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President’s Day Lecture: <br>The Hon. J. Leon Holmes

President’s Day Lecture:
The Hon. J. Leon Holmes

Posted: March 16, 2020


“From Valley Forge to Appomattox: 
George Washington and the
Formation of the American Nation”


by The Hon. J. Leon Holmes
United States District Judge (retired)
Eastern District of Arkansas
President’s Day Lecture
California - February 21, 2020
New England - March 5, 2020
St. Vincent de Paul Lecture and Concert Series


The holiday that is the occasion for this lecture[1] is Washington’s birthday on the Federal calendar. In the late 1870s, Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey, a Republican elected to represent Arkansas during reconstruction, sponsored legislation to establish Washington’s birthday as a Federal holiday.[2] In the 1960s another Republican, Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, sponsored legislation to move the holiday to the third Monday in February and change the name to Presidents Day so the holiday would honor Lincoln as well as Washington. Lawmakers from Virginia objected to changing the name of the holiday, and the name change was dropped. But the date was changed to the third Monday of February, which always falls between Lincoln’s birthday — February 12 — and Washington’s birthday — February 22. And so, the holiday — Washington’s birthday — is celebrated on a date that should lead us to remember Lincoln, as well.

My lecture is a bit like the holiday. I studied Washington with a view toward speaking about him; and that is primarily what I will do. The heart of my lecture is about Washington, what he experienced as commander-in-chief of the American army during the Revolutionary War, the convictions he formed as a result of that war experience, and how those convictions helped form the United States as a nation. When I started, I did not intend to speak about the Civil War or Abraham Lincoln or Robert E. Lee; but in the end I found that Washington’s story does not conclude with his death. His story, a chapter in the story of the formation of the American nation, unfolds into the story of the Civil War and the story of its great protagonists, Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee

With that introduction, let’s turn to the Revolutionary War.

Colonial resistance to British taxation, and steps by the British to suppress that resistance, led the thirteen colonies to send representatives to a Continental Congress in 1774 and, after fighting had begun in Massachusetts, to a Second Continental Congress in 1775. The Second Continental Congress operated as the central authority of a Confederation, first of colonies and then of States, an arrangement that was formalized with the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781.

The Second Continental Congress, by unanimous vote, appointed Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental forces. At the time, no Continental army as such existed. Washington was sent to Massachusetts to take command of the forces there, which consisted of militia from the New England colonies, opposed by a British army in Boston. Washington was told that he had 24,000 troops; a census determined that he had approximately 12,000, of whom some 3000 were unfit for battle. He was told that he had 308 barrels of gunpowder; he learned that he had only 38 barrels–enough for 9 rounds per soldier. If the British had attacked, the Americans would have been destroyed and the revolution likely crushed at the outset. “{M}y situation,” Washington wrote a few months after taking command, “has been such that I have been obliged to use art to conceal it from my own officers.”[3]

That his army consisted solely of militia presented several problems in fighting a war against professional soldiers, such as comprised the British army. The militia were untrained civilians, mostly farmers, who enlisted for a year or less and who elected their own officers. Washington soon learned that they were no match for Britain’s professional soldiers in conventional warfare. A year after his appointment as commander-in-chief, Washington reported that depending on militia was like “resting on a broken staff” because “Men just dragged from the tender Scenes of domestic life” who were untrained and unaccustomed to battle “were ready to flee from their own shadows.”[4] That they elected their own officers meant, according to Washington, that men who were “not fit to be Shoe Blacks” were often elected as officers.[5]

Perhaps the greatest impediment to fielding a credible army was the short terms of enlistment. Washington found that by the time he managed to train militiamen and to develop in them the necessary military discipline, their terms would expire, and they would return home, leaving him to start over with new recruits. At one point, Washington wrote, “we need to make every exertion on our part to check the enemy’s progress,” but we cannot “if our reliance is solely or principally on militia, for a force continually fluctuating is incapable of any material effort.”[6] On another occasion, he wrote, “I solemnly declare I never was witness to a single instance that can countenance an opinion of Militia or raw troops being fit for the real business of fighting. I have found them useful as light parties to skirmish the Woods, but incapable of making or sustaining a serious attack. This firmness is only acquired by habit of discipline.”[7] Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware on Christmas Day 1776 to surprise a troop of Hessian mercenaries was motivated, in part, by the fact that the term of enlistment for a great part of his army was due to expire at the end of the year. He had to attack before year’s end while he still had an army.

Partly due to the manpower shortage, a good number of black Americans served in Washington’s army. Before Washington took command, blacks had already fought alongside whites at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill; and they had done so with valor. Washington–a Southern slave-owner — first ordered that blacks could not be enlisted in the Continental army. Then, the British began offering freedom to slaves who would enlist.[8] By December, the circumstances forced Washington to acquiesce in the enlistment of blacks in his army.

Congress eventually authorized three-year enlistments, as Washington had requested. Still, money was lacking. In the winter of 1777-78 — the legendary winter at Valley Forge — the army was under supplied with almost everything.[9] “A French Volunteer remembered a dinner party to which no one was admitted who possessed a whole pair of trousers.”[10] Food was so short that in December Washington ordered troops to be ready to attack only to be told that they were unable to stir due to hunger. “To see men without Clothes to cover their nakedness,” Washington later wrote, “without blankets to lay on, without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet, and almost as often without Provisions as with; Marching through frost and Snow, and at Christmas taking up their Winter Quarters within a day’s March of the enemy, without a House or a Hut to cover them till they could be built and submitting to it without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled.”[11]

During the Valley Forge winter, an officer from Rhode Island sent Washington a note asking for permission to recruit black soldiers from his home state. Washington approved and sent a letter to the Governor of Rhode Island requesting assistance in this project to raise troops. The Rhode Island General Assembly enacted a law giving permission for slaves to enlist and granting their freedom upon enlistment. Then, some 250 men enlisted in the First Rhode Island Regiment.[12] According Ron Chernow, approximately 5000 blacks served in the Continental army, comprising between six and twelve percent of the Continental army at any given time, “making it the most integrated American fighting force before the Vietnam War.”[13]

Although not as legendary as the Valley Forge winter, the winter of 1779-80 at Morristown, New Jersey, also was grim. Washington complained bitterly to Congress of the lack of food. As late as April 12 Washington wrote that his army had not one ounce of meat.[14] By then, Congress had given up trying to feed the troops and had asked the States to supply their regiments. “All proved lax,” James Flexner says, “and when some local government did in fact move, there developed an emotionally difficult situation: one regiment was eating while its neighbor was not.”[15]

Valley Forge and Morristown were surrounded by farms, so food was available for purchase. The problem was lack of money, or lack of money with real value. Congress had printed paper money backed by nothing. The Confederation money depreciated in value to such extent that most would not take it. By 1781, $167 of Congressional paper was worth only $1 in gold and silver.[16] The British army had solid currency and could pay the local farmer more than could the revolutionaries, so local farmers often sold food to the British instead of to the Americans.

In October of 1780, Washington wrote, “We are without money, and have been so for a great length of time, without provision and forage except for what is taken by Impress; without Clothing; and shortly shall be (in a manner) without men.”[17] Earlier that same year, Washington had warned, “There is such a combination of circumstances to exhaust the patience of soldiery that . . . we see in every line of the army, the most serious features of mutiny and sedition.”[18]

Mutinies such as Washington feared did occur. On New Year’s Day, 1781, 1300 soldiers from the Pennsylvania line, exasperated over lack of food, clothing, and pay, killed several officers and headed toward Philadelphia to force Congress to provide relief. After that mutiny was quelled, some 200 troops from the New Jersey Line marched on the state capital at Trenton and had to be stopped by a larger force from West Point. Washington reported these mutinies to the New England States, adding, “The aggravated calamities and distresses that have resulted, from the total want of pay for nearly twelve Months, for want of Clothing, at a severe season, and not unfrequently the want of provisions; are beyond description.”[19]

The Pennsylvania and New Jersey mutinies involved primarily enlisted men and relatively small numbers. A more serious danger — a near mutiny led by Washington’s own officers — was presented in 1783.

Before describing this near mutiny by Washington’s officers, we need to back up and provide a bit of context. In 1781 France committed troops and a fleet to assist the American army. With this French help, the American army surrounded 7000 British soldiers led by General Cornwallis at Yorktown in October of 1781 and forced them to surrender. That victory in effect ended the war in favor of the Americans.

The American army remained in the field, however, for two more years, waiting on word from Paris that a peace treaty had been concluded and keeping an observant eye on the British troops that remained on American soil. The Americans had won the war; but their morale was low. Congress had promised that they would be paid for their service but had not kept that promise. Officers had not been paid for years. In December of 1778, Washington notified Congress that “a great part of the Officers of your Army from absolute necessity are quitting the Service and the more virtuous few rather than do this are sinking by sure degrees into beggery and want.”[20] Nearly two year later, Washington complained that hundreds of officers had resigned “because they could no longer support themselves as officers,” while many who remained were “unfit for duty for want of Clothing, while the rest are wasting their property and some of them verging fast to the gulph of poverty and distress.”[21]

With the war effectively over, for financial reasons, the army needed to be reduced in size, as Washington agreed in a letter to the Secretary of War. “Yet I cannot help fearing the Result,” Washington, wrote, “under present circumstances when I see such a Number of Men . . . about to be turned into the World, soured by penury and what they call the ingratitude of the Public, involved in debts, without one farthing of Money to carry them home . . . I cannot avoid apprehending that a train of Evils will follow, of a very serious and distressing Nature”[22]

The train of evils that Washington feared nearly came to pass. In the spring of 1783, while Washington’s army was encamped at Newburgh, New York, an anonymous leaflet was circulated among the officers announcing a meeting at which the officers were to air their grievances. Another anonymous leaflet followed, listing their many grievances, warning that if they laid down their arms without having those grievances resolved, they would grow old in poverty and would be the only persons who had suffered for the revolution. The leaflet cautioned the officers to suspect the man who would advise moderation.[23] The leaflet proposed that if the war should resume, the soldiers should “retire to some unsettled country” but if peace were obtained, “nothing shall separate you from your Arms but Death.”[24] In short, the leaflet proposed that the officers should use their arms to obtain the money owed them by the United States. The man of moderation against whom the leaflet warned clearly was Washington.

Washington entered an order forbidding the meeting, which had been called without his permission, but also calling a meeting of the officers four days later. His order implied that he would not attend the meeting, but at the last moment he entered through a side door and began to speak. Referring to the anonymous leaflets, he first noted that the strategy of “the secret mover of this Scheme” was to incite the officers based on their passions, kindled by their grievances, “without giving time for cool, deliberative thinking.” After thus calling them from the heat of passion to “cool, deliberative thinking,” he reminded them of his own trustworthiness, noting that he had suffered with them throughout the war, never taking leave; he told them that the proposal that they should leave the country undefended if the war resumed, or turn their arms against Congress if peace ensued, was so shocking that “humanity revolts at the idea”; he called upon them to trust that Congress would act justly toward them; and he appealed “in the name of our common Country” for “your own sacred honor” to “respect the rights of humanity, and . . . to express your utmost horror and detestation of the Man . . . who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in Blood.” By rejecting this invitation to turn their arms against their own country, he said, “you will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings.”[25]

Near the end of the speech, Washington attempted to read a letter from a Congressman; but he faltered. Taking from his pocket a pair of eyeglasses, which he had recently obtained and which most officers had never seen, he said, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”[26] It has been said that at this moment, with this gentle but tangible reminder of what Washington, himself, had suffered to make the revolution successful, the officers wept. In any event, the mutiny dissolved. A threat that Washington’s officers would turn their arms against the infant nation was averted. Jefferson commented later, “The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”[27]

I will note here that a few months earlier an officer had written a letter to Washington complaining that his men had not been paid, criticizing the republican form of government, and suggesting that Washington become king, though perhaps with a more innocent title. Washington responded, “no occurrence in the course of the War, has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the Army as you have expressed, [which] I must view with abhorrence, and reprehend with severity.” The idea proposed, Washington said, would be “one of the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country.” He concluded, “Let me conjure you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Mind, and never communicate . . . a sentiment of the like Nature.”[28]

Before moving on, we should pause to consider what an immense accomplishment it was for Washington and his army, under these circumstances, to withstand for several years the army of Great Britain, which at the time was the world’s preeminent superpower. In 1781 — after French troops arrived — a French officer, wrote, “I admire the American troops tremendously! It is incredible that soldiers composed of men of every age, even of children of fifteen, of whites and blacks, almost naked, unpaid, and rather poorly fed, can march so well and withstand fire so steadily.” He gave credit to “the calm and calculated measures of General Washington, in whom I daily discover some new and eminent qualities.”[29] Another French officer was stunned “by the destitution: the men were without uniforms and covered with rags; most of them were barefoot. They were of all sizes down to children who could not have been over fourteen. There were many negroes, mulattoes, etc. Only their artillerymen were wearing uniforms.”[30] Days before the anonymous leaflets circulated at Newburgh, Washington wrote that if future historians were to describe what his army had endured and had accomplished, posterity would deem it fiction: “for it will not be believed that such a force as Great Britain has employed for eight years in this Country could be baffled in their plan of Subjugating it by numbers infinitely less, composed of Men sometimes half starved; always in Rags, without pay, and experiencing, at times, every species of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing.”[31]

When Washington accepted command of the Continental Army, he was forty-three. When he returned home after the war, he was fifty-one. Except for the Yorktown campaign, the army directly under Washington’s personal command was in the Northern States for the eight years of the war. During those eight years, he saw his home, his beloved Mount Vernon, only once.

Washington was the army’s chief warrior in the ancient sense, marching into battle with his troops through snow and sleet, leading the charge against the redcoats more than once, and at times planting himself and his horse in the line of fire with his presence holding his troops in place like an anchor. A young officer wrote, “I shall never forget what I felt . . . when I saw him brave all the dangers of the field and his important life hanging as it were by a single hair with a thousand deaths flying around him. Believe me, I thought not of myself.”[32]

Even if he had not put himself in the line of fire during battle, by leading the revolutionary army, Washington laid his life on the line. It was high treason for a subject of the king to lead an army against the king’s army. Blackstone describes the penalty as follows: “1. That the offender be drawn to the gallows and not be carried or walk . . .. 2. That he be hanged by the neck, and then cut down alive. 3. That his entrails be taken out, and burned, while he is yet alive. 4. That his head be cut off. 5. That his body be divided into four parts. 6. That his head and quarters be at the king’s disposal.”[33] Death did not complete the punishment: after death, the offender’s property was forfeited to the king and could not pass to his heirs. [34]

Washington knew. Three days after he accepted the appointment as commander-in-chief of the Continental army, Washington wrote his wife, Martha, to tell her of his appointment and to encourage her not to worry. “I shall rely . . . confidently on that Providence,” he said, “which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safely to you in the fall.”[35] Then he wrote his will.

The Declaration of Independence famously concludes, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Washington was with his army in New York in July of 1776, so he was not among the signatories to the Declaration. But even more than the signatories to the Declaration, he risked his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor. If the British had won the war, as the commander of the rebel army, he would have been the first to be executed. His dependents would have been destitute.

We should not overlook the Declaration’s phrase, “our sacred honor.” Washington was intensely concerned with his honor. In the letter that he wrote to Martha after he had accepted the appointment as commander-in-chief, he said, “It was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment, without exposing my character to such censures, as would have reflected dishonor on myself, and given pain to my friends.”[36] Had he refused the appointment he would have dishonored himself; but by accepting the appointment and taking command of the rebel army, if he failed, he would forfeit not only his life and his fortune but also his sacred honor. If the British had won, Washington would have gone down in history, not as the father of our country, but as a traitor. We might be celebrating Benedict Arnold’s birthday instead of George Washington’s.

Having mentioned the Declaration of Independence, I should add that when Washington received a copy of it, he ordered that it be read to his troops. His order announced, “The Hon. Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, ha[s] been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent States”; and the order urged that “this important Event . . . serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms.”[37]

The final peace treaty ending the war between Great Britain and the United States was signed in Paris on September 3, 1783. A few weeks later, the British evacuated New York, and Washington led what remained of his army into the City. Washington met with his officers for the last time and, with a display of emotion that was unusual for him, bid them farewell. Two days before Christmas, before going home, he appeared before Congress in Annapolis, Maryland. In a ceremony that was brief but carefully choreographed to symbolize the subordination of military to civilian authority, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the United States Army.

In 1783, not long before he resigned as commander-in-chief, Washington sent one last Circular to the States, in part “to offer my sentiments respecting some important subjects,” as he put it, before retiring.[38] After expounding on the blessings that heaven had bestowed on the United States, Washington turned to the “present Crisis,” with respect to which “silence in me would be a crime.”[39] Essential to the existence and well-being of the United States, he said, was “An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head.”[40] “[T]his is the favorable moment,” he said, “to give such a tone to our Federal Government, as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution; or this may be the ill-fated moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the Confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European politics, which may play one State against another to prevent their growing importance . . . For, according to the system of Policy the States shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall; and by their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered a blessing or a curse[.]”[41]

As you know, the Confederation was not so much a national government as an alliance of independent sovereigns. The Articles of Confederation–the full name is “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union of the States” – the States are listed — said that each State retained its sovereignty and described the Confederation as a “league of friendship.” Each State had one vote in Congress. Amendments to the Articles required unanimous consent of all thirteen States; other important matters required nine votes to pass. The costs of war and other expenses were to be paid from a common treasury the funds of which were to be supplied by the States. Congress had no power to levy taxes. Congress could send requisitions to the States for their shares of needed funds but had no power to force States to pay; and often they did not pay. There was no executive branch. Congress set up departments of government to conduct governmental operations, but those departments operated under the auspices of Congressional boards or committees, which could not and did not manage them as effectively as a true executive branch of government could do. These departments were often inefficient and sometimes corrupt.

That funds often were lacking to pay the soldiers and to purchase food, clothing, arms, and other necessities for the army was due, in large part, to the fact that the Confederation was constructed as it was–as an alliance or association of States rather than a national government. While encamped at Newburgh, Washington wrote to Alexander Hamilton saying, “No man perhaps has felt the bad effects of [the defects in the Confederation] more sensibly [than I have]; for to the defects thereof, & want of Powers in Congress, may justly be ascribed the prolongation of the War, & consequently the Expenses occasioned by it. More than half of the perplexities I have experienced in the course of my command, and almost the whole of the difficulties & distress of the Army, have [their] origin here[.]”[42] Washington made the same point in his 1783 Circular to the States, asserting that the war could have been won in less time and with much less expense but for the lack of authority in a national government.[43]

The Confederation, in Washington’s mind, was hopelessly flawed. “[I]t is indispensable to the happiness of the individual states,” he explained, “that there should be lodged somewhere, a Supreme Power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the Confederated Republic, without which the Union cannot be of long duration.”[44] Accordingly, “whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the Union, or . . . lessen the Sovereign Authority, ought to be considered as hostile to the Liberty and Independency of America.”[45]

Washington predicted that the defects in the Confederation would continue to imperil the country after the War’s end; and his prediction came true. We need not recite the continuing consequences of the Confederation’s defects; they are catalogued in Federalist nos. 21-22, by Alexander Hamilton. The defects in the Confederation and the need for a genuine national government continued to be cause of concern for Washington and a subject of his letters. In 1785, he described the Confederation as “little more than a shadow without the substance” and Congress as “a nugatory body.”[46] “We are either a united people under one head,” he said, “or we are thirteen independent sovereignties, eternally counteracting each other.”[47]

Here is a fundamental conviction forged in Washington’s soul by the suffering of his soldiers caused by the failures of the Confederation: The United States needed to form an indissoluble union under a national government; and the national government needed to have power adequate to the needs of the nation, which meant, at a minimum, that it needed to have an executive branch to conduct the operations of government and it needed sufficient money, including credit when required, to conduct those operations.

While he was commander-in-chief, Washington wrote, “In modern wars the longest purse must determine the event.”[48] He feared that Great Britain had the longest purse. Though the government of Great Britain was “deeply in debt and of course poor,” he said, “the nation is rich and their riches afford a fund which will not be easily exhausted. Besides, their system of public credit is such that it is capable of greater exertions than that of any other nation.”[49] In his 1783 Circular to the States, Washington asserted that “It is only in our united Character as an Empire, that . . . our credit [is] supported among Foreign Nations.”[50]

 Washington also wrote, while he was commander-in-chief, that good government required not only greater powers in Congress but also “more responsibility and permanency in the executive bodies.”[51] Boards composed of members of Congress, he explained, were not “competent to the great business of War (which requires not only close application, but a constant and uniform train of thinking).”[52] Moreover, Washington exclaimed, if the States are free to reject decisions of Congress–which they were because Congress had no means to enforce its decisions–“it will be madness in us, to think of prosecuting the war.”[53] “Requisitions,” he said in a letter after the war, “are a perfect nullity, where thirteen sovereign, independent, disunited States are in the habit of . . . refusing compliance with them at their option. Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a bye word throughout the Land.”[54]

To establish an indissoluble union with a national government and an executive branch would require a new Constitution. To put the union on a sound fiscal basis, with adequate credit, would require the national government to adopt economic policies directed to that end. We will see later that Washington was indispensable to the establishment of a national government with an executive branch and to the adoption of economic policies designed to put the national government on a sound fiscal basis.

But a nation is more than a government and more than a set of economic policies. A nation requires a people.

When the peace treaty with Great Britain was finally signed and the army about to be disbanded, Washington wrote Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, congratulating the armies on their accomplishments and expressing his own amazement at “the astonishing events” of which they had been a part, “events which have seldom if ever before taken place on the stage of human action, nor can they probably ever happen again.”[55] Among the foremost of those “astonishing events” was this: “Who, that was not a witness, could imagine that the most violent local prejudices would cease so soon, and that Men who came from the different parts of the Continent, strongly disposed by the habits of education to despise and quarrel with each other, would instantly become but one patriotic band of Brothers?”[56]

Earlier Washington had written that nothing was more important to the future of the United States than “the removal of those local prejudices which intrude upon and embarrass that great line of policy which alone can make us a free, happy, and powerful people.”[57] An element essential to the existence and well-being of the United States, Washington said in his 1783 Circular to the States, was: “The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies.”[58] During his presidency, Washington proposed that Congress establish a national university. “Among the motives to such an institution,” he explained, was “the assimilation of the principles, opinions, and manners, of our countrymen, by the common education of a portion of our youth from every quarter.”[59] He later made a financial pledge toward the establishment of a university in the District of Columbia in part because “assembling the youth from different parts of this rising republic” might contribute “to the removal of prejudices which might . . . arise from local circumstances.”[60]

Here is a further aspect of Washington’s fundamental convictions as to the needs of the new nation: local and State prejudices must be overcome. Not only was it necessary for the United States to have a truly national government; they must also be united as a people.

Washington’s proposal to educate youth from different parts of the Nation at one university as a means of removing local prejudices reminds us of his praise for his soldiers for overcoming their prejudices to become a “band of Brothers.” We also should remember that numerous members of this “band of Brothers” were black. The First Rhode Island Regiment, which included the slaves that received their freedom in return for enlisting in the revolutionary army, led the decisive charge at Yorktown, after having been selected by Washington for that critical task.[61] “The bravery exhibited by the attacking Troops was emulous and praiseworthy,” Washington recorded in his journal, “few cases have exhibited stronger proofs of Intrepidity coolness and firmness than were shown upon this occasion.”[62]

Before the war, Washington expressed no qualms about the institution of slavery or his participation in it as a slave-owner. After the war, in private letters, he began to express a desire for the state legislature to adopt a plan for the abolition of slavery. In 1786, he wrote, “there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of” slavery.[63] Later in that same year, Washington said that it was “among my first wishes to see some plan adopted, by the legislature by which slavery in this Country may be abolished[.]”[64] And in 1797 — two years before his death — Washington wrote, “I wish from my soul that the Legislature of this State could see the policy of a gradual Abolition of Slavery.”[65] And he began to explore ways in which he might emancipate his own slaves.[66] Yet, he took no action–until his death.

So far as I have found, Washington never explained in writing or in a public statement why he hoped for the abolition of slavery. The closest he came to an explanation came in a private conversation in 1798–a year before his death. According to John Bernard, an English visitor to Mount Vernon, Washington said, “Not only do I pray for it [abolition], on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.”[67] Sixty years later, Lincoln would make a similar point using a scriptural reference — a house divided against itself cannot stand. The difference between Washington’s statement and Lincoln’s house divided speech is this: Washington said privately that nothing but rooting out slavery could perpetuate the union by giving it a common bond of principle; he did not envision that the nation could unite on a pro-slavery basis, nor did he speak publicly. In contrast, when Lincoln said that the nation must become either all free or all slave, he was speaking publicly to warn that the entire nation could become slave territory; and he viewed the Dred Scott decision as a step toward making that happen.

We have spoken of Washington’s convictions forged by his war experience. Those convictions defined his hopes for America. Washington hoped that the United States would be an indissoluble union with a national government. He hoped that the national government would have a strong executive and fiscal policies that would provide the government with adequate financial resources, including credit, to conduct its operations, including war. He hoped that the citizens of the United States would repose their first loyalty, their primary allegiance, in the nation, rather than in their respective States; he wanted them to think of themselves as Americans rather than as Virginians or New Yorkers. And he hoped that slavery would be abolished. Some of Washington’s hopes–a national government with a strong executive and sound fiscal policies–were realized in his lifetime. His other hopes were not realized, or not fully realized, during his lifetime.

I want to speak now about Washington’s his role in realizing the hopes that were realized in his lifetime. After that, we will return to Washington’s hopes for the Nation that were not realized during his lifetime.

As you know, in 1787 the States sent delegates to a convention in Philadelphia, ostensibly to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Over his objection, Washington was selected as a delegate from Virginia. He wrote several letters saying that he would not go. He was the most trusted man in America, however, and Madison and others urged him to go, arguing that his participation was essential to lend credibility to the convention. Washington understood that the ultimate success of the Revolution, for which he had fought and for which he had sacrificed, depended on the success of the convention. He ultimately agreed to attend. He was elected, unanimously, president of the convention.

Instead of proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation, the convention drafted and proposed an entirely new Constitution. As Washington hoped, the convention proposed a constitution for a national government, not just a “league of friendship” or a confederation of states. The national government would have power to enforce its laws. Over the objections of several delegates who were fearful of monarchy, the proposed constitution provided for a unitary executive–a single person rather than a body comprised of two or more–elected for a term of four years with no limit on reelection, in whom would be vested “the executive power”–the extent of which was undefined and therefore open-ended. According Pierce Butler, a delegate to the convention from South Carolina, the powers of the executive would not “have been so great had not many of the members cast their eyes towards General Washington as President; and shaped their Ideas of the Powers to be given to a President, by their opinions of his Virtue.”[68]

Ten States ratified the Constitution before conventions were held in Virginia and New York–the two largest States without whom the Union could not succeed. The issue was close in both States. At the Virginia convention, the venerable Patrick Henry voiced the concerns of many when he criticized “this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government,” as a result of which “our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished.”[69] The proposed constitution, Henry claimed, “squints toward monarchy . . .Your President may easily become king.”[70] Despite the opposition of Henry, George Mason, and others of prominence, Virginia ratified the Constitution by a vote of 89 to79.

The opposition in New York also included several prominent figures — the governor, George Clinton, Robert Yates, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and others. More anti-federalists than federalists were elected to the New York convention. Still, the ratification by Virginia swayed enough New York delegates to create a bare majority–30 to 27 — in favor of ratification.

Washington did not publicly participate in the ratification debate; but he was active behind the scenes, and his support for the new constitution was well known. If he had opposed the constitution, it could not have been ratified. Two weeks after the Virginia convention voted in favor of ratification, James Monroe, a Virginian who opposed ratification and who later would become the fifth President of the United States, wrote Thomas Jefferson, who was in Paris. Speaking of Washington, Monroe said, “be assured his influence carried this government.”[71]

What we have come to is this: Washington’s support was essential to the adoption of a constitution creating a truly national government with an executive whose power would be open-ended; and the expectation that he would be the first President was essential to the decision to vest the executive with that open-ended power.

The expectation that Washington would be the nation’s first President was, as you know, realized. He was elected President by unanimous vote of the Electoral College and reelected, again by unanimous vote, for a second term. Washington was the one man who was trusted both by those who supported the new constitution — the federalists — and by those who opposed it — the anti-federalists. According to historian Gordon Wood, “Washington was the only American in 1789 who possessed the dignity, patience, restraint, and reputation for republican virtue that the untried but potentially powerful office of the presidency needed at the outset.”[72] Moreover, according to Wood, “It was the people’s trust in Washington that enabled the new government to survive.”[73]

As President, Washington took action to put the national government on a sound fiscal basis with credit, when needed, to conduct war. As a part of that fiscal basis, Washington explained in his First Annual Message to Congress, a free people should promote manufacturing to render them independent of others for essential goods, particularly military supplies.[74]

The mastermind for Washington’s economic policies was his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton proposed a system of excise taxes to be collected by his department, funding the federal debt at par but with a reduced interest rate, assuming all the State debts incurred for the revolutionary war, and creating a National Bank that would, as summarized by Ron Chernow, “lend money to the government, issue notes that could serve as a national currency, and act as a repository for tax payments.”[75] Hamilton “projected the eventual development of manufacturing in the United States and not just to meet military requirements but also to create a more diversified and prosperous economy that would be more self-reliant and less dependent on European supplies.”[76] Hamilton’s plans, according to Joseph Ellis, “made excellent economic sense, as the improved credit rating of the United States in foreign banks and the surging productivity of the commercial sector demonstrated after Hamilton’s financial plan was adopted.”[77] Although Hamilton devised these financial plans, they were fully consistent with Washington’s views. Not all of Hamilton’s proposals were enacted, but many of them were; and they could not have been enacted without Washington’s support.

Nonetheless, they drew intense opposition led by Jefferson, who was Washington’s Secretary of State, and Madison, who served in Congress and upon whom Washington relied for advice. In a letter to Washington, Jefferson critiqued the details of Hamilton’s fiscal policy before addressing the alleged motive behind these policies: “the ultimate object of all this,” he said, “is to prepare the way for a change from the present republican form of government, to that of a monarchy, of which the English constitution is to be the model. That this was contemplated in the Convention, is no secret . . .”[78] Jefferson deemed the supporters of Hamilton’s policies “monarchical federalists”; he characterized those who joined him in opposing Hamilton’s policies as “republican federalists.”[79] Furthermore, he claimed, Hamilton’s policies promoted the interests of the Northern States to the detriment of the South. “Whenever Northern and Southern prejudices have come into conflict,” he said, “the latter have been sacrificed and the former soothed.”[80]

Washington had decided, before receiving this letter, to announce that he would not accept re-election for a second term as President. Jefferson warned him, “The confidence of the whole union is centered in you . . .North and South will hang together, if they have you to hang on.”[81] That it was essential to the Union for Washington to accept re-election was nearly the only point of agreement between Jefferson and Hamilton.

In dispute not only was Hamilton’s economic policies but also foreign policy. Hamilton viewed Great Britain, not France, as the more important trading partner. So did Washington. The Jeffersonians thought that true friends of liberty should favor France. From the beginning of the French Revolution, Washington feared where it was headed; when the Reign of Terror ensued, his fears were realized. Jefferson remained sanguine; he regarded the bloodshed as the cost of advancing the rights of man. This difference, again, cast Washington and Hamilton, in the view of the Jeffersonians, in the role of monarchists.

During Washington’s first term, the opponents of Hamilton’s fiscal policies vilified Hamilton but not Washington–his immense prestige made him off limits to criticism. Not so during his second term. He was accused of being either senile or a willing co-conspirator with Hamilton in a plot to establish monarchy. “What made the rising tide of criticism more troublesome for Washington,” says Chernow, “was that much of it originated from Virginia, where he was increasingly regarded as an apostate.”[82]

This history sets the backdrop for Washington’s most famous writing, his Farewell Address, which he published late in newspapers in his second term to announce his decision not to stand for a third term. The Farewell Address was a kind of Last Will and Testament, a final word from the father of the Nation to his child. In addition to announcing his decision not to accept re-election, he wrote to advise the Nation on matters “which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a people.”[83] He reiterated the hope of his war and post-war writings “that your Union and brotherly affection be perpetual.”[84] To his fellow Americans, he said that the “unity of Government which constitutes you one people . . . is a main Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty which you so highly prize.”[85] “To the efficacy and permanency of your Union,” he explained, “a Government of the whole is indispensable. No Alliances however strict between the parts can be an adequate substitute.”[86] “The name AMERICAN,” [all capitals]Washington admonished, “which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”[87] Washington warned of “the danger of Parties . . . with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations.”[88] Beware, he said, of “Geographical discriminations: Northern and Southern; Atlantic and Western” which may disturb our Union.”[89]

Washington died on December 14, 1799. A few months earlier he had written a new will, having been warned in a dream, according to one story, that he was about to die. “In the name of God amen,” he began.[90] After bequeathing his whole estate to Martha, he directed that, upon her death, all slaves whom he owned in his own right must receive their freedom. He directed that the elderly and infirm be supported for the rest of their lives, and that youth with no parents to care for them be educated and cared for until the age of 25. Many of the founders owned slaves; Washington was the only founder who freed his.

In researching for this lecture, I came across a most intriguing document–Thomas Jefferson’s Notes of a Conversation with Edmund Randolph [after 1795]. Those notes say, “the P. [President] speaking with R. [Randolph] on the hypothesis of a separation of the Union into Northern and Southern said he had made up his mind to remove and be of the Northern.”[91]

When Washington passed from the scene, the nation was a house divided. Certainly, it was a house divided, as Lincoln would say some sixty years later, in that it was partly slave and partly free. That division necessarily created a sectional division, a division between North and South. The nation also was a house divided in that it was partly federal and partly national. Madison used that phrase in Federalist 39 to refer the modes of establishing and operating the new government. In some respects, the new government would be a confederation–like the one that had existed during the revolutionary war — but in other respects it would be a truly national government. That arrangement left two questions to be resolved by future generations: Which would predominate, the States or the Nation? And to which, the State or the Nation, would citizens give their primary allegiance? Which would be first in their hearts?

Doubtless you have heard the tribute to Washington that he was “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” That line was part of the eulogy delivered by Henry Lee III during the Congressional memorial service after Washington’s death. During the revolutionary, war Henry Lee was a cavalry officer and achieved fame as Light-Horse Harry Lee. His son, Robert E. Lee, achieved greater fame during the Civil War as the Commander of the Confederate Army.

At issue in the Civil War was whether the United States was an indissoluble union, as Washington had hoped, or whether it could be dissolved by States that wished to secede. Behind that issue was the question of whether the United States was primarily a confederation of States or primarily a nation. Behind that issue was the question of where a citizen’s primary allegiance would rest; was a citizen first a Virginian and then an American or was he first an American (as Washington had hoped) and then a Virginian. Behind all those issues was the big one — the elephant in the room — whether slavery was compatible with the principles of the American republic.

Robert E. Lee surrendered at a little town in Virginia called Appomattox Court House. The day after he had relinquished his sword at Appomattox, Lee wrote his last General Order, formally announcing the surrender to his troops and explaining that the army, in Lee’s words, “has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.”[92]

The overwhelming numbers and resources that compelled the Confederate Army to yield reflected the different economies of the North and South. When the Civil War began, the South’s economy was still overwhelmingly agricultural and based largely on cotton, whereas the North had far greater commercial and manufacturing capacities. Ninety percent of the nation’s manufacturing output came from northern states. The North produced 17 times more textiles than the South, 30 times more leather goods, and 20 times more pig iron. The North produced 3200 firearms to every 100 produced in the South.[93] Nearly ninety percent of European immigrants had migrated to the northern states, where the economy was based on free labor. By 1860, the States that stayed in the Union had a population of 23 million compared to 9 million in the Confederate States, which meant that the Union had approximately 3.5 million males of military age — 18 to 45 — compared to 1 million for the Confederacy.[94] “Governments on both sides were forced to resort to borrowing on an unprecedented scale to meet the financial obligations for the war. With more developed markets and an industrial base that could ultimately produce the goods needed for the war, the Union was clearly in a better position to meet this challenge.”[95]

“In modern wars,” Washington had said in 1780, “the longest purse must determine the event.” To obtain a long purse, Washington had advised, a free people should develop manufacturing capabilities at least enough to be independent, especially in goods necessary for war. Hamilton crafted the economic policies, which Washington supported, to achieve those goals. When the Civil War came, it was the North that had an economy most closely resembling the Hamiltonian vision, which was also Washington’s vision; so it was the North that had the longest purse; and, consequently, it was Lee’s army, not the northern army, that was barefoot, hungry, and short on munitions.

We should note, too, that it was the North that had a great President. That great President used the open-ended executive powers granted in the Constitution to the maximum to orchestrate the defeat of the Confederacy.

Lee’s surrender sounded the death knell for the Confederacy. The death of the Confederacy meant death for the idea that the Union could be dissolved by States that wished to secede. Lee’s surrender meant that the United States would be an indissoluble union, as Washington had hoped. The victory of the Union decided the question of whether the national government or the States would predominate. The history of this Nation subsequent to Appomattox has been one of increasing centralization of power in the national government–in Washington. The first loyalty of those who fought in the Confederate army had been to their States or to the South. The victory of the Union over the Confederacy put that mindset on the road to extinction. As Washington had hoped, today, we think of ourselves primarily as Americans, not as Californians or Arkansans.

Lee, himself, set an example for the shift in primary allegiance after the war. “He sternly rebuked a Virginia woman who was speaking bitterly of the North, telling her that she should bury her old animosities and train her sons ‘to be loyal Americans.’”[96] “I fought against the people of the North because I believed that they were seeking to wrest from the South dearest rights,” he said, “but I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and have never seen the day that I did not pray for them.”[97] After his surrender at Appomattox, Lee wrote that it had become “the duty of every citizen, the contest being virtually ended, to cease opposition and to place himself in a position to serve the country.”[98] The Country of which Lee spoke was the United States of America.

Lee’s surrender at Appomattox also marked the death knell for slavery. Emancipation would be the new birth of freedom of which Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg. Vestiges of slavery would remain, but Lee’s surrender put slavery and its vestiges on the course to ultimate extinction. Again, according to one story, Lee set the example. As the story goes, one Sunday, a few months after the surrender at Appomattox, at the Episcopal Church that Lee attended, a black man went forward to receive communion. While others remained in their seats, chagrined at black man’s attempt to inaugurate the “new regime,” Lee went forward, knelt at the communion rail, and received communion with him.[99]

We mentioned earlier that some of Washington’s hopes for our Nation were realized during his lifetime, whereas others were not. Our summary of the effects of the Civil War comes to this: Lee’s surrender at Appomattox meant that Washington’s unrealized hopes for our Nation would be realized.

As Lincoln left home for the last time, just before boarding a train to travel to Washington to take office as President, he paused to bid farewell to neighbors who had assembled to see him off. He left, he said, “with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail.”[100]

Lincoln’s reference to Washington’s reliance on the Divine Being shows that he was familiar with Washington’s writings, which abound with references to Divine Providence. It is the only point of theology about which Washington was not reticent. It may be that Washington’s convictions about God’s providential care, like his convictions about the national government, were forged by his experience in war. As a young man, twenty-two years of age, in one battle during the French and Indian War, four bullets were shot through his coat and two horses were shot under him. He escaped unharmed, which he attributed to “the miraculous care of Providence, that protected me beyond all human expectation.”[101] On occasions too numerous to mention, during the Revolutionary War, and during the creation and ratification of the Constitution, Washington credited Divine Providence for success. He concluded his final annual message to Congress in 1796 with “my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and Sovereign Arbiter of nations, that his providential care may still be extended to the United States.”[102]

Bearing in mind that Washington told Congress that he prayed that God’s providential care would still be extended to the United States, and remembering that Lincoln sought that same Divine Assistance, let’s re-visit the key points in the chain of events that we have traversed. The soldiers under Washington’s command during the Revolutionary War often were barefoot, hungry, and short on munitions largely because the thirteen colonies, which became the original thirteen states, formed a confederation, not a true national government. Their hardships and their suffering forged or helped forge a strong and abiding conviction in Washington’s soul that the United States must become an indissoluble union under a national government headed by a strong executive operating with a fiscal policy that would generate the resources necessary for the operation of government, including war. Because of that conviction, Washington lent his support, his indispensable support, to the new Constitution and to the economic vision of Alexander Hamilton. The national government and, in some measure, Hamilton’s economic vision — both of which came into existence with Washington’s indispensable support — brought about the defeat of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery.

I have reflected on George Washington, the sufferings of his soldiers, the convictions that he formed, and their effect on the formation of the American nation, in light of Washington and Lincoln’s prayers for God’s providential care for the United States, and in light of Catholic teaching that suffering, in God’s plans, may have redemptive value. My reflections have led me to these thoughts, which I present for your consideration. Perhaps in his Divine Plan, God willed from the beginning to use the hardships encountered and the suffering endured by the American soldiers at Valley Forge–those bloody tracks in the snow left by both blacks and whites–as a link in the causal chain that would ring the death knell for slavery at Appomattox. And perhaps, as a part of that same Divine Plan, God willed from the beginning that the slaves from Rhode Island, who enlisted in the revolutionary army during the Valley Forge winter, who fought for freedom based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and who, in return, were granted freedom, would be the first fruits of a new birth of freedom accomplished at Appomattox.

Let me close with a few personal comments.

You will recall that we began this lecture by explaining that it was a Republican Senator from Arkansas — Steven Wallace Dorsey — who sponsored the legislation that first established Washington’s birthday. Dorsey was elected in 1872. Arkansas did not elect another Republican as senator for 124 years — until 1996 — when Arkansas elected Tim Hutchinson to the United States Senate. Tim Hutchinson was the senator who submitted my name to President George W. Bush who then appointed me to be a United States District Judge.

I had written the main part of this lecture before I learned of this indirect connection to the Federal Holiday known as Washington’s Birthday.

I showed an early draft of this lecture to my son Jeremy and asked whether he thought I should retain the discussion of the Civil War as the conclusion of this lecture, which is about George Washington. Jeremy said I should. He commented, “the truth is that you care deeply about this story because of your personal connection with the Lee-and-Lincoln conclusion.” I had not thought about the lecture in those terms until Jeremy made that comment. I grew up in the South in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education. I was three years old when Brown was decided; six years old when President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock to enforce a Federal court order that nine black children be admitted to Central High School; twelve years old when Martin Luther King led the March on Washington and delivered his “I have a dream” speech; and seventeen years old when King was assassinated. As Valley Forge unfolded into Appomattox, so Appomattox unfolded into my life as a child.

 Lincoln has been important in shaping my thinking on issues related to slavery. And in studying for this lecture I learned that on the issues that divided the Nation during the Civil War, Washington, a southern slaveowner, agreed with, and prepared the way for, Lincoln. Washington made Lincoln possible. Lincoln completed what Washington had started. In the story of the formation of the American nation, Washington and Lincoln — our two greatest presidents — one from South and one from the North — are hand-in-hand. They complement one another. It is as though Washington carried the torch as far as he could and, sixty years later, Lincoln picked up the torch and finished the race.

This year, the Federal holiday that commemorates Washington’s birthday fell on February 17, five days after Lincoln’s birthday and five days before Washington’s. I believe that Washington would be pleased to share the day with Lincoln; and I believe that Lincoln would be pleased for the day to bear Washington’s name.

[1] This paper was originally given as a Presidents Day lecture at the West Coast campus of Thomas Aquinas College on February 21, 2020, and at the New England campus on March 6, 2020.

[3]. Letter to Joseph Reed, February 10, 1776, Washington: A Collection, pp. 65-66.  In some quotations, I have modernized Washington’s spelling and deleted commas where they would not be used today to make reading easier.

[4]. To the President of Congress, September 24, 1776, Washington: A Collection, pp. 77-78.

[5]. Letter to John Augustine Washington, November 6, 1776, Washington: Writings, p. 255.

[6]. Letter to Gouverneur Morris, May 8, 1779, Washington: A Collection, p. 130.

[7]. Circular to the States, October 18, 1780, Washington: A Collection, p. 168.

[8] Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal (Univ. of Missouri Press:1997), pp.  142-146.

[9]. Flexner, p. 109.

[10]. Flexner, p. 117.

[11]. Letter to John Banister, April 21, 1778, Washington: A Collection, p. 103.

[12]. Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, p. 218.

[13]. Chernow, p. 213.

[14]. Chernow, p. 368.

[15]. Flexner, p. 133.

[16] Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution: A History (The Modern Library: 2001), p. 116.

[17]. Letter to George Mason, October 22, 1780, Washington: A Collection, p. 176.

[18]. Letter to President Joseph Reed, May 28,1780, Washington: A Collection, p. 146.

[19]. Circular to the New England States, January 5, 1781, Washington: A Collection, p. 181.

[20]. Letter to Benjamin Harrison, December 18, 1778, George Washington: A Collection, W. B. Allen, ed., (Liberty Fund: 1988). p. 119.

[21]. Letter to Joseph Jones, August 13, 1780, Washington: A Collection, p. 153.

[22]. Letter to the Secretary at War, October 2, 1782, Washington: A Collection, p. 205,

[23]. George Washington: Writings, John Rodenhamel, ed. (Library of America: 1997), pp. 1107-9

[24]. Ibid.

[25]. Speech to the Officers of the Army, March 15, 1783, Washington: A Collection, pp. 217-21.

[26].   Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life (Penguin Books: 2010), pp. 432-36. For a slightly different version, see James Thomas Flexner, Washington: The Indispensable Man (Little Brown & Company: 1974), pp. 172-75. Flexner quotes Washington as saying that he had “not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” Id., p. 174.  Chernow’s version of Washington’s statement is consistent with the memory of an officer who was present and recorded in his journal that Washington “took out his spectacles . . . observing . . . that he had grown gray in their service and now found himself growing blind.”  Josiah Quincy, The Journals of Major Samuel Shaw (Boston: 1847) p. 104.

[27]. Flexner, p. 175.

[28]. Letter to Colonel Lewis Nicola, May 22, 1782, Washington: A Collection, pp. 203-4.

[29]. Chernow, p. 404.

[30]. Id. At 404-5.

[31]. Letter to Major Nathanael Greene, February 6, 1783, Washington: A Collection, p. 208.

[32]. Chernow, p. 282.

[33]. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book IV, Chapter 6 (1769).

[34] Id., Chapter 29.

[35]. Letter to Martha Washington, June 18, 1775, Washington: A Collection, p. 41.

[36]. Ibid.

[37]. General Orders, July 9, 1776, Washington: A Collection, p.73.

[38]. Circular to the States, June 14, 1783, Washington: A Collection, p. 239.

[39]. Id., p. 241.

[40]. Id., p. 242.

[41]. Id., p. 241.

[42]. Letter to Alexander Hamilton, March 31, 1783, Washington: Writings, p. 505.

[43]. Id., p. 243.

[44]. Ibid

[45]. Ibid.

[46]. Letter to James Warren, October 7, 1785, Washington: A Collection, p. 312

[47]. Letter to James McHenry, August 22, 1785, Washington: A Collection, p. 310.

[48]. Letter to Joseph Reed, May 28, 1780, Washington: A Collection, p. 147.

[49]. Ibid.

[50]. Circular to the States, June 14, 1783, Washington: A Collection, p. 243.

[51]. Letter to James Duane, December 26, 1780, Washington: A Collection, 178.

[52]. Ibid.

[53]. Ibid.

[54]. Letter to John Jay, August 15, 1786, Washington: A Collection, p. 334.

[55]. Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, November 2, 1783, Washington: A Collection, p. 267.

[56]. Id., p. 267-68.

[57]. Letter to Theodore Bland, April 4, 1783, Washington: A Collection, p. 231.

[58]. Circular to the States, June 14, 1783, Washington: A Collection, p. 242.

[59]. Eighth Annual Address, December 7, 1996, Washington: A Collection, p. 509.

[60]. To the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, January 28, 1795, Washington: A Collection, p. 606.

[61]. Id., p. 245.

[62]. Journal of the Yorktown Campaign, Washington: Writings, p. 459.

[63]. Letter to Robert Morris, April 12, 1786, Washington: A Collection, p. 319.

[64].  Letter to John Francis Mercer, September 9, 1786, Washington: Writings, p. 607.

[65].  Letter to Lawrence Lewis, August 4, 1797, Washington: Writings., p. 1002.

[66]. Wiencek, pp. 272-78; Letter to Arthur Young, Washington: Writings, pp. 851-58.

[67]. John Bernard, Retrospections of America: 1797-1811 (Benjamin Blom:1969), p. 91.

[68]. Pierce Butler letter to Weedon Butler, May 5, 1788, in Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Vol. 3, p. 302 (Yale U. Press: 1966).

[69]. Cecilia M. Kenyon, ed., The Antifederalists (Bobbs-Merrill: 1966), p. 239. 

[70]. Id., p. 257.

[71]. James Monroe letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 12, 1778,

[72] Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (Penguin Press: 2006), p. 50.

[73] Id., p. 56.

[74]. First Annual Message, January 8, 1790, Washington: A Collection, p. 468.

[75]. Chernow, p. 648.

[76] Wood, Revolutionary Characters, p. 133.

[77]. Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency: George Washington (Alfred A. Knopf: 2004), p. 204.

[78]. Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792,

[79]. Ibid.

[80]. Ibid.

[81]. Ibid.

[82]. Chernow, p. 676.

[83]. Farewell Address, September 19, 1796, Washington: A Collection, p. 514. 

[84]. Ibid.

[85]. Id., p. 515.

[86]. Id., p. 518.

[87]. Id., p. 515.

[88]. Ibid., p. 519.

[89]. Id., p. 517.

[90]. Last Will and Testament, July 9, 1799, Washington: A Collection, p. 667.

[92]. General Order No. 9, April 10, 1865, The Robert E. Lee Reader, Stanley F. Horn, ed. (Grosset & Dunlap: 1949), p. 447.

[93] Benjamin T. Arrington, Industry and Economy During the Civil War, -civil-war.htm.

[94] Ibid

[95] Roger Ransom,. “Economics of the Civil War”. EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. August 24, 2001. URL

[96]. The Robert E. Lee Reader, p. 455.

[97]. Ibid.

[98]. Id., p. 466.

[99]. Id., p. 462.

[100]. Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861, , The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, ed. (Rutgers Univ. Press: 1953) Vol. IV, p. 190.

[101]. Letter to John Augustine Washington, July 18, 1775, Washington: Writings, pp. 59-60.

[102]. Eighth Annual Message, December 7, 1796, Washington: A Collection, p. 512.


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Isabella Hsu (’18) on discussion method

“In our classroom discussions, we are responsible for our own education. We have to get our hands dirty, to figure out the material, to let it become part of us and make us better people. That is real learning.”

– Isabella Hsu (’18)

Redondo Beach, California

“Thomas Aquinas College is one of the premiere liberal arts colleges in the country and the pride and joy of the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region.”

– Most Rev. Robert E. Barron

Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles