George Washington and His love of American Liberty

I claim [George Washington] for America . . . To him who denies or doubts whether [America’s] fervid liberty can be combined with law, with order, with the security of property, with the pursuits and advancement of happiness; to him who denies that our forms of government are capable of producing exaltation of soul, and the passion of true glory; to him who denies that we have contributed anything to the stock of great lessons and great examples;—to all these I reply by pointing to Washington! —Daniel Webster, “Address on the Completion of Bunker Hill Monument,”

Quoted in Verna Hall’s The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America, Vol. I. Christian Self-Government, p. 416.

Today, in light of current events, we now understand first hand how fragile individual liberty, protection of private property, and justice are.  Below is a brief example from older and original sources of the extraordinary character some have called the American Moses.  Numbers of historians have commented that if George Washington had desired to be king, he easily could have been.  Rather, he became irate at the notion.  Liberty had come far too hard, with far too much sacrifice to squander it so.  Please be patient with the archaic language in the two excerpts below to see in yet another way, just how great the Father of Our Country truly was.—editor

By this time the canonization of Washington had fairly begun…It is possible he might have had a crown if he had even been willing. The army, at the end of the war, was justly dissatisfied with its treatment. The officers were called to meet at Newburgh, and it was the avowed purpose of the leaders of the movement that the army should march westward, appropriate vacant lands, leave Congress to negotiate for peace without an army, and “monk at their calamity and laugh when their fear cometh.” It was the less publicly avowed purpose to make their commander-chief king if he could be persuaded to aid in establishing a monarchy. Washington put a summary stop to the whole proceeding. Their letter to him detailed the weakness of a republican form of government as they had experienced it, their desire for “a mixed government,” with him at its head, and their belief that “the title of king” would be objectionable to few and of material advantage to the country. His reply was peremptory, and even angry. He stated in plain terms his abhorrence of the proposal; he was at a loss to conceive what part of his conduct could have encouraged their address; they could not have found “a person to whom their schemes were more disagreeable;” and he threatened them with exposure unless the affair was stopped at once. His influence, and that alone, secured the quiet disbanding of the discontented army. His influence was as powerful after he had retired to Mount Vernon as before his resignation. He was in constant correspondence with public men in every part of the country. He received from them such a store of suggestions as came to no other man, digested it, and was able from it to speak with what seemed infallible wisdom. In the midst of his voluminous correspondence, the minute details in his diaries of tree-planting and rotation of crops, and his increasing reading on the political side of history, he found time for a stream of visitors. Among these, in March 1785, were the commissioners from Virginia and Maryland, who met at Alexandria to form a commercial code for Chesapeake Bay, and made an opportunity to visit Mount Vernon. From that moment the current of events, leading into the Annapolis convention of 1786 and the final convention of the next year, shows Washington’s close supervision at every point.

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th Edition (1875)
and 10th Edition (1902). 1902: “The above article was written by Alexander Johnston; Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy at Princeton College, New Jersey; author of A History of American Politics, The Genesis of a New England State, The United States: Its History and Constitution.”:

(http://www.1902encyclopedia.com/W/WAS/george-washington.html)

“Newburg, 22 May, 1782.

“SIR,

“With a mixture of great surprise and astonishment, I have read with attention the sentiments you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured, Sir, no occurrence in the course of the war has given me more painful sensations, than your information of there being such ideas existing in the army, as you have expressed, and I must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity. For the present the communication of them will rest in my own bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter shall make a disclosure necessary.

“I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address, which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs, that can befall my country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable. At the same time, in justice to my own feelings, I must add, that no man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the army than I do; and, as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way, extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure you, then, if you have any regard for your country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your mind, and never communicate, as from yourself or any one else, a sentiment of the like nature.

“I am, Sir, &,c.

“George Washington.”

Such was the language of Washington, when, at the head of his army and at the height of his power and popularity, it was proposed to him to become a king. After this indignant reply and stern rebuke, it is not probable that any further advances were made to him on the subject.

From Sparks, The Writings of George Washington, Volume 1, The Life of Washington, pp. 382-383.

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