George Washington Almost A Saint
Chapter Three
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four


George Washington was both a military and political leader that showed great ability to discern people’s character and their abilities. This ability proved to shape his personality to be extremely productive in both the setting of standards for government and as a role model.

He often would listen to a multiple set of voices with varying opinions or ideals about a situation or problem. Then he would formulate a tactical procedure from that collective input. He was known as a superior delegator who surrounded himself with men of great experience and knowledge, even though in many cases he did not fundamentally agree with what they might have stood for.

Though he lost more battles in the revolutionary war than he triumphed in, he ultimately clenched the victory needed for independence from the British at Yorktown, Virginia. The siege at Yorktown, the last major operation of the war, was the only one in which Washington directly commanded the American Army.[1]   

Another glaring example of Washington’s leadership skills is displayed in his choice for his first Presidential cabinet. He chose Alexander Hamilton for Treasury Secretary. Hamilton would prove to be very productive in laying the foundations for the federal government’s role in the economic future of that new Nation. Some historians actually believe that the best decision Washington made at the onset of his administration was to bring Hamilton into the position.          

He selected Thomas Jefferson for Secretary of State. Even though Jefferson came from a fundamentally different political view than Hamilton regarding the size and influence of the Federal government, Washington knew that he could trust Jefferson to do what was needed to produce the best possible results in the formulation of the government.

President Washington was very direct at dealing with domestic policies and problematic issues. One domestic conflict that arose was the Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. An uprising amongst many Pennsylvania farmers about a Federal excise tax on alcohol. Washington rallied thousands of troops and personally led the march directly into Pennsylvania. This large showing of military strength ended the rebellion almost immediately.   

He declared that the United States would remain neutral when war broke out between England and France in 1793. This decision would cause several difficulties for the following presidential office holders. But at the time it was the best decision for the young Nation that was just recovering from the psychological and financial devastations that resulted from the conflict that had won their independence from the British monarchy.

Washington served for two four year terms, even though he was somewhat reluctant to accept the newly formed office. Washington was ready to retire after his first term but was persuaded by men such as Madison and Jefferson that the new nation might founder without him to lead it.[2]

Washington is especially known for one very demonstrative act that probably perpetuated the ideals and values of the new American republic more than any other precedent or law he may have participated in. This was articulated in the smooth and grace filled transfer of his presidency to his successor John Adams. Grace is in knowing when to leave[3]. Washington left his office in a dignified manner at the end of his second term in office. This displayed to not only the citizens of the United States, but also to many other world governments that authority and power can and should be transferred to succeeding leaders without turmoil or military involvement.

This precedent is often thought to model the Roman military leader of antiquity known as Cincinnatus. It was probably the most obvious display of Washington’s character in his professional career. There were those who had considered making Washington the king of the young and thriving nation. However, Washington saw his duties and his responsibilities from a whole different political standpoint and thus he acted in the manner that he did upon his retirement from public service. 

[1] Boyer, Paul S. United States History (New York, Oxford University Press, 2001) p.857

[2] Bowman, John The History of the American Presidency (North Dighton, Massachusetts, 2002) p.16 

[3] Haffner, Craig The Presidents Volume 1 (History, 2005) DVD

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