by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 As we approach the celebration of the 4th of July American Independence Day festivities, we believe that this is a good time to reflect on how and why we became a new nation over two hundred years ago. To a great extent, it had to do with the abuses of the British colonial system AND the presence at that point in time of great men of vision — the Founding Fathers.

Last year we posted an extensive series on the American Revolution. We will draw upon some of those posts again this year, but with more emphasis on the specific roles selected Founding Fathers played in the quest for independence. Today we will examine the contributions of that American military leader, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and first President of this country, George Washington.

We hope that you will follow us through this exploration and come out with a renewed respect for our great struggle in those years in the 18th century. GLB

[ This is Part 8 of 10. ]

[ 3710 Words ]

    

“Thousands of present day students, like many of our Founding Fathers, are being taught at home.”
— Ernest Istook

“We believe that an Iraqi founding national assembly, freely elected, must decide the future of Iraq.”
— Jalal Talabani

“Two hundred years ago, our Founding Fathers gave us a democracy. It was based upon the simple, yet noble, idea that government derives its validity from the consent of the governed.”
— Paul Tsongas

“There’s never been a nation like the United States, ever. It begins with the principles of our founding documents, principles that recognize that our rights come from God, not from our government.”
— Marco Rubio

“This line of research continued when I went, and brought my research group with me, to the new University of California, Irvine campus in 1966 to become the founding Dean of the School of Physical Sciences.”
— Frederick Reines

       

America’s Founding Fathers: George Washington, Warrior and Father of our Country

I want to start looking at some of the Founding Fathers of the American Revolutionary War. We will continue with that great orator of the colonies — George Washington. When the new country needed a military leader, Washington was there. When our new constitution was implemented, Washington was there. When the new Executive Branch needed definition, Washington was there. When a gentleman and a statesman was needed, Washington was there. He was elected as President twice by a unanimous vote; he refused to become the American King, opting instead for the rule of law. GLB

(The following George Washington: Thinking About the American Revolution to this blog on Sunday, July 5, 2009)

George Washington:
Thinking About the American Revolution

Copyright©2009 Gerald L. Boerner
All Rights Reserved

Note: Today, we will start to examine several of our founding fathers who were men of action, but not necessarily among those whose ideas laid the intellectual foundations for the American Revolution and our new country. We might well think of these men as the being the engineers who build an assembly line rather than the inventors who conceptualized the product in the first place. These were the nation builders and we shall start with the most notable of them all: George Washington…

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting…Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues…Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.”
— Eulogy for George Washington by Congress Henry Lee (Father of Robert E. Lee)

image_thumb33 George Washington, often referred to as the “Father of our Country” since as early as 1778, was a notable military leader and public servant. Above all, Washington considered himself a planter and a landowner. He served in the military as a British officer during the ‘French and Indian War’ (1754-1759), the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the ‘Revolutionary War’ (1775-1783), and the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armies formed in possible deployment against the French (1798); in 1976, the year of our bicentennial, President Gerald Ford and the U.S. Congress awarded Washington the rank of ‘General of the Armies,’ a five-star general. For almost any man, this would have been considered a complete career. His military service during the ‘Revolutionary War’ was respected even by the English where the British Parliament praised his effort to raise above those manipulations of a politician.

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
— George Washington

As a public servant, Washington arose to a similar high level of achievement in defining our new government. He was a member of the House of Burgesses (the Virginia Legislature) after the ‘French and Indian War.’ He was a delegate to both the 1st and 2nd Continental Congress as well as the Constitutional Convention; he was named the presiding officer. Upon the ratification of the United States Constitution he earned the unanimous vote of the electors to become the 1st President of these United States; he also received a unanimous vote for his second term – the only president to have done so. In this role as president, he did much to define the mechanics of the executive branch of the new government; he selected highly skilled men to assume the various positions in his cabinet. This enabled him to launch this new country on a firm fiscal and diplomatic footing.

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
— George Washington

In the years between the wars and public service positions he returned to his beloved Mt. Vernon and took up his role as a planter. He initially raised tobacco, but later switched over to wheat which could be sold within the colonies. Yes, he was a lifetime slave owner, but granted all of his slaves their freedom upon his death. He exemplified the ‘gentleman patriot’ who was dedicated to his beloved country by coming to its support in times of need, but returning to his home between time – a unique way of not being a career soldier or politician. He was drafted to become the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and later to become the 1st President.

“It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it”
— George Washington

This was a man who believed in liberty, but did not seek glory for himself. Let’s take a closer look at some of his contributions…

George Washington (1732 – 1799)

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”
— George Washington (1776) in “Address to the Continental Army” before Battle of Long Island

image_thumb34 Was he a great military tactician? Probably not! But he was a leader who made the effort to take a ‘rag tag’ set of citizen soldiers and molded them into a fighting force that was able to defeat the greatest military power of the time – the British Army and Navy. Did he do this alone? No, he was able to draw on the skills of his support officers to accomplish a nearly impossible task, even while some of these officers were seeking to replace him as the Commander-in-Chief. This army fought numerous notable battles, including those at Saratoga, Yorktown, Trenton, Brandywine Creek and Long Island. Did he always in his battles? No, but he learned from his defeats and rallied his troops by riding up and down the lines like the Roman generals. He used the taxing winter at Valley Forge to retrain his troops and prepare them for the coming battles. But through all of these trials, Washington held his troops together to fight another day and eventually prevailed to win the war.

“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”
Letter of Instructions to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments (1759)

As a politician, he used many of the same skills. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Washington presided over the debates about how a new constitution was to be structured. While he did not directly participate in the debates directly, he used the power of his person to help forge the many compromises that were necessary to arrive at a final constitution. These compromises included: northern vs. southern, large vs. small states, how to count the slave populations for determining representation, state’s rights vs. federal rights and how to guarantee personal rights and freedoms. Any one of these issues could have created a deadlock the congress and blocked the completion of the document. By his skillful management, Washington was able to get the various factions to compromise and write a final document. This was no small feat!

When the new United States Constitution was finally ratified by all thirteen states, he once again was called into the service of his country. He was reluctant, but heeded this call; he was elected as the 1st President of these United States by a unanimous vote of the electors. As such, he was given the awesome task to take this Constitution, a blueprint of a new form of government, and make it work! He selected strong, competent men to assume the various cabinet positions, and he had to mediate between the strong Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, and the Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, and make the government operate efficiently. It needs to be remembered that there were no operating instructions that came with the Constitution!

“Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.”
— George Washington, General Orders (1783)

Washington had to define the executive branch, set fiscal policies, and set the diplomatic policy. He supported the levying of taxes, founding of the National Bank while also setting a course of neutrality in international relations. At this time, the British and French were again in conflict; he wanted to avoid getting entangled with this conflict. During the second phase of the French Revolution, the ‘Reign of Terror,’ the United States withdrew support for the French government. Other issues to be dealt with were related to freedom of religion and the role of political parties. This was a formidable task, but Washington accomplished it during his two terms in office.

image_thumb35 In the end, Washington retired to his Mt. Vernon home for his remaining years. This set the pattern for all presidents up to the time of FDR, who was elected to four terms. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution set a two-term limit into law. This was just a sample of the example with which Washington set the traditions and rules of the executive branch.

“It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
— George Washington in his “Farewell Address” (1796)

George Washington, THANK YOU for your courage, wisdom, perseverance, and example. We have become a strong nation by heeding your example and your directions in your ‘Farewell Address’ upon the completion of your service. For all this, we owe you our love, gratitude and eternal thanks.

     

Adding Perspective on George Washington

Washington_(3) George Washington (1732 – 1799) served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and as the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783. Because of his significant role in the revolution and in the formation of the United States, he is highly revered by Americans as the "Father of Our Country".

The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. Because of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, King George III asked what Washington would do next and was told of rumors that he would return to his farm; this prompted the king to state, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Washington did return to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon.

He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government’s executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and a decade of peace with Britain began with the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington’s farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. He was awarded the first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress in 1776.

Washington died in 1799. Henry Lee, delivering the funeral oration, declared Washington "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen". Historical scholars consistently rank him as one of the greatest United States presidents.

Presidency

The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in 1789, and again in the 1792 election; he remains the only president to have received 100 percent of the electoral votes. At his inauguration, he insisted on having Barbados Rum served. John Adams was elected vice president. Washington took the oath of office as the first President under the Constitution for the United States of America on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City although, at first, he had not wanted the position.

The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. Washington attended carefully to the pomp and ceremony of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were suitably republican and never emulated European royal courts. To that end, he preferred the title "Mr. President" to the more majestic names suggested.

Washington proved an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision. In handling routine tasks, he was "systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them."

Washington reluctantly served a second term as president. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president, which later became law by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Domestic issues

Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped that they would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation. His closest advisors formed two factions, setting the framework for the future First Party System. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton had bold plans to establish the national credit and build a financially powerful nation, and formed the basis of the Federalist Party. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Jeffersonian Republicans, strenuously opposed Hamilton’s agenda, but Washington favored Hamilton over Jefferson.

The Residence Act of 1790, which Washington signed, authorized the President to select the specific location of the permanent seat of the government, which would be located along the Potomac River. The Act authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for this seat. Washington personally oversaw this effort throughout his term in office. In 1791, the commissioners named the permanent seat of government "The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia" to honor Washington. In 1800, the Territory of Columbia became the District of Columbia when the federal government moved to the site according to the provisions of the Residence Act.

In 1791, Congress imposed an excise on distilled spirits, which led to protests in frontier districts, especially Pennsylvania. By 1794, after Washington ordered the protesters to appear in U.S. district court, the protests turned into full-scale riots known as the Whiskey Rebellion. The federal army was too small to be used, so Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792 to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and several other states. The governors sent the troops and Washington took command, marching into the rebellious districts. There was no fighting, but Washington’s forceful action proved the new government could protect itself. It also was one of only two times that a sitting President would personally command the military in the field. These events marked the first time under the new constitution that the federal government used strong military force to exert authority over the states and citizens.

Foreign affairs

George_Washington_P1190516 Statue of Washington in Paris, France

In 1793, the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Edmond-Charles Genêt, called "Citizen Genêt," to America. Genêt issued letters of marque and reprisal to American ships so they could capture British merchant ships. He attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement in the French war against Britain by creating a network of Democratic-Republican Societies in major cities. Washington rejected this interference in domestic affairs, demanded the French government recall Genêt, and denounced his societies.

Hamilton and Washington designed the Jay Treaty to normalize trade relations with Britain, remove them from western forts, and resolve financial debts left over from the Revolution. John Jay negotiated and signed the treaty on November 19, 1794. The Jeffersonians supported France and strongly attacked the treaty. Washington and Hamilton, however, mobilized public opinion and won ratification by the Senate by emphasizing Washington’s support. The British agreed to depart their forts around the Great Lakes, the Canadian-U.S. boundary was adjusted, numerous pre-Revolutionary debts were liquidated, and the British opened their West Indies colonies to American trade. Most importantly, the treaty delayed war with Britain and instead brought a decade of prosperous trade with that country. This angered the French and became a central issue in political debates.

Farewell Address

Washington’s Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of American political values. Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. While he declined suggested versions that would have included statements that morality required a "divinely authoritative religion," he called morality "a necessary spring of popular government". He said, "Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Washington’s public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against ‘permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world’, saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term "entangling" alliances. The address quickly set American values regarding religion and foreign affairs.

      

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: American Revolution…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolution

Wikipedia: George Washington…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington

Brainy Quote: Founding Quotes…
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/founding_2.html