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As a great general is a great leader, and as the leader, whether in statesmanship or in sport, in business or in school, as boy or as man, is the one whom all finally look to when anything is to be done that requires judgment, courage, coolness and decision, so George Washington, growing stronger and greater as time went on and the things he had to decide upon or to do, tried and developed him, became the one man in America to whom all America looked for suggestion, guidance and decision. In other words, he was the one man who did it all.
He planned the campaigns that gradually led to victory; he insisted on having an army, instead of Continental militiamen who only joined to serve as soldiers for what is called a brief term of enlistment; he borrowed money himself or got rich men to lend it to the feeble colonies, to pay the expenses of their army; he saw ahead the plans of the British, felt certain they would try to weaken him by sending armies to attack the colonies at the North and South, and he so planned things that the enemy was whipped, and Burgoyne and his army captured at Saratoga in New York, and would have been beaten back at Charleston in South Carolina if the general in command had but done as Washington told him. He tried to have Congress do something more than talk and run away from the British; he held the people together by his firmness and his courage when things seemed all going the wrong way; he kept the army from breaking up altogether when Congress would not send the soldiers
money to pay for their work or to save them from starving. It was his advice that brought about the “alliance” with France, as it was called; it was his letters to Congress that kept that body from doing many unwise things, and things that would have spoiled all that he had undertaken or had done.
All this would have turned the heads of smaller men, as it turned the head of Napoleon and made him a usurper when
he should have been a patriot. But George Washington was great in every way, and thought nothing of personal benefit or what he could make out of anything for himself. And yet he had his enemies. All through the dark days of the
war, when things seemed to go so slowly, when the British still held the cities of Philadelphia and New York, when the American army was shivering in Valley Forge or changing their camps in New York and New Jersey, there were ambitious men in Congress, and jealous men in the army who tried to push
AT VALLEY FORGE.
Washington from his position of command, saying that he was slow and did not know how to do things, and that they or their favorite generals, if they could but have the chance, would end the war in a short time. .
But Washington cared no more for them and their doings than if they had been flies buzzing about him. His purpose was to defeat the British and establish in the land the liberty that had been declared for America on that famous fourth of July in 1776. Nothing could turn him from his purpose; he had the people behind him ; they honored, trusted and loved him and, with enough men in Congress to back him up and try to give him what he must have — men, money and guns — he set his face toward success, and worked steadily ahead.
Through danger and defeat, through suffering and loss, through jealousy and treason and discouragements on every side, Washington kept on — retreating, advancing, fighting: He proved to the world, by the battle of Germantown, that his raw fighters were becoming real soldiers. He showed that he knew when not to fight, as at White Marsh, and how to turn a rout into a victory as åt Monmouth. He kept a lost cause alive in the log huts of the winter quarters at Valley Forge; he bothered the British and kept them so uncertain as to just what he meant to do, that they could not send troops to help their soldiers who had marched into the northern and southern country; and thus he made the battle of Saratoga, and the storming of Stony Point, and the fight at Bennington, and the engagements at the Cowpens and and Guilford Court House and Eutaw Springs, in none of which Washington took part, victories that hastened the end.
The end came at Yorktown in Virginia on the nineteenth of October, 1781. What that end was, and how it came
about, every boy and girl in America who reads or studies the history of the land knows. Through the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, another great American, the French king who hated the English because England had taken Canada from France, sent over men and ships to help the Americans, and declared that, so far as France was concerned, it recognized the rebellious
colonists of America as a new nation in the world. Sixteen war-vessels and four thousand men came across the water; but, as Washington feared, their help did not amount to so much, except that it frightened the British and made them think that all Europe was going to join to help free their American “ rebels,” as they kept calling the revolted colonies — what
boy or girl knows the difference between a revolution and a rebellion ?
France did help the United States very much, however, in the way of lending money and supplies for carrying on the war; and, surely no one in America, now or ever, will
forget the name of that gallant young French nobleman, the Marquis de La Fayette, who, when scarcely more than a boy, hired a vessel and ran away to America to help fight for its freedom, becoming a dear friend to Washington, a ready helper, a cautious leader and a daring soldier of liberty.