Imagine if you will, a world without The United States of America.
The world would definitely be quite different today without The United States of America.
Who knows how Britain, France, Spain, and then Mexico would have carved up North America.
Would Hitler have ever been stopped?
Would the Jewish people have been completely exterminated?
Would anyone have gotten in the way of Soviet Union, spreading communism around the world?
Would Christianity have been squashed?
It’s definitely very interesting to ponder what our world would be like if The United States had never come into existence.
And there would not have been a United States, as we have come to know it, without one man.
As President’s Day and George Washington’s Birthday approaches, I would like to give George Washington his due.
George Washington has been called “the father of our nation.”
That is definitely true…, but he was much, much, much, more.
George Washington was an AMAZING man.
He deserves our attention and our admiration, without a doubt.
George Washington had a strong moral character and he was considered a person of impeccable character.
“He is polite with dignity, affable without formality, distant without haughtiness, grave without austerity; modest, wise and good,” observed Abigail Adams, the wife of Washington’s vice president, John Adams.
Washington’s lofty reputation was upheld by his actions. He refused to be paid for commanding the Continental Army, only requesting to be reimbursed for expenses, and he resigned his military commission after his popularity surged at the close of The Revolution, putting his allegiance to the republic ahead of a desire for personal gain.
Washington was impressive in stature and in presence, as well.
As befitting a military hero, and make no mistake he was a hero in every sense of the word, Washington cut a formidable presence. A contemporary in the 1750s described him as “measuring six feet two inches in his stockings and weighing 175 pounds. His frame is padded with well-developed muscles, indicating great strength.” The admirer also praised Washington’s “commanding countenance,” as well as his “graceful” and “majestic” movements.
By the time he became president, the 57-year-old Washington was certainly less agile but even more imposing at upwards of 200 pounds.
Let’s take a closer look at George Washington.
George Washington was born at his father’s plantation on Popes Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on February 22, 1732.
To put this into perspective, The Mayflower first arrived with the Pilgrims in 1620…, so George Washington was born about a hundred years or so after that.
His father’s name was Augustine and he ran a very successful plantation in the area.
George’s mother was his father’s second wife. Her name was Mary.
George had two older half-brothers, three younger brothers and two younger sisters.
Growing up, George Washington’s family owned a lot of property, but they were still not considered “rich” for the times.
When George was eleven years old, his father died, leaving most of his property to George’s older half-brothers. The income from what remained was just enough to maintain Mary Washington and her children. As the oldest child remaining at home, George undoubtedly helped his mother manage the Rappahannock River plantation where they lived. There he learned the importance of working hard and working smart.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, George never attended college or received a formal education. To augment his studies, George taught himself through reading and experimentation.
Sounds a lot like Abraham Lincoln, doesn’t it?
Arguably, the two most important men in American history never even went to school, much less college.
Before the age of sixteen, George Washington copied out the 110 rules covered in “The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior.” This exercise, now regarded as a formative influence in the development of his character, included guidelines for behavior and general courtesies.
Eager for adventure, George wanted to join the British Navy, but his mother refused to let him. Instead, he accompanied a man named Fairfax as a surveyor to the unexplored wilderness of the Virginia frontier.
Had George been allowed to join the British Navy, there probably would not have been a United States of America. Thank you for that Mrs. Washington, and it’s a good thing George listened to his mother!
At seventeen years of age and largely through the Fairfax influence that he had cultivated, George secured an appointment as county surveyor for the newly created Virginia frontier county of Culpeper.
In the fall of 1753, the Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie sent 21-year-old Major George Washington to deliver a message to the French, who were creeping South and encroaching on Virginia’s territory, demanding they leave the area. With the help of a frontier guide and local Indians, Washington reached the French fort, Le Boeuf, with Dinwiddie’s message. The return trip tested Washington’s endurance. He hiked for days through snowy woods, fell off a raft into the ice-choked Allegheny River, nearly drowned, and was forced to spend a freezing night on an island without shelter. His guide, an experienced backwoodsman, suffered frostbite; but Washington suffered no ill effects. Washington’s account of the arduous 900-mile journey was published by Governor Dinwiddie in both Williamsburg and London, establishing an international reputation for George Washington by the time he was 22.
Washington was next given command of Virginia’s entire military force. With a few hundred men he was ordered to protect a frontier some 350 miles long. Although this was a frustrating assignment, it provided him with experience in commanding troops through an arduous campaign. In 1758 the British finally took the forks of the Ohio. Peace returned to Virginia, and Washington resigned his commission to return to Mount Vernon, his duty faithfully performed.
On January 6th, 1759, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a charming and vivacious young woman.
Martha Washington joined her husband in his winter quarters every year of the war. Together they entertained his officers and guests. A patriot in her own right, Mrs. Washington made it her war too, nursing sick and wounded soldiers and raising money for the troops.
The first time George Washington ran for public office, he lost.
Who’d he lose to would be my question?! That must have been one hell of a guy!
However, he won his second race and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses (Representatives) from 1758 until 1776.
George Washington spent the years between 1759 and 1775 farming at Mount Vernon. By the time he died in 1799, he had expanded the plantation from 2,000 to 8,000 acres consisting of five farms, with more than 3,000 acres under cultivation.
In June of 1775, Congress commissioned George Washington to take command of the Continental Army. He wrote home to Martha that he expected to return safely to her in the fall. This command eventually kept him away from Mount Vernon for more than 8 years!
I think most people have the impression that The Revolution was won by 1776…, but that’s not the case. The American Revolution from Britain was not decided for 8 years…, not until 1783.
It was a command for which his military background, although greater than that of any of the other available candidates, hardly prepared him. His knowledge lay in frontier warfare, involving relatively small numbers of soldiers. He had no practical experience maneuvering large formations, handling cavalry or artillery, or maintaining supply lines adequate to support thousands of men in the field. He learned on the job; and although his army reeled from one misfortune to another, he had the courage, determination, and mental agility to keep the American cause one step ahead of complete disintegration until he figured out how to win the unprecedented revolutionary struggle he was leading.
His task was not overwhelming at first. The British position in Boston was indefensible, and in March 1776 they withdrew from the city. But it was only a temporary respite.
In June a new bigger and badder British army, under the command of Sir William Howe, arrived in the colonies with orders to take New York City. Howe commanded the largest expeditionary force Britain had ever sent overseas.
Defending New York was almost impossible. An island city, New York is surrounded by a maze of waterways that gave a substantial advantage to an attacker with naval superiority. Howe’s army was larger, better equipped, and far better trained than Washington’s. They defeated Washington’s army at Long Island in August and routed the Americans a few weeks later at Kip’s Bay, resulting in the loss of the city. Forced to retreat northward, Washington was defeated again at White Plains. The American defense of New York City came to a humiliating conclusion on November 16, 1776, with the surrender of Fort Washington and some 2,800 men. Washington ordered his army to retreat across New Jersey. The remains of his forces, mud-soaked and exhausted, crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania on December 7.
It was not looking good, to say the least, for Washington and the dying dream of a free country.
Washington and his rag-tag bunch of upstarts were facing, unquestionably, the best military there was in the world.
Let’s also not forget that many of Washington’s own countrymen were British loyalists as well. This revolution against Britain was definitely not a unanimous effort.
No one at the time could have seriously thought Washington and his army had any real chance at all of defeating the British…, except Washington himself.
The British had good reason to believe that the American rebellion would be over in a few months and that Congress would seek peace rather than face complete subjugation of the colonies. The enlistments of most of Washington’s army were due to expire at the end of December. However, instead of crushing the remains of Washington’s army, Howe went into winter quarters, with advanced garrisons at Trenton and Princeton, leaving Washington open to execute one of the most daring military operations in American history.
On Christmas night Washington’s troops crossed the Delaware and attacked the unsuspecting British garrison at Trenton, forcing it to surrender. A few days later Washington again crossed the Delaware, outmaneuvered the force sent to crush him, and fell on the enemy at Princeton, inflicting a humiliating loss on the British.
Next…, General Washington and his newfound French allies decided to strike at the British army under Cornwallis, which was camped at Yorktown, Virginia. Washington’s planning for the Battle of Yorktown was as bold as it had been for Trenton and Princeton but on a much larger scale. On October 19, 1781, he accepted the surrender of Cornwallis’ army. Although two more years passed before a peace treaty was completed, the victory at Yorktown effectively brought the Revolutionary War to an end.
To the world’s amazement (I told you he was amazing!), Washington had prevailed over the bigger, better supplied, and more experienced British army.
The truly “underdog” Americans had defeated the mighty British Empire.
On December 23, 1783, General Washington presented himself before Congress in Annapolis, Maryland, and resigned his commission. Like Cincinnatus, the hero of Classical Rome, whose conduct he most admired, Washington had the integrity and character to relinquish his power when he could have been crowned a king. He left Annapolis and went home to Mount Vernon with the intention of never again serving in public life.
This single act, without precedent in modern history, made him an international hero.
How many men would turn down an offer to be king?
Would you turn down an offer to be king or queen?
This goes to show you how revered and respected George Washington was. The colonies had just got done fighting a war to gain their freedom from a king…, and now they were willing to entrust Washington completely with their future and install him as their new king.
Although Washington longed for a peaceful life at Mount Vernon, the affairs of the nation continued to command his attention. He watched with mounting dismay as this new “union” stumbled ahead. By 1785 Washington had concluded that change was essential. What was needed, he wrote to James Madison, was an energetic Constitution.
In 1787, Washington ended his self-imposed retirement and traveled to Philadelphia to attend a convention assembled to recommend changes to the Articles of Confederation. He was unanimously chosen (you’ll hear this term again and again) to preside over the Constitutional Convention, a job that took four months. He spoke very little at the convention, but few delegates were more determined to devise a government endowed with real energy and authority.
“My wish,” he wrote, “is that the convention may adopt no temporizing expedients but probe the defects of the Constitution to the bottom and provide a radical cure.”
After the convention adjourned, Washington’s reputation and support were essential to overcome opposition to the ratification of the proposed Constitution. He worked for months to rally support for the new instrument of government. It was a difficult struggle. Even in Washington’s native Virginia, the Constitution was ratified by a majority of only one vote.
Once the Constitution was approved, Washington hoped to retire again to private life. But when the first presidential election was held, he received a vote from every elector.
He wasn’t even trying to get elected and he got elected…, by every elector!
He remains the only President in American history to be elected by the unanimous voice of the people.
George Washington was unanimously elected President of the United States…, twice.
Like I said…, amazing.
Washington served two terms as President. His first term (1789-1793) was occupied primarily with organizing the executive branch of the new government and establishing administrative procedures that would make it possible for the government to operate with the energy and efficiency he believed were essential to the republic’s future. An astute judge of talent, he surrounded himself with the most able men in the new nation. He appointed his former aide, Alexander Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury; Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State; and his former artillery chief, Henry Knox, as Secretary of War. James Madison was also one of his principal advisors.
In his First Inaugural Address, Washington confessed that he was unpracticed in the duties of civil administration; however, he was one of the most able administrators ever to serve as President. He administered the government with fairness and integrity, assuring Americans that the President could exercise extensive executive authority without corruption. Further, he executed the laws with restraint, establishing precedents for broad-ranging presidential authority. His integrity was without question. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “His justice is the most inflexible I have ever known, no motive of interest or consanguinity [ancestry], friendship, or hatred, being able to bias his decision.” Washington set a standard for presidential integrity rarely met by his successors, although he established an ideal by which they all are judged.
Growing partisanship within the government also concerned Washington. Washington despised political partisanship but could do little to slow the development of political parties.
Again, he demonstrated his wisdom and his purity of intention.
George was Godly man. He believed America existed because of God’s will, and that it could not survive without God’s continued influence.
He wasn’t concerned with personal power or any other ulterior motives. His only concern was doing what he felt was best for his country. Other people recognized this, and his intentions could not be questioned. That is why he commanded such respect.
During his first term Washington toured the northern and southern states and found that the new government enjoyed the general support of the American people. Convinced that the government could get along without him, he planned to step down at the end of his first term. But his cabinet members convinced him that he alone could command the respect of members of both burgeoning political parties. Thomas Jefferson visited Washington at Mount Vernon to urge him to accept a second term. Although longing to return home permanently, Washington reluctantly agreed.
Washington’s second term (1793-1797) was dominated by foreign affairs and marred by a deepening partisanship in his own administration. One of Washington’s most important accomplishments was keeping the United States out of war, giving the new nation an opportunity to grow in strength while establishing the principle of neutrality that shaped American foreign policy for more than a century.
Washington’s Farewell Address helped to summarize many of Washington’s strongest held beliefs about what it would take to sustain and grow the young nation that he helped found.
Finally retired from public service, George and Martha Washington returned to their beloved Mount Vernon. Unfortunately for Washington, his time at the estate would be short lived.
On Thursday, December 12, 1799, George recognized the onset of a sore throat and became increasingly hoarse. Only two days later, between ten and eleven at night on December 14, 1799, George Washington passed away from some sort of throat infection. He was surrounded by people who were close to him including his wife who sat at the foot of his bed.
So there you have it…, the amazing life of an amazing man…, George Washington.
General George Washington.
President George Washington.
Although I believe he would have just been happy to have been recognized as a gentleman and a loyal American citizen.
So, what do you think now? Do you agree with me that there would not have been a United States, as we have come to know it, without George Washington?
I don’t think you can help but agree.
We were very blessed to have George on our team…, and God on our side!
Thank you to mountvernon.org for contributing to this article.
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