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George Washington
by Thayer, William Roscoe

Washington's term as President ended at noon on March 4, 1797. He was present at the inauguration of President John Adams which immediately followed. On the 3d, besides attending to the final necessary routine, he wrote several letters of farewell to his immediate friends, including Henry Knox, Jonathan Trumbull, Timothy Pickering, and James McHenry. To all he expressed his grief at personal parting, but also immense relief and happiness in concluding his public career. He said, for instance, in his letter to Trumbull:
Although I shall resign the chair of government without a single regret, or any desire to intermeddle in politics again, yet there are many of my compatriots, among whom be assured I place you, from whom I shall part sorrowing; because, unless I meet with them at Mount Vernon, it is not likely that I shall ever see them more, as I do not expect that I shall ever be twenty miles from it, after I am tranquilly settled there. To tell you how glad I should be to see you at that place is unnecessary. To this I will add that it would not only give me pleasure, but pleasure also to Mrs. Washington, and others of the family with whom you are acquainted, and who all unite, in every good wish for you and yours.[Footnote: Ford, XIII, 377.]
In a few days he returned to Mount Vernon and there indulged himself in a leisurely survey of the plantation. He rode from one farm to another and reacquainted himself with the localities where the various crops were either already springing or would soon be. Indoors there was an immense volume of correspondence to be attended to with the aid of Tobias Lear, the faithful secretary who had lived with the President during the New York and Philadelphia periods. When the letters were sorted, many answers had to be written, some of which Washington dictated and others he wrote with his own hand. He admits to Secretary McHenry that, when he goes to his writing table to acknowledge the letters he has received, when the lights are brought, he feels tired and disinclined to do this work, conceiving that the next night will do as well. "The next night comes," he adds, "and with it the same causes for postponement, and so on." He has not had time to look into a book. He is dazed by the incessant number of new faces which appear at Mount Vernon. They come, he says, out of "respect" for him, but their real reason is curiosity. He practises Virginian hospitality very lavishly, but he cannot endure the late hours. So he invites his nephew, Lawrence Lewis, to spend as much time as he can at Mount Vernon while he himself and Mrs. Washington go to bed early, "soon after candle light." Lewis accepted the invitation all the more willingly because he found at the mansion Nelly Custis, a pretty and sprightly young lady with whom he promptly fell in love and married later. Nelly and her brother George had been adopted by Washington and brought up in the family. She was his particular pet. Like other mature men he found the boys of the younger generation somewhat embarrassing. I suppose they felt, as well they might, a great and awful gulf yawning between them. "I can govern men," he would say, "but I cannot govern boys."[Footnote: Irving, V, 277.] With Nelly Custis, however, he found it easy to be chums. No one can forget the mock-serious letter in which he wrote to her in regard to becoming engaged and gave her advice about falling in love. The letter is unexpected and yet it bears every mark of sincerity and reveals a genuine vein in his nature. We must always think of Nelly as one of the refreshments of his older life and as one of its great delights. He considered himself an old man now. His hair no longer needed powder; years and cares had made it white. He spoke of himself without affectation as a very old man, and apparently he often thought, as he was engaged in some work, "this is the last time I shall do this." He seems to have taken it for granted that he was not to live long; but this neither slackened his industry nor made him gloomy. And he had in truth spent a life of almost unremitting laboriousness. Those early years as surveyor and Indian fighter and pathfinder were years of great hardships. The eight years of the Revolution were a continuous physical strain, an unending responsibility, and sometimes a bodily deprivation. And finally his last service as President had brought him disgusts, pinpricks which probably wore more on his spirits than did the direct blows of his opponents. Very likely he felt old in his heart of hearts, much older than his superb physical form betokened. We cannot but rejoice that Nelly Custis flashed some of the joyfulness and divine insouciance of youth into the tired heart of the tired great man.

Perhaps the best offhand description of Washington in these later days is that given by an English actor, Bernard, who happened to be driving near Mount Vernon when a carriage containing a man and a woman was upset. Bernard dismounted to give help, and presently another rider came up and joined in the work. "He was a tall, erect, well-made man, evidently advanced in years, but who appeared to have retained all the vigor and elasticity resulting from a life of temperance and exercise. His dress was a blue coat buttoned to the chin, and buckskin breeches."[Footnote: Lodge, II, 277.] They righted the chaise, harnessed the horse, and revived the young woman who, true to her time and place, had fainted. Then she and her companion drove off towards Alexandria. Washington invited Bernard to come home with him and rest during the heat of the day. The actor consented. From what the actor subsequently wrote about that chance meeting I take the following paragraphs, some of which strike to the quick:
In conversation his face had not much variety of expression. A look of thoughtfulness was given by the compression of the mouth and the indentations of the brow (suggesting an habitual conflict with, and mastery over, passion), which did not seem so much to disdain a sympathy with trivialities as to be incapable of denoting them. Nor had his voice, so far as I could discover in our quiet talk, much change or richness of intonation, but he always spoke with earnestness, and his eyes (glorious conductors of the light within) burned with a steady fire which no one could mistake for mere affability; they were one grand expression of the well-known line: "I am a man, and interested in all that concerns humanity." In one hour and a half's conversation he touched on every topic that I brought before him with an even current of good sense, if he embellished it with little wit or verbal elegance. He spoke like a man who had felt as much as he had reflected, more than he had spoken; like one who had looked upon society rather in the mass than in detail, and who regarded the happiness of America but as the first link in a series of universal victories; for his full faith in the power of those results of civil liberty which he saw all around him led him to foresee that it would erelong, prevail in other countries and that the social millennium of Europe would usher in the political. When I mentioned to him the difference I perceived between the inhabitants of New England and of the Southern States, he remarked: "I esteem those people greatly, they are the stamina of the Union and its greatest benefactors. They are continually spreading themselves too, to settle and enlighten less favored quarters. Dr. Franklin is a New Englander." When I remarked that his observations were flattering to my country, he replied, with great good humor, "Yes, yes, Mr. Bernard, but I consider your country the cradle of free principles, not their armchair. Liberty in England is a sort of idol; people are bred up in the belief and love of it, but see little of its doings. They walk about freely, but then it is between high walls; and the error of its government was in supposing that after a portion of their subjects had crossed the sea to live upon a common, they would permit their friends at home to build up those walls about them."[Footnote: Lodge, II, 338, 339.]
We find among the allusions of several strangers who travelled in Virginia in Washington's later days, who saw him or perhaps even stayed at Mount Vernon, some which are not complimentary. More than one story implies that he was a hard taskmaster, not only with the negroes, but with the whites. Some of the writers go out of their way to pick up unpleasant things. For instance, during his absence from home a mason plastered some of the rooms, and when Washington returned he found the work had been badly done, and remonstrated. The mason died. His widow married another mason, who advertised that he would pay all claims against his forerunner. Thereupon Washington put in a claim for fifteen shillings, which was paid. Washington's detractors used this as a strong proof of his harshness. But they do not inform us whether the man was unable to pay, or whether the claim was dishonest. Since the man paid voluntarily and did not question the lightness of the amount, may we not at least infer that he had no quarrel? And if he had not, who else had?

Insinuations concerning Washington's lack of sympathy for his slaves was a form which in later days most of the references to his care of them took. But here also there are evident facts to be taken into account. The Abolitionists very naturally were prejudiced against every slave-owner; they were also prejudiced in favor of every slave. Washington, on the contrary, harbored no prepossessions for or against the black man. He found the slaves idle, incompetent, lazy, although he would not have denied that the very fact of slavery caused and increased these evils. He treated the negroes justly, but without any sentimentality. He found them in the order in which he lived. They were the workmen of his plantation; he provided them with food, clothing, and a lodging; in return they were expected to give him their labor. It does not appear that the slaves on Washington's plantation endured any special hardship. A physician attended them at their master's expense when they were sick. That he obliged them to do their specified work, that he punished them in case of dishonesty, just as he would have done to white workmen, were facts which he never would have thought a rational person would have regarded as heinous. In his will he freed his slaves, not for the Abolitionist's reason, but because he regarded slavery as the most pernicious form of labor, debasing alike the slave and his master, uneconomic and most wasteful.

But in so general a matter as Washington's treatment of his slaves, we must be careful not to take a solitary case and argue from it as if it were habitual. By common report his slaves were so well treated that they regretted it if there was talk of transferring them to other planters. We have many instances cited which show his unusual kindness. When he found, for instance, that a mulatto woman, who had lived many years with one of the negroes, had been transferred to another part of his domain and that the negro pined for her, he arranged to have her brought back so that they might pass their old age together. The old negro was his servant, Billy Lee, who suffered an accident to his knee, which made him a cripple for the rest of his life. This he spent at Mount Vernon well cared for. Washington continued to the end the old custom of supplying a hogshead of rum for the negroes to drink at harvest time, always premising that they must partake of it sparingly.

Washington's religious beliefs and practices have also occasioned much controversy. If we accept his own statements at their plain value, we must regard him as a Church of England man. I do not discover that he was in any sense an ardent believer. He preferred to say "Providence" rather than "God," probably because it was less definite. He attended divine service on Sundays, whenever a church was near, but for a considerable period at one part of his life he did not attend communion. He thoroughly believed in the good which came from church-going in the army and he always arranged to have a service on Sundays during his campaigns. When at Mount Vernon, on days when he did not go out to the service, he spent several hours alone in meditation in his study. The religious precepts which he had been taught in childhood remained strong in him through life. He believed moral truths, and belief with him meant putting in practice what he professed. While he had imbibed much of the deistic spirit of the middle of the eighteenth century it would be inaccurate to infer that he was not fundamentally a Christian.

After Washington withdrew to Mount Vernon, early in the spring of 1797, his time was chiefly devoted to agriculture and the renewing of his life as a planter. He declined all public undertakings except that which President Adams begged him to assume--the supreme command of the army in case of the expected war with France. That new duty undoubtedly was good for him, for it proved to him that at least all his official relations with the Government had not ceased, and it also served to cheer the people of the country to know that in case of military trouble their old commander would lead them once more. Washington gave so much attention to this work, which could be in the earlier stages arranged at Mount Vernon, that he felt justified in accepting part of the salary which the President allotted to him. But the war did not come. As Washington prophesied, the French thought better of their truculence. The new genius who was ruling France had in mind something more grandiose than a war with the American Republic.

On December 10, 1799, Washington sent a long letter to James Anderson in regard to agricultural plans for his farm during the year 1800. He calculates closely the probable profits, and specifies the rotation of crops on five hundred and twenty-five acres. The next day, December 12th, he wrote a short note to Alexander Hamilton, in regard to the organization of a National Military Academy, a matter in which the President had long been deeply interested. The day was stormy. "Morning snowing and about three inches drop. Wind at Northeast, and mercury at 30. Continued snowing till one o'clock, and about four it became perfectly clear. Wind in the same place, but not hard. Mercury 28 at night." Washington, who scorned to take any account of weather, rode for five hours during the morning to several of the farms on his plantations, examining the conditions at each and conferring with the overseers.

On reaching home he complained a little of chilliness. His secretary, Tobias Lear, observed that he feared he had got wet, but Washington protested that his greatcoat had kept him dry; in spite of which the observant Lear saw snow hanging to his hair and remarked that his neck was wet. Washington went in to dinner, which was waiting, without changing his dress, as he usually did. "In the evening he appeared as well as usual. The next day, Friday, there was a heavy fall of snow, but having a severe cold, he went out for only a little while to mark some trees, between the house and the river which were to be cut down. During the day his hoarseness increased, but he made light of it, and paid no heed to the suggestion that he should take something for it, only replying, as was his custom, that he would 'let it go as it came.'"

Mrs. Washington went upstairs to a room on the floor above to chat with Mrs. Lewis (Nelly Custis) who had recently been confined. Washington remained in the parlor with Lear, and when the evening mail was brought in from the post-office, they read the newspapers; Washington even reading aloud, as well as his sore throat would allow, anything "which he thought diverting or interesting." Then Lear read the debates of the Virginia Assembly on the election of a Senator and Governor. "On hearing Mr. Madison's observations respecting Mr. Monroe, he appeared much affected, and spoke with some degree of asperity on the subject, which I endeavored to moderate," says Lear, "as I always did on such occasions. On his returning to bed, he appeared to be in perfect health, excepting the cold before mentioned, which he considered as trifling, and had been remarkably cheerful all the evening."

At between two and three o'clock of Saturday morning, December 14th, Washington awoke Mrs. Washington and told her that he was very unwell and had had an ague. She observed that he could hardly speak and breathed with difficulty. She wished to get up to call a servant, but he, fearing she might take cold, dissuaded her. When daylight appeared, the woman Caroline came and lighted the fire. Mrs. Washington sent her to summon Mr. Lear, and Washington asked that Mr. Rawlins, one of the overseers, should be summoned before the Doctor could arrive. Lear got up at once, dressed hastily, and went to the General's bedside. Lear wrote a letter to Dr. Craik, Washington's longtime friend and physician, and sent it off post-haste by a servant. Mrs. Washington was up. They prepared a mixture of molasses, vinegar, and butter, but the patient could not swallow a drop; whenever he attempted it he appeared to be distressed, convulsed, and almost suffocated.

"Mr. Rawlins came in soon after sunrise and prepared to bleed him. When the arm was ready, the General, observing that Rawlins appeared to be agitated, said, as well as he could speak, 'Don't be afraid,' and after the incision was made, he observed, 'The orifice is not large enough,' However, the blood ran pretty freely. Mrs. Washington, not knowing whether bleeding was proper or not in the General's situation, begged that much might not be taken from him, lest it should be injurious, and desired me to stop it; but when I was about to untie the string, the General put up his hand to prevent it, and as soon as he could speak, he said, 'More.' Mrs. Washington being still very uneasy, lest too much blood should be taken, it was stopped after about half a pint was taken from him.

"Finding that no relief was obtained from bleeding, and that nothing would go down the throat, I proposed bathing the throat externally with salvolatile which was done; during the operation, which was with the hand, in the gentlest manner, he observed, ''Tis very sore.' A piece of flannel dipped in salvolatile was then put round his neck. His feet were also bathed in warm water. This, however, gave no relief. In the meantime, before Dr. Craik arrived, Mrs. Washington requested me to send for Dr. Brown, of Port Tobacco, whom Dr. Craik had recommended to be called, if any case should ever occur that was seriously alarming. I despatched a Messenger (Cyrus) to Dr. Brown immediately (between eight and nine o'clock). Dr. Craik came in soon after, and after examining the General, he put a blister of Cantharide on the throat and took some more blood from him, and had some Vinegar and hot water put into a Teapot for the General to draw in the steam from the nozel, which he did as well as he was able. He also ordered sage tea and Vinegar to be mixed for a Gargle. This the General used as often as desired; but when he held back his head to let it run down, it put him into great distress and almost produced suffocation. When the mixture came out of his mouth some phlegm followed it, and he would attempt to cough, which the Doctor encouraged him to do as much as he could; but without effect--he could only make the attempt.

"About eleven o'clock, Dr. Dick was sent for. Dr. Craik requested that Dr. Dick might be sent for, as he feared Dr. Brown would not come in time. A message was accordingly despatched for him. Dr. Craik bled the General again about this time. No effect, however, was produced by it, and he continued in the same state, unable to swallow anything. Dr. Dick came in about three o'clock, and Dr. Brown arrived soon after. Upon Dr. Dick's seeing the General, and consulting a few minutes with Dr. Craik, he was bled gain, the blood ran very slowly and did not produce any symptoms of fainting. Dr. Brown came Into the chamber room soon after, and upon feeling the General's pulse &c., the Physicians went out together. Dr. Craik soon after returned. The General could now swallow a little--about four o'clock Calomel and tartar emetic were administered; but without any effect. About half past four o'clock, he desired me to ask Mrs. Washington to come to his bedside--when he requested her to go down into his room and take from his desk two wills which she would find there, and bring them to him, which she did. Upon looking at them he gave her one, which he observed was useless, as it was superseded by the other, and desired her to burn it, which she did, and then took the other and put it away into her closet. After this was done, I returned again to his bedside and took his hand. He said to me, 'I find I am going, my breath cannot continue long; I believed from the first attack it would be fatal--do you arrange and record all my late military letters and papers--arrange my accounts and settle my books, as you know more about them than any one else, and let Mr. Rawlins finish recording my other letters.' He then asked if I recollected anything which it was essential for him to do, as he had but a very short time to continue with us. I told him that I could recollect nothing, but that I hoped he was not so near his end. He observed, smiling, that he certainly was, and that, as it was the debt which we all must pay, he looked to the event with perfect resignation.

"In the course of the afternoon he appeared to be in great pain and distress, from the difficulty of breathing, and frequently changed his posture in the bed. On these occasions I lay upon the bed and endeavored to raise him, and turn him with as much ease as possible. He appeared penetrated with gratitude for my attentions, and often said, 'I am afraid I shall fatigue you too much'; and upon my answering him, that I could feel nothing but a wish to give him ease, he replied, 'Well, it is a debt we must pay to each other, and I hope, when you want aid of this kind, you will find it.' He asked when Mr. Lewis and Washington[Footnote: George Washington Parke Custis.] would return. They were then in New Kent. I told him I believed about the 20th of the month. He made no reply.

"About five o'clock Dr. Craik came again into the room, and upon going to the bedside the General said to him: 'Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go. I believed, from my first attack, that I should not survive it. My breath cannot last long.' The Doctor pressed his hand, but could not utter a word. He retired from the bedside, and sat by the fire absorbed in grief. The physicians, Dr. Dick and Dr. Brown, again came in (between five and six o'clock), and when they came to his bedside, Dr. Craik asked him if he could sit up in the bed. He held out his hand to me and was raised up, when he said to the Physicians: 'I feel myself going. I thank you for your attention--you had better not take any more trouble about me; but let me go off quietly; I cannot last long,' They found out that all which had been done was of no effect. He lay down again, and all retired except Dr. Craik. He continued in the same position, uneasy and restless, but without complaining; frequently asking what hour it was. When I helped to move him at this, he did not speak, but looked at me with strong expressions of gratitude. The Doctor pressed his hand, but could not utter a word. He retired from the bedside, and sat by the fire absorbed in grief. About eight o'clock the Physicians came again into the Room and applied blisters, and cataplasms of wheat bran, to his legs and feet: but went out (except Dr. Craik) without a ray of hope. I went out about this time, and wrote a line to Mr. Low and Mr. Peter requesting them to come with their wives (Mrs. Washington's granddaughters) as soon as possible.

"From this time he appeared to breathe with less difficulty than he had done; but was very restless, constantly changing his position to endeavor to get ease. I aided him all in my power, and was gratified in believing he felt it: for he would look upon me with his eyes speaking gratitude; but unable to utter a word without great distress. About ten o'clock he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it. At length, he said: 'I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.' I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again, and said, 'Do you understand me?' I replied, 'Yes, sir.'

"''Tis well,' said he. About ten minutes before he expired his breathing became much easier; he lay quietly; he withdrew his hand from mine and felt his own pulse. I spoke to Dr. Craik who sat by the fire; he came to the bedside. The General's hand fell from his wrist. I took it in mine and laid it upon my breast. Dr. Craik put his hand on his eyes and he expired without a struggle or a Sigh! While we were fixed in silent grief, Mrs. Washington, who was sitting at the foot of the bed, asked, with a firm and collected voice, 'Is he gone?' I could not speak, but held up my hand as a signal that he was. ''Tis well,' said she in a plain voice. 'All is now over. I have no more trials to pass through. I shall soon follow him.'"[Footnote: Ford, XIV, 246-52. I have copied Tobias Lear's remarkable account of Washington's death almost verbatim.]

Once read, honest Tobias Lear's account of Washington's death will hardly be forgotten. It has a majestic simplicity which we feel must have accompanied Washington in his last hours. The homely sick-bed details; his grim fortitude; his willingness to do everything which the physicians recommended, not because he wanted to live, nor because he thought they would help him, but because he wished to obey. We see him there trying to force out the painful words from his constricted throat and when he was unable to whisper even a "thank you" for some service done, Lear read the unuttered gratitude in his eyes. The faithful Lear, lying on the outside of the bed in order to be able to help turn Washington with less pain, and poor old Dr. Craik, lifelong friend, who became too moved to speak, so that he sat off near the fire in silence except for a stifled sob, and Mrs. Washington, placed near the foot of the bed, waiting patiently in complete self-control. She seemed to have determined that the last look which her mate of forty years had of her should not portray helpless grief. And from time to time the negro slaves came to the door that led into the entry and they peered into the room very reverently, and with their emotions held in check, at their dying master. And then there was a ceasing of the pain and the breathing became easier and quieter and Dr. Craik placed his hand over the life-tired eyes and Washington was dead without a struggle or even a sigh.

The pathos or tragedy of it lies in the fact that all the devices and experiments of the doctors could avail nothing. The quinsy sore throat which killed him could not be cured by any means then known to medical art. The practice of bleeding, which by many persons was thought to have killed him, was then so widely used that his doctors would have been censured If they had omitted it. Sixty years later it was still in use, and no one can doubt that it deprived Italy's great statesman of his chance of living. The premonition of Washington on his first seizure with the quinsy that the end had come proved fatally true.

The news of Washington's death did not reach the capital until Wednesday, December 18th. The House immediately adjourned. On the following day, when it reassembled, John Marshall delivered a brief tribute and resolutions were passed to attend the funeral and to pay honor "to the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen," The immortal phrase was by Colonel Henry Lee, the father of General Robert E. Lee. President Adams, in response to a letter from the Senate of the United States, used the less happy phrase, "If a Trajan found a Pliny, a Marcus Aurelius can never want biographers, eulogists, or historians."

During the days immediately following Washington's death, preparations were made at Mount Vernon for the funeral. They sent to Alexandria for a coffin and Dr. Dick measured the body, which he found to be exactly six feet three and one half inches in length. The family vault was on the slope of the hill, a little to the south of the house. Mrs. Washington desired that a door should be made for the vault instead of having it closed up as formerly, after the body should be deposited, observing that "it will soon be necessary to open it again." Mourning clothes were prepared for the family and servants. The ceremony took place on Wednesday. There were many troops. Eleven pieces of artillery were brought down from Alexandria and a schooner belonging to Mr. R. Hamilton came down and lay off Mount Vernon to fire minute guns. The pall-holders were Colonels Little, Charles Sims, Payne, Gilpin, Ramsay, and Marsteller, and Colonel Blackburne walked before the corpse. Colonel Deneal marched with the military. About three o'clock the procession began to move. Colonels Little, Sims and Deneal and Dr. Dick directed the arrangements of the procession. This moved out through the gate at the left wing of the house and proceeded around in front of the lawn and down to the vault on the right wing of the house. The procession was as follows: The troops; horse and foot; music playing a solemn dirge with muffled drums; the clergy, viz.: the Reverends Mr. Davis, Mr. James Miner, and Mr. Moffatt, and Mr. Addison; the General's horse, with his saddle, holsters, and pistols, led by two grooms, Cyrus and Wilson, in black; the body borne by officers and Masons who insisted upon carrying it to the grave; the principal mourners, viz.: Mrs. Stuart and Mrs. Low, Misses Nancy and Sally Stuart, Miss Fairfax, and Miss Dennison, Mr. Low and Mr. Peter, Dr. Craik and T. Lear; Lord Fairfax and Ferdinando Fairfax; Lodge No. 23; Corporation of Alexandria. All other persons, preceded by Mr. Anderson, Mr. Rawlins, the Overseers, etc., etc.

The Reverend Mr. Davis read the service and made a short extempore speech. The Masons performed their ceremonies and the body was deposited in the vault. All then returned to the house and partook of some refreshment, and dispersed with the greatest good order and regularity. The remains of the provisions were distributed among the blacks. Mr. Peter, Dr. Craik, and Dr. Thornton tarried here all night.[Footnote: From notes by T. Lear, Ford, XIV, 254-55.]

The Committee appointed by Congress to plan a suitable memorial for Washington proposed a monument to be erected in the city of Washington, to be adorned with statuary symbolizing his career as General and as President, and containing a tomb for himself and for Mrs. Washington. The latter replied to President Adams that "taught by the great example which I have so long had before me, never to oppose my private wishes to the public will, I must consent to the request made by Congress, which you have had the goodness to transmit me, and in doing this, I need not say, I cannot say, what a sacrifice of individual feeling I make to a sense of public duty." The intended monument at the capital was never erected. Martha Washington lies beside her husband where she wished to be, in the family vault at Mount Vernon. From her chamber window in the upper story of the Mount Vernon house she could look across the field to the vault. She died in 1802, a woman of rare discretion and good sense who, during forty years, proved herself the worthiest companion of the founder of his country.

I have wished to write this biography of George Washington so that it would explain itself. There is no need of eulogy. All eulogy is superfluous. We see the young Virginia boy, born in aristocratic conditions, with but a meagre education, but trained by the sports and rural occupations of his home in perfect manliness, in courage, in self-reliance, in resourcefulness. Some one instilled into him moral precepts which fastened upon his young conscience and would not let him go. At twenty he was physically a young giant capable of enduring any hardship and of meeting any foe. He ran his surveyor's chain far into the wilderness to the west of Mount Vernon. When hardly a man in age, the State of Virginia knew of his qualities and made him an officer in its militia. At only twenty-three he was invited to accompany General Braddock's staff, but neither he nor angels from heaven could prevent Braddock from plunging with typical British bull-headedness into the fatal Indian ambush. He gave up border warfare, but did not cease to condemn the inadequacy of the Virginia military equipment and its training. He devoted himself to the pursuits of a large planter, and on being elected a Burgess, he attended regularly the sessions at Williamsburg. Wild conditions which in his boyhood had reached almost to Fauquier County, had drifted rapidly westward. Within less than ten years of Braddock's defeat, Fort Duquesne had become permanently English and the name of Pittsburgh reminded men of the great British statesman who had urged on the fateful British encroachment on the Ohio River. For Washington in person, the lasting effect of the early training and fighting in western Pennsylvania was that it gave him direct knowledge of the Indian and his ways, and that it turned his imagination to thinking out the problem of developing the Middle West, and of keeping the connections between the East and the West strong and open.

In the House of Burgesses Washington was a taciturn member, yet he seemed to have got a great deal of political knowledge and wisdom so that his colleagues thought of him as the solid man of the House and they referred many matters to him as if for final decision. He followed political affairs in the newspapers. Above all, at Mount Vernon he heard all sides from the guests who passed his domain and enjoyed his hospitality. From the moment that the irritation between Great Britain and the Colonies became bitter he seems to have made up his mind that the contention of the Colonists was just. After that he never wavered, but he was not a sudden or a shallow clamorer for Independence. He believed that the sober second sense of the British would lead them to perceive that they had made a mistake. When at length the Colonies had to provide themselves with an army and to undertake a war, he was the only candidate seriously considered for General, although John Hancock, who had made his peacock way so successfully in many walks of life, thought that he alone was worthy of the position. Who shall describe Washington's life as Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial forces during the Revolutionary War? What other commander ever had a task like his? For a few weeks the troops led by Napoleon--the barefooted and ragged heroes of Lodi and Arcola and Marengo--were equally destitute, but victory brought them food and clothes and prosperity. Whereas Washington's men had no comfort before victory and none after it.

Some of the military critics to-day deny Washington's right to be ranked among the great military commanders of the world, but the truth is that he commanded during nearly eight years and won one of the supreme crucial wars of history against far superior forces. The General who did that was no understrapper. The man whose courage diffused itself among the ten thousand starving soldiers at Valley Forge, and enabled them to endure against the starvation and distress of a winter, may very well fail to be classified among the Prince Ruperts and the Marshal Neys of battle, but he ranks first in a higher class. His Fabian policy, which troubled so many of his contemporaries, saved the American Revolution. His title as General is secure. Nor should we forget that it was his scrupulous patriotism which prevented the cropping out of militarism in this country.

Finally, a country which owed its existence to him chose him to be for eight years its first President. He saw the planting of the roots of the chief organs of its government. In every act he looked far forward into the future. He shunned making or following evil precedents. He endured the most virulent personal abuse that has ever been poured out on American public men, preferring that to using the power which his position gave him, and denaturing the President into a tyrant. Nor should we fail to honor him for his insistence on dignity and a proper respect for his office. His enemies sneered at him for that, but we see plainly how much it meant to this new Nation to have such qualities exemplified. Had Thomas Jefferson been our first President in his sans-culotte days, our Government might not have outlasted the sans-culottist enthusiasts in France. A man is known by his friends. The chosen friends of Washington were among the best of his time in America. Hamilton, Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene, John Jay, John Marshall--these were some.

Although Washington was less learned than many of the men of his time in political theory and history, he excelled them all in a concrete application of principles. He had the widest acquaintance among men of different sorts. He heard all opinions, but never sacrificed his own. As I have said earlier, he was the most actual statesman of his time; the people in Virginia came very early to regard him as a man apart; this was true of the later days when the Government sat in New York and Philadelphia. If they sought a reason, they usually agreed that Washington excelled by his character, and if you analyze most closely you will never get deeper than that. Reserved he was, and not a loose or glib talker, but he always showed his interest and gave close attention. After Yorktown, when the United States proclaimed to the world that they were an independent Republic, Europe recognized that this was indeed a Republic unlike all those which had preceded it during antiquity and the Middle Age. Foreigners doubted that it could exist. They doubted that Democracy could ever govern a nation. They knew despots, like the Prussian King, Frederic, who walked about the streets of Berlin and used his walking-stick on the cringing persons whom he passed on the sidewalk and did not like the looks of. They remembered the crazy Czar, Peter, and they knew about the insane tendencies of the British sovereign, George. The world argued from these and other examples that monarchy was safe; it could not doubt that the supply of monarchs would never give out; but it had no hope of a Republic governed by a President. It was George Washington more than any other agency who made the world change its mind and conclude that the best President was the best kind of monarch.

It is reported that after he died many persons who had been his neighbors and acquaintances confessed that they had always felt a peculiar sense of being with a higher sort of person in his presence: a being not superhuman, but far above common men. That feeling will revive in the heart of any one to-day who reads wisely in the fourteen volumes of "Washington's Correspondence," in which, as in a mine, are buried the passions and emotions from which sprang the American Revolution and the American Constitution. That George Washington lived and achieved is the justification and hope of the United States.


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