Рефераты. George Washington

Fairfax Resolves, and he was elected one of the delegates to the 1st

Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia in September. There the

Fairfax Resolves provided the basis for the principal agreement signed by

its members--the Continental Association. This forbade the importing into

the colonies of all goods from Britain and all goods subject to British

taxes. Moreover, it authorized all towns and counties to set up committees

empowered to enforce its provisions. The Continental Congress thus enacted

law and created a new government dedicated to resisting British rule.

Washington spent the winter of 1774-1775 in Virginia, organizing

independent military companies which were to aid the local committees in

enforcing the Continental Association and, if need be, to fight against

British troops.

The American Revolution

When the 2d Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775, the fighting near

Boston (Lexington-Concord) had occurred. The British Army was cooped up in

Boston, surrounded by nearly 14,000 New England militiamen. On Feb. 2,

1775, the British House of Commons had declared Massachusetts to be in a

state of rebellion. This imputed to the people of that colony the crime of

treason. Washington, by appearing at the 2d Congress in uniform (the only

member thus attired), expressed his support of Massachusetts and his

readiness to fight against Britain. In June, Congress created the

Continental Army and incorporated into it the armed New Englanders around

Boston, undertaking to supply and pay them and to provide them with

generals. On June 15, Washington was unanimously elected general and

commander in chief.

The tribute of a unanimous election reflected his influence in Congress,

which endured throughout the American Revolution despite disagreements

among the members. In 1775 they divided into three groups. The militants,

led by Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Richard Henry Lee, favored

vigorous military action against Britain. Most of them foresaw the need of

effective aid from France, which the colonies could obtain only by offering

their commerce. Before that could be done they must become independent

states. Another group, the moderates, represented by Benjamin Harrison and

Robert Morris, hoped that a vigorous prosecution of the war would force

Britain to make a pro-American settlement. Only as a last resort would the

moderates turn to independence. The third group, the conciliationists, led

by John Dickinson, favored defensive measures and looked to "friends of

America" in England to work out a peace that would safeguard American

rights of self-taxation, thereby keeping the colonies in the British

Empire. Washington agreed with the militants and the moderates as to the

need for offensive action. The conciliationists and the moderates, as men

of fortune, trusted him not to use the army to effect an internal

revolution that would strip them of their property and political influence.

Early in the war, Washington and the army had to act as if they were agents

of a full-grown nation. Yet Congress, still in an embryonic state, could

not provide suddenly a body of law covering all the issues that figure in a

major war. Many actions had to be left to Washington's discretion. His

commission (June 17, 1775) stated: "You are hereby vested with full power

and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the

service." There was a danger that a strong general might use the army to

set up a military dictatorship. It was therefore urgent that the army would

be under a civil authority. Washington agreed with the other leaders that

Congress must be the superior power. Yet the army needed a good measure of

freedom of action. A working arrangement gave such freedom, while

preserving the authority of Congress. If there was no need for haste,

Washington advised that certain steps should be taken, and Congress usually

approved. In emergencies, he acted on his own authority and at once

reported what he had done. If Congress disapproved, he was so informed, and

the action was not repeated. If Congress did nothing, its silence signified

assent. So attentive was Washington to Congress, and so careful was he when

acting on his own initiative, that no serious conflict clouded his

relations with the civil authority.

Washington Takes Command

When he took command of the army at Cambridge on July 3, 1775, the majority

of Congress was reluctant to adopt measures that denoted independence,

although favoring an energetic conduct of the war. The government of Lord

North decided to send an overpowering army to America, and to that end

tried to recruit 20,000 mercenaries in Russia. On August 23, George III

issued the Royal Proclamation of Rebellion, which branded Washington as

guilty of treason and threatend him with "condign punishment." Early in

October, Washington concluded that in order to win the war the colonies

must become independent.

In August 1775, Washington insisted to Gen. Thomas Gage, the British

commander at Boston, that American officers captured by the British should

be treated as prisoners of war--not as criminals (that is, rebels). In

this, Washington asserted that the conflict was a war between two separate

powers and that the Union was on a par with Britain. He defended the rank

of American officers as being drawn from "the uncorrupted choice of a brave

and free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power." In

August-September he initiated an expedition for the conquest of Canada and

invited the king's subjects there to join the 13 colonies in an

"indissoluble union." About the same time he created a navy of six vessels,

which he sent out to capture British ships bringing supplies to Boston.

Congress had not favored authorizing a navy, then deemed to be an arm of an

independent state. Early in November, Washington inaugurated a campaign for

arresting, disarming, and detaining the Tories. Because their leaders were

agents of the British crown, his policy struck at the highest symbol of

Britain's authority. He urged the opening of American ports to French ships

and used his prestige and the strength of the army to encourage leaders of

the provincial governments to adopt measures that committed their colonies

to independence. His influence was evident in the campaigns for

independence in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts,

Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. He contributed as much to the

decision for independence as any man. The Declaration of Independence was

formally adopted on July 4, 1776.

The Military Campaigns

Washington's military record during the revolution is highly creditable.

His first success came on March 17, 1776, when the British evacuated

Boston. He had kept them surrounded and immobilized during a siege of more

than eight months. He had organized a first American army and had recruited

and trained a second. His little fleet had distressed the British by

intercepting their supplies. Lack of powder and cannon long kept him from

attacking. Once they had been procured, he occupied, on March 4-5, 1776, a

strong position on Dorchester Heights, Mass., where he could threaten to

bombard the British camp. The evacuation made him a hero by proving that

the Americans could overcome the British in a major contest. For five

months thereafter the American cause was brightened by the glow of this

outstanding victory--a perilous time when confidence was needed to sustain


Washington's next major achievement was made in the second half of 1776,

when he avoided a serious defeat and held the army together in the face of

overwhelming odds. In July and August the British invaded southern New York

with 34,000 well-equipped troops. In April, Washington's force had

consisted of only 7,500 effective men. Early in June, Congress had called

19,800 militia for service in Canada and New York. In a few weeks

Washington had to weld a motley throng into a unified force. Even then his

men were outnumbered three to two by the British. Although he suffered a

series of minor defeats (Brooklyn Heights, August 26-29; Kip's Bay,

September 15; Harlem Heights, September 16; White Plains, October 28; Fort

Washington, November 16), the wonder is that he escaped a catastrophe.

After the setbacks in New York, he retreated through New Jersey, crossing

the Delaware River in December. The American cause now sank to its lowest

ebb. Washington's main army, reduced to 3,000 men, seemed about to

disintegrate. It appeared that the British could march easily to

Philadelphia. Congress moved to Baltimore. In these dire straits Washington

made a dramatic move that ended an agonizing campaign in a blaze of glory.

On the stormy night of December 25-26 he recrossed the Delaware, surprised

Britain's Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, and captured 1,000 prisoners.

This move gave him a striking position in central New Jersey, whereupon the

British ceased offensive operations and pulled back to the vicinity of New


On Oct. 17, 1777, Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga, N. Y., his

army of 5,000 men--all that were left of the 9,500 who had invaded New York

from Canada. To this great victory Washington made two contributions.

First, in September 1775, he sent an expedition to conquer Canada. Although

that aim was not attained, the project put the Americans in control of the

approaches to northern New York, particularly Lake Champlain. Burgoyne

encountered so many obstacles there that his advance was seriously delayed.

That in turn gave time for the militia of New England to turn out in force

and to contribute decisively to his defeat. Second, in 1777, Washington

conducted a campaign near Philadelphia that prevented Gen. William Howe

from using his large army for the relief of Burgoyne. Washington's success

at Trenton had placed him where he could both defend Philadelphia and

strike at British-held New York. Howe had thereupon undertaken a campaign

with the hope of occupying Philadelphia and of crushing Washington's army.

Although Washington suffered minor defeats--at Brandywine Creek on

September 11 and at Germantown on October 4--he again saved his army and,

by engaging Howe in Pennsylvania, made possible the isolation and eventual

defeat of Burgoyne.

Unable to overcome Washington in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the British

shifted their main war effort to the South. In 1781 their invasion of

Virginia enabled Washington to strike a blow that virtually ended the war.

France had joined the United States as a full-fledged ally in February

1778, thereby putting French troops at Washington's disposal and, more

important, giving him the support of a strong navy which he deemed

essential to victory. His plan of 1781 called for an advance from New York

to Virginia of a large American-French army which would act in concert with

the French fleet, to which was assigned the task of controlling Chesapeake

Bay, thereby preventing an escape by sea of the British forces under Lord

Cornwallis. Washington's army trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown, Va., on the

York River, and the French admiral, count de Grasse, gained command of the

bay. Outnumbered, surrounded on land, and cut off by sea, Cornwallis

surrendered his 7,000 troops on October 19. Although Britain still had

large forces in America, the Yorktown blow, along with war weariness

induced by six years of failure, moved the war party in England to resign

in March 1782 in favor of a ministry willing to make peace on the basis of

the independence of the United States.

Political Leadership During the War

Washington's political leadership during the Revolution suggests that of an

active president of later times. He labored constantly to keep people of

all classes at work for the cause. He held a central position between two

extremes. He strove to retain the support of the common people, who made up

the army and--as farmers and workers--produced the supplies. Composing the

left wing, they cherished democratic ideas that they hoped to realize by

popular rule in the state governments. Washington appealed to them by his

faith in popular sovereignty, his sponsorship of a republic and the rights

of man, and his unceasing efforts to assure that his soldiers were well

paid and adequately supplied with food, clothing, arms, medical care, and

shelter. His personal bravery, industry, and attention to duty also

endeared him to the rank and file, as did his sharing of dangers and

hardships, as symbolized by his endurance at Valley Forge during the bleak

winter of 1777-1778. The right wing consisted of conservatives whose

leaders were men of wealth. Washington retained their confidence by

refusing to use the army to their detriment and by insisting on order,

discipline, and respect for leadership. It was his aim that the two wings

should move in harmony. In this he succeeded so fully that the American

Revolution is rare among political upheavals for its absence of purges,

reigns of terror, seizures of power, and liquidation of opponents.

Before 1778, Washington was closely affiliated with the left wing.

Afterward, he depended increasingly on the conservatives. In the winter of

1777-1778 there was some talk of replacing him with Gen. Horatio Gates, the

popular hero of Saratoga. This estranged Washington from some of the

democratic leaders who sponsored Gates. The French alliance, coming after

the American people had made heavy sacrifices, tended to relax their

efforts now that France would carry much of the burden. These developments

lessened the importance of the popular leaders in Washington's counsels and

increased the standing of the conservatives. Washington sought maximum aid

from France, but also strove to keep the American war effort at a high

pitch lest France should become the dominant partner--a result he wished to

avoid. His character and tact won the confidence and respect of the French,

as typified by the friendship of the Marquis de Lafayette.

In 1782 some of the army officers, irked by the failure of Congress to

fulfill a promise concerning their pay, threatened to march to Philadelphia

and to use force to obtain satisfaction. In an address on March 15, 1783,

Washington persuaded the officers to respect Congress and pledged to seek a

peaceful settlement. Congress responded to his appeals by granting the

officers five years' full pay, and the crisis ended. It evoked from

Washington a striking statement condemning government by mere force. "If

men," he wrote, "are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a

matter which may involve the most serious ... consequences, ... reason is

of no use to us, the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and

silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter."

Throughout the war, Washington retained a commanding position in the army.

Generals Philip Schuyler, Henry Knox, Nathanael Green, and Henry Lee were

especially attached to him. His relations with Horatio Gates became

strained but not ruptured. A rebuke to Charles Lee so angered that

eccentric general as to cause him eventually to retire and to denounce

Washington as a demigod. General Benedict Arnold suffered a somewhat

milder, though merited, rebuke shortly before he agreed to sell information

to Britain about the defenses at West Point.

(In 1976 an act of Congress promoted Washington to six-star General of the

Armies so that he would rank above all other American generals.)

The Confederation Years

After the war, several states were beset with troubles that alarmed

Washington and conservative leaders who were close to him. British

merchants flooded the United States with British goods. Inadequate markets

abroad for American products obliged American merchants to export coin or

to buy imports on credit. Britain excluded American ships from the trade of

the British West Indies, to the distress of New England. A shortage of

money depressed the prices of American products and enhanced the difficulty

of paying debts--not only those owed to British merchants but also those

that had been contracted by Congress or the states to finance the war. As

the debt burdens grew, debtors demanded that the states issue large

quantities of paper money. About half the states did so. Such paper

depreciated, to the loss of creditors. The strife between debtor and

creditor in Massachusetts exploded in an uprising, Shays' Rebellion, that

threatened to overthrow the state government.

Apprehensive men turned to Washington for leadership. It seemed to them,

and to him, that the troubles of the times flowed from the weaknesses of

the central government under the Articles of Confederation. The Union could

not provide a single, stable, adequate currency because the main powers

over money were vested in the states. Because Congress could not tax, it

could not maintain an army and navy. Nor could it pay either the principal

or the interest on the national debt. Washington believed that the central

government should be strengthened so that it could safeguard property,

protect creditors against hostile state laws, afford the Union a uniform,

nondepreciating currency, and collect taxes in order both to pay the

national debt and to obtain revenues sufficient for current needs. He also

thought that Congress should be empowered to foster domestic manufacturing

industries as a means of lessening the importation of foreign goods.

Washington's anxieties over events in the 1780's were deepened by his

memories of bitter experiences during the Revolution, when the weakness of

Congress and the power of the states had handicapped the army in countless


The Constitutional Convention met at Philadelphia in May 1787. Washington,

a delegate of Virginia, served as its president. His closest associate then

was James MADISON. The Constitution, as adopted, embodied Washington's

essential ideas. It provided for a "mixed" or "balanced" government of

three branches, so devised that all three could not easily fall under the

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