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   Chapter 21 THE BUSINESS OF GETTING READY

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 5469

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


The first General Assembly in the history of the New World came together in great solemnity. They felt that it should be opened by some religious service, and yet, they feared to introduce religious antagonism, for it was a period when religious controversies were often more extreme and bitter than any political controversies.

Then Samuel Adams of reverend fame arose and said, "I shall willingly join in prayer with any gentleman of piety and virtue, whatever might be his cloth, provided he is a friend of his country."

Samuel Adams was a very rigorous Congregationalist, but religion with him had no claims that did not include justice and patriotism. He nominated the Reverend Mr. Duche of Philadelphia, who was an Episcopalian, to open the session with prayer.

The reverend Duche appeared in his canonicals attended by his clerk. He read the morning service of the Episcopal church. The Psalter for that day of the month, the seventh, included the thirty-fifth Psalm. The central idea of the Psalm was that of the Assembly.

"Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me; fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out, also, the spear, and stop the way of them that persecute me."

It is said that when the assembly was organized and ready for the introduction of their momentous business, that a long, deep, death-like silence fell upon them. Every one hesitated to begin. The sense of inaction was becoming oppressive when Patrick Henry arose. Such a great occasion was suitable to his eloquence and when he sat down amidst the murmurs of astonishment and the shouts of applause, he was conceded to be the greatest orator in America.

This history-making convention had fifty-one delegates and it remained in session fifty-one days. The meetings were held in secret, and it is now unknown the part that Washington took in it, but, when Patrick Henry returned home, he was asked who was the most powerful councillor in the convention, and he unhesitatingly said, "Washington."

That Washington foresaw the course of events may be readily gathered from a letter he wrote at this time to a very close friend, Captain Robert Mackenzie, who had severely criticised the colonies from the British point of view. Like too many who are now charged with the destiny of the great American republic by their votes, Mackenzie could reason only on the visible results, and could not give any attention to the causes of the events. He had no spiritual valuation. He could reason only from material interests. Washington closed a very emphatic and radical letter to him with the warning and prophecy, "and give me leave to add, as my opinion, that mor

e blood will be spilled on this occasion, if the ministry are determined to push matters to extremity, than history has ever yet furnished instances of in the annals of North America."

England had been what might be termed good to the Southern colonies. As for harsh measures, the worst from a political point of view was in dissolving the Virginia legislatures. The Southern Colonies were under the business management of descendants from the royalist cavaliers who had been driven from England by the forefathers of the descendants making up the colonies of New England. There was thus an inherited tradition of antagonism, which many well-meaning patriots assume as their basis of justice and judgment. Political welfare must be estimated from present conditions. Avengers of the ancient wrong want to punish history rather than make history. They assume that it is better to begin with what was than with what is. But in the common need, all such differences were forgotten. The differences were remembered only by the great grand-children of the revolutionary heroes.

The Northern Colonies and the Southern Colonies were, true enough, antagonistic in their origin, entirely opposite in the social differences between the severe Puritan and the aristocratic Cavalier, and worse than all, they were antagonistic in their religion, the North being many kinds of dissenters, and the South, in its governing classes, being Episcopalian. Their social, religious and material interests never had been the same, and they had little in common even in the French and Indian wars. This outline contrast is given to show how the question, especially for the South, was not material profit or of opposition to oppression from force, but was the expression of an American Ideal uniting all minds, as a meaning for the equal rights of all in our humanity. It shows that there is an ideal of human rights that has the allegiance of human hearts above all considerations of flattery, or coertion, or for any of the thousands of considerations that may cause an individual judgment or fix the will. There may be amazing differences in personal and party interests, but there can be none, even in the varieties of intelligence or conditions, when it comes to the rights to freedom in the views of genuine Americans. Only partisans attack the motives of persons who are trying to advance human liberty and peace according to the duties and rights of civilization. By such signs shall ye know them and beware. They are not Americans and their moral deformity is the peril of America. The real idealist lives the vision of moral order, not only for his group, but for all the world. The moral law for each and all is our idealism of the universe.

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