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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 attachment.”

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 you.”

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 lady.”

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 well-wisher,

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 Washington,–

“Many enquired to me about Muse’s Braveries, poor Body I had pity him ha’nt he had the weakness to Confes his Coardise himself, & the impudence to taxe all the reste of the oficers without exception of the same imperfection for he said to many of the Consulars and Burgeses that he was Bad But th’ the reste was as Bad as he–To speak francly, had I been in town at that time I cou’nt help’d to make use of my horses [whip] whereas for to vindicate the injury of that vilain. He Contrived his Business so that several ask me if it was true that he had Challeng’d you to fight: My Answer was no other But that he should rather chuse to go to hell than doing of it–for he had Such thing declar’d: that was his Sure Road.”

Washington seems to have cherished no personal ill-will for Muse’s conduct, and when the division of the “bounty lands” was being pushed, he used his influence that the broken officer should receive a quotum. Not knowing this, or else being ungrateful, Muse seems to have written a letter to Washington which angered him, for he replied,–

“Sir, Your impertinent letter was delivered to me yesterday. As I am not accustomed to receive such from any man, nor would have taken the same language from you personally, without letting you feel some marks of my resentment, I would advise you to be cautious in writing me a second of the same tenor. But for your stupidity and sottishness you might have known, by attending to the public gazette, that you had your full quantity of ten thousand acres of land allowed you, that is, nine thousand and seventy-three acres in the great tract, and the remainder in the small tract. But suppose you had really fallen short, do you think your superlative merit entitles you to greater indulgence than others? Or, if it did, that I was to make it good to you, when it was at the option of the Governor and Council to allow but five hundred acres in the whole, if they had been so inclined? If either of these should happen to be your opinion, I am very well convinced that you will be singular in it; and all my concern is, that I ever engaged in behalf of so ungrateful a fellow as you are. But you may still be in need of my assistance, as I can inform you, that your affairs, in respect to these lands, do not stand upon so solid a basis as you imagine, and this you may take by way of hint. I wrote to you a few days ago concerning the other distribution, proposing an easy method of dividing our lands; but since I find in what temper you are, I am sorry I took the trouble of mentioning the land or your name in a letter, as I do not think you merit the least assistance from me.”

The Braddock campaign brought acquaintance with one which did not end in friendship, however amicable the beginning. There can be little doubt that there was cameraderie with the then Lieutenant-Colonel Gage, for in 1773, when in New York for four days, Washington “Dined with Gen. Gage,” and also “dined at the entertainment given by the citizens of New York to Genl. Gage.” When next intercourse was resumed, it was by formal correspondence between the commanders-in-chief of two hostile armies, Washington inquiring as to the treatment of prisoners, and as a satisfactory reply was not obtained, he wrote again, threatening retaliation, and “closing my correspondence with you, perhaps forever,” –a letter which Charles Lee thought “a very good one, but Gage certainly deserved a stronger one, such as it was before it was softened.” One cannot but wonder what part the old friendship played in this “softening.”

Relations with the Howes began badly by a letter from Lord Howe addressed “George Washington, Esq.,” which Washington declined to receive as not recognizing his official position. A second one to “George Washington, Esq. &c. &c. &c.” met with the same fate, and brought the British officer “to change my superscription.” A little after this brief war of forms, a letter from Washington to his wife was intercepted with others by the enemy, and General Howe enclosed it, “happy to return it without the least attempt being made to discover any part of the contents.” This courtesy the American commander presently was able to reciprocate by sending “General Washington’s compliments to General Howe,–does himself the pleasure to return to him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and, by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe.” Even politeness had its objections, however, at moments, and Washington once had to write Sir William,–

“There is one passage of your letter, which I cannot forbear taking particular notice of. No expression of personal politeness to me can be acceptable, accompanied by reflections on the representatives of a free people, under whose authority I have the honor to act. The delicacy I have observed, in refraining from everything offensive in this way, entitles me to expect a similar treatment from you. I have not indulged myself in invective against the present rulers of Great Britain, in the course of our correspondence, nor will I even now avail myself of so fruitful a theme.”

Apparently when Sir Henry Clinton succeeded to the command of the British army the same old device to insult the General was again tried, for Dumas states that Washington “received a despatch from Sir Henry Clinton, addressed to ‘Mr. Washington.’ Taking it from the hands of the flag of truce, and seeing the direction, ‘This letter,’ said he, ‘is directed to a planter of the state of Virginia. I shall have it delivered to him after the end of the war; till that time it shall not be opened.’ A second despatch was addressed to his Excellency General Washington.” A better lesson in courtesy was contained in a letter from Washington to him, complaining of “wanton, unprecedented and inhuman murder,” which closed with the following: “I beg your Excellency to be persuaded, that it cannot be more disagreeable to you to be addressed in this language, than it is to me to offer it; but the subject requires frankness and decision.”

Quite as firm was one addressed to Cornwallis, which read,–

“It is with infinite regret, I am again compelled to remonstrate against that spirit of wanton cruelty, that has in several instances influenced the conduct of your soldiery. A recent exercise of it towards an unhappy officer of ours, Lieutenant Harris, convinces me, that my former representations on this subject have been unavailing. That Gentleman by the fortunes of war, on Saturday last was thrown into the hands of a party of your horse, and unnecessarily murdered with the most aggravated circumstances of barbarity. I wish not to wound your Lordship’s feelings, by commenting on this event; but I think it my duty to send his mangled body to your lines as an undeniable testimony of the fact, should it be doubted, and as the best appeal to your humanity for the justice of our complaint.”

A pleasanter intercourse came with the surrender of Yorktown, after which not merely were Cornwallis and his officers saved the mortification of surrendering their swords, but the chief among them were entertained at dinner by Washington. At this meal, so a contemporary account states, “Rochhambeau, being asked for a toast, gave _’The United States’_. Washington gave _’The King of France’_. Lord Cornwallis, simply _’The King’_; but Washington, putting that toast, added, _’of England’_, and facetiously, _’confine him there, I’ll drink him a full bumper’_, filling his glass till it ran over. Rochambeau, with great politeness, was still so French, that he would every now and then be touching on points that were improper, and a breach of real politeness. Washington often checked him, and showed in a more saturnine manner, the infinite esteem he had for his gallant prisoner, whose private qualities the Americans admired even in a foe, that had so often filled them with the most cruel alarms.” Many years later, when Cornwallis was governor-general of India, he sent a verbal message to his old foe, wishing “General Washington a long enjoyment of tranquility and happiness,” adding that for himself he “continued in troubled waters.”

[Illustration: MRS WASHINGTON]

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

When Burgoyne capitulated to Gates, he sent the news to Congress and not to Washington, and though he had no further need for troops the commander-in-chief had sent him, he endeavored to prevent their return at a moment when every man was needed in the main army. His attitude towards Washington was so notorious that his friends curried favor with him by letters criticising the commander, and when, by chance, the General learned of the contents of one of these letters, and news to that effect reached the ears of Gates, he practically charged Washington with having obtained his knowledge by dishonorable means; but Washington more than repaid the insult, in telling Gates how he had learned of the affair, by adding that he had “considered the information as coming from yourself, and given with a friendly view to forewarn and consequently forearm me, against a secret enemy … but in this, as in other matters of late, I have found myself mistaken.” Driven to the wall, Gates wrote to Washington a denial that the letter contained the passage in question, which was an absolute lie, and this untruth typifies his character. Without expressing either belief or disbelief in this denial, Washington replied,–

“I am as averse to controversy as any man, and had I not been forced into it, you never would have had occasion to impute to me, even the shadow of disposition towards it. Your repeatedly and solemnly disclaiming any offensive views in those matters, which have been the subject of our past correspondence makes me willing to close with the desire, you express, of burying them hereafter in silence, and, as far as future events will permit, oblivion. My temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any personal feuds or dissentions with those who are embarked in the same great national interest with, myself; as every difference of this kind must in its consequence be very injurious.”

After this affair subsided, Washington said,–

“I made a point of treating Gen. Gates with all the attention and cordiality in my power, as well from a sincere desire of harmony, as from an unwillingness to give any cause of triumph among ourselves. I can appeal to the world, and to the whole army, whether I have not cautiously avoided offending Gen. Gates in any way. I am sorry his conduct to me has not been equally generous, and that he is continually giving me fresh proofs of malevolence and opposition. It will not be doing him injustice to say, that, besides the little underhand intrigues which he is frequently practising, there has hardly been any great military question, in which his advice has been asked, that it has not been given in an equivocal and designing manner, apparently calculated to afford him an opportunity of censuring me, on the failure of whatever measures might be adopted.”

After the defeat of Gates at Camden, the Prince de Broglie wrote that “I saw General Gates at the house of General Washington, with whom he had had a misunderstanding…. This interview excited the curiosity of both armies. It passed with a most perfect propriety on the part of both gentlemen. Mr. Washington treated Mr. Gates with a politeness which had a frank and easy air, while the other responded with that shade of respect which was proper towards his general.” And how fair-minded Washington was is shown by his refusal to interfere in an army matter, because, “considering the delicate situation in which I stand with respect to General Gates, I feel an unwillingness to give any opinion (even in a confidential way) in a matter in which he is concerned, lest my sentiments (being known) should have unfavorable interpretations ascribed to them by illiberal Minds.” Yet the friendship was never restored, and when the two after the war were associated in the Potomac company, Washington’s sense of the old treachery was still so keen that he alluded to the appointment of “my bosom friend Genl G-tes, who being at Richmond, contrived to edge himself in to the commission.”

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

Yet, though detected, Conway complained to the Continental Congress that Washington was not treating him properly, and in reply to an inquiry from a member the General acknowledged that,–

“If General Conway means by cool receptions mentioned in the last paragraph of his letter of the 31st ultimo, that I did not receive him in the language of a warm and cordial friend, I readily confess the charge. I did not, nor shall I ever, till I am capable of the arts of dissimulation. These I despise, and my feelings will not permit me to make professions of friendship to the man I deem my enemy, and whose system of conduct forbids it. At the same time, truth authorizes me to say, that he was received and treated with proper respect to his official character, and that he has had no cause to justify the assertion, that he could not expect any support for fulfilling the duties of his appointment.”

In spite of Washington’s opposition, Conway’s friends were numerous enough in the Congress finally to elect him major-general, at the same time appointing him inspector-general. Elated with this evident partiality of the majority of that body for him, he went even further, and Laurens states that he was guilty of a “base insult” to Washington, which “affects the General very sensibly,” and he continues,–

“It is such an affront as Conway would never have dared to offer, if the General’s situation had not assured him of the impossibility of its being revenged in a private way. The Genl, therefore, has determined to return him no answer at all, but to lay the whole matter before Congress; they will determine whether Genl W. is to be sacrificed to Genl. C., for the former can never consent to be concern’d in any transaction with the latter, from whom he has received such unpardonable insults.”

Fortunately, Conway did not limit his “insulting letters” to the commander-in-chief alone, and presently he sent one to Congress threatening to resign, which so angered that body that they took him at his word. Moreover, his open abuse of Washington led an old-time friend of the latter to challenge him, and to lodge a ball, with almost poetic justice, in Conway’s mouth. Thinking himself on the point of death, he wrote a farewell line to Washington “expressing my sincere grief for having done, written or said anything disagreeable to your Excellency…. You are in my eyes a great and good man.” And with this recantation he disappeared from the army. A third officer in this “cabal” was Thomas Mifflin. He was the first man appointed on Washington’s staff at the beginning of the war, but did not long remain in that position, being promoted by Washington to be quartermaster-general. In this position the rumor reached the General that Mifflin was “concerned in trade,” and Washington took “occasion to hint” the suspicion to him, only to get a denial from the officer. Whether this inquiry was a cause for ill-feeling or not, Mifflin was one of the most outspoken against the commander-in-chief as his opponents gathered force, and Washington informed Henry that he “bore the second part in the cabal.” Mifflin resigned from the army and took a position on the board of war, but when the influence of that body broke down with the collapse of the Cabal, he applied for a reappointment,–a course described by Washington in plain English as follows:

“I was not a little surprised to find a certain gentleman, who, some time ago (when a cloud of darkness hung heavy over us, and our affairs looked gloomy,) was desirous of resigning, now stepping forward in the line of the army. But if he can reconcile such conduct to his own, feelings, as an officer and a man of honor, and Congress hath no objections to his leaving his seat in another department, I have nothing personally to oppose it. Yet I must think, that gentleman’s stepping in and out, as the sun happens to beam forth or obscure, is not _quite_ the thing, nor _quite_ just, with respect to those officers, who take ye bitter with the sweet.”

Not long after Greene wrote that “I learn that General Mifflin has publicly declared that he looked upon his Excellency as the best friend he ever had in his life, so that is a plain sign that the Junto has given up all ideas of supplanting our excellent general from a confidence of the impracticability of such an attempt.”

A very minor but most malignant enemy was Dr. Benjamin Rush. In 1774 Washington dined with him in Philadelphia, which implied friendship. Very early in the war, however, an attempt was made to remove the director-general of hospitals, in which, so John Armstrong claimed, “Morgan was the ostensible–Rush the real prosecutor of Shippen–the former acting from revenge,… the latter from a desire to obtain the directorship. In approving the sentence of the court, Washington stigmatized the prosecution as one originating in bad motives, which made Rush his enemy and defamer as long as he lived.” Certain it is he wrote savage letters of criticism about his commander-in-chief of which the following extract is a sample:

“I have heard several officers who have served under General Gates compare his army to a well regulated family. The same gentlemen have compared Gen’l Washington’s imitation of an army to an unformed mob. Look at the characters of both! The one on the pinnacle of military glory–exulting in the success of schemes planned with wisdom, & executed with vigor and bravery–and above all see a country saved by his exertions. See the other outgeneral’d and twice heated–obliged to witness the march of a body of men only half their number thro’ 140 Miles of a thick settled country– forced to give up a city the capitol of a state & after all outwitted by the same army in a retreat.”

Had Rush written only this, there would be no grounds for questioning his methods; but, not content with spreading his opinions among his friends, he took to anonymous letter-writing, and sent an unsigned letter abusing Washington to the governor of Virginia (and probably to others), with the request that the letter should be burned. Instead of this, Henry sent it to Washington, who recognized at once the handwriting, and wrote to Henry that Rush “has been elaborate and studied in his professions of regard to me, and long since the letter to you.” An amusing sequel to this incident is to be found in Rush moving heaven and earth on the publication of Marshall’s “Life of Washington” to prevent his name from appearing as one of the commander-in-chief’s enemies.

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

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

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

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

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

A little later, still smarting from this court-martial, Lee wrote to a newspaper a savage attack on his late commander, apparently in the belief, as he said in a private letter, that “there is … a visible revolution … in the minds of men, I mean that our Great Gargantua, or Lama Babak (for I know not which Title is the properest) begins to be no longer consider’d as an infallible Divinity–and that those who have been sacrificed or near sacrific’d on his altar, begin to be esteem’d as wantonly and foolishly offer’d up.” Lee very quickly found his mistake, for the editor of the paper which contained his attack was compelled by a committee of citizens to publish an acknowledgment that in printing it “I have transgressed against truth, justice and my duty as a good citizen,” and, as Washington wrote to a friend, “the author of the Queries, ‘Political and Military,’ has had no cause to exult in the favorable reception of them by the public.” With Lee’s disappearance the last army rival dropped from the ranks, and from that time there was no question as to who should command the armies of America. Long after, a would-be editor of Lee’s papers wrote to Washington to ask if he had any wishes in regard to the publication, and was told in the reply that,–

“I never had a difference with that gentleman, but on public ground, and my conduct towards him upon this occasion was such only, as I conceived myself indispensably bound to adopt in discharge of the public trust reposed in me. If this produced in him unfavorable sentiments of me, I yet can never consider the conduct I pursued, with respect to him, either wrong or improper, however I may regret that it may have been differently viewed by him and that it excited his censure and animadversions. Should there appear in General Lee’s writings any thing injurious or unfriendly to me, the impartial and dispassionate world must decide how far I deserved it from the general tenor of my conduct.”

These attempts to undermine Washington owed their real vitality to the Continental Congress, and it is safe to say that but for Washington’s political enemies no army rival would have ventured to push forward. In what the opposition in that body consisted, and to what length it went, are discussed elsewhere, but a glance at the reasons of hostility to him is proper here.

John Adams declared himself “sick of the Fabian systems,” and in writing of the thanksgiving for the Saratoga Convention, he said that “one cause of it ought to be that the glory of turning the tide of arms is not immediately due to the commander-in-chief…. If it had, idolatry and adulation would have been unbounded.” James Lovell asserted that “Our affairs are Fabiused into a very disagreeable posture,” and wrote that “depend upon it for every ten soldiers placed under the command of our Fabius, five recruits will be wanted annually during the war.” William Williams agreed with Jonathan Trumbull that the time had come when “a much exalted character should make way for a _general_” and suggested if this was not done “voluntarily,” those to whom the public looked should “see to it.” Abraham Clark thought “we may talk of the Enemy’s Cruelty as we will, but we have no greater Cruelty to complain of than the Management of our Army.” Jonathan D. Sargent asserted that “we want a general–thousands of Lives & Millions of Property are yearly sacrificed to the Insufficiency of our Commander-in-Chief–Two Battles he has lost for us by two such Blunders as might have disgraced a Soldier of three months standing, and yet we are so attached to this Man that I fear we shall rather sink with him than throw him off our Shoulders. And sink we must under his Management. Such Feebleness, & Want of Authority, such Confusion & Want of Discipline, such Waste, such destruction would exhaust the Wealth of both the Indies & annihilate the armies of all Europe and Asia.” Richard Henry Lee agreed with Mifflin that Gates was needed to “procure the indispensable changes in our Army.” Other Congressmen who were inimical to Washington, either by openly expressed opinion or by vote, were Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Adams, William Ellery, Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, Samuel Chase, and F.L. Lee. Later, when Washington’s position was more secure, Gerry and R.H. Lee wrote to him affirming their friendship, and to both the General replied without a suggestion of ill-feeling, nor does he seem, in later life, to have felt a trace of personal animosity towards any one of the men who had been in opposition to him in Congress. Of this enmity in the army and Congress Washington wrote,–

“It is easy to bear the first, and even the devices of private enemies whose ill will only arises from their common hatred to the cause we are engaged in, are to me tolerable; yet, I confess, I cannot help feeling the most painful sensations, whenever I have reason to believe I am the object of persecution to men, who are embarked in the same general interest, and whose friendship my heart does not reproach me with, ever having done any thing to forfeit. But with many, it is a sufficient cause to hate and wish the ruin of a man, because he has been happy enough, to be the object of _his country’s_ favor.”

The political course of Washington while President produced the alienation of the two Virginians whom he most closely associated with himself in the early part of his administration. With Madison the break does not seem to have come from any positive ill-feeling, but was rather an abandonment of intercourse as the differences of opinion became more pronounced. The disagreement with Jefferson was more acute, though probably never forced to an open rupture. To his political friends Jefferson in 1796 wrote that the measures pursued by the administration were carried out “under the sanction of a name which has done too much good not to be sufficient to cover harm also,” and that he hoped the President’s “honesty and his political errors may not furnish a second occasion to exclaim, ‘curse on his virtues, they’ve undone his country.'” Henry Lee warned Washington of the undercurrent of criticism, and when Jefferson heard indirectly of this he wrote his former chief that “I learn that [Lee] has thought it worth his while to try to sow tares between you and me, by representing me as still engaged in the bustle of politics & in turbulence & intrigue against the government. I never believed for a moment that this could make any impression on you, or that your knowledge of me would not overweigh the slander of an intriguer dirtily employed in sifting the conversations of my table.” To this Washington replied,–

“As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogating from that opinion _I_ had conceived you entertained of me; that, to your particular friends and connexions you have described, and they have denounced me as a person under a dangerous influence; and that, if I would listen more to some _other_ opinions, all would be well. My answer invariably has been, that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions in my mind of his insincerity; that, if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the _sole_ objects of my pursuit; that there was as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided _against_ as in _favor_ of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and, I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics or measures of _any man living_. In short that I was no party man myself and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.”

As proof upon proof of Jefferson’s secret enmity accumulated, Washington ceased to trust his disclaimers, and finally wrote to one of his informants, “Nothing short of the evidence you have adduced, corroborative of intimations which I had received long before through another channel, could have shaken my belief in the sincerity of a friendship, which I had conceived as possessed for me by the person to whom you allude. But attempts to injure those, who are supposed to stand well in the estimation of the people, and are stumbling blocks in the way, by misrepresenting their political tenets, thereby to destroy all confidence in them, are among the means by which the government is to be assailed, and the constitution destroyed.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington never, in any situation, took public notice of these attacks, and he wrote of a possible one, “I am gliding down the stream of life, and wish, as is natural, that my remaining days may be undisturbed and tranquil; and, conscious of my integrity, I would willingly hope, that nothing would occur tending to give me anxiety; but should anything present itself in this or any other publication, I shall never undertake the painful task of recrimination, nor do I know that I should even enter upon my justification.” To a friend he said, “my temper leads me to peace and harmony with all men; and it is peculiarly my wish to avoid any feuds or dissentions with those who are embarked in the same great national interest with myself; as every difference of this kind must in its consequence be very injurious.”



“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 afterwards.

“‘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 party.

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 Yorktown.”

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 stand.”

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 Cabal.

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 soul.”

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 attention,”

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 argument.”

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