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Title: Essay On The Character And Influence Of Washington in the Revolution Of The United States Of America
Author: Guizot, François
Language: English
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   Essay On The Character And Influence Of Washington

    In The Revolution Of The United States Of America.

                 By M. Guizot.

           Translated From The French.

                 Third Edition.

                    New York

           Published By James Miller,

       (Successor To C. S. Francis & Co.,)

                  522 Broadway.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and forty, by James Munroe & Co., in the Clerk's
office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.


               Translator's Preface.

The following Essay is a translation of the Introduction, by M.
Guizot, to a French version of Sparks's Life of Washington, and
of selected portions of Washington's Writings, which has recently
appeared in Paris, in six octavo volumes. M. Guizot is well
known, not only as the author of many valuable historical works,
but as a practical statesman himself, and therefore peculiarly
qualified to appreciate the character of Washington, and to
estimate his claims to the gratitude of his country, and the
admiration of mankind. The Essay can hardly fail to be read with
interest by every countryman of the illustrious man who forms its
subject. It is a performance remarkable for the knowledge which
it evinces of our own history, for its great political wisdom,
its elevated moral tone, and its just discrimination in regard to
the character of Washington.
Every American citizen must be highly gratified to find his own
veneration for the name of Washington confirmed by this unbiassed
tribute from a foreigner so distinguished in literature and
politics, as M. Guizot. Nothing has ever been written concerning
him in Europe, so accurate, so just, and so profound as this; and
it will serve to justify and strengthen that admiration, which
has been accorded to him in foreign countries, hardly less than
in his own.

    George S. Hillard.


     Advertisement Of The French Publishers.

No foreign event occurring at a distance ever awakened so lively
a sympathy in France, as the Revolution of the United States of
America. No great man who was a foreigner has ever, in this
country, been the object of general admiration to such an extent
as Washington. He has had the applause of both the court and the
people, of the old _régime_ and the new nation. During his
life, testimonials of respect were heaped upon him by Louis the
Sixteenth; and, at his death, Napoleon directed a public mourning
for him, and a funeral oration. [Footnote 1]

    [Footnote 1: "Bonaparte rendered unusual honors to the name
    of Washington, not long after the event of his death was made
    known in France. By what motives he was prompted, it is
    needless to inquire. At any rate, both the act itself and his
    manner of performing it are somewhat remarkable, when
    regarded in connexion with his subsequent career. He was then
    First Consul. On the 9th of February, he issued the following
    order of the day to the army, "Washington is dead! This great
    man fought against tyranny; he established the liberty of his
    country. His memory will always be dear to the French people,
    as it will be to all free men of the two worlds; and
    especially to French soldiers, who like him and the American
    soldiers, have combated for liberty and equality. The First
    Consul likewise ordered, that during ten days, black crape
    should be suspended from all the standards and flags
    throughout the Republic. On the same day a splendid ceremony
    took place in the Champ de Mars, and the trophies brought by
    the army from Egypt were displayed with great pomp.
    Immediately after this ceremony was over, a funeral oration,
    in honor of Washington (_Eloge Funèbre de Washington_)
    was pronounced by M. de Fontanes, in the Hotel des Invalides,
    then called the Temple of Mars. The First Consul, and all the
    civil and military authorities of the capital, were
    present."--Sparks's _Life of Washington_, pp. 531, 532,


It is now forty years since this great man has been reposing, to
use his own expression, "in the mansions of rest," at Mount
Vernon, by the side of his fathers. But his country has recently
reared to him the noblest of monuments, in the publication of his
_Works_, consisting of his Letters, Discourses, and
Messages, comprising what was written and spoken by him in the
midst of his active career, and forming indeed his lively image
and the true history of his life.

These are, in truth, his _Works_. Washington preserved with
scrupulous care, either a first draft or an exact copy of every
letter he wrote, whether as a public man or a private individual,
and whether they related to his own concerns, the management and
culture of his farms, or to the interests of the state.


During the period from 1783 to 1787, in his retirement at Mount
Vernon, he arranged the first part of this correspondence,
containing among other things, whatever had been written by him
during the war of independence; and, at his death, he bequeathed
all his papers, together with his estate at Mount Vernon, to his
nephew, Bushrod Washington, who was for thirty years one of the
justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. The entire
collection, comprising the letters written by Washington himself,
and those addressed to him, filled more than two hundred folio

The Congress of the United States has recently purchased these
precious papers, and caused them to be deposited in the national
archives. An able editor, Mr. Sparks, already well known by his
important historical labors, and especially by editing the
"Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States during the War of
Independence," (printed at Boston in twelve octavo volumes), has
examined these papers and made selections and extracts from them.
The family of Washington, his surviving friends, and various
intelligent and distinguished persons favored his efforts in
executing this patriotic task.
Mr. Sparks has not remained content with the collection of
materials, already so ample, which was in his possession; he
traveled over America and Europe, and the public and private
collections of France and England were liberally opened to him.
He has sought out, and brought together from all quarters, the
documents necessary to illustrate and complete this authentic
biography of a great man, which is the history of the infant
years of a great people; and a work in twelve large octavo
volumes, adorned with portraits, plates, and _fac-similes_,
under the title of "The Writings of George Washington," has been
the result of this labor, which has been performed in all its
parts with scrupulous fidelity, patriotism, and a love of the

The work is divided into several parts.

The First Volume contains a Life of Washington, written by Mr.

The Second Volume, entitled Part First, contains the Official and
Private Letters of Washington, prior to the American Revolution,
(from the 9th of March, 1754, to the 31st of May, 1775). The
official letters relate to the war of 1754-1758, between France
and England, for the possession of the territories lying west of
the English colonies.


The Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Volumes
(being the Second Part) comprise the Correspondence and the
various papers relating to the American Revolution and the War of
Independence, (from the 16th of June, 1775, to the 23d of
December, 1783).

The Ninth Volume (being the Third Fart) is composed of the
Private Letters written by Washington from the end of 1783 to the
spring of 1789, in the interval between his return to Mount
Vernon, after the peace of Versailles, and his elevation to the
Presidency of the United States, (from the 28th of December,
1783, to the 14th of April, 1789).

The Tenth and Eleventh Volumes (being the Fourth Part) comprise
the Official and Private Correspondence of Washington from his
elevation to the Presidency to the close of his life, (from the
5th of May, 1789, to the 12th of December, 1799).

The Twelfth Volume (being the Fifth Part), contains the Documents
and Messages addressed by Washington to Congress, as President of
the United States, and also his Proclamations and Addresses to
the American people in general, or to particular classes of


Each volume is terminated by an Appendix, in which the Editor has
collected a variety of historical documents of great interest,
and, generally speaking, hitherto unpublished, which illustrate
the principal events of the period, and the most important parts
of the life and character of Washington.

Finally, numerous and accurate Notes, scattered through the work,
give all the information necessary for the complete understanding
of the letters and incidents to which they relate.

Viewed as a whole and in its details, in its literary execution
and in its outward form, the edition is worthy of the great name
to which it is consecrated.

In 1838, when the work had been just completed, the American
Editor, desirous that Washington should be as well known in
France as in his own country, applied to M. Guizot, requesting
him to make a selection, from the voluminous correspondence, of
such portions as seemed most calculated to awaken an interest in
the French public, and to superintend their publication in the
French language. M. Guizot has made this selection; upon the
principle of taking, especially, First, the letters concerning
the relations of France and the United States at that period, and
the distinguished part which our country acted in that great
event; Secondly, those which develope the political views of
Washington in the formation of the constitution and the
organization of the government of the United States,--views full
of valuable instruction; Thirdly, those which exhibit in the
clearest light the character, the turn of mind, and the manners
of the great man from whom they proceeded.


In order to accomplish fully the honorable task which he
undertook, M. Guizot was desirous of presenting his own views of
the character of Washington, and of his influence in the
revolution which founded the United States of America; and these
are contained in the Introduction, which is prefixed to our

We have spared no pains to make its external appearance worthy of
the intrinsic value of its contents. We are indebted to the
kindness of General Cass, the minister of the United States in
France, for most useful assistance and information; and he has
afforded them with a kindness, at once so enlightened and so
generous, that we feel it our duty to make a public
acknowledgment of our obligations to him.



      Character And Influence of Washington.

Two difficult and important duties are assigned to man, and may
constitute his true glory: to support misfortune and resign
himself to it with firmness; to believe in goodness and trust
himself to it with unbroken confidence.

There is a spectacle not less noble or less improving, than that
of a virtuous man struggling with adversity; it is that of a
virtuous man at the head of a good cause, and giving assurance of
its triumph.

If there were ever a just cause, and one which deserved success,
it was that of the English colonies in their struggle to become
the United States of America.
In their case, open insurrection had been preceded by resistance.
This resistance was founded upon historical right and upon facts,
upon natural right and upon opinions.

It is the honorable distinction of England to have given to her
colonies, in their infancy, the seminal principle of their
liberty. Almost all of them, either at the time of their being
planted or shortly after, received charters which conferred upon
the colonists the rights of the mother country. And these
charters were not a mere deceptive form, a dead letter, for they
either established or recognized those powerful institutions,
which impelled the colonists to defend their liberties and to
control power by dividing it; such as the laying of taxes by
vote, the election of the principal public bodies, trial by jury,
and the right to meet and deliberate upon affairs of general

Thus the history of these colonies is nothing else than the
practical and sedulous development of the spirit of liberty,
expanding under the protecting influence of the laws and
traditions of the country. Such, indeed, was the history of
England itself.


A Still more striking resemblance is presented in the fact, that
the colonies of America, at least the greater part of them and
the most considerable among them, either were founded, or
received their principal increase, precisely at the period when
England was preparing to sustain, or was already sustaining,
those bold conflicts against the claims of absolute power, which
were to confer upon her the honorable distinction of giving to
the world the first example of a great nation, free and well

From 1578 to 1704, under Elizabeth, James the First, Charles the
First, the Long Parliament, Cromwell, Charles the Second, James
the Second, William the Third, and Queen Anne, the charters of
Virginia, of Massachusetts, of Maryland, of Carolina, and of New
York, were, one after another, recognized, contested, restrained,
enlarged, lost, regained; incessantly exposed to those struggles
and those vicissitudes, which are the condition, indeed the very
essence, of liberty; for it is victory, and not peace, that free
communities can lay claim to.


At the same time with their legal rights, the colonists had also
religious faith. It was not only as Englishmen, but as
Christians, that they wished to be free; and their faith was more
dear to them than their charters. Indeed, these charters were, in
their eyes, nothing more than a manifestation and an image,
however imperfect, of the great law of God, the Gospel. Their
rights would not have been lost, even had they been deprived of
their charters. In their enthusiastic state of mind, supported by
divine favor, they would have traced these rights to a source
superior and inaccessible to all human power; for they cherished
sentiments more elevated than even the institutions themselves,
over which they were so sensitively watchful.

It is well known, that, in the eighteenth century, the human
understanding, impelled by the accumulation of wealth, the growth
of population, and the increase of every form of social power, as
well as by its own impetuous and self-derived activity, attempted
the conquest of the world. Political science, in all its forms,
woke into new and vigorous life; as did, to a still greater
degree, the spirit of philosophy, proud, unsatisfied, eager to
penetrate and to regulate all things.
English America shared in this great movement, but serenely and
dispassionately; obeying its inherent tendency rather than
rushing into new and untried paths. Philosophical opinions were
there combined with religious belief, the triumphs of reason with
the heritage of faith, and the rights of man with those of the

A noble spectacle is presented to us, when we see the union of
historical and rational right, of traditions and opinions. A
nation, in such a case, gains in prudence as well as in energy.
When time-honored and esteemed truths control man without
enslaving him, restrain at the same time that they support him,
he can move onward and upward, without danger of being carried
away by the impetuous flight of his own spirit, soon to be either
dashed in pieces against unknown obstacles, or to sink gradually
into a sluggish and paralyzing inactivity.
And when, by a further union, still more beautiful and more
salutary, religious belief is indissolubly linked, in the very
mind of man, to the general progress of opinions, and liberty of
reason to the firm convictions of faith,--it is then that a
people may trust themselves to the boldest institutions. For
religious belief promotes, to an incalculable extent, the wise
management of human affairs. In order to discharge properly the
duty assigned to him in this life, man must contemplate it from a
higher point of view; if his mind be merely on the same level
with the task he is performing, he will soon fall below it, and
become incapable of accomplishing it in a worthy manner.

Such was the fortunate condition, both of man and of society, in
the English colonies, when, in a spirit of haughty aggression,
England undertook to control their fortunes and their destiny,
without their own consent. This aggression was not unprecedented,
nor altogether arbitrary; it also rested upon historical
foundations, and might claim to be supported by some right.


It is the great problem of political science, to bring the
various powers of society into harmony, by assigning to each its
sphere and its degree of activity; a harmony never assured, and
always liable to be disturbed, but which, nevertheless, can be
produced, even from the elements of the struggle itself, to that
degree which the public safety imperatively demands. It is not
the privilege of states in their infancy to accomplish this
result. Not that any essential power is in them absolutely
disregarded and annihilated; on the contrary, all powers are
found in full activity; but they manifest themselves in a
confused manner, each one in its own behalf, without necessary
connexion or any just proportion, and in a way to bring on, not
the struggle which leads to harmony, but the disorder which
renders war inevitable.

In the infancy of the English colonies, three different powers
are found, side by side with their liberties, and consecrated by
the same charters,--the crown, the proprietary founders, whether
companies or individuals, and the mother country. The crown, by
virtue of the monarchical principle, and with its traditions,
derived from the Church and the Empire. The proprietary founders,
to whom the territory had been granted, by virtue of the feudal
principle, which attaches a considerable portion of sovereignty
to the proprietorship of the soil.
The mother country, by virtue of the colonial principle, which,
at all periods and among all nations, by a natural connexion
between facts and opinions, has given to the mother country a
great influence over the population proceeding from its bosom.

From the very commencement, as well in the course of events as in
the charters, there was great confusion among these various
powers, by turns exalted or depressed, united or divided,
sometimes protecting, one against another, the colonists and
their franchises, and sometimes assailing them in concert. In the
course of these confused changes, all sorts of pretexts were
assumed, and facts of all kinds cited, in justification and
support either of their acts or their pretensions.

In the middle of the seventeenth century, when the monarchical
principle was overthrown in England in the person of Charles the
First, one might be led to suppose, for a moment, that the
colonies would take advantage of this to free themselves entirely
from its control.
In point of fact, some of them, Massachusetts especially, settled
by stern Puritans, showed themselves disposed, if not to break
every tie which bound them to the mother country, at least to
govern themselves, alone, and by their own laws. But the Long
Parliament, by force of the colonial principle, and in virtue of
the rights of the crown which it inherited, maintained, with
moderation, the supremacy of Great Britain. Cromwell, succeeding
to the power of the Long Parliament, exercised it in a more
striking manner, and, by a judicious and resolute principle of
protection, prevented or repressed, in the colonies, both
royalist and Puritan, every faint aspiration for independence.

This was to him an easy task. The colonies, at this period, were
feeble and divided. Virginia, in 1640, did not contain more than
three or four thousand inhabitants, and in 1660 hardly thirty
thousand. [Footnote 2]

    [Footnote 2: Marshall's _Life of Washington_, edition of
    1805, Vol. I. p. 76. Bancroft's _History of the United
    States_, Vol. I. pp. 210, 232, 265.]


Maryland had at most only twelve thousand. In these two provinces
the royalist party had the ascendency, and greeted with joy the
Restoration. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, the general
feeling was republican; the fugitive regicides, Goffe and
Whalley, found there favor and protection; and when the local
government were compelled to proclaim Charles the Second as king,
they forbade, at the same time, all tumultuous assemblies, all
kinds of merry-making, and even the drinking of the King's
health. There was, at that time, neither the moral unity, nor the
physical strength, necessary to the foundation of a state.

After 1688, when England was finally in possession of a free
government, the colonies felt but slightly its advantages. The
charters, which Charles the Second and James the Second had
either taken away or impaired, were but imperfectly and partially
restored to them. The same confusion prevailed, the same
struggles arose between the different powers. The greater part of
the governors, coming from Europe, temporarily invested with the
prerogatives and pretensions of royalty, displayed them with more
arrogance than power, in an administration, generally speaking,
inconsistent, irritating, seldom successful, frequently marked by
grasping selfishness, and a postponement of the interests of the
public to petty personal quarrels.


Moreover, it was henceforth not the crown alone, but the crown
and the mother country united, with which the colonies had to
deal. Their real sovereign was no longer the king, but the king
and the people of Great Britain, represented and mingled together
in Parliament. And the Parliament regarded the colonies with
nearly the same eyes, and held, in respect to them, nearly the
same language, as had lately been used towards the Parliament
itself, by those kings whom it afterwards overcame. An
aristocratic senate is the most intractable of masters. Every
member of it possesses the supreme power, and no one is
responsible for its exercise.

In the mean time, the colonies were rapidly increasing in
population, in wealth, in strength internally, and in importance
externally. Instead of a few obscure establishments, solely
occupied with their own affairs, and hardly able to sustain their
own existence, a people was now forming itself, whose
agriculture, commerce, enterprising spirit, and relative position
to other states, were giving them a place and consideration among
The mother country, unable to govern them well, had neither the
leisure nor the ill will to oppress them absolutely. She vexed
and annoyed them without checking their growth.

And the minds of men were expanded, and their hearts elevated,
with the growing fortunes of the country. By an admirable law of
Providence, there is a mysterious connexion between the general
condition of a country, and the state of feeling among the
citizens; a certain, though not obvious, bond of union, which
connects their growth and their destinies, and which makes the
farmer in his fields, the merchant in his counting-room, even the
mechanic in his workshop, grow more confident and high-spirited,
in proportion as the society, in whose bosom they dwell, is
enlarged and strengthened. As early as 1692, the General Court of
Massachusetts passed a resolution, "that no tax should be levied
upon his Majesty's subjects in the colonies, without the consent
of the Governor and Council, and the representatives in General
Court assembled." [Footnote 3]

    [Footnote 3: Story's _Commentaries on the Constitution_,
    Vol. I. p. 62.]


In 1704, the legislative assembly of New York made a similar
declaration. [Footnote 4]

    [Footnote 4: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. II. p. 17.]

The government of Great Britain repelled them, sometimes by its
silence, and sometimes by its measures, which were always a
little indirect and reserved. The colonists were often silent in
their turn, and did not insist upon carrying out their principles
to their extreme consequences. But the principles themselves were
spreading among the colonial society, at the same time that the
resources were increasing, which were destined, at a future day
to be devoted to their service, and to insure their triumph.

Thus, when that day arrived, when George the Third and his
Parliament, rather in a spirit of pride, and to prevent the loss
of absolute power by long disuse, than to derive any advantage
from its exercise, undertook to tax the colonies without their
consent, a powerful, numerous, and enthusiastic party,--the
national party,--immediately sprang into being, ready to resist,
in the name of right and of national honor.


It was indeed a question of right and of honor, and not of
interest or physical well-being. The taxes were light, and
imposed no burden upon the colonists. But they belonged to that
class of men who feel most keenly the wrongs which affect the
mind alone, and who can find no repose while honor is
unsatisfied. "For, Sir, what is it we are contending against? Is
it against paying the duty of three pence per pound on tea,
because burdensome? No; it is the right only, that we have all
along disputed." [Footnote 5] Such was, at the commencement of
the quarrel, the language of Washington himself, and such was the
public sentiment--a sentiment founded in sound policy, as well
as moral sense, and manifesting as much judgment as virtue.

    [Footnote 5: Washington to Bryan Fairfax.
    _Washington's Writings_, Vol. II. p. 392.]


An instructive spectacle is presented to our contemplation, in
the number of public associations, which at that time were formed
in the colonies;--associations, local or general, accidental or
permanent; chambers of burgesses and of representatives,
conventions, committees, and congresses. Men of very different
characters and dispositions there met together; some, full of
respect and attachment to the mother country, others, ardently
devoted to that American country which was growing up under their
eyes and by the labor of their own hands; the former, anxious and
dejected, the latter, confident and enthusiastic, but all moved
and united by the same elevated sentiment, and the same
resolution to resist; giving the freest utterance to their
various views and opinions, without its producing any deep or
permanent division; on the contrary, respecting in each other the
rights of freedom, discussing together the great question of the
country with that conscientious purpose, that spirit of justice
and discretion, which gave them assurance of success, and
diminished the cost of its purchase. In June 1775, the first
Congress, assembled at Philadelphia, took measures for the
publication of a solemn declaration, for the purpose of
justifying the taking up of arms.
Two members, one from Virginia, and one from Pennsylvania, were a
part of the committee charged with the duty of drawing it up. "I
prepared," relates Mr. Jefferson himself, "a draft of the
declaration committed to us. It was too strong for Mr. Dickinson.
He still retained the hope of reconciliation with the mother
country, and was unwilling it should be lessened by offensive
statements. He was so honest a man, and so able a one, that he
was greatly indulged, even by those who could not feel his
scruples. We therefore requested him to take the paper, and put
it into a form he could approve. He did so; preparing an entire
new statement, and preserving of the former only the last four
paragraphs, and half of the preceding one. We approved and
reported it to Congress, who accepted it. Congress gave a signal
proof of their indulgence to Mr. Dickinson, and of their great
desire not to go too fast for any respectable part of our body,
in permitting him to draw their second petition to the King
according to his own ideas, and passing it with scarcely an
The disgust against its humility was general; and Mr. Dickinson's
delight at its passage was the only circumstance that reconciled
them to it. The vote being passed, although further observation
on it was out of order, he could not refrain from rising and
expressing his satisfaction, and concluded by saying, 'There is
but one word, Mr. President, in the paper, which I disapprove,
and that is the word _Congress;_' on which Benjamin Harrison
rose and said, 'There is but one word in the paper, Mr.
President, of which I approve, and that is the word
_Congress_.'" [Footnote 6]

    [Footnote 6: Jefferson's _Memoirs_, Vol. I. pp. 9, 10.]

Such a unanimity of feeling in the midst of so much liberty was
not a short-lived wisdom, the happy influence of the first burst
of enthusiasm. During the period of nearly ten years, which the
great contest occupied, men the most unlike, who were ranked
under the banners of the same national party, young and old,
enthusiastic and calm, continued to act thus in concert, one
portion being sufficiently wise, and the other sufficiently firm,
to prevent a rupture. And when, forty-six years afterwards,
[Footnote 7] after having taken part in the violent struggle
between the parties which American liberty gave birth to, himself
the head of the victorious party, Mr. Jefferson called up anew
the recollections of his youth, we may be sure, that it was not
without mingled emotions of pain and pleasure, that he recurred
to these noble examples of moderation and justice.

    [Footnote 7: Mr. Jefferson wrote his _Memoirs_ in 1821.]


Insurrection, resistance to established authority, and the
enterprise of forming a new government, are matters of grave
importance to men like these, to all men of sense and virtue.
Those who have the most forecast, never calculate its whole
extent. The boldest would shudder in their hearts, could they
foresee all the dangers of the undertaking. Independence was not
the premeditated purpose, not even the wish, of the colonies. A
few bold and sagacious spirits either saw that it would come, or
expressed their desire for it, after the period of resistance
under the forms of law had passed. But the American people did
not aspire to it, and did not urge their leaders to make claim to
"'For all what you Americans say of your loyalty,' observed the
illustrious Lord Camden, at that time Mr. Pratt, 'I know you will
one day throw off your dependence upon this country; and,
notwithstanding your boasted affection to it, will set up for
independence.' Franklin answered, 'No such idea is entertained in
the minds of the Americans; and no such idea will ever enter
their heads, unless you grossly abuse them.' 'Very true,' replied
Mr. Pratt, 'that is one of the main causes I see will happen, and
will produce the event.'" [Footnote 8]

    [Footnote 8: Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 496.]

Lord Camden was right in his conjectures. English America was
grossly abused; and yet, in 1774, and even in 1775, hardly a year
before the declaration of independence, and when it was becoming
inevitable, Washington and Jefferson thus wrote; "Although you
are taught, I say, to believe, that the people of Massachusetts
are rebellious, setting up for independency, and what not, give
me leave, my good friend, to tell you, that you are abused,
grossly abused. ...
I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest
of that government, or any other upon this continent, separately
or collectively, to set up for independence; but this you may, at
the same lime, rely on, that none of them will ever submit to the
loss of those valuable rights and privileges, which are essential
to the happiness of every free state, and without which, life,
liberty, and property are rendered totally insecure."
[Footnote 9]

    [Footnote 9: Letter to Robert Mackenzie, 9 October, 1774;
    Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 400.]

"Believe me, dear Sir, there is not in the British empire a man,
who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do.
But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist, before I
will yield to a connexion on such terms as the British Parliament
propose, and, in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.
We want neither inducement nor power to declare and assert a
separation. It is will alone, which is wanting, and that is
growing apace, under the fostering hand of our King." [Footnote

    [Footnote 10: Letter to Mr. Randolph, 29th November, 1775;
    Jefferson's _Memoirs and Correspondence_, Vol. I. p. 153.]


George the Third, in point of fact, pledged to the course he was
pursuing, and acting under the influence of passionate obstinacy,
animated and sustained his ministers and the Parliament in the
struggle. In vain were fresh petitions constantly presented to
him, always loyal and respectful without insincerity; in vain was
his name commended to the favor and protection of God, in the
services of religion, according to usual custom. He paid no
attention, either to the prayers which were made to him, or to
those which were offered to Heaven in his behalf; and by his
order the war continued, without ability, without vigorous and
well-combined efforts, but with that hard and haughty obstinacy,
which destroys in the heart all affection as well as hope.

Evidently the day had arrived, when power had forfeited its claim
to loyal obedience; and when the people were called upon to
protect themselves by force, no longer finding in the established
order of things either safety or shelter. Such a moment is a
fearful one, big with unknown events; one, which no human
sagacity can predict, and no human government can control, but
which, notwithstanding, does sometimes come, bearing an impress
stamped by the hand of God.
If the struggle, which begins at such a moment, were one
absolutely forbidden; if, at the mysterious point in which it
arises, this great social duty did not press even upon the heads
of those who deny its existence, the human race, long ago, wholly
fallen under the yoke, would have lost all dignity as well as all

Nor was there wanting another condition, also essential, to the
legitimate character of the insurrection of the English colonies.
They had a reasonable chance of success.

No vigorous hand, at that time, had the management of public
affairs in England. The cabinet of Lord North was not remarkable
for talent or generosity of feeling. The only eminent man in the
country, Lord Chatham, was in the opposition.


The times of extreme tyranny had gone by. Proscriptions, judicial
and military cruelties, a general and systematic laying waste of
the country; all those terrible measures, those atrocious
sufferings, which a little while before in the heart of Europe,
in a cause equally just, had been inflicted upon the Hollanders,
would not have been tolerated in the eighteenth century, by the
spectators of the American contest, and, indeed, were never
thought of by those who were the most fiercely engaged in it. On
the contrary, a powerful party was formed, and eloquent voices
were constantly lifted up, in the British Parliament itself, in
support of the colonies and of their rights. This is the glory
and distinction of a representative government, that it insures
to every cause its champions, and brings even into the arena of
politics those defences, which were instituted for the sanctuary
of the laws.

Europe, moreover, could not be a passive spectator of such a
struggle. Two great powers, France and Spain, had serious losses
and recent injuries in America itself, to avenge upon England.
Two powers, whose greatness was of recent growth, Russia and
Prussia, displayed in favor of liberal opinions a sympathy which
was enlightened, though a little ostentatious, and showed
themselves disposed to seize the occasion of bringing discredit
upon England, or of injuring her, in the name of liberty itself.
A republic, formerly glorious and formidable, still rich and
honored, Holland, could not fail to assist America, against her
ancient rival, with her capital, and her credit. Finally, among
the powers of an inferior rank, all those whose situation
rendered the maritime supremacy of England odious or injurious to
them, could not but feel in favor of the new state a good will;
timid, perhaps, and without immediate effect, but still useful
and encouraging.

By the rarest good fortune, at that time every thing united and
acted in concert in favor of the insurgent colonies. Their cause
was just, their strength already great, and their characters
marked by prudence and morality. Upon their own soil, laws and
manners, old facts and modern opinions, united in sustaining and
animating them in their purpose. Great alliances were preparing
for them in Europe. Even in the councils of the hostile mother
country, they had powerful support. Never, in the history of
human societies, had any new and contested right received so much
favor, and engaged in the strife with so many chances of success.


Still by how many obstacles was this undertaking opposed! What
efforts and sacrifices did it cost to the generation which was
charged with the duty of accomplishing it! How many times did it
appear to be, and indeed really was, on the point of being
utterly defeated!

In the country itself, among the people in appearance and
sometimes in reality so unanimous, independence, when once
declared, soon met numerous and active adversaries. In 1775,
hardly had the first guns been fired at Lexington, when, in the
midst of the general enthusiasm, a company of Connecticut troops
was requisite in New York to sustain the republican party against
the Tories or Loyalists, a name which the partisans of the mother
country had proudly adopted. [Footnote 11] In 1775, New York sent
important supplies to the English army under the orders of
General Gage. [Footnote 12]

    [Footnote 11: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. II. p. 187.]

    [Footnote 12: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. II. p. 229.]


In 1776, when General Howe arrived upon the shores of the same
province, a crowd of inhabitants manifested their joy, renewed
the oath of fidelity to the crown, and took up arms in its
behalf. [Footnote 13] The feeling was the same in New Jersey, and
the Loyalist corps, levied in these two provinces, equalled in
numbers the contingents furnished by them to the republican
armies.[Footnote 14] In the midst of this population, Washington
himself was not in safety; a conspiracy was formed to deliver him
up to the English, and some members of his own guard were found
to be engaged in it. [Footnote 15]

    [Footnote 13: Ibid., Vol. II. p. 381.]

    [Footnote 14: Ibid., Vol. III. p. 47.
    Spark's _Life of Washington_, Vol. I. p 261.]

    [Footnote 15: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. II. p. 364.]


Maryland and Georgia were divided. In North and South Carolina,
in 1776 and 1779, two Loyalist regiments, one of fifteen hundred,
and the other of seven hundred men, were formed in a few days.
Against these domestic hostilities, Congress and the local
governments used, at first, extreme moderation; rallying the
friends of independence without troubling themselves with its
opponents; demanding nothing from those who would have refused;
everywhere exerting themselves by means of writings,
correspondence, associations, and the sending of commissioners
into the doubtful counties, to confirm their minds, to remove
their scruples, and to demonstrate to them the justice of their
cause, and the necessity there was for the steps they had taken.
For, generally, the Loyalist party was founded upon sincere and
honorable sentiments; fidelity, affection, gratitude, respect for
tradition, and a love of established order; and from such
sentiments it derived its strength. For some time the government
contented itself with watching over this party and keeping it
under restraint; in some districts, they even entered into treaty
with it, to secure its neutrality. But the course of events, the
imminence of the danger, the urgent need of assistance, and the
irritation of the passions, soon led to a more rigorous course.
Arrests and banishment became frequent. The prisons were filled.
Confiscations of property commenced.
Local committees of public safety disposed of the liberty of
their fellow-citizens, on the evidence of general notoriety.
Popular violence, in more than one instance, was added to the
arbitrary severities of the magistrates. A printer in New York
was devoted to the cause of the Loyalists; a troop of horsemen,
who had come from Connecticut for that purpose, broke his presses
and carried off his types. [Footnote 16] The spirit of hatred and
vengeance was awakened. In Georgia and South Carolina, on the
western frontier of Connecticut and of Pennsylvania, the struggle
between the two parties was marked with cruelty. Notwithstanding
the legitimate character of the cause, notwithstanding the
virtuous wisdom of its leaders, the infant republic was
experiencing the horrors of a civil war.

    [Footnote 16: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. II. p. 240.]

Evils and dangers, still more serious, were every day springing
from the national party itself. The motives which led to the
insurrection were pure; too pure to consist for any length of
time, among the mass at least, with the imperfections of
When the people were appealed to in the name of rights, to be
maintained, and honor to be saved, the first impulse was a
general one. But, however great may be the favor of Providence in
such great enterprises, the toil is severe, success is slow, and
the generality of men soon become exhausted through weariness or
impatience. The colonists had not taken up arms to escape from
any atrocious tyranny; they had not, like their ancestors in
fleeing from England, the first privileges of life to regain,
personal security and religious toleration. They were no longer
stimulated by any urgent personal motive; there were no social
spoils to be divided, no old and deep-seated passions to gratify.
The contest was prolonged without creating in thousands of
retired families those powerful interests, those coarse but
strong ties, which, in our old and violent Europe, have so often
given to revolutions their force and their misery. Every day,
almost every step towards success, on the contrary, called for
new efforts and new sacrifices.
"I believe, or at least I hope," wrote Washington, "that there is
public virtue enough left among us to deny ourselves every thing
but the bare necessaries of life, to accomplish this end."
[Footnote 17]

    [Footnote 17: Letter to Bryan Fairfax;
    _Washington's Writings_, Vol. II. p. 395.]

A sublime hope, one which deserved to be rewarded as it was, by
the triumph of the cause, but which could not raise to its own
lofty elevation all that population, whose free and concurring
support was the condition, and indeed the only means, of success.
Depression, lukewarmness, inactivity, the desire to escape from
labors and expenses, soon became the essential evil, the pressing
danger, against which the leaders had constantly to struggle. In
point of fact, it was among the leaders, in the front ranks of
the party, that enthusiasm and devotedness were maintained. In
other instances of similar events, the impulse of perseverance
and self-sacrifice has come from the people. In America, it was
the independent and enlightened classes, who were obliged to
animate and sustain the people in the great contest in which they
were engaged for their country's sake.
In the ranks of civil life, the magistrates, the rich planters,
the leading merchants, and, in the army, the officers, always
showed themselves the most ardent and the most firm; from them,
example as well as counsel proceeded, and the people at large
followed them with difficulty, instead of urging them on. "Take
none for officers but _gentlemen_," was the recommendation
of Washington, after the war had lasted three years.[Footnote 18]
So fully had he been taught by experience, that these were
everywhere devoted to the cause of independence, and ready to
risk every thing and suffer every thing to insure its success.

    [Footnote 18: In his instructions to Colonel George Baylor,
    9th of January, 1777; _Washington's Writings_, Vol. IV.
    p. 269.]

These, too, were the only persons who, at least on their own
account, could sustain the expenses of the war, for the State
made no provision for them. Perhaps no army ever lived in a more
miserable condition than the American army.
Almost constantly inferior in numbers to the enemy; exposed to a
periodical and, in some sort, legalized desertion; called upon to
march, encamp, and fight, in a country of immense extent, thinly
peopled, in parts uncultivated, through vast swamps and savage
forests, without magazines of provisions, often without money to
purchase them, and without the power to make requisitions of
them; obliged, in carrying on war, to treat the inhabitants, and
to respect them and their property, as if it had consisted of
troops in garrison in a time of peace, this army was exposed to
great exigencies, and a prey to unheard-of sufferings. "For some
days," writes Washington, in 1777, "there has been little less
than a famine in camp. A part of the army have been a week
without any kind of flesh, and the rest three or four days. The
soldiers are naked and starving." ... "We find gentlemen
reprobating the measure of going into winter quarters; as much as
if they thought the soldiers were made of stocks or stones, and
equally insensible of frost and snow; and, moreover, as if they
conceived it easily practicable, for an inferior army, under the
disadvantages I have described ours to be, to confine a superior
one, in all respects well-appointed and provided for a winter's
campaign, within the city of Philadelphia, and to cover from
depredation and waste the States of Pennsylvania and Jersey."


"I can assure those gentlemen, that it is a much easier and less
distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by
a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak hill, and sleep
under frost and snow, without clothes or blankets. I feel
super-abundantly for the poor soldiers, and, from my soul, I pity
those miseries which it is neither in my power to relieve nor
prevent." [Footnote 19]

    [Footnote 19: _Washington's Writings_,
    Vol. V. pp. 199, 200.]

Congress, to whom he applied, could do hardly more than he
himself. Without the strength necessary to enforce the execution
of its orders; without the power of passing any laws upon the
subject of taxes; obliged to point out the necessities of the
country, and to solicit the thirteen confederated States to
provide for them, in the face of an exhausted people, a ruined
commerce, and a depreciated paper currency; this assembly, though
firm and prudent, was often able to do nothing more than address
new entreaties to the States, and clothe Washington with new
powers; instructing him to obtain from the local governments,
reinforcements, money, provisions, and every thing requisite to
carry on the war.


Washington accepted this difficult trust: and he soon found a new
obstacle to surmount, a new danger to remove. No bond of union,
no central power, had hitherto united the colonies. Each one
having been founded and governed separately, each, on its own
account, providing for its own safety, for its public works, for
its most trifling as well as most important affairs, they had
contracted habits of isolation and almost of rivalship, which the
distrustful mother country had taken pains to foster. In their
relations to each other, even ambition and the desire of conquest
insinuated themselves, as if the States had been foreign to each
other; the most powerful ones sometimes attempted to absorb the
neighboring establishments, or to deprive them of their
authority; and in their most important interest, the defence of
their frontiers against the savages, they often followed a
selfish course of policy, and mutually abandoned one another.


It was a most arduous task to combine at once, into one system,
elements which had hitherto been separated, without holding them
together by violence, and, while leaving them free, to induce
them to act in concert under the guidance of one and the same
power. The feelings of individuals no less than public
institutions, passions as well as laws, were opposed to this
result. The colonies wanted confidence in each other. All of them
were jealous of the power of Congress, the new and untried rival
of the local assemblies; they were still more jealous of the
army, which they regarded as being, at the same time, dangerous
to the independence of the States and to the liberty of the
citizens. Upon this point, new and enlightened opinions were in
unison with popular feeling. The danger of standing armies, and
the necessity, in free countries, of perpetually resisting and
diminishing their power, their influence, and the contagion of
their morals, was one of the favorite maxims of the eighteenth
Nowhere, perhaps, was this maxim more generally or more warmly
received than in the colonies of America. In the bosom of the
national party, those who were the most ardent, the most firmly
resolved to carry on the contest with vigor and to the end, were
also the most sensitive friends of civil liberty; that is to say,
these were the men, who looked upon the army, a military spirit,
military discipline, with the most hostile and suspicious eye.
Thus it happened, that obstacles were met with precisely in that
quarter in which it was natural to look for, and to expect to
find, the means of success.

And in this army itself, the object of so much distrust, there
prevailed the most independent and democratic spirit. All orders
were submitted to discussion. Each company claimed the privilege
of acting on its own account and for its own convenience. The
troops of the different States were unwilling to obey any other
than their own generals; and the soldiers, any other than
officers, sometimes directly chosen, and always at least
approved, by themselves.
And the day after a defeat which it was necessary to retrieve, or
a victory which was to be followed up, whole regiments would
break up and go home, it being impossible to prevail upon them to
wait even a few days for the arrival of their successors.

A painful doubt, mingled with apprehension, arises in the mind at
the contemplation of the many and severe sufferings with which
the course of the most just revolution is attended, and of the
many and perilous chances to which a revolution, the best
prepared for success, is exposed. But this doubt is rash and
unjust. Man, through pride, is blind in his confident
expectation, and, through weakness, is no less blind in his
despair. The most just and successful revolution brings into
light the evil, physical and moral, always great, which lies
hidden in every human society. But the good does not perish in
this trial, nor in the unholy connexion which it is thus led to
form; however imperfect and alloyed, it preserves its power as
well as its rights; if it be the leading principle in men, it
prevails, sooner or later, in events also, and instruments are
never wanting to accomplish its victory.


Let the people of the United States for ever hold in respectful
and grateful remembrance, the leading men of that generation
which achieved their independence, and founded their government!
Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jay, Henry Mason,
Greene, Knox, Morris, Pinckney, Clinton, Trumbull, Rutledge; it
would be impossible to enumerate them all; for, at the time the
contest began, there were in each colony, and in almost every
county in each colony, some men already honored by their fellow
citizens, already well known in the defence of public liberty,
influential by their property, talent, or character; faithful to
ancient virtues, yet friendly to modern improvement; sensible to
the splendid advantages of civilization, and yet attached to
simplicity of manners; high-toned in their feelings, but of
modest minds, at the same time ambitious and prudent in their
patriotic impulses; men of rare endowments, who expected much
from humanity, without presuming too much upon themselves, and
who risked for their country far more than they could receive
from her, even after her triumph.


It was to these men, aided by God and seconded by the people,
that the success of the cause was due. Among them, Washington was
the chief.

While yet young, indeed very young, he had become an object of
great expectation. Employed as an officer of militia in some
expeditions to the western frontier of Virginia against the
French and Indians, he had made an equal impression on his
superiors and his companions, the English governors and the
American people. The former wrote to London to recommend him to
the favor of the King. [Footnote 20] The latter, assembled in
their churches, to invoke the blessing of God upon their arms,
listened with enthusiasm to an eloquent preacher, Samuel Davies,
who, in praising the courage of the Virginians, exclaimed, "As a
remarkable instance of this, I many point out to the public 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." [Footnote 21]

    [Footnote 20: Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 97.]

    [Footnote 21: August 17th, 1755. Washington's Writings.
    Vol. II. p. 89.]


It is also related, that fifteen years afterwards, in a journey
which Washington made to the West, when on the banks of the Ohio,
an old Indian at the head of his tribe requested to see him, and
told him that, at the battle of Monongahela, he had several times
discharged his rifle at him, and directed his warriors to do the
same; but, to their great surprise, their balls had no effect.
Convinced that Washington was under the protection of the Great
Spirit, he had ceased to fire at him, and had now come to pay his
respects to a man who, by the peculiar favor of Heaven, could
never die in battle.

Men are fond of thinking that Providence has permitted them to
penetrate its secret purposes. The anecdote of the old chief
became current in America, and formed the subject of a drama,
called _The Indian Prophecy_. [Footnote 22]

    [Footnote 22: Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 475.]


Never, perhaps, was this vague expectation, this premature
confidence in the destiny, I hardly venture to say the
predestination, of any individual more natural, than in the case
of Washington; for there never was a man who appeared to be, and
who really was, from his youth, and in his early actions, more
consistent with his future career, and more adapted to the cause,
upon which he was destined to bestow success.

He was a planter by inheritance and inclination, and devoted to
those agricultural interests, habits, and modes of life, which
constituted the chief strength of American society. Fifty years
later, Jefferson, in order to justify his confidence in the
purely democratic organization of this society, said, "It cannot
deceive us as long as we remain virtuous, and I think we shall,
as long as agriculture is our principal object." [Footnote 23]

    [Footnote 23: _Edinburgh Review_, July, 1830, p. 498.]

From the age of twenty years, Washington considered agriculture
as his principal employment, making himself well acquainted with
the prevalent tone of feeling, and sympathizing with the virtuous
and simple habits of his country.
Traveling, field-sports, the survey of distant tracts of land,
intercourse, friendly or hostile, with the Indians on the
frontier, these formed the amusements of his youth. He was of
that bold and hardy temperament, which takes pleasure in those
adventures and perils, which, in a vast and wild country, man has
to encounter. He had that strength of body, perseverance, and
presence of mind, which insure success.

In this respect, at his entrance into life, he felt a slightly
presumptuous degree of self-confidence. He writes to Governor
Dinwiddie; "For my own part I can answer, that I have a
constitution hardy enough to encounter and undergo the most
severe trials, and, I flatter myself, resolution to face what any
man dares." [Footnote 24]

    [Footnote 24: Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 29.]

To a spirit like this, war was a more congenial employment than
field-sports or traveling. As soon as an opportunity offered, he
embraced the employment with that ardor, which, in the early
period of life, does not reveal a man's capacity so certainly as
his taste.
In 1754, it is said, when George the Second was hearing a
despatch read, which had been transmitted by the Governor of
Virginia, and in which Washington, than a young major, ended the
narrative of his first battle with the words, "I heard the
bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in
the sound;" the King observed, "He would not say so, if he had
been used to hear many." Washington was of the King's opinion;
for, when the major of the Virginia militia had become the
Commander-in-chief of the United States, some one having asked
him if it were true, that he had ever expressed such a sentiment,
he replied, "If I said so, it was when I was young." [Footnote

    [Footnote 25: Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 39.]

But his youthful ardor, which was at the same time serious and
calm, had the authority which belongs to a riper age. From the
first moment in which he embraced the military profession, he
took pleasure, far more than in the excitement of battle, in that
noble exercise of the understanding and the will, armed with
power in order to accomplish a worthy purpose, that powerful
combination of human action and good fortune, which kindles and
inspires the most elevated as well as the most simple minds.
Born in the first rank of colonial society, trained in the public
schools in the midst of his countrymen, he took his place
naturally at their head; for he was at once their superior and
their equal; formed to the same habits, skilled in the same
exercises; a stranger, like them, to all elegant learning,
without any pretensions to scientific knowledge, claiming nothing
for himself, and exerting only in the public service that
ascendency, which always attends a judicious and penetrating
understanding, and a calm and energetic character, in a
disinterested position.

In 1754, he was just appearing in society, and entering upon his
military career. It is a young officer of two-and-twenty, who
commands battalions of militia, and corresponds with the
representative of the king of England. In neither of these
relations does he feel any embarrassment. He loves his
associates; he respects the king and the governor; but neither
affection nor respect alters the independence of his judgment or
of his conduct.
By an admirable, instinctive power of action and command, he sees
and apprehends, by what means and upon what terms success is to
be obtained in the enterprise he has undertaken on behalf of his
king and his country. And these terms he imposes, these means he
insists upon; from the soldiers he exacts all that can be
accomplished by discipline, promptness, and activity in the
service; from the governor, that he shall discharge his duty in
respect to the pay of the soldiers, the furnishing of supplies,
and the choice of officers. In every case, whether his words or
opinions are sent up to the superior to whom he is rendering his
account, or pass down to the subordinates under his command, they
are equally precise, practical, and decided, equally marked by
that authority which truth and necessity bestow upon the man who
appears in their name. From this moment, Washington is the
leading American of his time, the faithful and conspicuous
representative of his country, the man who will best understand
and best serve her, whether he be called upon to fight or
negotiate for her, to defend or to govern her.


It is not the issue alone which has revealed this. His
contemporaries foresaw it. Colonel Fairfax, his first patron,
wrote to him, in 1756, "Your good health and fortune are the
toast at every table." [Footnote 26] In 1759, chosen, for the
first time, to the House of Burgesses in Virginia, at the moment
when he was taking his seat in the House, the Speaker, Mr.
Robinson, presented to him, in warm and animated terms, the
thanks of the House for the services which he had rendered to his
country. Washington rose to make his acknowledgments for so
distinguished an honor; but such was his embarrassment, that he
could not speak a single word; he blushed, hesitated, and
trembled. The Speaker at once came to his aid, and said, "Sit
down, Mr. Washington; your modesty equals your valor, and that
surpasses the power of any language that I possess." [Footnote

    [Footnote 26: Washington's Writings, Vol. II. p. 145.]

    [Footnote 27: Spark's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. I. p. 107.]


Finally, in 1774, on the eve of the great struggle, after the
separation of the first Congress held for the purpose of making
preparations to meet it, Patrick Henry replied to those that
inquired of him, who was the first man in Congress, "If you speak
of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, is the greatest
orator; but, if you speak of solid information and sound
judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man
on that floor." [Footnote 28]

    [Footnote 28: Spark's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. I., p. 107.]

However, to say nothing of eloquence, Washington had not those
brilliant and extraordinary qualities, which strike the
imagination of men at the first glance. He did not belong to the
class of men of vivid genius, who pant for an opportunity of
display, are impelled by great thoughts or great passions, and
diffuse around them the wealth of their own natures, before any
outward occasion or necessity calls for its employment. Free from
all internal restlessness and the promptings and pride of
ambition, Washington did not seek opportunities to distinguish
himself, and never aspired to the admiration of the world.
This spirit so resolute, this heart so lofty, was profoundly calm
and modest. Capable of rising to a level with the highest
destiny, he might have lived in ignorance of his real power
without suffering from it, and have found, in the cultivation of
his estates, a satisfactory employment for those energetic
faculties, which were to be proved equal to the task of
commanding armies and founding a government.

But, when the opportunity presented itself, when the exigence
occurred, without effort on his part, without any surprise on the
part of others, indeed rather, as we have just seen, in
conformity with their expectations, the prudent planter stood
forth a great man. He had, in a remarkable degree, those two
qualities which, in active life, make men capable of great
things. He could confide strongly in his own views, and act
resolutely in conformity with them, without fearing to assume the


It is always a weakness of conviction, that leads to weakness of
conduct; for man derives his motives from his own thoughts, more
than from any other source. From the moment that the quarrel
began, Washington was convinced, that the cause of his country
was just, and that success must necessarily follow so just a
cause, in a country already so powerful. Nine years were to be
spent in war to obtain independence, and ten years in political
discussion to form a system of government. Obstacles, reverses,
enmities, treachery, mistakes, public indifference, personal
antipathies, all these incumbered the progress of Washington,
during this long period. But his faith and hope were never shaken
for a moment. In the darkest hours, when he was obliged to
contend against the sadness which hung upon his own spirits, he
says, "I cannot but hope and believe, that the good sense of the
people will ultimately get the better of their prejudices. ... I
do not believe, that Providence has done so much for nothing. ...
The great Governor of the universe has led us too long and too
far on the road to happiness and glory to forsake us in the midst
of it. By folly and improper conduct, proceeding from a variety
of causes, we may now and then get bewildered; but I hope and
trust, that there is good sense and virtue enough left to recover
the right path before we shall be entirely lost." [Footnote 29]

    [Footnote 29: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. IX. pp. 5, 383, 392.]


And at a later period, when that very France which had so well
sustained him daring the war, brought upon him embarrassments and
perils more formidable than war; when Europe, upheaved from its
foundations, was pressing heavily upon his thoughts, and
perplexing his mind, no less than America, he still continued to
hope and to trust. "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 consciences
approve." [Footnote 30]

    [Footnote 30: Ibid., Vol. X. p. 331.]


The same strength of conviction, the same fidelity to his own
judgment, which he manifested in his estimate of things
generally, attended him in his practical management of business.
Possessing a mind of admirable freedom, rather in virtue of the
soundness of its views, than of its fertility; and variety, he
never received his opinions at second hand, nor adopted them from
any prejudice; but, on every occasion, he formed them himself, by
the simple observation or attentive study of facts, unswayed by
any bias or prepossession, always acquainting himself personally
with the actual truth.

Thus, when he had examined, reflected, and made up his mind,
nothing disturbed him; he did not permit himself to be thrown
into, and kept in, a state of perpetual doubt and irresolution,
either by the opinions of others, or by love of applause, or by
fear of opposition. He trusted in God and in himself. "If any
power on earth could, or the Great Power above would, erect the
standard of infallibility in political opinions, there is no
being that inhabits the terrestrial globe, that would resort to
it with more eagerness than myself, so long as I remain a servant
of the public. But as I have found no better guide hitherto, than
upright intentions, and close investigation, I shall adhere to
those maxims, while I keep the watch." [Footnote 31]

    [Footnote 31: Washington's Writings, Vol. XI. p. 71.]


To this strong and independent understanding, he joined a great
courage, always ready to act upon conviction, and fearless of
consequences. "What I admire in Christopher Columbus," said
Turgot, "is, not his having discovered the new world, but his
having gone to search for it on the faith of an opinion." Whether
the occasion was of great or little moment, whether the
consequences were near at hand or remote, Washington, when once
convinced never hesitated to move onward upon the faith of his
conviction. One would have inferred, from his firm and quiet
resolution, that it was natural to him to act with decision, and
assume responsibility;--a certain sign of a genius born to
command; an admirable power, when united to a conscientious


On the list of great men, if there be some who have shone with a
more dazzling lustre, there are none who have been exposed to a
more complete test, in war and in civil government; resisting the
king, in the cause of liberty, and the people, in the cause of
legitimate authority; commencing a revolution and ending it. From
the first moment, his task was clearly manifest in all its extent
and all its difficulty. To carry on the war, he had not merely to
create an army. To this work, always so difficult, the creating
power itself was wanting. The United States had neither a
government nor an army. Congress, a mere phantom, whose unity was
only in name, had neither authority, nor power, nor courage, and
did nothing. Washington was obliged, from his camp, not only to
make constant solicitations, but to suggest measures for
adoption, to point out to Congress what course they should
pursue, if they would prevent both themselves and the army from
becoming an idle name. His letters were read while they were in
session, and supplied the subject of their debates; debates,
characterized by inexperience, timidity, and distrust. They
rested satisfied with appearances and promises. They sent
messages to the local governments.
They expressed apprehensions of military power. Washington
replied respectfully, obeyed, and then insisted; demonstrated the
deceptiveness of appearances, and the necessity of a real force
to give him the substance of the power, of which he had the name,
and to insure to the army the success which they expected of it.
Brave and intelligent men, devoted to the cause, were not wanting
in this assembly, so little experienced in the art of government.
Some of them went to the camp, examined for themselves, had
interviews with Washington, and brought with them, on their
return, the weight of their own observations and of his advice.
The assembly gradually grew wiser and bolder, and gained
confidence in themselves and in their general. They adopted the
measures, and conferred upon him the powers, which were
necessary. He then entered into correspondence and negotiations
with local governments, legislatures, committees, magistrates,
and private citizens; placing facts before their eyes; appealing
to their good sense and their patriotism; availing himself, for
the public service, of his personal friendships; dealing
prudently with democratic scruples and the sensitiveness of
vanity; maintaining his own dignity; speaking as became his high
station, but without giving offence, and with persuasive
moderation; though wisely heedful of human weakness, being
endowed with the power, to an extraordinary degree, of
influencing men by honorable sentiments and by truth.


And when he had succeeded, when Congress first, and afterwards
the different States, had granted him the necessary means of
making an army, his task was not finished; the business of the
war had not yet commenced; the army did not exist. Here, too, he
was obstructed by a complete inexperience, the same want of
unity, the same passion for individual independence, the same
conflict between patriotic purposes and disorganizing impulses.
Here, too, he was obliged to bring discordant elements into
harmony; to keep together those which were constantly ready to
separate; to enlighten, to persuade, to induce; to use personal
influence; and, without endangering his dignity or his power, to
obtain the moral fidelity, the full and free support, both of the
officers and soldiers.
Then only could Washington act as a general, and turn his
attention to the war. Or, rather, it was during the war, in the
midst of its scenes, its perils, and its hazards, that he was
constantly obliged to recommence, both in the country and the
army itself, this work of organization and government.

His military capacity has been called in question. He did not
manifest, it is true, those striking displays of it which, in
Europe, have given renown to great captains. Operating with a
small army over an immense space, great manoeuvres and great
battles were necessarily unknown to him. But his superiority,
acknowledged and declared by his companions, the continuance of
the war during nine years, and its final success, are also to be
taken as proofs of his merit, and may well justify his
reputation. His personal bravery was chivalrous even to rashness,
and he more than once abandoned himself to this impulse in a
manner painful to contemplate. More than once, the American
militia, seized with terror, took to flight, and brave officers
sacrificed their lives to infuse courage into their soldiers.
In 1776, on a similar occasion, Washington indignantly persisted
in remaining on the field of battle, exerting himself to arrest
the fugitives by his example and even by his hand. "We made,"
wrote General Greene the next day, "a miserable, disorderly
retreat from New York, owing to the disorderly conduct of the
militia. Fellows's and Parsons's brigades ran away from about
fifty men, and left his Excellency on the ground within eighty
yards of the enemy, so vexed at the infamous conduct of the
troops, that he sought death rather than life." [Footnote 32]

    [Footnote 32: Washington's Writings, Vol. IV. p. 94.]

On more than one occasion, also, when the opportunity appeared
favorable, he displayed the boldness of the general as well as
the intrepidity of the man. He has been called the _American
Fabius_, it being said that the art of avoiding battle, of
baffling the enemy, and of temporizing, was his talent as well as
his taste. In 1775, before Boston, at the opening of the war,
this Fabius wished to bring it to a close by a sudden attack upon
the English army, which he flattered himself he should be able to
Three successive councils of war, forced him to abandon his
design, but without shaking his conviction, and he expressed
bitter regret at the result. [Footnote 33] In 1776, in the State
of New York, when the weather was extremely cold, in the midst of
a retreat, with troops half disbanded, the greater part of whom
were preparing to leave him and return to their own homes,
Washington suddenly assumed an offensive position, attacked, one
after another, at Trenton and Princeton, the different corps of
the English army, and gained two battles in eight hours.

    [Footnote 33: Washington's Writings, Vol. III.
    pp. 82, 127, 259, 287, 290, 291, 292, 297.]

Moreover, he understood what was even a much higher and much more
difficult art, than that of making war; he knew how to control
and direct it. War was to him only a means, always kept
subordinate to the main and final object,--the success of the
cause, the independence of the country. When, in 1798, the
prospect of a possible war between the United States and France
occurred to disturb the repose of Mount Vernon, though already
approaching to old age and fond of his retirement, he thus wrote
to Mr. Adams, his successor in the administration of the


  "It was not difficult for me to perceive that, if we entered
  into a serious contest with France, the character of the war
  would differ materially from the last we were engaged in. In
  the latter, time, caution, and worrying the enemy, until we
  could be better provided with arms and other means, and had
  better disciplined troops to carry it on, was the plan for us.
  But if we should be engaged with the former, they ought to be
  attacked every step." [Footnote 34]

    [Footnote 34: Washington's Writings, Vol. XI. p. 309.]

This system of active and aggressive war, which, at the age of
sixty-six, he proposed to adopt, was one which, twenty-two years
before, in the vigor of life, neither the advice of some of the
generals, his friends, nor the slanders of some others, his
enemies, nor the complaints of the States which were laid waste
by the enemy, nor popular clamor, nor the desire of glory, nor
the recommendations of Congress itself, had been able to induce
him to follow.
  "I know the unhappy predicament I stand in; I know that much is
  expected of me; I know, that without men, without arms, without
  ammunition, without any thing fit for the accommodation of a
  soldier, little is to be done; and, what is mortifying, I know
  that I cannot stand justified to the world without exposing my
  own weakness, and injuring the cause, which I am determined not
  to do. ... My own situation is so irksome to me at times, that,
  if I did not consult the public good more than my own
  tranquillity, I should, long ere this, have put every thing on
  the cast of a die." [Footnote 35]

    [Footnote 35: Washington's Writings, Vol. III p. 284.]

He persisted in this course during nine years. Only when the
protracted nature of the contest and the general indifference
were occasioning a feeling of discouragement, akin to apathy, did
he determine to strike a blow, to encounter some brilliant
hazard, to make the country aware of the presence of his army,
and relieve the people's hearts of some of their apprehensions.
It was thus that, in 1777, he fought the battle of Germantown.
And when, in the midst of reverses, endured with heroic patience,
he was asked what he should do if the enemy continued to advance,
if Philadelphia, for instance, should be taken; he replied, "We
will retreat beyond the Susquehanna river, and thence, if
necessary, to the Alleghany mountains." [Footnote 36]

    [Footnote 36: Sparks's _Washington_, Vol. I. p. 221.]

Besides this patriotic calmness and patience, he displayed the
same quality in another form, still more praiseworthy. He saw,
without chagrin and ill-humor, the successes of his inferiors in
command. Still more, when the public service rendered it
advisable, he supplied them largely with the means and
opportunity of gaining them. A disinterestedness worthy of all
praise, rarely found in the greatest minds; as wise as it was
noble, in the midst of the envious tendencies of a democratic
society; and which, perhaps, we may be permitted to hope, was in
his case attended with a deep and tranquil consciousness of his
superiority, and of the glory that would follow him.


When the horizon was dark, when repeated checks and a succession
of misfortunes seemed to throw a doubt upon the capacity of the
Commander-in-chief, and gave birth to disorders, intrigues, and
hostile insinuations, a powerful voice was quickly raised in his
behalf,--the voice of the army, which loaded Washington with
testimonials of affectionate respect, and placed him beyond the
reach of complaints and hostile attacks.

In the winter of 1777 and 1778. while the army was encamped at
Valley Forge, exposed to the most severe hardships, some restless
and treacherous spirits organized against Washington a conspiracy
of considerable magnitude, which penetrated into the Congress
itself. He opposed himself to it with stern frankness, saying,
without reserve and without cautious insincerity, all he thought
of his adversaries, and leaving his conduct to speak for itself.
Such a course, at such a moment, was putting much at hazard. But
the public respect in which he was held was so profound, the
friends of Washington, Lord Stirling, Lafayette, Greene, Knox,
Patrick Henry, Henry Laurens, supported him so warmly, the
movement of opinion in the army was so decided, that he triumphed
almost without defending himself.
The principal framer of this conspiracy, an Irishman by the name
of Conway, after having sent in his resignation, continued to
spread against him the most injurious charges. General Cadwalader
resented this conduct; a duel was the consequence; and Conway,
severely wounded, and believing himself to be near his death,
wrote as follows, to Washington.

  "I find myself just able to hold the pen during a few minutes,
  and take this opportunity of expressing my sincere grief for
  having done, written, or said any thing disagreeable to your
  Excellency. My career will soon be over; therefore justice and
  truth prompt me to declare my last sentiments. You are, in my
  eyes, the great and good man. May you long enjoy the love,
  veneration, and esteem of these States, whose liberties you
  have asserted by your virtues." [Footnote 37]

    [Footnote 37: Washington's Writings, Vol. V. p. 517. ]


In 1779, the officers of a New Jersey regiment, imperfectly paid,
burdened with debts contracted in the service, anxious about
their future prospects and those of their families, made an
official declaration to the legislature of that State, that they
would resign in a body, if they were not better treated.
Washington blamed them extremely, and required of them to
withdraw their declaration; but they persisted in their course.
"It was, and still is, our determination to march with our
regiment, and to do the duty of officers, until the legislature
should have a reasonable time to appoint others, but no longer.
We beg leave to assure your Excellency, that we have the highest
sense of your ability and virtues; that executing your orders has
ever given us pleasure; that we love the service, and love our
country; but when that country gets so lost to virtue and
justice, as to forget to support its servants, it then becomes
their duty to retire from its service." [Footnote 38]

    [Footnote 38: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. IV. p. 47.]


Thus, respect for Washington appeared conspicuously, even in the
cabals formed against him, and was mingled with disobedience

In the state of distress and disorganization into which the
American army was perpetually falling, the personal influence of
Washington, the affection which was felt for him, the desire of
imitating his example, the fear of losing his esteem, or even of
giving him pain, deserve to be enumerated among the principal
causes, which kept many men, both officers and soldiers, at their
posts, kindled anew their zeal, and formed among them that
military _esprit de corps_, that friendship of the camp,
which is a feeling of great strength, and a fine compensating
influence in so rough a profession.

It is a privilege of great men, and often a corrupting one, to
inspire affection and devotedness, without feeling them in
return. This vice of greatness Washington was exempt from. He
loved his associates, his officers, his army. It was not merely
from a sense of justice and duty, that he sympathized in their
sufferings, and took their interests into his own hands with an
indefatigable zeal.
He regarded them with a truly tender feeling, marked by
compassion for the sufferings he had seen them endure, and by
gratitude for the attachment which they had shown to him. And
when, in 1783, at the close of the war, at Frances's tavern, in
New York, the principal officers, at the moment of their final
separation, passed in silence before him, each one pressing his
hand as he went by, he was himself moved and agitated, at heart
and in his countenance, to a degree that seemed hardly consistent
with the firm composure of his spirit.

Nevertheless, he never showed to the army any weakness, or any
spirit of unworthy compliance. He never permitted it to be the
first object of consideration to itself, and never lost an
opportunity to inculcate upon it this truth, that subordination
and implicit submission, not only to its country, but to the
civil power, was its natural condition, and its first duty.

Upon this subject, he gave it, on three important occasions, the
most admirable and the most effective of lessons, that of
example. In 1782, he rejected, "with great and painful surprise,"
[Footnote 39] (these are his expressions), the crown and the
supreme power, which some discontented officers were offering to

    [Footnote 39: Washington's Writings, Vol. VIII. p. 300.]


In 1783, on the eve of the disbanding of the troops, having been
informed that the draft of an address was circulating through the
army, and that a general meeting was about to be held to
deliberate upon the means of obtaining by force, that which
Congress, in spite of justice, had refused to grant, he
expressed, in the orders of the day, his strong disapprobation of
the measure, himself called together another meeting, attended in
person, recalled the officers to the consideration of their duty
and the public good, and then withdrew, before any discussion
took place, wishing to leave to the parties themselves the merit
of retracing their steps, which was done promptly and generally.
[Footnote 40]

    [Footnote 40: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. VIII. pp. 392-400.]


Finally, in 1784 and 1787, when the officers in their retirement
attempted to form among themselves the Society of Cincinnati, in
order to preserve some bond of union in their dispersed
condition, and for the mutual aid of themselves and their
families, as soon as Washington saw that the uneasiness and
distrust of a jealous people were awakened by the mere name of a
military society, a military order, notwithstanding the personal
inclination which he felt towards the institution, he not only
caused a change to be made in its statutes, but publicly declined
being its president, and ceased to take any part in it. [Footnote

    [Footnote 41: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. IX. pp. 26, 127.]

By a singular coincidence, about the same time, Gustavus the
Third, king of Sweden, forbade the Swedish officers who had
served in the French army during the American war, to wear the
order of the Cincinnati, "on the ground, that the institution had
a republican tendency not suited to his government." [Footnote

    [Footnote 42: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 56.]

"If we cannot convince the people that their fears are
ill-founded, we should, at least, in a degree yield to them,"
said Washington, upon this subject. [Footnote 43]

    [Footnote 43: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 35.]

He did not yield, even to the people, when the public interest
would have suffered from such a course; but he had too just a
sense of the relative importance of things to display the same
inflexibility, when merely personal interests or private
feelings, however reasonable, were in question.


When the object of the war was obtained, when he had taken leave
of his companions in arms, mingled with his affectionate regret,
and the joy which he felt in the prospect of repose after
victory, another feeling may be perceived in his mind, faint
indeed, and perhaps even unknown to himself, and this was, a
regret in leaving his military life, that noble profession to
which he had devoted his best years with so much distinction. It
was a highly congenial employment to Washington, whose genius was
methodical, and more firm than inventive; who was just, and full
of good-will to all men, but grave, somewhat cold, born for
command rather than struggle; in action, loving order,
discipline, and subordination of ranks; and preferring the simple
and vigorous exercise of power, in a good cause, to the
complicated intrigues and impassioned debates of politics.


"The scene is at last closed. ... On the eve of Christmas, I
entered these doors an older man by nine years than when I left
them. ... I am just beginning to experience that ease and freedom
from public cares, which, however desirable, takes some time to
realize. It was not till lately I could get the better of my
usual custom of ruminating, as soon as I waked in the morning, on
the business of the ensuing day; and of my surprise at finding,
after revolving many things in my mind, that I was no longer a
public man, nor had any thing to do with public transactions. ...
I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the
affections of good men, and in the practice of the domestic
virtues. ... The life of a husbandman, of all others, is the most
delightful. It is honorable, it is amusing, and, with judicious
management, it is profitable. ... I have not only retired from
all public employments, but I am retiring within myself, and
shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of
private life, with a heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I
am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my dear friend,
being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream
of life, until I sleep with my fathers." [Footnote 44]

    [Footnote 44: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. IX. pp. 1, 17, 18, 21, 323.]


Washington, in uttering such language, was not merely expressing
a momentary feeling, the enjoyment of repose, after
long-protracted toil, and of liberty, after a severe confinement.
The tranquil and active life of a great landed proprietor; those
employments, full of interest and free from anxiety; that
domestic authority, seldom disputed, and attended with little
responsibility; that admirable harmony between the intelligence
of man and the prolific power of nature; that sober and simple
hospitality; the high satisfaction which springs from
consideration and good-will obtained without effort,--these were
truly suited to his taste, and were the objects of constant
preference to his mind. He would probably have chosen this very
life. He enjoyed it; and he enjoyed, besides, all that could be
added to it by the public gratitude and his glory, which were
delightful in spite of their importunate claims upon him.


Always of a serious and practical turn of mind, he made
improvements in the cultivation of his estates, embellished his
mansion-house, occupied himself with the local interests of
Virginia, traced the outline of that great system of internal
navigation from east to west, which was destined, at a future
period, to put the United States in possession of one-half the
new world, established schools, put his papers in order, carried
on an extensive correspondence, and took great pleasure in
receiving, under his roof, and at his table, his attached
friends. "It is my wish," he wrote to one of them, a few days
after his return to Mount Vernon, "that the mutual friendship and
esteem, which have been planted and fostered in the tumult of
public life, may not wither and die in the serenity of
retirement. We should rather amuse the evening hours of life in
cultivating the tender plants, and bringing them to perfection
before they are transplanted to a happier clime." [Footnote 45]

    [Footnote 45: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 5.]


Towards the end of the year 1784, M. de Lafayette came to Mount
Vernon. Washington felt for him a truly paternal affection, the
tenderest, perhaps, of which his life presents any trace. Apart
from the services rendered by him, from the personal esteem he
inspired, and from the attractiveness of his character, apart
even from the enthusiastic devotion which M. de Lafayette
testified for him, this elegant and chivalrous young nobleman,
who had escaped from the court of Versailles to dedicate his
sword and his fortune to the yeomanry of America, was singularly
pleasing to the grave American general. It was, as it were, a
homage paid by the nobility of the old world to his cause and his
person; a sort of connecting tie between him and that French
society, which was so brilliant, so intellectual, and so
celebrated. In his modest elevation of mind, he was flattered as
well as touched by it, and his thoughts rested with an emotion
full of complacency upon this young friend, whose life was like
that of none other, and who had quitted every thing to serve by
his side.


"In the moment of our separation," he wrote to him, "upon the
road as I traveled, and every hour since, I have felt all that
love, respect, and attachment for you, with which length of
years, close connection, and your merits have inspired me. I
often asked myself, as our carriages separated, whether that was
the last sight I should ever have of you. And though I wished to
say No, my fears answered Yes. I called to mind the days of my
youth, and found they had long since fled to return no more; that
I was now descending the hill I had been fifty-two years
climbing, and that, though I was blest with a good constitution,
I was of a short-lived family, and might soon expect to be
entombed in the mansion of my fathers. These thoughts darkened
the shades, and gave a gloom to the picture, and consequently to
my prospect of seeing you again. But I will not repine; I have
had my day." [Footnote 46]

    [Footnote 46:  Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 77.]

Notwithstanding this sad presentiment, and his sincere taste for
repose, his thoughts dwelt constantly upon the condition and
affairs of his country. No man can separate himself from the
place in which he has once held a distinguished position.
"Retired as I am from the world," he writes in 1786, "I frankly
acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator."
[Footnote 47]

    [Footnote 47: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 189.]

The spectacle deeply affected and disturbed him. The
Confederation was falling to pieces. Congress, its sole bond of
union, was without power, not even daring to make use of the
little that was intrusted to it. The moral weakness of men was
added to the political weakness of institutions. The States were
falling a prey to their hostilities, to their mutual distrust, to
their narrow and selfish views. The treaties, which had
sanctioned the national independence, were executed only in an
imperfect and a precarious manner. The debts contracted, both in
the old and new world, were unpaid. The taxes destined to
liquidate them never found their way into the public treasury.
Agriculture was languishing; commerce was declining; anarchy was
extending. In all parts of the country itself, whether
enlightened or ignorant, whether the blame was laid on the
government, or the want of government, the discontent was
In Europe, the reputation of the United States was rapidly
sinking. It was asked if there would ever be any United States.
England encouraged this doubt, looking forward to the hour when
she might profit by it.

The sorrow of Washington was extreme, and he was agitated and
humbled as if he had been still responsible for the course of
events. "What, gracious God!" he wrote, on learning the troubles
in Massachusetts, "is man, that there should be such
inconsistency and perfidiousness in his conduct? It was but the
other day, that we were shedding our blood to obtain the
constitutions under which we now live; constitutions of our own
choice and making; and now we are unsheathing the sword to
overturn them. The thing is so unaccountable, that I hardly know
how to realize it, or to persuade myself, that I am not under the
illusion of a dream." [Footnote 48]

    [Footnote 48: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 221.]


"We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in
forming our confederation. Experience has taught us, that men
will not adopt and carry into execution measures the best
calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a
coercive power." [Footnote 49]

    [Footnote 49: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 187.]

"From the high ground we stood upon, to be so fallen, so lost, is
really mortifying." [Footnote 50] "In regretting, which I have
often done with the keenest sorrow, the death of our much
lamented friend, General Greene, I have accompanied it of late
with a query, whether he would not have preferred such an exit to
the scenes which, it is more than probable, many of his
compatriots may live to bemoan." [Footnote 51]

    [Footnote 50: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 167.]

    [Footnote 51: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 226.]

Nevertheless, the course of events, and the progress of general
good sense, were also mingling hope with this patriotic sorrow,--
a hope full of anxiety and uneasiness, the only one which the
imperfection of human things permits elevated minds to form, but
which is sufficient to keep up their courage. Throughout the
whole Confederation, the evil was felt and a glimpse was caught
of the remedy.
The jealousies of the States, local interests, ancient habits,
democratic prejudices, were all strongly opposed to the
sacrifices which were requisite in order to form a government in
which the central power should be stronger and more prominent.
Still, the spirit of order and union; the love of America as
their country; regret at seeing it decline in the esteem of
mankind; the disgust created by the petty, interminable, and
profitless disturbances of anarchy; the obvious nature of its
evils, the perception of its dangers; all the just opinions and
noble sentiments which filled the mind of Washington, were
gradually extending themselves, gathering additional strength,
and preparing the way for a happier future. Four years had hardly
elapsed since the peace, which had sanctioned the acquisition of
independence, when a national Convention, brought together by a
general spontaneous feeling, assembled at Philadelphia, for the
purpose of reforming the federal government. Commencing its
session the 14th day of May, 1787, it made choice of Washington
for its president on the same day.
From the 14th of May to the 17th of September, it was occupied in
forming the Constitution, which has governed the United States of
America for fifty years; deliberating with closed doors, and
under influences the most intelligent and the most pure that ever
presided over such a work. On the 30th of April, 1789, at the
very moment when the Constituent Assembly was commencing its
session at Paris, Washington, having been chosen by a unanimous
vote, took an oath, as President of the Republic, to maintain and
put in force the new-born Constitution, in the presence of the
great functionaries and legislative bodies which had been created
by it.

Never did a man ascend to the highest dignity by a more direct
path, nor in compliance with a more universal wish, nor with an
influence wider and more welcome. He hesitated much. In leaving
the command of the army, he had openly announced, and had
sincerely promised himself, that he should live in retirement, a
stranger to public affairs. To change his plans, to sacrifice his
tastes and his repose, for very uncertain success, perhaps to be
charged with inconsistency and ambition, this was to him an
immense effort.
The assembling of Congress was delayed; the election of
Washington to the presidency, though known, had not been
officially announced to him. "For myself," he wrote to his
friend, Gen Knox, "the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for,
in confidence I tell you, (with the _world_ it would obtain
little credit,) that my movements to the chair of government will
be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit, who is
going to the place of his execution; so unwilling am I, in the
evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a
peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties, without that
competency of political skill, abilities, and inclination, which
are necessary to manage the helm." [Footnote 52]

    [Footnote 52: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 488.]

The message at length arrived, and he commenced his journey. In
his Diary, he writes; "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, with the best
disposition to render service to my country, in obedience to its
call, but with less hope of answering its expectations."
[Footnote 53]

    [Footnote 53: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 461.]


His journey was a triumphal procession; on the road, and in the
towns, the whole population came out to meet him, with shouts of
applause and prayers in his behalf. He entered New York,
conducted by a committee of Congress, in an elegantly decorated
barge, rowed by thirteen pilots, representing the thirteen
States, in the midst of an immense crowd in the harbor and upon
the shore. His own state of feeling remained the same. "The
display of boats," says he in his Diary, "which attended and
joined on this occasion, some with vocal and others with
instrumental music on board; the decorations of the ships, the
roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people, which
rent the sky as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with
sensations as painful (contemplating the reverse of this scene,
which may be the case, after all my labors to do good,) as they
were pleasing." [Footnote 54]

    [Footnote 54: Marshall's _Life of Washington_,
    Vol. V. p. 159.]


About a century and a half before, on the banks of the Thames, a
similar crowd and like outward signs of feeling had attended
Cromwell to Westminster, when he was proclaimed Protector of the
Commonwealth of England. "What throngs! what acclamations!" said
his flatterers. Cromwell replied, "There would be still more, if
they were going to hang me."

A singular resemblance, and also a noble difference between the
sentiments and the language of a corrupted great man and a
virtuous great man.

Washington was, with reason, anxious about the task which he
undertook. The sagacity of a sage, united to the devotedness of a
hero, constitutes the highest glory of humanity. The nation,
which he had conducted to independence, and which required a
government at his hands, being hardly yet formed, was entering
upon one of those social changes which render the future so
uncertain, and power so perilous.

It is a remark often made, and generally assented to, that in the
English colonies, before their separation from the mother
country, the state of society and feeling was essentially
republican, and that every thing was prepared for this form of
But a republican form of government can govern, and, in point of
fact, has governed societies essentially different; and the same
society may undergo great changes without ceasing to be a
republic. All the English colonies showed themselves, nearly in
the same degree, in favor of the republican constitution. At the
North and at the South, in Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as
in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the public will was the same,
so far as the form of government was concerned.

Still, (and the remark has been often made,) considered in their
social organization, in the condition and relative position of
their inhabitants, these colonies were very different.

In the South, especially in Virginia and North Carolina, the soil
belonged, in general, to large proprietors, who were surrounded
by slaves or by cultivators on a small scale. Entails and the
right of primogeniture secured the perpetuity of families. There
was an established and endowed church. The civil legislation of
England, bearing strongly the impress of its feudal origin, had
been maintained almost without exception. The social state was


In the North, especially in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island, &c., the fugitive Puritans had brought
with them, and planted there, strict democracy with religious
enthusiasm. Here, there was no slavery; there were no large
proprietors in the midst of an inferior population, no entailment
of landed property; there was no church, with different degrees
of rank, and founded in the name of the State; no social
superiority, lawfully established and maintained. Man was here
left to his own efforts and to divine favor. The spirit of
independence and equality had passed from the church to the

Still, however, even in the northern colonies, and under the sway
of Puritan principles, other causes, not sufficiently noticed,
qualified this character of the social state, and modified its
development. There is a great, a very great difference between a
purely religious and a purely political democratic spirit.
However ardent, however impracticable the former may be, it
receives in its origin, and maintains in its action, a powerful
element of subordination and order, that is, reverence. In spite
of their spiritual pride, the Puritans, every day, bent before a
master, and submitted to him their thoughts, their heart, their
life: and on the shores of America, when they had no longer to
defend their liberties against human power, when they were
governing themselves in the presence of God, the sincerity of
their faith and the strictness of their manners, counteracted the
inclination of the spirit of democracy towards individual
lawlessness and general disorder. Those magistrates, so watched,
so constantly changed, had still a strong ground of support,
which rendered them firm, often even severe, in the exercise of
authority. In the bosom of those families, so jealous of their
rights, so opposed to all political display, to all conventional
greatness, the paternal authority was strong and much respected.
The law sanctioned rather than limited it. Entails and inequality
in inheritance were forbidden; but the father had the entire
disposition of his property, and divided it among his children
according to his own will.
In general, civil legislation was not controlled by political
maxims, and preserved the impress of ancient manners. In
consequence of this, the democratic spirit, though predominant,
was everywhere met by checks and balances.

Besides, a circumstance of material importance, temporary, but of
decisive effect, served to conceal its presence and retarded its
sway. In the towns, there was no populace; in the country, the
population was settled around the principal planters, commonly
those who had received grants of the soil, and were invested with
the local magistracies. The social principles were democratic,
but the position of individuals was very little so. Instruments
were wanting to give effect to the principles. Influence still
dwelt with rank. And on the other hand, the number did not press
heavily enough to make the greater weight in the balance.

But the Revolution, hastening the progress of events, gave to
American society a general and rapid movement in the direction of
democracy. In those States where the aristocratic principle was
still strong, as in Virginia, it was immediately assailed and
Entails disappeared. The church lost not only its privileges, but
its official rank in the State. The elective principle prevailed
throughout the whole government. The right of suffrage was
greatly extended. Civil legislation, without undergoing a radical
change, inclined more and more towards equality.

The progress of democracy was still more marked in events than in
laws. In the towns, the population increased rapidly, and with
it, the populace also. In the country towards the west, beyond
the Alleghany mountains, by a constant and accelerated movement
of emigration, new States were growing up or preparing to be
formed, inhabited by a scattered population, always in contest
with the rude powers of nature and the ferocious passions of
savages; half savage themselves; strangers to the forms and
proprieties of thickly settled communities; given up to the
selfishness of their own separated and solitary existence, and of
their passions; bold, proud, rude, and passionate.
Thus, in all parts of the country, along the sea-board as well as
in the interior of the continent, in the great centres of
population, and in the forests hardly yet explored, in the midst
of commercial activity and of rural life, numbers, the simple
individual, personal independence, primitive equality, all these
democratic elements were increasing, extending their influence,
and taking, in the State and its institutions, the place which
had been prepared for them, but which they had not previously

And, in the course of ideas, the same movement, even more rapid,
hurried along the minds of men and the progress of opinion, far
in advance of events. In the midst of the most civilized and
wisest States, the most radical theories obtained not only favor
but strength. "The property of the United States has been
protected from the confiscation of Britain, by the joint
exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property
of all; and he that attempts opposition to this creed, is an
enemy to equity and justice, and ought to be swept from the face
of the earth. ...
They are determined to annihilate all debts, public and private,
and have agrarian laws, which are easily effected by the means of
unfunded paper money, which shall be a tender in all cases
whatever." [Footnote 55]

    [Footnote 55: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. IX. p. 207.]

These disorganizing fancies were received in Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and New Hampshire, by a considerable portion of the
people; twelve or fifteen thousand men took up arms, in order to
reduce them to practice. And the evil appeared so serious, that
Madison, the most intimate friend of Jefferson, a man whom the
democratic party subsequently ranked among its leaders, regarded
American society as almost lost, and hardly ventured to entertain
any hope. [Footnote 56]

    [Footnote 56: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 208.]

Two powers act in concurrence to develope and maintain the life
of a people; its civil constitution and its political
organization, the general influences of society and the
authorities of the State; the latter were wanting to the infant
American commonwealth, still more than the former. In this
society, so disturbed, so slightly connected, the old government
had disappeared, and the new had not yet been formed.
I have spoken of the insignificance of Congress, the only bond of
union between the States, the only central power; a power without
rights and without strength; signing treaties, nominating
ambassadors, proclaiming that the public good required certain
laws, certain taxes, and a certain army; but not having itself
the power of making laws, or judges, or officers to administer
them; without taxes, with which to pay its ambassadors, officers,
and judges, or troops to enforce the payment of taxes and cause
its laws, judges, and officers to be respected. The political
state was still more weak and more wavering than the social

The Constitution was formed to remedy this evil, to give to the
Union a government. It accomplished two great results. The
central government became a real one, and was placed in its
proper position. The Constitution freed it from the control of
the States, gave it a direct action upon the citizens without the
intervention of the local authorities, and supplied it with the
instruments necessary to give effect to its will; with taxes,
judges, officers, and soldiers.
In its own interior organization, the central government was well
conceived and well balanced; the duties and relations of the
several powers were regulated with great good sense, and a clear
understanding of the conditions upon which order and political
vitality were to be had; at least for a republican form, and the
society for which it was intended.

In comparing the Constitution of the United States with the
anarchy from which it sprang, we cannot too much admire the
wisdom of its framers, and of the generation which selected and
sustained them. But the Constitution, though adopted and
promulgated, was as yet a mere name. It supplied remedies against
the evil, but the evil was still there. The great powers, which
it had brought into existence, were confronted with the events
which had preceded it and rendered it so necessary, and with the
parties which were formed by these events, and were striving to
mould society, and the Constitution itself, according to their
own views.

At the first glance, the names of these parties excite surprise.
Federal and democratic; between these two qualities, these two
tendencies, there is no real and essential difference.
In Holland, in the seventeenth century, in Switzerland even in
our time, it was the democratic party which aimed at
strengthening the federal union, the central government; it was
the aristocratic party which placed itself at the head of the
local governments, and defended their sovereignty. The Dutch
people supported William of Nassau and the Stadtholdership
against John de Witt and the leading citizens of the towns. The
patricians of Schweitz and Uri are the most obstinate enemies of
the federal diet and of its power.

In the course of their struggle, the American parties often
received different designations. The democratic party arrogated
to itself the title of _republican_, and bestowed on the
other, that of _monarchists_ and _monocrats_. The
federalists called their opponents _anti-unionists_. They
mutually accused each other of tending, the one to monarchy, and
the other to separation; of wishing to destroy, the one the
republic, and the other the union.

This was either a bigoted prejudice or a party trick. Both
parties were sincerely friendly to a republican form of
government and the union of the States.
The names, which they gave one another for the sake of mutual
disparagement, were still more false than their original
denominations were imperfect and improperly opposed to each

Practically, and so far as the immediate affairs of the country
were concerned, they differed less, than they either said or
thought, in their mutual hatred. But, in reality, there was a
permanent and essential difference between them in their
principles and their tendencies. The federal party was, at the
same time, aristocratic, favorable to the preponderance of the
higher classes, as well as to the power of the central
government. The democratic party was, also, the local party;
desiring at once the rule of the majority, and the almost entire
independence of the State governments. Thus there were points of
difference between them, respecting both social order and
political order; the constitution of society itself, as well as
of its government. Thus those paramount and eternal questions,
which have agitated and will continue to agitate the world, and
which are linked to the far higher problem of man's nature and
destiny, were all involved in the American parties, and were all
concealed under their names.


It was in the midst of this society; so agitated and disturbed,
that Washington, without ambition, without any false show, from a
sense of duty rather than inclination, and rather trusting in
truth than confident of success, undertook actually to found the
government which a new-born constitution had just decreed. He
rose to his high office, invested with an immense influence,
which was acknowledged and received even by his enemies. But he
himself has made the profound remark, that "influence is not
government." [Footnote 57]

    [Footnote 57: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 204.]

In the struggle of the parties, all that had reference to the
mere organization of civil society, occupied his attention very
little. This involves abstruse and recondite questions, which are
clearly revealed only to the meditations of the philosopher,
after he has surveyed human societies in all periods and under
all their forms. Washington was little accustomed to
contemplation, or acquainted with science.
In 1787, before going to Philadelphia, he had undertaken, for the
purpose of getting clear views, to study the constitution of the
principal confederations, ancient and modern; and the abstract of
this labor, found among his papers, shows, that he had made a
collection of facts in support of the plain dictates of his good
sense, rather than penetrated into the essential nature of these
complicated associations.

Moreover, Washington's natural inclination was rather to a
democratic social state, than to any other. Of a mind just,
rather than expansive, of a temper wise and calm; full of
dignity, but free from all selfish and arrogant pretensions;
coveting rather respect than power; the impartiality of
democratic principles, and the simplicity of democratic manners,
far from offending or annoying him, suited his tastes and
satisfied his judgment. He did not trouble himself with
inquiring, like the partisans of the aristocratic system, whether
more elaborate combinations, a division into ranks, privileges,
and artificial barriers, were necessary to the preservation of
society. He lived tranquilly in the midst of an equal and
sovereign people, finding its authority to be lawful, and
submitting to it without effort.


But when the question was one of political and not social order,
when the discussion turned upon the organization of the
government, he was strongly federal, opposed to local and popular
pretensions, and the declared advocate of the unity and force of
the central power.

He placed himself under this standard, and did so in order to
insure its triumph. But still his elevation was not the victory
of a party, and awakened in no one either exultation or regret.
In the eyes, not only of the public, but of his enemies, he was
not included in any party, and was above them all; "the only man
in the United States," said Jefferson, "who possessed the
confidence of all; ... there was no other one, who was considered
as any thing more than a party leader." [Footnote 58]

    [Footnote 58: Jefferson's _Memoirs_,
    Vol. IV. p. 481.]


It was his constant effort to maintain this honorable privilege.
"It is really my wish to have my mind and my actions, which are
the result of reflection, as free and independent as the air.
[Footnote 59] ... If it should be my inevitable fate to
administer the government, I will go to the chair under no
preëngagement of any kind or nature whatsoever. [Footnote 60] ...
Should any thing tending to give me anxiety present itself in
this or any other publication, I shall never undertake the
painful task of recrimination, nor do I know that I should even
enter upon my justification. [Footnote 61] ... All else is but
food for declamation. [Footnote  62] ... Men's minds are as
variant as their faces; and, where the motives of 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. [Footnote 63]
... Differences in political opinions are as unavoidable, as, to
a certain point, they may perhaps be necessary." [Footnote 64]

    [Footnote 59: Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. p. 84.]

    [Footnote 60: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 476.]

    [Footnote 61: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 108.]

    [Footnote 62: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 148.]

    [Footnote 63: Ibid., Vol. IX. p. 475.]

    [Footnote 64: Ibid., Vol. X. p. 283.]


A stranger also to all personal disputes, to the passions and
prejudices of his friends as well as his enemies, the purpose of
his whole policy was to maintain this position; and to this
policy he gave its true name; he called it "the just medium."
[Footnote 65]

    [Footnote 65:  Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 236.]

It is much to have the wish to preserve a just medium; but the
wish, though accompanied with firmness and ability, is not always
enough to secure it. Washington succeeded in this, as much by the
natural turn of his mind and character, as by making it his
peculiar aim; he was, indeed, really of no party, and his
country, in esteeming him so, did no more than pay homage to

A man of experience and a man of action, he had an admirable
wisdom, and made no pretension to systematic theories. He took no
side beforehand; he made no show of the principles that were to
govern him. Thus, there was nothing like a logical harshness in
his conduct, no committal of self-love, no struggle of rival
talent. When he obtained the victory, his success was not to his
adversaries either a stake lost, or a sweeping sentence of
condemnation. It was not on the ground of the superiority of his
own mind, that he triumphed; but on the ground of the nature of
things, and of the inevitable necessity that accompanied them.
Still his success was not an event without a moral character, the
simple result of skill, strength, or fortune. Uninfluenced by any
theory, he had faith in truth, and adopted it as the guide of his
conduct. He did not pursue the victory of one opinion against the
partisans of another; neither did he act from interest in the
event alone, or merely for success. He did nothing which he did
not think to be reasonable and just; so that his conduct, which
had no systematic character, that might be humbling to his
adversaries, had still a moral character, which commanded

Men had, moreover, the most thorough conviction of his
disinterestedness; that great light, to which men so willingly
trust their fate; that vast power, which draws after it their
hearts, while, at the same time, it gives them confidence that
their interests will not be surrendered, either as a sacrifice,
or as instruments to selfishness and ambition.


His first act, the formation of his cabinet, was the most
striking proof of his impartiality. Four persons were selected by
him; Hamilton and Knox, of the federal party; Jefferson and
Randolph, of the democratic. Knox was a soldier, of integrity, of
moderate abilities, and easily influenced; Randolph, a restless
spirit, of doubtful probity, and little good faith; Jefferson and
Hamilton were both sincere, honest, enthusiastic, and able,--the
real heads of the two parties.

Hamilton deserves to be ranked among those men, who have best
understood the vital principles and essential conditions of
government; not merely of a nominal government, but of a
government worthy of its mission and of its name. In the
Constitution of the United States, there is not an element of
order, strength, and durability, to the introduction and adoption
of which he did not powerfully contribute. Perhaps he believed
the monarchical form preferable to the republican. Perhaps he
sometimes had doubts of the success of the experiment attempted
in his own country. Perhaps, also, carried away by his vivid
imagination and the logical vehemence of his mind, he was
sometimes exclusive in his views, and went too far in his
But, of a character as lofty as his mind, he faithfully served
the republic, and labored to found and not to weaken it. His
superiority consisted in knowing, that, naturally, and by a law
inherent in the nature of things, power is above, at the head of
society; that government should be constituted according to this
law; and that every contrary system or effort brings, sooner or
later, trouble and weakness into the society itself. His error
consisted in adhering too closely, and with a somewhat arrogant
obstinacy, to the precedents of the English constitution, in
attributing sometimes in these precedents the same authority to
good and to evil, to principles and to the abuse of them, and in
not attaching due importance to, and reposing sufficient
confidence in, the variety of political forms and the flexibility
of human society. There are occasions, in which political genius
consists, in not fearing what is new, while what is eternal is

The democratic party, not the turbulent and coarse democracy of
antiquity or of the middle ages, but the great modern democracy,
never had a more faithful or more distinguished representative
than Jefferson.
A warm friend of humanity, liberty, and science; trusting in
their goodness as well as their rights; deeply touched by the
injustice with which the mass of mankind have been treated, and
the sufferings they endure, and incessantly engaged, with an
admirable disinterestedness, in remedying them or preventing
their recurrence; accepting power as a dangerous necessity,
almost as one evil opposed to another, and exerting himself not
merely to restrain, but to lower it; distrusting all display, all
personal splendor, as a tendency to usurpation; of a temper open,
kind, indulgent, though ready to take up prejudices against, and
feel irritated with, the enemies of his party; of a mind bold,
active, ingenious, inquiring, with more penetration than
forecast, but with too much good sense to push things to the
extreme, and capable of employing, against a pressing danger or
evil, a prudence and firmness which would perhaps have prevented
it, had they been adopted earlier or more generally.


It was not an easy task to unite these two men, and make them act
in concert in the same cabinet. The critical state of affairs at
the first adoption of the Constitution, and the impartial
preponderance of Washington alone could accomplish it. He applied
himself to it with consummate perseverance and wisdom. At heart,
he felt a decided preference for Hamilton and his views. "By
some," said he, "he is considered an ambitious man, and therefore
a dangerous one. That he is ambitious, I shall readily grant; but
it is of that laudable kind, which prompts a man to excel in
whatever he takes in hand. He is enterprising, quick in his
perceptions, and his judgment intuitively great." [Footnote 66]

    [Footnote 66: Washington's Writings, Vol. XI. p. 312.]

But it was only in 1798, in the freedom of his retirement, that
Washington spoke so explicitly. While in office, and between his
two secretaries, he maintained towards them a strict reserve, and
testified the same confidence in them both. He believed both of
them to be sincere and able; both of them necessary to the
country and to himself. Jefferson was to him, not only a
connecting tie, a means of influence, with the popular party,
which was not slow in becoming the opposition; but he made use of
him in the internal administration of his government, as a
counterpoise to the tendencies, and especially to the language,
sometimes extravagant and inconsiderate, of Hamilton and his
He had interviews and consultations with each of them separately,
upon the subjects which they were to discuss together, in order
to remove or to lessen beforehand their differences of opinion.
He knew how to turn the merit and the popularity of each with his
own party, to the general good of the government, even to their
own mutual advantage. He skillfully availed himself of every
opportunity to employ them in a common responsibility. And when a
disagreement too wide, and passions too impetuous, seemed to
threaten an immediate rupture, he interposed, used exhortation
and intreaty, and, by his personal influence, by a frank and
touching appeal to the patriotism and right-mindedness of the two
rivals, he at least postponed the breaking forth of the evil
which he could not eradicate.


He dealt with things with the same prudence and tact as with men;
careful of his personal position, starting no premature or
superfluous question; free from the restless desire to regulate
every thing and control every thing; leaving the grand bodies of
the State, the local governments, and the officers of his
administration, to act in their appropriate spheres, and never,
except in a case of clear and practical necessity, pledging his
own opinion or responsibility. And this policy, so impartial, so
cautions, so careful to embarrass neither affairs nor itself, was
by no means the policy of an inactive, uncertain, ill-compounded
administration, seeking and receiving its opinions and direction
from all quarters. On the contrary, there never was a government
more determined, more active, more decided in its views, and more
effective in its decisions.

It had been formed against anarchy and to strengthen the federal
union, the central power. It was entirely faithful to its office.
At its very commencement, in the first session of the first
Congress, numerous great questions arose; it was necessary to put
the Constitution in vigorous action.
The relations of the two branches of the Legislature with the
President; the mode of communication between the President and
the Senate in regard to treaties and the nomination to high
offices; the organization of the judiciary; the creation of
ministerial departments; all these points were discussed and
regulated. A work of vast labor, in which the Constitution was,
to some extent, given over a second time to the strife of
parties. Without ostentation, without intrigue, without any
attempt at encroachment, but provident and firm in the cause of
the power which was intrusted to him, Washington, by his personal
influence, by an adherence openly given to sound principles, had
a powerful influence in causing the work to be carried on in the
same spirit which presided over its beginning, and to result in
the dignified and firm organization of the government.

His practice corresponded with his principles. Once fairly
engaged with public business and parties, this man who, in the
formation of his cabinet, showed himself so tolerant, enjoined
and observed, in his administration, a strict unity of views and
"I shall not, whilst I have the honor to administer the
government, bring a man into any office of consequence knowingly,
whose political tenets are adverse to the measures which the
general government are pursuing; for this, in my opinion, would
be a sort of political suicide." [Footnote 67]

    [Footnote 67: Washington's Writings, Vol. XI. p. 74.]

"In a government as free as ours," he wrote to Gouverneur Morris,
at that time residing in London, "where the people are at
liberty, and will express their sentiments, (oftentimes
imprudently, and, for want of information, sometimes unjustly,)
allowances must be made for occasional effervescences; but, after
the declaration which I have made of my political creed, you can
run no hazard in asserting, that the executive branch of this
government never has suffered, nor will suffer, while I preside,
any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity, nor
give its sanction to any disorderly proceedings of its citizens."
[Footnote 68]

    [Footnote 68: Washington's Writings, Vol. XI. p. 103.]

In matters, also, of mere form, and foreign to the usual habits
of his life, he was enlightened and directed by a wise tact, a
sure instinct as to what is suitable and proper, a regard to
which is itself one of the conditions of power.
The ceremonials to be observed towards the President became,
after his election, a grave party question. Many federalists,
passionately attached to the traditions and splendor of monarchy,
exulted when at a ball they had succeeded in causing a sofa to be
placed on an elevation two steps above the floor of the hall,
upon which only Washington and his wife could be seated.
[Footnote 69] Many of the democrats saw in these displays, and in
the public levees of the President, the premeditated return of
tyranny, and were indignant, that, receiving at a fixed hour, in
his house, all those who presented themselves, he made them only
a stiff and slight bow. [Footnote 70]

    [Footnote 69: Jefferson's _Memoirs_, Vol. IV. p. 487. ]

    [Footnote 70: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 99.]

Washington smiled at both the delight and the indignation, and
persisted in the regulations, surely very modest, which he had
adopted. "Were I to give indulgence to my inclinations, every
moment that I could withdraw from the fatigue of my station
should be spent in retirement. That it is not, proceeds from the
sense I entertain of the propriety of giving to every one as free
access as consists with that respect which is due to the chair of
government; and that respect, I conceive, is neither to be
acquired nor preserved but by observing a just medium between
much state and too great familiarity." [Footnote 71]

    [Footnote 71: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 100.]


More serious embarrassments soon put his firmness to a more
severe test. After the establishment of the Constitution, the
finances formed a question of vast importance to the republic,
perhaps the principal one. They were in a state of extreme
confusion; there were debts of the Union, contracted at home and
abroad; debts of individual States, contracted in their own
names, but in behalf of the common cause; warrants for
requisitions; contracts for supplies; arrears of interest; also
other claims, different in their character and origin,
imperfectly known and not liquidated. And at the end of this
chaos, there were no settled revenues, sufficient to meet the
expenses which it imposed.

Many persons, and, it must be acknowledged, the democratic party
in general, were unwilling that light should be thrown into this
chaos by assuming all these obligations, or even by funding them.
They would have imposed upon each State its debts, however
unequal the burden might have been. They would have made
distinctions between the creditors; classifications founded upon
the origin of their claims and the real amount of what they had
paid for them. In short, all those measures were proposed which,
under an appearance of scrupulous investigation and strict
justice, were in reality nothing but evasions to escape from or
reduce the engagements of the state.

As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton proposed the opposite
system;--the funding and the entire payment, at the expense of
the Union, of all the debts actually contracted for the common
benefit, whether with foreigners or Americans, and whoever were
the contractors or the present holders, and whatever was the
origin of the claims;--the laying of taxes sufficient to secure
the redemption of the public debt;--the formation of a national
bank, capable of aiding the government in its financial
operations, and of sustaining its credit.


This system was the only moral and manly one; the only one in
conformity with honesty and truth. It strengthened the Union, by
uniting the States financially, as they were united politically.
It established American credit, by this striking example of
fidelity to public engagements, and by the guaranties which it
afforded for their fulfilment. It fortified the central
government by rallying around it the capitalists, and by giving
it powerful means of influence over them and through them.

At the first movement, the opponents of Hamilton did not dare to
make any open objection; but they exerted themselves to lessen
the authority of the principle, by contesting the equal fairness
of the debts, by discussing the honesty of the creditors, and by
exclaiming against the taxes. Partisans of local independence,
they rejected, instead of viewing with satisfaction, the
political consequences of a financial union, and demanded, in
virtue of their general principles, that the States should be
left, as to the past as well as for the future, to the various
chances of their situation and their destiny.


American credit seemed to them to be bought at too dear a price.
They would obtain it, as necessity might require, by means less
burdensome and more simple. They found fault with the theories of
Hamilton respecting credit, the public debt and its redemption,
and banks, as difficult to be understood and fallacious.

But the ultimate effect of the system especially excited their
wrath. The aristocracy of wealth is a perilous ally to power; for
it is that which inspires the least esteem and the most envy.
When the question was on the payment of the public debt, the
federal party had on their side the principles of morality and
honor. When the public debt, and the speculations founded upon
it, were becoming a means of sudden wealth, and perhaps of
unlawful influence, the severity of morals passed over to the
democratic party, and integrity lent its support to envy.

Hamilton sustained the contest with his usual energy, as pure in
his motives as he was firm in his convictions; the head of a
party still more than a financier; and, in the administration of
the finances, always chiefly occupied with his political object,
the foundation of the state, and the strength of its government.


The perplexity of Washington was great. A stranger to financial
studies, he had not, upon the intrinsic merit of the proposed
questions, a personal conviction derived from knowledge. He felt
their justice and their political utility. He had confidence in
Hamilton, in his judgment and his virtue. Still, as the debate
was prolonged and objections were multiplied, some of them
disturbed his mind and others troubled his conscience; and he
asked himself with some embarrassment, whether all the reasons
were indeed on the side of the government.

I know not which is the more worthy of admiration, the
impartiality which inspired these doubts, or the firmness with
which, in the final result and after every thing had been well
considered, he always sustained Hamilton and his measures. This
was a step of great political sagacity. Though it might have been
true, that some fallacies were mingled with the financial
measures of the Secretary of the Treasury, and some abuses with
their execution, a far higher truth predominated in them; by
laying the foundation of the public faith, and by closely
connecting the administration of the finances with the policy of
the State, he gave to the new government, from the first moment,
the consistence of an old and well-established authority.


The success surpassed the proudest expectations. Confidence
appeared in men's minds, activity in business, and order in the
administration. Agriculture and commerce flourished; credit rose
rapidly. Society prospered with a sense of security, feeling
itself free and well-governed. The country and the government
grew strong together, in that admirable harmony which is the
healthy condition of states.

Washington beheld with his own eyes, upon every point of the
American territory, this spectacle so glorious and so delightful
to him. In three public journeys, he slowly traveled over the
whole Union, everywhere received with grateful and affectionate
admiration, the only recompense worthy to affect the heart of a
public man.
On his return, he thus wrote; "I am much pleased, that I have
taken this journey. ... The country appears to be in a very
improving state; and industry and frugality are becoming much
more fashionable than they have hitherto been. Tranquillity
reigns among the people, with that disposition towards the
general government, which is likely to preserve it. ... The
farmer finds a ready market for his produce, and the merchant
calculates with more certainty on his payments. ... Every day's
experience of the government of the United States seems to
confirm its establishment, and to render it more popular. A ready
acquiescence in the laws made under it shows, in a strong light,
the confidence, which the people have in their representatives
and in the upright views of those who administer the government."
[Footnote 72]

    [Footnote 72: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 170.]

And almost at the same time, as if Providence had provided that
the same testimony should go down to posterity from all parties,
Jefferson wrote; "New elections have taken place for the most
part, and very few changes made. This is one of many proofs, that
the proceedings of the new government have given general
satisfaction. ... Our affairs are proceeding in a train of
unparalleled prosperity.
This arises from the real improvements of our government; from
the unbounded confidence reposed in it by the people, their zeal
to support it, and their conviction, that a solid union is the
best rock of their safety." [Footnote 73]

    [Footnote 73: Jefferson's _Memoirs_,
    Vol. III. pp. 93, 112.]

Thus, when the close of Washington's presidency approached, when
the necessity of again selecting a chief magistrate for the
nation was near at hand, a general movement was directed towards
him, to entreat him to accept, a second time, the burden of
office. A movement with great diversity, in spite of its apparent
unanimity; the federal party wished to retain possession of the
power; the democratic opposition felt, that the time had not come
for them to aspire to it; and that the country could not dispense
with the policy, nor with the man, they nevertheless had a
distinct purpose of attacking. The public were fearful of seeing
an interruption of that order and prosperity, so highly valued
and so precarious. But, whether open or concealed, patriotic or
selfish, sincere or hypocritical, the sentiments and opinions of
all concurred to the same end.


Washington alone hesitated. His calm and penetrating mind found
in his own disinterestedness a freedom, which preserved him from
all illusion, both as to affairs and as to himself. The brilliant
aspect, the really prosperous condition, of public affairs, did
not conceal from his eyes the imminent perils of his situation.
From abroad, the intelligence of the French revolution was
already startling America. An unavoidable war, commenced with ill
success, against the Indians, was requiring considerable efforts.
In the cabinet, the disagreement between Hamilton and Jefferson
grew very violent; the most urgent intreaties of the President
failed to control it; it was almost officially displayed in two
newspapers, the _National Gazette_ and the _United States
Gazette_, fierce enemies under the name of rivals; the known
editor of the former was a clerk in Jefferson's department.
[Footnote 74]

    [Footnote 74: His name was Freneau.]

Thus encouraged, the opposition press resorted to the most bitter
violence, and Washington suffered great uneasiness on account of
He wrote to Mr. Randolph, the Attorney-General; "If government,
and the officers of it, are to be the constant theme for
newspaper abuse, and this too without condescending to
investigate the motives or the facts, it will be impossible, I
conceive, for any man living to manage the helm or keep the
machine together." [Footnote 75]

    [Footnote 75: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 287. ]

In some parts of the country, especially in Western Pennsylvania,
one of the taxes imposed for making provision for the public debt
had awakened the spirit of sedition; numerous meetings of the
people had declared that they would not pay it; and Washington
was compelled to declare in his turn, by an official
proclamation, that he would enforce the execution of the laws. In
Congress itself, the administration no longer received so
constant and powerful a support; Hamilton was, day after day, the
object of the most animated attacks; the opposition were
unsuccessful in the motions they made against him, but his own
plans were not always adopted.
Finally, towards Washington himself, the language of the House of
Representatives, always respectful and affectionate, was no
longer so full or so tender; on the twenty-second day of
February, 1793, the anniversary of his birth, a motion to adjourn
the session for half an hour in order to go and pay their
respects to him, after being warmly opposed, passed by only a
majority of twenty-three votes.

None of these facts, none of these symptoms, escaped the vigilant
sagacity of Washington. His natural taste for private life and
the repose of Mount Vernon returned with double force. His past
success, far from inspiring confidence, made him more fearful for
the future. Modestly, but passionately attached to the
consideration in which he was held, and to his glory, he was
unwilling they should suffer the least abatement. The earnest
wish expressed by all would not have been sufficient to determine
him; his personal convictions, the public good, the obvious
urgency of affairs, the desire or rather the duty of carrying on
still further his work yet incomplete, were alone able to
overbalance in his mind the dictates of prudence and inclination.
He weighed and discussed within himself these different motives,
with a more anxious solicitude than seemed to be consistent with
his nature, and ended by saying, in the pious weariness of his
spirit, "As the all-wise Disposer of events has hitherto watched
over my steps, I trust, that, in the important one I may soon be
called upon to take, he will mark the course so plainly, as that
I cannot mistake the way." [Footnote 76]

    [Footnote 76: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 286.]

Unanimously reelected, he resumed his duties with the same
disinterestedness, the same courage, and, in spite of his
success, with less confidence, perhaps, than the first time. He
had a true presentiment of the trials which awaited him.

There are some events which Providence does not permit those who
live at the time of their occurrence to understand; so vast, so
complicated, that they far surpass the comprehension of man, and,
even when they are exploding, still remain for a long time darkly
hidden in the depths, from which proceed those shocks, that
ultimately decide the destinies of the world.


Such was the French revolution. Who has measured it? whose
judgment and forecast have not been a thousand times deceived by
it, whether friends or foes, admirers or detractors? When the
spirit of society and the spirit of man are shaken and convulsed
to such a degree, results are produced which no imagination had
conceived, no forethought could grasp.

That which experience has taught us, Washington caught sight of
from the first day. At the time when the French Revolution had
hardly begun, he was already suspending his judgment, and taking
his position aloof from all parties and all spectators; free from
the presumption of their predictions, from the blindness of their
hostility or their hope. "The whole business is so extraordinary
in its commencement, so wonderful in its progress, and maybe so
stupendous in its consequences, that I am almost lost in the
contemplation. ... Nobody is more anxious for the happy issue of
that business, than I am; as no one can wish more sincerely for
the prosperity of the French nation, than I do." [Footnote 77]

    [Footnote 77: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 89.]


"If it ends as our last accounts, to the first of August, [1789,]
predict, that nation will be the most powerful and happy in
Europe; but I fear, though it has gone triumphantly through the
first paroxysm, it is not the last it has to encounter before,
matters are finally settled. ... The mortification of the king,
the intrigues of the queen, and the discontent of the princes and
noblesse, will foment divisions, if possible, in the National
Assembly; ... the licentiousness of the people on one hand, and
sanguinary punishments on the other, will alarm the best disposed
friends to the measure. ... To forbear running from one extreme
to another is no easy matter; and, should this be the case, rocks
and shelves, not visible at present, may wreck the vessel, and
give a higher-toned despotism than the one which existed before."
[Footnote 78] "It is a boundless ocean, whence no land is to be
seen." [Footnote 79]

    [Footnote 78: Washington's Writings, Vol. X. p. 40.]

    [Footnote 79: Ibid., Vol. X. p. 344.]


From that time, he maintained towards the nations and events of
Europe an extreme reserve; faithful to the principles which had
founded the independence and the liberties of America, animated
by a grateful good-will towards France, and seizing with
earnestness upon every occasion to manifest it, but silent and
self-restrained, as if under the presentiment of some grave
responsibility of which he should be obliged to sustain the
weight, and not wishing to pledge beforehand either his personal
opinion or the policy of his country. When the trying moment
arrived, when the declaration of war between France and England
caused the great revolutionary struggle to break out in Europe,
the resolution of Washington was decided and prompt. He
immediately made proclamation of the neutrality of the United
States. "My politics are plain and simple; ... to maintain
friendly terms with, but be independent of, all the nations of
the earth; to share in the broils of none; to fulfil our own
engagements; to supply the wants and be carriers for them all;
being thoroughly convinced, that it is our policy and interest to
do so." [Footnote 80] "I want an _American_ character, that
the powers of Europe may be convinced, we act for
_ourselves_, and not for others." [Footnote 81]

    [Footnote 80: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XI. pp. 382, 102.]

    [Footnote 81: Ibid., Vol. XI. p. 83.]


"Regarding the overthrow of Europe at large as a matter not
entirely chimerical, it will be our prudence to cultivate a
spirit of self-dependence, and to endeavor, by unanimity,
vigilance, and exertion, under the blessing of Providence, to
hold the scales of our destiny in our own hands. Standing, as it
were, in the midst of falling empires, it should be our aim to
assume a station and attitude, which will preserve us from being
overwhelmed in their ruins." [Footnote 82] "Nothing short of
self-respect, and that justice which is essential to a national
character, ought to involve us in war; for sure I am, if this
country is preserved in tranquillity twenty years longer, it may
bid defiance, in a just cause, to any power whatever; such, in
that time, will be its population, wealth, and resources."
[Footnote 83]

    [Footnote 82: Washington's Writings, Vol. XI. p 350.]

    [Footnote 83: Ibid., Vol. XI. p. 102.]

At first, the approbation was general. The desire for peace, and
the reluctance to express any opinion which might endanger it,
were predominant in men's minds. Upon the principle of neutrality
the cabinet had been unanimous.
But intelligence from Europe was continually arriving, and was
spreading like wild-fire through the country. The coalition
formed against France assailed the guardian principles of
America, the independence and internal liberty of nations.
England was at its head, hated as a recent enemy, suspected as a
former master. Her decrees and measures in regard to neutral
commerce and the impressment of sailors wounded the United States
in their dignity and their interests. With the great question of
neutrality, particular questions arose, doubtful enough to serve
as a just reason or a pretext for diversity of opinions and
strong expressions of feeling. Upon some of them, as, for
instance, on the restitution of maritime prizes and the mode of
receiving the new minister expected from France, the cabinet was
no longer unanimous. This minister, M. Genêt, arrived; and his
journey from Charleston to Philadelphia was a popular triumph.
Everywhere, on his journey, numerous and enthusiastic democratic
associations assembled, invited him to meet them, and made
addresses to him; the newspapers rapidly circulated through the
country accounts of these rejoicings and the news from France.
The public feeling grew more and more inflamed. Of an
enthusiastic temperament himself, and blindly borne away by the
desire of engaging the United States in a war to aid his country,
M. Genêt believed himself to have the right and the ability to
dare every thing, and to succeed in every thing. He issued
letters of marque, enrolled American citizens, armed privateers,
adjudged prizes, and acted as a sovereign power in this foreign
territory, in the name of republican brotherhood. And when
Washington, at first astonished and motionless, but soon
determined, vindicated the rights of the general government.
Genêt entered into an avowed contest with him, supported his own
pretensions, broke out into violent abuse of him, encouraged the
spirit of sedition, and even threatened to appeal to the people
against a President who was unfaithful to his trust, and to the
general cause of liberty. No head of a state was ever more
reserved than Washington in the exercise of power; more cautious
in making engagements and taking new steps.
But, also, no one ever maintained more firmly his declarations,
his purposes, and his rights. He was President of the United
States of America. He had, in their name, and by virtue of their
constitution, proclaimed their neutrality. The neutrality was to
be real and respected as well as his power. At five successive
meetings, he laid before his cabinet the whole correspondence,
and all the documents, relating to this singular contest; and the
cabinet decided unanimously, that the recall of M. Genêt should
be immediately demanded of the French government.

Genêt was recalled. In the opinion of America, as well as in his
demand upon France, Washington gained a triumph. The federalists
indignantly rallied around him. The pretensions and extravagant
conduct of Genêt had alienated many persons of the democratic
party. Jefferson had not hesitated to support the President
against him. A favorable reaction took place, and the contest
seemed at an end.


But in government, as well as in war, there are victories which
cost dear, and leave the danger still existing. The revolutionary
fever, once more kindled in the United States, did not depart
with a recalled minister. Instead of that harmony of feeling,
that calm after the storm of passions; instead of that course of
prosperity and general moderation, upon which the American
republic was lately congratulating itself, two parties were there
in a hostile attitude, more widely separated, more violently
irritated, than ever. The opposition no longer confined its
attacks to the administration alone, to the financial measures of
government, and to this or that doubtful application of legal
powers. It had, concealed within itself, in the democratic
associations, in the periodical press, and among the foreigners
who swarmed throughout the country, a true revolutionary faction,
eager to overturn society and its government, in order to
reconstruct them upon other foundations. "There exists in the
United States," writes Washington to Lafayette, "a party formed
by a combination of causes, which oppose the government in all
its measures, and are determined, as all their conduct evinces,
by clogging its wheels, indirectly to change the nature of it,
and to subvert the Constitution.
To effect this, no means which have a tendency to accomplish
their purposes are left unessayed. The friends of government, who
are anxious to maintain its neutrality, and to preserve the
country in peace, and adopt measures to secure these objects, are
charged by them as being monarchists, aristocrats, and infractors
of the Constitution, which, according to their interpretation of
it, would be a mere cipher. They arrogated to themselves the sole
merit of being the friends of France, when in fact they had no
more regard for that nation than for the Grand Turk, farther than
their own views were promoted by it; denouncing those who
differed in opinion, (whose principles are purely American, and
whose sole view was to observe a strict neutrality,) as acting
under British influence, and being directed by her counsels, or
as being her pensioners." [Footnote 84]

    [Footnote 84: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XI. p. 378,]


"If the conduct of these men is viewed with indifference; if
there are activity and misrepresentation on one side, and
supineness on the other, their numbers accumulated by intriguing
and discontented foreigners under proscription, who were at war
with their own governments, and the greater part of them with
_all_ governments, they will increase, and nothing short of
Omniscience can foretell the consequences." [Footnote 85]

    [Footnote 85: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XI. p. 390.]

In the midst of this pressing danger, Jefferson, who was little
inclined to engage any further in the contest, and who had
announced his intention six months before, and had only delayed
putting it in execution at the solicitation of Washington
himself, peremptorily withdrew from the cabinet.

The crisis was a formidable one. A general agitation spread
throughout the country. The western counties of Pennsylvania
resisted with violence the tax on distilled spirits. In Kentucky
and Georgia, warlike insurrections, perhaps excited from abroad,
threatened, on their own authority, to take forcible possession
of Louisiana and Florida, and to engage the nation, in spite of
itself, in a conflict with Spain. The war against the Indians
continued, always difficult and of doubtful issue.
A new Congress had just assembled, full of respect for
Washington; but yet the House of Representatives showed itself
more reserved in its approbation of his foreign policy, and chose
an opposition Speaker by a majority of ten votes. England desired
to maintain peace with the United States; but, whether she had
doubts of the success of Washington in this system, or acted in
obedience to the dictates of her general policy, or from an
insolent spirit of contempt, she continued and even aggravated
her measures against the commerce of the Americans, whose
irritation also increased in its turn. "It has not been the
smallest of these embarrassments," writes Washington, "that the
domineering spirit of Great Britain should revive again just at
this crisis, and the outrageous and insulting conduct of some of
her officers should combine therewith to play into the hands of
the discontented, and sour the minds of those who are friends to
peace. But this, by the bye."  [Footnote 86]

    [Footnote 86: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XI. p. 63.]


It was indeed "by the bye," and without any purpose of taking
advantage of it in order to weaken his policy or to exalt his
merit, that he pointed out the obstacles scattered along his
path. As exempt from vanity as from indecision, he took pains to
surmount, but not to display them. At the time when the
ascendency of the democratic party seem to be assured, when the
federalists themselves were wavering, when severe measures
proposed in Congress against England were about, perhaps, to
render war inevitable, Washington suddenly announced to the
Senate, by a message, that he had just nominated one of the
principal leaders of the federal party, Mr. Jay, Envoy
Extraordinary to the Court of London, in order to attempt to
reconcile the differences between the two nations by the peaceful
instrument of negotiation.

The Senate immediately confirmed his choice. The indignation of
the opposition was at its height. They desired war, and
especially, by means of war, a change of policy. The simple
continuance of the present state of affairs promised to lead to
that result. In so excited a state of feeling, in the midst of
the increasing irritation, a rumor from Europe, a new insult to
the American flag, the slightest circumstance, might cause
hostilities to break out.
Washington, by his sudden resolution, gave a new turn to events.
The negotiations might be successful; they made it the duty of
the government to await the result. If they failed, he remained
in a position to make war himself, and to control it, without his
policy's receiving a death-blow.

In order to give to his negotiations the authority of a strong
and well-established power, at the same time that he was baffling
the hopes of his enemies as to matters abroad, Washington
resolved to repress their efforts at home. The resistance of some
counties in Pennsylvania to the tax on distilled spirits had
become an open rebellion. He announced, by a proclamation, his
firm purpose of enforcing the execution of the laws; assembled
the militia of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
itself; formed them into an army; went in person to the places of
rendezvous, with a determination to take the command himself if
the contest became serious; and did not return to Philadelphia
till he had learned, with certainty, that the insurgents would
not venture to sustain it.
They dispersed, in point of fact, on the approach of the army, a
detachment of which took up winter quarters in the disaffected

Washington, on this occasion, felt that stern but deep joy,
sometimes granted, in free countries, to a virtuous man who bears
firmly the weight of power. Everywhere, especially in the States
which were near the scene of the insurrection, good citizens were
aware of the danger, and felt their obligation to contribute, by
their own efforts, to the support of the laws. The magistrates
were resolute, the militia zealous; a strong public opinion
silenced the hypocritical sophistries of the advocates of the
insurrection; and Washington did his duty with the approbation
and support of his country. A moderate compensation, indeed, for
the new and bitter trials that awaited him.

At about the same period, his cabinet, which had shared his
labors and his glory, withdrew from him. Hamilton, who was the
object of a hostility always increasing, after having sustained
the contest as long as the success of his plans and his honor
required, compelled at length to think of himself and of his
family, resigned.
Knox followed his example. Thus Washington was surrounded by none
but new men, who, though devoted to his course of policy, had
much less weight of authority than their predecessors, when Mr.
Jay returned from London, bringing the result of those
negotiations, the mere announcement of which had excited so much

The treaty was far from accomplishing all that was to be desired.
It did not settle all the questions, nor secure all the interests
of the United States; but it put an end to the principal
differences of the two nations; it assured the full execution,
hitherto delayed by Great Britain, of the agreements entered into
with her when she had recognized the independence of the country;
it prepared the way for new and more favorable negotiations. In
short, it was peace; an assured peace; one which lessened even
those evils, which it did not remove.

Washington did not hesitate. He had the rare courage to adhere
firmly to a leading principle, and to accept, without a murmur,
the imperfections and inconveniences which accompany success.
He immediately communicated the treaty to the Senate, who
approved it, with the exception of one article, in regard to
which a modification was to be required of England. The question
still remained in suspense. The opposition made their utmost
efforts. Addresses came from Boston, New York, Baltimore,
Georgetown, &c., expressing disapprobation of the treaty, and
requesting the President not to ratify it. The populace of
Philadelphia assembled in a riotous manner, marched through the
town, carrying the articles of the treaty at the end of a pole,
and formally burned them before the house of the British minister
and consul. Washington, who had gone to pass some days at Mount
Vernon, returned in haste to Philadelphia, and consulted his
cabinet on the question of immediately ratifying the treaty,
without awaiting the arrival from London of the modification
which even the Senate had declared necessary. This step was a
bold one. One member of the cabinet, Randolph, made objections.
Washington went on and ratified the treaty. The British
government agreed to the modification demanded, and in its turn
ratified it.
There still remained the duty of carrying it into effect, which
required legislative measures and the intervention of Congress.
The contest was renewed in the House of Representatives. Several
times the opposition gained a majority. Washington stood firm, in
the name of the Constitution, which his opponents also appealed
to against him. Finally, at the end of six months, that peace
might not be disturbed, in the general conviction that the
President would be inflexible, the opposition being rather
wearied out than overcome, the measures necessary for carrying
the treaty into effect were adopted by a majority of three votes.

Throughout the country, in public meetings and in newspapers, the
fury of party exceeded all bounds. From all quarters, every day,
addresses full of censure, anonymous letters, invectives,
calumnies, threats, were poured out against Washington. Even his
integrity was scandalously assailed.

He remained unmoved. He replied to the addresses; "My sense of
the treaty has been manifested by its ratification. The
principles on which my sanction was given, have been made public.
I regret the diversity of opinion.
But whatever qualities, manifested in a long and arduous public
life, have acquired for me the confidence of my fellow-citizens,
let them be assured that they remain unchanged; and that they
will continue to be exerted on every occasion, in which the
honor, the happiness, and welfare of our common country are
immediately involved." [Footnote 87]

    [Footnote 87: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XII. p. 212.]

On the attacks of the press, he said; "I did not believe until
lately, that it was within the bounds of probability, hardly
within those of possibility, that while I was using my utmost
exertions to establish a national character of our own,
independent, as far as our obligations and justice would permit,
of every nation of the earth; and wished, by steering a steady
course, to preserve this country from the horrors of a desolating
war, I should be accused of being the enemy of one nation, and
subject to the influence of another; and, to prove it, that every
act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest and
most insidious misrepresentations of them be made, by giving one
side only of a subject, and that, too, in such exaggerated and
indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero, a
notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket.
But enough of this. I have already gone further in the expression
of my feelings than I intended." [Footnote 88]

    [Footnote 88: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XI. p. 139.]

Good men, the friends of order and justice, at length perceived
that they were leaving their noble champion exposed, without
defence, to unworthy attacks. In free countries, falsehood stalks
with a bold front; vain would be the attempt to force it to keep
concealed; but it is the duty of truth, also, to lift up its
head; on these terms alone is liberty a blessing. In their turn,
numerous and cordial congratulations, encouraging and grateful
addresses, were presented to Washington. And when the close of
his second presidency approached, in all parts of the Union, even
those where the opposition seemed to prevail, a multitude of
voices were raised, to entreat him to accept a third time the
highest power which the suffrages of his fellow-citizens could


But his resolution was fixed. He did not permit even a discussion
of the question. That memorable Farewell Address, in which, as he
was returning into the midst of the people whom he had governed,
he dispensed to them the last teachings of his long-gathered
wisdom, is still, after more than forty years, cherished by them
as an object of remembrance, and almost of tenderness of feeling.

  "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."
  [Footnote 89] ...

    [Footnote 89: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XII. p. 233.]


  "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." [Footnote 90]

    [Footnote 90: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XII. pp. 234, 235.]


What an incomparable example of dignity and modesty! How perfect
a model of that respect for the public and for one's self, which
gives to power its moral grandeur!

Washington did well to withdraw from public business. He had
entered upon it at one of those moments, at once difficult and
favorable, when nations, surrounded by perils, summon all their
virtue and all their wisdom to surmount them. He was admirably
suited to this position. He held the sentiments and opinions of
his age without slavishness or fanaticism. The past, its
institutions, its interests, its manners, inspired him with
neither hatred nor regret. His thoughts and his ambition did not
impatiently reach forward into the future. The society, in the
midst of which he lived, suited his tastes and his judgment. He
had confidence in its principles and its destiny; but a
confidence enlightened and qualified by an accurate instinctive
perception of the eternal principles of social order.
He served it with heartiness and independence, with that
combination of faith and fear which is wisdom in the affairs of
the world, as well as before God. On this account, especially, he
was qualified to govern it; for democracy requires two things for
its tranquillity and its success; it must feel itself to be
trusted and yet restrained, and must believe alike in the genuine
devotedness and the moral superiority of its leaders. On these
conditions alone can it govern itself while in a process of
development, and hope to take a place among the durable and
glorious forms of human society. It is the honor of the American
people to have, at this period, understood and accepted these
conditions. It is the glory of Washington to have been their
interpreter and instrument.

He 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 reestablishing their sway.


When he retired from public life, both tasks were accomplished,
and he could enjoy the result. For, in such high enterprises, the
labor which they have cost matters but little. The sweat of any
toil is dried at once on the brow where God places such laurels.

He retired voluntarily, and a conqueror. To the very last, his
policy had prevailed. If he had wished, he could still have kept
the direction of it. His successor was one of his most attached
friends, one whom he had himself designated.

Still the epoch was a critical one. He had governed successfully
for eight years, a long period in a democratic state, and that in
its infancy. For some time, a policy opposed to his own had been
gaining ground. American society seemed disposed to make a trial
of new paths, more in conformity, perhaps, with its bias. Perhaps
the hour had come for Washington to quit the arena. His successor
was there overcome. Mr. Adams was succeeded by Mr. Jefferson, the
leader of the opposition. Since that time, the democratic party
has governed the United States.


Is this a good or an evil? Could it be Otherwise? Had the
government continued in the hands of the federal party, would it
have done better? Was this possible? What have been the
consequences, to the United States, of the triumph of the
democratic party? Have they been carried out to the end, or have
they only begun? What changes have the society and constitution
of America undergone, what have they yet to undergo, under their

These are great questions; difficult, if I mistake not, for
natives to solve, and certainly impossible for a foreigner.

However it may be, one thing is certain; that which Washington
did,--the founding of a free government, by order and peace, at
the close of the Revolution,--no other policy than his could have
accomplished. He has had this true glory; of triumphing, so long
as he governed; and of rendering the triumph of his adversaries
possible, after him, without disturbance to the state.

More than once, perhaps, this result presented itself to his
mind, without disturbing his composure. "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." [Footnote 91]

    [Footnote 91: Washington's Writings,
    Vol. XII. p 234.]


The people of the United States are virtually the arbiters of
their own fortunes. Washington had aimed at that high object. He
reached his mark.

Who has succeeded like him? Who has seen his own success so near
and so soon? Who has enjoyed, to such a degree and to the last,
the confidence and gratitude of his country?

Still, at the close of his life, in the delightful and honorable
retirement at Mount Vernon, which he had so longed for, this
great man, serene as he was, was inwardly conscious of a slight
feeling of lassitude and melancholy; a feeling very natural at
the close of a long life employed in the affairs of men. Power is
an oppressive burden; and mankind are hard to serve, when one is
struggling virtuously against their passions and their errors.
Even success does not efface the sad impressions which the
contest has given birth to; and the exhaustion, which succeeds
the struggle, is still felt in the quiet of repose.


The disposition of the most eminent men, and of the best among
the most eminent, to keep aloof from public affairs, in a free
democratic society, is a serious fact. Washington, Jefferson,
Madison, all ardently sighed for retirement. It would seem as if,
in this form of society, the task of government were too severe
for men who are capable of comprehending its extent, and desirous
of discharging the trust in a proper manner.

Still, to such men alone this task is suited, and ought to be
intrusted. Government will be, always and everywhere, the
greatest exercise of the faculties of man, and consequently that
which requires minds of the highest order. It is for the honor,
as well as for the interest, of society, that such minds should
be drawn into the administration of its affairs, and retained
there; for no institutions, no securities, can supply their


And, on the other hand, in men who are worthy of this destiny,
all weariness, all sadness of spirit, however it might be
permitted in others, is a weakness. Their vocation is labor.
Their reward is, indeed, the success of their efforts, but still
only in labor. Very often they die, bent under the burden, before
the day of recompense arrives. Washington lived to receive it. He
deserved and enjoyed both success and repose. Of all great men,
he was the most virtuous, and the most fortunate. In this world,
God has no higher favors to bestow.

                The End.

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