Let George do it! That phrase is a common part of our language, perhaps because George Washington did get things done. Hundreds of monuments, statues, buildings and locations are named in honor G.W. and his visage is seen daily on our dollars. There are many reasons why this man is remembered with his own holiday – well, almost his.
The day celebrating the father of our country began in 1880 in Washington, D.C., and in 1885 by an act of Congress it became a federal holiday, designating the third Monday in February in tribute to George Washington. Today it is commonly known as Presidents’ Day and it includes many of the men in this exclusive club, thus diluting a special day for George.
In 1775 he was nominated as a general and the commander in chief of the Army. During the Revolutionary War he organized the Continental army and led troops during eight long years of fighting. Washington showed skill in transforming a horde of ordinary men into soldiers, and showed political savvy in dealing with the new bureaucrats. One of the postcards is a copy of a famous depiction of Washington being rowed across the Potomac River.
George Washington became a Mason in 1752, remaining an active member until his death. Alexandria, Va., is home to an impressive Washington Masonic Memorial museum dedicated in 1932. It contains numerous exhibits, artifacts and documents from the George Washington family.
In the year 1789 President Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving Day. His words on that day: “ … I recommend to the people of the United States a day of publick (sic) thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Washington’s dentist was seemingly a sadist, but did not really carve wooden teeth for his patient. Although the creator of these teeth was a physician, keep in mind that the usual dentist in those days was also the community barber. A more realistic story about the famous teeth is that they were comprised of metal, ivory and cow teeth. Is it any wonder these choppers didn’t fit? Washington found it much easier to leave the huge device at home rather than distort his face with the false set of teeth.
OK, so many of the attached postcards include a cherry tree and some cards even have the fateful ax; this is a myth that is so popular it has almost become truth. While we are discussing myths, did Washington throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? Probably an exaggeration, since the distance from shore to shore was over a mile.
Washington was a dedicated farmer, planter and innovator. He has been given credit for introducing the use of the mule to the United States as a sturdy farm animal.
Here are a few of Washington’s admonitions for the future directed to the American people and to their representatives in government in particular. Was anyone listening?
“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
“Gaming is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief.”
“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitution of government.”
“I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
“’Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, as far as we are at liberty to do it. To be friendly with but independent of all the nations of the earth.”
“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. The nation which indulges toward another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relationships to have with them as little political connection as possible.”
“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."
“Political parties may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing and ought to be depreciated.”
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
Although George Washington had no biological descendants, we are all heirs to his legacy of wisdom and leadership, and we might want to take another look as some of his advice.
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