We’re living in an era where historical American figures are being erased and history is being re-written. If you notice, people are tearing down statures of historical American figures with no reason or rationale to justify their actions. They’re even tearing down statues of people who fought against slavery and racism, which calls into question the whole purpose for which they are tearing down statues. If we are to destroy any memory of individuals who’ve sinned in some way, we’d have to erase all of history and destroy ourselves in the process.
Friends, we’ve all sinned.
So, how can we or anyone else yell and pitch a fit about others who have sinned when we really should stop and look at ourselves?
With that said, this is part of a series that I’m writing on the American founding fathers. I’m not discussing whether or not they were good men (no one is good, and our definitions of good vary) but instead focus on what they did to provide us with the blessings of liberty we now enjoy. Their actions gave us the nation that now provides the freedom, the food and shelter, the opportunity for education, the ability to own an iPhone (that was invented under the freedom of America) and more for the spoiled and whining Americans tearing down our founder’s statues.
We need to remember who these men were and what their labor has given us. I’ll briefly look at their stories and then touch on their greatest political and theoretical contributions to our great nation.
And who better to start with than George Washington, the father of this nation and the founder currently at the center of a past “statue” debate. (If you want to destroy America and everything she stands for, why not go after the founder most closely tied to everything America is and stands for?)
George Washington: Before Presidency
So, who was George Washington?
He was an American, born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was one of six children. His father died when he was eleven so he was raised primarily by his half-brother and his half-brother’s wife (his father’s first wife died before his father married the woman who would become Washington’s mother).
In 1755, Washington was made commander of all Virginia armies at the young age of 23 after having already fought in a couple skirmishes with the French and the British. This command didn’t last but a few years though before he entered politics as an elected member of the House of Burgesses in Virginia and returned to live in Mount Vernon in 1758. He was a politician, but he was also an avid farmer and believed that farming was one of the most respectable vocations a man could have.
It wasn’t until 1769, that Washington began to consider rejecting British rule. He introduced a resolution to the Virginia House of Burgesses to boycott British goods until the Townshend Acts were repealed.
On June 15th of 1775, Washington was made Commander and Chief of the American armed forces. He was not versed in the art of war like the British were, but according to historical records, he was courageous and smart enough to out maneuver his opponent.
George Washington: Reluctant Leader
He led the American forces through bitter cold, disease, defeat and eventually to victory. He fought for the cause of freedom and for the cause of his country, despite his rather reserved demeanor and penchant for farming. In 1783, after the war had been completed and won, Washington gladly retired to his farm and lived in peace for four years before he was called yet again to the service of his country in 1787.
And it is for his country and his country only that he reluctantly heeded the call. From his own diary he says of the day he was elected, “About ten o’clock, I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity and, with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York…with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.”
The country was in turmoil and chaos under the Articles of Confederation and they needed a stronger centralized government with a strong and respected leader to steer it. Washington commanded the respect and honor of the country.
Readers, this is something you must understand. Much of the country was divided over various political and social and religious issues. Divisiveness was rampant. But there was one issue that all Americans could agree upon: their respect and admiration for the man: George Washington.
His character and bravery singlehandedly unified the country when he was voted into office as the first president, and the only president to be unanimously voted into office by every elector.
George Washington: His Legacy
I’ve studied the founders and the founding era quite thoroughly and there is one thing I know for sure: if George Washington had not been our first president, the country most likely would not have lasted. The nation was teetering on the edge of complete anarchy and chaos, but with Washington at the helm of the new government, the people were forced, out of their own duty and respect towards Washington, to respect the position of the president as well as the power and authority of the new government.
He was also the only president to, as president, ride into battle to enforce the law when he invoked the Military Act of 1792 to quell the Whiskey Revolt in Pennsylvania.
His treatment of the role as president has defined our nation and the presidency in ways we can’t even begin to understand or truly appreciate. Washington was very wary of getting too close to acting as “royalty” while president. He, like many Americans, rejected the idea of British monarchical power and therefore attempted to avoid any pretense of that as president.
From the Smithsonian Magazine, “Washington knew that everything he did at the swearing-in would establish a tone for the future. ‘As the first of everything in our situation will serve to establish a precedent,’ he reminded Madison, ‘it is devoutly wished on my part that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.’ He would shape indelibly the institution of the presidency.”
As president, he refused to be called any pretentious names and insisted instead on simply being called, “Mr. President”, a term that we still use today. At his inauguration and at events he chose not to wear military garb and instead wore an American-made brown-suit woven at the Woolen Manufactory of Hartford, Connecticut. He did this with intention to inspire patriotism in the citizenry.
Washington embraced his role as president with sobriety and respect. And after two terms, he stepped away. Please understand the gravity of this choice. This is perhaps the greatest single act by an individual in American history. Washington knew that he could have been president for life, and continued to hold power that men worldwide would kill over, but he wanted to set the stage, the precedent, for the presidents to follow. He knew that peaceful transition of power in America must exist. So, he stepped down of his own volition after two terms (if you can, find one other world leader in history that has ever relinquished his power of his own volition).
And, aside from one president, every president since Washington and until the 22nd Amendment only served either one or two terms—without any legal restraint. That is how much respect the Americans had for Washington, even years after his death. And the fact that we’ve continued to enjoy peaceful transition of power over the course of hundreds of years is staggering. It truly is one of the greatest miracles in world history.
George Washington gave this to us. He fought for this nation to be liberated and gave up his quiet country life to make sure that it stayed liberated.
No, he was not a perfect man, but he was a man who played a crucial and essential role in giving us the life and freedom and success we now enjoy in this country today.
Let’s not forget that. I’ll conclude with this quote from biography.com:
“But his most important legacy may be that he insisted he was dispensable, asserting that the cause of liberty was larger than any single individual.”
There’s a lot we can learn from Washington today. Perhaps we should heed some of his warnings. He said:
“Real men despise battle, but will never run from it.”
In today’s world, don’t revel in the potential of war or a fight, but never back down should it ever become necessary.
Washington reminds us that we’d all do well to remember that we are Americans and we should be proud of it.
“Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”
And I’ll leave you with this last quote from Washington. We must acquit ourselves like men to fight for the blessings of liberty. This is the call to all Americans for all generations. May we never forget it.
“The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of Liberty — that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.” – George Washington
The Liberty Belle
4 thoughts on “The Founders: George Washington”
Thanks so much
Cincinnatus of the Roman Republic was an ancient predecessor to Washington in the example of harnessing power, but once the crisis was over, he gave it back to the people. Washington was likened to Cincinnatus for the same example. Both are personal heroes of mine.
Ah wow, thank you for sharing that. Such a powerful and accurate comparison.
We hear very little about his farewell address and it seems to me to be extraordinary when it comes to the understanding of human nature. In fact all the founding fathers seemed to understand certain aspects of human nature that sometimes differ from each other. It is the political party section of his farewell address that strikes special interest for me. I cannot say that any of them are outdated in their understanding of people as far as how people tend to react to circumstances. I can only wonder how well George Washington and George Mason got along. How did all of them come to a degree of balance in government with such opposing views at times? There must have been something more important than personal agenda behind their motives.
I wonder if The constitution was to be added upon after 1808 knowing the results of today, How would they have changed things as far as running for a leadership position, taxes, clarity in writing, economic system, and how to deal with corruption in the state and federal system. Would they have thought further about domestic terrorism in protecting article 4 section 4? What about freedom of speech and press? Not to mention the many, many agencies that have been enabled to carry weapons that we now have that didn’t even cross their minds possibly. Why did they add the law of nations book in the first article? What was common sense to them during their time seems to be lost in today’s era.
Thanks for writing this brief articles of each founding father.