Thursday, February 22, 2007
On this day:

Remembering George Washington

First in war - first in peace - and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.

- from General Henry Lee's eulogy for George Washington, delivered December, 1799

Today marks the 275th birthday of America's first President. George Washington has often been called "the indispensable man," but now, 219 years after he first took the oath of office, the country he fathered has all but forgotten just how indispensable he really was. As Richard Brookhiser wrote in Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, he "is in our textbooks and our wallets, but not our hearts."

That needs to change. Now more than ever, the nation needs to get reacquainted with His Excellency, George Washington.

For starters, we should stop calling Washington's Birthday "Presidents Day." Washington was not just our first President, he is first among Presidents. He's in a league of his own. So, as a word of advice to all future presidents, I would say: if you think you deserve a holiday, then go found your own damned country and leave Washington's Birthday and his country alone. (For more on the "Presidents Day" heresy, see this article.)

That said, we shouldn't turn George Washington the man into some mythological "larger-than-life" figure who we can never hope to understand. That would be almost as bad as ignoring him altogether. Washington wasn't a perfect man, but he was no ordinary one, either. To get a taste for just how extraordinary he was, go down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, by Richard Brookhiser, or His Excellency, George Washington, by Joseph Ellis.

Or just click on the following links:

"Moonshine Patriot: George Washington, whiskey entrepreneur", John Fund, Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2007.

Washington's First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

Washington's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1793

Washington's Farewell Address, 1796

Washington's "Circular to the States," June 8, 1783

The White House Biography of George Washington

Mount Vernon's Biography of George Washington

The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition at the University of Virginia

More Papers of George Washington from the University of Virginia

George Washington's Papers at the Library of Congress

PBS's Rediscovering George Washington