Remembering the Indispensable Scott

Scott notes below that today is George Washington’s birthday, but omits to mention that it is also — drum roll please — Scott Johnson’s birthday!  I know it’s cool of Coolidge to be the only president born on the 4th of July, but it’s really cool to share a birthday with George Washington.

And since we’re celebrating great men, I’ll just second Scott’s notice of the first George W. (since I am sure Scott rather I do this than light up cyber candles for his birthday) with Forrest McDonald’s great account, in his book The American Presidency: An Intellectual History, of Washington’s handling of the Newburg mutiny.  In 1783, a group of army officers, angered by the lack of pay and disgusted with the feebleness of the national government under the Articles of Confederation, met in Newburgh, New York, to contemplate what amounted to a military coup.  Here’s McDonald’s narrative of the climactic meeting:

To the surprise of everyone, [Washington] attended the meeting in person, and by virtue of rank he presided over it.  By the score, officers came in, tempers blazing, only to sit in embarrassed silence as Washington rose.  He had written a short speech, and as he took it from cost pocket he reached with his other hand and extracted a pair of eyeglasses, which only a few intimates knew he needed.  “Gentlemen,” he began, “you will permit me to put in my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country. . .  This dread alternative, of either deserting our Country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our arms against it, . . . has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. . . . I spurn it,” he added, as must every man “who regards that liberty, and reveres that justice for which we contend.”  The officers wept tears of shame, and the mutiny dissolved.  As Thomas Jefferson said later, “The moderation and virtue of one man probably prevented this Revolution from being closed by a subversion of liberty it was intended to establish.”

Now back to my regularly scheduled program of inspecting frabrica de biquinis, as they’re called down here.


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