’s notions of military authority still lingered with him. Perhaps it is better to say that he recognized the military necessity for obedient discipline in a common purpose and result, or there could be no successful army.
We may easily guess that the insolence to which he refers was the frontiersman’s disrespect for military authority and his growing belief in his own right to choose the manner of his service or his death. These men had been as badly treated by the Braddock style of authority as Washington had been, and most of his troubles doubtless arose from their memory of insolence in the officers.
As an example of the panic and confusion of the times, while Washington was at Winchester endeavoring to get his troops organized, a man came running into town, one Sunday afternoon, saying in breathless terror that a horde of Indians was only twelve miles off, killing and burning everything they came to. Washington remained up all night preparing for the attack. At about dawn on Monday morning, another man arrived, declaring that a host of Indians was now within four miles of the town. He had himself heard the guns of the Indians and the shrieks of the victims. The scouts sent out by Washington had not yet returned, and the terror-stricken people at once guessed that they had been ambushed and killed.
All that Washington could get together equipped to meet the Indian drive was only forty men. At the head of these he rode forth to the scene of massacre and carnage. All that they ever found was three drunken troopers who had been yelling in their carousal on the way to town and firing off their pistols.
Washington arrested them and brought them in as trophies of the Indian war.
“These circumstances,” Washington wrote in his report, “show what a panic prevails among the people; how much they are all alarmed at the most usual customary crimes; and yet how impossible it is to get them to act in any respect for their common safety.”
A Captain arriving at that time with recruits from Alexandria, reported that, in coming across the Blue Ridge, he had met a crowd of people hastening away in terror, whom he could not stop. They all told him that the Indians had overwhelmed the country and that Winchester had been sacked and burned.
Washington saw that nothing but confusion and cross purposes could prevail under the conditions as they then existed. Accordingly, he set about to reform the methods and the laws. Under his management, order at last came out of chaos. He also learned the uses of military show to give confidence and he ordered rather gorgeous uniforms to be sent him from England. This was probably necessary in order also to retain the respect of the young English officers for whom it was often true that the clothes made the man.
II. POLITICAL INTRIGUE AND OFFICIAL CONFUSION
Early in 1756, in order to get the necessary co-operation among the colonies, to settle the bitter quarrels as to rank among officers, and to give the Virginia colony a better idea of the plan for the war, Washington decided to visit General Shirley, at Boston. General Shirley had succeeded General Braddock as commander-in-chief of all the colonies.
Washington, with his aides in brilliant uniform, taken care of by a retinue of colored servants in finest livery, all riding in a pompous cavalcade, representing the style of aristocratic Southern gentlemen, made a profound social sensation all along the line of their travel, especially in Philadelphia, New York and Boston. After ten days’ conference in Boston, his mission being successful, he returned to Virginia as he had come.
On Washington’s return to his headquarters at Winchester, he found the people in more desperate terror than ever, and this time with good reason. The French and Indians were indeed ravaging the country within twenty miles. Any hour the enemy might sweep down upon the wretched town and destroy the people. If Washington could not save them they were indeed lost. It is said that the women surrounded him with terror-stricken cries, holding up their children, and imploring him to save them from the savages.
The feelings of the young commander may be appreciated from the letter he wrote to Governor Dinwiddie.
“I am too little acquainted with pathetic language,” he said, “to attempt a description of these people’s distresses. But what can I do? I see their situation; I know their danger, and participate in their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises. The supplicating tears of the women, and the moving petitions of the men, melt me into such deadly sorrow, that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people’s ease.”
But the Virginia newspapers very freely cast the blame for the Indian’s success on the military management. Washington was deeply stung with these attacks and he declared that he would resign at once, if it were not for the immediate dangers pressing so hard upon them. Then his friends began writing him encouraging letters and he was strengthened to see the issues through to some end.
“The country knows her danger,” said one of the Virginia legislators, “but such is her parsimony that she is willing to wait for the rains to wet the powder, and the rats to eat the bowstrings of the enemy, rather than attempt to drive her foes from her frontiers.”
But gradually through more blundering and still more confusion of purpose, after the French had begun to lose heavily in the North, a course of concerted action was once more organized against Fort Duquesne, as the center of supplies for the French and Indians in their frontier warfare. Scouts continually brought in reports that Fort Duquesne had become greatly weakened and it was believed by all that this place should now be taken to make good the success on the northern frontier.
At length such an expedition was on the way, and Washington wrote to the Commander, General Forbes, to be allowed to join the expedition with his command. This request was accepted, and, on July 2, 1758, Washington arrived at Fort Cumberland.
III. “A MATTER OF GREAT ADMIRATION”
War was at hand, but getting into action to accomplish results was distractingly slow. No word arrived as to what they were to do. They remained at Fort Cumberland to the disgust of Washington, and to the increased dispiriting, sickly condition of his men, until September. Then they went forward under Colonel Boquet to a point called Loyal Hannon, fifty miles from Fort Duquesne. Here they stopped, and, against Washington’s earnest remonstrance, Colonel Boquet detached eight hundred men from his force of two thousand, and sent them forward to reconnoiter about Fort Duquesne, under command of Major Grant. They were not to engage the enemy but were to return and report.
However, Major Grant believed they were easily able to whip anything that might be in or about Fort Duquesne. He could not open an attack on them according to orders, but if he could induce them to attack him, it would give him a chance for a fight. Accordingly, he made no attempt to conceal his approach to the fort. He arrived near the place in the night and sent some men forward who set fire to a log house near the walls of the fort. If this was not enough warning to the enemy, or of a dare to come out and fight, he ordered the drums to beat the reveille around the camp in the morning. After that he lined up his troops in battle array, as did Braddock before him, and sent up some men near the fort, to draw plans of that structure in full view of the enemy.
There was not a shot fired from the fort and no sound could be heard within its walls. Not a soldier or an Indian could be seen.
The officers became sure that nothing more was needed but to send forward the order for surrender. The soldiers were allowed to ground their arms and be at ease. Suddenly the woods around them blazed with the discharge of rifles. The dreaded warwhoop rang in their ears. The tomahawk and scalping knife was in their midst. A second Braddock’s defeat had begun. A panic-stricken rout began. Major Grant saved his life by surrendering to a French officer, but most of his men were dead and the rest scattered like wild animals.
Back of them a short distance was Captain Bullitt, who had been left with fifty men to care for the army stores. He rallied together some of the fugitives and they made a stand behind the baggage and wagons. The Indians rushed forward and were momentarily checked by the sudden fire of the ambushed men. Then, with the on-coming force of Indians from back of the ones stopped, the rush came on.
Then Captain Bullitt held up a signal for surrender and the firing ceased. The besieged men all came forward. When within eight yards of the Indians waiting to receive their guns, Captain Bullitt gave the order to fire, the guns having all been loaded for that purpose. From this destructive volley at close range, the Indians fled in confusion, and before they could rally, Captain Bullitt got his men and wagons together, so protected as to make good their retreat.
General Forbes commended Captain Bullitt’s method of saving his troops as “a matter of great admiration,” and rewarded him with a Major’s commission. There has been much discussion as to whether such methods made the Indians merciless or whether the merciless Indian required such methods. The problem is doubtless as unprofitable now as it is unanswerable, from any partisan point of view.
THE BEGINNING SIGNS OF A GREAT REVOLUTION
I. MILITARY VICTORY AND A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Washington now had charge of the advance on Fort Duquesne. He left Loyal Hannon over the road Major Grant had taken. The whole fifty miles were strewn with the bones of oxen, horses and men. What remained of the bodies of their comrades, they buried. Then they arrived at the scene of Braddock’s defeat, where the same duty was done for the dead, a sad reminder of the folly of arrogance and ambition in commanders.
They had expected to have a hard fight for the capture of Fort Duquesne. But the success of the English in Canada, and the fall of Fort Frontenac had left the French at Fort Duquesne without any chance for supplies or reinforcements. The fort was already at the point of being abandoned from necessity. Accordingly, the commander waited until the English were within a day’s march of him, when he withdrew his force of five hundred men, destroyed what he could not take away, set fire to all that would burn, embarked at night in their long, light batteaux, by the flames of their fort, and floated down the Ohio, giving up their hopeless fight for the possession of the Ohio Valley.
On the morning of November 5, 1758, Washington with his advanced guard marched in and hoisted the British flag over the ruins. The enemy was gone. The Indians having lost the support of their French friends withdrew into the depths of the forest.
Washington rebuilt the place, garrisoned it with two hundred men and named it Fort Pitt in honor of the illustrious British minister, William Pitt.
Washington’s military schooling, if we may so term it, in the light of great events to follow, was now ended. He had been engaged for marriage several months with Mrs. Martha Custis, a widow of the noblest womanly character, and considerable wealth. The marriage was accordingly celebrated January 6, 1759, the month before he was twenty-seven years of age. He now settled down, away from war, into the life of a business man, as his mother, herself a business woman, had so fondly desired.
The objects for which the French and Indian war had begun were now achieved for the colonists. But England was carrying the war further, aiming at nothing less than the conquest of Canada. The first gun had been fired at Washington at the time he was beaten in the race with the French for the forks of the Ohio. The last gun was fired at Quebec when all Canada became a possession seized by might of the British arms.
The French were greatly grieved at their loss, but their great statesmen prophesied that it was a fatal victory for the English mastery of North America.
The Duke de Choiseul said that it would awaken the colonies to their liberty and their power. It would bring the ideals of the wilderness in sharp contrast with the imperialism of England. “They will no longer need her protection,” said he, “she will call on them to contribute toward supporting the burdens they have helped bring on her, and they will answer by striking off their dependence.”
How true this was as a prophecy, the school histories all show to every pupil of the schools, who will try to get a view of the progress and development of historical events. Fact will then be stranger than fiction, and history will be a more romantic story, richer in the lessons of life, than any novel.
II. LIFE FULFILLED AS A VIRGINIA COUNTRY GENTLEMAN
Washington, after his marriage, at the close of the French and Indian war, became, as his mother had so long desired him to be, a country gentleman, not only with a large land-ownership, but also dignified with a seat in the legislative assembly of Virginia. He was rich, happily married and a hero! What more was to be desired in the heart of man!
On the day when Washington took his seat in the House of Burgesses, the speaker of the assembly arose and eloquently presented the thanks of the colony for the distinguished military services rendered by their fellow-member to his country, and especially to the welfare of Virginia.
Washington arose at the conclusion of the eulogy to express his appreciation for what had been spoken in his honor.
It is said that he “blushed--stammered--trembled, and could not utter a word.”
“Sit down, Mr. Washington,” said the speaker, “your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language I possess.”
During the session of the Virginia legislature, Washington lived at the White House, as was called the home of his bride, and which was situated on her estate, near Williamsburg. That home has since been immortalized as the name of the Home of the Presidents of the United States.
Mrs. Martha Custis was one of the wealthiest women in the English colonies when she married George Washington. At her request, the General Court appointed Washington the guardian of her boy of six and her girl of four, and the manager of all her property.
His friends had long wanted him to visit England, believing, doubtless, from special information, that great honors awaited him there. No doubt there was in easy reach the usually much-coveted political preferment, such as might have made him beholden to the King through all his future career. But we are perhaps entitled to believe that Washington’s views of those honors were not qualified by the grateful respect that was necessary. An American of his honor and character probably cherished the good will of his countrymen as superior to any royal condescension.
To these suggestions for a visit to England, he returned a characteristic reply, “I am now, I believe, fixed in this seat, with an agreeable partner for life, and I hope to find more happiness in retirement than I ever experienced in the wide and bustling world.”
At the end of the session of the Virginia legislature, Washington and his family left the “White House” and made their home at Mount Vernon. Here he fully believed he was settled in a life of happiness and peace. It was the home of his childhood which he had spent with his beloved mother and his half-brother Lawrence.
This home on the beautiful highlands of the Potomac was indeed the center of a little empire. It was a system of cultured, wealthy people, graded on down to the colored servants, in which everything needed for luxury, pleasure or enterprise was made and ready on the grounds.
The home life of the Washington family is a revelation of the aristocratic democracy of the times. Many a story is told showing the wilderness culture and luxury mingled with the common interests of the lowly life.
The treaty of peace, now including all affairs in the colonies, which was signed in 1763, between England and France, was greeted as a happy ending of all border troubles for the colonies. But, unfortunately, it seemed to let loose the savagery of the Indians, whose tribes were now going to pieces before the advancing English Settlements. The right to the wilderness was a hand-to-hand conflict, in which the pioneer frontiersmen won the great victory for modern civilization.
III. THE MOMENTOUS STRUGGLE BETWEEN MIGHT AND RIGHT
The border warfare continued as ferociously as ever before. Washington, being out of military life, with heavy business responsibilities upon him, did not become involved in these conflicts.
Meanwhile, the prediction of the Duke de Choiseul that the colonies would rapidly see they had no need of England, and would as rapidly cease to fear its military power, was coming true. Irritation followed fast upon irritation, and arrogance bred resentment and retaliation so rapidly that it requires many a volume to tell it all. The colonists had to fight the battles of the border warfare, pay the costs, support the arrogant officers sent across the water, and yet find themselves regarded as inferiors fit only as producers for a land across the sea. But it should be understood from the beginning that history deals mainly with the makers of history who have been almost exclusively generals and kings. The commoners, except as their minds are state-made, have no quarrel with the commoners of other countries.
The first outbreak came against taxes placed on personal necessities in which the people had no rights or voice. The resentment was crystallized into an outcry against “taxation without representation.” The bitter feeling found voice in a daring defiance uttered by Patrick Henry. He brought forward a resolution in the Virginia House of Burgesses, declaring that the General Assembly of Virginia had the exclusive right and power to lay taxes upon the people of Virginia, and that whoever claimed to the contrary was an enemy of the colony. With that view the commoners of England were in general sympathy, including many of the most influential men in that country. But the British court was foreign, that is, continental. History tells us that King George the First, grandfather of George the Third, could speak only his native German, and held in profound contempt the English people.
The Speaker of the House tried to have Patrick Henry’s resolution modified as being too strong, but, in his speech for the resolution, the young orator, after a brilliant address, concluded with the memorable and history-making words, “Cæsar had his Brutus; Charles his Cromwell; and George the Third,--(here cries of ‘Treason! Treason!’ was heard) may profit by their example. Sir, if this be treason----(here he bowed to the Speaker)--make the most of it!”
The idea of liberty to make their own laws had now sprung forth, and it was taken up with immense enthusiasm throughout the colonies.
The British Parliament seemed to look upon the colonies as Braddock had done upon the colonial soldiers,--they were only half-civilized inferiors, and suitable only for menial service or to contribute profit to the mother country. Accordingly, month by month and year by year, the interference and resentment on both sides increased, by the passage of obnoxious laws on one side, and resistance to their enforcement on the other side.
All this time, Washington was in the midst of the turmoil, not as a leader but more as a peacemaker, though always in full sympathy with the fast growing American idea. As we take a swift view of those times, we are apt to suppose that the change of mind, uniting the colonies in opposition to Great Britain, came suddenly and unanimously, but, as in all places and situations, where there is freedom of thinking, the general conviction came slowly, especially the conviction to use force in the defense of the rights of of man as learned in the hard freedom of the wilderness. What we might call the high-water mark of mind, in favor of force for maintaining colonial liberty, was that of Patrick Henry, whose slogan was “Give me liberty or give me death.”
On the other hand, there were many, from the aristocratic mansion to the log cabin in the forest, who looked upon force against the mother country as a horror and a crime. Between these extremes, Washington labored for patience among the colonists and a change of policy among the law-makers of Great Britain. In writing to his wife’s uncle, an influential man in London, he said, “The Stamp Act engrosses the conversation of the speculative part of the colonists, who look upon this unconstitutional method of taxation as a direful attack upon their liberties, and loudly exclaim against the violation.”
[Illustration: Washington Surrendering His Commission.]
In the New England colonies, the people were far more fierce in their resentment toward the requirement that they must buy stamps to make legal almost every transaction. This method of getting money for the British government was so offensive to Boston that a publicly encouraged mob hanged the stamp distributor in effigy, the windows of his house were broken, and the building to be used as his office was broken to pieces, and the fragments burned in the streets. The officers of the town, trying to disperse the crowd, were driven away with stones. The next morning the stamp distributor renounced his office in the public square and no one could be found willing to take his place.
Down in Virginia, the stamp distributor did not try to fulfill his office, but came on to Williamsburg and amidst much applause publicly denounced the Stamp Act and vacated the office.
On the first of November, 1765, when the act was to become law and go into operation, there was tolling of bells throughout New England. Ships in the harbors displayed their flags at half-mast. Shops were shut, business was suspended, and every form of defiance they could invent was displayed all day and that night.
At New York, the poster announcing the law was stuck on a pole, under a death’s head, from which floated a banner bearing the inscription, “The folly of England and ruin of America.” The lieutenant-governor with all his official household went into the fort and surrounded himself with marines from a ship of war. Then the mob went to his stables, brought out his carriage, put his effigy into it, dragged it up and down the street till they were tired, and then hung his effigy on a gallows. That evening they took the effigy down, put it again into the carriage, this time by the side of an image of the devil, had a howling torch-light procession to Bowling Green, and there, under the guns of the fort, burned the carriage with the effigies in it. So bitter and so general was the disapproval that no one attempted to enforce the law.
SOWING THE WIND AND REAPING THE WHIRLWIND
I. MOUNT VERNON AT FIRST IN A ZONE OF CALM
In all this storm, Washington remained engrossed in his extensive business affairs. It can not be inferred that this meant any indifference on his part. It must be remembered that by nature he was of a retiring disposition and never put himself forward as a leader in any agitation. He was one who believed in regularity and discipline. He could not destroy except as a process of building. His fighting spirit was always in accomplishing a definite design for foreseen ends. It is thus always seen that the man who is an agitator and a leader of agitation, however heroic and noble he may be in the cause of right, is never the calm, judicial mind necessary to construct material and form forces into a constitutional government. The mind of man seems first to require a forerunner. There was the determined, uncompromising John the Baptist for the gentle and peace-loving Christ, and there were numerous colonial Patrick Henrys for Washington, even as there were Lovejoys, Garrisons and John Browns for Lincoln. Thus it appears, without irreverence, that agitation is as essential to education as legislation is to government.
Washington’s large interests in trade with England, and his many Old-England friends and connections, would have turned any man, who would serve his own personal profit, into partisanship for Great Britain. There is no doubt that the inducements to favor the mother country were large, and the promise of loss for doing otherwise was very heavy and convincing. But he had seen much of English arrogance and tyranny. He had also seen much of American freedom and human rights. There was probably never any debate in his mind as to which meant the most to him in personal duty or as an American. He had a deeper view of humanity than business interests. But his hour had not yet struck. The time had not yet come when the colonies needed Washington.
Something of great significance took place in 1766. Benjamin Franklin was called before the House of Commons and questioned concerning the Stamp Act.
“What,” they asked him, according to the Parliamentary Register of that year, “was the temper of America towards Great Britain, before the year 1763?”
“The best in the world,” was his reply. “They submitted willingly to the government of the crown, and paid, in their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament. They were governed at the expense of only a little pen, ink and paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only respect, but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs, and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Great Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an Old-England man was, of itself, a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us.”
“And what is that temper now?”
“Oh! it is very much altered.”
“If the act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences?”
“A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends upon that respect and affection.”
“Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if it was moderated?”
“No, never,” Franklin replied, “unless compelled by force of arms.”
II. GIVING THE APPEARANCE AND KEEPING THE SUBSTANCE
On March 18, 1766, the obnoxious Stamp Act was repealed, but the repeal contained a clause that took all the merit out of the repeal, by maintaining the principle that the King, with the consent of Parliament, had the authority and power to “bind the colonies, and the people of America, in all cases whatsoever.”
If the colonies consented to this repeal with its clause, they would be affirming the very thing they were opposing in the Stamp Act. Such “sharp practice” could not win. It was not the stamps they were opposing alone, nor the imposing of taxes. They repudiated the idea and the motive of the right to tax them without their consent, one of the ways of which was to make them buy stamps to legalize any of their business transactions. This explicitly proves that the Revolutionary War was not “an economic war,” as some theorists endeavor to prove, but a war of principle, liberty and justice, as it claimed to be.
The King was now asserting a right over the colonies which he did not have anywhere in his own country. This was his will, his “divine right,” as it were. If he tried to establish and enforce that will and the colonies endeavored to establish and enforce their will against that will, then it would be, as had so often happened before in English history, a war of the King against the People. So it is often described in history as “the King’s war” against the colonies. To such an extent did the people refuse to fight it that the Hanoverian King had to hire Hessian mercenaries.
We have long since learned that it was not the people of England against the people of America, but the war of a foreign-minded King to retain a personal mastery over a branch of the English people, a right lost forever among English-speaking people through the successful revolt of the American Colonies in the name of American liberty.
The King through Parliament hastened to verify his right to tax the Colonies by various taxes against single articles. This was especially resented at Boston where the taxes were most oppressive. The General Court of Massachusetts became a hot-bed of agitation against those taxes. The excitement of every day increased. Violent collisions were of frequent occurrence between the authorities and the people. At last, it became public that two regiments were held at Halifax ready to be sent to Boston to quell the remonstrances there. The colonists looked upon these signs of coercion as nothing less than despotism. The two regiments soon arrived with seven war vessels. The commander reported that he was sure these “spirited measures” would soon quell all disturbances and restore order.
But the colonists now had a greater grievance. They held town meetings and resolved that the King had no right to send troops into the colonies without their consent. They claimed that the charters of all the colonies were now broken by this act of the King in sending troops into their midst without their consent. It was many times worse than taxation without representation. It was a violation of their allegiance to Great Britain.
The Boston selectmen refused to have anything to do with the soldiers. The council would not recognize that they had any rights in the town. Accordingly, the commander quartered them in the State-House and in Faneuil Hall. The public was enraged at the cannon planted around these buildings and against the sentinels that challenged the rights of free citizens to come and go. Besides, their religious ideas were equally outraged by the fife and drum on Sunday, with the oaths and loud commands of officers, where heretofore all had been peace and quiet.
Virginia was far away from these stirring scenes and news went slowly. However, Washington recognized the grave significance of it all. A letter written April 5, 1769, by him to his friend George Mason, shows what he thought.
“At a time,” he wrote, “when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty which we have derived from our ancestors.”
He continued by discussing what was the best way to do this necessary thing. He advised that the use of arms should be the last resource and resort. His moral view is expressed farther on in the letter where he says, as he discusses the effect on the colonists in the war cutting off their trade, “There will be a difficulty attending it everywhere from clashing interests, and selfish, designing men, ever attentive to their own gain, and watchful of every turn that can assist their lucrative views.”
This shows us that very far from all of the revolutionary people could be called heroes of principle and entitled to be regarded as the founders of American freedom. Democracy had the usual percentage of sordid parasites, as well as its many noble martyrs and heroic champions.
Still farther on in the same letter, he says, “I can see but one class of people, the merchants excepted, who will not, or ought not, to wish well to the scheme,--namely, they who live genteely and hospitably on clear estates. Such as these, were they not to consider the valuable object in view, and the good of others, might think it hard to be curtailed in their living and enjoyments.”
Now it must be taken into consideration that Washington not only belonged to the genteel freeholders to which he refers, but he was also one of the largest merchants who would lose heavily in any stoppage of trade with Great Britain. But we have clearly seen through all his military and public service, that principle, and not gain or comfort, was the vital motive of his conduct and his life.
III. “SOFT WORDS BUTTER NO PARSNIPS”
For several reasons, the Southern colonies fared much better than the Northern colonies, and were, therefore, not stirred to such feelings of violent opposition. The spirit of the Puritans, their severe economy, rigid form of piety, and their hatred of Kings, animated the Northern people in private and in public. Their ancestors had been refugees from the tyranny of English Kings, and there was not that respect for England which would cause them to be patient under bad treatment. Besides that, they had seen most of the arrogance and insolence of the English officers during the French and Indian wars, and had suffered longest from the presence of war. The officers of the King came to the Northern colonies with the idea that nothing would serve the purpose but severity and coertion. On the contrary, the people of the Southern colonies were believed at the King’s court to be vain and luxurious. They were represented as being easily pleased by showy parade. Accordingly, a court favorite, Lord Botetourt, was chosen to win the admiration of Virginia. The descendants of the Puritans were to be overawed into subjection by military force, the Cavaliers of Virginia were to be overawed into compliance by aristocratic splendor.
Lord Botetourt was supplied with a dazzling equipment. He arrived in Virginia with glittering pomp and circumstance. On the opening of the Virginia legislature, he arranged a brilliant procession, in which he was conspicuous in gorgeous uniform, riding in a state-coach drawn by six milk-white horses. He opened the session of the Virginia legislature as if it were a royal parliament and he were the King. Then the ostentatious parade returned him to the governor’s mansion.
But to the amazement of Lord Botetourt, this grand display did not work. The House of Burgesses drafted some drastic demands to be sent to the British King. At noon of the day after these resolutions were passed, the governor in dismay went in haste to the Capitol, and appeared before the assembly.
“Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen of the House of Burgesses,” he cried, “I have heard of your resolves, and auger ill of their effects. You have made it my duty to dissolve you, and you are dissolved accordingly.”
But his brain-storm had only the effect to cause them to be called to order by their Speaker, Paton Randolph, in another house. Washington brought forward the draft of an association pledged not to buy anything from Great Britain on which there was a tax. This could not be enacted into a law, because they were no longer a legislative body, but, as a voluntary pledge, it was just as effective.
But, wonderful to relate, Lord Botetourt appeared to have a better ordered intelligence than most of the governors sent over from England. He saw at once the folly of his first ideas about the Southern colonies, and he set about at once to pacify them in more reasonable ways. He put away his royal show, actually addressed himself to the grievances of the people, became a strong opponent to the taxes, did what he could to have them repealed, and assured the Virginians that this would be speedily done. The people soon had full confidence in him, and the scenes of excitement so common in the Northern colonies were unknown in Virginia.
But there was one thing after another of repression and retaliation in the Northern colonies. Such was the opposition in the colonies and the unpopularity of it all among the ruling classes in England, that the King’s Manager, the Duke of Grafton, resigned and a favorite of the King, Lord North, took his place, as chief councillor in England. Now, the King gave up the fight for the taxes, but he still held to his right to tax the people as something that was none of their business. The tax was taken off of everything except tea. This one tax was kept up, though a very light one, merely as the King said, “to maintain the parliamentary right of taxation.” Even the duty was taken off of tea, so that it was sold in America ninepence cheaper a pound than it could be bought in England.
“Now,” said the King, “if the colonists object to this, it proves that they are determined to rebel against our government.”
He could not conceive of such a thing as a principle against which they were opposed, and many a mind since his has been as blind to principle and as full-eyed toward the question of profit and loss. It is this indescribable thing that usually divides people on public affairs. It likewise defends the Makers of America against the historical interpretation that their revolution was for any such sordid origins as “economic necessity.”
There was strong opposition in parliament, not only against all such taxation but also against asserting the right of such taxation. Lord North, however, reflecting the will of King George, said, “The properest time to exert our right of taxation is when the right is refused.”
So it is with all set wills. The colonists thought the same thing from an opposite point of view. It was an irresistible body meeting an immovable body. Something had to break.
Lord North declared that “a total repeal can not be thought of, till America is prostrate at our feet.” That is, the master determines not to hear the complaint of the slave until the slave’s will is broken at his owner’s feet. The wilderness-made minds with their self-made freedom were not built that way. The King’s mind-evil could not be met by resistence, but, as it emerged into colonial wrongs, the only way to defeat them and save the freedom of moral law was through revolutionary war. The evil mind using coertion to enforce its slave-making wrongs went out of the mental regions of non-resistence into the physical regions of wrongs where nothing but force can save.
Lord North’s promise could have nothing to do with the case. The colonists had no idea of taking such a position as being prostrate at the feet of the King. They had felt the freedom that is born of the wilderness and that freedom was life. It was American and it remains the hope of the world.
ANTAGONISMS AND HOSTILITIES
I. BLAZING THE WAY TO WAR
Nothing illustrates better the conditions of mind in the long, bitter turmoil, than an incident, infuriating the people of Boston, which happened March 5, 1770. A number of young men and boys, probably fifty or sixty of them, gathered on Boston Common to throw snowballs. A company of militia being near, offered too tempting an object, and they began to pelt the soldiers. The claim was that some of the snowballs contained rocks, though no one was seriously injured. The soldiers charged the bunch of boys, not with weapons, but with fists, and put them to flight. This was not enough for the victors, and so the soldiers pursued the flying enemy. Seeing this, some citizens rang alarm bells. A mob assembled around the custom house and was ordered away. The troops were assailed with clubs and stones. They fired into the crowd and killed four, wounding several others. The town was aflame with wrath and the troops were removed to the barracks outside to prevent further bloodshed. Though it was hardly disastrous enough to deserve the name, “Boston Massacre,” yet there was no doubt that nothing in the early days of the revolution, had more effect in setting the minds of the people against England. It was a sign of the times, and was like a little word that may sometimes mean as much as a whole discourse, especially when a social group of minds is unified in one interest of opposition or defense.
It was during these stirring times in the North that Washington was prevailed on by the Colonial government to visit the Indian tribes on the Ohio for a better understanding of the right of each side under the existing treaties. His journey to the site of old Fort Duquesne, renamed Fort Pitt, where Pittsburg now stands, was full of romantic memories, and was met with many assurances of friendship among the now reconciled Indians.
Through the many interesting scenes, still somewhat perilous from the uncertainty of Indian friendship, he arrived at the mouth of the Great Kanawha. It was at this place where Washington was visited by an old Indian Sachem, who approached him with great reverence as if he were in the presence of a very superior being. Through the interpreter, the Indian chief said that he had heard of his coming to their country and had come a long way to see him. He explained his unusual interest by saying that he had led his warriors against the English under General Braddock. It was he with his band of braves who had lain in ambush on the banks of the Monongahela and had done such deadly slaughter to the English troops. But his reverence for Washington had a special reason. The Indians saw Washington as one of the boldest, riding fearlessly over the battlefield, carrying the General’s orders. The chief and his warriors had singled Washington out as one they must kill. They had tried their best but their bullets never found him. At last they would not waste their bullets on him because he had a charmed life, under the protection of the Great Spirit. And who knows about these things! Everything may not be of inevitable physical order! The simple Indian may have been nearer the truth than would be any psychological or scientific explanation.
The Indians very generally believed that the Great Spirit exercised power over bullets, and, in many instances, faced death fearlessly in the faith raised by their “medicen-man” that the enemy’s bullets could not harm them. Religious assurance of some kind is the consolation of every mind.
II. THE DOUBLE-QUICK MARCH TO REVOLUTION
That Washington could be righteously indignant and unmercifully sarcastic may be inferred from a letter written to Colonel George Muse, who had been Washington’s military instructor at Mount Vernon in 1751. Colonel Muse had been accused of cowardice in the campaign with Washington to the Ohio in 1754, and Washington had with difficulty obtained for him a grant of ten thousand acres of land in the Ohio territory, as was given to the other officers in the expedition. Colonel Muse was dissatisfied and so wrote a letter to Washington, the contents of which we can surmise only from Washington’s reply.
“Sir,--Your impudent letter was delivered to me yesterday,” he wrote. “As I am not accustomed to receive such from any man, nor would have taken the same language from you personally, without letting you feel some marks of my resentment, I advise you to be cautious in writing me a second of the same tenor; though I understand you were drunk when you did it, yet give me leave to tell you that drunkenness is no excuse for rudeness.”
After describing what had been done for the ungrateful man, Washington closed his letter by saying, “All my concern is that I ever engaged myself in behalf of so ungrateful and dirty a fellow as you are.”
Meanwhile, the King of England was searching for means to wear down the opposition of the colonies to his assertion of the right to personal rule over them through Parliament. So complete was the refusal of the colonies to use tea, that the warehouses of the East India Company were full of tea, and their profit dwindled. A happy suggestion was made to the King. Let the tea go free duty, and so cheap on account of the surplus, to the colonies, that they will buy it and thus not only relieve the warehouses but also establish the principle of the right to tax articles sold in the colonies. The proposition was put into effect. The contents of the warehouses were emptied into ships and sent to various ports in the American colonies. The King depended on human nature as he understood it to be. Like many another ruler who believes he can rule by juggling ideas and manipulating minds, he deceived himself. The people were starving for tea! They had long lived without tea like foolish children who would play no way but their own way. Now, they would tumble over one another to get the long desired tea. There would be a carnival carousal of tea drinking in America! But somehow the thing didn’t work. There was still a wonderful perverseness in the half-civilized subjects of the King in the American wilderness. They seemed suddenly to be all alike. No doubt there were many who would gladly have profited by the King’s contempt for principle, but profit was timid and principle was bold.
New York and Philadelphia turned the ships around and ordered them to set sails at once for England. In Charleston they stored the tea in cellars where it remained untouched until it was ruined. In Boston, upon which the King’s anger was centered, as the cause of all the strife, the conflict of wills was more desperate. The captains found that they could not unload the tea and when they tried to get clearance papers to leave the harbor, they were refused. They could not come in nor go out. But this meant, as the people soon saw, that the tea was to be held there on the ships until the soldiers could be used to enforce the sale of tea, and thus coerce the people into acknowledging the claims of the King “to rule and reign over them,” according to his will.
The two sides had now “chosen up,” as it were, and had begun to climb the steps to war.
To forestall the landing of the tea under cover of the soldiers, a company of Boston people assembled on the night of December 18, 1773, disguised themselves as Indians, boarded the ships, broke open all the chests of tea, and emptied the object of all the trouble into the sea.
There was no excitement apparent in doing this. When all the tea in Boston harbor was floating on the waves, the make-believe Indians returned peacefully to their homes, and went to bed, doubtless sleeping “the sleep of the righteous.”
All the wrath of the King and his associates were now centered definitely on Boston. In swift retaliation the Boston Port Bill was passed by Parliament, closing the harbor and transferring the capital to Salem. A little later, the charter of the province was changed so as to bring the colony directly under the control of the English government. Then a Riot Bill was passed so that any person, if indicted for a high crime, could be sent to England for trial. First, it was taxing without representation, then it was quartering soldiers upon them without their consent, and now it was a violation of the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. The intolerable had climbed the swift steps of war to the impossible. American freedom could not thus be made the puppet of any king.
It was historical evidence how “one thing brings on another” in a quarrel of wills, and how force can not control rebellious minds. Brain-storms of feeling, whether in child or mob, are not to be stilled by retaliation or despotism.
III. VIOLENCE AND FLATTERY AS METHODS OF MASTERY
In wide contrast to the use of force for Massachusetts, was the plan being carried out to pacify Virginia. Lord Dunmore was sent as governor to Virginia with the same idea of princely show as characterized Lord Botetourt. He established a court circle with almost kingly pomp and splendor. He began the great game of playing to the aristocracy of the “Ancient Dominion.” All the wealthy families were entertained at the Governor’s mansion in gorgeous style. Washington was among the first to be so honored and entertained. It looked as if all Virginia was at the feet of the royal governor, rapturously “eating out of his hand.”
The House of Burgesses convened and everything seemed to be going the King’s way, when a letter was received stating what had been done to Boston. Then things were different. Principle, freedom and sympathy joined hands, and court-flattery went to the scrap-heap.
The letter was read before the assembly. At once all other business was thrown aside. A protest was adopted to be sent to England, and a resolution was passed setting apart the first day of June (the day on which the port of Boston was to be closed), as a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation, in which all minds should be united firmly opposing the contemplated suppression of American liberties, and to avert the evils of civil war.
Repeating what his predecessor, Lord Botetourt, had done and seeming to learn nothing from that really well-intentioned man’s experiences, Lord Dunmore, the next morning ordered the House of Burgesses to appear before him in the council chamber.
“Mr. Speaker, and Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses,” he began, “I hold in my hand a paper, published by order of your House, conceived in such terms, as reflect highly upon his Majesty and the Parliament of Great Britain, which makes it necessary for me to dissolve you, and you are dissolved accordingly.”
But as before, the assembly did not disperse. It gathered in a hall where the members unanimously passed the most drastic resolutions of defiance, and, what was most significant of all, ordered the Committee of Correspondence to communicate with the various colonies on the expediency of appointing deputies to meet annually in a General Congress of British America.
Every word and deed of Washington, and there is abundance of them on record, shows that he was in full and hearty sympathy with all these sentiments against Great Britain, though he and Lord Dunmore, and their families, mingled frequently in a social way. Washington’s mind was not one to be swayed by particular instances of pride or profit. The goal before him was never obscured by side issues or temporary interests.
[Illustration: Washington and His Cabinet.]
GREAT MINDS IN THE GREAT STORM
I. SUPPRESSING AMERICANS
General Thomas Gage was, in the approaching crisis, made military commander at Massachusetts, as the man most experienced and able to enforce the Parliamentary laws. He had led the advance guard at Braddock’s defeat, had married an American girl and had lived long in the colonies. It would seem that he ought to have known well the character of the colonists. But, he had already advised the King that, “The Americans will be lions only as long as the English are lambs.”
The idea still prevails that there is a lamb-coward always in the presence of a lion-hero. General Gage promised that he would enforce all laws if given five regiments.
As suggested by the Virginia Assembly, “a solemn league and covenant” was circulated throughout the provinces, in which the subscribers bound themselves to cease from all intercourse with Great Britain, from the month of August, until Massachusetts should regain its chartered rights. Furthermore, it was an iron-clad use of the boycott and lock-out. It pledged the signers that they would have no dealings with any one who refused to enter into that compact. This meant that home-principle had to have a method against home-profit. Capital was timidly cowering between what seemed to it as “the devil and the deep sea.”
General Gage declared in a proclamation that the document was illegal and the signers traitors. He planted a force of infantry and artillery on the Boston Common and prepared himself to enforce the edict of the British Parliament and his own judgment. Thus, another high step was taken in the climb to war. The great drama was developing scene by scene that was to bring forth Washington as a warrior, president and statesman, the titular “Father of his Country.”
As we proceed on our historic journey, needed to understand the making of Washington, and his meaning for Americans, we are now approaching his first appearance as a leader. This comes to pass after he decides that every resource and means have been used in vain for justice toward the colonies.
On July 18, 1773, a meeting of Fairfax County was held, with Washington as the presiding officer, to discuss their attitude toward the English government and its methods toward the colonies. This general meeting of protest was held immediately after Washington’s return from the session of the House of Burgesses at Williamsburg.
As Chairman of the committee on resolutions, he had probably much, if not all, to do with the language used, and it is significant, that the resolutions ended with a phrase which contained the threat of independence through war. They called on the King to reflect that “from our Sovereign there can be but one appeal.” This shows the idea that was in Washington’s mind for he had already decided, as shown by his letters, that the King could not be changed, and, therefore, that the only appeal was to be made to the higher authority of right through the might of war.
Washington was now entering heart and soul into the great controversy. He was chosen as a delegate from the county to the colony meeting at Williamsburg on the first of August, 1773.
The Virginia delegates assembled at the capital as planned. Washington presented the resolution adopted by his county and made a fervid address in its support. It is said he declared himself ready to raise a thousand men at his own expense, and march at their head to the relief of Boston. It is safe to say that if Washington and Patrick Henry could have lived through to 1861, there would have been no Civil War, or even if the Spirit of Washington and Henry could have lived in the hearts of the people.
The Virginia convention adopted resolutions based on the Fairfax resolution, and Washington with six others, destined to become famous in American history, were appointed delegates to the General Congress, that was to meet in Philadelphia.
The high-handed measures against Boston had ruined that town. The rich became poor and the poor were at the verge of starvation, but there was no outcry. The silent misery and calm determination were a puzzle to the General who could not subdue such opposition with cannon. The people went in crowds to hear their speakers placidly arguing the conditions. There was no excuse to order the people to disperse, so that Gage found it necessary to have a law passed that the people should not assemble to discuss government affairs. But the whole problem had now taken on a larger form. On September 5, 1774, delegates from all the colonies, excepting Georgia, met in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia.
Patrick Henry and Edmund Pendleton came on to Mount Vernon, and from there the three giants of moral rights and human liberty rode on together to the meeting, affecting so deeply the eternal meaning of America.
When the question arose in the meeting concerning the voting of delegates, some colonies having more than others, Patrick Henry, with his fiery zeal, declared any idea of sectional distinctions or local interests to be absurd.
“All America,” he cried, “is thrown into one mass. Where are your landmarks--your boundaries of colonies? They are all thrown down. The distinction between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders, are no more. I am not a Virginian but an American.”
What a great pity that eighty-six years later, the patriotism of Patrick Henry could not have been felt, and the one great horror of American history would then never have occurred.
II. THE BUSINESS OF GETTING READY
The first General Assembly in the history of the New World came together in great solemnity. They felt that it should be opened by some religious service, and yet, they feared to introduce religious antagonism, for it was a period when religious controversies were often more extreme and bitter than any political controversies.
Then Samuel Adams of reverend fame arose and said, “I shall willingly join in prayer with any gentleman of piety and virtue, whatever might be his cloth, provided he is a friend of his country.”
Samuel Adams was a very rigorous Congregationalist, but religion with him had no claims that did not include justice and patriotism. He nominated the Reverend Mr. Duche of Philadelphia, who was an Episcopalian, to open the session with prayer.
The reverend Duche appeared in his canonicals attended by his clerk. He read the morning service of the Episcopal church. The Psalter for that day of the month, the seventh, included the thirty-fifth Psalm. The central idea of the Psalm was that of the Assembly.
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me; fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out, also, the spear, and stop the way of them that persecute me.”
It is said that when the assembly was organized and ready for the introduction of their momentous business, that a long, deep, death-like silence fell upon them. Every one hesitated to begin. The sense of inaction was becoming oppressive when Patrick Henry arose. Such a great occasion was suitable to his eloquence and when he sat down amidst the murmurs of astonishment and the shouts of applause, he was conceded to be the greatest orator in America.
This history-making convention had fifty-one delegates and it remained in session fifty-one days. The meetings were held in secret, and it is now unknown the part that Washington took in it, but, when Patrick Henry returned home, he was asked who was the most powerful councillor in the convention, and he unhesitatingly said, “Washington.”
That Washington foresaw the course of events may be readily gathered from a letter he wrote at this time to a very close friend, Captain Robert Mackenzie, who had severely criticised the colonies from the British point of view. Like too many who are now charged with the destiny of the great American republic by their votes, Mackenzie could reason only on the visible results, and could not give any attention to the causes of the events. He had no spiritual valuation. He could reason only from material interests. Washington closed a very emphatic and radical letter to him with the warning and prophecy, “and give me leave to add, as my opinion, that more blood will be spilled on this occasion, if the ministry are determined to push matters to extremity, than history has ever yet furnished instances of in the annals of North America.”
England had been what might be termed good to the Southern colonies. As for harsh measures, the worst from a political point of view was in dissolving the Virginia legislatures. The Southern Colonies were under the business management of descendants from the royalist cavaliers who had been driven from England by the forefathers of the descendants making up the colonies of New England. There was thus an inherited tradition of antagonism, which many well-meaning patriots assume as their basis of justice and judgment. Political welfare must be estimated from present conditions. Avengers of the ancient wrong want to punish history rather than make history. They assume that it is better to begin with what was than with what is. But in the common need, all such differences were forgotten. The differences were remembered only by the great grand-children of the revolutionary heroes.
The Northern Colonies and the Southern Colonies were, true enough, antagonistic in their origin, entirely opposite in the social differences between the severe Puritan and the aristocratic Cavalier, and worse than all, they were antagonistic in their religion, the North being many kinds of dissenters, and the South, in its governing classes, being Episcopalian. Their social, religious and material interests never had been the same, and they had little in common even in the French and Indian wars. This outline contrast is given to show how the question, especially for the South, was not material profit or of opposition to oppression from force, but was the expression of an American Ideal uniting all minds, as a meaning for the equal rights of all in our humanity. It shows that there is an ideal of human rights that has the allegiance of human hearts above all considerations of flattery, or coertion, or for any of the thousands of considerations that may cause an individual judgment or fix the will. There may be amazing differences in personal and party interests, but there can be none, even in the varieties of intelligence or conditions, when it comes to the rights to freedom in the views of genuine Americans. Only partisans attack the motives of persons who are trying to advance human liberty and peace according to the duties and rights of civilization. By such signs shall ye know them and beware. They are not Americans and their moral deformity is the peril of America. The real idealist lives the vision of moral order, not only for his group, but for all the world. The moral law for each and all is our idealism of the universe.
III. MANY MEN OF MANY MINDS
England could not manage its American colonial interests because the government had no ideal of the colonies beyond that of a commercial business, and the colonies could not handle the interests of England in America because each colony was a separate organization having political interests together in common only in the British Parliament. On that account they never felt together, except as their mutual interest in Parliament was injured. Notice this fundamental origin of social union, and see how it had to be wrangled over from the close of the Revolutionary War in 1781, to the adoption of the Constitution, and the election of a president under it in 1789. And even then, a fundamental origin for social interests, and, therefore, of patriotism, was not achieved until a frightful civil war closed the struggle for separate units of interest, as independent sovereignities, in 1865.
Mr. Curtis, an English philosopher-historian, writing about one hundred and fifty years after the beginning of these world-making origins of the American ideal, quotes Doyle’s history referring to the revolt of the colonies, in which it is said, “If the Southern Colonies were to take their full share of interest in the struggle, it was clear that it must not be left to a New England army under a New England general. But we may be sure that the choice, desirable in itself, of a Southern general, was made much easier by the presence of a Southern candidate so specially fitted for the post as Washington. Not indeed that his fitness was or could be as yet fully revealed. Intelligence and public spirit, untiring energy and industry, a fair share of technical skill, and courage almost dangerous in its recklessness,--all these were no doubt perceived by those who appointed Washington. What they could not have foreseen was the patience with which a man of clear vision, heroic bravery, and intense directness, bore with fools and laggards, and intrigues; and the disinterested self-devotion which called out all that was noblest in the national character, which shamed selfish men into a semblance of union. Still less could it have been foreseen that, in choosing a military chief, Congress was training up for the country that civil leader, without whose aid an effective constitution would scarcely have been attained.”
THE HOUSE LONG DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF
I. UNPATRIOTIC CONFUSION OF OPINIONS AND INTERESTS
In order to appreciate the difficulties which Washington had to overcome, and therefore to make any just estimate of his character, his patriotism and his services in the cause of political liberty, the conditions in which he worked must be understood. It must not be assumed that he had a united country, a solid backing, and that there was unanimous patriotism sustaining him. To do so would not only be untrue, but it would belittle the almost superhuman task which gave birth to American government, and made possible the final organization through Abraham Lincoln of a land of the free, able to sustain its freedom against all the struggling masteries of the world. To suppose that Washington did his revolutionary work in the midst of reliable patriotism is as erroneous as to suppose that Lincoln did his nation-saving task in the midst of a unanimous North.
There was no such thing as patriotism at the time of Washington, according to the usual definition of patriotism, because there was no geographical territory holding a united people, for whom or for which to feel a national patriotism.
American patriotism, therefore, began in the patriotism for human rights, not thus making “a man without a country,” as patriotism for humanity has been sometimes defined alike by extreme pacifists and extreme militarists, but in the fact that American democracy and humanity are synonymous terms, in all they can mean for the rights of man.
There was then no political country to be patriotic for. There were only colonies. Patrick Henry’s cry, so pathetic in its divine need, and so little true for his fellows as shown in 1861, “I am not a Virginian, I am an American,” rang through the congress at Philadelphia with the thrill of a new vision of human faith, but it was almost a century, through an age of desperate reconstruction, before it could be even approximately called true; before American democracy and humanity could face the warring world, the King-made world, with one meaning, one service and one moral law.
John Adams, of indisputable authority, tells us that more than a third of the property owners and men of affairs, were opposed to the revolution throughout the war.
Lecky, in his history of England, declares that an examination of the correspondence of the revolution at any period shows that, “in the middle colonies at least, those who really desired to throw off the English rule were a small and not very respectable minority. The great mass were indifferent, half-hearted, engrossed with their private interests or occupations, prepared to risk nothing till they could clearly foresee the issue of the contest. In almost every part of the States--even in New England itself--there were large bodies of devoted royalists.”
After the war more than a hundred thousand, it is estimated, of irreconciliable royalists were expelled from the colonies.
When General Gage evacuated Boston, more than a thousand royalists from that immediate territory went with him to Halifax, Nova Scotia, so that our American grandmothers, even a hundred years later, when exasperated, would exclaim against their tormentor, with much of the ancient vehemence, “You go to Halifax!”
If we want to appreciate Washington and to understand his wonderful service for mankind, we must understand the difficulties and obstacles he had to overcome. The “Spirit of ’76” belonged at first to only a few inspired souls, who had a wonderful vision of human rights for a new world. Right was might with them and their might-right won the great cause as the immortal “Spirit of ’76.”
General Washington’s description of the conditions are vividly portrayed in a letter to Joseph Reed, from Cambridge, dated November 28, 1775:
“Such a dearth of public spirit, and such a want of virtue, such stock jobbing and such fertility in all the low arts to obtain advantages of one kind or another in this great change of military arrangement I never saw before, and pray God’s mercy that I may never be witness to again. What will be the end of these manoeuvers is beyond my scan. I tremble at the prospect. We have been till this time enlisting about three thousand five hundred men. To engage these I have been obliged to allow furloughs as far as fifty men to a regiment, and the officers, I am persuaded, indulge as many more. The Connecticut troops will not be prevailed upon to stay longer than their term, saving those who have enlisted for the next campaign and are mostly on a furlough; and such a mercenary spirit pervades the whole that I should not be at all surprised at any disaster that may happen. In short after the last of this month our lines will be so weakened that the Minute Men and Militia must be called in for their defense; and these being under no kind of government themselves, will destroy the little subordination I have been laboring to establish, and run me into one evil whilst I am endeavoring to avoid another; but the less must be chosen. Could I have foreseen what I have experienced, and am likely to experience, no consideration upon earth would have induced me to accept the command.”
At the meeting of the colonies in congress at Philadelphia in 1774, George the Third saw that it was a conquest of wills and he exclaimed, “The die is cast, the colonies must either submit or triumph.” But even when the British government was sending Hessian mercenaries over against the colonies, a thing regarded as a supreme outrage by those opposed to England, it was almost impossible to get together enough American patriotism to adopt a declaration of independence.
John Adams says that a large section of Congress regarded such a declaration with both terror and disgust. To those who have believed that a unanimous patriotism made only a little severe fighting necessary, backed by some clever generalship, there can be no proper appreciation of the great American achievement.
Then, as now, the prosperous did not want their prosperity disturbed by any change. They didn’t want to lose their business, not to speak of their lives, by going into an army. But there had been a generation of people pouring into the colonies from the poverty-devastations of English misgovernment in Scotland and Ireland. They had never had any chance to protest against their wrongs in the old country, but fortune, or fate, or Providence, had banished them across the ocean directly into an opportunity to express their sentiments with guns, and they took the opportunity. They flocked to the recruiting stations of Washington’s army.
But so unsafe were business transactions with the party fighting Great Britain that the revolution was coming to the gates of despair because of the impossibility of getting military supplies and army equipments. There was fast growing a vision of collapse unless there was received the encouraging help of a foreign power. France in almost unceasing war with England was the only hope, and France could have no interest unless the colonies were fighting for separation from England, instead of against a tax on tea, as it bore the appearance, at the beginning, from a foreign point of view. France wanted to know what the colonies were fighting for. France wanted a bill of particulars. This brought American interests to a crisis. France had no interest in a mere family fuss. The French government could have no interest unless it was for something that lessened the power of England.
Under the early troubles, a peace party among the business interests was fast coming into power. Against this the commoners were aflame with the patriotic pamphlets of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, the eloquence of Patrick Henry, the statesmanship of John Adams, and the work of the powerful-minded few who saw the sublime vision of American freedom. At last they were enabled to pass the Declaration of Independence, and France began, at first secretly and then openly, to give encouragement through money-loans, supplies, and volunteers. Burgoyne’s surrender in October, 1777, showed that America could be successful with France’s help, and early in the next year France recognized the independence of the colonies. They soon made the cause of America their own, and sent over not only necessary supplies but soldiers and ships. Known budgets of expenses, used in aid of the Colonies, exceed $500,000,000, not a cent of which was ever returned or asked for. Though there was the political interest to humble England, yet France was at heart a profound lover of human freedom and political liberty. Despite the implacable enemies of republican government in Europe, France has successfully kept the dead-lines across which “they shall not pass.” The moral debt which human liberty owes to France can never be paid except as it is paid to humanity, and, to that social justice, is dedicated the meaning of America.
II. SOMETIMES TOO LATE TO MEND
The English parliament, becoming suddenly aware of the growing power in the American subjects, now conceded every right asked for by the colonists, and enacted those rights into law. But it was too late. The middle-class mass of property owners and business men began to see the vision of an American republic and the tide swelled toward success. As the cutting off of supplies from the colonies had been the chief cause of American weakness, England tried to prevent supplies being sent to America, with the result that Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Holland declared an armed neutrality to enforce their right to sell military supplies to America. The dispute led to a war with Holland in 1780, so that by the close of that year Great Britain had not a friend on earth and was confronted by the united armies and navies of France, Spain, Holland and America. At the same time there was rebellion in India against the English rule, insurrections in Ireland, and so deep the discontent in England itself that a London mob was able for several days to make itself master of the city. The English lost control of the sea before the close of 1780, and on October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered his army to Washington, from which historic hour a world-champion of the rights of man over the divine rights of kings was born in the Western world.
The difficulties which Washington had encountered and overcome in Virginia previous to the French and Indian war were in full exercise throughout New England at the opening of the Revolutionary War. They could act together in small, free groups for a particular object of their will, but to obey superior officers and to sacrifice their own private judgment to higher authority, which was so necessary in war and such a war as this, was utterly repugnant to their dispositions. That subserviency to authority was the very reason they were opposing the idea of taxation without representation, and why should they be required to do the very thing they were fighting against! That quandary and query has been the puzzle of every mind unable to see the vision of means necessary to future results. It is the blindness always of the fanatical pacifist who would sacrifice nothing for peace, and of the non-resistant doctrine that right and moral law have no need for material might in a material world.
The colonists had never known of anything but local patriotism. They seemed to be unable to distinguish between English king-made authority and American people-made authority, notwithstanding how much had been discussed the relations of representation and taxation. That difficulty has always existed concerning American militarism. It almost defeated Lincoln during the Civil War. It almost delivered the Union to Secession. If democratic militarism cannot be different from dynastic militarism, then American freedom and human liberty will be lost in the next American or world war.
The colonist would fight with the heroism he displayed in Indian warfare, but when the enemy was driven away from his neighborhood, it was the duty of the next neighborhood to take care of itself. Besides, the New Englander with a home had the same idea as the Virginian soldier twenty years before, and this was that, when he wanted to go home, why shouldn’t he! He was not a deserter, and in no sense a coward, but the discipline of army service was mere enslavement and any compulsion was despotism. To understand the making up of an efficient army under such circumstances is the only measure to estimate the greatness of Washington and the debt to him of the liberty-loving world.
Curtis, in his history of American Commonwealth, says, “Washington overcame these difficulties by dint of a patience and a selflessness almost without parallel in history, which gradually communicated itself to his fellow countrymen. In seven years he created a continental army which ended the war at Yorktown.”
III. SELECTING THE LEADER OF LIBERTY FOR AMERICA
Washington had to write many letters, endeavoring to spur up the really patriotic leaders to consistent work for the cause. In his letter to Joseph Reed he was almost in despair over the indifference of people from whom he expected the most patriotic service.
“It grieves me,” he wrote, “to see so little of that patriotic spirit which I was taught to believe characteristic of this people.” But this did not mean that the so-called “spirit of ’76” was not strong among them. Washington needed so much of the patriotic spirit that a little would not be any, and, to half-heal the wounds of a friend, was not very friendly to the cause, nor a sufficient friendship toward the needs of Washington’s work for America.
Ten years later, when Washington had matured, through the mind-making experiences of revolutionary times, he wrote to John Jay, saying, “Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures the best calculated for their own good without the intervention of coercive power.” This meant that human society requires law, and the right of law is devoid of appreciation or application unless it is clothed with the might to keep its forms and values true.
Lecky says, “The common saying that you cannot make people virtuous by law is a dangerous half-truth. The virtue innate in a people may be utterly destroyed by bad institutions, for ‘the virtue,’ as Jay wrote to Washington, ‘like the other resources of a country, can only be drawn to a point by strong circumstances ably managed, or strong governments ably administered.’”
When it came to a question of who should be commander-in-chief of all the armies, the disruptions and jealousies of the sections seemed dangerously near wrecking any united action, which obviously must be fatal to any independence more than they then had from Great Britain. The Southern leaders were unanimous for Washington, and, with the efficiency of shrewd politicians, supported measures largely according to the pressure they brought to bear in the cause of having Washington for the commander-in-chief. But this support did not bring together any antagonism, because it was not made by any faction of admirers or supporters. Washington himself, though present, refused to lend any aid to the presentation of his own name.
[Illustration: Mount Vernon--Washington’s Residence, Virginia.]
It was John Adams, the whole-souled patriot from Massachusetts who was the leader in advocating the selection of Washington. In his diary, during these consequential times, Adams wrote, “I had no hesitation to declare that I had but one gentleman in my mind for that important command, and that was a gentleman from Virginia, who was among us, and very well known to us; a gentleman whose skilled experience as an officer, whose independent fortune, great talents, and excellent universal character would command the approbation of all America, and unite the cordial exertions of all the colonies better than any other person in the Union.”
There were many men who were able leaders, and who had already made great sacrifices in the cause of liberty, who believed with their friends that they were entitled to be selected for the head of the Army. Nevertheless, when the nomination was made, the election by ballot was unanimous for Washington.
The salary of Commander-in-Chief had been set at five hundred dollars a month, but Washington in his address of acceptance, while declaring that no salary could have been made large enough to tempt him from the comforts and business interests of his home, said he would accept no salary, but would keep an exact account of his expenses, which they would no doubt refund to him.
“There is something charming to me,” said John Adams, who became the second president of the United States, when writing at the time to a friend, “in the conduct of Washington, a gentleman of one of the first fortunes upon the continent, leaving his delicious retirement, his family and friends, sacrificing his ease, and hazarding all in the cause of his country. His views are noble and disinterested.”
Washington now wrote to his half-brother, Augustine Washington, a characteristic letter.
“I am now to bid adieu to you, and to every kind of domestic ease for a while. I am embarked on a wide ocean, boundless in its prospect, and in which, perhaps, no safe harbor is to be found. I have been called upon by the unanimous voice of the Colonies to take command of the Continental army; an honor I neither sought after nor desired, as I am thoroughly convinced it requires great abilities, and much more experience than I am master of.”
But he added his belief that the Divine Providence, which had called him into such a dangerous duty, was wisely ordering the affairs of men, and would enable him in due course of time to perform all his tasks justly and with success.
What that task was through the revolutionary war can be appreciated only in the details of events that require volumes of description in telling. One cannot read it through with its ignoble intrigues, unpatriotic dissentions, and dangerous rivalries without feeling that Washington combined great manhood, great leadership, great statesmanship and great generalship, and that no other man of less character and genius than that could ever have welded together such discordant and diversified elements into a means sufficient to achieve the independence and liberty of America.
LARGE BODIES MOVE SLOWLY
I. THE FIRST COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
There are events enough during the progress of the revolutionary war to give a complete analysis of Washington’s mind and character, enough, indeed, to make a large volume in itself. But these incidents are easily available to any student of the revolutionary war. Of all his wonderful career, as a child born to the wealth and luxury of his times, as a landed proprietor of one of the greatest fortunes in America, as soldier, statesman and first President of the United States, there is nowhere on record a single ignoble, immoral or dishonorable word or deed in any way relating to the principles or interests fundamental for his character, mind and life. It is supremely gratifying to American ideals that Washington was in everything morally worthy of being known as “first in peace, first in war and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” standing forth a great figure of American nobility, crowned with high title in being known as the “Father of his Country.”
The army was anxious to see their chief and the people were eager for a look at the man who inspired them all with so much confidence. Washington’s appearance could not disappoint them. No more born-commander of men, at least in appearance, ever sat in military uniform upon a horse. The emotions of the people in those troubulous times all went out to him, as they cheered him wherever he went. To know Washington is to know that his feelings responded heartily to their interests, and no doubt were strengthened by their trust for the wonder-working task before him.
One of the most intellectual and charming of the cultured women of New England was the wife of John Adams. After meeting Washington she wrote to her husband, “Dignity, ease and complacency, the gentleman and the soldier, look agreeably blended in him. Modesty marks every feature of his face. Those lines of Dryden instantly occurred to me:
‘Mark his majestic fabric! He’s a temple Sacred by birth and built by hands divine; His soul’s the deity that lodges there; Nor is the pile unworthy of the God.’”
As an incident of the multitudinous varieties of problems that Washington had to solve may be mentioned the treatment of the American prisoners taken by the British. The Americans were regarded as rebels, having no more standing in law than traitors. If the student looks carefully at the dates of progress in the freedom of the colonies and their formation into a nation, he will see that many years of wrangle and debate took place. Nothing went by leaps. Opinions grew and they grew very slowly and uncertainly. Therefore, when a crisis came, Washington had to make momentous decisions that were not only of far reaching consequences, but that he could execute and that his people would sanction. He was not a silent man. He wrote and spoke much, thus clearing the way for action, and unifying the mind of the people on the needs and rights of the times.
An extract from a letter to the British General Gage, in the beginning of the war, shows on what grounds Washington demanded the right treatment of American prisoners, who had so far been grossly mistreated.
“They suppose,” he wrote, concerning American prisoners, “that they act from the noblest of all principles, a love of freedom and their country. But political principles, I conceive, are foreign to this point. The obligations arising from the rights of humanity, and claims of rank, are universally binding and extensive, except in cases of retaliation.
“My duty now makes it necessary to apprise you that, for the future, I shall regulate all my conduct towards those gentlemen who are or may be in our possession exactly by the rule you shall observe toward those of ours now in your custody.”
Though General Gage’s reply was full of the words “criminals,” “rebels,” and “hanging,” the harsh treatment became generally modified as he realized that Washington meant what he said.
II. BIG BUSINESS, MONEY-MAKERS AND PATRIOTISM
Public sentiment when not aroused by immediate danger gets into action very slowly, and especially if it is divided into numerous rival sections as was the case in the colonies. The army at first consisted of two extremes, the real patriots and the many army adventurers. It was an age of travelling soldiers. Especially was there an overwhelming offer from foreign officers to go into service. To refuse them looked like ingratitude. It brought up the old saying of “looking a gift horse in the mouth.” But the wisdom and firmness of Washington was never put to better use than here. He believed that Americans should win the war. In the darkest period he said, “Put none but Americans on guard tonight.”
In one of his letters he speaks of the “hungry adventurers,” whose endless applications for commands were one of his worst annoyances. And, still more, many of these soldiers of fortune came from Europe with great recommendations and they secured powerful influences in Congress to force themselves upon Washington.
The mind of the times stood in great awe of British power, therefore it is additional credit to the mind of Washington that he had no such fear or awe toward British might. Besides, the country was always asking impossible things. Congress urged Washington to surround the enemy and cut off their supplies. They had no vision of Washington’s inadequate means. Therefore enemies arose asserting they could do what Washington was not doing, and the American army had not only the confusion of interests in its own ranks to contend with, but was between a contentious congress and a hardly more contentious British army. Washington’s methods now look so reasonable and practical that we wonder how the people could be so ignorant, blind and obstructive, but a century later than our time may show us to be stoning our prophets and killing our saviors, just as they have done through all the periods of history. It is the disastrous tribute that democracy pays to partisanship, and that humanity has always paid partisan leadership.
The malignant intrigues that tried to take advantage of the slow progress of the war, and have hungry rivals put into Washington’s place, are matters of special history. But Washington met those ill-begotten schemes with the cold indifference and calm dignity which were the unfailing measures of his life and character. Though he was sensitive, and high-spirited, he would not let that trait in his nature work to the advantage of his enemies. They worked up slights and insults all around him, but he never replied unless he dealt a stinging blow, or showed up the treacherous character of their work. Much of the rivalry developed against Washington was of sectional prejudices, but the real intelligence and patriotism of the colonies would have nothing to do with it. In all those schemes to injure Washington we see the same method in politics used on up to the present time. Newspapers and speakers distort the achievements of political opponents into the most fanatical accusations, and bewilder the voter with charges and countercharges till he feels as if he were between the firing lines of two fighting armies, for one or the other of which he must cast his votes. But “belonging to a party” is happily not the honor it once was. The good of the country is found to be, not so much in the political platform of parties but in the character of men, harmonizing with the rights of man. It is thus that the congressional resolutions and the party wrangling of Washington’s time, as in that of Lincoln, are wholly discredited in estimating the lives of those great leaders of the American mind. In its full view, the American ideal is seen to be that the man or woman who presides decently and righteously over the humanity of self or family or group is president of the human world.
The ignorant criticism of the time is well illustrated from the dark winter days of Valley Forge. There, so little had Congress done for the army, the soldiers were literally starving. Most of them were barefoot, and so poorly provided that they had to sit up all night close to their camp-fire in order to keep from freezing. And yet the legislature of Pennsylvania issued a stern remonstrance against their going into winter quarters. Washington must keep to the open field and be in continual operation against the well-fed, thoroughly trained and highly equipped British troops.
Washington closed a letter to Congress, saying, in referring to those who thus condemned him, “They seem to have little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers. I feel superabundantly for them, and from my soul I pity those miseries which it is neither in my power to relieve nor prevent.”
As in our own times, big business found opportunity to fatten itself on the needs of the people. The greatness of Washington is in startling evidence when it is seen how he not only had to conduct a war and guide an unprovided army split up into rival sections, but he had to be statesman and diplomat enough to manage a menagerie of ideas ranging through the congressional sessions like animals broken loose in a circus. Each one was trying to perform something that was in effect worse than nothing. The representatives of the people gathered in the American capital have often since that time repeated the original show.
III. THE STRONG MIND FOR GREAT NEEDS
The union that is strength is always slow in the making. Minds get together slowly wherever there is freedom in thinking for thought-out individual responsibility.
In writing to Benjamin Harrison, Washington pointed out how detrimental it was for each colony to be centering itself on its own prosperity. To Colonel Joseph Reed, December, 1778, he wrote more freely of the “monopolizers, forestallers, and engrossers” who were “murderers of our cause.”
“It is much to be lamented,” he said, “that each state, long ere this, has not hunted them down as pests to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America. I would to God that some one of the most atrocious in each state was hung in gibbets upon a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman. No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the man who can build his greatness upon his country’s ruin.”
This shows how Washington loathed meanness and treachery and how he minced no words in saying so. Only such men are leaders of men. No man who believes anything and is afraid to say it has a place in the political meaning of America.
Benjamin Harrison, full of the same righteous resentment, writes at the time, “If I were to be called upon to draw a picture of the times and of men, from what I have seen, heard, and in part know, I should in one word say that idleness, dissipation, and extravagance seem to have laid fast hold of most of them; that speculation, peculation, and an insatiable thirst for riches seem to have got the better of every other consideration, and almost every order of men; that party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day.”
And so, to one patriot and then to another, Washington appealed for help to save the wasting fortunes of his country.
To George Mason he wrote that we are “fast verging to destruction.” The widespread demoralization of both army and people, the scramble for profit, and the unpatriotic plunder of vital interests at last became so evident under Washington’s ringing denunciations that the real patriots of the country awoke to the peril. Lafayette and the two Morrises took the lead in their respective fields of work. Writers and speakers took up the task of arousing the people and their officers in Congress, and at last the tide turned. The strong minds at last prevailed in uniting the people into a reliable force for the great need, and the American republic became an acknowledged part of the humanity of the earth.
TURNING REVOLUTION THROUGH FREEDOM INTO GOVERNMENT
I. SEEKING RETIREMENT FOR LIFE IN THE PEACE OF A COUNTRY HOME
The Revolutionary war had extended over a period of eight years, through almost unparalleled discouragements and intolerable trials of faith and purpose, when the British troops were finally withdrawn from American soil. The differences in the appearances of the British and American troops are described by an American lady living in New York, while the British held possession there. She wrote, “We had been accustomed for a long time to the military display in all the finish and finery of garrison life; the troops just leaving us were as if equipped for show, and with their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms made a brilliant display. The troops that marched in, on the contrary, were ill-clad and weatherbeaten, and made a forlorn appearance; but then they were our troops, and, as I looked at them and thought of all they had done and suffered for us, my heart and my eyes were full, and I admired and gloried in them the more, because they were weatherbeaten and forlorn.”
In a letter to Baron Steuben, written on the 23rd of December, 1783, Washington concludes as follows, “This is the last letter I shall write while I continue in the service of my country. The hour of my resignation is fixed at twelve today, after which I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac.”
At noon on that memorable day the Hall of Congress was filled with a notable assemblage of prominent people. The members of Congress remained seated with their hats on, as was the custom of the times, but the spectators were standing with uncovered heads when Washington, conducted by the secretary of Congress, entered and was given a seat appointed for him.
The President of Congress arose, and, after stating the purpose of the meeting at that hour, said to Washington, “The United States in Congress assembled are now prepared to receive your communication.”
Washington arose and delivered a short address, at the close of which he said, “I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God; and those who have the superintendence of them to His holy keeping. Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
A writer who was present, speaking of this scene, says, “Few tragedies ever drew so many tears from so many beautiful eyes as the moving manner in which his Excellency took his final leave of Congress.”
The President of Congress replied to his address, and, after reciting the wisdom and valor with which Washington had accomplished the great task assigned him, said, “You retire from the theatre of action with the blessings of your fellow citizens; but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate remote ages.”
Washington arrived at Mount Vernon on Christmas eve, where the home-coming was duly celebrated as could be done only in the colonial plantation days.
“The scene is at last closed,” he wrote to his friend, Governor Clinton of New York. “I feel myself eased of a load of public care. I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men, and in the practice of domestic virtues.”
How little Washington or his friends knew of the future! A task and a responsibility of no less importance than the conduct of the Revolutionary war was yet to devolve upon him. The repose of a soldier had to give way to the mind-work of a great statesman.
In a letter to that great friend of America, without whose aid there could hardly have been a free America, General Lafayette, Washington wrote, “Free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments which the soldier, who is ever in pursuit of fame; the statesman, whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries,--as if this globe were insufficient for us all; and the courtier, who is always watching the countenance of his prince in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception.”
Later, in writing to the Marchioness de Lafayette, inviting her to visit America, where her husband had earned such glory and where everybody loved and admired him, he gave a charming picture of the simplicity of his life.
“I am now enjoying domestic ease under the shadow of my own vine and fig tree, in a small villa, with the implements of husbandry and lambkins about me. Come, then, let me entreat you, and call my cottage your own; for your own doors do not open to you with more readiness than mine would. You will see the plain manner in which we live, and meet the rustic civility; and you shall taste the simplicity of rural life. It will diversify the scene, and may give you a higher relish for the gayeties of the court when you return to Versailles.”
II. FREEDOM AND THE WRANGLE FOR PERSONAL GAIN
Knowing that Washington would be at continual expense to entertain distinguished guests who would come to see him, Congress tried to grant him a reward for his distinguished services, but he had served his country without pay and he refused. In the meanwhile, the hospitality of Washington was taxed to the utmost, and his time was much taken up in important conferences over political affairs. The country was being governed by Congress under the Articles of Confederation which then bound the states, but probably with less efficiency than thirteen horses in a single rein and rope harness to draw a rattling, curtain-flapping carriage. The old state patriotisms were revived and with them the rivalries and jealousies of political sections. Whatever one state wanted seemed to be the signal for its neighbor to want something else. The United States were indeed plural with a vengeance! “E Pluribus Unum” that had so laboriously and valiantly come true, as meaning one out of many, in war, had changed about to its first condition and was again many out of one.
In 1786, in a letter to General Knox, Washington wrote, “I feel, my dear General Knox, infinitely more than I can express to you for the disorders which have arisen in these states. Good God! who, besides a Tory, could have foreseen, or a Briton predicted them? I do assure you that, even at this moment, when I reflect upon the present prospect of affairs, it seems to me to be like the vision of a dream. After what I have seen, or rather what I have heard, I shall be surprised at nothing; for, if three years since, any person had told me that there would have been such a formidable rebellion as exists at this day against the laws and constitution of our own making, I should have thought him a bedlamite, a fit subject for a mad-house.”
He wrote to James Madison, saying, “How melancholy is the reflection that in so short a time we should have made such large strides toward fulfilling the predictions of our transatlantic foes, who said, ‘Leave them to themselves and their government will soon dissolve’? Will not the wise and good strive hard to avert this evil?”
The only remedy which “the wise and good” could use to avert the calamity of having thirteen feeble little nations at war with one another was to supplant the “Articles of Confederation” with a Federal Constitution, and, at last, this was accomplished, with so many compromises and concessions to so-called “state rights” that it required a frightful four years’ civil war to establish the meaning of the Federal Constitution, so that the United States grammarians and politicians could agree to say the United States “is” instead of saying that the United States “are.”
With the adoption of the Federal Constitution, it was provided that electors should be chosen whose duty it was to select a president for the United States.
There could be but one man seriously considered. The landed gentleman who had become a soldier and won liberty for the Western world was soon seen to be destined, by the nation he had made, to be its first president, and henceforth by nature, if not by the providence of God, to be statesman, and the “First Citizen of America.” Accordingly, George Washington was chosen first president of the Western republic, to begin a term of four years from the fourth of March, 1789.
III. LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS OF LIBERTY AND LAW
Through the desperate eight years of war, in which the devastations of the British could hardly be called worse than the wrangling differences of opinion and sordid interests among the colonies, Washington had conserved and guided the struggle for American liberty, so that, at the close of the war, with the disembarkation for Halifax of troops, royalists and tories, there was a unanimous voice of harmony for a new America.
Then came the divisions under the rivalry of the colonies as a loose confederation of separate republics. After that Washington was again at the head of American interests and for another eight years. It was a period of reconstruction. The opportunity to have a new nation, that human beings might have a place of freedom in the sun, was supplied by the eight years of revolutionary struggle, but the foundations for that nation were not laid firmly until there were eight years’ labor upon the Constitutional form of government under Washington.
Probably no man, with the exception of Lincoln, has been so loved and so hated, or ever will be in America, as Washington. It is the most pathetic thing in all the weakness of intelligence, or rather the strength of prejudice, that the world always hates, and sometimes kills, its benefactors, its friends and saviors.
But somehow, with all the storm and stress of things, notwithstanding the hate and revenge of disappointed greed, the rights of life are carried on, and the values of humanity prevail.
The time for the third election of a president was drawing near. All the malignant virulence possible to destroy the name and services of Washington were coming into use. He was accused of every public evil and private unfitness under the sun. And yet there is hardly any doubt worth consideration that he could have been elected for the third term if he had desired it. But he had done his share of the work of the world. He saw that his example would be used as a precedent for the ambitions of future politicians. There must be a reasonable time limit even to the restricted governing powers of a president. He declined to serve more than two terms. Only once since then has there been an organized attempt to break that precedent. The politicians tried their utmost means to give General Grant a third term, but the hostility of the nation against the danger of such prolonged power at last prevailed and the attempt was defeated, probably never to be successful.
Washington’s farewell address on retiring from the presidency has ever remained a beacon-light for the guidance of American views of American government, especially in its relation with foreign nations.
The reply of the House of Representatives gave strong praise for the wisdom, firmness, moderation and magnanimity with which he had guided the affairs of his country. But the kicker was there and his voice was heard. A prominent representative from Virginia was disgusted with any praise of Washington’s wisdom and firmness. He raised his voice in the halls of Congress and put himself on historical record as especially opposed to giving Washington any praise for the administration of foreign affairs. He declared that “the weakness and feeble judgment of Washington in our foreign relations” has brought us under “the contempt of foreign nations,” and had conducted our country to “the verge of a greater calamity than had ever been threatened before in our history.” That patriotic scare sounds strangely like the calamity prophecies of politicians against every president in every national crisis. In such cases it is well to remember that political partisans are not thus qualified to be American patriots. They are special pleaders for their own particular party greed.
Twelve other members believed as this one from Virginia. They would much rather have censured Washington for weakness than to have praised him for strength. Among these thirteen partisans was a young man from Tennessee named Andrew Jackson, who afterward became one of the famous Presidents.
These violent differences of opinion and the vicious personal attacks on motives, attributed each to each, has been one of the pitiable signs of injustice and incompetency in American politics. Time after time, as the presidential campaigns arrive, the fist-like will of each side is thrust into the other’s faces, as those “belonging” to a party fight to get votes for the party candidate, not for a patriotic cause. In times of great national peril, whether in times of war at home or abroad, the president who preserves, as Washington did, the rights of his country in conformity to the rights of man, which is the only possible rights of either, is hated by the extremists on both sides. They both call him weak, and, therefore, though hating each other, unite to defeat the man who would not lead his country into taking up with their special interests. But, fortunately, we sometimes have presidents with mind, patriotism and character greater than any party. Most hopefully, there are increasingly greater numbers who belong to their country instead of to a party, and who elect human principles to rule and to reign over us rather than the ring-managers of prejudice and partisanship known as “parties.” Presently there will be enough independent thinking for any one to consider it as unpatriotic to belong to a “party” as to belong to any other political fragment, clique, or social group, presuming to dictate what is weakness and what is strength for the individual mind as its only choice in patriotism and Americanism. America, composed of every element of humanity from every part of the earth, is the strongest nation of all time, and capable of being the clearest and most just for the freedom of the world. Here we strive for the peace of freedom in law. We war only against war. American intelligence and mercy are rapidly devising ways to eliminate the various forms of enslavement, dissentions and divisions that weaken American civilization, so that democracy may be safe in itself. In the great European war, President Wilson announced the purpose of the United States to be for the right that is greater than peace, in which the world must be made safe for democracy. And so, humanity gains “a place in the sun” and the kingdom of heaven is among us. For the sake of peace on earth, America must be strong in the might of right, and be willing and ready to save to the uttermost. America is president of the peace-nations of the earth because it alone is federated upon the principles of human justice, eternal and universal.
[Illustration: Washington Statue in United States Capitol, Washington, D. C.]
France and America, in the name of liberty, will be forever crowned together in the praise of human history. The mutual friendship that existed during Washington’s presidency is illustrated by a toast drunk at a banquet of French and Americans in New York, February 22, 1795:
“To the President of the United States: May the day that gave him birth mark an epoch in the annals of liberty!
“To the French Republic: May she triumph over her enemies and obtain the tranquillity of peace founded upon justice and reason!
“To the memory of the heroes of all nations who have gloriously fallen for the defense of the rights of man!”
Friends and allies of France have changed during the tumultuous years, but, republic to republic, France and the United States still pledge fealty to liberty, justice and reason and do honor to the heroic defenders of the rights of man among all nations.
THE PEACE OF HOME AT LAST
I. SORROW FOR THE DEPARTED SCENES AROUND MOUNT VERNON
At the close of his term of office, March 4, 1797, Washington retired to his home at Mount Vernon loved by all the understanding world.
In a letter to Mrs. S. Fairfax, then in England, he wrote, “It is a matter of sore regret when I cast my eyes toward Belvoir, which I often do, to reflect that the former inhabitants of it, with whom we lived in such harmony and friendship, no longer reside there, and the ruins only can be viewed as the mementoes of former pleasures.”
The home interest of Washington can be seen in a letter he wrote to Miss Nelly Custis, a granddaughter of his wife. Her father had died when she was a child, and Washington, having no children, had adopted Nelly and brought her up in his family. She was of a beautiful nature and was much beloved by Washington.
She appears to have had some very decided social notions, and one of these was, as she expressed it, “a perfect apathy toward the youth of the present day,” and a determination never to give herself “a moment’s uneasiness on account of any of them.”
That was perhaps the rather high-sounding notion that romantic young folks sometimes acquire of independence from usual life and of superiority to their associates. Evidently Washington did not regard her resolution with any grave alarm. He perhaps knew the ancient privilege allowing women to change their minds. Nevertheless, it was worthy of his experienced consideration, at least against letting too many know her “irrevocable determination” because, when she did change, as was doubtless inevitable, it should not bear any likelihood of being embarrassing.
“Men and women,” he wrote her, “feel the same inclination toward each other now that they always have done, and which they will continue to do until there is a new order of things; and you, as others have done, may find that the passions of your sex are easier raised than allayed. Do not, therefore, boast too soon nor too strong of your insensibility.
“Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is therefore contended that it cannot be resisted. This is true in part only, for, like all things else, when nourished and supplied plentifully with aliment, it is rapid in its progress; but let these be withdrawn, and it may be stifled in its birth or much stinted in its growth.
“Although we cannot avoid first impressions, we may assuredly place them under guard.
“When the fire is beginning to kindle, and your heart growing warm, propound these questions to it: Who is this invader? Have I a competent knowledge of him? Is he a man of good character? A man of sense? For, be assured, a sensible woman can never be happy with a fool. What has been his walk in life? Is he one to whom my friends can have no reasonable objection?
“If all these interrogations can be satisfactorily answered, there will remain but one more to be asked. That, however, is an important one. Have I sufficient ground to conclude that his affections are engaged by me? Without this the heart of sensibility will struggle against a passion that is not reciprocated.”
Sure enough, it was but a short time until romance came to Mount Vernon, and Miss Nelly changed her mind very promptly. Lawrence Lewis arrived, the clouds of doubt vanished, and the love-bells were set to ringing until the wedding-bells took up the melody that passed on into the music of the spheres.
II. CROWNED IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME 1799
The beginning of the year 1799 was full of the romantic happiness of immortal youth for the household of Washington, but the close of the year brought to an end the career of the first great American. On the twelfth of December he rode as usual around the estate at Mount Vernon, and was caught in a sleety rain. From this he developed acute laryngitis and died on the night of the fourteenth. He said, “I die hard but I am not afraid to go,” and his last words were, “’Tis well.”
His loved ones were around him and his last look was lovingly upon them. The doctor saw his countenance change in death. He put his hands over the eyes out of which the light had forever gone, and one of the noblest souls of the earth passed away. There was not a struggle or a sigh.
Mrs. Washington was sitting at the foot of the bed, and she asked bravely, “Is he gone?”
The doctor could not speak, but he held up his hand as a sign that the spirit of their beloved was no longer there.
“’Tis well,” she said, repeating his last words. “All is now over; I shall soon follow him; I have no more trials to pass through.”
The tributes of America and the world to his honor and his name may be noted in the words of Lord Brougham, an eminent British statesman, who reflected the feeling of the nation against which he had waged a successful war: “It will be the duty of the historian, and the sage of all nations,” he said, “to let no occasion pass of commemorating this illustrious man, and, until time shall be no more, will a test of the progress which our race has made in wisdom and virtue be derived from the veneration paid to the immortal name of Washington.”
The great nations having any sort of democratic ideal fully recognized the fact that in his death had passed away one of the great men of the earth. The English Channel fleet lowered their ships’ flags at half-mast in token of respect, and in the land of Napoleon, who was then master of France, there was crepe draped about all their standards. Talleyrand, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and one of the greatest orators and statesmen, prepared a report to the French government in which he said: “A nation which some day will be a great nation, and which today is the wisest and happiest on the face of the earth, weeps at the bier of a man whose courage and genius contributed most to free it from bondage and elevated it to the rank of an independent and sovereign power. The regrets caused by the death of this great man, the memories aroused by these regrets, and a proper veneration for all that is held dear and sacred by mankind, impel us to give expression to our sentiments by taking part in an event which deprives the world of one of its brightest ornaments, and removes to the realm of history one of the noblest lives that ever honored the human race.
“His own country now honors his memory with funeral ceremonies, having lost a citizen whose public actions and unassuming grandeur in private life were a living example of courage, wisdom and unselfishness; and France, which from the dawn of American Revolution hailed with hope a nation, hitherto unknown, that was discarding the vices of Europe, which foresaw all the glory that this nation would bestow on humanity, and the enlightenment of governments that would ensue from the novel character of the social institutions, and the new type of heroism, of which Washington and America were models for the world at large,--France, I repeat, should depart from established usages, and do honor to one whose fame is beyond comparison with that of others. The man who, among the decadence of modern ages, first dared believe that he could inspire degenerate nations with courage to rise to the level of republican virtues, lived for all nations and for all centuries.”
These tributes from the two greatest nations were sincere despite the fact that one of them had just been humiliated, beaten and dismembered by his leadership, and the other was only recently in the midst of open hostilities toward the United States, against which Washington was again made the national commander-in-chief, thus on the very verge of war with France. Only in his own country had Washington been the object of the bitterest personal slander and political calumny. But, at his death, all ignorant prejudice and foul-mouthed envy became silent and sought to be hidden from the public presence. In him there was greatness that could not be questioned and character that could be known only to be praised. The vision of him never fails from the sky of American ideals, and the young people of this nation have only to know his life to know for what kind of political interest each one should labor in the name of American liberty and the progress of an American humanity.
Washington regarded parties as one of the most inexcusable and disturbing elements in the political life of a nation. He believed in men and principles, not in parties and platforms. It was more than a hundred years after his death before the people of the United States began to discard allegiance to parties and platforms in favor of men and the principles of humanity.
When misrepresentation began its assault upon him in the presidency as it had done in the army, Washington wrote, “The man who means to commit no wrong will never be guilty of enormities; consequently he can never be unwilling to learn what are ascribed to him as foibles. If they are really such, the knowledge of them in a well disposed mind will go halfway towards a reform. If they are errors, he can explain and justify the motive of his actions.”
It is thus that a well-balanced disposition willingly receives criticism, whatever its motive, for any value he can get out of it, with little concern for the intentions of the criticism, if his own purpose is fair and just.
He greatly deplored the misrepresentation of the partisan newspapers, believing that the people of a nation would never go wrong if they had the truth before them upon which to make up their minds. It is very generally true that parties have governed for the spoils of power and office. Political parties have very often fostered false argument and worse distortion of their opponents’ meaning, so that large numbers of honorable and honest-minded persons have been misled into truly fearful fanaticism, and more fearful support of purposes, which, if they had known, they would have abhorred.
III. A LIFE-LIKE SCENE FROM WASHINGTON’S HOME LIFE
John Bernard, a noted English actor, who came to play an engagement in America soon after Washington had retired from the presidency, tells an experience which gives us quite a picture of our own, in which we can see Washington free from all the glamor of fame that usually half hides the real man from our view.
Bernard says that he was playing at Annapolis in 1798 when, one day, he went out riding down below Alexandria. Just as he was coming in sight of a man and young woman riding toward him in a chaise, the carriage was overturned and the two were thrown violently out. The man was not hurt but the woman was struck unconscious. The actor rode hurriedly up, and, dismounting, began at once to see what could be done for the woman. Soon she returned to consciousness with a volley of fierce scolding at her husband that was extremely ludicrous, if not ridiculous.
Bernard now noticed that another man had ridden up and was helping the unfortunate husband to extricate the horse and get the animal upon its feet. The three men then set to work to get the heavy carriage, still heavier loaded with baggage, back into service. It was a hot July day and the half hour’s work was a rather exhausting task for two who seemed to be out riding for mere recreation.
When the man and his wife were once more in the carriage, ready to drive on, they invited the two strangers to go on with them to Alexandria and have something to drink in appreciation of their timely service, but both declined, and the chaise started afresh upon its journey.
Bernard says, “My companion, after an exclamation at the heat, offered very courteously to dust my coat, a favor the return of which enabled me to take a deliberate survey of his person. He was a tall, erect, well-made man, evidently advanced in years, but who appeared to have retained all the vigor and elasticity resulting from a life of temperance and exercise. His dress was a blue coat buttoned to his chin and buckskin breeches. Though the instant he took off his hat I could not avoid the recognition of familiar lineaments, which, indeed, I was in the habit of seeing on every sign-post and over every fireplace, still I failed to identify him, and to my surprise I found that I was an object of equal speculation in his eyes.
“‘Mr. Bernard, I believe’ he said after a moment’s pause, and then spoke of having seen me play in Philadelphia, following at once with an invitation to spend a couple of hours in rest and refreshment at his house, which he pointed out in the distance.”
It then came clear to the actor who was his distinguished-looking companion.
Mr. Bernard thus continues his description of this experience, “‘Mount Vernon,’ I exclaimed; and then, drawing back with a stare of wonder, ‘Have I the honor of addressing General Washington?’
“With a smile whose expression of benevolence I have rarely seen equalled, he offered his hand and replied: ‘An odd sort of introduction, Mr. Bernard; but I am pleased to find you can play so active a part in private without a prompter.’”
In the conversation that ensued over the refreshments at Mount Vernon, Mr. Bernard studied his distinguished host with deep earnestness, and has left us a vivid picture in description as the actor saw him.
He says that in the conversation Washington’s face did not present much variety of expression. It wore always a look of profound thoughtfulness. Neither was there much change in the tones of his voice, but its intonations were rich with the depths of expression.
The keynote of his talk seemed to be summed up, as the actor believed, in one of the sentences of this conversation: “I am a man, and interested in all that concerns humanity.” This is in truth the keynote of any mind that ever achieves anything worth while. One does for self or party or nation only as it is for humanity. Any other deed or thought is not patriotism but partisanship. America is that manhood interested with all its available means in the humanity of the world.
Mr. Bernard, with what seems to be the deep insight that a great actor must have into character and human nature, says, “He spoke like a man who had felt as much as he had reflected, and reflected more than he had spoken; like one who had looked upon society rather in the mass than in detail, and who regarded the happiness of America but as the first link in a series of universal victories.” This vision, opened up to America in the devastations of the Great European War for “a place in the sun,” was enlarged by American patriots, not for any closed-in nation, but for the rights of humanity.
It chanced, during the conversation, that, while Washington was comparing English liberty as surrounded by walls, with American liberty as in the open, a black man came in with a jug of spring water.
Washington saw the actor look at the slave and smile with an inward thought. He quickly guessed at the thought and responded, “When we profess, as our fundamental principle, that liberty is the inalienable right of every man, we do not include madmen or idiots; liberty in their hands would become a scourge. Till the mind of the slave has been educated to perceive what are the obligations of a state of freedom, and not confound a man’s freedom with a brute’s, the gift would insure its abuse.”
He expressed his belief that slavery must some time be banished for the unity of American principles, and, in this connection, it should be remembered that, by will, he freed all his own slaves, to take place at the death of his wife.
STANDARDS OF AMERICAN PATRIOTISM
The fundamental statement of American democracy and freedom is to be found in the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence and in the preamble of the Constitution. That keynote of humanity there expressed is as follows:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The unity of purpose, hereditary in responsibility to all native Americans, and sworn to as the accepted duty of all naturalized citizens, is expressed in the last sentence of the Declaration:
“And, for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
The preamble of the Constitution reaffirms and reinforces the American ideal of a progressive and perfective striving toward a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
It is as follows:
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”
The oath of allegiance into which we are born, and which becomes the measure of every possible American, contains the following inescapable responsibility:
“I, ----, do solemnly affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
II. FREEDOM OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
The Farewell Address of Washington to Congress contains advice on our foreign relations which is part of any study of his life. The most important of this is as follows: “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
“Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none, or a very remote, relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
“Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
“Why forego the advantages of as peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
“It is our duty to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best policy.
“Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”
Washington in his will, disposing of his swords, says, “These swords are accompanied with an injunction not to unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood except it be for self-defense, or in defense of their country and its rights, and in the latter case to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands to the relinquishment thereof.”
Related to the Farewell Address and as a corollary to it is what is known as “The Monroe Doctrine.”
The “Monroe Doctrine” as a policy of the United States is founded upon two passages in President Monroe’s message to Congress on Dec. 2, 1823. These passages follow:
“In the discussion to which this interest has given rise, and in the arrangements by which they may terminate, the occasion has been deemed proper for asserting, as a principle in which rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power....
“We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them or controlling in any other manner their destiny by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”
Two notable explanations have been given, as follows:
Secretary of State Olney in his dispatch of July 20, 1895, on the Venezuelan boundary dispute, said:
“It (the Monroe Doctrine) does not establish any general protectorate by the United States over other American States. It does not relieve any American State from its obligations as fixed by international law, nor prevent any European power directly interested from enforcing such obligations or from inflicting merited punishment for the breach of them.”
President Roosevelt, in a speech in 1902 upon the results of the Spanish-American war, said:
“The Monroe Doctrine is simply a statement of our very firm belief that the nations now existing on this continent must be left to work out their own destinies among themselves, and that this continent is no longer to be regarded as the colonizing ground of any European power. The one power on the continent that can make the power effective is, of course, ourselves; for in the world as it is, a nation which advances a given doctrine, likely to interfere in any way with other nations, must possess the power to back it up, if it wishes the doctrine to be respected.”
President Wilson in an address to the Senate of the United States, Jan. 22, 1917, advised an American interest in an extension of the Monroe Doctrine. The main points were as follows:
“No peace can last, or ought to last, which does not recognize and accept the principle that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that no right anywhere exists to hand people about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were property.
“I am proposing, as it were, that the nations should with one accord adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the world: That no nation should seek to extend its policy over any other nation or people, but that every people should be left free to determine its own policy, its own way of development, unhindered, unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great.”
III. THE LOYALTY OF YOUTH
Rome and Greece in their age of world dominion were great because of the loyalty and nobility of their youth. Patriotism is by no means a modern virtue, and it is often wondered if the youth of the new world is alive to their country’s honor equal to the youth of the ancient world.
[Illustration: Washington Tomb--Mount Vernon, Virginia.]
An example of that ancient patriotism may be shown in the oath of the young men of Athens. It is as follows:
“We will never bring disgrace to this our city by any act of dishonesty or cowardice, nor ever desert our suffering comrades in the ranks. We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many; we will revere and obey the city’s laws and do our best to incite a like respect and reverence in those about us who are prone to annul or set them at naught; we will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this city not only not less but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
The young men of revolutionary times were full of “the Spirit of ’76.” During the troublous days of near-war with France, in the administration of John Adams, the young men were eager to sustain their country’s honor. As a good example, we may read with profit the address of the Harvard College students, which was published in _The Boston Centinel_, May 19, 1798:
“ADDRESS TO HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN ADAMS, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
“Sir: We flatter ourselves you will not be displeased at hearing that the walls of your native seminary are now inhabited by youth possessing sentiments congenial with your own. We do not pretend to great political sagacity; we wish only to convince mankind that we inherit the intrepid spirit of our ancestors and disdain submission to the will of a rapacious, lawless and imperious nation. Though removed from active life, we have watched with anxiety the interests of our country. We have seen a nation in Europe grasping at universal conquest, trampling on the laws of God and nations, systematizing rapine and plunder, destroying foreign governments by the strength of her arms or the pestilence of her embraces and scattering principles which subvert social order, raise the storms of domestic faction and perpetuate the horrors of revolution. We have seen this same nation violating our neutral rights, spurning our pacific proposals, her piratical citizens sweeping our ships from the seas and venal presses under her control pouring out torrents of abuse on men who have grown gray in our service. We have seen her ministers in this country insulting our government by a daring, unprecedented and contemptuous appeal to the people, and her agents at home offering conditions which slaves whose necks have grown to the yoke would reject with indignation. We have seen this, sir, and our youthful blood has boiled within us. When, in opposition to such conduct, we contemplate the measures of our own government, we cannot but admire and venerate the unsullied integrity, the decisive prudence and dignified firmness which have uniformly characterized your administration. Impressed with these sentiments, we now solemnly offer the unwasted ardor and unimpaired energies of our youth to the service of our country. Our lives are our only property; and we were not the sons of those who sealed our liberties with their blood if we would not defend with these lives that soil which now affords a peaceful grave to the mouldering bones of our forefathers.”
That address lets us into the feeling of patriotism that animated the people in the days of Washington and the making of America. We can easily imagine the makers of that address as being fired with fervor from the eloquence of Patrick Henry, the bold assertions of Thomas Paine, and the unanswerable logic of Thomas Jefferson.
Only a few years before, in the dark hours of his country, Thomas Paine had put new life into the sorely pressed people by his patriotic pamphlets, from one of which we quote these words:
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it _now_ deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: ’tis dearness only that gives everything its value.
“Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial article as _freedom_ should not be highly rated.”
Washington’s labor was likewise lightened by the inspiring patriotism of many other noble makers of the new America. Thomas Jefferson, who became the third president, was of priceless service. His call to American patriotism may be well illustrated in a few of his most quoted statements:
“The man who loves his country on its own account, and not merely for its trappings of interest or power, can never be divorced from it, can never refuse to come forward when he finds that it is engaged in dangers which he has the means of warding off.”
“The first foundations of the social compact would be broken up were we definitely to refuse to its members the protection of their persons and property while in their lawful pursuits.”
“The persons and property of our citizens are entitled to the protection of our government in all places where they may lawfully go.”
“We must make the interest of every nation stand surety for their justice, and their own loss to follow injury to us as effect follows its cause.”
“The times do certainly render it incumbent on all good citizens, attached to the rights and honor of their country, to bury in oblivion all internal differences and rally round the standard of their country in opposition to the outrages of foreign nations.”
“We are alarmed with the apprehensions of war, and sincerely anxious that it may be avoided; but not at the expense either of our faith or our honor.”
“It is an eternal truth that acquiescence under insult is not the way to escape war.”
“When wrongs are pressed because it is believed they will be borne, resistance becomes morality.”
CONCLUDING REFLECTIONS ON THE CHARACTER AND CAREER OF WASHINGTON
I. THE WASHINGTON IDEAL AS THE FIRST GREAT AMERICAN IDEAL
Washington’s religious belief has been the object of considerable controversy, because there is no standard or measure for a man’s religious belief until the one investigating it gives his precise definition of what he means by religion, and that probably can not be done, for any basis of general agreement. It is not so easy to map out the interest and meaning of human feeling. Somehow no great man has ever felt that what he accomplished was done by his unaided self. Everyone has in some form believed in a superior Guide. So a statement of Washington in 1778 may be taken as the keynote of his religious belief. He said, “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”
His faith in the benevolence of order and law as divinely designed is shown in his statement in 1791 that, “The great Ruler of events will not permit the happiness of so many millions to be destroyed.” In 1792, he said, “As the All-Wise Disposer of events has hitherto watched over my steps, I trust that, in the important one I may be soon called upon to take, he will mark the course so plainly as that I cannot mistake the way.”
That this faith was necessary to his purpose and mind, to help him through the long series of trials, in both the war and presidency, no one can doubt, who reads the detailed history of those periods,--they were so often desperately discouraging, so often both helpless and hopeless to any human foresight or judgment.
A few phrases taken from the “Mount Vernon Tribute” express the Americanism of Washington. The author of that inscription is unknown, but whoever it was he knew. The tribute was transcribed from a manuscript copy on the back of a picture frame containing a portrait of Washington, found hanging in one of the rooms at Mount Vernon after Washington’s death. There he is called “The Defender of His Country,” “The Founder of Liberty,” “The Friend of Man,” and “Benefactor of Mankind.” “He triumphantly vindicated the Rights of Humanity,” “Magnanimous in Youth, Glorious through Life, Great in Death”; “His Highest Ambition the Happiness of Mankind.” According to this definition of patriotism, the meaning is not limited to a political area of square miles or boundary lines.
The noble tributes to Washington’s character and work would fill many volumes, but a few will show how his life is regarded as a model for the youths of America.
Senator Vance of North Carolina said, “The youth of America who aspire to promote their own and their country’s welfare should never cease to gaze upon his great example, or to remember that the brightest gems in the crown of his immortality, the qualities which uphold his fame on earth and plead for him in heaven, were those which characterized him as the patient, brave Christian gentleman.”
James Bryce, the English statesman, publicist, and historian, said, “Washington stands alone and unapproachable, like a snow-peak rising above its fellows into the clear air of morning, with a dignity, constancy, and purity which have made him the ideal type of civic virtue to succeeding generations.”
Henry Lee, who was beloved by Washington like a son, has given us the great picture of him, “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere, uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting.”
Lord Byron wrote,
“Where may the wearied eyes repose, When gazing on the great, Where neither guilty glory glows, Nor despicable state? Yes,--one, the first, the last, the best, The Cincinnatus of the West, Whom envy dared not hate, Bequeathed the name of Washington, To make men blush, there was but one.”
Louis Kossuth, the great Hungarian patriot, said, “Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him.”
Lord Macaulay says that he had in his character, “The sobriety, the self-command, the perfect soundness of judgment, the perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington alone.”
The tribute of the greatest American to the greatest American, for, so alike are these two in divinity of mind for the divinity of America and humanity that they can thus be thought of only as one, should be known to all. Abraham Lincoln says, “Washington’s is the mightiest name on earth--long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on.”
II. NOT BIRTH BUT CHARACTER MAKES AMERICANS
Washington and Lincoln are two names inseparately connected in the making and preservation of America. Each became the leader in his country’s interests at a period of almost unspeakable dissention and of indescribable peril to freedom as the condition of social civilization. In the midst of that terrible turmoil, through every form of abuse, intrigue and obstruction, they kept clear the way that America should go, and upheld the America that all freeborn men believed to be the ideal and opportunity of humanity and mankind.
Washington is often declared to have been so much of his life an Englishman that he cannot be regarded as a real born American. With this declaration it is also asserted that Lincoln was the first complete representative of real Americanism. This is as much as to say that one born into the richest family in the early days of a town is not as much of a citizen as one born in the poorest house in the town when it has become a city. Search can nowhere reveal any Americanism in either of those great souls that was not also in the other. Physical surroundings had much to do with the details of their minds, characters and careers, but nothing to do with their principles of humanity which were indistinguishably the same. The glorious largeness of their hearts and their manhood made the same supreme American. Though less in leadership and in effect upon the life of their country, there were thousands, if not millions, as perfectly synonymous with Americanism as either Washington or Lincoln. It is thus character and not birth that makes Americans, and therefore it is not place but humanity that makes America.
The hereditary mansion and the log hut were but the outer form of those two great men. The faith, hope and love within for the freedom of humanity, in the truth that makes men free, were the same in both hut and mansion.
Those numerous malcontents who vilified Washington, and whose subsequents poisoned the atmosphere around Lincoln, could not see an hour beyond their own dog’s day, and were unable to measure any value greater than their own personal interests. The very names which they strove to make great in the historical vision of posterity have vanished, or their perversions have been forgiven as repented fully. In contrast to them are such noble heroes illustrated, for instance by John Dickinson, who did not believe it was their duty to leave wealth to their children, but it was necessary to leave them a heritage of liberty; by Samuel Adams, who was impoverished by his stand for American freedom, and yet scornfully refused an honored office that was meant to bribe him away from the American cause; by Robert Morris, who gave his fortune to feed the starving troops in the darkest period of the war; and by Benjamin Franklin, rich, famous and old, past seventy years of age, accepting the dangerous, laborious and sacrificing mission to France, in the name of human union, for a liberty-loving world. It required the profoundest devotion and heroism for one so old as Franklin to break with friends of a lifetime, as shown when he wrote,
“You and I were long friends; you are now my enemy and I am yours, “B. FRANKLIN.”
Likewise, when he signed the Declaration of Independence, saying, “We must now all hang together or hang separately.”
The foundations of Americanism rest on Americans and when they are needed they always come forth to keep the faith.
III. THE AMERICAN LESSON LEARNED FROM THE GREATEST LEADERS IN THE MAKING OF AMERICA
Washington was no prodigy, and it belittles both him and Lincoln to be rated as miracles. The study of their lives teaches us above all things that there was no accident about them. They built themselves up out of the material of their experiences and circumstances into manhood and character, ready for the tasks of their human world.
No man of colonial times lived more under English aristocratic influence than Washington, and yet it only served as a contrast in which to define his principles of liberty, his meaning of manhood and his vision of humanity. So, also, no man of his times was more under the belittling trivialities of frontier destitution and ignorance than Abraham Lincoln, but it only served as inspiration and revelation for his moral duty in the supreme crisis of the American nation.
The lives of these two great men, from such widely different origins, and yet coming to oneness in such a mutual cause and character, are vital inspiration to every aspiring youth, showing that the value of character is in every one’s own hands if he will but look around and get the true measure of what are life, and mind, and humanity. Those careers show that the rights of man are never found in fragments, nor exclusive in parties or single nations.
Larned says, in his “Study of Greatness in Men,” that “A man more perfectly educated than Abraham Lincoln, in the true meaning of education, did not exist in the world. When the time came for his doing a great work, he had perfected his powers, and the simple story of the simple methods of self-culture and self-training, by which he was nature-led to that perfect result, holds the whole philosophy of education.”
Washington’s life was a fine human model through all the periods of his career, but the heartening lesson of Lincoln was in his unconquerable struggle to master a way of life, in the course of which could appear his worthy human task.
Lincoln’s man-making process especially proves, even as Washington’s life had already shown, that there must be a fundamental honesty of purpose in building up the mind or no one can ever arrive at manhood, character or more abundant life.
Washington and Lincoln were continuously expressing themselves in word or deed, but always striving for the reasonable in a clear-minded way. Their mind-making was always the process of achieving a humanity-mind capable of clear world-wisdom. In that kingdom alone is the Americanism that is human liberty, the rights of man and the moral redemption of the world.
The cruel martyrdom of Lincoln’s death no doubt threw a glamor of hero-worship over Lincoln, which does him more injustice than honor, for the simple reason that the merit of his life belongs to his own heroic soul, and its desperate struggle up to the light. Washington’s real life and character have been much obscured by the romance of his times and the hero-worship which so much prevailed in the literature of his period. It is doubtless of more real value to American patriotism, personal character and moral humanity, for both the heroic and the trivial to fade from our interest in the lives of Washington and Lincoln, and from the meaning of their lives for the rights of man. We need to appreciate the human struggle within themselves that made them admirable men, and we need to know it in relation to the human work around them that made them admirable Americans. More and more we can see in their earnest endeavor for the right-minded way, not only the making of men and the making of Americans, but also the making of America and the making of the World.