From the 30 January 1909 issue of The New York Times.


New York Times Saturday Review of Books:

Mr. Edwin W. Thomas’s statement that “while Washingotn was a great soldier, Lee was his superior in every branch of the military art,” may be a gospel truth and still leave his statement that “Robert E. Lee was the greatest English-speaking General that ever lived” untrue.

Greatness should be judged by results, and, judged from this standpoint, Washington was the greatest General and the greatest statesman that ever lived. John Fiske has well summed up Washington’s superior qualities when, in speaking of his New Jersey campaign, he says: “At this awful moment the whole future of America and all that America signifies to the world rested upn that single Titanic will.”

Washington’s claim to greatness does not rest on his knowledge of military science or on his intellectual attainments. It rests on his wonderful judgment of human character, and on his power to subserviate that character to his own will. Washington always selected the right man or the right place. When he wanted Stony Point captured he chose “Mad” Anthony Wayne. After Gates had wrecked the Southern army Washington selected Greene to recuperate it. Greene’s Southern campaign is one of the most remarkable in military history.

When it was necessary to establish the credit of the United Sates Washington chose Hamilton for the work and urged the organization of a Federal bank with $10,000,000 capital. Hamilton accomplished wonders, and is considered by many the greatest financier that ever lived. When the United States was on the verge of war with Great Britain Washington sent John Jay to England to make a treaty. The treaty was received in American with outbursts of derision. Washington and Jay were called traitors to their country; yet that treaty to-day is considered a masterpiece of diplomacy.

The men whom Washington created lived many years after his death to carry on the work he began. The Monroe doctrine was formulated from principles laid down in his farewell address. Andrew Jackson’s famous toast, “Our Federal Union, it must be preserved,” is but an echo of Washington’s greatest ambition.

It is impossible to compare Washington’s generalship with that of Lee’s, but it is doubtful if Washington would ever have made the mistake that Lee did at Gettysburg, and it seems altogether probably that had Washington been in Lee’s place he would have found the men and the means to lead a victorious army and to dictate his own generous terms, as he always did, to any who opposed his will.

Hartford, Conn., Jan. 25.