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that his way was wise and that his advice should be taken. One by one the different States agreed to meet and talk things over. So, after trying to do this at Annapolis in Maryland in 17.86, and failing, they met at last at Philadelphia in May, 1787, in what is known as the Federal Convention. There, they went to work to get up some sort of an
agreement by which the thirteen States, and the new ones that might be made later, could live in peaceful union and work together for the prosperity and welfare of the new nation whose freedom had been obtained after so much struggle and privation and danger and death.
It was quite natural that Washington should be the leading man
in this Convention. The“ coming “ IF GIN'RAL washington SAYS IT IS together ” — for that was what
“convention ” meant — was largely his idea and when he came to it as delegate from Virginia he was elected to be its presiding officer.
Of course you are not to imagine that there were no other great men in America. It would be very wrong for me to so write this story of our great man as to lead you to think that he was the only one. It was the time of great men. There were Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, who
A GROUP OF GREAT AMERICANS. (1. Tnomas Jefferson. 2. Alexander Hamilton. 3. John Adams. 4. George Washington.
5. Benjamin Franklin. 6. Samuel Adams.)
was as wise as he was great, and John Adams and his cousin Samuel, from Massachusetts, great men, both, and foremost in putting the new nation of the United States on the right track; there were Alexander Hamilton of New York, Washington's right-hand man for so many years, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Hamilton's great rival, and, later on, President of the United States; and there were others whose hearts were warm for liberty through the struggle with England and whose brains were busy in trying to think out and plan out just the right future for the nation they had helped to make. These all were great men; but George Washington was the greatest.
The American people believed in him; they felt that he was honest, pure, and strong and that whatever he wished to do or whatever he tried to bring about would be best for the country and for them.
So, when he was made president of the convention that was to arrange for some sort of a compact by which the United States could be joined together and under which they could live, everyone felt that it was the right thing to do, and waited for the result.
You know what the result was -- the Constitution of the United States. You know, because you study it at school, how it commences: “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberiy to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The “people of the United States” did not all of them like the constitution that their convention agreed upon ; it was a long time before all the States decided to accept it, but they did, finally, and there is no doubt that George Washington's name signed to the document — the first of all the names signed to it — did much to bring people to believe in it as the best paper that could be made saying just how the United States should be governed.
It is said that when Washington took his pen to sign the Constitution he said, thoughtfully and solemnly: “Should the States reject this excellent Constitution, the probability is that an opportunity will never again be offered to cancel another in peace; the next will be drawn in blood”
— all of which means that Washington felt that this was a most important moment in the history of the United States; that the Constitution he was about to sign was the very best thing that the very best men of America could agree upon; he was certain that, should the people of the several States say they did not like it and would not have it, no one could agree upon anything; then quarreling and strife would follow; all that the Americans had fought for in the revolution would be lost and the people, unable to govern themselves, would fall to fighting to see who should govern, until, perhaps, in the end, they would be worse off than when they revolted from King George of England.