Monday, February 23, 2009

Washington's Birthday

Technically I just missed posting on Washington's actual birthday by an hour. Since Congress saw fit to combine Washington's and Lincoln's Birthdays into a moving Monday holiday that never actually hits Washington's Birthday, I think I can be forgiven.

This year the big emphasis in on Lincoln. In recent years it was on Adams and Jefferson. Teddy Roosevelt was big for a while, also. No one seems to pay attention to Washington anymore. He has receded to being just a guy with wooden teeth and a wig.

The historic figure is much more important. It is no exaggeration to say that the United States as we know it would not exist if not for Washington. What is more, he did three notable acts that created our country.

The first one is obvious - he was the general who won the Revolutionary War. He didn't win many battles but he kept his army together and built it up until it was able to defeat the British at Yorktown. This was not an insurgency, striking at civilians, it was an actual war and we won it against England at its height.

Then came Washington's second act. There was a lot of pressure for him to dissolve Congress and take personal command of the nation. He didn't. Instead he retired. Think about how rare an act like this has been in history. It is pretty much unheard of.

Of course, the original Articles of Confederation didn't work out. Washington chaired the Constitutional Convention which created our modern government.

These were his biggest accomplishments but he did others. One was leaving office after two terms. This set a precedence that lasted until FDR and was written into the Constitution after him. He set other precedents, man of them important.

Other presidents have struggled with major problems but our unborn nation was on the knife edge in the 18th century. With the slightest nudge, Washington could have created a completely different country - one that would certainly not have thrived.

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