While American’s officially celebrate Washington’s Birthday on “Presidents Day”, today marks his actual birthday on the Gregorian Calendar. There is perhaps no man Americans needs to know more about today than Washington. For several years now the Founding Fathers, and Washington in particular have been under constant attack from certain corners with all kinds of wild accusations. One of the principle charges against Washington is that he was pompous and had an insatiable desire for wealth, power, and influence. As one who primarily gets his American history from source documents, I find these lies quite amusing. Anyone who met Washington personally, even those most critical of some of his policies such as the Anti-Federalists, spoke of his great humility and patriotism. From these accounts it becomes quite clear that Washington didn’t want to be commander of the Army during the Revolution or the nation’s first president. He took these jobs out of duty to protect the country through hard times.
I think the difficulty we have with Washington, the difficulty that must be overcome if we ever intend for this nation to return to its founding principles, is that he is such a giant our cynical modern minds have trouble grasping him. George Washington rose up from a relatively humble life to become one of the nations largest landholders, even by age 16 he had been appointed the county surveyor and was gaining influence among several prominent citizens of Virginia. His ultimate success both as a general and a president stemmed from his patience and willingness to put the good of the country ahead of his personal honor. General Washington faced constant accusations that he was a failure because he recognized that his army could not afford a direct confrontation with the British through much of the first part of the war. He waited patiently and struck only when opportunities for victory presented themselves, such as the Christmas Day attack on the Hessians. As President both of the Constitutional convention and these United States it was much the same. George Washington showed constant restraint, patience, and fairness in his dealings with members of fiercely divided parties. As a nation founded on checks and balances developed from multiple viewpoints, only the guidance of a perfectly honest man, driven only by love of his country could have carried us through such strenuous times. In addition to all of this, Washington (in contrast I might add to our modern political class) refused to give into the pomp of political office. In fact, he was terrified that the President might gain celebrity status and thus degenerate into a more monarchical role. So, as President, Washington refused to live excessively and even tried (though unsuccessfully) to slip out of town unnoticed when he retired.
One of the greatest troubles facing out nation today is compromise. Everyone seems to feel compelled to vote for the lesser of two evils so they can “win”. Trouble is, that guarantees we lose. It is time those who claim love for the Constitution stopped looking for the next Ronald Reagan and started looking for the next George Washington.