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so soon the principles and habits of his conduct. Gray experience listened to his counsels with respect, and, at a time when youth is almost privileged to be rash, Virginia committed the safety of her frontier, and, ultimately, the safety of America, not merely to his valor, for that would be scarcely praise, but to his prudence.
It is not in Indian wars that heroes are celebrated ; but it is there they are formed. No enemy can be more formidable, by the craft of his ambushes, the suddenness of his onset, or the ferocity of his vengeance. The soul of WASHINGTON was thus exercised to danger; and, on the first trial, as on every other, it appeared firm in adversity, cool in action, undaunted, self-possessed. His spirit, and still more his prudence, on the occasion of Braddock's defeat, diffused his name throughout America, and across the Atlantic. Even then his country viewed him with complacency, as her most hopeful son.
At the peace of 1763, Great Britain, in consequence of her victories, stood in a position to prescribe her own terms. She chose, perhaps, better for us than for herself: for by expelling the French from Canada, we no longer feared hostile neighbors; and we soon found just cause to be afraid of our protectors. We discerned, even then, a truth, which the conduct of France has since so strongly confirmed, that there is nothing which the gratitude of weak states can give, that will satisfy strong allies for their aid, but authority: nations that want protectors, will have masters. Our settlements, no longer checked by enemies on the frontier, rapidly increased; and it was discovered, that America was growing to a size that could defend itself.
In this, perhaps unforeseen, but at length obvious state of things, the British government conceived a jealousy of the colonies, of which, and of their intended measures of precaution, they made no secret. :
Our nation, like its great leader, had only to take counsel from its courage. When WASHINGTON heard the voice of his country in distress, his obedience was
prompt; and though his sacrifices were great, they cost him no effort. Neither the object, nor the limits of my plan, permit me to dilate on the military events of the revolutionary, war. Our history is but a transcript of his claims on our gratitude: our hearts bear testimony, that they are claims not to be satisfied. When overmatched by numbers, a fugitive with a little band of faithful soldiers, the states as much exhausted as dismayed, he explored his own undaunted heart, and found there resources to retrieve our affairs. We have seen him display as much valor as gives fame to heroes, and as consummate prudence as ensures success to valor; fearless of dangers that were personal to him; hesitating and cautious, when they affected his country; preferring fame before safety or repose, and duty before fame.. - Rome did not owe more to Fabius, than America to WASHINGTON. Our nation shares with him the singular glory of having conducted a civil war with mildness, and a revolution with order.
The event of that war seemed to crown the felicity and glory both of America and its chief. Until that contest, a great part of the civilized world had been surprisingly ignorant of the force and character, and almost of the existence of the British colonies. They had not retained what they knew, nor felt curiosity to know the state of thirteen wretched settlements, which vast woods enclosed, and still vaster woods divided from each other. They did not view the colonists so much a people, as a race of fugitives, whom want, and solitude and intermixture with the savages, had made barbarians. , ,
At this time, while Great Britain wielded a force truly formidable to the most powerful states, suddenly, astonished Europe beheld a feeble people, till then unknown, stand forth, and defy this giant to the combat. It was so unequal, all expected it would be short. Our final success exalted their admiration to its highest point: they allowed to WASHINGTON all that is duc
to transcendent virtue, and to the Americans more than is due to human nature. They considered us a race of WASHINGTONs, and admitted that nature in America was fruitful only in prodigies. · Their books and their travellers, exaggerating and distorting all their representations, assisted to establish the opinion that this is a new world, with a new order of men and things adapted to it; that here we practise industry, amidst the abundance that requires none; that we have morals so refined, that we do not need laws; and though we have them, yet we ought to consider their execution as an insult and a wrong; that we have virtue without weaknesses, sentiment without passions, . and liberty without factions. These illusions, in spite of their absurdity, and perhaps because they are absurd enough to have dominion over the imagination only, have been received by many of the malecontents against the governments of Europe, and induced them to emigrate. Such illusions are too soothing to vanity to be entirely checked in their currency among Americans.
They have been. pernicious, as they cherish false ideas of the rights of men and the duties of rulers. They have led the citizens to look for liberty, where it is not; and to consider the government, which is its castle, as its prison.
WASHINGTON retired to Mount Vernon, and the eyes of the world followed him. He left his countrymen to their simplicity and their passions, and their glory soon departed. Europe began to be undeceived, and it seemed for a time, as if, by the acquisition of independence, our citizens were disappointed. The confederation was then the only compact made “ to form a perfect union of the states, to establish justice, to ensure the tranquillity, and provide for the security of the nation;" and accordingly, union was a name that still commanded reverence, though not obedience. The system called justice was, in some of the states, iniquity reduced to elementary principles; and the
public tranquillity was such a portentous calm, as rings in deep caverns before the explosion of an earthquake. Most of the states then were in fact, though not in form, unbalanced democracies. Reason, it is true, spoke audibly in their constitutions; passion and prejudice louder in their laws. It is to the honor of Massachusetts, that it is chargeable with little deviation from principles : its adherence to them was one of the causes of a dangerous rebellion. It was scarcely possible that such governments should not be agitated by parties, and that prevailing parties should not be vindictive and unjust. Accordingly, in some of the states, creditors were treated as outlaws; bankrupts were armed with legal authority to be persecutors; and, by the shock of all confidence and faith, society was shaken to its foundations. Liberty we had, but we dreaded its abuse almost as much as its loss; and the wise, who deplored the one, clearly foresaw the other.
The peace of America hung by a thread, and factions were already sharpening their weapons to cut it. The project of three separate empires in America was beginning to be broached, and the progress of licentiousness would have soon rendered her citizens unfit for liberty in either of them. An age of blood and misery would have punished our disunion : but these were not the considerations to deter ambition from its purpose, while there were so many circumstances in our political situation to favor it..
At this awful crisis, which all the wise so much dreaded at the time, yet which appears, on a retrospect, so much more dreadful than their fears; some man was wanting who possessed a commanding power over the popular passions, but over whom those passions had no power. That man was WASHINGTON. .
His name, at the head of such a list of worthies as would reflect honor on any country, had its proper weight with all the enlightened, and with almost all the well disposed among the less informed citizens, and, blessed be God! the constitution was adopted. Yes, to the eternal honor of America among the nations of the earth, it was adopted, in spite of the obstacles, which, in any other country, and, perhaps, in any other age of this, would have been insurmountable; in spite of the doubts and fears, which well meaning prejudice creates for itself, and which party so artfully inflames into stubbornness; in spite of the vice, which it has subjected to restraint, and which is, therefore, its immortal and implacable foe; in spite of the oligarchies in some of the states, from whom it snatched dominion; it was adopted, and our country enjoys one more invaluable chance for its union and happiness: invaluable! if the retrospect of the dangers we have escaped shall sufficiently inculcate the principles we have so tardily established. Perhaps multitudes are not to be taught by their fears only, without suffering much to deepen the impression; for experience brandishes in her school a whip of scorpions, and teaches nations her summary lessons of wisdom by the scars and wounds of their adversity,
The amendments which have been projected in some of the states show, that, in them at least, these lessons are not well remembered. In a confederacy of states, some powerful, others weak, the weakness of the federal union will, sooner or later, encourage, and will not restrain, the ambition and injustice of the members: the weak can no otherwise be strong or safe, but in the energy of the national government. It is this defect, which the blind jealousy of the weak states not unfrequently contributes to prolong, that has proved fatal to all the confederations that ever existed.
Although it was impossible that such merit as WashINGTON's should not produce envy, it was scarcely possible that, with such a transcendent reputation, he should have rivals. Accordingly, he was unanimously chosen President of the United States.
As a general and a patriot, the measure of his