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The True George Washington
by Ford, Paul Leicester

Any man of force is to be known quite as much by the character of his enemies as by that of his friends, and this is true of Washington. The subject offers some difficulties, for most of his enemies later in life went out of their way to deny all antagonism, and took pains to destroy such proof as they could come at of ill-feeling towards him. Yet enough remains to show who were in opposition to him, and on what grounds.

The first of those now known to be opposed to him was George Muse, lieutenant-colonel in 1754 under Washington. At Fort Necessity he was guilty of cowardice, he was discharged in disgrace, and his name was omitted from the Assembly's vote of thanks to the regiment. Stung by this action, he took his revenge in a manner related by Peyroney, who wrote Washington,--
"Many enquired to me about Muse's Braveries, poor Body I had pity him ha'nt he had the weakness to Confes his Coardise himself, & the impudence to taxe all the reste of the oficers without exception of the same imperfection for he said to many of the Consulars and Burgeses that he was Bad But th' the reste was as Bad as he--To speak francly, had I been in town at that time I cou'nt help'd to make use of my horses [whip] whereas for to vindicate the injury of that vilain. He Contrived his Business so that several ask me if it was true that he had Challeng'd you to fight: My Answer was no other But that he should rather chuse to go to hell than doing of it--for he had Such thing declar'd: that was his Sure Road."
Washington seems to have cherished no personal ill-will for Muse's conduct, and when the division of the "bounty lands" was being pushed, he used his influence that the broken officer should receive a quotum. Not knowing this, or else being ungrateful, Muse seems to have written a letter to Washington which angered him, for he replied,--
"Sir, Your impertinent letter was delivered to me yesterday. As I am not accustomed to receive such from any man, nor would have taken the same language from you personally, without letting you feel some marks of my resentment, I would advise you to be cautious in writing me a second of the same tenor. But for your stupidity and sottishness you might have known, by attending to the public gazette, that you had your full quantity of ten thousand acres of land allowed you, that is, nine thousand and seventy-three acres in the great tract, and the remainder in the small tract. But suppose you had really fallen short, do you think your superlative merit entitles you to greater indulgence than others? Or, if it did, that I was to make it good to you, when it was at the option of the Governor and Council to allow but five hundred acres in the whole, if they had been so inclined? If either of these should happen to be your opinion, I am very well convinced that you will be singular in it; and all my concern is, that I ever engaged in behalf of so ungrateful a fellow as you are. But you may still be in need of my assistance, as I can inform you, that your affairs, in respect to these lands, do not stand upon so solid a basis as you imagine, and this you may take by way of hint. I wrote to you a few days ago concerning the other distribution, proposing an easy method of dividing our lands; but since I find in what temper you are, I am sorry I took the trouble of mentioning the land or your name in a letter, as I do not think you merit the least assistance from me."
The Braddock campaign brought acquaintance with one which did not end in friendship, however amicable the beginning. There can be little doubt that there was cameraderie with the then Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, for in 1773, when in New York for four days, Washington "Dined with Gen. Gage," and also "dined at the entertainment given by the citizens of New York to Genl. Gage." When next intercourse was resumed, it was by formal correspondence between the commanders-in-chief of two hostile armies, Washington inquiring as to the treatment of prisoners, and as a satisfactory reply was not obtained, he wrote again, threatening retaliation, and "closing my correspondence with you, perhaps forever," --a letter which Charles Lee thought "a very good one, but Gage certainly deserved a stronger one, such as it was before it was softened." One cannot but wonder what part the old friendship played in this "softening."

Relations with the Howes began badly by a letter from Lord Howe addressed "George Washington, Esq.," which Washington declined to receive as not recognizing his official position. A second one to "George Washington, Esq. &c. &c. &c." met with the same fate, and brought the British officer "to change my superscription." A little after this brief war of forms, a letter from Washington to his wife was intercepted with others by the enemy, and General Howe enclosed it, "happy to return it without the least attempt being made to discover any part of the contents." This courtesy the American commander presently was able to reciprocate by sending "General Washington's compliments to General Howe,--does himself the pleasure to return to him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and, by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe." Even politeness had its objections, however, at moments, and Washington once had to write Sir William,--
"There is one passage of your letter, which I cannot forbear taking particular notice of. No expression of personal politeness to me can be acceptable, accompanied by reflections on the representatives of a free people, under whose authority I have the honor to act. The delicacy I have observed, in refraining from everything offensive in this way, entitles me to expect a similar treatment from you. I have not indulged myself in invective against the present rulers of Great Britain, in the course of our correspondence, nor will I even now avail myself of so fruitful a theme."
Apparently when Sir Henry Clinton succeeded to the command of the British army the same old device to insult the General was again tried, for Dumas states that Washington "received a despatch from Sir Henry Clinton, addressed to 'Mr. Washington.' Taking it from the hands of the flag of truce, and seeing the direction, 'This letter,' said he, 'is directed to a planter of the state of Virginia. I shall have it delivered to him after the end of the war; till that time it shall not be opened.' A second despatch was addressed to his Excellency General Washington." A better lesson in courtesy was contained in a letter from Washington to him, complaining of "wanton, unprecedented and inhuman murder," which closed with the following: "I beg your Excellency to be persuaded, that it cannot be more disagreeable to you to be addressed in this language, than it is to me to offer it; but the subject requires frankness and decision."

Quite as firm was one addressed to Cornwallis, which read,--
"It is with infinite regret, I am again compelled to remonstrate against that spirit of wanton cruelty, that has in several instances influenced the conduct of your soldiery. A recent exercise of it towards an unhappy officer of ours, Lieutenant Harris, convinces me, that my former representations on this subject have been unavailing. That Gentleman by the fortunes of war, on Saturday last was thrown into the hands of a party of your horse, and unnecessarily murdered with the most aggravated circumstances of barbarity. I wish not to wound your Lordship's feelings, by commenting on this event; but I think it my duty to send his mangled body to your lines as an undeniable testimony of the fact, should it be doubted, and as the best appeal to your humanity for the justice of our complaint."
A pleasanter intercourse came with the surrender of Yorktown, after which not merely were Cornwallis and his officers saved the mortification of surrendering their swords, but the chief among them were entertained at dinner by Washington. At this meal, so a contemporary account states, "Rochhambeau, being asked for a toast, gave 'The United States'. Washington gave 'The King of France'. Lord Cornwallis, simply 'The King'; but Washington, putting that toast, added, 'of England', and facetiously, 'confine him there, I'll drink him a full bumper', filling his glass till it ran over. Rochambeau, with great politeness, was still so French, that he would every now and then be touching on points that were improper, and a breach of real politeness. Washington often checked him, and showed in a more saturnine manner, the infinite esteem he had for his gallant prisoner, whose private qualities the Americans admired even in a foe, that had so often filled them with the most cruel alarms." Many years later, when Cornwallis was governor-general of India, he sent a verbal message to his old foe, wishing "General Washington a long enjoyment of tranquility and happiness," adding that for himself he "continued in troubled waters."

[Illustration Removed: MRS WASHINGTON]

Turning from these public rather than personal foes, a very different type of enemies is encountered in those inimical to Washington in his own army. Chief of these was Horatio Gates, with whom Washington had become acquainted in the Braddock campaign, and with whom there was friendly intercourse from that time until the Revolution. In 1775, at Washington's express solicitation, Gates was appointed adjutant- and brigadier-general, and in a letter thanking Washington for the favor he professed to have "the greatest respect for your character and the sincerest attachment to your person." Nevertheless, he very early in the war suggested that a committee of Congress be sent to camp to keep watch on Washington, and as soon as he was in a separate command he began to curry favor with Congress and scheme against his commander. This was not unknown to Washington, who afterwards wrote, "I discovered very early in the war symptoms of coldness & constraint in General Gates' behavior to me. These increased as he rose into greater consequence."

When Burgoyne capitulated to Gates, he sent the news to Congress and not to Washington, and though he had no further need for troops the commander-in-chief had sent him, he endeavored to prevent their return at a moment when every man was needed in the main army. His attitude towards Washington was so notorious that his friends curried favor with him by letters criticising the commander, and when, by chance, the General learned of the contents of one of these letters, and news to that effect reached the ears of Gates, he practically charged Washington with having obtained his knowledge by dishonorable means; but Washington more than repaid the insult, in telling Gates how he had learned of the affair, by adding that he had "considered the information as coming from yourself, and given with a friendly view to forewarn and consequently forearm me, against a secret enemy ... but in this, as in other matters of late, I have found myself mistaken." Driven to the wall, Gates wrote to Washington a denial that the letter contained the passage in question, which was an absolute lie, and this untruth typifies his character. Without expressing either belief or disbelief in this denial, Washington replied,--
"I am as averse to controversy as any man, and had I not been forced into it, you never would have had occasion to impute to me, even the shadow of disposition towards it. Your repeatedly and solemnly disclaiming any offensive views in those matters, which have been the subject of our past correspondence makes me willing to close with the desire, you express, of burying them hereafter in silence, and, as far as future events will permit, oblivion. My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any personal feuds or dissentions with those who are embarked in the same great national interest with, myself; as every difference of this kind must in its consequence be very injurious."
After this affair subsided, Washington said,--
"I made a point of treating Gen. Gates with all the attention and cordiality in my power, as well from a sincere desire of harmony, as from an unwillingness to give any cause of triumph among ourselves. I can appeal to the world, and to the whole army, whether I have not cautiously avoided offending Gen. Gates in any way. I am sorry his conduct to me has not been equally generous, and that he is continually giving me fresh proofs of malevolence and opposition. It will not be doing him injustice to say, that, besides the little underhand intrigues which he is frequently practising, there has hardly been any great military question, in which his advice has been asked, that it has not been given in an equivocal and designing manner, apparently calculated to afford him an opportunity of censuring me, on the failure of whatever measures might be adopted."
After the defeat of Gates at Camden, the Prince de Broglie wrote that "I saw General Gates at the house of General Washington, with whom he had had a misunderstanding.... This interview excited the curiosity of both armies. It passed with a most perfect propriety on the part of both gentlemen. Mr. Washington treated Mr. Gates with a politeness which had a frank and easy air, while the other responded with that shade of respect which was proper towards his general." And how fair-minded Washington was is shown by his refusal to interfere in an army matter, because, "considering the delicate situation in which I stand with respect to General Gates, I feel an unwillingness to give any opinion (even in a confidential way) in a matter in which he is concerned, lest my sentiments (being known) should have unfavorable interpretations ascribed to them by illiberal Minds." Yet the friendship was never restored, and when the two after the war were associated in the Potomac company, Washington's sense of the old treachery was still so keen that he alluded to the appointment of "my bosom friend Genl G-tes, who being at Richmond, contrived to edge himself in to the commission."

Thomas Conway was Washington's traducer to Gates. He was an Irish-French soldier of fortune who unfortunately had been made a brigadier-general in the Continental army. Having made friends of the New England delegates in Congress, it was then proposed by them to advance him to the rank of major-general, which Washington opposed, on the grounds that "his merit and importance exist more in his imagination than in reality." For the moment this was sufficient to prevent Conway's promotion, and even if he had not before been opposed to his commander, he now became his bitter enemy. To more than Gates he said or wrote, "A great & good God has decreed that America shall be free, or Washington and weak counsellors would have ruined her long ago." Upon word of this reaching Washington, so Laurens tells, "The genl immediately copied the contents of the paper, introducing them with 'sir,' and concluding with, 'I am your humble servt,' and sent this copy in the form of a letter to Genl Conway. This drew an answer, in which he first attempts to deny the fact, and then in a most shameless manner, to explain away the matter. The perplexity of his style, and evident insincerity of his compliments, betray his weak sentiments, and expose his guilt."

Yet, though detected, Conway complained to the Continental Congress that Washington was not treating him properly, and in reply to an inquiry from a member the General acknowledged that,--
"If General Conway means by cool receptions mentioned in the last paragraph of his letter of the 31st ultimo, that I did not receive him in the language of a warm and cordial friend, I readily confess the charge. I did not, nor shall I ever, till I am capable of the arts of dissimulation. These I despise, and my feelings will not permit me to make professions of friendship to the man I deem my enemy, and whose system of conduct forbids it. At the same time, truth authorizes me to say, that he was received and treated with proper respect to his official character, and that he has had no cause to justify the assertion, that he could not expect any support for fulfilling the duties of his appointment."
In spite of Washington's opposition, Conway's friends were numerous enough in the Congress finally to elect him major-general, at the same time appointing him inspector-general. Elated with this evident partiality of the majority of that body for him, he went even further, and Laurens states that he was guilty of a "base insult" to Washington, which "affects the General very sensibly," and he continues,--
"It is such an affront as Conway would never have dared to offer, if the General's situation had not assured him of the impossibility of its being revenged in a private way. The Genl, therefore, has determined to return him no answer at all, but to lay the whole matter before Congress; they will determine whether Genl W. is to be sacrificed to Genl. C., for the former can never consent to be concern'd in any transaction with the latter, from whom he has received such unpardonable insults."
Fortunately, Conway did not limit his "insulting letters" to the commander-in-chief alone, and presently he sent one to Congress threatening to resign, which so angered that body that they took him at his word. Moreover, his open abuse of Washington led an old-time friend of the latter to challenge him, and to lodge a ball, with almost poetic justice, in Conway's mouth. Thinking himself on the point of death, he wrote a farewell line to Washington "expressing my sincere grief for having done, written or said anything disagreeable to your Excellency.... You are in my eyes a great and good man." And with this recantation he disappeared from the army. A third officer in this "cabal" was Thomas Mifflin. He was the first man appointed on Washington's staff at the beginning of the war, but did not long remain in that position, being promoted by Washington to be quartermaster-general. In this position the rumor reached the General that Mifflin was "concerned in trade," and Washington took "occasion to hint" the suspicion to him, only to get a denial from the officer. Whether this inquiry was a cause for ill-feeling or not, Mifflin was one of the most outspoken against the commander-in-chief as his opponents gathered force, and Washington informed Henry that he "bore the second part in the cabal." Mifflin resigned from the army and took a position on the board of war, but when the influence of that body broke down with the collapse of the Cabal, he applied for a reappointment,--a course described by Washington in plain English as follows:
"I was not a little surprised to find a certain gentleman, who, some time ago (when a cloud of darkness hung heavy over us, and our affairs looked gloomy,) was desirous of resigning, now stepping forward in the line of the army. But if he can reconcile such conduct to his own, feelings, as an officer and a man of honor, and Congress hath no objections to his leaving his seat in another department, I have nothing personally to oppose it. Yet I must think, that gentleman's stepping in and out, as the sun happens to beam forth or obscure, is not quite the thing, nor quite just, with respect to those officers, who take ye bitter with the sweet."
Not long after Greene wrote that "I learn that General Mifflin has publicly declared that he looked upon his Excellency as the best friend he ever had in his life, so that is a plain sign that the Junto has given up all ideas of supplanting our excellent general from a confidence of the impracticability of such an attempt."

A very minor but most malignant enemy was Dr. Benjamin Rush. In 1774 Washington dined with him in Philadelphia, which implied friendship. Very early in the war, however, an attempt was made to remove the director-general of hospitals, in which, so John Armstrong claimed, "Morgan was the ostensible--Rush the real prosecutor of Shippen--the former acting from revenge,... the latter from a desire to obtain the directorship. In approving the sentence of the court, Washington stigmatized the prosecution as one originating in bad motives, which made Rush his enemy and defamer as long as he lived." Certain it is he wrote savage letters of criticism about his commander-in-chief of which the following extract is a sample:
"I have heard several officers who have served under General Gates compare his army to a well regulated family. The same gentlemen have compared Gen'l Washington's imitation of an army to an unformed mob. Look at the characters of both! The one on the pinnacle of military glory--exulting in the success of schemes planned with wisdom, & executed with vigor and bravery--and above all see a country saved by his exertions. See the other outgeneral'd and twice heated--obliged to witness the march of a body of men only half their number thro' 140 Miles of a thick settled country-- forced to give up a city the capitol of a state & after all outwitted by the same army in a retreat."
Had Rush written only this, there would be no grounds for questioning his methods; but, not content with spreading his opinions among his friends, he took to anonymous letter-writing, and sent an unsigned letter abusing Washington to the governor of Virginia (and probably to others), with the request that the letter should be burned. Instead of this, Henry sent it to Washington, who recognized at once the handwriting, and wrote to Henry that Rush "has been elaborate and studied in his professions of regard to me, and long since the letter to you." An amusing sequel to this incident is to be found in Rush moving heaven and earth on the publication of Marshall's "Life of Washington" to prevent his name from appearing as one of the commander-in-chief's enemies.

After the collapse of the attempt Washington wrote to a friend, "I thank you sincerely for the part you acted at York respecting C---y, and believe with you that matters have and will turn out very different to what that party expected. G---s has involved himself in his letters to me in the most absurd contradictions. M--- has brought himself into a scrape that he does not know how to get out of with a gentleman of this State, and C---, as you know is sent upon an expedition which all the world knew, and the event has proved, was not practicable. In a word, I have a good deal of reason to believe that the machination of this junta will recoil upon their own heads, and be a means of bringing some matters to light which, by getting me out of the way, some of them thought to conceal."

Undoubtedly the most serious army antagonist was General Charles Lee, and, but for what seem almost fatalistic chances, he would have been a dangerous rival. He was second in command very early in the war, and at this time he asserted that "no man loves, respects and reverences another more than I do General Washington. I esteem his virtues, private and public. I know him to be a man of sense, courage and firmness." But four months later he was lamenting Washington's "fatal indecision," and by inference was calling him "a blunderer." In another month he wrote, "entre nous a certain great man is most damnably deficient." At this point, fortunately, Lee was captured by the British, so that his influence for the time being was destroyed. While a prisoner he drew up a plan for the English general, showing how America could be conquered.

When he had been exchanged, and led the American advance at the battle of Monmouth, he seems to have endeavored to aid the British in another way, for after barely engaging, he ordered a retreat, which quickly developed into a rout, and would have ended in a serious defeat had not, as Laurens wrote, "fortunately for the honor of the army, and the welfare of America, Genl Washington met the troops retreating in disorder, and without any plan to make an opposition. He ordered some pieces of artillery to be brought up to defend the pass, and some troops to form and defend the pieces. The artillery was too distant to be brought up readily, so that there was but little opposition given here. A few shot though, and a little skirmishing in the wood checked the enemy's career. The Genl expressed his astonishment at this unaccountable retreat Mr. Lee indecently replied that the attack was contrary to his advice and opinion in council."

In a fit of temper Lee wrote Washington two imprudent letters, expressed "in terms [so] highly improper" that he was ordered under arrest and tried by a court-martial, which promptly found him guilty of disobedience and disrespect, as well as of making a "disorderly and unnecessary retreat." To this Lee retorted, "I aver that his Excellencies letter was from beginning to the end a most abominable lie--I aver that my conduct will stand the strictest scrutiny of every military judge--I aver that my Court Martial was a Court of Inquisition--that there was not a single member with a military idea--at least if I may pronounce from the different questions they put to the evidences."

In this connection it is of interest to note a letter from Washington's friend Mason, which said, "You express a fear that General Lee will challenge our friend. Indulge in no such apprehensions, for he too well knows the sentiments of General Washington on the subject of duelling. From his earliest manhood I have heard him express his contempt of the man who sends and the man who accepts a challenge, for he regards such acts as no proof of moral courage; and the practice he abhors as a relic of old barbarisms, repugnant alike to sound morality and Christian enlightenment."

A little later, still smarting from this court-martial, Lee wrote to a newspaper a savage attack on his late commander, apparently in the belief, as he said in a private letter, that "there is ... a visible revolution ... in the minds of men, I mean that our Great Gargantua, or Lama Babak (for I know not which Title is the properest) begins to be no longer consider'd as an infallible Divinity--and that those who have been sacrificed or near sacrific'd on his altar, begin to be esteem'd as wantonly and foolishly offer'd up." Lee very quickly found his mistake, for the editor of the paper which contained his attack was compelled by a committee of citizens to publish an acknowledgment that in printing it "I have transgressed against truth, justice and my duty as a good citizen," and, as Washington wrote to a friend, "the author of the Queries, 'Political and Military,' has had no cause to exult in the favorable reception of them by the public." With Lee's disappearance the last army rival dropped from the ranks, and from that time there was no question as to who should command the armies of America. Long after, a would-be editor of Lee's papers wrote to Washington to ask if he had any wishes in regard to the publication, and was told in the reply that,--
"I never had a difference with that gentleman, but on public ground, and my conduct towards him upon this occasion was such only, as I conceived myself indispensably bound to adopt in discharge of the public trust reposed in me. If this produced in him unfavorable sentiments of me, I yet can never consider the conduct I pursued, with respect to him, either wrong or improper, however I may regret that it may have been differently viewed by him and that it excited his censure and animadversions. Should there appear in General Lee's writings any thing injurious or unfriendly to me, the impartial and dispassionate world must decide how far I deserved it from the general tenor of my conduct."
These attempts to undermine Washington owed their real vitality to the Continental Congress, and it is safe to say that but for Washington's political enemies no army rival would have ventured to push forward. In what the opposition in that body consisted, and to what length it went, are discussed elsewhere, but a glance at the reasons of hostility to him is proper here.

John Adams declared himself "sick of the Fabian systems," and in writing of the thanksgiving for the Saratoga Convention, he said that "one cause of it ought to be that the glory of turning the tide of arms is not immediately due to the commander-in-chief.... If it had, idolatry and adulation would have been unbounded." James Lovell asserted that "Our affairs are Fabiused into a very disagreeable posture," and wrote that "depend upon it for every ten soldiers placed under the command of our Fabius, five recruits will be wanted annually during the war." William Williams agreed with Jonathan Trumbull that the time had come when "a much exalted character should make way for a general" and suggested if this was not done "voluntarily," those to whom the public looked should "see to it." Abraham Clark thought "we may talk of the Enemy's Cruelty as we will, but we have no greater Cruelty to complain of than the Management of our Army." Jonathan D. Sargent asserted that "we want a general--thousands of Lives & Millions of Property are yearly sacrificed to the Insufficiency of our Commander-in-Chief--Two Battles he has lost for us by two such Blunders as might have disgraced a Soldier of three months standing, and yet we are so attached to this Man that I fear we shall rather sink with him than throw him off our Shoulders. And sink we must under his Management. Such Feebleness, & Want of Authority, such Confusion & Want of Discipline, such Waste, such destruction would exhaust the Wealth of both the Indies & annihilate the armies of all Europe and Asia." Richard Henry Lee agreed with Mifflin that Gates was needed to "procure the indispensable changes in our Army." Other Congressmen who were inimical to Washington, either by openly expressed opinion or by vote, were Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Adams, William Ellery, Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, Samuel Chase, and F.L. Lee. Later, when Washington's position was more secure, Gerry and R.H. Lee wrote to him affirming their friendship, and to both the General replied without a suggestion of ill-feeling, nor does he seem, in later life, to have felt a trace of personal animosity towards any one of the men who had been in opposition to him in Congress. Of this enmity in the army and Congress Washington wrote,--
"It is easy to bear the first, and even the devices of private enemies whose ill will only arises from their common hatred to the cause we are engaged in, are to me tolerable; yet, I confess, I cannot help feeling the most painful sensations, whenever I have reason to believe I am the object of persecution to men, who are embarked in the same general interest, and whose friendship my heart does not reproach me with, ever having done any thing to forfeit. But with many, it is a sufficient cause to hate and wish the ruin of a man, because he has been happy enough, to be the object of his country's favor."
The political course of Washington while President produced the alienation of the two Virginians whom he most closely associated with himself in the early part of his administration. With Madison the break does not seem to have come from any positive ill-feeling, but was rather an abandonment of intercourse as the differences of opinion became more pronounced. The disagreement with Jefferson was more acute, though probably never forced to an open rupture. To his political friends Jefferson in 1796 wrote that the measures pursued by the administration were carried out "under the sanction of a name which has done too much good not to be sufficient to cover harm also," and that he hoped the President's "honesty and his political errors may not furnish a second occasion to exclaim, 'curse on his virtues, they've undone his country.'" Henry Lee warned Washington of the undercurrent of criticism, and when Jefferson heard indirectly of this he wrote his former chief that "I learn that [Lee] has thought it worth his while to try to sow tares between you and me, by representing me as still engaged in the bustle of politics & in turbulence & intrigue against the government. I never believed for a moment that this could make any impression on you, or that your knowledge of me would not overweigh the slander of an intriguer dirtily employed in sifting the conversations of my table." To this Washington replied,--
"As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogating from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me; that, to your particular friends and connexions you have described, and they have denounced me as a person under a dangerous influence; and that, if I would listen more to some other opinions, all would be well. My answer invariably has been, that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions in my mind of his insincerity; that, if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the sole objects of my pursuit; that there was as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided against as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and, I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics or measures of any man living. In short that I was no party man myself and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them."
As proof upon proof of Jefferson's secret enmity accumulated, Washington ceased to trust his disclaimers, and finally wrote to one of his informants, "Nothing short of the evidence you have adduced, corroborative of intimations which I had received long before through another channel, could have shaken my belief in the sincerity of a friendship, which I had conceived as possessed for me by the person to whom you allude. But attempts to injure those, who are supposed to stand well in the estimation of the people, and are stumbling blocks in the way, by misrepresenting their political tenets, thereby to destroy all confidence in them, are among the means by which the government is to be assailed, and the constitution destroyed."

Once convinced, all relations with Jefferson were terminated. It is interesting in this connection to note something repeated by Madison, to the effect that "General Lafayette related to me the following anecdote, which I shall repeat as nearly as I can in his own words. 'When I last saw Mr. Jefferson,' he observed, 'we conversed a good deal about General Washington, and Mr. Jefferson expressed high admiration of his character. He remarked particularly that he and Hamilton often disagreed when they were members of the Cabinet, and that General Washington would sometimes favor the opinion of one and sometimes the other, with an apparent strict impartiality. And Mr. Jefferson added that, so sound was Washington's judgment, that he was commonly convinced afterwards of the accuracy of his decision, whether it accorded with the opinion he had himself first advanced or not.'"


A third Virginian who was almost as closely associated was Edmund Randolph. There had been a friendship with his father, until he turned Tory and went to England, when, according to Washington's belief, he wrote the "forged letters" which gave Washington so much trouble. For the sake of the old friendship, however, he gave the son a position on his staff, and from that time was his friend and correspondent. In the first administration he was made Attorney-General, and when Jefferson retired from office he became Secretary of State. In this position he was charged with political dishonesty. Washington gave him a chance to explain, but instead he resigned from office and published what he called "a vindication," in which he charged the President with "prejudging," "concealment," and "want of generosity." Continuing, he said, "never ... could I have believed that in addressing you ... I should use any other language than that of a friend. From my early period of life, I was taught to esteem you--as I advanced in years, I was habituated to revere you:--you strengthened my prepossessions by marks of attention." And in another place he acknowledged the weakness of his attack by saying, "still however, those very objections, the very reputation which you have acquired, will cause it to be asked, why you should be suspected of acting towards me, in any other manner, than deliberately, justly and even kindly?"

In the preparation of this pamphlet Randolph wrote the President a letter which the latter asserted was "full of innuendoes," and one statement in the pamphlet he denounced as being "as impudent and insolent an assertion as it is false." And his irritation at this treatment from one he had always befriended gave rise to an incident, narrated by James Ross, at a breakfast at the President's, when "after a little while the Secretary of War came in, and said to Washington, 'Have you seen Mr. Randolph's pamphlet?' 'I have,' said Washington, 'and, by the eternal God, he is the damnedest liar on the face of the earth!' and as he spoke he brought his fist down upon the table with all his strength, and with a violence which made the cups and plates start from their places." Fortunately, the attack was ineffective; indeed, Hamilton wrote that "I consider it as amounting to a confession of guilt; and I am persuaded this will be the universal opinion. His attempts against you are viewed by all whom I have seen, as base. They will certainly fail of their aim, and will do good rather than harm, to the public cause and to yourself. It appears to me that, by you, no notice can be, or ought to be, taken of the publication. It contains its own antidote."

Not content with this double giving up of what to any man of honor was confidential, Randolph, a little later, rested under Washington's suspicions of a third time breaking the seal of official secrecy by sending a Cabinet paper to the newspapers for no other purpose than to stir up feeling against Washington. But after his former patron's death regret came, and Randolph wrote to Bushrod Washington, "If I could now present myself before your venerated uncle it would be my pride to confess my contrition that I suffered my irritation, be the cause what it might, to use some of those expressions respecting him which, at this moment ... I wish to recall as being inconsistent with my subsequent convictions."

Another type of enemy, more or less the result of this differing with Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Randolph, was sundry editors and writers who gathered under their patronage and received aids of money or of secret information. One who prospered for a time by abusing Washington was Philip Freneau. He was a college friend of Madison's, and was induced to undertake the task by his and Jefferson's urging, though the latter denied this later. As aid to the undertaking, Jefferson, then Secretary of State, gave Freneau an office, and thus produced the curious condition of a clerk in the government writing and printing savage attacks on the President. Washington was much irritated at the abuse, and Jefferson in his "Anas" said that he "was evidently sore & warm and I took his intention to be that I should interpose in some way with Freneau, perhaps withdraw his appointment of translating clerk to my office. But I will not do it." According to the French minister, some of the worst of these articles were written by Jefferson himself, and Freneau is reported to have said, late in life, that many of them were written by the Secretary of State.

Far more indecent was the paper conducted by Benjamin Franklin Bache, who, early in the Presidency, applied for a place in the government, which for some reason not now known was refused. According to Cobbett, who hated him, "this ... scoundrel ... spent several years in hunting offices under the Federal Government, and being constantly rejected, he at last became its most bitter foe. Hence his abuse of General Washington, whom at the time he was soliciting a place he panegyrized up to the third heaven." Certain it is that under his editorship the General Advertiser and Aurora took the lead in all criticisms of Washington, and not content with these opportunities for daily and weekly abuse, Bache (though the fact that they were forgeries was notorious) reprinted the "spurious letters which issued from a certain press in New York during the war, with a view to destroy the confidence which the army and community might have had in my political principles,--and which have lately been republished with greater avidity and perseverance than ever, by Mr. Bache to answer the same nefarious purpose with the latter," and Washington added that "immense pains has been taken by this said Mr. Bache, who is no more than the agent or tool of those who are endeavoring to destroy the confidence of the people, in the officers of Government (chosen by themselves) to disseminate these counterfeit letters." In addition Bache wrote a pamphlet, with the avowal that "the design of these remarks is to prove the want of claim in Mr. Washington either to the gratitude or confidence of his country.... Our chief object ... is to destroy undue impressions in favor of Mr. Washington." Accordingly it charged that Washington was "treacherous," "mischievous," "inefficient;" dwelt upon his "farce of disinterestedness," his "stately journeyings through the American continent in search of personal incense," his "ostentatious professions of piety," his "pusillanimous neglect," his "little passions," his "ingratitude," his "want of merit," his "insignificance," and his "spurious fame."

The successor of Bache as editor of these two journals, William Duane, came to the office with an equal hatred of Washington, having already written a savage pamphlet against him. In this the President was charged with "treacherous mazes of passion," and with having "discharged the loathings of a sick mind." Furthermore it asserted "that had you obtained promotion ... after Braddock's defeat, your sword would have been drawn against your country," that Washington "retained the barbarous usages of the feudal system and kept men in Livery," and that "posterity will in vain search for the monuments of wisdom in your administration;" the purpose of the pamphlet, by the author's own statement, being "to expose the Personal Idolatry into which we have been heedlessly running," and to show the people the "fallibility of the most favored of men."

A fourth in this quartet of editors was the notorious James Thomson Callender, whose publications were numerous, as were also his impeachments against Washington. By his own account, this writer maintained, "Mr. Washington has been twice a traitor," has "authorized the robbery and ruin of the remnants of his own army," has "broke the constitution," and Callender fumes over "the vileness of the adulation which has been paid" to him, claiming that "the extravagant popularity possessed by this citizen reflects the utmost ridicule on the discernment of America."

The bitterest attack, however, was penned by Thomas Paine. For many years there was good feeling between the two, and in 1782, when Paine was in financial distress, Washington used his influence to secure him a position "out of friendship for me," as Paine acknowledged. Furthermore, Washington tried to get the Virginia Legislature to pension Paine or give him a grant of land, an endeavor for which the latter was "exceedingly obliged." When Paine published his "Rights of Man" he dedicated it to Washington, with an inscription dwelling on his "exemplary virtue" and his "benevolence;" while in the body of the work he asserted that no monarch of Europe had a character to compare with Washington's, which was such as to "put all those men called kings to shame." Shortly after this, however, Washington refused to appoint him Postmaster-General; and still later, when Paine had involved himself with the French, the President, after consideration, decided that governmental interference was not proper. Enraged by these two acts, Paine published a pamphlet in which he charged Washington with "encouraging and swallowing the greatest adulation," with being "the patron of fraud," with a "mean and servile submission to the insults of one nation, treachery and ingratitude to another," with "falsehood," "ingratitude," and "pusillanimity;" and finally, after alleging that the General had not "served America with more disinterestedness or greater zeal, than myself, and I know not if with better effect," Paine closed his attack by the assertion, "and as to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship, and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide, whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any?"

Washington never, in any situation, took public notice of these attacks, and he wrote of a possible one, "I am gliding down the stream of life, and wish, as is natural, that my remaining days may be undisturbed and tranquil; and, conscious of my integrity, I would willingly hope, that nothing would occur tending to give me anxiety; but should anything 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." To a friend he said, "my temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any feuds or dissentions with those who are embarked in the same great national interest with myself; as every difference of this kind must in its consequence be very injurious."


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