“[A]n impartial World will say with you that he is the Greatest Man on Earth.” – William Hooper to Robert Morris, February 1, 1777.
Numerous patriots came together to bring about and accomplish America’s War for Independence, write her Constitution, and establish our cherished Republic. Among these patriots, several stalwart figures stand out as vital to the cause. These are the indispensable men America needed and without whom our bid for Independence would have failed. This “Indispensable Men” series pays tribute to these larger-than-life heroes and the role they played in giving Liberty a proper home.
Hundreds of books, biographies, and documentaries have been produced telling the technical details and stories of George Washington’s upbringing, career, family, and home life, and the interworkings of his presidential administration and command as general. I don’t feel the need to reproduce those facts here. I simply refer you to the best book I know of on Washington’s life and achievements; namely, The Real George Washington written by Jay A. Parry, Andrew M. Allison, and W. Cleon Skousen and published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies. My aim in this series is, rather, to highlight the key ideas, crucial character traits, and most notable public achievements of the “indispensable” figures in the story of American Freedom.
No man more deserves the first spot on the “indispensable men” list than George Washington, the great general of the Revolution and the Father of our Country. The unchallenged historical consensus is that no man was more respected and admired in our founding era than George Washington. Washington’s impressive record demonstrates the great trust his countrymen had in him and speaks to the tremendous influence he had in his day.
A brief index of George Washington’s public achievements and prominent positions looks like this:
1) Washington began his public service as a soldier. During the French and Indian War, Washington gained valuable command experience and reputation and was promoted to the rank of colonel in the Virginia militia.
2) In 1774, he was elected as a Virginia delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. During the Second Continental Congress, the Continental Army was created and George Washington was chosen as its commander-in-chief.
3) During the War for Independence, General Washington served as the supreme leader of the Continental Army, saved the Army from defeat numerous times through his skill and decisive will power, and brought the conflagration to a successful conclusion.
4) Four years after humbly resigning his charge as commander-in-chief and retiring to his plantation in 1783, Washington helped orchestrate the Constitutional Convention to save the faltering nation. Washington was unanimously elected as the president of the Convention.
5) In 1789, Washington became the first president of our Republic and to this day is the only man to ever be unanimously elected by the Electoral College. He in fact accomplished this feat twice, speaking to the level of admiration and trust given to him by his contemporaries. The later federal capital district was also named in his honor.
Being a successful military general, a unanimously-elected head of state, the president of the Convention which produced the longest-standing national charter in history, and having a national capitol named in your honor, are things that not many other people can put on a resume. On paper, then, there is zero doubt that George Washington deserves a seat at the “indispensable men” table. But there was much more to his rave popularity than merely holding prominent positions during monumental events.
Washington’s positions as general and president, as noteworthy as they are, did not make others respect him. Rather, Washington was appointed and elected to those positions because of the supreme respect and admiration others already had for him. And this admiration was engendered by his strong character and unique spirit. Historian Gordon Wood has written:
“Washington’s genius, Washington’s greatness, lay in his character. He was, as Chateaubriand said, a “hero of an unprecedented kind.” There had never been a great man quite like Washington . . . Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.
“Washington epitomized everything the revolutionary generation prized in its leaders. He had character and was truly a man of virtue. This virtue was not given to him by nature. He had to work for it, to cultivate it, and everyone sensed that. Washington was a self-made hero, and this impressed an eighteenth-century enlightened world that put great stock in men’s controlling both their passions and their destinies. Washington seemed to possess a self-cultivated nobility” (Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, 34-35).
Yet, it is not what modern historians have said about Washington that is so remarkable. Rather, the fact that the American People and his contemporaries in governmental affairs, and even his enemies across the sea, lavished him with praise. We now rehearse some of the acclaim this man received by those who knew him and were in a position to judge the sincerity and depth of his character.
Thomas Jefferson was intimately acquainted with Washington both before he was appointed general and throughout his time in military and government service. Jefferson wrote to future president James Monroe of Washington’s mass appeal in these words:
“Congress have risen. You will have seen by their proceedings the truth of what I always observed to you, that one man outweighs them all in influence over the people who have supported his judgment against their own and that of their representatives. Republicanism must lie on it’s oars, resign the vessel to it’s pilot, and themselves to the course he thinks best for them” (Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 12, 1796).
Another time, Jefferson gave an in-depth evaluation of Washington’s character and many of his traits, including his sense of justice, his reasoning abilities, and his will power. I do not quote everything Jefferson said, but enough to demonstrate why Washington was so revered by his associates:
“I think I knew General Washington intimately and thoroughly; and were I called on to delineate his character it should be in terms like these.
“His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, tho’ not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. it was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion. hence the common remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived from councils of war, where hearing all suggestions, he selected whatever was best. and certainly no General ever planned his battles more judiciously . . . he was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern. perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose whatever obstacles opposed. his integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. he was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, & a great man . . . his person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect, and noble; the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback . . . on the whole, his character was, in it’s mass perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. for his was the singular destiny & merit of leading the armies of his country succesfully thro’ an arduous war for the establishment of it’s independance, of conducting it’s councils thro’ the birth of a government, new in it’s forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly train, and of scrupulously obeying the laws, thro’ the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example . . . I am satisfied the great body of republicans thinks of him as I do . . . and I am convinced he is more deeply seated in the love and gratitude of the republicans, than in the Pharisaical homage of the Federal monarchists. for he was no monarchist from preference of his judgment. the soundness of that gave him correct views of the rights of man, and his severe justice devoted him to them. he has often declared to me that he considered our new constitution as an experiment on the practicability of republican government, and with what dose of liberty man could be trusted for his own good: that he was determined the experiment should have a fair trial, and would lose the last drop of his blood in support of it. . . .
“These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of god, having been formed on an acquaintance of 30. years . . . I felt on his death, with my countrymen, that ‘verily a great man hath fallen this day in Israel’” (Thomas Jefferson to Walter Jones, January 2, 1814).
High praise, indeed! And higher still coming from a man the caliber of Thomas Jefferson! As Jefferson noted, he was hardly the only person to share these elevated feelings. Most Americans at the time looked upon Washington as an exalted figure – a national savior of sorts.
Benjamin Franklin, a man whose own unique talents and achievements had few equals, had high esteem for Washington. When it came time to elect a new president under the Constitution, Franklin had only one man in mind: “General Washington is the man that all our eyes are fixed on for President, and what little influence I may have, is devoted to him” (Benjamin Franklin to M. Le Veillard, June 8, 1788).
John and Abigail Adams both had high praise for the man. John Adams noted: “He is brave, wise, generous and humane” (John Adams to William Tudor, June 20, 1775). And after meeting Washington in person, Abigail privately told John: “I was struck with General Washington, You had prepared me to entertain a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the one half was not told me. Dignity with ease, and complacency, the Gentleman and Soldier look agreeably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feature of his face” (Abigail Adams to John Adams, July 16, 1775).
In his autobiography, John Adams likewise praised Washington as the principal man of the age. He wrote: “I thought him a perfectly honest Man, with an amiable and excellent heart, and the most important Character at that time among Us, for he was the center of our Union” (John Adams, Autobiography, 1777).
The Marquis de Lafayette, the famous Frenchman who assisted in our War for Independence, once observed:
“This great man has no enemies but those of his own country, and yet every noble and sensitive soul must love the excellent qualities of his heart . . . His honesty, his candor, his sensitivity, his virtue in the full sense of the word are above all praise” (Marquis de Lafayette to Baron von Steuben, March 12, 1778).
Another French observer wrote:
“General Washington conducts himself with his usual wisdom. It conciliates to him more and more the respect and affection of the people. After a war of eight years, during which he has scarcely ever left his army, and has never taken any repose, he has received the news of the peace with the greatest joy. It made him shed tears, and he said it was the happiest hour of his life . . . He will always be the first citizen of the United States . . . all the world is agreed touching his republican virtues, and agreed that there is no character more eminent among those who have taken part in this grand revolution” (Chevalier de La Luzerne to the Comte de Vergennes, March 29, 1783).
Benjamin Rush, another prominent figure of the day, spoke extravagantly of Washington’s character: “His zeal, his disinterestedness, his activity, his politeness, and his manly behavior . . . have captivated the hearts of the public and his friends. He seems to be one of those illustrious heroes whom providence raises up once in three or four hundred years to save a nation from ruin . . . he has so much martial dignity in his deportment that you would distinguish him to be a general and a soldier from among ten thousand people. There is not a king in Europe that would not look like a valet de chamber by his side” (Benjamin Rush to Thomas Ruston, October 29, 1775).
At the height of the Revolution, Moses Hazen remarked to General Nathanael Greene that Washington “is the very Idol of His Country, and who I love, regard, and Esteem, as one of the best men since the Creation of Adam” (Moses Hazen to Nathanael Greene, July 24, 1780). General Greene had similar praise for his superior officer. Not long after Hazen made his statements, General Greene explained:
“It is my opinion that General Washington’s influence will do more than all the Assemblies upon the Continent. I always thought him exceeding popular, but in many places he is little less than adored; and universally admired. His influence in this Country might possibly effect something great” (Nathanael Greene, January 10, 1781).
In 1791, a newspaper, the Connecticut Courant, gushed with praise for the nation’s first chief executive:
“Many a private man might make a great President; but will there ever be a President who will make so great a man as WASHINGTON?” (Connecticut Courant, June 20, 1791, in John P. Kaminski, ed., The Founders on the Founders: Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Era, 505).
Shortly after Washington’s death, Timothy Dwight made this observation:
“Wherever he appeared, an instinctive awe and veneration attended him on the part of all men. Every man, however great in his own opinion, or in reality, shrunk in his presence, and became conscious of an inferiority, which he never felt before. Whilst he encouraged every man, particularly every stranger, and peculiarly ever diffident man, and raised him to self possession, no sober person, however secure he might think himself of his esteem, ever presumed to draw too near him” (Timothy Dwight, “Discourse on the Character of Washington,” February 22, 1800).
John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court, shared the sentiment so often expressed that Washington was the “greatest man in the world.” Days after General Washington’s resignation, Marshall stated:
“At length then the military career of the greatest Man on earth is closed. May happiness attend him wherever he goes. May he long enjoy those blessings he has secured to his Country. When I speak or think of that superior Man my full heart overflows with gratitude. Ma he ever experience from his Countrymen those attentions which such sentiments of themselves produce” (John Marshall to James Monroe, January 3, 1784).
These few lines from John Price demonstrate the awe people had for the General of their blessed Revolution: “Immortal Washington . . . has outshined and Eclipsed all Asiatic, African, and European Generals, and Commanders from the Creation of the World, to this Day” (John Price to John Jay, October 29, 1783).
Samuel Shaw, a distinguished military officer under Washington, expressed his keen feelings about his General in these words:
“Our army love our General very much, but yet they have one thing against him, which is the little care he takes of himself in action. His personal bravery, and the desire he has of animating his troops by example, make him fearless of any danger. This, while it makes him appear great, occasions us much uneasiness. But Heaven, who has hitherto been his shield, I hope will still continue to guard so valuable a life” (Samuel Shaw to Francis Show, January 7, 1777).
William Hooper once wrote of Washington’s invaluable role in maintaining and securing the Revolution:
“When it shall be consistent with policy to give the history of that man from his first introduction into our service, how often America has been rescued from ruin by the mere strength of his genius, conduct & courage encountering every obstacle that want of money, men, arms, Ammunition could throw in his way, an impartial World will say with you that he is the Greatest Man on Earth. Misfortunes are the Element in which he shines. They are the Groundwork on which his picture appears to the greatest advantage. He rises superior to them all, they serve as foils to his fortitude, and as stimulants to bring into view those great qualities which in the serenity of life his great modesty keeps concealed. I could fill the side in his praise, but anything I can say cannot equal his Merits” (William Hooper to Robert Morris, February 1, 1777).
Washington’s fame was celebrated throughout Europe as well as America – even in the midst of the War for Independence. While on assignment in France, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Washington: “I frequently hear the old Generals of this martial Country, (who study the Maps of America, and mark upon them all your Operations) speak with sincere Approbation & great Applause of your Conduct, and join in giving you the Character of one of the greatest Captains of the Age” (Benjamin Franklin to George Washington, March 5, 1780).
King George III, the tyrant who abuses prompted the Americans into fighting for their Liberty and declaring Independence from Britain, developed an interesting opinion of Washington after the war. Rufus King recorded a conversation he had with Benjamin West who had spoken with King George III about affairs in America. King’s account reads:
“[I]n regard to General Washington, he [King George] told him [West] since his [Washington’s] resignation that in his opinion “that act closing and finishing what had gone before and viewed in connection with it, placed him in a light the most distinguished of any man living, and that he thought him the greatest character of the age”” (Rufus King, May 3, 1797, in King, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, Vol. 3, 545).
It is likewise my estimation that George Washington was one of the “greatest Captains of the Age,” that he was an “illustrious hero” whom the God of Heaven raised up to save his country, and that he was the foremost of the indispensable men who established American Liberty. My own religious creed and the impressions of the Holy Spirit on my soul cause me to declare that George Washington was indeed raised up by the hand of the Lord to preside over the founding of this Republic. I am proud to live in a nation founded and shaped by George Washington.
George Washington’s guiding light, the thing that propelled him to the greatness ascribed to him by his peers, was his inner conviction about God. Though it is common today to call Washington and other Founding Fathers “Deists,” or, worse, “atheists,” the fact is that Washington was a deeply committed Christian. Washington issued the following General Orders to his fighting men on May 2, 1788.
“The Commander in Chief directs that divine Service be performed every sunday at 11 oClock in those Brigades to which there are Chaplains—those which have none to attend the places of worship nearest to them—It is expected that Officers of all Ranks will by their attendence set an Example to their men.
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion—To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian—The signal Instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude & Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good.”
Washington not only commanded his soldiers to worship God, but he frequently mentioned his personal belief in God and encouraged his countrymen to be faithful and virtuous. Washington was particularly convinced that God had intervened on America’s behalf during the War for Independence, as were most Americans at the time. One time he affirmed:
“The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf—And it is my earnest prayer that we may so conduct ourselves as to merit a continuance of those blessings with which we have hitherto been favoured” (George Washington to Samuel Langdon, September 28, 1789).
Another time, Washington observed:
“The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).
In his First Inaugural Address as president, Washington was moved to comment that Americans were “bound to acknowledge” God’s hand in their Revolution:
“[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
To Washington, God was the real Founder of America and of her inspired Constitution. During his immortal Farewell Address, President Washington made it clear that his convictions had not changed. He spoke a truth that is as applicable today as it was in 1796:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
In harmony with his public sentiments, President Washington wrote a letter to Protestant clergy wherein he asserted: “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” (George Washington to the Protestant Clergy of Philadelphia, March 3, 1797).
For his own part, Washington never failed to acknowledge the hand of the Lord. He noted:
“No Man has a more perfect Reliance on the all-wise, and powerful dispensations of the Supreme Being than I have nor thinks his aid more necessary” (George Washington to William Gordon, May 13, 1776).
By all accounts, General Washington was supernaturally protected in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Washington, and others, ascribed his protection to God. After a particularly harrowing battle during the French and Indian War, Washington observed:
“But by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me” (George Washington to John A. Washington, July 18, 1755).
The Indians involved in the same battle noted that Washington seemed to be under the protection of God and could not be killed. One Indian chief recounted the following to General Washington:
“I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is of the red-coat tribe – he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do – himself alone exposed.
“Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss – ‘twas all in vain, a power mightier than we, shielded you.
“Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you . . . there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy: Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies – he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle” (Bob Gingrich, Founding Fathers vs. History Revisionists, 29-30).
Washington did not utter idle words. As the quotations thus far demonstrate conclusively, Washington was a man who said what he meant and did what he said he would do. He wasn’t afraid to put himself in harm’s way for his beliefs or risk his life for his country. Thus, when Washington said he believed in God, he meant it and did all he could to show his devotion.
As frequently as his demanding public service allowed, George Washington attended Christian worship services. In fact, Washington donated money for the construction of Christ Church near his home. He also attended Pohick Church in which, according to numerous sources, Washington served as a vestryman for some twenty years. Washington also kept a prayer journal and had a personal copy of the Bible which he routinely read and which was donated to Christ Church after his death. It is beyond dispute that George Washington was a Christian who actively practiced his faith.
In addition to upholding Christian values, Washington lived by a strict personal code of conduct. He wrote up this code into 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Numbers 108 and 110 are the most relevant and give us a peek into Washington’s outlook on life: “When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence.” And, finally: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
From all credible accounts and eyewitness statements, we can conclude that Washington was a good, honest, upright man. He was a Christian with a high sense of honor and integrity. He was sometimes brutally honest. He was calculated and exercise wise judgement. He was a man of boldness and bravery. He was a supreme patriot who gave his life to the cause of Liberty.
One final aspect of Washington’s influence will be discussed. More than almost any other Founding Father, George Washington pushed for a new federal constitution to replace the failing Articles of Confederation. Viewing the proceedings of the nation he loved and had fought so mightily for from his retirement at Mount Vernon made Washington uncomfortable. He saw that the Union must collapse unless reformed.
A few quotes show Washington’s apprehensions:
“That it is necessary to revise, and amend the articles of Confederation, I entertain no doubt . . . Yet, something must be done, or the fabrick must fall. It certainly is tottering!” (George Washington to John Jay, May 18, 1786).
“No man in the United States is or can be more deeply impressed with the necessity of a reform in our present confederation than myself. No man, perhaps, has felt the bad effects of it more sensibly; for to the defects thereof, and want of powers in Congress, may justly be ascribed the prolongation of the war and consequently the expenses occasioned by it. More than half the perplexities I have experienced in the course of my command, and almost the whole of the difficulties and distress of the army, have their origin here” (George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, March 31, 1783).
“Let us look to our National character, and to things beyond the present period. No morn ever dawned more favourably than ours did; and no day was ever more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm. Virginia has now an opportunity to set the latter, and has enough of the former, I hope, to take the lead in promoting this great and arduous work. Without some alteration in our political creed, the superstructure we have been seven years raising at the expence of so much blood and treasure, must fall. We are fast verging to anarchy and confusion!” (George Washington to James Madison, November 5, 1786).
Suffice it to say that Washington foresaw the collapse of the fledgling American government unless the constitution was immediately overhauled. Washington urged and encouraged his fellow patriots to step forward and rescue the Republic. Eventually, a convention was called and Washington was adopted as its presiding head. After months of careful deliberation, the convention produced the U.S. Constitution, a document I consider to be literally inspired by Almighty God.
George Washington approved the document and, upon signing his name to it, remarked:
“Should the states reject this excellent constitution, the probability is that an opportunity will never again offer to cancel another in peace – the next will be drawn in blood” (Allison, Parry, Skousen, The Real George Washington, 490-491).
Shortly thereafter, during the constitutional ratification process, Washington remarked:
“No one can rejoice more than I do at every step taken by the People of this great Country to preserve the Union—establish good order & government—and to render the Nation happy at home & respected abroad. No Country upon Earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wonderously strange then, & much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means, and to stray from the road to which the finger of Providence has so manifestly pointed. I cannot believe it will ever come to pass! The great Author of all good has not conducted us so far on the Road to happiness and glory to withdraw from us, in the hour of need, his beneficent support” (George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, June 29, 1788).
When the Constitution was ratified, Washington became its greatest champion. Of this charter, he publicly declared: “[T]he Constitution is the guide which I never can abandon” (George Washington to Boston Selectmen, July 28, 1795). Another time he wrote: “The Constitution of the United States, and the laws made under it, must mark the line of my official conduct” (George Washington to Edmund Randolph, 1790).
After a successful term in office, President Washington was overjoyed at the success America had seen directly because of the new Constitution. It was the American People’s mission, he believed, to show the world that constitutional republicanism is the soundest system of government ever devised:
“To complete the [A]merican character, it remains for the citizens of the United States, to shew to the world, that the reproach heretofore cast on Republican Governments for their want of stability, is without foundation, when that Government is the deliberate choice of an enlightened people: and I am fully persuaded, that every well-wisher to the happiness & prosperity of this Country, will evince by his conduct, that we live under a government of laws; and that while we preserve inviolate our national faith, we are desirous to live in amity with all mankind” (George Washington to the citizens of Alexandria, July 4, 1793).
The way in which America could show the world the wisdom of the Constitution was, simply enough, to follow it! Indeed, Washington strongly believed that all citizens owed strict obedience to the Constitution. He was most emphatic on this point. In his Farewell Address, which ought to be required reading for all Americans, he declared:
“This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).
Much of our constitutional form of government, and, indeed, the U.S. Constitution itself, came about due to George Washington’s instrumentality. He used his influence to persuade his countrymen to draft a constitution which would enshrine the rule of law, protect natural rights, and limit government while empowering it to fully protect the citizens of the country. He also used his influence to urge adoption of the new Constitution. And, then, he worked hard for eight years as president to enforce and maintain that sacred document.
Yes, it was George Washington, the Father of our Country, who really popularized constitutional government in the United States. His indomitable influence and skillful leadership brought the government into being and carried it through its first eight years. He set in stone the practice of a president only serving two terms and then graciously retiring – a tradition faithfully followed until the Marxist demagogue FDR served four consecutive terms, prompting a formal change in the law. Washington was also responsible for adding the words “so help me God” to the end of his presidential oath. All eyes were on Washington in the nation’s critical moments and he guided her through the rocky waters by following the Constitution, applying his own native judgment, and following God’s laws in his personal conduct.
George Washington was, and remains, a true hero. Few heroes in fact have been as worthy of the appellation as Washington. It is, therefore, a true sign of cultural rot that many Americans are beginning to spurn and despise this incredible man. It is rare in history that a man accomplished so much good for his nation, yet, in time, became so hated. A recent and ongoing incident demonstrates this growing hostility.
In San Francisco – perhaps the epicenter of all that is wrong with America – a school recently wanted to destroy an old George Washington mural painted one of its walls. According to the school, the mural “traumatizes students” and “glorifies slavery” and “genocide.” To allegedly protect their students from the image of George Washington, the school decided to paint over the mural, but then decided to simply cover it. Heaven forbid we allow school students to learn about the Father of their Country, the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolution, and the first president of the United States!
Because of the communist cancer that has almost totally taken over public schooling, academia, Hollywood, the press, and government, our Founding Fathers are being vilified as violent “rebels,” self-serving aristocrats, bigots, racists, and religiously-motivated oppressors. Agencies within our government have even gone so far as to classify the Sons of Liberty and our Founding Fathers as “domestic terrorists,” implying that anyone who believes like they did are also “terrorists.” And now the FBI is calling “conspiracy theorists” an extremist threat.
Yes, fighting for Freedom and truth is extreme and revolutionary, especially when the government is antagonistic to Liberty. Historian Charles Beard is said to have observed: “You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence” (Charles A. Beard, in M. Kenneth Creamer, The Reformation of Union State Sovereignty, 265).
This sentiment is, unfortunately, accurate. And there was no more “dangerous citizen” in American history than George Washington. He was the “rebel” leader – the point of the patriotic spear. He was formidable to tyrants and traitors, but a true friend to Liberty. He was a patriot in every sense of the term. He was then as he ought to be now “first in the hearts of his countrymen” (Richard Henry Lee, Funeral Oration on the Death of George Washington, December 28, 1799).
Washington’s shining example will always inspire sincere American patriots. His words will always buoy his countrymen. His spirit will always ride alongside those wishing to rid their country of tyranny and to defend Freedom. God help us remember and emulate George Washington, the most indispensable of indispensable men!
August 21, 2019.