Sunday, June 20, 2010


A review of Edward G. Lengel’s This Glorious Struggle: George Washington’s Revolutionary War Letters (2007)

(Rating 3 of 5)

Edward Lengel assembled the letters that George Washington wrote during the Revolutionary War against the British Empire. The letters are laid out year by year; there are comments in-between to give context to what it is the reader is looking at. Lengel’s remarks are always italicized to distinguish them from General Washington’s letters. It is an all right read, but not something for a beginner, rather for someone who already has a strong understanding of the period.

Here are some of the letters I found most interesting:

On the Declaration of Independence,

“I perceive that Congress have been employed in deliberating on measures of the most Interesting nature. It is certain that It is not with us to determine in may Instances what consequences will flow from our Counsels, but yet It behoves to adopt such, as under the smiles of a Gracious & All kind Providence will be most likely to promote our happiness; I trust the late decisive part they have taken is calculated for that end, and will secure us that freedom and those privileges which have been and are refused us, contrary to the voice of nature and the British Constitution. Agreable to the request of Congress I caused the Declaration [of Independence] to be proclaimed before all the Army under my Immediate command and have the pleasure to inform them that the measures seemed to have their most hearty assent, The expressions and behavior both of Officers and men testifying their warmest approbation of It.” p.52

On Saratoga,

“By this Opportunity, I do myself the pleasure to congratulate you on the signal success of the Army under your command, in compelling Genl Burgoyne and his whole force, to surrender themselves, prisoners of War. An Event that does the highest honor to the American Arms, and which, I hope will be attended with the most extensive and happy consequences. At the same time, I cannot but regret, that a matter of such magnitude and so interesting to our General Operations, should have reached me by report only, or though the channel of Letters not bearing that authenticity, which the importance of it required, and which it would have received by a line under your signature, stating the simple fact.” p.119

On American nationhood,

"We are known by on other character among Nations than as the United States—Massachusetts or Virginia is not better defined, nor any more thought of by Foreign Powers then the County of Worcester in Massachusetts is by Virginia, or Gloucester County in Virginia is by Massachusetts (respectable as they are); and yet these Counties, with as much propriety might oppose themselves to the Laws of the State in Government, by which they are, as an Individual State can oppose itself to the Federal Government, by which it is, or ought to be bound. Each of these Counties has, no doubt, its local polity & Interests, these should be attended to, & brought before their respective legislatures with all the force their importance merits; but when the come in contact with the general Interest of the State—when superior considerations preponderate in favor of the whole—their Voices should be heard no more—so it should be with individual States when compared to the Union—Otherwise I think it may properly be asked for what purpose do we farcically pretend to be United?” p.281

This book is a rich holding of primary source material on General George Washington and the American Revolution.

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