The reputations of Jefferson, Hamilton and Adams tend to ebb and flow with cultural, economic and political trends, while George Washington is a massive glacier, grinding down the generations and leaving little in his path. Only Lincoln can compete with him, because Lincoln rescued Washington’s life work from the abyss, and made it stronger and more complete.
Washington rarely showed us his human side. As a young man he aggressively pursued (the married) Sally Fairfax, and he agonized over the sad fate of his slaves. But those were brief moments when the mask came off. More often he comes to us cold and distant, like one of his myriad monuments, presiding like Zeus over the Constitutional Convention or the high-stakes brawl between Jefferson and Hamilton, or praying on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge.
If you have time between football games and bites of marshmallow-laced sweet potatoes, take a look atPresident Washington’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation from late in his presidency. Through the prism of 2009, it is an interesting read:
–like so many Americans today, but perhaps not our governing class in Washington, George Washington was a profound theist. And while he is thankful, he is also fearful that God could turn against America at anytime. He twice gives thanks for the end of the Whiskey Rebellion, and seems to recognize, as we do not, that our democratic experiment can end at any moment. He practically begs for its continuance
–the warm welcome for immigrants, a hallmark through most of our history, is there in 1795
–he notes our unique prosperity, and foreshadows America’s monumental efforts to spread freedom and prosperity across the globe. But he warns of the arrogance that comes from prosperity and “hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusional pursuits”
–the “habits of sobriety, order and morality” ring hollow today as we look at the breakdown of the family and widespread drug use and pornography. An axiom of the American Founders was the responsibility of self-governed men for their own behavior, and we appear to have a significant difference with our first president in our liberal and psychiatric age.
Its not the NFL, but its a fun read, and the Lexington Institute wishes you a happy (and blessed) Thanksgiving.
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