Abbildungen der Seite

Review the correspondence of General Washington—that sublime monument of intelligence and integrity-scrutinize the public history and the public men of that era, and you will find that in all the wisdom that was accomplished or was attempted, Washington was before every man in his suggestions of the plan, and beyond every one in the extent to which he contributed to its adoption. In the field, all the able generals acknowledged his superiority, and looked up to him with loyalty, reliance, and reverence; the others, who doubted his ability, or conspired against his sovereignty, illustrated, in their own conduct, their incapacity to be either his judges or his rivals. In the state, Adams, Jay, Rutledge, Pinckney, Morris—these are great names; but there is not one whose wisdom does not vail to his? His superiority was felt by all these persons, and was felt by Washington himself, as a • simple matter of fact, as little a subject of question, or a cause of vanity, as the eminence of his personal stature. His appointment as commander-in-chief, was the result of no design on his part, and of no efforts on the part of his friends; it seemed to take place spontaneously. He moved into position, because there was a vacuum which no other could supply; in it, he was not sustained by government, by a party, or by connexions: he sustained himself; and then he sustained every thing else. He sustained Congress against the army, and the army against the injustice of Congress. The brightest mind among his contemporaries was Hamilton's; a character which cannot be contemplated without frequent admiration, and constant affection. His talents took the form of genius, which Washington's did not. But active, various, and brilliant, as the faculties of Hamilton were, whether viewed in the precocity of youth, or in the all-accomplished

elegance of maturer life-lightning-quick as his intelligence was to see through every subject that came before it, and vigorous as it was in constructing the argumentation by which other minds were to be led, as upon a shapely bridge, over the obscure depths across which his had flashed in a moment-fertile and sound in schemes, ready in action, splendid in display, as he was—nothing is more obvious and certain than that when Mr. Hamilton approached Washington, he came into the presence of one who surpassed him in the extent, in the comprehension, the elevation, the sagacity, the force, and the ponderousness of his mind, as much as he did in the majesty of his aspect, and the grandeur of his step. The genius of Hamilton was a flower, which gratifies, surprises, and enchants; the intelligence of Washington was a stately tree, which in the rarity and true dignity of its beauty is as superior, as it is in its dimensions. * * * *

In moral qualities, the character of Washington is the most truly dignified that was ever presented to the respect and admiration of mankind. He was one of the few entirely good men in whom goodness had no touch of weakness. He was one of the few rigorously just men whose justice was not commingled with any of the severity of personal temper. The elevation, and strength, and greatness of his feelings were derived from nature; their moderation was the effect of reflection and discipline. His temper, by nature, was ardent, and inclined to action. His passions were quick, and capable of an intensity of motion, which, when it was kindled by either intellectual or moral indignation, amounted almost to fury. But how rarely-how less than rarely—was any thing of this kind exhibited in his public career! How restrained from all excess which reason could reprove, or virtue condemn, or good taste reject, were these earnest impulses, in the accommodation of his nature to "that great line of duty" which he had set up as the course of his life. Seen in his public duties, his attitude and character—the one elevated above familiarity, the other purged of all littlenesses-present a position and an image almost purely sublime.

No airy and light passion stirs abroad
To ruffle or to soothe him; all are quelled
Beneath a mightier, sterner stress of mind:
Wakeful he sits, and lonely, and unmoved,
Beyond the arrows, views, or shouts of men ;
As oftentimes an eagle, when the sun
Throws o'er the varying earth his early ray,
Stands solitary, stands immovable
Upon some highest cliff, and rolls his eye,
Clear, constant, unobservant, unabased,
In the cold light, above the dews of morn.

But when viewed in the gentler scenes of domestic and friendly relation, there are traits which give loveliness to dignity, and add grace to veneration; like the leaves and twigs which cluster around the trunk and huge branches of the colossal elm, making that beautiful which else were only grand. His sentiments were quick and delicate; his refinement exquisite. His temper was as remote from plebeian, as his principles were opposite to democratic. If his public bearing had something of the solemnity of puritanism, the sources of his social nature were the spirit and maxims of a cavalier. His demeanour towards all men illustrated, in every condition, that "finest sense of justice which the mind can form.” IN ALL THINGS ADMIRABLE, IN ALL THINGS TO BE IMITATED; IN SOME THINGS SCARCE IMITABLE AND ONLY TO BE ADMIRED.

RUFUS WILMOT GRISWOLD, D.D., was born at Benson, Rutland County, Vermont, February 15, 1815, and died in New York, August 27, 1857. He was at first apprenticed to a printer, but studied divinity, and became a Baptist preacher. He, however, soon became associated in the literary management of a number of journals in several of the principal cities of the Union, and in 1842–3 edited Graham's Magazine, and from 1850 to 1852 the International Magasine, in New York. Dr. Griswold was a voluminous writer. “Washington and the Generals of the American Revolution," published at Philadelphia in 1847, 2 vols., 12mo, was edited and partly written by him, assisted by W. G. Simms, E. D. Ingraham, and others. The sketch of Washington in Vol. I, from which we make the extract, is presumed to have been written by Griswold.



The crowning glory of his character was his patriotism. No man ever before rose out of the mass of the people to such power without abusing it, and history searches in vain for a military leader, so much of whose life had been spent in the camp, and whose will was law to a grateful nation, who voluntarily resigned his rank and chose the humble, peaceful occupation of a farmer. At first the nation, jealous of its liberties, was afraid to pass so much power into his hands; but it soon learned that he watched those liberties with a more anxious eye than itself. From the outset, his honor and his country stood foremost in his affections; the first he guarded with scrupulous care, and for the last he offered up his life and his fortune. His patriotism was so pure, so unmixed with any selfish feeling, that no ingratitude, or suspicions or wrongs, could for a moment weaken its force. It was like the love of a father for his son, notwithstanding his errors and disobedience, and who bends over him with that yearning affection which will still believe and hope on to the end. Men have been found who would sacrifice their lives for their country, and yet would not submit to its injustice or bear with its ingratitude ignorance, and follies. Many have been astonished at the confidence of Washington even in his darkest hours; but it was the faith of strong love. On the nation's heart, let it beat never so wildly, he leaned in solemn trust. * * * *

« ZurückWeiter »