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The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 5150

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

That Washington could be righteously indignant and unmercifully sarcastic may be inferred from a letter written to Colonel George Muse, who had been Washington's military instructor at Mount Vernon in 1751. Colonel Muse had been accused of cowardice in the campaign with Washington to the Ohio in 1754, and Washington had with difficulty obtained for him a grant of ten thousand acres of land in the Ohio territory, as was given to the other officers in the expedition. Colonel Muse was dissatisfied and so wrote a letter to Washington, the contents of which we can surmise only from Washington's reply.

"Sir,-Your impudent letter was delivered to me yesterday," he wrote. "As I am not accustomed to receive such from any man, nor would have taken the same language from you personally, without letting you feel some marks of my resentment, I advise you to be cautious in writing me a second of the same tenor; though I understand you were drunk when you did it, yet give me leave to tell you that drunkenness is no excuse for rudeness."

After describing what had been done for the ungrateful man, Washington closed his letter by saying, "All my concern is that I ever engaged myself in behalf of so ungrateful and dirty a fellow as you are."

Meanwhile, the King of England was searching for means to wear down the opposition of the colonies to his assertion of the right to personal rule over them through Parliament. So complete was the refusal of the colonies to use tea, that the warehouses of the East India Company were full of tea, and their profit dwindled. A happy suggestion was made to the King. Let the tea go free duty, and so cheap on account of the surplus, to the colonies, that they will buy it and thus not only relieve the warehouses but also establish the principle of the right to tax articles sold in the colonies. The proposition was put into effect. The contents of the warehouses were emptied into ships and sent to various ports in the American colonies. The King depended on human nature as he understood it to be. Like many another ruler who believes he can rule by juggling ideas and manipulating minds, he deceived himself. The people were starving for tea! They had long lived without tea like foolish children who would play no way but their own way. Now, they would tumble over one another to get the long desired tea. There would be a carnival carousal of tea drinking in America! But somehow the thing didn't work. There was still a wonderful perverseness in the half-civilized subjects of the King in the American wilderness. They

seemed suddenly to be all alike. No doubt there were many who would gladly have profited by the King's contempt for principle, but profit was timid and principle was bold.

New York and Philadelphia turned the ships around and ordered them to set sails at once for England. In Charleston they stored the tea in cellars where it remained untouched until it was ruined. In Boston, upon which the King's anger was centered, as the cause of all the strife, the conflict of wills was more desperate. The captains found that they could not unload the tea and when they tried to get clearance papers to leave the harbor, they were refused. They could not come in nor go out. But this meant, as the people soon saw, that the tea was to be held there on the ships until the soldiers could be used to enforce the sale of tea, and thus coerce the people into acknowledging the claims of the King "to rule and reign over them," according to his will.

The two sides had now "chosen up," as it were, and had begun to climb the steps to war.

To forestall the landing of the tea under cover of the soldiers, a company of Boston people assembled on the night of December 18, 1773, disguised themselves as Indians, boarded the ships, broke open all the chests of tea, and emptied the object of all the trouble into the sea.

There was no excitement apparent in doing this. When all the tea in Boston harbor was floating on the waves, the make-believe Indians returned peacefully to their homes, and went to bed, doubtless sleeping "the sleep of the righteous."

All the wrath of the King and his associates were now centered definitely on Boston. In swift retaliation the Boston Port Bill was passed by Parliament, closing the harbor and transferring the capital to Salem. A little later, the charter of the province was changed so as to bring the colony directly under the control of the English government. Then a Riot Bill was passed so that any person, if indicted for a high crime, could be sent to England for trial. First, it was taxing without representation, then it was quartering soldiers upon them without their consent, and now it was a violation of the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. The intolerable had climbed the swift steps of war to the impossible. American freedom could not thus be made the puppet of any king.

It was historical evidence how "one thing brings on another" in a quarrel of wills, and how force can not control rebellious minds. Brain-storms of feeling, whether in child or mob, are not to be stilled by retaliation or despotism.

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