Our First Great President
Our first Great President was George Washington. George Washington was unique. At no time in history, before or since, has a revolutionary leader not become the dictator of the country/region/empire of which he has just led the insurrection. It has been said that King George of England, upon hearing that Mr. Washington was not becoming the King of the United States, stated that Washington must be the greatest man who ever lived.
George Washington was unique in other aspects. He was a person destined for greatness, and he knew this. His personal journals were written with an eye towards history. He seemed to self-edit the words and thoughts captured in those journals. He always seemed to do the right thing. Even the one criticism for which he has been persecuted, the fact that he owned slaves who worked his plantation in Virginia, is muted because he is viewed as being one of the more forward-thinking slave owners of his time for the fact that he freed his slaves in his will.
George Washington was a military man, a thinker, and a natural leader. At six foot three inches, he was extremely tall in his time. He was also extremely lucky. His battles on the field could have easily left him injured or incapacitated. In particular, there was an attack by Indians during the French and Indian War that could have ended in complete annihilation, but which Washington miraculously survived. The fact that he had several bullet holes in his jacket and none in his body almost suggested his invincibility.
George Washington surrounded himself with brilliant people. Alexander Hamilton was his personal secretary and is attributed to having written several of his correspondences about the war and what strategy should be undertaken. However, the final decisions were always Washington’s. He seemed to have a conviction that the eyes of the world were on him and that he would be judged by history.
The first crisis of the nation, the war with England for independence, was George Washington’s personal triumph through strength of will and perseverance. He led the forces of a fledgling nation against the greatest war machine the world to that time had ever known. The English hegemony was absolute and worldwide. England’s naval armada was the most powerful in the world. The English Redcoats were the most highly trained and capable army in the world. For Washington and the Continental Army to defeat the British was to achieve the impossible. And he did.
George Washington was by no means a perfect man. He could be harsh and demanding, not only in the way he treated his soldiers, but also in the way he treated his slaves. But when one takes in the sheer span and scope of his decisions, how he handled himself in the face of overwhelming odds, and how prescient and precocious he was in performing his duties as both the commander of the Continental Army and as the first Commander in Chief of our nascent nation, it is amazing how well he got it right. He is and always should be the yardstick against which all future presidents and leaders should be measured.