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   Chapter 23 SOMETIMES TOO LATE TO MEND

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3934

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


The English parliament, becoming suddenly aware of the growing power in the American subjects, now conceded every right asked for by the colonists, and enacted those rights into law. But it was too late. The middle-class mass of property owners and business men began to see the vision of an American republic and the tide swelled toward success. As the cutting off of supplies from the colonies had been the chief cause of American weakness, England tried to prevent supplies being sent to America, with the result that Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Holland declared an armed neutrality to enforce their right to sell military supplies to America. The dispute led to a war with Holland in 1780, so that by the close of that year Great Britain had not a friend on earth and was confronted by the united armies and navies of France, Spain, Holland and America. At the same time there was rebellion in India against the English rule, insurrections in Ireland, and so deep the discontent in England itself that a London mob was able for several days to make itself master of the city. The English lost control of the sea before the close of 1780, and on October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered his army to Washington, from which historic hour a world-champion of the rights of man over the divine rights of kings was born in the Western world.

The difficulties which Washington had encountered and overcome in Virginia previous to the French and Indian war were in full exercise throughout New England at the opening of the Revolutionary War. They could act together in small, free groups for a particular object of their will, but to obey superior officers and to sacrifice their own private judgment to higher authority, which was so necessary in war and such a war as this, was utterly repugnant to their dispositions. That subserviency to authority was the very reason they were opposing the idea of taxation without representation, and why should they be required

to do the very thing they were fighting against! That quandary and query has been the puzzle of every mind unable to see the vision of means necessary to future results. It is the blindness always of the fanatical pacifist who would sacrifice nothing for peace, and of the non-resistant doctrine that right and moral law have no need for material might in a material world.

The colonists had never known of anything but local patriotism. They seemed to be unable to distinguish between English king-made authority and American people-made authority, notwithstanding how much had been discussed the relations of representation and taxation. That difficulty has always existed concerning American militarism. It almost defeated Lincoln during the Civil War. It almost delivered the Union to Secession. If democratic militarism cannot be different from dynastic militarism, then American freedom and human liberty will be lost in the next American or world war.

The colonist would fight with the heroism he displayed in Indian warfare, but when the enemy was driven away from his neighborhood, it was the duty of the next neighborhood to take care of itself. Besides, the New Englander with a home had the same idea as the Virginian soldier twenty years before, and this was that, when he wanted to go home, why shouldn't he! He was not a deserter, and in no sense a coward, but the discipline of army service was mere enslavement and any compulsion was despotism. To understand the making up of an efficient army under such circumstances is the only measure to estimate the greatness of Washington and the debt to him of the liberty-loving world.

Curtis, in his history of American Commonwealth, says, "Washington overcame these difficulties by dint of a patience and a selflessness almost without parallel in history, which gradually communicated itself to his fellow countrymen. In seven years he created a continental army which ended the war at Yorktown."

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