278 years later . . . and still indispensable

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)


George Washington’s Tear-Jerker

Washington then opened a letter from a sympathetic congressman, but soon appeared to grow distracted. As his men wondered what was wrong, Washington pulled out a pair of glasses, which even his officers had never seen before. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you must pardon me, for I have grown not only gray but blind in the service of my country.”

The officers were stunned. Many openly wept. Their mutinous mood gave way immediately to affection for their commander.

Precedent fixed on true principles

On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. “As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent,” he wrote James Madison, “it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.”

Meet George Washington: Rare Facts & Curious Truths About Our First President

An interesting fact: Washington disapproved of political parties as being potentially divisive of people and inappropriate for a president

Washington wrote thousands of letters explaining his beliefs and positions; he kept daily diaries and journals with records of his activities; and he maintained written accounts of all his expenditures. These documents provide unusual insight into his thoughts and feelings and a unique window into life during the 18th century, the operation of a plantation, and conditions during the wars in which he served.

from Letter to Newport RI Hebrew Congregation

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy-a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants-while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.


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    • pfiore8 on February 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    we must have his muster somewhere in us . . .

  1. see this video.  It’s silly (and NSFW), but it shows the adulation of 16 year old boys, I suppose.

    It would surely be nice to see some people in politics who were not so purely self interested.

    • Big Tex on February 16, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    It’s a shame that Washington’s standing among the presidents seems to have fallen somewhat in recent years. He was arguably the best President we’ve ever had, and the challenges he faced were certainly at least comparable to those Lincoln and FDR had to deal with.

  2. democratic fashion. In the U.S., our constitution is slowly becomming ossified. But this doesn’t surprise me. It’s an 18th century document. The chamber pot just won’t fly today. The idea of strict constructionism is simply absurd. We can’t force the present to conform to an idea of the past. The recent Supreme Court decision is an example: Common sense gives way to legalistic irrelevance, stretching personhood and free speech to absurd levels that mortally wound the idea of free elections. This is not understood at all by the majority (of that court). I submit that they are insulated, isolated and lost in their own self importance. They are worshipping at the same mythological altar.

    From my historical perspective, we stopped moving West after WWII. We finally peopled the whole Continental U.S. The war was responsible for this. For a few years we felt comfortable in our own skin (inside our continental fulfillment). Land was no longer cheap, dirt cheap, but we still thought of ourselves as self sufficient. I used to ride my bicycle past gas stations having “gas wars”. It was 19 cents a gallon. We had 4th of July block parties.

    During the last 40 years, (as Washington might have noted), we lost our will and our identity. Resources, labor and manufacturing couldn’t keep up with the old paradigm. With expectations of growing wealth, we left our own country behind, our own people. And now with corporate and private expectations of “year over year growth and improvement”, we have hit the wall. Only voodoo and deceit now appear. “Too big to fail” and “too terrifying not to kill” are now the mantras of a dying breed, holding on to the last vestiges of American exceptionalism.

    It was always going to be a colossal challenge. The founders knew that. They knew it could unravel in less than a generation. Although the word “virtue” had a little different meaning in the late 18th Century than it does now, it nevertheless contained the ideas of honesty and service. And this was service to the people and not corporate interests. The merchant class was powerful, but we had the luxury of westward expansion. When that closed down tight after WWII, it left us wondering. Should we perfect our country or continue to look for riches anywhere and anyhow they could be found? Do our own people even matter? Did they ever, except for a small window in the mid 20th century?


  3. lived in pure and simple times.  He did not have to deal with that electronic media I call Satanvision.  There were no pundits steering falsified issues into irrelevant talking points only five year olds can understand.

    There was no TV telling people how best to embrace the 14 characteristics of fascism.  Then again George lived in that time before food was loaded with synthetic chemicals.

  4. Over grown military establishments are, under any form of government, inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”

                     –President George Washington


  5. For any of you who are interested in art, the painting at the beginning of this diary was completed by Rembrandt Peale in 1823.  Emerging from the long shadow cast by his accomplished artist father, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt first painted a likeness of George Washington in 1795, at the age of seventeen.  He was reportedly so nervous that his father accompanied him to help sooth his nerves.  Rembrandt went on to refine this work many times, and during repeated attempts to paint the perfect likeness, without satisfaction, his 1823 reworking of the portrait finally met his expectations.  The 1823 incarnation appearing at the beginning of this diary is referred to as the “Patriae Pater” version.  Both the 1795 and 1823 works by Rembrandt Peale can be viewed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  More detail can be found here.

    Perhaps one of the most memorable artworks depicting George Washington is the life-size, full-length statue created by the incomparable French sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon.  This marble statue has occupied a prominent location in the Virginia Statehouse for more than two centuries, since 1796.  Washington himself declared the work to be an accurate likeness. The Statehouse was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is located in Richmond, Virginia.

    The Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to the United States from 1824-1825 was considered to be a landmark event during the first half of the 19th Century in America. He was the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War at the time.  When Lafayette, Washington’s friend and compatriot, saw the statue for the first time, he said: “That is the man himself. I can almost realize he is going to move.” According to a tour guide at the Virginia State Capitol, tears came to Lafayette’s eyes as he said this.  More fascinating detail about this incredible work of art can be found here.  

    Washington apparently possessed a great sense of humor, as suggested in this excerpt from a description of his comment to his right hand man, General Henry Knox, as they were preparing to cross the Delaware to launch a surprise attack in Trenton, New Jersey on December 25, 1776.  The surprise victory provided a much needed morale booster for the Continental Army.  More detail, including the quote appearing below can be found on this website.

    As Washington approached the boat to make the crossing, he saw the ubiquitous Henry Knox, spilling out over the seat the General wished to occupy. He nudged the large man with his boot and said in a rather loud voice, “Shift that fat ass, Harry, but slowly, or you’ll swamp the god damn boat.”

    Of course, one must wonder about Washington’s admonitions about swamping the boat, since, if Leutze’s depiction is at all accurate, Washington was standing upright in the boat while crossing the Delaware.  Can anyone else identify Knox in the following, well known painting, which is now located at the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York City.

    Washington Crossing the Delaware Pictures, Images and Photos

    Despite the close proximity of Washington, D.C. to Mt. Vernon, George Washington didn’t live to see it actually becoming a working capitol.  George Washington died on December 14, 1799, just eighteen days shy of the dawn of the nineteenth century.  Congress held its first session in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1800.

    Contrary to popular belief, George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood, but rather, numerous other substances, including animal teeth.  Despite his meticulous oral care, he suffered from dental pain throughout most of his life.  This state of discomfort seems to be accurately reflected in many of his portraits.

    Perhaps George Washington’s greatest skill was the resolve to never surrender, even when faced with the most daunting odds. Although I have my reservations about the author David McCullough, whose associations with George H. W. Bush give rise to these concerns, his description of George Washington’s unflinching resolve in his book 1776 is memorable. The power of the British Empire was such that when the colonists declared war against the mother country, their likelihood of success, at least on paper, seemed less than of winning the Powerball lottery.

    We can easily forget the extremely difficult task facing this young country after Cornwallis and the British surrendered to Washington in Yorktown, Virginia in 1783.  The process of convincing enough delegates to support the new union, despite numerous apparently irreconcilable differences, was monumental.  Numerous difficult, painful compromises were necessary.  At Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion, the Iroquois were consulted for additional ideas for fashioning our Constitution, since their system had stood the test of time for many centuries.  Washington managed to steer a middle ground between powerful figures such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton on one side and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on the other.

    Although eight U. S. presidents were born in the state of Virginia, only five still resided in the state when they became President, and only four were actually elected directly to the office. John Tyler, as vice-president, assumed office when William Henry Harrison died from a cold, after only thirty-two days in office. The succession of four Presidents living in Virginia when voted into office ended with our fifth President, James Monroe, whose term concluded in 1825.

    There are a number of fascinating locations about the country that are closely associated with George Washington.  Here are a few that this writer has visited:

    No such list would be complete without including Mount Vernon, which boasts a sweeping view of the Potomac River, in northern Virginia.  If you visit, allow a full day, just to be on the safe side.  Washington maintained detailed records of his plantings, and was an early proponent of crop rotation.  

    The synagogue that was the recipient of the letter from George Washington, highlighted in the text of this diary, was the Touro Synagogue in Newport, the very first in the United States, constructed in 1763. The building has been well maintained is is quite beautiful. The synagogue’s website, which is quite well done, can be visited here.

    During a multi-state tour in 1791, Washington visited  Charleston, South Carolina in May of that year, receiving a warm welcome. He perhaps most enjoyed his time at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon in Charleston, where the dance hall can still be rented for various functions.  Washington loved to dance, and according to a tour guide, did so with all 256 ladies in attendance during the course of the evening.  More detail, including a photo of the ballroom can be seen here.

    The field where Washington accepted his commission to lead the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts can still be visited, as well as the location where he resigned his commission, which is located at the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis, Maryland.  The mural depicting that event can now be seen in the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol in Washington, D. C.  Here is a photo of the painting by John Trumbull, completed from 1824-1826, which measures 12 by 18 feet in size…

    washington resigning his commission Pictures, Images and Photos

    Hope you found something of interest in this comment.

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