Abbildungen der Seite

which, as states, were also selfish. To be sure, the common danger of war, and a common dislike of England, had bound them together, so that they were not so entirely wrapt up in their own affairs or so jealous of one another as they had been when they were simply English colonies, but they were all of them, as we say, “ looking out for number one;” they were governing themselves as separate states, without regard to Congress and, in fact, all that Congress could do was just to carry on the war and look after the matters that the war created for all the states.

This looking out for “number one” made the states careless as to the matters which they thought belonged to Congress to attend to, while it made Congress careless and “ touchy,” according as they were left alone or interfered with by the several state governments.

In no way was this carelessness more unfortunately shown than in the treatment of the soldiers. They were the men who had struggled and suffered and starved that America might be free. You would think that Congress would look after them with especial care, and see that they had good food and warm clothes, and money to send home to their wives and children. But Congress did not, and almost one half of Washington's time seems to have been spent in writing to Congress, pleading the cause of the neglected soldiers whom, from raw and undisciplined recruits, he had drilled and made into victorious fighters.

Well, Yorktown came, and the war was over. Congress and the people threw up their hats and hurrahed and shouted Victory! and Hallelujah! But that did not pay the soldiers.

Of course you may ask, why, how could Congress pay the soldiers if it had no money and no power to make the

states pay up. That is true, but it should have so worked as to compel the states to pay their shares of money due the soldiers, or borrowed enough from foreign nations or wealthy men to keep its promises to Washington and his men. But it did not, and the soldiers grew more and more angry, and begun

at last to say that if Congress had not (One of Washington's bravest

Generals.) power enough nor strength enough to keep its promises to the soldiers who had fought its battles, then Congress was “no good,” and the best thing for America was to have a government in which one man should have the “say,” and see to it that what the soldiers had done they should be paid for.

Now, here was just where one of the things that made up the greatness of Washington was shown. He knew just how the soldiers felt; he could not blame them for being angry; he, himself, was angry over the delay and indifference of Congress and the state governments. The soldiers loved him; they looked up to him, and were always ready to obey him, going where he sent them and doing what he told them. The army was a power in the land. Had it wished, it could have said to Congress : “Get out; go home! we have conquered England; we have freed America; we will put some one in to 'run’ this country better than you can do,” and Congress could not have stopped them. All they needed was a leader. Had George Washington been the kind of man of whom you may read in Roman history, of whom the soldiers made emperors and the people first obeyed and then murdered, he need only have said to the soldiers: “You are right. I will lead you, and we will soon settle things;” and he could have been, as was Cæsar, as was Cromwell, as was Napoleon, under almost the same circumstances, first, leader, then dictator, then king.



But George Washington was not that kind of a man. He was truly great. As a result of all this murmuring and fault-finding and grumbling and threatening, the soldiers did try to do something desperate. Through one of their general's trusted officers, they sent him a letter saying just what I have told you they thought — that Congress was a failure; that the army had whipped England and won independence for America ; that England's government was, after all, more strong and safe than could be this jumble of thirteen separate states; that some such government, like that of England, would be best for America; that such a government needed a head, who might be called a protector, dictator or king; that there was only one man in America worthy to fill such a position; and they hinted (though the letter did not say this

in so many words, it meant it all the same) would General Washington take control of the government of America by the help of the army, and be crowned king of America ?

Then, for once in his life, George Washington was angry. There had been other times when he let his “angry passions rise," but they were not numerous. Washington was naturally a quick-tempered man, one who, if he did not watch over himself, would “get mad ” easy. But, in his early days, he had learned the first step toward greatness; he had learned to conquer himself, and no man ever tried harder and succeeded better than he to live up to the old saying we read in the Bible: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” But he would get angry sometimes, and there were two things he could never stand -- treachery and cowardice. He was always enraged if men turned and ran in battle. That was what made him swear at General Lee at Monmouth, and beat the cowards with his sword at Kip's Bay. He never could understand how a man could be a coward, and it was the one thing with which he had no patience.

And treachery, as I have said, was another. He never could understand how a man who had sworn to be true to the cause he had joined, could do or say anything that should be disloyal to that cause. That is why he was so broken by Arnold's treason and why he was so stern with André and determined that he should die.

So when this letter from the soldiers came to him, asking

[graphic][merged small]
« ZurückWeiter »