It was the second of the two images above that became the standard picture of George Washington, an unflattering image evoking a elderly cranky accountant type, and a far cry from the heroic countenance above it. I believe it to be a factor in the lack of respect shown Washington over the last 150 years.
The other portraits of Washington on view in this issue show a handsome strong and determined man epitomizing the spirit behind the DON’T TREAD ON ME slogan of our rebels.
The older visage apparently was the one that prevailed. It was inconsequential as long as the people remembered how great Washington was and all he accomplished. But when those generations died out , the populace did not have that handed-down knowledge of his greatness. Like the old soldier of the ballad, he faded away.
I have the perhaps fanciful belief that, had the images, such as the one below, prevailed our nation would have kept the DON’T TREAD ON ME philosophy to our advantage and today’s snowflakes would be scorned.
What follows is a selection of Washington’s own words on a multitude of topics. He was an exceptionally reflective man, dispassionately assessing his actions with an amazing humility.
The selection starts with this assertion, a principle needed in these days.
The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.
George Washington opined on Government and its relation to public and personal satisfaction
In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
Your love of liberty – your respect for the laws – your habits of industry – and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness.
If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.
Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master.
We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.
There is nothing that gives a man consequence, and renders him fit for command, like a support that renders him independent of everybody but the State he serves. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.
The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
The due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government.
And the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.
Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
It is impossible to govern the world without God. It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly implore his protection and favor. I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during the revolution; or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of Him, who is alone able to protect them. He must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.
If they have real grievances redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it at the moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once.
The Commander in Chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of Deportment and gratitude of Heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.
The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. Should, hereafter, those who are intrusted with the management of this government, incited by the lust of power & prompted by the supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction & sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable—and if I may so express myself, that no wall of words—that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.
My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.
War – An act of violence whose object is to constrain the enemy, to accomplish our will.
Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive. And with it, everything honorable and glorious.
The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.
The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.
My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than can be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.
Note the determination and courage of all in this iconic image.
Parade with me my brave fellows, we will have them soon!
The Marquis de Lafayette, he is sensible; discreet in his manners; has made great proficiency in our language; and, from the disposition he discovered at the battle of Brandywine, possesses a large share of bravery and military ardor.
So, there lies the brave de Kalb. The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of liberty. Would to God he had lived to share its fruits!
It is not a little pleasing, nor less wonderful to contemplate, that after two years’ manoeuvring and undergoing the strangest vicissitudes, that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation, both armies are brought back to the very point they set out from, and that which was the offending party in the beginning is now reduced to the use of the spade and pickaxe for defence. 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.
The many remarkable interpositions of the divine government, in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest.
SLAVERY AND SEGREGATION
[F]ree Negroes who have served in this army are very much dissatisfied at being discarded. As it is to be apprehended that they may seek employ in the Ministerial Army, I have … given license for their being enlisted.
I am not clear that a discrimination will not render slavery more irksome to those who remain in it. Most of the good and evil things in this life are judged of by comparison; and I fear a comparison in this case will be productive of much discontent in those who are held in servitude.
[A]bolish the name and appearance of a Black Corps. Washington vetoed the attempt to reorganize two Rhode Island regiments into segregated rather than integrated groups. The Continental Army exhibited a degree of integration not reached by the American army again for 200 years (until after World War II).
Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly forsee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?
Nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests.
The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.
My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty… it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.
A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.
It may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers.
On December 14, 1799, at Mount Vernon, VA, George Washington died. The following are reported to have been his last words.
It is well. I die hard but am not afraid to go.
TESTIMONIALS TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
through the centuries are legion.
Here a few notable ones beginning with the funny vulgarity of
ETHAN ALLEN, of Green Mountain Boys fame, quipping after a picture of Washington was found hung in a British outhouse:
There is nothing that will make an Englishman shit so quick as the sight of General Washington.
With a variant version
It is most appropriately hung, nothing ever made the British shit like the sight of George Washington
An 18th century Trump-ism!
I have learned with inexplicable joy that you have had the goodness to honor me with a treasure from Mount Vernon — the portrait of Washington, some of his venerable reliques, and one of the monuments of his glory, which are to be presented me at your hands in the name of the brothers of the Great Citizen, the First-Born Son of the New World. No words can set forth all the value that this gift and its embodying considerations, so glorious for me, hold in my heart.
Today I have touched with my hands this inestimable present. The image of the first benefactor of the continent of Columbus, presented by the hero citizen, General Lafayette, and offered by the noble scion of that immortal family, was all that could reward the most enlightened merit of the first man in the universe. Shall I be worthy of so much glory? No; but I accept it with a joy and gratitude that will go down with the venerable reliques of the father of America to the most remote generations of my country.
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Lafayette valued reputation and glory, but cared little for the power that generally results from them. Having one day been asked who was in his opinion the greatest man of this age: “In my idea,” replied he, “General Washington is the greatest man, for I look upon him as the most virtuous.“
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN directing these remarks 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 and great applause of your conduct; and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age.
I must soon quit the scene, but you may live to see our country flourish; as it will, amazingly and rapidly, after the war is over
THOMAS JEFFERSON, who did not have a lot of good to say about anyone-
On the whole, his character was, in its 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. … These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of God, having been formed on an acquaintance of thirty years…
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, and a great man. His temper was naturally high toned; but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendancy over it. If ever, however, it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath. In his expenses he was honorable, but exact; liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility; but frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects and all unworthy calls on his charity. His heart was not warm in its affections; but he exactly calculated every man’s value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it. 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.
America has furnished to the world the character of Washington! And if our American institutions had done nothing else, that alone would have entitled them to the respect of mankind
it is fitting to close with a quote from another legendary President
This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington’s is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on.
Think of the impact on today’s America, had Washington’s wisdom been regularly cited through the decades. Inspired by his words, we would be a proud, united people. How in the world did it happen that our country is housing millions of people with no more sense or brains than God gave a goose!?
Ronald Reagan referenced Washington initiating the state of the union address. More lasting was George Washington’s Farewell address – an amazing statement of American political values warning of dangers which have occurred:
…that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; …, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all…it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts….. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember …that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion …Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian…Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… 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. [Emphasis added.]
End Note: The quotes attributed to George Washington have been criticized by some as not accurate in their precise wording but no one has contended that the sentiments expressed were not his beliefs.