Washington's Birthday eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 265 pages of information about Washington's Birthday.

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.

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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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Washington's Birthday from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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