Page images

examined schemes, nor refused to beneficial though costly improvements. They remained, therefore, competent to that expensive establishment which his reputation, added to a hospitable temper, had in some measure imposed upon him, and to those donations which real distress has a right to claim from opulence. He made no pretensions to that vivacity which fascinates, or to that wit which dazzles and frequently imposes on the understanding. More solid than brilliant, judgment rather than genius, constituted the most prominent feature of his character. As a military man, he was brave, enterprising, and cautious. That malignity which has sought to strip him of all the higher qualities of a general, has conceded to him personal courage, and a firmness of resolution which neither dangers nor difficulties could shake. But candor will allow him other great and valuable endowments. If his military course does not abound with splendid achievements, it exhibits a series of judicious measures, adapted to circumstances, which probably saved his country. Placed, without having studied the theory, or been taught in the school of experience the practice of war, at the head of an undisciplined, ill-organized multitude, which was unused to the restraints and unacquainted with the ordinary duties of a camp, without the aid of officers possessing those lights which the commander-inchief was yet to acquire, it would have been a miracle, indeed, had his conduct been absolutely faultless. But, possessing an energetic and distinguishing mind, on which the lessons of experience were never lost, his errors, if he conmitted any, were quickly repaired ; and those measures which the state

of things rendered most advisable were seldom, if ever, neglected. Inferior to his adversary in the numbers, in the equipment, and in the discipline of his troops, it is evidence of real merit, that no great and decisive advantages were ever obtained over him, and the opportunity to strike an important blow never passed away unused. He has been termed the American Fabius ; but those who compare his actions with his means, will perceive at least as much of Marcellus as of Fabius in his character. He could not have been more enterprising without endangering the cause he defended, nor have put more to hazard without incurring justly the imputation of rashness. Not relying upon those chances which sometimes give a favorable issue to attempts apparently desperate, his conduct was regulated by calculations made upon the capacities of his army, and the real situation of his country.

No truth can be uttered with more confidence than that the ends of Washington were always upright, and his means always pure. He exhibits the rare example of a politician to whom wiles were absolutely unknown, and whose professions to foreign governments, and to his own countrymen, were always sincere. In him was fully exemplified the real distinction which for ever exists between wisdom and cunning, and the importance as well as truth of the maxim that “honesty is the best policy.” If Washington possessed ambition, that passion was, in his bosom, so regulated by principles, or controlled by circumstances, that it was neither vicious nor turbulent. Intrigue was never employed as the means of its gratification; nor was personal aggrandizement its object.

The various high and important stations to which he was called by the public voice, were unsought by himself ; and, in consenting to fill them, he seems rather to have yielded to a general conviction that the interests of his country would be thereby promoted, than to his particular inclination. Neither the extraordinary partiality of the American people, the extravagant praises which were bestowed upon him, nor the inveterate opposition and malignant calumnies which he experienced, had any visible influence upon his conduct. The cause is to be looked for in the texture of his mind. In him, that innate and unassuming modesty which adulation would have offended, which the voluntary plaudits of millions could not betray into indiscretion, and which never obtruded upon others his claims to superior consideration, was happily blended with a high and correct sense of personal dignity, and with a just consciousness of that respect which is due to station. Without exertion, he could maintain the happy medium between that arrogance which wounds, and that facility which allows the office to be degraded in the person who fills it. It is impossible to contemplate the great events which have occurred in the United States, under the auspices of Washington, without ascribing them, in some measure, to him. If we ask the causes of the prosperous issue of a war, against the successful termination of which there were so many probabilities ; of the good which was produced, and the ill which was avoided, during an administration fated to contend with the strongest prejudices that a combination of circumstances and of passions could produce ; of the con

stant favor of the great mass of his fellow citizens, and of the confidence which, to the last moment of his life, they reposed in him,—the answer, so far as these causes may be found ir his character, will furnish a lesson well meriting the attention of those who are candidates for political fame. Endowed by nature with a sound judgment, and an accurate, discriminating mind, he feared not that laborious attention which made him perfectly master of those subjects, in all their relations, on which he was to decide ; and this essential quality was guided by an unvarying sense of moral right, which would tolerate the employment only of those means that would bear the most rigid examination ; by a fairness of intention which neither sought nor required disguise ; and by a purity of virtue which was not only untainted, but unsuspected.



OUR country !_'tis a glorious land !

With broad arms stretch'd from shore to shore, The proud Pacific chafes her strand,

She hears the dark Atlantic roar ; And, nurtured on her ample breast,

How many a goodly prospect lies In Nature's wildest grandeur drest,

Enamelld with her loveliest dyes.

Rich prairies, deck'd with flowers of gold,

Like sunlit oceans roll afar ;
Broad lakes her azure heavens behold,

Reflecting clear each trembling star,
And mighty rivers, mountain-born,

Go sweeping onward, dark and deep, Through forests where the bounding fawn

Beneath their sheltering branches leap.

And, cradled mid her clustering hills,

Sweet vales in dreamlike beauty hide, Where love the air with music fills ;

And calm content and peace

abide ;

« PreviousContinue »