"I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my Country." - George Washington
To me, our first President executed the office of Commander and Chief with strength, humility and grace. No President since has balanced strong leadership against government intrusion better than Washington. Without George Washington would we have been victorious in the Revolutionary War? Would the Constitutional Convention been a success without Washington's leadership?
I seriously doubt it.
February 22 marks the anniversary of his birth in 1732, the beginning of a life's legacy still admired today.
"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."
George Washington struggled to balance the tensions between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson and their respective ideas for governing our fledgling country. Washington had to govern the Hamiltonian Federalists side by side the Jeffersonian Republicans while today our President must govern the likes of John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid.
Many of Washington's critics often site slave ownership as his biggest fault, but Washington claimed:
"I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery."
Washington granted his slaves rights that most did not receive. Most importantly, he added a provision in his will freeing the slaves upon the passing of his wife.
His actions certainly met his words and there was no greater voice for freedom:
"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."
"A free people ought to be armed." -Jan 14 1790, Boston Independent Chronicle.
We often don't acknowledge Washington's firm but magnanimous leadership. One example was his suppression of the Pennsylvanian Whiskey Rebellion without firing a single shot.
Washington, himself, led 13,000 handpicked troops to face those opposed to the taxation. It was his reputation and even handedness that disbanded the settlers with pardons and amnesty instead of force or violence.
Rejecting calls for him to be King, Washington notably avoided praise, even by Benjamin Franklin. His actions were so noble, selfless and pious.
"The thing that separates the American Christian from every other person on earth is the fact that he would rather die on his feet, than live on his knees!"
I dare say George Washington was not just our first President, he was the greatest.
After his death in 1799, Washington was famously eulogized by
Congress: "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his
Pic: Wikipedia -- 1795 Gilbert Stuart portrait, 1796 portrait "Landsdowne"