George Washington eBook

William Roscoe Thayer
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about George Washington.
him for that, but we see plainly how much it meant to this new Nation to have such qualities exemplified.  Had Thomas Jefferson been our first President in his sans-culotte days, our Government might not have outlasted the sans-culottist enthusiasts in France.  A man is known by his friends.  The chosen friends of Washington were among the best of his time in America.  Hamilton, Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene, John Jay, John Marshall—­these were some.

Although Washington was less learned than many of the men of his time in political theory and history, he excelled them all in a concrete application of principles.  He had the widest acquaintance among men of different sorts.  He heard all opinions, but never sacrificed his own.  As I have said earlier, he was the most actual statesman of his time; the people in Virginia came very early to regard him as a man apart; this was true of the later days when the Government sat in New York and Philadelphia.  If they sought a reason, they usually agreed that Washington excelled by his character, and if you analyze most closely you will never get deeper than that.  Reserved he was, and not a loose or glib talker, but he always showed his interest and gave close attention.  After Yorktown, when the United States proclaimed to the world that they were an independent Republic, Europe recognized that this was indeed a Republic unlike all those which had preceded it during antiquity and the Middle Age.  Foreigners doubted that it could exist.  They doubted that Democracy could ever govern a nation.  They knew despots, like the Prussian King, Frederic, who walked about the streets of Berlin and used his walking-stick on the cringing persons whom he passed on the sidewalk and did not like the looks of.  They remembered the crazy Czar, Peter, and they knew about the insane tendencies of the British sovereign, George.  The world argued from these and other examples that monarchy was safe; it could not doubt that the supply of monarchs would never give out; but it had no hope of a Republic governed by a President.  It was George Washington more than any other agency who made the world change its mind and conclude that the best President was the best kind of monarch.

It is reported that after he died many persons who had been his neighbors and acquaintances confessed that they had always felt a peculiar sense of being with a higher sort of person in his presence:  a being not superhuman, but far above common men.  That feeling will revive in the heart of any one to-day who reads wisely in the fourteen volumes of “Washington’s Correspondence,” in which, as in a mine, are buried the passions and emotions from which sprang the American Revolution and the American Constitution.  That George Washington lived and achieved is the justification and hope of the United States.



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George Washington from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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