George Washington

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.

George Washington (22 February 173214 December 1799) was the successful Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783, and later became the first President of the United States, an office to which he was elected, unanimously, twice and remained in from 1789 to 1797. He is generally regarded as Father of his Country.

QuotesEdit

But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
  • Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.
    • Letter to Governor Dinwiddie (29 May 1754).
  • Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
    • Letter of Instructions to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments (29 July 1759).
  • The General is sorry to be informed —, that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into a fashion; — he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.
    • Extract from the Orderly Book of the army under command of Washington, dated at Head Quarters, in the city of New York (3 August 1770); reported in American Masonic Register and Literary Companion, Volume 1 (1829), p. 163.
  • Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother's Sword has been sheathed in a Brother's breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?
  • But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
    • Washington's formal acceptance of command of the Army (16 June 1775), quoted in The Writings of George Washington : Life of Washington (1837) edited by Jared Sparks, p. 141.
  • Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.
  • The reflection upon my situation, and that of this army, produces many an uneasy hour, when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in, on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket upon my shoulders and entered the rank, or if I could have justified the measure of posterity, and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these, and many other difficulties which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies; for surely if we get well through this month, it must be for want of their knowing the disadvantages we labor under. Could I have foreseen the difficulties which have come upon us, could I have known that such a backwardness would have been discovered in the old soldiers to the service, all the generals upon earth should not have convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston till this time.
    • In a letter to Joseph Reed, during the siege of Boston (14 January 1776), quoted in History of the Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill (1849) by Richard Frothingham, p. 286
Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
  • To expect ... the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men, who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is.
    • Letter to the President of Congress (9 February 1776).
  • Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.
    • General Orders, Headquarters, New York (2 July 1776).
  • The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.
    • General Order, (9 July 1776) George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 3g Varick Transcripts.
  • The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.
The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army...
  • There is nothing that gives a man consequence, and renders him fit for command, like a support that renders him independent of everybody but the State he serves.
    • Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776).
  • To place any dependence upon militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life - unaccustomed to the din of arms - totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill, which being followed by a want of confidence in themselves when opposed to troops regularly trained, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge, and superior in arms, makes them timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.
    • Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)
If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us...
  • My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than can be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.
    • Encouraging his men to re-enlist in the army (31 December 1776).
  • While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.
    • General Orders (2 May 1778); published in Writings of George Washington (1932), Vol.XI, pp. 342-343.
  • Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
    • Letter to Major-General Robert Howe (17 August 1779), published in "The Writings of George Washington": 1778-1779, edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (1890)
    • Paraphrased variants:
    • Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
    • Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.

" The depreciation of it is got to so alarming a point that a wagon-load of money will scarcely purchase a wagon-load of provisions." Source: The Life John Jay With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers. by His Son, William Jay in Two Volumes. Vol. II., 1833.

  • No distance can keep anxious lovers long asunder.
  • A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it. I should be happy that my own experience had afforded fewer examples of the little dependence to be placed upon them.
    • Letter to Major-General John Sullivan (15 December 1779), published in The Writings of George Washington (1890) by Worthington Chauncey Ford, Vol. 8, p. 139.
  • Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.
    • Letter to Lord Stirling (5 March 1780).
  • Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive. And with it, everything honorable and glorious.
  • Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
    • Letter to Bushrod Washington (15 January 1783).
  • If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
    • Address to officers of the Army (15 March 1783).
  • Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.
    • Statement as he put on his glasses before delivering his response to the first Newburgh Address (15 March 1783).
Had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining...
  • You will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.
    • Response to the first Newburgh Address (15 March 1783).
  • Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.
    • General Orders (18 April 1783).
  • It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.
    • "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment" in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289.
  • I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large; and, particularly, for their brethren who have served in the Geld; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacifick temper of the mind, which were the characteristicks of the divine Author of our blessed religion ; without an humble imitation of whose example, in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.
    • Circular Letter to the Governours of the several States (18 June 1783). Misreported as "I make it my constant prayer that God would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion; without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation", in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 315.
  • Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
    • Address to Congress resigning his commission (23 December 1783).
  • I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the Soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame, the Statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all, and the Courtier who is always watching the countenance of his Prince, in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself; and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers.
  • A people... who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.
Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last...
  • Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last.
  • My first wish is, to see this plague of mankind banished from the earth, and the sons and daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements, than in preparing implements, and exercising them, for the destruction of mankind.
    • On war, in a statement of 1785, as quoted in Maxims of Washington : Political, Social, Moral and Religious (1854) John Frederick Schroeder, p. 142.
It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati... had not spread in the United States... no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
  • My manner of living is plain. I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready; and such as will be content to partake of them are always welcome. Those, who expect more, will be disappointed, but no change will be effected by it.
    • Letter to George William Fairfax (25 June 1786), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 175.
  • If you tell the Legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same train forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people being disgusted with the circumstances will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate & prevent disasterous contingencies would be the part of wisdom & patriotism.
    What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable & tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.
    Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port & having been fairly discharged; it is not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles. Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have much weight on the minds of my Countrymen — they have been neglected, tho' given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner. I had then perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having none at present.
  • If they have real grievances redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it at the moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once.
  • The only stipulations I shall contend for are, that in all things you shall do as you please. I will do the same; and that no ceremony may be used or any restraint be imposed on any one.
    • Letter to David Humphreys, inviting him to an indefinite stay at Mt. Vernon (10 October 1787), as published in Life and Times of David Humphreys (1917) by Frank Landon Humphreys, Vol. I, p. 426.
The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
Unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties...
  • The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
    • First Inaugural Address (30 April 1789).
  • For myself the delay may be compared with a reprieve; for in confidence I assure you, with the world it would obtain little credit that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution: so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities and inclination which is necessary to manage the helm.
    • Comment to General Henry Knox on the delay in assuming office (March 1789).
  • Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.
      • Letter, dated August 19th, 1789, To the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal church in the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, in general Convention assembled. Scan at memory.loc.gov.
The Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
The due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government.
  • Impressed with a conviction that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government, I have considered the first arrangement of the Judicial department as essential to the happiness of our Country, and to the stability of its political system; hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound the law, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.
    • Letter to U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph (September 28,61 1789). Source: The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
    • * The inscription on the facade of the New York Supreme Court court house in New York County is a quotation from above letter written by George Washington to the Attorney General in 1789: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." On February 16, 2009, the New York Post reported that the word "true" was actually penned by Washington as "due", according to documents at the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.[1]
  • The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
    May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
    • Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790).
  • To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
    • First Annual Address, to both Houses of Congress (8 January 1790).
    • Compare: "Qui desiderat pacem præparet bellum" (translated: "Who would desire peace should be prepared for war"), Vegetius, Rei Militari 3, Prolog.; "In pace, ut sapiens, aptarit idonea bello" (translated: "In peace, as a wise man, he should make suitable preparation for war"), Horace, Book ii. satire ii.
All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
  • A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.
    • First Annual Address, to both House of Congress (8 January 1790).
  • All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
    • Letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham (9 January 1790).
  • As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow, that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.
  • It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
    • Letter to his niece, Harriet Washington (30 October 1791).
  • Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause; and I was not without hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy of the present age would have put an effectual stop to contentions of this kind.
  • Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.
  • As misquoted in The Conservative Soul : How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (2006) by Andrew Sullivan, p. 131
  • To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy of the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications, that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.
    • Letter to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (January 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 201.
  • We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
    Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities taste those blessings, which a gracious God bestows upon the righteous.
  • The friends of humanity will deprecate War, wheresoever it may appear; and we have experience enough of its evils, in this country, to know, that it should not be wantonly or unnecessarily entered upon. I trust, that the good citizens of the United States will show to the world, that they have as much wisdom in preserving peace at this critical juncture, as they have hitherto displayed valor in defending their just rights.
    • Address to the merchants of Philadelphia (16 May 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 202.
  • Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!
    • George Washington in a note to his gardener at Mount Vernon (1794), The Writings of George Washington, Volume 33, page 270 (Library of Congress).
  • When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.
    • Letter to Edmund Pendleton (22 January 1795).
  • Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter; whether in public or private walks of life.
    • Letter to George Washington Parke Custis (7 January 1798).
I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world...
  • It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.
    • Letter to James McHenry (10 August 1798).
  • It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
    The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.
  • I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species... and to disperse the families I have an aversion.
    • Statement against slavery, in letter to Robert Lewis (18 August 1799).
  • I die hard but am not afraid to go. I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it — my breath cannot last long.
    • The first sentence here is sometimes presented as being his last statement before dying, but they are reported as part of the fuller statement, and as being said in the afternoon prior to his death in Life of Washington (1859) by Washington Irving, and his actual last words are stated to have been those reported by Tobias Lear below.
  • Tis well.
    • Washington's last words, as recorded by Tobias Lear, in his journal (14 December 1799). Washington said this after being satisfied that precautions would be taken against his being buried prematurely:
About ten o'clk he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it, at length he said, — "I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead." I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, "Do you understand me? I replied "Yes." "Tis well" said he.
  • A conflation of the last two quotes has also sometimes been reported as his last statement: "It is well. I die hard but am not afraid to go".
  • For the sake of humanity, it is devoutly to be wished that the manly employment of agriculture, and the humanizing benefit of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into ploughshares, the spears into pruning-hooks, and, as the Scriptures express it, "the nations learn war no more."
    • As quoted in Maxims of Washington : Political, Social, Moral and Religious (1854) John Frederick Schroeder, p. 131.
  • I had rather be in my grave than in my present situation, I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world; and yet they charge me with wanting to be a king.
    • Response to newspaper criticisms of his presidency, as quoted in The Alumni Register of the University of Pennsylvania (1925), p.473.
I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it...

Farewell Address (1796)Edit

The Farewell Address (17 September 1796) Full text at Wikisource
  • Every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
  • Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
    The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
  • It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
  • While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
  • One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.
  • To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns.
  • The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.
It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness.
  • I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
  • The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
  • The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
    It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.
Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
  • Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity.
  • Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
  • It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government.
  • Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
  • As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.
  • Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?
  • Nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests.
  • Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests. (Note: spelling/capitalization likely original.[1]).
  • The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
  • 'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
  • There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.
  • Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.
  • In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
    • This has sometimes been misquoted as: Guard against the postures of pretended patriotism.
  • The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.
  • Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.


DisputedEdit

  • Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
    • Attributed to "The First President of the United States" in "Liberty and Government" by W. M., in The Christian Science Journal, Vol. XX, No. 8 (November 1902) edited by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 465; no earlier or original source for this statement is cited; later quoted in The Cry for Justice : An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest (1915) edited by Upton Sinclair, p. 305, from which it became far more widely quoted and in Frank J. Wilstach, A Dictionary of Similes, 2d ed., p. 526 (1924). In The Great Thoughts (1985), George Seldes says, p. 441, col. 2, footnote, this paragraph “although credited to the ‘Farewell’ [address] cannot be found in it. Lawson Hamblin, who owns a facsimile, and Horace Peck, America’s foremost authority on quotations, informed me this paragraph is apocryphal.” This can be found with minor variations in wording and in punctuation, and with “fearful” for “troublesome,” in George Seldes's book, p. 727 (1966).
    • Unsourced variant : Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
Washington wrote to Lafayette that he considered himself a "citizen of the great republic of humanity," adding: "I see the human race a great family, united by fraternal bonds." Elsewhere he wrote prophetically: "We have sown a seed of liberty and union that will gradually germinate throughout the earth. Some day, on the model of the United States of America, will be constituted the United States of Europe."
Presented as the actual letter cited is this letter to the Marquis de Lafayette (15 August 1786), which contains general assertions of Humanity's unity, but without any predictions of a "United States of Europe":
Altho' I pretend to no peculiar information respecting commercial affairs, nor any foresight into the scenes of futurity; yet as the member of an infant empire, as a Philanthropist by character, and (if I may be allowed the expression) as a Citizen of the great republic of humanity at large; I cannot help turning my attention sometimes to this subject. I would be understood to mean, I cannot avoid reflecting with pleasure on the probable influence that commerce may hereafter have on human manners and society in general. On these occasions I consider how mankind may be connected like one great family in fraternal ties. I indulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive; that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy, that the subjects of ambition and causes for hostility are daily diminishing, and, in fine, that the period is not very remote, when the benefits of a liberal and free commerce will, pretty generally, succeed to the devastations and horrors of war.


MisattributedEdit

Statements originally made by others, that have become wrongly attributed to Washington
He seemed to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I heard him think, "Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!" ~ John Adams
These maxims originated in the late sixteenth century in France and were popularly circulated during Washington's time. Washington wrote out a copy of the 110 Rules in his school book when he was about sixteen-years old... During the days before mere hero worship had given place to understanding and comprehension of the fineness of Washington's character, of his powerful influence among men, and of the epoch-making nature of the issues he so largely shaped, it was assumed that Washington himself composed the maxims, or at least that he compiled them. It is a satisfaction to find that his consideration for others, his respect for and deference to those deserving such treatment, his care of his own body and tongue, and even his reverence for his Maker, all were early inculcated in him by precepts which were the common practice in decent society the world over. These very maxims had been in use in France for a century and a half, and in England for a century, before they were set as a task for the schoolboy Washington.
  • A solemn scene it was indeed... He seemed to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I heard him think, "Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!"
    • John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail was here expressing his impression of what Washington seemed to be thinking after Adams was inaugurated as President. These impressions have sometimes been quoted as if they were something Washington had actually said to Adams. Quoted in A History of the United States and Its People: From Their Earliest Records to the Present Time (1904) by William Abbatt and Elroy McKendree Avery, p.177; John Adams (2002) by David G. McCullough, p. 469; and The Portable John Adams (2004) edited by John Patrick Diggins, p. xi
    • Unsourced variants: Well, I am fairly out and you are fairly in. Now we shall see who enjoys it the most!
      Ah! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!
  • The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.
    • This statement was made by an official representative of the U.S., but is actually a line from the English version of the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796, initially signed by a representative of the US on 4 November 1796 during Washington's presidency, approved by Congress 7 June 1797 and finally signed by President John Adams on 10 June 1797. Article 11 of it reads:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,— as it has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,— and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
  • Joel Barlow, who had served as Washington's chaplain, and was also a good friend of Paine and Jefferson was the representative in charge of the translation.
  • The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.
    • US Senator William Edgar Borah, writing in The Reader's Digest, Vol. 8, Issue 2 (1929), p. 776; this has only rarely begun to be attributed to Washington, since about 2010.
  • It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy, to deny a man the liberty he hath by nature upon a supposition that he may abuse it.
    • Oliver Cromwell, letter to Walter Dundas, 12 September 1650; this is also a recent misattribution.

Spurious attributionsEdit

Statements which evidence indicates are fabrications, never actually said by anyone prior to their being attributed to Washington.
  • I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.
    • The earliest source of this quote was a famous anecdote in The Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes Laudable to Himself and Exemplary to his Countrymen (1806) by Parson Weems, which is not considered a credible source, and many incidents recounted in the work are now considered to have sprung entirely from Weems’ imagination. This derives from an anecdote of Washington, as a young boy, confessing to his father Augustine Washington that it was he who had cut a cherished cherry tree.
    • Variant:Father, I cannot tell a lie, I cut the tree.
  • What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.
    • A modern fabrication. Washington did use the phrase "above all the religion of Jesus Christ" on 12 May 1779 in a reply to a petition from a Lenape delegation asking for assistance in promoting the missionary activities of David Zeisberger among their people: "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention..." He did not say anything about "What students would learn in American schools," though earlier in the same reply he did say "I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us." While there's nothing in the reply about how those "Children" might be educated (in fact Congress put two of them through Princeton) it's possible that suggested the fabricated portion. See Louise Phelps Kellogg, Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio 1778-1779 (Madison WI, 1916), pp. 317-324, for the episode. Washington's reply is also found in John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, vol. 15, (Washington D.C., 1936), p. 55.
  • Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence. The church, the plow, the prairie wagon and citizen's firearms are indelibly related. From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security, and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable. Every corner of this land knows firearms, and more than 99 99/100 percent of them by their silence indicate they are in safe and sane hands. The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good. When firearms go, all goes— we need them every hour.
    • Sometimes purported to have been made in an "Address to the Second Session of the First United States Congress, 7 January 1790, according to the Boston Independent Chronicle (14 January 1790)", this quote is palpably bogus, as this essay at a pro-gun site makes plain.
  • A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.
    • A further quote sometimes purported to be from a speech to Congress, January 7, 1790 purportedly in the Boston Independent Chronicle, January 14, 1790, this is actually a corruption of a statement made in his first State of the Union Address, relating to the need for maintaining governmental troops and military preparedness:
A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.
The proper establishment of the troops which may be deemed indispensable will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the officers and soldiers with a due regard to economy. .
  • It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.
    • Washington is known to have made some official statements of public piety, but this is not one of them. Though this assertion is very widely reported to have been said in Washington's Farewell Address (17 September 1796), this is not actually the case, as any search of the documents would reveal. It has also been presented as having been part of his Proclamation on January 1, 1795 of February 19th, 1795 as a day of national Thanksgiving in this form:
It is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced. It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason, as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason, in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to.
In the above paragraph the italicized portion appears to be entirely bogus, and there is no actual record of such a statement ever having been made by Washington. The first sentence is an almost accurate rendition of one from Washington's official proclamation, being a portion of this segment:
In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience. Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation...
It is to be noted that there is genuine piety expressed in this statement, but it is not of any sectarian kind, Christian or otherwise. The last portion of the bogus statement which uses it is a truncation of a statement attributed to him in an undocumented biography written for children. In A Life of Washington (1836) by James K. Paulding, Washington is quoted as having stated:
It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to; and well has it been said, that if there had been no God, mankind would have been obliged to imagine one.
In the spurious version of the Thanksgiving proclamation which uses a portion of this, Washington's allusions to Voltaire's famous statement that "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" has been omitted. In the cases of these "quotations" it seems that if statements suitable to their sectarian interests do not exist, some people feel it necessary to invent them.
  • The Jews work more effectively against us than the enemy's armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in. It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pests to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America.
    • Sometimes rendered : "They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy's armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in... It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pest to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America."
    • Both of these are doctored statements that have been widely disseminated as genuine on many anti-semitic websites; They are distortions derived from a statement that was attributed to Washington in Maxims of George Washington about currency speculators during the Revolutionary war, not about Jews: "This tribe of black gentry work more effectually against us, than the enemy's arms. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties, and the great cause we are engaged in. It is much to be lamented that each State, long ere this, has not hunted them down as pests to society, and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America." More information is available at Snopes. com: "To Bigotry, No Sanction"
    • This quotation is a classic anti-semitic hoax, evidently begun during or just before World War Two by American Nazi sympathizers, and since then has been repeated, for example, in foreign propaganda directed at Americans. In fact it is knitted from two separate letters by Washington, in reverse chronology, neither of them mentioning Jews. The first part of this forgery are taken from Washington's letter to Edmund Pendleton, Nov. 1, 1779 {and the original can be found in the Library of Congress's online service at http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw3h/001/378378.jpg }. I have tried to reproduce Washington's spelling and punctuation exactly. In that letter Washington complains about black marketeers and others undermining the purchasing power of colonial currency:
... but I am under no apprehension of a capital injury from ay other source than that of the continual depreciation of our Money. This indeed is truly alarming, and of so serious a nature that every other effort is in vain unless something can be done to restore its credit. .... Where this has been the policy (in Connecticut for instance) the prices of every article have fallen and the money consequently is in demand; but in the other States you can scarce get a single thing for it, and yet it is with-held from the public by speculators, while every thing that can be useful to the public is engrossed by this tribe of black gentry, who work more effectually against us that the enemys Arms; and are a hundd. times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in.
The second part of this fabricated quote is from Washington's letter to Joseph Reed, Dec. 12, 1778 {and can be found at the Library of Congress using the same URL but ending in /193192.jpg}, which again condemns war profiteers (the parenthetical list in the quotation is Washington's own words which he put there in parentheses):
It gives me very sincere pleasure to find that there is likely to be a coalition ... so well disposed to second your endeavours in bringing those murderers of our cause (the monopolizers, forestallers, and engrossers) to condign punishment. It is much to be lamented that each State long ere this has not hunted them down as the pests of society, and the greatest Enemys we have to the happiness of America. I would to God that one of the most attrocious of each State was hung in Gibbets upons a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman. No punishment in my opinion is too great for the Man who can build his greatness upon his Country's ruin.
  • We had quitters during the Revolution too... we called them "Kentuckians."
    • This attribution apparently originated with a statement of a cartoon version of Washington on an episode of The Simpsons. Though not initially presented as a genuine quote this has sometimes been attributed to Washington.
  • Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.
    • This appears to be an alteration of an supposed address to the Constitutional Convention, Mar. 25 1787.

      It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God. [The Encyclopedia Americana: a library of universal knowledge, 1918 Pg. 567]

      However is appears that it is unlikely that Washington addressed the convention at all on that date and the statement is reported (by Governor Morris) to have been delivered in a eulogy twelve years later, and is likely in Morris's words, not Washington's. [George Washington, Volume II / Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924 Chapter I - http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/2/6/5/12653/12653.htm] James Madison wrote that George Washington addressed the convention only once and he provides an account of that address. [The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 by James Madison - http://www.constitution.org/dfc/dfc_0917.htm]

Quotes about WashingtonEdit

More than all, and above all, Washington was master of himself. ~ Charles Francis Adams
These should be arranged alphabetically by author
  • If I were to characterize George Washington's feelings toward his country, I should be less inclined than most people to stress what is called Washington's love of his country. What impresses me as far more important is what I should call Washington's respect for his country.
  • There is nothing that will make an Englishman shit so quick as the sight of General Washington.
    • Retort attributed to Ethan Allen, commenting after a picture of Washington was hung in a British outhouse; in an anecdote told by Abraham Lincoln, as quoted in Lincoln, Vol. 1 (1996) by David Herbert Donald
    • Variant: It is most appropriately hung, nothing ever made the British shit like the sight of George Washington.
  • Washington wasn't born good. Only practice and habit made him so.
  • George Washington was perhaps the one indispensable man among the founders. It is hard to imagine any of the others commanding the respect needed to lead the Continental Army to victory over Great Britain, preside over the Constitutional Convention, and serve the United States as its first president. Little in Washington's early life gave a hint of the great achievements to come.
George Washington is one of the beacons placed at intervals along the highroad of history. ~ Orestes Ferrara
  • I have learned with inexplicable joy that you have had the goodness to honor me with a treasure from Mount Vernon — the portrait of Washington, some of his venerable reliques, and one of the monuments of his glory, which are to be presented me at your hands in the name of the brothers of the Great Citizen, the First-Born Son of the New World. No words can set forth all the value that this gift and its embodying considerations, so glorious for me, hold in my heart.
  • Today I have touched with my hands this inestimable present. The image of the first benefactor of the continent of Columbus, presented by the hero citizen, General Lafayette, and offered by the noble scion of that immortal family, was all that could reward the most enlightened merit of the first man in the universe. Shall I be worthy of so much glory? No; but I accept it with a joy and gratitude that will go down with the venerable reliques of the father of America to the most remote generations of my country.
  • Posterity will talk of Washington as the founder of a great empire, when my name shall be lost in the vortex of revolution.
  • Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation's Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.
    The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.
  • Where may the wearied eye repose,
    When gazing on the Great;
    Where neither guilty glory glows,
    Nor despicable state?

    Yes — one — the first — the last — the best—
    The Cincinnatus of the West.
    Whom envy dared not hate,
    Bequeath'd the name of Washington,
    To make man blush there was but one!

    • Lord Byron, in "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte" (10 April 1814).
  • A degree of silence envelops Washington's actions; he moved slowly; one might say that he felt charged with future liberty, and that he feared to compromise it. It was not his own destiny that inspired this new species of hero: it was that of his country; he did not allow himself to enjoy what did not belong to him; but from that profound humility what glory emerged! Search the woods where Washington's sword gleamed: what do you find? Tombs? No; a world! Washington has left the United States behind for a monument on the field of battle. ... Washington's Republic lives on; Bonaparte's empire is destroyed. Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her.
    Washington acted as the representative of the needs, the ideas, the enlightened men, the opinions of his age; he supported, not thwarted, the stirrings of intellect; he desired only what he had to desire, the very thing to which he had been called: from which derives the coherence and longevity of his work. That man who struck few blows because he kept things in proportion has merged his existence with that of his country: his glory is the heritage of civilisation; his fame has risen like one of those public sanctuaries where a fecund and inexhaustible spring flows.
  • With the sure sagacity of a leader of men, Washington at once selected, for the highest and most responsible stations, the three chief Americans who represented the three forces in the nation which alone could command success in the institution of the government. Hamilton was the head, Jefferson was the heart, and John Jay was the conscience. Washington's just and serene ascendancy was the lambent flame in which these beneficent powers were fused, and nothing less than that ascendancy could have ridden the whirlwind and directed the storm that burst around him.
    • George William Curtis, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 261.
  • Men are beginning to feel that Washington stands out, not only as the leading American, but as the leading man of the race. Of men not named in Sacred Scripture, more human beings this day know and honor the name of George Washington than that of any other of the sons of men.
    • Charles Deems, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 261.
  • I would say Benjamin Franklin was wiser than Washington, Hamilton was more brilliant, Jefferson was more intellectually sophisticated, Adams was more engaging … Madison was more politically astute, but Washington was still the greatest. And they would all agree to that.
  • George Washington is one of the beacons placed at intervals along the highroad of history. For his country he serves as a guide in time of stress and a refuge in tranquil moments; a never-failing example of true goodness; a warning to turbulent youth and a mute accusation of selfish interests.
    • Orestes Ferrara, as quoted in Bulletin of the Pan American Union, Vol. 66 (1932), p. 471.
  • In all history few men who possessed unassailable power have used that power so gently and self-effacingly for what their best instincts told them was the welfare of their neighbors and all mankind.
  • Washington had always taught himself from experience. He learned the lessons of the American war all the more readily because he had no conventional lessons to unlearn. … Long before the end of the war, Washington had become much more effective than any of his military opponents. But this did not mean that what he had taught himself would have made him a great general on the battlefields of Europe. Evolved not from theory but from dealing with specific problems, his preeminence was achieved through a Darwinian adaptation to environment. It was the triumph of a man who knows how to learn, not in the narrow sense of studying other people's conceptions, but in the transcendent sense of making a synthesis from the totality of experience.
    Among the legacies of the Revolution to the new nation, the most widely recognized and admired was a man: George Washington. He had no rivals.
    • James Thomas Flexner in Washington : The Indispensable Man (1984), Chapter 23 : Goodbye to War, p. 183.
  • Washington's appointments, when President, were made with a view to destroy party and not to create it, his object being to gather all the talent of the country in support of the national government; and he bore many things which were personally disagreeable in an endeavor to do this.
    • Paul Leicester Ford, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 261.
  • I frequently hear the old Generals of this martial country (who study the maps of America, and mark upon them all your operations) speak with sincere approbation and great applause of your conduct; and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age.
    I must soon quit the scene, but you may live to see our country flourish; as it will, amazingly and rapidly, after the war is over.
    • Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to George Washington (5 March 1780), published in The Edinburgh Review Vol. 28 (1817), p. 284.
  • From the moment when he took command of the army, Washington was, indeed, "first in the hearts of his countrymen." And the student of our history cannot help remarking how providential it was that, at the outset of this struggle, Washington should come to the front. Eighty-Six years later, at the beginning of the rebellion, there was no accepted chief. Lincoln was doubted by the North and, and the army had no true leader. By a slow process Lincoln's commanding strength became known; by an equally tedious sifting of the generals the qualities of Grant, Sherman, Thomas and Meade were discovered. Only the tremendous resources of the North could have withstood the strain of such a delay. Had the same process been necessary at the outset of the Revolution, the colonies could have scarcely maintained the struggle. Had not Washington been at hand, accepted by the Congress and admired by the army, the virtual leader of both, the chances of success would have been slight. But he was Lincoln and Grant in one. Time and time again, through the long years, it was Washington alone who brought victory from defeat. Without him, the colonies might have won their independence as the result of an almost interminable guerilla warfare; but with him the fight was definite, glorious, and-for the infant republic, mercifully short.
    • Allen French on the importance of Washington, in The Siege of Boston (1911).
  • I often say of George Washington that he was one of the few in the whole history of the world who was not carried away by power.
    • Robert Frost, as quoted in Patriarch: George Washington and the new American Nation (1993) by Richard Norton Smith
  • Eternity alone can reveal to the human race its debt of gratitude to the peerless and immortal name of Washington.
    • James A. Garfield, as quoted in The Life and Public Services of James A. Garfield (1881) by Emma Elizabeth Brown, p. 452.
  • Washington is beyond question one of the greatest men in history, one of the noblest men who ever lived. He is a towering figure in the establishment of the United States and he did more than any other man to create and preserve the Republic. Here was a man whose very strength resided in his austere sobriety, who in his own person demonstrated this soundness of America. He was a good man, not a demigod; he was an honest administrator, not a brilliant statesman; he was a military man, but never a militarist. He was touchingly proud of America, proud that it was his country that was given the historic chance of becoming a model of religious as well as political freedom. In a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, whose service he once attended, he stressed that in America freedom of religious worship was one of the "inherent natural rights," where government "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Washington was an exceptional man; with reason he became so merged with America that his is the most prominent name in the land.
  • His excellency General Washington has arrived amoungst us, universally admired. Joy was visable on every countenance.
    • General Nathanael Greene on the arrival of George Washington in Boston, 1775-1776, McCullough pg 20.
  • If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.
    • George III of the United Kingdom, upon hearing from painter Benjamin West of Washington's impending retirement as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army (1783) [citation needed]
      Never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. ~ Thomas Jefferson
  • No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation's life. Washington was grave and courteous in address; his manners were simple and unpretending; his silence and the serene calmness of his temper spoke of a perfect self-mastery; but little there was in his outer bearing to reveal the grandeur of soul which lifts his figure with all the simple majesty of an ancient statue, out of the smaller passions, the meaner impulses of the world around him.
    It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists learned, little by little, the greatness of their leader — his clear judgment, his calmness in the hour of danger or defeat; the patience with which he waited, the quickness and hardness with which he struck, the lofty and serene sense of duty that never swerved from its task through resentment or jealousy, that never, through war or peace, felt the touch of a meaner ambition; that knew no aim save that of guarding the freedom of his fellow-countrymen; and no personal longing save that of returning to his own fireside when their freedom was secured.
    It was almost unconsciously that men learned to cling to Washington with a trust and faith such as few other men have won, and to regard him with reverence which still hushes us in presence of his memory.
  • Washington had no smashing, stunning victories. He was not a military genius, and his tactical and strategic maneuvers were not the sort that awed men. Military glory was not the source of his reputation. Something else was involved. Washington's genius, his greatness, lay in his character. He was, as Chateubriand said, a "hero of unprecedented kind." There had never been a great many like Washington before. Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.
    Washington fit the 18th-century image of a great man, of a man of virtue. This virtue was not given to him by nature. He had to work for it, to cultivate it, and everyone sensed that. Washington was a self-made hero, and this impressed an 18th-century enlightened world that put great stock in men controlling both their passions and their destinies. Washington seemed to possess a self-cultivated nobility.
  • To him the title of Excellency is applied with peculiar propriety. He is the best: and the greatest man the world ever knew. In private life, he wins the hearts and wears the love of all who are so happy as to fall within the circle of his acquaintance. In his public character, he commands universal respect and admiration. Conscious that the principles on which he acts are indeed founded in virtue and truth, he steadily pursues the arduous work with a mind neither depressed by disappointment and difficulties, nor elated with temporary success. He retreats like a General and attacks like a Hero. If there are spots in his character, they are like the spots in the Sun; only discernable by the magnifying powers of a telescope. Had he lived in the days of idolatry he had been worshipped as a God. One age cannot do justice to his merit; but the united voices of a grateful posterity shall pay a chearful tribute of undissembled praise to the great assertor of their country's freedom.
    • Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, in "A Political Catechism" (1777).
    • Variant: Had Washington been born in the days of idolatry, he would be worshiped as a god. If there are spots on his characters, they are like spots on the sun, only discernible by the magnifying powers of a telescope.
  • When the clergy addressed General Washington on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However [Dr. Rush] observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of the benign influence of the Christian religion. I know that Gouvemeur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did.
Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him. ~ Lajos Kossuth
  • His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though, not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.
  • On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. ... These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of God, having been formed on an acquaintance of thirty years...
  • The President was much inflamed; got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself; ran on much on the personal abuse which had been bestowed on him; defied any man on earth to produce one single act of his since he had been in the Government, which was not done on the purest motives; that he had never repented but once the having slipped the moment of resigning his office, and that was every moment since; that by God he had rather be in his grave than in his present situation; that he had rather be on his farm than to be made Emperor of the world; and yet that they were charging him with wanting to be a King. That that rascal Freneau sent him three of his papers every day, as if he thought he would become the distributor of his papers; that he could see in this, nothing but an impudent design to insult him: he ended in this high tone.
    • Thomas Jefferson, writing in his diary (known as "The Anas") dated August 2, 1793, relating the reaction of George Washington to a print that depicted him placed on a guillotine.
  • He was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern. Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man. His temper was naturally high toned; but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendancy over it. If ever, however, it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath. In his expenses he was honorable, but exact; liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility; but frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects and all unworthy calls on his charity. His heart was not warm in its affections; but he exactly calculated every man's value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it. His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble; the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback.
First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. ~ Henry Lee
  • Let him who looks for a monument to Washington look around the United States. Your freedom, your independence, your national power, your prosperity, and your prodigious growth are a monument to him.
  • Unsupported for the most part by the population among whom he was quartered, and incessantly thwarted by the jealousy of Congress, he kept his army together by a combination of skill, firmness, patience, and judgment which has rarely been surpassed, and he led it at last to a signal triumph.
    In civil as in military life, he was pre-eminent among his contemporaries for the clearness and soundness of his judgment, for his perfect moderation and self-control, for the quiet dignity and the indomitable firmness with which he pursued every path which he had deliberately chosen. Of all the great men in history he was the most invariably judicious, and there is scarcely a rash word or action or judgment recorded of him. Those who knew him well, noticed that he had keen sensibilities and strong passions; but his power of self-command never failed him, and no act of his public life can be traced to personal caprice, ambition, or resentment. In the despondency of long-continued failure, in the elation of sudden success, at times when his soldiers were deserting by hundreds and when malignant plots were formed against his reputation, amid the constant quarrels, rivalries, and jealousies of his subordinates, in the dark hour of national ingratitude, and in the midst of the most universal and intoxicating flattery, he was always the same calm, wise, just, and single-minded man, pursuing the course which he believed to be right, without fear or favour or fanaticism; equally free from the passions that spring from interest, and from the passions that spring from imagination. He never acted on the impulse of an absorbing or uncalculating enthusiasm, and he valued very highly fortune, position, and reputation; but at the command of duty he was ready to risk and sacrifice them all. He was in the highest sense of the words a gentleman and a man of honour, and he carried into public life the severest standard of private morals. It was at first the constant dread of large sections of the American people, that if the old Government were overthrown, they would fall into the hands of military adventurers, and undergo the yoke of military despotism. It was mainly the transparent integrity of the character of Washington that dispelled the fear. It was always known by his friends, and it was soon acknowledged by the whole nation and by the English themselves, that in Washington America had found a leader who could be induced by.no earthly motive to tell a falsehood, or to break an engagement, or to commit any dishonourable act.
  • First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.
    • Henry Lee, from his eulogy for Washington, presented to Congress on 26 December 1799.
To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on. ~ Abraham Lincoln
You have in American history one of the great captains of all times. ~ Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Washington's genius lay in his understanding of power, both military power, and political power, an understanding unmatched by that of any of his contemporaries. ~ Edmund Sears Morgan
  • This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington's is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name no eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor leave it shining on.
    • Abraham Lincoln, closing words of an address before the Washingtonian Temperance Society, Springfield, Illinois (22 February 1842)Published in the Sangamon Journal at Springfield, Illinois (Feb. 25, 1842). The entire speech was published in a leter edition of the Sangamon Journal(March 26, 1842). Copies on file in the Congressional Library.
  • Without the great moral qualities that Washington possessed his career would not have been possible; but it would have been quite as impossible if the intellect had not equalled the character.
    There is no need to argue the truism that Washington was a great man, for that is universally admitted. But it is very needful that his genius should be rightly understood, and the right understanding of it is by no means universal.
    His character has been exalted at the expense of his intellect, and his goodness has been so much insisted upon both by admirers and critics that we are in danger of forgetting that he had a great mind as well as high moral worth.
    • Henry Cabot Lodge, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 260.
  • You have in American history one of the great captains of all times. It might be said of him, as it was of William the Silent, that he seldom won a battle but he never lost a campaign.
    • Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, in a statement in Berlin (1874), as quoted in Family Relationships of George Washington (1931) by the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission
  • Be assured his influence carried this government; for my own part I have a boundless confidence in him, nor have I any reason to believe he will ever furnish occasion for withdrawing it.
  • Washington's genius lay in his understanding of power, both military power, and political power, an understanding unmatched by that of any of his contemporaries.
    • Edmund Sears Morgan, in The Genius of George Washington (1982) Ch. 1 : A Sense of Power, p. 6.
  • "One afternoon several young gentlemen, visitors at Mount Vernon, and myself were engaged in pitching the bar, one of the athletic sports common in those days, when suddenly the colonel appeared among us. He requested to be shown the pegs that marked the bounds of our efforts; then, smiling, and without putting off his coat, held out his hand for the missile. No sooner,"observed the narrator, with emphasis, "did the heavy iron bar feel the grasp of his mighty hand than it lost the power of gravitation, and whizzed through the air, striking the ground far, very far, beyond our utmost limits. We were indeed amazed, as we stood around, all stripped to the buff, with shirt sleeves rolled up, and having thought ourselves very clever fellows, while the colonel, on retiring, pleasantly observed, 'When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I'll try again.'"
    • Charles Willson Peale, recounting an incident of 1772, as quoted in Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington (1861), edited by Benson J. Lossing
  • I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him "father."
    • Will Rogers, as quoted in Will Rogers' World : America's Foremost Political Humorist Comments on the Twenties and Thirties — And Eighties and Nineties (1993) by Bryan B. Sterling and Frances N. Sterling
The name of an iron man goes round the world.
It takes a long time to forget an iron man. ~ Carl Sandburg
No man ever united in his own person a more perfect alliance of the virtues of a philosopher with the talents of a general.
  • The name of an iron man goes round the world.
    It takes a long time to forget an iron man.
    • Carl Sandburg in "Washington Monument by Night" in Slabs of the Sunburnt West (1922).
  • The purest of statesman, and the most perfect of patriots. May it please Heaven that his example shall continue to serve as a beacon to our Republics in their darkest moments of doubt and adversity.
    • Jorge Ubico, as quoted in Bulletin of the Pan American Union, Vol. 66 (1932), p. 464.
  • There is Franklin, with his first proposal of Continental union. There is James Otis, with his great argument against Writs of Assistance, and Samuel Adams, with his inexorable demand for the removal of the British regiments from Boston. There is Quincy, and there is Warren, the protomartyr of Bunker Hill. There is Jefferson, with the Declaration of Independence fresh from his pen, and John Adams close at his side. There are Hamilton and Madison and Jay bringing forward the Constitution; but, towering above them all is Washington, the consummate commander, the incomparable President, the world-renowned patriot.
    • Robert Charles Winthrop, as quoted in Manual Of Patriotism : For Use in the Public Schools of the State of New York (1900) By Charles Rufus SkinnerTake, p. 262.
  • That nature has given him extraordinary military talents will hardly be controverted by his most bitter enemies; and having been early actuated with a warm passion to serve his country in the military line, he has greatly improved them by unwearied industry, and a close application to the best writers upon tactics, and by a more than common method and exactnels: and, in ,reality, when it comes to be considered that at first he only headed a body of men entirely unacquainted with military discipline or operations, somewhat ungovernable in temper, and who at best could only be stiled an alert and good militia, acting under very short enlistments, uncloalhed, unaccoutred, and at all times very ill supplied with ammunition and artillery; and that with such an army he withstood the ravages and progress of near forty thousand veteran troops, plentifully provided with, every necessary article, commanded by the bravest officers in Europe, and supported by a very powerful navy, which effectually prevented all movements by water; when, I say, all this comes to be impartially considered, I think I may venture to pronounce, that general Washington will be regarded by mankind as one of the greatest military ornaments of the present age, and that his name will command the veneration of the latest posterity.
    • Anonymous, Sketch of the Life and Character of General Washington (1780), republished in The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature (1780) edited by Tobias George Smollett, p. 473; and The New Annual Register, or, General Repository of History, Vol. 1 (1781), edited by Andrew Kippis, p. 33.
  • There is a remarkable air of dignity about him, with a striking degree of gracefulness: he has an excellent understanding without much quickness; is strictly just, vigilant, and generous; an affectionate husband, a faithful friend, a father to the deserving soldier; gentle in his manners, in temper rather reserved; a total stranger to religious prejudices, which have so often excited Christians of one denomination to cut the throats of those of another; in his morals irreproachable; he was never known to exceed the bounds of the most rigid temperance: in a word, all his friends and acquaintance universally allow, that no man ever united in his own person a more perfect alliance of the virtues of a philosopher with the talents of a general. Candour, sincerity, affability, and simplicity, seem to be the striking features of his character, till an occasion offers of displaying the most determined bravery and independence of spirit.
    • Anonymous, Sketch of the Life and Character of General Washington (1780), republished in The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature (1780) edited by Tobias George Smollett, p. 473; and The New Annual Register, or, General Repository of History, Vol. 1 (1781), edited by Andrew Kippis, p. 33.
  • George Washington is the only president who didn't blame the previous administration for his troubles.
    • Unknown author, quoted in The Quotable Politician (2003) by William B. Whitman

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical QuotationsEdit

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 860-62.
  • The defender of his country—the founder of liberty,
    The friend of man,
    History and tradition are explored in vain
    For a parallel to his character.
    In the annals of modern greatness
    He stands alone;
    And the noblest names of antiquity
    Lose their lustre in his presence.
    Born the benefactor of mankind,
    He united all the greatness necessary
    To an illustrious career.
    Nature made him great,
    He made himself virtuous.
    • Part of an Epitaph found on the back of a portrait of Washington, sent to the family from England. See Werner's Readings. No. 49, p. 77.
  • Simple and brave, his faith awoke
    Ploughmen to struggle with their fate;
    Armies won battles when he spoke,
    And out of Chaos sprang the state.
  • While Washington's a watchword, such as ne'er
    Shall sink while there's an echo left to air.
  • There's a star in the West that shall nerer go down
    Till the records of Valour decay,
    We must worship its light though it is not our own,
    For liberty burst in its ray.
    Shall the name of a Washington ever be heard
    By a freeman, and thrill not his breast?
    Is there one out of bondage that hails not the word,
    As a Bethlehem Star of the West?
  • The character, the counsels, and example of our Washington * * * they will guide us through the doubts and difficulties that beset us; they will guide our children and our children's children in the paths of prosperity and peace, while America shall hold her place in the family of nations.
    • Edward Everett, speech, Washington Abroad and at Home (July 5, 1858).
  • Here you would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effect with a thousand years.
  • O Washington! thrice glorious name,
    What due rewards can man decree—
    Empires are far below thy aim,
    And scepters have no charms for thee;
    Virtue alone has your regards,
    And she must be your great reward.
  • Since ancient Time began,
    Ever on some great soul God laid an infinite burden—
    The weight of all this world, the hopes of man,
    Conflict and pain, and fame immortal are his guerdon.
    • R. W. Gilder, Washington, sSpeech at Trenton (Oct. 19, 1893).
  • Were an energetic and judicious system to be proposed with your signature it would be a circumstance highly honorable to your fame … and doubly entitle you to the glorious republican epithet,
    The Father of your Country.
    • Henry Knox, letter to Washington (March 19, 1787), urging that Washington attend the Philadelphia Convention. See Ford, Washington's Writings, Volume XI, p. 123.
  • First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.
    • Gen. Henry Lee, Funeral Oration on Washington.
  • First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his fellow citizens.
    • Resolution on Washington's Death. Prepared by General Henry Lee and offered in the House of Representatives by John Marshall.
  • The purely Great
    Whose soul no siren passion could unsphere,
    Thou nameless, now a power and mixed with fate.
    • James Russell Lowell, Under the old Elm. The elm near Cambridge with the inscription "Under this tree, Washington first took command of the American Army, July 3, 1775".
  • Oh, Washington! thou hero, patriot sage,
    Friend of all climes, and pride of every age!
  • Every countenance seeked to say, "Long live George Washington, the Father of the People."
    • Pennsylvania Packet (April 21, 1789). After the election of Washington.
  • Our common Father and Deliverer, to whose prudence, wisdom and valour we owe our Peace, Liberty and Safety, now leads and directs in the great councils of the nation … and now we celebrate an independent Government—an original Constitution! an independent Legislature, at the head of which we this day celebrate The Father of his Country—We celebrate Washington! We celebrate an Independent Empire!
    • Pennsylvania Packet (July 9, 1789), p. 284. See Albert Matthews' article in Colonial Society of Mass. Publications. Transactions. 1902–4, Volume 8, p. 275–287 (pub. 1906). In America the term was already familiar. George II was so-called by Governor Belcher (Dec. 2, 1731). George III also, in a petition drawn up by the Massachusetts House of Representatives (June, 30, 1768). Winthrop was styled thus by Governor Hutchinson. (1764). See History of Massachusetts, I, 151.
  • His work well done, the leader stepped aside
    Spurning a crown with more than kingly pride.
    Content to wear the higher crown of worth,
    While time endures, "First citizen of earth."
    • James J. Roche, Washington.
  • Washington and his associates believed that it was essential to the existence of this Republic that there should never be any union of Church and State; and such union is partially accomplished wherever a given creed is aided by the State or when any public servant is elected or defeated because of his creed.
  • 'Twas his ambition, generous and great
    A life to life's great end to consecrate.
  • While Washington hath left
    His awful memory,
    A light for after times.
  • Washington—a fixed star in the firmament of great names, shining without twinkling or obscuration, with clear, beneficent light.
  • That name was a power to rally a nation in the hour of thick-thronging public disasters and calamities; that name shone amid the storm of war, a beacon light to cheer and guide the country's friends; it flamed too like a meteor to repel her foes.
  • That name descending with all time, spreading over the whole earth, and uttered in all the languages belonging to all tribes and races of men, will forever be pronounced with affectionate gratitude by everyone in whose breast there shall arise an aspiration for human rights and liberty.
    • Daniel Webster, speech at the Centennial Anniversary of Washington (Feb. 22, 1832).
  • America has furnished to the world the character of Washington! And if our American institutions had done nothing else, that alone would have entitled them to the respect of mankind.
    • Daniel Webster, Completion of Bunker Hill Monument (June 17, 1843), Volume I, p. 105.

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