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actually at our gates, and everybody was in a
paroxysm of perfectly natural gratitude. To the
colonial mind, steeped in colonial habits of thought,
the foreigner at this particular juncture appeared
more than ever to be a splendid and superior be-
ing. But he did not in the least confuse or sway
the cool judgment that guided the destinies of the
Revolution. Let us consider well the pregnant
sentences just quoted, and the letters from which
they are taken. They deserve it, for they throw a
strong light on a side of Washington's mind and
character too little appreciated. One hears it said
not infrequently, it has been argued even in print
with some solemnity, that Washington was, no
doubt, a great man and rightly a national hero, but
that he was not an American. It will be necessary
to recur to this charge again and consider it at
some length. It is sufficient at this point to see
how it tallies with his conduct in a single matter,
which was a very perfect test of the national and
American quality of the man. We can get at the
truth by contrasting him with his own contempo-
raries, the only fair comparison, for he was a man
and an American of his own time and not of the
present day, which is a point his critics overlook.

Where he differed from the men of his own time



244 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

was in the fact that he rose to a breadth and height
of Americanism and of national feeling which no
other man of that day touched at all. Nothing
is more intense than the conservatism of mental
habits, and although it requires now an effort to
realize it, it should not be forgotten that in every
habit of thought the inhabitants of the thirteen
colonies were wholly colonial. If this is properly
appreciated we can understand the mental breadth
and vigor which enabled Washington to shake off
at once all past habits and become an independent
leader of an independent people. He felt to the
very core of his being the need of national self-
respect and national dignity. To him, as the chief
of the armies and the head of the Revolution, all
men, no matter what tongue they spake or what
country they came from, were to be dealt with on
a footing of simple equality, and treated according
to their merits. There was to him no glamour in
the fact that this man was a Frenchman and that
an Englishman. His own personal pride extended
to his people, and he bowed to no national supe-
riority anywhere. Hamilton was national through-
out, but he was born outside the thirteen colonies,
and knew his fellow-citizens only as Americans.
Franklin was national by the force of his own
commanding genius. John Adams grew to the
same conception, so far as our relations to other
nations were concerned. But beyond these three
we may look far and closely before we find another
among all the really great men of the time who



THE ALLIES. 245

freed himself wholly from the superstition of the
colonist about the nations of Europe.

When Washington drew his sword beneath the
Cambridge elm he stood forth as the first Amer-
ican, the best type of man that the New World
could produce, with no provincial taint upon him,
and no shadow of the colonial past clouding his
path. It was this great quality that gave the strug-
gle which he led a character it would never have
attained without a leader so constituted. Had he
been merely a colonial Englishman, had he not
risen at once to the conception of an American
nation, the world would have looked at us with
very different eyes. It was the splendid dignity
of the man, quite as much as his fighting capacity,
which impressed Europe. Kings and ministers,
looking on dispassionately, soon realized that here
was a really considerable man, no ordinary agita-
tor or revolutionist, but a great man on a great
stage with great conceptions. England, indeed,
talked about a militia colonel, but this chatter dis-
appeared in the smoke of Trenton, and even Eng-
land came to look upon him as the all-powerfid
spirit of the Revolution. Dull men and colonial
squires do not grasp a great idea and carry it into
action on the world's stage in a few months. To
stand forward at the head of raw armies and of a
colonial people as a national leader, calm, dignified,
and far-seeing, requires not only character, but in-
tellect of the highest and strongest kind. Now
that we have come as a people, after more than a



246 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

century's struggle, to the national feeling which
Washington compassed in a moment, it is well to
consider that single achievement and to meditate
on its meaning, whether in estimating him, or in
gauging what he was to the American people when
they came into existence.

Let us take another instance of the same quality,
shown also in the winter of 1778. Congress had
from the beginning a longing to conquer Canada,
which was a wholly natural and entirely lauda-
ble desire, for conquest is always more interesting
than defence. Washington, on the other hand,
after the first complete failure, which was so nearly
a success in the then undefended and unsuspicious
country, gave up pretty thoroughly all ideas of
attacking Canada again, and opposed the various
plans of Congress in that direction. When he had
a lif e-and-death struggle to get together and subsist
enough men to protect their own firesides, he had
ample reason to know that invasions of Canada
were hopeless. Indeed, not much active opposi-
tion from the commander-in-chief was needed to
dispose of the Canadian schemes, for facts settled
them as fast as they arose. When the cabal got
up its Canadian expedition, it consisted of La-
fayette, and penetrated no farther than Albany.
So Washington merely kept his eye watchfully on
Canada, and argued against expeditions thither,
until this winter of 1778, when something quite
new in that direction came up.

Lafayette's imagination had been fired by the



THE ALLIES. 247

notion of conquering Canada. His idea was to
get succors from France for this especial purpose,
and with them and American aid to achieve the
conquest. Congress was impressed and pleased by
the scheme, and sent a report upon it to Frank-
lin, to communicate to the French court, but Wash-
ington, when he heard of the plan, took a very
different view. He sent at once a long despatch
to Congress, urging every possible objection to
the proposed campaign, on the ground of its ut-
ter impracticability, and with this official letter,
which was necessarily confined to the military side
of the question, went another addressed to Presi-
dent Laurens personally, which contained the
deeper reasons of his opposition. He said that
there was an objection not touched upon in his
public letter, which was absolutely insurmountable.
This was the introduction of French troops into
Canada to take possession of the capital, in the
midst of a people of their own race and religion,
and but recently severed from them.

He pointed out the enormous advantages which
would accrue to France from the possession of
Canada, such as independent posts, control of the
Indians, and the Newfoundland trade. " France,
. . . possessed of New Orleans on our right,
Canada on our left, and seconded by the numer-
ous tribes of Indians in our rear, . . . would, it
is much to be apprehended, have it in her power
to give law to these States." He went on to
show that France might easily find an excuse for



248 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

such conduct, in seeking a surety for her advances
of money, and that she had but little to fear
from the contingency of our being driven to re-
unite with England. He continued : " Men are
very apt to run into extremes. Hatred to Eng-
land may carry some into an excess of confi-
dence in France, especially when motives of grati-
tude are thrown into the scale. Men of this de-
scription would be unwilling to suppose France
capable of acting so ungenerous a part. I am
heartily disj)osed to entertain the most favorable
sentiments of our new ally, and to cherish them in
others to a reasonable degree. But it is a maxim,
founded on the universal experience of mankind,
that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is
bound by its own interest ; and no prudent states-
man or politician will venture to depart from it.
In our circumstances we ought to be particularly
cautious ; for we have not yet attained sufficient
vigor and maturity to recover from the shock of
any false steps into which we may unwarily fall."
We shall have occasion to recall these utterances
at a later day, but at this time they serve to show
yet again how broadly and clearly Washington
judged nations and policies. Uppermost in his
mind was the destiny of his own nation, just com-
ing into being, and from that firm point he watched
and reasoned. His words had no effect on Con-
gress, but as it turned out, the plan failed through
adverse influences in the quarter where Washing-
ton least expected them. He believed that this



THE ALLIES. 249

Canadian plan had been put into Lafayette's mind
by the cabinet of Louis XVI., and he could not im-
agine that a policy of such obvious wisdom could
be overlooked by French statesmen. In this he
was completely mistaken, for France failed to see
what seemed so simple to the American general,
that the opportunity had come to revive her old
American policy and reestablish her colonies under
the most favorable conditions. The ministers of
Louis XVI., moreover, did not wish the colonies
to conquer Canada, and the plan of Lafayette
and the Congress received no aid in Paris and
came to nothing. But the fruitless incident exhib-
its in the strongest light the attitude of Washing-
ton as a purely American statesman, and the com-
prehensiveness of his mind in dealing with large
affairs.

The French alliance and the coming of the
French fleet were of incalculable advantage to the
colonies, but they had one evil effect, as has already
been suggested. To a people weary with unequal
conflict, it was a debilitating influence, and America
needed at that moment more than ever energy and
vigor, both in the council and the field. Yet the
general outlook was distinctly better and more en-
couraging. Soon after Washington had defeated
Clinton at Monmouth, and had taken a position
whence he could watch and check him, he wrote to
his friend General Nelson in Virginia : —

'' It is not a little pleasing, nbr less wonderful to
contemplate, that, after two years' manoeuvring and



260 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

undergoing the strangest vicissitudes that perhaps
ever attended any one contest since the creation,
both armies are brought back to the very point
they set out from, and that the offending party at
the beginning is now reduced to the spade and
pickaxe for defence. The hand of Providence has
been so conspicuous in all this that he must be
worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more
than wicked that has not gratitude enough to ac-
knowledge his obligations. But it will be time
enough for me to turn preacher when my present
appointment ceases."

He had reason to congratulate himself on the
result of his two years' campaigning, but as the
summer wore away and winter came on he found
causes for fresh and deep alarm, despite the good
outlook in the field. The demoralizing effects of
civil war were beginning to show themselves in
various directions. The character of Congress, in
point of ability, had declined alarmingly, for the
able men of the first Congress, with few exceptions,
had departed. Some had gone to the army, some
to the diplomatic service, and many had remained
at home, preferring the honors and offices of the
States to those of the Confederation. Their suc-
cessors, patriotic and well-meaning though they
were, lacked the energy and force of those who
had started the Revolution, and, as a consequence.
Congress had become feeble and ineffective, easily
swayed by influential schemers, and unable to cope
with the difficulties which surrounded them.



THE ALLIES. 251

Outside the government the popular tone had
deteriorated sadly. The lavish issues of irredeem-
able paper by the Confederation and the States had
brought their finances to the verge of absolute ruin.
The continental currency had fallen to something
like forty to one in gold, and the decline was hast-
ened by the forged notes put out by the enemy.
The fluctuations of this paper soon bred a spirit
of gambling, and hence came a class of men, both
inside and outside of politics, who sought, more or
less corruptly, to make fortunes by army contracts,
and by forestalling the markets. These develop-
ments filled Washington with anxiety, for in the
financial troubles he saw ruin to the army. The
unpaid troops bore the injustice done them with
wonderful patience, but it was something that could
not last, and Washington knew the danger. In
vain did he remonstrate. It seemed to be impos-
sible to get anything done, and at last, in the
following spring, the outbreak began. Two New
Jersey regiments refused to march until the as-
sembly made provision for their pay. Washington
took high ground with them, but they stood re-
spectfully firm, and finally had their way. Not
long after came another outbreak in the Connecti-
cut line, with similar results. These object lessons
had some result, and by foreign loans and the
ability of Robert Morris the country was enabled
to stumble along ; but it was a frightful and wear-
ing anxiety to the commander-in-chief.

Washington saw at once that the root of the evil



252 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

lay in the feebleness of Congress, and althougli he
could not deal with the finances, he was able to
strive for an imiDrovement in the governing body.
Not content with letters, he left the army and went
to Philadelphia, in the winter of 1779, and there
appealed to Congress in person, setting forth the
perils which beset them, and urging action. He
wrote also to his friends everywhere, pointing out
the deficiencies of Congress, and begging them to
send better and stronger men. To Benjamin Har-
rison he wrote : "It appears to me as clear as ever
the sun did in its meridian brightness, that America
never stood in more eminent need of the wise,
patriotic, and spirited exertions of her sons than
at this period ; . . . the States separately are too
much engaged in their local concerns, and have too
many of their ablest men withdrawn from the gen-
eral council, for the good of the common weal."
He took the same high tone in all his letters, and
there can be seen through it all the desperate en-
deavor to make the States and the people under-
stand the dangers which he realized, but which they
either could not or would not appreciate.

On the other hand, while his anxiety was sharp-
ened to the highest point by the character of Con-
gress, his sternest wrath was kindled by the gam-
bling and money-making which had become rampant.
To Reed he wrote in December, 1778 : " It gives
me sincere pleasure to find that there is likely to be
a coalition of the Whigs in your State, a few only
excepted, and that the assembly is so well disposed



THE ALLIES. 253

to second your endeavors in bringing those murder-
ers of our cause, the monopolizers, forestallers, and
engrossers, to condign punishment. It is much to
be lamented that each State, long ere this, has not
hunted them down as pests to society and the
greatest enemies we have to the happiness of Amer-
ica. I would to God that some one of the most
atrocious in each State was hung in gibbets upon
a gallows five times as high as the one prepared
by Haman. No punishment, in my opinion, is too
great for the man who can build his greatness upon
his country's ruin." He would have hanged them
too had he had the power, for he was always as
good as his word.

It is refreshing to read these righteously angry
words, still ringing as sharply as when they were
written. They clear away aU the myths — the
priggish, the cold, the statuesque, the dull myths
— as the strong gusts of the northwest wind in
autumn sweep off the heavy mists of lingering Au-
gust. They are the hot words of a warm-blooded
man, a good hater, who loathed meanness and
treachery, and who would have hanged those who
battened upon the country's distress. When he
went to Philadelphia, a few weeks later, and saw
the state of things with nearer view, he felt the
wretchedness and outrage of such doings more
than ever. He wrote to Harrison : " If I were to
be called upon to draw a picture of the times and
of men, from what I have seen, heard, and in part
know, I should in one word say, that idleness, dis-



254 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

sipation, and extravagance seem to have laid fast
hold of most of them ; that speculation, peculation,
and an insatiable thirst for riches seem to have
got the better of every other consideration, and al-
most of every order of men ; that party disputes
and personal quarrels are the great business of the
day ; whilst the momentous concerns of an empire,
a great and accumulating debt, ruined finances, de-
preciated money, and want of credit, which, in its
consequences, is the want of everything, are but
secondary considerations, and postponed from day
to day, from week to week, as if our affairs wore
the most promising aspect."

Other men talked about empire, but he alone
grasped the great conception, and felt it in his
soul. To see not only immediate success imper-
illed, but the future paltered with by small, mean,
and dishonest men, cut him to the quick. He set
himself doggedly to fight it, as he always fought
every enemy, using both speech and pen in all quar-
ters. - Much, no doubt, he ultimately effected, but
he was contending with the usual results of civil
war, which are demoralizing always, and especially
so among a young people in a new country. At
first, therefore, all seemed vain. The selfishness,
" peculation, and speculation" seemed to get worse,
and the tone of Congress and the people lower, as
he struggled against them. In March, 1779, he
wrote to James Warren of Massachusetts : " Noth-
ing, I am convinced, but the depreciation of our
currency, aided by stock-jobbing and party dissen-



THE ALLIES. 255

sions, has fed the hopes of the enemy, and kept the
British arms in America to this day. They do not
scruple to declare this themselves, and add that we
shall be our own conquerors. Can not our com-
mon country, America, possess virtue enough to
disappoint them ? Is the paltry consideration of a
little pelf to individuals to be placed in competi-
tion with the essential rights and liberties of the
present generation, and of millions yet unborn ?
Shall a few designing men, for their own aggran-
dizement, and to gratify their own avarice, overset
the goodly fabric we have been rearing, at the ex-
pense of so much time, blood, and treasure ? And
shall we at last become the victims of our own lust
of gain ? Forbid it. Heaven ! Forbid it, all and
every State in the Union, by enacting and enforc-
ing efficacious laws for checking the growth of
these monstrous evils, and restoring matters, in
some degree, to the state they were in at the com-
mencement of the war."

" Our cause is noble. It is the cause of man-
kind, and the danger to it is to be apprehended
from ourselves. Shall we slumber and sleep, then,
while we should be punishing those miscreants
who have brought these troubles upon us, and who
are aiming to continue us in them ; while we should
be striving to fill our battalions, and devising ways
and means to raise the value of the currency, on
the credit of which everything depends ? " Again
we see the prevailing idea olE the future, which
haunted him continual^. Evidently, he had some



256 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

imagination, and also a power of terse and elo-
quent expression which we have heard of before,
and shall note again.

Still the appeals seemed to sound in deaf ears.
He wrote to George Mason : " I have seen, without
despondency, even for a moment, the hours which
America has styled her gloomy ones ; but I have
beheld no day since the commencement of hostili-
ties that I have thought her liberties in such im-
minent danger as at present. . . . Indeed, we are
verging so fast to destruction that I am filled
with sensations to which I have been a stranger
till within these three months." To Gouverneur
Morris he said ; " If the enemy have it in their
power to press us hard this campaign, I know not
what may be the consequence." He had faced the
enemy, the bleak winters, raw soldiers, and all the
difficulties of impecunious government, with a
cheerful courage that never failed. But the spec-
tacle of widespread popular demoralization, of self-
ish scrambles for plunder, and of feeble adminis-
tration at the centre of government weighed upon
him heavily. It was not the general's business to
build up Congress and grapple with finance, but
Washington addressed himself to the new task with
his usual persistent courage. It was slow and
painful work. He seemed to make no progress,
and then it was that his spirits sank at the prospect
of ruin and defeat, not coming on the field of battle,
but from our own vices and our own lack of energy
and wisdom. Yet his work told in the end, as it



THE ALLIES. 257

always did. His vast and steadily growing influ-
ence made itself felt even through the dense trou-
bles of the uneasy times. Congress turned with
energy to Europe for fresh loans. Lafayette worked
away to get an army sent over. The two Morrises,
stimulated by Washington, flung themselves into
the financial difficulties, and feeble but distinct ef-
forts toward a more concentrated and better org-an-
ized administration of public affairs were made
both in the States and the confederation.

But, although Washington's spirits fell, and his
anxieties became wellnigh intolerable in this period
of reaction which followed the French alliance,
he made no public show of it, but carried on his
own work with the army and in the field as usual,
contending with all the difficulties, new and old,
as calmly and efficiently as ever. After Clinton
slipped away from Monmouth and sought refuge
in New York, Washington took post at convenient
points and watched the movements of the enemy.
In this way the summer passed. As always, Wash-
ington's first object was to guard the Hudson, and
while he held this vital point firmly, he waited,
ready to strike elsewhere if necessary. It looked
for a time as if the British intended to descend on
Boston, seize the town, and destroy the French fleet,
which had gone there to refit. Such was the opin-
ion of Gates, then commanding in that department,
and as Washington inclined to the same belief, the
fear of this event gave him many anxious moments.
He even moved his troops so as to be in readiness



258 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

to march eastward at short notice ; but he gradu-
ally became convinced that the enemy had no such
plan. Much of his thought, now and always, was
given to efforts to divine the intentions of the Brit-
ish generals. They had so few settled ideas, and
were so tardy and lingering when they had plans,
that it is small wonder that their opponents were
sorely puzzled in trying to find out what their pur-
poses were, when they really had none. The fact
was that Washington saw their military opportu-
nities with the eye of a great soldier, and so much
better than they, that he suffered a good deal of
needless anxiety in devising methods to meet at-
tacks which they had not the wit to undertake.
He had a profound contempt for their policy of
holding towns, and believing that they must see the
utter futility of it, after several years of trial, he
constantly exj^ected from them a well-planned and
extensive campaign, which in reality they were in-
capable of devising.

The main army, therefore, remained quiet, and
when the autumn had passed went into winter-
quarters in well-posted detachments about New
York. In December Clinton made an ineffectual
raid, and then all was peaceful again, and Wash-
ington was able to go to Philadelphia and struggle
with Congress, leaving his army more comfortable
and secure than they had been in any previous
winter.

In January he informed Congress as to the next
campaign. He showed them the impossibility of



THE ALLIES. 259

undertaking anything on a large scale, and an-
nounced his intention of remaining on the defen-
sive. It was a trying policy to a man of his tem-
per, but he could do no better, and he knew, now
as always, what others could not yet see, that by
simply holding on and keeping his army in the
field he was slowly but surely winning independ-


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