Washington's Birthday
Author: Various
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Our American Holidays


Its History, Observance, Spirit, and Significance as Related in Prose and Verse, with a Selection from Washington's Speeches and Writings

Edited by


New York Dodd, Mead and Company


The popular idea of Washington has recently begun to veer away from the vision of an eighteenth century demigod in a wig,—an old-fashioned statue in dusky bronze, stern and forbidding. We are swinging around toward the idea of a loveable, fallible, very human personality with humor, a hot temper, and a genuine love of pleasure.

Accordingly, in gathering material for this book the editor has passed by those earlier writers who are mainly responsible for this distorted view; and he has aimed to gather here the essays, orations poems, stories, and exercises which best exhibit the modern conception of Washington; together with a selection from his own writings and the finest of the elder tributes to the memory of our greatest National Hero.


The Editor and Publishers wish to acknowledge their indebtedness to Houghton, Mifflin & Company; Doubleday, Page & Company; J.B. Lippincott & Co.; Mr. David McKay, John Macy, and others who have very kindly granted permission to reprint selections from works bearing their copyright.


























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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. The birth of Columbus, our secondary patron.

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

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

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

12. The Sachems and warriors who composed that council.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The generation which fought the Revolution, framed and adopted the Constitution, and established the United States were impressed with the most profound veneration, the most devoted affection, the most absolute idolatry for the hero, sage, statesman. In the reaction that came in the next generation against "the old soldiers," who for thirty years had assumed all the honors and enjoyed all the fruits of the victory that they had won, accelerated by the division in American sentiment for or against the French Revolution, it came to be felt, as the younger generation always will feel, that the achievements of the veterans had been greatly overrated and their demigod enormously exaggerated. They thought, as English Harry did at Agincourt, that "Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, but they'll remember with advantages what feats they did that day."

The fierce attacks of the Jeffersonian Democracy on Washington, his principles, his life, and his habits, exercised a potent influence in diminishing the general respect for his abilities felt by the preceding generation; and Washington came to be regarded as a worthy, honest, well-meaning gentleman, but with no capacity for military and only mediocre ability in civil affairs. This estimate continued from the beginning of Jefferson's administration to the first of Grant's. Neither Marshall nor Irving did much during that period to place him in a proper historical light....

But in the last twenty-five years there has been a steady drift toward giving Washington his proper place in history and his appropriate appreciation as soldier and statesman. The general who never won a battle is now understood to have been the Revolution itself, and one of the great generals of history. The statesman who never made a motion, nor devised a measure, nor constructed a proposition in the convention of which he was president, is appreciated as the spirit, the energy, the force, the wisdom which initiated, organized, and directed the formation of the Constitution of the United States and the Union by, through, and under it; and therefore it seems now possible to present him as the Virginian soldier, gentleman, and planter, as a man, the evolution of the society of which he formed a part, representative of his epoch, and his surroundings, developed by circumstances into the greatest character of all time—the first and most illustrious of Americans.

Henry Cabot Lodge,[5] writing in 1899, was one of the first to discover "the new Washington." "The real man," he wrote, "has been so overlaid with myths and traditions, and so distorted by misleading criticisms, that ... he has been wellnigh lost. We have the religious and statuesque myth, we have the Weems myth (which turns Washington into a faultless prig), and the ludicrous myth of the writer of paragraphs. We have the stately hero of Sparks, and Everett, and Marshall, and Irving, with all his great deeds as general and President duly recorded and set down in polished and eloquent sentences; and we know him to be very great and wise and pure, and, be it said with bated breath, very dry and cold.... In death as in life, there is something about Washington, call it greatness, dignity, majesty, what you will, which seems to hold men aloof and keep them from knowing him. In truth he was a difficult man to know....

"Behind the popular myths, behind the statuesque figure of the orator and the preacher, behind the general and the President of the historian, there was a strong, vigorous man, in whose veins ran warm, red blood, in whose heart were stormy passions and deep sympathy for humanity, in whose brain were far-reaching thoughts, and who was informed throughout his being with a resistless will."

It is a shameful thing that there should ever have been any doubt in American minds of the true significance of Washington either as man or soldier or statesman. But the writers of our day have decided that—if they can help it—the sins of the fathers are not going to be visited upon "the third and fourth generation." The call has gone out for modern champions of our ancient champion; and literature has responded with a will.

It takes long, however, to straighten out a national misconception. The new literature has not yet had time to take hold of the popular imagination. But when it does, and when we cease to regard the Father of our Country as a demigod, and begin to love him as a man, then Washington's Birthdays everywhere will lose their stiff, perfunctory, bloodless character, and recover the inspiring, emotional quality of the early celebrations.



[1] In "The True History of the American Revolution" and "The Struggle for American Independence."

[2] "The Seven Ages of Washington."

[3] In "Curiosities of Popular Customs."

[4] "General Washington."

[5] Introduction to "George Washington."





Welcome to the day returning, Dearer still as ages flow, While the torch of Faith is burning, Long as Freedom's altars glow! See the hero whom it gave us Slumbering on a mother's breast; For the arm he stretched to save us Be its morn forever blest!

Vain is empire's mad temptation! Not for him an earthly crown! He whose sword has freed a nation Strikes the offered scepter down. See the throneless conqueror seated, Ruler by a people's choice; See the patriot's task completed; Hear the Father's dying voice:

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

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


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

* * * * *



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

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

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

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

* * * * *



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

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

* * * * *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *



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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *



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

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

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

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

* * * * *



February—February— How your moods and actions vary Or to seek or shun! Now a smile of sunlight lifting, Now in chilly snowflakes drifting; Now with icy shuttles creeping Silver webs are spun. Now, with leaden torrents leaping, Oceanward you run, Now with bells you blithely sing, 'Neath the stars or sun; Now a blade of burdock bring To the suffering one; February—you are very Dear, when all is done: Many blessings rest above you, You one day (and so we love you) Gave us Washington.


[7] By permission of the author.





From The Christian Endeavor World

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

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

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

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

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

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From The Evangelist

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

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

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

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

Of Washington's first school there is no record or tradition other than that gathered by Parson Weems. He says: "The first place of education to which George was ever sent was a little old field school kept by one of his father's tenants, named Hobby, an honest, poor old man, who acted in the double capacity of sexton and schoolmaster. Of his skill as a gravedigger tradition is silent; but for a teacher of youth his qualifications were certainly of the humbler sort, making what is generally called an A, B, C schoolmaster. While at school under Mr. Hobby he used to divide his playmates into parties and armies. One of them was called the French and the other American. A big boy named William Bustle commanded the former; George commanded the latter, and every day with cornstalks for muskets and calabashes [gourds] for drums, the two armies would turn out and march and fight."

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

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

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

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

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

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From The Christian Endeavor World

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

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

Houdon's bust accords with this description.





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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The Battle Monument, October 19, 1893


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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From "Washington and the Generals of the Revolution"

It is a truth, illustrated in daily experience, and yet rarely noted or acted upon, that, in all that concerns the appreciation of personal character or ability, the instinctive impressions of a community are quicker in their action, more profoundly appreciant, and more reliable, than the intellectual perceptions of the ablest men in the community. Upon all those subjects that are of moral apprehension, society seems to possess an intelligence of its own, infinitely sensitive in its delicacy, and almost conclusive in the certainty of its determinations; indirect, and unconscious in its operation, yet unshunnable in sagacity, and as strong and confident as nature itself. The highest and finest qualities of human judgment seem to be in commission among the nation, or the race. It is by such a process, that whenever a true hero appears among mankind, the recognition of his character, by the general sense of humanity, is instant and certain: the belief of the chief priests and rulers of mind, follows later, or comes not at all. The perceptions of a public are as subtly-sighted, as its passions are blind. It sees, and feels, and knows the excellence, which it can neither understand, nor explain, nor vindicate. These involuntary opinions of people at large explain themselves, and are vindicated by events, and form at last the constants of human understanding. A character of the first order of greatness, such as seems to pass out of the limits and course of ordinary life, often lies above the ken of intellectual judgment; but its merits and its infirmities never escape the sleepless perspicacity of the common sentiment, which no novelty of form can surprise, and no mixture of qualities can perplex. The mind—the logical faculty—comprehends a subject, when it can trace in it the same elements, or relations, which it is familiar with elsewhere: if it finds but a faint analogy of form or substance, its decision is embarrassed. But this other instinct seems to become subtler, and more rapid, and more absolute in conviction, at the line where reason begins to falter. Take the case of Shakespeare. His surpassing greatness was never acknowledged by the learned until the nation had ascertained and settled it as a foregone and questionless conclusion. Even now, to the most sagacious mind of this time, the real ground and evidence of its own assurance of Shakespeare's supremacy, is the universal, deep, immovable conviction of it in the public feeling. There have been many acute essays upon his minor characteristics; but intellectual criticism has never grappled with Shakespearian art, in its entireness and grandeur, and probably it never will. We know not now wherein his greatness consists. We cannot demonstrate it. There is less indistinctness in the merit of less eminent authors. Those things which are not doubts to our consciousness, are yet mysteries to our mind. And if this is true of literary art, which is so much within the sphere of reflection, it may be expected to find more striking illustration in great practical and public moral characters.

These considerations occur naturally to the mind in contemplating the fame of Washington. An attentive examination of the whole subject, and of all that can contribute to the formation of a sound opinion, results in the belief that General Washington's mental abilities illustrate the very highest type of greatness. His mind, probably, was one of the very greatest that was ever given to mortality. Yet it is impossible to establish that position by a direct analysis of his character, or conduct, or productions. When we look at the incidents or the results of that great career—when we contemplate the qualities by which it is marked from its beginning to its end—the foresight which never was surprised, the judgment which nothing could deceive, the wisdom whose resources were incapable of exhaustion—combined with a spirit as resolute in its official duties as it was moderate in its private pretensions, as indomitable in its public temper as it was gentle in its personal tone—we are left in wonder and reverence. But when we would enter into the recesses of that mind—when we would discriminate upon its construction, and reason upon its operations—when we would tell how it was composed, and why it excelled—we are entirely at fault. The processes of Washington's understanding are entirely hidden from us. What came from it, in counsel or in action, was the life and glory of his country; what went on within it, is shrouded in impenetrable concealment. Such elevation in degree, of wisdom, amounts almost to a change of kind, in nature, and detaches his intelligence from the sympathy of ours. We cannot see him as he was, because we are not like him. The tones of the mighty bell were heard with the certainty of Time itself, and with a force that vibrates still upon the air of life, and will vibrate forever. But the clock-work, by which they were regulated and given forth, we can neither see nor understand. In fact, his intellectual abilities did not exist in an analytical and separated form; but in a combined and concrete state. They "moved altogether when they moved at all." They were in no degree speculative, but only practical. They could not act at all in the region of imagination, but only upon the field of reality. The sympathies of his intelligence dwelt exclusively in the national being and action. Its interests and energies were absorbed in them. He was nothing out of that sphere, because he was everything there. The extent to which he was identified with the country is unexampled in the relations of individual men to the community. During the whole period of his life he was the thinking part of the nation. He was its mind; it was his image and illustration. If we would classify and measure him, it must be with nations, and not with individuals.

This extraordinary nature of Washington's capacities—this impossibility of analyzing and understanding the elements and methods of his wisdom—have led some persons to doubt whether, intellectually, he was of great superiority; but the public—the community—never doubted of the transcendant eminence of Washington's abilities. From the first moment of his appearance as the chief, the recognition of him, from one end of the country to the other, as THE MAN—the leader, the counselor, the infallible in suggestion and in conduct—was immediate and universal. From that moment to the close of the scene, the national confidence in his capacity was as spontaneous, as enthusiastic, as immovable, as it was in his integrity. Particular persons, affected by the untoward course of events, sometimes questioned his sufficiency; but the nation never questioned it, nor would allow it to be questioned. Neither misfortune, nor disappointment, nor accidents, nor delay, nor the protracted gloom of years, could avail to disturb the public trust in him. It was apart from circumstances; it was beside the action of caprice; it was beyond all visionary, and above all changeable feelings. It was founded on nothing extraneous; not upon what he had said or done, but upon what he was. They saw something in the man, which gave them assurance of a nature and destiny of the highest elevation—something inexplicable, but which inspired a complete satisfaction. We feel that this reliance was wise and right; but why it was felt, or why it was right, we are as much to seek as those who came under the direct impression of his personal presence. It is not surprising, that the world recognizing in this man a nature and a greatness which philosophy cannot explain, should revere him almost to religion. The distance and magnitude of those objects which are too far above us to be estimated directly—such as stars—are determined by their parallax. By some process of that kind we may form an approximate notion of Washington's greatness. We may measure him against the great events in which he moved; and against the great men, among whom, and above whom, his figure stood like a tower. It is agreed that the War of American Independence is one of the most exalted, and honorable, and difficult achievements related in history. Its force was contributed by many; but its grandeur was derived from Washington. His character and wisdom gave unity, and dignity, and effect to the irregular, and often divergent enthusiasm of others. His energy combined the parts; his intelligence guided the whole: his perseverance, and fortitude, and resolution, were the inspiration and support of all. In looking back over that period, his presence seems to fill the whole scene; his influence predominates throughout; his character is reflected from everything. Perhaps nothing less than his immense weight of mind could have kept the national system, at home, in that position which it held, immovably, for seven years; perhaps nothing but the august respectability which his demeanor threw around the American cause abroad, would have induced a foreign nation to enter into an equal alliance with us upon terms that contributed in a most important degree to our final success, or would have caused Great Britain to feel that no great indignity was suffered in admitting the claim to national existence of a people who had such a representative as Washington. What but the most eminent qualities of mind and feeling—discretion superhuman—readiness of invention, and dexterity of means, equal to the most desperate affairs—endurance, self-control, regulated ardor, restrained passion, caution mingled with boldness, and all the contrarieties of moral excellence—could have expanded the life of an individual into a career such as this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close in their lair for perilous months and days He held in leash his wolves, grim, shelterless, Gaunt, hunger-bitten, stanch to the uttermost; Then, when the hour was come for hardiness Rallied, and rushed them on the reeling host; And Monmouth planted Yorktown's happy bays!

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From Magazine of American History.

The following extract from a letter written by Abbe Robin, chaplain in the French army in America, and bearing date "Camp of Phillipsburg, August 4, 1781," a few weeks after his arrival in this country, is very suggestive. This letter was the first of a series of thirteen letters from the Abbe while in America, which were published in Paris in 1782. He writes:

I have seen General Washington, that most singular man—the soul and support of one of the greatest revolutions that has ever happened, or can happen. I fixed my eyes upon him with that keen attention which the sight of a great man always inspires. We naturally entertain a secret hope of discovering in the features of such illustrious persons some traces of that genius which distinguishes them from, and elevates them above, their fellow mortals.

Perhaps the exterior of no man was better calculated to gratify these expectations than that of General Washington. He is of a tall and noble stature, well proportioned, a fine, cheerful, open countenance, a simple and modest carriage; and his whole mien has something in it that interests the French, the Americans, and even enemies themselves, in his favor. Placed in a military view, at the head of a nation where each individual has a share in the supreme legislative authority, and where coercive laws are yet in a degree destitute of vigor, where the climate and manners can add but little to their energy, where the spirit of party, private interest, slowness and national indolence, slacken, suspend, and overthrow the best concerted measures; although so situated he has found out a method of keeping his troops in the most absolute subordination; making them rivals in praising him; fearing him when he is silent, and retaining their full confidence in him after defeats and disgrace. His reputation has, at length, arisen to a most brilliant height; and he may now grasp at the most unbounded power, without provoking envy or exciting suspicion. He has ever shown himself superior to fortune, and in the most trying adversity has discovered resources until then unknown: and, as if his abilities only increased and dilated at the prospect of difficulty, he is never better supplied than when he seems destitute of everything, nor have his arms ever been so fatal to his enemies, as at the very instant when they thought they had crushed him forever. It is his to excite a spirit of heroism and enthusiasm in a people who are by nature very little susceptible of it; to gain over the respect and homage of those whose interest it is to refuse it, and to execute his plans and projects by means unknown even to those who are his instruments; he is intrepid in dangers, yet never seeks them but when the good of his country demands it, preferring rather to temporize and act upon the defensive, because he knows such a mode of conduct best suits the genius and circumstances of the nation, and all that he and they have to expect, depends upon time, fortitude, and patience; he is frugal and sober in regard to himself, but profuse in the public cause; like Peter the Great, he has by defeats conducted his army to victory; and like Fabius, but with fewer resources and more difficulty, he has conquered without fighting, and saved his country.

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





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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[11] From "Young People's History of Our Country." Thomas R. Shewell & Co., 1900.

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

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