Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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March 14th
Washington’s Glasses
In early 1783, the infant United States faced a crisis. The Revolutionary War was practically over, but the army had not been paid. Soldiers who had fought for years were in desperate need of
money. Congress had no funds, and rumors spread that it would send the men home without pay.

By mid-March, the threat of violence filled the air. Officers encamped at Newburgh, New York, talked of mutiny against the government. George Washington, realizing the country verged on disaster, sat at his desk on March 14 and wrote an address urging his men to have patience.

The next day, when the general strode into the hall where his officers had gathered, a hush fell over the room. These men had come to love their commander in chief during the war, but now they looked at him with resentful eyes.

Washington began to speak. He urged his men to have patience. He promised to do everything he could to secure their pay. He asked them to consider the safety of their new country, and begged them not to “open the flood gates of civil discord.” He paused. His men stared uneasily.

Washington produced a letter from a congressman explaining difficulties the government faced. He started to read, stumbled over the words, stopped. Then he pulled from his pocket something the men had never seen him use before – spectacles.

“Gentlemen, you must pardon me,” he said softly. “I have grown gray in the service of my country, and now find myself growing blind.”

The hardened soldiers fought back tears as they suddenly recalled Washington’s own sacrifices. Later, when the general left the room, they voted to give Congress more time. As Thomas Jefferson later observed, “The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”

American History Parade
1743
America’s first recorded town meeting takes place at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

1783
George Washington writes his Newburgh Address, urging the army not to revolt over a lack of pay.

1794
Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin.

1923
Warren G. Harding becomes the first president to file an income tax report.

1950
The FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list debuts.

1951
United Nations forces, led by U.S. troops, recapture Seoul during the Korean War.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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