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Ch. 11: Quem Jupiter Vult Perdere

There are times when, upon nations as upon individuals, there comes a
wave of evil tendency, which seems to them not evil, but good. Under its
influence they do and think things which afterward amaze them in the
retrospect. But such ill seasons are always balanced by the presence and
opposition of those who desire good, whether from selfish or altruistic
motives. And since good alone has a root, connecting it with the eternal
springs of life, therefore in the end it prevails, and the movement of the
race is on the whole, and in the lapse of time, toward better conditions.

England, during the Eighteenth Century, came under the influence of a
selfish spirit which could not but lead her toward disaster, though at the
time it seemed as if it promoted only prosperity and power. She thought
she could strengthen her own life by restricting the natural enterprise
and development of her colonies: that she could subsist by sucking human
blood. She believed that by compelling the produce of America to flow
toward herself alone, and by making America the sole recipient of her own
manufactures, she must be immeasurably and continually benefited; not
perceiving that the colonies could never reach the full limit of their
productiveness unless freedom were conceded to all the impulses of their
energy, or that the greater the number of those nations who were allowed
freely to supply colonial wants, the greater those wants would become.
Moreover, selfishness is never consistent, because it does not respect the
selfishness of others; and England, at the same time that she was
maintaining her own trade monopolies, was illicitly undermining the
similar monopolies of other nations. She promoted smuggling in the Spanish
West Indies, and made might right in all her dealings with foreign
peoples. The assiento--the treaty giving her exclusive right to supply the
West Indian islands with African slaves--was actively carried out, and the
slave-trade reached enormous proportions; it is estimated that from three
to nine millions of Africans were imported into the American and Spanish
colonies during the first half of the Eighteenth Century, yielding a
revenue for their importation alone of at least four hundred million
dollars. But the profit did not end there; for their labor on the
plantations in the southern colonies (where alone they could be used in
appreciable numbers) multiplied the production and diminished the cost of
the articles of commerce which those colonies raised. There were
individuals, almost from the beginning, who objected to slavery on grounds
of abstract morality; and others who held that a converted African should
cease to be a slave. But these opinions did not impress the bulk of the
people; and laws were passed classing negroes with merchandise. "The trade
is very beneficial to the country" was the stereotyped reply to all
humanitarian arguments. The cruelties of transportation in small vessels
were regarded as an unavoidable, if disagreeable, necessity; it was
pointed out that the masters of slaves would be prompted by self-interest
to treat them well after they were landed; and it was obvious that
negroes, after a generation of captivity, were less remote from
civilization than when fresh from Africa.

The good to balance this ill was supplied by the American colonies. Their
resistance to English selfishness may have been in part animated by
selfishness of their own; but it none the less had justice and right
behind it. In any argument on fundamental principles, the colonists always
had the better of it. Their rights as free men and as chartered
communities were indefeasible, were always asserted, and never given up.
They did not hesitate to disregard the more unjust of England's exactions
and restrictions; it was only by such defiance that they maintained their
life. And against the importation of slaves there was a general feeling,
even among the Southern planters; because, not to speak of other
considerations, they multiplied there to an alarming extent, and the fact
that they cheapened production and lowered prices was manifestly as
unwelcome to the planters as it was favorable to English traders.

But in order to be effective, the protest of a people--their
enlightenment, their virtue and patriotism, their courage and philosophy,
their firmness and self-reliance, their hatred of shams, dishonesty and
tyranny--must be embodied and summed up in certain individuals among them,
who may thus be recognized by the community as their representatives in
the fullest sense, and therefore as their natural champions and leaders.
America has never lacked such men, adapted to her need; and at this period
they were coming to maturity as Franklin and Washington. They will be with
us during the critical hours of our formative history, and we shall have
opportunity to measure their characters. Meanwhile there is another good
man deserving of passing attention; not born on our soil, but meriting to
be called, in the best sense, an American. In the midst of a corrupt and
self-seeking age, he was unselfish and pure; and while many uttered pretty
sentiments of philanthropy, and devised fanciful Utopias for the
transfiguration of the human race, he went to work with his hands and
purse as well as with his heart and head, and created a home and happiness
for unhappy and unfortunate people in one of the loveliest and most
fertile spots in the western world. If he was not as wise as Penn, he was
as kind; and if his colony did not succeed precisely as he had planned it
should, at any rate it became a happy and prosperous settlement, which
would not have existed but for him. He had not fully fathomed the truth
that in order to bestow upon man the best chance for earthly felicity, we
must, after having provided him with the environment and the means for it,
let him alone to work it out in his own way. But he had such magnanimity
that when he found that his carefully-arranged and detailed schemes were
inefficient, he showed no resentment, and did not try to enforce what had
seemed to him expedient, against the wishes of his beneficiaries; but
retired amiably and with dignity, and thus merited the purest gratitude
that men may properly accord to a man.

James Edward Oglethorpe was already five years old when the Eighteenth
Century began. He was a Londoner by birth, and had a fortune which he did
not misuse. He was a valiant soldier against the Turks; he was present
with Prince Eugene at the capitulation of Belgrade; and he sat for more
than thirty years in Parliament. He died at the age of ninety; though
there is a portrait of him extant said to have been taken when he was one
hundred and two. If long life be the reward of virtue, he deserved to
survive at least a century.

The speculative fever in England had brought about much poverty; and
debtors were lodged in jail in order, one might suppose, to prevent them
from taking any measures to liquidate their debts. Besides these unhappy
persons, there were many Protestants on the Continent who were persecuted
for their faith's sake. England compassionated these persons, having
learned by experience what persecution is; and did not offer any objection
to a scheme for improving the lot of debtors in her own land, if any
feasible one could be devised.

General Oglethorpe had devised one. He was then, according to our
reckoning, a mature man of about seven-and-thirty; he had visited the
prisons, and convinced himself that there was neither political economy
nor humanity in this method of preserving the impecunious class. Why not
take them to America? Why not found a new colony there where men might
dwell in peace and comfort, with the aim not of amassing wealth, but of
living sober and useful lives? On the southern side of South Carolina
there was a region fitted for such an enterprise, which, owing to its
proximity to the Spanish colony at St. Augustine, had been vexed by border
quarrels; but Oglethorpe, with his military experience, would be able to
keep the Spaniards in their place with one hand, while he was planting
gardens for his proteges with the other. Thus his colony would be useful
on grounds of high policy, as well as for its own ends. And in order
additionally to conciliate the good will of the home government,
controlled as it was by mercantile interests chiefly, the silk-worm should
be cultivated there, and England thus saved the duties on the Italian
fabrics. Should there be slaves in the new Eden?--On all accounts, No:
first because slavery was intrinsically wrong, and secondly because it
would lead to idleness, if not to wealth, among the colonists. For the
same reason, land could only pass to the eldest son, or failing male
issue, back to the state; if permission were given to divide it, or to
sell it, there would soon be great landed properties and an aristocracy.
Nor should the importation of rum be permitted, for if men have rum, they
are prone to drink it, and drunkenness was incompatible with the kind of
existence which the good General wished his colonists to lead. In a word,
by removing temptations to vice and avarice, he thought he could make his
people forget that such evils had ever belonged to human nature. But
experiments founded upon the innate impeccability of man have furnished
many comedies and not a few tragedies since the world began.

The Oglethorpe idea, however, appealed to the public, and became a sort
of fashionable fad. It was commended, and after Parliament had voted ten
thousand pounds toward it, it was everywhere accepted as the correct
thing. The charter was given in June, 1732, and a suitable design was not
wanting for the corporation seal--silkworms, with the motto, Non Sibi, sed
Aliis. This might refer either to the colonists or to the patrons, since
the latter were to receive no emoluments for their services, and the
former were to work for the sake, in part at least, of vindicating the
nobility of labor. It is true that the silkworm is an involuntary and
unconscious altruist; but we must allow some latitude in symbols; and
besides, all executive and legislative power was given to the trustees, or
such council as they might choose to appoint.

In November the general conducted his hundred or more human derelicts to
Port Royal, and, going up the stream, chose the site for his city of
Savannah, and laid it out in liberal parallelograms. While it was building
he tented beneath a quartette of primeval pines, and exchanged friendly
greetings and promises with the various Indian tribes who sent deputies to
him. A year from that time, the German Protestant refugees began to
arrive, and started a town of their own further inland. A party of
Moravians followed; and the two Wesleys aided to introduce an exalted
religious sentiment which might have recalled the days of the Pilgrims.
For the present, all went harmoniously; the debtors were thankful to be
out of prison; the religious folk were happy so long as they might wreak
themselves on their religion; and the silk-culture paid a revenue so long
as England paid bounties on it. But the time must come when the colonists
would demand to do what they liked with their own land, and other things;
when they would import rum by stealth and hardly blush to be found out;
when some of the less democratically-minded decided that there were
advantages in slaves after all; and when some of the more independent
declared they could not endure oppression, and migrated to other colonies.
After struggling a score of years against the inevitable, the trustees
surrendered their trusteeship, and the colony came under the management of
the Second George. Oglethorpe had long ere this retired to England, after
having kept his promise of reducing the Spaniards to order; and at his
home at Cranham Hall in Essex he continued to be the friend of man until
after the close of the American Revolution.

The war with Spain, of which Oglethorpe's unsuccessful attack upon St.
Augustine and triumphant defense of his own place was but a very minor
feature, raged for a while in the West Indies with no very marked
advantage to either contestant, and then drew the other nations of Europe
into the fray. Nothing creditable was being fought for on either side.
England, to be sure, had declared war with the object of expunging Spain
from America; but it had been only in order that she herself might replace
Spain there as a monopolist. France came in to prevent England from
enjoying this monopoly. The death of the Austrian king and a consequent
dispute as to the succession added that power to the melee. Russia
received an invitation to join, and this finally led to the Peace of Aix
La Chapelle in 1748, which replaced all things in dispute just where they
were before innumerable lives and enormous treasure had been expended. But
the Eighteenth was a fighting Century, for it was the transition period
from the old to the new order of civilized life.

The part borne by the American colonies in this struggle was quite
subordinate and sympathetic; but it was not the less interesting to the
Americans. In 1744 the Six Nations (as the Five had been called since the
accession of the Tuscaroras) made a treaty of alliance with the English
whereby the Ohio valley was secured to the latter as against the French--
so far, that is, as the Indians could secure it. But the Pennsylvanians
understood that more than Indian treaties would be needed against France,
and as their country was likely to be among the first involved, they
determined to raise money and men for the campaign. There were, of course,
men in Pennsylvania who were not of the Quaker way of thinking; but even
the Quakers forbore to oppose the measure, and many of them gave it
explicit approval. The incident gains its chief interest however from the
fact that the man most active and efficient in getting both the funds and
the soldiers was Benjamin Franklin, the Boston boy, in whose veins flowed
the blood of both Quaker and Calvinist, but who was himself of far too
original a character to be either. He was at this epoch just past forty,
and had been a resident of Philadelphia for some twenty years, and a
famous printer, writer, and man of mark. He hit upon the scheme--which,
like so many of his, was more practical than orthodox--of persuading
dollars out of men's pockets by means of a lottery. He knew that, whatever
a fastidious morality might protest, lotteries are friendly to human
nature; and if there be any part of human nature with which Franklin was
unacquainted, it has not yet been announced. Having got the money, his
next care was for the men; and his plans resulted in assembling an
organized force of ten or twelve thousand militiamen. But the energy and
ingenuity of this incomparable Franklin of ours could be equaled only by
his modesty; he would not accept a colonelcy, but shouldered his musket
along with the rank and file; and doubtless the company to which he
belonged forgot the labors of war in their enjoyment of his wit, humor,
anecdotes, parables, and resources of all kinds.

After so much waste and folly as had marked the conduct of the war in
Europe, it is good to hear the tale of the capture of Louisburg. It was an
adventure which gave the colonists merited confidence in themselves, and
the character of the little army, and the management of the campaign, were
an excellent and suggestive dress rehearsal of the great drama of thirty
years later. The army was a combination of Yankees with arms in their
hands to effect an object eminently conducive to the common welfare. For
Louisburg was the key to the St. Lawrence, it commanded the fisheries, and
it threatened Acadia, or rather Nova Scotia, which was inhabited chiefly
by Bretons, liable to afford succor to their belligerent brethren. The
fort had been built, after the close of the former war, by those who had
preferred not to live under the government of the House of Hanover, on the
eastern extremity of the island called Cape Breton, itself lying northeast
of the Nova Scotian promontory. The site was good for defense, and the
fortifications, scientifically designed, were held to be impregnable. Had
Louisburg rested content with being strong, it might have been allowed to
remain at peace; but at the beginning of the war, and before the frontier
people in Nova Scotia had heard of it, a French party swooped down from
Louisburg on the settlement at Canso (the gut between Cape Breton and Nova
Scotia), destroyed all that was destructible, and carried eighty men as
prisoners of war to their stronghold. After keeping them there during the
summer, these men were paroled and went to Boston. This was a mistake on
the Louisburgers' part; for the men had made themselves well acquainted
with the fortifications and the topography of the neighborhood, and placed
this useful information at the disposal of William Shirley, a lawyer of
ability, who was afterward governor of the colony, and a warrior of some
note. It was Shirley's opinion that Louisburg must be taken, and the idea
immediately became popular. It was the main topic of discussion in Boston,
and all over New England, during the autumn and winter; Massachusetts
decided that it could be done, and that she could do it, though the help
of other colonies would be gladly accepted. Yet the feeling was not
unanimous, if the vote of the legislature be a criterion; the bill passed
there by a majority of one. Be that as it may, once resolved upon, the
enterprise was pushed with ardor, not unmingled with prayer--the old
Puritan leaven reappearing as soon as deeds of real moment were in the
wind. In every village and hamlet there was excitement and preparation
--the warm courage of men glad to have a chance at the hated fortress, and
the pale bravery of women keeping down the heavy throbbing of their hearts
so that their sons and husbands might feel no weakness for their sakes.
The fishermen of Marblehead, used to face the storms and fogs of the
Newfoundland Banks; the farmers and mechanics, who could hit a Bay
shilling (if one could be found in that era of paper money) at fifty
paces; and the hunters, who knew the craft of the Indians and were inured
to every fatigue and hardship--finer material for an army was never got
together before: independent, bold, cunning, handy, inventive, full of
resource; but utterly ignorant of drill, and indifferent to it. Their
officers were chosen by themselves, of the same rank and character as
they; their only uniforms were their flintlocks and hangers. They marched
and camped as nature prompted, but they had common-sense developed to the
utmost by the exigencies of their daily lives, and they created, simply by
being together, a discipline and tactics of their own; they even learned
enough of the arts of fortification and intrenchment, during the siege, to
serve all their requirements. They had the American instinct to break
loose from tradition and solve problems from an original point of view;
they laughed at the jargon and technicalities of conventional war, but
they had their own passwords, and they understood one another in and out.
The carpenters and other mechanics among them carried their skill along,
and were ever ready to put it in practice for the general behoof. Most of
them left wives and children at home; but "Suffer no anxious thoughts to
rest in your mind about me," writes his wife to Seth Pomeroy, who had sent
word to her that he was "willing to stay till God's time comes to deliver
the city into our hands":--"I leave you in the hands of God," added she;
and subjoined, by way of village gossip, that "the whole town is much
engaged with concern for the expedition, how Providence will order the
affair, for which religious meetings every week are maintained." We can
imagine those meetings, held in the village meeting-house, with an infirm
old veteran of King William's War to lead in prayer, and the benches
occupied by the women, devout but spirited, with the little children by
their sides. What hearty prayers: what sighs irrepressibly heaving those
brave, tender bosoms; what secret tears, denied by smiles when the face
was lifted from the clasping hands! Righteous prayers, which were
fulfilled.

Over three thousand men went from Massachusetts alone; New Hampshire
added five hundred, and more than that number arrived from Connecticut,
after the rest had gone into camp at Canso. The three hundred from little
Rhode Island came too late. Other colonies sent rations and money. But the
four thousand were enough, with Pepperel of Kittery for commander, and a
good cause. They set out alone while the Cape Breton ice still filled the
harbors; for Commodore Warren of the English fleet at Antigua would not go
except by order from England--which, however, came soon afterward, so that
he and his ships joined them after all before hostilities began. The
expedition first set eyes on their objective point on the day before May
day, 1745.

The fortress bristled with guns of all sizes, and the walls were of
enormous thickness, so that no cannon belonging to the besiegers could
hope to make a breach in them. But the hearts of the garrison were less
stout than their defenses; and when four hundred cheering volunteers
approached a battery on shore, the Frenchmen spiked their guns and ran
away.

The siege lasted six weeks, with unusually fine weather. In the intervals
of attacks upon the island battery, which resisted them, the men hunted,
fished, played rough outdoor games, and kept up their spirits; and they
pounded Louisburg gates with their guns; but no advantage was gained; and
a night-attack, in the Indian style, was discovered prematurely, and
nearly two hundred men were killed or captured. Finally, there seemed to
be nothing for it but to escalade the walls, Warren--who had done nothing
thus far except prevent relief from approaching by sea--bombarding the
city meanwhile. It hardly seems possible the attempt could have succeeded;
at best, the losses would have been enormous. But at the critical moment,
depressed, perhaps, by having witnessed the taking of an incautious French
frigate which had tried to run the blockade, what should the French
commander do but hang out a white flag! Yes, the place had capitulated!
The gates that could not be hammered in with cannon-balls were thrown
open, and in crowded the Yankee army, laughing, staring, and thanking the
Lord of Hosts for His mercies. Truly, it was like David overcoming
Goliath, without his sling. It was a great day for New England; and on the
same day thirty years later the British redcoats fell beneath the volleys
on Bunker Hill.

The French tried to recapture the place next year, but storms, pestilence
and other disasters prevented; and the only other notable incident of the
war was the affair of Commander Knowles at Boston in 1747. He was anchored
off Nantasket with a squadron, when some of his tars deserted, as was not
surprising, considering the sort of commander he was, and the charms of
the famous town. Knowles, ignorant of the spirit of a Boston mob,
impressed a number of wharfmen and seamen from vessels in the harbor; he
had done the same thing before in England, and why not here? But the mob
was on fire at once, and after the timid governor had declined to seize
such of the British naval officers as were in the town, the crowd,
terrible in its anger, came thundering down King Street and played the
sheriff for itself. The hair of His Majesty's haughty commanders and
lieutenants must have crisped under their wigs when they looked out of the
windows of the coffee-house and saw them. In walks the citizens'
deputation, with scant ceremony: protests are unavailing: off to jail His
Majesty's officers must straightway march, leaving their bottles of wine
half emptied, and their chairs upset on the sawdusted floor; and in jail
must they abide, until those impressed Bostonians have been liberated. It
was a wholesome lesson; and among the children who ran and shouted beside
the procession to the prison were those who, when they were men grown,
threw the tea into Boston Harbor.

In 1748 the Peace was made, and the Duke of Newcastle, a flighty, trivial
and faithless creature, gave place to the strict, honest, and narrow Duke
of Bedford as Secretary of the Colonies. The colonies had been under the
charge of the Board of Commissioners, who could issue what orders they
chose, but had no power to enforce them; and as the colonial assemblies
slighted their commands except when it pleased them to do otherwise, much
exasperation ensued on the Commissioners' part. The difficulties would
have been minimized had it not been the habit of Newcastle to send out as
colonial officials the offscourings of the British aristocracy: and when a
British aristocrat is worthless, nothing can be more worthless than he.
The upshot of the situation was that the colonists did what they pleased,
regardless of orders from home; while yet the promulgation of those
orders, aiming to defend injustices and iniquities, kept up a chronic and
growing disaffection toward England. So it had been under Newcastle, who
had uniformly avoided personal annoyance by omitting to read the constant
complaints of the Commissioners; but Bedford was a man of another stamp,
fond of business, granite in his decisions, and resolved to be master in
his department. It was easy to surmise that his appointment would hasten
the drift of things toward a crisis. England would not tamely relinquish
her claim to absolute jurisdiction over her colonies. But the bulwarks of
popular liberty were rising in America, and every year saw them
strengthened and more ably manned. English legislative opposition only
defined and solidified the colonial resistance. What was to be the result?
There would be no lack of English statesmen competent to consider it; men
like Pitt, Murray and Townshend were already above the horizon of history.
But it was not by statesmanship that the issue was to be decided. Man is
proud of his intellect; but it is generally observable that it is the
armed hand that settles the political problems of the world.

There were in the colonies men of ability, and of consideration, who were
traitors to the cause of freedom. Such were Thomas Hutchinson, a plausible
hypocrite, not devoid of good qualities, but intent upon filling his
pockets from the public purse; Oliver, a man of less ability but equal
avarice; and William Shirley, the scheming lawyer from England, who had
made America his home in order to squeeze a living out of it. These men
went to England to promote the passage of a law insuring a regular revenue
for the civil list from the colonists, independent of the latter's
approval; the immediate pretext being that money was needed to protect the
colonies against French encroachments. The several assemblies refused to
consent to such a tax; and the question was then raised whether Parliament
had not the right to override the colonists' will. Lord Halifax, the First
Commissioner, was urgent in favor of the proposition; he was an ignorant,
arbitrary man, who laid out a plan for the subjugation of the colonies as
lightly and willfully as he might have directed the ditch-digging and
fence-building on his estates. Murray, afterward Lord Mansfield, held that
Parliament had the requisite power; but in the face of the united protest
of the colonies, that body laid the measure aside for the present.
Meanwhile the conditions of future trouble were preparing in the Ohio
Valley, where French and English were making conflicting claims and
planting rival stations; and in Nova Scotia, where the town of Halifax was
founded in an uninviting fir forest, and the project was mooted of
transporting the French Acadians to some place or places where they would
cease to constitute a peril by serving as a stage for French machinations
against the English rule.

Another and final war with France was already appearing inevitable; the
colonists must bear a hand in it, but they also were at odds with England
herself on questions vital to their prosperity and happiness. In the
welter of events of the next few years we find a mingling of conditions
deliberately created (with a view, on England's part, of checking the
independent tendencies of the Americans and of forcing tribute from them)
and of unforeseen occurrences due to fortuitous causes beyond the
calculation and control of persons in power. Finally, the declaration of
war against France in 1756--though it had unofficially existed at least
two years before--and its able management by the great Pitt, enabled
England to dictate a peace in 1763 giving her all she asked for in Europe
and the East, and the whole of the French possessions in America, besides
islands in the West Indies. Her triumph was great; but she did not foresee
(though a few acute observers did) that this great conquest would within a
few years fall into the hands of the colonists, making them potentially
the greatest of nations. At the era of the Revolution, the white
inhabitants in the colonies numbered about two millions, and the black
about half a million.

In 1754, the French had upward of sixty posts west of the Alleghanies,
and were sending expeditions to drive out whatever Englishmen could be
found. The Indian tribes who believed themselves to own the land were
aroused, and appealed to the Americans to assist them; which the latter
were willing to do, though not for the Indians' sake. Virginia was
especially concerned, because she claimed beyond the western mountains,
and had definite designs in that direction. In order to find out just what
the disposition of the French might be, Robert Dinwiddie, a Scot, governor
of Virginia, selected a trustworthy envoy to proceed to the French
commanders in the disputed districts and ask their purposes. His choice
fell upon George Washington, a young man of blameless character, steady,
courageous and observant, wise in judgment and of mature mind, though he
was but one and twenty years of age. He was the son of a Virginia planter,
had had such schooling as his neighborhood afforded until he was sixteen,
and had then begun life as a surveyor--a good calling in a country whose
inhabitants were daily increasing and whose lands were practically
limitless. Life in the open air, and the custom of the woods and hills,
had developed a frame originally powerful into that of a tall and hardened
athlete, able to run, wrestle, swim, leap, ride, as well as to use the
musket and the sword. His intellect was not brilliant, but it was clear,
and his habit of thought methodical; he was of great modesty, yet one of
those who rise to the emergency, and are kindled into greater and greater
power by responsibilities or difficulties which would overwhelm feebler or
less constant natures. None would have been less likely than Washington
himself to foretell his own greatness; but when others believed in him he
was compelled by his religious and conscientious nature to act up to their
belief. The marvelous selflessness of the man, while it concealed from him
what he was, immeasurably increased his power to act; to do his duty was
all that he ever proposed to himself, and therefore he was able to
concentrate his every faculty on that alone. The lessons of experience
were never thrown away upon him, and his faith in an overruling Providence
rendered him calm at all times, except on the rare occasions when some
subordinate's incompetence or negligence at a critical moment caused to
burst forth in him that terrific wrath which was more appalling to its
object than the guns of a battery. There was always great personal dignity
in Washington, insomuch that nothing like comradeship, in the familiar
sense, was ever possible to any one with him; he was totally devoid of the
sense of humor, and was therefore debarred from one whole region of human
sympathies which Franklin loved to dwell in. It is one of the marvels of
history that a man with a mind of such moderate compass as Washington's
should have gained the reputation, which he amply deserved, of being the
foremost American of his age, and one of the leading figures in human
annals. But, in truth, we attach far too much weight to intellect in our
estimates of human worth. Washington, was competent for the work that was
given him to do, and that work was one of the most important that ever
fell to the lot of a man. Faith, firmness, integrity, grasp, simplicity,
and the exceptional physical endowment which enabled him to support the
tremendous fatigues and trials of his campaigns, and of the opposition he
encountered from selfish and shortsighted politicians in Congress--these
qualities were almost sufficient to account for Washington. Almost, but
perhaps not quite; there must have been in addition an inestimable
personal equation which fused all into a harmonious individuality that
isolates him in our regard: a wholeness, which can be felt, but which is
hardly to be set down in phrases.

Washington's instructions required him to proceed to Venango and
Waterford, a distance of more than four hundred miles, through forests and
over mountains, with rivers to cross and hostile Indians to beware of; and
it was the middle of November when he set out, with the most inclement
season of the year before him. Kit Gist, a hunter and trapper of the Natty
Bumppo order, was his guide; they laid their course through the dense but
naked forests as a mariner over a sullen sea. Four or five attendants,
including an interpreter, made up the party. Day after day they rode,
sleeping at night round a fire, with the snow or the freezing rain falling
on their blankets, and the immense silence of the winter woods around
them. On the 23d of the month they came to the point of junction between
two great rivers--the Monongahela and the Alleghany. A wild and solitary
spot it was, hardly visited till then by white men; the land on the fork
was level and broad, with mighty trees thronging upon it; opposite were
steep bluffs. The Alleghany hurried downward at the rate a man would walk;
the Monongahela loitered, deep and glassy. Washington had acted as
adjutant of a body of Virginia troops for the past two or three years, and
he examined the place with the eyes of a soldier as well as of a surveyor.
It seemed to him that a fort and a town could be well placed there; but in
the pure frosty air of that ancient forest, untenanted save by wild
beasts, there was no foreshadowing of the grimy smoke and roar, the
flaring smelting-works, the crowded and eager population of the Pittsburgh
that was to be. Having fixed the scene in his memory, Washington rode his
horse down the river bank, and plunging into the icy current, swam across.
On the northwest shore a fire was built, where the party dried their
garments, and slept the sleep of frontiersmen.

Conducted now by the Delawares, they crossed low-lying, fertile lands to
Logstown, where they got news of a junction between French troops from
Louisiana and from Erie. Arriving in due season at Venango, Washington
found the French officer in command there very positive that the Ohio was
theirs, and that they would keep it; they admitted that the English
outnumbered them; but "they are too dilatory," said the Frenchman, staring
up with an affectation of superciliousness at the tall, blue-eyed young
Virginian. The latter thanked the testy Gaul, with his customary grave
courtesy, and continued his journey to Fort Le Boeuf. It was a structure
characteristic of the place and period; a rude but effective redoubt of
logs and clay, with the muzzles of cannon pouting from the embrasures, and
more than two hundred boats and canoes for the trip down the river. "I
shall seize every Englishman in the valley," was the polite assurance of
the commander; but, being a man of pith himself, he knew another when he
saw him, and offered Washington the hospitalities of the post. But the
serious young soldier had no taste for hobnobbing, and returned at once to
Venango, where he found his horses unavailable, and continued southward on
foot, meeting bad weather and deep snow. He borrowed a deerskin shirt and
leggins from the tallest of the Indians, dismissed his attendants, left
the Indian trail, and struck out for the Forks by compass, with Gist as
his companion. A misguided red man, hoping for glory from the white
chief's scalp, prepared an ambush, and as Washington passed within a few
paces, pulled the trigger on him. He did not know that the destiny of half
the world hung upon his aim; but indeed the bullet was never molded that
could draw blood from Washington. The red man missed; and the next moment
Gist had him helpless, with a knife at his throat. But no: the man who
could pour out the lives of his country's enemies, and of his own
soldiers, without stint, when duty demanded it, and could hang a gallant
and gently nurtured youth as a spy, was averse from bloodshed when only
his insignificant self was concerned. Gist must sulkily put up his knife,
and the would-be assassin was suffered to depart in peace. But in order to
avoid the possible consequences of this magnanimity, the envoy and his
companion traveled without pausing for more than sixty miles. And then,
here was the Alleghany to cross again, and no horse to help one. Swimming
was out of the question, even for the iron Washington, for the river was
hurtling with jagged cakes of ice.

A day's hacking with a little hatchet cut down trees enough--not apple
trees--to make a raft, on which they adventured; but in mid-stream
Washington's pole upset him, and he was fain to get ashore on an island.
There must they pass the night; and so cold was it, that the next morning
they were able to reach the mainland dry shod, on the ice. What was
crossing the Delaware (almost exactly twenty-three years afterward)
compared to this? Washington was destined to do much of his work amid snow
and ice; but for aught anybody could say, the poles or the equator were
all one to him.

In consequence of his report a fort was begun on the site of Pittsburgh,
and he was appointed lieutenant-colonel to take charge of it, with a
hundred and fifty men, and orders to destroy whomsoever presumed to stay
him. Two hundred square miles of fertile Ohio lands were to be their
reward. An invitation to other colonies to join in the assertion of
English ownership met with scanty response, or none at all. The idea of a
union was in the air, but it was complicated with that old bugbear of a
regular revenue to be exacted by act of Parliament, which Shirley and the
others still continued to press with hungry zeal; while the assemblies
were not less set upon making all grants annual, with specifications as to
person and object. While the matter hung in the wind, the Virginians were
exposed to superior forces; but in the spring of 1754 Washington, with
forty men, surprised a party under Jumonville, defeated them, killed
Jumonville, and took the survivors prisoners. Washington was exposed to
the thickest showers of the bullets; they whistled to him familiarly, and
"believe me," he assured a correspondent, "there is something charming in
the sound." His life was to be sweetened by a great deal of that kind of
charm.

But the French were gathering like hornets, and the Lieutenant-colonel
must needs take refuge in a stockaded post named Fort Necessity, where his
small force was besieged by seven hundred French and Indians who, in a
nine hours' attack, killed thirty of his men, but used up most of their
own ammunition. A parley resulted in Washington's marching out with all
his survivors and their baggage and retiring from the Ohio valley. The war
was begun; and it is worth noting that Washington's command to "Fire!" on
Jumonville's party was the word that began it. But still the other
colonists held off. The Six Nations began to murmur: "The French are men,"
said they; "you are like women." In June, 1754, a convocation or congress
of deputies from all colonies north of the Potomac came together at
Albany. Franklin was among them, with the draught of a plan of union in
his ample pocket, and dauntless and deep thoughts in his broad mind. He
was always far in advance of his time; one of the most "modern" men of
that century; but he had the final excellence of wisdom which consists in
never forcing his contemporaries to bite off more than there was
reasonable prospect of their being able to chew. He lifted them gently up
step after step of the ascent toward the stars.

Philadelphia is a central spot (this was the gist of his proposal), so
let it be the seat of our federal government. Let us have a triennial
grand council to originate bills, allowing King George to appoint the
governor-general who may have a negative voice, and who shall choose the
military officers, as against the civil appointees of the council. All war
measures, external land purchases and organization, general laws and taxes
should be the province of the federal government, but each colony should
keep its private constitution, and money should issue only by common
consent. Once a year should the council meet, to sit not more than six
weeks, under a speaker of their own choosing.--In the debate, the scheme
was closely criticised, but the suave wielder of the lightning gently
disarmed all opponents, and won a substantial victory--"not altogether to
my mind"; but he insisted upon no counsel of perfection. England, and some
of the colonies themselves, were somewhat uneasy after thinking it over;
mutual sympathy is not created by reason. England doubted on other
grounds; a united country might be more easy to govern than thirteen who
each demanded special treatment; but then, what if the federation decline
to be governed at all? Meanwhile, there was the federation; and Franklin,
looking westward, foresaw the Nineteenth Century.

Doubtless, however, outside pressure would be necessary to re-enforce the
somewhat lukewarm sentiment among the colonies in favor of union. A review
of their several conditions at this time would show general prosperity and
enjoyment of liberty, but great unlikenesses in manners and customs and
private prejudices. Virginia, most important of the southern group, showed
the apparent contradiction of a people with republican ideas living after
the style of aristocrats; breeding great gentlemen like Washington,
Jefferson, Madison and Patrick Henry, who were to be leaders in the work
of founding and defending the first great democracy of the world. Maryland
was a picturesque principality under the rule of a dissolute young prince,
who enjoyed a great private revenue from his possessions, and yet
interfered but little with the individual freedom of his subjects.
Pennsylvania was administering itself on a basis of sheer civic equality,
and was absorbing from Franklin the principles of liberal thought and
education. New York was so largely tinged with Dutchmanship that it
resented more than the others the authority of alien England, and fought
its royal governors to the finish. New England was an aggregation of
independent towns, each a little democracy, full of religious and
educational vigor. In Delaware, John Woolman the tailor was denouncing
slavery with all the zeal and arguments of the Garrisons of a century
later. These were incongruous elements to be bound into a fagot; but there
was a policy being consolidated in England which would presently give them
good reason for standing together to secure rights which were more
precious than private pet traditions and peculiarities. Newcastle became
head of the English government; he appointed the absurd Duke of
Cumberland, captain-general of the English army, to the direction of
American military affairs; and he picked out an obstinate, ruffianly,
stupid martinet of a Perthshire Scotchman, sixty years old and of ruined
fortunes, to lead the English forces against the French in America.
Braddock went over armed with the new and despotic mutiny bill, and with
directions to divest all colonial army officers of their rank while in his
service. He was also to exact a revenue by royal prerogative, and the
governors were to collect a fund to be expended for colonial military
operations. This was Newcastle's notion of what was suitable for the
occasion. In the meantime Shirley, persistently malevolent, advocated
parliamentary taxation of the colonies and a congress of royal governors;
and to the arguments of Franklin against the plan, suggested colonial
representation in Parliament: which Franklin disapproved unless all
colonial disabilities be removed, and they become in all political
respects an integral portion of England. During the discussion, the
colonies themselves were resisting the royal prerogative with embarrassing
unanimity. Braddock, on landing and finding no money ready, was exceeding
wroth; but the helpless governors told him that nothing short of an act of
Parliament would suffice; possibly not even that. Taxation was the one cry
of every royal office-holder in America. What sort of a tax should it be?
--Well, a stamp-tax seemed the easiest method: a stamp, like a mosquito,
sucks but little blood at a time, but mosquitoes in the aggregate draw a
great deal. But the stamp act was to be delayed eleven years more, and
then its authors were to receive an unpleasant surprise.

There was a strong profession of reluctance on both the French and
English side to come formally to blows; both sent large bodies of troops
to the Ohio valley, "but only for defense." Braddock was ready to advance
in April, if only he had "horses and carriages"; which by Franklin's
exertions were supplied. The bits of dialogue and comment in which this
grizzled nincompoop was an interlocutor, or of which he was the theme, are
as amusing as a page from a comedy of Shakespeare. Braddock has been
called brave; but the term is inappropriate; he could fly into a rage when
his brutal or tyrannical instincts were questioned or thwarted, and become
insensible, for a time, even to physical danger. Ignorance, folly and
self-conceit not seldom make a man seem fearless who is a poltroon at
heart. Braddock's death was a better one than he deserved; he raged about
the field like a dazed bull; fly he could not; he was incapable of
adopting any intelligent measures to save his troops; on the contrary he
kept reiterating conventional orders in a manner that showed his wits were
gone. The bullet that dropped him did him good service; but his honor was
so little sensitive that he felt no gratitude at being thus saved the
consequences of one of the most disgraceful and willfully incurred defeats
that ever befell an English general. The English troops upon whom,
according to Braddock, "it was impossible that the savages should make any
impression," huddled together, and shot down their own officers in their
blundering volleys. In the narrow wood path they could not see the enemy,
who fired from behind trees at their leisure. Half of the men, and
sixty-three out of the eighty-six officers, were killed or wounded. In
that hell of explosions, smoke, yells and carnage, Washington was
clear-headed and alert, and passed to and fro amid the rain of bullets as
if his body were no more mortal than his soul. The contingent of Virginia
troops--the "raw American militia," as Braddock had called them, "who have
little courage or good will, from whom I expect almost no military
service, though I have employed the best officers to drill them":--these
men did almost the only fighting that was done on the English side, but
they were too few to avert the disaster.

The expedition had set out from Turtle Creek on the Monongahela on the
ninth of July--twelve hundred men. The objective point was Fort Duquesne,
"which can hardly detain me above three or four days," remarked the dull
curmudgeon. No scouts were thrown out: they walked straight into the
ambuscade which some two hundred French and six hundred Indians had
prepared for them. The slaughter lasted two hours; there was no
maneuvering. Thirty men of the three Virginia companies were left alive;
they stood their ground to the last, while the British regulars "ran as
sheep before hounds," leaving everything to the enemy. Washington did
whatever was possible to prevent the retreat from becoming a blind panic.
When the rout reached the camp, Dunbar, the officer in charge there,
destroyed everything, to the value of half a million dollars, and ran with
the rest. Reviewing the affair, Franklin remarks with a demure arching of
the eyebrow that it "gave us Americans the first suspicion that our
exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not been well
founded."

It was indeed an awakening for the colonists. For all their bold
resistance to oppression, they had never ceased to believe that an English
soldier was the supreme and final expression of trained and disciplined
force; and now, before their almost incredulous eyes, the flower of the
British army had been beaten, and the bloody remnant stampeded into a
shameful flight by a few hundred painted savages and Frenchmen. They all
had been watching Braddock's march; and they never forgot the lesson of
his defeat. From that time, the British regular was to them only a
"lobster-back," more likely, when it came to equal conflict with
themselves, to run away than to stand his ground.

Instead of throwing themselves into the arms of France, however, the
colonists loyally addressed themselves to helping King George out of his
scrape; and though they would not let him tax them, they hesitated not to
tax themselves.

Pennsylvania raised fifty thousand pounds, and Massachusetts sent near
eight thousand men to aid in driving the French from the northern border.
Acadia's time had come. Though the descendants of the Breton peasants, who
dated their settlement from 1604, had since the Peace of Utrecht nominally
belonged to England, yet their sentiments and mode of life had been
unaltered; Port Royal had been little changed by calling it Annapolis, and
the simple, old-fashioned Catholics loved their homes with all the
tenacity of six unbroken generations. Their feet were familiar in the
paths of a hundred and fifty quiet and industrious years; their houses
nestled in their lowly places like natural features of the landscape;
their fields and herds and the graves of their forefathers sweetened and
consecrated the land. They were a chaste, industrious, homely, pious, but
not an intellectual people; and to such the instinct of home is far
stronger than in more highly cultivated races. They had prospered in their
modest degree, and multiplied; so that now they numbered sixteen thousand
men, women and children. During the past few years, however, they had been
subjected to the unrestrained brutality of English administration in its
worst form; they had no redress at law, their property could be taken from
them without payment or recourse; if they did not keep their tyrant's
fires burning, "the soldiers shall absolutely take their houses for fuel."
Estate-titles, records, all that could identify and guarantee their
ownership in the means and conditions of livelihood, were taken; even
their boats and their antiquated firearms were sequestrated. And orders
were actually given to the soldiers to punish any misbehavior summarily
upon the first Acadian who came to hand, whether or not he were guilty of,
or aware of, the offense, and with absolutely no concern for the formality
of arrest or trial. In all the annals of Spanish brutality, there is
nothing more disgraceful to humanity than the systematic and enjoined
treatment of these innocent Bretons by the English, even before the
consummating outrage which made the whole civilized world stare in
indignant amazement.

It is a matter for keen regret that men born on our soil should have been
even involuntarily associated with this episode. The design was kept a
secret from all until the last moment; but one could wish that some
American had then committed an act of insubordination, though at the cost
of his life, by way of indicating the detestation which all civilized and
humane minds must feel for such an act. The colonists knew the value of
liberty; they had made sacrifices for it; they had felt the shadow of
oppression; and they might see, in the treatment of the Acadians, what
would have been their fate had they yielded to the despotic instincts of
England. The best and the worst that can be said of them is that they
obeyed orders, and looked on while the iniquity was being perpetrated.

The force of provincials and regulars landed without molestation, and
captured the feeble forts with the loss of but twenty killed. The Acadians
agreed to take the oath of fidelity, but stipulated not to be forced to
bear arms against their own countrymen. General Charles Lawrence, the
lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, replied to their plea that they be
allowed to have their boats and guns, that it was "highly arrogant,
insidious and insulting"; and Halifax, another of the companions in
infamy, added that they wanted their boats for "carrying provisions to the
enemy"--there being no enemy nearer than Quebec. As for the guns, "All
Roman Catholics are restrained from having arms, and are subject to
penalties if arms are found in their houses."--"Not the want of arms, but
our consciences, would engage us not to revolt," pleaded the unhappy men.
--"What excuse can you make," bellows Halifax, "for treating this
government with such indignity as to expound to them the nature of
fidelity?" The Acadians agreed to take the oath unconditionally: "By
British statute," they were thereupon informed, "having once refused, you
cannot after take the oath, but are popish recusants." Chief-justice
Belcher, a third of these British moguls, declared they obstructed the
progress of the settlement, and that all of them should be deported from
the province. Proclamation was then made, ordering them to assemble at
their respective posts; and in the morning they obeyed, leaving their
homes, to which, though they knew it not, they were never to return. "Your
lands and tenements, cattle of all kinds, and livestock of all sorts, are
forfeited to the crown," they were told, "and you yourselves are to be
removed from this province." They were kept prisoners, without food, till
the ships should be ready. Not only were they torn from their homes, but
families were separated, sons from their mothers, husbands from their
wives, daughters from their parents, and, as Longfellow has pictured to
us, lovers from one another. Those who tried to escape were hunted by the
soldiers like wild beasts, and "if they can find a pretext to kill them,
they will," said a British officer. They were scattered, helpless,
friendless and destitute, all up and down the Atlantic coast, and their
villages were laid waste. Lord Loudoun, British commander-in-chief in
America, on receiving a petition from some of them written in French, was
so enraged not only at their petitioning, but that they should presume to
do so in their own language, that he had five of their leading men
arrested, consigned to England, and sent as common seamen on English
men-of-war. No detail was wanting, from first to last, to make the crime
of the Acadian deportation perfect; and only an Irishman, Edmund Burke,
lifted his voice to say that the deed was inhuman, and done "upon
pretenses that, in the eye of an honest man, are not worth a farthing."
But Burke was not in Parliament until eleven years after the Acadians were
scattered.

The incident, from an external point of view, does not belong to the
history of the United States. Yet is it pertinent thereto, as showing of
what enormities the English of that age were capable. Their entire conduct
during this French war was dishonorable, and often atrocious. Forgetting
the facts of history, we often smile at the grumblings of the Continental
nations anent "Perfidious Albion" and "British gold." But the acts
committed by the English government during these years fully justify every
charge of corruption, treachery and political profligacy that has ever
been brought against them. It was a strange age, in which a great and
noble people were mysteriously hurried into sins, follies and disgraces
seemingly foreign to their character. It was because the people had
surrendered their government into alien and shameless hands. They deserved
their punishment; for it is nothing less than a crime, having known
liberty, either to deny it to others, or for the sake of earthly advantage
to consent to any compromise of it in ourselves.


Julian Hawthorne