November 26, 2018
George Washington – A Patriotic Legacy
George Washington’s life and legacy has inspired generations of Americans, while contributing to our nation’s success.
Fortitude was one of Washington’s early lessons. His father’s death when Washington was 11 prevented him from the education in England that his brothers received. Washington’s mother also objected to his appointment in the Royal Navy at age 15. He secured a job as surveyor of Culpepper County at age 17. When Washington’s older brother died, he became head of the family at age 20. Washington followed in his late brother’s steps to become a district adjutant, putting him on the path to a military career. A young Washington could have sulked about missed opportunities and entitlements. Instead, he made the best of his situation and proved himself with every challenge.
Washington was a man of character who embraced integrity. The winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge was hard for Washington’s army. Over 2500 died from the harsh conditions and many men deserted. Denying Washington’s request for money to supply his troops, Congress instructed him to resort to an old military practice, as the Redcoats were doing: take what they needed from the citizens. Washington refused to use force to gets his supplies and would punish any soldier caught stealing. He knew this would undermine public support for the fledgling cause, but that his army had to set an example about the rule of the law for the new country. Washington understood the need to establish public confidence in the new government and to demonstrate that political leaders could act virtuously.
Washington also recognized the importance of precedent. President Washington’s focus continued to be unifying the nation and establishing a national government. Already financially secure, Washington initially declined the sizable salary that was offered, but realized that might seem like the office was only attainable by the wealthy. He rebuked efforts to have a majestic title or take any mantle of kingship, exalted prince, or “ruler” before settling on “Mr. President.” Other notable precedents included refusing to run for a third term, appointing a cabinet, and delivering an inaugural address.
Washington knew that he alone wouldn’t determine the fate of the young nation. That responsibility belonged to the people of the United States of America. Washington explained that “it is in their choice, and depends upon their conduct, whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptible and miserable as a Nation.” These words, written on June 8, 1783, are just as true today. And it’s a choice our country must continue to make.
Did You Know …
When King George III reportedly asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence, West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.” King George replied, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”