Thursday, December 20, 2012

Washington: A Concluding Summary

 The call to move forward has rung in my ears and seeing as I have finished Flexner's biography on Washington, there is not much left to do but conclude and move on. Without reading another biography or renting a copy of Washington's Papers and pouring over them we have reached a rather brief but profitable picture of Washington (I think so anyway). I wanted to conclude our look at Washington by saying that as far as it depends on men, he will be a hard president to top.

His ability to lead by exceptional moral example is something that we really don't find in politicians today. One could argue that this is due to a contrast of the romanticism attached to him by the citizens of a brand new America against the cynical partisan media of today. Yet, Washington did have critics toward the end of his life. The Republicans (different than today's) continually accused him of trying to reinstate a monarchy and they saw the Jay Treaty (a treaty with Britain) as a warning sign of tyranny. These accusations and many more were thrown at him, yet his ability to lead and his moral excellence were challenged by no opponent. It is argued that he would have won the presidency for a third term had he not chosen to step down.

As we looked at the spiritual life of Washington, it was concluded that he probably was not a Christian as he never spoke of Jesus as his Lord or Savior in any of his speeches, diaries and letters. His morality does not seem to have come from a saving knowledge of Jesus but rather an extreme measure of self discipline. This is a sad truth about the life of Washington, but one that we have to be honest about. This "Christian Nation" did not have a Christian first president. In taking charge of the nation and working as hard as anyone to make sure the United States "worked" Washington seems to have neglected his own soul and spiritual well-being. As sad and sobering as this thought is, it does not mean that Washington's political life was a failure.

  Washington's sense of duty to his country and fellow citizens was so strong that he would hold out of retirement three times: after the French and Indian war to serve as Commander of the Continental Army, after his first term as president although he expressed desire to step down, and as Commander of the Army again during the Whiskey Rebellion. He was a devoted man who managed to rally thirteen separate governing regions around one cause and name. Denying himself, he lead the country in a remarkable neutral manner seeking only what was constitutional and what the people wanted. These are the reasons why we can agree with Flexner when he calls Washington the "Indispensable Man".