Posts Tagged ‘Commander-in-Chief’

George Washington: His Country is his Monument

February 18, 2010

GEORGE WASHINGTON.

Few columns rose when Rome was free
To mark her patriot’s last repose;
When she outlived her liberty,
The emperor’s mausoleums rose;
And Trajan’s shaft was reared at last,
When freedom from Tyber passed.
“Better than Trajan” lowly lies
By broad Potomac’s silent shore,
Hallowing the green declivities
With glory, now and evermore.
Art to his fame no aid hath lent —
His country is his monument.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio)1832

GEORGE WASHINGTON.

The following account of the appointment of General Washington to the supreme command of the continental army, June 18th, 1775, has been placed in our hands by a gentleman in whose veracity we have full confidence. We cannot doubt the authenticity of the anecdotes he gives.

This subject has of late years been brought before the public under various versions, and has in every shape attention. The private journal is narrating a conversation with John Adams, senior, before that great and good man was called to his final rest. The relation is more in detail than that which has hitherto been made public, but it substantially corroborates the former versions of the causes which led to the appointment of Washington. Lest we should in any way affect the anecdote, we give it in the words of the narrator.

The army was assembled at Cambridge, Mass., under Gen. Ward, and Congress was sitting at Philadelphia. Every day, new applications in behalf of the army arrived. The country was urgent that Congress should legalize the raising of the army; as they had, what must be considered, only a mob, a band of armed rebels.

The country was placed in circumstances of peculiar difficulty and danger. The struggle had begun, and yet every thing was without order. The great trial now seemed to be in this question. Who shall be the commander-in-chief? It was exceedingly important, and was felt to be the hinge on which the contest might turn for or against us.

The Southern and Middle States, warm and rapid in their zeal for the most part, were jealous of New England, because they felt the real physical force was here; what then was to be done? All New England adored Gen. Ward; he had been in the French war, and went out laden with laurels. He was a scholar and a statesman. Every qualification seemed to cluster in him; and it was confidently believed that the army could not receive any appointment over him. What then was to be done? Difficulties thickened at every step. The struggle was to be long and bloody. Without union, all was lost. The country and the whole country must come in. One pulsation must beat through all hearts.

The cause was one, and the army must be one. The members had talked, debated, considered and guessed, and yet the decisive step had not been taken. At length Mr. Adams came to his conclusion. The means of resolving it were somewhat singular, and nearly as follows: he was walking one morning before Congress hall, apparently in deep thought, when his cousin, Samuel Adams, came up to him and said,

“What is the topic with you this morning?”

“Oh the army,” he replied. “I’m determined to go into the hall this morning, and enter on a full detail of the colonies, in order to show an absolute need of taking some decisive steps. My whole aim will be to induce Congress to appoint a day for adopting the army as the legal army of these united colonies of North America, and then to hint at an election of a Commander-in-Chief.”

“Well,” said Samuel Adams, “I like that, cousin John; but on whom have you fixed as that Commander?”

“I will tell you — George Washington, of Virginia, a member of this house.”

“Oh,” replied Samuel Adams quickly, “that will never do, never.”

“It must do, it shall do,” said John, “and for these reasons — the Southern and Middle States are bout to enter heartily in the cause; and their arguments are portent! they say that New England holds the physical power in her hands, and they fear the result. A New England army, a New England commander, new England perseverance all united, appal them. For this cause they hang back. Now the only course is to allay their fears, and give them nothing to complain of; and this can be done in no other way but by appointing a Southern Chief over this force, and then all will rush to the standard. This policy will blend us in one mass, and that mass will be resistless.”

At this, Samuel Adams seemed greatly moved. They talked over the preliminary circumstances, and John asked his cousin to second the motion. Mr. Adams went in, took the floor, and put forth all his strength, in the delineation he had prepared, all aiming at the adoption of the army. He was ready to own the army, appoint a commander, vote supplies, and proceed to business. After his speech had been finished, some doubted, some objected, and some feared. His warmth increased with the occasion, and to all these doubts and hesitations she[he?] replied.

“Gentlemen, if this Congress will not adopt this army before ten moons have set, New England will adopt it, and she will undertake the struggle alone — yes, with a strong arm, and a clean conscience, she will front the foe single handed.”

This had the desired effect. They saw New England was neither playing, nor to be played with. They agreed to appoint a day. A day was fixed. It came — Mr. Adams went in, took the floor, urged the measure, and after some debate, it passed.

The next thing was to get a commander for his army, with supplies, &c. All looked to Mr. Adams on the occasion, and he was ready. He took the floor, and went into a minute delineation of the character of General Ward, bestowing on him the encomiums which then belonged to no one else. At the end of the eulogy he said, “But this is not the man I have chosen.”

He then went into the delineation of the character of a Commander-in-Chief, such as was required by the peculiar situation of the Colonies at this juncture. And after he had presented the qualifications in his strongest language, and gave the reasons for the nomination he was about to make, he said —

“Gentlemen, I know these qualifications are high, but we all know they are needful, at this crisis in this chief. Does any one say they are not to be obtained in this country? In reply I have to say they are; reside in one of our own body, and he is the person whom I now nominate.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, OF VIRGINIA

Washington, who sat on Mr. Adams’ right hand, was looking at him intently in the face, to watch the name he was about to announce, and not expecting it would be his, sprang from his seat the minute he heard it, and rushed into an adjoining room. Mr. Adams had asked his cousin Samuel to ask for an adjournment as soon as the nomination was made, in order to give the members time to deliberate, and the result is before the world.

I asked Mr. Adams, among other questions, the following:

“Did you ever doubt of the success of the conflict?”

“No, no,” said he, “not for a moment. I expected to be hung and quartered, if I was caught; but no matter for that — my country would be free; I knew George III, could not forge chains long enough and strong enough to reach around these United States.”

The Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Mar 6, 1843