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   Chapter 33 NOT BIRTH BUT CHARACTER MAKES AMERICANS

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3441

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Washington and Lincoln are two names inseparately connected in the making and preservation of America. Each became the leader in his country's interests at a period of almost unspeakable dissention and of indescribable peril to freedom as the condition of social civilization. In the midst of that terrible turmoil, through every form of abuse, intrigue and obstruction, they kept clear the way that America should go, and upheld the America that all freeborn men believed to be the ideal and opportunity of humanity and mankind.

Washington is often declared to have been so much of his life an Englishman that he cannot be regarded as a real born American. With this declaration it is also asserted that Lincoln was the first complete representative of real Americanism. This is as much as to say that one born into the richest family in the early days of a town is not as much of a citizen as one born in the poorest house in the town when it has become a city. Search can nowhere reveal any Americanism in either of those great souls that was not also in the other. Physical surroundings had much to do with the details of their minds, characters and careers, but nothing to do with their principles of humanity which were indistinguishably the same. The glorious largeness of their hearts and their manhood made the same supreme American. Though less in leadership and in effect upon the life of their country, there were thousands, if not millions, as perfectly synonymous with Americanism as either Washington or Lincoln. It is thus character and not birth that makes Americans, and therefore it is not place but humanity that makes America.

The hereditary mansion and the log hut were but the outer form of

those two great men. The faith, hope and love within for the freedom of humanity, in the truth that makes men free, were the same in both hut and mansion.

Those numerous malcontents who vilified Washington, and whose subsequents poisoned the atmosphere around Lincoln, could not see an hour beyond their own dog's day, and were unable to measure any value greater than their own personal interests. The very names which they strove to make great in the historical vision of posterity have vanished, or their perversions have been forgiven as repented fully. In contrast to them are such noble heroes illustrated, for instance by John Dickinson, who did not believe it was their duty to leave wealth to their children, but it was necessary to leave them a heritage of liberty; by Samuel Adams, who was impoverished by his stand for American freedom, and yet scornfully refused an honored office that was meant to bribe him away from the American cause; by Robert Morris, who gave his fortune to feed the starving troops in the darkest period of the war; and by Benjamin Franklin, rich, famous and old, past seventy years of age, accepting the dangerous, laborious and sacrificing mission to France, in the name of human union, for a liberty-loving world. It required the profoundest devotion and heroism for one so old as Franklin to break with friends of a lifetime, as shown when he wrote,

"You and I were long friends; you are now my enemy and I am yours,

"B. Franklin."

Likewise, when he signed the Declaration of Independence, saying, "We must now all hang together or hang separately."

The foundations of Americanism rest on Americans and when they are needed they always come forth to keep the faith.

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