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George Washington Was Here — And Thank God

David Boaz at Cato has re-posted an item he wrote on George Washington a few years ago — and I think he captures well why Washington was great and deserves our admiration.

George Washington was the man who established the American republic. He led the revolutionary army against the British Empire, he served as the first president, and most importantly he stepped down from power.

In an era of brilliant men, Washington was not the deepest thinker. He never wrote a book or even a long essay, unlike George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. But Washington made the ideas of the American founding real. He incarnated liberal and republican ideas in his own person, and he gave them effect through the Revolution, the Constitution, his successful presidency, and his departure from office.

What’s so great about leaving office? Surely it matters more what a president does in office. But think about other great military commanders and revolutionary leaders before and after Washington—Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin. They all seized the power they had won and held it until death or military defeat.

John Adams said, “He was the best actor of presidency we have ever had.” Indeed, Washington was a person very conscious of his reputation, who worked all his life to develop his character and his image.

The more I read about Washington the higher he rises in my estimation. Maybe Lincoln is our greatest President, but without Washington there would have been nothing to save and no ideal worth the striving.

2 comments to George Washington Was Here — And Thank God

  • I’m not a student of Washington, but all I’ve read and heard indicates that without him, the American government as we have known it couldn’t have happened. The Constitution likely would never have been ratified, if everybody didn’t know that Washington would be there, as the chief executive, to establish precedents. Men who mistrusted the documented itself nevertheless trusted Washington.

  • Dr. Schplatt

    While Lincoln was an amazingly great man, I don’t know that it’s fair to say he was the best president. I think the situation he was placed in has raised him to that point. I honestly think that a man like George Washington could have handled Lincoln’s situation just as well because Washington was a man of character, morality, honesty, wisdom, intelligence, and responsibility. I normally place Washington and Lincoln in a tie for our greatest leaders.

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