Washington's Birthday eBook

Washington's Birthday

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
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Page 1


the day

Washington’s birthday Oliver Wendell Holmes
Washington’s birthday Margaret E. Sangster
the birthday of Washington Anonymous
Washington’s birthday George Howland
Washington and our schools and colleges Charles W. Eliot
crown our Washington Hezekiah Butterworth
Washington-month Will Carleton

early years

A glimpse of Washington’s birthplace Grace B. Johnson
something of George Washington’s boyhood Anonymous
Washington’s training Charles Wentworth Upham
Washington as he looked

the general

Washington is appointed commander-in-chief Sydney George Fisher
VALLEY FORGE Henry Armitt Brown




GEORGE WASHINGTON Hamilton Wright Mabie
WASHINGTON’S LAST DAYS Elisabeth Eggleston Seelye


WASHINGTON’S STATUE Henry Theodore Tuckerman




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  John W. Daniel


THE ABUSE OF WASHINGTON Thomas Wentworth Higginson
GREAT GEORGE WASHINGTON Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith
HEADQUARTERS IN 1776 Paul Leicester Ford






A good deal of American history was once violently distorted by the partisanship of the eighteenth century, frozen solid by its icy formalism, and left thus for the edification of succeeding generations.  For example, it was not until 1868 that Franklin’s Autobiography was by accident given to the world in the simple natural style in which he wrote it.  The book had been “edited” by Franklin’s loyalist grandson, and had been cut and tortured into the pompous, stilted periods that were supposed to befit the dignity of so important a personage.  When John Bigelow published the original with all its naivete and homely turns of phrases and suppressed passages, he shed a flood of light upon Benjamin Franklin.

But not such a flood as has still more recently been shed upon our struggle for independence, and the hero who led it.

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Mr. Sydney George Fisher[1] has shown how the history of the Revolution has been garbled by the historians into the story of a struggle between a villainous monster on the one hand, and a virtuous fairy on the other:  He has shown how a period that is said to have changed the thought of the world like the epochs of Socrates, of Christ, of the Reformation, and of the French Revolution, has been described in a series of “able rhetorical efforts, enlarged Fourth-of-July orations, or pleasing literary essays on selected phases of the contest.”  These writers have ignored the fearful struggle of the patriots with the loyalists, the early leniency of England as expressed in the conduct of General Howe, the Clinton-Cornwallis controversy, and many other important subjects.  In short, their design was—­as Mr. Wister has happily put it, “to leave out any facts which spoil the political picture of the Revolution they chose to paint for our edification; a ferocious, blood-shot tyrant on the one side, and on the other a compact band of ‘Fathers,’ downtrodden and martyred, yet with impeccable linen and bland legs.”

In view of this state of affairs, it is not strange that Washington should have shared in the general misrepresentation.  Like Franklin’s, his writings, too, were altered by villainous editors.  In his letters, for example, such a natural phrase as “one hundred thousand dollars will be but a flea-bite” was changed to “one hundred thousand dollars will be totally inadequate.”

The editors were aided in their refrigerating enterprise by a throng of partisan biographers, first among whom was the Rev. Mr. Weems, that arch-manipulator of facts for moral purposes.  They were helped also by many of our old sculptors and painters, who were evidently more concerned to portray a grand American hero in a wig than to give us a real man of flesh and blood.

“By such devices,” writes Owen Wister,[2] “was a frozen image of George Washington held up for Americans to admire, rigid with congealed virtue, ungenial, unreal, to whom from our school-days up we have been paying a sincere and respectful regard, but a regard without interest, sympathy, heart—­or, indeed, belief.  It thrills a true American to the marrow to learn at last that this far-off figure, this George Washington, this man of patriotic splendor, the captain and savior of our Revolution, the self-sacrificing and devoted President, was a man also with a hearty laugh, with a love of the theater, with a white-hot temper ... a constant sportsman, fox-hunter, and host....”

“The unfreezing of Washington was begun by Irving, but was in that day a venture so new and startling, that Irving, gentleman and scholar, went at it gingerly and with many inferential deprecations.  His hand, however, first broke the ice, and to-day we can see the live and human Washington, full length.  He does not lose an inch by it, and we gain a progenitor of flesh and blood.”

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Since Irving the thawing process has been carried on with growing success by such able biographers as Lodge and Scudder, Hapgood and Ford, Woodrow Wilson, Owen Wister, and Frederick Trevor Hill.

As yet this new idea of Washington’s essential humanity has seemed too novel and startling to make its way deep into the popular conviction.  I say “new idea.”  In reality it is a very old idea; only it has been smothered by the partisan writers of history and biography.  Certainly the accounts of the first celebrations of Washington’s Birthday do not sound as though our ancestors were trying to work up their enthusiasm over a steel-engraving hero.

“It was the most natural thing,” writes Walsh,[3] “for our forefathers to choose Washington’s Birthday as a time for general thanksgiving and rejoicing, and it is interesting to note that the observance was not delayed until after the death of Washington.  Washington had the satisfaction of receiving the congratulations of his fellow-citizens many times upon the return of his birthday, frequently being a guest at the banquets given in honor of the occasion.  In fact, after the Revolution, Washington’s Birthday practically took the place of the birthday of the various crowned heads of Great Britain, which had always been celebrated with enthusiasm during colonial times.  When independence was established, all these royal birthdays were cast aside, and the birthday of Washington naturally became one of the most conspicuous in the calendar of America’s holidays.

“It may be interesting at this time to look back upon those early days of the republic and see how the newly liberated citizens attested their admiration for their great general and the first President of their country.  But the people did not wait until Washington was raised to the highest position his country could give him before honoring his birthday.

“The first recorded mention of the celebration is said to be the one in The Virginia Gazette or The American Advertiser of Richmond:  ’Tuesday last being the birthday of his Excellency, General Washington, our illustrious Commander-in-Chief, the same was commemorated here with the utmost demonstrations of joy.’  The day thus celebrated was February 11, 1782, the Old Style in the calendar not having then been everywhere and for every purpose abandoned.  Indeed, the stone placed as late as in 1815 on the site of his birthplace in Westmoreland County, Virginia, had the following inscription:  ’Here, the 11th of February, 1732, George Washington was born.’

“Twelve months later the 11th was commemorated at Talbot Court-House in Maryland.  On the same day a number of gentlemen met in a tavern in New York.  One had written an ode.  Another brought a list of toasts.  All, before they went reeling and singing home, agreed to assemble in future on the same anniversary and make merry over the birth of Washington.

“Next year they had an ampler opportunity.  In the previous October the British troops had evacuated New York City, which was gradually recovering from the distresses of the long war.  The demonstrations were not very elaborate, but they were intensely patriotic.  In a newspaper of February 17, 1784, we find an interesting account of this first public celebration in New York: 

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“’Wednesday last being the birthday of his Excellency, General Washington, the same was celebrated here by all the true friends of American Independence and Constitutional Liberty with that hilarity and manly decorum ever attendant on the Sons of Freedom.  In the evening an entertainment was given on board the East India ship in this harbor to a very brilliant and respectable company, and a discharge of thirteen cannon was fired on this joyful occasion.’

“A club called a ‘Select Club of Whigs’ assembled in New York on the evening of February 11, and a brief account of the proceedings at its meeting was sent to the New York Gazette, with an amusing song, written, it was stated, especially for this occasion.  The following stanzas will serve as a sample of this effusion of poetical patriotism: 

  Americans, rejoice;
  While songs employ the voice,
    Let trumpets sound. 
  The thirteen stripes display
  In flags and streamers gay,
  ’Tis Washington’s Birthday,
    Let joy abound.

  Long may he live to see
  This land of liberty
    Flourish in peace;
  Long may he live to prove
  A grateful people’s love
  And late to heaven remove,
    Where joys ne’er cease.

  Fill the glass to the brink,
  Washington’s health we’ll drink,
    ’Tis his birthday. 
  Glorious deeds he has done,
  By him our cause is won,
  Long live great Washington! 
    Huzza!  Huzza!

“The following is also an interesting example of newspaper editorial patriotism which appeared in the New York Gazette at the same time:  ’After the Almighty Author of our existence and happiness, to whom, as a people, are we under the greatest obligations?  I know you will answer “To Washington.”  That great, that gloriously disinterested man has, without the idea of pecuniary reward, on the contrary, much to his private danger, borne the greatest and most distinguished part in our political salvation.  He is now retired from public service, with, I trust, the approbation of God, his country, and his own heart.  But shall we forget him?  No; rather let our hearts cease to beat than an ungrateful forgetfulness shall sully the part any of us have taken in the redemption of our country.  On this day, the hero enters into the fifty-third year of his age.  Shall such a day pass unnoticed?  No; let a temperate manifestation of joy express the sense we have of the blessings that arose upon America on that day which gave birth to Washington.  Let us call our children around us and tell them the many blessings they owe to him and to those illustrious characters who have assisted him in the great work of the emancipation of our country, and urge them by such examples to transmit the delights of freedom and independence to their posterity.’

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“It is also interesting to know that New York City was not the only place in the country remembering Washington’s Birthday in this year 1784.  The residents of Richmond, Virginia, were not forgetful of the day, and in the evening an elegant entertainment and ball were given in the Capitol Building, which, we are informed, were largely attended.  So late as 1796, Kentucky and Virginia persisted in preserving the Old Style date.  But we have documentary evidence that in 1790 the Tammany Society of New York celebrated the day on February 22.  The society had been organized less than a year, and it is interesting to see that it did not allow the first Washington’s Birthday in its history to pass by without fitting expressions of regard for the man who was then living in the city as President of the United States.  Washington, at that time, lived in the lower part of Broadway, a few doors below Trinity Church.  Congress was in session in the old City Hall, on the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets, now occupied by the Sub-Treasury.  New York was the capital of the country, but it was the last year that it enjoyed that distinction, for before the close of 1790 the seat of government was removed to Philadelphia, where it remained until 1800, when permanent governmental quarters were taken up at Washington.  It may be of interest to know how the founders of this famous political organization commemorated Washington’s Birthday.  Fortunately, the complete account of this first Tammany celebration has been preserved.  It was published in a New York newspaper, a day or two after the event, as follows: 

“’At a meeting of the Society of St. Tammany, at their wigwam in this city, on Monday evening last, after finishing the ordinary business of the evening, it was unanimously resolved:  That the 22d day of February be, from this day and ever after, commemorated by this society as the birthday of the Illustrious George Washington, President of the United States of America.  The society then proceeded to the commemoration of the auspicious day which gave birth to the distinguished chief, and the following toasts were drank in porter, the produce of the United States, accompanied with universal acclamations of applause: 

     1.  May the auspicious birthday of our great Grand Sachem, George
     Washington, ever be commemorated by all the real sons of St.

     2.  The birthday of those chiefs who lighted the great Council Fire
     in 1775.

     3.  The glorious Fourth of July, 1776, the birth of American

     4.  The perpetual memory of those Sachems and warriors who have been
     called by the Kitchi Manitou to the Wigwam above since the

     5.  The births of the Sachems and warriors who have presided at the
     different council fires of the thirteen tribes since 1776.

     6.  Our Chief Sachem, who presides over the council fire of our

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     7.  The 12th of May, which is the birthday of our titular saint and

     8.  The birth of Columbus, our secondary patron.

     9.  The memory of the great Odagh ’Segte, first Grand Sachem of the
     Oneida Nation, and all his successors.

     10.  The friends and patrons of virtue and freedom from Tammany to

     11.  The birth of the present National Constitution, 17th of
     September, 1787.

     12.  The Sachems and warriors who composed that council.

     13.  May the guardian genius of freedom pronounce at the birth of
     all her sons—­Where Liberty dwells, there is his country.

“’After mutual reciprocations of friendship on the joyous occasion, the society adjourned with their usual order and harmony.’

“In Washington ever since the first President was inaugurated it had been the practice of the House to adjourn for half an hour to congratulate him on the happy return of his natal day.  But this observance was dropped in 1796, on account of the animosities excited by the Jay Treaty.

“The Philadelphians, always patriotic, never allowed Washington’s Birthday to go by without the celebration.  In 1793 a number of old Revolutionary officers belonging to the First Brigade of Pennsylvania Militia had a ’very splendid entertainment at Mr. Hill’s tavern in Second Street, near Race Street.’  According to a Philadelphia newspaper account, the company was numerous and truly respectable, and among the guests on that occasion were the Governor of Pennsylvania, Thomas Mifflin, and Mr. Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House of Representatives.  At all these patriotic banquets it was customary to give as many toasts as there were States in the Union, so that during the early years we invariably find that thirteen toasts was the rule.  As new States were added, however, extra toasts were added to the list.  Just when this custom died out can perhaps not be definitely determined, but probably the rapid increase of the States may have had something to do with it, as the diners probably saw that it was taxing their drinking abilities too heavily with the addition of each new State.  However, at this Philadelphia celebration the toasts were fifteen, as two new States had recently been added, and among some of the most interesting are the following: 

     The people of the United States—­May their dignity and happiness be
     perpetual, and may the gratitude of the Nation be ever commensurate
     with their privileges.

     The President of the United States—­May the evening of his life be
     attended with felicity equal to the utility and glory of its

     The Fair Daughters of America—­May the purity, the rectitude, and
     the virtues of their mind ever continue equal to their beauty and
     external accomplishments.

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The Republic of France—­Wisdom and stability to her councils, success to her armies and navies, and may her enemies be compensated for their defeats by the speedy and general diffusion of that liberty which they are vainly attempting to suppress.

     May Columbia be ever able to boast a Jefferson in council, a
     Hamilton in finance, and, when necessary, a Washington to lead her
     armies to conquest and glory.

     The Day—­May such auspicious periods not cease to recur till every
     day in the year shall have smiled on Columbia with the birth of a

Our Unfortunate Friend the Marquis de Lafayette—­May America become shortly his asylum from indignity and wrong, and may the noon and evening of his life be yet honorable and happy in the bosom of that country where its morning shone with such unclouded splendor.

“In conclusion, the newspaper account of this celebration states that ’the afternoon and evening were agreeably spent in social pleasures and convivial mirth, and the conduct of the whole company was marked by that politeness, harmony, and friendship which ought ever to characterize the intercourse of fellow-citizens and gentlemen.’

“Balls and banquets, it will be seen, were the chief methods employed in celebrating the day, and there was hardly a town so small that it could not manage to have at least one of these functions in honor of George Washington.  The early newspapers for a month, and often longer, after the 22d of February, were filled with brief accounts of these celebrations from different localities.  Many of them are very interesting, showing, as they do, the patriotism of the people, as well as their customs and habits in their social entertainments.  For instance, when Washington’s Birthday was celebrated in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1791, the Baltimore Advertiser gives us the following amusing account of a ball held at Wise’s tavern: 

“’The meeting was numerous and brilliant.  Joy beamed in every countenance.  Sparkling eyes, dimpled cheeks dressed in smiles, prompted by the occasion, with all the various graces of female beauty, contributed to heighten the pleasure of the scene.  At an interesting moment a portrait of the President, a striking likeness, was suddenly exhibited.  The illustrious original had been often seen in the same room in the mild character of a friend, a pleased and pleasing guest.  The song of “God Bless Great Washington, Long Live Great Washington,” succeeded.  In this prayer many voices and all hearts united.  May it not be breathed in vain.’”

In course of time Washington’s Birthday was made a legal holiday in one State after another, until to-day it is legally recognized in every State but Alabama.

But as it gradually became legalized, so it also became formalized little by little, until, in some parts of America, the very phrase, “a Washington’s Birthday celebration,” came to mean a sort of exercise in hypocrisy,—­a half-hearted attempt to galvanize a dead emotion into life.

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This attitude toward Washington as a man was due largely to the misrepresentations of the early literature.  Three distinct eras in our regard for him as a public character have been pointed out by Bradley T. Johnson:[4]

The generation which fought the Revolution, framed and adopted the Constitution, and established the United States were impressed with the most profound veneration, the most devoted affection, the most absolute idolatry for the hero, sage, statesman.  In the reaction that came in the next generation against “the old soldiers,” who for thirty years had assumed all the honors and enjoyed all the fruits of the victory that they had won, accelerated by the division in American sentiment for or against the French Revolution, it came to be felt, as the younger generation always will feel, that the achievements of the veterans had been greatly overrated and their demigod enormously exaggerated.  They thought, as English Harry did at Agincourt, that “Old men forget:  yet all shall be forgot, but they’ll remember with advantages what feats they did that day.”
The fierce attacks of the Jeffersonian Democracy on Washington, his principles, his life, and his habits, exercised a potent influence in diminishing the general respect for his abilities felt by the preceding generation; and Washington came to be regarded as a worthy, honest, well-meaning gentleman, but with no capacity for military and only mediocre ability in civil affairs.  This estimate continued from the beginning of Jefferson’s administration to the first of Grant’s.  Neither Marshall nor Irving did much during that period to place him in a proper historical light....
But in the last twenty-five years there has been a steady drift toward giving Washington his proper place in history and his appropriate appreciation as soldier and statesman.  The general who never won a battle is now understood to have been the Revolution itself, and one of the great generals of history.  The statesman who never made a motion, nor devised a measure, nor constructed a proposition in the convention of which he was president, is appreciated as the spirit, the energy, the force, the wisdom which initiated, organized, and directed the formation of the Constitution of the United States and the Union by, through, and under it; and therefore it seems now possible to present him as the Virginian soldier, gentleman, and planter, as a man, the evolution of the society of which he formed a part, representative of his epoch, and his surroundings, developed by circumstances into the greatest character of all time—­the first and most illustrious of Americans.

Henry Cabot Lodge,[5] writing in 1899, was one of the first to discover “the new Washington.”  “The real man,” he wrote, “has been so overlaid with myths and traditions, and so distorted by misleading criticisms, that ... he has been wellnigh lost.  We have the religious and statuesque myth,

Page 10

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.



[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.”





  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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  “By the name that you inherit,
   By the sufferings you recall,
  Cherish the fraternal spirit;
   Love your country first of all! 
  Listen not to idle questions
    If its bands may be untied;
  Doubt the patriot whose suggestions
    Strive a nation to divide.”

  Father! we, whose ears have tingled
    With the discord notes of shame;
  We, whose sires their blood have mingled
    In the battle’s thunder-flame,—­
  Gathering, while this holy morning
    Lights the land from sea to sea,
  Hear thy counsel, heed thy warning;
    Trust us while we honor thee.


[6] By permission of the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

* * * * *



  ’Tis splendid to live so grandly
    That long after you are gone,
  The things you did are remembered,
    And recounted under the sun;
  To live so bravely and purely,
    That a nation stops on its way,
  And once a year, with banner and drum,
    Keeps its thought of your natal day.

  ’Tis splendid to have a record,
    So white and free from stain
  That, held to the light, it shows no blot,
    Though tested and tried amain;
  That age to age forever
    Repeats its story of love,
  And your birthday lives in a nation’s heart,
    All other days above.

  And this is Washington’s glory,
    A steadfast soul and true,
  Who stood for his country’s honor
    When his country’s days were few. 
  And now when its days are many,
    And its flag of stars is flung
  To the breeze in defiant challenge,
    His name is on every tongue.

  Yes, it’s splendid to live so bravely,
    To be so great and strong,
  That your memory is ever a tocsin
    To rally the foes of the wrong;
  To live so proudly and purely
    That your people pause in their way,
  And year by year, with banner and drum,
    Keep the thought of your natal day.

* * * * *



The birthday of the “Father of his Country!” May it ever be freshly remembered by American hearts!  May it ever reawaken in them a filial veneration for his memory; ever rekindle the fires of patriotic regard for the country which he loved so well, to which he gave his youthful vigor and his youthful energy; to which he devoted his life in the maturity of his powers, in the field; to which again he offered the counsels of his wisdom and his experience as president of the convention that framed our Constitution; which he guided and directed while in the chair of state, and for which the last prayer of his earthly supplication was offered up, when it came the moment for him so well, and so grandly, and so calmly, to die.  He was the first man of the time in which he grew.  His memory is first and most sacred in our love, and ever hereafter, till the last drop of blood shall freeze in the last American heart, his name shall be a spell of power and of might.

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Yes, gentlemen, there is one personal, one vast felicity, which no man can share with him.  It was the daily beauty and towering and matchless glory of his life which enabled him to create his country, and at the same time secure an undying love and regard from the whole American people.  “The first in the hearts of his countrymen!” Yes, first!  He has our first and most fervent love.  Undoubtedly there were brave and wise and good men before his day, in every colony.  But the American nation, as a nation, I do not reckon to have begun before 1774, and the first love of that young America was Washington.  The first word she lisped was his name.  Her earliest breath spoke it.  It still is her proud ejaculation; and it will be the last gasp of her expiring life!  Yes; others of our great men have been appreciated—­many admired by all—­but him we love; him we all love.  About and around him we call up no dissentient, discordant, and dissatisfied elements—­no sectional prejudice nor bias—­no party, no creed, no dogma of politics.  None of these shall assail him.  Yes; when the storm of battle blows darkest and rages highest, the memory of Washington shall nerve every American arm and cheer every American heart.  It shall relume that Promethean fire, that sublime flame of patriotism, that devoted love of country, which his words have commended, which his example has consecrated.

* * * * *



  Welcome, thou festal morn! 
  Never be passed in scorn
    Thy rising sun,
  Thou day forever bright
  With Freedom’s holy light,
  That gave the world the sight
    Of Washington.

  Unshaken ’mid the storm,
  Behold that noble form—­
    That peerless one—­
  With his protecting hand,
  Like Freedom’s angel stand
  The guardian of our land,
   Our Washington.

  Then with each coming year,
  Whenever shall appear
    That natal sun,
  Will we attest the worth,
  Of one true man to earth,
  And celebrate the birth
    Of Washington.

  Traced there in lines of light,
  Where all pure rays unite,
    Obscured by none;
  Brightest on history’s page,
  Of any clime or age,
  As chieftain, man, and sage,
    Stands Washington.

  Name at which tyrants pale,
  And their proud legions quail,
    Their boasting done;
  While Freedom lifts her head,
  No longer filled with dread,
  Her sons to victory led
    By Washington.

  Now the true patriot see,
  The foremost of the free,
    The victory won. 
  In Freedom’s presence bow,
  While sweetly smiling now,
  She wreaths the smiling brow
    Of Washington.

  Then with each coming year,
  Whenever shall appear
    That natal sun,
  Shall we attest the worth
  Of one true man to earth,
  And celebrate the birth
    Of Washington.

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* * * * *



The brief phrase—­the schools and colleges of the United States—­is a formal and familiar one; but what imagination can grasp the infinitude of human affections, powers, and wills which it really comprises?  But let us forget the outward things called schools and colleges, and summon up the human beings.  Imagine the eight million children actually in attendance at the elementary schools of the country brought before your view.  Each unit in this mass speaks of a glad birth, a brightened home, a mother’s pondering heart, a father’s careful joy.  In all that multitude, every little heart bounds and every eye shines at the name of Washington.

The two hundred and fifty thousand boys and girls in the secondary schools are getting a fuller view of this incomparable character than the younger children can reach.  They are old enough to understand his civil as well as his military achievements.  They learn of his great part in that immortal Federal convention of 1787, of his inestimable services in organizing and conducting through two Presidential terms the new Government,—­services of which he alone was capable,—­and of his firm resistance to misguided popular clamor.  They see him ultimately victorious in war and successful in peace, but only through much adversity and many obstacles.

Next, picture to yourselves the sixty thousand students in colleges and universities—­selected youth of keen intelligence, wide reading, and high ambition.  They are able to compare Washington with the greatest men of other times and countries, and to appreciate the unique quality of his renown.  They can set him beside the heroes of romance and history—­beside David, Alexander, Pericles, Caesar, Saladin, Charlemagne, Gustavus Adolphus, John Hampden, William the Silent, Peter of Russia, and Frederick the Great, only to find him a nobler human type than any one of them, more complete in his nature, more happy in his cause, and more fortunate in the issues of his career.  They are taught to see in him a soldier whose sword wrought only mercy and justice for mankind; a statesman who steadied a remarkable generation of public men by his mental poise and exalted them by his singleness of heart; and a ruler whose exercise of power established for the time on earth a righteous government by all and for all.

And what shall I say on behalf of the three hundred and sixty thousand teachers of the United States?  None of them are rich or famous; most of them are poor, retiring, and unnoticed; but it is they who are building a perennial monument to Washington.  It is they who give him a million-tongued fame.  They make him live again in the young hearts of successive generations, and fix his image there as the American ideal of a public servant.  It is through the schools and colleges and the national literature that the heroes of any people win lasting renown; and it is through these same agencies that a nation is molded into the likeness of its heroes.

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The commemoration of any one great event in the life of Washington and of the United States is well, but it is nothing compared with the incessant memorial of him which the schools and colleges of the country maintain from generation to generation.  What a reward is Washington’s!  What an influence is his and will be!  One mind and will transfused by sympathetic instruction into millions; one life pattern for all public men, teaching what greatness is and what the pathway to undying fame!

* * * * *



  Arise! ’tis the day of our Washington’s glory;
    The garlands uplift for our liberties won. 
  Oh sing in your gladness his echoing story,
    Whose sword swept for freedom the fields of the sun! 
        Not with gold, nor with gems,
        But with evergreens vernal,
  And the banners of stars that the continent span,
  Crown, crown we the chief of the heroes eternal,
  Who lifted his sword for the birthright of man!

  He gave us a nation to make it immortal;
    He laid down for Freedom the sword that he drew,
  And his faith leads us on through the uplifting portal
    Of the glories of peace and our destinies new. 
        Not with gold, nor with gems,
        But with evergreens vernal,
  And the flags that the nations of liberty span,
  Crown, crown him the chief of the heroes eternal,
  Who laid down his sword for the birthright of man!

  Lead, Face of the Future, serene in thy beauty,
    Till o’er the dead heroes the peace star shall gleam,
  Till Right shall be Might in the counsels of duty,
    And the service of man be life’s glory supreme. 
        Not with gold, nor with gems,
        But with evergreens vernal,
  And the flags that the nations in brotherhood span,
  Crown, crown we the chief of the heroes eternal,
  Whose honor was gained by his service to man!

  O Spirit of Liberty, sweet are thy numbers! 
    The winds to thy banners their tribute shall bring
  While rolls the Potomac where Washington slumbers,
    And his natal day comes with the angels of spring. 
        We follow thy counsels,
        O hero eternal! 
  To highest achievement thy school leads the van,
  And, crowning thy brow with the evergreen vernal,
  We pledge thee our all to the service of man!

* * * * *



  How your moods and actions vary
    Or to seek or shun! 
  Now a smile of sunlight lifting,
  Now in chilly snowflakes drifting;
  Now with icy shuttles creeping
    Silver webs are spun. 
  Now, with leaden torrents leaping,

Page 15

    Oceanward you run,
  Now with bells you blithely sing,
    ’Neath the stars or sun;
  Now a blade of burdock bring
    To the suffering one;
  February—­you are very
    Dear, when all is done: 
  Many blessings rest above you,
  You one day (and so we love you)
    Gave us Washington.


[7] By permission of the author.





From The Christian Endeavor World

Seldom visited and almost unknown is the Wakefield Farm in Virginia, the birthplace of our first President.  Recent attempts have been made to popularize the place, but there is little to attract the ordinary traveler; and its distance from a city makes excursions impracticable.

Lying on the Potomac River, about seventy miles below the city of Washington, one edge of the estate reaches down a steep, wooded bank to dip into the water, while, stretching back, it rambles on in grassy meadows and old stubble-fields to the corn-lands and orchards of the adjoining plantations.  Skirting the land on one side is Pope’s Creek, formerly Bridges’ Creek, which in Washington’s time was used as the main approach to the estate.  On this side there is an easy, undulating slope; but this entrance has been abandoned.  Only at high tide can small boats enter the creek, and another way had to be adopted.  An iron pier nearly two miles away has been built, and is the landing-place for large and small craft.

All is quiet here now.  There is only the rustle of the leaves, the drowsy hum of insects, and the interrupted discourse of the preacher-bird in the clump of trees near which stood the first home of Washington, to break the stillness on a summer day.  No one lives here.  Indeed, no one has lived here since the fire which destroyed the house and negro cabins, in Washington’s boyhood.  But here the baby life was spent, in the homestead founded by his great-grandfather, John Washington, who came from England in 1657.

Only a heap of broken bits grown over with catnip showed the place of the great brick chimney the first time I visited the farm; and the second time these, too, were gone.  Now a plain, graceful shaft, bearing the simple inscription, “Washington’s Birthplace,” and below, “Erected by the United States, A.D. 1895,” marks the place.

From the monument through the trees, can be seen the gleaming river, rippling its way silently to the bay, and over all rests the same brooding sense of peace and quietness which one feels at Mt.  Vernon or at Arlington, the city of our nation’s dead.

* * * * *


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From The Evangelist

George Washington was born at a time when savagery had just departed from the country, leaving freshness and vigor behind.  The Indian had scarcely left the woods, and the pirate the shore near his home.  His grandfather had seen his neighbor lying tomahawked at his door-sill, and his father had helped to chase beyond the mountains the whooping savages that carried the scalps of his friends at their girdle.  The year his brother was born, John Maynard’s ship had sailed up the James River with the bloody head of Blackbeard hanging to the bowsprit.

He had only one uncle, a brother Lawrence, and a cousin Augustine, all older than he, but the youngest of his older brothers was twelve years of age when George was born, while his cousin Augustine was only four years older, and his cousin Lawrence six years older than himself.  When he was seven years old his sister Betty was a little lass of six.  Two brothers, Samuel and John, were nearing their fourth and fifth birthdays.  Charles, his baby brother, was still in his nurse’s arms.  Early the shadow of death crossed his boyish path, for his baby sister, Mildred, born soon after he was seven, died before he was nine.

The first playmate Washington had, out of his own immediate family, was another Lawrence Washington, a very distant cousin, who lived at Chotauk on the Potomac, and who, with his brother, Robert Washington, early won Washington’s regard, and kept it through life.  When Washington made his will he remembered them, writing, “to the acquaintances and friends of my juvenile years, Lawrence Washington and Robert Washington, I give my other two gold-headed canes having my arms engraved on them.”

It was at Chotauk, with Lal and Bob Washington, that George Washington first met with traffic between the old world and the new.  There was no money used except tobacco notes, which passed among merchants in London and Amsterdam as cash.  Foreign ships brought across the ocean goods that the Virginians needed, and the captains sold the goods for these tobacco notes.  Much of Washington’s time was spent with these boys, and when he grew old he recalled the young eyes of the Chotauk lads, as they, with him, had stood on the river-bank vainly trying to see clearly some object beyond vision, and in memory of the time he wrote in his will, “To each I leave one of my spy-glasses which constituted part of my equipage during the late war.”

Of Washington’s first school there is no record or tradition other than that gathered by Parson Weems.  He says:  “The first place of education to which George was ever sent was a little old field school kept by one of his father’s tenants, named Hobby, an honest, poor old man, who acted in the double capacity of sexton and schoolmaster.  Of his skill as a gravedigger tradition is silent; but for a teacher of youth his qualifications were certainly of the

Page 17

humbler sort, making what is generally called an A, B, C schoolmaster.  While at school under Mr. Hobby he used to divide his playmates into parties and armies.  One of them was called the French and the other American.  A big boy named William Bustle commanded the former; George commanded the latter, and every day with cornstalks for muskets and calabashes [gourds] for drums, the two armies would turn out and march and fight.”

* * * * *



Among the mountain passes of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, a youth is seen employed in the manly and invigorating occupation of a surveyor, and awakening the admiration of the backwoodsmen and savage chieftains by the strength and endurance of his frame and the resolution and energy of his character.  In his stature and conformation he is a noble specimen of a man.  In the various exercises of muscular power, on foot, or in the saddle, he excels all competitors.  His admirable physical traits are in perfect accordance with the properties of his mind and heart; and over all, crowning all, is a beautiful, and, in one so strong, a strange dignity of manner, and of mien—­a calm seriousness, a sublime self-control, which at once compels the veneration, attracts the confidence, and secures the favor of all who behold him.  That youth is the Leader whom Heaven is preparing to conduct America through her approaching trial.

As we see him voluntarily relinquishing the enjoyments, luxuries, and ease of the opulent refinement in which he was born and bred, and choosing the perils and hardships of the wilderness; as we follow him fording swollen streams, climbing rugged mountains, breasting the forest storms, wading through snowdrifts, sleeping in the open air, living upon the coarse food of hunters and of Indians, we trace with devout admiration the divinely appointed education he was receiving to enable him to meet and endure the fatigues, exposures, and privations of the War of Independence.

Soon he was called to a more public sphere of action; and we again, follow him in his romantic adventures as he travels the far-off wilderness, a special messenger to the French commander on the Ohio, and afterwards, when he led forth the troops of Virginia in the same direction, or accompanied the ill-starred Braddock to the blood-stained banks of the Monongahela.  Everywhere we see the hand of God conducting him into danger, that he might extract from it the wisdom of an experience not otherwise to be obtained, and develop those heroic qualities by which alone danger and difficulty can be surmounted; but all the while covering him with a shield.

Page 18

When we think of him, at midnight and in midwinter, thrown from a frail raft into the deep and angry waters of a wide and rushing Western river, thus separated from his only companion through the wilderness with no aid for miles and leagues about him, buffeting the rapid current and struggling through driving cakes of ice; when we behold the stealthy savage, whose aim against all other marks is unerring, pointing his rifle deliberately at him, and firing over and over again; when we see him riding through showers of bullets on Braddock’s fatal field, and reflect that never, during his whole life, was he ever wounded, or even touched by a hostile force—­do we not feel that he was guarded by an unseen hand, warding off every danger?  No peril by flood or field was permitted to extinguish a life consecrated to the hopes of humanity and to the purposes of Heaven.

For more than sixteen years he rested from his warfare, amid the shades of Mount Vernon; ripening his mind by reading and reflection, increasing his knowledge of practical affairs, entering into the whole experience of a citizen at home and on his farm, and as a delegate to the Colonial Assembly.  When, at last, the war broke out, and the unanimous voice of the Continental Congress invested him, as the exigency required, with almost unbounded authority, as their Commander-in-Chief, he blended, although still in the prime of his life, in the mature bloom of his manhood, the attributes of a sage with those of a hero.  A more perfectly fitted and furnished character has never appeared on the theater of human action than when, reining up his war-horse beneath the majestic and venerable elm, still standing at the entrance of the Watertown road to Cambridge, George Washington unsheathed his sword and assumed the command of the gathered armies of American Liberty.

* * * * *


From The Christian Endeavor World

According to Captain Mercer, the following describes Washington when he took his seat in the House of Burgesses in 1759: 

He is as straight as an Indian, measuring six feet two inches in his stockings, and weighing one hundred and seventy-five pounds.  His head is well shaped, though not large, and is gracefully poised on a superb neck, with a large, and straight rather than prominent nose; blue-gray penetrating eyes, which are widely separated and overhung by heavy brows.  A pleasing, benevolent, though commanding countenance, dark-brown hair, features regular and placid, with all the muscles under control, with a large mouth, generally firmly closed.

Houdon’s bust accords with this description.




Page 19


On the 16th of June, the day before the battle of Bunker Hill, the Congress, having accepted Massachusetts’ gift of the army before Boston, gave the command of it to Colonel George Washington, of Virginia, and made him a general and commander-in-chief of all the forces of the patriot cause.

Hancock, it is said, had ambitions in that direction, and was somewhat disappointed at the choice.  But the fitness of Washington for the office was generally admitted as soon as John Adams urged his appointment.  He would conciliate the moderate patriots, for he had clung to the old arguments as long as possible, and refrained from forcing events.  If substantial independence of Parliament and the Ministry could be secured, he was willing to allow the King a vague or imaginary headship until in the course of years that excrescence should slough away.

Many were inclined to think that a New England general should command the New England army that was gathered before Boston; but they were obliged to admit that the appointment of a general from Virginia, the most populous and prosperous of the colonies, would tend to draw the Southern interest to the patriot cause.

Washington was forty-three years old, which was the right age for entering upon the supreme command in what might be a long war.  He had distinguished himself by helping to rescue Braddock’s defeated army in 1755, and he had taken a more or less prominent part in the subsequent campaigns which ended in driving the French out of Canada.  This military education and experience seemed slight, and not equal to that of the British officers who would be opposed to him.  But it was American experience, no colonist was any better equipped, and he was of a larger intelligence than Putnam, Ward, and other Americans who had served in the French War.

His strong character and personality had impressed themselves upon his fellow-delegates in the Congress.  It was this impressive personality which made his career and brought to him grave responsibility without effort on his part to seek office or position.  When he was only twenty-one the governor of Virginia had sent him through the wilderness to interview the French commander near Lake Erie, a mission which required the hardihood of the hunter and some of the shrewd intelligence of the diplomat.

But much to the surprise of travelers and visitors, Washington never appeared to be a brilliant man.  He was always a trifle reserved, and this habit grew on him with years.  His methods of work were homely and painstaking, reminding us somewhat of Lincoln; and the laborious carefulness of his military plans seemed to European critics to imply a lack of genius.

Page 20

But it was difficult to judge him by European standards, because the conditions of the warfare he conducted were totally unlike anything in Europe.  He never commanded a real army with well-organized departments and good equipment.  His troops were usually barefooted, half-starved, and for several years incapable of performing the simplest parade manoeuvre.  Brilliant movements, except on a small scale, as at Princeton, were rarely within his reach; and large complicated movements were impossible because he had not the equipment of officers and organization for handling large bodies of men spread out over a great extent of country.  He was obliged to adopt the principle of concentration and avoid making detachments or isolated movements that could be cut off by the British.  To some of his contemporaries it therefore seemed that his most striking ability lay in conciliating local habits and prejudices, harmonizing discordant opinions, and holding together an army which seemed to the British always on the eve of disbanding.

He reasoned out, however, in his own way, the peculiar needs of every military position, and how he did this will appear more clearly as our narrative progresses.  He often spoke of his own lack of military experience, as well as of the lack of it in the officers about him; and this seems to have led him to study every situation like a beginner, with exhaustive care, consulting with everybody, calling councils of war on every possible occasion, and reasoning out his plans with minute carefulness.  This method, which his best friends sometimes ridiculed, was in striking contrast to the method of one of his own officers, General Greene, and also to the method of Grant in the Civil War.  Both Greene and Grant dispensed altogether with laborious consultations and councils of war.

But the laborious method was well suited to Washington, whose mind was never satisfied unless it could strike a balance among a great mass of arguments and details which must be obtained from others, and not through his own imagination.  He liked to reserve his decision until the last moment, and this trait was sometimes mistaken for weakness.  His preparedness and devotion to details remind us of Napoleon.  His cautious, balancing, weighing habit, developed by lifelong practice, runs through all his letters and every act of his life, appearing in some of the great events of his career as a superb and masterful equipoise.  It became very impressive even to those who ridiculed it; it could inspire confidence through years of disaster and defeat; and it enabled him to grasp the general strategy of the war so thoroughly that no military critic has ever detected him in a mistake.

Page 21

As a soldier he fought against distinguished British officers four pitched battles—­Long Island, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth; in the first three of which he was defeated, and the last was a draw.  He conducted two sieges—­Boston and Yorktown—­in both of which he was successful; and he destroyed two outposts—­Trenton and Princeton—­in a manner generally regarded as so brilliant and effective that he saved the patriot cause from its first period of depression.  His characteristics as a soldier were farseeing judgment and circumspection, a certain long-headedness, as it might be called, and astonishing ability to recover from and ignore a defeat.  In his pitched battles, like Long Island and Brandywine, he knew that defeat was probable, and he prepared for it.[9]

He was compelled to act so much on the defensive, and the British methods were so slow, that his activities in the field were not numerous when we consider that he was in command for seven years.  The greater part of his time and energy was employed in building up the cause by mild, balanced, but wonderfully effective arguments; reconciling animosities by tactful precautions; and by the confidence his personality inspired preventing the army from disbanding.  A large part of this labor was put forth in writing letters of wonderful beauty and perfection in the literary art, when we consider the end they were to accomplish.  Complete editions of his writings of this sort usually fill a dozen or more large volumes; and there have been few if any great generals of the world who have accomplished so much by writing, or who have been such consummate masters of language.

Sufficient care has not always been taken to distinguish between the different periods of his life.  He aged rapidly at the close of the Revolution; his reserved manner and a certain “asperity of temper,” as Hamilton called it, greatly increased; and some years afterwards, when President, he had become a very silent and stiffly formal man, far different from the young soldier who, in the prime of life, drew his sword beneath the old elm at Cambridge to take command of the patriot army.

The Virginians of his time appear to have had occupations and social intercourse which educated them in a way we are unable to imitate.  Washington in his prime was a social and convivial man, fond of cards, fine horses, and fox-hunting.  Although not usually credited with book learning, his letters and conduct in the Revolution show that he was quite familiar with the politics of foreign countries and the general information of his time.  We have not yet learned to appreciate the full force of his intellect and culture.


[8] From “The Struggle for American Independence,” by Sydney George Fisher.  Copyright by J.B.  Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.

[9] Limiting by his foresight the extent of his loss, guarding by his disposition security of retreat, and repairing with celerity the injury sustained, his relative condition was often ameliorated, although victory adorned the brow of his adversary.—­LEE, Memoirs, Vol.  I, p. 237.

Page 22

* * * * *


The Battle Monument, October 19, 1893


  Since ancient Time began
    Ever on some great soul God laid an infinite burden—­
  The weight of all this world, the hopes of man. 
    Conflict and pain, and fame immortal are his guerdon!

  And this the unfaltering token
    Of him, the Deliverer—­what though tempests beat,
  Though all else fail, though bravest ranks be broken,
    He stands unscared, alone, nor ever knows defeat

  Such was that man of men;
    And if are praised all virtues, every fame
  Most noble, highest, purest—­then, ah! then,
    Upleaps in every heart the name none needs to name.

  Ye who defeated, ’whelmed,
    Betray the sacred cause, let go the trust;
  Sleep, weary, while the vessel drifts unhelmed;
    Here see in triumph rise the hero from the dust!

  All ye who fight forlorn
    ’Gainst fate and failure; ye who proudly cope
  With evil high enthroned; all ye who scorn
    Life from Dishonor’s hand, here take new heart of hope.

  Here know how Victory borrows
    For the brave soul a front as of disaster,
  And in the bannered East what glorious morrows
    For all the blackness of the night speed surer, faster.

  Know by this pillared sign
    For what brief while the powers of earth and hell
  Can war against the spirit of truth divine,
    Or can against the heroic heart of man prevail.


[10] By permission of the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

* * * * *


From “Washington and the Generals of the Revolution

It is a truth, illustrated in daily experience, and yet rarely noted or acted upon, that, in all that concerns the appreciation of personal character or ability, the instinctive impressions of a community are quicker in their action, more profoundly appreciant, and more reliable, than the intellectual perceptions of the ablest men in the community.  Upon all those subjects that are of moral apprehension, society seems to possess an intelligence of its own, infinitely sensitive in its delicacy, and almost conclusive in the certainty of its determinations; indirect, and unconscious in its operation, yet unshunnable in sagacity, and as strong and confident as nature itself.  The highest and finest qualities of human judgment seem to be in commission among the nation, or the race.  It is by such a process, that whenever a true hero appears among mankind, the recognition of his character, by the general sense of humanity, is instant and certain:  the belief of the chief priests

Page 23

and rulers of mind, follows later, or comes not at all.  The perceptions of a public are as subtly-sighted, as its passions are blind.  It sees, and feels, and knows the excellence, which it can neither understand, nor explain, nor vindicate.  These involuntary opinions of people at large explain themselves, and are vindicated by events, and form at last the constants of human understanding.  A character of the first order of greatness, such as seems to pass out of the limits and course of ordinary life, often lies above the ken of intellectual judgment; but its merits and its infirmities never escape the sleepless perspicacity of the common sentiment, which no novelty of form can surprise, and no mixture of qualities can perplex.  The mind—­the logical faculty—­comprehends a subject, when it can trace in it the same elements, or relations, which it is familiar with elsewhere:  if it finds but a faint analogy of form or substance, its decision is embarrassed.  But this other instinct seems to become subtler, and more rapid, and more absolute in conviction, at the line where reason begins to falter.  Take the case of Shakespeare.  His surpassing greatness was never acknowledged by the learned until the nation had ascertained and settled it as a foregone and questionless conclusion.  Even now, to the most sagacious mind of this time, the real ground and evidence of its own assurance of Shakespeare’s supremacy, is the universal, deep, immovable conviction of it in the public feeling.  There have been many acute essays upon his minor characteristics; but intellectual criticism has never grappled with Shakespearian art, in its entireness and grandeur, and probably it never will.  We know not now wherein his greatness consists.  We cannot demonstrate it.  There is less indistinctness in the merit of less eminent authors.  Those things which are not doubts to our consciousness, are yet mysteries to our mind.  And if this is true of literary art, which is so much within the sphere of reflection, it may be expected to find more striking illustration in great practical and public moral characters.

These considerations occur naturally to the mind in contemplating the fame of Washington.  An attentive examination of the whole subject, and of all that can contribute to the formation of a sound opinion, results in the belief that General Washington’s mental abilities illustrate the very highest type of greatness.  His mind, probably, was one of the very greatest that was ever given to mortality.  Yet it is impossible to establish that position by a direct analysis of his character, or conduct, or productions.  When we look at the incidents or the results of that great career—­when we contemplate the qualities by which it is marked from its beginning to its end—­the foresight which never was surprised, the judgment which nothing could deceive, the wisdom whose resources were incapable of exhaustion—­combined with a spirit as resolute in its official duties as it was moderate

Page 24

in its private pretensions, as indomitable in its public temper as it was gentle in its personal tone—­we are left in wonder and reverence.  But when we would enter into the recesses of that mind—­when we would discriminate upon its construction, and reason upon its operations—­when we would tell how it was composed, and why it excelled—­we are entirely at fault.  The processes of Washington’s understanding are entirely hidden from us.  What came from it, in counsel or in action, was the life and glory of his country; what went on within it, is shrouded in impenetrable concealment.  Such elevation in degree, of wisdom, amounts almost to a change of kind, in nature, and detaches his intelligence from the sympathy of ours.  We cannot see him as he was, because we are not like him.  The tones of the mighty bell were heard with the certainty of Time itself, and with a force that vibrates still upon the air of life, and will vibrate forever.  But the clock-work, by which they were regulated and given forth, we can neither see nor understand.  In fact, his intellectual abilities did not exist in an analytical and separated form; but in a combined and concrete state.  They “moved altogether when they moved at all.”  They were in no degree speculative, but only practical.  They could not act at all in the region of imagination, but only upon the field of reality.  The sympathies of his intelligence dwelt exclusively in the national being and action.  Its interests and energies were absorbed in them.  He was nothing out of that sphere, because he was everything there.  The extent to which he was identified with the country is unexampled in the relations of individual men to the community.  During the whole period of his life he was the thinking part of the nation.  He was its mind; it was his image and illustration.  If we would classify and measure him, it must be with nations, and not with individuals.

This extraordinary nature of Washington’s capacities—­this impossibility of analyzing and understanding the elements and methods of his wisdom—­have led some persons to doubt whether, intellectually, he was of great superiority; but the public—­the community—­never doubted of the transcendant eminence of Washington’s abilities.  From the first moment of his appearance as the chief, the recognition of him, from one end of the country to the other, as THE MAN—­the leader, the counselor, the infallible in suggestion and in conduct—­was immediate and universal.  From that moment to the close of the scene, the national confidence in his capacity was as spontaneous, as enthusiastic, as immovable, as it was in his integrity.  Particular persons, affected by the untoward course of events, sometimes questioned his sufficiency; but the nation never questioned it, nor would allow it to be questioned.  Neither misfortune, nor disappointment, nor accidents, nor delay, nor the protracted gloom of years, could avail to disturb the public trust in him.  It was apart from circumstances; it was beside the action

Page 25

of caprice; it was beyond all visionary, and above all changeable feelings.  It was founded on nothing extraneous; not upon what he had said or done, but upon what he was.  They saw something in the man, which gave them assurance of a nature and destiny of the highest elevation—­something inexplicable, but which inspired a complete satisfaction.  We feel that this reliance was wise and right; but why it was felt, or why it was right, we are as much to seek as those who came under the direct impression of his personal presence.  It is not surprising, that the world recognizing in this man a nature and a greatness which philosophy cannot explain, should revere him almost to religion.  The distance and magnitude of those objects which are too far above us to be estimated directly—­such as stars—­are determined by their parallax.  By some process of that kind we may form an approximate notion of Washington’s greatness.  We may measure him against the great events in which he moved; and against the great men, among whom, and above whom, his figure stood like a tower.  It is agreed that the War of American Independence is one of the most exalted, and honorable, and difficult achievements related in history.  Its force was contributed by many; but its grandeur was derived from Washington.  His character and wisdom gave unity, and dignity, and effect to the irregular, and often divergent enthusiasm of others.  His energy combined the parts; his intelligence guided the whole:  his perseverance, and fortitude, and resolution, were the inspiration and support of all.  In looking back over that period, his presence seems to fill the whole scene; his influence predominates throughout; his character is reflected from everything.  Perhaps nothing less than his immense weight of mind could have kept the national system, at home, in that position which it held, immovably, for seven years; perhaps nothing but the august respectability which his demeanor threw around the American cause abroad, would have induced a foreign nation to enter into an equal alliance with us upon terms that contributed in a most important degree to our final success, or would have caused Great Britain to feel that no great indignity was suffered in admitting the claim to national existence of a people who had such a representative as Washington.  What but the most eminent qualities of mind and feeling—­discretion superhuman—­readiness of invention, and dexterity of means, equal to the most desperate affairs—­endurance, self-control, regulated ardor, restrained passion, caution mingled with boldness, and all the contrarieties of moral excellence—­could have expanded the life of an individual into a career such as this?

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If we compare him with the great men who were his contemporaries throughout the nation; in an age of extraordinary personages, Washington was unquestionably the first man of the time in ability.  Review the correspondence of General Washington—­that sublime monument of intelligence and integrity—­scrutinize the public history and the public men of that era, and you will find that in all the wisdom that was accomplished or was attempted, Washington was before every man in his suggestions of the plan, and beyond every one in the extent to which he contributed to its adoption.  In the field, all the able generals acknowledged his superiority, and looked up to him with loyalty, reliance, and reverence; the others, who doubted his ability, or conspired against his sovereignty, illustrated, in their own conduct, their incapacity to be either his judges or his rivals.  In the state, Adams, Jay, Rutledge, Pinckney, Morris—­these are great names; but there is not one whose wisdom does not vail to his.  His superiority was felt by all these persons, and was felt by Washington himself, as a simple matter of fact, as little a subject of question, or a cause of vanity, as the eminence of his personal stature.  His appointment as commander-in-chief was the result of no design on his part; and of no efforts on the part of his friends; it seemed to take place spontaneously.  He moved into the position, because there was a vacuum which no other could supply:  in it, he was not sustained by government, by a party, or by connections; he sustained himself; and then he sustained everything else.  He sustained Congress against the army, and the army against the injustice of Congress.  The brightest mind among his contemporaries was Hamilton’s; a character which cannot be contemplated without frequent admiration, and constant affection.  His talents took the form of genius, which Washington’s did not.  But active, various, and brilliant, as the faculties of Hamilton were, whether viewed in the precocity of youth, or in the all-accomplished elegance of maturer life—­lightning-quick as his intelligence was to see through every subject that came before it, and vigorous as it was in constructing the argumentation by which other minds were to be led, as upon a shapely bridge, over the obscure depths across which his had flashed in a moment—­fertile and sound in schemes, ready in action, splendid in display, as he was—­nothing is more obvious and certain than that when Mr. Hamilton approached Washington, he came into the presence of one who surpassed him in the extent, in the comprehension, the elevation, the sagacity, the force, and the ponderousness of his mind, as much as he did in the majesty of his aspect and the grandeur of his step.  The genius of Hamilton was a flower, which gratifies, surprises, and enchants; the intelligence of Washington was a stately tree, which in the rarity and true dignity of its beauty is as superior as it is in its dimensions.

* * * * *

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From Centennial Address delivered at Valley Forge, June 19, 1878

The century that has gone by has changed the face of Nature, and wrought a revolution in the habits of mankind.  We to-day behold the dawn of an extraordinary age.  Man has advanced with such astounding speed, that, breathless, we have reached a moment when it seems as if distance had been annihilated, time made as nought, the invisible seen, the intangible felt, and the impossible accomplished.  Already we knock at the door of a new century, which promises to be infinitely brighter and more enlightened and happier than this.

We know that we are more fortunate than our fathers.  We believe that our children shall be happier than we.  We know that this century is more enlightened than the past.  We believe that the time to come will be better and more glorious than this.  We think, we believe, we hope, but we do not know.  Across that threshold we may not pass; behind that veil we may not penetrate.  It may be vouchsafed us to behold it, wonderingly, from afar, but never to enter in.  It matters not.  The age in which we live is but a link in the endless and eternal chain.  Our lives are like sands upon the shore; our voices, like the breath of this summer breeze that stirs the leaf for a moment, and is forgotten.  The last survivor of this mighty multitude shall stay but a little while.  The endless generations are advancing to take our places as we fall.  For them, as for us, shall the years march by in the sublime procession of the ages.

And here, in this place of sacrifice, in this vale of humiliation, in this valley of the shadow of death, out of which the life of America rose regenerate and free, let us believe, with an abiding faith, that to them union will seem as dear, and liberty as sweet, and progress as glorious, as they were to our fathers and are to you and me, and that the institutions which have made us happy, preserved by the virtue of our children, shall bless the remotest generation of the time to come.  And unto Him who holds in the hollow of His hand the fate of nations, and yet marks the sparrow’s fall, let us lift up our hearts this day, and unto His eternal care commend ourselves, our children, and our country.

* * * * *



  With his lean, ragged levies, undismayed,
    He crouched among the vigilant hills; a show
    To the disdainful, heaven-blinded foe. 
  Unlauded, unsupported, disobeyed,
  Thwarted, maligned, conspired against, betrayed—­
    Yet nothing could unheart him.  Wouldst thou know
    His secret?  There, in that thicket on the snow,
  Washington knelt before his God, and prayed.

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  Close in their lair for perilous months and days
    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!

* * * * *



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

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a spirit of heroism and enthusiasm in a people who are by nature very little susceptible of it; to gain over the respect and homage of those whose interest it is to refuse it, and to execute his plans and projects by means unknown even to those who are his instruments; he is intrepid in dangers, yet never seeks them but when the good of his country demands it, preferring rather to temporize and act upon the defensive, because he knows such a mode of conduct best suits the genius and circumstances of the nation, and all that he and they have to expect, depends upon time, fortitude, and patience; he is frugal and sober in regard to himself, but profuse in the public cause; like Peter the Great, he has by defeats conducted his army to victory; and like Fabius, but with fewer resources and more difficulty, he has conquered without fighting, and saved his country.

Such are the ideas that arise in the mind at the sight of this great man, in examining the events in which he had a share, or in listening to those whose duty obliges them to be near his person, and consequently best display his character.  In all these extensive States they consider him in the light of a beneficent god, dispensing peace and happiness around him.  Old men, women, and children press about him when he accidentally passes along, and think themselves happy, once in their lives, to have seen him—­they follow him through the towns with torches, and celebrate his arrival by public illuminations.  The Americans, that cool and sedate people, who in the midst of their most trying difficulties, have attended only to the directions and impulses of plain method and common sense, are roused, animated, and inflamed at the very mention of his name:  and the first songs that sentiment or gratitude has dictated, have been to celebrate General Washington.





It is the concurring judgment of political thinkers, that no event in all the history of the Anglo-Saxon race has been more far-reaching in its consequences than the organization of the present Government of the United States.  And it is in every sense appropriate to connect the name of Washington with the Constitution which brought that government into existence.  It is appropriate because his splendid leadership of the Revolutionary armies made it possible to establish upon this continent a government resting upon the consent of the governed, yet strong enough to maintain its existence and authority whenever assailed.

But it is especially appropriate for the reason that he was among the first of the great men of the Revolutionary period to discern the inherent defects in the articles of confederation; and but for his efforts to bring about a more perfect union of the people, the existing Constitution, it is believed, would not have been accepted by the requisite number of States.  He was indeed the pioneer of the Union established by that Constitution.  Of the accuracy of these statements there is abundant evidence.

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We are only in the spring-time of our national life, and yet we have realized all that Washington could possibly have anticipated from the creation of the present Government.  What more could be desired in a system of government than is secured in the existing organizations of the General and State governments with their respective powers so admirably adjusted and distributed as to draw from Gladstone the remark that the American Constitution was “the most wonderful work ever struck off at one time by the brain and purpose of man”?

Despite the fears of many patriotic statesmen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, that that instrument would destroy the liberties of the people, every genuine American rejoices in the fullness of a grateful heart that we have a government under which the humblest person in our midst has a feeling of safety and repose not vouchsafed to the citizen or subject of any other country; with powers ample for the protection of the life of the nation and adequate for all purposes of a general nature, yet so restricted by the law of its creation in the exercise of its powers, that it cannot rightfully encroach upon those reserved to the States or to the people.

I will not allude to or discuss particular theories of constitutional construction, but I may say, and I am glad that it can be truthfully said, that the mass of the people concur in holding that only by maintaining the just powers of both the National and State governments can we preserve in their integrity the fundamental principles of American liberty.

* * * * *



WASHINGTON’S PATRIOTISM.—­Washington would have preferred to spend the remainder of his life in his tranquil home at Mount Vernon, but his patriotism would not allow him to disregard the call of his country.  He had so little money at the time, that his home was threatened by the sheriff, and he had to borrow funds with which to pay his most pressing debts.

WASHINGTON’S INAUGURATION.—­The President-elect left Mount Vernon on April 16, and the entire journey to New York was a continual ovation.  He received honors at almost every step of the way, and was welcomed to the nation’s capital by the joyous thousands who felt that no reward could be too great for the illustrious patriot that had enshrined himself forever in the hearts of his loving countrymen.  The inauguration ceremonies took place April 30, in Federal Hall, on the present site of the sub-treasury building.  Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York administered the oath, in a balcony of the Senate chamber, in full view of the vast concourse on the outside, who cheered the great man to the echo.  Other ceremonies followed, Washington showing deep emotion at the manifestation of love and loyalty on the part of all.

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THE FIRST CONSTITUTIONAL CONGRESS.—­The first session of the first Constitutional Congress was chiefly occupied in setting the government machinery in motion.  The following nominations for the first Cabinet were made by Washington, and confirmed by the Senate:  Thomas Jefferson, secretary of foreign affairs, afterward known as secretary of state; Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury; Henry Knox, secretary of war; and Edmund Randolph, attorney-general.  John Jay was appointed chief justice of the supreme court, with John Rutledge, James Wilson, William Cushing, Robert H. Harrison, and John Blair associates. (The Senate refused to confirm the nomination of Rutledge.)

FEDERALISTS AND REPUBLICANS.—­The most urgent question was that of finance.  Hamilton handled it with great skill.  The debt of the confederation and States was almost eighty million dollars.  Hamilton’s plan, as submitted to Congress, called for the payment by the United States of every dollar due to American citizens, and also the war debt of the country.  There was strong opposition to the scheme, but it prevailed.  The discussions in Congress brought out the lines between the Federalists and the Republicans, or, as they were afterward called, Democrats.  The Federalists favored the enlargement of the powers of the general government, while the Republicans insisted upon holding the government to the exact letter of the Constitution, and giving to the individual States all rights not expressly prohibited by the Constitution.

THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT.—­North Carolina did not adopt the Constitution until November 13, 1789.  Little Rhode Island sulked until Massachusetts and Connecticut proposed to parcel her between them, when she came to terms and adopted the Constitution, May 29, 1790.  It was decided to transfer the seat of government to Philadelphia until 1800, when it was to be permanently fixed upon the eastern bank of the Potomac.  The third session of the first Congress, therefore, was held in Philadelphia, on the first Monday in December, 1790.  Through the efforts of Hamilton, the United States Bank and a national mint were established in that city, and did much to advance the prosperity of the country.

A PROTECTIVE TARIFF.—­In 1791, Hamilton made a memorable report to Congress.  In it he favored a protective tariff, recommending that the materials from which goods are manufactured should not be taxed, and advising that articles which competed with those made in this country should be prohibited.  These and other important features were embodied in a bill, which was passed February 9, 1792.

TROUBLE WITH THE INDIANS.—­Trouble occurred with the Indians in the Northwestern Territory and in the South.  Georgia was dissatisfied with the treaty, by which a considerable part of the State was relinquished to the Indians.  The difficulty in the Northwest was much more serious.  General Harmar was sent to punish the red men for their many outrages, but was twice defeated.  Then General St. Clair took his place.  Before he set out, Washington impressively warned him against being surprised, but he, too, was beaten, and his army routed with great slaughter.

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“Mad Anthony” Wayne now took up the task, with nearly three thousand men, and completed it thoroughly.  At Fallen Timbers, August 20, 1794, he met the combined tribes and delivered a crushing defeat, from which the Indians did not recover for years.  One year later, eleven hundred chiefs and warriors met the United States commissioners at Fort Greenville and signed a treaty of peace, relinquishing at the same time a vast tract of land lying in the present States of Indiana and Michigan.

THE WHISKEY REBELLION.—­Among the important laws passed by Congress was one imposing a duty on distilled spirits.  This roused great opposition in western Pennsylvania, where whiskey was the principal article of manufacture and trade.  The revolt there assumed such formidable proportions that it became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion,” and the President was compelled to call out the militia, fifteen thousand strong, to suppress it.

WASHINGTON’S SECOND TERM.—­Washington did not desire a second term, but his countrymen would not permit him to decline.  He again received all the electoral votes cast, while the next highest number went to John Adams.  Strong party spirit was shown, Hamilton being the leader of the Federalists, and Jefferson the foremost Republican.

“CITIZEN GENET.”—­During Washington’s administrations, France was plunged into the bloodiest revolution known in history.  Her representative in this country was Edmond Charles Genet (zheh-na), better known as “Citizen Genet.”  Landing at Charleston, South Carolina, in April, 1793, he did not wait to present his credentials to the government, but began enlisting soldiers and fitting out privateers for the French service.  Many thoughtless citizens encouraged him, but the wise Washington, finding that Genet defied him, ended the business by compelling his country to recall him.

JAY’S TREATY.—­There was much trouble also with Great Britain, but a treaty was finally arranged with her by our special envoy, John Jay.  One of its provisions guaranteed payment to British citizens of debts due them before the war.  This caused much opposition, but the time came when it was admitted that Jay’s treaty was one of the best made by our government.


[11] From “Young People’s History of Our Country.”  Thomas R. Shewell & Co., 1900.

* * * * *



  O noble brow, so wise in thought! 
  O heart, so true!  O soul unbought! 
  O eye, so keen to pierce the night
  And guide the “ship of state” aright! 
  O life, so simple, grand and free,
  The humblest still may turn to thee. 
  O king, uncrowned!  O prince of men! 
  When shall we see thy like again? 
  The century, just passed away,
  Has felt the impress of thy sway,
  While youthful hearts have stronger grown
  And made thy patriot zeal their own. 
  In marble hall or lowly cot,
  Thy name hath never been forgot. 
  The world itself is richer, far,
  For the clear shining of a star. 
  And loyal hearts in years to run
  Shall turn to thee, O Washington.

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* * * * *



On the fourth of March, 1789, Elbridge Gerry, who had been chosen to the Senate of the United States, wrote thus from New York to John Adams: 

My Dear Friend:  I find, on inquiry, that you are elected Vice-President, having three or four times the number of votes of any other candidate.  Maryland threw away their votes on Colonel Harrison, and South Carolina on Governor Rutledge, being, with some other states which were not unanimous for you, apprehensive that this was a necessary step to prevent your election to the chair.  On this point they were mistaken, for the President, as I am informed from pretty good authority, has a unanimous vote.  It is the universal wish of all that I have conferred with, and indeed their expectation, that both General Washington and yourself will accept; and should either refuse, it will have a very disagreeable effect.  The members present met to-day in the City Hall, there being about eleven Senators and thirteen Representatives, and not constituting a quorum in either house, they adjourned till to-morrow.

     Mrs. Gerry and the ladies join me in sincere regards to yourself,
     your lady, Colonel and Mrs. Smith, and be assured I remain, etc.

     E. GERRY.

So slow was the movement of news in those days, and so doubtful, even after the election, were all men as to its results, Adams would not start from Braintree, his home, till he knew he was elected, nor Washington from Mt.  Vernon.  Charles Thompson, the Secretary of the old Congress, arrived at Mt.  Vernon on the fourteenth of April and communicated to Washington the news of his election.  No quorum of the House of Representatives had been formed until the first of April, nor of the Senate until the sixth.  These bodies then counted the electoral vote, with the result predicted by Gerry in his letter written two days before.

Washington waited a day before starting to the seat of Government.  On the sixteenth of April he started for New York.  He writes in his diary: 

About ten o’clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in company with Mr. Thompson and Colonel Humphries, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.

The journey began with a public dinner at Alexandria.  Said the gentlemen of Alexandria in their address to him: 

     Farewell!...  Go!... and make a grateful people happy, a people who
     will be doubly grateful when they contemplate this recent sacrifice
     for their interest.

And Washington in his reply said: 

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     At my age, and in my circumstances, what prospects or advantages
     could I propose to myself, for embarking again on the tempestuous
     and uncertain ocean of public life?

The journey went on with similar interruptions.  The rule so often laid down by the Virginians afterward that that is the best government which governs least, was certainly well kept until the thirteenth of April.  To this hour the adventurous cyclist, stopping at some wayside inn to refresh himself, may find upon the wall the picture of the maidens and mothers of Trenton in New Jersey.  Here Washington met a deputation sent to him by Congress.  A triumphal arch had been erected, and a row of young girls dressed in white, a second row of ladies, and a third of their mothers, awaited him.  As he passed, the girls scattered flowers, and sang the verses which Judge Marshall has preserved: 

  Welcome, mighty chief, once more
  Welcome to this grateful shore;
  Now no mercenary foe
  Aims again the fatal blow—­
  Aims at thee the fatal blow.

  Virgins fair and matrons grave,
  These thy conquering arm did save. 
  Build for thee triumphal bowers,
  Strew, ye fair, his way with flowers—­
  Strew your Hero’s way with flowers.

His progress through New Jersey was everywhere accompanied by similar festivities—­“festive illuminations, the ringing of bells, and the booming of cannon.”  He had written to Governor Clinton, that he hoped he might enter New York without ceremony; but this was hardly to be expected.  A committee of both houses met him at Elizabethtown; he embarked in a splendid barge manned by thirteen pilots, masters of vessels, and commanded by Commodore Nicholson; other barges and boats fell in in the wake; and a nautical procession swept up the Bay of New York.  On board two vessels were parties of ladies and gentlemen, who sang odes as Washington appeared.  The ships in the harbor were dressed in colors and fired salutes as he passed.  On landing at Murray’s Wharf he was welcomed by Governor Clinton and General Knox.  It is of the landing at this point that the anecdote is told that an officer asked Washington’s orders, announcing himself as commanding his guard.  Washington, with his ready presence of mind, begged him to follow any directions he had already received in the arrangements, but said that for the future the affection of his fellow-citizens was all the guard that he required.

At the end of the day, in his diary, the sad man says: 

     The acclamations of the people filled my mind with sensations as
     painful as pleasing.

It was some days before the formal inauguration.  The two houses of Congress did not know by what title they should address him, and a committee had been appointed to discuss this subject.  It was finally agreed that the address should be simply, “To the President of the United States”—­a form which has remained to the present day.

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The inauguration finally took place on the thirtieth of April.

On the thirtieth at last all things were ready, and the inauguration went forward.  The place was at what they then called Federal Hall, in New York, and Chancellor Livingstone administered the oath: 

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully administer and execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

A salute of thirteen guns followed, amid the cheers of thousands of people.  Washington then delivered his inaugural speech to both houses in the Senate Chamber.  After this ceremony he walked to St. Paul’s Church, where the Bishop of New York read prayers.  Maclay, who was a Senator in the first Congress, says: 

He was agitated and embarrassed more than he ever was by the leveled cannon or pointed musket.  He trembled and several times could scarce make out to read his speech, though it must be supposed he had often read it before.

Fisher Ames says: 

He addressed the two houses in the Senate Chamber.  It was a very touching scene, and quite of a solemn kind.  His aspect, grave almost to sadness, his modesty, actually shaking, his voice deep, a little tremulous, and so low as to call for close attention.

John Adams had taken his place as President of the Senate two days before.  As he did not always in after life speak any too cordially of Washington, it is worth noting that at this critical period he said that he congratulated the people of America on “the prospect of an executive authority in the hands of one whose portrait I shall not pretend to draw....  Were I blessed with powers to do justice to his character, it would be impossible to increase the confidence, or affection of his country, or make the smallest addition to his glory.  This can only be effected by a discharge of the present exalted trust on the same principles, with the same abilities and virtues which have uniformly appeared in all his former conduct, public or private.  May I nevertheless be indulged to inquire, if we look over the catalogue of the first magistrates of nations, whether they have been denominated presidents or consuls, kings or princes, where shall we find one whose commanding talents and virtues, whose overruling good fortune, have so completely united all hearts and voices in his favor? who enjoyed the esteem and admiration of foreign nations and fellow-citizens with equal unanimity?  Qualities so uncommon are no common blessings to the country that possesses them.  By these great qualities and their benign effects has Providence marked out the head of this Nation, with a hand so distinctly visible as to have been seen by all men, and mistaken by none.”

Whether on this occasion, there were too much ceremony was a question discussed at the time, in connection with the heated discussion as to the etiquette of the new Administration.  There is a correspondence between Washington and an old friend, Stuart, of Virginia, who had told him that the people of that State accused him of “regal manners.”

Page 36

Washington’s reply, with his usual good sense, answers a good many questions which are bruited to-day.  Dr. Albert Shaw, in the Review of Reviews, once brought some of these questions forward.  “How far is it right for the people of a free state to kill their magistrates by inches?” This is the question reduced to its simplest terms.  It was generally understood, when the late Governor Greenhalge died in Massachusetts, that his career, invaluable to the people of that State and of the country, had been cut off untimely by a certain etiquette, which obtains in Massachusetts, that whenever there is a public dinner the Governor of the State must be present and make a speech.  With reference to a somewhat similar notion, Washington says: 

Before the present custom was established I was unable to attend to any business whatever.  Gentlemen, consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were calling from the time I rose from breakfast, often before, until I sat down to dinner.  To please everybody was impossible.  I therefore adopted that line of conduct which combined public advantage with private convenience.

In another place he says: 

     Had I not adopted the principle of returning no visits, I should
     have been unable to have attended to any sort of business.

In contrast with the simple ceremonies at which a sensitive democracy took exception, we find now that a great nation considers no honors too profuse for the ceremonies which attend the inauguration of its chief magistrate.


[12] Reprinted from The Independent.

* * * * *


Extracts from the Contemporary Newspapers and other Accounts of the Inauguration of our First President in 1789

From The Massachusetts Sentinel, May 6, 1789: 

New York, May 1.  Yesterday the great and illustrious Washington, the favorite son of liberty, and deliverer of his country, entered upon the execution of the office of First Magistrate of the United States of America; to which important station he had been unanimously called by the united voice of the people.  The ceremony which took place on this occasion was truly grand and pleasing, and every heart seemed anxious to testify the joy it felt on so memorable an event.  His Excellency was escorted from his house by a troop of light Dragoons, and the Legion, under the command of Colonel Lewis, attended by a committee of the Senate and House of Representatives, to Federal Hall, where he was formally received by both Houses of Congress, assembled in the Senate Chamber; after which he was conducted to the gallery in front of the hall, accompanied by all the members when the oath prescribed by the Constitution was administered to him by the Chancellor of this State, who then said—­

Page 37

     “Long live George Washington,

“President of the United States;” which was answered by an immense concourse of citizens, assembled on the occasion, by the loudest plaudit and acclamation that love and veneration ever inspired.  His Excellency then made a speech to both Houses, and then proceeded, attended by Congress, to St. Paul’s Church, where Divine Service was performed by the Right Rev. Samuel Provost, after which His Excellency was conducted in form to his own house.  In the evening a most magnificent and brilliant display of fireworks was exhibited at the Fort, under the direction of Colonel Beuman.  The houses of the French and Spanish Ministers were illuminated in a superb and elegant manner; a number of beautiful transparent paintings were exhibited, which did infinite credit to the parties concerned in the design and execution.

* * * * *

April 30.  We have had this day one of those impressive sights which dignify and adorn human nature.  At nine o’clock all the churches were opened—­and the people, in prodigious numbers, thronged these sacred temples—­and, with one voice, put up their prayers to Almighty God for the safety of the President.

At twelve the procession moved to the Federal State House, where in the gallery fronting Broad Street, in the presence of an immense concourse, His Excellency took the oath, the book being placed on a velvet cushion.  The Chancellor then proclaimed him President—­and in a moment the air trembled with the shouts of the citizens, and the roar of artillery.  His Excellency, with that greatness of soul—­that dignity and calmness, which are his characteristics—­then bowed to his “fellow-citizens”—­who again huzzaed.

* * * * *

From “History of the Arts of Design in America,” by William Dunlap: 

Major L’Enfant was a native of France; he was employed to rebuild after a design of his own the old New York City Hall in Wall Street, fronting Broad Street; making therefrom the Federal Hall of that day (1789).  The new building was for the accommodation of Congress; and in the balcony upon which the Senate Chamber opened, the first President of the United States was inaugurated.  A ceremony which I witnessed, and which for its simplicity, the persons concerned in it, the effect produced upon my country and the world, in giving stability to the Federal Constitution, by calling Washington to administer its blessings, remains on my mind unrivaled by any scene witnessed, through a long life, either in Europe or America.

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From Dunlap’s “School History of New York”: 

In 1789, I saw Washington divested of the garb of war, place his hand on the Bible, and swear to support that Constitution under which I have since lived happily half a century.  Between the pillars of the old City Hall, in Wall Street, as altered for the reception of the Federal Congress, in view of thousands who filled Broad Street as far as the eye could extend its view, and every avenue within sight of the building, the man of the people’s choice was announced to them, as the first President of the United States of America.

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Abstract of account in New York Packet

New York, May 1, 1789.  Yesterday at two o’clock was solemnly inaugurated into office, our Illustrious President.

The ceremony was begun by the following procession from the Federal House to the President’s house, viz.: 

  Troop of Horse
  Committee of Representatives
  Committee of Senate
  Gentlemen to be admitted in the Senate Chamber
  Gentlemen in coaches
  Citizens on foot

On their arrival, the President joined the procession in his carriage and four, and the whole moved through the principal streets to the State House in the following order: 

  Troop of Horse
  Sheriff on horseback
  Committee of Representatives
  Committee of Senate
  President and
  Assistants (President’s Suite) Assistants
  Gentlemen to be admitted in the Senate Chamber
  Gentlemen in coaches
  Citizens on foot

When the van reached the State House, the troops opening their ranks formed an avenue, through which, after alighting, the President, advancing to the door, was conducted to the Senate Chamber, where he was received by both branches of Congress, and by them accompanied to the balcony or outer gallery in front of the State House, which was decorated with a canopy and curtains of red interstreaked with white for the solemn occasion.  In this public manner the oath of office required by the Constitution was administered by the Chancellor of this State, and the illustrious Washington thereupon declared by the said Chancellor, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, amidst the repeated huzzas and acclamations of a numerous and crowded audience.

After the inauguration, the President, returning to the Senate Chamber, delivered a speech to both Houses of Congress.

After this the President, accompanied by both Houses of Congress, proceeded on foot to St. Paul’s Church (where divine service was performed by the Right Rev. Dr. Provost, suitable to the immediate occasion) in the following order, viz.: 

  Troop of Horse
  Door Keeper and Messenger of Representatives
  President and Vice-President
  President’s Suite
  Door Keeper and Messenger of the Senate
  Gentlemen admitted into the Senate Chamber

Constables, marshals, etc., on each side of the Members of Congress at proper distances, from the front of the Representatives to the rear of the Senators.

In the evening fireworks were displayed under the direction of Colonel Bauman.—­The brilliancy and excellency of them does honor to the projector.

The houses of their Excellencies the French and Spanish Ambassadors were most elegantly illuminated on this auspicious occasion.

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Extract of a letter from a gentleman in New York to his friend in Philadelphia, dated May 1, 1789: 

Yesterday the great Patriot Washington took a solemn charge of the liberties of America.  The magnificence and splendor of the procession, from his house to the Federal Building, commanded the admiration of every beholder.  But above all, the solemnity which appeared while he took the oath of office, was truly affecting.  The silent joy which every rank of spectators exhibited in their countenances, bespoke the sincere wishes of their hearts.  I could have wished you to have been a spectator.

The fireworks exhibited in the evening were truly brilliant; and the illuminations and transparent paintings of the Spanish and French Ambassadors surpassed even conception itself.

* * * * *

New York, May 2, 1789.  We feel satisfied in adding to the account given in yesterday’s paper of the inauguration of the President,—­that His Excellency on that great day, was dressed in a complete suit of elegant broadcloth of the manufacture of his country.—­Pennsylvania Packet, May 6, 1789.

From the Gazette of the United States

THE PRESIDENT, accompanied by His Excellency the Vice-President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and both Houses of Congress, went to St. Paul’s Chapel, where divine service was performed by the Right Rev. Dr. Provost, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in this State, and Chaplain to the Senate.

The religious solemnity being ended, the President was escorted to his residence.

* * * * *

Evening Celebration

The transparent paintings exhibited in various parts of the city, on Thursday evening, were equal at least to anything of the kind ever before seen in America.

That displayed before the Fort at the bottom of Broad-way did great honor to its inventors and executors, for the ingenuity of the design, and goodness of the workmanship; it was finely lighted and advantageously situated:  The virtues, Fortitude,[13] Justice,[14] and Wisdom[15] were judiciously applied; of the first, all America has had the fullest evidence; and with respect to the two others, who does not entertain the most pleasing anticipations.

His Excellency Don Gardqui’s residence next caught the eye—­and fixed it in pleasing contemplation:  The Tout-en-semble here, formed a most brilliant front; the figures well fancied.  The Graces suggested the best ideas; and the pleasing variety of emblems, flowers, shrubbery, arches, &c., and above all the Moving Pictures, that figured in the windows or, as it were, in the background, created by fixing the transparencies between the windows, afforded a new—­an animated and enchanting spectacle.

The residence of his Excellency, Count Meustier, was illuminated in a stile of novel elegance; the splendid bordering of lamps round the windows, doors, &c., with the fancy pieces of each window; and above all the large designs in front, the allusions, of which we cannot at present particularly describe, did great honor to the taste and sentiment of the inventor.

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The above two instances of attention to honor this great and important occasion, so highly interesting to our “dear country,” evince the friendship, the delicacy, and politeness of our illustrious allies.

The portrait of “THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY” exhibited in Broad-Street, was extremely well executed, and had a fine effect.

There was an excellent transparency, also shown at the Theatre, and at the corner, near the Fly-Market:  In short, emulation and ingenuity were alive; but perhaps were in no instance exhibited to greater advantage than in the display of fireworks, which, from one novelty to another, continued for two hours, to surprise by variety, taste, and brilliancy.

The illumination of the Federal State House was among the most agreeable of the exhibitions of the evening; and the ship Carolina formed a beautiful pyramid of stars:  The evening was fine—­the company innumerable—­everyone appeared to enjoy the scene, and no accident casts the smallest clouds upon the retrospect.

* * * * *

May 1.  Yesterday morning The President received the compliments of His Excellency the Vice-President, His Excellency the Governor of this State, the principal Officers of the different Departments; the foreign Ministers; and a great number of other persons of distinction.

We are informed that the President has assigned every Tuesday and Friday, between the hours of two and three, for receiving visits; and that visits of compliment on other days, and particularly on Sundays, will not be agreeable to him.

It seems to be a prevailing opinion that so much of The President’s time will be engaged by the various and important business imposed upon him by the Constitution, that he will find himself constrained to omit returning visits, or accepting invitations to Entertainments.


[13] The President.

[14] The Senate.

[15] The Representatives of the United States.

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Picture to yourselves the joy and expectation of that day which saw the establishment of our Government a century ago.  As the patriots of that day in the midst of festivity and joy look back upon famine and nakedness and peril and sword, upon battlefields and garments rolled in blood, as they think of their emergence from the long struggle weary and exhausted, as they recall their precarious existence as a nation under the articles of confederation, as they behold the blessing of God upon their faith and courage and energy, can we not hear those voices, hushed so long ago, speaking to us and assuring us that they that sow in tears shall reap in joy?

We think of the founding of our Government and we recall at this moment the representatives of three generations of statesmen, Washington and Hamilton, Clay and Webster, Lincoln and Sumner.  Our attention will be concentrated on the unique and commanding figure of the first President.  Through the renewed study and statement of his public career many lessons, familiar indeed, but of fresh importance, will be read into the hearts of our country.

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We cannot doubt in the case of Washington the fact of a divine call.  Joshua was not more evidently called to command the armies of Israel than Washington to lead the forces of the united colonies.  David was not more signally summoned from the sheep-folds to the throne of his people than Washington from his quiet home on the Potomac to the seat of supreme power over his countrymen.  There was not a single believer in the Divine Being in the Constitutional Congress who did not hear in the voice of John Adams, when he moved the appointment of George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of all the forces raised or to be raised, the creation and appointment of God.

So, in his election and re-election to the office of President, Hamilton set forth the clearness and urgency of the call in the remark that circumstances left Washington no option.  That wonderful triumphal procession from Mount Vernon to New York, through Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Trenton, is in response to the appeal and command not only of earth, but of Heaven.  As the nation’s first President was called of God, so is the nation itself called.  The divine ideal is before it as it was before him.  God had work for Washington; he had work for his nation; he had work for every one of his fellow-citizens.  An ideal good is before every man, and divine power behind him.  Let him consent to the control of the power.

The nation’s life and each individual life within it is founded on the sense of obligation.  We have in the model of Washington a definition of duty in the special sense of the term, in the saying, “I most heartily wish the choice may not fall upon me.  The wish of my soul is to spend the evening of my days as a private citizen on my farm.”  There is the power of inclination, the pleading of personal ease and comfort, the assertion of individual good.  In all this there is nothing wrong, until it comes into conflict with the national call, with the universal good.  Then came the fight between the special and the general, the private and the public, the individual and the universal good.

The hope of a nation is in the choice of office of its best men.  The historic peril of the republic lies in the choice of unfit men for eminent official position.  This is our peril.  It is well we are becoming more and more alive to it.  Nevertheless it is well to remember that there have been times in our history when the voice of electors has been the voice of God.  When Washington was elected, the fittest man was chosen.  His was the rule of the wisest and best man.  There are few living who will not confess that Abraham Lincoln was another example of the choice by the people of the best man.  We turn in hope to the great future.  After he had taken the oath, Washington bowed his head, kissed the Bible, and, with the deepest feeling, uttered the words, “So help me God.”  There was his hope.  There is the hope of every man.  There is the hope of the nation.

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He devoted one hour every other Tuesday, from three to four, to these visits.  He understood himself to be visited as the “President of the United States,” and not on his own account.  He was not to be seen by anybody and everybody; but required that everyone who came should be introduced by his secretary, or by some gentleman whom he knew himself.  He lived on the South side of Market Street, just below Sixth.  The place of reception was the dining-room in the rear, twenty-five or thirty feet in length, including the bow projecting over into the garden.  Mrs. Washington received her visitors in the two rooms on the second floor, from front to rear.

At three o’clock, or at any time within a quarter of an hour afterward, the visitor was conducted to this dining-room, from which all seats had been removed for the time.  On entering, he saw the tall, manly figure of Washington, clad in black velvet; his hair in full dress, powdered and gathered behind in a large silk bag; yellow gloves on his hands; holding a cocked hat with cockade in it, and the edges adorned with a black feather, about an inch deep.  He wore knee and shoe buckles; and a long sword with a finely wrought and polished steel hilt.  The scabbard was white polished leather.

He stood always in front of the fireplace, with his face toward the door of entrance.  The visitor was conducted to him, and he required to have the name so distinctly pronounced that he could hear it.  He had the very uncommon faculty of associating a man’s name and personal appearance so durably in his memory, as to be able to call anyone by name, who made a second visit.  He received his visitor with a dignified bow, while his hands were so disposed of as to indicate that the salutation was not to be accompanied with shaking hands.  This ceremony never occurred in these visits, even with his most near friends, that no distinction might be made.

As these visitors came in, they formed a circle round the room.  At a quarter-past three, the door was closed, and the circle was formed for that day.  He then began on the right and spoke to each visitor, calling him by name and exchanging a few words with him.  When he had completed his circuit he resumed his first position, and the visitors approached him in succession, bowed, and retired.  By four o’clock the ceremony was over.

On the evenings Mrs. Washington received visitors, he did not consider himself as visited.  He was then as a private gentleman, dressed usually in some colored coat and waistcoat, often brown with bright buttons, and black on his lower limbs.  He had then neither hat nor sword; he moved about among the company, conversing with one and another.  He had once a fortnight an official dinner, and select companies on other days.  He sat (it is said) at the side in a central position, Mrs. Washington opposite; the two ends were occupied by members of his family, or by personal friends.

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How infinitely superior must appear the spirit and principles of General Washington, in his late address to Congress, compared with the policy of modern European courts!  Illustrious man!—­deriving honor less from the splendor of his situation than from the dignity of his mind!  Grateful to France for the assistance received from her in that great contest which secured the independence of America, he yet did not choose to give up the system of neutrality in her favor.  Having once laid down the line of conduct most proper to be pursued, not all the insults and provocations of the French Minister, Genet, could at all put him out of his way or bend him from his purpose.  It must, indeed, create astonishment that, placed in circumstances so critical, and filling a station so conspicuous, the character of Washington should never once have been called in question; that he should in no one instance have been accused either of improper insolence or of mean submission in his transactions with foreign nations.  It has been reserved for him to run the race of glory without experiencing the smallest interruption to the brilliancy of his career.  The breath of censure has not dared to impeach the purity of his conduct, nor the eye of envy to raise its malignant glance to the elevation of his virtues.  Such has been the transcendent merit and the unparalleled fate of this illustrious man!

How did he act when insulted by Genet?  Did he consider it as necessary to avenge himself for the misconduct or madness of an individual by involving a whole continent in the horrors of war?  No; he contented himself with procuring satisfaction for the insult by causing Genet to be recalled, and thus at once consulted his own dignity and the interests of his country.  Happy Americans! while the whirlwind flies over one quarter of the globe, and spreads everywhere desolation, you remain protected from its baneful effects by your own virtues and the wisdom of your government.  Separated from Europe by an immense ocean, you feel not the effect of those prejudices and passions which convert the boasted seats of civilization into scenes of horror and bloodshed.  You profit; by the folly and madness of the contending nations, and afford, in your more congenial clime, an asylum to those blessings and virtues which they wantonly contemn, or wickedly exclude from their bosom!  Cultivating the arts of peace under the influence of freedom, you advance by rapid strides to opulence and distinction; and if by any accident you should be compelled to take part in the present unhappy contest,—­if you should find it necessary to avenge insult or repel injury,—­the world will bear witness to the equity of your sentiments and the moderation of your views; and the success of your arms will, no doubt, be proportioned to the justice of your cause.

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On the 4th of March, 1797, Washington went to the inauguration of his successor as President of the United States.  The Federal Government was sitting in Philadelphia at that time, and Congress held sessions in the courthouse on the corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets.

At the appointed hour Washington entered the hall, followed by John Adams, who was to take the oath of office.  When they were seated, Washington arose and introduced Mr. Adams to the audience, and then proceeded to read in a firm, clear voice his brief valedictory—­not his great “Farewell Address,” for that had already been published.  A lady who sat on “the front bench,” “immediately in front” of Washington, describes the scene in these words: 

There was a narrow passage from the door of entrance to the room.  General Washington stopped at the end to let Mr. Adams pass to the chair.  The latter always wore a full suit of bright drab, with loose cuffs to his coat.  General Washington’s dress was a full suit of black.  His military hat had the black cockade.  There stood the “Father of his Country,” acknowledged by nations the first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.  No marshals with gold-colored scarfs attended him; there was no cheering, no noise; the most profound silence greeted him as if the great assembly desired to hear him breathe.  Mr. Adams covered his face with both his hands; the sleeves of his coat and his hands were covered with tears.  Every now and then there was a suppressed sob.  I cannot describe Washington’s appearance as I felt it—­perfectly composed and self-possessed till the close of his address.  Then, when strong nervous sobs broke loose, when tears covered the faces, then the great man was shaken.  I never took my eyes from his face.  Large drops came from his eyes.  He looked as if his heart was with them, and would be to the end.

On Washington’s retirement from the Presidency one of his first employments was to arrange his papers and letters.  Then, on returning to his home, the venerable master found many things to repair.  His landed estate comprised eight thousand acres, and was divided into farms, with inclosures and farm buildings.  And now, with body and mind alike sound and vigorous, he bent his energies to directing the improvements that marked his last days at Mount Vernon.

In his earlier as well as in later life, his tour of the farms would average from eight to twelve or fourteen miles a day.  He rode upon his farms entirely unattended, opening his gates, pulling down and putting up his fences as he passed, visiting his laborers at their work, inspecting all the operations of his extensive establishment with a careful eye, directing useful improvements, and superintending them in their progress.

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He usually rode at a moderate pace in passing through his fields.  But when behind time, this most punctual of men would display the horsemanship of his earlier days, and a hard gallop would bring him up to time so that the sound of his horse’s hoofs and the first dinner bell would be heard together at a quarter before three.

A story is told that one day an elderly stranger meeting a Revolutionary worthy out hunting, a long-tried and valued friend of the chief, accosted him, and asked whether Washington was to be found at the mansion house, or whether he was off riding over his estate.  The friend answered that he was visiting his farms, and directed the stranger the road to take, adding, “You will meet, sir, with an old gentleman riding alone in plain drab clothes, a broad-brimmed white hat, a hickory switch in his hand, and carrying an umbrella with a long staff, which is attached to his saddle-bow—­that person, sir, is General Washington.”

Precisely at a quarter before three the industrious farmer returned, dressed, and dined at three o’clock.  At this meal he ate heartily, but was not particular in his diet with the exception of fish, of which he was excessively fond.  Touching his liking for fish, and illustrative of his practical economy and abhorrence of waste and extravagance, an anecdote is told of the time he was President and living in Philadelphia.  It happened that a single shad had been caught in the Delaware, and brought to the city market.  His steward, Sam Fraunces, pounced upon the fish with the speed of an osprey, delighted that he had secured a delicacy agreeable to the palate of his chief, and careless of the expense, for which the President had often rebuked him.

When the fish was served, Washington suspected the steward had forgotten his order about expenditure for the table, and said to Fraunces, who stood at his post at the sideboard, “What fish is this?” “A shad, sir, a very fine shad,” the steward answered.  “I know Your Excellency is particularly fond of this kind of fish, and was so fortunate as to procure this one—­the only one in market, sir, the first of the season.”  “The price, sir, the price?” asked Washington sternly.  “Three—­three dollars,” stammered the conscience-stricken steward.  “Take it away,” thundered the chief, “take it away, sir!  It shall never be said that my table set such an example of luxury and extravagance.”  Poor Fraunces tremblingly did as he was told, and the first shad of the season was carried away untouched, to be speedily discussed in the servants’ dining-room.

Although the Farmer of Mount Vernon was much retired from the business world, he was by no means inattentive to the progress of public affairs.  When the post-bag arrived, he would select his letters and lay them aside for reading in the seclusion of his library.  The newspapers he would peruse while taking his single cup of tea (his only supper) and read aloud passages of peculiar interest, remarking the matter as he went along.  He read with distinctness and precision.  These evenings with his family always ended at precisely nine o’clock, when he bade everyone good-night and retired to rest, to rise again at four and renew the same routine of labor and enjoyment.

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Washington’s last days, like those that preceded them in the course of a long and well-spent life, were devoted to constant and careful employment.  His correspondence both at home and abroad was immense.  Yet no letter was unanswered.  One of the best-bred men of his time, Washington deemed it a grave offense against the rules of good manners and propriety to leave letters unanswered.  He wrote with great facility, and it would be a difficult matter to find another who had written so much, who had written so well.  General Harry Lee once observed to him, “We are amazed, sir, at the vast amount of work you get through.”  Washington answered, “Sir, I rise at four o’clock, and a great deal of my work is done while others sleep.”

He was the most punctual of men, as we said.  To this admirable quality of rising at four and retiring to rest at nine at all seasons, this great man owed his ability to accomplish mighty labors during his long and illustrious life.  He was punctual in everything, and made everyone about him punctual.  So careful a man delighted in always having about him a good timekeeper.  In Philadelphia the first President regularly walked up to his watchmaker’s to compare his watch with the regulator.  At Mount Vernon the active yet punctual farmer invariably consulted the dial when returning from his morning ride, and before entering his house.

The affairs of the household took order from the master’s accurate and methodical arrangement of time.  Even the fisherman on the river watched for the cook’s signal when to pull in shore and deliver his catch in time for dinner.

Among the picturesque objects on the Potomac, to be seen from the eastern portion of the mansion house, was the light canoe of the house’s fisher.  Father Jack was an African, an hundred years of age, and although enfeebled in body by weight of years, his mind possessed uncommon vigor.  And he would tell of days long past, when, under African suns, he was made captive, and of the terrible battle in which his royal sire was slain, the village burned, and himself sent to the slave ship.

Father Jack had in a considerable degree a leading quality of his race—­somnolency.  Many an hour could the family of Washington see the canoe fastened to a stake, with the old fisherman bent nearly double enjoying a nap, which was only disturbed by the jerking of the white perch caught on his hook.  But, as we just said, the domestic duties of Mount Vernon were governed by clock time, and the slumbers of fisher Jack might occasion inconvenience, for the cook required the fish at a certain hour, so that they might be served smoking hot precisely at three.  At times he would go to the river bank and make the accustomed signals, and meet with no response.  The old fisherman would be quietly reposing in his canoe, rocked by the gentle undulations of the stream, and dreaming, no doubt, of events “long time ago.”  The importune master of the kitchen, grown ferocious by delay, would now rush up and down the water’s edge, and, by dint of loud shouting, cause the canoe to turn its prow to the shore.  Father Jack, indignant at its being supposed he was asleep at his post, would rate those present on his landing, “What you all meck such a debil of a noise for, hey?  I wa’nt sleep, only noddin’.”

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The establishment of Mount Vernon employed a perfect army of domestics; yet to each one were assigned special duties, and from each one strict performance was required.  There was no confusion where there was order, and the affairs of this estate, embracing thousands of acres and hundreds of dependents, were conducted with as much ease, method, and regularity as the affairs of a homestead of average size.

Mrs. Washington was an accomplished housewife of the olden time, and she gave constant attention to all matters of her household, and by her skill and management greatly contributed to the comfort and entertainment of the guests who enjoyed the hospitality of her home.

The best charities of life were gathered round Washington in the last days at Mount Vernon.  The love and veneration of a whole people for his illustrious services, his generous and untiring labors in the cause of public utility; his kindly demeanor to his family circle, his friends, and numerous dependents; his courteous and cordial hospitality to his guests, many of them strangers from far distant lands; these charities, all of which sprang from the heart, were the ornament of his declining years, and granted the most sublime scene in nature, when human greatness reposes upon human happiness.

On the morning of the 13th of December, 1799, the General was engaged in making some improvements in the front of Mount Vernon.  As was usual with him, he carried his own compass, noted his observations, and marked out the ground.  The day became rainy, with sleet, and the improver remained so long exposed to the inclemency of the weather as to be considerably wetted before his return to the house.  About one o’clock he was seized with chilliness and nausea, but having changed his clothes, he sat down to his indoor work.  At night, on joining his family circle, he complained of a slight indisposition.  Upon the night of the following day, having borne acute suffering with composure and fortitude, he died.

In person Washington was unique.  He looked like no one else.  To a stature lofty and commanding he united a form of the manliest proportions, and a dignified, graceful, and imposing carriage.  In the prime of life he stood six feet, two inches.  From the period of the Revolution there was an evident bending in his frame so passing straight before, but the stoop came from the cares and toils of that arduous contest rather than from years.  For his step was firm, his appearance noble and impressive long after the time when the physical properties of men are supposed to wane.

A majestic height was met by corresponding breadth and firmness.  His whole person was so cast in nature’s finest mould as to resemble an ancient statue, all of whose parts unite to the perfection of the whole.  But with all its development of muscular power, Washington’s form had no look of bulkiness, and so harmonious were its proportions that he did not appear so tall as his portraits have represented.  He was rather spare than full during his whole life.

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The strength of Washington’s arm was shown on several occasions.  He threw a stone from the bed of the stream to the top of the Natural Bridge, Virginia, and another stone across the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg.  The stone was said to be a piece of slate about the size of a dollar with which he spanned the bold river, and it took the ground at least thirty yards on the other side.  Many have since tried this feat, but none have cleared the water.

In 1772 some young men were contending at Mount Vernon in the exercise of pitching the bar.  The Colonel looked on for a time, then grasping the missile in his master hand, he whirled the iron through the air, and it fell far beyond any of its former limits.  “You see, young gentlemen,” said the chief with a smile, “that my arm yet retains some portion of my early vigor.”  He was then in his fortieth year, and probably in the fullness of his physical powers.  Those powers became rather mellowed than decayed by time, for “his age was like lusty winter, frosty yet kindly,” and up to his sixty-eighth year he mounted a horse with surprising agility, and rode with ease and grace.  Rickets, the celebrated equestrian, used to say, “I delight to see the General ride, and make it a point to fall in with him when I hear he is out on horseback—­his seat is so firm, his management so easy and graceful, that I, who am an instructor in horsemanship, would go to him and learn to ride.”

In his later day, the General, desirous of riding pleasantly, procured from the North two horses of a breed for bearing the saddle.  They were well to look at, and pleasantly gaited under the saddle, but also scary, and therefore unfitted for the service of one who liked to ride quietly on his farm, occasionally dismounting and walking in his fields to inspect improvements.  From one of these horses the General sustained a fall—­probably the only fall he ever had from a horse in his life.  It was upon a November evening, and he was returning from Alexandria to Mount Vernon, with three friends and a groom.  Having halted a few moments, he dismounted, and upon rising in his stirrup again, the horse, alarmed at the glare from a fire near the roadside, sprang from under his rider, who came heavily to the ground.  His friends rushed to give him assistance, thinking him hurt.  But the vigorous old man was upon his feet again, brushing the dust from his clothes, and after thanking those who came to his aid, said that he had had a very complete tumble, and that it was owing to a cause no horseman could well avoid or control—­that he was only poised in his stirrup, and had not yet gained his saddle when the scary animal sprang from under him.

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Bred in the vigorous school of frontier warfare, “the earth for his bed, his canopy the heavens,” Washington excelled the hunter and woodsman in their athletic habits, and in those trials of manhood which filled the hardy days of his early life.  He was amazingly swift of foot, and could climb steep mountains seemingly without effort.  Indeed, in all the tests of his great physical powers he appeared to make little effort.  When he overthrew the strong man of Virginia in wrestling, upon a day when many of the finest athletes were engaged in the contest, he had retired to the shade of a tree intent upon the reading of a book.  It was only after the champion of the games strode through the ring calling for nobler antagonists, and taunting the reader with the fear that he would be thrown, that Washington closed his book.  Without taking off his coat he calmly observed that fear did not enter his make-up; then grappling with the champion, he hurled him to the ground.  “In Washington’s lion-like grasp,” said the vanquished wrestler, “I became powerless, and went down with a force that seemed to jar the very marrow in my bones.”  The victor, regardless of shouts at his success, leisurely retired to his shade, and again took up his book.

Washington’s powers were chiefly in his limbs.  His frame was of equal breadth from the shoulders to the hips.  His chest was not prominent, but rather hollowed in the center.  He never entirely recovered from a pulmonary affection from which he suffered in early life.  His frame showed an extraordinary development of bone and muscle; his joints were large, as were his feet; and could a cast of his hand have been preserved, it would be ascribed to a being of a fabulous age.  Lafayette said, “I never saw any human being with so large a hand as the General’s.”

Of the awe and reverence which the presence of Washington inspired we have many records.  “I stood,” says one writer, “before the door of the Hall of Congress in Philadelphia, when the carriage of the President drew up.  It was a white coach, or, rather, of a light cream color, painted on the panels with beautiful groups representing the four seasons.  As Washington alighted, and, ascending the steps, paused on the platform, he was preceded by two gentlemen bearing large white wands, who kept back the eager crowd that pressed on every side.  At that moment I stood so near I might have touched his clothes; but I should as soon have thought of touching an electric battery.  I was penetrated with deepest awe.  Nor was this the feeling of the schoolboy I then was.  It pervaded, I believe, every human being that approached Washington; and I have been told that even in his social hours, this feeling in those who shared them never suffered intermission.  I saw him a hundred times afterward, but never with any other than the same feeling.  The Almighty, who raised up for our hour of need a man so peculiarly prepared for its whole dread responsibility, seems to have put a stamp of sacredness upon his instrument.  The first sight of the man struck the eye with involuntary homage, and prepared everything around him to obey.

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“At the time I speak of, he stood in profound silence and had the statue-like air which mental greatness alone can bestow.  As he turned to enter the building, and was ascending the staircase to the Congressional hall, I glided along unseen, almost under the cover of the skirts of his dress, and entered into the lobby of the House, which was in session to receive him.

“At Washington’s entrance there was a most profound silence.  House, lobbies, gallery, all were wrapped in deepest attention.  And the souls of the entire assemblage seemed peering from their eyes as the noble figure deliberately and unaffectedly advanced up the broad aisle of the hall between ranks of standing Senators and members, and slowly ascended the steps leading to the Speaker’s chair.

“The President, having seated himself, remained in silence, and the members took their seats, waiting for the speech.  No house of worship was ever more profoundly still than that large and crowded chamber.

“Washington was dressed precisely as Stuart has painted him in full-length portrait—­in a full suit of the richest black velvet, with diamond knee-buckles and square silver buckles set upon shoes japanned with most scrupulous neatness; black silk stockings, his shirt ruffled at the breast and waist, a light dress sword, his hair profusely powdered, fully dressed, so as to project at the sides, and gathered behind in a silk bag ornamented with a large rose or black ribbon.  He held his cocked hat, which had a large black cockade on one side of it, in his hand, as he advanced toward the chair, and when seated, laid it on the table.

“At length thrusting his hand within the side of his coat, he drew forth a roll of manuscript which he opened, and rising, read in a rich, deep, full, sonorous voice his opening address to Congress.  His enunciation was deliberate, justly emphasized, very distinct, and accompanied with an air of deep solemnity as being the utterance of a mind conscious of the whole responsibility of its position, but not oppressed by it.  There was ever about the man something which impressed one with the conviction that he was exactly and fully equal to what he had to do.  He was never hurried; never negligent; but seemed ever prepared for the occasion, be it what it might.  In his study, in his parlor, at a levee, before Congress, at the head of the army, he seemed ever to be just what the situation required.  He possessed, in a degree never equaled by any human being I ever saw, the strongest, most ever-present sense of propriety.”

In the early part of Washington’s administration, great complaints were made by political opponents of the aristocratic and royal demeanor of the President.  Particularly, these complaints were about the manner of his receiving visitors.  In a letter Washington gave account of the origin of his levees:  “Before the custom was established,” he wrote, “which now accommodates foreign characters, strangers, and

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others, who, from motives of curiosity, respect for the chief magistrate, or other cause, are induced to call upon me, I was unable to attend to any business whatever; for gentlemen, consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were calling after the time I rose from breakfast, and often before, until I sat down to dinner.  This, as I resolved not to neglect my public duties, reduced me to the choice of one of these alternatives:  either to refuse visits altogether, or to appropriate a time for the reception of them....  To please everybody was impossible.  I, therefore, adopted that line of conduct which combined public advantage with private convenience....  These visits are optional, they are made without invitation; between the hours of three and four every Tuesday I am prepared to receive them.  Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go, chat with each other, and act as they please.  A porter shows them into the room, and they retire from it when they choose, without ceremony.  At their first entrance they salute me, and I them, and as many as I can talk to.”

An English gentleman, after visiting President Washington, wrote:  “There was a commanding air in his appearance which excited respect and forbade too great a freedom toward him, independently of that species of awe which is always felt in the moral influence of a great character?  In every movement, too, there was a polite gracefulness equal to any met with in the most polished individuals of Europe, and his smile was extraordinarily attractive....  It struck me no man could be better formed for command.  A stature of six feet, a robust but well-proportioned frame calculated to stand fatigue, without that heaviness which generally attends great muscular strength and abates active exertion, displayed bodily power of no mean standard.  A light eye and full—­the very eye of genius and reflection.  His nose appeared thick, and though it befitted his other features, was too coarsely and strongly formed to be the handsomest of its class.  His mouth was like no other I ever saw:  the lips firm, and the under jaw seeming to grasp the upper with force, as if its muscles were in full action when he sat still.”

Such Washington appeared to those who saw and knew him.  Such he remains to our vision.  His memory is held by us in undying honor.  Not only his memory alone, but also the memory of his associates in the struggle for American Independence.  Homage we should have in our hearts for those patriots and heroes and sages who with humble means raised their native land—­now our native land—­from the depths of dependence, and made it a free nation.  And especially for Washington, who presided over the nation’s course at the beginning of the great experiment in self-government and, after an unexampled career in the service of freedom and our human-kind, with no dimming of august fame, died calmly at Mount Vernon—­the Father of his Country.


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[16] From “Heroes Every Child Should Know.”  Copyright, 1906, by Doubleday, Page & Co.

* * * * *



Once more before he died Washington was called into public life for a short time.  President Adams had sent three commissioners to France.  The French Minister, Talleyrand, treated them ill, and sent secret agents to them to let them know that nothing would be done until they paid large bribes.  The three Americans sent home cipher dispatches in which they told how they had been received.  President Adams thought best to publish these dispatches, putting the letters X, Y, and Z in place of the names of the secret agents.  These papers came to be known as the X, Y, and Z dispatches, and they caused great excitement in America.  The cry was, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute,” and the war spirit rose very high.  Everyone wished Washington to be the leader in case there should be war with France.  President Adams accordingly wrote to Washington, asking him to accept the command of the new army which was to be formed.  Washington accepted, on condition that he was not to be called into service unless there should really be war, and that he should be allowed to name the chief officers who were to serve under him.  He wished to put a young and able man second in command—­for old officers seldom make good ones—­so he chose Hamilton first, then Pinckney, and then Knox.  Adams disliked Hamilton, and tried to place Knox second in command, as this old officer thought his due.  There was some trouble between Washington and Adams on this point, but Adams was forced to give way to the great leader.  Washington went to Philadelphia in the fall of 1798, to work over army plans with his major-generals.  It seemed possible that he might have to lead the Americans against one of Napoleon’s great armies.  But though he made careful preparations, Washington did not believe that there would be war.  He thought, however, that preparing for war would be the best way to bring about peace.  And so it proved; for no sooner did Talleyrand see that the Americans were really aroused than he caused it to be intimated to the American Minister at Holland that he would treat another envoy better.  Adams accordingly sent one to France, and war was finally averted, though the news of the settlement did not reach America until after the death of her great General.

Washington had said, “I am of a short-lived family, and cannot remain long upon the earth.”  In fact, his sister and all of his brothers except one died before he did.  According to his usual careful habits, he made out a long paper, in which he planned how his estates should be managed for several years, with a rotation of crops.  He finished this paper only four days before his death.  The day before he was taken ill he walked out with his nephew, Lawrence Lewis, who was married to Nelly Custis and living at Mount Vernon, and talked to him about building a new family vault.  “This change,” said he, “I shall make first of all, for I may require it before the rest.”

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On the 12th of December, 1799, Washington made the tour, as usual, of his plantations.  The weather was very bad.  There was rain, hail, and snow falling at different times, and a cold wind blowing.  It was after three o’clock when he returned.  Mr. Lear, his secretary, brought him some letters to be franked, for he intended to send them to the post office that afternoon.  Washington franked the letters, but said that the weather was too bad to send a servant out with them.  Lear noticed that the General’s neck appeared to be wet, and that there was snow clinging to his hair.  He spoke to him about it, but Washington said that he was not wet, as his greatcoat had protected him.  He went to dinner, which was waiting for him, without changing his clothes.  The next day he complained of a sore throat, and remained in the house in the morning, as it was snowing hard.  In the afternoon, however, he went out to mark some trees which he wished cut down, between the house and the river.  He was quite hoarse by evening.  He sat in the parlor, however, with Mrs. Washington and Lear, reading the papers which had been brought from the post office.  He read some things aloud in spite of his hoarseness.  At nine o’clock Mrs. Washington went to the room of her granddaughter Nelly, whose first child had recently been born.  The two gentlemen continued to read the papers, and Washington seemed cheerful.  Once he became excited over some political event, and used some of the strong words he could command on occasion.  Before they went to bed, Lear advised the General to take something for his cold.

“No,” said Washington; “you know I never take anything for a cold.  Let it go as it came.”

During the night, however, he had a chill, and awoke Mrs. Washington, telling her that he felt ill.  She wished to get up, but he would not allow her to do this, lest she should take cold.  When the servant came into the room to make a fire at daylight, Mrs. Washington sent for Lear, and got up herself.  The General was now breathing with difficulty, and could scarcely speak.  Lear sent for Dr. Craik, and meantime Washington told him to send for Mr. Rawlins, an overseer, to bleed him.  Rawlins came soon after sunrise, and trembled at the prospect of opening a vein on the great man’s arm.  “Don’t be afraid,” said Washington; and when the vein had been opened, he added, “the orifice is not large enough.”  Mrs. Washington did not approve of the bleeding before the doctor came, but Washington said, “More, more.”  It was a universal remedy in those days, but it brought no relief to the sufferer.

During the day three doctors arrived.  Washington was bled three times; blisters were applied to the throat and the feet; all that medical science could do in that day was tried, but without success.  The disease was an acute laryngitis, and could have been relieved only by tracheotomy, which was not practical in the South, though it had been tried in Philadelphia at an earlier date.  About half-past four in the afternoon the sick man asked Mrs. Washington to go downstairs and fetch two wills from his desk.  He looked at them, and asked her to burn one of them, which she did.  Lear now came to his bedside and took his hand.

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“I find I am going,” Washington said to him.  “My breath cannot last long.  I believed from the first that the disorder would prove fatal.  Do you arrange and record all my late military letters and papers.  Arrange my accounts and settle my books, as you know more about them than anyone else, and let Mr. Rawlins finish recording my other letters which he has begun.”

Washington asked Lear whether he thought of anything else that ought to be done; he had but a very short time, he said, to remain with his friends.  The secretary answered that he could think of nothing, and that he hoped the General was not so near his end as he thought.  Washington smiled, and said that he certainly was, “and that, as it was a debt which we must all pay, he looked on the event with perfect resignation.”

Sometimes he seemed to be in pain and distress from the difficulty of breathing, and was very restless.  Lear would then lie down upon the bed and raise and turn him as gently as possibly.  Washington often said, “I am afraid I shall fatigue you too much”; and when the young man assured him that he wished for nothing but to give him ease, Washington replied: 

“Well, it is a debt we must pay to each other, and I hope that when you want aid of this kind you will find it.”

He noticed that his servant, Christopher, had been standing most of the day, and told him to sit down.  He asked when his nephew Lewis and his adopted son Custis, who were away from home, would return.  When his lifelong friend, Dr. Craik, came to his bedside, he said:  “Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.  I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it.  My breath cannot last long.”  The doctor was unable to answer from grief, and could only press his hand.

He afterward said to all the physicians:  “I feel myself going.  I thank you for your attentions; but, I pray you, take no more trouble about me.  Let me go off quietly; I cannot last long.”  He continued to be restless and uneasy, but made no complaints, only asking now and then what time it was.  When Lear helped him to move, he gave the secretary a look of gratitude.  About ten o’clock at night he made several efforts to speak to Lear before he could do so.  He finally said:  “I am just going.  Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead.”  Lear nodded, for he could not speak.

“Do you understand?” asked Washington.


“’Tis well,” said the dying man.

About ten minutes before death his breathing became easier; he felt his own pulse, and the expression of his face changed.  One hand presently fell from the wrist of the other.  Lear took it in his and pressed it to his bosom.

Mrs. Washington, who sat near the foot of the bed, asked in a firm voice, “Is he gone?”

Lear was unable to speak, but made a sign that Washington was dead.

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“Tis well,” said she; “all is now over; I shall soon follow him; I have no more trials to pass through.”

Washington died on December 14, 1799, in his sixty-eighth year.  All his neighbors and relatives assembled to attend his funeral; the militia and Freemasons of Alexandria were present; eleven pieces of artillery were brought to Mount Vernon to do military honors, and a schooner which lay in the Potomac fired minute guns.  Washington’s horse, with saddle, holster, and pistols, was led before the coffin by two grooms dressed in black.  The body was deposited in the old family vault, after short and simple ceremonies.  Washington was deeply mourned all over the United States, for never had a man been so beloved by his own countrymen.

Washington left all of his estates to his wife for life; after her death they were to be divided between his nephews and nieces, and Mrs. Washington’s grandchildren.  He made his nephew, Bushrod Washington, his principal heir, leaving Mount Vernon to him.  He said that he did this partly because he had promised the young man’s father, his brother, John Augustine, when they were bachelors, to leave Mount Vernon to him in case he should fall in the French war.  He willed that all his negro slaves should be set free on the death of his wife.  He said that he earnestly wished that it might be done before this, but he feared it would cause trouble on account of their intermarriages with the dower negroes who came to Mrs. Washington from her first husband, and whom he had no right to free.  He willed also that such should be comfortably clothed and fed by his heirs.  To his five nephews he left his swords, with the injunction that they were “not to unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood, except it be in self-defense, or in defense of their country and its rights; and in the latter case to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands to the relinquishment thereof.”

Washington’s life is an open book.  He knew that he was making history, and he kept careful copies of all his most important letters and writings, so that it is impossible that there should be doubts on any very important point.  So jealous was he of his own honorable reputation, that his last act as President was to file a denial of the authenticity of some spurious letters which were attributed to him by his political enemies.  These letters were first published during the Revolution by the English, and purported to be written by Washington to Lund Washington, to Mrs. Washington, and to John Parke Custis.  The person who wrote them knew something of Washington’s private affairs, but he made the American general say things which represented him as opposed to the independence of the colonies.  It was asserted that Washington in his retreat from New York left his servant Billy behind, and that these papers were found in a handbag which the valet carried.  As it was well known in the army that Billy had never

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been captured, Washington did not then think it needful to deny having written these letters; but when they were brought forward again by his enemies during the last years of his Presidency, he was alarmed lest they should go down to history as his own.  Most of Washington’s writings which are preserved show him to us only as a grave public character, and lives of Washington drawn mainly from this source are apt to make the great man seem unnaturally cold, dignified, remote, and impressive.  So usual has this view of Washington become, that there is a common belief that he never laughed aloud—­a belief which there are many stories to refute.

Washington had immense physical courage.  In all the battles in which he fought he exposed himself fearlessly.  His moral courage was even greater.  He never shrank from doing what he thought right because it was likely to make him unpopular.  Perhaps Washington’s greatest qualities were his wisdom and prudence.  These traits were very important in the leader of a young people engaged in a revolutionary struggle.  He had few brilliant military successes, but it is impossible to say what he might not have done had he not been weighed down by immense difficulties.  His influence over men was great, and those who were under him loved him.  He was never swayed by mean motives, his actions were always honorable, and he was generous even to those who were his bitter opponents.  Though he was a man of action, he thought deeply on many subjects.  “Never,” said Jefferson, “did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance.”


[17] “The Story of Washington.”  D. Appleton & Co., 1893.

* * * * *



The Defender of His Country, The Founder of Liberty,


History and Tradition are Explored in Vain for a Parallel to His Character.

And the Noblest Names of Antiquity Lose Their Lustre
In His Presence.  Born the Benefactor of Mankind, He
United All The Qualities Necessary to An Illustrious


He made himself virtuous.

Called By His Country To The Defence of Her Liberties,
He Triumphantly Vindicated The Rights of Humanity,
And on The Pillars of National Independence Laid the
Foundations Of A Great Republic.  Twice Invested With
the Supreme Magistracy, By the Unanimous Voice of a
Free People, He Surpassed In The Cabinet


And Voluntarily Resigning the Sceptre and the Sword,
Retired to the Shades of Private Life.  A Spectacle So
New and So Sublime Was Contemplated With the Profoundest
Admiration; And the Name of

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Adding New Lustre to Humanity,
Resounded To The Remotest Regions Of the Earth. 
Magnanimous in Youth,


His Highest Ambition the Happiness of Mankind,
His Noblest Victory the Conquest of Himself,
Bequeathing to Posterity the Inheritance of His Fame,

And Building His Monument in the Hearts of His Countrymen,

He Lived the Ornament Of the Eighteenth Century, and
Died Regretted By a Mourning World.


[18] The author of this inscription is not known.  It has been transcribed from a manuscript copy written on the back of a picture-frame, in which is set a miniature likeness of Washington, and which hangs in one of the rooms of the mansion at Mount Vernon, where it was left some time after Washington’s death.—­H.B.  CARRINGTON.

* * * * *



Delivered at the laying of the cornerstone of the new wing of the Capitol at Washington, July 4, 1851

Washington!  Methinks I see his venerable form now before me.  He is dignified and grave; but concern and anxiety seem to soften the lineaments of his countenance.  The government over which he presides is yet in the crisis of experiment.  Not free from troubles at home, he sees the world in commotion and arms all around him.  He sees that imposing foreign powers are half disposed to try the strength of the recently established American Government.  Mighty thoughts, mingled with fears as well as with hopes, are struggling within him.  He heads a short procession over these then naked fields; he crosses yonder stream on a fallen tree; he ascends to the top of this eminence, whose original oaks of the forest stand as thick around him as if the spot had been devoted to Druidical worship, and here he performs the appointed duty of the day.

And now, if this vision were a reality; if Washington now were actually amongst us, and if he could draw around him the shades of the great public men of his own day, patriots and warriors, orators and statesmen, and were to address us in their presence, would he not say to us: 

“Ye men of this generation, I rejoice and thank God for being able to see that our labors, and toils, and sacrifices, were not in vain.  You are prosperous, you are happy, you are grateful.  The fire of liberty burns brightly and steadily in your hearts, while duty and the law restrain it from bursting forth in wild and destructive conflagration.  Cherish liberty, as you love it; cherish its securities, as you wish to preserve it.  Maintain the Constitution which we labored so painfully to establish, and which has been to you such a source of inestimable blessings.  Preserve the Union of the States, cemented as it was by our prayers, our tears, and our blood.  Be true to God, to your country, and to your duty.  So shall the whole Eastern world follow the morning sun, so contemplate you as a nation; so shall all generations honor you, as they honor us; and so shall that Almighty power which so graciously protected us, and which now protects you, shower its everlasting blessings upon you and your posterity!”

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Great Father of your Country!  We need your words; we feel their force, as if you now uttered them with lips of flesh and blood.  Your example teaches us, your affectionate addresses teach us, your public life teaches us, your sense of the value of the blessings of the Union.  Those blessings our fathers have tasted, and we have tasted, and still taste.  Nor do we intend that those who come after us shall be denied the same high function.  Our honor, as well as our happiness, is concerned.  We cannot, we dare not, we will not, betray our sacred trust.  We will not filch from posterity the treasure placed in our hands to be transmitted to other generations.  The bow that gilds the clouds in the heavens, the pillars that uphold the firmament, may disappear and fall away in the hour appointed by the will of God; but, until that day comes, or so long as our lives may last, no ruthless hand shall undermine that bright arch of Union and Liberty which spans the continent from Washington to California!





Modern history, oratory, and poetry are so replete with tributes to the memory of Washington, that the entire progress of the civilized world for more than a century has been shaped by the influence of his life and precepts.  The memorial shaft at the national capital, which is the loftiest of human structures, and is inner-faced by typical expressions of honor from nearly all nations, is a fit type of his surmounting merit.  The ceremonies which attended the cornerstone consecration and signalized its completion are no less an honor to the distinguished historian and statesman who voiced the acclamations of the American people than a perpetual testimonial worthy of the subject honored by the occasion and by the monument.  When the world pays willing tribute, and the most ambitious monarch on earth would covet no higher plaudit than that he served his people as faithfully as Washington served America, it is difficult to fathom the depths of memorial sentiment and place in public view those which are the most worthy of study and appreciative respect.  The national life itself throbs through his transmitted life, and the aroma of his grace is as consciously breathed by statesmen and citizens to-day as the invisible atmosphere which secures physical vitality and force.  Senator Vance of North Carolina, thus earnestly commends to the youth of America the brightness and beauty of the great example: 

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Greater soldiers, more intellectual statesmen, and profounder sages have doubtless existed in the history of the English race, perhaps in our own country, but not one who to great excellence in the threefold composition of man, the physical, intellectual, and moral, has added such exalted integrity, such unaffected piety, such unsullied purity of soul, and such wondrous control of his own spirit.  He illustrated and adorned the civilization of Christianity, and furnished an example of the wisdom and perfection of its teachings which the subtlest arguments of its enemies cannot impeach.  That one grand, rounded life, full-orbed with intellectual and moral glory, is worth, as the product of Christianity, more than all the dogmas of all the teachers.  The youth of America who aspire to promote their own and their country’s welfare should never cease to gaze upon his great example, or to remember that the brightest gems in the crown of his immortality, the qualities which uphold his fame on earth and plead for him in heaven, were those which characterized him as the patient, brave, Christian gentleman.  In this respect he was a blessing to the whole human race no less than to his own countrymen, to the many millions who annually celebrate the day of his birth.

Such sentiments fitly illustrate the controlling element of character which made the conduct of Washington so peerless in the field and in the chair of state.  His first utterances upon assuming command of the American army before Boston, on the 2d of July, 1775, were a rebuke of religious bigotry and an impressive protest against gaming, swearing, and all immoral practices, which might forfeit divine aid in the great struggle for national independence.  Succeeding orders, preparatory to the battle of Long Island, in August, 1776, breathe the same spirit,—­that which transfused all his activities, as with celestial fire, until he surrendered his commission with a devout and public recognition of Almighty God as the author of his success.


[19] From the “Patriotic Reader.”  Lippincott Co.

* * * * *


World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, October 21, 1892



  When dreaming kings, at odds with swift-paced time,
    Would strike that banner down,
  A nobler knight than ever writ or rhyme
    With fame’s bright wreath did crown
  Through armed hosts bore it till it floated high
  Beyond the clouds, a light that cannot die! 
    Ah, hero of our younger race! 
      Great builder of a temple new! 
    Ruler, who sought no lordly place! 
      Warrior, who sheathed the sword he drew! 
    Lover of men, who saw afar
    A world unmarred by want or

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    Who knew the path, and yet forbore
    To tread, till all men should implore;
    Who saw the light, and led the way
    Where the gray world might greet the day;
    Father and leader, prophet sure,
    Whose will in vast works shall endure,
  How shall we praise him on this day of days,
  Great son of fame who has no need of praise?

  How shall we praise him?  Open wide the doors
    Of the fair temple whose broad base he laid. 
    Through its white halls a shadowy cavalcade
  Of heroes moves o’er unresounding floors—­
  Men whose brawned arms upraised these columns high,
  And reared the towers that vanish in the sky,—­
  The strong who, having wrought, can never die.

* * * * *



  The quarry whence thy form majestic sprung
    Has peopled earth with grace,
  Heroes and gods that elder bards have sung,
    A bright and peerless race;
  But from its sleeping veins ne’er rose before
    A shape of loftier name
  Than his, who Glory’s wreath with meekness wore,
    The noblest son of Fame. 
  Sheathed is the sword that Passion never stained;
    His gaze around is cast,
  As if the joys of Freedom, newly gained,
    Before his vision passed;
  As if a nation’s shout of love and pride
    With music filled the air,
  And his calm soul was lifted on the tide
    Of deep and grateful prayer;
  As if the crystal mirror of his life
    To fancy sweetly came,
  With scenes of patient toil and noble strife,
    Undimmed by doubt or shame;
  As if the lofty purpose of his soul
    Expression would betray—­
  The high resolve Ambition to control,
    And thrust her crown away! 
  O, it was well in marble firm and white
    To carve our hero’s form,
  Whose angel guidance was our strength in fight,
    Our star amid the storm! 
  Whose matchless truth has made his name divine
    And human freedom sure,
  His country great, his tomb earth’s dearest shrine. 
    While man and time endure! 
  And it is well to place his image there
    Upon the soil he blest: 
  Let meaner spirits, who its councils share,
    Revere that silent guest! 
  Let us go up with high and sacred love
    To look on his pure brow,
  And as, with solemn grace, he points above,
    Renew the patriot’s vow!


Extract from an address by President Gary of the Union League Club, at the celebration of Washington’s Birthday at the Auditorium, Chicago, February 22, 1900

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It is needless to dispute with others as to Washington’s rank in minor things.  We know that for us and for our country his is the greatest name that lives; that in the grand struggle and march for freedom he was humanity’s greatest leader, and that through us as a nation he gave to the world its chiefest example of republican self-government And now that his greatness is acknowledged and his praises sung the world round, our hearts swell with pride and gratitude that he is ours; our countryman; our great American; our Washington.  Not the safe and invincible general merely, not the wise first President, but George Washington, the sublime personality, greatest seen when all props and scaffoldings of rank and station are torn away.

* * * * *

From Green’s “History of the English People”: 

No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation’s life.  Washington was grave and courteous in address; his manners were simple and unpretending; his silence and the serene calmness of his temper spoke of a perfect self-mastery; but little there was in his outer bearing to reveal the grandeur of soul which lifts his figure with all the simple majesty of an ancient statue, out of the smaller passions, the meaner impulses of the world around him.

It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists learned, little by little, the greatness of their leader—­his clear judgment, his calmness in the hour of danger or defeat; the patience with which he waited, the quickness and hardness with which he struck, the lofty and serene sense of duty that never swerved from its task through resentment or jealousy, that never, through war or peace, felt the touch of a meaner ambition; that knew no aim save that of guarding the freedom of his fellow-countrymen; and no personal longing save that of returning to his own fireside when their freedom was secured.

It was almost unconsciously that men learned to cling to Washington with a trust and faith such as few other men have won, and to regard him with reverence which still hushes us in presence of his memory.

* * * * *

Washington’s is the mightiest name of earth—­long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation.  On that name no eulogy is expected.  It cannot be.  To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible.  Let none attempt it.  In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on.


* * * * *

Washington cannot be stripped of any part of his credit for patriotism, wisdom, and courage; for the union of enterprise with prudence; for integrity and truthfulness; for simply dignity of character; for tact and forbearance in dealing with men; above all for serene fortitude in the darkest hour of his cause, and under trials from the perversity, insubordination, jealousy, and perfidy of those around him, severer than any defeat.

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* * * * *

The life of our Washington cannot suffer by a comparison with those of other countries who have been most celebrated and exalted by fame.  The attributes and decorations of royalty could have only served to eclipse the majesty of those virtues which made him, from being a modest citizen, a more resplendent luminary.

Malice could never blast his honor, and envy made him a single exception to her universal rule.  For himself he had lived enough to life and to glory.  For his fellow-citizens, if their prayers could have been answered, he would have been immortal.  His example is complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read.


* * * * *

His character, though regular and uniform, possessed none of the littleness which may sometimes belong to these descriptions of men.  It formed a majestic pile, the effect of which was not inspired, but improved, by order and symmetry.  There was nothing in it to dazzle by wildness, and surprise by eccentricity.  It was of a higher species of moral beauty.  It contained everything great and elevated, but it had no false or trivial ornament.  It was not the model cried up by fashion and circumstance:  its excellence was adapted to the true and just moral taste, incapable of change from the varying accidents of manners, of opinions, and times.  General Washington is not the idol of a day, but the hero of ages.


* * * * *

Washington stands alone and unapproachable like a snow peak rising above its fellows into the clear air of morning, with a dignity, constancy, and purity which have made him the ideal type of civic virtue to succeeding generations.


* * * * *

  Pale is the February sky,
    And brief the midday’s sunny hours;
  The wind-swept forest seems to sigh
    For the sweet time of leaves and flowers.

Yet has no month a prouder day,
Not even when the Summer broods
O’er meadows in their fresh array,
Or Autumn tints the glowing woods.

For this chill season now again
Brings, in its annual round, the morn
When, greatest of the sons of men,
Our glorious Washington was born!

* * * * *

Amid the wreck of thrones shall live
Unmarred, undimmed, our hero’s fame,
And years succeeding years shall give
Increase of honors to his name.


* * * * *

Washington, the warrior and legislator!  In war contending, by the wager of battle, for the independence of his country, and for the freedom of the human race; ever manifesting amidst its horrors, by precept and example, his reverence for the laws of peace and the tenderest sympathies of humanity:  in peace soothing the ferocious spirit of discord among his countrymen into harmony and union; and giving to that very sword, now presented to his country, a charm more potent than that attributed in ancient times to the lyre of Orpheus.

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* * * * *

George Washington may justly be pronounced one of the greatest men whom the world has produced.  Greater soldiers, more intellectual statesmen, and profounder sages have doubtlessly existed in the history of the English race—­perhaps in our own country—­but no one who to great excellence in each of these fields has added such exalted integrity, such unaffected piety, such unsullied purity of soul, and such wondrous control of his own spirit.  That one grand rounded life, full-orbed with intellectual and moral glory, is worth, as the product of Christianity, more than all the dogmas of all the teachers.  He was a blessing to the whole human race, no less than to his own countrymen—­to the many millions who celebrate the day of his birth.


* * * * *

First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere, uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.


* * * * *

Happy was it for America, happy for the world, that a great name, a guardian genius, presided over her destinies in war.  The hero of America was the conqueror only of his country’s foes, and the hearts of his countrymen.  To the one he was a terror, and in the other he gained an ascendency, supreme, unrivaled, the triumph of admiring gratitude, the reward of a nation’s love.


* * * * *

The sword of Washington!  The staff of Franklin!  Oh sir, what associations are linked in adamant with these names!  Washington, whose sword, as my friend has said, was never drawn but in the cause of his country, and never sheathed when wielded in his country’s cause.  Franklin, the philosopher of the thunderbolt, the printing-press, and the plowshare.


* * * * *

Others of our great men have been appreciated,—­many admired by all.  But him we love.  Him we all love.  About and around him we call up no dissentient and discordant and dissatisfied elements, no sectional prejudice nor bias, no party, no creed, no dogma of politics.  None of these shall assail him.  When the storm of battle blows darkest and rages highest, the memory of Washington shall nerve every American arm and cheer every American heart.  It shall relume that Promethean fire, that sublime flame of patriotism, that devoted love of country, which his words have commended, which his example has consecrated.


* * * * *

  Where may the wearied eyes repose
    When gazing on the great,
  Where neither guilty glory glows
    Nor despicable state? 
  Yes,—­one, the first, the last, the best,
  The Cincinnatus of the West,
    Whom envy dared not hate,
  Bequeathed the name of Washington
    To make men blush there was but one.

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* * * * *

From “Washington’s Vow,” by John Greenleaf Whittier, read at the dedication of the Washington Arch, at New York City, 1889

How felt the land in every part
The strong throb of a nation’s heart? 
As its great leader gave, with reverent awe,
His pledge to Union, Liberty, and Law!

That pledge the heavens above him heard,
That vow the sleep of centuries stirred. 
In world-wide wonder listening peoples bent
Their gaze on Freedom’s great experiment.

* * * * *

Thank God! the people’s choice was just! 
The one man equal to his trust. 
Wise without lore, and without weakness good,
Calm in the strength of flawless rectitude.

* * * * *

Our first and Best—­his ashes lie
Beneath his own Virginia sky. 
Forgive, forget, oh! true and just and brave,
The storm that swept above thy sacred grave.

* * * * *

Then let the sovereign millions where
Our banner floats in sun and air,
From the warm palm-lands to Alaska’s cold,
Repeat with us the pledge, a century old!

Let a man fasten himself to some great idea, some large truth, some noble cause, even in the affairs of this world, and it will send him forward with energy, with steadfastness, with confidence.  This is what Emerson meant when he said:  “Hitch your wagon to a star.”  These are the potent, the commanding, the enduring men,—­in our own history, men like Washington and Lincoln.  They may fail, they may be defeated, they may perish; but onward moves the cause, and their souls go marching on with it, for they are part of it, they have believed in it.


* * * * *

  O name forever to thy country dear! 
  Still wreath’d with pride, “still uttered with a tear!”
  Thou that could’st rouse a nation’s host to arms,
  Could’st calm the spreading tumult of alarms,
  Of civil discord, awe the threatening force
  And check even Anarchy’s licentious course! 
  Long as exalted worth commands applause,
  Long as the virtuous bow to virtue’s laws,
  Long as thy reverence and honor join’d,
  Long as the hero’s glory warms the mind,
  Long as the flame of gratitude shall burn,
  Or human tears bedew the patriot’s urn,
  Thy sound shall dwell on each Columbian tongue
  And live lamented in elegiac song! 
  Till some bold bard, inspired with Delphic rage! 
  Shall with thy lusters fire his epic page!

In Fate’s vast chronicle of future time,
The mystic mirror of events sublime
Where deeds of virtue gild each pregnant page
And some grand epoch makes each coming age,
Where germs of future history strike the eye
And empires’ rise and fall in embryo lie,
Though statesmen, heroes, sages, chiefs abound
Yet none of worth like Washington’s are found!

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* * * * *

Rear to his name a monument sublime! 
Bid art and genius all their powers bestow,
And let the pile with life and grandeur glow. 
High on the top let Fame with trumpet’s sound,
Announce his god-like deeds to worlds around! 
Let Pallas lead her hero to the field,
In Wisdom’s train, and cover with her shield. 
A sword present to dazzle from afar
And flash bright terrors through the ranks of war. 
With port august let oak-wreath’d Freedom stand
And hail him father of the chosen land;
With laurels deck him, with due honors greet,
And crowns and scepters place beneath his feet;
Let Peace, her olive blooming like the morn,
And kindred Plenty with her teeming horn,
With Commerce, child, and regent of the main,
While Arts and Agriculture join the train,
Rear a sad altar, bend around his urn,
And to their guardian, grateful incense burn! 
Let History calm, in thoughtful mood reclin’d,
Record his actions to enrich mankind,
And Poesy divine his deeds rehearse
In all the energy of epic verse!

  To future ages there let Mercy own
  He never from her bosom forc’d a groan;
  Here let a statesman, there a reverend sage
  To mark and emulate his steps engage,
  Columbia widow’d, count his virtues o’er,
  Around his tomb her pearly sorrows pour,
  And mild Religion of celestial mien
  Point to her patron’s place, in realms unseen! 
  Then stamp in gold the monument above
  The mournful tribute of a nation’s love! 
  But not alone in scenes where glory fir’d,
  He mov’d, no less, in civic walks admir’d! 
  Though long a warrior, choice of human blood,
  As Brutus noble, and as Titus good! 
  To all that formed the hero of the age,
  He joined the patriot and the peaceful sage,
  The statesman powerful and the ruler just,
  No less illustrious than the chief august;
  And to condense his characters in one,
  The god-like Father of his Country shone!

From an old Magazine.

* * * * *

  Hail, brightest banner that floats on the gale,
  Flag of the country of Washington, hail! 
  Red are thy stripes with the blood of the brave;
  Bright are thy stars as the sun on the wave;
  Wrapt in thy folds are the hopes of the free. 
  Banner of Washington!—­blessings on thee!

  Traitors shall perish and treason shall fail;
  Kingdoms and thrones in thy glory grow pale! 
  Thou shalt live on, and thy people shall own
  Loyalty’s sweet, when each heart is thy throne;
  Union and Freedom thine heritage be. 
  Country of Washington!—­blessings on thee!


* * * * *

  Point of that pyramid whose solid base
    Rests firmly founded on a nation’s trust,
  Which, While the gorgeous palace sinks in dust,
    Shall stand sublime, and fill its ample space.

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  Elected chief of freemen! greater far
    Than kings whose glittering parts are fixed by birth—­
  Nam’d by thy country’s voice for long try’d worth,
    Her crown in peace, as once her shield in war!

  Deign, Washington, to hear a British lyre,
    That ardent greets thee with applausive lays,
  And to the patriot hero homage pays.

  O, would the muse immortal strains inspire,
    That high beyond all Greek and Roman fame,
  Might soar to times unborn, thy purer, nobler name!


* * * * *

Had he, a mortal, the failings attached to man?—­Was he the slave of avarice?  No.  Wealth was an object too mean for his regard, and yet economy presided over his domestic concerns; for his mind was too lofty to brook dependence.  Was he ambitious?  No.  His spirit soared beyond ambition’s reach.  He saw a crown high above all human grandeur.  He sought, he gained, and wore that crown.  But he had indeed one frailty—­the weakness of great minds.  He was fond of fame, and had reared a colossal reputation.  It stood on the rock of his virtue.  This was dear to his heart.  There was but one thing dearer.  He loved glory, but still more he loved his country.  That was the master passion, and with resistless might it ruled his every thought and word and deed.


* * * * *

Washington!  Father and deliverer of his country!  What sweetness dwells in his name—­a name sounded by million-tongued fame through her golden trumpet into distant worlds.  The sooty African that traverses Niger’s sandy waste—­the Algerian desperate in fight—­the half-lived Laplander—­the Arabian, swift as the wind—­the Scythian—­the inoffensive Brahmin,—­have all heard it, and when mentioned, revere it.


* * * * *

Three times Washington’s character saved the country; once by keeping up the courage of the nation till the Revolutionary War was ended; then, by uniting the nation in the acceptance of the Federal Constitution; thirdly, by saving it from being swept away into anarchy and civil war during the immense excitement of the French Revolution.  Such was the gift of Washington, a gift of God to the nation, as far beyond any other of God’s gifts as virtue is more than genius, as character is more than intellect, as wise conduct is better than outward prosperity.


* * * * *

Patriots of America—­and military officers of every name, view the great example that is set before you.  Emulate the virtues of Washington, and in due time your heads will also be adorned with the wreath of honor.  Here you learn what is true and unfading glory.  You will see that it is not the man who is led on by the blind impulse of ambition; who rushes into the midst of embattled hosts, merely

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to show his contempt of death; or who wastes fair cities or depopulates rich provinces,—­to spread far the terrors of his name—­who is admired and praised as the true hero and friend of mankind;—­but the man, who, in obedience to the public voice, appears in arms for the salvation of his country, shuns no perils in a just cause, endeavors to alleviate instead of increase the calamities of war, and whose aim is to strengthen and adorn the temple of liberty, as resting on the immovable basis of virtue and religion.  The voice of justice and the voice of suffering humanity forbid us to bestow the palm of true valor on the mad exploits of the destroyers of mankind.

Washington’s delight was to save, not to destroy.  His greatest glory is that with small armies and the loss of few lives—­compared with the wastes of other wars—­he made his country free and happy.


* * * * *

Brave without temerity, laborious without ambition, generous without prodigality, noble without pride, virtuous without severity—­Washington seems always to have confined himself within those limits where the virtues, by clothing themselves in more lively but more changeable and doubtful colors, may be mistaken for faults.  Inspiring respect, he inspires confidence, and his smile is always the smile of benevolence.


* * * * *

God has given this nation many precious gifts; but the chief gift of all, the one, we may say, which has added something to every other one, is the gift of this great soldier, this great statesman, this great and good man, this greatest of all Americans, past, present—­past, if not to come.  Our heritage from him is illustrious above all others.


* * * * *

  Great without pomp, without ambition brave,
  Proud, not to conquer fellow-men, but save;
  Friend to the weak, a foe to none but those
  Who plan their greatness on their brethrens’ woes;
  Aw’d by no titles—­undefil’d by lust—­
  Free without faction—­obstinately just;
  Warm’d by religion’s sacred, genuine ray,
  That points to future bliss the unerring way;
  Yet ne’er control’d by superstition’s laws,
  That worst of tyrants in the noblest cause.

—­From a London Newspaper.

* * * * *

Extract from a translation of a Dutch Ode to Washington.  Dr. O’Calla has made a literal translation; Alfred B. Street, of Albany, the poetical translation.

  No lofty monument thy greatness needs;
    The freedom which America from thee
  Received, and happiness of thy great deeds
    The everlasting monument shall be.

  Thy proud foot trampled on the British chain;
    But O! beware lest some false foreign power
  Rivet his fetters on thy land again,
    For despots smile while waiting for their hour.

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  How deeply touched, Humanity! your soul,
    When you beheld the grateful tears that rained
  Down a glad Nation’s cheek, as Freedom’s goal
    Was by that Nation’s might in triumph gained.

  O, Fatherland, whoever loves thy fame,
    Sighing shall mourn thy glory lost, when won;
  Freedom, when leaving thee, lit up her flame
    Within the patriot heart of Washington.

  When Time shall sink in everlasting gloom,
    And Death with Time shall cease for evermore;
  When the dead burst the cerements of the tomb,
    As the last trumpet breaks in thunder o’er;

  Then as it feels its pulses once more free,
    Let every heart Columbia claims as son
  Beat first for God, but let its next throb be
    For the eternal bliss of Washington.

* * * * *

The character of Washington!  Who can delineate it worthily?  Modest, disinterested, generous, just, of clean hands and a pure heart, self-denying and self-sacrificing, seeking nothing for himself, declining all remuneration beyond the reimbursement of his outlays, scrupulous to a farthing in keeping his accounts, of spotless integrity, scorning gifts, charitable to the needy, forgiving injuries and injustices, brave, fearless, heroic, with a prudence ever governing his impulses, a wisdom ever guiding his valor, true to his friends, true to his country, true to himself, fearing God, no stranger to private devotion or public worship, but ever recognizing a divine aid and direction in all that he accomplished.  His magnetism was that of merit, superior, surpassing merit; the merit of spotless integrity, of recognized ability, and of unwearied willingness to spend and be spent in the service of his country.


* * * * *

One of the best of modern Americans, James Russell Lowell, who was born on the same day of the month as Washington, February 22d, 1819, wrote shortly before his death, to a schoolgirl, whose class proposed noticing his own birthday:  “Whatever else you do on the twenty-second of February, recollect, first of all, that on that day a really great man was born, and do not fail to warm your hearts with the memory of his service, and to brace your minds with the contemplation of his character.  The rest of us must wait uncovered till he be served.”


* * * * *

The fame of Washington stands apart from every other in history, shining with a truer luster and a more benignant glory.  With us his memory remains a national property, where all sympathies, throughout our widely extended and diversified empire meet in unison.  Under all dissensions and amid all the storms of party, his precepts and example speak to us from the grave with a paternal appeal; and his name—­by all revered—­forms a universal brotherhood, a watchword of our Union.

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* * * * *

The soul of Washington was one of the grandest of all ages that takes its equal rank with Greek and Roman and Hebrew names of renown for humane and prime worth, names that seem written not in our poor records, but on the sky’s arch—­names in the broad sunshine of whose moral glory, spreading through the world, all the little fires which men have made with the kindling of words from abstract conceptions,—­go out.  For however otherwise a man may be distinguished—­unless there be in him a spirit of love, devotion, and self-sacrifice, we feel he lacks the very pith and beauty of manhood; and though he may be a great performer with his pen as one plays well on a musical instrument, a Great Being he is not.

Christian Examiner.

* * * * *

It will be the duty of the historian and the sage of all nations to let no occasion pass of commemorating this illustrious man; and until time shall be no more, will a test of the progress which our race has made in wisdom and virtue, be derived from the veneration paid to the immortal name of Washington.


* * * * *

The character of Washington may want some of those poetical elements, but it possessed fewer inequalities and a rarer union of virtues than perhaps ever fell to the lot of any other man.  Prudence, firmness, sagacity, moderation, an overruling judgment, an immovable justice, courage that never faltered, patience that never wearied, truth that disdained all artifice, magnanimity without alloy.  It seems as if Providence had endowed him in a pre-eminent degree with the qualities requisite to fit him for the high destiny he was called upon to fulfill.


* * * * *



  Republics are ungrateful, but ours, its best-loved son
  Still keeps in memory green, and wreathes the name of Washington. 
  As year by year returns the day that saw the patriot’s birth,
  With boom of gun and beat of drum and peals of joy and mirth,
  And songs of children in the streets and march of men-at-arms,
  We honor pay to him who stood serene ’mid war’s alarms;
  And with his ragged volunteers long kept the foe at bay,
  And bore the flag to victory in many a battle’s day.

  We were a little nation then; so mighty have we grown
  That scarce would Washington believe to-day we were his own. 
  With ships that sail on every sea, and sons in every port,
  And harvest-fields to feed the world, wherever food is short,
  And if at council-board our chiefs are now discreet and wise,
  And if to great estate and high, our farmers’ lads may rise,
  We owe a debt to him who set the fashion of our fame,
  And never more may we forget our loftiest hero’s name.

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  Great knightly soul who came in time to serve his country’s need,
  To serve her with the timely word and with the valiant deed,
  Along the ages brightening as endless cycles run
  Undimmed and gaining luster in the twentieth century’s sun,
  First in our Hall of Fame we write the name all folk may ken,
  As first in war, and first in peace, first with his countrymen.

* * * * *


George Washington, the brave, the wise, the good.  Supreme in war, in council, and in peace.  Washington, valiant, without ambition; discreet, without fear; confident, without presumption.


* * * * *

More than any other individual, and as much as to one individual was possible, has he contributed to found this, our wide spreading empire, and to give to the Western World independence and freedom.


* * * * *

Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States.  Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him.


* * * * *

More than all, and above all, Washington was master of himself.  If there be one quality more than another in his character which may exercise a useful control over the men of the present hour, it is the total disregard of self when in the most elevated positions for influence and example.


* * * * *



In an Address, February 22, 1898

Though Washington’s exalted character and the most striking acts of his brilliant record are too familiar to be recounted here, yet often as the story is retold, it engages our love and admiration and interest.  We love to record his noble unselfishness, his heroic purposes, the power of his magnificent personality, his glorious achievements for mankind, and his stalwart and unflinching devotion to independence, liberty, and union.  These cannot be too often told or be too familiarly known.

A slaveholder himself, he yet hated slavery, and provided in his will for the emancipation of his slaves.  Not a college graduate, he was always enthusiastically the friend of liberal education....

And how reverent always was this great man, how prompt and generous his recognition of the guiding hand of Divine Providence in establishing and controlling the destinies of the colonies and the Republic....

Washington states the reasons of his belief in language so exalted that it should be graven deep in the mind of every patriot: 

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No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of man more than the people of the United States.  Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consents of so many distinguished communities from which the events resulted cannot be compared with the means by which most governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the same seems to presage.  The reflections arising out of the present crisis have forced themselves strongly upon my mind.  You will join me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government are more auspiciously commenced.

In his Farewell Address, Washington contends in part: 

  (1) For the promotion of institutions of learning;

  (2) for cherishing the public credit;

  (3) for the observance of good faith and justice toward all nations....

At no point in his administration does Washington appear in grander proportions than when he enunciates his ideas in regard to the foreign policy of the government: 

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct.  Can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it?  It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.

* * * * *



We are met to testify our regard for him whose name is intimately blended with whatever belongs most essentially to the prosperity, the liberty, the free institutions, and the renown of our country.  That name was a power to rally a nation in the hour of thick-thronging public disasters and calamities; that name shone amid the storm of war, a beacon light to cheer and guide the country’s friends; its flame, too, like a meteor, to repel her foes.  That name in the days of peace was a loadstone, attracting to itself a whole people’s confidence, a whole people’s love, and the whole world’s respect; that name, descending with all time, spread over the whole earth, and uttered in all the languages belonging to the tribes and races of men, will forever be pronounced with affectionate gratitude by everyone in whose breast there shall arise an aspiration for human rights and human liberty.

Washington stands at the commencement of a new era, as well as at the head of the New World.  A century from the birth of Washington has changed the world.  The country of Washington has been the theater on which a great part of that change has been wrought, and Washington himself a principal agent by which it has been accomplished.  His age and his country are equally full of wonders, and of both he is the chief.

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It is the spirit of human freedom, the new elevation of individual man, in his moral, social, and political character, leading the whole long train of other improvements, which has most remarkably distinguished the era.  Society has assumed a new character; it has raised itself from beneath governments to a participation in governments; it has mixed moral and political objects with the daily pursuits of individual men, and, with a freedom and strength before altogether unknown, it has applied to these objects the whole power of the human understanding.  It has been the era, in short, when the social principle has triumphed over the feudal principle; when society has maintained its rights against military power, and established on foundations never hereafter to be shaken its competency to govern itself.





When I first read in detail the life of Washington, I was profoundly impressed with the moral elevation and greatness of his character, and I found myself at a loss to name among the statesmen of any age or country many, or possibly any, who could be his rival.  In saying this I mean no disparagement to the class of politicians, the men of my own craft and cloth, whom in my own land, and my own experience, I have found no less worthy than other men of love and admiration.  I could name among them those who seem to me to come near even to him.  But I will shut out the last half century from the comparison.  I will then say that if, among all the pedestals supplied by history for public characters of extraordinary nobility and purity, I saw one higher than all the rest, and if I were required at a moment’s notice to name the fittest occupant for it, I think my choice at any time during the last forty-five years would have lighted, as it would now light, upon Washington.

* * * * *



No man ever stood for so much to his country and to mankind as George Washington.  Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Jay each represented some of the elements which formed the Union.  Washington embodied them all.

The superiority of Washington’s character and genius were more conspicuous in the formation of our government and in putting it on indestructible foundations than leading armies to victory and conquering the independence of his country.  “The Union in any event” is the central thought of the “Farewell Address,” and all the years of his grand life were devoted to its formation and preservation.

Do his countrymen exaggerate his virtues?  Listen to Guizot, the historian of civilization:  “Washington did the two greatest things which in politics it is permitted to man to attempt.  He maintained by peace the independence of his country, which he conquered by war.  He founded a free government in the name of the principles of order, and by re-establishing their sway.”

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Hear Lord Erskine, the most famous of English advocates:  “You are the only being for whom I have an awful reverence.”

Remember the tribute of Charles James Fox, the greatest parliamentary orator who ever swayed the British House of Commons:  “Illustrious man, before whom all borrowed greatness sinks into insignificance.”

Contemplate the character of Lord Brougham, pre-eminent for two generations in every department of human thought and activity, and then impress upon the memories of your children his deliberate judgment:  “Until time shall be no more will a test of the progress which our race has made in wisdom and virtue be derived from the veneration paid to the immortal name of Washington.”

Blot out from the page of history the names of all the great actors of his time in the drama of nations, and preserve the name of Washington, and the century would be renowned.

* * * * *



  Exalted chief, in thy superior mind
  What vast resource, what various talents joined! 
  Tempered with social virtue’s milder rays,
  There patriot worth diffused a purer blaze;
  Formed to command respect, esteem, inspire,
  Midst statesmen grave, or midst the social choir,
  With equal skill the sword or pen to wield,
  In council great, unequaled in the field,
  Mid glittering courts or rural walks to please,
  Polite with grandeur, dignified with ease;
  Before the splendors of thy high renown
  How fade the glow-worn lusters of a crown;
  How sink diminished in that radiance lost
  The glare of conquest, and of power the boast. 
  Let Greece her Alexander’s deeds proclaim;
  Or Caesar’s triumphs gild the Roman name;
  Stripped of the dazzling glare around them cast,
  Shrinks at their crimes humanity aghast;
  With equal claim to honor’s glorious meed. 
  See Attila his course of havoc lead! 
  O’er Asia’s realms, in one vast ruin hurled. 
  See furious Zingis’ bloody flag unfurled. 
  On base far different from the conqueror’s claim
  Rests the unsullied column of thy fame;
  His on the woes of millions proudly based,
  With blood cemented and with tears defaced;
  Thine on a nation’s welfare fixed sublime,
  By freedom strengthened and revered by time. 
  He, as the Comet, whose portentous light
  Spreads baleful splendor o’er the glooms of night,
  With chill amazement fills the startled breast. 
  While storms and earthquakes dire its course attest,
  And nature trembles, lest, in chaos hurled,
  Should sink the tottering fabric of the world. 
  Thou, like the Sun, whose kind propitious ray
  Opes the glad morn and lights the fields of day,
  Dispels the wintry storm, the chilling rain,
  With rich abundance clothes the smiling

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  Gives all creation to rejoice around,
  And life and light extends o’er nature’s utmost bound. 
  Though shone thy life a model bright of praise,
  Not less the example bright thy death portrays,
  When, plunged in deepest we, around thy bed,
  Each eye was fixed, despairing sunk each head,
  While nature struggled with severest pain,
  And scarce could life’s last lingering powers retain: 
  In that dread moment, awfully serene,
  No trace of suffering marked thy placid mien,
  No groan, no murmuring plaint, escaped thy tongue,
  No lowering shadows on thy brow were hung;
  But calm in Christian hope, undamped with fear,
  Thou sawest the high reward of virtue near,
  On that bright meed in sweetest trust reposed,
  As thy firm hand thine eyes expiring closed,
  Pleased, to the will of heaven resigned thy breath,
  And smiled as nature’s struggles closed in death.

* * * * *



In an Address, February 22, 1888

“Time’s noblest offspring is the last.”

As the human race has moved along down the centuries, the vigorous and ambitious, the dissenters from blind obedience and the original thinkers, the colonists and state builders, have broken camp with the morning, and followed the sun till the close of day.  They have left behind narrow and degrading laws, traditions, and castes.  Their triumphant success is pushing behind every bayonet carried at the order of Kaiser or Czar; men, who, in doing their own thinking, will one day decide for themselves the problems of peace and war.

The scenes of the fifth act of the grand drama are changing, but all attention remains riveted upon one majestic figure.  He stands the noblest leader who ever was intrusted with his country’s life.  His patience under provocation, his calmness in danger, and lofty courage when all others despaired, his prudent delays when delay was best, and his quick and resistless blows when action was possible, his magnanimity to defamers and generosity to his foes, his ambition for his country and unselfishness for himself, his sole desire of freedom and independence for America, and his only wish to return after victory to private life, have all combined to make him, by the unanimous judgment of the world, the foremost figure of history.

* * * * *



  “Napoleon was great, I know,
    And Julius Caesar, and all the rest,
  But they didn’t belong to us, and so
    I like George Washington the best.”

* * * * *



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It is the peculiar good fortune of this country to have given birth to a citizen whose name everywhere produces a sentiment of regard for his country itself.  In other countries, whenever and wherever this is spoken of to be praised, it is called the country of Washington.  I believe there is no people, civilized or savage, in any place however remote, where the name of Washington has not been heard, and where it is not respected with the fondest admiration.  We are told that the Arab of the desert talks of Washington in his tent, and that his name is familiar to the wandering Scythian.  He seems, indeed, to be the delight of humankind, as their beau-ideal of human nature.  No American, in any part of the world, but has found the regard for himself increased by his connection with Washington, as his fellow-countryman; and who has not felt a pride, and has occasion to exult, in the fortunate connection?

A century and more has now passed away since he came upon the stage, and his fame first broke upon the world; for it broke like the blaze of day from the rising sun—­almost as sudden, and seemingly as universal.  The eventful period since that era has teemed with great men, who have crossed the scene and passed off.  Some of them have arrested great attention—­very great.  Still Washington retains his preeminent place in the minds of men; still his peerless name is cherished by them in the same freshness of delight as in the morn of its glory.  History will keep a record of his fame; but history is not necessary to perpetuate it.  In regions where history is not read, where letters are unknown, it lives, and will go down from age to age, in all future time, in their traditionary lore.  Who would exchange this fame, the common inheritance of our country, for the fame of any individual which any country of any time can boast?  I would not; with my sentiments I could not.

* * * * *


The Brightest Name on History’s Page


  Land of the West! though passing brief the record of thine age,
  Thou hast a name that darkens all on history’s wide page! 
  Let all the blasts of Fame ring out,—­thine shall be loudest far;
  Let others boast their satellites,—­thou hast the planet star. 
  Thou hast a name whose characters of light shall ne’er depart;
  ’Tis stamped upon the dullest brain, and warms the coldest heart;
  A war-cry fit for any land where freedom’s to be won;
  Land of the West! it stands alone,—­it is thy Washington!

  Rome had its Caesar, great and brave, but stain was on his wreath;
  He lived the heartless conqueror, and died the tyrant’s death. 
  France had its eagle, but his wings, though lofty they might soar,
  Were spread in false ambition’s flight, and dipped in murder’s gore. 
  Those hero-gods, whose mighty sway would fain have chained the waves—­
  Who flashed their blades with tiger zeal to make a world of slaves—­
  Who, though their kindred barred the path, still fiercely waded on,
  Oh, where shall be their “glory” by the side of Washington!

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  He fought, but not with love of strife; he struck but to defend;
  And ere he turned a people’s foe, he sought to be a friend;
  He strove to keep his country’s right by reason’s gentle word,
  And sighed when fell injustice threw the challenge sword to sword. 
  He stood the firm, the wise, the patriot, and the sage;
  He showed no deep, avenging hate, no burst of despot rage;
  He stood for Liberty and Truth, and daringly led on
  Till shouts of victory gave forth the name of Washington.

  No car of triumph bore him through a city filled with grief;
  No groaning captives at the wheels proclaimed him victor-chief;
  He broke the gyves of slavery with strong and high disdain,
  But cast no scepter from the links when he had rent the chain. 
  He saved his land, but did not lay his soldier trappings down
  To change them for a regal vest and don a kingly crown. 
  Fame was too earnest in her joy, too proud of such a son,
  To let a robe and title mask her noble Washington.

  England, my heart is truly thine, my loved, my native earth,—­
  The land that holds a mother’s grave and gave that mother birth! 
  Oh, keenly sad would be the fate that thrust me from thy shore
  And faltering my breath that sighed, “Farewell for evermore!”
  But did I meet such adverse lot, I would not seek to dwell
  Where olden heroes wrought the deeds for Homer’s song to tell. 
  “Away, thou gallant ship!” I’d cry, “and bear me safely on,
  But bear me from my own fair land to that of Washington.”

* * * * *


An extract from President McKinley’s address on Washington, taken from a report in the Cleveland Leader

Washington and the American Republic are inseparable.  You cannot study history without having the name of Washington come to you unbidden.  Bancroft said, “But for Washington the Republic would never have been conceived; the Constitution would not have been formed, and the Federal Government would never have been put in operation.”  Washington felt that the Revolution was a struggle for freedom, and it was by his strong character and wonderful patriotism that the army was held together during the prolonged and perilous war.  In all the public affairs of the colonies Washington was the champion of right.  His military career has never been equaled.  He continued at the head of his army until the close of the war, overcoming jealousies and intrigues, which only the greatest courage and the sublimest wisdom could do.  The ideal he had ever cherished was one in which the individual could have the greatest liberty, consistent with the country’s best interests, and it was with this ideal constantly in mind that he carried on the war and embodied the principles of liberty within the government.  Washington had many temptations, but the greatest of them came after

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the victory was achieved.  At the time when the army was in revolt, when there was dissatisfaction in Congress, and consternation and distress throughout the colonies, it was proposed that the original plan of government be abandoned and that Washington be chosen as the military ruler or dictator.  Washington’s strong reproval of such proposals and his insistence upon the stronger government, showed his unselfish regard for the country.  A weaker man might have weakened, a bad one would, but Washington was determined to embody into the government all that had been achieved by the war.  Washington in what he did had no precedents.  He and his associates made the chart which assisted them in guiding the new government.  He established credit, put the army and navy on a permanent basis, fostered commerce, and was ever on the side of education.

Everything that he did demonstrates his marvelous foresight.  We cannot afford to spare the inspiration that comes from Washington.  It promotes patriotism and gives vigor to national life.  Washington’s views on slavery were characterized by a high sense of justice and an exalted conscience.  He was the owner of slaves by inheritance, all his interests were affected by slavery, yet he was opposed to it, and in his will he provided for the liberation of his slaves.  He set the example for emancipation.  He hoped for, prayed for, and was willing to vote for what Lincoln afterward accomplished.





  This was the man God gave us when the hour
  Proclaimed the dawn of Liberty begun;
  Who dared a deed, and died when it was done,
  Patient in triumph, temperate in power,—­
  Not striving like the Corsican to tower
  To heaven, nor like great Philip’s greater son
  To win the world and weep for worlds unwon,
  Or lose the star to revel in the flower. 
  The lives that serve the eternal verities
  Alone do mold mankind.  Pleasure and pride
  Sparkle awhile and perish, as the spray
  Smoking across the crests of cavernous seas
  Is impotent to hasten or delay
  The everlasting surges of the tide.

* * * * *



1732.  February 22 (February 11, O.S.), born. 1748.  Surveyor of lands at sixteen years of age. 1751.  Military inspector and major at nineteen years of age. 1752.  Adjutant-general of Virginia. 1753.  Commissioner to the French. 1754.  Colonel, and commanding the Virginia militia. 1755.  Aide-de-camp to Braddock in his campaign. 1755.  Again commands the Virginia troops. 1758.  Resigns his commission. 1759.  January 6.  Married. 1759.  Elected member of Virginia House of Burgesses.

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1765.  Commissioner to settle military accounts. 1774.  In First Continental Congress. 1775.  In Second Continental Congress. 1775.  June 15.  Elected commander-in-chief. 1775.  July 2.  In command at Cambridge. 1776.  March 17.  Expels the British from Boston. 1776.  August 27.  Battle of Long Island. 1776.  August 29.  Masterly retreat to New York. 1776.  September 15.  Gallant, at Kipp’s Bay. 1776.  October 27.  Battle of Harlem Heights. 1776.  October 29.  Battle near White Plains. 1776.  November 15.  Enters New Jersey. 1776.  December 5.  Occupies right bank of the Delaware. 1776.  December 12.  Clothed with “full power.” 1776.  December 14.  Plans an offensive campaign. 1776.  December 26.  Battle of Trenton. 1777.  January 3.  Battle of Princeton. 1777.  July.  British driven from New Jersey, during. 1777.  July 13.  Marches for Philadelphia. 1777.  September 11.  Battle of Brandywine. 1777.  September 15.  Offers battle at West Chester. 1777.  October 4.  Battle of Germantown. 1778.  Winters at Valley Forge. 1778.  June 28.  Battle of Monmouth. 1778.  British again retire from New Jersey. 1778.  Again at White Plains. 1779.  At Middlebrook, New Jersey, and New Windsor. 1780.  Winters at Morristown, New Jersey. 1781.  Confers with Rochambeau as to plans. 1781.  Threatens New York in June and July. 1781.  Joins Lafayette before Yorktown. 1781.  October 19.  Surrender of Cornwallis. 1783.  November 2.  Farewell to the army. 1733.  November 25.  Occupies New York. 1783.  December 4.  Parts with his officers. 1783.  December 23.  Resigns his commission. 1787.  Presides at Constitutional Convention. 1789.  March 4.  Elected President of the United States. 1789.  April 30.  Inaugurated at New York. 1793.  March 4.  Re-elected for four years. 1796.  September 17.  Farewell to the people. 1797.  March 4.  Retires to private life. 1798.  July 3.  Appointed commander-in-chief. 1799.  December 14.  Died at Mount Vernon.

* * * * *



George Washington was a son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball, and a descendant of John Washington, who emigrated from England about 1657, during the protectorate of Cromwell.  He was born in the English colony of Virginia, in Westmoreland County, on February 22, 1732.  His education was simple and practical.  To the common English instruction of his time and home, young Washington added bookkeeping and surveying.  The three summers preceding his twentieth year he spent in surveying the estate of Lord Fairfax on the northwest boundary of the colony, an occupation which strengthened his splendid physical constitution to a high point of efficiency, and gave him practice in topography,—­valuable aids in the military campaigning which speedily followed.

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In 1751, at nineteen, he was made Adjutant in the militia, with the rank of Major.  In the following year he inherited the estate of Mount Vernon.  In the winter of 1753-54, at twenty-one, he was sent by the Governor of Virginia on a mission to the French posts beyond the Alleghanies.  Soon after his return he led a regiment to the headwaters of the Ohio, but was compelled to retreat to the colony on account of the overwhelming numbers of the French at Fort Duquesne.  In Braddock’s defeat, July 9, 1755, Washington was one of the latter’s aides, and narrowly escaped death, having had two horses shot under him.  During the remaining part of the French and Indian War, he was in command of the Virginia frontier, with the rank of Colonel, and occupied Fort Duquesne in 1758.  On January 17, 1759, he married a wealthy widow, Mrs. Martha Custis, and removed to Mount Vernon.  The administration of his plantations involved a large measure of commerce with England, and he himself with his own hand kept his books with mercantile exactness.

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, Washington was appointed by the Continental Congress, at forty-three years of age, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the Revolution, and assumed their control at Cambridge on July 3, 1775.  In 1776 he occupied Boston, lost New York, then brilliantly restored the drooping spirit of the land at Trenton and Princeton.  In the year following he lost Philadelphia, and retreated to Valley Forge.  Threatened by the jealousy of his own subordinates, he put to shame the cabal formed in the interests of Gates, who had this year captured Burgoyne.  For three years, 1778-80, he maintained himself against heavy odds in the Jerseys, fighting at Monmouth the first year, reaching out to capture Stony Point the next year, and the third year combating the treason of Arnold.  In 1781, he planned the cooping up of Cornwallis on the peninsula of Yorktown, with the aid of the French allies, and received his surrender on October 19th.

Resigning his commission at Annapolis, December 23, 1783, he returned to his estate at Mount Vernon, but vastly aided the incipient work of framing the Constitution by correspondence.  In May, 1787, he took his seat as President of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia.  He was inaugurated the first President of the United States in April, 1789, after a unanimous election.  He was similarly reflected in 1793, but refused a third term in 1796.  In the face of unmeasured vituperation he firmly kept the nascent nation from embroiling herself in the wars of France and England.  Retiring again to Mount Vernon in the spring of 1797, he nevertheless accepted, at sixty-six years of age, the post of Commander-in-Chief of the provisional army raised in 1798 to meet the insolence of the French Directorate.  In December, 1799, while riding about his estates during a snowstorm, he contracted a disease of the throat, from which he died on December 14, 1799.  He provided by his will for the manumission of his slaves, to take effect on the decease of his widow.  No lineal descendants can claim as an ancestor this extraordinary man.  He belongs to his country.  His tomb is at Mount Vernon, and is in keeping of the women of America.

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[20] From “The Hall of Fame.”  Published by G.P.  Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1901.

* * * * *



A Speech Delivered at a Public Dinner, Washington, February 22, 1832

The Power of the Name of Washington

We are met to testify our regard for him whose name is intimately blended with whatever belongs most essentially to the prosperity, the liberty, the free institutions, and the renown of our country;.  That name was of power to rally a nation, in the hour of thick-thronging public disasters and calamities; that name shone, amid the storm of war, a beacon light, to cheer and guide the country’s friends; it flamed, too, like a meteor, to repel her foes.  That name, in the days of peace, was a lodestone, attracting to itself a whole people’s confidence, a whole people’s love, and the whole world’s respect.  That name, descending with all time, spreading over the whole earth, and uttered in all the languages belonging to the tribes and races of men, will forever be pronounced with affectionate gratitude by everyone in whose breast there shall arise an aspiration for human rights and human liberty.

We perform this grateful duty, Gentlemen, at the expiration of a hundred years from his birth, near the place so cherished and beloved by him, where his dust now reposes, and in the capital which bears his own immortal name.

All experience evinces that human sentiments are strongly influenced by association.  The recurrence of anniversaries, or of longer periods of time, naturally freshens the recollection, and deepens the impression, of events with which they are historically connected.  Renowned places, also, have a power to awaken feeling, which all acknowledge.  No American can pass by the fields of Bunker Hill, Monmouth, and Camden, as if they were ordinary spots on the earth’s surface.  Whoever visits them feels the sentiment of love of country kindling anew, as if the spirit that belonged to the transactions which have rendered these places distinguished still hovered round, with power to move and excite all who in future time may approach them.

Washington’s Great Moral Example to the Youth of America

But neither of these sources of emotion equals the power with which great moral examples affect the mind.  When sublime virtues cease to be abstractions, when they become embodied in human character, and exemplified in human conduct, we should be false to our own nature if we did not indulge in the spontaneous effusions of our gratitude and our admiration.  A true lover of the virtue of patriotism delights to contemplate its purest models; and that love of country may be well suspected which affects to soar so high into the regions of sentiment as to be lost and absorbed

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in the abstract feeling, and becomes too elevated or too refined to glow with fervor in the commendation or the love of individual benefactors.  All this is unnatural.  It is as if one should be so enthusiastic a lover of poetry as to care nothing for Homer or Milton; so passionately attached to eloquence as to be indifferent to Tully[21] and Chatham; or such a devotee to the art, in such an ecstasy with the elements of beauty, proportion, and expression, as to regard the masterpieces of Raphael and Michel Angelo with coldness or contempt.  We may be assured, Gentlemen, that he who really loves the thing itself, loves its finest exhibitions.  A true friend of his country loves her friends and benefactors, and thinks it no degradation to commend and commemorate them.  The voluntary outpouring of the public feeling, made to-day, from the north to the south, and from the east to the west, proves this sentiment to be both just and natural.  In the cities and in the villages, in the public temples and in the family circles, among all ages and sexes, gladdened voices to-day bespeak grateful hearts and a freshened recollection of the virtues of the Father of his Country.  And it will be so, in all time to come, so long as public virtue is itself an object of regard.  The ingenuous youth of America will hold up to themselves the bright model of Washington’s example, and study to be what they behold; they will contemplate his character till all its virtues spread out and display themselves to their delighted vision; as the earliest astronomers, the shepherds on the plains of Babylon, gazed at the stars till they saw them form into clusters and constellations, overpowering at length the eyes of the beholders with the united blaze of a thousand lights.

A Wonderful Age and Country

Gentlemen, we are at a point of a century from the birth of Washington; and what a century it has been!  During its course, the human mind has seemed to proceed with a sort of geometric velocity, accomplishing for human intelligence and human freedom more than had been done in fives or tens of centuries preceding.  Washington stands at the commencement of a new era, as well as at the head of the New World.  A century from the birth of Washington has changed the world.  The country of Washington has been the theater on which a great part of that change has been wrought, and Washington himself a principal agent by which it has been accomplished.  His age and his country are equally full of wonders; and of both he is the chief.

If the poetical prediction, uttered a few years before his birth, be true; if indeed it be designed by Providence that the grandest exhibition of human character and human affairs shall be made in this theater of the Western world; if it be true that,

  “The four first acts already past,
  A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
  Time’s noblest offspring is the last”;

how could this imposing, swelling, final scene be appropriately opened, how could its intense interest be adequately sustained but by the introduction of just such a character as our Washington?

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The Spark of Human Freedom

Washington had attained his manhood when that spark of liberty was struck out in his own country which has since kindled into a flame and shot its beams over the earth.  In the flow of a century from his birth, the world has changed in science, in arts, in the extent of commerce, in the improvement of navigation, and in all that relates to the civilization of man.  But it is the spirit of human freedom, the new elevation of individual man, in his moral, social, and political character, leading the whole long train of other improvements, which has most remarkably distinguished the era.  Society, in this century, has not made its progress, like Chinese skill, by a greater acuteness of ingenuity in trifles; it has not merely lashed itself to an increased speed round the old circles of thought and action; but it has assumed a new character; it has raised itself from beneath governments to a participation in governments; it has mixed moral and political objects with the daily pursuits of individual men; and, with a freedom and strength before altogether unknown, it has applied to these objects the whole power of the human understanding.  It has been the era, in short, when the social principle has triumphed over the feudal principle; when society has maintained its rights against military power, and established, on foundations never hereafter to be shaken, its competency to govern itself.

A New Governmental Experiment

It was the extraordinary fortune of Washington that, having been intrusted in revolutionary times, with the supreme military command, and having fulfilled that trust with equal renown for wisdom and for valor, he should be placed at the head of the first government in which an attempt was to be made on a large scale to rear the fabric of social order on the basis of a written constitution, and of a pure representative principle.  A government was to be established without a throne, without an aristocracy, without castes, orders, or privileges; and this government, instead of being a democracy existing and acting within the walls of a single city, was to be extended over a vast country of different climates, interests, and habits, and of various communions of our common Christian faith.  The experiment certainly was entirely new.  A popular government of this extent, it was evident, could be framed only by carrying into full effect the principle of representation or of delegated power; and the world was to see whether society could, by the strength of this principle, maintain its own peace and good government, carry forward its own great interests, and conduct itself to political renown and glory.  By the benignity of Providence, this experiment, so full of interest to us and to our posterity forever, so full of interest, indeed, to the world in its present generation and in all its generations to come, was suffered to commence under the guidance of Washington.  Destined for this high career, he was fitted for it by wisdom, by virtue, by patriotism, by discretion, by whatever can inspire confidence in man toward man.  In entering on the untried scenes, early disappointment and the premature extinction of all hope of success would have been certain, had it not been that there did exist throughout the country, in a most extraordinary degree, an unwavering trust in him who stood at the helm.

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The World Interested in the Experiment

I remarked, Gentlemen, that the whole world was and is interested in the result of this experiment.  And is it not so?  Do we deceive ourselves, or is it true that at this moment the career which this government is running is among the most attractive objects to the civilized world?  Do we deceive ourselves, or is it true that at this moment that love of liberty and that understanding of its true principles which are flying over the whole earth, as on the wings of all the winds, are really and truly of American origin?

Importance of the English Revolution of 1688

At the period of the birth of Washington there existed in Europe no political liberty in large communities, except in the provinces of Holland, and except that England herself had set a great example, so far as it went, by her glorious Revolution of 1688.  Everywhere else, despotic power was predominant, and the feudal or military principle held the mass of mankind in hopeless bondage.  One-half of Europe was crushed beneath the Bourbon scepter, and no conception of political liberty, no hope even of religious toleration, existed among that nation which was America’s first ally.  The king was the state, the king was the country, the king was all.  There was one king, with power not derived from his people, and too high to be questioned; and the rest were all subjects, with no political right but obedience.  All above was intangible power, all below quiet subjection.  A recent occurrence in the French chamber shows us how public opinion on these subjects is changed.  A minister had spoken of the “king’s subjects.”  “There are no subjects,” exclaimed hundreds of voices at once, “in a country where the people make the king!”

Gentlemen, the spirit of human liberty and of free government, nurtured and grown into strength and beauty in America, has stretched its course into the midst of the nations.  Like an emanation from Heaven, it has gone forth, and it will not return void.  It must change, it is fast changing, the face of the earth.  Our great, our high duty is to show, in our own example, that this spirit is a spirit of health as well as a spirit of power; that its benignity is as great as its strength; that its efficiency to secure individual rights, social relations, and moral order, is equal to the irresistible force with which it prostrates principalities and powers.  The world, at this moment, is regarding us with a willing, but something of a fearful, admiration.  Its deep and awful anxiety is to learn whether free States may be stable, as well as free; whether popular power may be trusted, as well as feared; in short, whether wise, regular, and virtuous self-government is a vision for the contemplation of theorists, or a truth established, illustrated, and brought into practice in the country of Washington.

The United States a Western Sun

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Gentlemen, for the earth which we inhabit, and the whole circle of the sun, for all the unborn races of mankind, we seem to hold in our hands, for their weal or woe, the fate of this experiment.  If we fail, who shall venture the repetition?  If our example shall prove to be one not of encouragement, but of terror, not fit to be imitated, but fit only to be shunned, where else shall the world look for free models?  If this great Western Sun be struck out of the firmament, at what other fountain shall the lamp of liberty hereafter be lighted?  What other orb shall emit a ray to glimmer, even, on the darkness of the world?

There is no danger of our overrating or overstating the important part which we are now acting in human affairs.  It should not flatter our personal self-respect, but it should reanimate our patriotic virtues and inspire us with a deeper and more solemn sense both of our privileges and of our duties.  We cannot wish better for our country, nor for the world, than that the same spirit which influenced Washington may influence all who succeed him; and that the same blessing from above, which attended his efforts, may also attend theirs.

Washington’s Farewell Address

The principles of Washington’s administration are not left doubtful.  They are to be found in the Constitution itself, in the great measures recommended and approved by him, in his speeches to Congress, and in that most interesting paper, his Farewell Address to the people of the United States.  The success of the government under his administration is the highest proof of the soundness of these principles.  And, after an experience of thirty-five years, what is there which an enemy could condemn?  What is there which either his friends, or the friends of the country, could wish to have been otherwise?  I speak, of course, of great measures and leading principles.

In the first place, all his measures were right in their intent.  He stated the whole basis of his own great character, when he told the country, in the homely phrase of the proverb, that honesty is the best policy.  One of the most striking things ever said of him is, that “he changed mankind’s ideas of political greatness."[22] To commanding talents, and to success, the common elements of such greatness, he added a disregard of self, a spotlessness of motive, a steady submission to every public and private duty, which threw far into the shade the whole crowd of vulgar great.  The object of his regard was the whole country.  No part of it was enough to fill his enlarged patriotism.  His love of glory, so far as that may be supposed to have influenced him at all, spurned everything short of general approbation.  It would have been nothing to him that his partisans or his favorites outnumbered, or outvoted, or outmanaged, or outclamored, those of other leaders.  He had no favorites; he rejected all partisanship; and, acting honestly for the universal good, he deserved, what he so richly enjoyed, the universal love.

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His principle it was to act right, and to trust the people for support; his principle it was not to follow the lead of sinister and selfish ends, nor to rely on the little arts of party delusion to obtain public sanction for such a course.  Born for his country and for the world, he did not give up to party what was meant for mankind.  The consequence is, that his fame is as durable as his principles, as lasting as truth and virtue themselves.  While the hundreds whom party excitement, and temporary circumstances, and casual combinations, have raised into transient notoriety, sink again, like thin bubbles, bursting and dissolving into the great ocean, Washington’s fame is like the rock which bounds that ocean, and at whose feet its billows are destined to break harmlessly forever.

His Conduct of America’s Foreign Relations

The maxims upon which Washington conducted our foreign relations were few and simple.  The first was an entire and indisputable impartiality towards foreign States.[23] He adhered to this rule of public conduct, against very strong inducements to depart from it, and when the popularity of the moment seemed to favor such a departure.  In the next place, he maintained true dignity and unsullied honor in all communications with foreign States.  It was among the high duties devolved upon him to introduce our new government into the circle of civilized States and powerful nations.  Not arrogant or assuming, with no unbecoming or supercilious bearing, he yet exacted for it from all others entire and punctilious respect.  He demanded, and he obtained at once, a standing of perfect equality for his country in the society of nations; nor was there a prince or potentate of his day, whose personal character carried with it, into the intercourse of other States, a greater degree of respect and veneration.

He regarded other nations only as they stood in political relations to us.  With their internal affairs, their political parties and dissensions, he scrupulously abstained from all interference; and, on the other hand, he repelled with spirit all such interference by others with us or our concerns.  His sternest rebuke, the most indignant measure of his whole administration, was aimed against such an attempted interference.  He felt it as an attempt to wound the national honor, and resented it accordingly.

Foreign Influence a Foe of Republican Government

The reiterated admonitions in his Farewell Address show his deep fears that foreign influence would insinuate itself into our counsels through the channels of domestic dissension, and obtain a sympathy with our own temporary parties.  Against all such dangers he most earnestly entreats the country to guard itself.  He appeals to its patriotism, to its self-respect, to its own honor, to every consideration connected with its welfare and happiness, to resist, at the very beginning, all tendencies toward such connection of foreign interests with our own affairs.  With a tone of earnestness nowhere else found, even in his last affectionate farewell advice to his countrymen, he says, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

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The Advantages of American Isolation

Lastly, on the subject of foreign relations, Washington never forgot that we had interests peculiar to ourselves.  The primary political concerns of Europe, he saw, did not affect us.  We had nothing to do with her balance of power, her family compacts, or her successions to thrones.  We were placed in a condition favorable to neutrality during European wars, and to the enjoyment of all the great advantages of that relation.  “Why, then,” he asks us, “why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?  Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?  Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?”

Indeed, Gentlemen, Washington’s Farewell Address is full of truths important at all times, and particularly deserving consideration at the present.  With a sagacity which brought the future before him, and made it like the present, he saw and pointed out the dangers that even at this moment most imminently threaten us.  I hardly know how a greater service of that kind could now be done to the community, than by a renewed and wide diffusion of that admirable paper, and an earnest invitation to every man in the country to reperuse and consider it.  Its political maxims are invaluable; its exhortations to love of country and to brotherly affection among citizens, touching; and the solemnity with which it urges the observance of moral duties, and impresses the power of religious obligation, gives to it the highest character of truly disinterested, sincere, parental advice.

Washington’s Domestic Policy

The domestic policy of Washington found its pole-star in the avowed objects of the Constitution itself.  He sought so to administer that Constitution as to form more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.  These were objects interesting in the highest degree, to the whole country, and his policy embraced the whole country.

Among his earliest and most important duties was the organization of the government itself, the choice of his confidential advisers, and the various appointments to office.  This duty, so important and delicate, when a whole government was to be organized, and all its offices for the first time filled, was yet not difficult to him, for he had no sinister ends to accomplish, no clamorous partisans to gratify, no pledges to redeem, no object to be regarded but simply the public good.  It was a plain, straightforward matter, a mere honest choice of good men for the public service.

His First Cabinet

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His own singleness of purpose, his disinterested patriotism, were evinced by the selection of his first cabinet, and by the manner in which he felled the seats of justice, and other places of high trust.  He sought for men fit for offices; not for offices which might suit them.  Above personal considerations, above local considerations, above party considerations, he felt that he could only discharge the sacred trust which the country had placed in his hands, by a diligent inquiry after real merit, and a conscientious preference of virtue and talent.  The whole country was the field of his selection.  He explored that whole field, looking only for whatever it contained most worthy and distinguished.  He was, indeed, most successful, and he deserved success for the purity of his motives, the liberality of his sentiments, and his enlarged and manly policy.

Important Measures of His Administrations

Washington’s administration established the national credit, made provision for the public debt, and for that patriotic army whose interests and welfare were always so dear to him; and, by laws wisely framed, and of admirable effect, raised the commerce and navigation of the country, almost at once, from depression and ruin to a state of prosperity.  Nor were his eyes open to these interests alone.  He viewed with equal concern its agriculture and manufactures, and, so far as they came within the regular exercise of the powers of this government, they experienced regard and favor.

It should not be omitted, even in this slight reference to the general measures and general principles of the First President, that he saw and felt the full value and importance of the judicial department of the government.  An upright and able administration of the laws he held to be alike indispensable to private happiness and public liberty.  The temple of justice, in his opinion, was a sacred place, and he would profane and pollute it who should call any to minister in it, not spotless in character, not incorruptible in integrity, not competent by talent and learning, not a fit object of unhesitating trust.

His Opinion of the Dangers of Party Spirit

Among other admonitions Washington has left us, in his last communication to his country, an exhortation against the excesses of party spirit.  A fire not to be quenched, he yet conjures us not to fan and feed the flame.  Undoubtedly, Gentlemen, it is the greatest danger of our system and of our time.  Undoubtedly, if that system should be overthrown, it will be the work of excessive party spirit, acting on the government, which is dangerous enough, or acting in the government, which is a thousand times more dangerous; for government then becomes nothing but organized party, and, in the strange vicissitudes of human affairs, it may come at last, perhaps, to exhibit the singular paradox of government itself being in opposition to its own powers, at war with the very elements of its own existence.  Such cases are hopeless.  As men may be protected against murder, but cannot be guarded against suicide, so government may be shielded from the assaults of external foes, but nothing can save it when it chooses to lay violent hands on itself.

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His Love of the Union

Finally, Gentlemen, there was in the breast of Washington one sentiment so deeply felt, so constantly uppermost, that no proper occasion escaped without its utterance.  From the letter which he signed in behalf of the Convention when the Constitution was sent out to the people, to the moment when he put his hand to that last paper in which he addressed his countrymen, the Union,—­the Union was the great object of his thoughts.  In that first letter he tells them that to him and his brethren of the Convention, union appears to be the greatest interest of every true American; and in that last paper he conjures them to regard that unity of government which constitutes them one people as the very palladium of their prosperity and safety, and the security of liberty itself.  He regarded the union of these States less as one of our blessings, than as the great treasure-house which contained them all.  Here, in his judgment, was the great magazine of all our means of prosperity; here as he thought, and as every true American still thinks, are deposited all our animating prospects, all our solid hopes for future greatness.  He has taught us to maintain this union, not by seeking to enlarge the powers of the government, on the one hand, nor by surrendering them, on the other; but by an administration of them at once firm and moderate, pursuing objects truly national, and carried on in a spirit of justice and equity.

The American Nation Unique

The extreme solicitude for the preservation of the Union, at all times manifested by him, shows not only the opinion he entertained of its importance, but his clear perception of those causes which were likely to spring up to endanger it, and which, if once they should overthrow the present system, would leave little hope of any future beneficial reunion.  Of all the presumptions indulged by presumptuous men, that is one of the rashest which looks for repeated and favorable opportunities for the deliberate establishment of a united government over distinct and widely extended communities.  Such a thing has happened once in human affairs, and but once; the event stands out as a prominent exception to all ordinary history; and unless we suppose ourselves running into an age of miracles, we may not expect its repetition.

Washington, therefore, could regard, and did regard nothing as a paramount political interest but the integrity of the Union itself.  With a united government, well administered, he saw that we had nothing to fear; and without it, nothing to hope.  The sentiment is just, and its momentous truth should solemnly impress the whole country.  If we might regard our country as personated in the spirit of Washington, if we might consider him as representing her, in her past renown, her present prosperity, and her future career, and as in that character demanding of us all to account for our conduct, as political men or as private citizens, how should he answer him who has ventured to talk of disunion and dismemberment?  Oh how should he answer him who dwells perpetually on local interests, and fans every kindling flame of local prejudice?  How should he answer him who would array State against State, interest against interest, and party against party, careless of the continuance of that unity of government which constitutes us one people?

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The political prosperity which this country has attained, and which it now enjoys, has been acquired mainly through the instrumentality of the present government.  While this agent continues, the capacity of attaining to still higher degrees of prosperity exists also.  We have, while this lasts, a political life capable of beneficial exertion, with power to resist or overcome misfortunes, to sustain us against the ordinary accidents of human affairs, and to promote, by active efforts, every public interest.  But dismemberment strikes at the very being which preserves these faculties.  It would lay its rude and ruthless hand on this great agent itself.  It would sweep away, not only what we possess, but all power of regaining lost, or acquiring new possessions.  It would leave the country not only bereft of its prosperity and happiness, but without limbs, or organs, or faculties, by which to exert itself hereafter in the pursuit of that prosperity and happiness.

Dismemberment of the United States the Greatest of Evils

Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome.  If disastrous war should sweep our commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it; if it exhaust our treasury, future industry may replenish it; if it desolate and lay waste our fields, still, under a new cultivation, they will grow green again, and ripen to future harvests.  It were but a trifle even if the walls of yonder Capitol were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all covered by the dust of the valley.  All these might be rebuilt.  But who shall reconstruct the fabric of demolished government?  Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of constitutional liberty?  Who shall frame together the skillful architecture which unites national sovereignty with State rights, individual security, and public prosperity?  No, if these columns fall, they will be raised not again.  Like the Coliseum and the Parthenon, they will be destined to a mournful, a melancholy immortality.  Bitterer tears, however, will flow over them than were ever shed over the monuments of Roman or Grecian art; for they will be the remnants of a more glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw, the edifice of constitutional American liberty.

But let us hope for better things.  Let us trust in that gracious Being who has hitherto held our country as in the hollow of his hand.  Let us trust to the virtue and the intelligence of the people, and to the efficacy of religious obligation.  Let us trust to the influence of Washington’s example.  Let us hope that that fear of Heaven which expels all other fear, and that regard to duty which transcends all other regard, may influence public men and private citizens, and lead our country still onward in her happy career.  Full of these gratifying anticipations and hopes, let us look forward to the end of that century which is now commenced.  A hundred years hence,

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other disciples of Washington will celebrate his birth, with no less of sincere admiration than we now commemorate it.  When they shall meet, as we now meet, to do themselves and him that honor, so surely as they shall see the blue summits of his native mountains rise in the horizon, so surely as they shall behold the river on whose banks he lived, and on whose banks he rests, still flowing on toward the sea, so surely may they see, as we now see, the flag of the Union floating on the top of the Capitol; and then, as now, may the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!


[21] At the beginning of the nineteenth century Marcus Tullius Cicero was often called Tully.

[22] A remark by Fisher Ames (1758-1808), of Massachusetts,—­perhaps the extremest Federalist of his time.

[23] The famous phrase, “honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none,” was not Washington’s but Jefferson’s.

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The following lines were written on the back of a picture at Mount Vernon

  There dwelt the Man, the flower of human kind,
  Whose visage mild bespoke his nobler mind.

  There dwelt the Soldier, who his sword ne’er drew
  But in a righteous cause, to Freedom true.

  There dwelt the Hero, who ne’er killed for fame,
  Yet gained more glory than a Caesar’s name.

  There dwelt the Statesman, who, devoid of art,
  Gave soundest counsels from an upright heart;

  And, O Columbia, by thy sons caressed,
  There dwelt the Father of the realms he blessed;
  Who no wish felt to make his mighty praise,
  Like other chiefs, the means himself to raise;
  But there retiring, breathed in pure renown,
  And felt a grandeur that disdained a crown.

* * * * *



To the pen of the historian must be resigned the more arduous and elaborate tribute of justice to those efforts of heroic and political virtue which conducted the American people to peace and liberty.  The vanquished foe retired from our shores, and left to the controlling genius who repelled them the gratitude of his own country, and the admiration of the world.  The time had now arrived which was to apply the touchstone to his integrity, which was to assay the affinity of his principles to the standard of immutable right.

On the one hand, a realm to which he was endeared by his services almost invited him to empire; on the other, the liberty to whose protection his life had been devoted, was the ornament and boon of human nature.

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Washington could not depart from his own great self.  His country was free.  He was no longer a general.  Sublime spectacle! more elevating to the pride of virtue than the sovereignty of the globe united to the scepter of the ages!  Enthroned in the hearts of his countrymen, the gorgeous pageantry of prerogative was unworthy the majesty of his dominion.  That effulgence of military character which in ancient states has blasted the rights of the people whose renown it had brightened, was not here permitted, by the hero from whom it emanated, to shine with so destructive a luster.  Its beams, though intensely resplendent, did not wither the young blossoms of our Independence; and Liberty, like the burning bush, flourished, unconsumed by the glory which surrounded it.

To the illustrious founder of our Republic it was reserved to exhibit the example of a magnanimity that commanded victory, of a moderation that retired from triumph.  Unlike the erratic meteors of ambition, whose flaming path sheds a disastrous light on the pages of history, his bright orb, eclipsing the luminaries among which it rolled, never portended “fearful change” to religion, nor from its “golded tresses” shook pestilence on empire.

What to other heroes has been glory, would to Washington have been disgrace.  To his intrepidity it would have added no honorary trophy, to have waded, like the conqueror of Peru, through the blood of credulous millions, to plant the standard of triumph at the burning mouth of a volcano.  To his fame, it would have erected no auxiliary monument to have invaded, like the ravager of Egypt, an innocent though barbarous nation, to inscribe his name on the pillar of Pompey.

* * * * *



The history, so sad and so glorious, which chronicles the stern struggle in which our rights and liberties passed through the awful baptism of fire and blood, is eloquent with the deeds of many patriots, warriors, and statesmen; but these all fall into relations to one prominent and commanding figure, towering up above the whole group in unapproachable majesty, whose exalted character, warm and bright with every public and private virtue, and vital with the essential spirit of wisdom, has burst all sectional and national bounds, and made the name of Washington the property of all mankind.

This illustrious man, at once the world’s admiration and enigma, we are taught by a fine instinct to venerate, and by a wrong opinion to misjudge.  The might of his character has taken strong hold upon the feelings of great masses of men; but, in translating this universal sentiment into an intelligent form, the intellectual element of his wonderful nature is as much depressed as the moral element is exalted, and consequently we are apt to misunderstand both.  Mediocrity has a bad trick of idealizing itself in eulogizing him,

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and drags him down to its own level while assuming to lift him to the skies.  How many times have we been told that he was not a man of genius, but a person of “excellent common sense,” of “admirable judgment,” of “rare virtues”! and, by a constant repetition of this odious cant, we have nearly succeeded in divorcing comprehension from his sense, insight from his judgment, force from his virtues, and life from the man.  Accordingly, in the panegyric of cold spirits, Washington disappears in a cloud of commonplaces; in the rhodomontade of boiling patriots, he expires in the agonies of rant.  Now, the sooner this bundle of mediocre talents and moral qualities, which its contrivers have the audacity to call George Washington, is hissed out of existence, the better it will be for the cause of talent and the cause of morals; contempt of that is the condition of insight.  He had no genius, it seems.  O no! genius, we must suppose, is the peculiar and shining attribute of some orator, whose tongue can spout patriotic speeches, or some versifier, whose muse can “Hail Columbia,” but not of the man who supported states on his arm, and carried America in his brain.  The madcap Charles Townshend, the motion of whose pyrotechnic mind was like the whiz of a hundred rockets, is a man of genius; but George Washington raised up above the level of even eminent statesmen, and with a nature moving with the still and orderly celerity of a planet round the sun,—­he dwindles, in comparison, into a kind of angelic dunce!  What is genius?  Is it worth anything.  Is splendid folly the measure of its inspiration?  Is wisdom that which it recedes from, or tends towards?  And by what definition do you award the name to the creator of an epic, and deny it to the creator of a country?  On what principle is it to be lavished on him who sculptures in perishing marble the image of possible excellence, and withheld from him who built up in himself a transcendent character indestructible as the obligations of Duty, and beautiful as her rewards?

Indeed, if by the genius of action you mean will enlightened by intelligence, and intelligence energized by will,—­if force and insight be its characteristics, and influence its test,—­and, especially, if great effects suppose a cause proportionately great, that is, a vital causative mind,—­then is Washington most assuredly a man of genius, and one whom no other American has equaled in the power of working morally and mentally on other minds.  His genius, it is true, was of a peculiar kind, the genius of character, of thought, and the objects of thought solidified and concentrated into active faculty.  He belongs to that rare class of men,—­rare as Homers and Miltons, rare as Platos and Newtons, who have impressed their characters upon nations without pampering national vices.  Such men have natures broad enough to include all the facts of a people’s practical life, and deep enough to discern the spiritual laws which underlie, animate, and govern those facts.  Washington,

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in short, had that greatness of character which is the highest expression and last result of greatness of mind; for there is no method of building up character except through mind.  Indeed, character like his is not built up, stone upon stone, precept upon precept, but grows up, through an actual contact of thought with things,—­the assimilative mind transmuting the impalpable but potent spirit of public sentiment, and the life of visible facts, and the power of spiritual laws, into individual life and power, so that their mighty energies put on personality, as it were, and act through one centralizing human will.  This process may not, if you please, make the great philosopher or the great poet; but it does make the great man,—­the man in whom thought and judgment seem identical with volition,—­the man whose vital expression is not in words, but deeds,—­the man whose sublime ideas issue necessarily in sublime acts, not in sublime art.  It was because Washington’s character was thus composed of the inmost substance and power of facts and principles, that men instinctively felt the perfect reality of his comprehensive manhood.  This reality enforced universal respect, married strength to repose, and threw into his face that commanding majesty which made men of the speculative audacity of Jefferson, and the lucid genius of Hamilton, recognize, with unwonted meekness, his awful superiority.


[24] From “Character and Characteristic Men.”  Published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

* * * * *



Washington’s ideas concerning education have the approval of educators of our day.  He was in advance of his age; it is a question if we have quite caught up with him.  Of the two plans of his mature years and ripened experience, one has been realized, the West Point idea, which brings together, from every State and Territory of the Union, young men to be trained for military service; that other plan of a National University, with schools of administration and statesmanship, is yet being considered.

Washington shared neither the least nor the most of the educational advantages of his colony.  The elder brothers, Lawrence and Augustine, had realized their father’s hopes, and had been sent to England for their schooling as he had been for his, but the early death of the father defeated that plan for George, so he obtained the early preparation for his life work from the “home university,” over which Mary Washington presided, a loving and wise head.  At times George was with his brother Augustine at Bridges Creek, to be near the best parish school, and then he was at home; but all the time he was advancing rapidly in that school of men and affairs.  “He was above all things else, a capable, executive boy,”

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says Woodrow Wilson in his biography.  “He loved mastery and he relished acquiring the most effective means of mastery in all practical affairs.  His very exercise books, used at school, gave proof of it.”  As he did these things with care and industry, so he followed with zest the spirited diversions of the hunt and the life in fields and forests.  Very early he put his knowledge of the surveyor’s art to practical test, and applied the chain and logarithm to the reaches of the family lands.  His skill came to the notice of Lord Fairfax, who wished to know the extent of the lands he had inherited in the New World.  Washington, though but sixteen, was equal to the task; in a month’s time, after fording swollen streams and penetrating the forests, he presented to Lord Fairfax maps and figures which showed him the extent and boundaries of his estate.  For three years Washington followed this fascinating yet perilous work, and then, being strongly recommended by Lord Fairfax, and himself being able to show in clear, round style his mastery of the art and science of surveying, he received in 1748 from the President of William and Mary College the appointment as official surveyor for Culpeper County; such a certificate was equivalent to a degree of civil engineer in those days.

Thus from an institution of higher learning, George Washington received the first public recognition of service, and of merit.  It was the turning point in his life; it opened up fully the path to those experiences which equipped him for that efficient service in the French and Indian War, and the Revolution.

The honorable position of Chancellor had been held by the Bishops of London from the foundation of the College in 1693 to the Revolution.  The old statute defining the duties of the office is interesting:  “The Chancellor is to be the Maecenas, or patron of the College; such a one as by his favor with the King and by his interest with all other persons in England may be enabled to help in all the College affairs.  His advice is to be taken, especially in such arduous and momentous affairs as the College shall have to do in England.  If the College has any petitions at any time to the King, let them be presented by the Chancellor.”  We can imagine a grim smile on Washington’s countenance as he read the provisions made concerning the functions of his office, especially that of conferring with the King.

In his letter to Samuel Griffin, Esq., Rector of the College, accepting his appointment, he says:  “Influenced by a heartfelt desire to promote the cause of science in general and the prosperity of the College of William and Mary in particular, I accept the office of Chancellor in the same, and request you will be pleased to give official notice thereof to the learned body who have thought proper to honor me with the appointment.  I confide fully in their strenuous endeavors for placing the system of education on such a basis as will render it most beneficial to the State, and the Republic of letters, as well as to the more extensive interests of humanity and religion.”  This call to the leadership of education in his own State antedated his election to the Presidency of the new Republic by a year, and he continued in that service to the College of William and Mary until the close of his life.

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About the close of the Revolution, the State of Maryland began to broaden its educational institutions.  The School of Kent County at Chestertown was placed in 1780 under the charge of the Rev. Dr. William Smith, the minister of the parish who had been President of the College of Philadelphia until its charter was revoked.  Dr. Smith conducted the Academy at Chestertown with great energy and ability, and in 1782 the Visitors of the Academy asked that it be made a college; the legislature made provision that when a total endowment of five thousand pounds currency should be provided for the school, it should be incorporated into a college, with enlarged courses of study and suitable professors, and should be denominated Washington College, “in honorable and perpetual memory of his Excellency, General Washington, the illustrious and virtuous Commander-in-Chief, of the armies of the United States.”  In five months the energetic trustees raised $14,000; Washington contributed fifty guineas.  The College was at once incorporated, and in the following year, at its first commencement, its endowment had increased to $28,000.  It was the first college in Maryland; Washington was elected as a member of the first Board of Visitors, but being with the army at Newburgh, was unable to take his place on the Board, until the second commencement of the College in 1784.  Five years later, the College bestowed upon Washington the degree of Doctor of Laws; his letter of acknowledgment expressed the sentiment that, “in civilized societies the welfare of the state and the happiness of the people are advanced or retarded in proportion as the morals and education of the youth are attended to.  I cannot forbear on this occasion to express the satisfaction which I feel on seeing the increase of our seminaries of learning through the extensive country, and the general wish which seems to prevail for establishing and maintaining these valuable institutions.”  The old College has suffered by fire, and the vicissitudes of fortune, yet it has lived through the years, and is to-day doing a prosperous and noble work.

The Potomac and Virginia Company, and the James River Company were among those organizations for transportation which Washington aided for the opening up of the country.  There was a recognition of his services to the country, and the legislature of Virginia in 1785, through Patrick Henry, then Governor, gave Washington fifty shares in the Potomac and Virginia Company, and one hundred shares in the James River Company.  Washington replied that he had resolutely shut his hand against every pecuniary recompense during the revolutionary struggle; and that he could not change that position.  He added that, if the legislature would allow him to turn the gifts from his own private emolument to objects of a public nature, he would endeavor to select objects which would meet the most enlightened and patriotic views of the Assembly of Virginia.  The proposition met with hearty approval, and Washington held the stock in both companies, awaiting the time when proper and worthy objects should be found for the benefactions.

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In 1785 he proposed to Edmund Randolph and Thomas Jefferson, that the revenue of the stock in those companies be used for the establishment of two schools, one upon each river, for the education of poor children, particularly those whose parents had fallen in the struggle for liberty.  The idea was a noble one, yet Washington’s call to the large service of the College of William and Mary as its Chancellor, and to the country as its President, prevented him from carrying it out.  He carried out the spirit of his idea by giving fifty pounds a year for the instruction of poor children in Alexandria, and by making large provision for the education of the sons of soldiers.  In 1783 he honored a Princeton commencement by his presence, and bestowed upon the College a gift of fifty pounds.  A tour through Georgia in 1790 gave him opportunity to visit and approve of the Academy of Augusta.  About the same time the indomitable Kirkland, missionary to the Iroquois, was trying every source of influence and money in behalf of an academy in Oneida County, New York, to be located near the old Property Line, where both the sons of the settlers and the children of the forest might be educated.  His visit to Philadelphia secured a generous benefaction from Washington, and at the same time his influence and that of others, so that Congress appropriated $15,000 yearly to “instruct the Iroquois in agriculture and the useful arts.”

Washington had now matured his idea of a national university.  He was ready to lay it before the country, and to be the first contributor to its endowment.  Virginia was taking new interest in its schools and the influence of William and Mary College was widening:  there was a demand for more thoroughly equipped academies.  The school at Augusta, which the Revolution had been the means of christening Liberty Hall, had become prominent.  In 1796 Washington settled upon Liberty Hall as the proper recipient of the one hundred shares in the James River Company to augment its endowment.  In accepting the gift the name of the academy was changed, and the trustees were able to sign themselves, “the trustees of Washington Academy, late Liberty Hall.”  Washington was greatly touched by the honor, and ascribed his ability to make the donation to “the generosity of the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The institution prospered.  About 1802 a new charter was granted with larger powers, under the name of Washington College.  John Robinson, a soldier of the Revolution under Washington, gave, in emulation of his illustrious commander, his entire estate to Washington College; from it the trustees realized $40,000 toward the endowment.  The stock of the James River Company, which Washington transferred to the College, to-day yields an income of six per cent, on $50,000, and, after prospering years, the College has now a productive endowment of $600,000, and a property worth $800,000.  The country has passed through many critical periods since Washington’s day, and the Union is stronger than ever.  The old College is a witness to the all-healing power of time and kinship, for its name has again been added to:  it is Washington and Lee University now; and thus is joined with the name of the Father of His Country the name of one whom the South has ever loved, whom the North long since forgave, and whose memory the country will ever cherish.

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The Revolutionary War was a costly experiment of education in military affairs in the field; it cost heavily in blood and treasure.  Washington realized that preparation for service in the army must be had in military schools.

From the very beginning of the war until the end of his life, by official message and by letter, Washington urged the importance of military instruction.  In his message to Congress in 1796 he said:  “The institution of a military academy is recommended by cogent reasons.  However pacific the general policy of a nation may be, it ought never to be without an adequate stock of military knowledge for emergencies.  In proportion as the observance from the necessity of practicing the rules of the military art, ought to be its care in preserving and transmitting by proper establishments the knowledge of that art.  A thorough examination of the subject will evince that the art of war is extensive and complicated; that it demands much previous study; and that the possession of it in its most important and perfect state is always of great moment to the security of a nation.”  Congress did make provision for the carrying out of many of the President’s recommendations; it created a new grade in the army, that of Cadet, to which young men exclusively were admitted, and money was appropriated for their education in the science of war that they might be prepared for positions of command.  But Congress delayed the potential part of the plan; it did not collect the regiment of artillerists and engineers at a single station, nor did it erect buildings for the uses of education.

The idea did not die; in 1802 Congress made the first of those provisions for a military academy with the plan and scope which Washington had so persistently urged.  West Point was chosen as the place of its location.  That academy has more than once demonstrated the wisdom of the far-seeing Washington.

West Point is the realization of Washington’s plans for a national school of military instruction.  To-day it represents to the country the important features of that plan for a National University.  By his last will and testament, Washington bequeathed the fifty shares of stock in the Potomac Company to the establishment of a National University in the central part of the United States; he made provision that until such a university should be founded the fund should be self-accumulating by the use of the dividends in the purchase of more stock, to still further augment the endowment fund.  In the transfers and changes of commercial life apparent record of that stock has been lost, yet that last will bequeathed an ideal which in indirect ways is still inspiring our national educational system.

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Let us take our place by the side of a student of our national history and institutions, as after a walk through the buildings across that noble plain at West Point he sits down to meditate, on the granite steps of the “Battle Monument.”  He is where the history of yesterday abides, but about him is represented the strength and life of the nation, and the strong military figures of officers, cadets, and soldiers from every section of our country.  He feels the wisdom of that great desire of Washington’s that the life and thought of the widely separated sections of the rising empire should become homogeneous and unified by the meeting of the young men of the land in a central school, during the years of training for the country’s service at arms.  This student of history would feel how that hope had been fulfilled by the loyal service which the sons of West Point to so large a degree rendered the Union in its days of peril; and with deep gratitude would he acknowledge that enthusiastic loyalty with which the North and South, the East and West, as represented at West Point and throughout the country, rushed to its service to release those islands of the sea from the thraldom and tyranny of a medieval monarchy.

Then the vista of the future would open before him, and he would see that larger hope and plan of Washington’s realized in the city of his name.  There in that center in the Nation’s life he would see young men assembling in the national schools of administration, commerce, consular service, and finance, to study questions of government and international relations.  He would see reaching to all the lands of earth a peace more beautiful than that of the river below him; and wider and deeper than that Western ocean where now is flying our flag of hope and promise.

* * * * *



Delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives, February 21, 1885

Mr. President of the United States, Senators, Representatives, Judges, Mr. Chairman, and My Countrymen:—­Alone in its grandeur stands forth the character of Washington in history; alone like some peak that has no fellow in the mountain range of greatness.

“Washington,” said Guizot, “Washington did the two greatest things which in politics it is permitted to man to attempt.  He maintained by peace the independence of his country, which he had conquered by war.  He founded a free government in the name of the principles of order and by re-establishing their sway.”  Washington did, indeed, do these things.  But he did more.  Out of disconnected fragments, he molded a whole, and made it a country.  He achieved his country’s independence by the sword.  He maintained that independence by peace as by war.  He finally established both his country and its freedom in an enduring frame of constitutional government, fashioned to make liberty and union one and inseparable.  These four things together constitute the unexampled achievement of Washington.

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The world has ratified the profound remark of Fisher Ames, that “he changed mankind’s ideas of political greatness.”  It has approved the opinion of Edward Everett, that he was “the greatest of good men, and the best of great men.”  It has felt for him, with Erskine, “an awful reverence.”  It has attested the declaration of Brougham that he was “the greatest man of his own or of any age."...

Conquerors who have stretched your scepter over boundless territories; founders of empires who have held your dominions in the reign of law; reformers who have cried aloud in the wilderness of oppression; teachers who have striven to cast down false doctrines, heresy, and schism; statesmen whose brains have throbbed with mighty plans for the amelioration of human society; scar-crowned vikings of the sea, illustrious heroes of the land, who have borne the standards of siege and battle, come forth in bright array from your glorious fanes, and would ye be measured by the measure of his stature?  Behold you not in him a more illustrious and more venerable presence?  Statesman, soldier, patriot, sage, reformer of creeds; teacher of truth and justice, achiever and preserver of liberty, the first of men, founder and saviour of his country, father of his people—­this is he, solitary and unapproachable in his grandeur!

Oh, felicitous Providence that gave to America our Washington!

High soars into the sky to-day, higher than the pyramid or the dome of St. Paul’s or St. Peter’s—­the loftiest and most imposing structure that man has ever reared—­high soars into the sky to where—­“Earth highest yearns to meet a star” the monument which “We the people of the United States” have uplifted to his memory.  It is a fitting monument, more fitting than any statue.  For his image could only display him in some one phase of his varied character.  So art has fitly typified his exalted life in yon plain, lofty shaft.  Such is his greatness, that only by a symbol could it be represented.  As Justice must be blind in order to be whole in contemplation, so History must be silent that by this mighty sign she may disclose the amplitude of her story.

No sum could now be made of Washington’s character that did not exhaust language of its tributes and repeat virtue by all her names.  No sum could be made of his achievements that did not unfold the history of his country and its institutions—­the history of his age and its progress—­the history of man and his destiny to be free.  But, whether character or achievement be regarded, the riches before us only expose the poverty of praise.  So clear was he in his great office that no ideal of the leader or ruler can be formed that does not shrink by the side of the reality.  And so has he impressed himself upon the minds of men, that no man can justly aspire to be the chief of a great, free people, who does not adopt his principles and emulate his example.  We look with amazement on such eccentric characters as Alexander, Caesar, Cromwell, Frederick, and Napoleon, but when Washington’s face rises before us, instinctively mankind exclaims:  “This is the man for nations to trust and reverence, and for rulers to follow.”

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Drawing his sword from patriotic impulse, without ambition and without malice, he wielded it without vindictiveness, and sheathed it without reproach.  All that humanity could conceive he did to suppress the cruelties of war and soothe its sorrows.  He never struck a coward’s blow.  To him age, infancy, and helplessness were ever sacred.  He tolerated no extremity unless to curb the excesses of his enemy, and he never poisoned the sting of defeat by the exultation of the conqueror.

Peace he welcomed as a heaven-sent herald of friendship; and no country has given him greater honor than that which he defeated; for England has been glad to claim him as the scion of her blood, and proud, like our sister American States, to divide with Virginia the honor of producing him.

Fascinated by the perfection of the man, we are loath to break the mirror of admiration into the fragments of analysis.  But, lo! as we attempt it, every fragment becomes the miniature of such sublimity and beauty that the destructive hand can only multiply the forms of immortality.

Grand and manifold as were its phases, there is yet no difficulty in understanding the character of Washington.  He was no Veiled Prophet.  He never acted a part.  Simple, natural, and unaffected, his life lies before us—­a fair and open manuscript.  He disdained the arts which wrap power in mystery in order to magnify it.  He practiced the profound diplomacy of truthful speech—­the consummate tact of direct attention.  Looking ever to the All-Wise Disposer of events, he relied on that Providence which helps men by giving them high hearts and hopes to help themselves with the means which their Creator has put at their service.  There was no infirmity in his conduct over which charity must fling its veil; no taint of selfishness from which purity averts her gaze; no dark recess of intrigue that must be lit up with colored panegyric; no subterranean passage to be trod in trembling, lest there be stirred the ghost of a buried crime.

A true son of nature was George Washington—­of nature in her brightest intelligence and noblest mold; and the difficulty, if such there be, in comprehending him, is only that of reviewing from a single standpoint the vast procession of those civil and military achievements which filled nearly half a century of his life, and in realizing the magnitude of those qualities which were requisite to their performance—­the difficulty of fashioning in our minds a pedestal broad enough to bear the towering figure, whose greatness is diminished by nothing but the perfection of its proportions.  If his exterior—­in calm, grave, and resolute repose—­ever impressed the casual observer as austere and cold, it was only because he did not reflect that no great heart like his could have lived unbroken unless bound by iron nerves in an iron frame.  The Commander of Armies, the Chief of a People, the Hope of Nations could not wear his heart upon his sleeve; and yet his sternest

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will could not conceal its high and warm pulsations.  Under the enemy’s guns at Boston he did not forget to instruct his agent to administer generously of charity to his needy neighbors at home.  The sufferings of women and children thrown adrift by war, and of his bleeding comrades, pierced his soul.  And the moist eye and trembling voice with which he bade farewell to his veterans bespoke the underlying tenderness of his nature, even as the storm-wind makes music in its undertones.

Disinterested patriot, he would receive no pay for his military services.  Refusing gifts, he was glad to guide the benefaction of a grateful State to educate the children of his fallen braves in the institution at Lexington which yet bears his name.  Without any of the blemishes that mark the tyrant, he appealed so loftily to the virtuous elements in man, that he almost created the qualities which his country needed to exercise; and yet he was so magnanimous and forbearing to the weaknesses of others, that he often obliterated the vices of which he feared the consequences.  But his virtue was more than this.  It was of that daring, intrepid kind that, seizing principle with a giant’s grasp, assumes responsibility at any hazard, suffers sacrifice without pretense of martyrdom, bears calumny without reply, imposes superior will and understanding on all around it, capitulates to no unworthy triumph, but must carry all things at the point of clear and blameless conscience.  Scorning all manner of meanness and cowardice, his bursts of wrath at their exhibition heighten our admiration for the noble passions which were kindled by the aspirations and exigencies of virtue.

Invested with the powers of a Dictator, the country bestowing them felt no distrust of his integrity; he, receiving them, gave assurance that, as the sword was the last support of Liberty, so it should be the first thing laid aside when Liberty was won.  And keeping the faith in all things, he left mankind bewildered with the splendid problem whether to admire him most for what he was or what he would not be.  Over and above all his virtues was the matchless manhood of personal honor to which Confidence gave in safety the key of every treasure on which Temptation dared not smile, on which Suspicion never cast a frown.  And why prolong the catalogue?  “If you are presented with medals of Caesar, of Trajan, or Alexander, on examining their features you are still led to ask what was their stature and the forms of their persons; but if you discover in a heap of ruins the head or the limb of an antique Apollo, be not curious about the other parts, but rest assured that they were all conformable to those of a god.”

* * * * *

“Rome to America” is the eloquent inscription on one stone of your colossal shaft—­taken from the ancient Temple of Peace that once stood hard by the Palace of the Caesars.  Uprisen from the sea of Revolution, fabricated from the ruins of bartered bastiles, and dismantled palaces of unrighteous, unhallowed power, stood forth now the Republic of republics, the Nation of nations, the Constitution of constitutions, to which all lands and times and tongues had contributed of their wisdom, and the priestess of Liberty was in her holy temple.

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When Marathon had been fought and Greece kept free, each of the victorious generals voted himself to be first in honor, but all agreed that Miltiades was second.  When the most memorable struggle for the rights of human nature of which time holds record was thus happily concluded in the muniment of their preservation, whoever else was second, unanimous acclaim declared that Washington was first.  Nor in that struggle alone does he stand foremost.  In the name of the people of the United States, their President, their Senators, their Representatives, and their Judges do crown to-day with the grandest crown that veneration has ever lifted to the brow of Glory, him whom Virginia gave to America, whom America had given to the world and to the ages, and whom mankind with universal suffrage has proclaimed the foremost of the founders of empire in the first degree of greatness; whom Liberty herself has anointed as the first citizen in the great Republic of Humanity.

Encompassed by the inviolate seas, stands to-day the American Republic, which he founded—­a freer Greater Britain—­uplifted above the powers and principalities of the earth, even as his monument is uplifted over roof and dome and spire of the multitudinous city.

Long live the Republic of Washington!  Respected by mankind, beloved of all its sons, long may it be the asylum of the poor and oppressed of all lands and religions—­long may it be the citadel of that Liberty which writes beneath the eagle’s folded wings, “We will sell to no man, we will deny to no man, right and justice.”

Long live the United States of America!  Filled with the free, magnanimous spirit, crowned by the wisdom, blessed by the moderation, hovered over by the angel of Washington’s example, may they be ever worthy in all things to be defended by the blood of the brave, who know the rights of man and shrink not from their assertion; may they be each a column, and all together, under the Constitution, a perpetual Temple of Peace, unshadowed by a Caesar’s palace, at whose altar may freely commune all who seek the union of liberty and brotherhood.

Long live our country!  Oh, long through the undying ages may it stand far removed in fact as in space from the Old World’s feuds and follies; alone in its grandeur and its glory, itself the immortal monument of him whom Providence commissioned to teach man the power of truth and to prove to the nations that their redeemer liveth.

* * * * *



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For many years I have studied minutely the career of Washington, and with every step the greatness of the man has grown upon me; for analysis has failed to discover the act of his life which, under the conditions of the time, I could unhestitatingly pronounce to have been an error.  Such has been my experience, and, although my deductions may be wrong, they at least have been carefully and slowly made.  I see in Washington a great soldier, who fought a trying war to a successful end impossible without him; a great statesman, who did more than any other man to lay the foundations of a republic which has endured in prosperity for more than a century.  I find in him a marvelous judgment which was never at fault, a penetrating vision which beheld the future of America when it was dim to other eyes, a great intellectual force, a will of iron, an unyielding grasp of facts, and an unequaled strength of patriotic purpose.  I see in him, too, a pure and high-minded gentleman of dauntless courage and stainless honor, simple and stately of manner, kind and generous of heart.  Such he was in truth.  The historian and the biographer may fail to do him justice, but the instinct of mankind will not fail.  The real hero needs not books to give him worshipers.  George Washington will always receive the love and reverence of men, because they see embodied in him the noblest possibilities of humanity.




Washington’s relations with children are most interesting.  He always wrote of them as the “little ones.”

Through his life he adopted or assumed the expenses of nine of the children of his “kith and kin.”

Dumas says that he arrived at Providence with Washington at night.  “The whole population had assembled from the suburbs; we were surrounded by a crowd of children carrying torches, all were eager to approach the person of him whom they called their father, and pressed so closely around us that they hindered us from proceeding.  General Washington was much affected, stopped a few moments, and, pressing my hand, said, ’We may be beaten by the English, it is the chance of war; but behold an army which they can never conquer.’”

* * * * *

In journeying through New England, Washington spent a night in a private house where all payment was refused.  Writing to his host he said:  “Being informed that you have given my name to one of your sons, and called another after Mrs. Washington’s family, and being, moreover, very much pleased with the modest and innocent looks of your two daughters, Patty and Polly, I do for these reasons send each of these girls a piece of chintz; and to Patty, who bears the name of Mrs. Washington, and who waited upon us more than Polly did, I send five guineas with which she may buy herself any little ornament, or she may dispose of them in any manner more agreeable to herself.  As I do not give these things with a view to have it talked of, or even its being known, the less there is said about the matter the better you will please me; but, that I may be sure the chintz and money have got safe to hand, let Patty, who I dare say is equal to it, write me a line informing me thereof, directed to the President of the United States at New York.”

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* * * * *

Once the General was engaged in earnest consultation with Colonel Pickering until after night had fairly set in.  Washington prepared to stay with the colonel over night, provided he had a spare blanket and straw.  “Oh yes,” said Primus, who was appealed to, “plenty of straw and blankets, plenty.”

Two humble beds were spread side by side in the tent and the officers laid themselves down, while Primus seemed to be busy with duties that required his attention before he himself could sleep.  He worked, or appeared to work, until the breathing of the prostrate gentlemen satisfied him that they were sleeping, and then seating himself upon a box, he leaned his head upon his hands to obtain such repose as he could.

In the middle of the night Washington awoke.  He looked about and descried the negro.  He gazed at him awhile and then spoke.

“Primus,” said he, “Primus!” Primus started up and rubbed his eyes.

“What, General?” said he.  Washington rose up in his bed.  “Primus,” said he, “what do you mean by saying that you had straw and blankets enough?  Here you have given up your blankets and straw to me, that I may sleep comfortably, while you are obliged to sit through the night.”  “It’s nothing, General,” said Primus!  “It’s nothing!  I’m well enough!  Don’t trouble yourself about me, General, but go to sleep again.  No matter about me, I sleep very good!” “But it is matter, it is matter,” said Washington.  “I cannot do it, Primus.  If either is to sit up, I will.  But I think there is no need of either sitting up.  The blanket is wide enough for two.  Come and lie down with me.”

“Oh no, General!” said Primus, starting and protesting against the proposition.  “No, let me sit here.”  “I say come and lie down here!” said Washington.  “There is room for both; I insist upon it.”

He threw open the blanket as he spoke, and moved to one side of the straw.  Primus professes to have been exceedingly shocked at the idea of lying under the same covering with the commander-in-chief, but his tone was so resolute and determined that he could not hesitate.  He prepared himself therefore and laid himself down by Washington; on the same straw under the same blanket, the General and the negro servant slept until morning.

* * * * *

An anecdote characteristic of Washington is related by Professor McVickar, in his narrative of “The Life of Dr. Bard,” who attended Washington during a severe illness in 1789.

It was a case of anthrax (carbuncle) so malignant as for several days to threaten mortification.  During this period Dr. Bard never quitted him.  On one occasion being left alone with him, General Washington, looking steadily in his face, desired his candid opinion as to the probable termination of his disease, adding with that placid firmness which marked his address, “Do not flatter me with vain hopes, I’m

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not afraid to die, and therefore can bear the worst.”  Dr. Bard’s answer, though it expressed hope, acknowledged his apprehensions.

     The President replied:  “Whether to-night or twenty years hence,
     makes no difference; I know that I am in the hands of a good

* * * * *

George Washington to his nephew, Bushrod Washington: 

     Remember, that it is not the mere study of the Law, but to become
     eminent in the profession of it, which is to yield honor and

The first was your choice, let the second be your ambition; that the company in which you will improve most, will be least expensive to you; and yet I am not such a stoic as to suppose that you will, or think it right that you should always be in company with senators and philosophers; but of the young and the juvenile kind let me advise you to be choice.  It is easy to make acquaintances, but very difficult to shake them off, however irksome and unprofitable they are found, after we have once committed ourselves to them.

* * * * *

While absent from Mount Vernon Washington wrote to his manager: 

Although it is last mentioned, it is foremost in my thoughts to desire you will be particularly attentive to my negroes in their sickness, and to order every overseer positively to be so likewise; for I am sorry to observe that the generality of them view these poor creatures in scarcely any other light than they do a draught horse or an ox, neglecting them as much when they are unable to work instead of comforting and nursing them when they lie in a sick bed.

* * * * *

A part of each day was always set apart for meditation and devotion; nor this in time of peace only, for we are told that one day while the Americans were encamped at Valley Forge, the owner of the house occupied by the General, a Quaker, strolled up the creek, and when not far from his mill, heard a solemn voice.  He walked quietly in the direction of it and saw Washington’s horse tied to a sapling.  In a thicket near by was the chief, upon his knees in prayer, his cheeks suffused with tears.

* * * * *

During the Revolutionary War, General Washington’s army was reduced at one time to great straits, and the people were greatly dispirited.  One of them who left his home with an anxious heart one day, as he was passing the edge of a wood near the camp, heard the sound of a voice.  He stopped to listen, and looking between the trunks of the large trees he saw General Washington engaged in prayer.  He passed quietly on, that he might not disturb him; and on returning home, told his family, “America will prevail,” and then related what he had heard and seen.

* * * * *


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On the last day in office Washington wrote to Knox comparing himself to “the weary traveler who sees a resting-place, and is bending his body to lean thereon.  To be suffered to do this in peace,” he added, “is too much to be endured by some.”  Accordingly on that very day a Philadelphia newspaper dismissed him with a final tirade, worth remembering by all who think that political virulence is on the increase: 

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” was the exclamation of a man who saw a flood of blessedness breaking in upon mankind.  If ever there was a time that allowed this exclamation to be repeated, that time is the present.  The man who is the source of all our country’s misery is this day reduced to the rank of his fellow-citizens, and has no longer the power to multiply the woes of these United States.  Now more than ever is the time to rejoice.  Every heart which feels for the liberty, and the happiness of the people must now beat with rapture at the thought that this day the name of Washington ceases to give currency to injustice and to legalize corruption....  When we look back upon the eight years of Washington’s administration, it strikes us with astonishment that one man could thus poison the principles of republicanism among our enlightened people, and carry his designs against the public liberty so far as to endanger its very existence.  Yet such is the fact, and if this is apparent to all, this day they should form a jubilee in the United States.

* * * * *



From The Independent

At this season of the anniversary of Washington’s birth, it seems especially appropriate to recall certain singular circumstances in the life of the greatest of Americans—­events remarkable in themselves in whatever light they may be viewed; whether, in accordance with the tenets of modern Spiritism and, to a certain extent, in harmony with the doctrines of Swedenborg and his followers in human affairs of departed spirits; or if, on the other hand, we adopt the simple teachings of the Sacred Scriptures, and acknowledge the truth with men and their affairs.

Authentic history records no less than six marvelous instances in which the life of Washington was saved under circumstances seemingly little less than miraculous.  The first of these wonderful escapes from impending peril occurred during the period of Washington’s sole recorded absence from the American continent—­when he accompanied his brother Lawrence, then fatally ill with consumption, to the Barbadoes.


They sailed in September of 1751, George being then in the twentieth year of his age.  Before the brothers had been a fortnight in the island the younger, the future hero of the Revolution, was attacked with smallpox in its “natural” and virulent form.  This disease was not then the fangless monster with which we are familiar, but was terrific in its assaults and almost invariably fatal; yet Washington recovered in something less than three weeks, and retained through his life but slight marks of the malady.

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One of General Washington’s biographers well says, in reference to this incident, in the life of the first President, that, “it may well be doubted whether in any of his battles he was in equal danger.  If the disease entered an army, it was a foe more to be dreaded than embattled hosts....  But it belongs to that class of diseases of which, by a mysterious law of our nature, our frames are, generally speaking, susceptible but once....  Thus it came to pass, that, in the morning of his days, Washington became (humanly speaking) safe from all future danger from this formidable disease.”

The reader of American history will remember that the smallpox appeared among the British troops in Boston in the fall of 1775; that it ravaged our army in Canada in the following spring; that it prevailed the same year at Ticonderoga, and in 1777 at Morristown.  Regarding this last occasion of its appearance, Washington said, in a letter to Governor Henry, of Virginia, where vaccination was not permitted: 

     You will pardon my observation on smallpox because I know it is
     more destructive to the army than the enemies’ sword and because I
     shudder whenever I reflect upon the difficulties of keeping it out.

This was the tremendous peril from which Washington was comparatively safe after his twentieth year.  “If,” says a very eminent writer, “to refer this to an overruling Providence be a superstition, I desire to be accounted superstitious.”

The Journey to Venango, 1753

The next imminent danger to which Washington was exposed, and from which his escape was well-nigh miraculous, was on the occasion of his historic expedition to the headquarters of the French Governor at Venango, in 1753.  The journey itself, in the winter season, of five or six hundred miles through an unsettled country, most of it constantly traveled by natives at enmity with the English, was one continued story of danger and escape.  It was but two years after this trip of Washington’s to Venango that English soldiers—­surrendered prisoners of war—­were tortured to death by the savage natives within sight of Fort Duquesne.  On his return from the fulfillment of his mission, Washington traversed the forest with a single companion and an Indian guide.  Just at nightfall, on one of the days of their perilous journey, their savage attendant suddenly turned, and at a distance of but fifteen paces fired on Washington, happily without evil result.

After this alarming experience the two companions pursued their way alone, footsore and weary, through the woods, with the sure knowledge that the savages were on their trail.  Reaching the Alleghany River on a night of December, they found it encumbered with drifting ice, and only to be crossed by means of a raft which, with only “one poor hatchet,” cost them an entire day’s labor to construct.  When crossing the river, Washington, while using the setting pole, was thrown violently into the water at a depth of ten feet, and saved his life by grasping a log.  They spent the night, in their frozen clothing, on a little island on which, had they been forced to stay till sunrise, they would, beyond question, have fallen into the hands of the Indians; but the intense cold which froze the feet of Washington’s companion, also sealed the river and enabled them to escape on the ice.

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Another Mission

The year following the mission to Venango (1754) Colonel Washington was sent in command of a small force in the same direction; but by reason of the greatly superior strength of the enemy, the expedition resulted in a calamitous retreat.  By a singular coincidence, the compulsory evacuation of the English stronghold—­“Fort Necessity,” as it was called—­occurred on the Fourth of July, 1754—­a date afterward made forever glorious in great measure by the inestimable services of the young commander of this earlier and ill-fated military expedition.  But such were the ability, energy, and power evinced by its youthful commander, that the disaster resulted in his own greatly enhanced reputation as a born leader of men.

Braddock and Washington

In the following year (1755) a gigantic effort was made by England to recover lost ground, and to repair the military misadventures of 1754.  The history of Braddock’s disastrous expedition is familiar to every schoolboy in the land.  At this period, Colonel Washington had retired from the army in disgust at the unjust regulations which gave undue preference to officers holding commissions from the Crown over abler men—­some of them their seniors of the same rank—­in the service of the provinces.  He was, however, at length induced—­in great measure from motives of the purest patriotism, and partly, no doubt, from his strong leaning toward a military career—­to accept a position on the staff of the commanding General, Braddock, a soldier of courage and large experience, but, as events afterward proved, a haughty, self-willed, and passionate man.

During the passage of Braddock’s forces through the Alleghany Mountains, Washington was attacked by so violent and alarming a sickness that its result was for a time extremely uncertain; on his partial recovery the General caused him to move with the heavy artillery and baggage.  In this position Washington remained two weeks, returning to the General’s headquarters on the eighth of July, the day preceding the fatal battle of the Monongahela.

On the morning of this day—­forever and sadly memorable in American annals—­Washington mounted his horse, weak and worn by sickness, but strong in hope and courage.  These are his own words uttered in other and better days: 

The most beautiful spectacle I had ever beheld was the display of the British troops on that eventful morning....  The sun gleamed from their burnished arms, the river flowed tranquilly on their right, and the deep forest overshadowed them with solemn grandeur on the left.

Braddock’s Defeat

It is needless to repeat here the tale of that day of defeat and slaughter.  Historians have recorded its events, and poets have sung its story.  Throughout the action Washington was in the thickest of the fight.  “I expected every moment to see him fall,” wrote Dr. Craik, his physician and friend.  It was during this disastrous battle that Washington escaped perhaps the most imminent peril of his life.  In company with Dr. Craik, in the year 1770, he descended the Ohio River on a journey of observation to the Great Kanawha, and it was there that an incident occurred, which is thus described by Irving: 

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Here Washington was visited by an old sachem, who approached him with great reverence and addressed him through Nicholson, the interpreter.  He had come, he said, a great distance to see him.  On further discourse, the sachem made known that he was one of the warriors in the service of the French, who lay in ambush on the banks of the Monongahela, and wrought such havoc to Braddock’s army.  He declared that he and his young men had singled out Washington, as he made himself conspicuous riding about the field of battle with the General’s orders, and fired at him repeatedly, but without success; whence they concluded that he was under the protection of the Great Spirit, that he had a charmed life, and could not be slain in battle.

Washington himself wrote thus to his brother: 

By all the powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability and expectations; for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me; yet I escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side.

His marvelous preservation was the subject of general remark; Mr. Davies, later President of Princeton College, used these words in an address a few weeks after the Braddock defeat: 

     That heroic youth, Colonel Washington, whom I cannot but hope
     Providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner for some
     important service to his country.

Escape from a Marriage

The next apparently providential intervention in the affairs of the hero of the Revolution is connected with very different scenes from those of battle and carnage; it may, perhaps, be fairly described as a narrow escape from a marriage which, while it might have proved a happy alliance in so far as Washington himself was concerned, would almost certainly have resulted in the loss of his inestimable services to his country.

Washington’s attachment to Mary Philipse is a fact beyond reasonable question; his offer of marriage to that young lady is somewhat traditional.  It is certain, however, that during his necessary absence on military duty, Captain Morris, his associate aide-de-camp in the Monongahela engagement, became a successful suitor for the hand of Miss Philipse.

What is far less generally known is the fact that, had Washington been successful in his early matrimonial aspirations, he would certainly have remained a loyal adherent of the royal cause, and would thus have been lost to his native land.  Evidences of the justice of this theory are by no means lacking.  The relatives and friends of the lady were nearly all devoted to the cause of England; Washington was the associate of many of them; and Captain Morris, his successful rival, remained in the British service during his life.  There can be, I think, little doubt that, in the event of his marriage with Miss Philipse, Washington, like Captain Morris, would have returned to England and been forever lost to America.  Mrs. Morris survived her illustrious admirer twenty-five years, dying about the year 1825.

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Washington Unrewarded

A striking historical fact,—­as strange as it is authentic—­is the treatment of Washington by the English Government after the death of Braddock.  Had General Braddock survived his terrible misfortune the result might well have been very different; for it is matter of history that the youthful officer had the undivided confidence of his commander.  But by the British Ministry, and even by the King himself, the young hero of the fatal battle was treated with scarcely disguised contempt and neglect.

In a letter to the British War Minister, Governor Dinwiddie speaks of Colonel Washington as a man of great merit and resolution, adding: 

     I am confident, that, if General Braddock had lived, he would have
     recommended him to the royal favor, which I beg your interest in

The sole results were a half-rebuke from the King, and a malicious fling from the lips of Horace Walpole.  For more than three years Washington labored incessantly, by personal effort and by means of influential intercessors, to secure a royal commission.

In view of what the world knows now of Washington’s well-nigh matchless ability as a soldier, and remembering especially the reputation he had already acquired—­amazing in so youthful an officer—­his persistent neglect by the military authorities “at home,” and particularly the stubborn and doltish determination on the part of the King to ignore the man and his almost unexampled services, suggests the theory that the heart of King George, of England, was as truly and providentially “hardened” as was that of his royal prototype, Pharaoh, of ancient times.  For, finding that all his efforts were ineffectual and believing that the chief object of the war was attained by the capture of Fort Duquesne, and the final defeat of the French on the Ohio, the young hero retired after five years of arduous and ill-requited service, in the words of a great writer of our own land and time: 

The youthful idol of his countrymen, but without so much as a civil word from the fountain of honor.  And so, when after seventeen years of private life he next appeared in arms, it was as the “Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United Colonies, and of all the forces now raised, or to be raised by them.”

The same writer elsewhere remarks: 

Such was the policy by which the Horse Guards occasionally saved a Major’s commission for a fourth son of a Duke, by which the Crown lost a continent; and the people of the United States gained a place in the family of nations.  The voice of history cries aloud to powerful Governments, in the administration of their colonies:  “Discite justitiam moniti.”

A Furious Conflict

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The last of the six marvelous escapes of our hero from impending and fatal disaster occurred during the historic night march of Washington and the American Army on Princeton, where, on the third of January, 1776, he compassed the entire destruction of one regiment of the enemy, and captured or forced to ignoble retreat two others.  This battle was the subject of one of Colonel Trumbull’s most famous paintings; and it was during this engagement—­as Washington himself told the illustrious artist—­that he was in greater peril than even at the time of Braddock’s defeat.

In the height of the battle the two armies were for a brief season in furious conflict, and Washington between them within range of both fires.  Washington Irving writes: 

His Aide, Colonel Fitzgerald, losing sight of him in the heat of the fight when enveloped in smoke and dust, dropped the bridle on the neck of his horse and drew his hat over his eyes, giving him up for lost.  When he saw him, however, emerging from the cloud, waving his hat, and beheld the enemy giving way, he spurred up to his side:  “Thank God,” cried he, “your Excellency is safe!” “Away, my dear Colonel, and bring up the troops,” was Washington’s reply; “the day is our own.”

Trumbull’s immortal picture shows us the hero of that decisive battle standing on the memorable day of Princeton by the side of his white war-horse.  Says an eloquent writer: 

Well might he exult in the event of the day, for it was the last of a series of bold and skilful manoeuvres and successful actions, by which, in three weeks, he had rescued Philadelphia, driven the enemy from the banks of the Delaware, recovered the State of New Jersey, and, at the close of a disastrous campaign, restored hope and confidence to the country.

Such are the six memorable events which it well becomes the American people to recall with devout gratitude and awe, realizing anew the Providence that watches alike over human beings and the affairs of nations, and recognizing the solemn truth that ever, as, signally, in those times that tried the souls of men,

  “God fulfills Himself in many ways.”

* * * * *


Von Braam and Washington

Washington began to be a soldier in his boyhood.  During the British campaign against the West Indies, Lawrence Washington, George’s half-brother, made the acquaintance of a Dutchman, named Jacob von Braam, who afterwards came to Virginia.  These young men were great heroes to the ten-year-old George.  Von Braam took the lad in hand and began his military education.  He drilled him in the manual of arms and sword exercise, and taught him fortification and engineering.  All the theory of war which Washington knew was gained from von Braam; the practice he was soon to gain in the field.

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Washington’s Athletic Skill

Many stories are told which show Washington’s athletic skill.  During a surveying expedition he first visited the Natural Bridge, in Virginia.  Standing almost directly under it, he tossed a stone on top, a distance of about two hundred feet.  He scaled the rocks and carved his name far above all others.  He was said to be the only man who could throw a stone across the Potomac River.  Washington was never more at home than when in the saddle.  “The general is a very excellent and bold horseman,” wrote a contemporary, “leaping the highest fences and going extremely quick, without standing on his stirrups, bearing on his bridle, or letting his horse run wild.”

After his first battle Washington wrote to his brother, “I heard the bullets whistle about me, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”  But years after, when he had learned all there was to know of the horrors of war, he said, sadly, “I said that when I was young.”


Punctuality was one of Washington’s strong points.  When company was invited to dinner, he made an allowance of only five minutes for variation in watches.  If the guests came late he would say:  “We are too punctual for you.  I have a cook who does not ask if the company has come, but if the hour has come.”

In a letter to a friend he wrote:  “I begin my diurnal course with the sun; if my hirelings are not in their places by that time I send them messages of sorrow for their indisposition.”

A letter to his sister, Betty, shows his businesslike manner:  “If your son Howell is with you and not usefully employed in your own affairs, and should incline to spend a few months with me in my office as a writer (if he is fit for it), I will allow him at the rate of 300 a year, provided he is diligent in discharging the duties of it from breakfast till dinnertime....  I am particular in declaring beforehand what I require, so that there may be no disappointment or false expectations on either side.”

His Stepchildren

Washington’s relations with his stepchildren show a very pleasant side of his character.  We find him ordering from London such articles as “10 shillings’ worth of toys, 6 little books for children beginning to read, 1 fashionable-dressed baby to cost 10 shillings, and a box of gingerbread toys and sugar images, or comfits.”  Later he sent for “1 very good spinet,” for Patsey, as Martha Parke Custis was called.

His niece, Hariot, who lived in the Washington home from 1785 to 1796, was a great trial to him.  “She has,” he wrote, “no disposition to be careful of her clothes, which she dabs about in every hole and corner, and her best things always in use, so that she costs me enough.”

One of the characteristics of a truly great man is his readiness to ask pardon.  Once when Nelly Custis, Mrs. Washington’s granddaughter, was severely reprimanded for walking alone by moonlight in the grounds of Mount Vernon, Washington tried to intercede for the girl.

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“Perhaps she was not alone; I would say no more,” he said.

“Sir,” said Nelly Custis, “you have brought me up to speak the truth, and when I told grandmamma that I was alone, I hoped that you would believe me.”

“My child,” said Washington, bowing in his courtly fashion, “I beg your pardon.”

His Temper

Stuart, the portrait painter, once said to General Lee that Washington had a tremendous temper, but that he had it under wonderful control.  While dining with the Washingtons, General Lee repeated the first part of Stuart’s remark.  Mrs. Washington flushed and said that Mr. Stuart took a great deal upon himself.  Then General Lee said that Mr. Stuart had added that the President had his temper under wonderful control.  Washington seemed to be thinking for a moment, then he smiled and said, “Mr. Stuart is right.”

His Smile

The popular idea that Washington never laughed is well-nigh exploded.  Nelly Custis said, “I have sometimes made him laugh most heartily from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant spirits.”

When the news came from Dr. Franklin in France that help was promised from that country, General Washington broke into a laugh, waved his cocked hat, and said to his officers, “The day is ours!” Another story is to the effect that while present at the baptism of a child of a Mr. Wood, he was so surprised to hear the name given as George Washington that he smiled.  Senator Maclay tells of his smiling at a state dinner, and even toying with his fork.  Various sources testify that a smile lent an unusual beauty to his face.

At one time, as Washington entered a shop in New York, a Scotch nursemaid followed him, carrying her infant charge.  “Please, sir, here’s a bairn was named after you.”

“What is his name?” asked the President.

“Washington Irving, sir.”

Washington put his hand upon the child’s head and gave him his blessing, little thinking that “the bairn” would write, as a labor of love, a life of Washington.

While at his Newburgh headquarters the General was approached by Aaron Burr, who stealthily crept up as he was writing, and looked over his shoulder.  Although Washington did not hear the footfall, he saw the shadow in the mirror.  He looked up, and said only, “Mr. Burr!” But the tone was enough to make Burr quail and beat a hasty retreat.

A man who, well for himself, is nameless, made a wager with some friends that he could approach Washington familiarly.  The President was walking up Chestnut Street, in Philadelphia, when the would-be wag, in full view of his companions, slapped him on the back and said, “Well, old fellow, how are you this morning?” Washington looked at him, and in a freezing tone asked, “Sir, what have I ever said or done which induces you to treat me in this manner?”


After Washington’s retirement from the Presidency, Elkanah Watson was a guest at Mount Vernon.  He had a serious cold, and after he retired he coughed severely.  Suddenly the curtains of his bed were drawn aside, and there stood Washington with a huge bowl of steaming herb tea.  “Drink this,” he said, “it will be good for that cough.”

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Washington possessed in a peculiar degree the great gift of remembering faces.  Once, while visiting in Newburyport, he saw at work in the grounds of his host an old servant whom he had not seen since the French and Indian war, thirty years before.  He knew the man at once, and stopped and spoke kindly to him.


Any collection of anecdotes about Washington is sure to refer to his extreme modesty.  Upon one occasion, when the speaker of the Assembly returned thanks in glowing terms to Colonel Washington for his services, he rose to express his acknowledgments, but he was so embarrassed that he could not articulate a word.  “Sit down, Mr. Washington,” said the speaker, “your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language which I possess.”

When Adams suggested that Congress should appoint a general, and hinted plainly at Washington, who happened to sit near the door, the latter rose, “and, with his usual modesty, darted into the library room.”

Washington’s favorite quotation was Addison’s “’Tis not in mortals to command success,” but he frequently quoted Shakespeare.

Taste for Literature

His taste for literature is indicated by the list of books which he ordered for his library at the close of the war:  “Life of Charles the Twelfth,” “Life of Louis the Fifteenth,” “Life and Reign of Peter the Great,” Robertson’s “History of America,” “Voltaire’s Letters,” Vertol’s “Revolution of Rome,” “Revolution of Portugal,” Goldsmith’s “Natural History,” “Campaigns of Marshal Turenne,” Chambaud’s “French and English Dictionary,” Locke “On the Human Understanding,” and Robertson’s “Charles the Fifth.”  “Light reading,” he wrote to his step-grandson, “(by this I mean books of little importance) may amuse for the moment, but leaves nothing behind.”

His Dress

Although always very particular about his dress, Washington was no dandy, as some have supposed.  “Do not,” he wrote to his nephew in 1783, “conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds.  A plain, genteel dress is more admired and obtains more credit than lace or embroidery in the eyes of the judicious and sensible.”

Sullivan thus describes Washington at a levee:  “He was dressed in black velvet, his hair full dress, powdered, and gathered behind in a large silk bag, yellow gloves on his hands; holding a cocked hat, with a cockade in it, and the edges adorned with a black feather about an inch deep.  He wore knee and shoe buckles, and a long sword....  The scabbard was of white polished leather.”

After Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, Washington said to his army:  “My brave fellows, let no sensation of satisfaction for the triumphs you have gained induce you to insult your fallen enemy.  Let no shouting, no clamorous huzzaing increase their mortification.  It is sufficient for us that we witness their humiliation.  Posterity will huzza for us.”

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While there are many stories which show Washington’s straightforwardness, here is one which shows much diplomacy.  He was asked by Volney, a Frenchman and a revolutionist, for a letter of recommendation to the American people.  This request put him in an awkward position, for there were good reasons why he could not give it, and other good reasons why he did not wish to refuse.  Taking a sheet of paper, he wrote: 

C. Volney needs no recommendation from

Geo. Washington.

* * * * *



All this time while George Washington had been growing up,—­first a little boy, then a larger boy, and then a young surveyor,—­all this time the French and English and Indians were unhappy and uncomfortable in the country north of Virginia.  The French wanted all the land, so did the English, and the Indians saw that there would be no room for them, whichever had it, so they all began to trouble each other, and to quarrel and fight.

These troubles grew so bad at last that the Virginians began to be afraid of the French and Indians, and thought they must have some soldiers of their own ready to fight.

George Washington was only nineteen then, but everybody knew he was wise and brave, so they chose him to teach the soldiers near his home how to march and to fight.

Then the king and the people of England grew very uneasy at all this quarreling, and they sent over soldiers and cannon and powder, and commenced to get ready to fight in earnest.  Washington was made a major, and he had to go a thousand miles, in the middle of winter, into the Indian and French country, to see the chiefs and the soldiers, and find out about the troubles.

When he came back again, all the people were so pleased with his courage and with the wise way in which he had behaved, that they made him lieutenant-colonel.

Then began a long war between the French and the English, which lasted seven years.  Washington fought through all of it, and was made a colonel, and by and by commander of all the soldiers in Virginia.  He built forts and roads, he gained and lost battles, he fought the Indians and the French; and by all this trouble and hard work he learned to be a great soldier.

In many of the battles of this war, Washington and the Virginians did not wear a uniform, like the English soldiers, but a buckskin shirt and fringed leggings, like the Indians.

From beginning to end of some of the battles, Washington rode about among the men, telling them where to go and how to fight; the bullets were whistling around him all the time, but he said he liked the music.

By and by the war was over; the French were driven back to their own part of the country, and Washington went home to Mount Vernon to rest, and took with him his wife, lovely Martha Washington, whom he had met and married while he was fighting the French and Indians.

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While he was at Mount Vernon he saw all his horses again,—­“Valiant” and “Magnolia” and “Chinkling” and “Ajax,”—­and had grand gallops over the country.

He had some fine dogs, too, to run by his side, and help him hunt the bushy-tailed foxes.  “Vulcan” and “Ringwood” and “Music” and “Sweetlips” were the names of some of them.  You may be sure the dogs were glad when they had their master home again.

But Washington did not have long to rest, for another war was coming, the great war of the Revolution.

Little children cannot understand all the reasons for this war, but I can tell you some of them.

You remember in the story of Thanksgiving I told you about the Pilgrim fathers, who came from England to this country because their king would not let them pray to God as they liked.  That king was dead now, and there was another in his place, a king with the name of George, like our Washington.

Now our great-grandfathers had always loved England and Englishmen, because many of their friends were still living there, and because it was their old home.

The king gave them governors to help take care of their people, and soldiers to fight for them, and they sent to England for many things to wear and to eat.

But just before this Revolutionary War, the king and the great men who helped him began to say that things should be done in this country that our people did not think right at all.  The king said they must buy expensive stamps to put on all their newspapers and almanacs and lawyer’s papers, and that they must pay very high taxes on their tea and paper and glass, and he sent soldiers to see that this was done.

This made our great-grandfathers very angry.  They refused to pay the taxes, they would not buy anything from England any more, and some men even went on board the ships, as they came into Boston Harbor, and threw the tea over into the water.

So fifty-one men were chosen from all over the country, and they met at Philadelphia, to see what could be done.  Washington was sent from Virginia.  And after they had talked very solemnly, they all thought there would be great trouble soon, and Washington went home to drill the soldiers.

Then the war began with the battle of Lexington, in New England, and soon Washington was made commander-in-chief of the armies.

He rode the whole distance from Philadelphia to Boston on horseback, with a troop of officers; and all the people on the way came to see him, bringing bands of music and cheering him as he went by.  He rode into camp in the morning.  The soldiers were drawn up in the road, and men and women and children who had come to look at Washington were crowded all about.  They saw a tall, splendid, handsome man in a blue coat with buff facings, and epaulets on his shoulders.  As he took off his hat, drew his shining sword, and raised it in sight of all the people, the cannon began to thunder, and all the people hurrahed and tossed their hats in the air.

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Of course, he looked very splendid, and they all knew how brave he was, and thought he would soon put an end to the war.

But it did not happen as they expected, for this was only the beginning, and the war lasted seven long years.

Fighting is always hard, even if you have plenty of soldiers and plenty for them to eat; but Washington had very few soldiers, and very little powder for the guns, and little food for the men to eat.

The soldiers were not in uniform, as ours are to-day; but each was dressed just as he happened to come from his shop or his farm.

Washington ordered hunting shirts for them, such as he wore when he went to fight the Indians, for he knew they would look more like soldiers if all were dressed alike.

Of course many people thought that our men would be beaten, as the war went on; but Washington never thought so, for he was sure our side was right.

I hardly know what he would have done, at last, if the French people had not promised to come over and help us, and to send us money and men and ships.  All the people in the army thanked God when they heard it, and fired their guns for joy.

A brave young man named Lafayette came with the French soldiers, and he grew to be Washington’s great friend, and fought for us all through the Revolution.

Many battles were fought in this war, and Washington lost some of them, and a great many of his men were killed.

You could hardly understand how much trouble he had.  In the winter, when the snow was deep on the ground, he had no houses or huts for his men to sleep in; his soldiers were ragged and cold by day, and had not blankets enough to keep them warm by night; their shoes were old and worn, and they had to wrap cloths around their feet to keep them from freezing.

When they marched to the Delaware River, one cold Christmas night, a soldier who was sent after them, with a message for Washington, traced them by their footprints on the snow, all reddened with the blood from their poor cut feet.

They must have been very brave and patient to have fought at all, when they were so cold and ragged and hungry.

Washington suffered a great deal in seeing his soldiers so wretched, and I am sure that with all his strength and courage, he would sometimes have given up hope, if he had not talked and prayed to God a great deal, and asked Him to help him.

In one of the hardest times of the whole war, Washington was staying at a farmer’s house.  One morning he rode out very early to visit the soldiers.  The farmer went into the fields soon after, and as he was passing a brook where a great many bushes were growing, he heard a deep voice from the thicket.  He looked through the leaves, and saw Washington on his knees, on the ground, praying to God for his soldiers.  He had fastened his horse to a tree, and come away by himself to ask God to help them.

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At last the war came to an end; the English were beaten, and our armies sent up praise and thanks to God.

Then the soldiers went quietly back to their homes, and Washington bade all his officers good-by, and thanked them for their help and their courage.

The little room in New York where he said farewell is kept to show to visitors now, and you can see it some day yourselves.

Then Washington went home to Mount Vernon to rest; but before he had been there long, the people found out that they must have someone to help take care of them, as they had nothing to do with the king of England any more; and they asked Washington to come and be the first President of the United States.

So he did as they wished, and was as wise and good, and as careful and fine a President as he had been surveyor, soldier, and general.

You know we always call Washington the Father of his Country, because he did so much for us, and helped to make the United States so great.

After he died, there were parks and mountains and villages and towns and cities named for him all over the land, because people loved him so, and prized so highly what he had done for them.

In the city of Washington there is a building where you can see many of the things that belonged to the first President, when he was alive.  There is his soldier’s coat, his sword, and in an old camp chest are the plates and knives and forks that he used in the Revolution.

There is a tall, splendid monument of shining gray stone in that city, that towers far, far, above all the highest roofs and spires.  It was built in memory of George Washington by the people of the United States, to show that they loved and would always remember the Father of his Country.


[25] From “The Story Hour” by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith.  Houghton, Mifflin & Co., publishers.

* * * * *



On September 15, a group of horsemen, occupying a slight eminence of ground on the island of Manhattan, were gazing eastward.  Below and nearer the water were spread lines of soldiers behind intrenchments, while from three men-of-war lying in the river came a heavy cannonade that swept the shore line and spread over the water a pall of smoke which, as it drifted to leeward, obscured the Long Island shore from view.

“’Tis evidently a feint, your Excellency,” presently asserted one of the observers, “to cover a genuine attack elsewhere—­most likely above the Haarlem.”

The person addressed—­a man with an anxious, care-worn face that made him look fifty at least—­lowered his glass, but did not reply for some moments.  “You may be right, sir,” he remarked, “though to me it has the air of an intended attack.  What think you, Reed?”

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“I agree with Mifflin.  The attack will be higher up.  Hah!  Look there!”

A rift had come in the smoke, and a column of boats, moving with well-timed oars, could for a moment be seen as it came forward.

“They intend a landing at Kip’s Bay, as I surmised,” exclaimed the general.  “Gentlemen, we shall be needed below.”  He turned to Reed and gave him an order concerning reinforcements, then wheeled, and, followed by the rest, trotted over the plowed field.  Once on the highway, he spurred his horse, putting him to a sharp canter.

“What troops hold the works on the bay, Mifflin?” asked one of the riders.

“Fellows’ and Parsons’ brigades, Brereton.”

“If they are as good at fighting as at thieving, they’ll distinguish themselves.”

“Ay,” laughed Mifflin.  “If the red coats were but chickens or cattle, the New England militia would have had them all captured ere now.”

“They’ll be heard from to-day,” said a third officer.  “They’ve earthworks to git behind, and they’ll give the British anuther Bunker Hill.”

“Then you ought to be quick, General Putnam,” said Brereton, “for that’s the fighting you like.”

The road lay in the hollow of the land, and not till the party reached a slight rise were they able once more to get a glimpse of the shores of the bay.  Then it was to find the flotilla well in toward its intended landing-place, and the American troops retreating in great disorder from their breastworks.

Exclamations of surprise and dismay sprang from the lips of the riders, and their leader, turning his horse, jumped the fence and galloped across the fields to intercept the fugitives.  Five minutes brought them up to the runaways, who, out of breath with the sharpness of their race, had come to a halt, and were being formed by their officers into a little less disorder.

“General Fellows, what was the reason for this shameful retreat?” demanded the general, when within speaking distance.

“The men were seized with a panic on the approach of the boats, your Excellency, and could not be held in the lines.”

Washington faced the regiments, his face blazing with scorn.  “You ran before a shot had been fired!  Before you lost a man, you deserted works that have taken weeks to build, and which could be held against any such force.”  He paused for a moment, and then, drawing his sword, called with spirit:  “Who’s for recovering them?”

A faint cheer passed down the lines; but almost as it sounded, the red coats of fifty or sixty light infantry came into view on the road, a skirmishing party thrown forward from the landing to reconnoiter.  Had they been Howe’s whole army, however, they could not have proved more effective, for instantly the two brigades broke and dissolved once more into squads of flying men.

At such cowardice, Washington lost all control of himself, and, dashing in among the fugitives, he passionately struck right and left with the flat of his sword, thundering curses at them; while Putnam and Mifflin, as well as the aides, followed his example.  It was hopeless, however, to stay the rush; the men took the blows and the curses unheeding, while throwing away their guns and scattering in every direction.

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Made frantic by such conduct, Washington wheeled his horse.  “Charge!” he cried, and rode toward the enemy, waving his sword.

If the commander-in-chief had hoped to put some of his own courage into the troops by his example, he failed.  Not a man of the runaways ceased fleeing.  None the less, as if regardless of consequences in his desperation, Washington rode on, until one of the aides dashed his spurs into his horse and came up beside his general at a mad gallop.

“Your Excellency!” he cried, “’tis but hopeless, and will but end in—­” Then, as his superior did not heed him, he seized the left rein of his horse’s bridle, and, pulling on it, swung him about in a large circle, letting go his hold only when they were riding away from the enemy.

Washington offered no resistance, and rode the hundred yards to where the rest of his staff were standing, with bowed head.  Nothing was said as he rejoined the group, and Blueskin, disappointed in the charge for which he had shown as much eagerness as his rider, let his mind recur to thoughts of oats; finding no control in the hand that held his bridle, he set out at an easy trot toward headquarters.

They had not ridden many yards ere Washington lifted his head, the expression of hopelessness, which had taken the place of that of animation, in turn succeeded by one of stern repose.  He issued three orders to as many of the riders, showing that his mind had not been dwelling idly on the disaster, slipped his sword into its scabbard, and gathered up his reins again.

“There!” thought Blueskin, as a new direction was indicated by his bit, “I’m going to have another spell of it riding all ways of a Sunday, just as we did last night.  And it’s coming on to rain.”

Rain it did very quickly; but from post to post the horsemen passed, the sternly silent commander speaking only when giving the necessary orders to remedy so far as possible the disaster of the afternoon.  Not till eleven, and then in a thoroughly drenched condition, did they reach the Morris House on Haarlem Heights.  It was to no rest, however, that the general arrived; for, as he dismounted, Major Gibbs of his life guards informed him that the council of war he had called was gathered, and only awaited his attendance.

“Get you some supper, gentlemen,” he ordered, to such of his aides as were still of the party, “for ’tis likely that you will have more riding when the council have deliberated.”

“’Tis advice he might take himself to proper advantage,” said one of the juniors, while they were stripping off their wet coverings in a side room.

“Ay,” asserted Brereton.  “The general uses us hard, Tilghman, but he uses himself harder.”  Then aloud he called, “Billy!”

“Yis, sah!”

“Make a glass of rum punch and take it in to his Excellency.”

“Foh de Lord, sah, I doan dar go in, an’ yar know marse neber drink no spirits till de day’s work dun.”

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“Make a dish of tea, then, you old coward, and I’ll take it to him so soon as I get these slops off me.  ’Fore George!  How small-clothes stick when they’re wet!”

The make-shift meal was still unfinished when the general’s body-servant appeared with the tea.  Taking it, Brereton marched boldly to the council door, and, giving a knock, he went in without awaiting a reply.

The group of anxious-faced men about the table looked up, and Washington, with a frown, demanded, “For what do you interrupt us, sir?”

The young officer put the tea down on the map lying in front of the general.  “Billy didn’t dare take this to your Excellency, so I made bold to e’en bring it myself.”

“This is no time for tea, Colonel Brereton.”

“’Tis no time for the army to lose their general,” replied the aide.  “I pray you drink it, sir, for our sake, if you won’t for your own.”

A kindly look supplanted the sternness of the previous moment on the general’s face.  “I thank you for your thoughtfulness, Brereton,” he said, raising the cup and pouring some of the steaming drink into the saucer.


[26] From “Janice Meredith.”  Dodd, Mead & Co.




[Copied by Washington at the age of fourteen from an old translation of a French book of 1595.  “Washington was entirely aware,” writes Owen Wister, “of the great influence for good exerted upon his own character by the Rules of Civility.  It is a misfortune for all American boys in all our schools to-day, that they should be told the untrue and foolish story of the hatchet and the cherry tree, and denied the immense benefit of instruction from George Washington’s authentic copy-book.”]

Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.

When you see a crime punished you may be inwardly pleased; but always show pity to the suffering offender.

Superfluous compliments and all affectation of ceremony are to be avoided, yet, where due, they are not to be neglected.

Do not express joy before one sick or in pain, for that contrary passion will aggravate his misery.

When a man does all he can, though it succeed not well, blame not him that did it.

Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.

In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate Nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals.

Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.

Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor in earnest; scoff at none, although they give occasion.

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Gaze not at the marks or blemishes of others, and ask not how they came.  What you may speak in secret to your friend, deliver not before others.

Nothing but harmony, honest industry, and frugality are necessary to make us a great people.  First impressions are generally the most lasting.  It is therefore absolutely necessary, if you mean to make any figure upon the stage, that you should take the first steps right.

There is a destiny which has the control of our actions not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distresses of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse; remembering always the widow’s mite, but that it is not everyone who asketh that deserveth charity; all, however, are worthy the inquiry, or the deserving may suffer.

I consider storms and victory under the direction of a wise Providence who no doubt directs them for the best purposes, and to bring round the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number.

Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s mind, than on the externals in the world.

The thinking part of mankind do not form their judgments from events, and that chief equity will ever attach equal glory to those actions which deserve success, as to those which have been crowned with it.

To see plants rise from the earth and flourish by the superior skill and bounty of the laborer, fills a contemplative mind with ideas which are more easy to be conceived than expressed.

To constitute a dispute there must be two parties.  To understand it well, both parties and all the circumstances must be fully heard; and to accommodate differences, temper and mutual forbearance are requisite.

Idleness is disreputable under any circumstances; productive of no good, even when unaccompanied by vicious habits.

It is not uncommon in prosperous gales to forget that adverse winds blow.

Economy in all things is as commendable in the manager, as it is beneficial and desirable to the employer.

It is unfortunate when men cannot or will not see danger at a distance; or seeing it, are undetermined in the means which are necessary to avert or keep it afar off.

Every man who is in the vigor of life ought to serve his country in whatever line it requires, and he is fit for.

Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable.  It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter, whether in public or in private walks of life.

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To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

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There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness.

* * * * *

The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.

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The very idea of the power and right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

* * * * *

If there was the same propensity in mankind for investigating the motives, as there is for censuring the conduct, of public characters, it would be found that the censure so freely bestowed is oftentimes unmerited and uncharitable.

* * * * *

Where is the man to be found who wishes to remain indebted for the defense of his own person and property to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood of others, without making one generous effort to repay the debt of honor and gratitude?

There is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity.

* * * * *

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake.

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It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.

* * * * *

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is to have with them as little political connection as possible.

* * * * *

There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.

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Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor? or caprice?

* * * * *

The name American must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism.

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To the efficacy and permanency of your union a government for the whole is indispensable.

Every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest should be indignantly frowned upon.

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Let us impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.

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Let us erect a standard to which the wise and honest may repair.

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’Tis substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.

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It is incumbent upon every person of every description to contribute to his country’s welfare.

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It would be repugnant to the vital principles of our government virtually to exclude from public trusts, talents and virtue, unless accompanied by wealth.

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Give such encouragements to our own navigation as will render our commerce less dependent on foreign bottoms.

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I have never made an appointment from a desire to serve a friend or relative.

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Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, conscience.

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The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human effort will deliver them.  The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.  Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of a brave resistance, or the most abject submission.  We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or to die.

Our own, our country’s honor, calls upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion; and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world.  Let us, then, rely on the goodness of our cause and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions.  The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us; and we shall have their blessings and praises if, happily, we are the instruments of saving them from the tyranny meditated against them.  Let us, therefore, animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a freeman contending for liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.

Liberty, property, life, and honor are all at stake.  Upon your courage and conduct rest the hopes of our bleeding and insulted country.  Our wives, children, and parents expect safety from us only; and they have every reason to believe that Heaven will crown with success so just a cause.  The enemy will endeavor to intimidate by show and appearance; but remember they have been repulsed on various occasions by a few brave Americans.  Their cause is bad,—­their men are conscious of it; and, if opposed with firmness and coolness on their first onset, with our advantage of works and knowledge of the ground, the victory is most assuredly ours.  Every good soldier will be silent and attentive, wait for orders, and reserve his fire until he is sure of doing execution.

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To the Captains of Several Independent Companies in Virginia.  Philadelphia, June, 1775


“I am now about to bid adieu to the companies under your respective commands, at least for a time.  I have launched into a wide and extensive field, too boundless for my abilities, and far, very far, beyond my experience.  I am called by the unanimous voice of the Colonies to the command of the Continental army; an honor I did not aspire to, an honor I was solicitous to avoid, upon a full conviction of my inadequacy to the importance of the service.  I have only to beg of you, therefore, before I go, by no means to relax in the discipline of your respective companies.

“I cannot doubt but the asserters of freedom and the right of the Constitution are possessed of your most favorable regards and wishes for success.  As descendants of freedom, and heirs with us of the same glorious inheritance, we flatter ourselves that, though divided by our situation, we are firmly united in sentiment.  The cause of virtue and liberty is confined to no continent or climate.  It comprehends within its capacious limits the wise and good, however dispersed and separated in space and distance.”

To the Inhabitants of the Island of Bermuda

“While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only they are answerable.”

To Colonel Benedict Arnold, 1775

“The man who means to commit no wrong will never be guilty of enormities; consequently he can never be unwilling to learn what is ascribed to him as foibles.  If they are really such, the knowledge of them in a well-disposed mind will go half way towards a reform.  If they are not errors he can explain and justify the motives of his actions.”

To Patrick Henry, Valley Forge, 27th March, 1778

“I have ever been happy in supposing that I had a place in your esteem, and the proof you have afforded makes me peculiarly so.  The favorable light in which you hold me is truly flattering; but I should feel much regret, if I thought the happiness of America so intimately connected with my personal welfare as you so obligingly seem to consider it.  All I can say is, that she has ever had, and I trust she ever will have, my honest exertions to promote her interest.  I cannot hope that my services have been the best; but my heart tells me they have been the best that I could render.

“However it may be the practice of the world and those who see objects but partially or through a false medium, to consider that only as meritorious which is attended with success, I have accustomed myself to judge human actions very differently, and to appreciate them by the manner in which they are conducted more than by the event; which it is not in the power of human foresight and prudence to command.

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“My political creed is, to be wise in the choice of delegates, support them like gentlemen while they are our representatives, give them complete powers for all federal purposes, support them in the due exercise thereof, and lastly, to compel them to close attendance in Congress during their delegation.

“We ought not to look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.  To enveigh against things that are past and irremediable is unpleasing; but to steer clear of the shelves and rocks we have struck upon is the part of wisdom, equally as incumbent on political as other men who have their own little bark or that of others to navigate through the intricate paths of life, or the trackless ocean, to the haven of security or rest.”

Extracts from a Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of All the States on Disbanding the Army, Newburgh, 8 June, 1783

“Sir:—­The great object for which I had the honor to hold an appointment in the service of my country, being accomplished, I am now preparing to resign it into the hands of Congress, and to return to that domestic retirement which it is well known I left with the greatest reluctance; a retirement for which I have never ceased to sigh, through a long and painful absence, and in which I meditate to pass the remainder of life, in a state of undisturbed repose.  But before I carry this resolution into effect, I think it a duty incumbent on me to make this, my last official communication; to congratulate you on the glorious events which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favor; to offer my sentiments respecting some important subjects which appear to me to be intimately connected with the tranquillity of the United States, to take my leave of your excellency as a public character, and to give my final blessing to that country in whose service I have spent the prime of my life, for whose sake I have consumed so many anxious days and watchful nights, and whose happiness, being so extremely dear to me, will always constitute no inconsiderable part of my own.”

From the same circular letter: 

“The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age of ignorance and superstition, but at an epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined than at any former period.  The researches of the human mind after social happiness have been carried to a great extent; the treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labors of philosophers, sages, and legislators through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the establishment of our forms of government.”

From the same: 

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“The free cultivation of letters, the unbounded extension of commerce, the progressive refinement of manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and, above all, the power and benign light of revelation, have had a meliorating influence on mankind, and increased the blessings of society.  An indissoluble union of the states under one federal head—­a sacred regard to public justice—­the adoption of a proper peace establishment, and the prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and politics; to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the community—­these are the pillars on which the glorious fabric of our independence and national character must be supported.  Liberty is the basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation or overturn the structure, under whatever specious pretext he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured country.”

From the same: 

“I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to the government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

Washington on Slavery

“There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by legislative authority, and this as far as my suffrage will go shall never be wanting.”

In a Letter to Lafayette, Washington Expresses His Views on Commerce

“Although I pretend to no peculiar information respecting commercial affairs, nor any foresight into the scenes of futurity, yet, as a member of an infant empire, as a philanthropist by character, and if I may be allowed the expression, as a citizen of the great republic of humanity at large, I cannot help turning my attention sometimes to this subject.  I would be understood to mean I cannot avoid reflecting with pleasure on the probable influence that commerce may hereafter have on human manners and society in general.  On these occasions I consider how mankind

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may be connected like this one great family of fraternal ties.  I indulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive; that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy, that the subjects of ambition and causes for hostility are daily diminishing, and in fine, that the period is not very remote when the benefits of a liberal and free commerce will pretty generally succeed to the devastations and horrors of war.

“Men’s minds are as varied as their faces, and where the motives to their actions are pure, the operation of the former is no more to be imputed to them as a crime than the appearance of the latter; for both being the work of nature, are equally unavoidable.  Liberality and charity, instead of clamor and misrepresentation, which latter only serve to foment the passions without enlightening the understanding, ought to govern in all disputes about matters of importance.”

From a Letter, 1793

“If it can be esteemed a happiness to live in an age productive of great and interesting events, we of the present age are very highly favored.  The rapidity of national revolutions appears no less astonishing than their magnitude.  In what they will terminate is known only to the Great Ruler of events; and confiding in His wisdom and goodness, we may safely trust the issue to Him, without perplexing ourselves to seek for that which is beyond human ken, only taking care to perform the parts assigned to us in a way that reason and our own conscience approve.”

From a Speech to Both Houses of Congress, 1790

“To administer justice to and receive it from every power with whom they are connected will, I hope, be always found the prominent feature in the administration of this country; and I flatter myself that nothing short of imperious necessity can occasion a breach with any of them.

“Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.  In one of which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours, it is proportionably essential.  To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways; by convincing those who are entrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and to provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the latter, and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachment with an inviolable respect to the laws.”

From a Speech to Both Houses of Congress, 1794

“Let praise be given to every description of citizens.  Let them persevere in their affectionate vigilance over that precious depository of American happiness, the Constitution of the United States.  Let them cherish it, too, for the sake of those, from every clime, daily seeking a dwelling in our land.

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“Let us unite, therefore, in imploring the Supreme Ruler of nations to spread His holy protection over these United States; to enable us at all times to root out internal seditions and put invasion to flight; to perpetuate to our country that prosperity which His goodness has already conferred; and to verify the anticipations of this government being a safeguard to human rights.”

* * * * *


Dated at Rocky Hill, near Princeton, New Jersey, November 2, 1783

It is universally acknowledged that the enlarged prospects of happiness, opened by the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, almost exceed the power of description.  And shall not the brave men who have contributed so essentially to these inestimable acquisitions, retiring from the field of war to the field of agriculture, participate in all the blessings which have been obtained?  In such a republic, who will exclude them from the rights of citizens and the fruits of their labors?

To those hardy soldiers who are actuated by the spirit of adventure, the fisheries will afford ample and profitable employment, and the extensive and fertile regions of the West will yield a most happy asylum to those who, fond of domestic employment, are seeking personal independence.

Little is now wanting to enable the soldier to change the military character into that of a citizen but that steady and decent behavior which has distinguished not only the army under this immediate command, but the different detachments and separate armies through the course of the war.  To the various branches of the army the general takes this last and solemn opportunity of professing his inviolable attachment and friendship.  He can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful country and his prayers to the God of armies.  May ample justice be done them here, and may favors, both here and hereafter, attend those who, under the divine auspices, have secured innumerable blessings for others!

With these wishes and this benediction the commander-in-chief is about to retire from service.  The curtain of separation will soon be drawn, and the military scene to him will be closed forever!

* * * * *


Born, sir, in a land of liberty, having early learned its value, having engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it, having, in a word, devoted the best years of my life to secure it a permanent establishment in our own country, my anxious recollections, my sympathetic feelings, and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.  But above all, the events of the French Revolution have produced the deepest solicitude as well as the highest admiration.  To call your nation brave were to pronounce but common praise.  Wonderful people!  Ages to come will read with astonishment the history of your brilliant exploits.

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I rejoice that the period of your toils and of your immense sacrifices is approaching.  I rejoice that the interesting revolutionary movements of so many years have issued in the formation of a constitution designated to give permanency to the great object for which you have contended.  I rejoice that liberty, which you have so long embraced with enthusiasm, liberty, of which you have been the invincible defenders, now finds an asylum in the bosom of a regularly organized government; a government which, being formed to secure the happiness of the French people, corresponds with the ardent wishes of my heart, while it gratifies the pride of every citizen of the United States by its resemblance to their own.  On these glorious events accept, sir, my sincere congratulations.

In delivering to you these sentiments, I express not my own feelings only, but those of my fellow-citizens, in relation to the commencement, the progress, and the issue of the French Revolution; and they will cordially join with me in purest wishes to the Supreme Being that the citizens of our sister republic, our magnanimous allies, may soon enjoy, in peace, that liberty which they have purchased at so great a price, and all the happiness which liberty can bestow.

I receive, sir, with lively sensibility, the symbol of the triumphs and of the enfranchisements of your nation, the colors of France, which you have now presented to the United States.  The transaction will be announced to Congress, and the colors will be deposited with those archives of the United States which are at once the evidences and the memorials of their freedom and independence.  May these be perpetual; and may the friendship of the two republics be commensurate with their existence!

* * * * *


To the People of the United States.  September 17, 1796

Friends and Fellow-Citizens: 

The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive Government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that, in withdrawing the tender of service which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest; no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

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The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire.  I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn.  The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions, with which I first undertook the arduous trust, were explained on the proper occasion.  In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.  Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome.  Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal.  If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support

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was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.  Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire for them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection and adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop.  But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments, which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a People.  These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel.  Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you.  It is justly so:  for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty, which you so highly prize.  But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourself to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

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For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest.  Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections.  The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.  With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.  You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your interest.  Here, every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South protected by the equal laws of a common Government, finds, in the productions of the latter, great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry.  The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand.  Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted.  The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home.  The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influences, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation.  Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

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While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionally greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same Governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter.  Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.  In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the UNION as a primary object of Patriotic desire.  Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere?  Let experience solve it.  To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal.  We are authorized to hope, that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment.  It is well worth a fair and full experiment.  With such powerful and obvious motives to Union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who, in any quarter, may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views.  One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts.  You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.  The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout

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the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the MISSISSIPPI; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity.  Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the UNION by which they were procured?  Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable.  No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute, they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances tn all times have experienced.  Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union and for the efficacious management of your common concerns.  This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.  Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty.  The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government.  But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.  The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency.  They serve to organize faction, to give an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

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However combinations or associations of the above descriptions may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of Government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your Government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular opposition to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretext.  One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.  In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a Government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable.  Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.  It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the Government is too feeble to withstand the enterprise of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations.  Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable, from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind.  It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.  But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.  The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security, and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

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Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration.  It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one party against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.  It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption which find a facilitated access to the Government itself through the channels of party passions.  Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty.  This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party.  But in those of a popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged.  From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose.  And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it.  A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its administrations, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.  The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of Government, a real despotism.  A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of the position.  The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes.  To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.  If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates.  But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free Governments are destroyed.  The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

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Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.  The mere Politician, equally with the pious men, ought to respect and to cherish them.  A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felcity.  Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?  And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of a popular Government.  The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free Government.  Who that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge.  In proportion as the structure of a Government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit.  One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden, which we ourselves ought to bear.  The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that the public opinion should co-operate.  To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant, that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from this selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the Government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

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Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.  Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it?  It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.  Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?  Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?  The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature.  Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.  The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.  Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.  Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, venomed, and bloody contests.  The Nation prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.  The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives.  The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils.  Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.  It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.  And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite Nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearance of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base of foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

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As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot.  How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils!  Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful Nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens), the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.  But that jealousy to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it.  Excessive partiality for one foreign Nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.  Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.  So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith.  Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation.  Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns.  Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course.  If we remain one people, under an efficient Government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?  Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?  Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements.  I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.  I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense.  But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

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Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, in a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.  But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the Government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more.  There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.  It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions or prevent our Nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of Nations.  But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world.  To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April, 1793, is the index of my Plan.  Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your Representatives of both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position.  Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

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The considerations, which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail.  I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every Nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other Nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience.  With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.  Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend.  I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free Government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.




The hall in which the exercises in celebration of Washington’s Birthday are held should be decorated with all the patriotic emblems obtainable,—­flags, banners, flowers, etc.; including a portrait of Washington centrally and prominently exhibited, with the motto, “First in war, etc.,” and the figures 1732 and 1799, the dates of his birth and death; the former trimmed with flowers, the latter with crepe.  Nothing available should be omitted to render the hall as bright and attractive as possible.

The orations should be delivered by boys, but the other portions of the exercises may be rendered by girls, or by both girls and boys, as may be found most suitable to the text and the occasion.

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* * * * *



An Exercise for Boys From “The Popular Educator

Let the scholars who represent the ghosts of the vanished years stand in the background and come forth as they are called.  Each should bear in his hand a standard with the date of his year in large letters upon it, or wear a badge with the same.  Hang a large picture of Washington on the wall; above it place the motto, “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen,” and beneath it the dates of his birth and death.


This wintry month of storm and cold
Doth in its rough old heart enfold
A memory bright as burnished gold,
Which still lives on while years grow old. 
It pales not with the lapse of time,
But burns with steady glow sublime—­
Through all the years from age to age,
A light upon our history’s page—­
The name and memory of one,
Our country’s hero—­Washington.


Go, ring the bells and fire each gun
In honor of George Washington.


Come, boys, let’s have some historic fun,
Its theme to be grand Washington,
’Tis better far than simple play,
So range yourselves in close array,
While each in turn his deeds do cite,
And thus we’ll keep his memory bright.


Call up the ghosts of the vanished years,
And question each as he appears.


Aha! ye years that thought ye were gone,
We’ll call you back with your faces wan.


Arise, thou ghost of seventeen thirty-two,
And to our questions give us answers true. 
What knowest thou of Washington, the grave? 
What canst thou tell of Washington, the brave?

(Arise 1732.)

In February of my year,
Unto my mind ’tis very clear,
Upon the twenty-second day,
In old Virginia far away,
Was born a sweet and gentle child,
On whom the heavens looked down and smiled.


Is that all thou canst tell?

(1732 speaks again.)

Ah! there’s another thing, just one: 
They called the child George Washington. 
On all things else I am but dumb;
Ask of the years that after come.


Arise, ye ghosts of his youthful days,
And tell us of his acts and ways.

(Arise 1733, 1735, 1738, 1741, 1743, and 1752.  Each speaks in turn.)

1733.  In seventeen hundred thirty-three He was a baby, full of glee.

1735.  In seventeen hundred thirty-five He was a child, all wide-awake, alive.

1738.  I speak for seventeen thirty-eight, He told no falsehood, small or great.

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1741.  Thus speak the lips of seventeen forty-one:  His work in copybooks was nearly done.

1743.  In seventeen hundred forty-three He loved in military sports to be.

1752.  My days of seventeen fifty-two No finer form could bring to view.


Away, ye years!  No more, no more!
                                        [They retire
Arise, thou ghost of fifty-four.

(Arise 1754.)

The French and Indian War this year begun,
Its first gun fired by youthful Washington;
The shots flew fast from hidden foe,
And many a one was then laid low,
Yet never a wound that grand form felt,
Though shots like rain at him were dealt. 
Old Indian chiefs declared a charm
Preserved his life from every harm.


Come forth, ye vanished seventeen seventy-five. 
No man methinks that knew thee is alive.

(Arise 1775.)

I proudly rise from the vanished past,
Behold a dark cloud gathering fast! 
At first no bigger than a hand,
’Tis spreading over all the land,
And men are hurrying here and there,
Their brows all grave with anxious care. 
Upon the green at Cambridge gaze,
List to the shouts the people raise,
As on his war-horse, proud and calm,
Sits he, the nation’s strong right arm;
Beneath the spreading elm-tree’s shade,
Commander-in-chief he there is made
Of young America’s armies all. 
Who is it thus the people call? 
’Tis Washington, the star of light,
That shone through all the country’s night.


Come back, ye years that now are o’er,
And tell us of this man yet more.

(Arise 1776 and 1777.  In concert.)

Together we rise to speak his fame,
Who won a grand, immortal name
At Trenton and at Princeton too. 
More brilliant deeds where can we view? 
On History’s page they brightly gleam. 
Him “first in war” we rightly deem.


Behold a shadow dark and weighty! 
Stand forth, thou ghost of seventeen eighty.

(Arise 1780.)

Hunger and cold, and suffering great
In my last days was the sad fate
Of Washington and his soldiers brave. 
The name “hard winter” to me clave. 
But still the grand old patriot fire
Within one breast did ne’er expire. 
In cause so grand he placed a faith sublime,
That far outweighed the sorrows of the time.


What canst thou tell us, seventeen eighty-one,
Of this far-famed, immortal Washington?

(Arise 1781.)

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I see the British soldiers, one by one,
Surrendering their arms to Washington. 
The war of revolution now is o’er,
And joyful shouts from every hillside pour. 
As soon as war’s black flag is furled,
The admiration of the world,
Bearing the love of countless grateful hearts,
George Washington unto his home departs. 
The “first in war,” and “first in peace,”
His memory shall never cease.


Once more we call.  Come forth and shine,
Spirit of seventeen eighty-nine.

(Arise 1789.)

My year beheld George Washington
Above all men the ruling one,
Of the United States first President,
His name a glory to our country lent.


Come forth, thou ghost, the last in line;
Come back, oh seventeen ninety-nine.

(Arise 1799.)

I rise with sorrow in my face,
Which time can never quite efface. 
In the last month of the Last year
Of the LAST century (dost thou hear?)
There passed away a kingly soul,
And sadly all the bells did toll;
The people mourned their leader much;
Their feelings in one mighty rush! 
Swept back o’er all the years gone by,
And heartfelt was the nation’s cry
O’er Washington whom tongue and pen
Proclaim the first in hearts of countrymen.


“First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”


Who would have thought the vanished years
Could come back thus with smiles and tears!

(The years come back in procession, 1732 in advance, and recite together.)

Together we come farewell to say,
Ere in our graves we hide away. 
Till another year hath passed its round,
Our voices shall utter forth no sound. 
Our lips have only told a part
About this great and noble heart;
But go and study history’s page,
You’ll find him there from age to age. 
Before we go a challenge brave we send
Unto this year, and on till time shall end,
To e’er produce a greater one
Than our immortal Washington.
                                        [Pass out in order, repeating
                                         “Farewell, farewell!

If there is a bell on the school-building, have some boy at this point ring it with bright, quick strokes.


List!  I hear the bells a-ringing,
High within their steeples swinging. 
Loud let them ring, and ring, and ring,
And all abroad their music fling,
For honor doth belong to him
Whose memory ages cannot dim.


Ay, ring the bells, and raise the shout,
And drag the massive cannon out,
Let all unite as though in one
To praise immortal Washington.

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School sing in closing “Speed Our Republic” etc., or some other patriotic hymn.

* * * * *



For a Very Little Girl

  I cannot be a Washington,
    However hard I try,
  But into something I must grow
    As fast the days go by.

  The world needs women, good and true,
    I’m glad I can be one,
  For that is even better than
    To be a Washington.

* * * * *



For Forty-five Children

This exercise will require forty-five children, boys or girls, or both, as most convenient.  Where a stage and curtain are obtainable, have the speakers grouped upon the stage at rise of curtain.  If a stage and curtain are impossible let the speakers sit near the platform, each coming forward quickly, as the predecessor retires.  A bust or framed portrait of Washington must occupy the center of the stage or platform; surrounding it must be an arch containing forty-five nails.  Each speaker at the close of speech hangs upon a nail the wreath he or she carries.  Where flowers cannot be obtained in the winter time, use wreaths of evergreen.  If a stage is possible, but not a curtain, the States may form at back of schoolroom and march upon the stage in time to martial or patriotic music.  Each State may wear a badge with name if convenient.

  1.  Maine comes marching on as one
  To crown immortal Washington.

  2.  New Hampshire brings him honor, too,
  In offerings both sweet and true.

  3.  Vermont here comes to take her stand
  To crown him with a lavish hand.

  4.  Massachusetts, Pilgrim state,
  Proclaims him hero grand and great.

  5.  Rhode Island comes with willing feet
  To place a garland fair and sweet.

  6.  Connecticut, with laurel’s light,
  Would keep our hero’s honor bright.

  7.  New York, a mighty empire now,
  Still crowns her gallant leader’s brow.

  8.  Pennsylvania holds him great,
  Who spurned a crown to make a state.

  9.  New Jersey, Trenton can’t forget,
  Her hero claims her honor yet.

  10.  Delaware will wreathe her bays
  To tell our hero’s matchless praise.

  11.  Maryland crowns the peaceful heart
  Unspoiled by cruel deed or art.

  12.  Virginia hails her first-born son,
  The proud and peerless Washington.

  13.  West Virginia will proclaim
  The splendors of a patriot’s name.

  14.  North Carolina’s wreath is brought
  To him who independence wrought.

  15.  South Carolina follows on
  To twine a wreath for Washington.

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  16.  Georgia exalts him high
  Who made the flag of freedom fly.

  17.  Alabama’s lore is pure,
  For him whose fame shall aye endure.

  18.  Florida a tribute brings
  To him exalted over kings.

  19.  Ohio twines with generous hand
  The garlands of a goodly land.

  20.  Indiana’s wreath is green
  For him of grave and gentle mien.

  21.  Illinois cannot forget
  That Washington is speaking yet.

  22.  Michigan with love is stirred
  For him who always kept his word.

  23.  Wisconsin hangs the victor’s palm
  For him, in peace or tumult calm.

  24.  Kentucky would his praise prolong,
  For fortitude and valor strong.

  25.  Missouri comes with gifts of love
  For Washington’s all men above.

  26.  Iowa exalts the man
  Who shaped his life on honor’s plan.

  27.  Minnesota will revere
  The name that all the world holds dear.

  28.  Nebraska brings from summits high
  Immortal gifts that cannot die.

  29.  Kansas speaks of duties done,
  Of battles fought and victories won.

  30.  Mississippi tells the tale
  Of glorious acts that never pale.

  31.  Louisiana counts the deeds
  By duty done where valor leads.

  32.  Arkansas brings an offering bright
  To him who struggled for the right

  33.  Texas will her honor show
  To faithful friend and generous foe.

  34.  Tennessee exultant bears
  The crown a conquering hero wears.

  35.  Nevada from her mountain height
  Has plucked this garland kissed with light.

  36.  California’s thousand flowers
  Will crown this patriot of ours.

  37.  Oregon brings offerings rare
  For him she holds in loving care.

  38 Montana, from the mountains blue,
  Has brought him love, and honor, too.

  39.  North Dakota loves him well,
  And comes his valiant deeds to tell.

  40.  South Dakota follows on
  To crown the patriot Washington.

  41.  Washington is proud to claim
  The glory of his noble name.

  42.  Colorado ever true
  Will bring him loving garlands, too.

  43.  Wyoming from her mountain height
  Would crown the man who stood for right.

  44.  Idaho brings garlands fair
  For him whose life’s beyond compare.

  45.  Utah comes with fadeless pine
  In his immortal crown to shine.

  Chorus of States

  We all will honor Washington,
  His fame will ever lead us on
  To better lives and nobler deeds,
  To guard our land in all her needs,
  To keep us ever kind and true
  To friends, and home, and country, too,
  In virtue strong, in honor bright,
  The foe of wrong, the friend of right.

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  We all will honor Washington,
  The first in war when wrong was done. 
  The first in peace when freedom came
  To crown him with immortal fame,
  The first in all our hearts to-day,
  To bind us all as one for aye,
  While battle and freedom lead us on
  We all will honor Washington.

(Issued under the auspices of the George Washington Memorial Association.  Used by permission of the New England Publishing Co.)

* * * * *



To Be Recited by a Small Boy

  I am six years old,
    And like play and fun. 
  I mean to grow up
    Like George Washington.

  So, when mother said,
    “Who ate all the pie?”
  I, spoke like a man,
    And said, “It was I.”

  But she didn’t say
    She’d rather lose the pie,
  And know that her boy
    Would not tell a lie.

  She just shut me up
    Where I couldn’t see,
  Then sent me to bed
    Without any tea.

* * * * *


For Nine Pupils

FIRST PUPIL.—­To the historian few characters appear so little to have shared the common frailties and imperfections of human nature as that of Washington. William Smyth.

SECOND PUPIL.—­No matter what may have been the immediate birthplace of such a man as Washington!  No clime can claim, no country can appropriate him; the boon of Providence to the human race, his fame is eternity, his residence creation. Charles Phillips.

THIRD PUPIL.—­As a ruler of mankind, he may be proposed as a model.  Deeply impressed with the original rights of human nature, he never forgot that the end, and meaning, and aim of all just government was the happiness of the people. William Smyth.

FOURTH PUPIL.—­As a general, he marshaled the peasant into a veteran, and supplied by discipline the absence of experience.  As a statesman, he enlarged the policy of the cabinet into the most comprehensive system of general advantage; and such was the wisdom of his views and the philosophy of his counsels that to the soldier and the statesman he almost added the character of the sage. Charles Phillips.

FIFTH PUPIL.—­Immortal man!  He took from the battle its crime, and from the conquest its chains; he left the victorious the glory of his self-denial, and turned upon the vanquished only the retribution of his mercy.  Happy, proud America!  The lightnings of heaven yielded to your philosophy!  The temptations of earth could not seduce your patriotism! Charles Phillips.

SIXTH PUPIL.—­It is the happy combination of rare talents and qualities, the harmonious union of the intellectual and moral powers, rather than the dazzling splendor of any one trait which constitutes the grandeur of his character. Jared Sparks.

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SEVENTH PUPIL.—­Washington did the two greatest things which, in politics, man can have the privilege of attempting.  He maintained, by peace, that independence of his country which he had acquired by war.  He founded a free government, in the name of the principles of order, and by re-establishing their sway. Guizot.

EIGHTH PUPIL.—­Greater soldiers, more intellectual statesmen, and profounder sages have doubtless existed in the history of the English race, perhaps in our own country, but not one who to great excellence in the threefold composition of man—­the physical, intellectual, and moral—­has added such exalted integrity, such unaffected piety, such unsullied purity of soul, and such wondrous control of his own spirit.  He illustrated and adorned the civilization of Christianity, and furnished an example of the wisdom and perfection of its teachings which the subtlest arguments of its enemies cannot impeach. Vance.

NINTH PUPIL.—­ He fought, but not with love of strife; he struck but to defend; And, ere he turned a people’s foe, he sought to be a friend.  He strove to keep his country’s right by Reason’s gentle word And sighed when fell injustice threw the challenge sword to sword.  He stood, the firm, the calm, the wise, the patriot and sage; He showed no deep, avenging hate, no burst of despot rage; He stood for liberty and truth, and dauntlessly led on, Till shouts of victory gave forth the name of Washington. Eliza Cook.

Washington, the brave, the wise, the good. 
Supreme in war, in council, and in peace. 
Valiant without ambition, discreet without fear, confident without
In disaster, calm; in success, moderate; in all, himself. 
The hero, the patriot, the Christian. 
The father of nations, the friend of mankind,
Who, when he had won all, renounced all, and sought in the bosom of
  his family and of nature, retirement, and in the hope of religion,
Inscription at Mount Vernon.