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George Washington, The Patriot

( Originally Published 1916 )

An extract from President McKinley's address on Washington, taken from a report in the Cleveland Leader.

Washington and the American Republic are inseparable. You cannot study history without having the name of Washington come to you unbidden. Bancroft said, " But for Washington the Republic would never have been conceived ; the Constitution would not have been formed, and the Federal Government would never have been put in operation." Washington felt that the Revolution was a struggle for freedom, and it was by his strong character and wonderful patriotism that the army was held together during the prolonged and perilous war. In all the public affairs of the colonies Washington was the champion of right. His military career has never been equaled. He continued at the head of his army until the close of the war, overcoming jealousies and intrigues, which only the greatest courage and the sublimest wisdom could do. The ideal he had ever cherished was one in which the individual could have the greatest liberty, consistent with the country's best interests, and it was with this ideal constantly in mind that he carried on the war and embodied the principles of liberty within the government. Washington had many temptations, but the greatest of them came after the victory was achieved. At the time when the army was in revolt, when there was dissatisfaction in Congress, and consternation and distress throughout the colonies, it was proposed that the original plan of government be abandoned and that Washington be chosen as the military ruler or dictator. Washing-ton's strong reproval of such proposals and his insistence upon the stronger government, showed his unselfish regard for the country. A weaker man might have weakened, a bad one would, but Washington was determined to embody into the government all that had been achieved by the war. Washington in what he did had no precedents. He and his associates made the chart which assisted them in guiding the new government. He established credit, put the army and navy on a permanent basis, fostered commerce, and was ever on the side of education.

Everything that he did demonstrates his marvelous foresight. We cannot afford to spare the inspiration that comes from Washington. It pro-motes patriotism and gives vigor to national life. Washington's views on slavery were characterized by a high sense of justice and an exalted con-science. He was the owner of slaves by inheritance, all his interests were affected by slavery, yet he was opposed to it, and in his will he provided for the liberation of his slaves. He set the example for emancipation. He hoped for, prayed for, and was willing to vote for what Lincoln afterward accomplished.

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