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   Chapter 32 THE WASHINGTON IDEAL AS THE FIRST GREAT AMERICAN IDEAL

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 5124

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Washington's religious belief has been the object of considerable controversy, because there is no standard or measure for a man's religious belief until the one investigating it gives his precise definition of what he means by religion, and that probably can not be done, for any basis of general agreement. It is not so easy to map out the interest and meaning of human feeling. Somehow no great man has ever felt that what he accomplished was done by his unaided self. Everyone has in some form believed in a superior Guide. So a statement of Washington in 1778 may be taken as the keynote of his religious belief. He said, "The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations."

His faith in the benevolence of order and law as divinely designed is shown in his statement in 1791 that, "The great Ruler of events will not permit the happiness of so many millions to be destroyed." In 1792, he said, "As the All-Wise Disposer of events has hitherto watched over my steps, I trust that, in the important one I may be soon called upon to take, he will mark the course so plainly as that I cannot mistake the way."

That this faith was necessary to his purpose and mind, to help him through the long series of trials, in both the war and presidency, no one can doubt, who reads the detailed history of those periods,-they were so often desperately discouraging, so often both helpless and hopeless to any human foresight or judgment.

A few phrases taken from the "Mount Vernon Tribute" express the Americanism of Washington. The author of that inscription is unknown, but whoever it was he knew. The tribute was transcribed from a manuscript copy on the back of a picture frame containing a portrait of Washington, found hanging in one of the rooms at Mount Vernon after Washington's death. There he is called "The Defender of His Country," "The Founder of Liberty," "The Friend of Man," and "Benefactor of Mankind." "He triumphantly vindicated the Rights of Humanity," "Magnanimous in Youth, Glorious through Life, Great in Death"; "His Highest Ambition the Happiness of Mankind." According to this definition of patriotism, the meaning is not limited to a political area of square miles or boundary lines.

The noble tributes to Washington's character and work would fill many volumes, but a few will show how his life is regarded as a model for the youths of America.

Senator Vance of North Carolina sa

id, "The youth of America who aspire to promote their own and their country's welfare should never cease to gaze upon his great example, or to remember that the brightest gems in the crown of his immortality, the qualities which uphold his fame on earth and plead for him in heaven, were those which characterized him as the patient, brave Christian gentleman."

James Bryce, the English statesman, publicist, and historian, said, "Washington stands alone and unapproachable, like a snow-peak rising above its fellows into the clear air of morning, with a dignity, constancy, and purity which have made him the ideal type of civic virtue to succeeding generations."

Henry Lee, who was beloved by Washington like a son, has given us the great picture of him, "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere, uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting."

Lord Byron wrote,

"Where may the wearied eyes repose,

When gazing on the great,

Where neither guilty glory glows,

Nor despicable state?

Yes,-one, the first, the last, the best,

The Cincinnatus of the West,

Whom envy dared not hate,

Bequeathed the name of Washington,

To make men blush, there was but one."

Louis Kossuth, the great Hungarian patriot, said, "Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him."

Lord Macaulay says that he had in his character, "The sobriety, the self-command, the perfect soundness of judgment, the perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington alone."

The tribute of the greatest American to the greatest American, for, so alike are these two in divinity of mind for the divinity of America and humanity that they can thus be thought of only as one, should be known to all. Abraham Lincoln says, "Washington's is the mightiest name on earth-long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on."

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