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The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3653

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

The arrogance and ignorance that so estranged the American colonies and broke down their spirit of allegiance to Great Britain may be well exhibited in an extract from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The experiences of this eminent man in making a visit to General Braddock came to pass through the following series of events.

Sir John St. Clair was, at this time, in command at Fort Cumberland. He ordered the colony of Pennsylvania to cut a road through to the Ohio. The redoubtable commander seemed to think it was only a child's job or a few days' work. As it was not done promptly, he got into a rage, and, according to the pioneer woodsman, George Croghan, "stormed like a lion rampant." He declared that "by fire and sword" he would oblige the inhabitants to build that road. He said that if the French defeated him it would be because of the slow Pennsylvanians, and, in that case, he would declare them "a parcel of traitors," and the colony should be treated as being in rebellion against the King.

Likewise, as Braddock got ready to move, Sir John became furious at obstacles which, not knowing till then that they existed, he considered that they had no right to exist, and therefore that the people were to be blamed. In this state of trouble between the people and the English officers, who knew so little of the wilderness, Benjamin Franklin, then forty-nine years of age, was called on to act as peacemaker. He visited Braddock and was received and treated as a worthy guest. This visit gave him a chance to see into the fatal ignorance and arrogance of the English government, and to understand the irreconciliable points of view between the colonies and England.

"In conversation one day," says Franklin, "General Braddock gave me some account of his intended progress. 'After taking Fort Du

quesne,' said he, 'I am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, on to Frontenac, if the season will allow time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days; and then I can see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.'"

Franklin very tactfully and diplomatically ventured to describe the long road that must be cut through forests all the way, the thin line of troops that would have to be stretched out in the march along the narrow way, and the ambush of Indians breaking out upon that thin, long line at various places.

"He smiled at my ignorance," says Franklin, "and replied, 'These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to raw American militia, but upon the King's regular and disciplined troops, Sir, it is impossible that they should make any impression.'"

Franklin adds, "I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession, and said no more."

To defeat an enemy, it is very clear that one should know how the enemy thinks and what he does. This was the schooling that George Washington was now getting. The place he had on General Braddock's staff was teaching him the tactics of English generals, against which he was a few years later to wage a glorious war for an ideal of American freedom and the establishment of a democratic form of government in America.

The disastrous defeat of Braddock's expedition and the death of Braddock has always formed a stirring chapter in American school histories, until in recent times it has been more and more lessened in the length of description because of the increasing story of American affairs. Washington's part in it is interesting largely because of the preparation it gave him for the great work of leading the colonial armies in the Revolutionary War.

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