Every once in a while, I wake up with a fire in my stomach that demands attention, it’s a feeling that’s lot like hunger, and it’s also a lot like hatred. As though struck by lightning I jump out of bed and hit the typewriter with all the zeal and ferocity I can muster. A garrulous orgy of verbosity that builds like a dreadful fever into these loquacious eruptions of atavistic sputum. A time-honored tradition that dates back beyond Aristophanes. I wish to become The Word, destroyer of honor, that which will rend asunder these perverse institutions and today, the item of my attention when I woke up was the following:
Like many, I have wondered about the founding Fathers and their moral code. I wondered if there was actually any good in the past. The truth is, every single person in the world at the time knew only the rule of the powerful. Most were born into a fealty system under a religious and political monarch. If you could afford to do so, you owned slaves… George Washington Owned One Hundred and twenty-three people. Yes, the times were different… But, espousing to “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” is a stretch…
The honest truth is that George Washington was not a good person for today’s standard, but I think it’s okay to understand that while he wasn’t a good man, because nobody can stand the historical test of time in this way, he might have been a Great Man, and a VERY good person for the standard of the time… after all, He did have WOODEN teeth at one point, and he died of anaphylaxis, treatable with epinephrine and Benadryl. Though only 250 years or so in the past, it is ostensibly an eternity ago. Particularly so, if you consider the amount of information, we, with our modern technologies, are able to circulate and consume (for good or for ill).
Consider for a moment, what would you do if you were granted a whole ass brand new kingdom. Would you use it for your own personal benefit, like MOST in history had done up to that point? George Washington’s role model (everyone has to have one) was a man named Lucious Quictius Cincinnatus, The ruler who presided over the transition of the Roman Empire, as it went from a Monarchy of military rule to a Republic. In mid 5th century BCE He was asked to lead the roman military twice, after which (twice) he would retire to his farm rather than taking up the throne as those before him had done, Ushering in a new era in human history. George Washington would intentionally retire to his farm at the end of his political career after doing the very same, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the British Royal Government finally acknowledged American Sovereignty. If nothing else Washington was unorthodox.
Gordon Wood in the George Washington University’s annual George Washington lecture makes the point that George Washington’s primary descriptor (particularly with regards to his own self perception) was Disinterested, in the old use of the word. A word that Washington used regularly; Wood says it was intended to be a synonym for virtue rather than as un-interested. Disinterested for Washington meant that he was able to have NO interest in the matter. To me this seems quite Buddhist, able to preside over something.
In the Winter of 1784–85 the assembly presented Washington a large portion of shares in the Potomac canal. Washington feared that if he should refuse them he would appear “Ostentatiously Disinterested,” and expatriate himself as a member of normalcy. Seeking this reputation for disinterestedness, he would receive the gift graciously to give it away charitably soon after.
George Washington was admired as a classical hero, a great man, earned in earnest as a military commander, a businessman, and a teacher. George Washington was a marvelous dancer and horseman, attributes known to make an athlete, he was also large in stature for the time and well-liked by his peers. Modest, almost to a fault, Washington was said to have “the gift of Silence (Says John Adams).
The 18th century was abundant with the concept of *civility in gentility,* and George Washington was a student of this endeavor. Rolling back barbarism was the way of the English gentleman. In all of George Washington’s writing he only refers to Jesus once, typically referring to “God” as the Great Disposer of Events. George Washington says “I’m not advocating mere toleration” but rather advocating true religious freedom, in fact, George Washington’s first writings are maxims of this nature. For him, fashion went hand in hand with fastidiousness, always seeking out what the proper rules for this gentleman’s behavior.
“Yes Gentleman, I’ve grown nearly blind and almost grey with my service to the country” Washington would say, culling a nearly full blown coup d’etat, but his most important contribution to what it would mean to be an “Honorable American Citizen.” The resignation as commander in chief of the American forces. No American leader has ever left a more important legacy. After the Treaty of Paris, George Washington stunned the world on December 23, 1783 he promised “not to take any share in public business hereafter,” retiring to his farm at Mount Vernon, wishing that all of his friends, fellow soldiers, and countryman could return to their land and rest in their own shade. King George III said that if he were able to remain disinterested, he would be “the greatest man in the world”
Reputation and honor were the “ruling passions of the noblest minds,” says Alexander Hamilton. Douglas Freeman, Washington’s biographer, would say that George Washington grew to become overcome with self-consciousness, rather than simply acting like the patriot he was.
Even knowing all of this, in the face of the modern partisan political agenda I cannot help but wonder what it is about George Washington that I cant TRUTHFULLY stand behind, even to this day.
I have been able to come up with TWO reasons why George Washington and by some gracious extension the founding fathers can be viewed beneficially. Thomas Jefferson, another well known slave owner and founding father said that “The tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and monarchs.” This is the concept of The Repudiation of Blood. If you were born into an evil system, you could be forgiven if you spent your life watering the that tree of liberty however you knew how… George Washington would free his personal one hundred and twenty three slaves, in his will, despite the idea being looked upon poorly by everyone in power around him (maybe even his wife Martha). In 1799 his last will and testament would free his slaves and declare that they should not only be free, but well taken care of, to include financial stability and education for those who were younger than twenty-five, though the two-hundred other slaves on his estate at Mount Vernon would not be freed immediately.
The second is a smaller, but in my eyes, more human reason to believe that I could still respect George Washington’s perspective on Party Politics:
The had made his candidacy irrelevant, for was personal influence and distinctions of character no longer matter. If members of the republican party set up a broomstick as candidate, and called a true son of liberty, or a democrat, or any other epithet that will suit their purpose, it would still command their votes IN TOTAL. But even worse, the same is true of the federalist” Party spirit is all that mattered, and even if he did run as a federalist, “I should not draw a single vote from the anti-federalist.”
The point of this paper is to show that the GREATEST AMERICAN OF ALL, the American General who abdicated the throne and set free a people and a land (set them loose on each other is just as appropriate) was STILL a human. Even though he was a GREAT man he had many failings… It’s important to be nuanced especially in the face of great peril. George Washington’s MOST stately quality was that he was aware at all times of his Human Fallibility. There is a good many politician who would do well to learn this lesson, to induct a bit of humility into their rhetoric. Our own current sitting president included. The paper is also intended to show those who so vehemently oppose the president, that even though somebody can believe something as totally baseless and stupid as slavery or “Trickle Down Economics,” (a policy in which, ideally, one person has ALL the money, and it usefully trickles down the socioeconomic ladder at an ubiquitously beneficial rate) which is just slavery with extra steps (Harmon, 2015), can still help make the world better.
Make NO mistake about it, History will not look kindly on Donald Trump. He is nowhere near the man George Washington was, in fact, when asked if he would leave office if he was voted out, he said he would not accept the election results… even going so far as to say he “deserved a redo” at a rally on sept. 13 2020. This is Literally the opposite sentiment that Washington held. That doesn’t mean that YOU the American under these leaders cannot grow, but it is incumbent upon US to make the decision, like Washington we must FINALLY do the right things, even in the face of negative societal pressures. You know what the right thing is. Do it.
Finally, to be clear, this is not an endorsement for Joe Biden who is currently nearly 15 years older than George Washington was at the time of his death. He is too old and incapable of acting with an UPDATED modern moral compass. I don’t approve of the Two party system, I think that voting for the lesser of two evils is an evil act. A President SHOULD NOT come from a special interest group like the Republican or Democratic party, I agree that a president should be disinterested, in the old meaning of the word. Presiding over. Understanding of the political SUPERPOSITION that states, every American’s opinion matters, regardless of political affiliation, though most coalitions will be mostly wrong it is EVERY American’s job to fight for overall direction of the country, and understand that your fellow Americans should (and usually ARE) doing the very same thing.
Main References include
Gordon Wood Lecture:
Mount Vernon and Slavery:
The Dangers of Honor Culture:
Slavery With Extra Steps: