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ful soldier they cried : “ Hurrah! he is a hero;” for the able president they flung their qucer, three-cornered hats in the
air and shouted: “Hail to the chief !” for the big, noble-looking strong and stalwart six-footer, with the calm and handsome face, the well-knit figure and the kindly, courteous but aweinspiring manner they felt both reverence and affection, and, even as they cheered and shouted and swung their hats, they would say: "See, there is Washington! the greatest man in the world.”
So, even though he was worn out in the people's service, though he was“ getting on in years,” as the saying is, and longed only for rest and quiet, the people could not do without
him, and when the time came and they called him to the front again, he came, as reluctant as ever, but just as ready if the need existed.
The need did exist and the call came speedily. The trouble with France grew grave. The men who overthrew the king, and started the French republic, were not as calm, as cautious or as wise as those who started the American republic. They had no Washington to lead them on. So, as they gained power by killing their king and queen and leading men and women, they grew bloodier and more tyrannical, they became selfish and “cheeky” and, especially toward America, they were arrogant and insulting. They treated the United States as if America owed France a debt, for which payment was always to be asked. “ France helped you in your struggle; now you must help France in hers. Give us ships and men; let us use your seaports to fit out our vessels in; or, if not, pay us so much money and we will let you off.”
Washington had not liked such talk, and had said so. When he saw how cruelly France had treated her king, and had at last cut off his head; when he saw how she had persecuted and almost killed Lafayette and Rochambeau and other brave Frenchmen who had fought for American liberty; when he saw how unjust and brutal and arrogant and overbearing were the men in power, he said : “ We must not yield to France. If we do, it will be bad for us in every way.”
John Adams, who followed Washington as President of the United States, said the same thing. And when the French leaders demanded from the American representative
money to keep the peace, Pinckney, the American minister indignantly refused, and was driven out of France. Then all America was angry and prepared to fight. “Millions for defence, but not one cent for tribute,” was the cry on American lips. It looked like a war with France, and word was sent to Washington at Moụnt Vernon to leave his farm once more and raise and lead the army of the United States.
Much against his will, but feeling, as he always did, that if the republic were in danger he must do whatever seemed to be his duty, Washington left the quiet of Mount Vernon and hurried to Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the nation. He was appointed lieutenant-general and commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States.
Here again, boys and girls, you may see the greatness of Washington. The greatest is not he who commands, but he who, while able to command, is willing to be commanded. Washington had held the highest office in the gift of the people for whose freedom he had fought. Now, when duty called, he was ready to accept a position below the highest. Other men in his position have, when such an opportunity offered, seized the power and used it to their own advantage. He acted always in the spirit of the Master whom he served and tried to follow — the Divine Leader who said: "Whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all; even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many."
At Philadelphia, Washington was soon deep in work again, organizing and appointing officers in the new army that was being recruited for the French war that all men thought would surely come. But Washington was getting to be an old man — too old, at least, for the wear and tear of
life in the saddle and the field as a soldier, and, in accepting command of the armies of his country, he had only asked one privilege: that he should not be compelled to serve in the camp or the field until it was really necessary for him to do so.
After he had got everything ready, and had appointed
his chief helpers, and seen to the comfort of the soldiers and the new recruits — he was always great for doing that, you know— he went back to Mount Vernon, to attend to his plantation, and put things in order in case he should be called away again. For, whatever happened, Washington was always ready.
He was ready now; and all too soon the call came. But it was a call that few men expected, though all men knew it must some day come. It was the call to the soldier, the statesman, the patriot, to come up higher. The call came as suddenly, as unexpectedly, as sharply, as ever on the battlefield his orders to his soldiers had been issued; and he met and obeyed it as calmly, as uncomplainingly and as wilingly as he had taught his followers to obey.
Washington was now nearly sixty-eight; he seemed to be as well, as strong and as vigorous as ever; he had scarcely ever been ill; there was not the least sign that sickness could lay him low, and he rode and walked and looked after things on his farm and conducted the affairs of the army as wisely and as well as ever.
But one cloudy day in December, 1779 — the twelfth of the month — just after he had finished a letter urging the establishment of the school for soldiers, now known as the Military Academy at West Point, he mounted his horse and rode away to visit different points of his big farm where work was being done. A snow storm caught him, while he was riding; it turned to hail and then to rain and the Gen