Imatges de pÓgina

most perfect kind. It may be said, indeed, that he knew no fear. "What I admire in Christopher Columbus," says Turgot, "is, not his having discovered the new world, but his having gone to search for it on the faith of an opinion." Washington acted on the "faith of an opinion." Whatever he believed to be for the good of the state; for the advancement of the condition of his fellows; in short, whatever he conceived to be right, he pursued without regard to personal consequences. He had, besides, a hardy, athletic frame, an iron constitution, and a mind well adapted to the details of camp movements. If he could not, like Napoleon, remember the exact position of each company, each battalion, each gun, his papers were kept with that precision, and his business conducted with that order, which gave him an advantage almost as commanding. He, also, often displayed the highest qualities of a great military captain. There are few achievements in the annals of military warfare more brilliant than the passage of the Delaware, and the surprise of the enemy at Trenton, or the attack at Princeton a few hours afterward. They were both conceived in the highest spirit of military enterprise, exhibiting a mind of no ordinary capacity, and rendered doubly brilliant both by the depressing circumstances of the republican army and the happy influence which they exercised on the fortunes of America. His closing victory at Yorktown was in the more ordinary routine of military operations, but was a glorious termination to his warlike career.

We are not quite sure that we have done our great countryman justice in this comparison. It certainly should not be forgotten that he was at the head of a small, ill-provided army, operating over an immense space, and that his highest ambition was not to distinguish himself as a warrior. It is not, therefore, possible to pronounce with certainty what he might have been under other circumstances. From the time that he accepted the post of commander-in-chief he had in view one great object, the emancipation of his country; and from the first he felt that the stake was of too much importance to be put in jeopardy by any great attention to his own reputation. The leading principle of his revolutionary career was success-the success of his country, not of himself. In planning his battles he was, therefore, always particular not to risk the state-not to put himself in a position which might enable the enemy, by one bold and fortunate stroke, to put an end to American liberty. He acted, therefore, under a constant restraint, a restraint salutary to his country, but, doubtless, prejudicial to himself. "I know," he says, in a letter to Joseph Reed, "the unhappy predicament I stand in: I know that much is expected

of me: I know that without men, without arms, without ammunition, without any thing fit for the accommodation of a soldier, little is to be done and, what is mortifying, I know that I cannot stand justified to the world without exposing my own weakness and injuring the cause, which I am determined not to do." "My own situation is so irksome to me at times that, if I did not consult the public good more than my own tranquility, I should, long ere this, have put every thing on the cast of a die."

There is an incident, resting on the authority of Colonel Pickering, and connected with what is commonly called Conway's cabal, which finely illustrates this self-sacrificing principle in the character of Washington. From the close of the disastrous campaign of 1776 there were in various circles whispers unfavorable to the military reputation of the commander-in-chief, which, after the battle of Germantown, began to assume a more open front. It afterward appeared that they were circulated by the agency of General Conway and a few others, with the apparent object of destroying Washington, and of elevating General Gates on the ruins of his reputation and fortunes. It is said that he was already aware of these designs, although he took no pains to counteract them. While his enemies were thus plotting his destruction, and laying their plans to secure the elevation of Gates, who might now be regarded, in some sense, as his rival, rumors floated from the north that the whole of Burgoyne's army had surrendered themselves prisoners of war. Should this prove true it might naturally be supposed that the friends of the victorious general would push their schemes to a successful issue, and that the star of Washington, dimmed by the transcendent lustre of his rival, might sink to rise no more. For some time this vague report was unconfirmed, but at length a horseman, covered with dust and mud, rode up to Washington's quarters. Colonel Pickering was with him at the time, and was sent out to receive the dispatches. The commanderin-chief hastily broke the seal of the package and glanced over the contents. It was the official announcement of the first great victory won by the arms of the young republic over its powerful foe. Burgoyne had indeed fallen. As Washington continued to read his hand trembled-the color forsook his cheek-the paper fell to the floor-his lips moved-the silent tear found its way down his care-worn cheek, and, with his hands clasped, and his eyes raised to heaven, he remained for some time in an attitude of thanksgiving for so mighty a deliverance. "I then saw," said Colonel Pickering, "how much superior, in the mind of this great man, was the love of his country to all selfish feelings."

The independence of America having been at length achieved, Washington retired to his estate at Mount Vernon loaded with honors, and carrying with him the affections of a grateful people. He had left his favorite residence early in the year 1775 to attend the meeting of the second congress at Philadelphia, since which time he had visited it casually but once on his way to Yorktown in 1781; and yet it was the home of his delight-the scene for which his heart ardently panted in the midst of his cares, and toward which he anxiously looked as the place at which he was to repose his weary frame after his long and toilsome journey. At length, however, he found his long-coveted retirement. "The scene," he writes, "is at last closed. I feel myself eased of a load of public care, and hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men and in the practice of the domestic virtues." In a letter to Lafayette he recurs to the subject in still more touching language: "On the twenty-third of December," he says, "I presented congress my commission, and having made them my last bow, entered these doors on the eve of Christmas an older man by near nine years than when I left them." "I have not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary walk and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move gently down the stream of life until I sleep with my fathers."

The affection between this excellent young nobleman and the grave and thoughtful Washington is a subject on which we always delight to dwell. The youth, fired with a lofty enthusiasm in the cause of America, had forsaken his princely estate, the wife of his bosom, the exalted station to which he was born, and in the gloomiest period of the war, when our army was supposed to be flying before a triumphant foe, and our government had not even the scanty means to provide him with a passage across the ocean, fitted out a vessel at his own expense, and, before he had reached his twentieth year, offered himself as a volunteer in the American army, and, having been invested by congress with the commission of a major-general, was quartered in the family of the commanderin-chief. Washington soon contracted for him an ardent and sincere attachment, to which the bosom of the young nobleman responded with filial tenderness. The gay and chivalrous Frenchman was always singularly agreeable to the grave and care-worn general, and their intimacy ripened into a steady affection, which was sundered only by death. It is a pleasing incident of the

revolution to which the genius of Edward Everett has paid a just and beautiful tribute, that "by the side of Washington, from his broad plantations; of Greene, from his forge; of Stark, from his almost pathless forests and granite hills; of Putnam, from his humble farm," there should be a place at the war-council for a young nobleman from the gay court of Versailles. But strange as was the compound, it was cemented by the cause, and republican America cherishes the name of her Lafayette, and places it in the galaxy of her noblest sons by the side of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jay, Henry, Mason, Greene, Knox, Morris, Pinckney, Clinton, and Rutledge.

Toward the end of 1784 Lafayette, having returned to America at the pressing instance of Washington and his revolutionary companions, visited Mount Vernon and renewed his personal intercourse with his paternal friend. The meeting was one of great tenderness, and the separation seems to have made a deep impression on the mind of Washington, who accompanied his young friend on his way as far as Annapolis, when they parted to meet no more in this world. On reaching his home, Washington wrote to him in a manner which showed the strength of those ties by which the two warriors were bound together. "In the moment of our separation," he says, "upon the road as I traveled, and every hour since, I have felt all that love, respect, and attachment for you, with which length of years, close connection, and your great merits. have inspired me. I often asked myself, as our carriages separated, whether that was the last sight I should ever have of you: and though I wished to say no, my fears answered yes. I called to mind the days of my youth and found they had long since fled to return no more; that I was now descending the hill which I had been fifty-two years in climbing; and that, though I was blessed with a good constitution, I was of a short-lived family, and might soon expect to be entombed in the mansion of my fathers. These thoughts darkened the shades, gave a gloom to the picture, and clouded the prospect of seeing you again. But I will not repine; I have had my day."

This is not only the language of affection, but also of retirement; of one whose heart, divested of public cares, delights to revive the images of the past and dwell on its cherished friendships. Washington sincerely loved his quiet and elegant retreat, as well as the pursuits of a country life. "The life of a husbandman," he says, "of all others, is the most delightful. It is honorable, it is amusing, and, with judicious management, it is profitable." But the shades of Mount Vernon were rendered still more dear to him VOL. II.-4

since the close of his arduous public duties, both because they afforded him the repose toward which he had so long looked with a wishful eye, and because the attraction of his great name filled the noble halls of his country mansion with the great, the wise, and the good; the sharers of his renown; the companions of his toil.

But the revolution was, as yet, but half accomplished. The glaring defects of the confederation, which had been sufficiently embarrassing during our protracted struggle with Great Britain, now that the strong motive for union, presented by the common danger, was removed, became still more obvious, and the country, from one extreme to the other, was greatly suffering for the want of a more efficient form of government. Washington, although devoted to his retirement, was not so occupied by his farms as to lose sight of his country. He had long been sensible of the great defects in the articles of confederation, and had, from his retreat, watched, with the eye of a father, the workings of that system which was to govern this great family of republics; and he saw, with the deepest concern, that a remedy must soon be provided or the blood of the revolution had been spilled in vain. His letters disclose the ardent feelings of his patriotic heart, and breathe forth his sorrow and mortification at so unwelcome a discovery. "It was but the other day," he writes, "that we were shedding our blood to obtain the constitutions under which we live, and now we are unsheathing the sword to overturn them." In another letter he observes, "I think often of our situation and view it with concern." And again, "From the high ground we stood upon, to be so fallen, so lost, is really mortifying." In a letter to Mr. Jay he advocates a more liberal grant of powers to congress, and adds: “Requisitions are now little better than a jest and a by-word throughout the land. If you tell the legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy, they will laugh you in the face. What, then, is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same train for ever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people, being disgusted with these circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme to another. To anticipate, and prevent disastrous contingences, would be the part of wisdom and patriotism. What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking; thence to acting is often but a single step. What a triumph for our enemies to verify their pre

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