The True George Washington: Citizen and Office-Holder: Continental Congress

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Continental Congress

In the Continental Congress, Randolph states, "Washington was prominent, though silent. His looks bespoke a mind absorbed in meditation on his country's fate; but a positive concert between him and Henry could not more effectually have exhibited him to view, than when Henry ridiculed the idea of peace 'when there was no peace,' and enlarged on the duty of preparing for war." Very quickly his attendance on that body was ended by its appointing him general.

His political relations to the Congress have been touched upon elsewhere, but his attitude towards Great Britain is worth attention. Very early he had said, "At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty, which we have derived from our ancestors. But the manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in question. That no man should scruple, or hesitate a moment, to use a?s in defence of so valuable a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life depends, is clearly my opinion." When actual war ensued, he was among the first to begin to collect and drill a force, even while he wrote, "unhappy it is, though to reflect, that a brother's sword has been sheathed in a brother's breast, and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"

Not till early in 1776 did he become a convert to independence, and then only by such "flaming arguments as were exhibited at Falmouth and Norfolk," which had been burned by the British. At one time, in 1776, he thought "the game will be pretty well up," but "under a full persuasion of the justice of our cause, I cannot entertain an Idea, that it will finally sink, tho' it may remain for some time under a cloud," and even in this time of terrible discouragement he maintained that "nothing short of independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A peace on other terms would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a peace of war."

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