THE REVOLUIONARY WAR
*In the Peace of Paris, 1783, Great Britain recognised the independence of the United States, set the northern border of the US where it presently is with Canada (more or less), established the Mississippi as the border between the US and Spanish Louisiana, with the Mississippi forever open to navigation by both nations and Great Britain, gave Florida back to Spain, required British troops to be removed from US territory, and secured the liberty and property (and remuneration) for Loyalists. Some of this happened, some did not.
*George Washington has been called the indispensable man—the man we could not have done without. This may seem odd, considering he lost most of his battles, was not extremely well-educated, and was disliked by many of his fellow general officers, who were jealous of his position.
*However, it is important to understand that George Washington was the figure America needed at the time.
*He was, perhaps, the premier gentleman in America. He was extremely tall (6’4” and over 200 pounds—supposedly (by John Adams) selected repeatedly as a leader of everything due to his height), strong, and healthy. Other men got frostbite and died crossing rivers in the winter, but Washington never felt it. He was considered one of the finest horsemen in Virginia and always led the foxhunts.
*He was a man of honour and character, and of stiff formality. He wrote his own book on how to be a gentleman, outlining all the rules for good behaviour, so he would always have a reference, and never make a wrong move. His principles always guided him, at least in public life (and he kept his public and private life strictly separate), and his hero was the Roman dictator Cincinattus.
*Washington’s great moment came at Newburgh, Pennsylvania, when the war was over. Most of the army had not been paid, many men were unhappy, and most were disgusted by Congress’ poor performance. At Newburg in 1783, a group of officers met with Washington and suggested that he lead them and the army on Congress, demanding their back pay and either taking over the country or moving west and setting up a new country with Washington as king. He declined politely, and on 22 December, 1783, resigned his commission and headed home Mount Vernon.
*King George III heard that Washington meant to reject a dictatorship, and said ‘If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.’
*Such attitudes resulted in Washington being called ‘The Father of the Country as early as 1776, even before the United States were a country. Washington County, Tennessee has its name from this time.
*Above all, Washington, more than any other commander, understood how to fight the British in America. He did not have to win battles or protect cities, he merely had to keep his army intact and harass the British until he could make them tire of the war effort. He lost most of his battles, but kept his army together to fight another day, until the decisive moment came at Yorktown, and he could seize victory. This strategy, perhaps not brilliant, but nonetheless terribly effective, won the war, and his character and integrity when confronted with the Newburgh Conspiracy saved the young nation from the path of so many other revolutions.
*Conclude by starting The Crossing, explaining that it shows one of Washington’s greatest victories, and pointing out key events as they happen.
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This page last updated 2 September, 2003.