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The True George Washington [10th Ed.] by Paul Leicester Ford

Part 4 out of 5

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be assured of the sincere and affectionate regard of yours, &c." and
signed other letters "always and affectionately yours," or "very
affectionately," while Hamilton reciprocated by sending "affectionate

On being appointed lieutenant-general in 1798, Washington at once sought
the aid of Hamilton for the highest position under him, assuring the
Secretary of War that "of the abilities and fitness of the gentleman you
have named for a high command in the _provisional army_, I think as you
do, and that his services ought to be secured at almost any price." To
this the President, who hated Hamilton, objected, but Washington refused
to take the command unless this wish was granted, and Adams had to give
way. They stood in this relation when Washington died, and almost the last
letter he penned was to this friend. On learning of the death, Hamilton
wrote of "our beloved Commander-in-chief,"--

"The very painful event ... filled my heart with bitterness. Perhaps no
man in this community has equal cause with myself to deplore the loss. I
have been much indebted to the kindness of the General, and he was an
_AEgis very essential to me_. But regrets are unavailing. For great
misfortunes it is the business of reason to seek consolation. The friends
of General Washington have very noble ones. If virtue can secure happiness
in another world, he is happy."

Knox was the earliest army friend of those who rose to the rank of
general, and was honored by Washington with absolute trust. After the war
the two corresponded, and Knox expressed "unalterable affection" for the
"thousand evidences of your friendship." He was appointed Secretary of War
in the first administration, and in taking command of the provisional army
Washington secured his appointment as a major-general, and at this time
asserted that, "with respect to General Knox I can say with truth there is
no man in the United States with whom I have been in habits of greater
intimacy, no one whom I have loved more sincerely nor any for whom I have
had a greater friendship."

Greene was perhaps the closest to Washington of all the generals, and
their relations might be dwelt upon at much length. But the best evidence
of friendship is in Washington's treatment of a story involving his
financial honesty, of which he said, "persuaded as I always have been of
Genl Greene's integrity and worth, I spurned those reports which tended to
calumniate his conduct ... being perfectly convinced that whenever the
matter should be investigated, his motives ... would appear pure and
unimpeachable." When on Greene's death Washington heard that his family
was left in embarrassed circumstances, he offered, if Mrs. Greene would
"entrust my namesake G. Washington Greene to my care, I will give him as
good an education as this country (I mean the United States) will afford,
and will bring him up to either of the genteel professions that his frds.
may chuse, or his own inclination shall lead him to pursue, at my own cost
& expence."

For "Light-horse Harry" Lee an affection more like that given to the
youngsters of the staff was felt Long after the war was over, Lee began a
letter to him "Dear General," and then continued,--

"Although the exalted station, which your love of us and our love of you
has placed you in, calls for change in mode of address, yet I cannot so
quickly relinquish the old manner. Your military rank holds its place in
my mind, notwithstanding your civic glory; and, whenever I do abandon the
title which used to distinguish you, I shall do it with awkwardness.... My
reluctance to trespass a moment on your time would have operated to a
further procrastination of my wishes, had I not been roused above every
feeling of ceremony by the heart rending intelligence, received yesterday,
that your life was despaired of. Had I had wings in the moment, I should
have wafted myself to your bedside, only again to see the first of men;
but alas! despairing as I was, from the account received, after the
affliction of one day and night, I was made most happy by receiving a
letter, now before me from New York, announcing the restoration of your
health. May heaven preserve it!"

It was Lee who first warned Washington that Jefferson was slandering him
in secret, and who kept him closely informed as to the political manuvres
in Virginia. Washington intrusted to him the command of the army in the
Whiskey Insurrection, and gave him an appointment in the provisional army.
Lee was in Congress when the death of the great American was announced to
that body, and it was he who coined the famous "First in war, first in
peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

As need hardly be said, however, the strongest affection among the general
officers was that between Washington and Lafayette. In the advent of this
young Frenchman the commander saw only "embarassment," but he received
"the young volunteer," so Lafayette said, "in the most friendly manner,"
invited him to reside in his house as a member of his military family, and
as soon as he came to know him he recommended Congress to give him a
command. As Lafayette became popular with the army, an endeavor was
made by the Cabal to win him to their faction by bribing him with an
appointment to lead an expedition against Canada, independent of control
by Washington. Lafayette promptly declined the command, unless subject to
the General, and furthermore he "braved the whole party (Cabal) and threw
them into confusion by making them drink the health of their general." At
the battle of Monmouth Washington gave the command of the attacking party
to Lafayette, and after the conflict the two, according to the latter,
"passed the night lying on the same mantle, talking." In the same way
Washington distinguished him by giving him the command of the expedition
to rescue Virginia from Cornwallis, and to his division was given the
most honorable position at Yorktown. When the siege of that place was
completed, Lafayette applied for leave of absence to spend the winter in
France, and as he was on the point of sailing he received a personal
letter from Washington, for "I owe it to friendship and to my affectionate
regard for you my dear Marquis, not to let you leave this country without
carrying fresh marks of my attachment to you," and in his absence
Washington wrote that a mutual friend who bore a letter "can tell you more
forcibly, than I can express how much we all love and wish to embrace

A reunion came in 1784, looked forward to by Lafayette with an eagerness
of which he wrote, "by Sunday or Monday, I hope at last to be blessed with
a sight of my dear General. There is no rest for me till I go to Mount
Vernon. I long for the pleasure to embrace you, my dear General; and the
happiness of being once more with you will be so great, that no words can
ever express it. Adieu, my dear General; in a few days I shall be at Mount
Vernon, and I do already feel delighted with so charming a prospect."
After this visit was over Washington wrote, "In the moment of our
separation, upon the road as I travelled, and every hour since, I have
felt all that love, respect and attachment for you, with which length of
years, close connexion, and your merits have inspired me. I often asked
myself, as our carriages separated, whether that was the last sight I ever
should have of you?" And to this letter Lafayette replied,--

"No my beloved General, our late parting was not by any means a last
interview. My whole soul revolts at the idea; and could I harbour it an
instant, indeed, my dear General, it would make me miserable. I well see
you will never go to France. The inexpressible pleasure of embracing you
in my own house, of welcoming you in a family where your name is adored, I
do not much expect to experience; but to you I shall return, and, within
the walls of Mount Vernon, we shall yet speak of olden times. My firm plan
is to visit now and then my friend on this side of the Atlantic; and the
most beloved of all friends I ever had, or ever shall have anywhere, is
too strong an inducement for me to return to him, not to think that
whenever it is possible I shall renew my so pleasing visits to Mount
Vernon.... Adieu, adieu, my dear General. It is with inexpressible pain
that I feel I am going to be severed from you by the Atlantic. Everything,
that admiration, respect, gratitude, friendship, and fillial love, can
inspire, is combined in my affectionate heart to devote me most tenderly
to you. In your friendship I find a delight which words cannot express.
Adieu, my dear General. It is not without emotion that I write this word,
although I know I shall soon visit you again. Be attentive to your health.
Let me hear from you every month. Adieu, adieu."

The correspondence begged was maintained, but Lafayette complained that
"To one who so tenderly loves you, who so happily enjoyed the times we
have passed together, and who never, on any part of the globe, even in his
own house, could feel himself so perfectly at home as in your family, it
must be confessed that an irregular, lengthy correspondence is quite
insufficient I beseech you, in the name of our friendship, of that
paternal concern of yours for my happiness, not to miss any opportunity to
let me hear from my dear General."

One letter from Washington told Lafayette of his recovery from a serious
illness, and Lafayette responded, "What could have been my feelings, had
the news of your illness reached me before I knew my beloved General, my
adopted father, was out of danger? I was struck at the idea of the
situation you have been in, while I, uninformed and so distant from you,
was anticipating the long-waited-for pleasure to hear from you, and the
still more endearing prospect of visiting you and presenting you the
tribute of a revolution, one of your first offsprings. For God's sake, my
dear General, take care of your health!"

Presently, as the French Revolution gathered force, the anxiety was
reversed, Washington writing that "The lively interest which I take in
your welfare, my dear Sir, keeps my mind in constant anxiety for your
personal safety." This fear was only too well founded, for shortly after
Lafayette was a captive in an Austrian prison and his wife was appealing
to her husband's friend for help. Our ministers were told to do all they
could to secure his liberty, and Washington wrote a personal letter to the
Emperor of Austria. Before receiving her letter, on the first news of the
"truly affecting" condition of "poor Madame Lafayette," he had written to
her his sympathy, and, supposing that money was needed, had deposited at
Amsterdam two hundred guineas "subject to your orders."

When she and her daughters joined her husband in prison, Lafayette's son,
and Washington's godson, came to America; an arrival of which the
godfather wrote that, "to express all the sensibility, which has been
excited in my breast by the receipt of young Lafayette's letter, from the
recollection of his father's merits, services, and sufferings, from my
friendship for him, and from my wishes to become a friend and father to
his son is unnecessary." The lad became a member of the family, and a
visitor at this time records that "I was particularly struck with the
marks of affection which the General showed his pupil, his adopted son of
Marquis de Lafayette. Seated opposite to him, he looked at him with
pleasure, and listened to him with manifest interest." With Washington he
continued till the final release of his father, and a simple business note
in Washington's ledger serves to show both his delicacy and his generosity
to the boy: "By Geo. W. Fayette, gave for the purpose of his getting
himself such small articles of Clothing as he might not choose to ask for
$100." Another item in the accounts was three hundred dollars "to defray
his exps. to France," and by him Washington sent a line to his old friend,
saying, "this letter I hope and expect will be presented to you by your
son, who is highly deserving of such parents as you and your amiable

Long previous to this, too, a letter had been sent to Virginia Lafayette,
couched in the following terms:

"Permit me to thank my dear little correspondent for the favor of her
letter of the 18 of June last, and to impress her with the idea of
the pleasure I shall derive from a continuance of them. Her papa is
restored to her with all the good health, paternal affection, and honors,
which her tender heart could wish. He will carry a kiss to her from me
(which might be more agreeable from a pretty boy), and give her assurances
of the affectionate regard with which I have the pleasure of being her

George Washington."

In this connection it is worth glancing at Washington's relations with
children, the more that it has been frequently asserted that he had no
liking for them. As already shown, at different times he adopted or
assumed the expenses and charge of not less than nine of the children of
his kith and kin, and to his relations with children he seldom wrote a
letter without a line about the "little ones." His kindnesses to the sons
of Ramsay, Craik, Greene, and Lafayette have already been noticed.
Furthermore, whenever death or illness came among the children of his
friends there was sympathy expressed. Dumas relates of his visit to
Providence with Washington, that "we arrived there at night; the whole of
the population had assembled from the suburbs; we were surrounded by a
crowd of children carrying torches, reiterating the acclamations of the
citizens; all were eager to approach the person of him whom they called
their father, and pressed so closely around us that they hindered us from
proceeding. General Washington was much affected, stopped a few moments,
and, pressing my hand, said, 'We may be beaten by the English; it is the
chance of war; but behold an army which they can never conquer,'"

In his journey through New England, not being able to get lodgings at an
inn, Washington spent a night in a private house, and when all payment was
refused, he wrote his host from his next stopping-place,--

"Being informed that you have given my name to one of your sons, and
called another after Mrs. Washington's family, and being moreover very
much pleased with the modest and innocent looks of your two daughters,
Patty and Polly, I do for these reasons send each of these girls a piece
of chintz; and to Patty, who bears the name of Mrs. Washington, and who
waited upon us more than Polly did, I send five guineas, with which she
may buy herself any little ornaments she may want, or she may dispose of
them in any other manner more agreeable to herself. As I do not give these
things with a view to have it talked of, or even of its being known, the
less there is said about the matter the better you will please me; but,
that I may be sure the chintz and money have got safe to hand, let Patty,
who I dare say is equal to it, write me a line informing me thereof,
directed to 'The President of the United States at New York.'"

Miss Stuart relates that "One morning while Mr. Washington was sitting for
his picture, a little brother of mine ran into the room, when my father
thinking it would annoy the General, told him he must leave; but the
General took him upon his knee, held him for some time, and had quite a
little chat with him, and, in fact, they seemed to be pleased with each
other. My brother remembered with pride, as long as he lived, that
Washington had talked with him."

For the son of his secretary, Lear, there seems to have been great
fondness, and in one instance the father was told that "It gave Mrs.
Washington, myself and all who know him, sincere pleasure to hear that our
little favorite had arrived safe, and was in good health at Portsmouth. We
sincerely wish him a long continuance of the latter--that he may always be
as charming and promising as he now is--and that he may live to be a
comfort and blessing to you, and an ornament to his country. As a
testimony of my affection for him I send him a ticket in the lottery which
is now drawing in the Federal City; and if it should be his fortune to
draw the hotel it will add to the pleasure I have in giving it." A second
letter condoled with "little Lincoln," because owing to the collapse of
the lottery the "poor little fellow" will not even get enough to "build
him a baby house."

For the father, Tobias Lear, who came into his employment in 1786 and
remained with him till his death, Washington felt the greatest affection
and trust. It was he who sent for the doctor in the beginning of the last
illness, and he was in the sickroom most of the time. Holding Washington's
hand, he received from him his last orders, and later when Washington
"appeared to be in great pain and distress from the difficulty of
breathing ... 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.'"
Still later Lear "aided him all in my power, and was gratified in
believing he felt it; for he would look upon me with eyes speaking
gratitude, but unable to utter a word without great distress." At the
final moment Lear took his hand "and laid it upon his breast." When all
was over, "I kissed the cold hand, laid it down, and was ... lost in
profound grief."



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

"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

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

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: 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

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

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

"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

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

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."



"My inclinations," wrote Washington at twenty-three, "are strongly bent to
arms," and the tendency was a natural one, coming not merely from his
Indian-fighting great-grandfather, but from his elder brother Lawrence,
who had held a king's commission in the Carthagena expedition, and was one
of the few officers who gained repute in that ill-fated attempt. At Mount
Vernon George must have heard much of fighting as a lad, and when the ill
health of Lawrence compelled resignation of command of the district
militia, the younger brother succeeded to the adjutancy. This quickly led
to the command of the first Virginia regiment when the French and Indian
War was brewing. Twice Washington resigned in disgust during the course of
the war, but each time his natural bent, or "glowing zeal," as he phrased
it, drew him back into the service. The moment the news of Lexington
reached Virginia he took the lead in organizing an armed force, and in the
Virginia Convention of 1775, according to Lynch, he "made the most
eloquent speech ... that ever was made. Says he, 'I will raise one
thousand men, enlist them at my own expense, and march myself at their
head for the relief of Boston.'" At fifty-three, in speaking of war,
Washington said, "my first wish is to see this plague to mankind banished
from off the earth;" but during his whole life, when there was fighting to
be done, he was among those who volunteered for the service.

The personal courage of the man was very great. Jefferson, indeed, said
"he was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest
unconcern." Before he had ever been in action, he noted of a certain
position that it was "a charming field for an encounter," and his first
engagement he described as follows: "I fortunately escaped without any
wound, for the right wing, where I stood, was exposed to and received all
the enemy's fire, and it was the part where the man was killed, and the
rest wounded. I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is
something charming in the sound." In his second battle, though he knew
that he was "to be attacked and by unequal numbers," he promised
beforehand to "withstand" them "if there are five to one," adding, "I
doubt not, but if you hear I am beaten, but you will, at the same [time,]
hear that we have done our duty, in fighting as long [as] there was a
possibility of hope," and in this he was as good as his word. When
sickness detained him in the Braddock march, he halted only on condition
that he should receive timely notice of when the fighting was to begin,
and in that engagement he exposed himself so that "I had four bullets
through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho'
death was levelling my companions on every side of me!" Not content with
such an experience, in the second march on Fort Duquesne he "prayed" the
interest of a friend to have his regiment part of the "light troops" that
were to push forward in advance of the main army.

The same carelessness of personal danger was shown all through the
Revolution. At the battle of Brooklyn, on New York Island, at Trenton,
Germantown, and Monmouth, he exposed himself to the enemy's fire, and at
the siege of Yorktown an eyewitness relates that "during the assault, the
British kept up an incessant firing of cannon and musketry from their
whole line. His Excellency General Washington, Generals Lincoln and Knox
with their aids, having dismounted, were standing in an exposed situation
waiting the result. Colonel Cobb, one of General Washington's aids,
solicitous for his safety, said to his Excellency, 'Sir, you are too much
exposed here, had you not better step back a little?' 'Colonel Cobb,'
replied his Excellency, 'if you are afraid, you have liberty to step
back.'" It is no cause for wonder that an officer wrote, "our army love
their General very much, but they have one thing against him, which is the
little care he takes of himself in any action. His personal bravery, and
the desire he has of animating his troops by example, make him fearless of
danger. This occasions us much uneasiness."


This fearlessness was equally shown by his hatred and, indeed,
non-comprehension of cowardice. In his first battle, upon the French
surrendering, he wrote to the governor, "if the whole Detach't of the
French behave with no more Resolution than this chosen Party did, I
flatter myself we shall have no g't trouble in driving them to the d---."
At Braddock's defeat, though the regiment he had commanded "behaved like
men and died like soldiers," he could hardly find words to express his
contempt for the conduct of the British "cowardly regulars," writing of
their "dastardly behavior" when they "broke and ran as sheep before
hounds," and raging over being "most scandalously" and "shamefully
beaten." When the British first landed on New York Island, and two New
England brigades ran away from "a small party of the enemy," numbering
about fifty, without firing a shot, he completely lost his self-control at
their "dastardly behavior," and riding in among them, it is related, he
laid his cane over the officers' backs, "damned them for cowardly
rascals," and, drawing his sword, struck the soldiers right and left with
the flat of it, while snapping his pistols at them. Greene states that the
fugitives "left his Excellency on the ground within eighty yards of the
enemy, so vexed at the infamous conduct of the troops, that he sought
death rather than life," and Gordon adds that the General was only saved
from his "hazardous position" by his aides, who "caught the bridle of his
horse and gave him a different direction." At Monmouth an aide stated that
when he met a man running away he was "exasperated ... and threatened the
man ... he would have him whipped," and General Scott says that on finding
Lee retreating, "he swore like an angel from heaven." Wherever in his
letters he alludes to cowardice it is nearly always coupled with the
adjectives "infamous," "scandalous," or others equally indicative of loss
of temper.

There can be no doubt that Washington had a high temper. Hamilton's
allusion to his not being remarkable for "good temper" has already been
quoted, as has also Stuart's remark that "all his features were indicative
of the strongest and most ungovernable passions, and had he been born in
the forests, he would have been the fiercest man among the savage tribes."
Again Stuart is quoted by his daughter as follows:

"While talking one day with General Lee, my father happened to remark that
Washington had a tremendous temper, but held it under wonderful control.
General Lee breakfasted with the President and Mrs. Washington a few days

"'I saw your portrait the other day,' said the General, 'but Stuart says
you have a tremendous temper.'

"'Upon my word,' said Mrs. Washington, coloring, 'Mr. Stuart takes a great
deal upon himself to make such a remark.'

"'But stay, my dear lady,' said General Lee, 'he added that the president
had it under wonderful control.'

"With something like a smile, General Washington remarked, 'He is right.'"

Lear, too, mentions an outburst of temper when he heard of the defeat of
St. Clair, and elsewhere records that in reading politics aloud to
Washington "he appeared much affected, and spoke with some degree of
asperity on the subject, which I endeavored to moderate, as I always did
on such occasions." How he swore at Randolph and at Freneau is mentioned
elsewhere. Jefferson is evidence that "his temper was naturally irritable
and high-toned, but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and
habitual ascendency over it. If however it broke its bonds, he was most
tremendous in his wrath."

Strikingly at variance with these personal qualities of courage and hot
blood is the "Fabian" policy for which he is so generally credited, and a
study of his military career goes far to dispel the conception that
Washington was the cautious commander that he is usually pictured.

In the first campaign, though near a vastly superior French force,
Washington precipitated the conflict by attacking and capturing an advance
party, though the delay of a few days would have brought him large
reinforcements. As a consequence he was very quickly surrounded, and after
a day's fighting was compelled to surrender. In what light his conduct was
viewed at the time is shown in two letters, Dr. William Smith writing,
"the British cause,... has received a fatal Blow by the entire defeat of
Washington, whom I cannot but accuse of Foolhardiness to have ventured so
near a vigilant enemy without being certain of their numbers, or waiting
for Junction of some hundreds of our best Forces, who are within a few
Days' March of him," and Ann Willing echoed this by saying, "the
melancholy news has just arrived of the loss of sixty men belonging to
Col. Washington's Company, who were killed on the spot, and of the Colonel
and Half-King being taken prisoners, all owing to the obstinacy of
Washington, who would not wait for the arrival of reinforcements."

Hardly less venturesome was he in the Braddock campaign, for "the General
(before they met in council,) asked my opinion concerning the expedition.
I urged it, in the warmest terms I was able, to push forward, if we even
did it with a small but chosen band, with such artillery and light stores
as were absolutely necessary; leaving the heavy artillery, baggage, &c.
with the rear division of the army, to follow by slow and easy marches,
which they might do safely, while we were advanced in front." How far the
defeat of that force was due to the division thus urged it is not possible
to say, but it undoubtedly made the French bolder and the English more
subject to panic.

The same spirit was manifested in the Revolution. During the siege of
Boston he wrote to Reed, "I proposed [an assault] in council; but behold,
though we had been waiting all the year for this favorable event the
enterprise was thought too dangerous. Perhaps it was; perhaps the
irksomeness of my situation led me to undertake more than could be
warranted by prudence. I did not think so, and I am sure yet, that the
enterprise, if it had been undertaken with resolution, must have
succeeded." He added that "the enclosed council of war:... being
almost unanimous, I must suppose it to be right; although, from a
thorough conviction of the necessity of attempting something against the
ministerial troops before a reinforcement should arrive, and while we were
favored with the ice, I was not only ready but willing, and desirous of
making the assault," and a little later he said that had he but foreseen
certain contingencies "all the generals upon earth should not have
convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston."

In the defence of New York there was no chance to attack, but even when
our lines at Brooklyn had been broken and the best brigades in the army
captured, Washington hurried troops across the river, and intended to
contest the ground, ordering a retreat only when it was voted in the
affirmative by a council of war. At Harlem plains he was the attacking

How with a handful of troops he turned the tide of defeat by attacking at
Trenton and Princeton is too well known to need recital. At Germantown,
too, though having but a few days before suffered defeat, he attacked and
well-nigh won a brilliant victory, because the British officers did not
dream that his vanquished army could possibly take the initiative. When
the foe settled down into winter quarters in Philadelphia Laurens wrote,
"our Commander-in-chief wishing ardently to gratify the public expectation
by making an attack upon the enemy ... went yesterday to view the works."
On submitting the project to a council, however, they stood eleven to four
against the attempt.

The most marked instance of Washington's un-Fabian preferences, and proof
of the old saying that "councils of war never fight," is furnished in the
occurrences connected with the battle of Monmouth. When the British began
their retreat across New Jersey, according to Hamilton "the General
unluckily called a council of war, the result of which would have done
honor to the most honorable society of mid-wives and to them only. The
purport was, that we should keep at a comfortable distance from the enemy,
and keep up a vain parade of annoying them by detachment ... The General,
on mature reconsideration of what had been resolved on, determined to
pursue a different line of conduct at all hazards." Concerning this
decision Pickering wrote,--

"His great caution in respect to the enemy, acquired him the name of the
American Fabius. From this _governing_ policy he is said to have departed,
when" at Monmouth he "indulged the most anxious desire to close with his
antagonist in general action. Opposed to his wishes was the advice of
his general officers. To this he for a time yielded; but as soon as he
discovered that the enemy had reached Monmouth Court House, not more than
twelve miles from the heights of Middletown, he determined that he should
not escape without a blow."

Pickering considered this a "departure" from Washington's "usual practice
and policy," and cites Wadsworth, who said, in reference to the battle of
Monmouth, that the General appeared, on that occasion, "to act from the
impulses of his own mind."

Thrice during the next three years plans for an attack on the enemy's
lines at New York were matured, one of which had to be abandoned because
the British had timely notice of it by the treachery of an American
general, a second because the other generals disapproved the attempt, and,
on the authority of Humphreys, "the accidental intervention of some
vessels prevented [another] attempt, which was more than once resumed
afterwards. Notwithstanding this favorite project was not ultimately
effected, it was evidently not less bold in conception or feasible in
accomplishment, than that attempted so successfully at Trenton, or than
that which was brought to so glorious an issue in the successful siege of

As this _resume_ indicates, the most noticeable trait of Washington's
military career was a tendency to surrender his own opinions and wishes to
those over whom he had been placed, and this resulted in a general
agreement not merely that he was disposed to avoid action, but that he
lacked decision. Thus his own aide, Reed, in obvious contrast to
Washington, praised Lee because "you have decision, a quality often wanted
in minds otherwise valuable," continuing, "Oh! General, an indecisive mind
is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall an army; how often have
I lamented it this campaign," and Lee in reply alluded to "that fatal
indecision of mind." Pickering relates meeting General Greene and saying
to him, "'I had once conceived an exalted opinion of General Washington's
military talents; but since I have been with the army, I have seen nothing
to increase that opinion.' Greene answered, 'Why, the General does want
decision: for my part, I decide in a moment.' I used the word 'increase,'
though I meant 'support,' but did not dare speak it." Wayne exclaimed "if
our worthy general will but follow his own good judgment without listening
too much to some counsel!" Edward Thornton, probably repeating the
prevailing public estimate of the time rather than his own conclusion,
said, "a certain degree of indecision, however, a want of vigor and
energy, may be observed in some of his actions, and are indeed the obvious
result of too refined caution."

Undoubtedly this leaning on others and the want of decision were not
merely due to a constitutional mistrust of his own ability, but also in a
measure to real lack of knowledge. The French and Indian War, being almost
wholly "bush-fighting," was not of a kind to teach strategic warfare, and
in his speech accepting the command Washington requested that "it may be
remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with
the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am
honored with." Indeed, he very well described himself and his generals
when he wrote of one officer, "his wants are common to us all--the want of
experience to move upon a large scale, for the limited and contracted
knowledge, which any of us have in military matters, stands in very little
stead." There can be no question that in most of the "field" engagements
of the Revolution Washington was out-generalled by the British, and
Jefferson made a just distinction when he spoke of his having often
"failed in the field, and rarely against an enemy in station, as at Boston
and York."

The lack of great military genius in the commander-in-chief has led
British writers to ascribe the results of the war to the want of ability
in their own generals, their view being well summed up by a writer in
1778, who said, "in short, I am of the opinion ... that any other General
in the world than General Howe would have beaten General Washington; and
any other General in the world than General Washington would have beaten
General Howe."

This is, in effect, to overlook the true nature of the contest, for it was
their very victories that defeated the British. They conquered New Jersey,
to meet defeat; they captured Philadelphia, only to find it a danger; they
established posts in North Carolina, only to abandon them; they overran
Virginia, to lay down their arms at Yorktown. As Washington early in the
war divined, the Revolution was "a war of posts," and he urged the danger
of "dividing and subdividing our Force too much [so that] we shall have no
one post sufficiently guarded," saying, "it is a military observation
strongly supported by experience, 'that a superior army may fall a
sacrifice to an inferior, by an injudicious division.'" It was exactly
this which defeated the British; every conquest they made weakened their
force, and the war was not a third through when Washington said, "I am
well convinced myself, that the enemy, long ere this, are perfectly well
satisfied, that the possession of our towns, while we have an army in the
field, will avail them little." As Franklin said, when the news was
announced that Howe had captured Philadelphia, "No, Philadelphia has
captured Howe."

The problem of the Revolution was not one of military strategy,
but of keeping an army in existence, and it was in this that the
commander-in-chief's great ability showed itself. The British could and
did repeatedly beat the Continental army, but they could not beat the
General, and so long as he was in the field there was a rallying ground
for whatever fighting spirit there was.

The difficulty of this task can hardly be over-magnified. When Washington
assumed command of the forces before Boston, he "found a mixed multitude
of people ... under very little discipline, order, or government," and
"confusion and disorder reigned in every department, which, in a little
time, must have ended either in the separation of the army or fatal
contests with one another." Before he was well in the saddle his general
officers were quarrelling over rank, and resigning; there was such a
scarcity of powder that it was out of the question for some months to do
anything; and the British sent people infected with small-pox to the
Continental army, with a consequent outbreak of that pest.

Hardly had he brought order out of chaos when the army he had taken such
pains to discipline began to melt away, having been by political folly
recruited for short terms, and the work was to be all done over. Again and
again during the war regiments which had been enlisted for short periods
left him at the most critical moment. Very typical occurrences he himself
tells of, when Connecticut troops could "not be prevailed upon to stay
longer than their term (saving those who have enlisted for the next
campaign, and mostly on furlough), and such a dirty, mercenary spirit
pervades the whole, that I should not be at all surprised at any disaster
that may happen," and when he described how in his retreat through New
Jersey, "The militia, instead of calling forth their utmost efforts to a
brave and manly opposition in order to repair our losses, are dismayed,
intractable, and impatient to return. Great numbers of them have gone off;
in some instances, almost by whole regiments, by half ones, and by
companies at a time." Another instance of this evil occurred when "the
Continental regiments from the eastern governments ... agreed to stay six
weeks beyond their term of enlistment.... For this extraordinary mark of
their attachment to their country, I have agreed to give them a bounty of
ten dollars per man, besides their pay running on." The men took the
bounty, and nearly one-half went off a few days after.

Nor was this the only evil of the policy of short enlistments. Another was
that the new troops not merely were green soldiers, but were without
discipline. At New York Tilghman wrote that after the battle of Brooklyn
the "Eastern" soldiers were "plundering everything that comes in their
way," and Washington in describing the condition said, "every Hour brings
the most distressing complaints of the Ravages of our own Troops who are
become infinitely more formidable to the poor Farmers and Inhabitants than
the common Enemy. Horses are taken out of the Continental Teams; the
Baggage of Officers and the Hospital Stores, even the Quarters of General
Officers are not exempt from Rapine." At the most critical moment of the
war the New Jersey militia not merely deserted, but captured and took with
them nearly the whole stores of the army. As the General truly wrote, "the
Dependence which the Congress have placed upon the militia, has already
greatly injured, and I fear will totally ruin our cause. Being subject to
no controul themselves, they introduce disorder among the troops, whom you
have attempted to discipline, while the change in their living brings
on sickness; this makes them Impatient to get home, which spreads
universally, and introduces abominable desertions." "The collecting
militia," he said elsewhere, "depends entirely upon the prospects of the
day. If favorable they throng in to you; if not, they will not move."

To make matters worse, politics were allowed to play a prominent part in
the selection of officers, and Washington complained that "the different
States [were], without regard to the qualifications of an officer,
quarrelling about the appointments, and nominating such as are not fit to
be shoeblacks, from the attachments of this or that member of Assembly."
As a result, so he wrote of New England, "their officers are generally of
the lowest class of the people; and, instead of setting a good example to
their men, are leading them into every kind of mischief, one species of
which is plundering the inhabitants, under the pretence of their being
Tories." To this political motive he himself would not yield, and a sample
of his appointments was given when a man was named "because he stands
unconnected with either of these Governments; or with this, or that or
tother man; for between you and me there is more in this than you can
easily imagine," and he asserted that "I will not have any Gentn.
introduced from family connexion, or local attachments, to the prejudice
of the Service."

To misbehaving soldiers Washington showed little mercy. In his first
service he had deserters and plunderers "flogged," and threatened that if
he could "lay hands" on one particular culprit, "I would try the effect of
1000 lashes." At another time he had "a Gallows near 40 feet high erected
(which has terrified the _rest_ exceedingly) and I am determined if I can
be justified in the proceeding, to hang two or three on it, as an example
to others." When he took command of the Continental army he "made a pretty
good slam among such kind of officers as the Massachusetts Government
abound in since I came to this Camp, having broke one Colo, and two
Captains for cowardly behavior in the action on Bunker's Hill,--two
Captains for drawing more provisions and pay than they had men in their
Company--and one for being absent from his Post when the Enemy appeared
there and burnt a House just by it Besides these, I have at this time--one
Colo., one Major, one Captn., & two subalterns under arrest for tryal--In
short I spare none yet fear it will not at all do as these People seem to
be too inattentive to every thing but their Interest" "I am sorry," he
wrote, "to be under a Necessity of making frequent Examples among the
Officers," but "as nothing can be more fatal to an Army, than Crimes of
this kind, I am determined by every Motive of Reward and Punishment to
prevent them in future." Even when plundering was avoided there were short
commons for those who clung to the General. The commander-in-chief wrote
Congress that "they have often, very often, been reduced to the necessity
of Eating Salt Porke, or Beef not for a day, or a week but months
together without Vegetables, or money to buy them;" and again, he
complained that "the Soldiers [were forced to] eat every kind of horse
food but Hay. Buckwheat, common wheat, Rye and Indn. Corn was the
composition of the Meal which made their bread. As an Army they bore it,
[but] accompanied by the want of Cloaths, Blankets, &c., will produce
frequent desertions in all armies and so it happens with us, tho' it did
not excite a mutiny." Even the horses suffered, and Washington wrote to
the quartermaster-general, "Sir, my horses I am told have not had a
mouthful of long or short forage for three days. They have eaten up their
mangers and are now, (though wanted for immediate use,) scarcely able to

Two results were sickness and discontent. At times one-fourth of the
soldiers were on the sick-list. Three times portions of the army mutinied,
and nothing but Washington's influence prevented the disorder from
spreading. At the end of the war, when, according to Hamilton, "the army
had secretly determined not to lay down their arms until due provision and
a satisfactory prospect should be offered on the subject of their pay,"
the commander-in-chief urged Congress to do them justice, writing, "the
fortitude--the long, & great suffering of this army is unexampled in
history; but there is an end to all things & I fear we are very near to
this. Which, more than probably will oblige me to stick very close to my
flock this winter, & try like a careful physician, to prevent, if
possible, the disorders getting to an incurable height." In this he judged
rightly, for by his influence alone was the army prevented from adopting
other than peaceful measures to secure itself justice.

A chief part of these difficulties the Continental Congress is directly
responsible for, and the reason for their conduct is to be found largely
in the circumstances of Washington's appointment to the command.

[Illustration: Life Mask of Washington]

When the Second Congress met, in May, 1775, the battle of Lexington had
been fought, and twenty thousand minute-men were assembled about Boston.
To pay and feed such a horde was wholly beyond the ability of New England,
and her delegates came to the Congress bent upon getting that body to
assume the expense, or, as the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts
naively put it, "we have the greatest Confidence in the Wisdom and Ability
of the Continent to support us."

The other colonies saw this in a different light. Massachusetts, without
our advice, has begun a war and embodied an army; let Massachusetts pay
her own bills, was their point of view. "I have found this Congress like
the last," wrote John Adams. "When we first came together, I found a
strong jealousy of us from New England, and the Massachusettes in
particular, suspicions entertained of designs of independency, an American
republic, Presbyterian principles, and twenty other things. Our sentiments
were heard in Congress with great caution, and seemed to make but little
impression." Yet "every post brought me letters from my friends ... urging
in pathetic terms the impossibility of keeping their men together without
the assistance of Congress." "I was daily urging all these things, but we
were embarrassed with more than one difficulty, not only with the party in
favor of the petition to the King, and the party who were zealous of
independence, but a third party, which was a southern party against a
Northern, and a jealousy against a New England army under the command of a
New England General."

Under these circumstances a political deal was resorted to, and Virginia
was offered by John and Samuel Adams, as the price of an adoption and
support of the New England army, the appointment of commander-in-chief,
though the offer was not made with over-good grace, and only because "we
could carry nothing without conceding it." There was some dissension
among the Virginia delegates as to who should receive the appointment,
Washington himself recommending an old companion in arms, General Andrew
Lewis, and "more than one," Adams says of the Virginia delegates, were
"very cool about the appointment of Washington, and particularly Mr.
Pendleton was very clear and full against it" Washington himself said the
appointment was due to "partiality of the Congress, joined to a political
motive;" and, hard as it is to realize, it was only the grinding political
necessity of the New England colonies which secured to Washington the
place for which in the light of to-day he seems to have been created.

As a matter of course, there was not the strongest liking felt for the
General thus chosen by the New England delegates, and this was steadily
lessened by Washington's frank criticism of the New England soldiers and
officers already noticed. Equally bitter to the New England delegates and
their allies were certain army measures that Washington pressed upon the
attention of Congress. He urged and urged that the troops should be
enlisted for the war, that promotions should be made from the army as a
whole, and not from the colony- or State-line alone, and most unpopular of
all, that since Continental soldiers could not otherwise be obtained, a
bounty should be given to secure them, and that as compensation for their
inadequate pay half-pay should be given them after the war. He eventually
carried these points, but at the price of an entire alienation of the
democratic party in the Congress, who wished to have the war fought with
militia, to have all the officers elected annually, and to whom the very
suggestion of pensions was like a red rag to a bull.

A part of their motive in this was unquestionably to prevent the danger of
a standing army, and of allowing the commander-in-chief to become popular
with the soldiers. Very early in the war Washington noted "the _jealousy_
which Congress unhappily entertain of the army, and which, if reports are
right, some members labor to establish." And he complained that "I see a
distrust and jealousy of military power, that the commander-in-chief has
not an opportunity, even by recommendation, to give the least assurance of
reward for the most essential services." The French minister told his
government that when a committee was appointed to institute certain army
reforms, delegates in Congress "insisted on the danger of associating the
Commander-in-chief with it, whose influence, it was stated, was already
too great," and when France sent money to aid the American cause, with the
provision that it should be subject to the order of the General, it
aroused, a writer states, "the jealousy of Congress, the members of which
were not satisfied that the head of the army should possess such an agency
in addition to his military power."

His enemies in the Congress took various means to lessen his influence and
mortify him. Burke states that in the discussion of one question "Jersey,
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina voted for expunging it;
the four Eastern States, Virginia and Georgia for retaining it. There
appeared through this whole debate a great desire, in some of the
delegates from the Eastern States, and in one from New Jersey, to insult
the General," and a little later the Congress passed a "resolve which,"
according to James Lovell, "was meant to rap a Demi G--over the knuckles."
Nor was it by commission, but as well by omission, that they showed their
ill feeling. John Laurens told his father that

"there is a conduct observed towards" the General "by certain great men,
which as it is humiliating, must abate his happiness.... The Commander in
Chief of this army is not sufficiently informed of all that is known by
Congress of European affairs. Is it not a galling circumstance, for him to
collect the most important intelligence piecemeal, and as they choose to
give it, from gentlemen who come from York? Apart from the chagrin which
he must necessarily feel at such an appearance of slight, it should be
considered that in order to settle his plan of operations for the ensuing
campaign, he should take into view the present state of European affairs,
and Congress should not leave him in the dark."

Furthermore, as already noted, Washington was criticised for his Fabian
policy, and in his indignation he wrote to Congress, "I am informed that
it is a matter of amazement, and that reflections have been thrown out
against this army, for not being more active and enterprising than, in the
opinion of some, they ought to have been. If the charge is just, the best
way to account for it will be to refer you to the returns of our strength,
and those which I can produce of the enemy, and to the enclosed abstract
of the clothing now actually wanting for the army." "I can assure those
gentlemen," he said, in reply to political criticism, "that it is a much
easier and less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable
room by a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak hill, and sleep
under frost and snow, without clothes or blankets."

The ill feeling did not end with insults. With the defeats of the years
1776 and 1777 it gathered force, and towards the end of the latter year it
crystallized in what has been known in history as the Conway Cabal. The
story of this conspiracy is so involved in shadow that little is known
concerning its adherents or its endeavors. But in a general way it has
been discovered that the New England delegates again sought the aid of the
Lee faction in Virginia, and that this coalition, with the aid of such
votes as they could obtain, schemed several methods which should lessen
the influence of Washington, if they did not force him to resign. Separate
and detached commands were created, which were made independent of the
commander-in-chief, and for this purpose even a scheme which the General
called "a child of folly" was undertaken. Officers notoriously inimical to
Washington, yet upon whom he would be forced to rely, were promoted. A
board of war made up of his enemies, with powers "in effect paramount,"
Hamilton says, "to those of the commander-in-chief," was created It is
even asserted that it was moved in Congress that a committee should be
appointed to arrest Washington, which was defeated only by the timely
arrival of a new delegate, by which the balance of power was lost to the

Even with the collapse of the army Cabal the opposition in Congress was
maintained. "I am very confident," wrote General Greene, "that there is
party business going on again, and, as Mifflin is connected with it, I
doubt not its being a revival of the old scheme;" again writing, "General
Schuyler and others consider it a plan of Mifflin's to injure your
Excellency's operations. I am now fully convinced of the reality of what I
suggested to you before I came away." In 1779 John Sullivan, then a member
of Congress, wrote,--

"Permit me to inform your Excellency, that the faction raised against you
in 1777, is not yet destroyed. The members are waiting to collect
strength, and seize some favorable moment to appear in force. I speak not
from conjecture, but from certain knowledge. Their plan is to take every
method of proving the danger arising from a commander, who enjoys the full
and unlimited confidence of his army, and alarm the people with the
prospects of imaginary evils; nay, they will endeavor to convert your
virtue into arrows, with which, they will seek to wound you."

But Washington could not be forced into a resignation, ill-treat and
slight him as they would, and at no time were they strong enough to vote
him out of office. For once a Congressional "deal" between New England and
Virginia did not succeed, and as Washington himself wrote, "I have a good
deal of reason to believe that the machination of this junto will recoil
on 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," In this he
was right, for the re-elections of both Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee
were put in danger, and for some time they were discredited even in their
own colonies. "I have happily had," Washington said to a correspondent,
"but few differences with those with whom I have had the honor of being
connected in the service. With whom, and of what nature these have been,
you know. I bore much for the sake of peace and the public good"

As is well known, Washington served without pay during his eight years of
command, and, as he said, "fifty thousand pounds would not induce me again
to undergo what I have done." No wonder he declared "that the God of
armies may incline the hearts of my American brethren to support the
present contest, and bestow sufficient abilities on me to bring it to a
speedy and happy conclusion, thereby enabling me to sink into sweet
retirement, and the full enjoyment of that peace and happiness, which will
accompany a domestic life, is the first wish and most fervent prayer of my

The day finally came when his work was finished, and he could be, as he
phrased it, "translated into a private citizen." Marshall describes the
scene as follows: "At noon, the principal officers of the army assembled
at Frances' tavern; soon after which, their beloved commander entered the
room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed. Filling a glass, he
turned to them and said, 'With a heart full of love and gratitude, I
now take leave of you; I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be
as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and
honorable.' Having drunk, he added, 'I cannot come to each of you to take
my leave; but shall be obliged to you, if each of you will come and take
me by the hand.' General Knox, being nearest, turned to him. Incapable of
utterance, Washington grasped his hand, and embraced him. In the same
affectionate manner he took leave of each succeeding officer. In every eye
was the tear of dignified sensibility, and not a word was articulated to
interrupt the majestic silence, and the tenderness of the scene. Leaving
the room, he passed through the corps of light infantry, and walked to
Whitehall, where a barge waited to convey him to Powles-hook. The
whole company followed in mute and solemn procession, with dejected
countenance ... Having entered the barge, he turned to the company, and,
waving his hat, bade them a silent adieu."



Washington became a government servant before he became a voter, by
receiving in 1749, or when he was seventeen years of age, the appointment
of official surveyor of Culpepper County, the salary of which, according
to Boucher, was about fifty pounds Virginia currency a year. The office
was certainly not a very fat berth, for it required the holder to live in
a frontier county, to travel at times, as Washington in his journal noted,
over "ye worst Road that ever was trod by Man or Beast," to sometimes lie
on straw, which once "catch'd a Fire," and we "was luckily Preserved by
one of our Mens waking," sometimes under a tent, which occasionally "was
Carried quite of[f] with ye Wind and" we "was obliged to Lie ye Latter
part of ye night without covering," and at other times driven from under
the tent by smoke. Indeed, one period of surveying Washington described to
a friend by writing,--

"[Since] October Last I have not sleep'd above three Nights or four in a
bed but after Walking a good deal all the Day lay down before the fire
upon a Little Hay Straw Fodder or bearskin which-ever is to be had with
Man Wife and Children like a Parcel of Dogs or Catts & happy's he that
gets the Birth nearest the fire there's nothing would make it pass of
tolerably but a good Reward a Dubbleloon is my constant gain every Day
that the Weather will permit my going out and some time Six Pistoles the
coldness of the Weather will not allow my making a long stay as the
Lodging is rather too cold for the time of Year. I have never had my
Cloths of but lay and sleep in them like a Negro except the few Nights I
have lay'n in Frederick Town."

In 1751, when he was nineteen, Washington bettered his lot by becoming
adjutant of one of the four military districts of Virginia, with a salary
of one hundred pounds and a far less toilsome occupation. This in turn led
up to his military appointment in 1754, which he held almost continuously
till 1759, when he resigned from the service.

Next to a position on the Virginia council, a seat in the House of
Burgesses, or lower branch of the Legislature, was most sought, and this
position had been held by Washington's great-grandfather, father, and
elder brother. It was only natural, therefore, that in becoming the head
of the family George should desire the position. As early as 1755, while
on the frontier, he wrote to his brother in charge of Mount Vernon
inquiring about the election to be held in the county, and asking him to
"come at Colo Fairfax's intentions, and let me know whether he purposes to
offer himself as a candidate." "If he does not, I should be glad to take a
poll, if I thought my chance tolerably good." His friend Carlyle,
Washington wrote, had "mentioned it to me in Williamsburg in a bantering
way," and he begged his brother to "discover Major Carlyle's real
sentiments on this head," as also those of the other prominent men of the
county, and especially of the clergymen. "_Sound_ their pulse," he wrote,
"with an air of indifference and unconcern ... without disclosing much of
_mine_." "If they seem inclinable to promote my interest, and things
should be drawing to a crisis, you may declare my intention and beg their
assistance. If on the contrary you find them more inclined to favor some
other, I would have the affair entirely dropped." Apparently the county
magnates disapproved, for Washington did not stand for the county.

In 1757 an election for burgesses was held in Frederick County, in which
Washington then was (with his soldiers), and for which he offered himself
as a candidate. The act was hardly a wise one, for, though he had saved
Winchester and the surrounding country from being overrun by the Indians,
he was not popular. Not merely was he held responsible for the massacres
of outlying inhabitants, whom it was impossible to protect, but in this
very defence he had given cause for ill-feeling. He himself confessed that
he had several times "strained the law,"--he had been forced to impress
the horses and wagons of the district, and had in other ways so angered
some of the people that they had threatened "to blow out my brains." But
he had been guilty of a far worse crime still in a political sense.
Virginia elections were based on liquor, and Washington had written to the
governor, representing "the great nuisance the number of tippling houses
in Winchester are to the soldiers, who by this means, in spite of the
utmost care and vigilance, are, so long as their pay holds, incessantly
drunk and unfit for service," and he wished that "the new commission for
this county may have the intended effect," for "the number of tippling
houses kept here is a great grievance." As already noted, the Virginia
regiment was accused in the papers of drunkenness, and under the sting of
that accusation Washington declared war on the publicans. He whipped his
men when they became drunk, kept them away from the ordinaries, and even
closed by force one tavern which was especially culpable. "Were it not too
tedious," he wrote the governor, "I cou'd give your Honor such instances
of the villainous Behavior of those Tippling House-keepers, as wou'd
astonish any person."

The conduct was admirable, but it was not good politics, and as soon as he
offered himself as a candidate, the saloon element, under the leadership
of one Lindsay, whose family were tavern-keepers in Winchester for at
least one hundred years, united to oppose him. Against the would-be
burgess they set up one Captain Thomas Swearingen, whom Washington later
described as "a man of great weight among the meaner class of people, and
supposed by them to possess extensive knowledge." As a result, the poll
showed Swearingen elected by two hundred and seventy votes, and Washington
defeated with but forty ballots.

This sharp experience in practical politics seems to have taught the young
candidate a lesson, for when a new election came in 1758 he took a leaf
from his enemy's book, and fought them with their own weapons. The
friendly aid of the county boss, Colonel John Wood, was secured, as also
that of Gabriel Jones, a man of much local force and popularity. Scarcely
less important were the sinews of war employed, told of in the following
detailed account. A law at that time stood on the Virginia statutes
forbidding all treating or giving of what were called "ticklers" to the
voters, and declaring illegal all elections which were thus influenced.
None the less, the voters of Frederick enjoyed at Washington's charge--

40 gallons of Rum Punch @ 3/6 pr. galn 7 0 0
15 gallons of Wine @ 10/ pr. galn 7 10 0
Dinner for your Friends 3 0 0
13-1/2 gallons of Wine @ 10/ 6 15
3-1/2 pts. of Brandy @ 1/3 4 4-1/2
13 Galls. Beer @ 1/3 16 3
8 qts. Cyder Royl @ 1/6 0 12 0
Punch 3 9
30 gallns. of strong beer @ 8d pr. gall 1 0
1 hhd & 1 Barrell of Punch, consisting of
26 gals. best Barbadoes rum, 5/ 6 10 0
12 lbs. S. Refd. Sugar 1/6 18 9
3 galls. and 3 quarts of Beer @ 1/ pr. gall 3 9
10 Bowls of Punch @ 2/6 each 1 5 0
9 half pints of rum @ 7-1/2 d. each 5 7-1/2
1 pint of wine 1 6

After the election was over, Washington wrote Wood that "I hope no
Exception was taken to any that voted against me, but that all were alike
treated, and all had enough. My only fear is that you spent with too
sparing a hand." It is hardly necessary to say that such methods reversed
the former election; Washington secured three hundred and ten votes, and
Swearingen received forty-five. What is more, so far from now threatening
to blow out his brains, there was "a general applause and huzzaing for
Colonel Washington."

From this time until he took command of the army Washington was a
burgess. Once again he was elected from Frederick County, and then, in
1765, he stood for Fairfax, in which Mount Vernon was located. Here he
received two hundred and eight votes, his colleague getting but one
hundred and forty-eight, and in the election of 1768 he received one
hundred and eighty-five, and his colleague only one hundred and forty-two.
Washington spent between forty and seventy-five pounds at each of these
elections, and usually gave a ball to the voters on the night he was
chosen. Some of the miscellaneous election expenses noted in his ledger
are, "54 gallons of Strong Beer," "52 Do. of Ale," "L1.0.0. to Mr. John
Muir for his fiddler," and "For cakes at the Election L7.11.1."

The first duty which fell to the new burgess was service on a committee to
draught a law to prevent hogs from running at large in Winchester. He was
very regular in his attendance; and though he took little part in the
proceedings, yet in some way he made his influence felt, so that when the
time came to elect deputies to the First Congress he stood third in order
among the seven appointed to attend that body, and a year later, in the
delegation to the Continental Congress, he stood second, Peyton Randolph
receiving one more vote only, and all the other delegates less.

This distinction was due to the sound judgment of the man rather than to
those qualities that are considered senatorial. Jefferson said, "I served
with General Washington in the legislature of Virginia before the
revolution, and, during it, with Dr. Franklin in Congress. I never heard
either of them speak ten minutes at a time, nor to any but the main point
which was to decide the question. They laid their shoulders to the great
points, knowing that the little ones would follow of themselves."

Through all his life Washington was no speechmaker. In 1758, by an
order of the Assembly, Speaker Robinson was directed to return its thanks
to Colonel Washington, on behalf of the colony, for the distinguished
military services which he had rendered to the country. As soon as he
took his seat in the House, the Speaker performed this duty in such
glowing terms as quite overwhelmed him. Washington rose to express his
acknowledgments for the honor, but was so disconcerted as to be unable to
articulate a word distinctly. He blushed and faltered for a moment, when
the Speaker relieved him from his embarrassment by saying, "Sit down, Mr.
Washington, your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power
of any language that I possess."

This stage-fright seems to have clung to him. When Adams hinted that
Congress should "appoint a General," and added, "I had no hesitation to
declare that I had but one gentleman in my mind for that important
command, and that was a gentleman whose skill and experience as an
officer, whose independent fortune, great talents, and excellent universal
character, would command the approbation of all America, and unite the
cordial exertions of all the Colonies better than any other person in the
Union," he relates that "Mr. Washington who happened to sit near the door,
as soon as he heard me allude to him, from his usual modesty, darted into
the library-room."

So, too, at his inauguration as President, Maclay noted that "this great
man was agitated and embarrassed more than ever he was by the leveled
cannon or pointed musket. He trembled, and several times could scarce make
out to read [his speech], though it must be supposed he had often read it
before," and Fisher Ames wrote, "He addressed the two Houses in the
Senate-chamber; it was a very touching scene and quite of a solemn kind.
His aspect grave, almost to sadness; his modesty actually shaking; his
voice deep, a little tremulous, and so low as to call for close

There can be little doubt that this non-speech-making ability was not
merely the result of inaptitude, but was also a principle, for when his
favorite nephew was elected a burgess, and made a well-thought-of speech
in his first attempt, his uncle wrote him, "You have, I find, broke the
ice. The only advice I will offer to you on the occasion (if you have a
mind to command the attention of the House,) is to speak seldom, but
to important subjects, except such as particularly relate to your
constituents; and, in the former case, make yourself perfectly master of
the subject. Never exceed a decent warmth, and submit your sentiments with
diffidence. A dictatorial stile, though it may carry conviction, is always
accompanied with disgust." To a friend writing of this same speech he
said, "with great pleasure I received the information respecting the
commencement of my nephew's political course. I hope he will not be so
bouyed by the favorable impression it has made, as to become a babbler."

Even more indicative of his own conceptions of senatorial conduct is
advice given in a letter to Jack Custis, when the latter, too, achieved an
election to the Assembly.

"I do not suppose," he wrote, "that so young a senator as you are, little
versed in political disquisitions, can yet have much influence in a
populous assembly, composed of Gentln. of various talents and of different
views. But it is in your power to be punctual in your attendance (and duty
to the trust reposed in you exacts it of you), to hear dispassionately and
determine coolly all great questions. To be disgusted at the decision of
questions, because they are not consonant to your own ideas, and to
withdraw ourselves from public assemblies, or to neglect our attendance at
them, upon suspicion that there is a party formed, who are inimical to our
cause, and to the true interest of our country, is wrong, because these
things may originate in a difference of opinion; but, supposing the fact
is otherwise, and that our suspicions are well founded, it is the
indispensable duty of every patriot to counteract them by the most steady
and uniform opposition."

In the Continental Congress, Randolph states, "Washington was prominent,
though silent. His looks bespoke a mind absorbed in meditation on his
country's fate; but a positive concert between him and Henry could not
more effectually have exhibited him to view, than when Henry ridiculed the
idea of peace 'when there was no peace,' and enlarged on the duty of
preparing for war." Very quickly his attendance on that body was ended by
its appointing him general.

His political relations to the Congress have been touched upon elsewhere,
but his attitude towards Great Britain is worth attention. Very early he
had said, "At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be
satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it
seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke,
and maintain the liberty, which we have derived from our ancestors. But
the manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in
question. That no man should scruple, or hesitate a moment, to use a--s in
defence of so valuable a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life
depends, is clearly my opinion." When actual war ensued, he was among the
first to begin to collect and drill a force, even while he wrote, "unhappy
it is, though to reflect, that a brother's sword has been sheathed in a
brother's breast, and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America
are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad
alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"

Not till early in 1776 did he become a convert to independence, and
then only by such "flaming arguments as were exhibited at Falmouth and
Norfolk," which had been burned by the British. At one time, in 1776, he
thought "the game will be pretty well up," but "under a full persuasion of
the justice of our cause, I cannot entertain an Idea, that it will finally
sink, tho' it may remain for some time under a cloud," and even in this
time of terrible discouragement he maintained that "nothing short of
independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A peace on other terms
would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a peace of war."

Pickering, who placed a low estimate on his military ability, said that,
"upon the whole, I have no hesitation in saying that General Washington's
talents were much better adapted to the Presidency of the United States
than to the command of their armies," and this is probably true. The
diplomatist Thornton said of the President, that if his "circumspection is
accompanied by discernment and penetration, as I am informed it is, and as
I should be inclined to believe from the judicious choice he has generally
made of persons to fill public stations, he possesses the two great
requisites of a statesman, the faculty of concealing his own sentiments
and of discovering those of other men."

To follow his course while President is outside of the scope of this work,
but a few facts are worth noting. Allusion has already been made to his
use of the appointing power, but how clearly he held it as a "public
trust" is shown in a letter to his longtime friend Benjamin Harrison, who
asked him for an office. "I will go to the chair," he replied, "under no
pre-engagement of any kind or nature whatsoever. But, when in it, to the
best of my judgment, discharge the duties of the office with that
impartiality and zeal for the public good, which ought never to suffer
connection of blood or friendship to intermingle so as to have the least
sway on the decision of a public nature." This position was held to
firmly. John Adams wrote an office-seeker, "I must caution you, my dear
Sir, against having any dependence on my influence or that of any other
person. No man, I believe, has influence with the President. He seeks
information from all quarters, and judges more independently than any man
I ever knew. It is of so much importance to the public that he should
preserve this superiority, that I hope I shall never see the time that any
man will have influence with him beyond the powers of reason and

Long after, when political strife was running high, Adams said,
"Washington appointed a multitude of democrats and jacobins of the deepest
die. I have been more cautious in this respect; but there is danger of
proscribing under imputations of democracy, some of the ablest, most
influential, and best characters in the Union." In this he was quite
correct, for the first President's appointments were made with a view to
destroy party and not create it, his object being to gather all the talent
of the country in support of the national government, and he bore many
things which personally were disagreeable in an endeavor to do this.

Twice during Washington's terms he was forced to act counter to the public
sentiment. The first time was when a strenuous attempt was made by the
French minister to break through the neutrality that had been proclaimed,
when, according to John Adams, "ten thousand people in the streets of
Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his
house, and effect a revolution in the government, or compel it to declare
in favor of the French revolution and against England." The second time
was when he signed the treaty of 1795 with Great Britain, which produced a
popular outburst from one end of the country to the other. In neither case
did Washington swerve an iota from what he thought right, writing, "these

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