Close in their lair for perilous months
He held in leash his wolves, grim, shelterless,
Gaunt, hunger-bitten, stanch to the uttermost;
Then, when the hour was come for hardiness
Rallied, and rushed them on the reeling host;
And Monmouth planted Yorktown’s happy bays!
* * * * *
A FRENCHMAN’S ESTIMATE OF WASHINGTON IN 1781
BY CLAUDE C. ROBIN
From Magazine of American History.
The following extract from a letter written by Abbe Robin, chaplain in the French army in America, and bearing date “Camp of Phillipsburg, August 4, 1781,” a few weeks after his arrival in this country, is very suggestive. This letter was the first of a series of thirteen letters from the Abbe while in America, which were published in Paris in 1782. He writes:
I have seen General Washington, that most singular man—the soul and support of one of the greatest revolutions that has ever happened, or can happen. I fixed my eyes upon him with that keen attention which the sight of a great man always inspires. We naturally entertain a secret hope of discovering in the features of such illustrious persons some traces of that genius which distinguishes them from, and elevates them above, their fellow mortals.
Perhaps the exterior of no man was better calculated to gratify these expectations than that of General Washington. He is of a tall and noble stature, well proportioned, a fine, cheerful, open countenance, a simple and modest carriage; and his whole mien has something in it that interests the French, the Americans, and even enemies themselves, in his favor. Placed in a military view, at the head of a nation where each individual has a share in the supreme legislative authority, and where coercive laws are yet in a degree destitute of vigor, where the climate and manners can add but little to their energy, where the spirit of party, private interest, slowness and national indolence, slacken, suspend, and overthrow the best concerted measures; although so situated he has found out a method of keeping his troops in the most absolute subordination; making them rivals in praising him; fearing him when he is silent, and retaining their full confidence in him after defeats and disgrace. His reputation has, at length, arisen to a most brilliant height; and he may now grasp at the most unbounded power, without provoking envy or exciting suspicion. He has ever shown himself superior to fortune, and in the most trying adversity has discovered resources until then unknown: and, as if his abilities only increased and dilated at the prospect of difficulty, he is never better supplied than when he seems destitute of everything, nor have his arms ever been so fatal to his enemies, as at the very instant when they thought they had crushed him forever. It is his to excite