Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Our George" -- the First One

Wot th’-?!George Washington’s Birthday badly needs refurbishing. It is a testament to our decline that the holiday devoted to the the person considered the military and executive founder of our Republic is best known for the annual sale of linens at department stores: the Washington February White Sale.

Have you read David McCullough’s 1776? Obviously, George Washington figures largely in this story and McCullough makes the facets of his character plain. For example, did you know that Washington didn’t like New Englanders? He found them unkempt — Washington himself was “meticulous about his person” as they used to say. And he disliked their lack of commitment. If there is one quality of Washington’s that shines through in 1776, one characteristic that you begin to envy, it is Washington’s refusal to ever, ever quit. What a tenacious man.

His weaknesses were many, but Washington overcame most of them with simple steadfastness. He was embarrassed by his poor teeth and by his lack of formal schooling. He was beloved by those who served him and who served under him.

There is a good interview with McCollough on Amazon’s pre-publication page. And there’s link to buy the book on the side bar. I was given it as a Christmas present and I urge you to get yourself the same gift!

To further your understanding of McCollough's subject also consider Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis. Not only will it round out 1776, it will give an overview of that whole period. Because each chapter can be read on its own, the final result is a weaving of stories about siblings rather than about parents. It brings the founding generation of the Republic down to ground level so that you may walk among them and understand their genius and their rivalries. They won't ever seem quite the same.

If you want to read an excellent post on Washington (and others) by a blogger, you couldn’t do better than Callimachus’ effort. At the end, wanting to separate Washington and Lincoln, whose commemoration days fall so closely together, Callimachus tells this story:

One of the leaders of the American Revolution -- I forget now who it was, Ethan Allen, perhaps -- visited England after the war. His host entertained him comfortably, but was the sort of fellow who constantly disparaged America and Americans generally (no, it didn't start with Bush), and never could get over the fact we had beaten them in the war. To amuse himself and to twit his American guest, the host hung a print of George Washington on the wall of his outhouse. It had been there for a few days, and the host knew the American must have seen it, but he had said nothing. Finally overcome by curiosity, the host asked his guest what he thought of the picture of Washington.

"It is most appropriately hung," the American replied. "Nothing ever made the British shit like the sight of George Washington."
Now, until you actually go over and read his post, you will think I’ve taken the best of it to put up here. Not at all. Go to “Our George” for an entertaining history lesson. I guarantee you do not know as much now as you will when you’ve finished reading Callimachus’ essay.


Solomon2 said...

I suppose jihadists hang pictures of George W. Bush in their outhouses for the same reason.

kevin said...

First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen!

Evanston2 said...

John Ellis, the author of one of the books you recommend, may have lied about being in Vietnam. I mention this as a "drive by" knowing that I don't care enough to research it. Ellis is not of concern to me, while Washington is definitely intriguing. I believe he is best viewed in broad brushstrokes. It seems he "kept his own counsel" regarding many beliefs. We can see this in the controversy regarding his religious beliefs (whether he was a deist or christian). [I would argue that he was not an evangelical given his reticence to confess Christ.] Looking at his public actions and achievements, it is clear he was a man of great tenacity and dignity, ambitious yet with a humility that saved him from the fate of the Napoleons and Alexanders. We can all learn much from his life and it's a shame that most schoolchildren will be taught to memorize leftist cant instead of actually think about what makes a man "great."