George Washington 2

One of the most recognized names from American history is George Washington. Yet, the only thing most people can say about him is that he is The Father Of Our Country. Yet, he shows up in history books through out elementary and secondary school years. However, the references are almost all to what he did – command the American army in the Revolutionary War, was our first president – never about what kind of man he was.

Back in April I was struggling to finish reading a book on the early American republic which was over 700 pages of dense prose. George Washington was a central character about whom I learned little. I went searching for a biography from which I could get a better understanding of the man. I found three which dealt with the early part of his life, his role in the Revolution and the last as a central player in the writing of the Constitution and then as president. Read in succession, they built a picture of a man who has deserved all of the praise he has gotten.

What I found was a man of great capabilities who managed to keep his essential character mostly to himself. It was in his role as President that I was most impressed. He was held in awe though he did not take himself seriously. He began his presidency trying to consult with Congress when making decisions about how the new administration should establish itself. The people’s elected representatives acted just as they do today; raising all sorts of wild questions and making demands about what he should do. That was his first and last attempt to involve Congress in setting up an administrative apparatus. Since he was struggling with what an administration should be, he brought in men such as Jefferson and Hamilton to organize Departments and make them work. Working with the men in his cabinet he established the basis of today’s sprawling federal administrative structure.

Faced with a legislative branch that fought among itself, it was he who set us on the way to a functioning national administration structure that has been able to continually adjust to changing economic and living conditions through two centuries.

All of my unsureness about George Washington’s contribution to the establishment of our nation and its government is gone. I am convinced that he was THE essential character in winning the Revolutionary war and establishing our national government.

In case you missed them the first time I posted them:

Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader, by Robert Middlekauff

The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789, by Edward Larson

Washington’s Circle: The Creation of the President, by David and Jeanne Heidler.

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