George Washington, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 434 pages of information about George Washington, Volume II.
and laughed, and thought it had been but a slight matter after all.  The action of the government vindicated the right of the United States to live, because they had proved themselves able to keep order.  It showed to the American people that their government was a reality of force and power.  If it had gone wrong, the history of the United States would not have differed widely from that of the confederation.  No mistake was made, and people regarded the whole thing as an insignificant incident, and historians treat it as an episode.  There could be no greater tribute to the strong and silent man who did the work and bore the stress of waiting for nearly five years.  He did his duty so well and so completely that it seems nothing now, and yet the crushing of that insurrection in the western counties of Pennsylvania was one of the turning-points in a nation’s life.



Our present relations with foreign nations fill as a rule but a slight place in American politics, and excite generally only a languid interest, not nearly so much as their importance deserves.  We have separated ourselves so completely from the affairs of other people that it is difficult to realize how commanding and disproportionate a place they occupied when the government was founded.  We were then a new nation, and our attitude toward the rest of the world was wholly undefined.  There was, therefore, among the American people much anxiety to discover what that attitude would be, for the unknown is always full of interest.  Moreover, Europe was still our neighbor, for England, France, and Spain were all upon our borders, and had large territorial interests in the northern half of the New World.  Within fifteen years we had been colonies, and all our politics, except those which were purely local and provincial, had been the politics of Europe; for during the eighteenth century we had been drawn into and had played a part in every European complication, and every European war in which England had the slightest share.  Thus the American people came to consider themselves a part of the European system, and looked to Europe for their politics, which was a habit of thought both natural and congenial to colonists.  We ceased to be colonists when the Treaty of Paris was signed; but treaties, although they settle boundaries and divide nations, do not change customs and habits of thought by a few strokes of the pen.  The free and independent people of the United States, as there has already been occasion to point out, when they set out to govern themselves under their new Constitution, were still dominated by colonial ideas and prejudices.  They felt, no doubt, that the new system would put them in a more respectable attitude toward the other nations of the earth.  But this was probably the only definite popular notion on the subject.  What our actual relations with other nations should be, was something wholly vague, and very varying ideas were entertained about it by communities and by individuals, according to their various prejudices, opinions, and interests.

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George Washington, Volume II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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