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gifted as he was with a nature at once masterful and passionate.
Another trial was brought about by his securing and sending out privateers which did good service. They brought in many valuable prizes which caused infinite trouble, and forced Washington not only to be a [naval secretary, but also made him a species of admiralty judge. He implored the slow-moving Congress to relieve him from this burden, and suggested a plan which led to the formation of special committees and was the origin of the Federal judiciary of the United States. Besides the local jealousies and the personal jealousies, and the privateers and their prizes, he had to meet also the greed and selfishness as well of the money-making, stock-jobbing spirit which springs up rankly under the influence of army contracts and large expenditures among a people accustomed to trade and unused to war. Washington wrote savagely of these practices, but still, despite all hindrances and annoyances, he kept moving straight on to his object.
In the midst of his labors, harassed and tried in all ways, he was assailed as usual by complaint and criticism. Some of it came to him through his friend and aide, Joseph Reed, to whom he wrote in reply one of the noblest letters ever penned by a great man struggling with adverse circumstances and wringing victory from grudging fortune. He said that he was always ready to welcome criticism, hear advice, and learn the opinion of the world. "For as I have but one capital object in view, I could wish to make my conduct coincide with the wishes of mankind, as far as I can consistently; I mean, without departing from that great line of duty which, though hid under a cloud for some time,, from a peculiarity of circumstances, may, nevertheless, bear a scrutiny." Thus he held fast to "the great line of duty," though bitterly tried the while by the news from Canada, where brilliant beginnings were coming to dismal endings, and cheered only by the arrival of his wife, who drove up one day in her coach and four, with the horses ridden by black postilions in scarlet and white liveries, much to the amazement, no doubt, of the sober-minded New England folk.
Light, however, finally began to break on the work about him. Henry Knox, sent out for that purpose, returned safely with the guns captured at Ticonderoga, and thus heavy ordnance and gunpowder were obtained. By the middle of February the harbor was frozen over, and Washington arranged to cross the ice and carry Boston by storm. Again he was held back by his council, but this time he could not be stopped. If he could not cross the ice he would go by land. He had been slowly but surely advancing his works all winter, and now he determined on a decisive stroke. On the evening of Monday, March 4th, under cover of a heavy bombardment which distracted the enemy's attention, he marched a large body of troops to Dorchester Heights and began to throw up redoubts. The work went forward rapidly, and Washington rode about all night encouraging the men. The New England soldiers had sorely tried his temper, and there were many severe attacks and bitter criticisms upon them in his letters, which were suppressed or smoothed over for the most part by Mr. Sparks, but which have come to light since, as is sometimes the case with facts. Gradually, however, the General had come to know his soldiers better, and six months later he wrote to Lund Washington, praising his northern troops in the highest terms. Even now he understood them as never before, and as he watched them on that raw March night, working with the energy and quick intelligence of their race, he probably felt that the defects were superficial, but the virtues, the tenacity, and the courage were lasting and strong. When day dawned, and the British caught sight of the formidable works which had sprung up in the night, there was a great excitement and running hither and thither in the town. Still the men on the heights worked on, and still Washington rode back and forth among them. He was stirred and greatly rejoiced at the coming of the fight, which he now believed inevitable, and as always, when he was deeply moved, the hidden springs of sentiment and passion were opened, and he reminded his soldiers that it was the anniversary of the Boston massacre, and appealed to them by the memories of that day to prepare for battle with the enemy. As with the Huguenots at Ivry,
"Remember St. Bartholomew was passed from man to man."
But the fighting never came. The British troops were made ready, then a gale arose and they could not cross the bay. The next day it rained in torrents, and the next day it was too late. The American intrenchments frowned threateningly above the town, and began to send in certain ominous messengers in the shape of shot and shell. The place was now so clearly untenable that Howe determined to evacuate it. An informal request to allow the troops to depart unmolested was not answered, but Washington suspended his fire and the British made ready to withdraw. Still they hesitated and delayed, until Washington again advanced his works, and on this hint they started in earnest, on March 17th, amid confusion, pillage, and disorder, leaving cannon and much else behind them, and seeking refuge in their ships.
All was over, and the town was in the hands of the Americans. In Washington's own words, "To maintain a post within musket-shot of the enemy for six months together, without powder, and at the same time to disband one army and recruit another within that distance of twenty-odd British regiments, is more, probably, than ever was attempted." It was, in truth, a gallant feat of arms, carried through by the resolute will and strong brain of one man. The troops on both sides were brave, but the British had advantages far more than compensating for a disparity of numbers, always slight and often more imaginary than real. They had twelve thousand men, experienced, disciplined, equipped, and thoroughly supplied. They had the best arms and cannon and gunpowder. They commanded the sea with a strong fleet, and they were concentrated on the inside line, able to strike with suddenness and overwhelming force at any point of widely extended posts. Washington caught them with an iron grip and tightened it steadily until, in disorderly haste, they took to their boats without even striking a blow. Washington's great abilities, and the incapacity of the generals opposed to him, were the causes of this result. If Robert Clive, for instance, had chanced to have been there the end might possibly have been the same, but there would have been some bloody fighting before that end was reached. The explanation of the feeble abandonment of Boston lies in the stupidity of the English government, which had sown the wind and then proceeded to handle the customary crop with equal fatuity.
There were plenty of great men in England, but they were not conducting her government or her armies. Lord Sandwich had declared in the House of Lords that all " Yankees were cowards," a simple and satisfactory statement, readily accepted by the governing classes, and flung in the teeth of the British soldiers as thev fell back twice from the bloody slopes of Bunker Hill. Acting on this pleasant idea, England sent o it as commanders of her American an.-iy a pa;cel of ministerial and court favorites, thoroughly second-rate men, to