The Foundations of American Nationality

By Evarts Boutell Greene | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
INDEPENDENT AMERICA

In his " Farewell Orders" to the American armies, Washington expressed the mingled hope and anxiety with which thoughtful Americans looked forward to the new era of independence. There were indeed unique opportunities, "enlarged prospects of happiness," almost exceeding "the power of description." It seemed, not only to Americans but to liberal Europeans in England and on the Continent, that here, unfettered by the traditions of the Old World, there was a chance to work out a new kind of politics and a new social order for the enlightenment of mankind. The French economist, Turgot, spoke of American independence as the most important event since the discovery of the New World. "New-born Republics of America," he wrote, "I salute you as the hope of mankind, to which you open a refuge, and promise great and happy examples."

The new era.

But Washington had also his word of warning. In the "Farewell Orders" and elsewhere, he put the serious question, whether the American people would be equal to their great task. Independence was won but "unless the principles of the federal government were properly supported, and the powers of the Union increased, the honor, dignity, and justice of the nation would be lost forever." Nor was the possibility of failure overlooked by friends and enemies abroad. The same Turgot who greeted the new republics with so much enthusiasm felt also the seriousness of the issue. Fifty years from now the world would have learned "whether modern peoples can preserve republican consti-

Advice and criticism.

-526-

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