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.
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BY JOHN W. DANIEL
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.