Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

contemplation of great things. He could not feel all the diga nity of his nature without groaning for the degradation of an immense portion of his species. A single institution * brought men under the level of equality; he wished to understand its principles--he wished to become one of its members. His soul expanded with the pure flame of charity; and, I have the pride to believe, that the first step which he made in the temple of truth, had an influence on the fate of this empire ; and on the improvements in the systems of other governments, what have been the consequences of it?

A SIMPLE education, by leaving the energy of his soul un. impaired, and his body in full vigor, enabled him to pass his youthful days between the noble employment of cultivating the ground and pursuing the art of war. Notwithstanding, however brilliant the career of his arms might have appeared to him, whatever esteem his bravery and skill in the performance of his duty might have acquired, whatever hopes of advancement the elevated rank which he possessed when but twenty years of age, might have held forth to him, the glory of being only a great warrior, did not appear to him worthy of the sacrifice of his prevailing passion for the innocent charms of agriculture and domestic felicity. He took up arms only for the defence of the soil that gave him birth, and only to prevent its devastation. It was, without doubt, that, then fighting against French men, he learnt what powerful aid might be derived from that brave and generous nation, for the establishment of liberty, in the new world.

The unfortunately natural proneness of power towards oppression, had drawn on the American colonies all the abuse which accompany pride and authority. The yoke become insupportable, called forth a spirit of resistance. The mother country committed to the decision of the sword, the issue of a quarrel, which justice and reason might have settled without the effusion of human blood. Rarely does power suffer weakness to express the sense of its innocence. It was, therefore, thought proper to threaten with chains, or menace with death, a people who boasted of Washington for their friend and defonder ; and war commenced with fury between men, whom a conformity of language and manners, it seemed, ought to have united by indissoluble ties.

* Masonry

When the mother country threw her armies on the shores of America, to support her pretensions, all eyes, all hearts, were turned towards the peaceable farmer of Mount Vernon. He undertook the defence and justification of his country with the devotion and modesty of true heroism. All the friends of glory and liberty flocked to his standard, and the proud aggressors of Bunker's Hill soon found, that, a nation armed by justice and led by a great man, was not the conquest of a day, The haughty presumption of the enemy's generals causing them to forget what pity has a right to expect from a civilized nation, even in a state of war, our hero, with the firmness of a republican soldier, recalled to their minds the principles of honor and humanity, the only alleviation to the severity of the warrior's lot,

All those epithets which scorn invents to excite hatred and contempt against an enemy, lost their original meaning. Their patience in marches, and military manæuvres, their resignation when in want of every thing, and their intrepidity in action, all soon announced that these rebels against arbitrary and tyrannical laws were sc many heroes ; all soon announced, that the army, like its illustrio’s leader, was equally inaccessible to fear as to corruption.

The argument which enforces the necessity of oppressing men in order to govern them, is a calumny against the human race, invented by tyranny to palliate its excesses and to justify its crimes. It is the example of superior characters that has the most powerful influence over the morality of nations, Washington supported the perseverance of his soldiers and the hopes of his fellow-citizens, only by the ascendancy of his virtues. His sensibility for the sufferings of others, while his own appeared to have been forgotten, inflamed the ardor of men, of whose labors he was, at once, the director and partaker.

His sacred regard to his engagements was the means of furnishing him resources, which were even withheld from the conquerors for want of confidence. The Canadians provisioning his army, upon the bare guarantee of his name, have rendered inmortal homage to the rectitude of his heart.

The enthusiasm which these first successes produced, augmented his hopes, without intoxicating his soul. Boston received him with acclamations of admiration and gratitude ; but, the hero, regardless of himself in the midst of the joy which he had inspired, converted, to the profit of his country, the interest which he had excited for himself. In modestly declining the premature laurels which the love of his country decreed him, he nobly gave all the credit to the companions of his arms, and kept in reserve for himself only the treasure of public opinion, by which he has since been enabled twice to save his country.

HITHERTO the war was but a simple and lawful defence on the part of America. All the means of reconciliation being vanished, it became necessary to declare the emancipation of a great people, to give them a solid form of government, and, with a vigorous resolution to maintain it, to raise them to a place among the nations of the earth. Whatever might have been the maneuvres of the enemy to prevent this separation, so fatal to the mother country, the independence of the United

States was proclaimed and solemnly sworn to be maintained at · the head of the armies.

All the combinations of force were rendered abortive by resistance, and the enemies of Washington and liberty conceived, that, to immolate one, would be the only means of destroying the other. The life of the hero who seemed to hold the destinies of America in his hands was to have been destroyed by the assassin's dagger ; * but, an ever active Providence watched over him, and the bloody plot answered no other purpose to its

* Impartial History of the military and political events of the last war, vol. 1, page 184. Gordon's History of the United States, vol. 2, page 71'; idem, vol. 3, fol. 213.

authors, than to complete the measure of hatred and horror which they had inspired.

WHILST he was thus engaged in braving assassins and com. bating armies, fortune was preparing for his great soul an opportunity to immortalize itself. His very reverses had discovered to hin the secrets of the weakness of his enemies. The difficulty of replacing their men, made the latter desirous of an active, war, which might soon decide their fate, and leave no time to the American soldiers for acquiring discipline. The former, by seizing the opportunities for attack constantly offered by European tactics, had become alarmingly enfeebled. Already the capital momently expected to bow to the law of the conqueror; but, Washington, superior to the sense of fear, dared to hope every thing from the justice of his cause and the greatness of his courage. Like another Leonidas, he had the boldness to believe, that with three thousand soldiers of liberty, he could face his numerous enemies. In fact, the imminence of the danger produced such increased ardor and devotion to the cause, that he braved the English, received reinforcements, saved Philadelphia, and crowned the glorious enterprize by reducing 1,500 of the enemy's troops to the humiliating condition of laying down their arms.

Plains of Trenton ! your name is as immortal as the hero whom I celebrate. The feeling traveller, will stop, in every age, to contemplate the fields, where victory wove a wreath for valor and justice!

INHABITANTS of this peaceful country! your children can never again behold their deliverer ; but let it be your delight, to lead them to the field of battle, where Washington saved your independence, and let them water the place of his triumph with tears of gratitude !

The plans of the enemy being disconcerted, it was expected the resources of a great nation, indignant of defeats, would alt be displayed. And, indeed, neither money or men were spared to stifle the new-born republic in its cradle. Three armies, whose progress, all the genius of Washington, and all the bra. very of his troops could, with difficulty arrest, threatened it it from distant points. The conquest of the capital was the chief object of their wishes. An army superior in numbers, came for this purpose, to provoke the American army to a general action. Its illustrious chief foresaw all the danger of exposing the safety of a great city to the fate of a battle ; but, congress having ordered it, he obeyed as a citizen and fought as a hero. The victory which escaped him at Brandywine, notwithstanding the prodigies of valor exhibited by the American army and the French auxiliary officers, opened to the enemies the road to Philadelphia. This blow, far from damping the ardor of Washington, served only to re-animate it. He continued the mode of warfare most favorable to courage, and contrived to avoid the danger of general. actions, by which his country might have lost, in one day, the fruit of three years' sacrifices and battles. The happy advantage of sparing the blood of his fellow-citizens, and wearying his enemy, was the result of his system. Like a profound politician, he saw that in tem. porizing, he gave to the powers of Europe, always rivals, al. ways at war, always ambitious, time to interest themselves in the fate of people, whose emancipation would deprive the richest, the most active, and most jealous of all nations, of a part of her resources. The event justified his expectations. The French government thought it incumbent on it to aid in humiliating Great-Britain ; and, regardless of the consequences which might result to itself, declared for the United States of America, whose independence it acknowledged.

The warriors of France, in crowds, strove for the honor of hastening to engage, under a new hemisphere, the natural enemies of their country. The love of glory and liberty rendered the allied legions invincible ; and England soon found herself reduced to the alternative of losing the remainder of her possessions in the new world, or of abandoning her vain and dangerous pretensions over the American republic. However, nothing was left untried by that nation to recover its authorisy. Promises, threats, all were employed : all were of no avail. The

« AnteriorContinuar »