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striking example of that native force of the American character, in its unsophisticated grandeur, and inartificial strength, which has so often caused it to be compared to the colossal magnitude of our mountains, and the expansive majesty of our lakes and streams. Too great by nature, to require the auxiliary aids of art, he could not well have been improved by those classical refinements, which add vigor to feebler minds, and give grace to the uninspired labors of dulness.
Yet his education was appropriate to his destination in life-it was the education of a soldier. He did not, of course, aspire to the profound speculations of the philosopher; the elegance and taste of the man of letters; or the comprehensive and deep researches of the statesman. It does not appear that his studies and reading ever led him to those elaborate disquisitions, which would have enabled him to grasp the theories of government, or conduct him to the highest eminences of civil, judicial, or political life. No yearnings of his spirit after such distinctions, are, therefore, to be detected in the early part of his life; no political pantings no civil aspirations, ever interfered to jostle his thirst of military fame, or cause him to seek distinctions which lay out of the natural path of his genius. We are, therefore, not to be surprised, that during the whole course of the Revolution, he never indulged in an inclination for the studies of civil law, philosophy, science, or belles-lettres; and that, feeling his strength to lie in the military line, he chose to confine it, where it would obtain most splendour and achieve most good for his country. It is true, that, prior to his marriage, he had been chosen to the Provincial Assembly; and that, at a subsequent period, he took his seat in the Congress that declared Independence; but on these occasions he was confessedly out of his element -he never shone he never felt at home-and always availed himself of the first opportunity to resign the honor which he could not embellish with splendour, or convert to his own glory; and which did not gratify his feelings, or minister to his favorite passion of military fame.
It was in accordance with this trait of his genius, that, in the incipient stages of the Revolution, he appeared so little on the civil theatre of action; and became rather a spectator, than a participator in the political convulsions, which, on every side, were distracting the country. In the first
Congress, although his name is enrolled among the delegates from Virginia, yet he does not appear to have taken a prominent part on any of the important committees, on which he was placed, or to have borne an active share in their proceedings; so adverse were his habits and genius to civil and political pursuits-yet, it is not to be inferred from this inaptitude of his mind for the discharge of parliamentary duties, and political functions, that his heart was not warmly devoted to the cause of liberty and independence. Still, we have no reason to believe that he ever fomented the discontent of the Colonies; or inspirited the people to sedition, complaint, or remonstrance, against any of the oppressive and illegal acts of the mother country. Approving, rather than instigating, the revolutionary movements around him, he became an efficient, though not active friend to the cause of liberty and emancipation; and while Patrick Henry was hurling the thunders of his eloquence against the tyranny of the King-whilst Jay was composing manly and spirited appeals to the justice of the British Ministry and whilst Paine was captivating the ear, and winning the hearts of the people to the cause of liberty, and the rights of man, through the columns of the public journals, and the medium of a free press-Washington, reposing on the rock of his military genius, was serenely awaiting the final catastrophe of the struggle, when, argument being exhausted-patience wearied-and negociation ineffectual-the time to draw the sword would arrive, and usher him, in the fulness of his vigour, and the maturity of his judgment, on his native element of war, to save his country, or perish in vindicating her rights, liberty, and independence.
At the same time, however, that he was exempt from the effervescent fervor of sedition, there is ample reason to believe that sound whig principles had taken a deep root in his mind, and that, although he might not be found enthusiastic in the cause of Independence, yet that he had no objection to see the royal government overturned, and a republican constitution substituted in its place. His military ambition, which was unquestionably the absorbing passion of his heart, (if the harmony of his constitution admitted a ruling passion,) had been mortified and disappointed by that system of court favour, in military promotion, which had obstructed his advancement on the regular esta
blishment of the royal troops, and confined him to the subordinate rank of a provincial officer—a circumstance which had so frequently exposed him to the most acute mortification, when compelled to yield to the arrogant claims of precedence set up by the king's officers, on all occasions, over the provincial officers of the colonial governments; which not only checked his ambition, but mortified his feelings, at the same moment that it obstructed his advancement, chilled his enterprise, and baffled the natural bent of his powerful genius, which panted to reach the climax of military perfection and renown.
When we reflect upon the infatuation of the British government, in the preposterous policy of humiliation, which they adopted towards the colonies at that period, we are struck with astonishment that so little knowledge of human nature should have entered into their views and measures, and that they should systematically attempt to hold us in vassalage by the very means that were calculated to move us to revolt and independence—that is, by treating a proud spirited people as their inferiors, and attempting to degrade men whose besetting sin, if they had one, was a restless ambition, and a soaring spirit of enterprise and invention, which transcended all that history had ever recorded of any other people-a system of policy which directly excited the self-love of every man to react against them, and which arrayed wealth, talents, and all other possessions in opposition to the royal government, notwithstanding the peril of the contest which they were compelled to wage. For the case of Washington was also the case of a thousand others, who, notwithstanding their enjoyment of opulence, ease, pleasure, and social distinction, yet panted to attain that public eminence which a government of their own only could bestow; without much caring what kind of government should be substituted in the place of the foreign despotism that then degraded as well as oppressed, insulted, and rebuked them; without even resorting to the common expedient of selecting their choice spirits for preferment, or delegating some portion of the power of court favour, and royal patronage to the lordly Governor, who, from time to time, represented the imperial majesty of England.
Next to his passion for war and military pursuits, the propensity of Washington was towards agriculture, and those collateral avocations connected with the management
and improvement of his estate, whose value and increase had now swelled his fortune to a splendid magnitude, which claimed his attention, and occupied the greater portion of his time; and from the period of his resigning his commission to the Assembly of Virginia, he had divided his thoughts between public affairs and the concerns of his plantations.
As a member of the Virginia Legislature, he was always respected, though never conspicuous; but he was repeatedly elected as a delegate to the State Assembly.
When the independent companies of the northern parts of Virginia had completed their organisation, they chose Washington for their Commander. So that, whether in military or civil pursuits, whenever honor was to be conferred, or confidence reposed, Washington was always sure to be selected as the prominent object of attachment and regard to the people.
Having been elected to the first Congress, he took his seat in that body, when it met at Philadelphia, and was always chosen as a member of those committees, which were appointed for military or defensive purposes; in which situations the soundness of his judgment, the firmness of his purpose, the integrity of his character, and the imposing dignity of his person and address, combined with his unquestionable patriotism, enabled him to be of essential service to his country; and although we have from his pen no exposition of the abstract principles that constituted the basis of our revolutionary struggle, yet he has said enough to show that he approved of the ground of resistance, and embarked all his feelings and wishes in the great contest for national independence.
To the dignity of his personal deportment, and the awe inspiring expression of his noble countenance, Washington was, perhaps, as much indebted for his eminence through life, as to the pure integrity of his soul, and the unblemished disinterestedness of his devotion to the good of his country. Physically adapted to inspire awe, to kindle enthusiasm, or to extort devotion to his person, he was, of all the public men of that time, the best qualified to lead our troops to victory, or to protect and shelter them under defeat. Various and irresistible were the inducements that influenced Congress to invest him with the chief and exclusive command of the Armies of the United Colonies; to which post he was unanimously chosen by Congress on
the 14th of June, 1775. Among other considerations that operated in favor of his selection, may be mentioned his great opulence-his experience in military affairs-his known ambition to achieve military renown-his valour, firmness and prudence-his penetrating sagacity-his comprehensive grasp of mind-his faculty of combining detached parts into one great whole-his power of conceiving the great-executing the dangerous-and embracing the vast together with indomitable courage-exhaustless patienceand unconquerable fortitude:-a combination of attributes and circumstances so rarely found united in one person, that the living example of the model might, without departing from the tone of reason, be justly demonstrated a prodigy of nature.
Endowed with unaffected modesty, this great man, when presented with his commission, avowed his sincere diffidence of his ability for the important trust.
To add to his merit, he refused to receive any compensation for his services; with an understanding that Congress should discharge his expenses only; of which he pledged himself to keep a strict account. How widely differen from modern patriots, who only seek to serve their country for emolument and pay! It is not, however, to be doubt ed, but that the gratification experienced by Washington, in his love of military life, proved in itself a profuse remuneration for all his toils and perils.
A more popular choice of a commander in chief, could not have been made. The whole country rang, with one united shout of unanimous applause, that an individual so well fitted, in all respects, for the arduous duty of the crisis, had been chosen to discharge it.
Still the spirit of liberty was startled into jealousy, by the almost absolute military power, with which he had been invested; and the address of congratulation presented to him by the Provincial Assembly of New York, upon his arrival in that city, on his way to assume command of the army at Cambridge, contained this prudent and jealous clause:
"We have the fullest assurances, that, whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of every American soul-an accommodation with our mother country, you will cheerfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and reassume the character of our worthiest citizen."