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Memorials Of George Washington

( Originally Published 1916 )


Modern history, oratory, and poetry are so replete with tributes to the memory of Washington, that the entire progress of the civilized world for more than a century has been shaped by the influence of his life and precepts. The memorial shaft at the national capital, which is the loftiest of human structures, and is inner-faced by typical expressions of honor from nearly all nations, is a fit type of his surmounting merit. The ceremonies which at-tended the cornerstone consecration and signalized its completion are no less an honor to the distinguished historian and statesman who voiced the acclamations of the American people than a perpetual testimonial worthy of the subject honored by the occasion and by the monument. When the world pays willing tribute, and the most ambitious monarch on earth would covet no higher plaudit than that he served his people as faithfully as Washing-ton served America, it is difficult to fathom the depths of memorial sentiment and place in public view those which are the most worthy of study and appreciative respect. The national life itself throbs through his transmitted life, and the aroma of his grace is as consciously breathed by statesmen and citizens today as the invisible atmosphere which secures physical vitality and force. Senator Vance of North Carolina, thus earnestly commends to the youth of America the brightness and beauty of the great example :

Greater soldiers, more intellectual statesmen, and profounder sages have doubtless existed in the history of the English race, perhaps in our own country, but not one who to great excellence in the threefold composition of man, the physical, intellectual, and moral, has added such exalted integrity, such unaffected piety, such unsullied purity of soul, and such wondrous control of his own spirit. He illustrated and adorned the civilization of Christianity, and furnished an example of the wisdom and perfection of its teachings which the subtlest arguments of its enemies cannot impeach. That one grand, rounded life, full-orbed with intellectual and moral glory, is worth, as the product of Christianity, more than all the dogmas of all the teachers. The youth of America who aspire to promote their own and their country's welfare should never cease to gaze upon his great example, or to remember that the brightest gems in the crown of his immortality, the qualities which uphold his fame on earth and plead for him in heaven, were those which characterized him as the patient, brave, Christian gentleman. In this respect he was a blessing to the whole human race no less than to his own countrymen, to the many millions who annually celebrate the day of his birth.

Such sentiments fitly illustrate the controlling element of character which made the conduct of Washington so peerless in the field and in the chair of state. His first utterances upon assuming command of the American army before Boston, on the 2d of July, 1775, were a rebuke of religious bigotry and an impressive protest against gaming, swearing, and all immoral practices, which might forfeit divine aid in the great struggle for national independence. Succeeding orders, preparatory to the battle of Long Island, in August, 1776, breathe the same spirit,—that which transfused all his activities, as with celestial fire, until he surrendered his commission with a devout and public recognition of Almighty God as the author of his success.

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