Monday, February 15, 2010

George Washington - First President of the United States

Today is the anniversary of George Washington’s nationally celebrated day. At 10 a.m. a wreath-laying ceremony occurred at George Washington’s tomb celebrating his service as the first commanding general and first President of the United States.
Now it is called President’s Day because some politically correct moron and group of morons decided that all presidents should be honored on the same day as our First President. While the official day of George Washington’s birthday is February 22nd, it no longer is a nationally declared holiday – replaced by President’s Day celebrated on the third Monday of the month of February. President’s today couldn’t hold a match to George Washington’s reputation and character, a great man but nonetheless, a human being who stood tall above most of his peers – in height as well as stature. Loved so much by the American citizens in a new nation of unified states, he could have easily been President of the United States for life. But he didn't.
Clearly George Washington has been an icon for America, his image on our dollar bills and the talk of every history classroom. PBS put together a program called Rediscovering George Washington, looking beyond the myth at the real person who was America’s first commanding general and the first President of the United States, as well as a part of the founding of a new nation and its constitutional laws.
Born on February 22nd, 1732 George Washington was appointed by the Continental Congress of the new United Colonies (States) as commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. One year later he forced the British out of Boston, but lost New York City. He then crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey to surprise the British troops and defeat them late in the year of 1776. His forces captured the two main British combat units at Saratoga and Yorktown
He held together an army, suffering the cold and misery with his troops for whom he respected greatly and was compassionate towards their predicaments. Despite threats of the colonial army disintegrating and thus losing the revolution that created our nation, he was able to encourage his troops to keep pressing for victory under terrible circumstances and the odds of war against them.
At the end of the war in 1783, King George III, a monarch whose tyranny and miscalculations of the resolve of the American colonist and former subjects; who apparently was fond and had some respect of this rebellious leader of the American colonists, asked General Washington what he would do now that the war was over. King George suspected he would become the nation’s leader immediately, as conquering generals in history had done before him; but instead was told that George Washington’s answer was that he would return to his beloved family farm at Mount Vernon. Surprised, and probably with more admiration, the English king remarked:
If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.
George Washington didn’t fully retreat to his farm estate, but presided over the Philadelphia Convention upon invitation and helped draft the United States Constitution whose main authorship is attributed to James MadisonJohn Adams and Thomas Jefferson because they were not satisfied with the Articles of Confederation that has been used during the Revolutionary War that provided written agreements between the separate colonies that formed the coalition to establish the sovereignty of what became the United States of America. 
In 1789, George Washington became the first President of the United States and established customs and operating procedures of the executive branch of the new United States of America. He sought to make America strong and principled during a time when Europe was torn apart with a war that raged between Britain and France. Despite the close ties to the French because of their aid in winning the Revolutionary War, President Washington and the Philadelphia Congress decided to remain neutral. Most Americans had their fill of war anyway, and now wanted peace in order to fulfill and live their dreams of a free nation. George Washington proclaimed America’s neutral position when he signed the Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 that avoided any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported Congress in the plans to build a strong central government, funding the national debt, implementing a tax system, and creating a national bank. Peace with Britain had been cemented with the Jay Treaty of 1795, but had to use his popularity and reputation in order to appease the Jeffersonians who opposed the treaty.
George Washington remained as an Independent as far as affiliation in a political party, but did support most of the Federalist Party’s platform and programs, becoming an unofficial leader among the FP members.
When it came time for Washington to step down, and he did so voluntarily despite many who would sponsor his position as President for life, his farewell address was inspiration for the republican virtues and principles with warnings about the future against political partisanship, sectionalism and involvement in foreign wars. Entitled The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States, the farewell address was published in the American Daily AdvertiserDavid Claypoole Johnston as the publisher, on September 19th, 1796. George Washington, by that time had served his country and the People of the United States for 45 years.
The farewell address was originally a letter prepared in 1792 with the help of James Madison, because Mr. Washington intended to retire at the end of his first term in office. He set the letter aside when he decided to run for a second term against the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, as well as his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson because he had been convinced that the newly established Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties would cause division in the new nation’s government, as well as the current issues of foreign affairs that required a steady and wise leadership.
Four years after his first term, President Washington reexamined his original letter and revised it with the help of Alexander Hamilton, to decline his third term of office and update the climate and issues of the American political landscape of 1796. After years of hard work and exhaustion due to his advancing age, his years of experience and service as commanding general and duties of his presidency; as well as verbal attacks by his political opponents, he finally retired permanently to his beloved Mount Vernon estate. The Farewell Address, as later the title was shortened to, was published two months before the Electoral College cast their votes in the 1796 presidential election.
For George Washington’s dedicated as an American and his long service, Congress thanked him publicly and presented to him the first Congressional Gold Medal.
The painting below by Edward Perry Moran depicts George Washington reading his Farewell Address with Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Hamilton and Martha Washington as his audience.

Transcription of the Farewell Address (excerpts):
United States 19th September 1796
Friends, & Fellow--Citizens.
The period for a new election of a Citizen, to Administer the Executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be cloathed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made. I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation, which binds a dutiful Citizen to his country--and that, in withdrawing the tender of service which silence in my Situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both. …
Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the encreasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotizm does not forbid it.  In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude wch I owe to my beloved country, for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the stedfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful & persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise… Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence--that your Union & brotherly affection may be perpetual--that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained--that its Administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and Virtue--that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection--and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it. … The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very 
Liberty which you so highly prize. …
The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.
 …
In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations--Northern and Southern--Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. … To the efficacy and permanency of Your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. … I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, & warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally. … There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the Administration of the Government and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true--and in Governments of a Monarchical cast Patriotism may look with endulgence, if not with favour, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. …
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.
  Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. … Promote then as an object of primary importance, Institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened. … Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to believe me fellow citizens,), the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. … The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled, with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a Man, who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several Generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow Citizens, the benign influence of good Laws under a free Government--the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labours and dangers.

Recently History Channel featured an interesting program that showed George Washington as the man, not they myth. One wonders why the myths originated about this legendary person in American history who gained respect from his People and citizens and European leaders during his time. His true life story and his character are legendary in its own right.

First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen … George Washington February 22, 1732 – December 14th, 1799.

Government is taking us a long way down the Road to Serfdom. That doesn't just mean that more of us must work for the government. It means that we are changing from independent, self-responsible people into a submissive flock. The welfare state kills the creative spirit. F.A. Hayek, an Austrian economist living in Britain, wrote 'The Road to Serfdom' in 1944 as a warning that central economic planning would extinguish freedom. ... Hayek meant that governments can't plan economies without planning people's lives. After all, an economy is just individuals engaging in exchanges. The scientific-sounding language of President Obama's economic planning hides the fact that people must shelve their own plans in favor of government's single plan. At the beginning of 'The Road to Serfdom,' Hayek acknowledges that mere material wealth is not all that's at stake when the government controls our lives: 'The most important change ... is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people.' This shouldn't be controversial. If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out, character will atrophy. The welfare state, however good its intentions of creating material equality, can't help but make us dependent. That changes the psychology of society. According to the Tax Foundation, 60 percent of the population now gets more in government benefits than it pays in taxes. What does it say about a society in which more than half the people live at the expense of the restJohn Stossel

Two centuries ago, King George III was told that President George Washington, who had eight years earlier turned down the opportunity to be the king of the United States, was planning to give up the presidency at the conclusion of his second term and return to his farm in Mount Vernon. The astonished monarch, who had lost a war to General Washington, said, 'If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.' Washington did, and he was. Does anything more clearly illustrate how far we have fallen in 210 yearsBurt Prelutsky


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