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union. He felt it as soon as he took command of the army, and it rode like black care behind him from Cambridge to Yorktown. He had hoped something from the confederation, but he soon saw that it was as worthless as the utter lack of system which it replaced, and amounted merely to substituting one kind of impotence and confusion for another. Others might be deceived by phrases as to nationality and a general government, but he had dwelt among hard facts, and he knew that these things did not exist. He knew that what passed for them, stood in their place and wore their semblance, were merely temporary creations born of the common danger, and doomed, when the pressure of war was gone, to fall to pieces in imbecility and inertness. To the lack of a proper union, which meant to his mind national and energetic government, he attributed the failures of the campaigns, the long drawn miseries, and in a word the needless prolongation of the Revolution. He saw, too, that what had been so nearly ruinous in war would be absolutely so in peace, and before the treaty was actually signed he had begun to call attention to the great question on the right settlement of which the future of the country depended.
To Hamilton he wrote on March 4, 1783: "It is clearly my opinion, unless Congress have powers competent to all general purposes, that the distresses we have encountered, the expense we have incurred, and the blood we have spilt, will avail us nothing." Again he wrote to Hamilton, a few weeks later: "My wish to see the union of these States established upon liberal and permanent principles, and inclination to contribute my mite in pointing out the defects of the present constitution, are equally great. All my private letters have teemed with these sentiments, and whenever this topic has been the subject of conversation, I have endeavored to diffuse and enforce them." His circular letter to the governors of the States at the close of the war, which was as eloquent as it was forcible, was devoted to urging the necessity of a better central government. "With this conviction," he said, "of the importance of the present crisis, silence in me would be a crime. I will therefore speak to your Excellency the language of freedom and of sincerity without disguise. . . . There are four things which I humbly conceive are essential to the wellbeing, I may even venture to say, to the existence, of the United States, as an independent power: —
"First. An indissoluble union of the States under one federal head.
"Second. A regard to public justice.
"Third. The adoption of a proper peace establishment; and,
"Fourth. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies; to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity; and in some instances to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the cominunity." The same appeal went forth again in his last address to the army, when he said: "Although the general has so frequently given it as his opinion, in the most public and explicit manner, that unless the principles of the federal government were properly supported, and the powers of the Union increased, the honor, dignity, and justice of the- nation would be lost forever; yet he cannot help repeating on this occasion so interesting a sentiment, and leaving it as his last injunction to every soldier, who may view the subject in the same serious point of light, to add his best endeavors to those of his worthy fellow-citizens towards effecting those great and valuable purposes on which our very existence as a nation so materially depends."
These two papers were the first strong public appeals for union. The letter to the governors argued the question elaborately, and was intended for the general public. The address to the army was simply a watchword and last general order; for the army needed no arguments to prove the crying need of better government. Before this, Hamilton had written his famous letters to Duane and Morris, and Madison was just beginning to turn his thoughts toward the problem of federal government; but with these exceptions Washington stood alone. In sending out these two papers he began the real work that led to the Constitution. What he said was read and heeded throughout the country, for at the close of the war his personal influence was enormous, and with the army his utterances were those of an oracle. By his appeal he made each officer and soldier a missionary in the cause of the Union, and by his arguments to the governors he gave ground and motive for a party devoted to procuring better government. Thus he started the great movement which, struggling through many obstacles, culminated in the Constitution and the union of the States. No other man could have done it, for no one but Washington had a tithe of the influence necessary to arrest public attention; and save Hamilton, no other man then had even begun to understand the situation which Washington grasped so easily and firmly in all its completeness.
He sent out these appeals as his last words to his countrymen at the close of their conflict; but he had no intention of stopping there. He had written and spoken, as he said, to every one on every occasion upon this topic, and he continued to do so until the work was done. He had no sooner laid aside the military harness than he began at once to push on the cause of union. In the bottom of his heart he must have known that his work was but half done, and with the same pen with which he reiterated his intention to live in repose and privacy and spend his declining years beneath his own vine and fig-tree, he wrote urgent appeals and wove strong arguments addressed to leaders in every State. He had not been at home five days before he wrote to the younger Trumbull, congratulating him on his father's vigorous message in behalf of better federal government, which had not been very well received by the Connecticut legislature. He spoke of "the jealousies and contracted temper " of the States, but avowed his belief that public sentiment was improving. "Everything," he concluded, " my dear Trumbull, will come right at last, as we have often prophesied. My only fear is that we shall lose a little reputation first." A fortnight later he wrote to the governor of Virginia: "That the prospect before us is, as you justly observe, fair, none can deny; but what use we shall make of it is exceedingly problematical; not but that I believe all things will come right air last, but like a young heir come a little prematurely to a large inheritance, we shall wanton and run riot until we have brought our reputation to the brink of ruin, and then like him shall have to labor with the current of opinion, when compelled, perhaps, to do what prudence and common policy pointed out as plain as any problem in Euclid in the first instance." The soundness of the view is only equalled by the accuracy of the prediction. He might five years later have repeated this sentence, word for word, only altering the tenses, and he would have rehearsed exactly the course of events.