As a student of American history, and a lover of our American heritage, I frequently read antique documents and attempt to apprehend not just the words, but the sentiment, the passion, if you will, behind the words.
Most Americans know General George Washington as the “Father of our Nation,” but few understand how he acquired that title of affection and devotion. “As the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army the services and achievements of George Washington are unique in the world’s history. He was much more than the Commander in Chief. He was the one necessary person, whose calm, unswerving, determined sense of patriotic duty to country, and ability put real backbone into the Revolution and kept it from collapsing or merging into a civil conflict, under the hardships and unexpected privations encountered during the eight years of war. Without General Washington at its head it could never have succeeded. His faith in the cause and his devotion to the ideals it embodied made him the symbol of America — the spirit of the Revolution.”
General Washington successfully commanded the non-professional soldiers, the militia, of the Continental Army through 8 long years of devastating and demoralizing conditions. “The Revolutionary War was the culmination of the political American Revolution, whereby the colonists overthrew British rule. In 1775, Revolutionaries seized control of each of the thirteen colonial governments, set up the Second Continental Congress, and formed a Continental Army.” Some say Washington was cold and impersonal, but the evidence shows him to be a deeply compassionate, but determinedly focused leader. “Although considered stern, cold, and remote, commanding the respect of the rank and file and the public by the forcefulness of his personality and his high character, he was not a hard man or a martinet.”
I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.
“In the summer of 1781, after six years of war, the American Army was struggling. The British occupied New York City. A second British army lead by General Lord Cornwallis ravaged the South – capturing Charleston, Richmond, and apparently was heading for the Chesapeake Bay. Mutiny plagued the American army in New York and New Jersey… After a five-day bombardment, the combined American and French forces attacked and overwhelmed Cornwallis’s fortified position on the night of October 14. The British commander was left with no choice but to surrender, which he did on October 19, 1781.” (The British Surrender
at Yorktown, 1781)
Washington’s success won his the auspicious position of First President of the United States of America. “On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. “As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent,” he wrote James Madison, “it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.”
“Wearied of politics, feeling old, he retired at the end of his second. In his Farewell Address, he urged his countrymen to forswear excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. In foreign affairs, he warned against long-term alliances.”
Washington also raised a significant question which bears repeating today:
“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 labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. 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.” (Italics, mine)
Where does that leave the US today?