By Eugene Parsons
Note: Eugene Parsons (1855–1933] was born in Henderson, New York, and educated at the University of Chicago. He moved to Colorado in 1904, where he took a keen interest in the state’s history. In addition to edited works of Tennyson, his publications include The Making of Colorado: A Historical Sketch (Chicago, 1908); Some of Denver’s Poets (Denver, 1917); Japanese Philosophy of Life (Chicago, 1918); The History of Colorado (Denver, 1921); History of Colorado Baptists (Denver, 1923); A Mother of Churches: The First Baptist Church, Denver (Denver, 1925); The Fifty-Eighters: And Other Poems (Denver, 1934). Parsons died in Denver.
A CHARACTER SKETCH
Lecturer on American History
WITH ANECDOTES, CHARACTERISTICS AND
THE UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATION
By THE UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATION.
BY EUGENE PARSONS.
THE name and fame of Washington are immortal.
When all due allowance is made for hero-worship, his is a superlative worth. To him rightly belongs the place of pre-eminence among colonial leaders.
The colonies could, indeed, boast of many men of conspicuous ability and unswerving patriotism, men of affairs, men of genius for finance and government, but none of them fulfilled the requirements of a popular hero as did Washington. His is an all-round greatness that none of his contemporaries had.
There were other patriots of Washington’s time who were truly great and noble, whose services to their county are gratefully remembered, but his is an incomparable glory. His was a devotion to a sacred cause that counted not the cost, and his was an enthusiasm tempered by judgment. His is a character that stands the test of time. His was a moral grandeur, joined with practical wisdom, never surpassed among the most renowned figures in the world’s history.
Washington was idolized in his day, and his memory has been cherished as a priceless possession by succeeding generations. And the good of other lands, lovers of liberty and friends of justice in the Old World, have paid spontaneous tribute to his exalted merit.
By common consent, Washington is regarded as the best type of American that our country has yet produced. No other, unless it be Lincoln, is deemed worthy of a place beside him. He was not only the central figure among the founders of the American republic—he stands as the representative of western ideas as opposed to monarchical views of government. Such is the verdict of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; a verdict that the centuries to come will not reverse.
It is not every man that has in him the making of a successful farmer, a wise legislator, a superb general, and an admirable president. Washington steadily rose in the world, higher and higher, by dint of his superior fitness. He was ambitious to rise and put forth strenuous, well-directed effort to better his condition. Though aided by favoring circumstances, the way was by no means easy. Success was his, because he won it and deserved it. He was prudent and energetic, painstaking and conscientious.
In all of his official acts, as well as in the relations of private life, he was characterized by fidelity to duty and loyalty to principle. His were the qualities that command respect and confidence, that lead to fortune and to positions of honor and responsibility. It was by no accident or series of accidents that he reached the highest place in the nation.
When but a mere stripling, George Washington was known far and wide in the Old Dominion, as Virginia was then called. Here was a youth who had forged to the front by force of will and native endowments. At the age of nineteen he was a person of prominence and influence. Thenceforth he was a public character, an actor in the chief events that make up the history of our country for nearly half a century. To write the story of his life is to write the history of his times. It is a thrilling and inspiring record, of which his countrymen may well feel proud.
Washington as a Young Man.
The Washingtons of Virginia were of English descent. Their ancestors were formerly of the yeomanry of Yorkshire, England; not Saxons, but of Danish blood. The founder of the Washington family in England, who lived in the eleventh century, is said to have been a descendant of the celebrated Odin. The two brothers, Laurence and John Washington, of whom not much is known, emigrated to Virginia in 1659 and settled in Westmoreland County, near Bridges Creek, between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. Col. John Washington, a man evidently of some means and enterprise, was the great grandfather of George Washington.
Augustine Washington (born in 1694) was married (1715) to Jane Butler, who died in 1728, leaving two sons—Laurence (1728) and Augustine (1720)—and one daughter (who died in 1735). His second marriage took place March 6, 1731. Being a man of more than average attractions, he had the good fortune to win the hand of a very estimable young lady, Miss Mary Ball. They had six children: George, born at Wakefield (as the Washington homestead was then called), Feb. 22, 1732; Betty (1733–97), Samuel (1734–81); John (1736–87); Charles (1738–99); and Mildred (1739–40).
The house where George was born, not far from Pope’s Creek, burned down in 1735. Of Washington’s birthplace one has written:
This house commanded a beautiful view over many miles of the Potomac, and opposite shore of Maryland; it contained four rooms on the ground floor, and others in the attic. Such was the birthplace of our great and loved Washington. Not a vestige more remains of it; only a stone placed there by a wife’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, marks the site of the “old low-pitched farm house.”
The father then moved his family to his plantation near Fredericksburgh, where the childhood and youth of Washington was chiefly spent.
The Father of his Country was blessed with excellent parents. His father was no ordinary man; his mother was no ordinary woman.
Though a gentleman, Augustine Washington led the active life of a planter-frontierman. It was an independent, simple, honest sort of life, by no means easy and luxurious. There was not much leisure for books or sports. He died April 12, 1743. Being a large landed proprietor, he left farms to each of his children. He bequeathed the estate of Mount Vernon to his eldest son Laurence, while George inherited the house and lands on the Rappahannock.
The elder Washington was not the type of man described in Weems’ “Life of Washington.” The hatchet story told in this remarkable book was long ago discredited, with some other “curious anecdotes” seriously related by this extravagant but not over-trustworthy biographer. Doubtless, the importance of truthfulness was emphasized by both father and mother. They laid the foundations of George Washington’s reputation for veracity. The father’s impress on his son was enduring, though he died when George was only eleven years old.
The name of Mary Washington is universally revered and beloved. Upon her devolved the task of looking after the wants of a large household, and she faithfully performed the arduous duties of a busy housewife and matron. She was deeply attached to her children, and consulted their welfare with earnest solicitude. She exacted obedience and regard from them, and allowed no familiarity. Her will was law, and servants and business agents knew it. There was a strain of Puritan sternness and strictness in her make-up, that showed itself in the son. “Honored Madam,” he addressed her in his letters, even when a man. She was not, however, without tenderness. She had been a beautiful girl, and as years went by, developed into a dignified woman of striking appearance, grave and reserved in manner. She died August 25, 1789, at the ripe age of eighty-two. George Washington owed a great debt to his mother.
Tomb of Washington’s Mother, Fredericksburg, Va.
During his school days, which were over in his sixteenth year, the youthful George received what was then considered a good common-school education. Tradition has it that he soon acquired all that his first teacher knew, which was no more than the merest rudiments of the three R’s. George was his brightest pupil.
Later he went to an academy near his brother’s home at Bridge’s Creek. He early showed an aptitude for figures and made marked progress in mathematics. It must be confessed that his knowledge of spelling and of grammar was exceedingly defective, judged by the standards of the present. In these days many a boy of twelve knows more of books and the world than Washington did at sixteen. His reading was limited in boyhood, as in later life.
But the country lad who has his eyes open, learns a vast deal not written in books. In the fields and woods George had been observant and gained a fund of information that was afterward of incalculable value to him as a farmer and soldier. He was familiar with all the routine of a plantation of those times. He knew all about taking care of stock, breaking horses, mending fences, etc. He was a good shot with the rifle, and was fond of hunting. Large and powerful for his age, he excelled in swimming, running, wrestling, and other manly exercises, that rounded his muscles and hardened his rugged frame. He tried his hand, too, at playing soldier, drilling a company of youngsters. He insisted on being captain, and displayed the true spirit of a commander.
The growing boy was an expert horseman, and had a local reputation for mastering fractious steeds. The story of his killing Sorrel, the finest colt on his mother’s farm, though told with dramatic detail by Custis, is believed to be of doubtful authenticity. There are other suspicious narratives of his wonderful feats of strength and dexterity in early manhood. They must have had some basis of fact, for he was a youth of mettle and daring, sturdy and agile.
Occasionally an English merchant-ship sailed up the Potomac, bringing supplies from London to the planters along the river, and bearing away the crop of tobacco to England. Naturally the sight of a trading ship or a man-of-war would impress a healthy boy and fill his mind with longing for a sea-life. At one time, it is related, George Washington seriously thought of becoming a midshipman. He was then about fifteen and eager to enter upon the career of a seaman. When ready to leave home, he was dissuaded from going by his mother—a decision that entirely changed the course, it may be, of his after life. Her opinion was strengthened by a letter of advice from her brother in the old country, who thought his nephew’s chances of rising in the King’s Navy were very slight.
Washington’s Interview with his Mother.
Mrs. Washington Influences her Son not to go to Sea as a Midshipman.
After the death of his father, George was often at the home of his half-brother Laurence, whose influence over him was marked for good. The wife of Laurence Washington was Annie Fairfax, the daughter of an English gentleman then living at Belvoir, not far away from the Washington homestead. Circumstances had brought hither Lord Fairfax, who owned immense estates in Virginia. It was exceedingly fortunate for the youth to become acquainted with this Englishman of talent and culture, who became interested in his education, and had much to do with launching Washington on the career of a surveyor.
Having given up the idea of going to sea, George turned his attention to land-surveying, which promised to be a lucrative calling, one for which he was exceptionally fitted by his mental and physical qualifications. Having thoroughly studied the elements of geometry and trigonometry, he was well equipped for the work of surveying the lands of Lord Fairfax in the Valley of the Virginia. In company with George Fairfax, a relative of the nobleman, he set out on his first expedition of the kind, in March, 1748. He was then only sixteen, yet he proved to be a capable surveyor and performed his difficult task to the entire satisfaction of his employer.
The Journal that Washington kept, while engaged in surveying the Shenandoah property of Lord Fairfax, mentions some interesting experiences that he had while roughing it in the wilderness, as much of the country then was. The document is also valuable as an index of his intellectual advancement. He wrote a neat hand and expressed himself fluently and naturally. A few extracts from this diary (the earliest of his literary efforts) are given, copied literally, with the errors of spelling and punctuation. They help us in forming a picture of the real George Washington. As Dr. Toner has said: “The time has come when the people want to know intimately and without glamour or false coloring, the father of his country as he actually lived and labored, and to possess his writings, just as he left them, on every subject which engaged his attention.” The memorandum of his surveys is entitled:
JOURNAL OF MY JOURNEY OVER THE MOUNTAINS.
While surveying for Lord Thomas Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, in the Northern Neck of Virginia, beyond the Blue Ridge, in 1747–48.
Friday March 11th 1747–8. Began my Journey in Company with George Fairfax, Esqr.; we travell’d this day 40 Miles to Mr. George Neavels in Prince William County.
Tuesday 15th We set out out early with Intent to Run round ye sd Land but being taken in a Rain & it Increasing very fast obliged us to return, it clearing about one o Clock & our time being too Precious to Loose we a second time ventured out & worked hard till Night & then return’d to Penningtons we got our Suppers & was Lighted into a Room & I not being so good a Woodsman as ye rest of my Company striped myself very orderly & went in to ye Bed as they called it when to my Surprize I found it to be nothing but a Little Straw—Matted together without Sheets or anything else but only one thread Bear blanket with double its Weight of Vermin such as Lice Fleas &c I was glad to get up (as soon as y Light was carried from us) I put on my Cloths and Lays as my Companions. Had we not have been very tired I am sure we should not have slep’d much that night I made a Promise not to Sleep so from that time forward chusing rather to sleep in y. open air before a fire as will appear hereafter.
Wednesday 23d Rain’d till about two o Clock & Clear’d when we were agreeably surpris’d at y. sight of thirty odd Indians coming from War with only one Scalp. We had some Liquor with us of which we gave them Part it elevating there Spirits put them in y. Humour of Dauncing of whom we had a War Daunce there manner of Dauncing is as follows Viz They clear a Large Circle & make a Great Fire in y. middle then seats themselves around it y. Speaker makes a grand Speech telling them in what Manner they are to Daunce after he has finish’d y. best Dauncer Jumps up as one awaked out of a Sleep & Runs & umps about y. Ring in a most comicle Manner he is followed by y. Rest then begins there Musicians to play ye Musick is a Pot half of Water with a Deerskin streched over it as tight as it can & a goard with some Shott in it to Rattle & a Piece of an horses Tail tied to it to make it look fine y. one keeps Rattling and y. other Drumming all y. while y. others is Dauncing.
Saturday 26 Travelld up ye Creek to Solomon Hedges Esqr one of his Majestys Justices of ye Peace for ye County of Frederick where we camped when we came to Supper there was neither a Cloth upon ye Table nor a knife to eat with but as good luck would have it we had Knives of own.
Tuesday 29th This Morning went out & Survey’d five Hundred Acres of Land & went down to one Michael Stumps on ye So Fork of ye Branch on our way Shot two Wild Turkies.
Monday 4th this morning Mr. Fairfax left us with Intent to go down to ye Mouth of ye Branch we did two Lots & was attended by a great Company of People Men Women & Children that attended us through ye Woods as we went showing there Antick tricks I really think they seem to be as Ignorant a Set of People as the Indians they would never speak English but when spoken to they speak all Dutch this day our Tent was blown down by ye Violentness of ye Wind.
Wednesda ye 13th of April 1748 Mr. Fairfax got safe home and I myself safe to my Brothers which concludes my Journal[.]
It may be noted in passing, that Washington followed the practice of double dating, between January 1, and March 25, as was the custom before the Gregorian calendar was adopted in England in 1752. By some, March 25 was considered the beginning of the legal or civil year.
This expedition of Washington’s, in the employment of Lord Fairfax, was the beginning of his fortunes. The work was done so well that his services as a surveyor were wanted by others. The boy-surveyor made a name for himself, being unusually careful and accurate, as later surveys have shown. Thus he was engaged the next two and a half years. In the summer of 1749, he was appointed county-surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia. In securing this position he was aided by the influence of his friend, Lord Fairfax, but his experience and personal fitness were his best recommendation.
An early sketch of Washington says he “first set out in the world as surveyor of Orange Country, an appointment of about half the value of a Virginia Rectory—i.e. perhaps 100 l. a year.”
This was a considerable income for a young man in those days, when money was scarce in the colonies. Washington was thrifty and prudent in his expe[n]ditures, and made shrewd investments of his earnings in real estate. Land was then more plentiful than money, and was frequently offered for sale at a low price. The work of surveying gave him an excellent opportunity to see the country, and he purchased several choice tracts of land for himself and for his brother Laurence.
Thus Washington by industry, economy and foresight, laid the foundations for his after career of prosperity as a farmer and public man. But strenuous endeavor and business judgment do not account for the high degree of success that he obtained. He had given attention to character-building as something important as well as getting on in the world.
When a boy in his teens he copied and studied with evident care a list of more than a hundred rules of conduct. It is said that he found them in a book that fell into his hands, Mather’s “Young Man’s Companion.” It shows how much thought he gave to the matter of deportment. Here are a few of the precepts in his “rules of civility and decent behavior in company and conversation.” They may well be pondered and followed by young people to-day.
1. Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.
2. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.
3. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not when others stop.
4. Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not on any one.
5. Be no flatterer; neither play with any one that delights not to be played with.
6. Read no letters, books, or papers in company; but when there is a necessity for doing it, you must ask leave. Come not near the books or writings of any one so as to read them, unless desired, nor give your opinion of them unasked; also, look not nigh when another is writing a letter.
7. Let your countenance be pleasant, but in serious matters somewhat grave.
8. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.
9. When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.
10. They that are in dignity, or in office, have in all places precedency; but whilst they are young they ought to respect those that are their equals in birth, or other qualities, though they have no public charge.
Says Lodge: “The one thought that runs through all the sayings is to practice self-control, and no man ever displayed that most difficult of virtues to such a degree as George Washington.”
An important factor in the training of George Washington was the influence of his oldest brother Laurence (sometimes spelled Lawrence), who had been educated in England and seen much of the world. He held the rank of captain in an expedition to the West Indies, 1740–2, and was a member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia in 1748. His excellent character and his business abilities made him a popular and influential legislator. For centuries the Washingtons had been addicted to military affairs, and a liking for war ran in the blood. The experience of Laurence as officer, and his leading position in the county, led to his appointment as one of the four Adjutant-Generals of Virginia, with the rank of major. Through his influence George was appointed Adjutant-General, with the rank of major, in 1751. His duties were “to inspect and exercise the militia,” in preparation for an expected campaign against the French on the Ohio River. The salary was $750 a year. George at once set about to learn the art of war, and received instruction in tactics and fencing from two old soldiers. The work of surveying had come to an end, and he began his career as a commander.
On account of failing health, Laurence Washington was advised to try the climate of the West Indies. As it was not thought prudent for him to take the trip alone, George accompanied him on the voyage to Barbadoes in the autumn of 1751. They remained on this island several months; and, being members of an old aristocratic family, they were overwhelmed with attentions and courtesies shown by hospitable gentlemen of Barbadoes. George had the misfortune to be sick with the smallpox, and returned to Virginia in March, 1752. A little later Laurence came back to die at Mount Vernon, having found no relief in the West Indies.
Washington’s visit to Barbadoes forms an interesting chapter in his history, because of the journal that he kept. Though only nineteen, he appeared to have reached the maturity of a man, and was perfectly at home in the company of those older and more experienced.
Says Dr. Toner in his introduction to Washington’s “Barbadoes Journal:”
Although he made no pretensions to having a finished education, or to being an extensive reader of books, yet he was well informed in all the affairs of life, and his manners and address proclaimed him a gentleman, and clearly indicated that his associations were with men of character and culture. If we had no other means of knowing the fact, this Journal of itself, would show that Washington possessed strong and acute natural powers of observation, and that his mind was, for his years, unusually matured and well stored with practical knowledge and historical facts.
Like Shakespeare, Washington had frequently come into contact with men of fine education, and he had picked up a considerable store of general information in conversation. He had profited by his intercourse with refined people, and was familiar with the usages of good society, although he had been living in the backwoods among hunters and farmers.
This diary of the young Virginian shows marked improvement over his earlier Journal, already referred to. In fact, it is a unique production. In its pages he “recorded a wonderful amount of information about the island, its climate, the character of its soil, its productions, population, commerce, resources, government, defences, etc.”
Washington’s family connections contributed much to his rapid rise in the Old Dominion. Acting the part of a wise counselor and fatherly friend, Laurence Washington had brought his talented younger brother not only to the notice of Lord Fairfax, but to the Governor of Virginia, who recognized the young man’s abilities as useful to the colony, and chose him for a post of honor but of extreme difficulty.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, the French and the English were both claimants of the country between the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers. The French claimed it on the strength of the discoveries of La Salle in the seventeenth century. Laurence Washington had been one of the originators of the Ohio Company, organized about 1747, “to secure a share in the lucrative Indian trade, and with the prospect of opening to settlement the lands on the upper waters of the Ohio.”
Says the historian Shea, who edited Washington’s “Journal of a tour to the Ohio, in 1753:”
Affairs had reached a crisis. France had colonized Canada, Illinois, and Louisiana, and connected them by detached posts, but the possession of the Ohio, so necessary to the safety of her wide provincial power, was soon to fall into the hands of her rival by the rapid progress of English colonization. To set a barrier to its westward progress, France determined to run a line of forts from Niagara to the forks of the Ohio, and down that river. The Indians first took the alarm when the tidings reached the Ohio that a French force was on its way to erect this line of forts, and a council of the wandering tribes, Mingoes, Shawnees, and Delawares, meet at Logstown, and in April, 1753, dispatched an envoy to Niagara to protest against the action of the French. The protest was unheeded.
At this time Major Washington was a “person of distinction,” having charge of the militia in the northern district of Virginia. His frontier experience and acquaintance with the Indians, as well as his rare tact and physical endurance, fitted him for the public mission that he was called upon to undertake.
In October, 1753, he was entrusted with a letter from Governor Dinwiddie to the French Commander, demanding the withdraw[a]l of the French from the Ohio. He was instructed to note carefully the movements of the French, and to report.
Washington on his Journey to Ohio.
From the Painting by A. Chappell.
Washington set out on his journey the same day that he received his commission, Oct. 30. He engaged Jacob Van Braam, his old Dutch fencing-master, as a French interpreter, and Christopher Gist, a noted frontiersman, as a guide. Four others, Indian traders and servants, completed the company. The enterprise was attended by many dangers and hardships.
Arriving at the junction of the Ohio River and the Monongahela, Washington was at once struck with the idea that “the land in the fork” was “extremely well situated for a fort.” It was a much better site than that selected by the Ohio Company for its settlement at McKee’s Rocks, “a few miles below Pittsburgh.”
In the latter part of November, he met some French deserters who had been sent from New Orleans, and he inquired about the French forts on the Mississippi between Illinois and New Orleans.
Later, Washington interviewed the Seneca chief Half-King. He found the Indians exceedingly hard to manage. They were suspicious of the English as well as of French. They looked on both as intruders, but were inclined to cast their lot with the English as needed allies against the French.
The French officers received Washington politely, and, when warmed with wine, explained freely the purpose of the French to take possession of the Ohio . A few days afterward, the commander told him that the country belonged to the French; “that no Englishman had a right to trade upon those waters; and that he had orders to make every person prisoner who attempted it on the Ohio, or the waters of it.”
An extraordinary importance attaches to Washington’s diary that he kept while on this expedition. This is the entry for Dec. 16–22:
The French were not slack in their inventions to keep the Indians this day also: but as they were obligated, according to promise, to give the present, they then endeavored to try the power of liquor, which I doubt not would have prevailed at any other time than this; but I urged and insisted with the king so closely upon his word, that he refrained, and set off with us as he had engaged.
We had a tedious and very fatiguing passage down the creek. Several times we had liked to have been staved against rocks; and many times we obliged all hands to get out and remain in the water half an hour or more getting over the shoals. At one place the ice had lodged and made it impossible by water; therefore we were obliged to carry our canoe across a neck of land, a quarter of a mile over. We did not reach Venango, till the 22d, where we met with our horses. * * *
The horses were now so weak and feeble, and the baggage so heavy (as we were obliged to provide all the necessaries which the journey would require) that we doubted much their performing it; therefore myself and others (except the drivers, who were obliged to ride) gave up our horses for packs, to assist along with the baggage. I put myself in an Indian walking dress, and continued with them three days, till I found there was no probability of their getting home in any reasonable time. The horses grew less able to travel every day; the cold increased very fast; and the roads were becoming much worse by a deep snow, continually freezing: Therefore as I was uneasy to get back to make a report of my proceedings to his honour, the governor, I determined to prosecute my journey the nearest way through the woods on foot. * * * *
The day following, [Dec. 271 just after we passed a place called the murdering town (where we intended to quit the path and steer across the country for Shannapins Town) we fell in with a party of French Indians, who had lain in wait for us. One of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not fifteen steps off, but fortunately missed. We took this fellow in custody, and kept him till about 9 o’clock at night, then let him go, and walked all the remainder part of the night without making any stop, that we might get the start so far, as to be out of the reach of their pursuit the next day, since we were well assured they would follow our track as soon as it was light. The next day we continued travelling till quite dark, and got to the river, about two miles above Shannapins. We expected to have found the river frozen, but it was not, only about fifty yards from each shore. The ice, I suppose, had broken up above, for it was driving in vast quantities.
There was no way for getting over but on a raft, which we set about with but one poor hatchet, and finished just after sunsetting. This was a whole day’s work. Then set off; but before we were half way over, we were jammed in the ice in such a manner, that we expected every moment our raft to sink, and ourselves to perish. I put out my setting pole to try to stop the raft, that the ice might pass by: when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole, that it jerked me out into ten feet water; but I fortunately saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs. Notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not get the raft to either shore; but were obliged, as we were near an island, to quit our raft and make to it.
The cold was so extremely severe, that Mr. Gist had all his fingers, and some of his toes frozen; but the water was shut up so hard, that we found no difficulty in getting off the island on the ice, in the morning. * *
On the 11th of Jan. 1754, I got to Belvoir, where I stopped one day to take necessary rest; and then set out, and arrived in Williamsburgh the 16th, when I waited upon his honour, the Governor, with the letter I had brought from the French Commandant, and to give an account of the success of my proceedings.
Washington’s Journal was published immediately after his return. It was read widely in the colonies, and made his name known and respected in England. It is a terse, simple narrative, without rhetorical flourishes. He was modest in referring to his own deeds and adventures. He accomplished the purpose for which he had been sent; his success as a diplomat and his prowess as a woodsman called forth general admiration and praise.
The designs of the French were now known to all, and the leading men of the colonies realized that armed resistance was necessary to repel them. The common people, however, were not stirred with martial enthusiasm at the prospect of war over the French-English claims to the lands of the Ohio. The Virginians were most interested, yet they were reluctant to take the field. To stimulate enlistments, Governor Dinwiddie, promised as a bounty to the officers and soldiers of the expedition, 200,000 acres of what is now called West Virginia. Two companies of one hundred men each were raised at once, and one hundred and fifty men later. A company of frontiersmen, under Captain Trent, were to finish the fort (partly built by the Ohio Company) on the site that Washington had selected for its strategical value, at the junction of the two rivers.
Washington, in command of another company, was instructed to act on the defensive, and to prevent French encroachments by force, if necessary. War was not yet declared, yet this was really the beginning of a long series of conflicts between France and England.
The campaign to the Ohio in the spring of 1754, ended in inevitable failure, but not through the fault of Washington, whose management of the expedition was in the main admirable. There was not much fighting. In a skirmish near Great Meadows (May 28), Washington surprised and attacked a detachment of the French, taking twenty-one prisoners. The killing of the French leader, Jumonville, and ten of his men, was an act not altogether justifiable. The French called it assassination, a term that Americans resent.
Washington retired before a superior force of French and Indians, probably a thousand or more. The colonial troops numbered less than four hundred, including a company of Carolinians under Captain MacKaye. Their supplies and ammunition were nearly gone, a heavy rain wet their powder, and matters reached a desperate pass at Fort Necessity. They surrendered (July 3) with honors of war, being allowed to march back with their arms.
This was the best that Washington could do in the face of adverse circumstances. He returned home as Col. Washington, and received the thanks of the Virginia Legislature for his heroic efforts to save Fort Necessity. He had learned some valuable lessons, concerning border warfare, and his conduct was such as to deserve high praise. He was courageous, even to rashness, and declared that he loved to hear the whistling of the bullets.
Meanwhile, the French built Fort Duquesne, and continued their depredations. The spot that they chose for a stronghold was the very place which the English had been forced to abandon. The city of Pittsburgh now stands on this historic site.
At last the English Government was roused to action, and sent two regiments of regulars to America. The details of Braddock’s expedition, and defeat in 1755, are familiar to every school boy who has dipped into history. There is no need to repeat them here. The French and Indians, under cover of trees, made a sudden attack on the English forces in a narrow way. A terrible slaughter followed, the regulars not being used to such fighting.
Washington, who was one of Braddock’s aids, greatly distinguished himself on that fatal field. With coolness and entire self-command, he fearlessly rode here and there trying in vain to rally his fleeing troops. Braddock and most of his officers were killed, but Washington bore a charmed life. Writing of the rout and his extreme peril to his brother, he says:
By the all powerful dispensation 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. We have been most scandalously beaten by a trifling body of men. A feeble state of health obliges me to halt here for two or three days to recover a little strength that I may thereby be enabled to proceed homeward with more ease.
There may be some truth in the story that Custis tells of the effect of Washington’s reckless daring on the Indians who fought on the side of the French in that bloody battle. It is in the chapter of “Recollections of Washington” on “The Indian Prophecy.” When Col. Washington and some woodsmen were locating the lands of Kanawha in 1770, they were visited by a party of Indians. One of them was a grand sachem, who had been present in the battle of Monongahela. He remembered Washington well, and thus addressed him:
I am a chief, and the ruler over many tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes, and to the far blue mountains. I have travelled a long and weary path, that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day, when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forest, that I first beheld this chief: I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the redcoat tribe.—he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do—himself is alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were levelled, rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss—’was all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. I am old, and-soon shall be gathered to the great council-fire of my fathers, in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is a something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. Listen! The great spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies—he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire.
In his report of the battle to the Governor, Washington wrote:
We continued our march from Fort Cumberland to Frazer’s (which is within seven miles from Duquesne) without meeting any extraordinary event, having only a straggler or two picked up by the French Indians. When we came to this place we were attacked (very unexpectedly) by about three hundred French and Indians. Our numbers consisted of about thirteen hundred well-armed men, chiefly regulars, who were immediately struck with such an inconceivable panic that nothing but confusion and disobedience of orders prevailed among them. The officers in general behaved with incomparable bravery, for which they greatly suffered, there being nearly sixty killed and wounded, a large proportion of the number we had.
The Virginia Companies behaved like men, and died like soldiers; for, I believe, out of three Companies that were on the ground that day, scarce thirty were left alive.
Washington returned to Mount Vernon disheartened, and suffering from broken health. He had served his country at a considerable personal sacrifice, and he was averse to accept this proffered command of the Virginia Regiment raised soon afterward. But he practically had no choice in the matter; the people looked to him as a leader and would have no other. Besides he had the soldier spirit in him, and the attractions of a military career were too great to resist. “My inclinations are strongly bent to arms,” he wrote in a letter (Nov. 15, 1754.)
He felt it his duty, too, to form plans to protect the frontier settlements from the robberies and attacks of the French and Indians. So three years passed in active military service.
In 1758, Washington, as commander-in-chief of the Virginia Volunteers, took part in an expedition against Fort Duquesne, led by General Forbes. The fort was abandoned and burned (Nov. 24), before the English reached the Ohio. On its site they built Fort Pitt, named in honor of the great Prime Minister.
War, however, did not occupy all of Washington’s time and thoughts. He was a cavalier and lover, as well as a soldier. From drafts of letters still extant, written in his seventeenth year, it appears that the young surveyor was a susceptible youth. His passion sometimes found expression in rather poor verse. It is said that he was once attached to Sally Cary, who became the wife of his friend, George William Fairfax (brother of Mrs. Laurence Washington). Later, when commander of the Virginia forces, he was favored with the acquaintance of many charming women, and he was involved in more than one affair of the heart. There is a story to the effect that he greatly admired Miss Mary Philipse of New York, but the wooing of this lady was interrupted; his duty as an officer called him to the front, and another won her.
Washington’s First Interview with Mrs. Custis.
From Schroeder’s “Life of Washington.”
In May, 1758, Washington was called to Williamsburgh to confer with the Governor in regard to the condition of the Virginia troops. While riding thither on horseback with his servant, he stopped for dinner one day at the mansion of a hospitable planter. Here he was introduced to a lovely young widow, whose manners and conversation were so pleasing that he stayed all the afternoon. The next day he rode away, a captive to the fascinations of Mrs. Martha Custis, whom he courted and married (Jan. 6, 1759). She was the widow of Col. Daniel Parke Custis, a wealthy gentleman who left forty-five thousand pounds sterling in money and large, estates; she had two small children, Martha and John. “The marriage was celebrated in the good old hospitable Virginia style, amid a joyous assemblage of relatives and friends.”
The union proved to be a very happy one. Washington was fondly attached to his wife, and through life wore on his bosom a miniature portrait of her. Martha Washington was tenderly devoted to her husband, for whom she felt the highest admiration. She adorned his household at Mount Vernon, accompanied him on some of his campaigns in the Revolution, and presided with grace and dignity over his home at the Capital as the first lady of the land. She died May 22, 1802, aged seventy. No children were born to them, but Washington exercised the closest care over the Custis children, and adopted Mrs. Washington’s grandchildren—Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis.
After his marriage, George Washington was the wealthiest man in the Old Dominion, if not in the colonies. In those days there were no millionaires in America. It is hard to say what was the value of his possessions before the War for Independence. The estate of Mount Vernon (consisting of 2500 acres) became his property in 1753 by the will of Laurence Washington, who bequeathed it to “his beloved brother George”—after his daughter Sarah, who died when an infant. Besides other estates in Virginia, he owned extensive tracts of land (more than 30,000 acres) in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and on the Ohio. At the time of his death, his lands, slaves, stock, etc. were worth more than half a million dollars.
(From the Painting by John Woolston.
Courtesy of D. Appleton & Co.)
Washington at thirty and later was a man of imposing appearance. Perhaps the earliest portraiture of the man is that by Captain George Mercer of Virginia, one who knew him intimately:
He may be described as being as straight as any Indian, measuring six feet two inches in his stockings, and weighing 175 pounds when he took his seat in the House of Burgesses in 1759. His frame is padded with well-developed muscles, indicating great strength. His bones and joints are large, as are his feet and hands. He is wide shouldered, but has not a deep or round chest; is neat wristed, but is broad across the hips, and has rather long legs and arms. His head is well shaped though not large, but is gracefully poised on a superb neck. A large and straight rather than a prominent nose; blue-gray penetrating eyes, which are widely separated and overhung by a heavy brow. His face is long rather than broad, with high round cheek bones, and terminates in a good firm chin. He has a clear though rather a colorless skin, which burns with the sun. A pleasing, benevolent, though a commanding countenance, dark brown hair, which he wears in a cue. His mouth is large and generally firmly closed, but which from time to time discloses some defective teeth. His features are regular and placid, with all the muscles of his face under perfect control, though flexible and expressive of deep feeling when moved by emotions. In conversation he looks you full in the face, is deliberate, deferential and engaging. His voice is agreeable rather than strong. His demeanor at all times is composed and dignified. His movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he is a splendid horseman.
After the capture of Quebec by Wolfe, in 1759, French domination was at an end in the disputed territory of the Ohio, and the land was at peace. Washington was preeminently a man of peace, and was glad to return to private life and took his bride to Mount Vernon, a home that he loved. He thus describes it in a letter written about this time:
No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated. In a high and healthy country; in a latitude between the extremes of heat and cold; on one of the finest rivers in the world—a river well stocked with various kinds of fish at all seasons of the year, and in the spring with shad, herring, bass, carp, sturgeon, &c., in great abundance. The borders of the estate are washed by more than ten miles tide-water; several valuable fisheries appertain to it; the whole shore, in fact, is one fishery.
Washington was always a hard worker. He rose early and got through an amazing amount of business during the day. He was in his saddle much of the time, riding about his farms and directing affairs personally. He was a flourishing farmer. He took a special pride in having everything on his farms first-class. He did much to improve the somewhat rude and primitive methods of agriculture of his day. He was fond of the chase, and delighted in riding after hounds with a party of friends.
Home of Washington, Mt. Vernon.
For more than fifteen years (1759–75), Washington was a member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. He was a model legislator, concerned for the public welfare. He was not a man of many words, but he was always heard with respect, and the opinions of no other man in the assembly had more weight He was constantly serving on committees, in which his sound sense and wide knowledge of affairs were utilized in shaping the important measures of the colony.
In the first Continental Congress (1774), to which he was a delegate, he gained a reputation for practical wisdom, not surpassed by any other man in that illustrious body.
American history cannot be intelligently read without constant reference to English history. The colonists came honestly by their love of freedom. They had inherited from their Saxon ancestors the disposition to revolt against unjust and oppressive authority. The struggle for constitutional liberty in England in the seventeenth century had its bearing on the struggle for independence in America in the eighteenth century. George the Third’s governmental policy or theory of monarchy was substantially that of Charles I. The principles of Magna Charta were violated by the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax. Injustice was done the colonists by the Navigation Laws, and other measures were passed by Parliament that were calculated to irritate and lead to conflict. The stupidity and obstinacy of George III made conciliation out of the question.
Washington’s attitude toward the mother country was one of affectionate regard. He shrank from the thought of separation from England. The ties that bound the colonies to the Old World were not to be lightly broken. He appreciated the service that the British Government had rendered the provincials in the French and Indian Wars. He advised patience, until patience ceased to be a virtue. There was a limit to forbearance, and he thought it was reached in 1774. Further submission seemed like folly. The colonists had to fight for their rights, or basely yield and lose their self-respect. The final plunge was taken and a new nation was born) a nation founded on the idea of democratic equality.
In the exciting events leading up to the Revolution, Washington took no insignificant part. It was not so much the part of the orator as of a counselor. He was no noisy agitator or impractical dreamer. He made few speeches in the Virginia Assembly) and in the Continental Congress, but what he said was to the point and carefully weighed. He was slow to make up his mind; he long hoped for peaceful adjustment of this quarrel between America and Britain. Once having determined on the right course to take) he never thought of giving up.
The years 1775–80) were years of testing, and some of the revolutionists were tried and found wanting. Washington was made of different stuff. He had the qualities of a great leader, but his inspiring example, as well as his leadership, carried the day. There were moments of fearful anxiety, and dark hours when failure stared them in the face. Though many despaired) Washington never lost courage. He never wavered in his confidence of the ultimate success of the colonists) cause. If the worst came and they should be driven from their homes on the sea-coast) he knew that they could retire to the interior of the continent and found an empire in the west, where they would be safe from British interference.
July 4, 1776, must always be regarded as one of the principal dates in the world’s history. It was the beginning of a new era in the annals of mankind. Americans do well to celebrate the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
National independence was not won in a single day, nor was it the work of one man. The country then stood in need of all its patriots) heroes) and sages. The consummation of their hopes required the talents and exertions of an untold number: Franklin’s shrewdness, Henry’s eloquence, Jefferson’s learning, and the impassioned logic of Samuel Adams were needed as well as the sagacity and generalship of Washington.
The gifts of all were needed and utilized. To extol the part of Washington in the long and. hard-fought struggle for independence is not to depreciate the share of the other colonial generals and statesmen. Nor should the deeds of valor and the patient sacrifices of the rank and file be forgotten; and praise is due to the loyal workers at home, who supplied the sinews of war, and helped achieve the victories of the armies in the field. The cooperation of foreign nations, too, must be remembered, for they contributed much to the success of American arms. Yet, when all this is borne in mind, it is not too much to say that Washington was the presiding spirit without whom all might have failed.
In May, 1775, the second Continental Congress met at Philadelphia. The time for petitions had passed. Preparations for war were to be made, for blood had already been shed at Lexington) where the New England militia met the fire of British Regulars. On June 15, Col. George Washington, one of the delegates from Virginia, was unanimously elected commander of the colonial army. This was Washington’s reply to the President of Congress, who announced his appointment as “General in chief of all the American forces:”
Though I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I fee great distress from a consciousness, that my abilities an military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service and for support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.
But, lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
As to pay, sir, 1 beg leave to assure the congress, that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment, at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.
In keeping with this modest and characteristic statement of a truly disinterested man is the earnest remark in a letter to his wife, written about this time: “As it has been a kind of destiny that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my undertaking of it is designed answer some good purpose.”
It may be well to quote here the testimony of one of Washington’s contemporaries, John Bell, of Maryland, writing in 1779:
With one common voice he was called forth to the defense of his country; and it is, perhaps, his peculiar glory, that there was not a single inhabitant of these states, except himself, who did not approve the choice and place the firmest confidence in his integrity and ability.
There were not many battles fought in the American Revolution. The opportunity in war does not often come for a “decisive stroke.” Perhaps there were only three important engagements—at Brooklyn) Saratoga, and Yorktown. Washington failed in military operations around New York in the summer of 1776; the defeat of the Anglo-German army at Saratoga in 1777 was the result of his planning, though he was not present; with the help of the French army and fleet, he caused the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.
Washington’s successes may be quickly enumerated—at Boston (March 17, 1776), Trenton (December 26,1776), Princeton (January 3, 1777), and Yorktown (October 19, 1781). The indecisive engagement at Monmouth (June 28, 1778) might also be included. The battles that Washington lost were fought at Brooklyn (August 27, 1776), White Plains (October 28, 1776), Brandywine (September 11, 1777), and Germantown (Oct. 4, 1777).
This seems at first sight a rather poor showing. But, when the circumstances are taken into account, the wonder is that Washington accomplished so much with the means at his disposal. With so many emergencies to meet, it was a herculean undertaking to keep things moving. There were other obstacles to overcome besides hostile armies.
He had few men, and they were poorly fed and clothed. The colonial troops were undisciplined, and the task of drilling and organizing them into an effective army was no light one. The colonies lacked the money requisite to hire and keep a standing army. The terms of enlistment were short, and after a campaign or two they returned home to the plow and the anvil. Then a fresh lot of raw recruits had to be drilled and transformed into seasoned warriors. Writing to his brother (February 24, 1777), Washington refers in his characteristic manner to the militia, “whose ways, like the ways of Providence, are almost inscrutable, who are here today and gone tomorrow.”
A depreciated currency was partly responsible for this deplorable state of affairs. At the beginning of the struggle, coin was scarce—besides four or five million dollars in specie in the treasury, there was perhaps fifteen million in specie in circulation (less than $5 per capita). As the volume of paper money increased, its value declined. In September, 1778) $1 in specie would exchange for $4 in continental currency; in September, 1779, for $18; in March, 1780, for $40, and later for hundreds.
Again, the equipment of the colonial army was painfully inadequate. There was little powder in the country, and a scarcity of guns and artillery. Supplies were slow in coming. In a word, the colonies were not ready for war on a large scale. Without the moral support and financial assistance of the Dutch (who loaned the new nation four million dollars) and the help of France and Spain, they would have been reduced to a desperate extremity, and the outcome might have been different.
The people too, were not a unit on the subject of resistance. There were many Royalist Americans—Tories they were called—who sympathized with the English and aided them in a thousand ways. Some of them were high officials and persons of wealth. This crippled the fighting resources of the country.
In the army itself there was too often friction and lack of harmony, instead of the sinking of personal preferences for the common good. There were rivalries and dissensions among the officers—to say nothing about treason—which greatly annoyed and embarrassed the chief. Sectional quarrels and disturbances were frequent in the ranks.
During the first three or four years of the war, Washington had a world of trouble with congress; he was hampered in carrying out his plans by meddlesome politicians. Finally congress gained enough confidence in the head of the army to let him use his own judgment.
Place-hunters were then as importunate as now. The commander was beset by a horde of “hungry adventurers” from Europe, eager for commissions in the colonial army. These could not be accommodated when there was better fighting material among the Provincials. While it is true that Lafayette, Steuben, Pulaski, Kosciusko, and other foreigners rendered valuable service in the Revolution, they were the exception. Most of the would-be officers from abroad were of no account as soldiers.
In no one thing was Washington’s judgment more manifest than in the selection of his assistants, who were in the main faithful and efficient public servants. Among the scores of Major-Generals and Brigadiers who served under him were several able commanders—Greene, Ward, Schuyler, Arnold, Knox, Marion, Hamilton, and others. Of these, perhaps Greene made the best military record.
The intrigues of the Conway cabal form the details of a disgraceful chapter of Revolutionary history. General Washington, however, was too firmly entrenched in the affections and the regard of the people to be thrown aside for one less worthy. He was easily first, and there was no second. Faction spent itself in vain, trying to deprive him of his rightful supremacy. The tribute of Lodge is not exaggerated: “The soldiers and the people, high and low, rich and poor, gave him an unstinted loyalty.”
Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s Secretary
during the early period of the Revolution.
The army of which General Washington assumed command at Cambridge, Mass. (July 3, 1776), consisted of about 14,500 troops from New England. These were stationed to good advantage about Boston—Major-Genera1 Artemas Ward, commanding the right wing on the heights of Roxbury, Major-General Charles Lee, the left wing on Winter and Prospect Hills, and Major-General Israel Putnam, the center at Cambridge. During the summer, several companies of riflemen were raised in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and marched to Cambridge. At first “confusion and discord reigned,” to use Washington’s own words, but gradually he brought order out of chaos.
Early in August the alarming discovery was made that there was less than ten thousand pounds of powder in camp. Washington was thunderstruck with astonishment. Had Gage, the British General in command at Boston, attacked them then, he could have inflicted terrible punishment. The danger was concealed, and disaster averted by piling up barrels of sand labelled powder. After innumerable delays, supplies of ammunition and ordnance were obtained.
Gen. Charles Lee.
Born 1731. Died 1782.
In September an expedition was got ready to march through Maine into Canada, and thence to Quebec and Montreal. One detachment of eleven hundred men was led by Col. Benedict Arnold; the other by General Richard Montgomery. The campaign was well planned and almost succeeded. The soldiers suffered intensely from cold and hunger. Montreal was taken, but the assault on Quebec (Dec. 31) failed.
Gen. Richard Montgomery.
Born 1736. Died 1775.
In the autumn several cruisers were fitted out to prey on British commerce, and to intercept supplies on the way for the British army at Boston. They succeeded in doing considerable damage to English shipping and captured some valuable store-ships.
In the winter the American troops were actively engaged on the fortifications near Boston, and preparations were begun for the defense of Rhode Island, New York, and other exposed points.
In December Mrs. Washington arrived at Cambridge and her presence brightened camp-life for the General. The sober New Englanders being unused to showy equipages, her coming in the family coach drawn by four horses, attended by colored servants in livery, made a sensation in the sleepy town.
Meanwhile a new army was raised, the first Continental army enlisted for 1776. On January 1, “the Union Flag, composed of thirteen alternate red and white stripes,” was first displayed.
A few weeks later Col. Henry Knox reached the camp with a train of artillery, cannons and mortars, captured from the enemy at Ticonderoga. The new soldiers were ill-supplied with arms. “There are near 2000 men now in camp without firelocks,” writes Washington (February 9). Unprepared as they were, he was in favor of an attack on the British lines in Boston, but was overruled by a council of war.
At last, supplied with powder and cannon, Washington improved the long-looked-for opportunity to strike. During the night of March 4, a furious cannonade was kept up. Under cover of darkness the American troops seized Dorchester Heights, which commanded the city, and threw up entrenchments. The men worked with a will and planted cannon the next day, while the English waited. The indolent Howe, who had succeeded Gage, was disposed to take things easy. Finding his position in Boston untenable without a conflict, he speedily departed (March 17), embarking all of his forces and leaving behind a large quantity of arms and baggage.
This success of Washington’s was an occasion of much rejoicing to the Bostonians and greatly encouraged the whole country. As Howe had a well-equipped army of experienced soldiers and a strong fleet, he might have made an effective resistance. His inefficiency called forth the sarcastic remark, that “any other General in the world would have beaten General Washington; and any other General in the world than General Washington would have beaten General Howe.”
This rather grudging praise does not give Washington his full share of credit. The victory was the result of wise foresight and careful planning, of persistent and untiring effort during the months of the preceding autumn and winter. Washington had now a good army, fairly well equipped. “Method and exactness are the fort of his character,” writes one of his contemporaries, and he carried these qualities into the conduct of the war. The difficulties that he had to contend against were enormous, and he set about industriously to, overcome them with business-like-sagacity.
Washington was a strict disciplinarian, yet he had the power of attaching soldiers to him and of securing their hearty co-operation. Says an American gentleman living in London (1779):
He punishes neglect of duty with great severity, but is very tender and indulgent t o recruits until they learn the articles of war and their exercise perfectly. . . . He has made the art of war his particular study; his plans are in general good and well digested; he is particularly careful of securing a retreat, but his chief qualifications are steadiness, perseverance and secrecy; any act of bravery he is sure to reward, and make a short eulogium on the occasion’ to the person and his fellow soldiers (if it be a soldier in the ranks).
One secret of Washington’s success as a commander was the force of his personality, which impressed officers and men alike. It was not only his soldierly bearing and his stately figure, his strong will and passionate nature made him respected as a leader. Underneath a placid exterior was a fiery temper, usually well controlled, whose occasional outbursts of anger they dreaded. Here was a man not to be trifled with, one who insisted on obedience to orders. Soldiering under Washington was not play.
As it was expected that New York would be the next objective point of attack by the English army and fleet, the work of preparing defenses went on expeditiously, and early in April the colonial army marched thither. There was a delay on the part of General Howe, whose fleet remained at Halifax a few months to await re-enforcements from England.
The movement against New York was made in the summer, and British troops landed on Staten Island (July 3). Later they were re-enforced by others. Washington writes (July 22) that “the enemy’s numbers will amount at least to twenty-five thousand men; ours to about fifteen thousand.” He underestimated the strength of the British, whose combined forces were 31,625 (August 1), while less than 11,000 of his own men were on duty.
A battle was expected, and Washington essayed to nerve his troops with resolution and hope. These manly words appear in the Orderly Book for August 23:
The Enemy have now landed on Long Island, and the hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this Army and the Safety of our Bleeding Country will depend. Remember, officers and soldiers, that you are freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty, that Slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.
General Howe debarked 15,000 troops on Long Island (August 22), and another division was landed (August 25). In the battle of Long Island (August 27), the Americans (four or five thousand) were commanded by General John Sullivan, owing to the illness of General Nathaniel Greene, who had prepared the lines of defense. Not knowing the ground well, he was taken by surprise and his division hemmed in by a superior force (eight or nine thousand), under Sir Henry Clinton. They suffered a heavy loss of men killed and captured. With a long line of posts to guard, Washington was powerless to aid them; from a hill in Brooklyn he watched the battle and saw with anguish the rout and surrender of Lord Stirling’s division of Maryland battalions.
The next day in a council of war it was determined “to give up Long Island, and not, by dividing the force, be unable to resist the enemy in any one point of attack.” The victor, feeling sure of his prey, failed to follow up his advantage at once, as a great general would have done. A little skirmishing took place on August 28, but the assault on the works was postponed. The dilatory tactics of Howe enabled Washington to slip out of his grasp.
Boats were obtained, and on the following night the American forces (nine thousand) embarked and escaped, unobserved by the British, in the rain and mist. Referring to their passage across East River, Washington wrote: “For forty-eight hours preceding that, I had hardly been off my horse, and never closed my eyes.” This retreat, as Lodge truly observes, “was a feat of arms as great as most victories.”
There being no prospect of holding New York, Washington marched northward (September 13), leaving the city in possession of the enemy. There were occasional skirmishes, the most notable at Harlem, but not much fighting before the battle near White Plains (about twenty-six miles northeast of New York). On October 28 a detachment of fifteen or sixteen hundred troops, under General Alexander McDougall, was defeated on Chatterton Hill by five thousand of the British. Howe was deterred from attacking the main body of Washington’s army, two miles away, by a very formidable-looking, but rather unsubstantial, embankment of corn-stalks with the roots turned outward. Not availing themselves of the slight advantage gained, the English broke up camp and withdrew southward.
Washington’s Headquarters at Newburgh.
Washington followed with his army and arrived at Fort Lee (November 13). On November 16, the English took by storm Fort Washington on Manhattan Island, not far from Fort Lee. It was bravely defended by a garrison of nearly three thousand men under Col. Magaw, who was forced to surrender. The place had been held against Washington’s advice, and he felt the loss most keenly, because unnecessary. “This,” he wrote (Nov. 19), “is a most unfortunate affair, and has given me great mortification; as we have lost not only two thousand men that were there, but a good deal of artillery, and some of the best arms we had. And what adds to my mortification is, that this post, after the last ships went past it, was held contrary to my wishes and opinion, as I conceived it to be a hazardous one.”
Thus ended for a while “the struggle for the Hudson.” An Anglo-Hessian army of 6,000 approached Fort Lee (November 20), and the stronghold was abandoned in a hurry. The Continental army of a few thousand retreated to Newark, New Jersey; the enemy following close, “often the music of the pursued and the pursuers would be heard by each other, yet no action occurred.” Washington obstructed the advance of the enemy as much as possible by destroying bridges and provisions on the way. At Newark he made a short stand, but avoided fighting, as his army was dwindling away.
From Newark he retreated to Brunswick (November 26). Here two brigades quit the army, their terms of service having expired. “The loss of these troops,” writes General Greene, “at this critical time reduced his Excellency to the necessity to order a retreat again. When we left Brunswick, we had not 3,000 men.” Under discouraging circumstances they pressed on to Princeton (December 2), and then to Trenton.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine in the American Crisis (December, 1776). Beneath his heavy load of cares and burdens, Washington bore up with wonderful fortitude. His resources were not yet exhausted. Again it was necessary to give way before the advancing enemy, and the little army crossed the Delaware on the morning of December 8. A few hours later “the British came marching down to the river, expecting to cross, but no boats were within reach, all having been collected and secured on the west bank.” Once more the American leader had eluded an overwhelming force.
As the enemy were moving in the direction of Philadelphia, steps were now taken to fortify the city. From his headquarters at the Keith farm-house, Washington wrote to his brother John Augustine (December 18):
Since I came on this side, I have been joined by about two thousand of the city militia, and I understood that some of the country militia (from the back counties) are on the way. But we are in a very disaffected part of the Province; and, between you and me, I think our affairs are in a very bad situation. . . .
You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation. No man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties, and less means to extricate himself from them. However, under a full persuasion of the justice of our cause, I cannot entertain an idea, that it will finally sink, though it may remain for some time under a cloud.
Two days later his heart was cheered by the arrival at his camp above Trenton Falls of General Gates, Sullivan, and Cadwalader, with several regiments of regulars and militiamen. These additions increased his fighting force to nearly eleven thousand.
Now the time had come to act on the aggressive, while the British army was scattered. Howe having retired to New York, thinking there would be no further hostilities during the winter, Washington planned a bold attack on Christmas night, an hour before dawn. The enterprise succeeded. It was a cold stormy night and the river full of ice, yet he crossed the Delaware with his own division of 2,400 men and marched nine miles to Trenton. Here he surprised the Hessians at daybreak and defeated them, taking nearly a thousand prisoners with their arms and cannon. The engagement lasted less than an hour. This brilliant victory revived the drooping courage of the army and alarmed the enemy.
Washington Crossing the Delaware.
When the news reached New York, Cornwallis hastened forth with 8,000 men to punish him. Meanwhile Washington was not idle. He again crossed the Delaware (December 30); the passage was exceedingly difficult and perilous on account of the floating ice. At Trenton he was joined by the divisions under Generals Mifflin and Cadwalader, some 3,800 men. He was not strong enough, however, for a pitched battle with the entire Anglo-Hessian army. By good fortune and strategy he saved himself from disaster and dealt the enemy another stunning blow. With the main body of his army, Lord Cornwallis marched from Princeton, (January 2, 1777), leaving three regiments under Col. Mawhood. He reached the neighborhood of Trenton late in the afternoon and had the best of the Americans in the skirmishing that ensued. Here he rested from combat at nightfall. Washington was at his mercy, if he had pressed his advantage at dark. He halted near Washington’s camp, and in the morning the Americans were gone. Leaving their fires burning brightly to deceive the enemy, they stole silently away at midnight, and by a round-about march arrived at Princeton about sunrise. Here Washington won a complete victory and gained possession of the town with small loss. One hundred of the enemy were killed, besides four hundred prisoners and wounded. It is hardly too much to say that these two unlooked-for successes “saved the Revolution.” They were a revelation of Washington’s military ability. They not only exhilarated the spirits of the colonists, but extorted praise and admiration from the foe. “His march through our lines is allowed to have been a prodigy of generalship,” wrote Horace Walpole. Washington was now accorded a place among the greatest captains of the time.
During the winter months of 1777 there was a cessation of hostilities. Washington’s feelings of elation over British reverses were mingled with disappointment and alarm as he saw his army suddenly melt away. He wrote to the governors of the New England States and to the members of Congress, dwelling on the imperative Washington at the Battle of Princeton necessity of establishing a permanent army upon which he could depend at all times.
Washington at the Battle of Princeton.
He would have been almost helpless, if the enemy had attacked him at this time. In the circular-letter to the, Governors, Washington wrote (January 24):
Nothing but their ignorance of our numbers protects us at this very time, when, on the contrary, had we six or eight thousand regular troops, or could the militia, who were with me a few days ago, have been prevailed upon to stay, we could have struck such a stroke, as would have inevitably ruined the army of the enemy, in their divided state.
The winter wore gloomily away. Fortunately General Howe remained inactive. Washington had only four thousand men, and many of these were sick and starving. The commander put forth renewed efforts to improve the character of the soldiers by prohibiting gaming, swearing, and other vices. Mindful of the value of religion as a moral force, he arranged later for the chaplains to hold services on Sunday, wherever practicable, and enjoined attendance on the part of the men.
In May, Washington fixed his headquarters at Middlebrook, New Jersey, having under his immediate command seven thousand men. Howe had ten thousand or more with him. Each commander was carefully noting the movements of the other, and neither was desirous of bringing on a drawn battle. After some skirmishing, Howe withdrew to Staten Island with his entire army (June 30).
Anticipating that Howe would proceed into Central New York to co-operate with Burgoyne, Washington marched northward. He was much chagrined by the intelligence of the evacuation of Ticonderoga (July 6). An intercepted letter from Howe to Burgoyne fell into his hands, and it convinced him that Philadelphia was Howe’s real destination.
Washington then directed the march of the army toward Philadelphia and arrived at this city himself in advance of the troops (August 2). Here he first met Lafayette, who had just been commissioned a Major-General, having volunteered his services without pay. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two men. A few days afterward the Marquis witnessed a review of the army, “about eleven thousand men, ill-armed, and still worse clothed.” The gifted young Frenchman was favorably impressed with the troops, notwithstanding their motley attire and indifferent tactics. “In spite of these disadvantages,” he says in his Memoirs, “the soldiers were fine, and the officers zealous; virtue stood in place of science, and each day added both to experience and discipline.”
Later, Washington was gratified to hear of victories in the North, at Oriskany and Bennington. He was still in the dark as to Howe’s movements, but supposed that Charleston was the point where the British fleet would strike. News came at length that it was in Chesapeake Bay. The Continental army at once marched southward through Philadelphia (August 24) to a point near Wilmington.
The next day the English army of 18,000 men landed at the head of the Bay and proceeded northward. On August 27, Howe issued another “Declaration,” promising security to peaceful citizens and pardon to rebels who would surrender and renew allegiance to the king. There was no stampede of colonists flocking to his standard.
On the morning of September 3, the British troops won in a smart skirmish not far from the village of Newport, Delaware. Leaving Newport (September 9), the Americans crossed Brandywine Creek at Chad’s Ford, and not far away the battle of Brandywine was fought (September 11). Cornwallis, an able general, led 7,000 British troops, aided by General Knyphausen with 7,000 mercenaries. The main body of Washington’s army was stationed at Chad’s Ford to guard the passage. On the opposite bank the Hessian Commander made a feint of attempting to cross, while Cornwallis moved northward and crossed at the upper fords, three miles distant. Washington, misled by false reports concerning the enemy’s movements, was outgeneraled and dislodged from his position. He had fewer men (11,000), yet he had the advantage over Cornwallis, who won a decisive victory. Through an oversight Sullivan had not guarded the fords where the British had crossed. It was a fatal blunder. The American loss was 1,000 killed, wounded, and captured, that of the British nearly 600. Cornwallis did not pursue.
By rapid and fatiguing marches the Continental army moved northward, hindered by bad weather, sometimes wading through streams waist deep. They arrived at Pottsgrove (September 22), in a pitiable plight. “At least one thousand men are bare-footed, and have performed the marches in that condition,” wrote Washington to the President of Congress.
After a short rest he moved his forces toward Philadelphia (September 26), and the same day Cornwallis with his battalions entered the city unopposed.
An effort was made to supply the needs of the suffering men. At this time they were cheered by the report of a successful engagement at Stillwater, New York, between the armies of Gates and Burgoyne (September 19).
Gen. John Burgoyne.
Born 1711. Died 1792.
Washington’s army now consisted of about 8,000 Continentals and 3,000 militiamen. With this force he marched against the enemy at Germantown, October 4, where success in the morning was turned later in the day into defeat, through a series of deplorable mistakes and unfortunate circumstances. The fog and smoke caused confusion and panic. The Americans, not downcast over the result, were eager for another action. Re-enforcements came from Virginia, and not long afterward encouraging messages of the second victory of Gates over Burgoyne (October 7).
Then the desponding hearts of all were gladdened by a dispatch conveying the welcome information of the surrender of Burgoyne and his entire army (6,000) at Saratoga (October 14.) The significance of this event can scarcely be over-estimated. Lodge sums up the situation tersely and justly: “The Revolution had been saved at Trenton; it was established at Saratoga. In the one case it was the direct, in the other the indirect work of Washington.”
Another cause of congratulation was the repulse of the Hessians at Fort Mercer (October 22). The next day there was a spirited naval encounter on the Delaware, near Fort Mifflin, which resulted in the loss of two British gun-boats. In the meantime Howe had evacuated Germantown and retired to Philadelphia with an army reduced to ten thousand, while Washington had a body of men estimated at more than eleven thousand. The Americans were now on such a good war footing that an attack on the enemy’s camp at Philadelphia was considered (November 24), but not undertaken on account of the strong fortifications.
The season for military operations having closed, the army went into winter quarters at Valley Forge on the west bank of the Schuylkill River. Here Washington was in a favorable position to defend himself and to observe the actions of the British army.
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge.
The surrounding country had been pretty thoroughly foraged by the enemy, and at times the American soldiers were entirely destitute of bread and meat. There was lack of other necessaries, such as clothes and blankets. Log-huts were built for the men, who were many of them ill and half naked. The hardships and privations of this severe winter were long remembered by the patriotic troops and their loyal commander, who did all in his power to make them comfortable. There is a pathetic description in Lafayette’s Memoirs of their terrible distress and their heroic endurance. Baron Steuben, a Prussian officer, visited the camp (February 23, 1778) with his secretary, who thus stated his impression of the Commander-in-chief:
I could not keep my eyes from that imposing countenance—grave, yet not severe; affable, without familiarity. Its predominant expression was calm dignity, through which you could trace the strong feelings of the patriot, and discern the father as well as the commander of his soldiers.
The winter of 1778 was one that Washington had occasion to remember for another reason. It was then that a base plot was laid to displace him and make General Gates commander. The conspiracy was headed by General Conway, whose name is handed down in history as the chief ringleader of the “Conway Cabal.” Other officers were implicated in the affair. Never did Washington’s character appear to better advantage than when he was passing through this, the severest ordeal of his life. With dignity and self-restraint he bore up under this grievous trial, although sorely disturbed by the complaints and criticisms of his opponents. In addition to his other burdens, he found it a heavy load to carry. The scheme failed and reacted upon its authors, while Washington found himself growing in public esteem and confidence.
When the spring finally came, death and desertion had thinned the ranks of the Continentals at Valley Forge. It seemed the part of wisdom to strengthen and discipline the army, and be ready to strike the enemy as opportunity might occur.
Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge.
In April copies of Lord North’s “Conciliatory Bills” reached headquarters, and soon afterward peace commissioners from England arrived at Philadelphia. “Nothing short of independence,” wrote Washington at this time. “A peace on other terms would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a peace of war.” His views were echoed and applauded by patriots throughout the colonies, and the commissioners returned home, their mission a failure. Their promises were distrusted and their bribes spurned. Rejecting their tempting offers, Joseph Reed said: “I am not worth purchasing, but, such as I am, the King of Great Britain is not rich enough to do it.”
Henceforth every officer in the American army was required to take the oath affirming “the United States of America to be free, independent and sovereign states,” and renouncing allegiance to the King of Great Britain.
Meanwhile treaties of commerce and alliance with France had been negotiated and signed. By foreign nations the American Government was looked upon as permanently established. In this view George III did not concur, and the thought of the separation of the colonies from the old country was still opposed by the English people. So the war went on. Says an English historian:
The honor of England seemed at stake; even those who had been against the war before, now thought that it must be carried on boldly. Thus Chatham, in the House of Lords, declared he would never consent to “an ignominious surrender of the rights of the Empire.” “Shall we now,” he said, “fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon?” And his death in May, 1778, put an end to the last hope of reconciliation with America.
In June General Clinton’s army of 12,000 evacuated Philadelphia and marched toward Trenton. Washington, hearing of it, moved his army to the Delaware and crossed into New Jersey (June 22). He determined to attack at once, his force being then slightly superior to Clinton’s. Lee, the senior Major-General had command of the advanced divisions in the battle of Monmouth (June 28); he had opposed the attack (being secretly attached to the English cause), and ordered a retreat at the beginning of the engagement. Washington, hurrying to the spot, instantly stopped the retreating column and furiously denounced Lee for his unsoldierly conduct. Having rallied the demoralized troops, by a gallant and determined charge he forced the English army from the field. In the night they hastily departed. Washington with his ragged Continentals had saved the day, though with the loss of more than two hundred men killed and wounded. The British loss was over four hundred, besides numerous deserters on the retreat.
The coming of Count d’Estaing with the French fleet in July meant a strong addition to the American side, whose navy was weak. One result of his co-operation was the destruction of six British frigates and other vessels off Newport, R.I., in August.
The enemy was now obliged to act on the defensive. “With an army so much diminished at New York, nothing important can be done,” wrote Sir Henry Clinton in October. The autumn passed, and Washington went into winter quarters at Middlebrook, New Jersey. No further military operations were undertaken, except to repel the ravages of bands of Indians and Tories on the frontier. Winter campaigning in the North being out of the question, the British invaded Georgia and seized Savannah.
Although the army was in much better condition than in the previous winter, colonial affairs were anything but flourishing. There were party dissensions and personal quarrels that vexed the soul of the commander, who viewed with dismay the absence of spirit and the want of united effort. Habits of extravagance prevailed among the more opulent classes, and speculation was rife. These causes together with the interruption of many lines of business left the country’s finances in bad shape. Public credit was impaired, and a depreciated currency was the result.
A gentleman who saw General Washington at his headquarters at Middlebrook in February, 1779, thus describes his personal appearance:
It is natural to view with keen attention the countenance of an illustrious man, with a secret hope of discovering in his features some peculiar traces of excellence, which distinguish him above his fellow mortals. These expectations are realized in a peculiar manner, in viewing the person of General Washington. His tall and noble stature and just proportions, his fine, cheerful, open countenance, simple and modest deportment, are all calculated to interest every beholder in his favor, and to command veneration and respect. He is feared even when silent, and beloved even while we are unconscious of the motive. . . . In conversation, his Excellency’s expressive countenance is peculiarly interesting and pleasing.
For the most part, only a defensive kind of warfare could be waged against the enemy in the spring and summer of 1779. There were two successful expeditions against the hostile savages of Pennsylvania and Western New York. The British raided some New England towns, burning houses and destroying other property. The port of Stony Point was taken by General Wayne (July 16), and abandoned two days later. There were other small successes. For several months (July–November) Washington’s headquarters were at West Point, where he was compelled to remain in comparative inactivity, owing to a lack of funds necessary for a vigorous prosecution of the war. Meanwhile the place was strongly fortified.
The army wintered at Morristown, New Jersey, and nearly perished from cold and hunger—there being a frequent dearth of provisions. An attempt was planned in midwinter to surprise and attack the enemy’s post on Staten Island. The British learned of the expedition in time and saved themselves. A quantity of stores and a few prisoners were secured.
In this dreary winter of 1779–80, when the fortunes of the colonies seemed to be at the lowest ebb, their cause was pleaded effectually at the French court by Lafayette and succor was obtained. Already Spain had formed an alliance with France to fight England and advanced $2,000,000 to the Americans; the close of 1780 found Holland in arms against Britain.
In the spring a fleet with six thousand men under Count de Rochambeau set sail from France and arrived at Newport (July 10). Never was help more timely, and the United States honors the name of the gifted and generous young Frenchman who befriended the nation in its extremity—Marquis de Lafayette.
The only sensible course open to Washington this summer was to harass the enemy and thwart intended attacks. To be slow and sure and watchful for opportunities to strike—this seems to have been the Fabian policy that he had adopted. His maneuvers had the desired result. Not much was accomplished by the British after the capture of Charleston (May 24) until the disastrous defeat of General Gates by Lord Cornwallis at Camden, S.C. (August 16), which ended that General’s military career in disgrace.
Battle of Camden and Death of DeKalb.
“We are now drawing an inactive campaign to a close,” wrote Washington (October 5), disappointed at the little progress that they had made. The war had been prolonged beyond his expectations, and yet the end seemed far off. He had hoped much from the co-operation of their French allies, but the second fleet was blocked up in Brest by English ships. In the meantime he stood in great need of the powder and arms expected from France. Thus his plans for the campaign had to be changed. “A foreign loan is indispensably necessary to the continuance of the war,” he wrote to General Sullivan (November 20).
Washington’s “Fabian policy,” though necessary, was unpopular with many, who wished to annihilate the enemy in short order. Given the requisite munitions of war, and his course would have been different. Without these, the record of splendid achievements could not be written.
A dramatic episode of the war this year was the attempted betrayal of the fortress of West Point to the British by the traitor, Benedict Arnold. By the taking of Major Andre, the spy, with Arnold’s letter in his possession, the plan was frustrated. Arnold fled in time to save his life (September 25), and as an officer in the British army, he engaged in a sort of predatory warfare in Virginia and Connecticut (1780–81). He received a large reward (about £6,300 for his treachery, but was universally detested thereafter. André, the British officer who arranged the affair with Arnold, was hanged as a spy.
Gen. Benedict Arnold.
Born 1741. Died 1801.
Washington winter quarters were at New Windsor, New York; part of the army were stationed at West Point, and one brigade near Albany. So distressing was the condition of Pennsylvania troops at Morristown, New Jersey, that they mutinied early in January, 1781. Some of the New Jersey troops also revolted. A crisis was narrowly averted. Extraordinary exertions had to be made to provide for them. The ladies of Philadelphia collected a considerable fund (more than three hundred thousand dollars), for the relief of the soldiers. The noble Lafayette contributed one hundred guineas.
Meanwhile, the war in the South was progressing satisfactorily under the command of General Greene, who succeeded Gates. The encouraging report came of General Daniel Morgan’s victory at Cowpens, S.C. (Jan. 17).
An Incident at the Battle of Cowpens.
For the first time Washington’s birthday was publicly celebrated in February, 1781, the French officers and troops at Newport beginning the custom of observing it as a holiday. Already the epithet had been applied to him of “Father of the Country.” From this time to his death he was the recipient of many flattering attentions and highly prized honors. Notwithstanding his somewhat cold, imperious manner, he was the most popular man in the country.
In March, 1781, Maryland ratified the “Articles of Confederation,” adopted by Congress, November 15, 1777, all the other States having previously done so. A better organization of the government was now possible. To facilitate the transaction of public business, different departments were established. There being no executive, the duties of administration fell largely on these officials: Robert Morris, Superintendent of Finance; General Alexander McDougall, Secretary of Marine; Robert R. Livingston, Secretary of Foreign Affairs; and General Benjamin Lincoln, Secretary of War. This was the beginning of the Cabinet of later times.
In the spring news came of the battle of Guilford Court-House, N.C. (March 15). It was a defeat for the Americans under Greene, but not without disadvantages to the winning side. Boasting of his victory, Cornwallis prepared for his fatal march into Virginia.
Washington was depressed, though not discouraged at the prospect of an indefinite duration of the war, because of the lack of funds to equip and maintain a first-class army. The people were poverty stricken and slow to respond to his appeals.
In May he heard that Count de Grasse was on the way with a squadron and supplies. Prospects brightened. The commander set out for Weathersfield, Conn., for a conference with Count de Rochambeau “to settle a definitive plan of the campaign.” A few days later he received a letter from the U. S. Minister at the Court of Versailles, informing him of the donation of $1,200,000 from France to this country, to buy arms, clothes, etc., for the American army. The beginning of the end was almost in sight.
By the junction of the French and American troops in New York (July, 1781), it became necessary for the enemy to strengthen their lines in the North, and to recall the army from the South. Washington’s purpose having been accomplished, the proposed attack on New York was abandoned. Late in August, with high hopes, he set out on the expedition against Lord Cornwallis, then in Virginia.
Early in September, Washington writes: “Received the agreeable news of the safe arrival of the Count de Grasse in the Bay of Chesapeake with 28 sail of the line and four frigates, with 3000 land troops which were to be immediately debarked at Jamestown and form a junction with the American army under the command of the Marquis de la Fayette.”
Once more Washington was in his native State, and able to spend a few days at Mount Vernon, the first visit in six years. Soon he was with the army on the memorable march to Yorktown, which was invested on all sides by the allied forces, numbering some sixteen thousand (September 30).
Here took place the culminating event of six years of fighting—the surrender of the British army under Cornwallis (October 19). The number of prisoners was 7,247. This telling blow was the result of clever planning, and the skillful combination of both land and naval forces. To overcome the difficulties in the way, and achieve a masterly triumph was the work of a great general.
Although the conflict seemed to be terminated by this crushing defeat, the war was not ended for two years more. British armies in the North and the South did little more than act on the defensive. But so long as they remained in the country and occupied some of the chief cities, there was need for sleepless vigilance and for instant readiness to fight. The Revolutionists now felt the temptation to relax their efforts, success being assured. Washington saw danger in such a course and sought to impress on the tired colonists the urgency of further preparations to repel the enemy. It was hard for them to realize the peril of inaction.
At last the British king saw the folly of continuing the struggle, and with reluctance permitted negotiations looking toward peace, granting the colonies complete independence. The menacing attitude of European nations influenced him to take this step. The war had already cost the British Government £100,000,000, and it seemed like a foolish waste of treasure to go on. The final treaty of peace was signed (September 3, 1783) and the troops were recalled home; New York was evacuated in November.
Washington had entered the conflict with the determination to fight it out to a successful conclusion. Independence having been won, he was ready to lay aside the sword, and become a man of peace. Meeting the officers of the Continental army, for the last time in Fraunce’s tavern, New York, he took a final and affectionate leave of his comrades (December 4). He resigned his commission at Annapolis (December 23), having seen eight and a half years of service as commander-in-chief.
Washington Bidding Farewell to his Officers.
When Washington retired to private life, passed fifty, his boyish dream had come true—he had “achieved the reputation of the first soldier of his time.” The best judges in Europe admitted this. Even England recognized his superiority to her own generals. Greene’s noble tribute to the greatness of Washington’s character, and his military genius is well known, and need not be repeated here. The estimate of another English historian may be quoted:
Washington had commanded the Virginia militia with great success in the wars against the French, and had attained to the rank of Colonel. The success of the American Revolution was mainly due to his appointment to the chief command. Only a man of his skill, firmness, patience arid judgment, could overcome the jealousies of the various States, the want of discipline of the soldiers, the lack of money and stores, all of which, on several occasions, threatened the collapse of the revolt. He was always hopeful in the greatest difficulties, and cautious in every undertaking. He was known, besides, as a man of the highest integrity, whose truth and honor were never called in question.
There is no need to dwell on the details of Washington’s life during the years of retirement after the Revolution. It was the life of a country gentleman. Being a man of large business interests, he was fully occupied with the care of his property. On horseback, he made the rounds of his plantations, superintending the work of tree-planting, gardening, harvesting, and other employments connected with crops. He embarked in enterprises for the public good, such as the improvement of navigation in the James and Potomac rivers. Occasionally he rode with hounds, fox-hunting.
Washington and Family at Mt. Vernon.
There was a constant stream of visitors to Mount Vernon, and he was solicitous for their comfort and happiness. It was rare for him to dine alone with Mrs. Washington. Dinner was never kept more than five minutes for expected guests; that delay he allowed because of difference in timepieces. He was plain and abstemious in his habits of eating, and drinking. Though usually grave in the presence of strangers, he could unbend, and be genial in the company of intimate friends.
Those who met him in these years say he was more cheerful than he was during the war. Washington was easy, affable, and dignified in conversation. He was a busy man when at home, having a voluminous correspondence, yet he was indulgent in granting sittings to portrait-painters, and sculptors.
As was the custom in those times on the plantations of Virginia, George Washington kept slaves. There were two or three hundred negroes living on his various estates, and he looked carefully after their wants and health. He was not indifferent to their condition, being an unusally kind master. As years went by he became more and more convinced of the wrong of slavery, and resolved never to obtain another bondsman by purchase—“it being among my first wishes,” he wrote in 1786, “to see some plan adopted, by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law.” In his will he provided for the release of all his slaves.
Washington, it may be said, was a genuinely religious man during all his public life. He regularly observed Lord’s Day by attendance on divine services at Pohick Church, of which he was a vestryman for a number of years. He was a valued member of this church, which was situated five miles from Mount Vernon; his pew is still pointed out to sight-seers.
Washington was a friend, too, of education, and left a bequest for the founding of a National University in the District of Columbia. His wish was never carried out according to the terms of his will. One of the weightiest utterances of his Farewell Address lays stress on the value of “institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge.”
The years following the Revolution to the establishment of the Union in 1789 have been called “the critical period of American history,” because there was then no general government with sovereign powers in this country, but a confederacy of thirteen republics. Some sort of working system of government was provided for by the Articles of Confederation, but it proved to be defective and unsatisfactory. Meanwhile, plans for a national constitution were discussed, and a convention of delegates from the different States met in Philadelphia. to frame one.
Washington, as one of the delegates from Virginia, attended the first meeting of the Federal Convention in May, 1787; and the first act of this assembly of fifty-five men, the ablest and foremost citizens of the land, was to choose him as President of the Convention. Their deliberations were secret and lasted several months. The instrument that they produced, while not perfect, was a masterpiece of statesmanship. It was at once submitted to Congress, which referred it to the State Legislatures to be ratified or rejected. Nearly a year passed before its acceptance by a majority of the States.
After much opposition the new National Constitution went into effect as the basis of our Government. The authors of the “Federalist,” Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, did much to make the contents of the Constitution known and acceptable to the people. Washington, with his pen and voice, urged its adoption, for he saw in it a remedy for the ills from which the colonies suffered during the Revolution. He had learned from experience the weakness of the Continental Congress, which could only advise. He appreciated, as few others did then, the advantage of having a strong central government. He held that “an indissoluble union of all the States under one federal head” was essential for their stability and well-being. His influence was far-reaching and decisive.
He spoke little, but is words counted, and the effect of his letters on public opinion can scarcely be over-estimated. Other prominent men of the states held the same views and contributed to the result.
Washington’s Reception at Trenton when on the
the way to his Inauguration as First President, 1789.
One of the Panels of the Bronze Door of the
Senate, Capitol, Washington.
At the first Presidential Election (January 7, 1789), George Washington was unanimously elected President of the United States. Years before he had indignantly rejected the idea of being King of the western monarchy, suggested to him in 1782, but he yielded to the manifest will of the people to become the chief executive of a republic. His journey to New York in April was a triumphal progress. Here the ceremonies of the first inauguration took place (April 30); John Adams, the second choice of the Electoral College for president, became vice-president
In a sense it may be said that Washington’s first Administration marks a turning point of our political history, the beginning of our national life. First the colonies had become states; then the states became parts of a confederacy; now they were welded together in one united whole. The new government was to be administered according to the provisions laid down in the constitution recently framed and adopted. It was an experiment, and many were in doubt as to its chances of success. Time has demonstrated the wisdom of the founders of our nation. The citizen of to-day owes a debt of gratitude not only to the patriots who won independence, but to the state; men who elaborated a successful working plan for the operations of the new republican government.
Washington entered upon the duties of his high office with diffidence, but with the determination faithfully to meet the obligations resting upon him. To one of his friends he wrote: “A combination of circumstances and events seems to have rendered my embarking again on the ocean of public affairs inevitable. How opposite this is to my own desires and inclinations, I need not say.”
In his Inaugural Address he disclaimed having any desire for pecuniary emoluments, and asked that he should receive no compensation beyond “actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.” Four years later congress fixed the payment of twenty-five thousand dollars per annum as the salary of the president for his second term of office. No change was made in the running of the executive departments of the government until September, 1789. Then Thomas Jefferson was appointed Secretary of State. General Henry Knox continued to act as Secretary of War. Alexander Hamilton became Secretary of the Treasury. Edmund Randolph was appointed Attorney-General; and Samuel Osgood, Postmaster-General.
First Inauguration of Washington, 1789.
One of the Panels of the Bronze Door to the Senate
Capitol, Washington, D.C.
At this time there was only one political party in the United States, the Federalist party. There were, however, two rival political camps. One set of theorists stood for a strong centralized government, and the other for individual and State rights. In the Federalist party the dominant idea was that the Nation is paramount, the State subordinate. The logical outcome of Federalist doctrine is a paternal government. It means a larger measure of power in the hands of the executive, exercised for the common good, and at times the sacrifice of individual and local interests for the sake of society and the maintenance of the body politic. The leaders of the Federalist party were Washington and Hamilton.
As years went by the old Republican party came into being. It represented the opposite position or tendency: the liberty and importance of the individual and the sovereign rights of the States; the province of the general government is to carry out the people’s will. Its position was substantially that of the Democratic party of later times and its leaders were Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.
Alexander Hamilton was the one great statesman of this period, and had more to do than any other man in organizing the new government. He tried to obviate the evils resulting from the lack of federal authority and advocated a strong national government. As the first Secretary of the Treasury he put the finances of the country on a sound footing, restoring confidence at home and abroad. He has been justly called “the founder of the U.S. Bank and restorer of public credit.” He so adjusted the scale of duties on imported articles that a sufficient revenue was secured for the expenses of the government. He found the condition of the United States truly deplorable—chaos, internal strife, business prostration, and poverty on every hand. He recommended a protective tariff that relieved financial distress, stimulated industry, and promoted prosperity. He believed in fostering home manufactures. Withal he was eminently practical. It is, perhaps, not too much to say that no other statesman, not even Clay or Webster, ever did so much for our country.
In striking contract with the views of Hamilton was the political policy of Jefferson, who favored popular sovereignty, universal suffrage, democratic simplicity, and the education of the common people. While he was a member of Washington’s Cabinet, he was constantly pitted against Hamilton. The two men could not agree, and the president had a hard time of it to keep the peace between them. As their ideas could not be harmonized, Jefferson finally resigned the position of Secretary of State (December 31, 1793).
During these years two more States were admitted into the Union—Vermont and Kentucky. The second Presidential Election resulted in the unanimous choice of Washington for President. There was no other American who stood so high in popular estimation. Under his administration our country had grown in wealth and in the esteem of foreign powers. He had met the requirements of his exalted station with unfailing good sense and with dignity. He had shown profound judgment in avoiding entanglements with the affairs of European nations. It seemed to him the part of wisdom to hold aloof and not intermeddle during the French Revolution. This neutral course he maintained in his second term of office, and in his Farewell Address (September, 1796), he re-stated his policy of non-interference, an invaluable legacy of advice that Americans may yet ponder well and safely follow. Washington’s non-imperialistic ideas have not become antiquated. His observations on our foreign relations have more than a temporary application.
Refusing a third election, Washington relinquished his position as the Executive of the Republic, and returned to Mount Vernon to spend his remaining days in peace and retirement, amid the plaudits and affectionate demonstrations of an admiring people. Again he dispensed liberal hospitality at his home and occupied him self with rural pursuits, not neglecting matters of public welfare.
He was once more called upon to accept office. When our nation bristled up with martial spirit at the insult to our honor from France, he was again appointed Commander of the armies to defend the United States. The war-cloud happily blew over, and his short term of military service ended. His was the type of Americanism that he was ready to defend with the sword.
Tomb of Washington at Mt. Vernon, Va.
Again Washington was free to devote himself to the management of his farms, and lived the active, out-of-door life of a farmer to the last. On December 12; 1799, he was in his saddle and made his accustomed rounds in falling snow, hail and rain. A severe cold resulted from this exposure. He neglected to apply remedies at first, saying it could go as it came. Later it developed into an attack of quinsy, from which he died in the evening of December 14. He passed away in peace, at the age of sixty seven, leaving to his countrymen the precious memory of his deeds and words—an indestructible heritage. He was buried at Mount Vernon, to “the mourning of a mighty nation.” “His tomb is the Mecca of America.”
ANECDOTES, CHARACTERISTICS AND TRIBUTES TO WASHINGTON.
THE BIRTHDAY OF WASHINGTON.
The birthday of the “Father of his Country”! May it ever be freshly remembered by American hearts! May it ever reawaken in them a filial veneration for his memory; ever rekindle the fires of patriotic regard to the country which he loved so well; to which he gave his youthful vigor, and his youthful energy during the perilous period of the early Indian warfare; to which he devoted his life, in the maturity of his powers, in the field; to which again he offered the counsels of his wisdom and his experience as president of the convention; which he guided and directed while in the chair of state, and for which the last prayer of his earthly supplication was offered up when it came the moment for him so well, and so grandly, and so calmly to die! He was the first man of the time in which he grew. His memory is first and most sacred in our love; and ever hereafter, till the last drop of blood shall freeze in the last American heart, his name shall be a spell of power and might.—Rufus Choate.
THE VALUE OF WASHINGTON.
The value of Washington to his country transcends that of any other man to any land. Take him from the Revolution, and all the fervor of the Sons of Liberty would seem to have been a wasted flame. Take him from the constitutional epoch, and the essential condition of union, personal confidence in a leader, would have been wanting.
Greenough’s Statue of Washington, Washington. D.C.
The Inscriptions are from Henry Lee s Oration on the death of Washington,
delivered before both Houses Of Congress, Dee. 16, 1799.
Franklin, when the work of the constitutional convention was completed, said that until then he had not been sure whether the sun depicted above the president’s chair was a rising or a setting sun, but now his doubt was solved. Yet it was not the symbolic figure above the chair, it was the man within it, which should have forecast the great result to that sagacious mind.
From the moment that independence was secured, no man in America saw more clearly the necessity of national union, or defined more wisely and distinctly the reasons for it. He is the chief illustration in a popular government of a great leader who was not also a great orator.
Perhaps that fact gave a solid force to his influence by depriving all his expressions of a rhetorical character, and preserving in them throughout a simplicity and moderation which deepened the impression of his comprehensive sagacity. He was felt as both an inspiring and a sustaining power in the preliminary movement for union, and by natural selection he was both president of the convention and the head of the government which it instituted.—George William Curtis.
THE MAJESTIC EMINENCE OF WASHINGTON.
Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day,
Time’s noblest offspring is the last,
As the human race has moved along down the centuries the vigorous and ambitious, the dissenters from blind obedience and the original thinkers, the colonists and state-builders have broken camp with the morning and followed the sun until the close of day. They have tarried for ages in fertile valleys and beside great streams; they have been retarded by barriers of mountains and seas beyond their present resources to overcome; but as the family grew into the tribe, the tribe into the nation, and equal authority into the despotism of courts and creeds those who possessed the indomitable and unconquerable spirit of freedom have seen the promise flashed from the clouds in the glorious rays of the sinking orb of day, and first with despair and courage, and then with courage and hope, and lastly with faith and prayer, they have marched westward.
In the purification and trials of wandering and settlement they have left behind narrow and degrading laws, traditions, customs, and castes, and now, as the occident faces the orient across the Pacific, and the globe is circled, at the last stop and in their permanent home, the individual is the basis of government and all men are equal before the law. The glorious example of the triumphant success of the people governing themselves fans the feeble spirit of the effete and exhausted Asiatic with the possibilities of the replanting of the garden of Eden and of the restoration of the historic grandeur of the birthplace of mankind. It is putting behind every bayonet which is carried at the order of Bismarck or the czar, men who, in doing their own thinking, will one day decide for themselves the problems of peace and war. It will penetrate the breeding-places of anarchy and socialism, and cleanse and purify them.
The scenes of the fifth act of the grand drama are changing, with the world as its stage and all races and tongues the audience. And yet, as it culminates in power and grandeur and absorbing interest, the attention remains riveted upon one majestic character, He stands the noblest leader who was ever intrusted with his country’s life. His patience under provocation, his calmness in danger and lofty courage when all others despaired, his prudent delays when the Continental Congress was imperative and the staff almost insubordinate, and his quick and resistless blows when action was possible, his magnanimity to his defamers and generosity to his foes, his ambition for his country and unselfishness for himself, his sole desire the freedom and independence for America, and his only wish to return after victory to private life and the peaceful pursuits and pleasures of home, have all combined to make him, by the unanimous judgment of the world, the foremost figure in history. Not so abnormally developed in any direction as to be called a genius, yet he was the strongest because the best balanced, the fullest rounded, the most even and most self-masterful of men—the incarnation of common sense and moral purity, of action and repose.
The republic will live so long as it reveres the memory and emulates the virtues of George Washington.—Chauncey M. Depew.
BYRON’S TRIBUTES TO WASHINGTON.
Mr. Gladstone was not the only great Englishman who had given Washington the first place in history for purity of character and elevation of aim in war and statesmanship. Byron pays homage to Washington repeatedly in his poems, and wrote of him in his diary that “To be the first man (not the Dictator), not the Scylla, but the Washington, or Aristides, the leader in talent and truth, is to be next to the Divinity.” The last stanza in his “Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte” is the following well known tribute:
Where may the wearied eye 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 dare not hate,
Bequeath the name of Washington,
To make man blush there was but one!
In the fourth canto of “Childe Harold” occurs the following:
Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
And Freedom find no champion and no child,
Such as Columbia saw arise when she
Sprung forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?
Or must such minds be nourished in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest, ’midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing Nature smiled
On infant Washington? Has earth no more
Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such store?
In “The Age of Bronze” is the following couplet:
While Washington’s a watchward such as ne’er
Shall sink while there’s an echo left to air.
Byron calls all wars murder, except those for freedom, and contrasts the ambitious conquerer with the patriot in “Don Juan,” Canto VIII, 5:
Not so Leonidas and Washington,
Whose every battle-field is holy ground,
Which breathes of Nations saved, not world’s undone,
How sweetly on the ear such echoes sound!
While the mere victor’s may appal or stun
The servile and the vain, such names will be
A watchword till the future shall be free.
In Canto IX of “Don Juan” is another allusion;
George Washington had thanks, and naught beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men’s is)
To free his country.
OPINIONS OF WASHINGTON.
“This great man fought against tyranny; he established the liberty of his country. His memory will always be dear to the French people, as it will be to all freemen of the two worlds.”—Napoleon Bonaparte, February 9, 1800.
“He did the two greatest things which, in politics, man can have the privilege of attempting. He maintained, by peace, that independence of his country which he had acquired by war. He founded a free government in the name of the principles of order, and by reestablishing their sway.”—M. Guizot.
“I have often been told by Col. Ben Temple, of King Williams county, Virginia, who was one of his aids in the French and Indian wars . . . that, on sudden and unexpected visits into his marquee, he has more than once found Washington on his knees at his devotions.”—Rev. C. L. Weems, 1808.
“The commander-in-chief of the American armies was observed (at Valley Forge) constantly to retire for the purpose of secret devotion. The Father of his Country went alone, and sought strength and guidance from the God of armies, and of light. The independence of our country was laid, not only in valor, patriotism and wisdom, but in prayer.”—Albert Barnes, D.D.
“ On Sundays, unless the weather was uncommonly severe, the President and Mrs. Washington attended divine service at Christ Church (Philadelphia), and in the evenings the president read to Mrs. Washington in her chamber a sermon, or some portion from the sacred writings. No visitors, with the exception of Mr. Speaker trumbull, were admitted on Sundays.”—Gen. W. P. Custis.
Said Washington’s mother of her son: “I am not surprised at what George has done, for he was always a good boy.”
Washington Laying the Corner Stone of the Capitol, Sept. 18, 1793.
One of the Panels on the Bronze Door of the Senate, Washington.
Washington served us chiefly by his sublime moral qualities.
To him belonged the proud distinction of being the leader in a revolution, without awakening one doubt or solicitude, as to the spotless purity of his purpose. His was the glory of being the brightest manifestation of the spirit which reigned in this country, and in this way he became a source of energy, a bond of union, the center of an enlightened people’s confidence.
By an instinct which is unerring, we call Washington, with grateful reverence, the Father of his Country, but not its Savior. A people which wants a savior, which does not possess an earnest, and pledge of freedom in its own heart, is not yet ready to be free.—William E. Channing.
a Signer of the Declaration of Independence.
An Indian’s testimony:
The Pale Faces came, and they said, “you fought with us, you have forfeited your right to this land and must go away,” but General Washington said, “Come back, and remain in your land, and make your homes with us.” Then the prophet said, “The white men are bad, and cannot dwell in the region of the Great Spirit, except General Washington.”—Peter Wilson, a native Iroquois, before the New York Historical Society, 1847.
GIST’S ACCOUNT OF WASHINGTON’S ESCAPE FROM THE INDIANS.
We rose early in the morning, and set out about two o’clock, and got to the Murdering Town on the southeast fork of Beaver Creek. Here we met with an Indian, whom I thought I had seen at Joncaire’s, at Venango, when on our journey up to the French fort. This fellow called me by my Indian name, and pretended to be glad to see me. He asked us several questions, as, how we came to travel on foot, when we left Venango, where we parted with our horses, and when they would be there. Major Washington insisted on travelling by the nearest way to the Forks of the Alleghany.
We asked the Indian if he could go with us, and show us the nearest way. The Indian seemed very glad, and ready to go with us; upon which we set out, and the Indian took the Major’s pack. We travelled very brisk for eight or ten miles, when the Major’s feet grew very sore, and he very weary, and the Indian steered too much northeastwardly.
The Major desired to encamp; upon which the Indian asked to carry his gun, but he refused; and then the Indian grew churlish, and pressed us to keep on, telling us there were Ottawa Indians in those woods, and they would scalp us, if we lay out; but go to his cabin, and we should be safe.
I thought very ill of the fellow, but did not care to let the Major know I mistrusted him. But he soon mistrusted him as much as I did. The Indian said he could hear a gun from his cabin, and steered us more northwardly. We grew uneasy, and then he said two whoops might be heard from his cabin. We went two miles further. Then the Major said he would stay at the next water; but, before we came to water, we came to a clear meadow. It was very light, and snow was on the ground.
The Indian made a stop, and turned about. The Major saw him point his gun towards us, and he fired. Said the Major, “Are you shot?”
“No,” said I; upon which the Indian ran forward to a big standing white oak, and began loading his gun, but we were soon with him. I would have killed him, but the Major would not suffer me. We let him charge his gun. We found he put in a ball; then we took care of him. Either the Major or I always stood by the guns. We made him make a fire for us by a little run, as if we intended to sleep there.
I said to the Major, “As you will not have him killed, we must get him away, and then we must travel all night;” upon which I said to the Indian, “I suppose you were lost, and fired your gun.” He said he knew the way to his cabin, and it was but a little way. “Well,” said I, “do you go home; and, as we are tired, we will follow your track in the morning, and here is a cake of bread for you, and you must give us meat in the morning.”
He was glad to get away. I followed him, and listened, until he was fairly out of the way; and then we went about half a mile, when we made a fire, set our compass, fixed our course, and travelled all night. In the morning we were on the head of Piny Creek.
Reduced Fac-Simile of the Title Page of Washington’s Journal.
THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.
FOR A SCHOOL OR CLUB PROGRAMME.
Each numbered paragraph is to be given to a pupil or member to read, or to recite, in a clear, distinct tone.
If the school or club is small, each person may take three or four paragraphs, but should not be required to recite them in succession.
1. George Washington was born at Pope’s Creek, near Bridge’s Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia, February 22, 1732.
2. His family was of ancient English descent, William De Hertburn, a Norman Knight, was the ancestor of the Washingtons.
3. His name was changed with a change of estate to that of DeWessyngton. Later members of the family bore the names of Weshington and Weschington, which in course of time was transformed into Washington.
4. At the head of one of the branches of the family was John Washington of Warton, in Lancashire, whose son, Lawrence Washington was for some years Mayor of Northampton.
5. One of the descendants of Lawrence Washington was Sir William
Washington who fought loyally for King Charles the First, in the
6. His son, Sir Henry Washington, fought with great gallantry under Prince Rupert, and held the city of Worcester against the Parliamentary Army until ordered by the king whom he was serving, to surrender.
7. Many of the royalists were afterwards compelled to flee to America from the wrath of Cromwell. They found congenial homes in “the loyal colony” of Virginia.
8. Among these were John and Andrew Washington, uncles of the gallant Sir Henry, and great grandsons of Lawrence Washington.
9. They reached Virginia in 1637, and “purchasing land ‘in the northern neck,’ between the Potomac and the Rappahannock rivers.”
10. John Washington became an extensive planter in Westmoreland County, and marrying Miss Anne Pope, built him a residence at Pope’s Creek. He became in due course of time a County Magistrate, and a member of the House of Burgesses.
11. He distinguished himself also, as a colonel of the Virginia forces in driving off a band of Seneca Indians who were ravaging the neighboring settlements. In honor of his public and private character, the parish in which he resided was called Washington.
12. In 1694 Augustine Washington, the grandson of Colonel John Washington was born. He was a man of uncommon height and noble appearance. He was possessed of wonderful muscular powers, and of a strong, earnest character.
13. Augustine Washington was twice married. By his first wife he had four children. Two of them died young, but two sons, Laurence and Augustine, survived their mother who died in 1728.
14. He married for his second wife on March 6, 1730, Mary Ball, the daughter of Colonel Ball, a young and beautiful girl, known as “the belle of Northern Neck.”
15. George Washington was her first child. “Few sons ever had a more lovely and devoted mother, and no mother a more dutiful and affectionate son.”
16. The direct influence of this gifted Christian mother upon the life of George cannot be overestimated. To her we owe the precepts and example that governed his whole career. We cannot wonder that with such an ancestry behind him, and with such a mother to him, Washington became one of the foremost men of the world.
17. When George was seven years of age, his father removed to an estate in Stafford County, opposite the town of Fredericksburg.
18. Augustine Washington was not able to give all of his sons the advantages of education, enjoyed by Laurence the oldest. He being sent to England at the age of fifteen to complete his studies, and returned at the age twenty-three to take his place as the head of the family.
19. George was educated at a country school by Hobby, the sexton of the parish, who was his teacher. His education was of the simplest character. He was taught reading, writing and arithmetic, with a little geometry and surveying.
20. The letters of his brother Laurence fired his soul with stirring descriptions of the martial scenes, he was witnessing. These letters awoke the military spirit in the boy, who made soldiers of his schoolmates, and as their commander-in-chief conducted their mimic parades, reviews and sham fights.
21. The father of George died on April 12, 1743, when the boy was but eleven years of age. Soon after his father’s death he was sent to reside with his elder half-brother Augustine, to whom the Westmoreland estate had been left. Here George attended an academy kept by a Mr. Williams, who gave him a plain and practical education to fit him for the ordinary business of life.
22. All his school-boy manuscripts bear witness of industry and order. He took extreme care in cultivating a neat, clear and elegant handwriting.
23. He was noted for his truthfulness, his courage and his generosity, and for his proficiency in athletic exercises. Running, leaping and wrestling were among his favorite pastimes. He was a fearless rider and a good hunter.
24. At the age of fourteen his brother Laurence obtained for George a midshipman’s warrant. But when he was just about to enter the English naval service, the earnest remonstrance of his mother prevailed, and he reluctantly abandoned the project.
25. A month after he was sixteen, he became a surveyor of lands belonging to Lord Fairfax. In the discharge of his duties he encountered many hardships and personal dangers, which he met with fortitude and cheerfulness.
26. “At the age of nineteen he was appointed Adjutant General, with the rank of Major, to inspect and exercise the militia in one of the districts in which Virginia was divided.” He proved himself thoroughly efficient in this post of duty.
27. In 1753 he was sent on a delicate and dangerous mission by Governor Dinwiddie. He was to travel on a journey of nearly 600 miles—“great part of it over lofty and rugged mountains, and through the heart of a wilderness.”
28. He was to ascertain from the officer commanding the French forces on the banks of the Ohio, by what authority he was invading the King’s dominions.
29. A volume could be written of the great perils and the marvelous and providential escapes from treachery, assassination, violence of savages, cold and drowning, which marked this eventful expedition.
30. The varied talents and striking characteristics Washington displayed, made him on his return, as Irving says, “the rising hope of Virginia.”
31. Soon after his return, he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of a regiment of which Joshua Fry was Colonel. Upon the sudden death of Colonel Fry the expedition designed against the French devolved upon the young Lieutenant-Colonel. Although the expedition was unsuccessful, Washington received the thanks of the General Assembly of Virginia.
St Peters Church, where Washington was Married.
32. He accompanied General Braddock on his ill-fated campaign, behaving “with the greatest courage and resolution.”
33. The Rev. Samuel Davis in a sermon to one of the military companies, afterwards organized, used these prophetic words: “I may point out to the public that heroic youth, colonel Washington, whom cannot but hope, providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner, for some important service to his country.”
34. Having been appointed in 1756 to the chief command of a force of 2,000 men, he was engaged in the arduous work of protecting the Virginia frontier.
35. On November 25, 1758, he planted the British flag on the smoking ruins of Fort Duquesne, which was to be known henceforth as Fort Pitt.
Washington’s Camp Chest, now in the
National Museum, Washington.
36. On Jan 6, 1759, he married a charming young widow, Martha Custis, daughter of Mr. John Dandridge. She is known in history as Martha Washington.
37. He now resigned his commission as a colonial officer, and attended the Virginia douse of Burgesses, to which he had been elected while absent on his last campaign.
38. As soon as he made his appearance, the speaker in accordance with a previous vote of the Assembly, presented their thanks in the name of the colony, for his distinguished military services. He also gave expression to words of compliment and praise.
39. Washington was so embarrassed that he could not utter a single sentence in reply. The speaker with great address said, “Sit down, Mr. Washington, your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language I possess.”
40. He spent nearly fifteen years in the quiet of his peaceful and happy home, engaged in agricultural pursuits and performing many acts of kindness for his friends.
41. Then at the age of forty three years, he was called to begin his career of honor and glory, and render those inestimable services to his country, and to mankind, which have made his name immortal.
42. He was elected delegate to the first Continental Congress which met at Philadelphia, in 1774, and took an important part in its memorable discussions.
43. “When Patrick Henry returned home from the meeting and was asked whom he considered the greatest man in that Congress, he replied,
44. “If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information, and sound judgment, Col. Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor.”
45. He was a delegate to the second Continental Congress May 10, 1775, and through the efforts of Samuel and John Adams, and others, he was unanimously elected Commander-in-chief of all the Continental forces.
46 On July 2, 1775, he established his headquarters in the building at Cambridge, Mass., since known as the residence of the poet Longfellow.
47. On the next day he took formal command of the arm drawing his sword under an ancient tree known as Washington’s elm.
48. He drove the British from Boston on March 17, 1775, for which signal service, Congress voted him a splendid gold medal now preserved in the Boston Public Library.
49 Then followed the disastrous battle of Long Island and Washington’s masterly retreat through New Jersey.
50. Then with heroic fortitude, with unwavering confidence and unsparing self-devotion, he continued to lead the American cause in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles.
51. Monmouth, Brandywine, Germantown and Valley Forge tell the thrilling and fascinating story of his glorious deeds, which were consummated in the supreme triumph at Yorktown on the nineteenth day of October, 1781.
52. Two ears afterwards the Treaty of Peace was signed and the war with England was ended, a war which Washington so much deplored at first, and which he strove so earnestly to avert.
53. With the ending of the war came the question of the payment of the soldiers which had been delayed by Congress.
54. Quite a number of the officers “began to distrust the efficiency of the government and of all republican institutions. One of them, a Colonel of the army, of a highly respected character, and somewhat advanced in life.” sharing these sentiments, presented them to Washington and suggested for him the title of King.
55. Washington made a reply from Newburgh on May 22, 1782. In it he expressed his “abhorrence” of such a suggestion and reproved the writer with great severity for [“]daring to make it.”
56. When the representatives of the army met afterwards at Newburgh to rouse the soldiers to resentment against the inaction of Congress, Washington appeared at the gathering.
57. After apologizing for his coming, and begging the indulgence of those present, he paused to put on his spectacles. In doing so he said casually but very touchingly:
58. “I have grown gray in the service of my country and am now growing blind.”
59. The dignified and yet most forcible addresses which he delivered, regarding the supreme loyalty that was due from all to the country, so won over those present, that they concurred entirely in the policy he had proposed.
Washington’s Retreat Through New Jersey.
60. On April 19, 1783, the anniversary of the battle of Lexington, Washington announced the proclamation for the cessation of hostilities which had been issued by Congress.
61. In his general orders he said, “The chaplains of the several brigades will render thanks to almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease among the nations.”
62. He took a final leave of the army November 2, 1783, by general orders, and had an affectionate farewell interview with his principa1 officers on December 4. On December 23 in that year he resigned his commission to Congress then assembled in Annapolis, Maryland.
63. He then retired to private life at the age of fifty-two, to resume his favorite occupations of farmer and planter at Mount Vernon.
64. Frederick the Great, some years after this, sent him a portrait of himself accompanied with the remarkable words. “From the oldest General in Europe to the greatest General in the world.”
65. But Washington was not to be permitted thus to live a secluded life. The country which seemed, in his own words, to be “fast verging towards anarchy and confusion,” through its inadequate government, needed his services.
66. He went as the head of the Virginia delegates to the convention in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, and of that famous historical body he was elected President.
Washington’s Sword and Staff.
67. On April 6,1789, in the presence of the two Houses, Washington, having received every vote from the ten states that took art in the election, was declared President of the United States.
68. On April 30, 1789; he was inaugurated President in New York city, the oath of office being administered by Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York, on a balcony in front of the Senate Chamber, in the presence of an immense multitude.
69. After delivering his inaugural address, the whole assemblage headed by the President, proceeded on foot to St. Paul’s church, where appropriate religious services were held by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Prevost, the Episcopal Bishop of New York.
70. The President and his family always strictly observed the Sabbath. They attended church in the morning and passed the afternoon in retirement.
71. On the 25th of August, 1789, the mother of Washington ended her long and useful life. When the sad intelligence was communicated to him, although it was not unexpected, he was deeply moved by it.
72. The Cabinet of Washington was not harmonious, which caused the President great concern and trouble. Jefferson and Hamilton differed seriously in their views. Two parties were formed in consequence. Hamilton’s party was known as the Federalist, and Jefferson’s as the Republican.
73. Washington was glad when his term as President had expired and looked with pleasure to a retirement again at Mount Vernon. But on the repeated entreaties of his friends, after a long and painful hesitation, he consented to be a candidate for re-election.
74. He received the unanimous vote of the electors, reflecting the popular vote, and entered upon his second term of office on March 4th 1793.
75 He saved the country from a new and most disastrous war with Great Britain, which it was its duty as well as its interest to avoid, when a new alliance was urged by many with France which had declared war against England.
76. Genet, the Minister of the French Republic, succeeded for a while in causing a storm against Washington for his action. The partisans of Genet traduced the personal motives of Washington, and misrepresented and shamefully abused him. But better sentiments ultimately prevailed.
77. By the vigorous action of the President, the famous “whisky insurrection” in Pennsylvania came to an end in 1792.
78. The treaty with Great Britain obtained by John Jay, the former Chief Justice, gave great offense to the enemies of the administration. The President and his supporters were fiercely denounced for approving it. But it was the best that could be secured, and it brought peace for many years to the country at a critical period of its history.
79. On no consideration would Washington yield to the anxiety that he should serve a third term. He issued a Farewell Address to the people of the United States full of wise counsels and admonitions.
80. The partisan hostility which had been marked by unsparing denunciations of his policy, and by bitter, rancorous hostility, now entirely ceased. The gratitude of the nation was displayed in an overwhelming manifestation.
81. “Both Houses of Congress adopted replies to the Farewell Address, expressing their unshaken confidence in the wisdom and integrity of Washington. During the winter of 1796—97 nearly all the State Legislatures adopted similar resolutions.”
82. But the quiet of his life at Mount Vernon was disturbed by the prospect of a war with the aggressive French Republic. With great reluctance he yielded to the universal desire of the American people as voiced by President Adams, and because the Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-chief of all the armies raised or to be raised for the defense of the country.
83. His last public act was performed on the morning of the 12th of December, 1799. He wrote to Hamilton who was the senior Major-General under him, cordially approving of the establishment of a Military Academy, which Hamilton had submitted to the Secretary of war.
84. On the evening of December 14, 1700, Washington breathed his last at Mount Vernon in the presence of his wife and some intimate friends.
85. He died, as General Washington, for he was still at the time of his demise the Commander-in-chief of the American army.
86. On the 18th of December he was laid away to rest at Mount Vernon. The news of his death was received with expressions of profoundest sorrow not only from the people of the United States, but from those in other lands.
The Book-Plate of Washington.
87. “Napoleon, then first consul of France, announced the death, of Washington to the French army in a masterly order or the day and caused the standards of the troops to be shrouded in crape for ten days.”
88. “Lord Bridport, commanding the Channel Fleet of England, on receipt of the news, immediately Towered his flag at half mast, and his example was followed by every ship in the fleet.”
89. The grandest tributes ever paid to mortal man have been rendered by England’s most illustrious representatives, to the memory of Washington, and have been echoed by the most eminent men in every other civilized land.
90. But the proudest tribute of all, is the never-ceasing and ever-increasing love, with which Americans, whether native born or adopted citizens, cherish for the splendid character and immortal deeds of THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY.
The spirit of patriotism should be freely cultivated in the hearts of our younger citizens, and one of the best methods of doing this, is by the celebration of the birthdays of American Heroes. The historic events pertaining to the stirring times wherein our nation was born, should be familiar to every child, as well as every man and woman in this broad and beautiful land. Washington’s birthday is a national holiday and should be celebrated in every school a[n]d club.
We give herewith, a few suggestions to the makers of programmes for these occasions.
PROGRAMME FOR A WASHINGTON AFTERNOON.
1. Vocal Music—“America.”
2. Essay—“Washington as a Surveyor.” (Twenty Minutes.)
3. General Discussion—“Washington as a General.” (Thirty Minutes.)
4. Instrumental Music—“Yankee Doodle.”
5. Declamation—“Washington’s Inaugural Address.” (Twenty
6. Essay—“Washington’s First Cabinet.̶ (Twenty Minutes.)
7. Anecdotes of Washington—(Thirty Minutes, all participating.)
8. Vocal Music—“The Star Spangled Banner.”
PROGRAMME FOR A WASHINGTON EVENING.
1. Vocal Music—“Columbia.”
2. Essay—“Washingto as President.” (Twenty Minutes.)
3. Solo—“The Sword of Bunker Hill.”
4. Essay—“Washington’s First Cabinet.” (Twenty Minutes.)
5. Instrumental Music—“Washington Post March.”
6. Paper or Recitation—“Valley Forge.”
7. Essay—“Washington’ Second Administration.” (Twenty Minutes.)
8. Declamation—“Washington’s Farewell Address” (Portions of it—Twenty Minutes.)
9. Tributes to Washington—“All participating.[”] (Twenty Minutes.)
10. Vocal Music—“Rally Round the Flag.”
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW.
What is said of Washington’s fame, greatness, devotion, etc.? Of his type of character? Of his winning success? Of his early prominence? Of his descent and ancestors? Of his brothers? Of Washington’s birthplace, etc.? Of his parents? Of the hatchet story? Of Mary Washington? Of the education of Washington? Of his practical knowledge? Of his athletic development?
Of his desire for the sea? Of his land surveying? Of his experiences as given in his journal? Of the demand for his services as surveyor? Of his acquisitions of land? What are the rules of conduct he copied and studied? What does Lodge say? What is said of Laurence Washington? Of George Washington’s appointment as Major? Of the voyage to Barbadoes? By Dr. Toner? Of the improvement manifested by his later journal? Of his new post of honor? By the historian, Sea?
What measures did France adopt to stay the progress of the English? What was the action of the Indians? What is said of Washington’s qualifications, etc.? Of his instructions? Of his journeyings? Of his reception by the Indians? By the French?
What is written in his diary? Of the effect of his journal upon the public ? Of the action of Dinwiddie? Of the campaign to the Ohio? Of the surrender of Washington? Of the rousing to action by the British government? Of Braddock’s defeat? Of Washington’s account of his peril? Of the story told by Curtis? What was Washington’s report of the battle? Of his return to Mount Vernon? Of the expedition to Fort Duquesne? Of Washington’s love affairs? Of his meeting Mrs. Martha Custis? Of his marriage, etc.? Of Washington’s wealth? Of his personal appearance?
What is said of the army? Of Congress? Of place hunters? Of Washington’s judgment? Of the Conway Cabal? Of the army, its members and commanders? Of the want of powder? Of the expedition to Montreal and Quebec?
Of the cruisers? Of Mrs. Washington? Of the Union Flag? Of Col. Henry Knox? Of the attack on Boston? Of its success? Of General Howe? Of the credit due Washington? Of Washington’s discipline ? Of the secret of Washington’s success, etc.? Of the movement against New York? Of the words in the “Orderly Book?”
Of the battle of Long Island? Of Washington’s retreat? Of the various skirmishes of Fort Washington?
What description is given of Washington as to height and weight? As to eyes, face, skin and countenance? As to manners gestures, etc.?
What description does Washington give of Mount Vernon? What is said of Washington as a worker, farmer, etc. ? As a legislator? As a member of the Continental Congress? Of English and American history? Of Washington’s attitude toward England, etc.? Of his ante-revolutionary events?
Of Washington’s fidelity and confidence? Of July 4,1776? Of the characteristics of the principal patriots? Of Washington’s relation to them and others? Of the reply of Washington when appointed Commander-in-Chief? What did John Bell say? Of the important military engagements? Of Washington’s successes? Of the difficulties he had to meet in men and means? Of a depreciated currency? Of the equipment of the army? Of the help of the Dutch, etc.? Of the want of unity?
Of the retreat of the Continental Army? Of the retreat to Brunswick, etc.? What does Washington write to his brother John? What is said of the coming of his Generals? Of crossing the Delaware? Of the movements of Cornwallis? Of the battle of Princeton? Of the winter months of 1777? What did the circular letter of Washington say? What is said of the battle of Brandywine? Of the battle at Germantown? Of the surrender of Burgoyne? Of succeeding encounters? Of Valley Forge? What were Baron Steuben’s impressions? What is said of the “Conway Cabal?” Of North’s Conciliatory Bills? Of Joseph Reed? Of Treaties of Commerce and Alliance? Of George III? What did Chatham say? What is said of Washington and Lee? Of Count d’Estaing? Of colonial affairs? Of the personal appearance of Washington?
What is said of British raids? Of wintering at Morristown? Of succor by Lafayette? Of Washington’s Fabian policy? Of Benedict Arnold? Of the condition of the troops? Of Washingtons birthday? Of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, etc.? Of Washington’s feelings? Of brightening prospects?
Of the expedition against Lord Cornwallis? Of the surrender of Cornwallis? Of the period of inaction? Of negotiations for peace? Of Washington and slavery?
What is said of Washington’s religious life? Of his regard for education? Of the years following the Revolution? Of the Federal Convention? Of the new National Constitution, etc.? Of Washington’s relation to it? Of his election as President?’ Of his inauguration?
Of Washington’s first administration ? Of Washington’s feelings upon assuming office? What did he write? What is said of his inaugural address, etc.? When and how did Washington die?
SUBJECTS FOR SPECIAL STUDY.
1. The Boyhood of Washington.
2. The Ohio Company.
3. Washington as an Envoy to the Commander of the French.
4. The Story of Fort Necessity?
5. Braddock’s Campaign and Defeat.
6. Martha Washington.
7. The Story of Fort Duquesne.
8. The First Continental Congress.
9. The Second Continental Congress.
10. The appointment of Washington as Commander-in- Chief.
CHRONOLOGICAL EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF WASHINGTON.
1732 Born, Bridge’s Creek, Stafford County, Virginia, Feb. 22.
1748 Appointed surveyor by Lord Fairfax.
1751 Appointed Major in colonial forces.
1753 Sent by Governor Dinwiddie as envoy to Commander of French forces on the Ohio, October 30.
1754 Appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Virginia troops, March. Capitulation of Fort Necessity, July 4.
1755 Defeat of General Braddock July 9. Appointed Commander-in- chief of the Virginia forces.
1757 Defended the Virginia frontier.
1758 Occupation of Fort Duquesne, changed to Fort Pitt, Nov. 25.
1759 Married to Mrs. Martha Custis. January 6. Took his seat as member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.
1770 Located lands on the Ohio for the Virginia troops.
1774 Member of the first Virginia Convention, August 1. Took his seat as member of the Continental Congress, Philadelphia, September 5.
1775 Member of the second Virginia Convention, March. Member of the second Continental Congress, Philadelphia Ma 10. Appointed Commander-in-chief of the American army, June 13. Took formal command of the army at Cambridge, July 3.
1776 Entered Boston at the head of his army, March 17. Declaration of Independence, July 4. Battle of Brooklyn, Long Island, August 26. Battle of Harlem Plains, New York, September 16. Battle of White Plains, New York, October 28. Battle of Trenton, New Jersey, December 26.
1777 Battle of Princeton, New Jersey, January 3. Battle of Brandywine, Pa., September 11. Battle of Germantown, Pa., October 4. Valley Forge.
1778 Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, June 28.
1779 Battle of Stony Point, New York, July 16.
1780 Execution of Major Andre as a spy, October 2.
1781 Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, and surrender of Cornwallis.
1782 Refused to be considered as a King, May.
1783 Persuaded the officers of the army to be patient with Congress, March 15. Cessation of hostilities, April 19. The army disbanded by order of Congress, November 2. Took leave of his officers, December 4. Resigned his commission to Congress, December 23.
1784 Crossed the Alleghenies and visited the lands beyond, on horseback.
1786 Shay’s Rebellion, December.
1787 Elected President of the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, May 2 .
1789 Elected President of the United States, January. Inaugurated President in New York, April 30.
1791 Removal of the General Government from New York.
1793 Re-elected for a second term as President, taking oath of office March 4.
1799 Performed last public act Dec. 12. Died on the evening of Dec. 14. Buried at Mt. Vernon Dec. 18.
The older biographies of Washington, by Sparks, Irving, and others, are no longer satisfactory. The reader is advised to consult the following works:
“George Washington.” By H. C. Lodge. 2 vols. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1889.
“George Washington.” By Woodward Wilson. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1807.
“The Life of George Washington Studied Anew.” By E. E. Hale. G. P. Putnam’s Son’s, New York, 1888.
“History of the Washington Family.” By Albert Welles. New York
Society Library, 1879.
“Recollections of Washington.” By G. W. Custis. Derby and Jackson, New York, 1860.
“Early Sketches of George Washington.” Reprinted with notes by W. S. Baker. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1894.
“Itinerary of General Washington,” 1775–1783. By W. S. Baker. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1892.
“Washington after the Revolution, ” 1784–1799. By W. S. Baker. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1898.
“Washington’s Journal, ” 1747–8. Edited by J. M. Toner, M. D., Albany, N. Y. Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1892.
“Washington’s Journal, ” 1751–2. Edited by J. M. Toner, M. D., Albany, N. Y. Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1892.
“Washington’s Journal, ” 1754. Edited by J. M. Toner, M. D., Albany, N. Y. Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1893.
“The Writings of George Washington.” Edited by W. C. Ford. 14 vols, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1889–1893.
“Old South Leaflets, ” Nos. I, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10.
“Narrative and Critical History of America.” Edited by Justin Winsor. Vols. V., VI. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1888.
“The Critical Period of American History, ” 1783–1789. By John Fiske. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1888.
“The Story of the Revolution.” By H. C. Lodge. 2 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1898.
“General Washington.” By B. Johnson, New York, 1894.
“The True George Washington.” By P. L. Ford, Philadelphia, 1896.
EXTRACT FROM WASHINGTON’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
Among the viccissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties, than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of this month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat which was rendered every day Tore necessary and more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficult of the trust, to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondency one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.
In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just a appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is, that, if in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted m capacity, as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by m country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in the first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration, to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.
In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible and, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent Nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.
And, in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seems to presage.
These reflections, rising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves upon my mind too strongly to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none, under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new Aid free government can more auspiciously begin.
EXTRACTS FROM WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS.
The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. * * * *
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth and choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference; you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause, fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.
The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds, in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maratime and commercial enterprise, and precious materials of manufacturing industry.
The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted.