Edited by The Reverend C.W. Upham, 1851
The history of the world, in all its scenes, and at every period, impresses upon the thoughtful student of its records a solemn sense of the amount of good and ill that has flowed from the lives and actions of a few individual men. Much, indeed, has been owing to the force of circumstances, and there have been times, when the energy and wisdom of no single person could have withstood the general current of events. But, in a great proportion of cases, we can trace the issue of things to the conduct and character of particular prominent agents. The destinies of nations and of the race are often deposited in the hands of one man.…
We ought always to contemplate eminent men in this light, and hold them responsible to a great extent, for the influence of their conduct and character. No greater blessing can be bestowed upon a country, than a virtuous and wise ruler, no greater curse than a wicked and reckless one; and our estimate of distinguished individuals should be determined, not by the amount of their talents, or by the dazzling appearance of their actions, but by the moral influence of their lives, and with reference to the degree in which they succeeded or failed in accomplishing the good placed within their reach.
It is probable that it would be allowed, by all truly liberal and enlightened men, that the Revolution of the North American British colonies, which resulted in the establishment of an independent, republican, and constitutional empire, is one of the greatest and most momentous events in the history of the world. It is indeed, worthy of being regarded as a perfectly successful political and moral movement. The patriot and the philosophical statesman look back upon it with unmixed approval and unalloyed satisfaction. From the beginning to the end there seems to have been an overruling power guiding all things right, and bringing on the consummation steadily and surely. It is not often that human enterprises and efforts are crowned with results so completely auspicious. When we contemplate its incidents, and follow its vicissitudes to the issue towards which they all tended, we feel that never were the indications of the interposition of a favoring Providence more signal and unquestionable.
The great and glorious event was identified most distinctly with the character and influence of one man. There were many wise, enlightened, patriotic, and powerful spirits, scattered over every part of the country, and laboring most efficiently and nobly in the cause; but whoever traces the course of things, from the commencement of the War of Independence, to the final establishment of the nation under the Federal Constitution, will not hesitate to say, that at no point could the American Revolution have dispensed with the services, or succeeded without the aid and influence, of George Washington.
Hall, V. M. (2000). George Washington : The Character and Influence of One Man (3). San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education. Used by Permission ©2011