Table of Contents:
The late anniversary of Washington's birthday passed without any special observance in this country. This is not to be attributed to any decline in the popular appreciation of "the world's own Washington." But a patent has been obtained by our old Boston contemporary (with whom we had an occasional courteous joust in former times on the novel subject of slavery), Mr. Charles Francis Adams, at present Minister at the Court of Victoria, whereby no one out of the United States is permitted so much as to admire George Washington. In a 22d of February oration in London, some years ago, Mr. Adams declared that Washington, though born in Virginia, belonged to New England, and that henceforth none but New Englanders have any right to admire him. It is probably from a conscientious reluctance to infringe this patent of Mr. Adams that no salute was fired here on the 22d of February, nor any indication given that such a man as George Washington ever lived. We should like to know the substance of Mr. Charles Francis Adams's last 22d oration. Perhaps he undertook to prove that the Blue Ridge is composed of alternate layers of pork and beans and codfish and potatoes, and that Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr were born in Virginia. Deprived of all right and title even to admire George Washington, we suggest that the Confederacy fall back upon Christopher Columbus. What does Mr. Adams say to that as a comparison?--Apropos, we have before us at this moment the report of a discussion in a debating society of the comparative merits of the two men, and if Mr. Adams will make the proper allowances for some slight historical and chronological inaccuracies, traceable to well- known defects in the education of barbarians outside of New England, he will discover that we are not so unanimous, by any means, in the admiration of George Washington as he may suppose. The question for discussion was: "Which conferred the greatest benefit on mankind, Mr. Christopher Columbus or General George Washington?" The following is a sketch of the remarks of the leading speaker in the affirmative: "Mr. President,--I rise to advocate the affirmative of this question; that is to say, I affirm that Mr. Columbus did a greater benefit to mankind than General Washington. In order more fully to digest the interrogatory just propounded, to enter fully into the merits of the case, I will give a brief, succinct and condensed account of Mr. Columbus's life and exploits. Sir, who was Christopher Columbus? Sir, echo answers, the greatest man of his times. Sir, Columbus was the offspring of a man of the same name, who was an indignant basket-maker in a small town called Rome, situated on the river of Tigers, a stream which takes its rise in the Pyranine mountains, and flows in a southeasterly course into the Gulf of Mexico. At an early age, Columbus evinced a decided talent for the sea, and occupied the leisure hours of his infancy in perusing books of travel and works on navigation. It was while engaged in these pursuits that he incidentally met with the works of Robinson and Crusoe, and Captain Cook, and the definition he made from them was, that far away over the track less main, hitherto untrodden by the foot of man, was an undiscovered country. "As he approached to manhood, he was filled with a desire to discover that country which he so often saw in his youthful dreams; actuated by this desire, he petitioned the great Pontifical Pope of Rome to give him three yawls and a jolly boat to carry out his design. That distinguished man at first refused, but his wife, Cleopatra, being pleased with the promising looks of Mr. Columbus, and actuated with a magnanimity which is a caricature of her sex, prevailed upon him to grant Columbus's request; whereupon, providing his vessels with stores and men out of his own pocket, Columbus got ready, and in a certain year he set sail from the holy sea of Rome, and after a long and tempestuous trip, he set foot at last upon the Plymouth Rock, on the island of Juan Fernandez. It was on that occasion that he exclaimed; 'Breathes there any man with soul so perfectly dead as never to himself has said, this is my own, my native land!' "Sir, Mr. Columbus did not long survive the hardships of that journey, and was taken prisoner by the king of the Cannon Ball islands, and with all his crew was cast into chains and slavery, where he died an ignominious natural death, with his whole crew, leaving not one to tell the tale. Peace to his ashes and their'n. "Sir, the discovery of this continent was the greatest invention in the year 1492. Fernandez island was the stepping-stone to the settlement of this country, the United States, North and South America, Oregon and Asia, Hindoostan and Beloochistan, England and Turkey, France and China, and many others too numerous to mention. Behold these countries, traversed by steamboats, railroads and telegraphs, and ask yourself would these things have been, if it had not been for Columbus; and your reply would certainly be, 'Certainly not, sir.' If it had not been for Columbus, General Washington would not have been a man; but suppose he had, what then? What did Washington ever do that was a great benefit to his country? There is much said about his talents for war. To be sure he performed several masterly retreats; but what is that an evidence of? Sir, it is that he was a coward. "'General Washington a coward?' screamed one of the opposite orators, in a voice of thunder. 'General Washington a coward? Who so base as dare say it? Look at him at the battle of the Nile; look at him at Waterloo, the Cowpens, on the plains of Marathon, at the Pyramids, at Stillman's defeat, at Bad Age; and, Sir, look at him at the battle of New Orleans!' "'General Washington at the battle of New Orleans?' interrupted another debater, gesticulating violently. 'Mr. Speaker, is there such an ignoramus in the house? ' Sir, any schoolboy knows that the battle of New Orleans was fit before General Washington was born. Let the gentleman read Plutarch's lives, the lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, or let him read Arkwright's History of the Black Hawk war, and he'll find that General Henry Dodge fit the battle of New Orleans." We trust Mr. Charles Francis Adams will accept the above as the only thing in the way of Washington-anniversary eloquence that we can now produce without a violation of his patent.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.