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George Washington

No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation’s life.  — john Richard Green

By Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt in 1895

In any kind of book i beg your pardon undertakes come tell, no matter how slightly, the story of some of the heroic deeds of American history, the noble figure must constantly stand in the forefront. But, to sketch the life that George Washington, also in the barest outline, is to create the background of the occasions which made the United says independent and also gave birth to the American nation. Also to offer a perform of what that did, to surname his battles and recount his acts as president, would be beyond the limit and also the border of this book. Yet, that is always feasible to recall the man and also to take into consideration what that was and what he expected for us and for mankind he is worthy the study and also the remembrance of all men, and to Americans, that is at once a great glory the their past and an ideas and an assurance of your future.

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To recognize Washington at all, we must very first strip off every the myths which have actually gathered about him. Us must actors aside right into the dust-heaps, all the wretched creations of the cherry-tree variety, which were fastened upon him almost seventy year after his birth. We should look at him as he looked at life and the facts about him, without any type of illusion or deception, and no guy in background can much better stand together scrutiny.

Born of a distinguished family in the days once the American nests were still rule by one aristocracy, Washington started with every that great birth and tradition can give. Past this, however, he had actually little. His household was poor, his mom was left at an early stage a widow, and also he to be forced, ~ a very limited education, to go out into the civilization to fight for himself. That had solid within him the adventurous heart of his race. He came to be a surveyor, and in the search of this profession plunged into the wilderness, where he soon grew to it is in an expert hunter and also backwoodsman. Also as a boy, the heaviness of his character and his mental and physical vigor commended him come those around him, and responsibility and also military command was put in his hands at period when most young males are just leaving college. Together the times grew threatening top top the frontier, he was sent on a perilous mission come the Indians, in which, after passing through many hardships and also dangers, he achieved success. Once the troubles came through France it to be by the soldiers under his command that the an initial shots were fired in the battle which was to determine whether the north American continent must be French or English. In his more quickly expedition, he was defeated by the enemy. Later, he was with basic Edward Braddock, and it was he that tried, to rally the damaged English army on the stricken field near fort Duquesne. On that day of surprise and also slaughter, he presented not just cool courage but the reckless daring i beg your pardon was one of his chef characteristics. He for this reason exposed himself the bullets passed through his coat and also hat, and also the Indians and the French who tried to bring him down thought he bore a charmed life. The afterward offered with difference all v the French War, and when peace came the went earlier to the estate i m sorry he had actually inherited native his brother, the many admired man in Virginia.

At the time the married, and during the taking place years, he live the life that a Virginia planter, successful in his exclusive affairs and serving the public effectively however quietly together a member the the home of Burgesses. As soon as the troubles through the mom country began to thicken the was sluggish to take excessive ground, however he never ever wavered in his id that every attempts to oppress the swarms should be resisted, and when he when took up his position there was no zero of turning. The was among Virginia’s delegates to the very first Continental Congress, and, although that said yet little, he was related to by every the to represent from the other swarms as the strongest man amongst them. There was something around him even then which commanded the respect and the trust of everyone that came in call with him.

It to be from new England, much removed indigenous his own State, that the demand came because that his appointment as commander-in-chief that the American Army. Silently he welcomed the duty, and, leaving Philadelphia, took command that the army at Cambridge.


Washington and also his family

There is no have to trace him with the events that followed. Indigenous the time when he attracted his knife under the famous elm tree, he to be the embodiment the the American Revolution, and also without him, that change would have actually failed practically at the start. Exactly how he brought it to victory v defeat and also trial and every feasible obstacle is well-known to all men.

When that was anywhere he found himself facing a new situation. He was the idol the the country and of his soldiers. The army was unpaid, and the veteran troops, with arms in your hands, were passionate to have him take control of the disordered country as Cromwell had done in England a little an ext than a century before. Through the army at his back, and supported by the great forces which, in every community, desire order prior to everything else, and also are ready to assent to any type of arrangement i beg your pardon will carry peace and quiet, nothing would have been much easier than because that Washington to have actually made self the leader of the new nation.

But, the was not his conception the duty, and he not just refused to have anything to carry out with such a motion himself, however he repressed, by his dominant an individual influence, all such intentions top top the part of the army. ~ above December 23, 1783, the met the congress at Annapolis, Maryland and also there resigned his commission. What he then said is one of the two most memorable speeches ever before made in the unified States, and also is additionally memorable because that its an interpretation and spirit among all speeches ever made by men. He spoke as follows:


George Washington in army uniform, by Rembrandt Peale

“Mr. President: –The an excellent events ~ above which my resignation depended having actually at length taken place, I have actually now the respect of providing my thank you congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself prior to them, come surrender right into their hand the to trust committed come me and also to case the indulgence that retiring indigenous the service of my country.

Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty and also pleased through the opportunity afforded the United claims of coming to be a respectable nation, ns resign v satisfaction the appointment I embraced with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to attain so arduous a task, which, however, to be superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme strength of the Union, and also the patronage of Heaven.

The successful termination that the war has actually verified the many sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition the Providence and the help I have actually received from mine countrymen boosts with every testimonial of the momentous contest.

While ns repeat my obligations to the military in general, I should do unjust to my own feelings no to acknowledge, in this place, the strange services and also distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been fastened to mine person throughout the war.

It was difficult that the choice of confidential police officers to create my family should have been more fortunate. Allow me, sir, to introduce in particular those who have continued in organization to the present moment as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage the Congress.

I take into consideration it an indispensable duty come close this last solemn act of my main life through commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and also those who have the superintendence the them come His holy keeping.

Having currently finished the work assigned me, ns retire native the great theatre of action, and, bidding an affectionate farewell come this august body, under who orders I have actually so long acted, I below offer mine commission and take my leave of all the employments of publicly life.”

The good master of English fiction, writing of this step at Annapolis, says: “Which was the most splendid spectacle ever before witnessed—the opened feast the Prince George in London or the resignation that Washington? which is the noble character because that after ages to admire—yon fribble to dance in lace and spangles, or yonder hero that sheathes his knife after a life the spotless honor, a purity unreproached, a vessel indomitable and a consummate victory?”


Washington resigns commission, man Trumball

Washington did no refuse the dictatorship, or, rather, the possibility to take control of the country, since he feared hefty responsibility, however solely because, together a high-minded and patriotic man, he did not think in conference the situation in the way. That was, moreover, entirely devoid of an individual ambition, and also had no vulgar longing for personal power. After resigning his board of directors he changed quietly to mount Vernon, but he did not host himself aloof native public affairs. ~ above the contrary, the watched your course v the utmost anxiety. He experienced the feeble Confederation breaking to pieces, and he soon realized the that form of government was an utter failure. In a time once no American statesman except Alexander Hamilton had actually yet freed himself from the neighborhood feelings that the early american days, Washington was thoroughly nationwide in every his views. The end of the thirteen jarring colonies, he intended that a country should come, and he saw—what no one else saw—the destiny of the nation to the westward. The wished a country founded which should cross the Alleghenies, and, hold the mouths of the Mississippi, take possession of every that huge and then-unknown region. For these reasons, he stood in ~ the head that the national movement, and to the all males turned who desired a far better union and sought to carry order out of chaos. V him, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison consulted in the preliminary stages which to be to cause the formation of a new system.


United states Constitution

It was his vast personal influence which make that movement a success, and when the convention to form a structure met at Philadelphia, the presided end its deliberations, and it was his commanding will which, more than anything else, lugged a constitution v difficulties and also conflicting interests which an ext than when made any result seem well-nigh hopeless. Once the Constitution developed at Philadelphia had actually been ratified by the States, all males turned come Washington to was standing at the head that the brand-new government. Together he had borne the burden of the Revolution, for this reason he currently took increase the job of bringing the federal government of the Constitution into existence.

For eight years he served as president. The came into office v a record constitution, the heir of a bankrupt, broken-down confederation. That left the united States as soon as he went the end of office, an effective and vigorous government. When he to be inaugurated, we had nothing yet the clauses of the Constitution as agreed come by the Convention.

When that laid under the presidency, we had actually an organized government, an established revenue, a funded debt, a high credit, an efficient system that banking, a strong judiciary, and an army. We had actually a vigorous and also well-defined foreign policy; we had actually recovered the west posts, which, in the hand of the British, had actually fettered our march to the west; and also we had actually proved our power to preserve order at home, come repress insurrection, to collection the national taxes, and to force the laws made through Congress. Thus, Washington had displayed that rare combination of the leader who could first destroy by revolution, and who, having led his nation through a an excellent civil war, to be then maybe to build up a new and lasting towel upon the damages of a system which had actually been overthrown. In ~ the nearby of his official organization he changed again to mountain Vernon, and, after ~ a couple of years that quiet retirement, passed away just together the century in i m sorry he had played so great a part was closing.

Washington stands among the best men of human being history, and also those in the very same rank with him are very few. Even if it is measured through what that did, or what that was, or by the effect of his occupational upon the background of mankind, in every element he is entitled to the ar he holds among the biggest of his race. Few men in all time have actually such a document of achievement. Still fewer can present at the finish of a career so crowded with high deeds and memorable to win a life so free from spot, a character so unselfish and also so pure, a fame for this reason void of unconvinced points demanding one of two people defense or explanation. Eulogy of such a life is needless, however it is constantly important come recall and to fresh remember simply what way of man he was. In the an initial place he to be physically a striking figure. That was very tall, powerfully made, through a strong, handsome face. He to be remarkably muscular and also powerful. As a boy, he was a leader in all outdoor sports. No one can fling the bar further than he, and also no one could ride more an overwhelming horses. As a young man, he came to be a woodsman and hunter. Day after job he can tramp v the wilderness through his gun and his surveyor’s chain, and then sleep in ~ night in ~ the stars. He fear no exposure or fatigue and also outdid the hardiest backwoodsman in complying with a winter trail and also swimming icy streams. This habit of vigorous bodily practice he lugged through life. At any time he was at mountain Vernon he gave a big part of his time come fox-hunting, riding after ~ his hounds with the most complicated country. His physical power and endurance count for lot in his success once he commanded his army, and when the hefty anxieties of general and also president sweet upon his mind and also heart.

He was an educated, but not a learned man. He check out well and remembered what the read, yet his life was, indigenous the beginning, a life of action, and also the world of guys was his school. That was no a military genius like Hannibal, or Caesar, or Napoleon, of i m sorry the world has had only three or four examples. But, he to be a great soldier the the form which the English race has produced, prefer Marlborough and also Cromwell, Wellington, Grant, and also Lee. He to be patient under defeat, capable of large combinations, a stubborn and often reckless fighter, a winner of battles, but much more, a conclusive winner in a long war of varying fortunes. That was, in addition, what very few great soldiers or commanders have ever been, a great constitutional statesman, may be to command a human being along the paths of totally free government without undertaking self to beat the component of the strong man, the usurper, or the savior the society.

He was a very silent man. Of no man of equal prestige in the world’s history have we so few sayings the a personal kind. He was ready sufficient to talk or come write about the public duties i beg your pardon he had in hand, but he hardly ever talked that himself. Yet, there can be no greater error than to intend Washington cold and also unfeeling, due to the fact that of his silence and also reserve.

He to be by nature a man of strong desires and stormy passions. Now and also again he would break out, also as late as the presidency, right into a gust of anger that would move everything before it. He was always reckless of an individual danger, and also had a fierce fighting soul which nothing could check when it was as soon as unchained.

But as a dominion these fiery impulses and solid passions were under the absolute manage of an stole will, and they never ever clouded his referee or warped his keen feeling of justice.

But, if that was no of a cold nature, still much less was he tough or unfeeling. His pity always went the end to the poor, the oppressed, or the unhappy, and he was all the was kind and also gentle to those immediately about him.

We need to look closely into his life to find out all these things, for the civilization saw just a silent, reserved man, of courteous and also serious manner, who seemed to was standing alone and apart, and who impressed every one who came close to him v a sense of awe and also reverence.

One quality he had which was, perhaps, much more characteristic the the man and his greatness than any kind of other. This was his perfect veracity of mind. He was, of course, the soul of truth and also honor, but he to be even more than that. He never deceived self He constantly looked truth squarely in the face and dealt through them together such, dreaming no dreams, cherishing no delusions, questioning no impossibilities,—just to others regarding himself, and also thus winning alike in war and in peace.

He gave dignity and victory to his country and also his cause. That was, in truth, a “character because that after periods to admire.”

Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt in 1895. Compiled and also edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2020.

About the Author: This post was composed by Henry Cabot Lodge and also Theodore Roosevelt and also included in the book Hero story From American History, an initial published in 1895 by The Century Co, new York. Henry Cabot Lodge graduated from Harvard University and also Harvard legislation School and became a politician, lecturer, author, and also friend to Theodore Roosevelt, ours 26th President. Lodge passed away in Cambridge, Massachusetts ~ above November 9, 1924. The text as it shows up here; however, is no verbatim together it has actually been edited because that clarity and ease of the contemporary reader.

Brief Biography: 

George Washington (1732-1799) – Born top top February 22, 1732, George was the first child of Augustine Washington and his 2nd wife, Mary ball Washington, on their Pope’s Creek Estate close to present-day early american Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His father had four youngsters by his an initial wife, woman Butler, who died young, make George the third son. Once George was just six-years-old, the family moved to Ferry farm yard in Stafford County, Virginia, where he to be educated at home by his father and eldest brother. Together a teen, Washington functioned as a surveyor. After ~ his eldest brothers married into the powerful Fairfax family, George was i was delegated as the very first Surveyor that the newly produced Culpeper County, Virginia as soon as he was simply 17 year old. He also embarked top top a career together a planter and soon join the Virginia Militia. He was commissioned as a sublievenant colonel during the French and also Indian War and got his begin in national politics in 1758 once he was elected to the house of Burgesses, the local governing body of Virginia. The following year, the married Martha Dandridge Custis, a rich widow, top top January 6, 1759. Martha had two kids from she previous marriage, john Parke and also Martha Parke Custis, who George aided to raise. The couple never had any children together, probably because of a bout through smallpox the George had previously suffered. The couple then moved to mount Vernon, close to Alexandria. The marriage significantly increased his home holdings and also social standing and also expanding his holdings, the Washingtons live an aristocratic lifestyle.

When the American transformation broke out, Washington was appointed together the command in chef of the Colonial army in 1775. The following year, the Colonists asserted their independence from Britain and also General Washington led patriots in the battles the followed. The british were defeated in 1781 and also the fledgling nation struggled to establish itself. In 1787, Washington presided end the constitution Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, throughout which the united state Constitution to be written. The constitution was validated the adhering to year and went into effect in 1789. Washington was unanimously elected the an initial President of the United says of America through electors that very same year and began the process of developing a brand-new government. Throughout his presidency, the bill of legal rights was embraced in 1791.

After his two terms were end in 1797, Washington returned to Mt. Vernon wherein he returned to farming however continued to play a duty in federal government when the was i was delegated as a an elderly officer of the joined States army on July 13, 1798.

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Washington died on December 14, 1799, at his home, Mt. Vernon the pneumonia. He was interred in a tomb on the estate.