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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 217 pages of information about Washington's Birthday.
we have the Weems myth (which turns Washington into a faultless prig), and the ludicrous myth of the writer of paragraphs.  We have the stately hero of Sparks, and Everett, and Marshall, and Irving, with all his great deeds as general and President duly recorded and set down in polished and eloquent sentences; and we know him to be very great and wise and pure, and, be it said with bated breath, very dry and cold....  In death as in life, there is something about Washington, call it greatness, dignity, majesty, what you will, which seems to hold men aloof and keep them from knowing him.  In truth he was a difficult man to know....

“Behind the popular myths, behind the statuesque figure of the orator and the preacher, behind the general and the President of the historian, there was a strong, vigorous man, in whose veins ran warm, red blood, in whose heart were stormy passions and deep sympathy for humanity, in whose brain were far-reaching thoughts, and who was informed throughout his being with a resistless will.”

It is a shameful thing that there should ever have been any doubt in American minds of the true significance of Washington either as man or soldier or statesman.  But the writers of our day have decided that—­if they can help it—­the sins of the fathers are not going to be visited upon “the third and fourth generation.”  The call has gone out for modern champions of our ancient champion; and literature has responded with a will.

It takes long, however, to straighten out a national misconception.  The new literature has not yet had time to take hold of the popular imagination.  But when it does, and when we cease to regard the Father of our Country as a demigod, and begin to love him as a man, then Washington’s Birthdays everywhere will lose their stiff, perfunctory, bloodless character, and recover the inspiring, emotional quality of the early celebrations.

R.H.S.

FOOTNOTES: 

[1] In “The True History of the American Revolution” and “The Struggle for American Independence.”

[2] “The Seven Ages of Washington.”

[3] In “Curiosities of Popular Customs.”

[4] “General Washington.”

[5] Introduction to “George Washington.”

I

THE DAY

WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY[6]

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

  Welcome to the day returning,
   Dearer still as ages flow,
  While the torch of Faith is burning,
   Long as Freedom’s altars glow! 
  See the hero whom it gave us
   Slumbering on a mother’s breast;
  For the arm he stretched to save us
   Be its morn forever blest!

  Vain is empire’s mad temptation! 
   Not for him an earthly crown! 
  He whose sword has freed a nation
   Strikes the offered scepter down. 
  See the throneless conqueror seated,
   Ruler by a people’s choice;
  See the patriot’s task completed;
   Hear the Father’s dying voice: 

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